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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

There Will Be Some Tethering. Huh?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Alan Alda bookImagine sitting in your dentist’s chair, the sharp end of a blade hovering just above your face, mere inches away from making contact. At that moment you hear the dentist utter the following five words: “There will be some tethering.”

The patient — wondering as to any potential relationship between said sharp instrument and his mouth — nervously asks what he means by “tethering.” The dentist is curt, impatient, and both his words and mannerisms hardly reassuring. (“Tethering, tethering!”) Well, that explains it. Thank you.

This turns out to cause an effect that will make it very difficult from this time on for the patient to smile — whether spontaneously or on cue — without it looking like a sneer.

For most of us, this would simply be annoying. For a professional actor it could be disastrous.

This is what happened many years ago to seven-time Emmy-winning actor, writer, and director Alan Alda, and it became the catalyst for his deep scientific search to better understand the process of effective communication.

In his new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? — My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, Mr. Alda demonstrates not only that this study and research worked for him, but also how much it has benefitted countless others, including many whom we simply do not think of as great communicators … such as scientists.

Yes, scientists, those men and women who must be able to communicate to the rest of us non-scientists the significance of some of the most important aspects of our universe.*

Mr. Alda, who helped found the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, writes, “The key, the fundamental ingredient without which real communication can’t happen [is] developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking…In acting we call it relating.”… [and] “relating is everything.”

Wait a minute. Did that passage really equate empathy with “recognizing what the other person is thinking”? Isn’t that like reading someone’s mind? But I often say that because we all operate from different belief systems, we can’t really know what the other person is thinking, thus, we can’t read minds. Right?

Or am I wrong? Read the book and find out. You might just have your belief system expanded!

Oh, and just in case you can’t read my mind…I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a Masters Degree in Communication.

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*Would probably also help tethering-oriented dentists to more effectively communicate with their patients.

Why This Successful Hall-of-Famer Embraces Failure

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

The Power of Failure - Fran TarkentonPersonally, I’ve never enjoyed failure. I don’t think many people do. However, there is a big difference between not enjoying failure…and learning from failure.

And, that’s the major lesson in Hall of Fame Quarterback — now longtime superstar entrepreneur — Fran Tarkenton’s terrific new book, The POWER of FAILURE: Succeeding in The Age of Innovation.

Fran has had more victories, both in sports and in business, than most of us could ever dream of. Yet, he sees failure as the very thing that helps you succeed rather than keeps you from doing so.

The Founder and CEO of The Tarkenton Companies and GoSmallBiz.com believes that entrepreneurs and business leaders need to stop the usual avoidance of thinking and talking about failure. The reason, as he suggests, is that, whether this avoidance has to do with ego or self-delusion it is actually very harmful in terms of eventual success.

“Talking about failure is recognizing reality, and as long as you come to grips with reality, you have a chance to succeed. More than that” he continues, “talking about failure builds credibility with your team by demonstrating that you are not a leader who hides from the truth. By openly talking about failure, you model for your team the attitude and behavior you want from them: vigilance, a dynamic and continuous desire to improve, transparency, and straight talk.” As he says, “Reality asserts itself. Sooner or later it always does.”

nfl_fran-tarkenton-bleacherreport.com

Encouraging Failure 

In today’s business world, especially with advances in technology as they are, innovation is so very key to a flourishing enterprise. And, innovation, by its very nature includes lots of failures. Stories of failure after failure on the way to successful inventions, businesses, careers or other desirable outcomes are so numerous they’ve become proverbial.

And, as the author says, “The truth is this. Any company of any size can develop a culture that encourages innovation, even on a daily basis. To do this, however, such a company must also encourage failure — especially intelligent failure — every day.”

Intelligent failure is a key. It isn’t failing just to fail. And it isn’t failing because you didn’t put enough thought into your venture. Fran admonishes, “Don’t let your optimism get in the way of your homework.”

Powerful! It’s about doing things for the right reasons, and in the right way. And, it always has to do with thinking and acting. One without the other will practically always result in failure and not the good kind. How can you learn and grow if you act before you think or think without acting? Both are important if you’re going to fail correctly. When you do this you’ll also “avoid the big failure by learning from smaller ones.” 

The book itself is filled with a number of wise quotes. Two of my favorites are:

“{P}erhaps the only unbreakable rule of entrepreneurship: the faster we fail, the faster we succeed.”

And, my very favorite:

“True knowledge is a start, not an end. It is a question, not an answer.”

How do you do in the failure department? Have your failures been intelligent ones from which you were able to learn, grow, and ultimately profit?

What can you change in both your attitude about — and approach to — failure that will help you to ultimately succeed in the way you desire?

Curing The Leadership Crisis

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market CureWould the principles that make one an effective, successful and happy individual create those same results for a company, and for society as a whole? In this absolutely terrific book on leadership, the author says that yes, indeed they would.

The following is from John A. Allison’s introduction to his recently-released, The Leadership Crisis And The Free Market Cure:

“{T}here is a set of ethical principles that is consistent with the laws of nature and the nature of humans that is the foundation for individual success and happiness. These same principles are applicable to organizations and to society.”

“The ultimate goal in life is to achieve happiness {in terms of} a life well- lived.” … “In this overall context, this is a book about leadership in the pursuit of happiness, at the individual, organization, and societal level.

“The foundation for this concept is self-leadership, which is essential for organizational leadership. Most failures of leadership are failures of self-leadership. And, most organizational failures are caused by failed leadership.”

It’s safe to say that Mr. Allison knows from whence he speaks. The prestigious Harvard Business Review named him one of the decades top 100 most successful CEOs.

More importantly, for 20 years he served as Chairman and CEO of BB&T, one of the largest financial institutions in America, growing the bank from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets during his tenure. And, they were hugely successful during a time when many banks failed spectacularly.

But, perhaps the banks’ huge profits came as a result of cronyism and sub-prime loans?

Actually, no. BB&T was one of the few banks that did not involve itself in sub-prime lending, writing only conventional mortgages. Mr. Allison was very outspoken against sub-prime lending, as well as cronyism in all its forms, including that between Washington, D.C. and many of the major banks.

When the bubble burst and banks were going under, he and his bank were left standing tall; not only in reputation…but in profitability, as well.

How Was This accomplished? Through rational, long-term thinking combined with a desire to provide exceptional value to customers, employees and shareholders alike.

And…by acting from a base of uncompromising values.

Now CEO of the highly-regarded libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, Allison approaches life and leadership from a very practical, logical, and rational viewpoint. He also approaches his relationships with employees and customers with an extremely benevolent, win/win mindset (as he referred to it, “getting better together”) always at the forefront.

Like the vast majority of ultra-successful people I’ve known and in this case, studied (I’ve been a fan for quite a while), he understands that happiness is the ultimate goal; that financial success is just one aspect of overall success and happiness. And, that all leadership begins with self-leadership; mastering ourselves and our character traits.

Two Distinct, But Integrated Parts

Part One, “Values in the Pursuit of Happiness” includes a chapter on each value that he deems vital and necessary to one’s successful pursuit of happiness. They were also the principles he used to lead at the bank.

They include being Reality Grounded, Reason (Objectivity), Independent Thinking, Productivity (Profitability), Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Pride, Self-Esteem (Self-Motivation) and Teamwork (Mutual Supportiveness).

According to the author, “Not only are these values not contradictory but they are integrated. Failure to execute on one value will make it impossible for you to execute on another value.”

Part Two, “Leading for Personal, Organization, and Societal Greatness” is really a Masters Degree in business leadership. That it’s told from the personal experiences of a man who has been there, done that very successfully, and is willing to share exactly how, is truly a gift. Absolutely fascinating and enlightening.

While again, logic and reason are very important to the author, his writing is warm and thoughtful, and he certainly understands the dynamics of emotion and human nature; that most people make decisions based on their emotions being in control. Yet, as he says, “Emotions are not a valid means of knowledge.”

So, how does he suggest we don’t make counterproductive decisions based on this fact?

“The goal should be to train your emotions so they automatically support the conclusions that your rational mind determined.”

Powerful!

One of my favorite points had to do with the importance of understanding the relationship of value and money, and that a business only makes money to the degree they focus on bringing value to their customers. I loved this gem:

“In the 1960’s, the CEO of General Motors announced that the mission of GM was to ‘make money.’ Shortly thereafter GM’s earnings started to decline. GM was created to make cars in a variety of price ranges and quality categories. Its real purpose is to make ‘good’ cars, and when it does this very well, it gets to make money. At BB&T our real purpose is to help our clients be financially successful and economically secure, and when we do this well, we can make money for our shareholders.”

He also warns about what he calls the “ultimate psychological sin of evasion.” This occurs when we choose not to explore what we know we should explore because we are afraid the information will not concur with our already-established views. Evasion has a dramatically negative impact on one’s happiness, as well as the success of a business or a society.

The author is very firm regarding the importance of staying focused on truth. He says, “When we evade, we are detached from reality and cannot learn or grow.” True both for individuals and for businesses. And, for society? He asks, “Do our political leaders make decisions based on reality?”

The pages of my copy of the book are filled with notes and underlines as well as starred and bracketed sentences and paragraphs. I simply cannot do this book justice in a single post. Let me suggest — if I may — that you purchase this book, read it, study it, and then buy it as a gift for all the leaders and potential leaders in your life.

There are a lot of excellent leadership books on the market and I’ve benefited from reading many of them. This one might just be the most important one yet!

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P.S. Here are just a few more gems from the book I couldn’t resist including. And I worked hard to whittle it down to just these: 🙂

“It is a significant error for a leader to promote a vision and not deliver. This is a fundamental breach of trust with the organization’s constituents.”

“The organizing principle of human action is purpose….{W}e are purpose-driven entities.”

“If your work is just ‘work,’ you are missing a lot of what life is about.”

“The ultimate societal incentive is freedom.”

“It is noteworthy that we seem to tolerate a level of dishonesty in politicians that we would not tolerate at work or with our friends.”

“It is irrational to expect someone to change his or her behavior based on nonexistent feedback.”

“The primary manner in which you earn self-esteem is by living your life with integrity and living your life consistent with your values.”

“Much of leadership is based on the ability to integrate multiple specialists to accomplish complex work that no single specialist could achieve alone.”

“Successful communities (teams) are created by voluntary mutual consent…Successful teams and communities cannot be built using force.”

“The compound self-esteem impact of working to your potential day in & day out is significant.”

“Earning money is tremendously rewarding, even if you give it all away. Earning money in a free society is a symbol of productivity and has a meaningful psychological reward. It is the earning, not the having, that is valuable.”

“Remember human flourishing — happiness — is the end of the game.”

Human Nature, Happiness and Adam Smith

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

How Adam Smith Can Change Your LifeIt’s his “other classic”…the one that few in our modern times have ever read. Including most economists!

After all, how could Adam Smith, the “Patron Saint of Capitalism” have written a book dealing not with economics but with…self-help!?

Yet, the author of The Wealth of Nations did indeed write The Theory of Moral Sentiments. That book looked deeply into the connection between understanding human nature and how one can live a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life.

Fortunately, in Russ Roberts newest book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide To Human Nature And Happiness we are provided with insights into the brilliance of the 18th century Scottish philosopher. However, these have little to do with economics and everything to do with understanding life, ourselves, and others.

Roberts’ writing style is warm and friendly. He helps us understand these principles by combining Smith’s timeless wisdom with compelling, modern-day examples.

As shared previously, human nature is that we all seek happiness as we individually understand it, and within the available choices we perceive. Successful people do not deny human nature but rather respect and work within it. This means we must also take other people’s desires into consideration.

What are some of the many lessons we learn in this book that can help us to live a happier life based on Smith’s insights? Just a few include:

  • While we are inherently self-interested, “we also care about other people’s happiness.”
  • “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be {worthy of being loved}.”
  • Exactly why pursuing money for its own sake is much more likely to bring about sadness than one might even imagine.
  • Why “Self-delusion is the source of half the disorders of human life.” And, how to most effectively guard against this.
  • “Emotional interaction is a duet in which we are constantly fine-tuning our volume to match that of our fellow.” Yes, it turns out Smith was also a master of what today we would call Emotional Intelligence.
  • The VERY counter-intuitive way to make the world a better place.

The author, Russ Roberts, hosts the very popular and award-winning weekly podcast, EconTalk. A Stanford University Hoover Institution Research Fellow, he has also written three economics novels. And, he co-created the amazing Keynes-Hayek rap videos which have been viewed over seven million times on YouTube.

My concern with writing book review posts for books I’ve fallen in love with is that I cannot possibly include everything deserved in this short a space. After all, there’s a reason it’s an entire book. So, if I may, let me just suggest that, if your goal is to learn about happiness, and from two of the brightest men I’ve had the pleasure of learning from, get this book.

I love books and love wisdom — rarely have I been touched this deeply by both!!

Book Review – Reinventing the Entrepreneur

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Reinventing the Entrepreneur MaryEllen TribbyHaving read, studied, and benefited from hundreds of terrific and helpful business, sales, and marketing books, I was very excited to read this latest one from MaryEllen Tribby. Little did I know how much Reinventing The Entrepreneur would exceed even my very high expectations.

MaryEllen is a legend in the business world, most notably in the field of online publishing. With a very successful background in traditional media, she rose to fame after stepping in as president of an online publication and bringing it from $11 million to over $67 million in sales in just 12 months.

After that, she became publisher and CEO of another online publication and, in just 15 months, took it from $8 million to $26 million.

The world (at least those in that genre) took notice, and understandably so.

And then she began her own publication, WorkingMomsOnly.com, starting from zero and — of course — has built that into a powerhouse, as well. Obviously, she knows how it’s done and her readers are fortunate she decided to share her wisdom with us. She has recently introduced a new one, The CEO’s Edge.

On the surface, Reinventing the Entrepreneur is about starting and publishing a successful “Inbox Magazine” or iMag. However, it is so, so much more than just that. It is also a primer on running any online business very effectively and very profitably.

I’d say it’s also a primer on running practically ANY business for great results.

I personally define a “System” as, “The process of predictably achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles.” The key to this is “predictability.” If it’s been proven that by doing “A” you’ll get the desired results of “B” then you know you only have to do “A” and continue to do “A” and you’ll eventually get the results you desire.

MaryEllen has shared her millions and millions of dollars worth of wisdom in the pages of this book. Doing so, she has provided a system that has proven to be predictably successful. More so, she has taught it in such a way that can duplicated by practically anyone.

While I don’t have an inbox magazine, she provided me with many nuggets of wisdom and immediately-actionable ideas  that will help add significantly more value to my customers.

Color me impressed! This book is fantastic!

If you have a business that in any way utilizes the internet in order to connect, attract, provide value and make money, then pick up Reinventing the Entrepreneur and prepare yourself – with pen, highlighter and yellow sticky notes in-hand.  You’re about to learn a lot!