Posts tagged: leadership

The Return on Investment of Reading

My summer reading pile. From top to bottom: "Rhode Island Notebook" - Gabe Gudding "Freakonomics" - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner "How to be Alone" - Jonathan Frazen "A Handbook of ...

Why Should I Read Books?

In the age of Twitter (and I love Twitter), the time and energy for reading books is shrinking. Especially the kind of books that help us grow our businesses. Isn’t it easier to read ‘articles’, blog posts (yeah, like this one!) or your favorite business news source?

Here’s what goes on in my head…. Reading a book… ugh. It’ll take a long time. Not only do I not have a couple of hours to read a book, I don’t have the mental energy it takes to concentrate on a business book. My days are just too busy.

But often, the smartest person in the room, the one with a good perspective and ideas,  is the one who reads books. If you ask them what is the most recent business book they read, they’ll have a ready answer. We read books in school, but once we get out, we think it’s either not necessary or a luxury we can’t afford.

Skill Building

“In medical school, an ongoing lesson is that there will be ongoing lessons. You’re never done. Surgeons and internists are expected to keep studying for their entire career—in fact, it’s required to keep a license valid.” He continues, “knowledge workers, though, the people who” manage, market, and do accounting— “often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction. The average knowledge worker reads fewer than one business book a year.”  Seth Godin

When I read a book, one that requires me to actually think, as opposed to my favorite mysteries, I have to focus 100% on the page. It’s one of the few times during the day (or evening) that I do only one thing at a time. I get to concentrate on just one thing and I build skills, knowledge, and perspective.

Finding The “Right” Investment

One of the hardest things for me is to figure out is ‘what’ to read. There are so many books! A quick search indicates there are some 11,000 business books published every year. How in the world can I sift through all that noise to find something that will actually give me some return for my precious time?

Here’s how I try to figure out what to read. I think about:

  1. An author, is this someone who has written something that I learned from before?
  2. A general business book that brings a big picture into focus (as opposed to ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ or some other sub topic.)
  3. Bigger ideas or technology trends… not just specific companies or individual technologies.
  4. Books where the author has done research. The research means that the author had a hypothesis and then tested it.

Some of My  Favorites

  1. Anything by Chris Anderson, Amy Cuddy, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Seth Godin.
  2. Traditional favorites like: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Michael Gerber on Entrepreneurship and my all time favorite – Peter Drucker on anything he ever wrote about.

I’d love to hear how you select what books you will read and who your favorite authors are. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Summer reading list

 

Skeptic or Cynic?

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We are “in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope, bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed.” Maria Popova

With our presidential election weeks away, I hear people talk about how they hate the two party candidates… that they are not going to vote, that the country is a mess, that they don’t see how this election could possibly turn out okay.

I understand. This will be my 12th national election. Most years, I didn’t like my choices either.

It’s much easier to be cynical than to commit to a personal effort to change things. Does the cynic serve a purpose? I don’t believe that the cynic does much to improve things. He or she may feel righteous, but nothing really gets better. Skepticism, on the other hand, can help us be discerning. So skepticism is useful, cynicism isn’t.

But what I see going on these days is beyond skeptical… it is surrender, a complete abdication of responsibility to think through what is good for our nation and neighbors. And this, I do not understand. If you are young and cynical to the point of inaction, then I feel sorry for you. If you are old, then I am ashamed of you. It is our responsibility to help the young understand that life is full of ups and downs. The downs don’t push us to whine and moan. They push us to look at ourselves and to figure out how to contribute to the common good.

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If you haven’t read  Maria Popova‘s 2016 commencement address, I hope you’ll take a minute. Her message is inspiring.

Ignorance is a Choice

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Calvin and Hobbes on Ignorance - Bill Watterson

The Ugh-ly Truth

We live in interesting times. We have to work hard to keep up with the way the world is changing. Some of it we like. Some of it we don’t. We may have very good reasons why we won’t accept this change or that different way of thinking, doing or being. But we do have a choice.

We can open our minds to what others think and be tolerant and accepting. Or we can choose to shut down, get angry or refuse to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The former requires us to change, personally. The latter is merely reacting.

The Kids Are Watching

Worse yet, whether or not we accept others points of view becomes a generational tendency. As parents, if we are unwilling to work to change, then that’s what we teach our kids. They don’t do what we say, they do what we do. We are role models. Ignorance is choice.

Image Credit:  Bill Watterson

Attention Is the Rarest & Purest Form of Generosity

31 January 2008 31/366 Watching the 2nd season of The Wire. "Sometimes things got to play hard".

What does love look like?

Let’s talk about how we show people that we care. Do we buy things for them? Do we cook for them? Clean up after them? Provide a home? All of these things take a lot of time… and energy.

Attention, the rarest of commodities

What is one of the most important (and ‘cheapest’) things we can do for our children, spouse, friends, relatives, employees?

We can listen to them. Look them in the eye and give them our full attention. Try to do it for one full minute. Is it difficult? Do you feel like you ‘should’ be doing something else? email, texts, reading, exercising, paperwork, etc.

Giving someone our full attention isn’t easy in the age of distraction. Check out this terrific post by the wonderful Beth Kanter on improving focus (simple ideas to practice) when there’s too much going on.

Practice

Just for today, pick one person. Turn everything off. Sit down with them and ask them a question and then listen to the answer.  Can you repeat back to them what they said? Did you really hear them? Were you able to ask follow up questions? Did you understand how they felt, whether they told you or not? Be generous with your ATTENTION, with the people who mean the most to you. Let me know how it goes.

Image credit: Listen closely   photographer credit: 20 questions

Quote credit: Simone Weil Image credit: Quotesville.net   

I Hate Being A Grown Up, Maturity is Overrated

Maturity means:
Be Strong not Stubborn
Firm not Harsh
Flexible not Fickle
Humble not Proud
Helpful not Showy
Affectionate not Hurtful
Annoyed not Resentful
The Glue and not the Crack
Being You yet Accepting others
Brave yet Grateful
Helpful yet Modest
Right yet Wrong
Successful yet Grounded
Angry yet Composed
There are a lot of benefits to being a grown up and there’s a bunch of sh*t too. In reading this ‘definition’ of maturity, I was struck by the list of ‘opposites. “be the glue, not the crack.” The reality is that sometimes we are the crack. No matter how hard we try NOT to be. It’s complicated to be right yet wrong, successful and grounded, firm and not harsh.
The reality is that some of us will mature more fully. Lots of things get in the way of being mature… #1 is ego and I equate a big ego to someone who isn’t confident. They push and pull their way through life. The sharp edges never wear off. No. Matter. What.
My favorite saying on this list and the one I’ve worked hard on is “angry yet composed.” Being raised a ‘girl,’ I was taught, shown and constantly reinforced – girls don’t get angry. It’s ok for boys, after all, they’re boys. (Yeah, I feel sick too). Growing up in a very dysfunctional home, it was easy to be angry. I was good at it. I had a lot of practice. so what was I supposed to do with it. Channel it into new lipsticks and hairdos?
Remember, I was born before the legislation that changed the lives of American women forever, Title IX (pros and cons article). The law that sports had to be equal for men and women. Prior to Title IX, sports were not available to women. Hell, we’ve only had the right to vote since August 26, 1920. 95 years! There are women alive today who couldn’t vote in the early part of their lives. It’s hard for me to imagine.
So now that traditional outlets for learning, growing, understanding winning and losing, choosing our own destiny, etc. are available to us, finding a way to be angry and composed is easier. Not easy, but at least today, I’ve got a clue.

Against the Wind

When I take my dog outside and it’s windy … she stops and puts her face directly into the wind, even if it’s cold outside. It’s like she’s thinking, this wind is awesome … life is good.

In Paul Simon’s song, “I Know What I Know,” he uses the phrase.. “who am I blow against the wind?”

I take the lyrics to mean… “if you say so.” If you think I’m rich, a loser, a genius, a nut job… who am I to try to change your mind? It implies a passive attitude toward life. For me, that takes a lot of energy. Of course, it takes energy to stand up, speak up and challenge also. Sometimes we are greeted with a sh*tstorm. Sometimes we are patted on the head. Sometimes we help make a difference.

Rocker Bob Seger sang a song called, “Against the Wind.” In the song, Seger seems to think that as a young man, he didn’t do what was expected of him… that he did what he wanted, whether other people liked it or not. Then he got old and stopped ‘running against the wind.”

I think that there are times to run with the wind and times to run against it. No one can tell us when to go with or against. I will suggest that if you always run with (too conforming) or run against (too “too”), then think about mixing it up a little.

I’ve always run against more than with and for me, it’s been good.

Do you run with or against the wind?

Curiosity – Brought Back the Cat

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Now that I am old(erish), I thought my curiosity about the world would decrease. After all, it’s gotten me into plenty of trouble.

When I read, “The Routine Gene – Can Productivity and Creativity Coincide?” I knew that my love of ambiguity/curiosity was alive and well. That’s because I have a high CQ (curiosity quotient). This is in contrast to my IQ (aka Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Our “curiosity quotient is measured by how inquisitive and open to new situations we are. People with higher CQ, dislike routine, but embrace ambiguity and have a knack for finding simple solutions to complex problems.”

The following quote (from the article) describes my approach to routine and creativity:

“The art is finding the balance between turning everything you do that is repeatable into a well-oiled machine (call it ‘a routine’) whilst keeping all your attention and senses open for serendipity and creativity. The best entrepreneurs zip through life on autopilot where their creativity isn’t needed and bring intense focus to those areas where they can make a huge difference.” This manifests itself in various ways; I generally eat the same thing for breakfast. Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck and jeans.

If you are bored with your work or your life, maybe you need to figure out how to up your CQ. I like to ‘feed’ my curiosity. Here are few ways that I do it:

  • Watch a movie and imagine I am the director. What would I have changed? Who would I have cast?
  • Take a walk outside and appreciate the simple complexity of nature. I look very closely at tree bark, rocks, flowers. I look at the pattern, the texture, the color and I smell everything.
  • Listen to someone talk about what they love to do. Somehow, watching and witnessing their joy and passion is completely inspirational.

How do you feed your curiosity?

Photo credit: Eugene O’Neill Quotes

Secret to Life

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

The whole point of life is to keep trying. Fall down, get up, stumble; stumble forward.

Many people don’t understand the joy of trying and failing. Somehow they gauge their worth by things; not by how many times they fall on their face and get back up.

I’m begging you; be weird. The world needs you.

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Image credit: Banksy

Are You A ‘DTM’ – Difficult to Manage?

What Is a DTM?

I was one of those employees labeled as ‘difficult to manage.’ When I worked in corporate america, I wasn’t intimidated by anyone’s position in the company. I tended to say my ideas out loud, even when they weren’t solicited. I was comfortable organizing chaos and happy when working with a team to make progress where others didn’t see how it could be done. I haven’t changed; much.

In this article in the Harvard Business Review, “Improve Your Ability to Learn,I finally feel vindicated. Here’s how they describe such an employee (aka me).

“While talented, Alex had come to be known behind closed doors by the moniker “DTM” – difficult to manage. He marched to the beat of his own drummer, and he wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. He loved a challenge, and he was comfortable taking risks.”

Oh, Oh, Now What Do I Do?

The point of this article is that some DTM’s can be exemplary in their ability to learn, including the importance of “learning agility, a set of qualities and attributes that allow an individual to stay flexible, grow from mistakes, and rise to a diverse array of challenges.” It’s gratifying to know that my brashness and challenging personality were actually good things.

Here are some characteristics of DTM’s – we tend to be more extroverted, focused, original and resilient and less accommodating to slow progress and excuses. If you have these characteristics, try the following – look for stretch assignments, regularly seek real input and most of all, enhance your listening skills. As for me, I’m old… too late for me to get along like a nice girl.

Photo credit: Five tips

Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

So <i>very</i> many ways to interpret this label.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p><i>Not taken by me.</i>

Imagine All The People, Living Life in Peace

John Lennon wrote a song called Imagine. The song asks us to imagine a world with out countries, religion, ‘nothing to kill or die for…’

Part of this “imagining” fundamentally denies or perhaps ‘polishes’ our human desire for belonging.  Without color, race, nationality, language, heritage, family… how do we know were we belong? But it is exactly that ‘belonging’ that separates us from one another. I’m a Christian, you’re a Muslim. We’re different.

Part of our ‘comfort’ with the world is predictability. Being able to know what will happen next. My daily rituals order in my life. But it is precisely in ‘not knowing’, taking a risk, going on a adventure, that we become stronger and more fully human.

Connect With The Person, Let Go Of Your ‘Belonging’

For today, I’m going to ask you to think of someone whose point of view you simply don’t understand. Now, picture yourself as them. Going to work, loving their family, eating lunch with a friend. Are they really all that different from you?

The next time you feel misunderstood, encounter someone thinks you’re crazy or you feel isolated in your view of the world… stop and say, it’s ok. We disagree. I’m not lost, they are not lost. We simply disagree. I don’t have to make sure that they know I’m right.

Thanks to Seth Godin for the idea for this post. Title credit: Don’t Let Me Be MisunderstoodThe Animals

Photo credit: Does not work    CarbonNYC