The phrase “book club” is thrown around a lot. And I am learning it has a number of different meanings.
For example, there are two different “TED” book clubs. One is for the people who attend the actual, original TED conference. They each receive a stack of books periodically. They are then left to their own devices, to read them as they wish. This is version one of the TED book club. The other TED book club is a local event, here in Dallas called the TEDxSMU Book Club Meet Up. People who attend are asked to read (expected to read!) one book before the gathering. For the gathering in April, the book will be This Will Change Everything by John Brockman. This is a wonderful, good, challenging book club. “Everyone read in advance, and let’s discuss the implications of the book” is the agenda.
I remember back in my full time ministry days, I started a book club. It was a hand-picked, small group of “young/future leaders.” I gave them each a copy of the book I selected. They each had to read the book. Then, each person had to “present” one chapter of the book to the group, and lead a discussion. It was a very workable, terrific approach. It went really well.
For the first book.
By the end of the run (about the sixth book), I got the distinct impression that the only person really reading the material was the person reading the chapter he/she was responsible for presenting.
If the TED folks actually all read the book, this will be quite an accomplishment. They might – TED folks are highly motivated.
But here is a frequent problem for book clubs. It is common for a CEO, or a top level leader, to convene a book club within a company or organization, give everyone a book, and ask/expect them all to read it and discuss it. And I know, for a fact, that a high percentage of the participants in such “book clubs” actually barely skim the book before the meetings. I’ve heard this told, in many ways, over and over again (including from many participants who admitted this to me).
The fact is that most people wish they read more books, intend to read more books, but don’t actually read many books. I can’t find good/reliable figures on this, but one study once quoted this finding: among the college educated men (it was a survey of men only), these men actually averaged reading only one book a year (excluding the reading of Tom Clancy or John Grisham type books).
This is what makes the First Friday Book Synopsis a blue ocean event. It is the only book club I know of where the participants do not have to read the books/are not expected to read the books in order to participate. Karl Krayer and I read the books for you.
Is it the same as reading the book for yourself? No, it is not. It is not as good, and it is better.
It is not as good, because the best way to get the most out of a good book is to read it slowly. (There is actually a book entitled How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension by James W. Sire). For the books that most matter to you, you really should read them slowly enough to get the most out of them, to savor them, to ponder the implications and plan ways to implement its truths and suggestions.
It is better, because you probably have not looked for a book’s thesis, major points, and transferable principles since your last college assignment. So Karl and I will extract these from the books for you, and you get the benefits from the books without having to actually spend the time reading the books.
Yes, the First Friday Book Synopsis is a new kind of book club – the only one I know of where you do not need to read the book in order to participate.
In our busy world, I think this is a pretty good, valuable, offering. It is a Blue Ocean book club.
One of the books I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis was Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. You can purchase my synopsis of Blue Ocean Strategy, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
There are business books that deal with practically every business issue you can imagine. But there is one theme that never disappears, that is perpetually resurrected, because it deals with such a basic human problem. It goes by a lot of names: motivation; self-improvement; self-help. The idea is simple – how can I get better at what I do? – every day. Over and over again, I need to improve…myself.
And there are two parts to this getting better battle. One part is skill development. The other part is, where will I find the energy/focus/motivation to get better?
I recently re-read my handout to a book I presented back in July, 2001: The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life by Robert W. Cooper. The book reminds us all that we simply are not living up to our possibilities, our capacities, our capabilities. We can get better at what we do! We can do better at our job, at our relationships, at our lives.
The book is filled with quotes like these:
“What if every day I had questioned yesterday’s definition of my best? What if I’d listened to my own heart instead of their words. Then I might have kept looking deeper and giving the world more of the best that was hidden inside me. All of us are mostly unused potential.” (Hugh Cooper Sr., the author’s grandfather)
“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” (Nelson Mandela)
“The world belongs to those with the most energy.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)
First thing Monday morning, do you wake up envisioning – “Another week of stress and strain at work” – or “Another chance to do more of the things I love”?
As Hegel observed, “We may affirm that absolutely nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”
No matter who you are, no matter how hard your life has been, no matter what challenges you are facing right now, every moment you have within your reach what my grandfather knew we all have – the opportunity to shape what you are becoming.
Here’s what I think. People who only listen to motivational speakers, people who only read self-help books, are probably not tackling the skill development they need to tackle. Motivation help alone does not cut it.
But, on the other hand, we probably could all do better than we are doing. After the skill development, there is an attitude adjustment and improvement, a raising of the energy bar, that we all need to tackle. Over and over again. So maybe we should read an occasional book that in one way or another reminds us that we really could and probably should become all that we can be.
The Other 90% is a good book to choose.
The book is filled with practical suggestions, such as how to take a short break during the day that helps you renew your energy. You can purchase my synopsis of this book, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.