I don’t know how to decide which are the most important books. But I think this may be one of them.
I read the Pulitzer Prize winning The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright just days after it was published. I could not put it down. I have read two of his earlier books: In the New World (Growing Up in America, 1960-1984) should be a must read for anyone who wants to understand Dallas, and Saints and Sinners, an absolutely gripping read.
Here is an excerpt from The Looming Tower:
In so many respects, the Trade Center dead formed a kind of universal parliament, representing sixty-two countries and nearly every ethnic group and religion in the world. There was an ex-hippie stockbroker, the gay Catholic Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, a Japanese hockey player, and Ecuadoran sous chef, a Barbie Doll collector, a vegetarian calligrapher, a Palestinian accountant…. The manifold ways in which they attached to life testified to the Quranic injunction that the taking of a single life destruys a universes. Al-Quada had aimed its attacks at America, but it struck all of humanity.
Tonight, HBO will debut the new film based on his one-man play, My Trip To Al-Qaeda. (I saw him present an earlier version here in Dallas). Read the synopsis and watch the trailer on the HBO site here.
If you haven’t read the book, it is absolutely worth your time. And I suspect the HBO version of his play will also help you understand.
(By the way, Mr. Wright wrote the script for the movie, The Siege, with Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, and Annette Bening. It came out in 1998, but was the most rented movie shortly after the 9/11 attack).
Here is an article written by Lee Weinstein for The New York Times. To read the complete article and/or obtain information about a deep-discount subscription, please click here.
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EVERY so often it happens. You’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror and a momentous life question hits you.
Lee Weinstein of Oregon kept a journal and worked with a career counselor to re-evaluate his career.
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My bathroom-mirror moment came one morning more than three years ago. I was 47, and it dawned on me that my 15th anniversary of working in public relations at Nike was fast approaching.
“Do I want to stay at Nike for five more years?”
The unequivocal answer from the man in the mirror was, “No!” I knew then that I had accomplished everything I wanted to do at Nike, and that it was time for me to get out and do something new. Thus began a two-year process of introspection and redirecting my career.
I began by working with Ruth Luban, a career counselor and author of Are You a Corporate Refugee? A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned and Displaced Workers.
Ruth sees career change as a process that begins with letting go of the old reality and entering into the wilderness. “This is ‘a process of wandering,’” she writes. “The old structures, rules and habits are gone, leaving chaos, confusion and crisis.”
This wilderness period seemed terrifying. As a Type A personality, I like form, immediate answers and action lists. I had always looked outward for advice. This time I was going inward.
I began keeping a daily journal. Every morning, after meditating, I wrote for 20 minutes about anything that came into my mind: career, process, mood and feelings, and anything that was happening. No editing. No spell-check. Just daily stream-of-consciousness writing from the gut. Those notes provided me with the bread crumbs that would help lead me out of the wilderness and on to my new life.
After working with Ruth, and after 40 years of having goal after goal, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do next. But the destructuring process she led me through was freeing, insightful and fundamental.
I then went off on my own, journaling and exploring, and began to create lists of my strengths, jobs I could do, my top accomplishments in life. I developed a life plan, breaking down my next 40 years into decades and looking at life milestones along the way: When would my mom turn 80? Our daughters graduate from college? If I had only four decades left, what did I want to do and learn? Where did I want to be at age 60?
I consulted at least a dozen unhelpful career change books. Two books did move me forward: Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher, contained many exercises that helped me uncover aspects of myself that I’d forgotten. One exercise asked me what I liked to do as a child, which reminded me that I’d written and published my own newspaper and sold it door-to-door at age 10. Those childhood interests are forever a part of who we are.
Another book, Do What You Are, by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, included a Myers-Briggs type personality test that revealed I was an “E.N.F.J.” — “extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judging.” When I turned to the page that described the work my personality was best suited for, one of the occupations was “public relations specialist.”
Well, I muttered, I guess I chose the right profession. The chapter listed a wide variety of occupations for which I was suited, including fund-raiser, recruiter, politician and teacher.
The turning point came when I sequestered myself for a series of free writes. I simply created an imaginary workday and wrote without stopping: “It’s 6 a.m. … I’m waking up in Portland and I’m getting up and going to work for a P.R. agency downtown. … I’m going to work teaching U.S. history at a high school. … I’m going to work for a large company doing communications. … I’m waking up in the Columbia Gorge and going to Hood River, where I have a P.R. agency.”
As each possibility came to me, I paid close attention to the feelings that emerged. Working for a P.R. agency in downtown Portland felt good but not terribly exciting. Being a high school teacher seemed lonely. But waking up in a small town and starting my own business or P.R. consulting firm would be exhilarating.
I HAD my answer: I was going to leverage all that I had learned in P.R. for 20-plus years and start my own consultancy. No one else had given me my answer — it was inside. My wilderness journey was ending.
I developed a timeline and, working with an excellent local entrepreneurial network, drew up a plan that showed me just how possible my goal was. Then I invited a group including my wife, friends, colleagues and other family members to look over my shoulder. It was remarkable how everyone was willing to help and to give advice.
Three years later, I am running a successful P.R. agency in The Dalles, Ore., with my wife — who also worked at Nike — and have a life more connected to nature and to Oregon. I’m deeply grateful for my Nike experience but have never regretted letting go. The notes that remain from the journey will be invaluable for my next life move.
Just in case you have’t heard, Freakonomics: The Movie (Six Rogue Filmmakers Explore the Hidden Side of Everything) is on its way…
From the website:
FREAKONOMICS is the highly anticipated film version of the phenomenally bestselling book about incentives-based thinking by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Like the book, the film examines human behavior with provocative and sometimes hilarious case studies, bringing together a dream team of filmmakers responsible for some of the most acclaimed and entertaining documentaries in recent years: Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Casino Jack and the United States of Money), Academy Award® nominees Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp), Academy Award® nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and Seth Gordon (The King of Kong).
Watch the trailer here.
Yes, I have presented both Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics at the First Friday Book Synopsis. You can purchase these presentations, with handout + audio, at our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Recently, I presented a synopsis of a book that a number of folks in the audience had actually already read. I know they would be there – I knew that they had read it. The book was Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish – a very good, and useful book.
These people in the audience who had read the book were coaches for the Gazelles organization. These coaches are smart, helpful — they provide great value to their clients.
But here was the interesting thing: after my synopsis, each of them said something like this: “I didn’t remember that this was in the book” — and then they would refer to a specific point, or quote, that I included in the synopsis.
When I present a synopsis of a book to a second, or third, or fourth audience, I frequently have the same experience. Even as I am speaking, I have an “I didn’t remember this was in this book” moment.
So, here is the problem. We always have something new to read, to learn. And we always have something we’ve already “learned” to “remember,” even “re-learn.”
Good news. We’re not idiots – we’re normal. This is one of the points made in this article about student’s learning habits from the NY Times: Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits by Benedict Carey. Here’s the key excerpt:
Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.
“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”
When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.
No one knows for sure why. It may be that the brain, when it revisits material at a later time, has to relearn some of what it has absorbed before adding new stuff — and that that process is itself self-reinforcing.
“The idea is that forgetting is the friend of learning,” said Dr. Kornell (Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College and the lead author of the study). “When you forget something, it allows you to relearn, and do so effectively, the next time you see it.”
The research is clear – reading/hearing something once is not enough. You have to re-visit, re-ponder, re-learn over and over again.