According to an article published by Canwest News Service (May 11, 2005), “Mother’s Day creator likely spinning in her grave.” Here is a brief excerpt.
To read the complete article, please click here.
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Pity the mother of Mother’s Day.
Anna Jarvis — never married, never a mother — campaigned for almost a decade to dedicate a day to honor mothers. She chose a Sunday because she wanted it to be a “holy” day, not a holiday, and the second Sunday in May because it was the anniversary of the death of her own beloved mother.
Jarvis wanted us to show our mothers how much their devotion and sacrifice matters, how we esteem the “truth, purity and broad charity of mother love.” She expected us to do it with simple gestures — in her opinion, a single white carnation and a heartfelt letter were best. Her carnations were handed out at the first Mother’s Day ceremony exactly 100 years ago.
And look at how we repaid her.
Throughout the decades, the “holy” day has evolved into a retailing and marketing bonanza, each year becoming more and more a chance to spend money rather than time or effort, until we arrive at today, when retailers can, with a straight face, suggest you “show Mom you care” by buying their platinum charm bracelet, their “Thanks A Bunch” floral arrangement, or their discounted patio furniture (nothing says filial love like a powder-coated aluminum table you scored for 50 per cent off).
“I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit,” Jarvis complained, dismissing greeting cards as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.”
Anna Jarvis wasn’t too lazy to write letters. They were the greatest weapon in her campaign to create Mother’s Day.
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This year, I plan to celebrate Mother’s Day by following Anna Jarvis’ example: I will send a personal note (not an email message, not a “store-bought” card) to every mother I admire most and thank her for being such a terrific mother. Recipients include my wife, our daughter, two daughters-in-law, and wives of best friends.
While on the subject of appreciation, let’s not overlook the importance of Julia Ward Howe who, decades before Jarvis began her campaign for a national “holy day” to honor mothers, led a campaign to establish a worldwide “Mothers Day for Peace” with her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870, clearly in response to the Civil War and perhaps the Franco-Prussian War.
However, Jarvis seems to deserve most of the credit for the proclamation that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued in 1914, calling for the observance of Mother’s Day. Other countries eventually followed, including Canada, which made it official the following year.
This is prompted by a sad, disturbing piece…
My colleague Karl Krayer has a terrific workshop on writing skills. Companies hire him to teach their employees how to write clear, understandable emails and memos and reports. (Have you ever had to read, and re-read, and re-read again, an unclear e-mail?)
Sadly, many of them need a lot of help.
Why? The short answer is this: good writing comes from lots and lots of reading, spread out over the course of a human life, starting early, and going on as long as possible. And most people simply have not put in the time to read in order to learn to write clearly.
(I know a man, a wonderful man now in the twilight of his years, who told me in tears that he simply can no longer see the pages. He is a lifelong reader, and his failing eyesight is his single greatest loss – because of that love of reading).
There is a sad, disturbing piece by an anonymous adjunct professor at the community college level. I have read the essay, from the June, 2008 Atlantic: In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why by PROFESSOR X. And I have read the sample of his book.
Here are a couple of key excerpts in his article:
In each of my courses, we discuss thesis statements and topic sentences, the need for precision in vocabulary, why economy of language is desirable, what constitutes a compelling subject.
My students don’t read much, as a rule, and though I think of them monolithically, they don’t really share a culture. To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope. (And I thought everyone had read that!) Animal Farm? No. If they have read it, they don’t remember it.
Reading simply teaches so much. Not only does it teach what is found in the content of the writing, but it also teaches how to put thoughts into an understandable order, how to get a message across, how to communicate what is important. There is no short cut. Thesis and topic statements, precision in vocabulary, economy of language, compelling subjects – these are modeled, inhaled, and then, with work, learned.
If you need to write better (if your employees need to write better) hire Karl Krayer to help you.
But – you might want to start by reading more. A lot more.
(You can contact Karl Krayer, my colleague at the Frist Friday Book Synopsis, on this blog, and in many other ways, through his web site for Creative Communication Network).
Last night, I curled up in bed, and read three sample downloads of books on my iPad. Two of them were business books: Little Things and The Corner Office. The music was playing, I learned a lot, and I loved the experience.
I’m ready to weigh in… The iPad is the way to go for book lovers.
First, this caveat… I do very little reading outdoors. (make that none…) Yes, I’ve read that the iPad does not work as well as the Kindle for outdoor reading, but to me, that is a non-issue.
So, let me tell you how I am using the iPad to read books. To start, let me remind you of what I have written before. If you want to know what is in a book, read the book. That is the first, preferable approach. (I have never jumped on the audio books train, but to some, that may be as good an approach). But, to read the book, carefully, thoroughly, is the best way to glean the wisdom in a book. Everything else is “lesser.”
If you don’t have time to read the book, then download one of our 15minutebusinessbooks synopses for books we have presented (recorded at our live presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis). You receive the audio of our synopses, plus the multi-page handout.
If you don’t have time to do that, then read the reviews of the book, and the best reviewer I know is Bob Morris, who shares his excellent reviews on our blog, among other places. Has he reviewed the book you are interested in? A good/quick way to find out is to simply google the title of the book, like this: Enchantment Bob Morris First Friday. It will take you right to his review (click here) of the new Guy Kawasaki book, Enchantment.
It is after this step that the iPad has become a wonder. When I read a review by Bob, and think “I really want to know more about that book,” I now immediately go to iBooks in my iPad and download the sample. It is a long enough excerpt that it really does give me a major taste of the book itself. I then can decide whether or not to read the entire book.
Here are a few observations from my experience, so far:
#1 – Of the two apps, iBooks is better than Kindle. Yes, you can use both the Amazon Kindle app, or the native to the iPad iBooks app, on the iPad. I have read books, and downloaded samples of books, on both. To me, the more readable/usable format is the iBooks. (Of course – that is what Apple is so good at).
In both formats, I like to hold the iPad in the landscape position, with two columns of text – practically like holding a book open. I make the print plenty large, so there are more “pages” in the book, but it facilitates a really fast reading pace. And I prefer the sepia background – just easier on the eyes, to me.
The highlight/note feature is easy to use on iBooks. Kindle has the highlight feature, but I do not find it as easy to use. (Maybe I am just a klutz).
#2 – With apology to Karl Krayer, my colleague who has weighed in heavily on this blog against e-books, and with apology to myself (I have written before about my love of actual, physical books), I hate to say this, but… reading a book on the iPad is actually every bit as fulfilling an experience as reading a physical book is. And, it is easier. The book is never too heavy, too big, the pages never flop closed. I hate to say it, but it may simply be a better experience.
Now, I know the worries – I share them. What will happen to the book business, to bookstores? And, yes, browsing in a bookstore, picking up volume after volume to flip through, is still superior to the iBooks and Kindle experience. But, once you’ve decided to read the book, I am really liking the iPad.
#3 – And, of course, the iPad beats the Kindle because of eveything else you can do. With a tap on the screen, I can turn my music on. I can, in a flash, check my e-mail or check a web site – and then, go right back to reading the book.
I don’t remember who first said it (it might have been Farhad Manjoo of Slate.com), but the iPad is the perfect device for “input.” It is not as good as a desktop or laptop for “output” work, but for input, like reading a book, it is a marvel.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I will still buy, and read and use, physical books. (For the First Friday Book Synopsis, I will have to – we give the books away at the end of each session). And I will still be adding to my physical books library.
But it is not an either-or proposition — it is a both-and proposition. And the iPad has become the “and” that I am really enjoying.
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Lars Bjork (chief executive of QlikTech, a data software company), says he has thought about hiring a simplicity officer to view its operations, to “come in with fresh eyes and see whether this really is the smartest way to do something.”
To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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Order Is Great. It’s Bureaucracy That’s Stifling
Bryant: Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss or manager?
Bjork: It was in 1984. I had the opportunity to work in construction in New York, coming right out of undergrad. I was sick and tired of school at the time. I didn’t want to study anymore. My uncle had built one of the largest construction companies in the world, so he got me a job on the Throgs Neck Bridge in New York as an assistant supervisor on site.
I was 22, and the men were double my age and tough. And I think the only way I could go about it was just walk up and try to speak to them and try to earn their respect, which I did. It took some time. It was rough at the beginning, but I learned a lot from that. It was hard, tough, but a very fair environment.
Bryant: How did you handle it?
Bjork: They looked at me skeptically. Who is this kid just out of school? He doesn’t know anything about what you really do on a construction site like this. But I was a foreigner, and they were curious, so they said, let’s hear him out, see who he is.
Then it just comes down to proving yourself — things you give them advice on or things that you tell them that are solid and sound, and weren’t just pulled out of the air. I’ve always been very open toward people. I never kept anything to myself, and I just explained to people what was on the agenda for the day, and why we were doing this.
Bryant: What has been your approach to leadership?
Bjork: I have never seen myself as a leader, someone who says I’m going to become a C.E.O. I never did that. And that goes even for where I am now. I didn’t start as C.E.O. at this company. It was never something that I put on a map, where I said, I’m going to get there. It’s more the result of me very much earning the respect of the people I work for, and they said, this is a guy we’re going to promote.
Bryant: What else?
Bjork: I’ve always been competitive, and I’m also curious. I want to learn things, and that’s why, early in life, I put myself in challenging situations, like coming to the United States from Sweden to work here. I’m also more humble today than I was 20 years ago. I am by no means the expert. I’m not the smart guy in the room. I might have an ability to bring people together and get the best team or have a sense of what’s needed. Being the coach — that’s sort of what it’s been for me.
Bryant: What were some other big lessons?
Bjork: I once worked for somebody who managed in such a terrible way that I decided to never work with people who treat people badly. Life is too short for that. Let’s work with people who appreciate you and you appreciate them. It was such a terrible experience, so I left the company because I didn’t want to be associated with that.
For me, it’s super-important — if I love my job, why wouldn’t I want the same thing for my co-workers? They will feel good and they will enjoy working and they will stay, and I know it will show up in the results as well. There is no other way to do it. Motivated people will go way further than anyone else.
Bryant: Tell me about the culture at your company.
Bjork: We developed five core values that we live by. The first one is “challenge,” because we are a disruptive software company. Always challenge the conventional, because if you follow others, you can at best be No. 2. And if you want to win, you’ve got to find your own way to the top. And we challenge each other at QlikTech, because if you’re complacent, you’re not going to survive.
The second one is move fast — because we are building a hypergrowth company. It’s O.K. to make mistakes, just don’t make the same mistakes. Learn from them. The third one is, be open and straightforward. What that means is just be open if you think something is wrong. We hear everyone out. It’s important that everything is on the table, because somebody might have something brilliant to say. But when we leave the room and we’ve decided on one thing and your view might not be incorporated in that, you still have to respect the decision.
The fourth one is teamwork for results. This is not about the individual. This is about the team, the power of the team. In our company today, we have 28 offices in 23 countries, so our team is a virtual one. You reach out and you speak to people everywhere, and you learn a lot from people that way, because there are a lot more similarities between cultures than you might think.
The fifth one is take responsibility. You’re given authority to be part of a lot more than just your position, but some responsibility also comes with it. And if you want to grow fast, you have to put into people’s DNA the idea of being cost-conscious. That’s why we all still travel coach.
At our annual company summit each year, we give out awards for each of these five categories. The employees nominate people in each category and then you become a value ambassador for the coming year. It could be an individual, or it could be a team.
Bryant: A lot of companies develop values and put them on posters, but you tie an award to each of them.
Bjork: I will tell you exactly that story. Somebody said, “So why don’t we make posters of this?” I said, “Are you a lunatic? Posters?” If you have kids, you know that they’re not going to do just what you tell them to do. You have to act the way you want them to act. If we don’t live and breathe it, it fails.
That’s why, when I hire managers and senior managers, I want to find a person who is grounded, who doesn’t have to prove anything, but certainly wants to be part of a successful journey and contribute to that and get recognition for that. But they don’t have to stand there and wave their hands all the time for attention, because they know who they are. They are secure in themselves. Self-confidence is very important, managed the right way. It doesn’t have to be on the edge of being arrogant.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. His book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, was published in April of 2011 by Times Books. To contact him, please click here.