We all know that advertising is a big con to get us to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. It works on us anyway. Ads work because they’re aspirational. They tap into some unsatisfied desire and then sell you the solution for it. Buy this product, take it home, and you’ll be safer, happier, and more attractive. And therein lay the root of the industry’s problem with race, both in the office and on the airwaves. If advertising is aspirational, who in the 1950s aspired to be black?
Tanner Colby — Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America
I have just finished reading Tanner Colby’s Some of My Best Friends Are Black. I have read many books on race relations and the history of the “civil rights” struggle. And, I present my synopses of these books at the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare. I am presenting my synopsis of this terrific book today (May 16, 2013).
Here’s my impression: this is my new “this is the book to read” book on race relations in America. It is not quite history, though there is plenty of history. It is not academic, though it is filled with facts and details. It is a flowing narrative that is engaging, and painful, and yet ends with some hope. (Tanner Colby is a terrific storyteller!) Mr. Colby did an exceptional job capturing the human element of this long-term struggle. Consider this, from the book:
“Integration was devastating for that first generation of black children…”
“In black schools, they’d had teachers that cared. Now white teachers had no idea what they were dealing with, and the black kids were just passing through, unattached. No nurturing.”
The book is told in four separate, substantive narratives:
#1 — the story of Vestavia (outside Birmingham), with details about busing, integration, and the impact of these practices on neighborhoods.
#2 – the account of the Kansas City real estate genius, who also happened to be the real father of “Racial Covenants,” – J. C. Nichols (who, by the way, provided the model for Hugh Prather’s vision of Highland Park, here in the Dallas area – as he did for many other developments across the country).
#3 – the difficulty black people have had in making it in advertising.
#4 – the noble, and now somewhat successful attempt, to achieve genuine black-white equality in church, as revealed in the story of one congregation’s attempt.
Mr. Tanner is a witty, funny writer – dropping in humor, and unexpected jewels, in the midst of an overwhelming amount of pain and ugliness. His first two books (which I have not read) are on John Belushi and Chris Farley. So, this was an “unexpected” next project. He wrote:
Here are 11 observations from my reading of the book, which I include in my handout for my synopsis:
1) The busing mandate — in order to facilitate integration — led to: the closing of good black schools (some, better schools than some white schools kept open); the (mass) movement into private schools…
2) Though the students ultimately had to be “in the classroom,” that did not mean they would be on the volleyball team or the debate team or the cheerleading squad.
3) The (“white”) textbooks in the south made no mention of the Civil Rights movement…
4) The black teachers and principles basically lost their jobs (or, in some cases, became janitors)…
5) The practice of “nullification” has been alive and well all along. In other words, federal laws were not followed. They were ignored, skirted, over and over and over and over again…
6) And, nullification was only part of it. To get the laws passed, the laws were always watered down to get “something” passed…
7) And, well intentioned laws had very counterproductive consequences.
8) A brief legal history:
• Racial Covenants — Whites only – (first, individual deed; then, entire developments; then, “automatically renewed every twenty five years…”)
9) Hope: At a recent Vestavia basketball game, the black parents sit in one section, the white parents in another. No interaction. But!, their kids sit together…
• Down in the student section, all the kids, black and white, are sitting with one another, laughing, fist-bumping, and generally having a blast.
• Give partial (make that plenty of!) credit to the new white principal who banned the Confederate Flag
10) Redlining may have been worse than segregation… Redlining may have been the worst “tool” of racism of them all.
11) Here’s a question for you – can you get pizza delivered to your house?
Do yourself a favor – read this book. You will learn about real estate, the value of planned developments, a pretty fair amount about advertising – and, in the midst of it all, plenty of the story of race relations over the last 100 years, or so.
When a culture adopts “What’s the next action?” as a standard operating query, there’s an automatic increase in energy, productivity, clarity, and focus.
David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
(call this a rather free-flowing thought exercise)…
Every person has just so much time in a day. In fact, every person has exactly the same amount of time in each day.
The difference between those who succeed, and those who don’t, involves what they do with that time.
So… what do you do with your time?
Who you see, who you talk to, what you fill your mind with, then what you let out of your mouth, or onto the keyboard… call it:
Input and Output
This is what matters.
Here’s what I know. The more you let moments slip by unused, the more you let moments slip by unproductively used, the more you let moments slip by in which you were busy, but busy not doing the “right” task (the task you needed to do, intended to do, at that moment), the more difficult you have made your challenge.
Working with intense focus – on whatever task is in front of you,… this really matters.
Planning well enough to keep the right task in front of you in every given moment,… this really matters.
Finishing the task in front of you,… this really matters.
Getting right to the next task that should be in front of you,… this really matters.
And starting every next task by getting right to the task, right away, “straitway/straitaway,”… this really matters.
One day, I had lunch with a friend in his office. He is a top notch, scheduled to the minute, periodontist. I sat in his office, waiting for him. Lined up outside were three of his assistants. They each had a file folder open, and a question ready. He walks up, and says to the first assistant – “go.” She asks a question, he answers. Then he repeated this process to the 2nd, and the 3rd assistants. I commented on the rapidity of the exchanges. He said, “I tell them good morning at the beginning of the day, good bye at the end – and the rest of the time, it is task after task. I have surgeries to perform, consultations to give… I do not have a minute to waste.”
Not a minute to waste. Not in what you do. Not in what you think. Not with what you read.
Plan your moments.
Get to the task.
As close as I can tell, this is not optional for the person intent on getting more stuff done.
What You Will Find on 15minutebusinessbooks.com? – A Tool to Help You Learn from Recent, Useful Business Books
I made a short video (just under 5 minutes) to introduce our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. Not studio quality, but a good quick look at what we have available on our companion site. Take a look.
And, check out our site. Click here to go to 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
I’ve got a growing list of articles saved under my Sheryl Sandberg bookmark. Prompted by her book Lean In, and her movement to help women lean in at work, and everywhere else, it is beginning to feel like a movement with some real potential.
Today, on The Daily Beast, we find this article: Millennial Males’ ‘Lean In’ Ambivalence: There’s now a host of ambitious terminology for women in the workplace—and young guys are feeling left out of the girls’ club, by Peggy Drexler.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
The lexicon of women and work is crowded with terms like “queen bee,” “glass ceiling,” “burnout,” “have it all,” “mommy track,” “on ramps,” and—now—“lean in.” Name one for young men.
There are some indications that the adjustment isn’t as smooth as the assumptions of an evolved male might indicate. Pew research finds that young women are, for the first time, surpassing young men in career ambition: 67 percent of women put career success high on their list of life’s goals, versus 60 percent for males. It’s a statistically significant difference, and an even more significant shift from decades past—when the majority of women were just happy to be in the game.
And this important point:
Roughly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have organized and funded women’s-affinity groups. The number of men’s-affinity groups are a handful and largely informal.
So, the organizing energy is on the side of the Lean In Women at the moment. But if the question is “Will men be left behind?,” I’m not sure there’s much danger of that anytime soon. Over the long haul? – That may be a different matter.
I speak to a lot of organizations. And, at least in my circles of exposure, men are still pretty much at the top of the pyramid. And, the next group of men are just “expecting” to keep moving on up. It has been, for so very long, the “given” about the work place. The men are the ones who will get the next slots near, and at, the top. And it is that fact that prompted the single best career advice line in Sheryl Sandberg’s book:
It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized. What I noticed over the years was that for the most part, the men reached for opportunities much more quickly than the women.
Let me put it this way: women need the new Lean In groups and discussions and meetings and movement to help them, because they are starting way behind. And though they have made great progress, the very top spots, in disproportionate numbers, are still filled, and almost seem to be reserved for, the men.
Men don’t have to do much of anything — at the moment. But, maybe, if the Lean In movement endures, the men might have to create their own movement to stay even. And if they wait until the women gain their hoped for success, it might be too late.
And, in case you are wondering, here is my answer to what things should look like. It is right out of Sandberg’s book:
The promise of equality is not the same as true equality. A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.
Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns.
I am presenting my synopsis of Lean In a number of times to gatherings within local organizations. It is available, with comprehensive handout and the audio of my presentation from our First Friday Book Synopsis, at our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
As we get deeper into the 2010s, the most successful companies in every industry in the United States – from food to fashion – are ditching mass production in favor of customization…
America is becoming a nation of customizers. And the one new rule for successful businesses across the country is simple: Customize for your clients.
Anthony Flynn, Emily Flynn Vencat – Custom Nation: Why Customization is the Future of Business and How to Profit from It
As I dipped into the book Custom Nation, I sort of just stopped to think about all the ways this has become a way of life.
If you are old enough, you remember the nights when all of America seemed to watch the same television shows. There was Ed Sullivan and Bonanza night; there was All in the Family night; and later, there was Columbo night. (I miss Columbo).
Not anymore. I now watch my TV shows when I want to. They are either recorded with my DVR, or I click on the magic box and watch Netflix. (I am currently half-way through the first season of House of Cards. Yes, I am hooked!).
There are signs of this custom-created living everywhere. My wife and I both have iPhones. But she checks hers differently than I do — and, in fact, they are different “devices.” I have, and use, different apps than she does. And if you have your own iPhone, I can assure you that you have different apps than your family members, your colleagues.
At restaurants, people order their food “their way” in increasing number. Custom Nation states that 25% of orders are not according to the menu, but rather “personalized by customers.” From the book:
In fact, in the Starbucks era, the static menu hanging behind the espresso machines at most coffee shops seems more decorative than informative – retro even.
We design it ourselves, use it the way we want to, and this “trend” is only going to accelerate.
Here’s a thought exercise to try. We know that 3D printers are arriving in our office supply stores this fall. At first, prices will keep them out of reach for many, but still lower than we could have imagined just a short while back. And, those prices will go down rapidly – that is practically a certainty. The number of “designers” for “print-it-yourself” products and items will probably multiply as fast as app designers have. The thought experiment: how will the mass use of 3D printers change the way we function? Brainstorm a list. I suspect “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
So, what are the implications?
As consumers, it is obvious – we will choose more often. And, as wonderful as this is, it can also be borderline exhausting. The more choices we have to make, the more time we invest in such choices. A few weeks ago, I ordered my wife a new coffee maker. (She drinks coffee – I stick to Dr Pepper products). She had one simple request – “no bells and whistles.” And she wanted an on-off switch. No digital programming, no digital scheduling. Just an on-off switch. In the old days, that ‘s what all coffee makers had. Not anymore! we learned. (I did find two, and only two – that fit her request. But there were so many more choices…)
On the other hand, the plethora of choices is terrific. I really can order things my way, nearly everywhere, nearly every time. And that does make me happier.
As product or service providers, the challenge is especially clear. The more that we expect, or at times demand, that a customer purchase what we offer the way we offer it, the more quickly we will lose that customer to a competitor ready to “make it/do it their way.” Increasingly, we have to learn to listen to the customer – each individual customer — adapt very quickly, and customize, customize, customize.
The Daily Beast has a wonderful series in which they ask successful and influential writers, in a terrific interview format, to reflect on: How I Write. The latest author featured is Susan Cain, author of Quiet. The entire article, Susan Cain: How I Write, is worth reading, but I especially like this section:
What are your thoughts on the Malcolm Gladwell-ification of science writing?
I love Gladwell’s books, and the genre he created, and am annoyed by how fashionable it’s become to criticize him for being slick and not a “real” intellectual. I think that writers like Gladwell perform a service precisely because they’re not academics. They’re not too close to the research, so it’s easier for them to appreciate how fascinating it is.
When I started researching Quiet, I found so much amazing stuff that’s second nature to personality psychologists but utterly unknown to laypeople. (Did you know that introverts, who are more sensitive to stimuli than extroverts, will salivate more if you pour lemon juice on their tongues?) Academics, who’ve been studying this stuff since graduate school, can’t always see how remarkable it is. In fact, the more immersed I became in my subject, the more it started to seem like second nature to me, too. I had to go back and remember how awestruck I felt when I encountered it for the first time.
I do think there’s a tendency in the last five or 10 years for writers to use neuroscience in a reductive way, as if that’s the only or best way to understand human nature. And there’s a temptation to act as if we know more about the brain than we really do. But people are already starting to self-correct on this. So I think we’ll be OK.
That is an elegant and thorough way to say this: when there is important information, or an important idea, someone has to communicate it clearly, simply, making it genuinely accessible to the “rest of us.” Frequently, the absolutely necessary academic researchers are either too close to the details, or maybe simply not gifted as clear simple writers.
I’m a lot of years removed from a daily reading of academic journals, and probably never did study any subject as thoroughly as those who would seek to know the impact of lemon juice on the tongue of an introvert contrasted with that of the extrovert. But Gladwell provides the model, according to Ms. Cain, for how to translate such specific findings into understandable, accessible, narratives. And I would add that her own book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking does a very good job at carrying on in the Gladwell tradition.
I have presented a synopsis of Quiet at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as well as three of Malcolm Gladwell’s books: The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. These are available, with handouts + the audio of my presentations, at our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
General Mattis Reminds Us – A Leader Who is Too Busy to Read is Practically Guilty of Dereliction of Duty
Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.
General J. N. Mattis, Commanding General’s Message to All Hands, March, 2003
Read – then do – then read some more – then do some more. This is the formula. And this Marine General reminds us of it so clearly.
I have been completely captivated by the wisdom in this email from Marine General Mattis. I read about it on Business Insider in this article: General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read.
General Mattis makes the case that part of the leader’s job – a crucial part! – is to read, and learn from what he/she has read. Learn, as in “put into practice.” Here is an extended excerpt from his email:
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead…
For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession.
This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.
As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.
Semper Fi, Mattis
How many times have leaders found themselves in situations that require wise decisions and quick thinking, and they only have their own experiences to draw from? How many people rise to positions of leadership that require wisdom and depth, and yet they try to fulfill their roles without continuing the practice of regular, even daily, substantive reading?
General Mattis reminds us that nearly every thing we face has been faced before. As new as this strange new world is, it is not that new.
If you read his email in this entirety, you come away with a deep sense that the failure to make time to read — the failure to read, and learn from what you read — is tantamount to a dereliction of duty for any leader.
Read… you have to! And, read… your people need you to.
(Click here to go to the article, which includes the full email).
For over 15 years, my colleague Karl Krayer and I have presented synopses of two useful business books every month at the First Friday Book Synopsis. Many of our synopses are available for purchase, with handouts + audio of our presentations, at our companion site, 15minutebusinssbooks.com. And, on this blog, we write about business books in some form or another practically every day. Bob Morris, our blogging colleague, reviews many, many books, on our blog, and on his own blog. I hope you will bookmark our site, and let us help you think about books which are worth your time.
(I wrote this last year on Mother’s Day. I decided to repost it this year. And, yes, her Dad is still with us).
There’s a scene near the beginning of Tomorrow Never Dies where James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is taking on way too many bad guys, and he is about to do the impossible. M (Judi Dench) and others are watching on a video screen, and an Admiral says, in a moment of panic, “What the hell is he doing?” and M says ”His job!”
I think of that line often. The world is filled with people who do their jobs every day, pretty well. And others,… not so well.
And today, I want to tell you about the person who does the best job of doing her job that I have ever seen.
Her name is Jeannie Mayeux. We’ve been married since 1971, and though there have been some stretches of time when I did not do my job very well in this family, she has been faithful to her task for a lifetime.
For the last year and a half, she has been a wonder to behold. We read these “phrases,” like “the sandwich generation.” Well, she is living it. Her dad moved in with us about a year and a half ago, and every day, without exception, she takes his blood sugar and his blood pressure, multiple times every day, injecting him with insulin multiple times a day, watching his blood sugar carefully, preparing every meal to the calorie and ingredient, so that he can be ok. And every meal is ready, and wonderful, like clockwork.
And, the last two weeks, she drove to San Antonio to help our son and daughter-in-law adjust to the new routine of a new baby along with her two-year-old sister. Our oldest son is in Medical School; it was finals week. He needed his mom, and two precious little girls needed their grandmother. And Jeannie showed up, as she always does.
She gets no “breaks.” She just keeps doing her job.
She has worked outside the home at times through the years, and done those jobs with her same sense of dedication and thoroughness. (She is thorough!) But her real job has always been that of the mother, in the very best sense of that word.
When Evan, our youngest son, got serious about baseball, Jeannie went out and bought a tackle box and created her own thoroughly planned, always well-stocked first aid kit. By the second week (and up through Evan’s high school years), other moms just knew when their own sons needed attention, “oh, go see Evan’s mom with her first aid kit.”
By his third year of baseball, she bought a new, larger first aid kit – about the size of an aircraft carrier. The boys were getting bigger, and the cuts and scrapes just a little more intimidating. Jeannie was always ready.
When I sent her to Israel for six weeks on an archeological dig, she was a touch older than the college students making up the majority of workers. As she told me the stories, it was pretty clear that she soon was recognized as the group mom.
Understand, she never “volunteers” for these assignments. She just does them. She just “is” that person. And people recognize it pretty quickly.
When she was gone these last two weeks, her sister and I did get her Dad’s vitals taken, and the food on the table. But, especially when it was my turn, there was a noticeable lack of elegance. There is never such a lack when Jeannie is around.
A lot is happening in our family. It takes a full-time+ mom to keep it going well. And she is always there…
What is she doing? Her job. And she is simply the best at her job that I have ever seen anywhere.
One rather nice book is called The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. It records her experiences during the year she made a determined effort to find happiness, or at least to find more happiness than she already posessed. Now clearly Gretchen Rubin is no procrastinator. She belongs to a different species, one that I’d call enthusiastic accomplishers. It’s up to the rest of us to benefit from all of her hard work. (emphasis added)
• John Perry, The Art of Procrastination
Bob Morris has been telling me that I would like this book. He’s right — I do. The Art of Procrastination, among other things, explains why my wife has never quite understood the way I “work” – I now know that I am a “horizontally organized” person. I can’t wait to read her the critical paragraphs…
But, in the midst of this book, this phrase jumped out — “enthusiastic accomplisher.” This is a genuinely rich descriptive phrase. And though Mr. Perry may deny it, he too is an enthusiastic accomplisher.
I think the secret here is simple. Put off all that you want to; work the way that fits you; but, when it is time to work, work! When it is time to work, accomplish something. Get it done. When you work, be an enthusiastic accomplisher.
Then, you can get back to your serious business of procrastinating…
The reports keep coming in. There are a lot of mediocre to bad speakers out there. And every poor presentation adds to the frustration – the sense that “this is a waste of time.”
There really are some simple fixes. If each speaker would simply remember, and follow, some simple rules, the audience would be less frustrated and more engaged.
In this post, I will focus on the structure, the organization of the presentation. And the structure is this:
Beginning, Middle, and End.
I think I heard it put in this simple formula first by Frank Luntz, but it is in every speech textbook since the beginning of time, using the more old-fashioned wording. Speeches should have an:
In other words, a
Start with an inviting, engaging Beginning
Have a substantive Middle
And, have a call-to-action End
This menu/template/formula calls for the following:
• You need a “Hook” to grab the attention of the audience. As you look your audience in the eye, tell some story, use some quote, to engage, to grab, to “demand!” their attention. Make it powerful, as you pull your audience into your presentation.
This part of your speech should include this compelling Hook, then your thesis statement – the speech in one clear, compelling sentence — then a preview of what’s coming next.
• The body of your speech should be substantive, and very, very easy to follow. Simple, but not simplistic. Probably with main points – more than two, but not too many.
• Review what you have said, then end with a clear call to action. A “This is what you should do with what you have learned here” call. Make sure your audience knows what they can do with this material.
One preacher put it this way. Every sermon (for our purposes, every speech, every presentation) should have a clear “what,” and then a “so what?”
Here’s my observation. The better speakers have pretty good “middles.” But the very best speakers have superb “Hooks,” and really clear “Calls to Action.” So, here’s my suggestion – start working a lot more diligently on these two aspects.
You might want to read these earlier blog posts:
Arouse and Fulfill – Formula For Effective Presentations (wise counsel from Dr. Tom Hollihan, the USC Annenberg School)
Hillary Clinton, the Master of Repetition and Parallel Structure – Your Communication Tip of the Day
And, here is a “speech preparation sheet” that I use in my Speech Classes and in my Presentation Skills Training Classes. It includes key reminders on the left side of the page, and I include the six elements of “stickiness” from Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath at the bottom. You might want to print this out, and use it for your next presentation(s).