NOTE: I am aware that I have done a very poor job with these posts, especially concerning my views about advances in technology. Those posts were highly misaligned with the books we have presented about technology, so I will not write about that subject anymore. However, I will share some thoughts about some of the books that I have read recently in order to inspire some of you to consider reading them.
Kati Marton is a veteran ABC and NPR news correspondent. She has written seven books, and I have two of them. In this post, I will call your attention to her newest best-seller that I read over the holidays entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). Before all of you guys reading this think that book must be too “mushy,” it is actually less about loving people, and more about loving her experiences in the wonderful Parisian context.
You may remember the feelings that I expressed about David McCullough’s work in the same setting. In 2011, he published The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), in which he shared experiences from politicians, artists, and other entrepreneurial Americans who visited, lived, and worked in Paris at the turn of the century. The experiences were spellbinding, and he wrote the book so well that you wanted to jump out of your chair, get on an airplane, and wind back the clock to join them.
There is something magical about Paris. I was there once, but only for 36 hours, and as a member of a whirlwind tour party. That is not how to see Paris. In fact, that is not how to see anything.
But, Marton’s Paris is special, because it documents experiences with her two famous late husbands. The first was Peter Jennings, ABC’s news anchor, who divorced her in 1993, and died in 2005. The second was Richard Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, and who at the time of his death, still married to Marton, was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke died in 2010.
Paris was an important place for both of these relationships, and in her book, you see it as both foreground and background to important events in her life, the lives of both men, and the troubles of America and the world. While she loved both her husbands, the book also includes brutal honesty about her extramarital affairs while in both relationships.
Paris became Marton’s refuge. After settling all the affairs of the estate, she writes, “I need to get away. Paris seems the right place. It is where Richard and I started our lives together and lived our happiest times. But, well before that, it is where I became who I am. In a life of multiple uprootings, Paris has been my one fixed point. Once before I found happiness and beauty in Paris. I was a young girl then, the child of political refugees who settled in America….Paris is the place where good things seem to happen to me. In a way, every story with Paris at its heart is a love story. So is mine. It is where I fell in love, first with the city, then with the man who became the father of my children. Then, in middle age, I found lasting love in Paris with Richard. So, in Paris, I will relearn how to live” (pp. 32-33).
And, thus, the story ends with Marton celebrating Christmas with her family in Paris. The final photo caption in the book reads, “the start of a new life, alone, in Paris.”
This book was so well done that I ordered a book she wrote in 2006, entitled The Great Escape: Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World (New York: Simon & Schuster). The book is out of print, so I had to order a copy from a used book service. The context is Budapest, Hungary. The story has deep familial roots for Marton, as both her parents were Hungarian journalists for AP and UPI, and who were imprisoned during the war. I have not yet finished this one. I am reading it slowly to fully absorb the context and bravery that jumps off every page. When I finish, I want to share some insights that I am gaining from that book.
New Solutions for a Troubled Age – My Takeaways from The Metropolitan Revolution by Bruce Katz & Jennifer Bradley
megatrends require megachange
The Metropolitan Revolution
There is something wrong. A pretty big something wrong.
And, we need a fix…
And, that fix does not seem to be coming from the “old sources” of solutions. The federal government; the state government, for example.
The next “fix’ is going to have to bubble up – maybe, from our cities. We are in need of a Metropolitan Revolution.
That is the short version of the premise behind the book by the Brooking Institution’s brain trust team of Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.
Lots of good considerations and “recommendations,” in the book. For example:
• we need more “innovation districts” – “idea-creating machines, housed in “tight spaces” (close to each other – really, really close) within our cities…
Here are the five essential steps you must take to bring the metropolitan revolution to life in your region, recommended by the authors:
#1 — build your network
#2 — set your vision
#3 – (decide on) your game changer
#4 — bankroll the revolution
#5 — and sustain the gain.
And, here are my takeaways from the book:
1. There are problems. Serious problems. In this country (and beyond).
2. We cannot expect, and should not rely on, the federal (or state) government to provide the needed fix.
3. The fix is possible – bubbling up from our Metropolitan Districts – our clusters of cities around “central” cities.
4. It will be found in a constellation of new answers, based on: proximity; innovation; genuine changes in behaviors (e.g., smaller families; far fewer drivers/far less driving…)
5. Connecting is critical to successful innovation. And, let me repeat – proximity matters!
I think we need good, clear thinking about the problems we face. This useful, challenging book adds to that good clear thinking that we need.
“too many books to know any of them well” – a Reading Challenge for this Age of Information Overload
Read this paragraph, from George F. Kennan (from The Kennan Diaries, highlighted by Fareed Zakaria; via Andrew Sullivan – emphasis added):
“I cannot help but regret that I did not live 50 or 100 years sooner,” he wrote in one of his entries. “Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, . . . too many friends to have any real friendships, too many books to know any of them well, and the quality of our impressions gives way to the quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception, gone before we have time to consider them.”
Note this line:
too many books to know any of them well.
Yesterday, I finished reading The Second Machine Age. I am presenting my synopsis of this terrific book at this Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis.
I am currently reading one new business book every month, carefully and thoroughly enough to prepare a multi-page handout and then speak/present a synopsis to a live audience.
And, I am reading at least one, frequently two books a month on social justice and poverty for CitySquare’s Urban Engagement Book Club. I read these books with the same thoroughness that I read the business books I present. Every month.
That is two, or three, new books every month. Plus, other books that I read but do not present, and then many other sample pages of additional books downloaded from Amazon for my Kindle App.
Confession time: the books seem to run together. I know “I read this somewhere,” but way too frequently it is “I don’t remember which book this story was in.”
And, I finish a book, and instead of pondering it, letting it sink in, thinking about how to implement its lessons and messages, I have to immediately move on to the next book assignment.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this discipline. I love learning from books. But, that phrase from Kennan just jumped out at me:
too many books to know any of them well.
Here’s a startling “holy mackerel” piece of information from The Second Machine Age:
IBM estimates that it would take a human doctor 160 hours of reading each and every week just to keep up with relevant new literature.
Information overload is a huge understatement in this genuinely information overload era.
But/so… here’s a challenge for you. Reading a book, carefully, is a very good thing to do. Reading it slowly enough to ponder it, think about it, ask “what can I learn, and implement from these lessons,” can be an incredibly valuable discipline.
Reading a book is a deeper dive than a few blog posts, or magazine articles on the subject. And we need some deep dives every now and then.
Oh, sure you should consider exposing yourself to the wisdom of a bunch of books. But…, what if you chose one book – very carefully – to read slowly, deliberately. (Maybe one a quarter – four a year). Carve out chunks of time. Keep notes on it. If it is a physical book, argue with it in the margins with your pen in hand as you read. (Confession – I miss this in my digital book reading experience). Discuss it with the author as though the author was present as you read. Four books a year, tackled in depth, to “know them well.”
“Too many books to know any of them well” shouldn’t keep us from trying to know a few of them very well, should it?
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling
Princeton University Press (2012)
Welcome to “a romantic chamber of the heart, in a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895″
Since childhood, I have cherished books as “magic carpets” by which to visit human experiences that would not have otherwise been accessible to me. The ten-year siege of Troy, for example, and then Odysseus’ ten-year return voyage to Ithaca as well as the Italian Renaissance (and Dante), the Age of Elizabeth (and Shakespeare), and more recently, Hawthorne’s New England, Dickens’ London, Twain’s Mississippi, and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.
More often than not, I am reading and/or re-reading three or four books at any one time and that was the situation recently when accompanying two of my favorite authors, Michael Dirda and John Sutherlnd, during their explorations of great literature in this book and Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure (2007) as well as Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature (2013).
On Conan Doyle is one of the first volumes in the “Writers on Writers” that also include Philip Lopate’s Notes on Susan Sontag, Alexander McCall Smith’s, What W. H. Auden Can Do for You, and C. K. Williams’ On Whitman. In this instance, Dirda focuses on “the pleasures of reading, a celebration of plot and atmosphere, adventure and romance, and an invitation to go beyond the Sherlock Holmes stories to explore a remarkable body of writing. Its slightly old-fashioned subtitle ['the whole art of storytelling'] recalls the sleuth of Baker Street’s long planned, but apparently never written. masterwork: The Whole Art of Detection.” Dirda reviews his own youthful discovery of The Hound of the Baskervilles and then dozens of subsequent works while revealing as little as possible about their actions or plots. “On Conan Doyle aims, above all to enhance, not detract from, the reader’s pleasure in the wonderful fiction and non fiction to which we turn.”
In Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer fresh slices of fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I offer these three brief excerpts to suggest the thrust and flavor of Dirda’s narrative style.
o The Hound of the Baskervilles left its teeth marks in me and seriously aroused my then still slumbering passion for reading. I was no longer the same ten-year old when I reached its final pages: “‘I said it in London, Watson, and I say it again now, that never yet have we helped to hunt down a more dangerous man than he who is lying yonder’ — he swept his long arm toward the huge mottled expanse of green-splotched bog which stretched away until it merged into the russet slopes of the moor.” I closed the book with a pang of loss. (Page 16)
o In Memories and Adventures, Conan Doyle recalls Oscar Wilde at his youthful best: “He had a curious precision of statement, a delicate flavour of humour, and a trick of small gestures to illustrate his meaning, which were peculiar to himself. The effect cannot be reproduced, but I remember how in discussing the wars of the future he said: ‘A chemist on each side will approach the frontier with a bottle’ — his upraised hand and precise face conjuring up a vivid and grotesque picture.” (Page 93)
o In my view, [The White Company] offers a far more than “a correct picture of the age” — as its author once called the novel — and far more entertaining than its sorry reputation would lead one to believe. Yes, the vocabulary and syntax can seem quaintly archaic at times, but Conan Doyle nonetheless injects a wonderful bounce and sweetness into the narrative [as does Dirda]. In these pages, everything is springlike, full of the sap and exuberance of youth. It’s also quietly funny throughout. (Page 170)
Dirda makes full use of his highly developed analytical skills as well as of his erudition when including within his lively and eloquent narrative excerpts from Conan Doyle’s works of both fiction and non-fiction as well as from secondary sources of direct relevance. Those who cherish great literature and those who create will devour the information and insights that are provided in abundance.
When concluding this remarkable journey through the creative world of Arthur Conan Doyle and his single greatest creation, Michael Dirda observes, “As long as readers exist, young people will be discovering Sherlock Holmes and thrilling to the immortal promise: ‘Come Watson, come, the game is afoot!’ As Vincent Starrett long ago declared, these two will always live ‘in a romantic chamber of the heart, in a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895.’”
Those who share my high regard of this book are urged to check out Maria Konnikova’s book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, in which she juxtaposes two stereotypes from Conan Doyle’s characters: “System Watson” and “System Holmes.” The former personifies “our naive selves, operating by the lazy though habits — the ones that come naturally, the so-called path of least resistance — that we’ve spent our whole lives acquiring.” As for the latter, System Holmes, it “treats every thought, every experience, and every perception of the way [Holmes] would a pink elephant. In other words, begin with a healthy dose of skepticism instead of credulity that is your mind’s [and Watson's mind] natural state of being. Don’t just assume anything is the way it is [or seems to be]. Think of everything as being as absurd as an animal that can’t possibly exist in nature.”
* * *
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World and the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. He was born in Lorain, Ohio, graduated with highest honors in English from Oberlin College, and received a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. Also, it should be noted that, since 2002, he has been an invested member of the Baker Street Irregulars. I urge you to check out his Amazon page.
Years ago, I heard a radio person say that when you are on the radio, you have to picture one person listening — a specific person. An audience of “one.” Speak to that specific person…
Yesterday, I heard a part of a terrific interview by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. She interviewed Mark Harris, about his new book “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.” Harris focuses on five directors who made movies for the War Department: John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra.
John Ford won four oscars, including Oscars for Stagecoach and The Grapes of Wrath.
But as Lt. Cmdr. John Ford U.S.N.R., he made a film for the “masses” called The Battle of Midway. And, he also made a short film. For this film, his audience was practically “an audience of one.” In this case, his audience was family members of some men who died in the battle: Torpedo Squadron 8, it was named.. Their family members – and only their family members – were the intended audience of this film. This is as touching, as caring, as “human” as it gets. Read it carefully. (From the transcript of her program/interview).
GROSS: I think this is very moving: He made a separate short film about the loss of a torpedo squadron, a squadron that was lost in that battle, and he made it on eight millimeter film. And he, if I understand it correctly, it was made for the families of the men who were lost, and he gave them copies. Do I have that right?
HARRIS: Yes. Before the Battle of Midway started, just in the days before the Battle of Midway started, Ford for a while, did not know what he was there to shoot. He shot some fun nature footage about Midway. He thought that maybe what he was being asked to do was depict, you know, Navy life on a remote Pacific island. And he shot some of the men of this torpedo squadron, who were just laughing and joshing and proud of their planes.
And he shot them, like, standing next to their planes and pointing to what they had painted on their planes and hanging out on the deck. It turned out that one of the squadrons he shot sustained the worst losses in the battle, and all but one of the 30 young men in the squadron were killed.
That for Ford was his immediate experience of the battle. The news that it was a major American military victory drifted back to Midway Island slowly in the days after the war, but the first thing they understood was this terrible loss. And so after making “The Battle of Midway,” Ford compiled the footage of these young men that he had shot into a kind of memorial reel for the families.
And he put it on film that would be accommodated by the kind of inexpensive home movie projectors that were available at the time. He really wanted the families to be able to see it. And he had it hand-delivered to each family.
GROSS: That’s such a beautiful gesture.
HARRIS: And by the way, it was not made public for decades. That little film, “Torpedo Squadron 8,” was not seen until long after Ford was dead.
There are plenty of lessons in this short story. Pay attention to human need. Remember the specific, individual members of your audience in your attempts to communicate. Always have a personal touch. (He had the films “hand-delivered to each family”). Be user friendly. (He put it on film that could be shown on “inexpensive home movie projectors”).
Great communication lessons. But, mainly, just a great story!
I just found, and watched, Torpedo Squadron 8. It is just under eight minutes in length (Embedded from YouTube, just over 8 minutes). Here it is. Such a touching tribute…
Note: I can’t get the video to embed from the Archive.org site. So, click over to the Archive.org site to hear what I think must be the original soundtrack with the video. The youtube soundtrack is different).
John Ford made this memorial film for the families of members of Torpedeo Squadron 8. All but one of the members of the squadron perished in its first combat mission in the Battle of Midway.
The Dolby Theatre, formerly the Kodak Theatre – (The Second Machine Age, and the Oscars, Point us to One of the Great Problems of our Era)
Last night, the Oscars were held at the Dolby Theatre. When the theatre was built, it was named the Kodak Theatre. Eastman Kodak paid $75 million for the naming rights.
Kodak and the Oscars were a natural match. Consider (from this article):
Kodak has a Hollywood history of its own: the company has won eight Academy Awards over the years, and for 80 straight years (as of 2008), every single Oscar-winning movie has been produced on Kodak film.
That name was abandoned in February 2012, after Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
In the book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, we get a graphic description of the problem. Here are some key excerpts:
A team of just fifteen people at Instagram created a simple app that over 130 million customers use to share some sixteen billion photos (and counting).
Kodak employed 145,300 people at one point, while indirectly employing thousands more via the extensive supply chain and retail distribution channels required by companies in the first machine age. Kodak made its founder, George Eastman, a rich man, but it also provided middle-class jobs for generations of people and created a substantial share of the wealth created in the city of Rochester after the company’s founding in 1880.
Instagram, with fifteen people, created a product that attracted a $1 billion payday from Facebook. 15 people! More recently, we saw that What’sApp, also with a pretty small team of folks, sold to Facebook for $19 billion.
And Kodak is bankrupt. And with it, all the jobs at Kodak, and the many, many more folks who made their living at photo labs, development outlets… the list is seemingly endless. All those jobs – gone!
The problem: the new wealth is made by the folks with the ideas. That’s good, for them. But the number of people needed to turn those ideas into real money is shrinking. Not a little. But a lot! A massive, big, huge lot. And this creates a massive shrinking of jobs.
In The Second Machine Age, there is a chart that chronicles the rise in the income of college graduates, and the even bigger rise in income of those with graduate degrees. But, the income for those without such degrees, especially for those who did not finish high school, is actually going down.
And, the warning in The Second Machine Age is that this shrinking of the number of workers needed will continue. Though it is an optimistic book, with great promise for a more wonderful, more productive future, in a recent interview, the authors pretty much admitted that they did not have a solution to the “where will the jobs be?” problem for the large group of folks who are in serious danger of losing their jobs in this new “second machine age” era.
The problem is coming into better focus. I have written about it for a long time. This book has the data to back up my concern.
And, no one quite has an answer — a solution — to this problem.
The Second Machine Age is my selection for this Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis. If you are in the DFW area, come join us this Friday at 7:00 am. Just follow the links on this web site. to register.
My synopis, with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, plus the audio of my presentation, will be available in a few weeks on our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Without revealing any details about this, I’ve recently spent a total of nearly seven full hours talking one-on-one to employees about the job they feel their supervisors/managers are doing leading them in their work. (A company hired me to seek this feedback).
It was not pretty.
This was a large company, and a very small corner in this very large company. So, one would suspect that this corner was not the only one with the problem. (Although, the problem may be a little more obvious in this corner – thus, the reason they brought me in).
The problem was this: some of the people in positions of leadership weren’t very good at actually leading the people. Oh, the tasks, the work got done. Sometimes in spite of the leaders efforts, or lack thereof. But, the feedback seemed to say that the people in these positions of leadership:
• did not listen to the people they were charged with leading
• did not respond to needs expressed by the people they were leading
• did not pay attention to the career advancement and development needs of the people they were leading.
In fact, one of the comments stated by quite a few of these folks went something like this:
“he (she) cares more about his own success and reputation than he does about the success of the team and the team members.”
In other words, the leader was concerned about his career, his development… he was in it for himself. He was not in it for his team members.
I know this is like a broken record on this blog, but I would like to suggest a new job requirement for every supervisor, manager, department head… every leader of any kind. This leader should be required to read Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner on the weekend before they begin serving in their new position. (If it’s too late for that, make them read it this next weekend). And then, they have to report to their boss how they will implement the teachings from this book in their own department, as they lead their own team members.
I’ve blogged about this book now somewhere around 86,000 times. It is simply the best book I know for people given the task to lead others. Oh, there may be other books about “Leadership” in a bigger picture way. But this book is practical – this is what you do to get the best out of the people that you actually lead, the people you should be interacting with regularly.
Let me remind you of the seven principles of Encouraging the Heart, from the book:
The seven essentials of encouraging
- Set clear standards
- Expect the best
- Pay attention
- Personalize recognition
- Tell the story
- Celebrate together
- Set the example
And, maybe the greatest of these seven is “Pay attention.” Everything stars with how well you pay attention!
Here’s a question: if you do lead others, what would those folks say about you in a candid, anonymous interview about your leadership? If you don’t quite know, then that’s your first problem. If you do know, and you have some people skills, care-about-them deficiencies; if you are not great at a “let’s focus on the team’s success rather than/more than on my personal success” style and approach… if these are the kinds of deficiencies in your leadership — then read this book, and get to work fixing these deficiencies.
People deserve to be led well. If you are a leader, your people need you to be a good, build-them-up, always-encourage-them leader. So, if you are not doing that, get to it. Now.
A good place to start is to read Encouraging the Heart, and put the ideas of this book into practice.
having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people.
Angelina Jolie made the day of some college students at her Oscars rehearsal. Here’s the story, from Angelina Jolie Charms Oscar Rehearsal Actors by Sandy Cohen:
She hung around chatting to show producers and introduced herself as “Angie” to a group of college students serving as trophy carriers this year.
“You’ll help make the night a fun night,” she said warmly to the star-struck students. One told her, “You were great out there.”
…Jolie presented an award on stage, and when a rehearsal actor stepped up to claim it, she gave him a hug.
“For this rehearsal only,” he said, “I am one lucky bastard.”
Ms. Jolie is this year’s recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. She is a humanitarian. That means, at its very essence, that she is concerned about people – you know, one human being at a time. And this short description about her interaction at the Oscars rehearsal reveals that she probably has the right stuff for this award.
We hear a lot about people skills. Leaders need them — really, everyone needs them. It seems to me that all people skills start here: you have to like people. And, I think this story about Angelina Jolie reminds us that getting this right goes a long way, and makes a lasting impact.
Maybe a Blog Can Provide the “Business Manna in the Morning” – The Value of a Daily, Short “Reminder” Reading
Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed.
Many years ago, early in my “minister chapter” in my life, I read a booklet: Manna in the Morning by Stephen Olford. A booklet was a common thing in those days. Small, they would easily fit in the pocket – and a quick read. This booklet was kind of a legendary booklet. It told the story of the manna from heaven, from the book of Exodus. Each day, the people would gather the bread (manna was the “bread from heaven”) they needed for the day. It was provided every day, from God, and it was provided for years. In the story, the people could only gather bread for that day (and, for two days the day before the Sabbath). If they gathered for more than one day, it would spoil – badly. So, gather the bread each day, eat for the day, repeat, day after day.
Mr. Olford viewed this as a metaphor. He described “Manna in the Morning” as the practice of a personal “quiet time” — a brief time, every morning, early in the morning, for reading and reflection, for prayer and connection, to launch one out into the day with the right reminders about the kind of person to be, living life in the way that life was intended to be lived.
And, for many of my days, I would follow that practice. Not all – but many…
This is a powerful practice. And you don’t have to be a religious person of any kind to see the value. Our lives are so full, busy; we are so easily distracted. We are so overwhelmed with tasks at hand, that we can forget, or ignore… we end the day failing to do the things we know we should be doing.
This is seen especially in what we call, in the business world, the “soft skills” arena. Let me give just one example: every book on leadership is pretty clear – leaders need to be very good listeners. But, in the midst of a busy day, with the demands of the day growing stronger hour by hour, we become too busy to “stop and listen.” And yet, tell me what is more important than for a leader to listen to his/her people… There is nothing more important. So, what if each leader spent just a few minutes a day, first thing in the morning, reading a short piece, being reminded to “listen to your people” today? It might just be the very reminder he/she needs to actually stop and listen…
Back to Manna in the Morning – I just recently realized that my current manna in the morning practice is the process of writing blog posts, nearly every day. Each day, I take some moments and ask, what is important to reflect on this day? Sometimes, it is based on what I am reading. Sometimes, it comes from interactions, and my exposure to needs in the work world. But each day, I think: “this is worth a thought or two on my blog.”
In other words, the practice, the discipline of blogging regularly keeps me thinking about work – my own work, and my work in helping people with their work.
And, I suspect (I hope), for some readers, the practice of reading this blog has become “manna in the morning.” A quick read, gathered for the day, to help you refocus, and think about the work you do and how you do it.
Another phrase used for this practice back in my ministry days was “daily devotional reading.” And there are countless books and magazines, in every Christian denomination, providing those short readings for the day: The Upper Room; My Utmost for His Highest; Max Lucado has written some of these. I used to write a few pages, for a few dates each year, for a magazine called Power for Today. (That seems like a very long time ago).
I think that practice is one that helped form my current practice. If I can borrow the phrase, this blog is almost like a “business devotional.” There is just enough, in these short readings each day, to help you remember to be devoted to the people you work with — their success, and, yes, the overall success of your organization. Remembering what is important, again this morning, and every morning, is a good daily practice to follow.
The other booklet that I remember so well was The Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles Hummel. In it, Mr. Hummel stated, so clearly, that the “urgent” could so easily crowd out the “important.” It was a reminder to save time for the important, and not let the urgent crowd it out. That daily focusing time could help one remember what is truly important.
So, those are my thoughts this morning…
In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw-Hill, 2009), Carmine Gallo cites a few tips early in his narrative. They may seem simple but don’t be fooled. All of the greatest public speakers will tell you that it took them many years (about 10,000 hours) of deliberate practice to master them.
1. “Plan in Analog”: Think of the presentation as a story that has a setting, a plot, characters, conflicts, increasing tensions because of unsolved problems and/or unanswered questions, a climax, and a brief concluding lesson.
2. “Answer the One Question That Matters Most”: Those in the audience are asking the same question, “Why should I care?” Disregard this question and you will lose the audience almost immediately.
3. “Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose”: Gallo notes that Jobs was worth more than $100 million by the time he was 25 and it didn’t natter to him at all. That wasn’t what he was about. “Understanding this one fact will help you unlock the secret behind Jobs’s extraordinary charisma.”
4. “Create Twitter-like Headlines”: Develop headlines into 140-character sentences. Less is more.
5. “Draw a Road Map”: Jobs effectively uses the most powerful principle of persuasion, The Rule of Three (i.e. three new products, three objectives, three barriers. three parts, three new features).
6. “Introduce the Antagonist”: In each of Jobs’s greatest presentations, he introduces a common enemy against which everyone unites, becomes emotionally engaged, prepares to do battle, agrees to make sacrifices, etc.
Note: It could be waste, a foreign country, the New York Yankees (“the Evil Empire”), a product, a competitor. Whatever.
7. “Reveal the Conquering hero”: At each presentation, Jobs introduces a hero that the audience can rally around. It could be a person, a product, a goal, or a destination.
Few (if any) of those who read this book will then be “insanely great in front of any audience.” However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from what Steve Jobs learned about effective presentations.
Head’s up: Gallo’s next book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March (2014).