First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

tiny tweaks (can lead to) B!G CHANGES – insight from Amy Cuddy and Robert Cialdini, et al.

tiny tweaks (can lead to) BIG CHANGEStiny tweaks

Amy CuddyThose words are flashed on the screen near the end of the terrific TED Talk by Amy Cuddy. (Her Talk, Your body language shapes who you are, is currently the second most viewed TED Talk ever, and I show it to every one of my Speech classes).

It takes us back to a BIG little reminder. You can make progress, get better, move forward, with small steps – one small step at a time. Any Cuddy is emphasizing using “Power Poses” to prepare for a presentation, an interview … or just to come across in all conversations with more confidence. (Watch her Talk – it is terrific). But the principle is valid and valuable, in many ways, all the time.

thesmallbig-book-smallerI read a similar line again, in the book The Small B!G: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein, and Robert B. Cialdini. Here’s the line:

Small changes can have a big impact.

They are writing about small changes in how you ask questions – small changes that can lead to persuasion; higher response rates, more agreement and buy-in.  But, again, the principle seems to benefit in every aspect of life and work.

Take an inventory. What small changes would you make that would be genuinely helpful to you?

Think about your posture and look (the insight from Amy Cuddy)…
Think about what you schedule into your weekly calendar
Think about the subject lines, and the first lines, of your e-mails…
Think about the clutter around your work space…

What small changes, what tiny tweaks, could lead to B!G changes for the better — for you?

So many little changes could make such BIG differences. What little changes could you make for this coming week, and then, the week after that, and then…

Saturday, September 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley – Lessons and Takeaways

Smartest KidsI presented my synopsis of the smartest kids in the world…and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley at yesterday’s Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare. (Let me first stipulate that I would not have been one of the smartest kids in the world in my day)…

I was pretty disturbed by reading this book (as I often am by reading the books I read for the Urban Engagment Book Club). Books on poverty, social justice, education, are long on “look at this huge problem,” and sadly, we are so very slow to make progress….

You know the current rankings. The United States ranks as middle to lower than middle in international educational outcomes. Even our best schools do not keep up…  From the book:

The typical child in Beverly Hills performed below average, compared to all kids in Canada (not some other distant land, Canada!).

In case you don’t know about this book, Amanda Ripley, a journalist, who had resisted writing about education (“I didn’t say so out loud, but education stories seemed, well, kind of soft”), ended up following three foreign exchange students from the United States to their foreign schools in Finland, Poland, and South Korea. One noticeable finding – school in the United States is simply not as demanding as in these other countries. Again, from the book:

International and U.S. students agreed that school in the United States was easier than school abroad. In countries with strong education systems, school is actually harder.
…even students from lower-achieving countries overwhelmingly reported that U.S. school was easier.

At the end of the book, Ms. Ripley offers her lessons and takeaways. Here is my compilation from that chapter — the author’s “lessons,” from the author herself:

  1. Every child is different.
  2. Beyond a certain baseline level, money does not translate into quality in education anywhere.
  3. Average class size? Not as important as most people think, except in the earliest years of schooling.
  4. The research shows that the quality of the teaching matters more than the size of the class.
  5. Remember that rigorous learning actually looks rigorous.
  6. There should be a sense of urgency that you can feel.
  7. Resist the urge to focus on the teacher. (focus on what the students are actually doing).
  8. Be practically panicky about too many bored students.
  9. To buy into school, kids need to be reminded of the purpose all day, everyday.
  10. Can kids ask – and, get an answer! – when they don’t understand something? (The answer to this needs to be “yes”).
  11. Care more about math than football. (Do the students; and their parents! – care more about math than about football?)
  12. Parents as coaches are key! Do parents help more with their children’s learning than they do with earning money in bake sales? (The real impact happens mostly at home.
  13. Principals have to be world-class talent spotters, hiring only the best… (You can’t choose your kid’s teacher; but if you can choose the principal…)

If you read this book along with How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, you get a feel for the challenges we face.How Children Succeed

Good, disturbing book… 

Friday, September 19, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Since People Don’t Learn (very easily), We Need Lots of Kitchen Table Conversations (Insight from Margaret Heffernan and Amanda Ripley)

So, here’s a problem.

We know some of our problems, big problems… but we have not solved them.

This is true for our country; our companies and organizations, and our own lives. We – I – you – have not learned and changed in the ways we could.

I have recently revisited what I now call an essential book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, by Margaret Heffernan. This time, one short line jumped out at me… It’s worth a good long stare and ponder:Willful Blindness

“Do people learn? People don’t.”

That’s just disturbing, isn’t it? People don’t learn…

Now, in one sense, she is wrong. Of course, we learn… The number of lessons, and new practices, people have learned over the course of my lifetime is breathtaking. Take this simple one: a heart attack is now treated vastly differently than it was in the 1950s. Immediate medical attention; paramedics and emergency personnel knowing what to do… The change has saved countless lives. Our entire medical community has learned this essential new approach to heart attacks.

We could make a very long list of such advances.

But, on the other hand… in Willful Blindness, Ms. Heffernan documents how hard it is to get from here to there. In one story (she includes a number of such stories), she recounts the resistance doctors put up to the finding that X-rays could be harmful to unborn children. When X-rays came along, it became routine to X-ray pregnant women. This proved to be a very, very bad idea. And yet, the heroine of this story, Alice Stewart, who clearly demonstrated that X-raying pregnant women caused leukemia in a frightening percentage of the children born after such X-rays, was resisted, ridiculed… People were so very slow to learn.

So, maybe we could put it this way. (Borrowing from a thought in the book The Second Machine Age about technological advancement), we learn very, very, very slowly – and then, all at once.

Smartest KidsIn reading the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley, I read this (notice the part in bold, and then underlined):

History shows us that great leaders matter, and so does luck. Politics are critical, as is power. All major shifts, though, also require a feeling that spreads among people like a whispered oath, kitchen table by kitchen table, until enough of them agree that something must be done.

In other words, when it becomes no longer “acceptable” across the kitchen tables to have not learned and changed, then we learn and change.

So, take a look at your life. Take a look at your company or organization. Let’s take a look at our country.

What have we not learned?

Maybe we need some kitchen table conversations – lots and lots of them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

The Kid: A book review by Bob Morris

The KidThe Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams
Ben Bradlee, Jr.
Little, Brown and Company (2014)

A brilliant examination of a Hall of Fame career and of an “exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life – an immortal life.”

I am among the 200 reviewers (thus far) who have rated this book highly but there are others (and there always are) who complain about something: its length, abundance of historical material, too much coverage of this/not enough of that, etc. I have read a number of biographies in recent years, including those of John Cheever (Bailey), Steve Jobs (Isaacson), Barbara Stanwyck (Wilson), Johnny Carson (Bushkin), John Wayne (Eyman), Michael Jordan (Lazenby), Woodrow Wilson (Berg), and John Updike (Begley) as well as Leigh Montville’s biography of Ted Williams (2005). In my opinion, none is a greater achievement than what Ben Bradlee, Jr. offers in The Kid, his examination of the “immortal life” of Ted Williams (1918-2002). His sense of nuance is impeccable.

As Charles McGrath points out in his review of the book for The New York Times, “What distinguishes Bradlee’s The Kid from the rest of Williams lit is, its size and the depth of its reporting. Bradlee seemingly talked to everyone, not just baseball people but William’s fishing buddies, old girlfriends, his two surviving wives and both of his daughters, and he had unparalleled access to Williams family archives. His account does not materially alter our picture of Williams the player, but fills it in with much greater detail and nuance…Bradlee’s expansiveness enables his book to transcend the familiar limits of the sports bio and to become instead a hard-to-put-down account of a fascinating American life. It’s a story about athletic greatness but also about the perils of fame and celebrity, the corrosiveness of money, and the way the cycle of familial resentment and disappointment plays itself out generation after generation.”

Bradlee devotes seven pages of Acknowledgments of hundreds of sources (including Montville) to which he is “deeply indebted.” He also includes 155 pages of Notes and in Appendix II (Pages 787-800) he lists everyone he interviewed. This is a research-driven book, to be sure, and probably the definitive account of the life of one of the most colorful – and controversial – public figures during the second half of the last century. Bradlee allows the sources to speak for themselves and provides a more balanced view than does Richard Ben Cramer, for example, in his biography of Joe DiMaggio and two of Williams. Perhaps most striking is Bradlee’s impeccable sense of nuance.

There is much in Williams and his life to admire, notably his skills as a hitter of baseballs and his two periods of service as a Marine pilot (during WW 2 and then Korea) as well as his active support of the Jimmy Fund. He was very uncomfortable when praised for that support. Here is a brief portion of the information provided by the Fund’s website: “Ted Williams was a hero in the ballpark, on the battlefield, and in the hearts of millions of children suffering from cancer. Famous for his extraordinary batting record during his decades-long career with the Red Sox, Ted also displayed heroism as a fighter pilot in two wars, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the Jimmy Fund. Ted went everywhere to support the cause: American Legion banquets, temples and churches, Little League games, drive-in theaters, department stores for autograph sessions. Most memorably, he made countless visits to the bedsides of sick children at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. As a kid, Ted dreamed of being a sports hero, but as an adult, he dreamed of beating cancer. His efforts over the years contributed to remarkable progress in the treatment of childhood cancers.”

These are among the dozens of other dimensions of his life and career that are of greatest interest to me:

o His childhood in San Diego and early promise as a baseball player
o His minor league years (1936-1938) and the friendships he developed (e.g. with Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr)
o Being identified as “The Kid” by Red Sox equipment manager, Johnny Orlando
o The first season in MLB, after which Babe Ruth designated him “Rookie of the Year”
o The 1941 season: Williams batted .406, hit 37 home runs, and had 120 RBIs, finishing second to Joe DiMaggio for MVP
o First active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, World War 2 (1943-1945)

Note: According to Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox teammate who was also involved with Williams in the aviation training program, “He mastered intricate problems in fifteen minutes which took the average cadet an hour, and half of the other cadets there were college grads.” Pesky again described Williams’ acumen in the advance training, for which Pesky personally did not qualify: “I heard Ted literally tore the sleeve target to shreds with his angle dives. He’d shoot from wingovers, zooms, and barrel rolls, and after a few passes the sleeve was ribbons. At any rate, I know he broke the all-time record for hits.”

o Second active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Korea (1952–1953)

Note: During the second tour of duty, Williams served in the same Marine Corps unit with John Glenn who described him as one of the best pilots he knew.

o Why he disliked the sports media so intensely, especially in Boston
o When and why he retired
o The significance of his relationship with Sears Roebuck
o His brief career as a manager of the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1969 to 1972
o His inadequacies as a husband and as a father
o The ambiguities of John Henry Williams
o Questions that remain unanswered concerning what happened after Ted Williams’ death on July 5, 2002 (aged 83)
o Key lifetime statistics: BA .344; HRs 521; 2,654 hits; and 1,839 RBIs

Bradlee thoroughly explores these and countless other subjects and related issues, perhaps with more details and to a greater extent than many readers prefer. He celebrates Williams’ several significant strengths and virtues but refuses to ignore or even neglect his prominent inadequacies in most of his personal relationships. I appreciate the fact that Bradlee does not presume to explain what drove him other than a need to become the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived (I agree with Bradlee and countless others that he was) and by his determination to have total control of his personal life, especially the news media.

As Bradlee explains in his Author’s Note, “Researching and writing this book took more than a decade. After six-hundred-odd reviews, uncounted hours of research in archives and among the private papers given to me and by the Williams family, after looking closely at that signed baseball more than a few times [one Bradlee received in his youth] and thinking hard about the man I’d briefly met as a boy and the man I was meeting now, I felt ready to let go of this Ted Williams tale, the story of an exceptional, tumultuous, and epic American life – an immortal life.”

This is by far the best biography of Williams that I have read thus far, indeed it is among the best biographies of athletes I have ever read. I am deeply grateful for learning what I did not previously know about “The Kid,” of course, but also for the meticulous care with which Ben Bradlee, Jr. presents all of the material, helping his readers to gain a better understanding and a greater appreciation of one of the most complicated human beings any of us will ever know. Bravo!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Malcolm Gladwell Coming to the 2014 Changing the Odds Conference, presented by Momentous Institute, October 9-10

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is coming to town, and you can hear him speak at the 2014 Changing the Odds Conference, October 9-10.

From the conference web site:


Reimagine every child’s potential for lifelong success.
This year’s theme is “Expect Momentous Outcomes.” When we expect momentous outcomes for children and their families, regardless of circumstance, we see that challenges become stepping stones on the road to success.

Malcolm Gladwell is the “biggest name” among the excellent line-up of speakers for the 2014 Changing the Odds Conference. They especially wanted to include Mr. Gladwell because of the encouragement to be found in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

I asked Michelle Kinder, the Executive Director of Momentous Institute, to respond to a few questions about the conference. Here are her responses. (I’ve bolded a line that I especially love).

scyfc-ctoweblogo2014• Since you are wanting to “Change the Odds”…

#1 — What constitutes “bad odds?”
In short – not reaching one’s potential –kids with high risk factors and an absence of protective relationships are at risk for bad outcomes in almost every arena – including early death.  We simply cannot be ok to be able to predict a child’s future based on a zip code or a parent’s income.  And this issue impacts every one of us – it’s an educational issue, a mental health issue, an economic and a moral one. 

#2 — What constitutes “good-to-better odds?”
Finishing high school with the ability to pursue college and/or career, ability to build and sustain relationships, manage emotions, communicate, problem solve, support a family  — achieve full potential.

#3 — What are a couple of the strategies you have to change the odds?
There are two key places to intervene/ protective factors:   #1 protective relationships and #2 social emotional health – including the ability to self-regulate, be aware of self, understand others, and ultimately be an integrated influencer….. someone who is satisfied in life and contributing to society.
Examples of how we help kids learn to self-regulate include teaching kids about their brains and helping them develop calming practices grounded in deep breathing or focused attention.

#4 — What does Malcolm Gladwell have to offer in your pursuit of changing the odds?
In his new book he encourages people to redefine our view of adversity or of the ‘underdog’ by using the David and Goliath story.  At momentous, we believe a huge part of changing the odds will involve all of us changing how we look at kids who come from tough beginnings – we have to enter into relationships built on the premise of expecting momentous outcomes for all kids.

#5 — How have the first two years of your Changing the Odds conference helped change some odds for attendees/participants and the people they teach and counsel?
Changing the Odds is about inspiring and equipping people who are working with kids or those in decision making roles.  We are packing two days full of speakers who are doing some of the most interesting thinking influencing education or mental health.

Last year, I wrote the following in a blog post for their 2013 conference. These reasons are still compelling. So, here are four reasons why you should consider attending this important conference.

Reason #1 – you’ve got to get away – I mean, really get away — to think about stuff every now and then.  We all need to pull away from the daily demands, and just reflect, with a guided-set-of-conversations kind of way. A good conference can help.  And, it can really help if you will turn your phone to silent, and leave it alone for big chunks of the time while you are at the conference.  (unless, of course you are live tweeting…  but that’s another story).

Reason #2 – great input.  This conference is filled with good speakers – important speakers, with important and possibly life-changing things to teach us.

Reason #3 – great conversations will be happening all around you.  Join in.  There will be countless people standing right around you, with so much to offer as you think about the implications of what you are learning, and as you share the challenges of changing the odds in your circle of influence.  These conversations are critical to moving you forward toward more meaningful action.

Reason #4 – great conversations will be happening within your own heart and soul.  This is the big one.  I am convinced that all persuasion is “self-persuasion.”  My bet is that you will experience a little self-persuasion these two days.  You will be challenged, and you will have an internal conversation that goes something like this:

“OK, I see the challenges more clearly.  Now, what shall I start doing to make a greater impact?  What shall I quit doing that is not working?  Who can I collaborate with to increase my impact?  How can I keep learning, and changing, for the better?”

These are the kinds of internal conversations that are sparked by a good conference.  And this promises to be a very good conference!

The odds really are stacked against so many.  The odds seem to be stacked against our very efforts to change the odds.  But we do not despair.  The odds can be changed!  It’s time to change the odds.  This conference can really help.

Who could be helped by this conference?  You could.  I could.  And, any parent (grandparent) of young-through-not-so-young children, and any educator, and mental health professional or community leader or volunteer dealing with children or parents or teachers could be helped.

Do your community a favor.  Find an educator, or other professional — or a parent — and pay their way.  The ripple effects could be wonderful.

And let’s all hope for the best possible ripple effects to come from this conference.  Our communities really do need to change the odds for the better, don’t you think?


I really don’t know a sharper leader, or a more dedicated group of professionals, than the people at Momentous Institute. We are honored that they are sponsoring our October First Friday Book Synopsis. And I can endorse their work, and this conference, with such energetic passion. They know what they are doing! Go, take advantage of this great opportunity.

And, don’t forget – Malcolm Gladwell is speaking!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Thoughts – From Fran Tarkenton, on the Value of Reading; and from a Hedge Fund’s Call to Action for Olive Garden

One of my “daily reads” is Business Insider. It is comprehensive, constantly updated, and deals with business, culture, news… so much.

Recently, I read two articles that are especially worth noting.

One was a piece by Fran Tarkenton, former NFL quarterback, now successful entrepreneur. His article was about “big” companies getting in trouble: Businesses Like McDonald’s And Sears Are Getting Complacent — Here’s Why It’s A Problem. Here’s a key paragraph:

When any entity becomes dysfunctional, it all boils down to the same root causes: a blame game where nothing gets done, and everyone getting locked into complacency about the way things are.

And a key to not becoming complacent, for Mr. Tarkenton, is to read – constantly:

Reading is key

The only way to force disruptive thinking, the essential ingredient for innovation and reinvention, is to go out and grab it. You have to read more, you have to seek out more diverse ideas, and you have to ask more questions.

I read all kinds of different things. Every day, for example, I read The New York Times, which leans liberal, and The Wall Street Journal, which leans conservative. I read business journals and science blogs, newsletters and stock prospectuses. I read articles my friends send me. Some of what I read is in my comfort zone, but I also read a lot of things I don’t know much about, giving me a different perspective that I never would have thought of on my own. In short, I’m looking for the best thinking no matter where it comes from.

(He tells a great story about a 14 year old reader of boxes and labels at the store where he worked. Great story!).

So, keep reading.

The second article, Hedge Fund Manager Publishes Dizzying 294-Slide Presentation Exposing How Olive Garden Wastes Money And Fails Customers, included the full slide 294-slide presentation by Starboard Value, a hedge fund that owns about 8.8% of the Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants, outlining ways the company can make more money. 

Here’s one slide from the slide deck:

Olive Garden Slide

Click on image for full view

And here’s the line that jumped out at me (from this slide):

Fixing the culture so employees are once again excited to serve guests.

The slide deck includes many specifics, including a mistake about not putting salt into the cooking pots for the pasta, what to do about no-longer-edible bread sticks, and even thoughts about corporate headquarters. But, thinking about the big picture, the entire presentation calls for a change in culture.

Now, I know enough about corporate culture to know this – changing one is very, very difficult. Changing culture successfully throughout many locations, with thousands of employees, sounds practically impossible. But this hedge fund provides many concrete steps to try to do just that.

Here’s the hidden-in-plain-sight takeaway – if the success of an organization matters to you (like it does to a highly invested hedge fund), then it’s time to look at every single detail you possibly can, and constantly ask, with attention to every detail:

What are we doing right?
What are we doing wrong?
How do we fix things?

These are two good reads from Business Insider.

Monday, September 15, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

“Better” Matters as Much as “First” – thoughts on the Smartphone Battles

A few thoughts…

I admit, I have only ever used Apple. I’m a serial Macintosh user (I’ve lost count. My first was in the 80s), serial iPhone user, and I’m on my second iPad. So, I’m loyal.

But, as I read the snark that the new iPhone is 2 years behind the others, I started pondering…

Here’s what I think. In my case, I now have practically everything I need (addresses, phone numbers, received and sent emails, documents – including my book synopsis handouts) practically everywhere. Seamless access to “my stuff” matters to me. And I have that. And that access has made all sorts of tasks easier than they used to be.

Now, I admit, I don’t know if it would be as easy in other systems. I can’t imagine that it would any easier.
But as I think about the competition between companies and devices, a few thoughts…

Ease of use almost trumps everything. If it’s not easy to use, ultimately I don’t use it.

And, I suspect that “better” ultimately trumps “first.”

And, I have no idea what is coming next, and probably soon. But I know this – the added greater and faster capabilities have been absolutely breathtaking in the seven years since the iPhone was first introduced.

Remember, for the non-geeks, the internet itself is still just a teenager (Netscape came along in 1995). And, companies, and countless folks in their living rooms and garages, are working flat out to get the next advantage – so the improvements are coming in greater numbers, faster than we can keep up.

I guess we’ll see if the new iPhone is really 2 years behind. Or, if it’s better.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Josh Linkner on “Leadership Lessons from the Honey Badger”

Honey-Badger-175x131Here is one of Josh Linkner‘s most popular posts. To check out the wealth of free resources that he provides, please click here.

* * *

Don’t let the sugary name fool you. Recognized as the most fearless animal by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Honey Badger is a strange yet powerful creature. This determined animal may not be a household name, but even the King Cobra fears and respects this beast.

Please click here to watch an hilarious and informational brief video of a Honey Badger in action, a film about this crazy animal that has been seen over 52 million times.

Besides the sidesplitting narration, there are actually some poignant leadership lessons from the Honey Badger we can all learn thanks to this eccentric creature. The Honey Badger is:

• Willing to do whatever it takes. No matter how dirty it gets, how much pain it must endure, how challenging the circumstances may be, Honey Badger will stop at nothing to reach it’s goal.

• Singularly focused. Distractions are a joke for this creepy mammal. Honey Badger remains laser-focused on the prize and can be lured away by neither threat nor temptation.

• Unstoppable. It doesn’t allow setbacks, external circumstances, competitors, extreme conditions, fatigue, or laziness to get in its way. Honey Badger forges ahead with the requisite confidence to ensure nothing can interfere with accomplishment.

• Fearless. In the wild, there are countless mortal threats. The Honey Badger can only survive by forging ahead despite these risk and refuses to let fear consume even a millimeter of its zeal. Certainly it recognizes potential hazards, but Honey Badger sprints ahead nonetheless.

• Gives back. Maybe not intentionally, but this animal’s ferocity enables others’ (crows, jackals, etc.) survival. Honey Badger’s raw force is so powerful that it contributes back to the common good.

Life often throws us curveballs, and it is all too easy to cave under the pressure. A timid approach can end up becoming your undoing. A faint-hearted Honey Badger would meet extinction, just like the bashful business leaders who fail to seize their full potential.

You’ve been told to connect with your inner-child. Instead, I suggest brining out your inner-Honey Badger if you want to win in our highly competitive world. White doves are nice to look at, but I’ll be bringing a Honey Badger to my next fight.

Isn’t it time you did the same?

* * *

Please click here to read the complete article.

Josh Linkner is the New York Times bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with business partners Earvin (“Magic”) Johnson and NBA team owner Dan Gilbert, Josh is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. Josh is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan. For more information on creativity, visit his website by clicking here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Step Your Game Up” – Chris Anderson’s TED Talk Tells Us Why We all Have to Keep Getting Better, and Better, and Better

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

So, this story of the evolution of dance seems strangely familiar. You know, a while after TED Talks started taking off, we noticed that speakers were starting to spend a lot more time in preparation. It was resulting in incredible new talks… Months of preparation crammed into 18 minutes, raising the bar cruelly for the next generation of speakers, with the effects that we’ve seen this week. It’s not as if J.J. and Jill actually ended their talks saying, “Step your game up,” but they might as well have. So, in both of these cases, you’ve got these cycles of improvement, apparently driven by people watching web video.
Chris Anderson, from his TED Talk, How Web Video Powers Global Innovation


I show this Chris Anderson TED Talk to my speech students, along with the one by Amy Cuddy. So, I’ve watched both of them again recently.

Some Observations:

#1 – Video (video available to all through the internet) is changing a lot about our world. Just this week, we have basically found a man, Ray Rice, guilty of domestic abuse (in the court of public opinion), because we saw the video. Though the police report was already known, with graphic wording, it clearly did not have the impact of the video: Rice committed assault by “striking [Janay Palmer] with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.” (Read more about this here). And, though it is not news that ISIS/ISIL is bad news indeed, it was the spreading of the video of the beheadings of two journalists that dramatically swayed American public opinion.

#2 – There is so much available to learn – for free. Attending the official TED Conference is pretty much for the wealthy. But every TED Talk is now free, on-line. We can all learn from the content of the talks.

There is so much to see, and read, and learn — from so many sources — much of it, for free. What a learning opportunity era!

#3 – Everybody now HAS! to get better at what they do, because we all are compared to the best like never before.

Do you remember the “We’re number two – we try harder” ads for Avis? I’m not sure that would work as well today. Today, we want what we spend our money on to be the best – at the best price. The mantra for today, quoted again recently by Peter Thiel in his reddit AMA, is the line technology involves doing more with less.”

But, it may actually be this: do more, with less… and, be the best while you’re at it.

So, back to Chris Anderson’s TED Talk. Today’s TED speakers are better than the first year’s speakers. The TED conference has made every speaker on Planet Earth feel the pressure to “Step your game up.”

Not terribly long ago, when my Netflix account was the DVD through the mail version, I ordered a DVD of a favorite old television show. The show aired in the early 1970s. It had a big star, good ratings… it was successful. I couldn’t get through all the DVDs. It wasn’t as good as I remembered, to put it mildly. We are now spoiled by the available non-stop quality of the modern dramas. Our options are so much more plentiful: True Detective, Broadchurch, Sherlock… Whether you agree with my likes or not, trust me, they are a lot more engaging, complex, provocative than my 1970s selection. (You notice I have not named the show – after watching an episode, seeing how dated it felt, how simplistic it felt –- well, I think I’ll keep the name to myself).

And, another aspect of this – if you try a new show, and it is disappointing, you are not restricted to only three networks to choose from. You can watch dramas (if that is your preference) from different years, from multiple countries, all with a tap on an iPad.

So, here’s the point of this blog post. Everyone all around us is getting better. And, in an era of video, if part of what you do involves interacting with people (and, it does!), your speaking ability, your conversational ability, is being compared to the best like never before.

In other words you have to “step your game up” again this week. And, then, again, the next week. “Step your game up” is the challenge of the era.

Saturday, September 13, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Here is the September, 2014 New York Times Business Books Best Sellers List

Here’s the New York Times Business Books Best Sellers List for September, 2014.

again back at #1

again back at #1

A few observations. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell is back at #1, and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is on the list (at #10). These continue to sell, as does The Power of Habit and Thinking, Fast and Slow (published October, 2011).

And here is something: there are two “reissues” on this list: Business Adventures by John Brooks, first published in 1969, and Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, first published in 1977.

In other words, not many “new books” are on the current best sellers list. I find this interesting…

The newest book on this month’s list is The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin (I am presenting my synopsis of this book at the October First Friday Book Synopsis).

On the one hand, the newest books are having a harder time breaking into the best sellers list, it looks like. On the other hand, these books that have lingered on the list are incredibly valuable. In just the last week, I have referred to Outliers (published, 2008), The Power of Habit (published February, 2012), and Lean In (published March, 2013) in presentations, and I presented my synopsis of Business Adventures at the September First Friday Book Synopsis. The books on this month’s list provide lasting insight and value, and are deserving of your time. So, it’s really not a surprise that they continue to be best sellers.Lean In

{At the First Friday Book Synopsis, I have presented synopses of: Outliers, Power of Habit, Think Like a Freak, Business Adventures, and Lean In. And, after October, I will have presented a synopsis of The Organized Mind. My colleague Karl Krayer, has presented his synopses of Thinking, Fast and Slow, and #GIRLBOSS. That’s eight of the ten on this month’s list that we have selected and presented. You can purchase our synopses, with our multi-page comprehensive handouts, along with the audio of our presentations, at our companion web site, (Business Adventures will be available soon, and The Organized Mind will be available around the middle to end of October)}.

Here is the September, 2014 New York Times Business Books Best Sellers List. Click on the link for a short description of each of these books.

1 OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell.
2 PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, by David McCullough..
3 THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman.
4 POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg.
5 #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso.
6 ORGANIZED MIND, by Daniel J. Levitin.
8 THINK LIKE A FREAK, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
10 LEAN IN, by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell.

Thursday, September 11, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment


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