I want to tell you about a friend of mine. He is a doctor. He performs an important out-patient surgery. His calendar is full. He arrives in his office early in the morning, and the first surgery is scheduled pretty much right off the bat. I have lunch with him about once a month. I bring lunch to his office. He walks into his office for lunch just having finished with a patient. He has one hour, and usually has to make a phone call or two before we can visit – to other doctors, about the needs of his or their patients. He then operates on others through the afternoon. He has an amazing support staff. They keep his schedule flowing smoothly.
He takes off early one afternoon a week. On that afternoon, he catches up on “paper work,” and reads professional journals. This really is mandatory reading for a man in his profession. (He also gives lectures to others in his field). He is very, very good at what he does. D Magazine listed him as among the best in the city for his type of medical practice.
He has more than one child – at the age where they do everything: soccer, baseball, Lacrosse, and that’s just the activities I remember. He described a recent weekend, and it was multiple locations, multiple events, all week-end long. He is a former top level athlete, in great shape, and he was exhausted by the demands of the weekend.
His wife is also a Doctor, with the advantage of working a self-imposed reduced schedule. But when she works, she works as hard as he does. (She is also very, very good at what she does!)
So, I have a question: when will he read books that would be “good to read?”
He is not lazy; he is not a poor time-manager; he is simply too busy doing his job and serving/enjoying his family to read books that he wishes he had time to read.
When you read this blog, you are inundated with book titles that make you say: “I need to read that.” And so you buy the book, open the book…but, I suspect that your stack of partially read books is becoming a mountain.
I don’t have a solution to this problem. I do know that my Doctor friend needs to be doing what he is doing, and reading the books may never make it into his schedule.
By the way, I share most of my book synopsis handouts with him. It is not enough; it is not as good as hearing the synopsis while following along with the handout. It is not as good as reading the book himself. But he can find the few minutes it takes to read the handouts that I point out to him as especially valuable, and he is grateful.
I asked him recently if my handouts are valuable to him. He said “absolutely!” He was not hesitant. He said they give him ideas, help him think about his practice, especially the “business end” of his practice. And he said that he simply would never have time to read the books themselves.
I would never think less of him for not finding time to read the books; I’ve seen his work ethic. If I need his kind of medical attention, I want it from him. He provides exactly what people need.
You may be as busy as my friend. Or, you may have friends who are that busy. A little insight from a book is better than none at all, isn’t it? And our synopses provide more than just a little insight from the books we present. We provide two pages of key quotes from the books; the outline of the key content; and if you can find time to listen to the audio, you hear a cool/key/enlightening story or two.
No, it’s not as good as reading the book for yourself. But it is not nothing!
You can order our synopses, for yourself or that busy friend of yours, with handout + audio from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Every now and then, I think I should share just what Karl and I do here at and through the First Friday Book Synopsis. We read books and tell you the key concepts contained in the books.
Think about the possibilities. A book comes out – a good book with good ideas, something you can use and put to work in your own business (or personal) endeavors. You think “I should read this book.” And maybe you should. But the reality is that there are about 786 books you “should” read – and more coming every week. (Yes, I picked that number out of thin air – the actual number you, and I, should read is much…higher. There is so much to know, so much to learn).
Here are your options:
1. Read all of the books that you “should” read. You could probably do this – if you quit sleeping, eating, working, relating. (Roger Ebert recently wrote of a world-class tinkerer, a man who “didn’t sleep.” If only…)
2. Get somebody else to read them for you – and give you enough of what’s in the books that you have useful ideas to put to use. That’s what Karl and I do. We read books for you, and share what we discover and learn.
But, we are not really in the book summary business. There are too many books. We could hire an army of readers and presenters to read all of those books. But we’re not in that business. Instead, we are in the “these are the books we like” business. We pick and choose – to be precise, we choose 24 books a year (with an occasional extra). And if you look back over the last 11+years, we’ve done pretty well. The big best-sellers are all on our list. And a few rare finds are on the list, also.
But we don’t compete with the companies which provide summaries of nearly all of the business books. We’re just two guys – two guys who love to read books, and we like to share what we find in them that is useful and valuable. And we’ve done it for so long that I think we have gotten pretty good at finding and extracting and sharing the most crucial ideas and the best transferable concepts from the good business books.
In other words, other services have a larger selection of titles. But I think what we offer is unique: a synopsis, with audio + handout, that provides the key content, in something akin to an “encounter” with the book. I admit that this is my take, my experience — I don’t just read a book, I encounter a book. And these encounters are what I try to share in my presentations.
3. There is a third option – you can just ignore the books. This is an ok option – one we all follow all the time. I ignore most of the good books out there. I don’t read the books; I don’t even read reviews of the books; frequently, I never even hear of the books. There are so many, what other choice do I have? But – if you will take Karl and me up on our offer, you can at least learn a little more about a few more valuable books.
We provide our synopses to a live audience monthly in Dallas at the Park City Club. (See the home page of this web site for all the details – it is the First Friday of every month – except for an occasional second Friday thrown in due to holiday conflicts). Here are video excerpts of my recent presentation of Womenomics by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay (thanks, Doug Caldwell, for the video).
Each synopsis includes a handout with two pages of quotes directly from the book, and then an outline of the key content. It is ok to read by itself, but it is designed to be used with the verbal presentations, and listening and reading at the same time will definitely give you more of what we offer.
And so we record our presentations, and put our audio recordings and handouts up on our companion web site for people to purchase. (15minutebusinessbooks.com). Give it a click.
We’ve got books by Malcom Gladwell, Jim Collins, Gail Collins, Ram Charan, Thomas Friedman … so many others — the list is long. Our synopses will help you learn some really valuable stuff.
So — book synopses for sale – step right up.
This is primarily a blog about business books, and the ideas and implications in and of such books. And, to state the obvious, there are good books and bad books – valuable books and not so valuable books.
I want to share a story. A regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis has hired us to deliver book synopsis presentations for a client of hers. The gathering was a “development” gathering. You know, the client team gets a room full of people and wants them to know what they can provide that they might need. This client team provides financial services and financial products. People want to know what to do with their money – what they can do to grow their money, but, especially now, what they can do to keep their money safe. They brought me in to present a synopsis of the substantive, disturbing book The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Korlikoff and Scott Burns. Here’s a key excerpt, candidly calling for realism and honesty:
The stakes here are too high to let hope conquer fear and to let wishful thinking perpetuate inaction. There is, in fact, no realistic painless escape from our date with demographic destiny. And as we now point out, that date is now much closer than most people seem to think.
The discussion covered the coming generational shift, the huge and growing national debt, and numerous concerns regarding “what do we do with our money now.” But the conversation was “started” by the questions raised by the book, and thus prompted by the book synopsis. It was book synopsis as a tool, as PR, as conversation starter. I think it is a great use of a book synopsis. And the members of the client team, competent and trustworthy in the financial arena, were able to address the concerns of the clients and potential clients who attended.
Now here’s the moment that most grabbed me. After the event, one participant was discussing how much she gained from the book presentation, and she said (paraphrased – I wish I remembered her exact words): “I think we are really needing some content, some substance these days.”
I think we may be done with shallowness for a while. The times are too serious. The needs and dilemmas are too large. We want to feel like we are actually learning something about how to think and how to be and what to do. Ours is an era starved for substance – for guidance, for content. Shallow dives don’t work, and won’t work in such a time of uncertainty.
It is a new era starved for substance. And that is both a signal of worry, and a sign of hope.
To purchase my synopsis of The Coming Generational Storm, with audio+ handout, go to 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
I read a lot of books — not as many as some, and in this chapter of my life, not as many as our blogging partner Bob Morris — but I read a lot of books. Let me state the obvious — many (most) business books are not masterpieces of great literature. But nearly all of them are worth investing some time to learn what is in them — and nearly all of them have an idea or two that if I actually followed through on, my business life would be more productive, my thinking might be a little clearer, and my path to success would be helped.
Recently, I was reading some reviews for one of the books selected for the First Friday Book Synopsis (no, I won’t tell you which book it was), that complained that the book would have been fine as an essay, but there was simply not enough in it to justify a full book. And it got me thinking.
First, my agreement. Yes, there are business books that would be just fine as essays. The authors had to stretch things a bit to come up with a full book.
And, I have come to learn that a fair number of business books give you almost as much as you need in the introduction. The introduction is written with thoroughness, and when this is the case, the rest of the book is primarily commentary and elaboration. There is nothing wrong with this approach — and I appreciate, even love and greatly respect, a well-written introduction to a book. (By the way, I see this pattern in books on poverty and social justice also. I present synopses of such books at the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries).
But here’s the thing. Many times I read a book, and when I reach a key paragraph, I put the book down, and start “working,” because the book gave me the right prompt, the right idea, the right nudge…
Or, I have listened to a speaker, and a phrase, an idea, something, is said and I “tune out” for a while, because I am thinking about the implication of the idea just heard in the midst of a still ongoing presentation. I can assure you that I see this happen to people who listen to me — they hear something, and go into their own world of implications searching. So I miss part of a presentation, and maybe am partially tuned out (even, at times, when I am reading), because I am so energized by a good, important, useful idea.
So I am not bothered by a book that is really only worthy of an essay. If the ideas are good, I will take them in any form they arrive. And I will appreciate all good ideas. And, by the way, there is a chance I would not learn about this good idea if it were in an article or essay — I may have a better chance of discovering it if it is in a book.
Now — certainly, I prefer a book full of good content. But if all I get is an essay full of good content packaged in a too long book, I’ll take it. It is the bad ideas, the worthless content, that I dislike. And I can usually tell that in a hurry.
Maybe this is why our short synopses are so valuable. And maybe this is why the Q & A format that Bob Morris uses on this blog is so worthwhile. We are really lucky when we learn any ideas that are genuinely useful and helpful. And our synopses, and this blog, can provide such ideas from the books we choose.
(Note to authors, and to those of you who have a favorite book or author: of course I am not referring to your beloved book when I describe a book as not being a masterpiece. Your book is clearly a true, brilliant masterpiece. It is all of those other books I am referring to…)
I am enjoying reading the new Guy Kawasaki book, Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.
I read his blog regulary, and his earlier book (which I presented in 2005), The Art of the Start, is one of the few books that I periodically go back to to jump start a new project that I tackle. He is a practical, and valuable writer. But when you read him, put on your seat belt…
This new book is Kawasaki at his best. Hundreds of pages, fast and furioius, cajoling us to get to work and beat the competition. The pace is borderline frenetic, from the opening words: ”Imagine the American Dream on steroids and Red Bull and you have some idea of what life is like in Silicon Valley. Sure, Frank Sinatra called New York “the city that never sleeps,” but that’s only because Frank never visited the Valley…”
In his book, he speaks to these business realities: the reality of starting, raising money, planning and executing, innovating, marketing, selling and evangelizing, communicating, beguiling (what a great word), competing, hiring and firing, working, and doing good. I’ve got a hunch that we will all learn much from this book.
If you are in the area, I hope you will join us for the Frist Friday Book Synospis in February. You will be glad you did.
(Karl Krayer will present the synopsis of A Leader’s Legacy by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, two fine repeat authors for our event also).
One of my favorite “to ponder” exercises is this one: “what if we fell asleep today and woke up 20 years from now?” We live in a time of such rapidly accelerating change that we can hardly imagine the change that is coming.
Try this – what will the year be in which we no longer get around with vehicles that have drivers? Too far fetched? Let’s make it simpler – what year will bring the arrival of transportation for most people that uses something other than oil? For such a change is coming! The real issue is not if, but when – and, how will we get there?
Thomas Friedman has already led us on similar journeys – in retrospect, and in process. My first exposure to Thomas Friedman was in 1999, when I read The Lexus and the Olive Tree. It was an announcement that globalization was upon us. His next volume (I read it in 2005) told us how flat the world was. And now, the world is just as flat, but it is also becoming increasingly hot and crowded. Since I haven’t read his new book yet, I don’t know what his prescription for change is. But I know this – change is coming. Real change.
I heard Mr. Friedman interviewed on 60 Minutes about this new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America. One sentence jumped out at me. He described how ludicrous it would have been to lead a pep rally for the IBM Selectic typewriter at the dawn of the personal computer age. You remember that typewriter, don’t you? Interchangeable fonts on those easily removable balls, ease of use – it was a marvel!
(By the way, there is now a Selectric Typewriter Museum).
Who today would switch back to it?
Not me, thank you. A new age is upon us. And now I have added to my keyboard that nifty tiny keyboard on an iPhone. Who would have predicted?
Mr. Friedman calls us to a new revolution – a green revolution. One that will help our planet. One that will help our people. One that will help our nation.
Even his critics admire his work ethic. He continues to travel, to observe, to ponder, to think, to write.
And most of all, he makes us think.
I hope we will listen…