Category Archives: Books

This 2015 Trends Piece Could Set a Trend Itself

Delightful serendipity: this gorgeous work, The Future 100: Trends and Change to Watch in 2015, 110 beautiful pages on trends for the future, is also in itself a new way to do things. Global ad agency J Walter Thompson delivers it, for free, via (the illustration here is just one of the 110 pages):

JWT trends slideshare

The content here is the best kind of food for thought. You’ll recognize most of the trends, but some will surprise you and some will make you disagree.

It’s a great use of the medium. It’s designed as a slide deck (PowerPoint or Keynote, presumably) but reads like a beautifully-laid-out horizontal book. I opted to give it my full screen 27” monitor, full screen, and the visual effect is stunning. However, it is designed to be read, not delivered as a presentation. And it works great in full screen, with enough text to make it stand alone, but full use of the images.

Now it’s making me think I want to do something like this on lean planning

I’m Too Busy To Read That Book on Busyness

This interesting book review came out this morning on book review Overwhelmed Brigid Schulte

In her new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte calls this cultural epidemic the “overwhelm,” and it will be immediately recognizable to most working adults. “Always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door.”

I haven’t read the book and I probably won’t. But I certainly recognize the condition. 

I also like the title on the Slate piece, which you can see in the illustration, and you probably can’t see the subtitle there, which is:

Also, by talking about it so much, you’re wasting time.

Exploring the book, post author Hanna Rosin discovers:

busyness of a certain kind—meaning not the work-three-menial-jobs-and-put-your-kids-in-precarious-day-care-by-necessity kind—became a mark of social status, that somewhere in the drudgery of checklists and the crumpled heaps one could detect a hint of glamour. 

And I liked this thought too:

The answer to feeling oppressively busy, he says, is to stop telling yourself that you’re oppressively busy, because the truth is that we are all much less busy than we think we are. And our consistent insistence that we are busy has created a host of personal and social ills which Schulte reports on in great detail in her book—unnecessary stress, exhaustion, bad decision-making, and, on a bigger level, a conviction that the ideal worker is one who is available at all times because he or she is grateful to be “busy,” and that we should all aspire to the insane schedules of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Last Sunday was a particularly gorgeous Spring day like we don’t often get this time of year in rainy Western Oregon. About mid morning I sat down with a really good cup of coffee and a really good computer looking forward to writing, editing some video, revising a website, and at some point taking a good walk through the university campus. I paused, thought about how I had multiple interesting rewarding things to do, but trouble choosing.

And it occurred to me, at that moment, that having too much to do is a blessing, not a curse. 

Body of Work is the Best Career Book Ever

Pamela Slim Body of Work

Pam Slim’s new book Body of Work is out. You may already know of Pam as the author of the bestseller Escape From Cubicle Nation. This one takes a brilliant new tack on the whole idea of careers, refocusing your work life as a reflection of who you are, who you are becoming.

I’ve already bought two copies — for a daughter and a sister — even though Pam sent me an early copy for free. Both are in different inflection points related to what they do next, gathering in what they’ve done so far, and Pam’s way of looking at things is perfect for that.

I don’t give a lot of endorsements or recommendations on this blog, but I can’t recommend this book more highly. I bought copies, one for a daughter and one for a sister, both of them brilliant people looking at what comes next, professionally. Pam Slim is a brilliant writer, a natural empath, and the best source of thoughtful career advice I’ve ever known.

I can’t resist quoting from Bob Sutton, Stanford Prof author of The No-Asshole Rule and other great books, who said of Body of Work:

I was struck by how useful, engaging, and downright fun that Body of Work was to read.  For starters, Pam applies a compelling frame — as the title says — where she advises that each of us would be better off as thinking of our career as a body of work rather than climbing a ladder or taking the path to the top. I found that so simple and so powerful — both because I think it is a more accurate frame, and because it focuses attention on what gives each of us intrinsic joy, not just on the competitive nature of work and the money.

And here’s a quick video summary:

Parents: Great Book for Kids, Squared

This is a good cause. I’m proud to post it here. And — hooray — it’s also a wonderful book for parents to read to (or with) children. And today marks the beginning of the holidays. The marketing isn’t all that great, and the distribution isn’t all that great, so I recommend you order it now, not later (order info below). 

I met the author, Greg Ahlijian, last week when he visited our offices at Eugene Social and showed us the book, letters, and documentation on how he has donated every dollar to the Jasper Mountain Home for children. 

Click here to go to the site and order the book. 

Greg wrote the book after volunteering at the home. He’s a teacher there, and a mentor, and a believer. 

This is what the Jasper Mountain site says about the home: 

Jasper Mountain is a unique organization, it is a treatment family, and it is a place of hope for children and parents who search for answers. Since 1982, we have been growing and learning along with the children and families we serve. Jasper Mountain is many things but there is nothing quite like it anywhere!

Jasper Mountain provides a continuum of programs that meets the needs of emotionally disturbed children and their families. Services include an intensive residential treatment program with a therapeutic school, a short-term residential center, treatment foster care program, community based wraparound program and crisis response services.

This is important: Greg’s not donating a percentage of profits. He’s donating all the money, 100%, that’s left over from his direct costs. He’s not taking any money for his time and effort. There’s no salary or overhead.  

And that explains my title for this post. It’s a good book, good for parents and kids; and it helps a good cause. By squared I mean as in numbers: 2 x 2 = 4. That kind of squared. 

Click here to go to the site and order the book. 

I bought a copy from Greg as soon as I saw it and leafed through it. My daughter read it to her nine-year-old son, loved it, and downloaded discussion questions. It’s not just a story — not that there is anything wrong with a story, or that the word just applies — but it’s a story with a conscience, and a wealth of good discussions waiting to happen. 

Valuable ‘Lessons from the Recession’

I was happy to see in this morning’s email that James Barrod and Brian Moran’s Lessons from the Recession is out now and being promoted on an innovative crowd funding site

I like the title because that’s exactly what this book is: lessons learned. Remember 2008? Particularly the end of 2008, September and October? All economic indicators plunged together. We all worried about what now-president Obama could do to keep us out of a depression. Those were some hard times. And they put business fundamentals to the test.


James and Brian subtitled it: Real Solutions for Every Small Business Riding the Economic Roller Coaster. I think that’s accurate. I’m one of about a dozen co-authors who contributed. My chapter uses some case studies to show how the right kind of business planning can help to manage change and uncertainty by keeping control on the dashboards of the business. Other chapters are written by experts I consider friends, Rieva Lesonsky and Barbara Weltman, and a roll call of experts I’d like to know better.

Disclosure: I got a check for writing a chapter.

More disclosure: one of the three companies I used as a case example for my chapter is not doing well, and I’m not sure about the other two. You be the judge of that factor. I’ve been wrong before with my praise of early startups that didn’t do as well as I expected. I think I’m too much of an optimist. Sometimes wanting these people to succeed clouds my judgement.

On that of course I’m in good company. Jim Collins’ excellent book Good to Great included Fannie Mae and Circuit City as great (and both tanked). And In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman included some (Digital Equipment, Wang, for example) companies that they called excellent that tanked later.  Predicting the future is tough.

Which, by the way, is the main point of my chapter on business planning: with the right kind of business planning, you don’t predict the future, you manage the future by setting specific goals and milestones and following up with tracking and revisions as necessary.

One final thought: the site is an interesting approach to funding a book effort. Take a look. I hope it works for James and Brian. They put a lot of work into this book, and what they created has some very good content.

5 Blogging Mistakes And A State of Wonder

Yesterday while flying cross country I read State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. It’s about real people in an almost-but-not-quite magical Amazon jungle, and, although the plot moves steadily forward, it’s more of a spell, woven with words by a great writer, than just a story.

As I got off my first plane, I was about 30 pages from finished, and two hours from my next flight. I didn’t check email first. I didn’t get lunch, which was overdue. I sat next to the gate and finished the novel.  I was immersed in the Amazon jungle and the spell of a the trees, mushrooms, Indians, scientists, doctors, the deaf boy, the pharmaceutical study, and the pregnancy. It wasn’t just to find out what happens; it was about staying inside the spell, keeping the buzz. What a great book!

This morning, jetlagged and back in Oregon, I woke up before dawn and went to the computer to consider my post today, which was, until now, just the two paragraphs above this one and a title that sounded like a high school book review. So I decided to reconfigure this post, cynically, with a new title, and a more business-compatible title.

So here are my five tips, and when I’m done with them, I’d like to ask you a serious question. If you’re still with me at that point.

1. It’s not just content; it’s writing

I got serious about blogging in 2007 because I like writing. I thought the written word was going to be suffocated by online video, boa-constrictor-like, wrapped up and confined and unable to breathe. That made me sad. But blogs and even social media changed that for me, and I feel better about writing now. There’s hope. The quality of writing makes a huge difference. It’s not just blogging. It’s not just content. It’s writing. Enjoy it.

2. All people love stories

What Ann Patchett does with words on a page is a reminder of why people breathe stories as much as we breathe air. You get in the middle of a great novel and you’re lost in a new world. Trite, but true. If you manage to pull up and out of the story and think about it, it’s part of a human craving for meaning, and to create a world out of pure words is proof of God. This blog, with its title Planning Startups Stories, needs more stories. Should your blog have more stories?

3. A few well-chosen details are magic

An American woman is arriving at Manaus, in Brazil, by plane. Watch the detail:

Marina went past security an customs and stepped out into the lobby full of people who were looking behind her. Young girls stood on their toes and waved. Taxi drivers hustled for fares, cruise directors and Amazon adventure guides herded their charges into groups. An assortment of cheap shops and money changing stations vied for attention with bright colors and brighter lights, and right in the middle of everything stood a man in a dark suit holding a neatly lettered sign with two words: Marina Singh

Do you see what I mean? The plot moves steadily forward as a woman named Marina Singh finds a driver waiting for her. But the detail makes the scene live. How about coming through customs to “a lobby of people who were looking behind her.” That’s perfect.

The details make it come alive like that.  Don’t just talk. Create. Write pictures.

4. Lighten up and read for fun more

My wife says angels fly “because they take themselves lightly.” Yesterday on the plane was a reminder to me that I can’t always read the next business book or write the next column or blog post. The goal is living, not working. I had forgotten how much I was focused on business, to the extent that I don’t automatically carry a good book with me when I travel. I’m shocked to realize I do more than 50,000 miles a year, most of which I spend writing, not reading. Big mistake.

5. About the title game

They tell me the best titles are lists of 3, 5, or 10 points, and I’ve seen myself that people like lists of mistakes best of all. So I rewrote this post to play that up with a list of 5 mistakes. Did it work? Would you have read this far if it were titled like a book report on a novel?

And that, by the way, is the serious question I promised in my fourth paragraph, introducing the mistakes: did it work? Should I have just posted the first two paragraphs in this post, and a title to go with just that, and left it there? Or was it worth it to add the somewhat-cynical list of mistakes and change the title? Does this feel like bait and switch to you?


And one final note: I first discovered Ann Patchett several years ago with Bel Canto, which is — believe it or not — a story about people and love and beauty set in a South American hostage crisis. That’s another great book.

(Image: Patricia Wall/The New York Times, from this review by Janet Maslin)

About Time: Ebooks Outselling Printed Books

Last week Jeff Bezos announced that E-books now outsell print books at Computerworld reported:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the e-book threshold arrived sooner than expected. “Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books,” he said. “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly.” Amazon has sold printed books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four.

I’ve been a believer in the future of ebooks for a long time, beginning back in the 1990s when I first bought a Rocket ebook reader for my book-hungry youngest daughter. I used an early t-mobile PDA, then a kindle, lately my iPhone and iPad.

For those of us with the means to have easy access to technology, the ebook just makes so much sense, on so many levels, that since I first got one I’ve thought this was inevitable.

Funny, Jeff Bezos saying they didn’t think it would happen this quickly. When I first saw that first ebook reader I guessed wrong; I thought it would happen way more quickly than it actually has. On the other hand, by the time the Kindle came out, I was starting to think it would never happen.

I’m glad it did.

Torn: True Stories on Kids, Career, and Conflict of Motherhood

Today is the first day of distribution for Samatha Walraven’s book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood. I got an advance copy and it’s a good read: for working moms, of course, but also for working dads, and everybody else who cares about understanding some of the people they work with. book cover

The book is a series of chapters from contributors, which makes it a great collection of experiences and point of view. It’s about how it feels, working through the problems, dealing with guilt, the importance of choice — which includes choosing to be stay-at-home mom too, by the way; there’s a whole section of pieces from that point of view too — and similar topics.

For example, this, from a Chapter called MommyCEO, written by Sabrina Parsons, my daughter, CEO of Palo Alto Software. I’ve taken a couple of snippets from a larger paragraph, just to give you the idea:

…there are things I have to deal with in the workplace that no man will ever face. No man will ever be in his office using a breast pump during a partner call … and very few men will ever face the reality that no matter how much government protection there is for maternity and family leave, there are some jobs that don’t allow a three-month leave of absence.

And here’s one from the following page:

Last night, as I sat in my boys’ room at bedtime, I thought about how much I have on my plate, how much I am juggling, and the items that fall by the wayside: my blog, my workouts, my sleep. My wingspan is simply not wide enough. If you saw me sitting in their room, you could actually envision this ‘wingspan’ — my arms stretched out wide between my sons’ beds so they can each hold a hand as they fall asleep.

That’s just one of 50 chapters, divided into seven sections, each written by a different woman. They divide into sections on balance, guilt, the superwoman, divided lives, the stay-at-home struggle, and, last but not least: “Maybe, Baby.”

Last week I posted about entrepreneurs needing empathy. Let’s have more empathy for the working moms, and for stay-at-home moms too, when they make that choice. This is a really good book.

A Nice-Guy User’s Manual for Life and Business

Some cranky folkloric baseball manager from decades ago was asked why he was such an SOB. He answered: “Nice people finish last.” In Enchantment, however, Guy Kawasaki tells us how and why nice people finish first.

Don’t misunderstand the word enchantment. It’s not magic. There’s no Pied Piper. Guy’s enchantment is good common sense and logic, not magic. This book is a lot like a how-to guide to applying a Guy-Kawasaki-nice-person strategy to achieve personal and business success.

The first few chapters are about you as an individual — how to be liked and trusted. These chapters — Guy’s advice on handshakes, dressing, and even smiling — read a lot like a good father giving advice to grownup children, or as mentor to protege, except a lot more thorough and much better organized. You can feel him wanting to share, give, and help. This is what has worked for me, he’s saying, let me help you.

Moving on from the mostly personal, Guy goes effortlessly on into small business and products, launches, and marketing. He talks about how to be a boss, and, how to enchant a boss. He talks about long-term corporate culture. His last chapter is about how to resist enchantment turned bad, which is common-sense advice to keep you from being one of the rats in the Pied Piper story.

Given the general topic description, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at well Guy brings out concrete specific advice, useful and relevant stories, and even checklists. This book is very practical.

book order pageBefore I was done, I ordered five copies of this book to share. Sure, much of what he covers is relatively intuitive “nice person” stuff. But he does it in a delightfully thorough and organized way.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, taken in random order:

  • In ten years of listening to entrepreneurs’ pitches, I’ve never heard one that was too short.
  • A word to women regarding swearing … My advice is that you heed the rules that I provided above, and let it rip, because the best way to destroy a double standard is to defy it.
  • This is how premortems work. The team assembles during the launch phase. The team leader asks everyone to assume the project failed and to come up with the reasons why the failure occurred.
  • Why do people create messages that are not short, simple, and swallowable? Two reasons: first, a committee got involved and group-groped the result. Second, people got overenthusiastic about the wonderfulness of their cause and lost touch with reality.
  • [on stories as part of a launch strategy] ‘Epic’ is not always necessary. ‘Illustrative’ is enough — for example, personal stories like ‘my father owned a Cadillac, and he drove it 150,000 miles without major problems’ are more effective than ‘this caddy will last a long time.’
  • Enchanters don’t sell products, services, or companies. Enchanters sell their dreams for a better future.
  • Push technology brings your story to people. Pull technology brings people to your story.

I hope you get the idea, with just a few quotes, of how the book goes in and out of detail, and stays practical. It’s organized well, it’s full of stories, it’s got enough logic to headers and flow that it’s hard to put down and you’re done before you know it. I read it cover-to-cover on a one-hour plane trip.

Finally, I have to say, I’ve dealt with Guy Kawasaki off and on for about 25 years now. He’s not someone I know well and I’m not somebody he’d consider close. He’s done me favors — he wrote the forward to my last book — and I’ve done him some (my company bundled his book with our product). But that’s typical Guy Kawasaki; that’s him being the person he suggests we all should be. He’s authentic. By that I mean that I can also tell you he is, just as the book is, just as his secret to success is, impossible not to like. While some of what Guy says might sound phony if taken completely out of context, he is completely authentic and so is his book. Guy is preaching what he practices. And, following his own advice, being a mensch, he wants to help you figure it out. And, since he is a gifted communicator, story teller, and simplifier, the book is one of those that I want people I know to read.

Jonathan Fields’ Great Title Idea

This is so cool. I’m really jealous. As he finishes up his next book, Jonathan Fields turns to the web and his so-called tribe for help with the book title. In Help Me Choose The Title Of My Next Book, he put a poll onto his blog and promoted in there and in Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Why am I jealous? Because I didn’t think of something like this for any of my books. What a great idea.

Choosing a book title is hell. It’s really hard to do, critical to the content, and critical to sales and success. Could there possibly be a better way? Much as I complain about dumb polls and over-researched decisions, this is a great use of so-called crowd sourcing.

In my defense, it’s easier now than in 2008 when my most recent two were published. But Twitter had already started, and this blog was already here, and so was my other blog Up and Running, on I could have done it. And I don’t want to sound ungrateful for how much help I got from Jere Calmes and the team at Entrepreneur Press, but still … damn!

Whatever the eventual title, I expect Jonathan’s upcoming book to be really good. When he interviewed me for it maybe a year ago, he was talking to a lot of people and asking some very important questions. He went into deep core issues about entrepreneurship and creativity, like dealing with fear, finding time for silence, and balancing needs and wants. That interview left me thinking about related issues long after.  I’m really looking forward to reading the book that comes out of that.