Getting Things Done by David Allen

Book of the Month – July 2014

Title and Author:  Getting Things Done by David Allen

Subtitle: The Art of Stress-Free Living

Synopsis of Content:

This book is about how to organize everything you work with: every document, email, and every other item in your home or business office and how to manage these things along with your projects and tasks in the most effective manner.

The table of contents provides an excellent overview of the book:

  • The Art of Getting Things Done
  • Getting Control of Your Life – the 5 stages of mastering workflow
  • The 5 phases of project planning
  • Practicing Stress-Free Productivity
  • Setting up the time, space and tools
  • Corralling Your Stuff
  • Processing: getting “in” to empty
  • Organizing: setting up the right buckets
  • Reviewing: keeping your system functional
  • Doing: making the best action choices
  • Getting projects under control
  • The Power of Key Principles
  • The Power of the Collection Habit
  • The Power of the Next Action Decision
  • The Power of Outcome Focusing

Allen’s system is based on some basic principles:

  1. Anything that must be done in the future clutters your mind and distracts you unless you can get it out of your mind. He maintains that as long as it is on some list your mind will dwell on it. Put it on a list and you can forget it. So he recommends putting everything – and I mean everything – on a list to be scheduled or worked on later. This applies to your next medical exam, replacing the batteries in your flashlight and the next big project at work. This will empty your mind of the “to-do” list and free it to relax and do more important work.
  1. Maintain a minimum number of lists. Too many lists and they will be unmanageable, too few and they will also be unmanageable. He provides guidelines for how many is ideal.
  1. Lists must be reviewed regularly and at least weekly. If a list is not managed it gets out of control.
  1. As you go through things on your desk or in your email in-box follow this simple rule: If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it. If it will take more than two minutes file it and either schedule it, drop it or delegate it. The goal is to maintain a clean desk and empty in box.

The mechanism you use to keep your lists and manage them is not important. Whether it is paper or electronic he urges you to use the one you are most comfortable with.

What I found useful about this book:

Allen’s book is truly one of the best time management books I’ve read. It is full of great ideas and his systems work – I know as I’ve used them. If you set up the system he advises and manage it regularly you do get control over your tasks and time. The trick is to follow the steps and manage the system regularly.

What I did not like about this book:

Allen short sells the discipline it takes to follow the collection habit he describes. This takes some real effort. The payoff is worth the effort. However Allen soft sells the effort required to some extent.

Also Allen fails to address a real problem some people have: some people simply have too much to do. No matter how it is organized it is simply more than one can get to. A chapter on how to deal with this problem would be helpful.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

Getting Things Done is very readable and easy to follow. It is well organized and provides clear steps to follow.

Notes on Author:

David Allen is an author, consultant, coach and keynote speaker. He advises some of the world’s largest businesses.

Other Books by This Author:

Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity – 2002

Getting Things Done – C Pbp – 2008

Getting Things Done – B – 2012

Related Website:

http://gettingthingsdone.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. You must get organized to be productive and reduce stress. This means getting everything organized from your desk top to your computer. It means getting all your tasks on a list so your mind is not mired in keeping track.
  1. Practice a simple formula for organizing what needs to be done: if it takes 2 minutes or less do it; if it takes more than two minutes either schedule it, dump it, file it or delegate it.
  1. Lists must be actively managed at least weekly. Develop this discipline to keep on top of things and free your mind for creative thinking and work.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Copyright holder: ©2001 David Allen

Publisher: Penguin Books

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: 

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Synopsis of Content:

This book is about ideas. It is about where they come from, how they develop and what conditions best promote their development.

The author examines networks and how they function in nature, in human society and on the internet. Johnson first examines selected individual idea developments from history beginning with Charles Darwin and how he developed his ideas about evolution.

From these individual examples he develops a theory about how people actually develop ideas – especially complex ideas that are world changing. He identifies the environments that most effectively promote idea development: what he calls liquid networks. In nature he cites coral reefs as a prime example of this. He describes how the symbiotic and collaborative processes on a coral reef allow a rich growth of life to come from a nutrient poor environment.

He then extrapolates this process to apply to cities and the internet. He examines the development of inventions and technological advances and looks at the environments and processes that are most likely to promote such advances.

Johnson challenges the myth that most great advancements are the product of one genius working alone. Though he concedes that some progress does come from the lone individual he argues this is the exception to the rule. Most ideas, and most progress, he argues, come from the interaction of various individuals sharing ideas and building on past ideas to develop new ones.

He cites various examples of this including how most modern technologies were developed by numerous people sharing information and building on past ideas.

Environmentally he argues that the place where ideas are most often nurtured are those rich in high densities of people (or animals) working together such as cities or coral reefs.

Johnson examines many of the technological and conceptual advances of the past 400 years and finds that most of them come from some form of collaboration. He says that today most ideas come from research universities and or from research labs run by large corporations where this collaborative function is at its best.

Johnson discusses how these collaborative processes work. He tells us about the adjacent possible principles and that new ideas come from examining the edges of possibility around you. The most fertile idea generation comes from being exposed to multiple disciplines and ideas.

Johnson also writes about the “slow hunch”. He gives several examples (including Darwin) of people who had a hunch which over a long period of time grew and developed with added information and thinking. Most ideas do not come from an instant inspiration of genius but instead from a gradual process where a hunch may linger in the mind for years or even decades and then exposure to new ideas and relationships between ideas give birth to the concept that started with the slow hunch.

What I found useful about this book:

This book is an excellent study on how ideas are nurtured and developed. I learned a lot about how important it is to escape your silo or field of work and collaborate with others in various fields of work and thought to enrich your own thinking.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This book is not an easy read. It forces you to think in new ways about how ideas are formed. It looks in great detail about how ideas have been formed in science and other areas. At times the detail is a bit daunting but is worth it because it paints a clear picture of how ideas are best developed in a way that a shorter examination of the process would fail to reveal in sufficient detail.

Notes on Author:

Steven Johnson is a bestselling author and founder of a number of websites.

Other Books by This Author:

The Invention of Air

The Ghost Map

Emergence

Interface Culture

Related Website:

http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Your best ideas will develop from a collaborative process interacting with numerous other people and their ideas. Creating and working in an environment rich in this kind of interaction with the largest number of possible influences generate the most ideas and lead to the most transformative changes. There is great value to visiting coffee houses and other places where this collaboration and discussion across disciplines can nurture your ideas.
  1. Write everything down and review those notes from time to time much as Darwin did. This allows you mind to expand on ideas and builds on the slow hunch.
  1. Read and learn from various disciplines outside your own. This will enable you to expand your thinking to levels you could not reach on your own.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Copyright holder: 2010 by Steven Johnson

Publisher: Riverhead Books, NY

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Synopsis of Content:

In this little book of 117 pages including appendices the reader will find a wealth of insight into what makes organizations succeed and fail. In the end Mercer tells us that how our organizations treat people defines their success. The business or other organization that treats people well will succeed because it has a soul. The organization that does not treat people well has no soul and will fail.

The book has seven chapters:

The Benefits of Nurturing a Healthy Corporate Soul

The Four Structural Pillars of Your Organization

Zombies or Zealots?

Walk the Talk

Working Together Using Balance and Harmony

Transformation

Inspiration Not Just Perspiration.

The book then ends with a Conclusion followed by an Appendix on the essence of the corporate soul and a Guide on assessing the soul of your organization.

The Corporate Soul Handbook is both a discussion of the concept of a soul for an organization, and this applies to nonprofit organizations just as much as for profit, and a handbook to introduce the reader on how to assess your organization for its soul and what actions one can do to improve it.

As with so many books on corporate success and management there really is nothing new in this book. Mercer takes long understood principles and reframes them in the context of this concept of a corporate soul.

Mercer explains that every organization has four pillars: Capital, Management, Employees and Customers. How an organization treats those four pillars and maintains a balance between them defines the corporate soul.

He provides examples of businesses like Southwest Airlines that have a healthy and vibrant soul and thrive. He offers other examples of organizations that short change those pillars and fail. He explains what each of these four pillars need to thrive and how they all equally support the successful organization. He teaches how we must nurture them all to survive and thrive.

This book focuses on the intangible ingredient for organizational success. It focuses on the positive and the cooperative. It explains how the way we treat the people (pillars) or our organization define its soul and its success.

What I found useful about this book:

This book provides insight into the how we do what we do and why the how makes such a difference. It identifies the importance of how we treat the people who make our organizations succeed or fail. It goes beyond the bottom line and defines the ultimately important line. For all of us who lead organizations and for those of us working in those organizations these ideas are critical and give us hope.

It is probably no accident that Ron Mercer is a banker. Banks fuel and drive much of the commercial activity in the world. Modern commercial enterprise would not be possible without banks for the most part. Yet banks and bankers have suffered much in their reputation in recent years with the failed banks, the stories about self-serving over paid executives more interested in extracting wealth than creating it. In this book Mercer offers a refreshing viewpoint about what healthy corporate should look like. He offers good examples of corporations that possess this “soul” and offer their customers excellent service and their employees a great place to work.

Readability/Writing Quality:

The book is very well written. It is easy to read and contains many good examples to flesh out the principles espoused.

Notes on Author:

Ron Mercer is a senior executive in the banking industry. He has advised startups and Fortune 500 companies. He maintains a website and blog.

Related Website:

https://www.thecorporatesoulhandbook.com/ 

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

Every organization is supported by four pillars: capital, management, employees and customers. How we treat each of these pillars leads to the organization’s success or failure.

It is critical for everyone, but especially leaders, to walk their talk. We must set the example. We must act in the way we teach or we lose all effectiveness.

It is important to understand that how we treat others defines the soul of our organization. That soul is an intangible and largely unmeasurable essence that everyone recognizes when they see it and when it is missing. We must nurture that soul to achieve success as an organization.

Publication Information:

Title and Author: The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Copyright holder: 2013 by Ron Mercer, Jr.

Publisher: Prime Your Pump Publishing, LLC, Texas

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Procrastination: 10 Days to Stop Being Lazy by David Patton

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:   Procrastination: 10 Days to Stop Being Lazy by David Patton
Subtitle: A Step by Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating in 10 Days, Form Productive Habits and Get More Done

Synopsis of Content:  

Patton defines procrastination in terms of avoidance, denial, distraction and emotional maneuvering.  He then outlines a process whereby you can change a habit to be used to change the habit of procrastination.

The chapter on why we procrastinate is thorough. Patton delves into the many well-recognized reasons why people procrastinate. This is followed by a chapter on how to set goals, prioritize and manager time. Here is discusses the SMART method of goal setting. He also discusses the Eisenhower Matrix with its four quadrants of urgent, not urgent, important and not important.

Chapter 4 discusses how to motivate oneself. He talks about the Fogg Behavior Model. This is followed by a chapter on how to automate and sustain action.

This is a good primer on well-established knowledge about procrastination and techniques to overcome it. There is nothing new here but the report, at 22 pages, is easy to read through and covers the main points well. For those struggling with procrastination this little book provides an excellent introduction to the subject and some great methods to overcome it.

What I found useful about this book:

This book captures the essential information needed to understand procrastination and develop ways to defeat it. It is short enough to read in one sitting. This book or report is small but it captures the essentials of how to understand procrastination and how to fight it.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This small book is very readable. It is well organized. Most people could read it in one sitting.

Other Books by This Author:

A report on One Easy Technique to Master Time and Reach Goals

Related Website:   

Download the book here: http://amzn.to/2pfoY2P

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Use the SMART goal method to set realistic, measurable and achievable goals.
  2. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your tasks and activities to get the important things done first.
  3. Use triggers to motivate yourself and get things done.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Procrastination: 10 Days to Stop Being Lazy by David Patton
Copyright holder: David Patton
Publisher: Self published on Amazon.com

Buy the book here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Synopsis of Content:

This book is about how we pay attention to the world around us and to what we do. It is about how we focus on things, or fail to. It is also about the consequences of how we focus or fail to, from how it affects our personal achievement and performance to how it may affect the fate of human kind.

Goleman begins by explaining how we pay attention, how we focus and how we make fundamental decisions based on an overview of the anatomy of our brain. He explains the difference between “bottom up” thinking, where our more primitive brain (the amygdala) drives basic reactive thought and instinct based fast thought, such as what drives us (food, sex, emotion) and the slower “top down” thinking that emanates from our more advanced pre-frontal cortex or executive functioning brain. Critically to understand how these work one must also understand how they conflict and how they complement one another. Understanding the way the brain works helps us understand and influence whether we merely react or whether we control our thought.

The book then goes on to explore a somewhat eclectic selection of brain functions and attributes that form our thought processes. He explores how we perceive others, or “read” them; the role of empathy in our thinking; how we perceive patterns or fail to; how we act upon immediate threats but largely ignore distant threats; and how these thinking patterns help us to succeed and to fail.

He discusses how not the amount of practice but the quality of practice defines how proficient we are. He challenges the 10,000 hour myth, in which it is argued that a talent or skill is developed to proficiency with 10,000 hours of practice explaining that proficiency and mastery require quality practice for many hours.

He then applies these ideas to what makes a more effective and well-focused leader and ultimately how our success or failure to apply these ideas may well spell survival or death to human civilization.

What I did not like about this book:

The book starts out examining how we think and learn without an apparent agenda. In the end there clearly is an agenda. Goleman does not merely prescribe how our focus can make us succeed as leaders but in the end how it can cause us to fail as a species due to what he argues is our Achilles heel: our apparent inability to adequately recognize long term threats and act in the present to avoid them.

In doing this he advances an argument that our failure to recognize the ultimate environmental threat we face (primarily human driven climate change) may well lead to our destruction. He offers little to suggest how we overcome this fate, if indeed it is our fate.

What I found useful about this book:

Despite its shortcomings the book is an excellent introduction into how our minds work in terms of attention and focus and how that influences what we achieve or fail to achieve. It teaches how a complex interrelationship between our more primitive thinking and our more sophisticated thought processes can work together to be very effective.

He also provides some insight into the crucial role that emotions can play both to our detriment and to help us succeed more effectively. He also explains how we can be more effective as a leader by understanding these aspects of our brain and using that knowledge to control what we do and how we do it.

Ultimately the book is about what we pay attention to and how we do so. It is about how our use of focus can help us and our failure to be aware of it can hurt us.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is well written and well organized. The writing is stimulating and engaging. He makes the reader think and helps the reader to understand disparate concepts that work as a whole.

Notes on Author:

Daniel Goleman is a former science journalist and author. He also speaks publically. He cofounded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at Yale University and now at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Other Books by This Author:

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Creative Spirit

In all Goleman has written 13 books related to emotion, the mind and leadership.

Related Website:

http://www.danielgoleman.info/

http://www.eiconsortium.org/index.html

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Our thinking is driven by two different brain functions, a bottom up primitive process centered in the amygdala and a more sophisticated reasoning process, or top down process, driven by the pre-frontal cortex. Understanding how these different forms of thought influence us can help us to be more effective in our thinking.
  1. It is possible to train ourselves to focus more intently and intentionally which can protect us from more turbulent emotional thought. This can reduce anxiety and other emotional functions that are defeating.
  1. While focus and disciplined thought are important and helpful to us daydreaming and unfocused thought also play a vital role in creativity and problems solving. It is critical to use both types of thinking.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Copyright holder: 2013 by Daniel Goleman

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers, NY.

Get the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Achieve Anything in Just One Year by Jason Harvey

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Achieve Anything in Just One Year by Jason Harvey

Synopsis of Content:

Harvey has compiled in this book a daily meditation and inspiration for how to achieve more. For each day there is an inspirational quote from an author or leader, some questions to stimulate your thinking and a lesson which often requires you to do something.  There are 365 such pages, one for each day of a year. You can start any time as they are not tied to any dates.

While you could sit down and read this book through its real value is to use it one page per day for a year. Harvey challenges the reader to move beyond where they are now in life, even if they feel stuck, and to expand your potential and accomplish more.

Each day has a lesson and an assignment. Some of the assignments are generalized, challenging you to think in a different way or to interact with others in a different way. Other assignments are more specific challenging you to do one thing differently.

The book is part inspiration – and it is very inspirational – and part a book of exercises and lessons to move you forward in the areas where the author has found people most often stuck or lacking proper action or reflection. The book is also a day by day recipe for constant personal development.

Each page can be read in five minutes or less, and many only take a minute to read. The exercises and assignments however take more time – as much as you are willing to devote to make positive changes in your life.

It does not matter where you might be on your road to success and achievement nor does it really matter what you are attempting to achieve. It would serve people in business, in their private lives, or in any personal success path.

The book is not preachy but it does deliver valuable lessons that are classic success ideas. Harvey gives you a little push and what you do with that is entirely up to you.

What I did not like about this book:

The book would benefit from a table of contents and a good index. While the day by day progression is good the book contains a lot of wisdom that would be easier to access if it had a good index.

What I found useful about this book:

The daily quotations are real gems and come from many different sources. The book is almost worth its price just to get those quotes. The real value though goes far beyond the quotes. The inspirational lessons and the exercises are excellent day by day steps to make progress.

One of the book’s advantages is that you do not have to wade through hundreds of pages and then try to draw broad lessons from them. The daily format lets you move through the book gradually without spending more than five minutes a day reading.

After a year the reader will have covered 365 pages but more importantly the reader will have moved through a set of lessons and exercises that can change perceptions, beliefs, and patterns of thought and action.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is well written and very easy to read. The day by day format slows you down and forces you to do what should be done with every good book on personal development and success – it forces the reader to understand, think about and use the book’s content. It is like having a one year success coach.

Notes on Author:

Jason Harvey is a certified life coach. He is founder of the Limitless Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research on human potential. Harvey lives in Canada.

To read more about the author and about his purpose in writing this book read the Books2Wealth exclusive interview with Jason at: Interviews.

Related Website:

http://jasonharvey.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. This book contains 365 ideas you can use, but for this review I will include just three: your power of choice more than your abilities define your potential. Look at the choices you make where they have led you. Consider that each choice you make defines your limits and your potential.
  1. “A missed opportunity is worse than a defeat”. Be alert to opportunity and be willing to seize it when it becomes apparent. So much is missed when we let opportunity pass by.
  1. “All things are difficult before they are easy”, Thomas Fuller. Resist the inner thinking that you are not good enough, smart enough or otherwise unable to do something. Stop limiting yourself. If you want to achieve something do the work and it can happen.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Achieve Anything in Just One Year by Jason Harvey

Copyright holder: 2010 by Jason Harvey

Publisher: Amazing Life Press, Canada

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

A Books2Wealth Classic and Book of the Month for January 2014

Title and Author: As A Man Thinketh by James Allen

Synopsis of Content:

The essence of this little book is that what a man thinks is what the man becomes. Or in today’s parlance, what a person thinks determines what the person becomes. This little book, 31 pages in the pocket edition, is a powerful explanation of the New Thought concepts popular at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. This was the new thinking a century ago about how we become what we become. Fortunately for us most if not all this theory is equally useful today as it was a hundred years ago even if it is not as unique as it may have seemed then.

Our Thoughts Control Our Circumstances 

Allen begins with a discussion of how out thoughts affect our circumstances. He describes this in two different aspects. First he explains what we now know as the law of attraction – what we think about enough will be attracted to us. Second he dwells on the need to transform thought into action – the need to transform ourselves in order to obtain what we seek in life.

Avoiding Fear and Negative Thinking 

In the second part of the little book Allen discusses the power of thought and conviction on our health and wellbeing. He tells us that those who live in fear of illness become ill. Again, he is applying the law of attraction.

Dominant Purpose 

The third section is devoted to the importance of a single dominant purpose in our lives. Here we find the same thinking that Orison Swett Marden was writing about in the United States during the same period and later the same general thinking was carried forward by Napoleon Hill. While I cannot now say for sure it seems likely that both Andrew Carnegie and Napoleon Hill were influenced to some extent by Allen’s little book. We see the same basic teachings in The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles, an American contemporary of Allen.

Allen completes the book with a section on how thought factors into achievement and finally the importance of serenity.

Allen’s little book was a hit a century ago when he published it and has remained in print and of interest ever since. Og Mandino said that this little book was among the top ten success books of all time and I don’t disagree. It is not possible in this short article to delve into the depth and wisdom of this little book. While the writing style is a bit dated and the density of the prose requires one’s full attention and thoughtful reflection there is no better example of a small manual on how to pursue self-development in how we think and how we use thought.

Most people could read this little gem in an evening, but few could fully mine its depth in a hundred evenings. This is one to reread again and again. Like an onion, the more one studies it the more one uncovers between its covers.

This little book is a must read for anyone serious about a study of success and of maintaining even a minimal success library. And on that subject, it is important to review a number of these success books over time to obtain the depth they have to offer. Only by reading several authors will the real color of this thinking completely develop in your mind.

Readability/Writing Quality:   

This little book was originally published in 1902 and has remained in print for over 110 years. It is surprisingly readable for a book written a century ago. I like the Executive Books version because it has good headings.

Notes on Author:

Allen was a British subject who wrote a number of books including this one for which he is best known. He died in 1912. This book is the best known but he wrote 20 books. Ironically he thought this book was one of his least significant works.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. “Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit”. We create, to a great extent, our own circumstances and outcomes by the way we think.
  1. “You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.”
  1. Calmness of mind is a jewel of wisdom. The calm man learns to govern himself.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author:  As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Copyright holder: the original copyright has expired; various publishers have added headings and other material to copyright it. The copy I have is copyrighted by Executive Books 2001.

Publisher: there are various publishers; my copy is from Executive Books

 

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Leading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy

Subtitle: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shakleton’s Antarctic Expedition

Title and AuthorLeading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy.  Subtitle: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shakleton’s Antarctic Expedition

Synopsis of Content:

In 1913 Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson led an expedition to explore the Arctic between Canada and the North Pole. He used a ship called the Karluk. In 1914 Sir Ernest Shakleton led the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which aimed to be the first men to cross the Antarctic continent. They used a ship called the Endurance.

In both cases the ships were trapped in ice and ultimately destroyed by ice. In both cases the surviving explorers and their crews had to battle unimaginable ice and cold to survive and return to civilization.

Leading at the Edge chronicles these two expeditions and how two very different men led their teams. The book contrasts the leadership styles of these two men and how it affected their teams. The Canadian team deteriorated into squabbling chaos and suffered numerous deaths. Their leader adhered to a strictly hierarchical and authority based leadership model that did not serve him or his men well. In the end Stefansson deserted his own team leaving them to die or survive on their own. He did survive.

Shackleton adopted an entirely different leadership style. He put the welfare of his men first. He endured tremendous personal suffering and sacrifice to save them. His team remained united and exhibited repeated acts of courage and self-sacrifice for their team mates.

Drawing primarily on these two epic stories but also on other survival stories, his experience in Vietnam and in business Perkins develops ten leadership strategies that lead to success “at the edge”, that is in extreme conditions where men’s abilities are put to the ultimate test of endurance and the struggle is for survival. Perkins then explains how these same strategies can be used by anyone in a leadership position to more effectively lead their team, company or institution. The ten strategies are:

  1. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal and focus energy on short term objectives.
  2. Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors.
  3. Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality.
  4. Take care of yourself: maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.
  5. Reinforce the team message constantly: “We are one – we live or die together”.
  6. Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect.
  7. Master conflict – deal with anger in small doses, engage dissidents, and avoid needless power struggles.
  8. Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about.
  9. Be willing to take the Big Risk.
  10. Never give up – there’s always another move.

At the end of the book Perkins provides “tools” to help the reader apply the lessons learned in the book including inventories and methods to develop one’s own leadership skills to include the ten strategies and he explains how this can apply to everyday business.

What I found useful about this book:

Few of us will ever have to survive in hostile life threatening environments or be responsible for the lives of a team of other people. Yet from these adventures on the edge we can learn the leadership strategies that not only have served adventurers in these extreme situations but can serve us as well in more normal conditions.

The ten strategies are easy to understand and to apply to the everyday working world. While luck can play a role in any venture the best leadership skills can make the ultimate difference.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

Much like Perkin’s second book, Into the Storm, Leading at the Edge is a page turning adventure story which also teaches valuable leadership lessons applicable to all of us. It is well written and easy to read. It is well organized.

Notes on Author:

Dennis N.T. Perkins is CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm. He graduated from the Naval Academy and served in Vietnam as a Marine company commander. He has taught at the Yale School of Management. He is passionate about his work and actually went to Antarctica and retraced Shackleton’s route on the ice. Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy are consultants specializing in leadership skills and coaching.

Related Website:

http://www.syncreticsgroup.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is critical to never lose sight of your ultimate goal while focusing on short term objectives to get there.
  1. Optimism is essential to keep a team motivated but it must be grounded in realism; when it is necessary to change direction the leader must do so.
  1. An effective leader minimizes status differences on the team to forge a united group all working toward the same goal.

Other Books by This Author:

Into the Storm

Publication Information:   

Title and Author:  Leading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy

Copyright holder: 2012 by Dennis NT Perkins

Publisher: Amacom (American Management Association)

Note: “Leading at the Edge” is a registered trademark.

Book of the Month, November 2013.

 

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Three Simple Steps by Trevor Blake

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Three Simple Steps by Trevor Blake

Synopsis of Content:

This is a somewhat different kind of book on how to succeed written by a very unique businessman, and that is actually his point, we are all unique, we should embrace and use our individuality and avoid conformity. Although the author is a businessman he has spent a substantial amount of time as a “serial entrepreneur” and has on numerous occasions gone against the advice of others. He marches to his own drum.

Although he groups his success principles under three broad categories: Reclaiming Your Mentality, Creating Winning Ideas, and Transforming Ideas into Achievements; each main grouping contains a number of subcategories.

The gist of his thesis is that first we must assume full control of our own mental state. Having done this we act intentionally and thoughtfully, not automatically. Here he uses a Situation – Thought – Reaction paradigm which is very similar to ones discussed by Jack Canfield, Stephen R. Covey and others. This idea that we can and should choose our own reaction to outside stimuli is an old one. However Blake gives us a different perspective on this. As with much of his thinking here he is influenced by his extensive study of physics and other branches of science.  He explains how science has given us modern insight into how we think and react that is missing from other writings on this subject.

Next the author uses teachings on the power of the mind and the law of attraction that go back at least to the teaching of William James, Prentice Mulford, and James Allen. Again however his understanding and application of the law of attraction is different from what has been written before – he gives us a new way of looking at these things. He then teaches how these principles can be used to become more creative and successful.

In fact Blake provides a fresh look at ideas that have been around a very long time. He also presents new ideas to replace the old. He says that a positive mental attitude alone is not enough to be successful. Real accomplishment in the US has been by individuals who worked very hard and paved their own path.

Best of all this book makes you think. He forces us to take a critical look at a lot of success literature and reexamine it in light of both what science has discovered and what his own experience has taught him.  He gives you some simple tools, like practicing quiet time, a form of meditation, which is very useful. This is not a book to read through quickly and put away; this is a book to study carefully and return to.

Blake is a fresh voice on success. His work can be appealing to the conservative businessperson as well as the new age reader. His writing is insightful and forces the reader to think in new ways about some very old ideas. He has used these techniques to achieve success.

Blake is also bold. He does not pull punches. He criticizes those things he finds unworthy of belief or unproven. There is a refreshing genuineness to his writing.

The author is donating the profits from the book to cancer research. He says he is not a “success guru” but a successful businessman who has discovered what works in the pursuit of personal and financial success and wants to tell the world about it.

Usefulness:

This book is very useful to anyone who wants to expand their ability to think for themselves and to increase their effectiveness. It will be useful to anyone seeking genuine success.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is well written. He uses stories to illustrate his ideas. He draws heavily on his own experiences and that of his family but also on science and the experience of others. The book is well organized and easy to read.

Notes on Author:

Trevor Blake is a serial entrepreneur and businessman. He has excelled in sales and in building businesses. He has developed new business models. He has demonstrated the courage and fortitude to go his own way despite heavy criticism. He was born in the UK but has since relocated to the US. He describes himself as not being a “self-help guru” but a pragmatic businessman.

Related Website:

http://trevorgblake.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Pause before you speak. Give yourself time to really think about your response rather than just responding with a gut response. Choose your reactions carefully. Be self-aware.
  1. Create intentions rather than goals. An intention should be in the positive, what you want to come about, but phrased in the present tense, as though it has already happened.
  1. Take quiet time each day to mediate for about 20 minutes and then to reflect on and repeat your intentions.

I highly recommend this book.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Three Simple Steps by Trevor Blake

Copyright holder: 2012 by Trevor Blake

Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.

Books2Wealth Book of the Month for August 2013

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Synopsis of Content:

This is an in depth study of the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer and one of the most instrumental people in the development of the personal computer and other digital products.

Jobs was a genius, an artist, a successful businessman, a corporate leader, a thought leader, an innovator, a rebel and an eccentric. In the late 1970s he dropped out of Reed College in Oregon and founded Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak in 1976. He developed the concept of a fully integrated personal computer with software and hardware that Apple controlled exclusively. He was forced out of Apple in 1985 and went on to form his own company to build the NeXt computer. He then became a key player in Pixar and helped launch it as the most successful digital animation producer in the world. Apple eventually purchased Pixar.

In 1994 he returned to Apple at their invitation when the company was not doing well. What followed was one product success after another with the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, iTunes and iPad. On October 5, 2011 Jobs died of pancreatic cancer which he had struggled with for over six years. He was 56.

In addition to telling the story of Apple and Job’s influence on it and its products, the book delves into his personal life and his personality. Few punches are pulled. Jobs is depicted as narcissistic and often brutal in his relationships with colleagues, friends and family. He generally put his work before everything else. His relationships with his children were often troubled. He had little contact with his first daughter, Lisa.

In 1991he married Laurene Powell, a business student. Their marriage is described as successful though Powell had to learn to live with someone who was often difficult.

Jobs was known for being brutally honest in his work. He would declare a proposed idea or product “shit” and demean the people involved in it. He claimed his single aim was to assemble A class people to build A class products to serve the public in the best possible way. He had a unique ability to get the most performance out of people who respected him despite his often difficult inter-personal style. He also would lavish praise on people and their work when he liked it. People often found themselves liking him despite his rough edges.

He was famous for perfecting the “launch” of a new product with a carefully planned stage presentation. New products were kept secret until he unveiled them at these presentations. He was a master at public relations and marketing. He did not believe in asking the customer what they wanted. Rather, he believed it was his role to discover what the next big thing should be and then educate the public about it. He would tell them what they needed and this was almost always successful.

His artistic and design emphasis kept a focus on hardware and software that was elegantly designed. At the same time he possessed a vision of the future while paying excruciating attention to detail.

The computer industry developed along two separate tracks: the open system where software was licensed on different computers, championed by Bill Gates at Microsoft and the totally controlled and integrated model that Jobs maintained at Apple. He would rarely license any Apple software for other manufacturers. If you wanted Apple software and products you had to get them from Apple. Apple became the largest computer company and the most profitable on Job’s watch.

The book does a masterful job of showing us who Steve Jobs was as a person, a CEO, a designer, visionary and businessman. He was a complex man with a genius for knowing what the public would want before they knew what they would want.

This is an outstanding book both as a biography and a study of what makes success in business.

Usefulness:

Reading about successful people is always useful. You can learn a lot about the importance of focus, simplicity, dedication to detail and devotion to quality from this book. You will also learn some aspects of a CEO personality which probably would not be wise to emulate.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written. It holds your attention and is well organized. The author juggles lots of characters and time lines well. You never feel lost.

Notes on Author:

Walter Issacson is the CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has been chairman of CNN and managing editor at Time magazine. Issacson also wrote bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger and Albert Einstein.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is critical to maintain focus to be successful. It is as important to know what to say no to as to what to say yes to. Jobs always focused on perfecting a few products rather than being weighed down with too many.
  1. Attention to detail is as important as attention to the grand vision. Jobs understood this and launched a series of high quality products that generated customer loyalty and lots of revenue. He said he was not interested in making money but in changing the world. If he made money in the process that was fine.
  1. To get the most out of people you must challenge them. A high quality company needs high quality people and some ruthlessness in maintaining quality is essential to product success.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Copyright holder: 2011 Walter Issacson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Book of the Month for July 2013

Buy the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com