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Posted Dec. 31, 2012 5:36 a.m. by michael
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
There are many ways to learn. Let's pretend, for the sake of this review, that there are two kinds of learners: those who take note and those who don't. That was fun. Now let's think about the first group (sorry non-note-takers; this is your exit cue). Note-taking can be something we take for granted, something we don't think about, often because we tend to treat it much like we'd treat tying our shoes or brushing our teeth: it's simply an activity you do in order to facilitate some result. You take notes in order to help maintain attention during a lecture, or else to have some visual and/or conceptual reminders of what you heard. After a lecture or a conference, you page back through your notes and the little bits and pieces that you see on the page will hopefully help you to reconstruct the big ideas that were communicated during the event.
Fortunately for you note-takers, the presumption that note-taking is a banal, mechanical process that does not bear analysis is entirely wrong! And by now, you likely know that I will be directing your attention to Mike Rohde's new book The Sketchnote Handbook. You might in fact be familiar with Mike's work already: he illustrated two of my personal favorites from the past two years: ReWork and The $100 Startup. His style is notable, and The Sketchnote Handbook offers a peek behind the curtain, and more importantly, it offers a powerful application of that style that can be useful to almost anyone.
This 'illustrated guide to visual note taking' delivers on its promise: it not only demonstrates techniques for sketching quick and easy images that will enhance your notes, but Rohde also delves into some important peripheral topics. Chapter 3 is all about how to improve your listening technique, so that you can take (sketch) better notes. Chapter 2 establishes the argument for sketchnoting, wherein Mike cites Alan Paivio's dual coding theory. Long story short: sketching (or 'doodling') helps you remember better.
OK, non-note-takers are back on stage. The added beauty of The Sketchnote Handbook is that it might just be the kick-start that non-note-takers need. If you might have previously thought, "I have nothing to gain from taking notes", you might want to reconsider your position. Simply writing words in a notebook page can definitely provide a challenge with limited payoff. Rohde's sketchnote approach provides a genuinely fun activity to everyone in the audience, with the very likely benefit of actually improving retention of the key concepts.
If you're thinking you might be into sketchnoting, but you're worried because you 'don't know how to draw', you'll be relieved to find chapter 7, which details all kinds of techniques that you can practice to improve your skills. The demonstrations Mike provides are literally so simple that you'd have no excuse to shy away from the book on the basis of skill. And returning to one of the key concepts the book communicates (in the introduction), "ideas, not art!" You don't need to be an artist to sketchnote; you simply need to be good enough to sketch something today and recognize it tomorrow. This point is illustrated (literally) in the book when Mike shows two sketches of a dog: one is good and the other is bad. But as he says, "either way it's still a dog."
Check out the video below for more info, and visit Mike's own book page for even more (including a free sample chapter PDF).
The Rebel Entrepreneur
Posted Aug. 14, 2012 10:33 a.m. by jon
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
In recent years, a handful of books have been written about entrepreneurship as a disruptive practice. Whether talking about bootstrapping, throwing out the business plan, improvising, or a number of other non-traditional approaches, entrepreneurship itself has almost become a rebellious act.
Jonathan Moules, an enterprise correspondent for the Financial Times, spent years talking with hundreds of companies with a variety of experiences. For the successful ones, Moules noticed patterns that pointed toward their rebellious entrepreneurial approach. This book is his description of, and thoughts on, those traits. Titled, The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting The Business Rulebook, it is filled with well-written accounts of some of the lessons he learned from both longtime business giants, and even newer successful startups.
Of the key traits Moules identifies: don't rely on others to fund your idea, imitate creatively, keep value higher than price, pivot often, and more. Here's a sample from the book where Moules sums up the chapter on imitation over innovation:
Copying can be good for both the innovator and the imitator. It can increase the size of a market, thus increasing the prize for the eventual market champion...Aping another model can be useful even if you do not become the largest player in the market, because you may well become an acquisition target for one of your competitors. As a result, you have a perfectly acceptable exit strategy.
For those that have read books like Rework and Chris Guillebeau's books, some of this might not be new information, but it supports the thesis from those books and offers new readers a glimpse into an alternative way to go about their business, and likely one with a higher chance for success.
Posted April 20, 2012 5:36 p.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals (and coauthor of Rework) reminds us that keeping a company running is every employee's responsibility, no matter what the task at hand is. Or, to put it more bluntly, Making shit work is everyone's job.
“Oh, that’s not my job,” is the sound of doom. Maybe not imminent doom, but doom indeed. It’s the magic inflection point when a company becomes too big (even if only psychologically) for any single employee to give a rat’s ass about job numero uno: Making shit work.
Regardless of what you think of the profanity, you have to agree that David is one insightful motherlover.
➻ Keeping the irascible nature of the thread alive, let's take a look inside Steven Pressfield's Head in the Morning.
When I get up in the morning, I’m almost always in a foul mood. I’m irritable, I’m short-tempered, I’m irascible. Coffee doesn’t help. I can’t watch Matt Lauer. If I have to drive anywhere I’m always pissed off at the other cars and muttering under my breath. I’m not happy with myself, I’m not happy with the world, I’m not happy with anything.
It’s all Resistance.
Now, if you've read The War of Art or Do the Work, you know that Pressfield is a master of overcoming the resistance. Beside the two books mentioned above, he's overcome it often enough to pen nine other books. How does he do it? His solution has to do a lot with getting out of the house, physical exercise, and chariot metaphors.
Get up. Get moving. Do whatever you have to do to seize the reins of that chariot and to take command of those four unruly horses.
Fiery chargers are good. Horsepower is what we want. We just have to learn how to gain control of those magnificent, passionate beasts and to get them to take us where we want to go.
Sounds like Pressfield knows how to make **it work. To figure out how, read the rest of the post and keep an eye out out for his upcoming book project, Turning Pro.
➻ Umair Haque, author of The New Capitalist Manifesto, is always challenging us on these fronts, asking questions about what we want and what we're all capable of, and he foresees is a Great Collision.
A rebellion against the emptiness of the lives we choose, over and over again. I believe you and I are capable of better; I believe each of us deserves better—from ourselves. As the great historian and parliamentarian Edward Gibbon once wrote: "when the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then the Athenians ceased to be free."
And this is again about making **it work, as workers, individuals, and citizens. I'm going to quote his post at length here, because it's filled with good links, and this is after all a post all about links.
We want work that fulfills—but we're not often willing to spend an extra penny, let alone a dollar, euro, or yen, to ensure others can take on fulfilling work. In the sagging, tube-lit aisles, it's the everyday low price that we chase with a vengeance.
We cry out for better leaders—but it's rare that we take the dangerous, decisive step to lead ourselves, choosing instead to remain obedient, pliable followers.
We want education, healthcare, and transportation that works—but we're reluctant to pay the costs of these public goods. When it comes to the bare-minimum building blocks of a functioning society, they're someone else's responsibility.
We hunger for inspiration, purpose, exhilaration—but mostly, we settle for lives of annihilating boredom, alternating with sheer panic. Perhaps we get our fix of "life" through the finely honed narratives of the hundreds of channels of reality TV and "news" we're smilingly offered night after pixelated night.
We want contracts that don't steal our future—but we're often unwilling to walk away from those that already have. Perhaps we feel a sense of moral responsibility to pay our debts—but I'd suggest the greater, perhaps greatest moral responsibility is choosing to live.
We want thriving, diverse cities—but we self-select into neighborhoods of like-for-like. Witness, of course, the rise of the gated community.
We don't want narcissistic Machiavellian sociopaths to helm our institutions—but at the mall, on the high street, at the gas pump, we seem to barely, if at all, consider whether those we're choosing to patronize have interests solidly opposed to any rational person's.
We want basic human rights to be respected—but mostly, we yawn when habeas corpus, the fundamental political building block of a minimally enlightened social contract (remember that 13th century document called the Magna Carta?) is rolled back.
We want communities that cohere, full of relationships that blossom, and in turn, nurture the social soil. But we spend more time and energy on Facebook than on making a lasting, tangible human difference—unless it helps us gain that corner office, promotion, or bonus.
We want a culture that doesn't dumbify us—but at the end of the day, we're willing to settle for poking fun at one that does, instead of building one that doesn't. But the former is not the latter.
We don't want the future we're getting—but most of us shrug our shoulders at the end of the day; only to wake up panicked, the next — and begin the cycle all over again.
Welcome to the Great Collision. In the aggregate, our preferences are savagely at odds with our expectations; the future we want is at odds with the present we choose.
It seems like we have a lot **it to work out.
➻ But it doesn't have to be that heavy. As Chris Guillebeau wrote recently in a post about Thelonious Monk and the Search for Value:
It’s funny, if you make a list of all the things you don’t do well, you may wonder how you’ve even made it this far. But those things don’t matter ... you can be average or even mediocre in many ways as long as you craft everything together in a way that gives other people something to care about.
After all, giving a damn is what makes the world turn. Well, I suppose it actually has something having to do with how the rotating matter that eventually coalesced into the planet Earth was affected by the gravitational pull of objects and dark matter around it, but you take my point.
➻ For as much work as we all have to do, though, sometimes it's still necessary just to take a load off—and it's always nice when there's someone there to help.
The Milwaukee Leatherworker
Posted March 28, 2012 11:05 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
I don't have a book for you today, but a video. From Milwaukee filmmaker Brian Artka, it profiles David Mitchell, the owner of the Mitchell Leather Factory and retail shop on Water Street here in the Third Ward of Milwaukee—just a few blocks away from us.
A part of downtown once known for its factories (the building we're in was once a hosiery manufacturer), David is the last representative of the neighborhood's manufacturing culture. It's a story of family tradition, fine craftsmanship, love of and pride in one's work, and a factory that would no longer be here if not for the efforts of a single individual. When Seth Godin talks of Linchpins, he is talking about men like David Mitchell. If you didn't think manufacturing could be beautiful, well... check this out.
Posted Feb. 11, 2011 1:53 p.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ McSweeney's offered Some Good News from the World of Books this week:
The good news is that there isn't as much bad news as popularly assumed. In fact, almost all of the news is good, and most of it is very good. Book sales are up, way up, from twenty years ago. Young adult readership is far wider and deeper than ever before. Library membership and circulation is at all-time high. The good news goes on and on.
➻ As is evidenced once again in his story of When Irish Eyes Are Crying in Vanity Fair, nobody distills in writing the sweeping economic history involved in a moment better than Michael Lewis:
Ireland’s regress is especially unsettling because of the questions it raises about Ireland’s former progress: even now no one is quite sure why the Irish suddenly did so well for themselves in the first place. Between 1845 and 1852, during the Great Potato Famine, the country experienced the greatest loss of population in world history—in a nation of eight million, a million and a half people left. Another million starved to death or died from the effects of hunger. Inside of a decade the nation went from being among the most densely populated in Europe to the least. The founding of the Irish state, in 1922, might have offered some economic hope—they could now have their own central bank, their own economic policies—but right up until the end of the 1980s the Irish failed to do what economists expected them to: catch up with their neighbors’ standard of living. As recently as the 1980s one million Irish people—a third of the population—lived below the poverty line.
What has occurred in Ireland since then is without precedent in economic history. By the start of the new millennium, the Irish poverty rate was under 6 percent and by 2006 Ireland was one of the richest countries in the world. How did that happen? A bright young Irishman who got himself hired by Bear Stearns in the late 1990s and went off to New York or London for five years returned feeling poor. For the better part of a decade there has been quicker money to be made in Irish real estate than in investment banking. How did that happen?
For the first time in history, people and money longed to get into Ireland rather than out of it.
I really wish he would write a book about baseball.
➻ So, I don't know if any of you out there watched the Super Bowl last Sunday (I know Americans aren't that into it), but Wisconsin's own Green Bay Packers football squadron won the contest. Now, I was raised a Bear fan in Packer territory, so this didn't feel like as much like a personal triumph to me as it did to so many others in our fine state, but I was definitely pulling for them (sorry, Dad). And I was pulling for them not only because I knew that many of my friends and coworkers would have been devastated by a loss, but also (and maybe more importantly) because, with the prospect of an impending NFL owner's lockout of its players, Green Bay offers a different way to do business. You see, Green Bay doesn't have an owner, they have 112,158 owners—people who own at least one share of Green Bay Packers Inc., the nonprofit behind the team. Commenting on Those Non-Profit Packers in The New Yorker on January 25th, Dave Zirin wrote:
The Packers’ unique setup has created a relationship between team and community unlike any in the N.F.L. Wisconsin fans get to enjoy the team with the confidence that their owner won’t threaten to move to Los Angeles unless the team gets a new mega-dome. Volunteers work concessions, with sixty per cent of the proceeds going to local charities. Even the beer is cheaper than at a typical N.F.L. stadium. Not only has home field been sold out for two decades, but during snowstorms, the team routinely puts out calls for volunteers to help shovel and is never disappointed by the response. It doesn’t matter how beloved the Cowboys are in Dallas; if Jerry Jones ever put out a call for free labor, he’d be laughed out of town.
Here are the Packers: financially solvent, competitive, and deeply connected to the hundred thousand person city of Green Bay. It’s a beautiful story ...
It certainly is, even to a Bear fan.
➻ Of course, being a Bear fan, I feel I should link to an interview from Weekend Edition on Scorecasting: Saying Sports Cliches Ain't So. The book was written by Tobias J. Moskowitz, behavioral economist and professor of finance at the University of Chicago, and L. Jon Werthem, senior writer for Sports Illustrated. The authors debunk some widely accepted sports myth, like "the hot hand," and talked in the interview about why the Bears shouldn't have punted the ball so much in their NFC Championship game against the Packers weeks ago:
[T]hey were ... in Green Bay territory around the 40-yard line or so—can't kick a field goal from there. Fourth, I think, and a couple of yards, three or four yards, and, of course, they punt. Now, what happens when they punt? The most likely outcome, which is exactly what did happen, is it went into the end zone and the Packers got it at the 20. So, they gained something like 15 yards for giving up on fourth down, versus going for it. Even if they had failed, they would have been only slightly worse off—15 yards. And they had a very good chance, perhaps, of making it and prolonging that drive. And those are things that can be difference makers.
Everybody's calling Scorecasting the Freakonomics of sports, including Freakonomics coauthor Steven D. Levitt, who calls it "the closest thing to Freakonomics ... since the original." If you can't, or don't feel like listening to the interview, you can find the transcript online.
➻ Also on NPR last week, on At Issue with Ben Merens, were 800-CEO-READ's Jo[h]ns—Covert and Mueller—discussing the best business books of 2010, why we chose Rework as the best, and taking questions from listeners. To my knowledge, there is no transcript of the interview, but you can listen to an MP3 file of the program.
➻ Grace Bonny of Design*Sponge has a really good take on online etiquette and ethics, and she's put her views into two very thoughtful posts recently: Part 1: Comments (Good and Bad), Copying/Stealing and Crediting and Part 2: Submissions, Sponsorship, Giveaways & Freebies. Called the "Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials" by the New York Times the site mostly covers DIY craft and design, but the issues discussed in the posts are universally relevant to anyone selling or promoting anything online. (Tip of the hat to Faythe Levine for pointing me to the story on Twitter.)
➻ You must give more than you take away.