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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.
Posted April 22, 2011 5:30 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ If you haven't read Austin Kleon's How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me), stop reading this right now and go do so. Discussing a simple equation, make things=know thyself, he writes:
If I waited to know “who I was” or “what I was about” before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.
You’re ready. Start making stuff.
➻ If you're having trouble making stuff, Chris Guillebeau has some advice to pass on to you: Lower Your Standards and Keep Going. His post is ostensibly about writers block, for which he counsels:
The best advice I ever heard is to pretend it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as “plumber’s block,” right? Just sit down and do what you need to do.
But it's really about Steven Pressfield's new release from Domino Project, Do the Work. Some of you may know Pressfield as the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, but since you're reading this blog, it's more likely you know him as the author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. To learn more about his new book, check in with Jonathan Fields who believes that you have to Do The Work, Or It’ll Do You.
➻ There was a really interesting exchange about "the idea of audience" in The Rumpus Interview with Aimee Bender posted today.
My relationship to the idea of audience has changed in the last few years. I don’t think of anyone specific while writing, and I don’t want to get caught up in imagining what a reader might think because I do think that can get distracting. But I just think it has become clearer to me that writing is making a vessel to send to a reader. I want to write something that I connect with, and I’ll work on it as long as I can, and make the vessel itself as clearly as I can, but then sending it out is key. Then we meet on the page, invisibly. That duet, and the beauty of it, is clearer to me, and kind of amazing to me. Zadie Smith has an essay on the value of a good reader, and she gives a reader enormous dignity in how she talks about it. We sometimes pretend it’s all the writer performing, and the reader as passive recipient/admirer. But no—the reader is stepping up and joining; the reader has to put herself on the line as well.
The emphasis in the quote is mine. It reminded me greatly of Seth Godin's emphasis on "shipping," the idea that you not only have to do the work, you have to get the work out there. Also, I just love Aimee Bender. Her short story collections Willful Creatures and The Girl in the Flammable Skirt are right there with Etgar Keret's as some of the most interesting being produced today. Her novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, came out in paperback this week.
➻ Paul Allen has been all over the place in the past week in support of Idea Man, his memoir that was released by Portfolio this week. Vanity Fair ran an article about Microsoft's Odd Couple, adapted by Allen from the book. In it, he discusses the burst of creative, productive energy coming out of Silicon Valley in the late '60s.
That year, 1968, would be a watershed in matters digital. In March, Hewlett-Packard introduced the first programmable desktop calculator. In June, Robert Dennard won a patent for a one-transistor cell of dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, a new and cheaper method of temporary data storage. In July, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore co-founded Intel Corporation. In December, at the legendary “mother of all demos” in San Francisco, the Stanford Research Institute’s Douglas Engelbart showed off his original versions of a mouse, a word processor, e-mail, and hypertext. Of all the epochal changes in store over the next two decades, a remarkable number were seeded over those 10 months: cheap and reliable memory, a graphical user interface, a “killer” application, and more.
He goes on to tell us how he became a Teletype aficionado and how he met Bill Gates, "a gangly, freckle-faced eighth-grader edging his way into the crowd around the Teletype, all arms and legs and nervous energy."
You probably think of a great economic crisis a bit like your mother-in-law's Christmas fruitcake: you've got to take the pain and just finish your Nyquil-flavored cement block of a slice until it's good and gone. But it's more like an onion: layers and layers are peeled back, until the heart is revealed. And the black hole at the heart of this great crisis—no mere recession—might just be this: it's not about "them." It's about "us."
I'd like to suggest: it's our way of life—still mired in a set of industrial-age assumptions about where wealth comes from, and how it should be best seeded, nurtured, harvested, and enjoyed—that's mightily, colossally unsustainable, not just in the environmental sense, but, more deeply, and perhaps more fatally, in the sense of "we're living beyond our means, because we've forgot what 'meaning' means."
My hunch is this: we can cut, slash, and burn all we want—all the way right down deep into the black heart of austerity, until we're reduced to shivering in caves, hunting with stone axes, and singing songs by firelight. But if it's the city at the other end of the economic world we wish to reach—the shining city on a hill we once called prosperity, a conception of richness that, resonantly American, was never merely about hands grabbing at wealth, but about imagining, building, and creating lives that were authentically richer—then we might just have to get serious not merely about what it is we don't do, but what we will do differently tomorrow than we have done for the last several decades.
That man loves his metaphors, but it sounds fine to me.
➻ You can still have it all... you might just have to redefine "it."
Posted Aug. 20, 2010 11:13 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ Portfolio has released a new edition of The Business Beat. You'll hear from Don Tapscott, author with Anthony D. Williams of Macrowikinomics (due out in late September), and Stan Slap, author of Bury My Heart at Conference Room B, which was a Jack Covert Selects this month. And, as always, you'll hear from the man himself, as Mr. Covert tells us about Andy Grove's Only the Paranoid Survive.
➻ Umair Haque posted a video last week about The Jobless-est Recovery and the Great Transformation, noting that "this is not just a jobless recovery, per se, but that it is the most jobless recovery for a century. and the link between the actual recovery in terms of pure GDP and job creation seems to be completely broken." He begins to discuss what he sees as "a Great Transition, a Great Transformation" and the values that will be needed to do so. The video, however, doesn't delve to much into what that will look like. For that, you'll want to return to an older post of his, Reseeding the Economy.
➻ Or, you can always turn to Richard Florida and his book, the The Great Reset, which—especially amidst all the doom-and-gloom in publishing and the endless release of books about the crash and recession—is certainly one of the best and brightest books released this year. It's a forward-looking, big picture book. Florida has been discussing such a transformation for years in his work on "the creative class," but he also recognizes the need for a strong, blue collar working class. And so, he looked at Where the Blue-Collar Jobs Will Be in The Atlantic yesterday.
The good news is that the U.S. will continue to create relatively high-paying working class jobs. These jobs will continue to provide good livelihoods for the workers fortunate enough to have them. The bad news is that their rate of growth will be sluggish and not nearly enough to provide the amount of good, family-supporting jobs required to undergird a middle class of lower-skilled workers. The harsh reality is that blue-collar, working class jobs in the U.S. are increasing slowly, and they will grow the slowest in traditional manufacturing and industrial regions and communities whose economic and social life has revolved around these jobs.There is little policy-makers can do - aside from declaring a trade war - to bring back large numbers of these high-paying jobs. But they can develop strategies to improve not just the wages but the content of blue-collar work, by engaging workers more fully and seeing them as a source of innovation.
Head on over to the original post for some fascinating maps of the American labor landscape.
➻ Edward R. Schmitt, author of President of the Other America: Robert Kennedy and the Politics of Poverty touched on that topic a bit in a guest post at The Washington Post's Political Bookworm today. Speaking of Kennedy and his move against poverty in his day and the need for leaders to do the same today, he writes:
As Kennedy suggested ... leadership matters. Even before the severe recession of the past three years, alarming exposés of a new class of “working poor” Americans ... cautioned that a new endemic poverty, resistant to the traditional American tonic of employment, threatened to become a permanent part of the American economic landscape.
But significant leadership focusing popular attention on the problems of poor and near poor Americans has yet to re-emerge. The political will necessary to influence popular opinion and to address the growing problem of poverty in America can be renewed. Visible, national leadership on the issue is critical, and it is on this point that Kennedy’s story can be instructive.
Politicians with an eye toward their legacy would also do well to note that while Kennedy was a polarizing figure in his day, he is now often most fondly remembered for putting his political career on the line to become a president for the other America.
➻ Most Americans are hard-working, even the "struggling artists" out there. But we don't always feel that working hard is working out, and we all get down on ourselves from time-to-time. In one of her most popular posts, Naomi Dunford at IttyBiz reminds us to remember that we're not alone When [We] Feel Like A Raging Failure.
➻ Last week Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, wrote about The Ego and the Self, and where the "Resistance" comes from. And in his Writer's Journal this week, spoke to how the struggle of not working is far greater than struggle to do so.
I also know from experience that the alternative to doing my work is a hundred times worse than the pain or fear of doing it. I remember vividly the seven years when I did yield to fear and Resistance—and the hell it was for me and for people I loved. I can hear the whip crack. The fear of not doing it is stronger than the fear of doing it.
➻ I was looking for Shellac's "Squirrel Song," but I couldn't find a decent video so here is the exact opposite... Milk Thistle.
Posted May 14, 2010 11:23 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ If you'd like to get a taste of Bob Sutton's upcoming book, Good Boss, Bad Boss (due out with Business Plus in September), he posted a small gem that didn't make it in the book, the leadership philosophy of John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla:
Life is a lot better when I think about my job as one of helping everyone ...
He expands upon this some more in the post, and I think I can safely say that if that's what's been culled, then what made it in the book is going to be very worth picking up and absorbing.
➻ "Would you go to a dinner party and just repeat what the person to the right of you is saying all night long? Would that be interesting to anybody?" The obvious answer is... well, yes. It would by annoying, but hilarious. But, Rework author Jason Fried wasn't really thinking in absurdist hypotheticals in that sentence, he was answering the question "Why Is Business Writing So Awful?" and providing some positive examples as remedies, to boot.
➻ Also on the Rework front, we hosted our seventh PechaKucha night here in Milwaukee on Tuesday, which included a presentation from the book's illustrator, Mike Rohde, about sketchnotes. We also had local artists dwellephant and Kristopher Pollard on hand to document the event with portraits—both of the attendees and the presentations themselves. (We'll have more on that next week.)
➻ Devin Stewart, Program Director and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, wrote a very good review of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations? over at The Huffington Post. The book isn't about the tired arguments between New-Deal Democracy and Reagan Republicanism in America, but about how the tools of state-run capitalism (in places like China and Russia) threaten free-markets around the world. In the book, Bremmer poses hypotheticals, including:
[G]iven the mutually assured economic destruction (or interdependence) between the United States and China, what happens if China closes the door?
The book describes a competition between two separate visions of capitalism that increasingly looks like a economic Cold War.
➻ The folks over at strategy+business know their business books, as is evidenced by them having Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos and author of the forthcoming Delivering Happiness (we're very excited about), introduce an excerpt from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.
➻ You guys can keep you fancy Kindles and iPads, I'm sticking with my Electronic Book from Radio Shack, circa 1986. It's affordable.
➻ Turnover can be a good thing.
Book Links from Around the Blogsphere
Posted April 18, 2005 8:43 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In General Management - 800 CEO Read Blog
I have quite a list for this post:
- John Moore at Brand Autopsy says you should read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
- This is an older post, but the 43 Folders has best summary I have seen of Getting Things Done by David Allen.
- A Thought over Coffee pulls out The Art of Powerpointing from The Art of the Start
- This is another post inspired by Seth's personal MBA. Aaron at Confessions of a Brand Evangelist lists his Top Ten Brand Books
- Lisa at Management Crafts pulls a tip from Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People
- brendonwilson.com seems to have a transcript of Guy Kawasaki giving his Art of the Start speech