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Tim Sanders wrote an odd little book in 2002 that went on to sell tons of copies. That odd little book was called Love is the Killer App, and it continues to sell today. His latest book, Today We Are Rich, is another odd little book and it deals with an odd subject—having total confidence.
As I was telling my colleague Jon how much I liked this book, he said that Tim Sanders was one of the few people who could actually write a book like this without it sounding silly, maudlin and even cliché. He is right. First, Sanders has the street cred needed to pull it off. As a young man he held an executive position at Yahoo, and he already has a best-selling book to his credit. He has also lived a remarkable life. At the age of four, he was abandoned by his mother and was raised by his grandmother Billye. This book tells us of those early years, and it doesn’t skip his “sideways” years.
Sanders has written one of the better self-help books I have ever read. Over the years I have discovered that believing in yourself is crucial to success, and Tim has given us seven principles to help us reach that total confidence. They are:
- Feed your mind good stuff.
- Move the conversation forward
- Exercise your gratitude muscle
- Give to be rich
- Prepare yourself
- Balance your confidence
- Promise made, promise kept
As an example of the support material around each of these principles, the first section on feeding your mind suggests the following:
Most important, read good books. If your mind diet is weighted heavily toward good books, you’ll enlighten your perspective and gain wisdom over time. I recommend this mix in your media diet: 25 percent media, 50 percent books, and the remaining 25 percent social and workstream (offline and online).
As you can tell from this quote, Tim Sanders gives you specific ideas that you can take to the bank. That is a true treasure and so is this book.
Howard Schultz has been with Starbucks for almost thirty years. He left the day-to-day operations in 2000 to become chairman (and yes, it’s a lower case “c”—Starbucks doesn’t capitalize titles), and watched from that perch as the company began to fail. The fall was not caused by a monstrous event, but was a slow unraveling, like a sweater being pulled from a single thread. But, as Schultz tells it, he was helpless to stop the unraveling without daily control of the company, “So in January of 2008, [he] surprised many people by returning as ceo. Onward is the story of what happened next.”
Predictably, this book contains loads of Schultz’s business philosophy and ideas that are refreshingly progressive and humanistic. For example:
As a business leader, my quest has never been just about winning or making money; it has also been about building a great, enduring company, which has always meant trying to strike a balance between profit and social conscience. […] For us, that means doing our best to treat everyone with respect and dignity, from coffee farmers and baristas to customers and neighbors. I understand that striving to achieve profitability without sacrificing humanity sounds lofty. But I refused to abandon that purpose—even when Starbucks and I lost our way.”
So, what was that “one thread” that unraveled the core of this highly idealistic and successful business? Stating that “to achieve long-term value for shareholders, a company must … first create value for its employees as well as its customers,” Schultz writes:
Unfortunately, Wall Street does not always see it the same way and too often treats long-term investments as short-term dilution, bringing down the company’s value. Adopting this mentality was, in large part, how Starbucks had become complicit with the Street: for the past two years in particular, we—and I say “we” because no one person led the charge—chased the pace of growth by building stores as fast as we could rather than investing in sustainable growth opportunities. The top line grew fast, but in a way that, for a variety of reasons, was impossible to sustain, especially when combined with the macrofactor of a tightening economy.
From these snippets you can get an idea of the high mindedness that almost oozes from this book. I have been accused of being cynical, but I would say I am just a realist. And this is the real story, warts and all, of the fall of an iconic brand that had lost its way and the organization’s attempt to transform itself back into the company that was growing quarter after quarter—and it is told by the man who led the charge. The Howard Schultz and Starbucks journey is remarkable and it is told brilliantly here.
If Charles Fishman were a baseball player, he’d be a pitcher worthy of the Cy Young Award year after year. Lucky for us, Fishman ended up a business writer—one of the most consistently excellent in the field. And twice now, he has gone “the full nine” and delivered perfect outings at book length. We featured his first effort, The Wal-Mart Effect, in this space in 2006. He got our attention again with his 2008 article in Fast Company, “Message in a Bottle,” which won him his third Gerald Loeb Award for outstanding business writing, the most prestigious award in business journalism. It was that article that served as the impetus for his new book, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water.
Water is at the heart of our very existence and essential to everything we do—from washing sheep’s wool in Australia to hydrating the cells in our bodies. While most of us “take it for granted because good water is basically free,” businesses like GE, IBM, Coca-Cola, Intel and the Australia’s Michell Wool company use so much water that they understand the need to keep it flowing with different prices for different purposes and different tiers of water quality. Michell Wool, for example, doesn’t need clean drinking water to clean its wool, so they now use untreated water for one-third the price. IBM’s microchip plant in Burlington, Vermont, on the other hand needs water that is so clean that it isn’t safe to drink.
But Fishman does not suggest that we should hand over our water supply to those corporations to manage on a for-profit basis—just that we need an economics of water to manage it, and that we need to value and price it correctly. He argues, somewhat contrarily, that “free” is the wrong price for water; in fact, some of the poorest populations on Earth who don’t have easy access to safe drinking water are paying to belong to water co-ops so they don’t have to walk for hours or wait in line to get water that is often not safe, while those in “water rich” countries are literally flushing treated drinking water down the toilet.
As Fishman writes:
Everything about water is about to change—how we use water, how we share it, how we think about it. […] This book is an effort to rescue water not so much from ignorance as from being ignored.
While Fishman’s book may not be a business book in the strictest sense of the word, considering we spend almost as much on bottled water in this country as we do to maintain the nation’s entire water infrastructure, water use and value is an intriguing economic conundrum. And in the end, Fishman shows that when we stop ignoring it, water can and will be used more smartly.