Understanding Globalization – A Book Review of The World Is Flat

Initially written after the tragic events of 9/11, and before the Great Recession of 2008, Thomas Friedman’s economic treatise and The World is Flat (published in 2004) is seen as the blueprint on exploring modern Globalization: what it is, how it has come to be, and how to deal with both the good and the bad that this flattening of the world will bring.

Highly approachable and easy to understand, though slightly repetitive at times, much of this book has well been able to stand the test of time so far despite its age (13 years as of this writing, old for an economic/business book). One note before jumping in, it should be noted that much of the valuable ideas come in the back half of the text. For the modern reader, I wouldn’t be critical of anyone’s choice to gloss over, if not entirely skip, the first third of the book, which is mostly spent defining what Globalization is (rise of the internet, outsourcing work overseas, etc.). However for anyone that is looking to learn more or solidify their understanding of the term and the history of how globalization has unfolded, Friedman gives a solid accounting and starting point.

The broad strokes of Friedman’s definition of Globalization is that there has been a convergence of large groups of previously unconnected people with the rest of the developed world, mostly due to the fall of political borders and the rise of the internet. This has given rise to the empowerment of the individual to set their own fate, as we now have the ability to collaborate with anyone in the world on virtually any project or business idea. The obvious flip side of the coin is that companies have the same abilities, and your job security is no longer just due to the fact that you live in close proximity to the factory or office. Everything is connected, and therefore everything is mobile.

Overall, Friedman sees this as a net positive, as developed countries are able to “free up people and capital to do different, more sophisticated work,” while developing countries are able to give their citizens access to better and more stable jobs that provide the strong income that formed the basis of America’s economic strength in the first place. Much has been written on the merit of this argument, and Friedman spends that first portion of the book going into greater detail that I won’t touch on here.

The second half of the book which I found more interesting is spent on how to successfully execute this vision across social, economic, and political spectrums. The core ideas that Friedman explores is not just how do individuals and companies adjust to this new global economy, but also how do we help ensure equal access to the pie for those that will be left behind? For as we have seen play out over the 13 years since publication, globalization has not dealt out an even hand to all citizens. For the sake of not just political stability, but for humankind, Friedman argues that this is our duty; to understand and address the negative implications of globalization, and to advocate for programs (or create your own) that provide equal access and opportunity to all.

There are a lot of rabbit holes here, but Friedman’s core argument is that to ensure globalism is indeed a positive force for as many people as possible, what is needed is what he calls compassionate flattism, where “the individual worker is going to become more responsible for managing their own career, risks, and economic security, and the job of the government and business is to help workers build the necessary muscles to do that.” The role of business is to provide employees with the opportunity to access classes and trainings to improve current skills and develop new ones, while for government the role is to provide the proper framework which enables individuals to compete on as stable and level a playing field as possible (infrastructure, legal systems, business and permit law). However, Friedman is adamant that none of this should become welfare, and it is still the responsibility of the individual to take advantage of these programs as they see fit. Empowerment is the objective, not blind support. Individuals have to look out for themselves, but they don’t have to do it alone.

If this compassionate view of those who would be left behind, from outsourcing and the like, does not come to fruition, Friedman gives a prescient warning against the eventual political backlash that will unfold from that impacted group, one which we have seen unfold across the developed world over the past year. In what is probably his most strongly worded statement in the entire book, Friedman states: “Some might ask, Why be compassionate at all? Why keep any fat, friction, or barriers? Let me put it as bluntly as I can: If you are not a compassionate flatist- if you are just a let ‘er rip free-market flatist – you are not only cruel, you are a fool. You are courting a political backlash by those who can and will get churned up by this flattening process, and that backlash could become ferocious if we hit any kind of prolonged recession.

For Friedman, the discussion should not be whether to globalize, for our economies are far too entangled already to try and sort them out, though he readily admits it is far from 100% certain that globalization is the economic and cultural future of humanity (there are many things that could derail it, such as terrorism, nationalism, and large-scale war). Instead, the discussion should be how to globalize, so that everyone enjoys a slice of the widening pie. It is up to our imagination, and hope for a better tomorrow, whether globalization will become a force for good or evil. Instead of fear (loosing jobs, spreading terrorism), we must empower people so that our next generation becomes “the generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that imagination every day.

Overall, this book is a great starting point for understanding modern globalization and economics, though it is not without its faults. The book is written largely for the viewpoint of Americans, easily and quite frequently flipping between economic and cultural assessments with hardly any data to back his assertions up, preferring a compelling narrative over hard numbers. It often comes off as one-sided and unbalanced, and he freely admits he is a die-hard globalist. And Friedman is all too willing to throw his political two cents into his arguments, speaking highly critically of then-President Bush, and also devotes a small portion on how people should parent their kids. While I do not doubt the good intentions behind these moments, they come off as a bridge too far that almost ensures the only people who will take this book seriously are liberally-leaning individuals who are probably already in the choir, which is a shame. For this book is more relevant now that it has even been before. As history progresses and the world continues to come together, it is books like this one that help us grapple with our own understanding, and try to truly comprehend how to best do so, for the benefit of as many people as possible.

3.75/5

The Character that Built ‘The House of Morgan’

The House of MorganIn modern times, bankers are seen as greedy and evil men, immune to the proper good of society, the ultimate dollar chasers. But this was not always the case, and at one point in time it was the banker who helped form the moral backbone of the business community. It was their reputation for fair and balanced decision making that made the economy turn, that provided the capital for businesses to consolidate and grow, long before the times of World Banks and online trading markets. A banker was only as good as his word, and none were greater than JP Morgan. One of the few banks that has stood the test of time, the Morgan banks (started by JP’s father, Junius, and continued with JP’s son, Jack) have presided in one fashion or another over the history of modern business. But what is most interesting about this family is not the sheer magnitude of their dominance (JP single-handedly organized the bailout of the entire financial system in the Panic of 1907, a panic that saw the stock-market drop 50%), but how they came to be so dominant in an age of great political, societal, and financial change and uncertainty. At over 800 pages there is a lot to chew on, and the book starts to lag a bit towards the back half as the scope of the narrative broadens with the spawn of modern globalization. But the lessons on seizing opportunities from uncertainty, and on building world-class organizations that last across centuries is far and away worth the price of admission.

Executive Summary: High character of early figures led to strong business relationships and brand. But globalization over the decades eroded the need for relationships as competition sprung up and client’s gained access to more capital. As competition increased, relationships and morals declined, and banking became more commoditized, with short-term perspective. But the rise came from “doing high-class business in a high-class way,” and disciplined control to find low-risk, high-reward opportunities in an age of intense speculation.

Key Concepts:

  1. Success and Longevity through Culture and Morality
    1. “Never, under any circumstances, do an action which could be called into question if known to the world” – JPM
    2. Gentlemen Banker’s Code: “Do high-class business in a high-class way”
      1. No advertising, no price competition. Kept clients as dependents
    3. Also believed in keeping an air of mystic around yourself; self-control and reserve
      1. Junius Morgan (JP’s Father)– Solemn and business-like, always master of his emotions.
      2. Preferred silence, mystery to public. “Everyone should reduce their talk by 2/3rds”
  2. Pierpont (JP) Morgan Characteristics
    1. Had an idealism, a desire to set the moral code of society. Not just greedy like many others of his generation
      1. Believed in the work ethic, duties of the rich; Use their wealth for good, not pleasure
    2. “With his clear-cut sense of right and wrong, he quickly became accustomed to exercising leadership” – Deeply conservative, religious nature
      1. Had trouble delegating authority; and extreme micro-manager
    3. Wanted to add rigidity to a world he saw in flux. Hated disorder
      1. Real vice was “power to take […] a topsy-turvy financial world and turn it right.”
    4. Never mistook business for whole of life; $ was not the point. Loved travel and art
  3. House of Morgan Business Philosophy
    1. Power > money; Preferred a seat on company boards and stock options vs. cash payments when taking over a company
    2. Abhorred stock speculation, investment in young companies
      1. Strategy was to deal only with big, low-risk companies. Blue-chip, ‘Buy and Hold’
    3. JPMorgan and Company engaged almost solely in a wholesale bond and banking business. With glaring exceptions, it refused to water down standards. It recommended conservative investments, such as railroad bonds, but shied away from the tipsters art of plugging stocks”Wouldn’t take any deals on faith – “A man always has two reasons for the things he does: a good one, and the real one
      1. Therefore, not hit hard by Depression as not heavily invested in stocks.
      2. Made them appear high-character to others, especially in times of crisis
  4. The Decline of the House of Morgan: Due in part to loss of character
    1. Lost its etiquette. “Ran by bright, young executives, who seemed curiously devoid of larger political or social concerns in their narrow pursuit of profits”
      1. All accelerator, no brake. Companies started acting on impulse, no strategy
      1. But as clients gained access to their own capital, the need to compete rose.
      2. No longer about relationships; power tilted to client, forcing competition“The elite financiers [had] straddled all aspects of business. They had time to read, to ponder, to enter politics; the grey era of specialization hadn’t dawned”
    2. Led to a shift in desires from financing operations of industry to financing ownership of industry

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Other Notes/Quotes

  • Junius Morgan as a youth got a great offer to buy a partnership stake in a banking house, but stayed level headed. Didn’t leap at the fortune; instead, he reviewed the books and finances first to make sure it was a good thing
  • Jack Morgan (JP’s son): Relaxed manner. Delegated power, reached decisions thru consensus.
    • Through this methodology, Jack presided “over an institution of perhaps even larger power than the one ruled by his willful, rambunctious father”
  • Tom Lamont, Jack’s successor, tried to live a well-rounded, intellectual and artistic life.
    • But fell short of the ideals that he articulated. In trying to please too many people, he lost the habit of truth
  • “There is something about too much prosperity that ruins the fiber of the people. The remedy is for people to stop watching the ticker, and dancing to jazz, and return to the old economics of prosperity based around saving and working” – Tom Lamont
  • In WW2, Lamont thought that Americans were “too self-absorbed by materialism, and too coddled by peace to brace for violence”
  • On another prominent 1950s banker, Dwight Morrow: Always stressed, depressed that he didn’t get what he wanted out of life, but at the same time “he didn’t ask for things”
  • I want people who want to do something, not be someone” – Lou Preston

For Historical Context, A Summary of the Financial Ages:

  • Baronial Age (1850 – 1912) was characterized by immaturity of industry, government. Large-scale, nation-wide corporations were still being established, and so didn’t have the capital available that was needed, hence the need for bankers.
  • Diplomatic Age (1913 – 1948) is characterized by beginnings of globalization, rise of globally oriented finance as foreign governments began to industrialize.
  • Casino Age (1949 – Present) is characterized by matured companies/governments who could pay for their operations or obtain multiple sources of capital through other global financial firms, leading to increased competition. Also, rise of hostile takeovers as markets saturated and profit margins shrank.

 

I hope you find these notes to be useful and thought-provoking. Again, these are just my takeaways from the book and don’t encapsulate the entire message. If you’re interested in delving deeper and reading the book for yourself, and want to support the page, you can grab a copy here.

And if you want even more, here is a list of books within the same topic (19th Century Biographies) that I have found useful:

Happy Reading

3 Big Takeaways from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleThe quintessential development book for social interactions, Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide since its release, and is listed as a one of the Top 25 most influential books of all time by Time Magazine. And while the book does stand the test of time to deliver some solid advice on social interactions, the entire premise of the book can be boiled down into a few points, three to be exact. At just under 300 pages, it is a quick enough read that it would still be worth reading over for yourself, but here is a quick primer on the key takeaways, some of the building blocks for interacting both at work and at home.

 

Executive Summary: The book boils down to two main concepts in line with the title. How to Win Friends = Make people feel important. How to Influence People = Make them want to do what you want them to do out of their own volition. And in all things, be diplomatic with people. The high road will always pay dividends in the end.

Key Concepts:

  1. Be Diplomatic
    1. Don’t criticize (will only upset the other and make them defensive)
    2. Praise often, at every improvement in others
    3. Don’t call direct attention to others mistakes, and lead with your own mistakes before discussing the other’s mistake
      1. Say “I may be wrong, and frequently am, so let’s examine the facts” (not word for word though)
      2. Make their faults seem easy to correct, always encourage – “I make that mistake all the time
    4. Even when you are right, win people gently and tactfully to your way of thinking, don’t try to bowl them over with the force of your correctness
    5. Ask questions instead of giving orders
    6. Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices” – Emerson
  1. Make the Other Person Feel Important
    1. Do this by making them feel appreciated
    2. Remember their name, find out what they like. Ask questions
    3. Nourish other’s self-esteem same as you would nourish their bodies by giving them food
    4. Give titles and authority to people, even if they are really meaningless. Again, makes them feel important, and brings out the nobler character within them
      1. This is something that Napoleon Bonaparte was famous for with his soldiers. Even called them the Grande Armee, as an example.
  2. Influence by Making People Want to Act of Their Own Accord
    1. Give them what they want. Focus on how they will benefit from what you want, and frame the request in that manner
    2. Galileo Quote: “You can’t teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself”
    3. Respect others opinions, don’t directly say they’re wrong.
    4. Admit your wrongs, and if wrong, admit it quickly. Don’t pass the blame on others
    5. Get the other person saying “Yes, Yes”
      1. Socratic method of asking questions to reason their way into your way of thinking
    6. Appeal to their nobler motives
      1. Give the other person a reputation to try to live up to
    7. Sympathize with others ideas, and try to see their point of view
      1. So they don’t feel alone. No one wants to feel alone
    8. Tell a story. Dramatize your idea (Think of Malcolm Gladwell. Great ability to take dull scientific data and weave it into a captivating story that drives home the key points you would otherwise gloss over)

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Other Notes / Quotes

  • When dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic; we are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
    • Win the heart first, then the head
    • Win a man to your cause by first convincing him you are his sincere friend. There is the “honey which catches his heart, the great high road to his reason“.
  • 99% of the time people don’t criticize themselves for anything
  • “Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so”
  • Everything we do springs from two motives (According to Sigmund Freud):
    • 1) Sex urge
    • 2) The desire to be great/important
  • Alfred Adler – “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life, and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring”
  • People don’t want to feel sold. They want to buy. Similar to the main concept of The Little Red Book of Selling
  • At one point in the book there is a story of woman, new at her job, who is not making any friends or acquaintances
    • Finally tells herself “Maria, you can’t expect these women to come to you, you have to go out and meet them”
    • Takeaway is that in a new situation, the onus is on the new person to go out and meet the existing people. Be a self-starter, don’t be dependent on others to feel included
  • Good quote – “Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you want to do, and then, without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding away, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire … Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual. Thought is supreme
  • Be forceful and assertive whenever you meet someone new to introduce yourself, and then remember their name in the future. Alleviates ice, puts you on friendly terms right away.
  • Unrelated thought from the rest of the book, but a concept that I still found meaningful: Andrew Carnegie was limited in his steel making knowledge. He just knew how to manage, lead, and organize people who knew more than he did.
  • Advocates that if lack of experience, not lack of ability, is reason for failure, then this is ok
  • Overlook people’s faults, even if they are overwhelmingly glaring
    • Instead, focus on even the little things they do right and praise those things.
    • Praise the improvement, and they will take heart in that, gain confidence, and turn other aspects around as well
      • However, this is mostly oriented toward people with little experience, new people. Not pre-established relationships
  • If accurate, good quote: “All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory” – King’s Guard in Ancient Greece

 

I hope you find these notes to be useful and thought-provoking. Again, these are just my takeaways from the book and don’t encapsulate the entire message. If you’re interested in delving deeper and reading the book for yourself, and want to support the page, you can grab a copy here.

And if you want even more, here is a list of books within the same topic (social interactions) that I have found useful:

Happy Reading

 

October BoM – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Overview7 Habits

Since its initial release, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, originally published in 1989 by the late Stephen Covey, has gone on to sell over 25 million copies, and is consistently ranked in various Top 25 lists – and for good reason. In this timeless book, Covey lays out a set of principles, or habits, that lead to effective intra- and interpersonal management, what he calls the “Character Ethic.”

I must confess, I actually put the book down after the first 40 pages during my first crack at it, as I was both surprised and disappointed at the book’s subject matter. I went into the book expecting to read about business and management practices, as this is how the book is typically marketed. Instead, the reader gets a tour de force on how to effectively reach your goals through personal independence (Habits 1-3) and relationship development (Habits 4-6).

As I learned first-hand, one must approach this book with an open mind. It can be easy at first glance to dismiss 7 Habits as self-help nonsense. But given deeper consideration, the book serves as a blueprint for how to build the fundamental skills we all need to reach our personal potentials. It has easily become one of my all-time favorites, and will be added to the growing list of books I plan to revisit frequently over the years to come

Key Concepts

There are two key concepts that Covey’s book is based around. The first is that effectiveness cannot be created through a quick fix. Learning new tips and techniques to handle email more efficiently or make more connections will not make you more productive over the long haul. Instead, it is our core values that propel us forward in a sustainable fashion, and therefore we must build proper ‘habits’ to capitalize on these values in our everyday lives. Improper habits can be broken, but not at a surface level; one needs deep, core shifts in perspective to make real change in yourself.

“For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root”

– Henry David Thoreau

The second key concept is that there exists a maturity continuum that dictates much of how we think and act. We all start as dependent individuals, reliant on our parents for physical, mental, and emotional security. But as we age, we begin to shift down the continuum, first moving to independence in these three categories, and finally ending at interdependence on the far right of the continuum. The problem, Covey states, is that many of us do not progress very far on this continuum, instead hovering somewhere between dependence and independence. We develop our own sense of self-worth solely from the opinions of the people we surround ourselves with.

The overarching purpose then of this book of to help move people down this continuum, and in doing so, the book breaks down the seven ‘habits,’ which are really more of life maxims. The first three are internally focused, revolving around building self-mastery to “move a person from dependence to independence.”

  1. Be Proactive – Things are going to happen to you that are out of your control, but it will always be your decision in how you choose to respond: “[Effective people] do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”
  2. Begin with the End in Mind – Imagine you are nearing the end of the line, and are reflecting back on your life. What do you want to be remembered for? These are the core principles that matter most to you, and to live an effective life is to have the courage and independence to align your daily decisions to these principles.
  3. Put First Things First – Living in this manner requires a great deal of long-term thinking and prioritization – balancing the day-to-day of what is in front of you with what you know is most important over the long haul. These are what the author calls Quadrant II activities, things that are important but not necessarily urgent: delegating work, properly preparing for meetings, building relationships. Its basic Pareto Principle stuff – making time for the 20% of your work that will eventually net you 80% of your results.

Reaching this base level of personal independence positions you to then move on to the second half of the book, focusing around effective interpersonal habits –what is today mostly referred to as the concept of Emotional Intelligence. These are the skills needed to build effective and lasting relationships with others, which helps you further your progress down the maturity continuum from independence to interdependence.

  1. Think Win-Win – There is always a best of both worlds scenario. You just have to work to find it. Work with other people to always find a win-win solution, instead of being combative and protective of your own desires
  2. Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood – This Win-Win scenario can only be accomplished when you communicate effectively with others, which happens when you listen first to understand people’s viewpoint. This will build other’s trust in you, which will then make them must more likely to try and understand your point.
  3. Synergize – When we act synergistically, we utilize the above skills to collaborate with others to build far greater things than we ever could alone: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself.”

Finally, you reach the final habit of the book, which stipulates that one ‘rinse and repeat.’ In the same way that your education and learning do not stop when you graduate school, being an effective individual requires constant reflection to make sure you are progressing.

  1. Renewal: Sharpen the Saw – This is the preservation and continuous enhancement of our greatest assets – ourselves. “This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw”

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10 Takeaways

  1. Ignore the pit in your stomach – This is the physical manifestation of emotional dependence on other’s approval: that gnawing feeling you get in your gut when someone disagrees with you. It compels you to cave in and go along with them, against your better judgement, just to appease the momentary situation. You are most effective when you ignore this feeling, an act of emotional independence – having the mental and emotional strength to pursue what you want, even when those around you try hard to dissuade you.
  2. Maturity: Courage vs. Consideration – Having emotional independence gives you the courage you need to do what you want. But too much independence can cause you to ignore and hurt the feelings of those around you. Maturity is the fulcrum point between these two extremes: balancing the desire to consider the needs of others in your decision making process while still maintaining an air of independence.
  3. Write a Personal Constitution – Similar in concept to goal-setting, Covey urges the reader to go one step further. Instead of writing down the things you want to accomplish, write down the person you want to be. When people think or talk about you, what are the traits you want them to identify you with? What are your values and ideals? On a grander scale, what is your reason for being? These answers form your personal constitution, a statement of what you are about and who you want to be, for you to review and adhere to in times of distress.
  4. Focus on the Important, not Urgent – Urgent tasks are the flash fires that come up during your day. While these tasks are no doubt critical, their completion brings very short-term benefits, before more seemingly urgent tasks pop up that again call your immediate attention. This cycle keeps you constantly busy, and prevents you from focusing on your long-term objectives, the things that are truly important. Example: Take time away from completing urgent tasks (email, reports, etc) to instead focus on completing the important task of hiring and training more staff. These staff members can then help handle most of the urgent tasks you were swamped with before, freeing up more of your time to handle the important long-term tasks.
  5. Have an Abundance Mentality –An abundance mentality is the belief that there is an unlimited pie. When someone else you know succeeds, that doesn’t mean that you lose out on a slice of the pie (with the exception of business deals. There is a finite number of customers and clients). When you envy someone’s success, there is a hidden fear that you cannot now succeed yourself as a direct result of their achievement. With an abundance mentality, you know there is plenty more of the pie left, and that you will get yours in time through your own work, freeing yourself to truly congratulate and appreciate the success of those around you.
  6. Security + Guidance = Wisdom -> Power – The formula for personal power: when we no longer depend on others for our sense of self-worth, and we identify our core values and what we are truly about, we gain sense of internal calm and wisdom, the foundation for power. Know what you want, the independent thought to get it, and blend that will with the needs of those around you
  7. The Four Dimensions – The author states that there are four essential dimensions to life that one must constantly balance and work to improve upon: the Physical, the Mental, the Emotional/Social, and lastly the Spiritual. For introverts, the most critical is the Emotional/Social, as the other dimensions can all be enhanced individually. We must continually work to ‘sharpen the saw,’ as Covey puts it, even in areas where we struggle, as without this fourth pillar, no building can stand for long on the remaining three alone.
  8. Varying Paradigm Centers – We all have different paradigm centers, or core values that drive the way we act and perceive the world around us. For some, it is Wealth; for others, it is Title and Status; and yet others are centered on Family or simply Pleasure. What is important is not that we all strive to have the same center, but that we recognize and respect the centers of others. These centers drive our psychology, and by being aware of them, we can better engage and relate with those around us.
  9. Balancing P and PC – To be an effective person, one must master the art of balancing their Production (P) with their Production Capacity (PC). The body cannot run (P) indefinitely without food or sustenance (PC), much the same as one cannot continue to produce at work without learning new skills or investing in new relationships. Eventually you will stagnate and be passed by. Similarly, we cannot be so forward focused that we ignore the present. You must eventually bring your investments and new skills to bear and turn the intangible tangible through production.
  10. Your Place in the World – The world is bigger than any one individual. It is our moral obligation to dedicate ourselves to the improvement of the larger whole, not just the improvement of ourselves, for this is when we do our best work: “As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inexorable as gravity.”

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a foundational text that sets the groundwork upon which any person of ambition should build the rest of their knowledge, habits, and activities. I can’t recommend highly enough, especially if you are young and just starting out, that you prioritize the reading of this book and escalate it to the top of your reading list. But one must come into reading this book with an open mind; the text can at times be either overly convoluted (elaborates on building Emotional Bank Accounts with individuals to build relationships, otherwise known as trust), or overly dramatic (see Habit 6). But by bringing your past experiences to bear through active reading, you can uncover and start developing some of the foundational principles of effective human behavior that can collectively build momentum for yourself toward a life of success.

Additional Reads from the Month:

 

How to Read for Knowledge

Reading AnalyticallyReading of any kind is important work, and a critical element to the development and evolution of the human psyche.

It’s how you expose your mind to new ideas, it captures the human imagination. You can find the entirety of the human experience within the confines of a single library.

But to harness the full potential of these opportunities, one must elevate their level of reading beyond just processing words on a page – you have to read analytically.

How many times have you read a book, and a month later can’t recall a single thing about it? Or you finish a well renowned book, but feel as if nothing sunk in.

Maybe you can remember some concepts, but in nominal value only; you know what the book said, but not what it meant. The ideas haven’t sunk in enough for you to be able to readily apply them to your everyday life without going back and re-reading part of the book.

You gained more information, but you didn’t get any wiser.

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you want to really grow and expand your capacities, and capitalize on the time end effort you are putting into your reading efforts, one must engage in specific styles of reading.

The three levels of reading:

  1. Reading for Entertainment – This is your prototypical novel reading. The intent is not to learn anything new, but simply to enjoy the story or what the author has to say.
  2. Reading for Information – This is what we are typically taught to do in school. You are focused around learning information on a new topic, or maybe getting an in-depth look at a topic you have already been introduced to. You’re learning what you didn’t know before
  3. Reading for Knowledge – This is reading for concepts and ideas. You are going beyond learning some new information, and are instead focused on internalizing what you are reading to alter some part of how you think.

Now each of these styles certainly have their appropriate time and place; I’m not advocating that you never read a mystery novel again.

But we are here in the pursuit of growth, and growth involves evolution. You have to internalize what you are reading to derive the intellect and enlightenment required to expand your capacities.

At the third level of reading, you’re not just reading the words as they are on the page. You are taking them off the page and into your own head; bringing your own personal experience into what you are reading, or maybe the reverse: taking the words you are reading and testing how they might apply to various circumstances that have occurred in your life.

What you read should become a part of how you think.

When you read analytically, this is the desired result: that the topics, ideas, and arguments from various books become ingrained in your head and become a part of your intellect.

You can recall ideas from what you have read instantaneously, and you find yourself bringing these various themes to bear in your everyday life and decision making.

This third style of critical, analytical reading involves several practices that are typically overlooked:

The first is reading slowly, not for speed

Speed reading is most useful for Level 2 reading activities, when you are just trying to gain some level of understanding about a particular concept (just-in-time information).

But that is not our objective here. We are after knowledge, not just information (this is the ‘recall’ ability mentioned before).

We want to fully engage ourselves with what we are reading, wrestling with what the author is saying and what our experiences tell us, with the objective being that the material becomes integrated into our decision-making process.

To do this, you have to take your time with each book to let it soak in. It’s better to read four books a year that change some of your perceptions of the world, than to read one hundred books and remember nothing but the titles, subject matter, and how quickly you finished each one.

This is your education, not a contest.

The second practice is taking detailed notes

Again, this goes beyond note taking on factual information (dates, names, ages), and should be more focused around what you are thinking or taking away from the passages in the book. Mark key passages or quotes, and record the thoughts that come to mind, or connections you begin to make with other books or life experiences.

How you take these notes is largely up to personal preference. Everyone has their own unique twist on a note taking system that works best for them.

Whether it’s highlighting, writing in the margins, flagging pages, or keeping a separate journal to write in, detailed note taking forces you to engage with the author and the words you are reading. You can start wrestling with the book, and correspondingly, the author, and analyze whether you agree/disagree with what you are reading, and therefore how it is impacting your worldview.

 “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you”

– W. Somerset Maugham

This all culminates in a state of active reading – reading for concepts, ideas, and insights, not just for factual information or entertainment. When you read a book on Napoleon Bonaparte, what is important is not when he took the throne as Emperor. No one is going to quiz you on which islands he was exiled to.

What is important is how he revolutionized the military strategies and tactics of his age, and executed on them. How he gained near absolute loyalty from both his troops and the larger French population, despite bringing France back into a monarchical fold on the heels of the Revolution. What lessons in leadership can be gained from his final defeat at Waterloo (one example: his generals had lost their ability to take initiative, after years of Napoleon’s micro-managing and thinking for them).

These are ideas that you can bring into your decision-making models, and alter how you interact with others on a daily basis (ie. limit micro-managing. The short term benefits are far outweighed by the cumulative negative effects that are eventually realized over the long haul).

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When you read analytically, you’re wrestling with the ideas presented to really internalize what is being said. You read slowly and intently to thoroughly process the argument or story, and what your takeaways are.

Only then will what you read become a part of who you are, and shape the way you see the world. The ideas that you read will stick with you long after you have set the book down, and you will come to find that you have in fact grown just a little bit wiser, with each passing page.

 

 

Book of the Month, July – Million Dollar Consulting

 

This is a new segment I’m thinking of introducing to the page, simply titled: Book of the Month (BoM). Pretty self-explanatory. I’ve done a couple book reviews in the past, but want to make this more of a consistent piece by quickly going over the best of what I have read over the course of the past month. The objective is to provide insights from each book that can be useful and applicable in your life, not review the actual subject matter or writing style of the books. Its about finding the nuggets of wisdom from the pages, not just general information. So without further ado:

Million Dollar Consulting

OverviewMillion Dollar Consulting

Potentially the most straight-forward title I have seen on a book in a long time, Million Dollar Consulting is a book written precisely on that subject. Written by Alan Weiss, a very successful consultant in his own right, this book details how to create and grow your own successful consulting practice, with an emphasis on a personal practice, not forming a company. It is not the most beautifully written book, and can be very repetitive at times, as if the author anticipated that people would jump from chapter to chapter. But what it lacks in prose, it makes up for in substance. Writing beyond just the consulting industry, the author details out the mentality that is required to become a self-made millionaire, a mindset that is valuable to have whether you actually want a million dollars or not

Key Concepts

As I mentioned, while the book is technically written on the consulting industry, there is a lot of value to be taken away that can be applied to any area of life.

The major concepts in this book are that to have success, you have to have integrity, build relationships, and focus on growth. Form your own personal strategy for what you want in your life, and stick to it, no matter what other opportunities may come your way.

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The Importance of Reading

 

Quiet ReadingReading

It was one of the easiest things you could do as a kid to get banished by your classmates to the corner of the cafeteria. It was what your mother constantly harped on you to do more often.

It was definitively not cool.

Only geeks read books for fun, let alone reading for class. But personally, I loved it (geek?). I read everything I could get my hands on, and although it was mostly science fiction/fantasy (geek), it set the groundwork for my reading habits today.

In fact, some of history’s greatest leaders were avid readers at a young age.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a voracious reader as a youth, often skipping meals to save money to buy more books, and frequently skipping out on activities with his classmates to “read everything that he could about the most ambitious leaders of the ancient world” (Napoleon: A Life). He copied many of his leadership tactics from what he read about Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, and even packed up over 100 books to take along with him in his Egyptian campaign to study and learn more about his upcoming adversaries.

Other historical readers include Theodore Roosevelt, who would read hundreds of books a yearThomas Jefferson donated his personal library to the Library of Congress it was so big. And Abraham Lincoln schooled himself as a youth by waking up early every day to read before he started his chores around the farm.

But it’s not just our past leaders that read to get ahead; the titans of our current era are also enormous proponents of reading. Warren Buffet, one of the richest men on Earth, has said “Of all the investments I ever made, buying that book [Intelligent Investor] was the best.

Mark Zuckerberg has a goal of reading one book every other week (2 books/month), and even started a book club for people to join him along the way. And studies show that the average Fortune 500 CEO reads about 4-5 books a month, or one book every week.

Turns out, reading is the single best thing you can do to succeed in life. There is nothing better you can do for yourself and your self-improvement than to read. Prodigiously.

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Reading opens up your mind to new ideas, allows you to study some of the great figures in history (and today), and serves as astimulus for your own mental creativity and development. Some of my best ideas have come to me while reading a book, ideas that I never would have come up with on my own.

Reading has changed my life completely. It hasn’t directly changed my circumstances, but it has changed how I think and feel about those circumstances. It’s made me bolder, more self-aware, better at critical thinking, and all around a better human being. It has allowed me to realize my ambitions, and it’s why I created this page in the first place.

This page is dedicated to becoming the best ‘you’ that you can, so that you can make a difference in this world. Inherent in this idea, is that in order to become the best you can, you must keep learning.

Your Personal Education

Reading is about developing your mental prowess. It’s about the long game. It’s an investment in your own education and in your future.

Reading is the education you choose for yourself. No one teaches you in school how to leverage being an introvert. Or how to build a company from scratch. How to prioritize your day, or how to best invest your money. When you read, you get to set your own coursework and decide what you want to learn about.

School teaches you the technical knowledge you need: where to put commas, how to add to 100, how combustion occurs. It teaches you how to study and prepare, and of course there is the social aspect. But it doesn’t always teach you the philosophies, strategies, and tactics you will need to thrive. It’s that soft knowledge that sets you apart from the pack, and its knowledge that you can only ever acquire from either a mentor or a book.

Or, your book can be your mentor.

Your Personal Mentor

The best way to get up to speed on a new topic is always to learn if from someone who has been there before. The bad news is that finding that person at the moment you need them can be very difficult, let along convincing them to distill all of their knowledge down for you.

The good news is that everything has been done before. Someone has gone through the exact thing you are struggling with or want to learn about, and at some point someone wrote down what they did and learned in a book.

“The biggest reason people don’t succeed is because they don’t expose themselves to existing information”

– Jim Rohn

For the most part, this is knowledge and information you can trust. People can be full of it sometimes, and you have to be careful with what advice you take from people you meet. But by nature, books force authors to explain their thinking in a clear, conscience manner, or else it won’t get published. This third-party verification system means that you are getting the best of what someone has to offer, generally speaking. I’ve definitely read some texts that don’t fit this description – but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or always go to the horse’s mouth.

Your Personal Time

And the best part of all of this, for an introvert, is that you’re good at it. We’re natural readers.

Picking up and digging into a book is something that introverts naturally excel at. It’s a passive exercise. You can sit back, retreat into yourself, not worry about interacting with anyone else, and just think while you read. It’s your quiet time, which makes reading to learn and grow an inherent strength.

A couple of excerpts from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

 

“[Introverts] are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams”
“[Introverts have] been shown to excel at something psychologists call ‘insightful problem solving.’ Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately.”
“Introverts feel ‘just right’ with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a  close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book […] your typical introvert would rather spend her vacation reading on the beach than partying on a cruise ship”
“[S]tay as true to yourself as you possible can – starting by creating as many ‘restorative niches’ as possible in your daily life. ‘Restorative Niche’ is […] the place you go when you want to return to your true self”

We know introverts need time to themselves, and through reading, you can find your quiet time, and still learn from some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen. Overtime, you will start to sense your mental perceptions shift. You begin brainstorming your own ideas, connecting themes across books, and relating what you are reading to things you encounter every day in life. It’s a very personal process that you can use to recharge yourself.

Admittedly, reading a book each week, or even each month, is not easy. Becoming the best ‘you’ you can be requires a dedication and consistency of effort. It’s easy to pull up YouTube or Netflix for an hour or two. It’s a bit harder to crack open a book and read about the character of George Washington.

But it’s the hard things in life that are always most worth doing.

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Now of course, the activity of reading is only half the battle. You have to also read analytically– reading for ideas and intellect, not just entertainment. Really internalizing what you read and looking for ways to apply it.

This leads to the second, and largest, part. Eventually, you must do something with what you are learning. You have to use and apply it, or it is all just academic. But before you act, you must know. Action without direction is meaningless.

So you want to leverage your strengths to make a change in your life? How about you start with a book. For as the famous quote goes:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”

– Harry Truman

Analysis: Washington – A Life

Washington_A_Life_book_coverSurveyor, Farmer, Statesman, General, President, Father of a Nation. George Washington held many titles throughout the course of his life, but few in the annals of history can claim the latter. He is a figure of legendary stature, both today and even amongst his peers. It is well known that part of this mystic and legend comes from Washington’s stoic, calm nature (the book’s author refers to him as ‘The Man of Marble’), but there is a lot more to him than that. And that is what makes Washington – A Life (Ron Chernow) so great, and while I feel it was important enough to warrant this post. While it is a beast of a book (comes in at almost a thousand pages), it is a text  that should go on anyone’s to-read list who considers themselves a student of improvement and success, and who seeks to make an impact in the world. It is most definitely going on my Resources list.

The title of the text is very apropos to the subject matter, as this is a book purely on George Washington’s life. There is very little actual analysis in the book, even though it’s large enough to rival the Bible in density. Chernow simply relates facts and actions from Washington’s life, mostly through letters and first-hand accounts from the era. The amount of research and detail that must have gone into this book is simply staggering. But Chernow leaves it up to you to analyze Washington and draw your own conclusions on what made him so great. And because there is such a wealth of information here, its not that hard to do, and by book’s end you are left with a very clear picture of just who George Washington was and what it was about him that made him such a great leader. Continue reading

5 Impact Reads of 2014

With 2014 winding to a close in the coming weeks, I wanted to take the time to list my top 5 books from this past year. As I’ve stated before, 2014 has been a big paradigm shift for me in how I view the world and my place in it. And books have been a key catalyst in enacting this change.

I started off the year with the goal of reading 10 books. While that may seem modest, and by most accounts, it is (check Ryan Holiday or Tim Ferriss. Its ridiculous), to me this was a big jump forward in making the effort to read regularly and often. I took stock of recommended book lists from seemingly every business or thought leader, and just dove in.

I ended up reaching 18 books this year, so paring this down to five is not as difficult a task as I initially thought, although I am looking to up the difficulty curve on myself next year by shooting for 40. Going to get a lot of run out of the Audible app on my phone, which is really great for long drives or any form of travel.

Last thing to note, at this point in my life I am more focused on breadth over depth, building a knowledge and philosophical base from which to build upon as I move throughout my life. These books are a snapshot of where I am in life right now, and what was most meaningful to me, not simply the best 5 books I read. In no particular order:

The Goal – Just wrote up a review on this one you can check out, but in summary, 1) Don’t take old assumptions at face value. The world is constantly evolving, our thinking should mirror that. 2) Identify your goal, and align everything you do to that goal. If something doesn’t help you achieve your ends, its a distraction.

4-Hour Workweek – Speaking of Tim and Mr. Holiday, both make an appearance here. This book, by Tim Ferriss, is a book that in my opinion needs to be taken in from a distance. Dig out the key concepts laid out, not all the shiny details and promises of easy money. The core of this book is to first go after what you really want, and effectiveness is the tool to get you there. Not efficiency, but effectiveness. Tim is a big proponent of the Pareto Principle, and the first half of the book is where this really shines. Very easy read, and again, seeing the big picture with this book is key.

Money: Master the Game – Same opening line as 4HWW: don’t take this book as a prescription. Take it as a vitamin. Money and investing is not a topic I am broadly familiar with, but something I know is critical to have a degree of familiarity with. Tony Robbins does a great job of laying out some of the basic principles of personal finance and investing, and definitely pumps his shine into the book. Just use your own judgement and take some of the finer details with a grain of salt. Times are always changing. But a great starting point, without having to take any of the mind-numbing Finance classes at school.

The Obstacle Is the Way – By Ryan Holiday, this is a quick, but highly effective read. Ryan does a great job in summarizing the Stoic viewpoint, which is essentially that life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it. People like Teddy Roosevelt aren’t born great, but they become great through their self discipline in making  lemonade from the proverbial lemon. A great primer on the practical philosophy of Stoicism, a topic I plan on really delving into in the coming year.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – This one might go down as the best book I’ve ever read. Being a functioning introvert myself, this was a quake book for me, one that totally shattered any preconceived notions I held on introversion, and how I dealt with it. A more detailed review will be soon to come, but Susan Cain knocks this one out of the park. A must read for anyone who often finds themselves on the quieter side of life, and still highly recommended for the social butterflies, as Susan addresses not only the discrepancies between introversion/extroversion, but how to understand the other side and co-exist. Not everyone is meant to be highly vocal, and not everyone that is highly vocal is meant to be a leader. Can’t speak highly enough of this book.

But there you have it, my personal top 5 books of the year. Share your thoughts or any books that impacted you that I should look into for next year down below, or you can always reach me at pursueimpact@gmail.com.

 

Book Review: The Goal

Time for a book post. I view reading as being instrumental to the self-education process; who better to learn from than the great people and thinkers of the world? These book review posts are not going to be a regular occurrence, theoretically. They are just meant to discuss books that have been very influential for me and helped shape or alter my current way of thinking. Not every book you read is going to change your life, and so not every book read is going to be mentioned here. Just the heavy hitters.

For the first book review, I wanted to start with a book that is somewhat simple, yet had a pretty profound impact on my mind and thought process. The Goal was actually assigned reading for a class in my business program is one of the first books that I really read critically (I highly recommend it if you are new to this world). Since then I have come a long way in my note-taking abilities, and refined an indexing system for cataloging those notes. But that is for another time. Until then, ladies and gentlemen: The Goal.

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