Bob Woodward’s Fear

What a horror show. If it wasn’t apparent already, Woodward’s reporting makes it painfully clear in agonizing detail after agonizing detail that this is a shit show of epic proportions. 

If only the man was merely a moron (as he’s called by cabinet officials and others on numerous occasions in the book) then this abominable historical moment we suffer through might be bearable and pass without great consequence. While the entire episode might still end without catastrophe, the stains will certainly endure. The fabric of this country has been stretched beyond anything we’ve experienced in a long, long time. It will not instantly return to form. 
Yes, if only he was just a moron. Unfortunately this book makes clear that the situation and the man are far worse. He’s deranged, petulant, vindictive, incapable of learning…possesses a complete and utter lack of curiosity…and is entirely indifferent to the world outside of himself. 

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Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You

An excellent business book that’s both fun to read and full of valuable insights. Whereas other business books are laden with jargon and often unattainable examples, “Built to Sell” is a practical and relatable read on how to grow (and sell) a successful service business. Part of what makes it so accessible is that the story is told in a narrative format, making it easy to follow and apply.

The fictional story follows Alex, who runs a marketing design firm that he decides he wants to sell. Alex seeks advice from his friend Ted, a serial entrepreneur with a few successful exits under his belt. Through their weekly conversations, Ted asks pointed questions to understand Alex’s business and his motivations to sell. Each chapter is centers around what’s happening in the business (ex: a lucrative client that soaks up all of Alex and his team’s capacity), Ted’s advice on how to solve the problem and create long-term sustainable value, and then Alex implementing said advice and making progress on turning around his business and transforming it into something much more valuable.

There are numerous lessons that Ted uses to lead Alex to a successful sale. All are valuable, but all are tethered to creating a standard offering and process that’s easy to control, price, and sell. In Alex’s case, it’s a 5-step logo design process that he offers and delivers to clients. It helps Alex to specialize his business which makes it easier to standardize his sales process, which leads to more recurring revenue, and align his company’s resources (e.g., staffing, internal operating model). It’s a effectively a system for turning services into products.

Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You

Review: The Hellfire Club

Dan Brown meets Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The Hellfire Club, written by CNN’s Jake Tapper, is a fictional political thriller set in 1950s-era Washington, DC. The town and the country is consumed by McCarthy at the peak of his venom and power. Charlie Marder, a young congressman recently appointed by NY Governor Thomas Dewey to replace a disgraced, corrupt incumbent, shows up in Washington unsure of why he’s there but naively intent on operating according to his own views of right and wrong. Surrounded by the likes of Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, the rising young Kennedy brothers, McCarthy, Estes Kefauver, Margaret Chase Smith, and many other historical political figures, Marder is soon enveloped by the ‘ways of Washington,’ including a powerful secret society that operates under Machiavellian edict.

If you enjoy historical fiction and political thrillers, you’ll have fun with this book. It starts off slow, but picks up steam and intrigue as Congressman Marder falls further under the spell of the Hellfire Club and the powerful cabal that wields its power for their own gain as well as the nation’s (in their estimation) in the fight against global Communism.

The Hellfire Club

Choices vs. Decisions

Yesterday, I chose to go to yoga. At first, though, I treated it more like a decision. I considered the opportunity cost, and weighed the pros and cons. Should I step away from work for an hour? Would I still be able to get everything done that I wanted to today? If I decide to go, should I grab a bite to eat before yoga?

Then, it quickly dawned on me that all of this was a tad excessive. If I was on a deadline for work then none of this would even be on the table. By deliberating, I was creating a useless distraction and unnecessary stress.

So, I picked up a coin and flipped it. Heads for yoga, tails stay put. Heads it was, and off I went.

Differentiating between choices and decisions, as Seth Godin wrote, is a simple yet powerful framework for reducing stress, improving mental acuity, and perhaps even creating some fun and spontaneity in the process. And, besides, the choice I illustrated above should never be that difficult. Continue reading “Choices vs. Decisions”

Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Told through the lens of one family, three generations living together black and poor in rural Mississippi, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a story about race and how little we’ve reconciled with our past. The story unfolds on a trip to Parchman prison where past is present. This stark picture unfolds slowly but it accumulates and leaves the reality of our predicament etched in the reader’s mind. With lyrical prose and rich character perspectives, Jesmyn Ward tells a heart-wrenching tale about how little has changed for so many people in this country.

The story is told from three points of view. Jojo, a 13-year old African-American boy largely neglected by his parents, is our hero, along with his grandfather, Pop, who is his caretaker and only father figure. We hear from Jojo first in the book and are immediately drawn to him. Jojo is perceptive and understands his family’s plight in a way many of the adults do not. There is hope that Jojo can surmount the obstacles, but there are also mounting reasons why that hope will eventually extinguish just as it does for so many.

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1,000 True Fans

The idea of “1,000 True Fans,” first coined by Kevin Kelly, is a powerful framework for first-time entrepreneurs, particularly creatives or makers. It demystifies the risk and simplifies the market opportunity for a new creator.

“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”  — Kevin Kelly Continue reading “1,000 True Fans”

Favorite Fiction of 2017

And, my favorite fiction reads from last year…

The Things They Carried
by Tim O’Brien

O’Brien’s short stories about his time in Vietnam are beautiful and heart-wrenching. His magnificent storytelling captures the haunting emotional complexity of that experience. Some of our best art and literature was created to depict the experiences of war. There may be none better than this book.  Continue reading “Favorite Fiction of 2017”

Best History and Politics Reads of 2017

Earlier this week I shared my favorite business books from 2017. Now, I cover five of my favorite non-business non-fiction reads from last year. I highly recommend all of them.

Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for the Voting Rights Act
by Ari Berman

Ari Berman’s book on the struggle to preserve the Voting Rights Act is an exceptional book that’s both a history of the most important piece of Civil Rights legislation and a tool for current-day activism. It inspires through the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis, as well as maddens when learning how hard those on the right are fighting to strip basic democratic rights away from a large section of the electorate. There arguably isn’t a more important book to read on our current political climate. Continue reading “Best History and Politics Reads of 2017”

5 Best Business Books I Read in 2017

While only one was published in 2017, all of the below great books are timely and relevant today. Each had a major impact on the way I think about the world, entrepreneurship, and life-career balance.

If you haven’t read any of the below, I highly recommend adding them to your 2018 reading lists.

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