Feb 252008

Book Short: Chock Full O Management & Leadership

Book Short:  Chock Full O Management & Leadership

I just finished The Better People Leader, by Charles Coonradt, which was a very short, good, rich read.  It was a pretty expansive book on management & leadership topics — 100 short pages of material that are probably covered by 1,000 pages in other books.

What separates this book from the pack is the rich examples from non-business life that Coonradt sprinkles throughout the book.  They include the tale of a special ed kid who became a mainstream student within a year because his teacher had the courage to ask his fellow students to treat him normally, and the story of how Korean War POWs died in massive numbers not from physical torture but from negative feedback loops.

The closing quote of the book says it all, from Ronald Reagan:  “A great leader is not necessarily one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”  This book gives you quick tips on how to do just that.

Feb 182008

Book Short: Tech Founder? Varsity Basketball Captain? Both! At the Same Time!

Book Short: Tech Founder? Varsity Basketball Captain? Both!  At the Same Time!

Ben Casnocha’s My Startup Life has some of the same appeal as The Mousedriver Chronicles (which I reviewed years go here) in its tale of a startup, its successes, failures, and lessons learned. If you like that kind of book or are starting a company and are looking for kindred spirits, it’s a good book for you.

Ben’s story is more remarkable in some ways because he started his eGovernment software (SaaS of course) company Comcate at the age of 13. That’s right, 13. When I was learning how to shave, having a bar mitzvah, and dealing with acne and a voice dropping at terminal velocity. Starting a business was the furthest thing from my mind. Though to be fair, teenage entrepreneurs are a featured new demographic in Mark Penn’s Microtrends (also worth a read). Perhaps if I were Ben’s age today, I would be a startup junkie, too.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ben a couple times via Brad — I think Brad MUST have been a lot like him 20ish years ago. The advice in the book is good and relevant and incredibly mature for a 20-year old, and Ben, I mean that in an impressed way, not a patronizing one. It’s not necessarily revolutionary, but it’s a very quick and light read if you like the genre/premise.

Feb 132008

Book Short: What’s For Dinner Tonight, Honey?

Book Short: What’s For Dinner Tonight, Honey?

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz, presents an enlightening, if somewhat distressing perspective on the proliferation of options and choices facing the average American today. The central thesis of the book is that some choice is better than no choice (I’d rather be able to pick blue jeans or black jeans), but that limited choice may be better in the end than too much choice (how do I know that the jeans I really want are relaxed cut, tapered leg, button fly, etc.?). We have this somewhat astonishing, recurring conversation at home every night, with the two of us sitting around paralyzed about where to eat dinner.

The author’s arguments and examples are very interesting throughout, and his “Laffer curve” type argument about choice vs. too much choice rings true. While there’s obviously no conclusive proof about this, the fact that our society is more rife with depression than ever before at least feels like it has a correlation with the fact that most of us now face a proliferation of choices and decisions to make exponentially more than we used to. The results of this involve ever-mounting levels of regret, or fear of regret, as well as internal struggles with control and expectations. Perhaps the best part of the book is the final chapter, which ties a lot of the material of the book together with 11 simple suggestions to cope better with all the choices and options in life — summed up in the last few words of the book suggestions that “choice within constraints, freedom within limits” is the way to go. Amen to that. We all need some basic structure and frameworks governing our lives, even if we create those constructs ourselves. The absence of them is chaos.

Overall, this is a good social science kind of read, not overwhelming, but definitely interesting for those who are students of human psychology, marketing, and decision making. It’s squarely in the genre of Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Blink, and Robert Cialdini’s Influence, most of which I’ve written about recently, and though not as engaging as Gladwell, worth a read on balance if you like the genre.

Thanks to my friend Jonathan Shapiro for this book.

Filed under: Books, Business, Marketing

Feb 052008

OnlyOnce Now MultiLingual

OnlyOnce Now MultiLingual

If you look in the left sidebar of OnlyOnce, you will now see a box that says “Translate This Page” with a dropdown that lets you pick the language.  Google Translate takes over from there and does the heavy lifting. 

Global world…awesome service.  Thanks, Google!

Thanks Brad and Ross for the tip.

Filed under: Email, Technology

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Feb 052008

Voting in Manhattan

Voting in Manhattan

I’ve written about this before. I won’t focus on the pre-war (unclear which war) voting machines. But here was the conversation I had with the voting inspector when I checked in to vote this morning:

Her: Name?

Me: Matt Blumberg.

Her: Sign here…ok…head over to booth #1.

Me: That one?

Her: Yes. Republican or Democrat?

Me: Don’t you know that from my registration?

Her: No. You have to tell me so I can disable half the ballot.

Me: You mean it doesn’t matter which party I’m registered with? I can just pick one on the spot?

Her: Welcome to Manhattan.

Me: Huh. Ok. Republican.

Her: Really? Huh. First one of the day. Not a lot of you around here. Poor Rudy. At least the Giants won.

Filed under: Current Affairs, New York

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