Friday, November 21, 2014

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

This is, if there ever was one, a story that could excuse someone believing that life is meaningless and suicide a reasonable option. Yet having been lowered into the pits of humanity, Frankl emerged an optimist. His reasoning was that even in the most terrible circumstances, people still have the freedom to choose how they see their circumstances and create meaning out of them.

Sources of meaning
Logotherapy says that mental health arises when we learn how to close the gap between what we are and what we could become. But what if we are yet to identify what we could become? Frankl noted that the modern person has almost too much freedom to deal with. 

We no longer live through instinct, but tradition is no guide either. This is the existential vacuum, in which the frustrated will to meaning is compensated for in the urge for money, sex, entertainment, even violence. 

We are not open to the various sources of meaning, which according to Frankl are:

1 Creating a work or doing a deed.
2 Experiencing something or encountering someone (love).
3 The attitude we take to unavoidable suffering.

In a nutshell
The meaning of life is the meaning that you decide to give it.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.”

For Emerson, self-reliance was more than the image of a family carving out a life on the frontier. Though he admired the do-it-yourself attitude and reveled in nature, Emerson’s frontier, the place of real freedom and opportunity, was a mental landscape free of mediocrity and conformity.

If we could not examine ourselves and identify our calling, we would be of little use. Lack of awareness would see us quickly molded into shape by a society that cared little for the beauty and freedom of the individual.

This is the path most of us take, happy to go along with society’s program in exchange for a level of status and reasonable material circumstances. Though we profess to break away from limitations, the reality is comfort in conformity.

Our primary duty is not ultimately to our family, to our job, to our country, but only that which calls us to do or to be. Too often “duty” hides a lack of responsibility in taking up a unique path. We can push aside a calling for some years, choosing obvious sources of money or satisfaction or a more comfortable situation, but it will eventually make its claims.

In a nutshell
Whatever the pressures, be your own person.

Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life

The book takes the “impossibilities” in your life and, instead of suggesting mere goal setting or strong beliefs, shows you how to develop powerful “knowings” about who you are and what you can do. In this state of higher awareness, your purpose in life becomes very clear, relationships become more spiritual, work endeavors begin to “flow,” and decisions are made with ease.

Enlightenment through purpose
The thread running though Real Magic is the need to become aware of our unique purpose in life. People learn or become “enlightened” about life and themselves in three main ways:
  • Enlightenment through suffering. This might also be called the “why me?” path. Events occur, suffering takes place, and something is learned. But when suffering is our only teacher, we shut off the possibility of the miraculous.

  • Enlightenment through outcome. In this path we have goals and ambitions that make sense of life. While superior to enlightenment through suffering, we must still be reactive and struggle, missing out on the higher awareness that creates magic.

  • Enlightenment through purpose. Everything in the universe has a purpose, and by living according to our true purpose we begin to walk in step with it, magically creating what we want instead of battling against life.

In a nutshell
When you are aligned with your higher self and your life purpose,
miraculous things happen.

The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin

The joy of frugality
Franklin knew that people were motivated by the prospect of being rich, but that being frugal was not an especially exciting idea.

People are always hoping for a windfall, because it lets them off the hook of being careful about their daily expenses.When people do receive an inheritance or some gain for which they have not had to work, they imagine a life of leisure. 

The debtor’s prison
Franklin’s point is that those with money are more free and independent than their neighbors. The way to wealth lies first in eliminating debt, which lightens the spirit and makes you more confident and therefore more productive.

In a nutshell
Diligence and frugality build character as they create wealth.

My Life and Work by Henry Ford

“Good will is one of the few really important assets of life. A determined man can win almost anything that he goes after, but unless, in his getting, he gains good will he has not profited much.”

My Life and Work takes us inside the mind of a person who managed to change the world, yet who lived in relative obscurity for the first 40 years of his life. This was a long time to develop skills, both personal and mechanical, that laid the foundation for a massive enterprise.

The vision
Described by his mother as a born mechanic, the greatest moment in Ford’s childhood was seeing a road engine, a steam vehicle used to haul farm machinery. It was the first vehicle he had seen not pulled by horses. Always tinkering, by age 15 he could fix almost any watch and seriously considered becoming a watch manufacturer. But the idea of the “horseless carriage” was too great and, without the support of his father, Ford began to build one in the workshop he had constructed on the family farm. 

At 17 he began work as an apprentice machinist, qualifying before time, and rose through the ranks. In his spare time he worked on a gasoline engine and dreamed of building a “universal car” that could transport people cheaply and reliably. 

In his twenties he was inspired by a brief meeting with the inventor Thomas Edison; despite virtually everyone at the time saying that electricity was the future, Edison told him to stick at his engine.

In a nutshell
Continually refine your thinking power. Imagine something the world would really need. Make it cheaply as possible and sell it at the lowest price.

Direct from Dell by Michael Dell

“Believe in what you are doing. If you’ve got an idea that’s really powerful, you’ve just got to ignore the people who tell you it won’t work, and hire people who embrace your vision.”

Michael Dell’s first business venture, at 12 years old, arose from his hobby of philately. He had bought stamps at auction and realized that stamp sellers made good money, so got together a catalog of his and his friends’ stamps and sold them via mail order. He made $2,000. This effort at cutting out the middleman and selling direct was a taste of things to come.

Germination of a business
What Dell also realized was that anyone could buy these components and make their own machine. Furthermore, the person who sold you a computer in a store generally didn’t know much about the technology.

Michael Dell’s lessons for success
1. Think unconventionally 
Plenty of people told Dell that his direct approach to selling computers would never work on a large scale. “It’s fun to do things that people don’t think are possible or likely,” he says. Consequently, questioning conventional wisdom became a basic element of the culture of the firm. 

2.  Despise the status quo 
Dell staff are told to think like entrepreneurs or as if they are owners of Dell. They are much more likely to take risks. He tells staff: “There’s no risk in preserving the status quo, but there’s no profit, either.” 

3. Set big goals that may just be do-able 
At the end of 1986 the company set a goal to achieve $1 billion in sales by 1992 and to expand internationally. By 1992 it was doing twice this. Setting a large goal makes you think about how you will achieve it.

4. Love change
“Being on the cover of Fortune doesn’t guarantee you anything,” Dell says. In the computer industry no one can rest on their laurels; you need a climate of perpetual change and to be a voracious learner to foresee what is happening and provide for it.

Dell even surfs the web after his kids have gone to sleep to see what people in chat rooms are saying about the company. 

5. Focus on your possibilities, not your competitors 
A simple tip, easily forgotten in the stress of the business arena, but one that assists in reaching creative solutions. Don’t act from fear; measure yourself not by others but by an absolute standard of excellence.

In a nutshell
The simplest, most uncomplicated way is often the most successful.

Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Conwell

Open your mind
In this tiny book, which is actually a transcript of a hugely popular lecture that he gave, Conwell relates similar true-life stories about the folly of going off to find your fortune when it is in your own backyard or staring you in the face. He suggests that most people are “pygmies of their possible selves,” because they are not willing to accept, or it did not occur to them, that they have great untouched powers: “Families do not credit their own folks with abilities they attribute to other persons. Towns and cities are cursed because their own people talk them down.”

The problem with most people, Conwell says, is that their wealth is “too near.” You need to develop an open mind to spot the obvious. This will never happen if you are continually speeding off to the next opportunity, looking for a greener pasture. Genuine service is simple, but it may only occur to you what this is when your mind has been quieted. Without finding some quiet time to yourself you will not be able to see the wood for the trees. Leave time for meditation and contemplation, and answers will come.

Another way to start is by thinking about what you need. Chances are that if you need something, others will too. 

You can’t succeed if you have no interest in people and their needs. In Conwell’s words, you must make yourself necessary to the world. What all great people have in common is that they make themselves a “medium” for good: they make the best products and provide them to the largest number. This, not taking money at a till, is service.

In a nutshell
Whatever you desire is probably close at hand, if you are willing to open your eyes and your mind.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

“No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop. The process resembled relentlessly pushing a giant heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.”

Most great companies enjoyed years of obscurity before their results compelled the world to look at them. In fact, they seemed just like any other company until a certain “transition point” saw them leave the pack behind.

The right people
Conventional wisdom has it that if you want to start and build a great company, you develop the concept to perfection and then hire the best people you can find. The benefits of this approach? If you have the right people from the beginning, they will be able to adapt to any changes in direction or strategy. You will not have to motivate them because they share the desire to achieve greatness, and therefore are already motivated. Interestingly, the great companies pay no more than the merely good; remuneration is not a big factor in motivating people when they have something larger than money to aim for.

Brutal honesty
Great companies are set apart by their reliance on the facts in making their decisions. They do not rely on management fads or heroic dreams of greatness to achieve their goals, instead engaging in continual self-assessment.

A reason for being
Great companies have a single idea or focus that guides everything they do. Such concepts may take many years to refine, but once in place can generate enormous success because they are so differentiated. Walgreens has as its self-defining concept the best, most conveniently located drugstores, with high profit per customer visit.

Using technology wisely
Technology was rarely mentioned as a major factor for success by executives in the great companies. It was never a case of “This technology will make the company,” more like “We could use this to take us further with what we are doing.” Without an opportunity-spotting culture in place, other companies chose technology for technology’s sake, but the exceptional companies only invested in cutting-edge ways of doing things when it matched up with their larger vision.

In a nutshell
Don’t be satisfied with being merely good or excellent. Discover what it takes to be great.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Secret of the Ages by Robert Collier

Collier guides the reader through a mental landscape of three levels: the conscious, subconscious, and superconscious mind. 

The conscious part of your mind you think of as being “you,” but represents only a small part of the mind. Successful people have a good relationship between this and their subconscious, which they direct to create things for them and solve their problems. 

The subconscious part of the brain knows how to do a million things perfectly (including running your body) and will do them if you let it. Carl Jung believed that the subconscious (he called it the unconscious) contained all the knowledge a person had ever gained, but also the knowledge of every other person who had lived. This part of the mind is morally neutral, however, and very open to suggestion. If you give the subconscious thoughts and images of plenty and success, it will go to work to make them reality. If you give it negative thoughts, it will create negative circumstances.

Success first has to be seen
Why is visualizing something you desire so important to its attainment? Everything made in the real world, Collier says, begins as an image. The trick is to take idle image making and render it purposeful and positive. Collier’s “treasure mapping” technique involves creating a collage with images of the things you want in life. By looking at these images several times a day, you prepare the way for their entry into your life.

In a nutshell
If you have a single powerful purpose, you will have the courage to act on your ideas.

Thick Face, Black Heart by Chin-Ning Chu

Thick face
What does the “thick face” part of the title mean? It means a self-image that allows us to brush off criticism. She observes that if you are willing to have people not like you, you will go far. Chu notes that “the world has a tendency to accept our own judgment of ourselves.” If you exude self-confidence, people will naturally want to let you succeed. Self-doubt creates a perception of incompetence.

Black heart
While the concept of thick face relates to how others see you, the idea of black heart is about achieving your ends. The black-hearted person may seem as if they lack compassion; however, compassion can be shortsighted. If a boss cannot bring himself to make a few employees redundant, Chu says, he may witness the collapse of the whole business. Sometimes, to keep to your goals and achieve a result that is better overall, you have to be perceived as “bad.”

There are degrees of “thick face, black heartedness.” Some will do anything to achieve a result, not caring about the effect on others. This is the black heart of con men and the wicked, who eventually understand that most of their failures are due to their own character defects. The higher level of black heart is reached when you are not driven by your shortcomings or emotions, taking action that is driven by your true spirit.

Darkness and light
Acknowledge that all human beings are a combination of darkness and light. The universe is full of opposites requiring an “other” to exist. To have the necessary drive to live life to the full, you must appreciate and utilize all aspects of your character. If you like to present yourself as sugar-coated, you will lose out on any opportunities that may require you to seem sour or hardened.

Deception without deceit
You need to learn that you can be good at the art of deception without being deceitful. You must also appreciate that sometimes, to achieve something great and worthy, it is difficult not to bring an element of deception into your actions.

In a nutshell
Reclaim the “killer instinct” as a natural part of who you are.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

“Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost by those who have it, but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those who have it not.”

Someone who does not know the laws may enjoy windfalls, but they are likely to lose the money just as quickly. The five laws not only help you build wealth, but if you follow them they protect you from losing what you have built.

In the book’s first story, two friends—a chariot builder and a musician—reflect on where their working lives have taken them. Though pleased to have wives and young families, they struggle to make ends meet and wonder if there could be another way. The conversation turns to a man they grew up with, now considered to be the richest man in Babylon. His name is Arkad, and they resolve to go to see their old friend and seek his advice. They ask Arkad how fate has come to make him rich. He immediately rebukes them for assuming that “fate” has contributed anything to his success, telling them that they have only remained poor “because you have either failed to learn the laws that govern the building of wealth, or else you do not observe them.”

Paying yourself first
The man agreed, and in the morning revealed this principle: “A part of all you earn must be yours to keep.” Living expenses quickly eat up whatever you earn, the money lender observed, which means that you become a slave to your work and earn merely to survive. However, by putting aside at least 10 percent of your earnings and marking that off as “not for expenditure,” over time this amount builds and starts earning money for you, without you having to do any work. It matters little how much you start with, as long as you observe the rule to pay yourself first out of whatever you earn. You will soon not even notice the absence of this small amount.

The five laws. In brief, they are:
1 Money comes to those who save.
2 Money multiplies for those who invest it.
3 Money stays with the person who entrusts it to wise people.
4 Money is lost when invested in things with which you are not  
5 Money is lost at a fast rate by pursuing get-rich-quick schemes.

In a nutshell
The principles of wealth building are free to all, but only a minorityuse them to their advantage.

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

The way of the one minute manager

There are three secrets of or elements to one minute management:
  • Agree on goals (no more than half a dozen) with staff members. Make sure that each goal is written on a separate piece of paper. This is “one minute goal setting.” From this point on staff know exactly what is expected of them and will rarely come to the boss with problems—they know they are hired to solve them.
  • Staff should reread the goals frequently as a means of ensuring that performance matches expectations. They should also provide detailed records of progress for the managers. This is not so that the manager can breathe down their neck, but so that he or she can “catch them doing something right.” This allows for “one minute praisings,” which provide immediate and specific positive feedback on actions undertaken.
  • If a person has the skills to do something right and it is not done right, the manager will provide a “one minute reprimand.” This stern rebuke is of the action or behavior, not the person, and the manager will express consternation that it is not up to the staff member’s usual high standards. After the reprimand, the manager reminds the person how much they are valued.

One minute goal setting works because “the number one motivator of people is feedback on results.” We like to know how we are doing, and if we are doing well we feel good. The one minute manager has a plaque on the wall reading: “Take a minute—Look at your goals— Look at your performance—See if your behavior matches your goals.” Simple but effective.

Managing to lead
The very simplicity of one minute management will deem it suspect in some people’s eyes, yet it is little more than the application of efficiency to workplace interpersonal relations. The philosophy of “taking very little time to get big results” comes from a nuts-and-bolts appreciation of human nature.

The story’s one minute manager admits that management cannot always be performed in a minute. It is more a symbol of the idea that managing people can be much less complicated than we think. There’s no need for endless sessions to discuss objectives and problems. Some time needs to be invested in establishing goals, but after that the contact between boss and subordinate can be minimal.

In a nutshell
Clarity about goals saves a huge amount of energy that can be deployed productively in other areas.

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger

Frank Bettger had once been something of a baseball star, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. An injury to his arm ended his sporting career, and with no particular skills he wound up cycling the streets of his home town, Philadelphia, collecting installments for a furniture company. After two miserable years at this he tried his hand at selling life insurance and fared even worse, deciding that he was “never cut out to be a salesman.” How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling is the account of what he learned to enable his transformation from struggler to the star of his firm.

The greatest selling secret
The conventional wisdom is that you get enthusiastic when you achieve success at something—the feeling comes after the act. But Bettger discovered the truth of Harvard philosopher William James’s
observation that the act can create the feeling; that is, you can become excited about something simply by acting excited about it. Later in his book, Bettger presages today’s cognitive science by suggesting that the practice of regular smiling creates a feeling of happiness and goodwill. Test this out for yourself, and remember that enthusiasm alone can transform your life and your earnings.

Success may look fully formed when we behold it with the perspective of years, but those who have achieved it know that it arrived because they made every hour and every moment productive. We are often so fearful of whether or not we can achieve something that we cannot see that if it is broken down into smaller, daily steps it becomes much easier.

Organization and discipline are more important to success than are great amounts of energy.

Great Ideas:
  • The best salespeople do not “sell”—they find out what the other person wants, then help them find the best way to get it.
  • When trying to sell something, talk mostly in terms of “you” and “your.” This lets the other person know you are thinking mainly of their interests.
  • Forget witty conversation—be a good listener instead. 
  • Invest in increasing your knowledge of your own industry. You can’t afford not to.
  • In contacts with clients, praise your competitors. It shows clients you are even-handed and won’t hide anything from them.
  • Use “witnesses” (i.e., satisfied clients) to sell your product to new clients. Then you can say, “Don’t listen to me, listen to them.”
  • Use a magic question to keep yourself in the presence of a potential client. Ask them: “How did you happen to get into this business, Mr/s…?” The history of a person’s career is always of the highest interest to them.
  • Prepare for an audience of one as you would an audience of a hundred; i.e., prepare properly for every meeting.
  • Be like Abraham Lincoln with his famous two-minute Gettysburg Address, and remember that the book of Genesis is only 442 words long—become a “master of brevity.”
  • When you greet someone, say their name.
  • For 30 days, smile frequently and watch it transform your life.
  • Don’t ever engage another person in argument. Instead, ask questions whose answers are likely to bring them round to your viewpoint.

In a nutshell
Every successful person knows how to sell what they offer. Enthusiasm and organization are the basic elements in selling.

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

“Leaders have no interest in proving themselves, but an abiding interest in expressing themselves.”

On Becoming a Leader provides many fine insights. Perhaps the key one, and the theme of the book, is this: True leaders are not interested in proving themselves, they want above all to be able to express themselves fully. Proving oneself implies a limited or static view of the self, whereas leaders, by continually seeking their fullest expression, must be willing to engage in periodic reinvention. For Bennis’s leaders, life is not a competition but a flowering. Structured education and society often get in the way of leadership: “What we need to know gets lost in what we are told we should know.” Real learning is the process of remembering what is important to you, and becoming a leader is therefore the act of becoming more and more your true self.

According to Bennis, becoming a leader involves:
  • Continuous learning and never-dying curiosity.
  • A compelling vision: leaders first define their reality (what they believe is possible), then set about “managing their dream.”
  • Developing the ability to communicate that vision and inspire others to follow it.
  • Tolerating uncertainty and taking on risk: a degree of daring.
  • Personal integrity: self-knowledge, candor, maturity, welcoming criticism.
  • Being a one-off, an original: “Leaders learn from others, but are not made by others.”
  • Reinvention: to create new things sometimes involves recreating yourself. You may be influenced by your genes and environment, but leaders take all their influences and create something unique.
  • Taking time off to think and reflect, which brings answers and produces resolutions.
  • Passion for the promises of life: a belief in the best, for yourself and others.
  • Seeing success in small, everyday increments and joys, not waiting years for the Big Success to arrive.
  • Using the context of your life, rather than surrendering to it

In a nutshell
True leadership arises in the full expression of a person’s unique