Here’s the July 1, 2011 New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers – with the financial meltdown back in the top spot.
Each month, I post this list. The new #1 is another look at the players and the disastrous mistakes that led to the massive financial meltdown.
At the First Friday Book Synopsis, our monthly gathering in Dallas at which Karl Krayer and I each present our synopses of a best selling business book, we tend to stay away from investment books, and most finance related books (although I have presented synopses of All the Devils are Here and The Big Short). So I’m not sure that we will tackle Reckless Endangerment for this event. We have scheduled the Brzezinski book, and Touchpoints, within the next two months. And we have already presented Switch, Strengths Based Leadership, The 4-Hour Workweek, Delivering Happiness, and Outliers from this month’s list.
The 4-Hour Workweek was first published in April, 2007. Outliers was published in November, 2008. And here they are, still in the top 15. Amazing! (They are both worth reading, but Outliers is especially that good of a book). I presented both of these at our monthly event.
You can purchase most of our synopses, with audio + handouts, from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Here’s the list:
|RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT, by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner. (Times Books/Holt, $30.) This account of the Wall Street implosion highlights individuals who played crucial roles of responsibility.|
|KNOWING YOUR VALUE, by Mika Brzezinski. (Weinstein, $22.95.) Exploring what women can do to get the compensation they have earned. (†)|
|CAR GUYS VS. BEAN COUNTERS, Bob Lutz. (Portfolio/Penguin, $26.95.) American manufactures focus should be on product quality not on quarterly projections.|
|GET RICH CLICK!, by Marc Ostrofsky. (Razor, $19.95.) An Internet entrepreneur’s strategies for earning money online. (†)|
|WE FIRST, by Simon Mainwaring. (Palgrave Macmillan, $26.) How brands and consumers use social media to build a better world. (†)|
|TOUCHPOINTS, by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard. (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, $26.95.) Creating leadership connections in the smallest moments. (†)|
|SWITCH, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. (Broadway Business, $26.) How everyday people can effect transformative change at work and in life. (†)|
|STRENGTHS BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. (Gallup, $24.95.) Three keys to being a more effective leader. (†)|
|THE MONEY CLASS, by Suze Orman. (Spiegel & Grau, $26.) The noted personal financial adviser offers a reconsideration of the American dream. (†)|
|THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, by Timothy Ferriss. (Crown, $22.) Reconstructing your life so that it’s not all about work. (†)|
|DELIVERING HAPPINESS, by Tony Hsieh. (Business Plus, $23.99.) Lessons from business (pizza place, worm farm, Zappos) and life. (†)|
|THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, by Howard Marks. (Columbia University Press, $29.95.) Successful investments are guided by thoughtful attention. (†)|
|THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, by Dave Ramsey (Thomas Nelson, $24.99.) Debt reduction and fiscal fitness for families, by the radio talk-show host. (†)|
|THE CORNER OFFICE, by Adam Bryant. (Times Books/Holt. $25.) How to build and maintain a successful organization from lessons learned from interviews of over seventy CEOs conducted by a New York Times business reporter.|
|OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunities as well as talent — from the author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.”|
I have spent 13 years reading business books and presenting synopses of these books to folks ready and willing to learn. It took a while (I’m not all that sharp!), but I think I am beginning to learn some things myself. In fact, I think I am ready to state, for certain, that there are 2 ways to guarantee mediocrity (if not outright failure):
1) Have a poor work ethic
2) Don’t have regular (team/executive team) meetings.
#1: Have a poor work ethic.
The sources are too many, but let’s start with the 10,000 hour rule (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers). I summarize it this way in my presentation:
…centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
“Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (Outliers).
Or, to put it another way, putting in 10,000 hours does not guarantee that you will reach the pinnacle of success; but, not putting in the time practically guarantees that you won’t reach that pinnacle.
In other words, to remind us all of the obvious, it takes work, hard work, to be successful.
#2: Don’t have regular (team, management, executive team) meetings.
This is the one that has most captivated me. I am looking for this everywhere I speak, in every book I read, and everywhere else I can.
The insight hit home after reading the Verne Harnish book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, but it took a while to see it in action. Now I am looking for it, and finding it, everywhere I look.
The Rockefeller “habits” are Priorities, Data, and Rhythm: an effective rhythm of daily; weekly; monthly; quarterly; annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability (“until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough”).
In the book, Harnish points to this:
Mastering the Daily and Weekly Executive Meeting
(Structure meetings to enhance executive team performance).
• meetings overview:
• daily & weekly – execution
• monthly – learning
• quarterly and annual – setting strategy}.
This is the discipline, the habit, that I am looking for, paying attention to, and have become convinced is a (maybe the) critical key to genuine success. Assuming that a company or organization has hired competent, passionate people (admittedly, this is a big assumption), then it is imperative that these people get together in regular meetings to tackle those key goals/priorities for the organization. I wrote about this as practiced at Mighty Fine Burgers (see this post), and here is a clue from Zappos, from this article:
For instance, Zappos.com, the shoes and clothing e-retailer now owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has agents meet about once a week for hour-long, one-on-one coaching sessions in which a supervisor and agent each take a call. The two then discuss what the agent did well and what could be improved the next time around.
Of course, you need to pay attention to what occurs in such meetings, but don’t miss what comes first: weekly meetings! The rhythm of weekly, regular meetings!
As I said, I am asking around about this a lot. I find absolute consistency – excellent teams, excellent organizations, spend intentional, regular times in meetings. They do not skip those meetings. It is part of their routine, their ritual, their “rhythm.”
Yes, yes , I know… a lot of people sit through a lot of bad meetings. And that is a problem. So, yes, learn to run your meetings well. If you are a leader, learning to run a good meeting may be the next important skill for you to master. And, always, don’t forget to have an agenda, with something important to discuss/work on/accomplish. The most successful organizations meet about the same thing over and over and over again. It takes that kind of “long haul” attention to get really good at anything.
But if you want a sure fire path to mediocrity (or outright failure) just try getting by with no meetings. That is a guaranteed path to failure.
You accomplish what you meet about! Yes, you do!
Here’s the New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers, published: February 4, 2011. Two books that we presented quite a while back at the First Friday Book Synopsis (Outliers, presented two years ago, January, 2009 & The 4-Hour Workweek, presented nearly three years ago, March 2008) are still #s 2 & 3 (actually, tied for #2 – that’s the meaning of the asterisk. An asterisk (*) indicates that a book’s sales are barely distinguishable from those of the book above. A dagger (†) indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.).
We have already scheduled Change the Culture Change the Game, and Flash Foresight for future months. And we have presented Switch, Strengths-Based Leadership, Delivering Happiness, The Big Short, and Drive. We would have presented All the Devils are Here at the February First Friday Book Synopsis, but a snowstorm caused us to cancel that event, so I will present this book in March.
We tend to stay away from personal finance and investment books at our event. That leaves us with only two on the list for us to consider: Getting More (on negotiation) and The Comeback.
We provide a four-six page handout with each of our presentations for each book, and we record our presentations at our live event. If you don’t have time to read these books, or want a quick refresher, you can purchase our synopses of these, and many other business books, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
|1||THE INVESTMENT ANSWER, by Daniel C. Goldie and Gordon S. Murray. (Business Plus, $18.) Five questions every investor should ask. (†)|
|2||THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, by Timothy Ferriss. (Crown, $22.) Reconstructing your life so that it’s not all about work. (†)|
|3*||OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunities as well as talent — from the author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.”|
|4||DEBT FREE FOR LIFE, by David Bach. (Crown Business, $19.99.) A financial coach advocates paying down personal debts. (†)|
|5*||GETTING MORE, by Stuart Diamond. (Crown Business, $26.) Strategies for negotiation, whether at business or at home. (†)|
|6||SWITCH, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. (Broadway Business, $26.) How everyday people can effect transformative change at work and in life. (†)|
|7||CHANGE THE CULTURE, CHANGE THE GAME, by Roger Connors and Tom Smith. (Portfolio/Penguin, $25.95.) Advice for managers on how to emphasize accountability in the workplace. (†)|
|8||THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER, by Dave Ramsey (Thomas Nelson, $24.99.) Debt reduction and fiscal fitness for families, by the radio talk-show host. (†)|
|9||THE COMEBACK, by Gary Shapiro. (Beaufort Books, $24.95.) Innovation as the engine of American economic growth. (†)|
|10||FLASH FORESIGHT, by Daniel Burrus with John David Mann. (Harper Business, $27.99.) How to solve business problems before they arrive. (†)|
|11||STRENGTHS BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. (Gallup, $24.95.) Three keys to being a more effective leader. (†)|
|12*||DELIVERING HAPPINESS, by Tony Hsieh. (Grand Central, $23.99.) Lessons from business (pizza place, worm farm, Zappos) and life. (†)|
|13||THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis. (Norton, $27.95.) The people who saw the real estate crash coming and made billions from their foresight.|
|14||DRIVE, by Daniel H. Pink. (Riverhead, $26.95.) What really motivates people is the quest for autonomy, mastery and purpose, not external rewards.|
|15||ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera. (Portfolio/ Penguin, $32.95.) Two business journalists examine the financial crisis of 2008.|
This is the time of the year that we see so many collective lists of the “best of 2010.” In the last few days, we have seen such lists for films, sports accomplishments, songs, architecture, recipes, restaurants, and of course, books.
I want to tell you that I am unimpressed with most of the lists that I have seen that focus on books. As with films, these book lists contain great confusion among quality and quantity. That premise is particularly true when the lists come from booksellers themselves, such as a recent e-mail I received from Barnes and Noble with their “Books of the Year.”
Just like a film, a book is not necessarily good because it sells. Popular, best-selling books are of no greater quality than are popular, high dollar-grossing films. Because people buy a book does not make it good. Nor do I consider it a good barometer for quality.
Consider the terrible film from the late ’70’s, the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” That film grossed millions of dollars and played regularly in theatres on Friday and Saturday nights through the mid ’90’s. It had no redeeming merit and critics panned its quality. Yet, it had a cult-like following, and it played to packed audiences, mostly either inebriated or bored, for many years.
In the recent Barnes and Noble list, I saw one business book for the 2010 year. It was The Big Short by Michael Lewis. I saw no other business books. I believe that was a fine book, but not as good as his previous offering, Moneyball. Why was it on the list? Because it sold. The best books in that list are the best-sellers. But, best-selling does not indicate high quality. I can give you titles of at least a dozen other books this year that were of higher quality than that one, but that simply did not sell as well.
Please remember that we only summarize the content of best-selling books at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. The number one criterion is that the book must be on a best-selling list somewhere that we find credible. These lists include Business Week, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Amazon.com, among others. I will admit to you that after 13 years of doing this, I have delivered synopses of some books that sold well, but that were simply not very good. Some were not well-written, some were ill-researched, and some were best-sellers just because of the reputation of the author.
Regardless, we will continue to use best-sellers as our basis for book selection at the First Friday Book Synopsis. But, I am telling you that popular does not equate to good. And, there are likely some very good books that do not have the boost of marketing dollars from huge publishers that likely go overlooked. Strange as it sounds, it may not be optimal, but these lists remain the best vehicle available for us to use for our selections. Remember – popular may not be good. And, good may not always be popular.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it!
Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.
Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
The list of posts on this blog referring to the 10,000 hour rule, the need for deliberate practice, the books Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, is long. We have chronicled the ascendancy of, the centrality of — call it what you will – “work ethic,” “it take s10,000 hours to master anything…” thinking.
The quote that indicts me personally, in a way that I cannot escape, is the one from Gawande: “We can’t even keep from snacking between meals.”
With the exception of our military, we are a flabby lot, and I’m not just talking about girth. We are merely disgusting in that department. I’m talking about our self-discipline, our individual will, our self-respect, our voluntary order.
Note the operative words: self, individual and voluntary.
We don’t need bureaucrats and politicians to dictate how to behave; how to spend (or save); what and how to eat. We need to be the people we were meant to be: strong, resilient, disciplined, entrepreneurial, focused, wise, playful, humorous, humble, thoughtful and, please, self-deprecating. We have all the tools and opportunities a planet can confer.
We are a flabby lot. And it shows – not in a good way. We’ve read all about 10,000 hours, but how many of us actually put in the work?
As always, we are back to the “knowing-doing gap.” We know, we just don’t do…
Take inventory. Be honest with yourself. Are you flabby, undisciplined, unfocused? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you (as do I). Let’s get to it.
Back in my preaching days, I had the challenge of preaching a thanksgiving sermon each year. I loved the challenge – there is, always, so much to be thankful for.
I remember my favorite Thanksgiving “story.” It was told by the great British Preacher W. E. Sangster. He told of one woman who simply refused to be grateful for anything. He pushed her, and prodded her, demanding that she find one thing she was grateful for. She finally said: “I suppose I’m grateful that my last two teeth hit each other.”
Well, there is one recent, wildly popular book, that is, in reality, one long Thanksgving paean. It is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. He demonstrates that success is the result of so many different influences; the 10,000 hours of practice (deliberate practice); culture, family. But he ends the book with his own grateful remembrance of where his success came from. You’ll need to read the last chapter on your own to get the full context of these thoughts. Here’s the really terrific last paragraph of his book:
My great-great-great-grandmother was bought at Alligator Pond. That act, in turn, gave her son, John Ford, the privilege of a skin color that spared him a life of slavery. The culture of possibility that Daisy Ford embraced and put to use so brilliantly on behalf of her daughters was passed on to her by the peculiarities of the West Indian social structure. And my mother’s education was the product of the riots of 1937 and the industriousness of Mr. Chance. These were history’s gifts to my family — and if the resources of that grocer, the fruits of those riots, the possibilities of that culture, and the privileges of that skin tone had been extended to others, how many more would now live a life of fulfillment, in an beautiful house high on a hill?
“history’s gifts to my family…” — Happy Thanksgiving!