What I’ve Been Reading

When I returned from my road trip I had a small city of books holding my room by gunpoint. Their sheer physical volume dominated most every centimeter of space — desk, floor, shelves, tops of shelves. I had to do something about it.

Here’s a roundup of a few of the books I’ve read recently:

1. True North by Bill George and Pete Sims. This Wall Street Journal bestseller (and Jossey-Bass publishee) has gotten some deserved buzz. It’s a solid book on leadership in a genre usually characterized by crap. Bill and Pete talked to 125 execs about what makes them authentic, effective leaders. They discovered that each effective leader has a life story — life experiences that shape who they are and what they think — and they draw on that story to discover and communicate their passions. Their most powerful example is that of Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, whose personal experience with his father and healthcare several years ago now motivates him to offer benefits to even part-time employees at Starbucks.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in True North, but it’s a good reminder (we can never have too many) that great leaders share certain characteristics…characteristics that we, too, can acquire with time and practice. Leaders are made, not born.

2. The Dip by Seth Godin (pre-pub galley). I like Seth Godin‘s work. His latest book is short and punchy. Summary: “Never give up” is far too simple. Great people give up all the time. The key is that they quit at the right time. Think about whether you’re in a “dip” (slight resistance) or a “cul-de-sac” (dead-end). Act accordingly. Although this book is only 90 pages, I still think it would be a better 20 page e-book.

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. This was a nice follow-up to Chasing Daylight. Bauby wrote this book after suffering a stroke that left him totally paralyzed, save his blinking left eye (which he used to communicate words to an assistant). Going inside the mind of someone literally frozen is a deep experience. Add to it that Bauby is an extremely talented writer and you have something truly remarkable.

A couple interesting points / quotes:

* After his stroke, Bauby’s favorite letters from friends were not those which discussed the meaning of life but those which captured the small events which “punctuate the passage of time: roses picked at dusk, the laziness of a rainy Sunday, a child crying himself to sleep.” Interestingly, the letters about deep philosophical issues were from the friends he knew the least well.

* He watches TV “without the sound, the way you watch flames in a fireplace.” Great image.

Thanks Stan James for the gift.

2 comments on “What I’ve Been Reading
  • Hi Ben, I loved Seth Godin’s thought, “Never give up” is far too simple. Great people give up all the time. The key is that they quit at the right time.”

    It’s not smart to keep pursuing something that isn’t working and is not the same as not being determined.

    I just found your blog tonight through a Penelope Trunk post which is why you’re seeing several comments from me.

    I’m enjoying your posts. Thanks Ben!

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