Category Archives: Randy’s blog entries

Entries by Randy Mayeux

Read More Books – Here are Four Good Reasons to do just that

What are you reading that actually stretches your thinking?Think Again

There is a growing sense that we need to find a way to “think again.”  Adam Grant, in his book Think Again, said it directly.

The idea behind his book is this:  we could be wrong about something.  Make that we are wrong about something – some things.  And, since we are wrong, we need to find out as soon as possible that we are wrong so that we can abandon ideas and practices that are wrong, and seek to find ideas and practices that are right; helpful, useful, effective…

We have to learn.  We have to learn in order to change.

To grow is to change.  And to have changed often is to have learned much, wrote John Henry Newman.  (Yes, I am aware that there are a couple of versions of this famous quote).

So, how do we learn?  How do you learn?

I do most of my learning from reading – reading books. And, I have a thought or four about how you might think about your own reading discipline.

#1 – Read more books.

No matter how many books you read a year, there are so, so, so many good books you never get around to. It really is an overwhelming number.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb put it this way:  The library (i.e., your personal library) should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there.  (from his book The Black Swan).

As wise as that is, you really don’t have to spend much of your own money.  Go back to your library, and start looking for books to read.  They have plenty that you have not yet read that could teach you so much.  (If they don’t have the book you seek, unless it is brand new, they can get it through inter-library loan services).

So…read more books.

#2 – Read more books about subjects and topics that are new to you. That you do not know much about; or, anything about.

The world is wide, and there is a growing accumulation of knowledge in every field.  Pick a field you know nothing about, and read a book in that field.  In this Google era, there is a wonderful phrase to type into Google:  “What is the best book on ___________?”  Pick a field, type it in, get the book, and start reading.

#3 – Read more books that take a different view than what you already hold.

Recently, I read a book on racism by an author that I…pretty much completely disagree with.  I’m more in the “yes, racism is real, and it is systemic” camp.  I came to that conclusion through my own life observations, and by reading practically all of the best selling books dealing with the issue.

But this book takes a different view.  I read it; I did not have my mind changed; but, maybe, I learned a little about where he, and some other people, come from.

You will find “other views” all around you.  In August, at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I will be presenting the new book on Jack Welch, The Man Who Broke Capitalism.  Needless to say, there will be people who say that book has it wrong.  (Check out the famous Milton Friedman quote on the purpose of corporations).

Jack Welch “broke capitalism.”  Seems like a subject made for differing views, doesn’t it.

#4 – Read more books that help you…expand your thinking.

I always wish I had read more books.  But probably my biggest deficiency in the book reading department is that I do not read enough novels.

And I have read plenty of articles arguing that such a deficiency is…not good for me.

Novels expand your thinking and your emotions.  That’s what the articles say.  I need to read more novels!

You can come up with other reasons to read more books.  But, regardless of the reasons, I think you will agree with this.  It is a good practice to read and learn from good books.

What’s the alternative?  You could read fewer books… But, reading fewer books seems like a mind-shrinking idea, doesn’t it?

So, pull out your schedule, schedule some serious chunks of time to read some more good books, and…get reading!


Maybe you would find my synopsis of Think Again by Adam Grant useful to you.  Click here to purchase it.  (It comes with my comprehensive handout + the audio recording of my presentation).

Active Learning in a Passive Era; It Takes…your Full Attention – (with insight from Dane Jensen, The Power of Pressure)

Power of PressureLearning requires conscious attention, discipline, and willpower.

Dane Jensen, The Power of Pressure

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It takes attention to learn.

You have to focus.

You have to set part some time – some dedicated time — for learning.

You have to want to learn; intend to learn; and then…learn…

But, we live in a passive era, don’t we?

Short videos.  Shorter articles; tweets; Facebook posts.  Listen while you walk, or work out, or clean house, or…

But, the more things you try to do at once, the less you gain from each of the things you are doing.

I recently saw a billboard along the freeway that said quite simply:

If you’re texting…you’re not driving.

Correct.

To learn, you need to carefully read, and study.

And that calls for reading and studying the kind of substantive writing from which we can learn something that matters, requires our attention. …Our full attention.  Our undivided attention.

You can’t study AND…

You can study.  OR you can do something else.

But you can’t study AND do something else at the same time.

That’s it; that’s the lesson for today!

Have a Great Product; Then Market that Product! That’s the Formula – (with insight from Bill Campbell and Ryan Holiday)

Trillion Dollar CoachFor companies to be successful, they must continually develop great products, and to do that they must attract smart creatives and build an environment where these employees can succeed at scale.

(When Fuji had better film than Kodak, Bill went to talk to the engineers – In his view, Kodak did not have a marketing problem; it had an engineering/innovation problem)
Bill suggested something. How about we go over to the research lab and talk to the engineers? Maybe they can come up with something better, too.

Trillion Dollar Coach:  The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle

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I am a fan of marketing.  Marketing done well is a thing to behold.  It is essential.  If you build a better mousetrap, the world may beat a path to your door; but they may not.  You might have to tell them about your better mousetrap.

But…but…marketing is no substitute for product.  You really do have to first have that better mousetrap!

I have bought enough junk in my life.  Too much.  And, I have spent too much on short-lived technology.  (Anybody want to buy my Palm Pilot? I know I have it in a drawer somewhere.)

And if somebody tires to market junk to me, I am not a fan of the effort.  I resent the effort.  And, they lose any hope of me ever listening to them again.

Product comes before before marketing.PerennialSellerBookCover

Ryan Holiday, the Stoic enthusiast, wrote an entire book about this.  In my synopsis of his book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, I include, as I always do in my synopses, the question “Why is this book worth our time?”  Here are my first two answers for this book:

#1 – This book provides the order: first you create/make/produce; then, and only then, do you market.

#2 – This book states in the strongest possible way how to start – create something great!

And, he says this:  The work itself — To be great, one must make great work, and making great work is incredibly hard. It must be our primary focus. We must set out, from the beginning, with complete and total commitment to the idea that our best chance of success starts during the creative process. …Crappy products don’t survive.

Now, this is not an excuse to skip marketing; or to bemoan the fact that people don’t find your great product on their own, and beat a path to your door.

Good, effective marketing is hard; demanding; essential.  Learn to market well.  Then, actually market well.  But, marketing is second.  It is not first.

First, have a great product or service.  And, second, keep it great.

Because, in the blink of an eye, someone may come along and have an even better product or service. And, when that happens, people will gravitate – quite quickly – to that better product or service.

So, you be the one to make a better product or service than the one you have now.

Make a great product.

Deliver a great service.

Reject anything less than great.

Then market.

That’s the formula!

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You can purchase my synopses of this two books, and many more.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my synopsis presentations.

Click here for my synopsis of Trillion Dollar Coach.

Click here for my synopsis of Perennial Seller.

And, click here for our newest additions.

With loss of focus, problems do not get solved…do they? – You can tackle this!

Stolen FocusWe are mostly not rising to solve our biggest challenges. Why? Part of the reason, I think, is that when attention breaks down, problem-solving breaks down. …Solving big problems requires the sustained focus of many people over many years. People who can’t focus will be more drawn to simplistic authoritarian solutions—and less likely to see clearly when they fail.

Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again

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I speak regularly  on Current Events for residents at Dallas Area Retirement Communities.  This afternoon, my list of items to discuss stands at 14. No, we will not  get to all fourteen.  But, we should.  All 14 are worthy of our serious attention.

And, I printed out my list of fourteen mid-morning.  There will likely be an item or two that I should add by the time I speak this afternoon.

In other words, there is something else, something new, something really important, to command our attention all…the…time.

Just think of all the big challenges we face:  inflation, the gravitation to remote work to back-to-the-office work to the hybrid work environment; possible recession; consolidation of companies (so many mergers and acquisitions); international problems (Ukraine/Russia), including a potential food shortage crisis that might just be devastating beyond words; climate change; gun violence and mass shootings… just a short list. Oh, and COVID, and Monkeypox, and even a Polio resurgence in London!

And…and…and…

And, companies are facing what appear to be talent challenges — finding, and hiring, and keeping good people – at a scale not seen before.

On an individual level, I feel perpetual whiplash.  I find it increasingly difficult to focus on the important tasks at hand.

In my work life, I find it hard to identify my current biggest challenge, and keep my focus firmly on that challenge.

And my loss of focus is not just my problem.  As the book Stolen Focus by Johann Hari argues, the loss of focus is truly at epidemic proportions.  And this loss of focus – this “stolen” focus – has ripple effects that are harmful in so many ways.

And one key way is that big problems are not solved because we cannot keep our focus on the problem at hand.

We need some interventional help with this .  And, in my view, that has to start with some serious inner-life work; reading, pondering, and resolve-making, even as we throw in some serious personal habit discipline..

Three books I highly recommend are:

deep-work-cal-newportStolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

and

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

and

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Read these three books.

Then, make a serious inventory of your own focus challenges.  Where is your attention going?  Why are you so easily distractable. (Yes; you are, aren’t you).

Make a list of the absolutely most important one or two problems or challenges you need to tackle.

Focus on them.  For extended periods of time.  Turn off notifications; lock your phone away in a lock box.

Get to work with deeper focus.

The problems are great.  They need your undivided attention.

You…I…have work to do.

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You might want to read these three blog posts:Atomic Habits

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And, you can purchase my synopses , with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handouts, along with the audio recordings of my presentations, of these three books by clicking on the links below:

Purchase synopsis of Stolen Focus

Purchase Synopsis of Deep Work

Purchase synopsis of Atomic Habits

(Click here for a list of the newest synopses now available).

There is a difference between simply reading and actually studying – a serious difference

One person said that there is a difference between reading a book and studying a book.  Yes; there is indeed! 

There is always more to learn.  And quick shallow dives into serious material will teach you very little.

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Left to my own devices, I would fix instant oatmeal in the microwave.  But, my wife prepares oatmeal the old fashioned way; on the stove, cooking it rather slowly (in my mind).

Guess which one tastes better?  Guess which one is better for me?

Yep, the old fashioned way.  The kind that takes time to prepare.

But…we live in a microwave, instant era, don’t we?

I have a confession. The very name of this web site is 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  But, the reality is that I now spend about 25 minutes presenting each synopsis.

And, I always wish I had more time…

And, when a company or organzation hires me to present one of my synopses to their teams members, I spend between one hour and two hours on a single synopsis, complete with lessons and takeaways, and “how can we apply this at our place” discussion.

People ask me if I am a speed-reader.  I can read fast; but I read books that I prepare and present quite slowly.  Slowly; deliberately.  I highlight dozens (hundreds) of passages in the book. I read, and stop, and ponder, and read, and stop, and ponder…

It is a slow process to read a book carefully and well – at least it is for me.

And, though it is possible to simply listen to my synopses, and barely skim the handouts, it won’t do you as much good as taking a slower, deeper dive.

My synopsis handouts are 10-12 pages.  They are pretty comprehensive.  And, I am convinced that if you listen, follow along with pen in hand, mark up your copy of the handout, and THEN READ IT ONE MORE TIME, COVER TO COVER, WITHIN THE SEVEN DAYS OR SO AFTER YOU ATTEND OR LISTEN TO MY SYNOPSIS, you have a shot a learning the key lessons and principles and warnings found in the book.

{Of course, if you read the book for yourself – with pen in hand to highlight passages, and taking notes as you read, that would be even better.  One person said that there is a difference between reading a book and studying a book.  Yes; there is indeed!}

This post is a simple appeal to take your studying seriously.  For all the years of your lifelong-learning life.

"Keep Learning" -- It's right there on our bookmarks - Click on image for full view

“Keep Learning” — It’s right there on our bookmarks – Click on image for full view

There is always more to learn.  And quick shallow dives into serious material will teach you very little.


My synopses are available to purchase on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

We have many synopses available. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page to search by book title.

Expertise – You likely have some additional expertise to develop…

Expertise:  the skill of an expert.

Expert:  one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.  …Having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

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It’s not a good era for non-experts, is it?

And, expertise in one arena does not mean expertise in any other arenas…even related arenas.

Recently, I have been asked to provide some speech coaching for a couple of very talented, sharp folks.  Experts in their fields.  Dripping with expertise.

But, communicating what they know is the challenge.  And they have spent so much time developing their primary expertise, they now need to develop a related expertise; how to communicate what they have learned so thoroughly.

One of the problems in today’s world is that we are all compared to the greatest experts.

We have seen so many exceptional TED Talks, and speeches, that we think that every speaker, regardless of the topic and expertise, should also excel at the speaking part of the equation.

And…that almost seems to be an unrealistic expectation; doesn’t it?

One of the ripple effects of this modern-day reality is that we have to keep getting better at everything –- every single thing — connected to our work.  You may have really developed your primary expertise; but now, you have to get better and better at your secondary areas of expertise.

I think back to the point made by Liz Wiseman in her book Impact Players.  She writes that everyone needs to get good at three of five key behaviors, and really, really good at one of the five.Impact Players

From her book Impact Players:

Get better (get good) at three of the five: (1) build a strong core by getting good at three of the Impact Player practices; (2) develop one practice into a towering, visible strength—something you become known for; and (3) eliminate any signs of under- contributor behavior.

The five are:  

• Make Yourself Useful
• Step Up, Step Back
• Finish Stronger
• Ask and Adjust
• Make Work Light

Getting good at speaking, like any other endeavor, requires practice, with knowledge about what you are doing well, and a clear understanding of what you need to work on (something a good coach can help you with). What the experts on skill development call “deliberate, purposeful practice.”   (See especially the book Peak:  Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool. See my blog post:  Peak: The New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool – My Six Lessons and Takeaways).

If you have your primary expertise, and you don’t get good at communicating what you know, people will actually assume you don’t know that much at all.

This is unfair.  They are wrong; you know plenty.

But…the solution is not to bemoan the unfairness of their assessment.  It is to get better at the area where you need to improve.

So, what skills do you need to develop that are related to your primary expertise?  Identify them; work on them; get better at them…

 I know this:  communicating effectively is always…always…one of those needed related skills…