Tag Archives: #businessbooksummaries

Beginning our 24th Year – Bill Gates on Climate, and Mauro Guillen on 2030: Trends – for the April 2, 2021 First Friday Book Synopsis (On Zoom)

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If you need to explain what it is I offer, try this:
Randy Mayeux provides a thorough synopsis of the content of a useful, best-selling business book. He provides a comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, that concludes with his own lessons and takeaways from each book he presents.




Friday, April 3, 1998.  The first book I presented was The Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters.  It was not the last book I presented by him.  Karl Krayer presented The Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy.

The first book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis, April 3, 1998

The first book I presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis, April 3, 1998

The group was small, but the idea took hold. And we are still at it, beginning year 24.

Through the now complete 23 years of the First Friday Book Synopsis, as close as I can tell, Karl Krayer and I together have presented synopses of 547 books; 2 books every month.  Except that we missed two months in our 23 year history.  One from an ice storm; another from a power outage at the Park City Club.  And, last year, in April, the first month we went to Zoom during the Great Pandemic, I presented only one book.  All of the other months during our 23 year history, it has been two books every month.

547 book synopses in 23 years. Not bad…

Only a very few have been bad books.  Many have been good books. And a fair number have been exceptional books.

If you ask me “Randy, what is the best book you ever presented?,” I would go with Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  But, I’m cheating a little; I did not present that at the First Friday Book Synopsis regular gathering.  I presented that at a special luncheon gathering a few years back.

But, if you circle back and ask, “so what is the best book you have presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis main gathering?,” I defer.  You need to give me a category.  And even then, there may be more than one; more than one good book on:  leadership; women in business; strategy…

In other words, life-long learning requires life-long learning, and there is no “one book” that provides a life education, or business education.

As we begin our 24th year on April 2, I am grateful to Karl Krayer, my colleague of so many years.  And I am grateful to all who have supported, and participated, and helped make this a true long-term learning experience.

For the beginning of our 24th year, Karl Krayer will return to present a brief remembrance of the beginning of the First Friday Book Synopsis, and the years that followed.April, 2021 FFBS slide

And I have selected two important books for April 2.  One is the new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates. It landed at the #1 spot on the New York Times best-selling business books list this month.  Mr. Gates has been all over television interview shows about this book.  And, to put it simply, it is a book that we should know about. 

The second book is 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything by Mauro F. Guillen. A Wharton professor, he pursues this question:  what are the biggest trends coming at us right around the corner?

We are continuing to meet on Zoom.  The Zoom info is below.

I will e-mail the link to download the two handouts the day before the event.

And, though there is no charge to attend, if you would like to participate financially, (maybe a $12.00 participation), you can do so thorough PayPal by clicking here.  Or, you can send money through Zelle at .

We have over 100 people join us on Zoom each month.  Please plan to be with us, especially on April 2, as we begin our 24th year.  And, please invite many to join in with us.

Let’s keep learning – join us!


Zoom info:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: April 2, 2021 – First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Apr 2, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

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Reminder: you can purchase our synopses (handouts, plus audio recordings). (We began this a few years into our monthly gatherings().  Click on the Buy Synopses tab at the top of this page and search by title. Or, click here for our newest additions.

Think Again by Adam Grant – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

Think Again• Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn.
• Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.
• Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. • Reconsidering something we believe deeply can threaten our identities, making it feel as if we’re losing a part of ourselves.  
• This book is about the value of rethinking. If you can master the art of rethinking, I believe you’ll be better positioned for success at work and happiness in life. Thinking again can help you generate new solutions to old problems and revisit old solutions to new problems.
• We should all be able to make a long list of areas where we’re ignorant. Mine include art, financial markets, fashion, chemistry, food, why British accents turn American in songs, and why it’s impossible to tickle yourself.  
• What if we were quicker to make amendments to our own mental constitutions?
• My aim in this book is to explore how rethinking happens.  
• We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions that we formed in 1995.   
• Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. — George Bernard Shaw 
Adam Grant, Think Again


Adam Grant is on a roll.

I present synopses of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis, in Dallas (these days on Zoom). For March, 2021, I presented my synopsis of Mr. Grant’s newest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, just published in early 2021.  This is the third book I have presented by Adam Grant at our monthly event, now in its 24th year.  Earlier, I presented Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, and Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

His premise in this book is simple.  You could be wrong.  No; make that you are wrong.  About important things.  And, yes, so am I.

And, if you are wrong – since you are wrong – it is important to find out where you are wrong, as quickly as possible, and fix it. Because, once you fix this one thing that you are wrong about – once you change your thinking, and get closer to being right – then there will be the next thing to discover that you are wrong about.  And then the next; and then…

This is a book filled with good stories; i.e., stories that illustrate the challenge.  It reveals the disastrous failures to rethink, to think again, that led to the deaths of two complete shuttle crews (The Challenger and The Columbia).  He tells the story of the blindness, the failure to think again, of Mike Lazaridis, who created the BlackBerry, and just couid not see that people would ever want to type on a little screen without a keyboard.

And many more stories.

(Have I said you should buy this book and read it?  You should). 

In my synopses, I begin with “What is the point?” Here is the point for this book:
• There is so much we do not know… And we are all wrong about some things. Our inability or unwillingness to seek out ways we are wrong will keep us wrong. And that is a bad idea. Rethinking – thinking again – is the only path to getting more things right.

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reason for this book:
#1 – This book reminds us that we can be wrong; we can be wrong often; and we can be wrong in many different arenas.
#2 – This book is an eye-opening lesson that being wrong can cost money, relationships, and lives.
#3 – This book is a tutorial on how we can learn to rethink – to think again – in many parts of our lives, in order to defend ourselves and others from our wrong and dangerous views.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted passages. Here is a selection of the ones that I included in this synopsis:

• Part of the problem is cognitive laziness. Some psychologists point out that we’re mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones.
• A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools—and some of the most cherished parts of your identity.
• Most of us take pride in our knowledge and expertise, and in staying true to our beliefs and opinions. That makes sense in a stable world, where we get rewarded for having conviction in our ideas. The problem is that we live in a rapidly changing world, where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking.
• Unfortunately, when it comes to our own knowledge and opinions, we often favor feeling right over being right.
• If you’re a scientist by trade, rethinking is fundamental to your profession. You’re paid to be constantly aware of the limits of your understanding.
• Being good at thinking can make you worse at rethinking.
• Only one trait consistently predicted presidential greatness after controlling for factors like years in office, wars, and scandals. It wasn’t whether presidents were ambitious or forceful, friendly or Machiavellian; it wasn’t whether they were attractive, witty, poised, or polished. What set great presidents apart was their intellectual curiosity and openness. They read widely and were as eager to learn about developments in biology, philosophy, architecture, and music as in domestic and foreign affairs. …They saw many of their policies as experiments to run, not points to score.
• Scientific thinking favors humility over pride, doubt over certainty, curiosity over closure.
• The more superior participants thought their knowledge was, the more they overestimated themselves—and the less interested they were in learning and updating. …As Dunning quips, “The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.”
• I found a Nobel Prize–winning scientist and two of the world’s top election forecasters. They aren’t just comfortable being wrong; they actually seem to be thrilled by it.  …The goal is not to be wrong more often. It’s to recognize that we’re all wrong more often than we’d like to admit, and the more we deny it, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves.
• As Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio told me, “If you don’t look back at yourself and think, ‘Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,’ then you must not have learned much in the last year.”
How many of us can even remember the last time we admitted being wrong and revised our opinions accordingly?
• “There’s no benefit to me for being wrong for longer.” If being wrong repeatedly leads us to the right answer, the experience of being wrong itself can become joyful.

I always emphasize key points and principles from the books I present. Here are a few from this book: 

  • Preachers, Prosecutors, and Politicians
  • We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals. We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case. We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents. The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own views.
  • What’s surprising about these results is that we typically celebrate great entrepreneurs and leaders for being strong-minded and clear-sighted. They’re supposed to be paragons of conviction: decisive and certain. …the best strategists are actually slow and unsure.
  • Some things to learn:
  • Rethinking is a skill set, but it’s also a mindset.
  • We need to develop the habit of forming our own second opinions.
  • If you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again.
  • Think like a scientist…when a scientist is actually in scientist mode:
  • Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong—not for reasons why we must be right — and revising our views based on what we learn.
  • It starts with intellectual humility — knowing what we don’t know.
  • If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom. 
  • Our convictions can lock us in prisons of our own making.
  • The solution is not to decelerate our thinking—it’s to accelerate our rethinking.
  • We all have blind spots in our knowledge and opinions
  • The bad news is that they can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from rethinking.
  • When a core belief is questioned, though, we tend to shut down rather than open up.
  • The technical term for this in psychology is the totalitarian ego, and its job is to keep out threatening information.
  • (The second kind of) detachment is separating your opinions from your identity.
  • You/we all have a responsibility!
  • I’d like to modify that: yes, we’re entitled to hold opinions inside our own heads. If we choose to express them out loud, though, I think it’s our responsibility to ground them in logic and facts, share our reasoning with others, and change our minds when better evidence emerges.
  • Beware of HIPPO — the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.
  • Starting a disagreement by asking, “Can we debate?” sends a message that you want to think like a scientist.
  • Pay attention to the Dunning-Kruger effect:
  • On average, they believed they did better than 62 percent of their peers, but in reality outperformed only 12 percent of them.
  • The less intelligent we are in a particular domain, the more we seem to overestimate our actual intelligence in that domain. 
  • How to “win’ an argument; thoughts on persuasion…
  • Most people think of arguments as being like a pair of scales: the more reasons we can pile up on our side, the more it will tip the balance in our favor. Yet the experts did the exact opposite: They actually presented fewer reasons to support their case.
  • Thus: fewer points; all strong – no weak points at all! — “A weak argument generally dilutes a strong one.”
  • Practice Listening – and practice Motivational Interviewing
  • the story of the “Vaccine Whisperer”
  • All persuasion is self-persuasion“I didn’t convert anybody,” he says. “I gave them reason to think about their direction in life, and they thought about it, and thought, ‘I need a better path, and this is the way to go.’”
  • Throw in a little complexity — A dose of complexity can disrupt overconfidence cycles and spur rethinking cycles. It gives us more humility about our knowledge and more doubts about our opinions, and it can make us curious enough to discover information we were lacking.
  • Isn’t this interesting – the imposter syndrome might keep you humble, which might help…
  • Investment professionals: the more often they felt like impostors, the higher their performance reviews from their supervisors four months later. When our impostor fears crop up, the usual advice is to ignore them—give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. …The first upside of feeling like an impostor is that it can motivate us to work harder. 
  • And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Aim for more self-awareness.
#2 – Aim for more humility.
#3 – Seek to discover your own blindness – your own blind spots.
#4 – Stop and think; and then, often, stop and rethink.
#5 — Ask, always, what am I doing to keep learning.
#6 – And, because things are speeding up and the world is changing more rapidly than ever before, we all must learn to rethink and learn (and unlearn) faster than ever.

Think Again is not just a good book, though it is indeed a good book.  It is a needed book. It is an essential book.  Especially now, in this VUCA world that we all share (Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity).  Things are changing ever more rapidly. We have to change as rapidly. We have to learn how to unlearn, how to re-think, and how to think again.

Thinking again: consider this a new survival skill for the age we live in.


Note: The book includes an afterword called “Actions for Impact.”  Here are the major categories of actions (In bold; note, I can’t get the numbering the way I want it. My apology. I need to relearn how to use WordPress), with a few of the 30 actions that he recommends:

  2. Develop the Habit of Thinking Again
  3. Seek out information that goes against your views.
  4. Calibrate Your Confidence
  5. Embrace the joy of being wrong.
  6. Invite Others to Question Your Thinking
  7. Learn something new from each person you meet.
  9. Ask Better Questions
  10. Practice the art of persuasive listening.
  11. Approach Disagreements as Dances, Not Battles
  12. Have a conversation about the conversation.


  1. Have More Nuanced Conversations
  2. Don’t shy away from caveats and contingencies.
  3. Teach Kids to Think Again
  4. Have a weekly myth-busting discussion at dinner.
  5. Stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up.
  6. Create Learning Organizations
  7. Abandon best practices.
  8. Keep a rethinking scorecard.
  9. Stay Open to Rethinking Your Future
  10. Make time to think again.


You can purchase my synopses.  Each comes with the pdf of my comprehensive, multi-page handout, and the audio recording of my presentation.

I have many synopses available Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this web page to search by title. And click here for our newest additions.  (My synopsis for Think Again will be available soon).

Here is the March, 2021 New York Times list of Best-Selling Business Books – How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates is at the #1 Spot

HowToAvoidAClimateDisaster_Banner_1800x1200px (002){The First Friday Book Synopsis is held every month in Dallas, TX.  We are beginning our 24th year on April 2.  During the pandemic, we have been meeting over Zoom.  Each month, Randy Mayeux presents thorough and comprehensive synopses of two business books; many of them from the best-sellers’ lists}.


The New York Times has published its monthly list of business best-selling books for March, 2021.  A new book has hit at the #1 spot:  How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates. This is the first new #1 in quite a few months.  Dropping to #2 is Atomic Habits by James Clear, which had been at #1 pretty much since we saw the rise of COVID.Think Again

One note:  there is a book missing that I am convinced should be on this list.  The new book by Adam Grant, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, which I presented this month at the March First Friday Book Synopsis, is an excellent book, with plenty of business implications and lessons.  It is #3 on the overall list of best-selling books in this week’s New York Times list, but they decided to not include it in the business book category.  I think it belongs in the business book category, even as it also belongs in other categories.

Of this month’s 10 books (they always list the top 10 best sellers), after our upcoming April session of the First Friday Book Synopsis, we will have presented six of the ten books from this month’s list.

After our April event, I will have presented five from this month’s list:

#1 How to Avoid a Climate Disaster; #2, Atomic Habits; #5, Dare to Lead; #7, Extreme Ownership; #8, Radical Candor; and #10, Outliers.

In addition, my former colleague Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of #6, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Atomic HabitsI present my synopses to leadership teams, and other groups, within companies and organizations.  A synopsis of a good book is an excellent training tool, sparking informed and productive conversations and discussions.  My synopses of Atomic Habits, Radical Candor, and Extreme Ownership have been frequently requested, along with others.  (If you would like to schedule one of these presentations, or many others that I have available, send me an e-mail by clicking here).

Here is the March, 2021  list of 21 best-selling books from the New York TimesClick over to their site for links to reviews of a couple of these books.

#1 – How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill gates.
#2 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#3 – Believe It by Jamie Kern Lima
#4 – Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
#5 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#6 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#7 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#8 – Radical Candor by Kim Scott
#9 – I Will Teach You to be Rich, Second Edition by Ramit Sethi
#10 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


You can purchase my synopses presentations from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  On this page, you can search by title. And click here for our newest additions.
Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation made at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
Think Again by Adam Grant, and Business Made Simple by Donald Miller, the two books I presented at the March 5 session of our monthly event, will be available soon.

How I Built This by Guy Raz – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

How I Built This• My hope in structuring the book in this way is to show anyone who has the courage to pursue an idea but is struggling with the fear of failure, that every mistake that could be made in business has been made, that solutions to your problems have already been found—many of them by the founders you will meet in the pages to come—and that to learn from other people’s mistakes instead of going through them yourself is, perhaps, the only shortcut that exists in all of entrepreneurship.
• It is the product of in-depth interviews with hundreds of the most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs from across the business landscape — it is structured to follow the path we took as we traced their entrepreneurial hero’s journeys from the call to found their businesses (part I), through the tests and trials of their growth phases (part II), and finally to their destination as the mature, global brands we know today (part III).
• I just hope you’re able to find something in these pages that leaves you with a sense of both possibility and relief, since almost every story in the book describes a real problem that needed to be solved and an entrepreneur who found a way to solve it.
Guy Raz, How I Built This


Guy Raz, in his current career as a podcast host and author, has a regular podcast called How I Built This. He profiles and interviews entrepreneurs who have done a good job building their entrepreneurial dream.

In February, at our First Friday Book Synopsis event in Dallas, I presented my synopsis of his book How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs, which he wrote with Nils Parker.  It is not just a re-hash of his podcast, but it was clearly prompted by the interviews he has conducted and the lessons he learned.  It is quite a readable, and good and useful book.

The book is filled with stories, from the Michael Dell/Dell Computer success story, to Away luggage, to Netflix, to Ben and Jerry’s, to Samuel Adams, to Airbnb, to Bumble, and many others.  He tells these stories, and then pulls from them all sorts of useful points and principles.

In my synopses, I always begin with What is the point?  Here is my take for this book:
• Entrepreneurs build something from scratch; with great passion; a great ability to provide a workable solution to a problem that people actually have; and a serious work ethic.

 And I ask “Why is this book worth our time?” Here are my three reasons for this book.
#1 – This book is a gold mine of successful entrepreneurial stories.
#2 – This book takes an honest look at the struggles that (most) entrepreneurs face.
#3 – This book provides a formula for pursuing a successful entrepreneurial dream.  But even this formula does not provide a guarantee; just a path that might make success possible. 

In my synopses, I include quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are a few of the ones I included in this synopsis

• the “hero’s journey,” the concept—identified by the author and philosopher Joseph Campbell— …a hero has a crazy idea; people doubt her; she leaves the village to pursue her vision, faces untold obstacles, falls into an abyss, barely escapes death, but manages to come out the other side with whatever she was looking for and continues on her journey to an eventual triumphant return. They’re also the key elements of many great business stories.
• For most of history we have called that kind of person an explorer. But in the twenty-first century, with the frontiers that are still open for exploration no longer physical, but technological, social, intellectual, and economic, we have given that person a new name: entrepreneur.
• The entrepreneur is a person who strikes out on their own to reach these frontiers of progress,
• They feel the call to make something out of what they find—something new, better, faster, more efficient—and to make it accessible to the rest of us in a way that we can use.
• This is where so many aspiring entrepreneurs get tripped up when thinking about startup ideas. They forget about igniting this kind of passion in their customers and instead use only their own passion as the North Star for their search. Passion is important—you will never hear me say otherwise—but the trouble with passion by itself is that it can lead you down rabbit holes that only you care about, or to problems that only you have.  …customers don’t pay for passion. They pay for things they can use.
• Paul Graham, co-founder of the startup accelerator Y Combinator and a kind of entrepreneurial Confucius, wrote a long essay titled “How to Get Startup Ideas” for his blog. “The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas,” Graham wrote. “It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself . . . It sounds obvious to say you should only work on problems that exist. And yet by far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.”
• There is a name for a person who creates something purely out of passion: hobbyist. There is a name for a person who creates something out of passion that solves a problem only they have: tinkerer. There is a name for a person who creates something out of passion that also solves a problem they share with lots of other people: entrepreneur.
• Having a fallback plan does not mean you are building an escape hatch from your dream. It just means you’ve given yourself a cushion at the bottom of your entrepreneurial leap of faith so that if you do crash, you can bounce back to fight another day.
• But just as often, it is a consequence of curiosity and coincidence. …Someone goes looking for something that they are sure already exists—a product, a service, a TV show, even a video game, it doesn’t really matter—only to discover that it is nowhere to be found.
You can never discount the importance of luck—even dumb luck—in the success of any new idea.
• Partnerships are a hallmark in the history of innovation, regardless of the industry.  Ben and Jerry. Hewlett and Packard. Harley and Davidson. Wells and Fargo. Procter and Gamble.
Adam and Eric were childhood friends. Gates and Allen went to high school together. Steve Wozniak lived across the street from Steve Jobs’s only friend at the Cupertino, California, high school Jobs attended. Jen Rubio and Steph Korey worked together. Charlie Munger worked in Warren Buffett’s grandfather’s store. There are also countless marriages at the center of the founding of great brands. …find someone to partner with because starting a business is lonely.
• Ron Conway, the “Godfather of Silicon Valley,” once advised entrepreneurs that “bootstrapping as long as you can is the best thing for the company because you own the entire company. …“In our experience at YC,” he wrote, “the best companies do amazing things on small amounts of money.”
• Although our access to money differs, the process for securing it is the same. In every case, a conversation takes place in which a founder has to describe what they’re trying to do and then ask another person for some amount of money—in the form of investment, loan, gift, whatever—to help them get there. To a person, all of these entrepreneurs will tell you that fundraising is brutally hard at every level.
• Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed have a healthy fear of failure. They know it’s possible at any moment. Even likely. …that never stops them. Good entrepreneurs—successful ones—have a way of not letting their fear of failure slow them down. …They are defined instead by a seemingly inextinguishable belief in their idea—the idea that has pulled them out of their comfort zone and driven them across the unknown to explore new possibilities.
• First, Horowitz told him, “what usually look like good ideas are bad ideas, and what look like bad ideas are good ideas, because the problem with good ideas is that everyone tries to do them, and as a result, there’s no value to be created there.” Second, he said, “you need to do the thing that you believe you are the best person in the world to do, where you have a unique proposition, given your story, to solve a problem.”
• Whatever your choices as founder, a robust set of ethics should sit at their foundation. Beyond that, only two things are truly necessary when it comes to building a kind, long-lasting company. One, that the things you do advance your mission and match your values. And two, that you do them from the beginning, precisely because mission, values, and culture generally are so hard to change.

There are many principles and lessons to draw from in this book.  This is a longer list of bullet points than I usually include in my blog posts, but I encourage you to read through these carefully:

  • The book reveals the entrepreneur’s journey – (the entrepreneur’s version of the Hero’s Journey)
  • Be open to ideas…
  • Some people want to improve on something that seems obsolete, and others want to reinvent an entire industry.
  • at some point you are going to need an idea. Something specific. Something concrete and unique and new.
  • (and; find a problem to solve!) – the intersection of personal passion and problem solving is where good ideas are born and lasting businesses are built.
  • Is it dangerous or just scary? – differentiating between things that terrify us and things that present a real hazard
  • rappelling off a mountain (that feels dangerous) vs. walking through snow (that feels safe; where there could be an avalanche); one looks and feels safe; the other looks and feels dangerous. Guess which is which.
  • Do your research.
  • if there is a characteristic they share that continually grabs me, it’s that all of them have done their homework—about their product, their business, their customers, their industry as a whole—and it has imbued them with a deep confidence in the viability of their ideas. I can probably count on one hand the number of times they doubted the things they’d built. They knew their ideas would work, because they knew their stuff.
  • Find Your Co-founder – (you need someone to do what you can’t do; what you don’t know how to do).
  • In my experience, it seems that partnerships have been the rule, not the exception; and as Paul Graham wrote in his famous 2006 essay about the mistakes that kill startups (“single founder” being number one), “It seems unlikely this is a coincidence.”
  • Indeed, the truth is that virtually no company is the creation of a single individual.
  • Fund the business – 3 ways: bootstrapping; other people’s money; professional money.
  • everyone has intangible advantages of one kind or another that they can leverage in pursuit of success.
  • Kickstarter is how Tim Brown first launched Allbirds and how several other companies, such as Oculus, Brooklinen, and the card game Exploding Kittens, initially raised their money.
  • Because this chapter isn’t actually about how to raise professional money; it’s about how to think about raising professional money once you’ve determined that you might need it.
  • Get your story straight — Ben Horowitz: He described in 2010 how his company evaluates CEOs, whose main job, he contends, is to be “the keeper of the vision and the story.”
  •  Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
  • Every idea, no matter how great, has a shelf life. If you don’t get it off that shelf and out into the world in time, no amount of feedback you get during the second phase of the iterative process can overcome a lack of interest or mitigate first-mover advantage if someone beats you to the punch.
  • Moving to phase two can be tough for people who don’t handle criticism well — Like asking friends and family for money, exposing your idea and all your hard work to feedback can be very uncomfortable
  • Go In Through the Side Door
  • Find your niche
  • It’s all about location
  • “Where you live matters,” Drew said in his address. “Whatever you’re doing, there’s usually only one place where the top people go. You should go there. Don’t settle for anything else . . . If the real action is happening somewhere else, move.”
  • Get Attention: Building Buzz; Engineering Word of Mouth
  • This is the tricky part about buzz. There’s the good kind and the bad kind. The kind that can build you up or the kind that can burn you down. That’s why demonstration and explanation are so important…
  • what Jen Rubio took from that experience, and what she applied to the launch of her own business a few years later, was an understanding that “nobody cares what a brand has to say about itself.” “We knew one of the big things that would set us apart was if we got these other outlets that people trusted, whether it was press or influencers, to tell our story for us,” Jen explained. …“all of our efforts in the beginning were trying to get other people to simply talk about us—so that we didn’t have to talk about ourselves as much.”
  • Engineering word of mouth is about converting all that wonderful name recognition you’ve just achieved from the buzz into sales. …Because word of mouth is not a billboard or an article or an interview. It’s a dialogue. A conversation.
  • the difference between buzz and word of mouth is the difference between taking a big step toward brand awareness and then making a quantum leap toward customer acquisition and long-term fandom.
  • When Catastrophe Strikes
  • Tylenol (Johnson & Johnson); Jeni’s Ice Cream; contrasted with Firestone Tires (& Ford)
  • “We raised our company as a community and with our community, slowly,” Jeni said. “There was a lot of trust built into that,” Jeni said. “And that’s what saved us.” There’s that word again: “trust.” — Regardless, it is unmistakably clear that when catastrophe strikes a business—whether it’s a storied multinational conglomerate that has been around 100 years or a scrappy upstart just getting its footing at the national level—the only reliable way through that critical “before and after” moment that Jeni Britton Bauer described is through quick, decisive, transparent action that puts people first and public perception second.
  • The Art of the Pivot
  • Gradualists (Darwin), contrasted with punctuated equilibrium
  • Stacy’s Pita Chips
  •  That seems to be the recipe for every successful pivot—not just the recognition that you can’t keep doing what you’re doing if you want to grow or survive, but also identifying something else to do and/or some other place to do it.
  • Think Small to Get Big
  • Wells Fargo, (in the 1800s); they focused on local when other banks were not thinking local
  • working on the periphery – e.g., providing cables for connecting computer and printers…
  • Manage Partnership Tensions
  • Know Thyself
  • We rarely get a chance to reflect on the journey that is life, or, in the case of my guests on How I Built This, the journey that is entrepreneurship. But those moments of reflection are crucial.
  • Be Kind
  • What I told Jimmy, the people assembled in Studio 6B, and the viewers at home across the country was to be kind; that kind leaders have kind companies; that kindness is a powerful tool; that kindness is free—it costs nothing!—and that the return on investment for kindness is bigger than that for any financial investment an entrepreneur can make.
  • I don’t know any other way to put it. So many of them are just kind! They treat their people well. They do the little things and the big things. They pay their success forward.
  • (And, be ethical!) – And with rare exceptions, they are also highly ethical. They act with an integrity that seems to come from a place of deep morality.
  •  What they believe isn’t always the same, but it always feels profoundly personal. It’s not clinical or calculated. It’s compassionate. There is an empathy present in their decisions that often extends all the way out to the customer.
  • What You Do with Your Luck
  • it’s what you do with your luck while you have it that determines whether you succeed or you fail or you even try.
  • You should keep your day job as long as possible. – Or, maybe not; maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe you should take the full leap right away.
  • Maybe pay attention to elements such as these:
  • timing and luck stories like Method’s, always feel as though they have a bit of that fatefulness to them: the right idea in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. And it is the people part of that equation that is most interesting to me about Method.
  • can you keep control of your business? Can you still “own” it?
  • the story the of the Dyson Ballbarrow…
  • funders may not grasp your idea
  • e.g., Rent the Runway; male funders (who dominate funding) did not understand… 

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – There is always the next opportunity.
#2 – Look for the idea that solves a problem that no one else has solved.
#3 – Prepare to work very hard; to put in long, long hours…
#4 – You are going to need a partner; a partner who knows what you do not know, and can do what you cannot do.  And then you are going to need a team.
#5 – How you start – in terms of values, and culture – really, really matters.
#6 – Be kind.

I found this book to be extremely useful, and practical.  You will learn stuff you can use!  I commend it to you.

—————–How I Built This,cover

You can purchase my synopsis of this book soon on our web site, along with my synopses of many, many other books.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation.  Click on the buy synopses tab to do a search by title.  And click here for our newest additions.

A More Comprehensive Reading list for leaders – So many good books; so much to learn

multipliers-bookRecently, at the request of two different clients, I presented my synopsis of the very good book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  I presented this book for a private client back in 2010, but also recorded it for this site.  As I presented it twice recently, to put it simply, I had forgotten how good a book it is.

Around the time of the new year, I wrote a post on: The Essential Baker’s Dozen – 12 (OK – 13) Books to Read to set yourself up for more success in business and in life, in 2021; and beyond.  And in that post, I listed four books to read under the category of Leadership; and Management.  Here is what I wrote in that post, with the books listed, with brief comments:

This is a tough category.  There are so many really good books. But, if you read these that I have listed, it will help you build a solid foundation of leadership understanding and leadership skills.  Remember:  a leader’s job is to help get the very best out of the men and women he or she leads.

Perennial best seller

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
These former SEALs have become well known, and sought after, for their leadership principles.  This is their first book, and it is still a best-seller.  The massage is simple:  the leader owns the outcome.  Extreme Ownership; that’s the idea.  (Note:  their follow up book The Dichotomy of Leadership adds to this wisdom.  And Jocko Willink’s newest book on leadership. Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual, is equally valuable).

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo.
This is the practical book on managing others.  It says: do this, and then do this, to get the best out of the people you manage.  It is worth reading especially carefully, so that you get the instructions down well.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.
This is one of the many “don’t beat around the bush, have those essential, to-the-point conversations” books.  I think it is a really, really good book.  Her formula is:  “Care Personally, then Challenge Directly.”  It is a compliment to those books like: Crucial Conversations, and Fierce Leadership, and Fierce Conversations, and others.  Radical Candor is an essential leadership book for this era.

this is the book that we started with in 2019

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown.
Brené Brown is something of a force of nature.  This book shows the critical need for leaders with exceptional soft skills.  And, it demonstrates that soft skills are not all that soft.

My intent was to give something of a basic list:  a “read these books” list for a crash course on leadership.

But there is no doubt that organizations, teams, churches – any and every entity – could use better leaders.  And these better leaders need to be throughout the organization.

At the very first First Friday Book Synopsis, back in April, 1998, my co-founder and former colleague Karl Krayer, presented his first synopsis of the book The Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy.  Admittedly, that was a long time ago, but the image I have is that an organization is like a train moving forward, and instead of one engine, only at the front, the train needs lots of engines – leadership engines – interspersed throughout the cars of the train/the teams making up the organization.

And the fact is, after nearly 23 full years of the First Friday Book Synopsis (2 books presented every month), we have presented many, many good books on leadership

So I thought that a post with a more comprehensive list might be useful. Here are more book suggestions to anyone who actually leads people, regardless of your title:  President, CEO, Director, team leader, supervisor, manager.  Whatever your official role, you could probably learn more about leadership and put more of what you learn into practice.

So, maybe you could (maybe you should) always keep a good book going on leadership.  Keep it by your nightstand, or by your computer, and read a few pages every day.  Work through such books carefully; fully; methodically.  And always practice some serious self-reflection, asking where you are falling short, and where you can improve.

Here are some additional books that I would like to recommend for this list, all dealing specifically with leadership issues.  I will provide just brief comments about each:

  • Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (Simon and Schuster, 1999) – Read this book first. It will remind you that a leader is in the business of encouraging people in a direct, personalized way.
  • Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman – HarperBusiness; 1st edition (June 15, 2010). – This book will describe that a good leader is a multiplier, and never a diminisher.
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck Ballantine Books; Updated edition (December 26, 2007). – This book focuses on the need for leaders to have a ”growth mindset” instead of a ”fixed mindset.” In other words, the leader is in the people-development business.
  • Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty. (Penguin Press HC, 2013) — This is kind of “how Phil Jackson “ led his teams.  There are some elements I especially love about this book. (Years earlier, I read his earlier book, Sacred Hoops. It was also worth reading).
  • Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West. Random House (September 3, 2019). – This excellent book drips with examples of servant leadership, with tangible ideas on how to lead people.  General Mattis is a leader worth learning from!
  • The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo. Portfolio (March 19, 2019) – This book is a “how to manage people” tutorial, practically a step-by step guide.
  • Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, Chris Fussell. Portfolio (2015) – General McChrystal calls for each team to be a part of a greater whole, and describes how leaders can make this a reality.
  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace. Random House (April 8, 2014). – (Guest presenter, Charlotte Hudgin). – Ed Catmull was the CEO of Pixar. This is a truly terrific book on leadership.
  • Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collinsand Morten T. Hansen. HarperBusiness (2011). – This is something of a follow-up book to the better known Good to Great by Jim Collins.  And this one is also worth having on your list.

Of course, I am leaving off as many books as I am including.  And, there are good and needed books on different aspects of leadership:  communication; team building; strategic thinking; big picture pondering…

servant-leadershipBut I would be remiss if I did not close this post with one more book suggestion.  “The leader is servant first,” wrote Robert Greenleaf in his seminal work, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.  Everything you have heard or read about servant leadership started here.  And, it is always worth remembering that the leader is the servant of the people he/she leads.  It all starts here; servant first!.

The wisdom in these books can help you become a better leader…assuming that you put the wisdom into practice.

Good reading!



I have presented a synopsis of most of these books.  Click here, search by title, and you can find my synopsis available for purchase.  Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handout, and the audio recording of my presentation.  (Some of these are from earlier years from our event, and the handouts are not quite as comprehensive; nor as well-designed).

And, if you would like to have some serious leadership sessions based on some of these books, I am available.  Over Zoom or Webex right now; in person in coming post-pandemic days. Send me an e-mail, and let’s discuss the possibilities.


Here is the February, 2021 New York Times list of Best-Selling Business Books – Atomic Habits by James Clear is still at the #1 spot

Atomic Habits

Still at the #1 spot

The New York Times has published its list of best-selling business books for February, 2021Atomic Habits is still at #1. It has been #1 for most of the months since COVID hit.  I don’t remember another time when one book has been at the top spot for so long.  (Maybe Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg comes close to matching this).  My assumption is that Atomic Habits is especially popular because of the pandemic.  Many of us struggle during this trying time.  Good habits really help.  (And bad habits really hurt).

I presented my synopsis of this book back at the December, 2018 First Friday Book Synopsis – our monthly event focused on synopses presentations of the best business books — shortly after it was published.  I have also presented my synopsis of this book to numerous groups and clients, and I’m scheduled to present it for the Success North Dallas Young Executives Group later this month.

At our monthly event based in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have presented synopses of six of the ten books on this month’s list.  I presented synopses of Atomic Habits, Dare to Lead, Extreme Ownership, and Outliers.  My former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented synopses of Thinking, Fast and Slow and Grit.

this is the book that we started with in 2019

this is the book that we started with in 2019

I am also presenting my synopsis of the recently published Evil Geniuses, new to this month’s list, at the February 18 Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare.  So, that makies seven of the ten from this month’s New York Times list.

Note:  This month’s list includes three books written by women authors.

Here is the February, 2021 list of best-selling business books from the New York TimesClick over to their site for links to reviews of a few of these books.

#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#3 – Evil Geniuses by Kurt Anderson
#4 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#5 – One Decision by Mike Bayer
#6 – I Will Teach You to be Rich, Second Edition by Ramit Sethi
#7 – Know Yourself, Know Your Money by Rachel Cruze
#8 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#9 – Grit by Angela Duckworth
#10 – Outliers by Malcom Gladwell