All posts by Kelvin

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Delivering Happiness A Path to Profits Passion and PurposeThis book traces Tony Hsieh’s rapid progress in the business world, from callow party dweeb with a high IQ to his selling of Zappos to Amazon for north of a billion dollars. Along the way, we get some ups and downs in business start-ups, the hunt for money, the hunt for the secret to corporate long-term success, and some input from partners and employees along the way. Zappos’ leadership eventually decided to emphasize sterling customer service as the key to their own corporate culture, and the last third of the book – the part worth reading – covers what this means to the customer, to the employees tasked with turning it into a reality, and to the bottom line. The idea was to infuse ten larger values (with numerous sub-meanings and applications) into every aspect of every department of the company. Since Hsieh is now a billionaire or very close to it, one can say that, certainly in this case, it worked.

In general the book is a very light read. It is destined to be given out to employees for free, and to serve as a sort of corporate diary and the documentation of the corporate mythology. That’s not necessarily bad, just what it is. The last few pages are a little more thoughtful, where the author tries to relate his business experience to a philosophical discussion of life, the universe and everything. This stuff might be a bit

of a stretch, but it is the kind of expansive view of things one can expect from a businessman in his position and there are few business books by hugely successful authors that can resist this kind of thing.

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Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality

Long for this worldI have to say from the start that I am disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a detailed look into the science of aging in the world today, but only got glimpses of it as we moved through the book.

A great deal of time and space is devoted to the musings of Bacon, Shakespeare, Dante, Keats, various mythological figures, the

Bible and other writers from generations past. There was also a great deal about the musings of Aubrey de Grey who is eccentric and brilliant, but also most likely a little daft. And, while it did add to the story, it took time away from the details of what the

science leads to.

From what I could discern, there is not real consensus on whether it is possible to extend life by much more than a few years (or possibly a decade) in the foreseeable future. The science just is not clear enough yet, and while theories abound, they are just that:

theories. In addition, even if it were possible to extend life by decades, there is certainly no consensus of the ethics of the situation. The ethicists are just as divided on the subject as the scientists.

While I found this to be an interesting read, I was also disappointed. If you are looking for the pure science of this field, you too will be disappointed. However, if you enjoy the musings of long dead writers and poets mixed with your science, you should enjoy this well written book.

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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Switch How to Change Things When Change Is HardI am a big fan of the Heath brothers’ first book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and I am happy to report that they cialis 5mg have stepped up to the plate and hit another home run.

In “Switch,” the Heaths once again take the kernel of a good idea originated by someone else and build an expansive original work around it. In “Made to Stick” that kernel was Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of “stickiness,” what makes ideas memorable. In “Switch” the core is psychologist and The Happiness Hypothesis author Jonathan Haidt’s analogy for the mind: that the emotional side of our mind is like a headstrong Elephant, and the rational side of our mind is the guiding Rider.

The Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader, but we all know what it’s like for an emotional Elephant to overpower a rational Rider. (For example, this is why many of us would say that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice

cream should be labeled one serving and not four. Once a worked up Elephant digs in, the Rider has a hard time reining her in. Um, speaking hypothetically, of course.)

Add in the third element to this

framework, the Path, and you have three elements that can be worked on to address change. “Switch” addresses each of these elements in detail; Directing the Rider, Motivating the Elephant, and Shaping the Path, bringing in research-tested solutions

and real-world success stories. What I liked best was the simplicity of many of the examples. To encourage people to “eat healthier,” an initiative that could go in so many directions, rather than doing something complicated like following an illogically-designed government “Food Pyramid,” a West Virginia initiative instead encouraged people to take one step, to buy 1% or skim milk. That is simple, and creates change at the level of purchasing behavior rather than altering drinking or eating behavior. (If the Ben & Jerry’s isn’t in the freezer in the first place, the Rider doesn’t have to worry about controlling the Elephant.) And by narrowing the change down to one action, that eliminated choice paralysis and ambiguity that arise with more complicated directives.

“Switch” is a book for anyone from the grassroots, to cubicle nation, to CEOs. Most of the examples consciously focus on people who needed to effect significant change with little power and few resources available to them. How could a low-level NGO employee make a difference in alleviating the malnourishment of Vietnamese children, in only six months? By finding “bright spots,” identifying children who were thriving, finding out what their mothers were doing differently, and spreading that knowledge to other families. Stories like this are both inspiring and practical for all of us. This is really what I appreciated most about “Switch.” I found myself taking notes that were not only about the book itself, but about how I could apply this knowledge to challenges I am working on. The Elephant-Rider-Path metaphor helped me see my own work in a new light. What more can a reader ask for?

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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Eat Pray Love One Womans Search for Everything Across Italy India and IndonesiaHere is a book that either changed people’s lives or irritated them. Count me among the latter.

Eat Pray Love – One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert was supposed to enlighten me. It didn’t.

OK – First the positive: Overall, it is a well-written book. The author takes many complicated metaphysical concepts and makes them readable. The book is divided into sections: Eat, which is the author’s journey to Italy; Pray, her pilgrimage to India and Love, where she takes a lover in Bali.

This is about a thirty-something woman looking for spirituality and happiness. She is married, but desperately unhappy for no single reason that she cannot or will not divulge. So, she leaves her husband (and, by the way, gives him all marital property out of supposed “guilt” for leaving him, making me wonder what exactly she did to warrant this)and falls right into another relationship (a-ha! adultery, perhaps?). When the rebound relationship that broke up her marriage falls apart, she now wants to find God. Of course. She claims God spoke to her on the bathroom floor, thus beginning her journey.

But not before she goes to her publisher and secures a $200,000 advance for this book. Makes you wonder, as one reviewer on Amazon pointed out, was the journey retrofitted to the book proposal?

What better way to go find God than in Italy. For four months she eats gelato, practices her Italian with a young man named Luca Spaghetti (If you are going to make up names of allegedly real people, could you find a more sterotypical name? Why not Carmine OrganGrinder?) and gains 23 pounds — quick to point out to the readers that she was way underweight to beign with.

She learns to enjoy life and be selfish from the Italians – who by

the way still find her immensely attractive, although they don’t hoot and holler at her like they did 10 years previously. But she is still so damned cute. Just ask her.

On to India. At the Ashram, she learns to meditate and still broods over her lost marriage and subsequent realtionship. Probably the most boring part of the book, except for her conversations with “Richard from Texas” — a down home, larger than life character who speaks in folksy platitudes that would make Andy Griffith proud. He also bestows our author with her nickname “Groceries” because she was emaciated from grief from crying for the millionth time over her beloved David. As one reviewer from Amazon said, “What kind of nickname is Groceries?”

I honestly believe she made these people up. Reminds me of “Go Ask Alice” — supposedly the real story of the drug-addicted Anonymous — until it

was revealed that the protagonist was a fictitious composite of the author’s psychiatric patients. Boo.

Then Bali. She ends her self-imposed celibacy with an older Brazilian man. High on orgasmic ecstasy, out of the supposed goodness of her heart, she asks her

friends to send $18K in donations to help a single mother, an alleged friend of Ms. Gilbert’s, who is portrayed as a con artist because she didn’t buy a house in the timeframe coinciding with the termination of Ms. Gilbert’s visa. I always thought that a gift should be a gift without strings attached — especially coming from someone who supposedly found God. I wanted to ask Ms. Gilbert “What Would Jesus Do?”

My biggest problem with this tome is that this 30-something woman basically is looking for applause for running off for a year, obstensibly supported by a $200K book advance, to “find God.” I’m sure millions of women would love to leave their everyday lives and travel the world to do nothing but self analyze. If she had done volunteer work, I may have felt differently. If she went through some real hardship, I could sympathize. But she was in an incompatible marriage, then dumped by the guy she left her husband for. She should perhaps speak to those battling life-threatening diseases, or raising children alone, or taking care of an elderly parent, or worried about where their next meal is coming from.

And for all of her self-realization and navel-gazing to end her dependence on men, Ms Gilbert has, as pointed out by anotherAmazon reviewer, married her Brazilian and moved to new Jersey. She could have saved Penguin Books a whole lot of money by getting in her car and going through the Lincoln Tunnel. I wonder how long before she ends up back on the bathroom floor.

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Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant

Blue ocean strategyThis is an especially thought-provoking book which, as have so many others, evolved from an article published in the Harvard Business Review. According to Kim and Mauborgne, “Blue ocean strategy challenges companies to break out of the red ocean of bloody competition by creating uncontested market space that makes the competition irrelevant…This book not only challenges companies but also shows them how to achieve this. We first introduce a set of analytical tools and frameworks that show you how to systematically act on this challenge, and, second, we elaborate the principles that define and separate blue ocean strategy from competition-based strategic thought.” There are six principles which are introduced and then discussed on pages 49, 82, 102, 117, 143, and 172, respectively.

Frankly, I was somewhat skeptical that this book could deliver on the promises made in its subtitle. In fact, the material provided by Kim and Mauborgne is essentially worthless unless and until decision-makers in a given organization accept the challenge, are guided

and informed by the six principles, and effectively use the tools within appropriate frameworks. The responsibility is theirs, not Kim and Mauborgne’s. To assist their efforts, Kim and Mauborgne focus on several exemplary companies which have dominated (if not rendered irrelevant) their competition by penetrating previously neglected market space. They include the Body Shop, Callaway Golf, Cirque du Soleil, Dell, NetJets, the SONY Walkman, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, the Swatch watch, and Yellow Tail wine.

Of greatest interest to me is Kim and Mauborgne’s assertion that the innovations which enabled these companies to succeed with a Blue Ocean strategy did NOT depend upon a new technology. Rather, each company pursued a strategy which enabled it to free itself from industry boundaries. For

Dell, that meant mass production of computers sold directly to consumers per each customer’s specifications. Quite literally, each sale is “customized.” For Callaway, creating an enlarged sweet spot to increase the frequency of solid contact for new or infrequent golfers just as, years ago, the enlarged Head racquet did so for new or infrequent tennis players. For Starbucks, creating a congenial environment within which to socialize, go online, or read while consuming coffee. All of these Blue Ocean strategies created new or much greater value for customers. Their emphasis is on the quality of experience, not on the benefits of a new technology.

According to Kim and Mauborgne, their research indicates that “the strategic move, and not the company or the industry, is the right unit of analysis for explaining the creation of blue oceans and sustained high performance. A strategic move is the set of managerial actions and decisions involved in making a major market-creating business offering.” The cornerstone of a Blue Ocean strategy is value innovation which occurs “only when companies align innovation with utility, price, and cost positions. If they fail to anchor innovation with value in this way, technology innovators and market pioneers often lay the eggs that other companies hatch.” For Kim and Mauborgne, value innovation is about strategy that embraces the entire system of a company’s activities. It requires companies to orient the whole system toward achieving a “leap” in value for both buyers and themselves. Kim and Mauborgne explain HOW to create uncontested market space wherein competition

is essentially irrelevant.

To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether decision-makers think they can or think they can’t do that, they’re right.

Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny Meals You Can Make in Minutes

Cook Yourself Thin Skinny Meals You Can Make in MinutesI haven’t seen the show, but running across this book piqued my interst. Is it possible to cook

yourself thin?

Well, it is but it does involve

some effort on your part. In all actuality, I found the book contained many favorite recipes and things I love to eat. Plus, it seems healthy enough. As far as cookbooks go, this one does involve skimping on the better ingredients–butter, of course–but it doesn’t seem to affect the taste all too much. So, therefore, a recommend, if you are

willing to do the shopping and cooking, which seems simple and straightforward enough

Act like Lady Think Like a Man

Act Like a Lady Think Like a ManMost of the advice in Steve’s book has been already posted, in fact you can glean the major points just from reading the flap copy, so I won’t go into that.

And be aware the advice appears to be written geared toward women searching for a long term, serious relationship.

But I wonder why so many people are jumping up and down for joy as if things such as don’t sleep with a man immediately, have standards and keep up your appearance are revolutionary ideas. Most of the things in this book, women should be aware of by their late 20s. The advice isn’t something you couldn’t get from a pastor or a well-meaning male friend, the difference is Steve is a celebrity and a one man promotion machine with his radio show.

It’s true that some women never had good male role models, and I didn’t have the best parental

example, but as I’ve gotten older, as I think happens with most people, you mature and are able to find what you are looking for in a relationship. As for the

sex thing, I don’t think having sex early will automatically make a man lose interest in you. The main reason to wait for women, is that women are not guaranteed to get pleasure out of every sexual act, and disease, so it’s better to at least have an emotional connection and know who you’re sleeping with.

And on to Steve Harvey. Of course, I don’t know him personally but he has been married three times, and has reportedly not always been a “gentleman” to the women he’s dated. So why doesn’t he explain his past behavior in the book? Clearly, the emphasis is on how women should behave because a) women are the majority of his fan base b) they are the majority of book buyers. Plus it seems the majority of these Strawberry Letters read on his show are also written by women who seem to have problems so over the top, that I wonder if they aren’t made up by someone on Harvey’s staff.

And of course he wrote the book for some profit. There is nothing wrong with that, but let’s not act like he’s Mother Theresa, and not an entertainer.

I don’t post reviews on amazon but I felt compelled to weigh in on this debate for some reason. All in all, this book contains advice most mature individuals should know. But if you enjoy Harvey’s comedy and like to debate and overthink relationships, I think it would be a worthwhile read.

I Laugh So I Won't Cry: Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives

I Laugh So I Won't Cry- Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives by Helena Halperin

tle=”I Laugh So I Won't Cry- Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives by Helena Halperin” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-69″ />From Robert Ruark’s “Something of Value” of 50 years ago to John le Carre’s cheap cialis 20mg “Constant Gardner,” popular literature about Kenya has been visualized through the point of view of white people making their way there.

Halperin’s non-fiction book is a first. It’s a story of the land, compiled from the viewpoint of very many actual Kenyans, mostly female: It is about what’s really been happening there over the past half century. How the society has changed, sometimes for better, often for worse, in the past generation, as more and more people have to live on fewer acres of farm-able land or depart for the impoverished cities.

It’s about living with AIDS, the effects of money on a barter society, how education affects relationships and what it means to be a born again Christian (or Muslim) in a society where animistic beliefs

often prevail. In short, its about what it is like being a Kenyan. It is a book of anthropological thoroughness that reads like the deep-felt personal narrative that it is.

This is an interesting and informative book. It has a bit of an academic format but because the author includes so many firsthand accounts of real women in all stations, ages and

social strata, it

has a great story telling aspect as well.

Helena’s recounting of lives and situations is really indicative of what’s going on there.