Word Geek

I’m a bit of a word geek.  I got it from my mom, who loved the English language, and probably could have been an English Teacher, if she had wanted to.  We often played word games when I was growing up, and the most fun ones were full of puns and intentionally twisting words into new meanings.  In her honor, I try not to become a word snob, but I do have the habit of noticing incorrect usage in conversation or in writing.  I’m still amused by misplaced apostrophes and commas, and yes, I do enjoy Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

When I was younger, I used to think that it was my responsibility to point out to everyone where they were wrong, but eventually I realized that just derailed the conversation and made me out to be someone hard to work with.  So now, I usually just keep it to myself, note the correction in my head and try to focus on the point that the other person is trying to make.

Now, I’m not going to get caught up in the finer points of sit/set, lie/lay, or even there/their/they’re.  But some mistakes just seem to be popping up a lot lately, and then they get stuck in my head and bug me until I share them with someone, so this time I’ll share them here.

Then / Than

“I like chocolate ice cream better then vanilla.”  ACK!  You mean you like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla.  Then, you might want to buy some.  Than, with an A is used for comparison (better THAN, more THAN, etc.).  Then, with an E is time related (First this THEN that) or causal (Because of this THEN that).  Maybe it’s just a typo…the letters are fairly close on the keyboard, and Spell Check will do you no good here, but for some reason this just stands out to me and I see it all the time.

Flush Out / Flesh Out

I have to really stop myself from snickering when I hear someone say that they want to “flush out the project plan”.  Sure, I’d like to get rid of the project too; I have too many already.  But I think what you meant was that you want to FLESH out the plan, but you may want to FLUSH out the bad taste in your mouth.  The easy way to remember this is what the two words normally mean…FLESH is part of your body that attaches to your bones…to flesh out an idea is to give body to the skeletal outline you are starting with.  Whereas FLUSH means to purge or do away with, like flushing the toilet…you want the stuff to go away.

OK, that’s enough for now.  Carry on smartly, as my dad would say.

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The First Step Toward Winning is Getting Started

Businessman in the starting blocks

It is a rude awakening that one gets when you first “hang out your shingle” and discover that, actually, there are not hundreds of people just waiting for you to go into business so they can give you their money.

And then you start looking for answers and advice.

Now what? Advertise? Network? How strong is your network anyway? Call family for help? Mom will only buy so many of whatever you have to sell.

Give up on your dream?

Don’t Give Up…GIVE! Give generously of your skills, talents, and trade.

If you don’t have paying customers right away, go find some volunteer ones…where can you donate your services, and in the process produce a portfolio of your work? And possibly get a quality reference.

Can you practice your craft for yourself? Are you a painter? Paint something. Are you a copywriter? Write something. Videographer? Film something.

There is no better advertising than completed work. And no better way to advance your business than to just start.

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How Strong is YOUR Network?

Chain of Strength

A strong network is invaluable for your success, regardless of whether you are self-employed, own a small business, or working in someone else’s business.  Having a list of contacts that you can reach out to when you’re in need of advice, skilled assistance, or a good deal can really be a great help.  But how do you measure the strength of your network?

Let’s do a little math.  You might want to grab a calculator…the one on your phone will work.  First take the number of Facebook Friends that you have; add in your Instagram Followers and 1st Level LinkedIn Connections.  Take that total and multiple by 5.  Add your 2nd and 3rd tier LinkedIn Connections plus any other social network contacts and multiply by 3.  Add those two totals together and take that grand total and divide by zero.  What answer did you get?

Yeah, undefined or error.  That’s about right.   Most of those numbers, especially for you power networkers or “open networkers” are fake, inflated, maybe even ego-driven numbers. Those people aren’t your real network.  There’s a well-known saying in business that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know.  But there’s a less well-known saying with even more truth in it: it’s not who YOU KNOW, but who KNOWS YOU that matters.  Do you know Bill Gates?  Sure, everyone knows Bill Gates…or rather everyone knows OF Bill Gates…but does he know you?

Go back to all those lists of friends, contacts and connections and take a new look.  How many of those folks do you know well enough that you could pick up your cell phone right now and call their cell phone, and they’d take your call?  Here’s a hint: are you in their address book?  Most people that I know these days don’t answer calls on their cell phones that come from unrecognized numbers, so if you’re not in their address book, you’re probably not getting through.  Or if they don’t take your call right away, how many would actually call you back after you left a message?  THAT list is the real strength of your network.  I know it’s not as sexy as saying you have 500+ connections or 10,000 followers, but it’s real, and you can do business on that.

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This is How Networks REALLY Work

Networking is a misnomer. It leads people to think that all you do is go out somewhere, make contact with other people, and then transactions will start to flow, and you’ll be in business!

Have you ever been to a “networking event”?  Did you find that you readily met people who needed exactly the goods or service that you were offering, and they were just waiting for you to show up so they could give you all of their business?  Yeah, probably not.  Because this is not how networks work. The real verb should not be “Networking” it should be Relationship-Building.  And like all relationships, they take time and effort.

Let me give you an example.  I recently came across a great quote, “Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself.”  There is a ton of wisdom in those few words.  I found this quote on an episode of the Success Champions podcast with Jon Gordon.  I really enjoy this podcast and it’s becoming one of my regulars, but how did I come across it, and this great quote?  Well, it goes something like this:

  1. The host of the Success Champions podcast is a guy named Donnie Boivin down in Dallas, Texas (I’m from the Seattle area).
  2. I met Donnie several months ago (May, 2019) when we were both guest panelists on a video panel discussion done in the UNleashed and UNlimited Facebook group.
  3. That group was created by a guy named Brad A Milford who I got to know pretty well in the first half of this year (2019) as I hired Brad to coach me through some business topics.
  4. I first met Brad in the Spring of 2018, through my friend Melahni Qualls Ake (from Indianapolis) who was also a member of Brad’s Facebook group. Melahni had come out to the Seattle area for a work trip, and we met up for dinner with another contact in the area that she knew.
  5. I met Melahni one evening in a restaurant and bar down in Orlando, Florida at the end of the February, 2018 International Maxwell Certification event. Melahni just happened to be in town and was meeting with other friends who were attending the IMC like I was, and we all happened to recognize each other in the restaurant. Melahni had talked about her new podcast, Everyday Leaders and so after the event, I checked it out and connected with Melahni through social media.
  6. The reason that I was in Orlando is that the IMC was a key event for me, the culmination of several months of study, as part of the John Maxwell Team.
  7. I had joined the John Maxwell Team in May of 2017 as part of my own personal growth plan, because I loved his books, live talks, and overall teaching approach on the topic of Leadership.

I could go on, tracing my introduction to John Maxwell back more than a decade, and all of the improbably links that got me to that point. But the main point here is that the above was the evolution of relationships over the course of years. Not some 2-minute introduction in the speed-round of a “professional networking event”. Real connections that pay off take time and effort.

Am I against networking events? Not at all! I encourage you to go to different events; to get out of the office (especially you who work from home) and get around other people that you don’t know.  But don’t come in with the expectation that you’re going to meet your next great client and 30 days from now you’ll be rolling in the dough.  Don’t focus on what YOU want or hope to get out of the event. In fact, try not to think about yourself or your business at all.

Instead, come in with the attitude of “who can I help here?”  As you meet people, find out about what THEY are looking for, what they are interested in, or what their ideal client looks like.  Maybe you know someone who needs what they have to offer.  But more likely, maybe somewhere down the road, you’ll bump into someone who knows someone who needs what they have to offer, and at that point, you can make a referral. But your referral is only good if you got to know the person that you are referring, and what they do, and maybe you can speak appropriately about them, because you stayed in contact with them and built a relationship where you could honestly vouch for them.  Because few people are so desperate to find a service provider that they will just take any name that you find in your giant stack of business cards that you collected at some networking event that you can’t even remember.  That is no more valuable to them, and perhaps even less so, than doing a Google search.  At least with a Google search you have a decent chance of finding some reviews to go along with the name.

So, YES, get out, go meet new people, start building relationships…it WILL pay off, but probably not right away, nor in the way you can predict right now. But it will be worth it.

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We Are Really Bad at Reading Minds

The other day I noticed that my son was unusually quiet after baseball practice. This has been an up and down year. At the beginning of Spring, for the first time, he experienced tryouts and player evaluations. The league he was trying out for did player drafts to put together the teams, and they had several different levels of teams. Ben was drafted down a level below what he could have qualified for by age. I chalked it up to us not knowing the procedures and necessarily being 100% ready from the start. But rather than focus on that, we took it as a great opportunity to learn, practice, and have a good time. And what a great time it turned out to be. Ben did GREAT and his team took first place in their division. Ben played catcher and first base, and he did so well that he was asked to try out for the Summer tournament team at the next level up. We were on a high…so excited that he was now being asked to play up.

But then we got to tryouts and practice for the Summer team and realized (of course) that everyone there was playing at a high level, and we had just entered a new level of competition. Ben made the team and went to the practices, adapting to the differences in rules between the different levels of play, but the competition was tough, and the coaching style was very different (a topic for a different post). Ben got edged out of the positions that he had loved playing during the Spring and assigned to less familiar positions and fewer innings of playing time. This was frustrating for him. He felt that he was better at catcher than some of the kids who were getting to play there, and he couldn’t understand why the coaches let the other players play that position but not him.

And thus began our lesson in non-verbal communication. I tried to share with him, in a loving-father, non-preachy sort of way, some of the things that I saw him do and how the coaches might interpret those actions. It was definitely stretching him to think about several different ways that actions or behaviors can be interpreted when you don’t have the context of what someone is thinking. For example, if you are not hustling during practice, does that mean that you are tired or bored or just think practice isn’t as important as a game? He said he was tired, but I would guess the coaches read it another way. Many people say you play like you practice so you should practice like it’s the real thing, and I tend to agree with that, but this was new thinking to him because in his mind practice is practice, nobody is keeping score and games are different. But there is a lot to be said for the power of habit. We went through a few other examples where he thought his behavior was clearly saying one thing and I shared other ways it might be interpreted that were less positive.

It got him thinking…and it got me thinking…what do I do at work or at home where others are reading my actions and they may be interpreting those actions to mean something completely different than I intended. Bosses and spouses, coworkers and friends, everyone makes assumptions based on what they see and what they think that means. For example, someone says something to you as they pass by and you don’t respond…are you mad…are you deep in thought…did you just not hear them? Maybe you’re on a video conference and you’re scowling at the camera…are you upset about what the other person is saying? Or did you just notice that you have a hair out of place and wish it would behave?

Non-verbal communication is all around us and we all engage in it, both sending and receiving. And it colors all of our actions and thoughts. Perhaps now is a good time to think about how others might be misinterpreting you, and how you may have misinterpreted them.

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My Favorite Authors

Some of my favorite books...

Whether you’re new to the world of leadership development and personal growth, or a longtime learner, allow me to tell you about a couple of my favorite authors on the topic, John C. Maxwell and Patrick Lencioni.

Now there are a slew of other great authors and great books, and I try to read or listen to many of them, but I find myself consistently interested in whatever these two have written, and I regularly explore their catalog for something that I have not yet read.

Interestingly, these two have very different styles of writing.  Both are easy reads packed with great lessons, but very different in how their books are put together.

If you like your books to flow from start to finish as a cohesive story, you will really enjoy Patrick Lencioni’s books.  Lencioni writes in what I would call a parable-style.  They make the most sense if you start at the beginning and read straight through to the end.  Now, don’t let this story form fool you into thinking that they are not packed with good stuff.  These books are full of great lessons and key points, and I highlight them as much as any other book.  And sometimes, because the lessons are presented in the context of an overall story, that really helps the reader understand and apply the lessons or key points to their own situation more easily than other styles.

On the other hand, John Maxwell’s books are more organized into chapters and lessons on key topics, making them a phenomenal resource not just straight-through but also on-demand.  While John packs his books and speaking full of stories and anecdotes to make his point and help the reader more fully understand the lesson, it is also easy to jump around from chapter to chapter, lesson to lesson as each one is relatively self-contained.  Of course there is great value to reading the entire book, and some points build upon previous chapters, but if you want to jump straight to, say, the chapter on Servant Leadership, you can go straight there, study it, and then come back to others in any order.

So there you have it, two of my favorite authors.  Both have several books available and I would recommend all of them.  They are great resources, both for the novice and the cagey veteran. Go pick one up and dive in today.

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It’s Never Too Late to Have a Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

So here we are, one month into 2018…how are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions?  It is often said that after just two weeks, 80% of people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions and fallen back into the old habits of years past.  And if you regularly go to the gym, you probably believe it because you have seen that the first week of January every year it gets packed and there are long lines of people waiting to get on the treadmills, ellipticals, and other exercise machines.  In the second week, the lines are shorter, not because we have figured out how to spread out the demand, but because several people have already gotten discouraged and quit.  And by the end of the second week, and into the third, crowd levels have returned mostly to normal, with a few committed newcomers sticking with it, while the others have faded away.

 

But what if you didn’t get around to even getting started in January with your new plans?  Or what if your plan was like mine, to spend the last week of the year in reflection and planning for the new year, but you just never “got the time” (or more accurately, made it a priority).  I made time to reflect on the past year and went through some steps of planning for the new one, but didn’t quite complete it the way I had intended before life and work got busy again.  So what?  Am I doomed to wait another 11 months before I try again?  Just what is so special about the first of January?  NOTHING!

 

So if you didn’t do what you meant to do, or if you got started and then stopped, so what?  You can start again, right now, where you are, and make a change.  Block out some time in your calendar right now for the things that you wanted to do to make a better life for yourself, and get going again.  It’s never too late to have a Happy New Year!

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The Procrastination – Guilt Cycle

Procrastination leads to guilt which leads to more procrastination.

Procrastination is an insidious thing.  When you put off doing something that you know you should do, or that you’ve promised someone you would do, even when it’s a small thing, it produces a stress reaction in the body that we recognize as guilt.  And as you feel guilty for not doing what you know you should have done already, you start to avoid people who know what it is that you should be doing, which just delays getting it done even further.  This additional procrastination then compounds on the first reaction and produces more guilt.  Around and ’round it goes in a downward spiral.

The guilty feelings also start tricking your mind into believing stuff that is completely made up.  For example, you start to think, “that person is going to be upset that I haven’t done this yet”, “they think I’m horrible for not having done it yet”, or “I can’t start now, it’s too late; I would just be embarrassed”.

But the reality is that we’ve all done it, and we know how it can get away from you.  You have to remember, most people you know, whether friends or clients, or friends who are clients, actually want you to succeed.  They want you to come through; they don’t want you stuck in the downward spiral either.  Pick your time and plot your course of action; and go for it.  Action conquers fear, and this this case, it erases the guilt, too.

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Binge Book Listening

Stack of books

I went on an Audible binge recently.  I signed up for Audible at the beginning of the year and powered through a couple of books, but then let my account sit for a while as I focused my time elsewhere (more on that in a future post).

So, as my account sat idle, I was wracking up new credits each month without a thought of what to do with them.  Then one day a friend starts talking about a book he read recently and recommended it to me.  As I went searching on Amazon, I discovered my credit balance and went on a little buying spree, grabbing audiobooks by the handful and throwing them in the shopping cart.  So here are some notes on what I have been listening to lately.

  1. No Limits: Blow the CAP off Your Capacity by John C. Maxwell.  This latest book by one of my all-time favorite authors on personal growth and leadership.  Each chapter explores a different capacity that each of us has (e.g. energy capacity, creativity capacity, leadership capacity, etc.) and in typical Maxwell style helps you to identify your own level and then how to expand and grow yourself in each area to be able to do, have and become more.  One of the drawbacks to getting this in audiobook form is that I know Maxwell’s voice, having seen him speak live and on recording several times, and he does not narrate the audiobook himself so it kept sounding just a little bit off hearing someone else’s voice reading his words.
  2. The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.  I normally would not have picked up this book, except that it was strongly recommended to me, so I gave it a shot.  With F-bombs sprinkled liberally throughout the book, especially in the first couple of chapters, Manson tries to establish himself and his approach as the anti-Power of Positive Thinking and anti-self-help guru.  I’ll agree with him that some parents have gone off the deep end with positivity and flattery of children based on nothing of substance and he spends quite a bit of the book trying to get you to be honest about where you are right now.  But that’s not really new.  In order to plan how to get where you want to go, you have to know from where you are starting.  Be honest with yourself.  Manson’s points parallel those of many of the best personal growth authors, but he does so in a more confrontational, some would say more honest, way.
  3. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  For my techy friends, these are the guys behind 37Signals, Basecamp, and Ruby on Rails.  They write from their own experience in running a successful SMB (small-to-medium sized business).  The purpose of this book is to get you to challenge the many beliefs that we grow up with about what it takes to run a business, how to be productive, how to win at work; and instead to rethink (RE-WORK) everything.  For example, using modern tools (like Basecamp) to avoid excessive meetings; avoiding venture capital and exit strategies to instead focus on being profitable early and over the long-haul.  If you’re self-employed or run a small business, you need to read this book.  If you’re a manager in a large company, you really need to read this book.  One of my favorite lines from this book is “you can have the Fortune 500, I’m interested in selling to the Fortune 5,000,000.”  There is a REWORK podcast, too.
  4. All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin.  Another of my favorite authors, I read Seth’s blog regularly, which is filled with daily reminders to think different and pursue your dreams.  I don’t know if the 37Signals guys were inspired by Seth Godin, but there certainly is a common theme in their writing and that theme is that the old rules don’t apply anymore.  It’s a brave new world that is wide open to anyone who wishes to participate.  In this book, Seth talks about the power of stories to market anything and everything; and most importantly the need for authenticity.  Through all of his writing, Seth helps you understand the incredible value to be found in serving a niche market, and how that can grow to be a not-so-small niche after all.

I recommend all of these books, and while I really prefer the tactile experience of reading a book on paper and with a cover, if you find yourself pressed for time like I do, and especially if you have a significant commute, consider giving audiobooks a try.

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Leader != Leadership Position

Not all leaders are in leadership positions; and not all leadership positions are filled by good leaders.

We all wish the second part of that were not true,  but the Pointy-Haired Boss in Dilbert comics makes us laugh not because he is so ridiculous that nobody can relate, but rather because we have either worked for someone like that, or know someone who has.  Maybe it’s the Peter Principle in action, but whatever the reason, just because someone is in a superior position in an organizational chart does not mean that they are the leader.

As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.  Nothing more; nothing less.”  If you are not in a leadership position, don’t let that stop you.  You can still lead (influence) the organization from wherever you are.  If you have a great attitude, that is a powerful influence.  Working diligently is a way that you can set an example for others, which is leadership.  Even being a good listener is influence.  Everything that you do has the potential to influence, and other good leaders will recognize your leadership as well.

If you are in a leadership position, then learn to work with, and celebrate, the leaders on your team, even when (or especially when) they outshine you.  Becoming a Leader of leaders results in phenomenal, exponential results.

Start with what you have and where you are; and go from there.

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OVER-Communicate, Please

What is the best way to kill the rumor mill?  Over-Communicate!

Don’t confuse that with “talk too much”.  I’m saying to communicate with your team more than you think you need to.  Remember, as a manager or other leader, you are in a privileged position to know things that your employees or teammates do not know; you have context to make sense of things that appear arbitrary or senseless to your team…help them by telling them as much as you can.

Rumors get started because people are trying to make sense out of something they don’t understand, so they come up with explanations that fit the facts as they know them.  But you know that they don’t know all the facts.  Suppose your company has just decided to expand into a new state, and build a new set of offices from the ground up.  Why does that make sense?  Why would they spend money on that and not on a new coat of paint for the building you’re in, for example?  Help people to understand how decisions are made in business.

Sometimes people are just trying to explain why some action hasn’t been taken yet, which seems obvious to them.  Share some context.  Maybe there is a legal concern that is blocking action right now.  You don’t have to give specifics, but you could say that something is hung up in legal.  Or, maybe there is counter-acting information that makes what would appear to be an obvious choice not so obvious.  Or maybe you don’t know either.  Tell them that, too.  They’ll respect you for your honesty, and trust you even more.

By communicating frequently and with as much open honesty as you can, you will build trust in your employees.  I understand, there are some things you can’t talk about.  And guess what?  Your team understands that, too.  You have a responsibility to keep certain information confidential.  But in my experience, most of the time, there is a lot of information that you can share without violating your fiduciary responsibilities.  Share as much as you can.  And when you can’t try sharing that, too.  There are times when I have had to tell my team, “I know from your point of view this action we are doing does not appear to make sense.  Right now I can’t tell you any of the details behind the scenes, but trust me that it will make sense when it all comes out.”  That’s tough because people will want to ask questions, but it’s a lot easier if you have established a reputation for sharing what you can, when you can.

Another key is to share information more than once.  You can’t assume that just because you told your team what was going on once that it was sufficient.  That would be like saying to your spouse, “I told you I loved you when I married you, if that changes, I’ll let you know.”  Tell them again.  (Tell your spouse every day and even more.)  Keep an open flow of communication with your team.  As time passes, people forget.  And sometimes things change with the passage of time as well.  One simple example would be decisions may be made seasonally.  Where I work, the summer is the busy season, and January is typically much slower.  We may postpone a project to the slow season so that we have the time to put on it.  On the other hand, we may postpone something to another period where cash flow is better.  There are lots of reasons why things may happen; and if you’re not filling in the gaps for people, they will make up their own answers to fill them in themselves.

True over-communication is rarely a problem.  This is a similar concept to the experience of time for a public speaker.  When speaking in public, it is important to slow yourself down and to force yourself to take pauses that seem like an eternity to you, the speaker, but to your audience are very brief moments in time.  Your experience of the passage of time as the speaker is far different from your audience’s experience.  And your experience of the amount of communication you do as the leader is far different from your team’s experience.  They are thirsting for information…share it.

It’s amazing what can happen when you treat people like responsible, trustworthy adults.

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Technical Posts of the Past

Just a quick note that if you’re looking for any of my technical posts of the past, largely focused on SQL Server, they are still online at my old blog location on SQLTeam.com

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Credit Where Credit is Due

I have a confession.  I am an avid fan of reading books about Leadership principles.  I think that many Leadership principles can be applied not just in managing employees or running a business, but in many other facets of life including raising children and making plans for your own life.  BUT, I am not a good note-taker when I read, and I tend to forget exactly where I read something.  I’ll remember the lesson or maybe a quote, but forget who said it or where I read it.

My views on life and leadership have been shaped largely by a handful of people.  Among those are two of my favorite authors:  Dr. John C. Maxwell and Patrick Lencioni.  In my opinion you can’t go wrong with reading any of their books.  Other key influencers are my father who was a great dentist and small business owner, my pastors, my wife and some personal mentors over the years.

I will always strive to give credit where credit is due when it comes to ideas, lessons, quotes, and so on, but if I fail to directly attribute a quote or other key idea, please consider it likely that it came from either Maxwell or Lencioni, and forgive me my shortcomings in note-taking and footnoting.  By no means do I intend to take credit for their work, and I will always try to add my own shading to the topic.

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Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

For my first book of 2017, and my test-run of using Audible to listen to books in the car while I commute to my office, I chose Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.  This turned out to be a great idea as the book is written in a simple narrative as Scott recounts stories from his past and weaves in leadership and self-help ideas.

Having read much of Scott Adams’ blog posts over the last year on the Master Persuader filter, and of course being a fan of Dilbert, I was a little skeptical that there would be much serious content in this book.  I was presently surprised to discover that several of the points that are made in this book overlap or run in close parallel to many of the leadership principles taught by my favorite authors on the subject.  In fact, i found that the way that they are presented in this book helped clarify and cement some of them in my mind with new ideas of how to apply the principles to my own life.

New to me in this book are Scott’s emphasis on Systems over Goals and his Moist Robot Hypothesis.  While I think the Moist Robot Hypothesis can be taken too far, I do agree with the basis, which is that we can program ourselves for success or other improvements.  It’s not too far of a stretch from the Power of Association, which any parent immediately recognizes and starts asking questions about the other kids that their kids hang around.

Overall a good read (or listen, in my case) with interesting stories mixed-in with immediately usable ideas.  For sensitive readers, be aware that the BS word pops up with some degree of regularity.

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Why Ajarn?

Many moons ago, when I was in high school, a buddy and I decided to join the “karate” class at the YWCA.  I grew up being a huge fan of Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee movies, as well as a whole bunch of other martial arts films (especially ninja movies, those were cool!).  Now was an opportunity to learn some of that stuff for real!

Thus began my education in the martial arts.  I quickly came to learn that it was not “karate” per se but an art known as Lotus Self-Defense that was from Thailand and was a unique mix of Kenpo Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kung Fu, and Muay Thai (a.k.a. Thai Boxing).  In this style, the head instructor is known as Ajarn.  Ajarn is a Thai word meaning teacher or professor (see also ajahn) and is somewhat akin to Sensei in Japanese martial arts.

Well, long story made somewhat shorter…through years of dedication, hard work, and the help of my buddy and several others, I earned my black belt shortly after graduating high school, and a couple of years later, opened my own school, thus earning the title of Ajarn.  Flash forward a few years, and as I was establishing an online identity, at a time when it was very common to use aliases, I adopted the name AjarnMark, and have stuck with it ever since.

And as Paul Harvey was known for saying, “Now you know…the rest of the story.”

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