Business Books

On Saturday afternoon, I drove to the Barnes and Noble on Route 17. Steve had the boys, so I had the freedom to roam about without negotiating fights at the Thomas tracks in the kids' section.

I've been reassessing how I work for the past few days. I tend to over work things. I routinely spending 20 hours prepping a new lecture.  Sure, it's a good plated lecture, but did anyone really give a crap? No. So, I need to spend my time working on the right things.

My other big problem is that I think I need to work all the time. I'll sit at my computer all day working on a project. Am I really using that time well? No. After four hours, I am totally fried. I'll hang out in the blogosphere, play video games, read gossip websites. I really need to put down the work and go for a jog or something and then come back to the computer for two more hours later in the day.

Anyway, I've been working out new routines and organization system. While I was in Barnes and Noble, I thought I would check out the business books. Maybe I could learn more efficiency methods from the work experts.

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I picked up the The 4-Hour work Week, because my buddy, Suze, had been raving about it. The premise of the book is that we are all toiling away for the man and he's eating up all our money. There's a way to make a lot of money doing very little. And then the rest of your time can be spent doing fun stuff like kick boxing. I flipped through the pages and couldn't quite figure out how to make all that money. Ferriss says something about selling vitamin supplements. But really, he's made all his money on royalties and speaking fees convincing people that they didn't need to work.

I also looked over Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin. I have stumbled across this guy before because he's a big blogger. The premise of this book is that most people are dumb as posts and that they are looking for leaders or gurus. You can make a lot of money by leading the sheep around. The book seemed to be comprised of over-caffeinated, post-it note thoughts. Seriously. The guy seemed incapable of constructing a full paragraph of ideas.Tribes_011

The books each cost $20. I wrote down the titles and requested them from my library. These charlatans weren't going to get a cent from me. But I wanted to look at them one more time to see if they were really as shallow as they seemed to be.

28 thoughts on “Business Books

  1. I haven’t read the 4-Hour Work Week, but thumbed through a significant chunk of it at B&N a while back. Basically, sell junk to stupid people, hire people to do your grunt work and then, like you said, live off the royalties of the book and speaking engagements. Honestly, Ferris reminds me of Dogbert.
    I, too, feel like I should be working all the time. When I’m not working, I feel guilty that I’m not working. Like right now.
    My impression of people like Ferris and Godin is that they put in a lot of time early on, working 60-80 hours/week until they succeeded at something. I suspect they both still work a fair amount at times. I just can’t put in that kind of time. It makes me crazy. I do need to find a way to make my work time productive. I’m not sure I’m doing that right now. Partly, it’s that I’m not sure *what* I should be doing. Should I contact nearby schools and hawk my services? Should I go the word of mouth route? Can I pursue consulting jobs and work on a writing project? Should I focus on just one thing?
    Also, this time of year is proving to be insane. There are a million school activities going on. Both the kids have birthdays this week, the in-laws are visiting, and I’m giving a presentation next week. I can’t focus on anything with all that going on. So, I’m thinking I’ll figure it all out in a couple of weeks. I’m planning to check out books from the library, work in the mornings and take the kids to the pool every day. I don’t know if I’ll succeed at anything that way, but at least I’ll feel relaxed.

  2. Thanks guys for reading, and for the discussion.
    I don’t think the two books have a lot in common, and I hope you’ll actually take the time to read my book before criticizing it so harshly.
    First, I don’t think people are as dumb as posts. In fact, the very first line of one of my books is, “you’re smarter than they think you are.”
    As for succeeding without working, this of course is nonsense. The problem is that most people work on the wrong stuff, not that they don’t work hard enough.
    I’d count “patiently reading important books” as one of the things worth working on.

  3. What I said was that Tim Ferriss is a genius. He’s figured out how to do what he wants with his time and survive well financially. I don’t think his model is replicable for everyone, but “anybody can do this” is a conceit you need in order to sell any kind of self-help book, and that’s what business books are. He does downplay the amount of work he put in on the front end to make his business run with minimal time from him, though it’s perfectly clear, reading between the lines.
    One of the things I admire most about Ferriss is that he’s not afraid to be a pain in the ass (I think Trunk’s post was about how she hates him because he’s such a pain, but her blog never displays right on my computer so I gave up). This might not make him pleasant to be around if he wants something from you, but it seems to have gotten him more of what he wants than being nice and accommodating in work settings has gotten me (except, of course, a lot of friends who are all likewise nice and also mostly unrewarded for their hard work and intelligence).
    My parents invested a lot of time in teaching me not to be a pain in the ass, mostly so I wouldn’t be a pain in THEIR asses, but the spillover was more than they might have predicted. I think women, especially, internalize the work-hard-and-be-nice-and-do-what-you’re-supposed-to-and-you-will-be-rewarded ethic, but in a typical corporate environment that model generally rewards you with more work, for which your boss receives credit. How to balance getting what you deserve for your work and not being hugely obnoxious and/or taking advantage of everyone you meet—that’s the challenge.

  4. A sample of Tribes:
    p.86
    The Easiest Thing
    The easiest thing is react.
    The second easiest thing is to respond.
    But the hardest thing is to initiate.
    Reacting, as Zip Ziglar has said, is what your body does when you take the wrong kind of medicine. Reacting is what politicians do all the time. Reating is intuitive and instinctive and usually dangerous. Managers react.
    Responding is a much better alternative. You respond to external stimuli with thoughtful action. Organizations respond to competitive threats. Individuals respond to colleagues or to opportunities. Response is always better than reaction.
    But both pale in comparison in initiative. Initiating is really and truly difficult, and that’s what leaders do….”

    Most of the readers here are academic-types. We write in a really different style. Business-speak is highly jarring for us.
    Seth, you also point out that most people only looked at Google for the first time last year. That is evidence that average people are not innovators and experimenters. They need leaders (or the people who buy your book) to tell them where to go and what to buy.
    As evidence that I’ve been trained to be super nice, Suze. I do feel bad that I’ve insulted Seth.

  5. “MH, a guy with my name used to be CIO at Google itself. I am so buried.”
    Yeah, the trick to being high on the google rankings is having a unique name, in addition to having done something. I haven’t done stuff that’s all that important, but am at the top of the google rankings. I’m going to be sad when that’s no longer true, which will happen someday.
    Suze — I like your comment. I think there’s a lot to learn there (and, as you point out, a lot of us aren’t willing to trade being a pain in the ass for the relationships in order to be a success. That’s actually PT’s last comment).
    PT’s wrong about conflict of interests and blogs, though.

  6. Yes, there are a couple of relatively promenent people with my name, but my first google reference is a 2003 paper. So, I’ve got to get moving. My unfogged commenting name shows up as the #3 hit, so maybe I’ve been focusing my attentions in the wrong place.
    Funnily enough, I’ve spoken with one of the people who shares my name, when we were both working at the same university. I was amused, he was pissed at getting my Amazon order.

  7. I’m not really sure that being a pain in the ass is all that admirable. Once upon a time, I worked in a bookstore in Atlanta that did a bunch of signings every year. The people who had been at the top of whatever their field was (Jimmy Carter, Anne Rice, Ginger Rogers, Carl Sagan, to name just four) were delightful to work with. Practically anyone who was a pain in the ass came from the middle of their field. It would take a better social scientist than me to point the arrow of causation, but it’s pretty robust anecdata.

  8. The problem with the completely unique name comes if the reference is negative. You can’t really say “That was a different Zig Ziglar caught with the sheep.”

  9. Doug — I’d say the causation is almost certainly from success to not being a pain in the ass. On the other hand was Rupert Murdoch one of your signers?
    These people talking about their names without actually revealing them….

  10. Rupert Murdoch never came to sign. Ollie North, however, was impeccably nice. Quoth my boss at the time: “The evil ones always are.”

  11. I was teasing about anonymity.
    How depressing about Ollie North though. (My father-in-law fantasizes that my 2 1/2 year old is named after North — but the little chap has suddenly, and sensibly, demanded to be known by his excellent second name, which he shares with the greatest socialist leader in British history, so that’s a relief).

  12. Oliver Clement Brighouse mothersname, poor lad. He adopted the middle name after two years of ignoring the first one, after I pointed out that he shares it with Clement Hurd.

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