I enjoy sports talk radio but I don’t take it too seriously and usually tune out when they start predictions. Before the football season, the “experts” talked incessantly about who would have great seasons, what athletes and coaches would have success, and what teams would suffer. As the season rolled on their predictions proved incredibly wrong, and they do every year. However, no one loses their job and they begin the prediction process again with callers eagerly joining in with their insights. I enjoy much of the banter but I don’t put much stock in prognostication.
The 2016 US election political experts were hilariously wrong. They laughed at the thought of Donald Trump running for president and dismissed his chances of winning the Republican nomination in a crowded field of diverse and qualified candidates. When he won the nomination they wrote off the Republican party saying that there were great divisions within that threatened to rip the GOP apart. During the campaign, the pundits provided advice for how Trump should run his campaign and marvelled at how he was doing it wrong. As they polished the crown for Hillary Clinton on election night, they began eulogizing the Trump campaign and lauding the historic nature of Clinton becoming the first woman president…until Donald Trump was announced as the winner of the 2016 election. Never has the press been so wrong from the very start and, had Trump followed the advice of the press, he certainly would have lost. Good thing, for his sake, he didn’t listen to the “experts” in the press.
I laughed to myself on my way into the gym several days as the TVs were continuing the coverage by these same pundits on how President-elect Trump was going to administer the country and what he should do. To my knowledge none of these people lost their jobs because they were clueless about the election and the electorate. Yet people will continue to listen to these pundits spout meaningless babble for the 24-hour cycle when they have proved that they are out of touch with the very area in which they proclaim to have expertise.
Years ago I heard someone describe modern media as “reporters interviewing reporters.” I never realized that the radio and television news and talk shows were exactly this. Having aspired to journalism when I was in school, a dream I abandoned, I envisioned a life chasing the story, interviewing and cross-examining people, pouring through data, and digesting the data for publication with tight insightful prose. But many prominent “journalists” are just news celebrities and brands that have to say outlandish things to get hits, views, and invitations to shows that want to create a bar fight on screen. I believe there are journalists true to the calling who cannot be bought and want the truth regardless of whether it is left or right, but I fear they are a minority today and do not have the audience enjoyed by the male and female spokesmodels and fame seekers. Of course, we asked for this by what we pay for with our attention and mouse clicks.
If anything, I hope the 2016 election (and football season) has given us a reality-check regarding our news sources and experts with a healthy dose of skepticism for what they say, and say, and say.
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday exposes the ease with which online news organizations and blogs can be easily manipulated, based on his experience using the system to promote his projects, clients, and American Apparel. He provides great insight into the blurring of the lines between blogging and journalism and how the twin factors of add revenue based on screen views and the desire to break a story first create the perfect storm of rumors as news and sensationalist stories appealing to fear, anger, or scandal. When you finish the book you truly will see news and blogging in a different light and how a “follow the money” approach explains so much of what we see. His information on iterative journalism explains how organizations publish rumor but do an ineffective job of “getting the story right” but make profit on the incorrect story and the updates to correct it. Not content to just discuss methods and practices, he dissects real news events and promotional efforts to demonstrate how the monster feeds and operates. His insight into the major web hubs for news and individuals, from Huffington to Breitbart, will provide some much needed perspective on how we get our news and whether we really are informed.
He presents the material as exposing media manipulation techniques but one could follow the process and have a good chance at promotional success but at a cost. I was put off on some of his initial YouTube interviews as he seemed like a person confessing sins that he is proud of committing. His later books reveal one who has learned and matured from this dark place to a more settled view of the world and a better ethical approach to life. Finish this book and you’ll never view blogs and online news the same again.
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The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
by Christopher Chabris
I do not not trust my eyes or my memory as confidently as I did in the past. It is not because of age but wisdom. I’ve read several books on analytic thinking, scientific discoveries on how our memories are formed and reconstructed, and common observation failures as outlined in this book. The more I read, the more I realize that I must, as The New York Times review observed, be humble about my observation abilities.
This book reflects the foolishness of exalting the importance of eyewitness testimony above other empirical data in investigations and court cases. The eyes do not always have it and we can sometimes see but not see. I would not believe it but having failed to see the gorilla as I dutifully counted the basketball passes on the video described in this book, I am convinced. The book also explains why failing to register everything we see is not a failure or weakness but a neurological necessity to keep us from sensory overload.
The description of various observational experiments and examples from business and law enforcement reinforced the validity of the book’s arguments. However, the authors did not leave readers to bemoan their condition or completely distrust their senses but provide techniques to help readers observe and understand common blind spots and how to compensate for them in their thinking and with interactions with others.
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The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done
by Peter F. Drucker
Originally written in 1967 by the father of business management, this book will help any business person journey towards greater responsibility and success. Having defined what an “Effective Executive” is, Drucker emphasizes that effectiveness is a learned skill. By examining what one can contribute to the success of the enterprise, and thus one’s personal success,
Drucker stresses the importance of managing one’s time, priorities, and playing to your strengths. A key part of business success is effective decision-making and Drucker breaks down the decision-making process and how to make effective decisions.
Much of Drucker’s wisdom is identifying personal and business processes that are dysfunctional and fixing, changing, or abandoning them. The book is filled with key questions that a business person must ask themselves to shed light on the path to choose and what to avoid. It is the most concise book of organizational management and professional development I have read and the principles are timeless. It is the one book I consistently recommend to young people entering the business world.
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The Hand Behind the Mouse
by Leslie Iwerks
It was Iwerks who, as Walt’s lead animator, created Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney’s empire was growing due to the great success of Iwerk’s animated classics like the Silly Symphonies and the popular Mickey Mouse cartoons.
As with many business and creative ventures, success strained the close friendship and Iwerks left Walt Disney to open his own studio. Although Iwerks was a great talent, the promotion abilities of Walt Disney were equally responsible for the success of their animated creations. Iwerks was not able to create characters or films to compete effectively with Disney. Eventually he closed his studio and, after doing some freelancing work for a few years, returned to Disney. To enhance your reading experience, watch the cartoons mentioned in the book on YouTube as the book gives some insights into the cartoons that you might not notice otherwise.
After returning to Disney, Iwerks incredible imagination and inventive brilliance shone. He developed the xerographic technologies used to create Disney animated classics and the live action techniques used in classic films such as Mary Poppins. Disney also brought Iwerks into his greatest venture, creating attractions for Disneyland park.
This was one of those books that I almost gave up eating and hygiene habits in order to finish. The brilliance of this behind the scenes legend is one of the little known stories of the successful Disney empire. His quirky sense of humor comes out in his animated features, especially those produced in his own studio. The drama of the working relationship and friendship between Disney and Iwerks reveals the humanity of these icons of animation. It provides insight into directing genius and creativity towards a successful career.
Disney fans will love the book but I think creatives of all types: computer programmers, artists, inventors, and writers will benefit from the lesson of uniting hard work, teamwork, alliances, and financial support with creativity and talent to unleash your imagination to the world.
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No More Mr. Nice Guy!
by Robert A. Glover
As I write in my review of “No More Christian Nice Guy” by Paul Coughlin, I am skeptical of the every developing syndromes of the modern Western world. Perhaps we have syndrome syndrome. but having read Coughlin’s book I wanted to read Robert Glover’s work.
Whether there is a “Nice Guy Syndrome” or not I’ll leave for others to judge. Like Coughlin, Glover addresses the passive-aggressive way some men deal with fear and anxiety. Glover describes the condition this way: “Nice guys have been conditioned to believe that if they are good, giving, and caring, they will be loved, get what they want, and have a smooth life.” But they are frustrated when they don’t get what they want from these covert contracts.
Glover describes the Nice Guy this way:
- He is the relative who lets his wife run the show.
- He is the friend who will do anything for anybody, but whose own life seems to be in shambles.
- He is the guy who frustrates his wife because he is so afraid of conflict that nothing ever gets resolved.
- He is the boss who tells one person what they want to hear, then reverses himself to please someone else.
- He is the man who lets people walk all over him because he doesn’t want to rock the boat.
- He is the dependable guy at work who will never say “no,” but would never tell anyone if they were imposing on him.
- He is the man whose life seems so under control, until BOOM, one day he does something to destroy it all.
The book has good advice for men who work from this anxiety-based condition. Much of the solution revolves around being open about what you want, learning to draw boundaries, being comfortable saying “no”, and living with integrity with others. Men who feel they are being trodden underfoot or have problems being assertive will find the information useful.
Buy from Amazon (affiliate link)
In the post-win news conference after Alabama beat USC in the 2016 season opener, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban shared insights on the team preparation and attitude that are important for personal and professional success.
- Focus on your internal scoreboard, not the external scoreboard (wins, praise, hype, rewards…).
- Continually improve your skills and performance, especially when you’ve had success.
- Challenge your experienced personnel to improve their performance and mentor the younger players.
- Train your inexperienced team members early and give them practical experience so they will be ready to step into their expected role at an unexpected time.
- Develop a disciplined proven system of excellence that focuses on what you can control, infuse it into the culture, then trust the process to prepare you and your team for any challenge.
“If you want to know the truth about it, I wasn’t pleased with the way we played. And, again, you know, if you look at your internal scoreboard rather than the external scoreboard and you say, “What do we need to do to improve? What do we need to do to get better?” Well, you just get satisfied with the result that we got. So you don’t take coaching, you don’t try to improve, you don’t think that there are things that we can improve on, then we’ve got some really tough games with some really good teams. If we don’t get better, we’re going to struggle. And we play some of those teams in very tough places to play.
So my focus with our team right now is what can we do better? How can we get better? How can every guy improve? How can we get more guys to play better? And, look, I’m happy that we won. And I’m proud of our team for beating a good team. And I don’t want you to think that I’m not. …we have a lot of young guys playing out there now. If you notice, when those second teams went in, there was a whole bunch of freshmen out there. Well, those guys are going to have to grow up, all right. Because they’re going to be the depth of this team. And, if we lose players, they’re going to have to play. So we’re going to need those guys to improve dramatically.
And I think every guy needs to look at what they can do to get better and make their unit better and their team better. Look, you’ve got to trust in the plan, you’ve got to trust in your teammates, and you’ve got to trust in yourself that you can do your job on a consistent basis. And our consistency wasn’t always great, you know, tonight, especially on offense. So it’s definitely something we need to get better at.”