Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

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Rate: 12 Stickies

Read: Cover to Cover

Category:  Big Idea, Communication

Twitter Review: You can catch more b’s (business, bounty, bank, backing, belonging) with honey than vinegar.

I’m pretty stingy with the stickies in a book review, but Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment is, well… enchanting.

He enchanted me into it.

He does what every great enchanter does – he charms, amuses, disarms, gives you insight without pontificating, and writes not so much with great efficiency, but as a great teacher with experience to share.

This is a book (as with his others) that brings concepts and ideas from many credible sources as well as his own, but he also brings his own (enjoyably irreverent) personality to the writing.   This isn’t a book about product, or disrupting an idea, or a new marketing gimmick.  It’s really the new “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  It really takes us back to the golden rules – amongst but not limited to, be kind, be likable and trustworthy, return a favor, don’t screw you friends, business partner or for Heaven’s sake, your best friend’s wife.

He argues the interactions you have with people, be they business or personal, shouldn’t be manipulative with the aim of getting what you want, rather, by enlisting their goals and desires in an honest, trustworthy way, and by framing a cause that others can embrace, you have the opportunity to change your own course, build a more enduring business, turn observers into buyers, all the while having a lot more fun.

I may be making this sound like a touchy, feely kind of book – and I want to assure you it is not. It is really a marketing, sales and communication book that simply puts forth a different (and much more interesting) way of doing business.

My Takeaway

This is a timely read, with the economy the way it is.  Independents, freelancers and small business people can sometimes appear desperate in securing customers, clients and an audience. They fallback on gimmickry, the hard sell, the push to close.  When you read Enchantment, you learn that having resources like being likable, honest, passionate, trustworthy and smart – attributes that you probably already have – are worth more to your business than anything you could throw money at.

BTW – zip over to indieawesomeness.com for the best in awesome generators, hacks and fabulous cheats to help you get to where you need to go -easy breezy – Stuff like an “I Need a Positioning Statement’ and ‘How Much Should I Charge’ to the most fabulous marketing dictionary – Don’t know what a generator is?  indieawesomeness.com

Continue to be awesome!

Elaine Joli

The New Writer’s Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice For Your Craft and Career by Philip Martin

Rating: Nine Stickies.

I’ve decided to rate the books I review with how many stickies I used.  Stars are OK, but what do they mean really?  Good writing, good idea, great cover, a famous author?

Exactly.

Stickies mean, these are the pages that I NEED to come back to because there is something I can use.  Something that is going to make an immediate change.

If you see this:

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You’ve got a pretty informative, life-changing, biz altering read.

For this book, The New Writer’s Handbook, nine stickies is pretty good.  It’s a 60 article collection contributed by best-selling authors, journalists, writing instructors, bloggers and literary agents.  I am not reviewing this book for Writers.  Because what freelancer, entrepreneur, solo flyer or small biz guy is not a writer today?  We’ve all been pushed into this field, and frankly, you may drink like Hemingway, but that will only make you think you are a writer.

I have found Tequilla works best for that particular delusion.

The first two chapters, Creative & Motivation and The Craft of Writing are kind of ho-hum.  Motivation?  If you don’t have it, this book’s not going to help you.

What rattled my brain was a short article called Story Techniques, written by Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of the nationally syndicated show This American Life (www.thislife.com).  It’s an ‘aha’ moment.  A master storyteller, Glass invites us discard the notion we all learned in high school – a topic sentence is always followed by the facts that fill out the argument.

What blogger has not been told to start with a story to reel the reader in and have them continue beyond the 8 seconds we have now allocated to the human attention span?

But how do we write a good story?

He suggests you start with two building blocks.  The first is the anecdote, which are literally a sequence of actions.  This happened, and that led to the next thing, and that led to the next thing.  He says the power of the anecdote is so great that in a way, no matter how boring the material is, in a story form, an anecdote has a momentum in and of itself.

“Okay, I’m going to think of the most boring possible story.  There’s a guy…

…and he wakes up.  And he’s lying in bed.

And the house is very quiet, very quiet.   Just unearthly quiet.

So he sits up, and he puts his feet on the floor.  And he walks to the door of his bedroom.

Again, it’s very, very quiet.

He walks down the stairs, looks around….

It’s just unusually quiet.”

This is the most boring possible fact pattern.  And yet, there’s suspense in it.  It feels like something is going to happen.  Sequence of events.  Moving from space to space.

The second thing about the anecdote is it’s raising a question from the beginning.  You want bait.  You want to continually be raising questions. The bait in this story is the house is very quiet.  So the question hanging in the air is why?  Glass says the whole shape of the story is that you’re throwing out questions to keep people watching or reading and then answer then along the way.

The other building block you have, is to have a moment of reflection.  Offer the point of the story.  Here’s the bigger something that you’re driving at.  The story is meant to tell the reader something new – your new idea or a new way of looking at what you want them to “see” or understand.

Oh Ira! – Beautiful, yes?

Five Steps to Successful Email Interviews by Terry L. Stawar, Boost Your Personal Brand Online by Philip Martin, Business Card as Offline Home Page, by Tony D. Clark were a few of the other stickies.

Well worth reading if you choose the chapters that relate to you.

Let me know what works for you in building a story or share a successful blog that always starts with a story – maybe it’s yours or maybe it’s someone who knows their craft.  Use your outdoor voice, people!

BTW  Check out indieawesomeness.com – we’ve launched a new site that is filled with awesome business generators, hacks and fabulous cheats to make the life of every independent a little easier and a lot more fun!

The Most Successful Small Business In The World by Michael E. Gerber

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Rate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover

Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business

Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk).  He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay).  If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega).   As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction.   And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life.  He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear.   “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do.  In short, they want to be self-employed.”  What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all.  He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world.  Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes.  Great stuff.  But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”

My takeaway:

While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business.  This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK.  But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.”  So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done.  You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business.  If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you.  However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.

The Wealthy Freelancer, 12 Secrets to a Great Income And an Enviable Lifestyle by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia

Rating: ****1/2

Read:  Cover to cover

Category: Small business, entrepreneurial

I hate titles like “10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire” or “The Four Hour Workweek”, but let’s face it, it’s just me.  Publishers, authors, readers – everyone else loves tapping into making minute rice even faster in the microwave pouch.  I need to be rich, damn it, and I need it now!  So, I was reluctant to read The Wealthy Freelancer – to me a 12 secret oxymoron.  Title notwithstanding, the word “Freelancer” in the title moved me to read it, because the freelancer industry has an opportunity to boom in the coming years and the people I write book reviews for, well a lot of them are freelancers.  So here’s the more than pleasant surprise.  This book is (should I say it?) is the quintessential guide for all freelancers to read – but it will be the biggest disappointment for those who really thought they would get microwaved minute rice.  They talk about what “wealth” really means, dumping “ugly” clients (another great book on the subject of the client “dump” is Booking Yourself Solid by Michael Port), bringing focus to your business, creating a buzz piece, cultivating and nurturing your business, even how to make sales calls – all standard stuff starting from the beginning.  A lot of freelancers come to doing their own thing after they start hating their job, they don’t have job or they have a passion they want to pursue.  They may be good at what they do, but many lack the ‘well rounded’ skill set (sales, marketing, networking, book-keeping, pricing their goods/services) of running a complete business.  There are some really great ideas in this book – and I’m happy to say, my initial reaction was quickly proved wrong.

My Takeaway

If you are a freelancer or in a partnership this book is a must read if you don’t have enough clients, if your stomach drops when you see the phone number from an “ugly” client incoming, if you are on a roller coaster of cold and hot income spells, or think that sales, marketing and building a client base means you have a website, there is no time to waste.

If you are an indie – check out indieAWESOMEness, the community for the coolest people on the planet!

Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier

Rate: ****

Read: Cover to Cover

Category: Branding, Big Idea, Communication

I like a book that has the reader’s time in mind.  This is a very short book; Mr. Neumeier calls it an “airplane read.”  He has a few very simple (aren’t the simple ideas usually the best?) ideas that he puts into a chronological order using a hypothetical (wine) business to illustrate his big idea.  He is talking about branding – but since he started out as a designer, he combines form and function (and a little beauty) in the process.  He is on the same Tsunami as Seth Godin (Purple Cow), Luke Wilson (Disrupt) and many other surfers in the new (huge) wave of marketing and branding in the 21st century.  They all say there are really only two ways this thing is going down.  The first is to do what everyone else is doing, trying to build your brand by differentiating on price, speed and improvement on the same type of products and services, or putting your efforts to creating something that is really different and truly unique.  He calls the process “zagging” as in “when everyone zigs, you should zag.”  He gives you a short painless history lesson, and then just when you’re a little depressed because you realize you are doing these things, he opens the gate and let’s you walk on the stepping stones (from naming your company to truelines, taglines, core product, passion to engagement) to that big house on the hill or in his case study, the unique wine store he imagines, Bibli.

My Takeaway

An excellent read for small business, entrepreneurs and independents.  It’s even a better read for people just starting out with an idea.  But what kind of “zagging” can you do when you’re already “zigging?”  How do you “zag?”  There was not a good answer to that, because in the second part of the book the “zag,” described handling entrenched business models of corporations – diversification, competitive cycles… yawn.  Oh, excuse me.  So, for independents who are already in the “zig” (you already have  crummy name) look to this book for thinking about the quintessential “disruptive” idea for, maybe not your product (or maybe your product or service), but perhaps how you can engage your customers in a different way, create an outstanding design for your website, or by discovering the concept of pulling your customers in rather than pushing information out to them.  Still a terrific read with some incredibly valuable information.  Read it.

MoneyBall by Michael Lewis

Rate: ***1/2

Read: Skipped some of the excruciating baseball stat details

Category:  Business

Tweet Review: An idea, some resources and an unwavering belief trumps money every time.

I like baseball but I’m not a fanatic.  I like Brad Pitt but I’m not a fanatic.  So, when MoneyBall the movie came out (I am a movie fanatic), I went to see it, thinking the same thing as everybody else, a nice little drama about an underdog that changed something.  In this case, how an entrenched but most beloved industry run by the old boys gets a kick in the ass.  Fantastic storyline.  I can see why Brad Pitt thought this book would make a great movie.  I saw the movie first and all I could see were the principles of great business thought leaders put into action.  For me this is a story about innovation, a disruptive idea and leadership.  It has a little Jim Collins (Good to Great) – “get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, and then drive the bus”.  It has a little Seth Godin (Poke the Box) to start something; Luke Wilson (Disrupt) take an old idea in an entrenched industry and make it new;  it has a sprinkle of Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry (the Method Method) challenge the bigger, richer guys with a leaner, meaner organization, a smattering of Jason Fried (Rework) don’t follow the rules – all told in the story telling format that Peter Gruber (Tell to Win) encourages you to do so that you remember it.  The book was really written about a manager that didn’t have enough money, would never get more and how he created a competitive edge by thinking differently – challenging the status quo – which is what we are all trying to do in business.  Do more with less.  Make something great, not by throwing money at it, but by looking outside the box.  Billy Beane, in embracing a new model for choosing players looked objectively at the stats, got the old guys off the bus, brought the new guys on the bus and then drove the bus (if you only get one concept from Jim Collins – this has really got to be it).  It’s not very often that you get to sit back and watch a business story come to life – so if you don’t want to read the book, at least rent the DVD.

My Takeaway

To make the movie/book meaningful, it would be helpful if you knew the concepts I am taking about from the above named authors.  At the very least, in the movie the is a certain schadenfreude (pleasure derived from others misfortune) that comes when the old know-it-all scouts get a comeup’in.

Elaine Joli

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rate: ****

Read: Cover to cover

Category: Small Business, Entrepreneurial

Twitter Review: A take-no-prisoners approach to running a business in the 21 century

A friend and I were talking about books over a delicious hot cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop – no Starbucks for us.  I asked him what his favorite book for small biz was and he didn’t hesitate, didn’t waffle, didn’t look toward the ceiling – nope.  He said it right away.  Rework.  And then he smiled and said, “I just love that book.  It’s my bible.” Now, I’m going to backtrack a little (no I’m not going to talk about religion) and say that I find two approaches to business – one is hip and the other is hip replacement.  Chris Brogan – hip.  Donald Trump -hip replacement. Guy Kawasaki – hip.  Jack Welch – hip replacement.  Jason and David, co-founders of the remarkably successful 37 Signals (and if you don’t know the company, watch those stairs) definitely fall into the hip category.  They crush the old knee joint of business methodology, replacing it with a new, shiny, technologically advanced titanium implant.  Run faster, jump higher, feel better.  They write like they have a stop watch tied to their ass.  Each thought comes with a hastily rendered illustration and then a page or two on expanding the idea.  Business growth?  Overrated.  Mission statement?  Yawn.  Press releases?  Spam.  Advertising?  For suckers.  They reject growth, meetings, budgets, boards, salespeople and almost everything else in the “real world.”  But you can’t argue with their success.  In 1999 they started out as a three-person Web-design/consulting firm.  Unhappy with the project management software available, they created their own and named the company 37 Signals.  Five years later, they have generated millions of dollars in profit a year and continue to make boatloads of money to this day, with a very small staff.  In Rework, they take the model home of business and in their words, “take it down to the studs,” rebuilding in a new way.  This isn’t an autobiography (Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, Zappos or the Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry) – this is an advice book.  Easy to read, outrageous, funny and double espressoed, these two absolutely make you believe even if you know nothing about business (or everything), you can build your dream if you just do it.

My Takeaway

Let me just say, my knees ache a little in the morning, so I know what the old boys say and do in business.  And it served us well.  But so did coupons in the mail (replaced by Groupon) and the good old boys network (replaced by indie.bz, LinkedIn).  Time to put the old dogs down.  Humanely, of course.  But down nevertheless.  I like their advice.  I think it democratizes business – who can get in, who can succeed, what you have to do to succeed.  They say nonsense to the old standard practices and I agree.  I want to put in a caveat here – I think their advice is for people who don’t anguish over keeping their desk clean, order their closets by color or arrange their spices alphabetically.

Elaine Joli

all things Jason Fried