Saturday, July 21, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'VISIONEERING' by Andy Stanley

Books on personal strategic planning often fascinate me, as I am always on the lookout for new perspectives to help others to design a personal quest.

This particular one is essentially the paper-pack version of the author's earlier hard-back book bearing the same title. My copy of the hard-back was published in 2001.

With due respect & from a secular standpoint, i.e. discounting all the religious connotations in the book, I want to say that this book is still a reasonably good book on personal strategic planning.

The book is generally well-written, in a warm, & down-to-earth style.

In particular, I like the book's tag line:

"Everybody ends up somewhere in life. You can end up somewhere on purpose,"

as well as the author's definition & point of view:

"Vision is a preferred future. A destination. Vision always stands in contrast to the world as it is. Visioneering is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be."

Also, among the eighteen chapters, I reckon Chapter 13: 'Moral Authority' is certainly an interesting & very appropriate chapter to read, as it is a material departure from most, if not all, visioning or visioneering books!

I believe this book will appeal more to those readers with a Christian background. I had originally bought this book without realising it (in reality, I had overlooked the secondary title on the book cover), but I have no regrets.

LESSONS FROM THE MOVIE: THE POWER OF PURPOSE & SELF-SACRIFICE

MAN ON FIRE
Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fleming

For me, this has been quite an emotionally intense, somewhat violent & yet sensitive, action-packed movie.

First, the backdrop: A wave of kidnappings had swept through Mexico city, feeding a growing sense of fear & panic among its wealthier citizens. In one six-day period, there were twenty-four abductions, leading many to hire bodyguards for their children.

Next, a former CIA Black Ops operative, John Creasy (played by Denzel Washington), with extensive work experience in counter-terrorism, now burnt out, disillusioned & almost drunk, was introduced to a rich industrialist in Mexico city. His job: act as bodyguard to a lovable 9-year-old girl, Pita Ramos (played by Dakota Fleming).

Creasy, who had recently quit the business, was seeking some sort of redemption for the sins he had committed. So far, he had been looking for answers in a bottle & the Bible, & not doing all that well with either. Creasy was not interested in being a bodyguard, especially to a youngster, but for lack of something better to do, he accepted very reluctantly the assignment, following the recommendation from a good friend (played by Christopher Walken).

In the first part of the movie, Creasy began his growing friendship with Pita, who slowly but surely, worked her way into his initially hardened heart. She changed the behaviour of the cold Creasy, making him alive & smile again, & he felt a great affection for her. He also felt a newly found sense of purpose in his life & even encouraged her to do better at swimming, while he at the same time attempted to deal with the demons of his own past.

I love the part where she taught her how to deal with the starting gun shot during a swimming contest:

Creasy: “The gun shot holds no fear, say it.”
Pita: “The gun shot holds no fear.”
Creasy: “You welcome the sound. In fact it's the sound that sets you free. You are a prisoner on this block until that sound sets you free.”

The second part of the movie covered the blatant kidnap attempt on the girl, in broad daylight, by a gang of gun-blazing thugs. Creasy was badly wounded. As he sworn in front of the girl’s mother: “I'm gonna kill 'em all. Anyone that was involved. Anybody who profited from it. Anybody who opens their eyes at me.”

All hell started to break loose from then as Creasy embarked on his personal vendetta. This was covered in the third part of the movie, which was the most violent & gruesome part.

With the help from a very intrepid Mexican newspaper reporter, Mariana (played by Rachel Ticotin), who was all out to expose "La Hermanidad" (The Brotherhood), the kidnap gang responsible for the girl's abduction, Creasy systematically tracked down all parties, directly as well as remotely connected to the incident, including some corrupt elements in the local police/security unit.

He was merciless & ruthless as he tortured one by one all those bad guys he encountered in the criminal chain of command.

As he confronted one bad guy, whose hands were wired to the steering wheel of a car, Creasy said: “I am going to ask questions. If you don't answer fully & truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I'm going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.”

As he inserted a small plastic explosive into the anus of the one of the bad guys, who was spreadeagled on to the boot of a car:

The bad guy pleaded: “A last wish, please, please. Please.” Creasy said to him: “Last wish? I wish you had more time.”

To another bad guy, Creasy said: “Okay, my friend. It's off to the next life for you. I guarantee you, you won't be lonely.”

Creasy added: “I got all the time in the world. You don't, but I do.”

Finally, he managed to come close to the ringleader, known as “The Voice”, after having intercepted the latter’s rogue brother & sister-in-law in the ensuing pursuit:

Creasy said, after pumping a bullet into the brother's hand, via his handphone: “I'm gonna take your family apart, piece by piece, you understand me? Piece by piece.”

With singled-minded rage, Creasy had transformed himself into the terrifying killing machine he was originally trained to be.

For me, the fourth & final part of the movie was really poignant.

Creasy decided that the only way for him to secure the final release of the girl, he had to be prepared to sacrifice himself. In other words, he would exchange his own life for the life of the girl, whom he had promised to protect at the beginning. Even though he had vowed to avenge the girl’s abduction by killing all those who stood in his way, I reckon this final unselfish deed more or less exonerated him. This really makes this movie stands out from the rest of the "revenge movies" which seem to be the craze of the day.

On the whole, this has been a very good movie to watch, even though some parts have been quite violent & gruesome. Nevertheless, it has also something worthwhile for all of us to learn.

Both Denzel Washington & Dakota Fleming acted very well in the movie. Unfortunately, two other good actors, Christopher Walken (‘The Deer Hunter’, ‘Dogs of War’, ‘Catch Me if You Can’), who played Creasy’s good friend, & Mickey Rourke (‘The Year of the Dragon’, ‘Johnny Handsome’, ‘Domino’), who played the conniving lawyer to the industrialist, had rather understated roles in the movie.

BOOK REVIEW: 'SUCCESS SECRETS OF SUPER ACHIEVERS', by Jim Sovall

Unlike most books that touch on the 'success secrets' or 'the ultimate success formula' (USF), this book takes a seemingly broad-based & light-hearted approach to the subject. Best of all, it doesn't pin down to a specific formula but rather chooses to give readers an opportunity to explore diverse perspectives.

To cap his clever approach, the author even draws on the candid viewpoints of a relatively disparate sampling of ordinary people who have lived or are living great lives, with goals, vision & passion - 82 of them to be exact, widely known & admired in movie entertainment, music, politics & law, business, sports & even religion.

A lot of these people, to my surprise, are not the traditionally rich & famous but, as the author puts it, these people have been "to the mountaintop" in their respective field.

As an award-winning broadcaster, the author has abundant access to these successful people - or super-achievers - in the real world. In his many personal & frank interviews with these people, he has asked two compelling questions:

- How do you define success; and

- What does it take to be happy?

This inspiring book certainly captures the 'strategic heartbeat' of most of the interviewees' inspiring responses. Their advice is very simple, straight-forward, & effective, with no ulterior motive other than to help those who seriously want to join them on the mountaintop.

The author is in fact a super-achiever himself & despite his failing eyesight & eventual blindness, he has been an Entrepreneur of the Year, a national champion Olympic weightlifter, a successful investment broker, an accomplished musician/songwriter, a marketing consultant, & a professional speaker, an author & president/co-founder/host of a television network.

As a matter of fact, I understand that one of his best-selling books, "The Ultimate Gift" is now a 20th Century Fox major motion picture, starring James Garner.

In a nutshell, & collectively for readers, I am very confident readers can find numerous startling answers as well as unusual perspectives in your continuing quest for:

- Becoming the best you can be;
- Changing your life;
- Turning your dreams into reality;
- Taking action starting today;
- Finding & fulfilling your destiny regardless of your circumstances;

Many of the super achievers whom the author had interviewed, especially those from movie entertainment, also brought forth many sweet memories of my childhood times in the late fifties & throughout the sixties, during which I had spent much of my spare time going to the movies & watching the black box.

Here are some of my unforgettable movie/TV characters with their winning insights in the book:

- Eddie Albert (played a big city attorney - who long desired to become a farmer - opposite Eva Gabor in 'Green Acres' TV series):

"I really don't care how I am remembered as long as I bring happiness & joy to people";

- Joseph Barbera (creator/producer of 'Tom & Jerry', 'The Flintstones' cartoon series for TV, among many others):

"Without persistence, it is impossible to experience success."

- Ralph Bellamy ('Frontier Justice', 'The Eleventh Hour", 'The Survivors', but I remember him best as the rich Texan J W Grant in 'The Professionals'):

"Never back down on your dreams!";

- Pat Boone (for me, his original rendition of 'Speedy Gonzales' is the best!):

"I define success as somehow having a positive effect on the lives of others."

- Chuck Connors (as rancher Lucas McCain - with his modified Winchester - in `The Rifleman' TV series):

"Concentrate on the fun-damentals!"

- Jack Elam (memorable supporting roles in 'High Noon' & "Gunfight at OK Corral'):

"Never say die! You can make it by just trying & trying & trying...& taking chances!"

- Douglas Fairbanks (often played the debonair character in slapstick comedies or adventure yarns e.g. 'The Legend of Robin Hood'; best remembered from his role in 'The Prisoner of Zenda'):

"Only when we rise above our current circumstances & escape from the day to day can we really explore the possibilities."

- Peter Graves (as Jim Phelps in 'Mission: Impossible' TV series):

"Success in life means...a goal that you have an eye on...that goal...something you must do & persevere until you got it done or got a start at it...then you stay on top of it, & keep punching & pushing & striving all the time to go in the directions that you want..."

- Katharine Hepburn ('The Philadelphia Story', 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner & `The African Queen' are three of her most memorable films):

"All of us need to find that passion in our work, or find work where we can experience the passion."

- Charlton Heston ('Benhur', The Ten Commandments, 'The Omega Man', & `Solyent Green'):

"Spend your time wisely!"

- Shirley Jones ('Oklahoma', 'Elmer Gantry', and `The Partridge Family'):

"If you know how to get along with people, you are a lot more likely to succeed in all the areas of your life."

- Deborah Kerr (a captivating portrayal opposite Burt Lancaster in 'From Here to Eternity'):

"...There are some limitations that simply cannot be overcome. But instead of giving up on all your dreams just because your first dream can't be true, transfer your enthusiasm to a new endeavour."

- Dorothy Lamour (I will always remember her roles in 'The Road to...' pictures, a series of movies with Bob Hope & Bing Crosby):

"The world takes itself far too seriously; laughter is something there's far too little of. Whatever one does, they should always remember to laugh."

- Jack Lemon ('Mister Roberts', 'Some Like It Hot', 'Days of Wine & Roses' but his role of Jack Codell in 'The China Syndrome' in the late seventies was the most memorable):

"Achieving success can be thrilling, but it is a lot more satisfying if you can make a worthwhile difference in someone's life on your way up."

- Robert Young ('Father Knows Best', 'Marcus Welby' TV series):

"You have to have enthusiasm."

- Joseph Wambaugh (creator of the classic anthology series for TV under 'Police Story' in the seventies):

"The only thing I have learned about success is that if one is willing to listen, really listen, to things that are said, as well as to things that are not said, that person will be miles ahead of the competition."

Other successful people interviewed in the book include: The Dalai Lama, Alexander Haig, Robert Schuller, Charles Schwab, Robert Shapiro (remember O J Simpson?), Ted Turner, Denis Waitley, Art Linkletter & Gary Player.

To conclude my review, I would like to paraphrase what the author wrote in the Introduction, which I thought really accentuates the essence of his book:

"...I have now read the biographies of more than 1,500 great & famous people. One of the traits they have in common is a sense of expectation & destiny. They always believed that they were destined for greatness. I trust that you believe that you are destined for greatness, & that this book will be a launching pad for all that is yet to come...This book & the success secrets it contains should be your constant companion on the road to success. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Simply follow the trail that has already been blazed, & you will find that your success is not a mystery, but a certainty."

THE SLIGHT EDGE FORMULA

I came across this very interesting article by Daniel Sitter while surfing the net. It talks about the power of baby steps & how small incremental changes can have huge impacts.

It's called 'The Slight Edge', originally postulated by Jeff Olson, who calls himself "a perpetual student of personal development". In fact, he started The People's Network (TPN), which became one of the largest personal development training outfits in the United States. He sold the company & wrote the book as well as audio program bearing the same title. I haven't read or listen to it yet.

Nevertheless, 'The Slight Edge' reminds me of what Albert Einstein once said: "Compound Interest is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time!"

"A great deal has been written on self improvement, but does any anyone really know how to successfully implement a creative and manageable plan for its accomplishment? The concept involves goal setting, planning, time management as well as patience, faith, understanding and real desire.

Too many times, people approach self improvement haphazardly, unfocused and unclear as to exactly what they want. This is not a paper specifically concerning goal-setting, that will be addressed another time in greater detail, but rather a blueprint for the implementation of the plan you generate during your own self-improvement goal setting exercise.

Many times, we set out on a self-improvement course of action with literally no idea of how to proceed, with only a loose idea of what we really want to accomplish. Basically, at this point, it's just a dream of a better day. This is actually not what you want; after all, you expect success. You must believe success is possible and probable. Be expectant. Be confident.

Before you begin, sit down and write out your plan of action. Clearly write your goal, your time frame, identify the specific steps to accomplish during the journey and the obstacles that you expect to encounter along the way. Yes, write this all down. Review it each evening before bed and again when you awaken in the morning. Keep your plan with you at all times and read it aloud to yourself several times during the day. This will embed it deeply into your subconscious mind where it will steer you in the direction of your goal.

Jeff Olson talks about the Slight-Edge Formula for success.

Imagine an incremental system where you consciously plan to improve just 1/4 % each day, or even each week.

Can you do that? Sure you can. Everybody can. It has been said that "you can eat an elephant if you do it one bite at a time." The same idea holds true with this concept. The premise is to experience minute improvements on a consistent basis that tend to compound over time like interest.

A 1/4 % improvement in any skill each day is a 1-3/4 % improvement each week!

A 7 % improvement each month!

An 84 % improvement in just 1 year!

It's actually higher than that because all of your advances are compounding at an exponential rate! Are you beginning to see the potential of this compounding power at work within you?

The Slight Edge Formula for success is the answer. Do a little each day and reap the rewards you desire over time, while consistently moving in the direction of your goal. You will always get out in proportion to what you put in. Apply yourself. It pays big dividends!

Most people never begin. They may talk a big talk, but they fail to act. Only a few of those who do take action tend to persist over time.

Are you one of the few who are determined to make your life different? Do you want changes badly enough? Then begin now. Persist. Make no excuses.

"What's in it for me" or WIIFM is your mantra. What is it that's in it for you that will drive you to pursue the goals that you have defined? Identify this and you have taken the first step toward the success you desire. This can potentially change your life? Nothing will happen until you first decide to get started. You have to make things happen. Do not wait for things to miraculously happen. They will not.

Choose to employ the Slight-Edge Formula into your everyday life events. It is simple, easy to implement and it really works."

In conjunction with the foregoing article, I have also found this little anecdote from the net:

"Would you rather have a million dollars today, or a penny doubled every day for a month?

Most people take the million…but the penny and "Slight Edge" theory of compounding, is a much wiser yet PATIENT choice.

On Day 2, it's 2 cents, on Day 3, it's 4 cents; by the end of Week 2, it has doubled its way to a grand total of $81.92. It's at this point that most people feel they made the wrong decision, it isn't for them, and they quit or give up!

At the end of Week 3, it's over $10,000—and on Day 31, it jumps to more than $10 million.

This power is called the "eighth wonder of the world'—the remarkable creative force of compounding interest.

You now have seen the "Slight Edge." We all have it… the question remains, is it working for you or against you."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


What do I believe that is actually false?

How can I fathom what others find unfathomable?

What the heck is my brain doing to blindside me now?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you stop learning, you stop creating history & become history."
(Vadim Kotelnikov, founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach)

Friday, July 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'SMART STEPS TO SMART CHOICES - TESTING YOUR BUSINESS IDEA', by David Bangs

A very user-friendly guide to test your business ideas!

Starting and launching a new business or project venture is always risky, especially when experts are not around to guide and assist you readily.

Oftentimes, we turn to books and other resources that are readily available to help in our decision making process.

There are many entrepreneurship and business/project start-up books out there in the marketplace. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find a good one that can really help you. Very few authors of such books make the effort and spend the time to help you reflect on your idea(s) and test it/them before putting into action.

I am very glad to have found, among other few good books, David Bang's 'Smart Steps to Smart Choices,' to be a well-written guide. Also, very user-friendly!

Most entrepreneurship and business/project start-up books concentrate too much time on the 'implementation-execution' end, and not at the 'thinking-planning' end i.e. the evaluation & testing phase, which comprises the critical decision making process, and which to me is far more important.

This book contains a well-structured series of 'personal workshops' (to me, these are an excellent form of planning checklists, with thought-provoking questions & hands-on activities) which have been designed specifically to help you develop practical insights about your business/project idea & also help you face and work out your answers to critical issues that may make or break your business/project success.

Systematically, with this book, you can determine:

- whether entrepreneurship is right for you in the first place;
- whether your idea makes business sense;
- whether your idea makes market sense;
- whether your idea makes money sense;

This is one book that you have to work through it to appreciate its latent power and usable value. With this book, you will also find learning about entrepreneurship fun, interesting and meaningful.

As a matter of fact, I use a small pilot project of mine to test run it. Upon completion, I found that I have a better sense of my project direction, in terms of business, market and financial implications. Not many books can achieve such feats for the reader.

What I also like about this book is that it is graphically driven. It is packed with many margin icons to help you stay on track while you read and work through your answers. I love books written in this manner. They really make your life easier as a reader.

Although the author has written many other books on business and market planning, I find only this one book from him that has impressed me very much, in terms of learning points and application value in the field of opportunity recognition and evaluation.

Lastly, this book can also serve as an excellent reading companion to Jeffry Timmons' and Karl Vesper's books on entrepreneurship & new venture strategies!

MOVIE REVIEW: 'A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS', starring Clint Eastwood

I recently bought a Clint Eastwood Gift Set on special offer, consisting of three of his action movies on DVDs, namely, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars More’ & ‘The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly’.

I remember that I had seen all the three action movies in the theatre during the late 60's. In fact, I had also watched their reruns a few times on cable TV. From the standpoint of pure entertainment, I consider the first one, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, as the best of the lot. It was widely accepted that this movie was the beginning of the spaghetti western genre.

As a teenager, whose favourite past-time was watching movies, I actually grew up with mostly TV westerns like ‘Bat Masterson’, ‘Big Valley’, ‘Bonanza’, ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Have Gun Will Travel’, ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘Rawhide’ (with Clint Eastwood as a young wrangler), ‘The Rifleman’, ‘The Virginian’, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’, on top of movies, starring either Gary Cooper, or Randolph Scott, or Robert Mitchum, or Richard Widmark, or John Wayne.]

So when I saw ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ for the first time - I was then a young college student -, I was completely transfixed by the mysterious character with apparently no name (even though he was addressed as ‘Joe’ once by the under-taker in the movie).

Everything about him was a mystery, except for his deadly proficiency with a gun. Clint Eastwood played the laconic, steely-gazed, squint-eyed, serape-cladded, cheroot-smoking, invariably unshaven gunfighter, who was always able to blast four to five baddies with bullet holes in one single sweep of his gun.

He practically redefined the notion of a true hero in the wild wild west, as often exemplified by Randolph Scott (clean-cut, good-looking, & confident), Gary Cooper (stressed out, with the worried look), John Wayne (tough-guy, always wise-cracking) & Robert Mitchum (nonchalant, have-seen-them-all demeanour, laisser-faire style) & the others.

The plot was indescribably simple: A wandering gunfighter played out two families, the Baxters & the Rojos, against each other in a god-forsaken town, somewhere near the Mexican border, which had been torn apart by greed, pride & revenge.

The cinematography was visually stunning: wind-scoured deserts, dusty landscapes, empty streets. The director, Sergio Leone, obviously knew his craft as he intertwined them with a dazzling array of massive close-ups & panoramic long-shots. He had an incredible eye for details. The close-ups were sometimes quite chilling...dusty streets, rundown houses, town-folk with expression-less faces & shabby clothes, as well as baddies with twitching faces, dripping sweat, blood-oozing wounds as they fell.

The movie flowed at more or less break-neck speed & every scene was riveting & compelling, backed by a brilliant music score that combined trumpets, guitars, harmonica, bells & other sounds - never heard before - that often enliven the occasional slack in between scenes. During gun-fight scenes, the accompanying music score tended to be somewhat haunting & eerie.

The movie often had a style of gritty realism & expert build-up of tension, interlaced here & there with dry humour.

The climactic sequence involving an eventual but deadly confrontation between the hero & the villain (a character of real menace & sadistic cruelty, played extremely well by Gian Maria Volonte) was amazing. This was definitely the best scene in the movie. The villain was inordinately obsessed with his own ability to shoot a man in the heart at any distance. That proved to be his fatal mistake as our hero had fashioned an armoured steel plate as bullet proof vest.

The dialogue sequences throughout the movie were witty & funny. In one scene as our hero rode past the under-taker, he growled: "Get three coffins ready!"

He then confronted some bad guys in town who made fun of him & his mule. He told them to apologise: "You see, my mule doesn't like people laughing...gets the crazy idea you're laughing at him!" When they refused, Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

On his way back to the under taker, he corrected his miscalculation: "My mistake! Four coffins!"

I really like the characterisation of our hero. At one point, he seemed amoral. In fact, he seemed downright evil & greedy, as he constantly said "I don't work for cheap!" & his gun was ready for hire at the right price.

In one of the opening scenes, as he rode past a father & son who were cruelly harassed by some town baddies, he did not bother to intervene at all. Only in the very brief & defining moment of the movie, he did demonstrate some redeeming quality by rescuing a damsel in distress (played by Marianne Koch). I saw him as he truly was.

He also looked ultra-cool & invincible because of his exceptionally swift draw during gun fights. There was one particular scene where he was caught by the villain & his baddies. He was kicked in the butt, groin & his face was beaten to a pulp. I really felt sorry for him. This graphically violent scene was apparently extended - & beautifully choreographed - for viewer's enjoyment. In a way, this also demonstrated the human frailty of the character, caught in a dicey situation where he should have stayed away in the first place.

Prior to ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, I have watched Clint Eastwood playing the character, Rowdy Yates, in the Rawhide TV series during the mid-sixties. He did not impress me at all but his performance in ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ was superb.

He went on to perform well in a series of other westerns, including ‘Hang Them High’, ‘Joe Kidd’, ‘High Plains Drifter’ (*), ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (*), ‘Pale Rider’ (*) & ‘The Unforgiven’ (*). I have watched all of these action movies.

Of course, he also went on to play the street-smart no-nonsense Inspector Harry Callahan of San Francisco Police Department in ‘Dirty Harry’, ‘Magnum Force’, ‘The Enforcer’, ‘Sudden Impact’ (*) & ‘The Dead Pool’ in the seventies & eighties. He was also the director of these movies marked with (*). I have also watched all of these action movies.

I just love to watch Clint Eastwood in action. Till this day, I always remember his famous tag line: 'Make My Day!'

To conclude my review, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this particular action movie again & again. Go & get this wonderful Clint Eastwood gift set if you have yet watched the three spaghetti western classics.

[In reality, 'A Fistful of Dollars' was a remake of the legendary Japanese movie director Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, Yojimbo, starring also the legendary Japanese movie star Toshiro Mifune. Only the setting was different, while the story plot remained unchanged. It was produced during the early sixties & filmed in black & white. This was also my favourite Japanese movie. Interestingly, there is also a remake of 'A Fistful of Dollars' in the form of 'Last Man Standing', starring Bruce Willis. This movie is also worth watching.]

THE FIVE GREATEST FACTS OF LIFE



In the hectic pace of modern life, it is often easy to forget the most important facts of life.

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “I have found that the most urgent things in life are rarely important & that the most important things in life are rarely urgent.”

I am well aware that the original postulation of the five most important facts of life has to do with biblical perspectives. It is both vitally important & very urgent for us to learn about their ramifications.

However, as far as I am concerned, I have always approached them & would prefer to deal with each of them in my own way:

1) Life is Brief;

Comments: I live - & enjoy - my life everyday as if it is my last day. To exemplify the wonderful movie, 'Dead Poets Society', my personal motto is 'Carpe Diem' or 'Seize the Day!'

2) Death is Certain;

Comments: As my gym buddy puts it: "You can certainly postpone death, if you 1) exercise regularly; 2) eat in moderation, avoid junk & refined foods; 3) rest & sleep adequately; 4) do a random act of kindness everyday; 5) love yourself & your loved ones; 6) help others to help themselves in every way; & 7) have & interact with good friends around you." I fully concur with his thinking.

3) Judgement is Sure;

Comments: Judgement in the biblical perspective is something I can't control, but I do not know that I can control all the decisions I make every day, the things I want to focus on & the results I want at the end of the day. Everything else, other than these, is just a waste time.

4) Eternity is Long;

Comments: I don't give a damned about the vastness of the universe &/or "eternal life". All I care about is doing all the little things I need to do daily to produce the results I want & in line with the big picture I have in mind. Within this perspective, I believe I am on the right track.

5) Preparation is Necessary;

Comments: My favourite tag line in this perspective is: "Chance favours the prepared mind." The best way for me is to keep learning - & doing - new things, or generating new ideas & putting them to work in my life.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"We are CEOs of our own companies: ME, Inc. To be in business today our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU!"

(Tom Peters, in cover story by Fast Company, August/September 1997)

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL EXCELLENCE

1) Excellence has to be learned & earned every day;

2) Reinvent yourself & make history;

3) Whoever has the most fun wins!

4) Concentrate on what you want, not on what you don't want;

5) What could you dare to dream if you could not fail?

6) The best revenge - Living well, & loving well, too;

7) Don't just do it - Do it NOW!

[Source: 'YOU Inc.,: The Most Important Enterprise in the 21st Century', by John Hensel]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


Who am I? What do I want?

Who do people think I am? How do I look to them?

How do others look to themselves? How can I help others become the people they want?

[Source: 'The Power of Purpose: Living Well by Doing Good', by Peter Temes]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

THE ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA: Take a leaf from J Paul Getty

1. Almost without exception, there is only one way to make a great deal of money in the business world — and that is in one’s own business. The man who wants to go into business for himself should choose a field which he knows and understands. Obviously, he can’t know everything there is to know from the very beginning, but he should not start until he has acquired a good, solid working knowledge of the business.

2. The businessman should never lose sight of the central aim of all business — to produce more and better goods or provide more or better services to more people at lower cost.

3. A sense of thrift is essential for success in business. The businessman must discipline himself to practice economy whenever possible, in his personal life as well as his business affairs. “Make your money first — then think about spending it,” is the best of all possible credos for the man who wishes to succeed.

4. Legitimate opportunities for expansion should never be ignored or overlooked. On the other hand, the businessman must always be on his guard against the temptation to overexpand or launch expansion programs blindly, without sufficient justification and planning. Forced growth can be fatal to any business, new or old.

5. A businessman must run his own business. He cannot expect his employees to think or do as well as he can. If they could, they would not be his employees. When “The Boss” delegates authority or responsibility, he must maintain close and constant supervision over the subordinates entrusted with it.

6. The businessman must be constantly alert for new ways to improve his products and services and increase his production and sales. He should also use prosperous periods to find the ways by which techniques may be improved and costs lowered. It is only human for people to give little thought to economies when business is booming. That, however, is just the time when the businessman has the mental elbow room to examine his operations calmly and objectively and thus effect important savings without sacrificing quality or efficiency. Many businessmen wait for lean periods to do these things and, as a result, often hit the panic button and slash costs in the wrong places.

7. A businessman must be willing to take risks — to risk his own capital and to lose his credit and risk borrowed money as well when, in his considered opinion, the risks are justified. But borrowed money must always be promptly repaid. Nothing will write ‘finis’ to a career faster than a bad credit rating.

8. A businessman must constantly seek new horizons and untapped or under-exploited markets. As I’ve already said at some length, most of the world is eager to buy American products and know-how; today’s shrewd businessman looks to foreign markets.

9. Nothing builds confidence and volume faster or better than a reputation for standing behind one’s work or products. Guarantees should always be honored — and in doubtful cases, the decision should always be in the customer’s favor. A generous service policy should also be maintained. The firm that is known to be completely reliable will have little difficulty filling its order books and keeping them filled.

10. No matter how many millions an individual amasses, if he is in business he must always consider his wealth as a means for improving living conditions everywhere. He must remember that he has responsibilities toward his associates, employees, stockholders — and the public.


[Source: 'HOW TO BE RICH' by J Paul Getty, published in the sixties. I had read it when I was a young engineer. J Paul Getty became a millionarie when he was 26; in the end of the fifties, he was the "Richest Man in America" & then the "Richest Man in the World". In his book, he presents us many insights that are still up-to-date today, more than four decades after his book was originally written.]

BOOK REVIEW: 'SAMURAI STRATEGIES', by Boye Lafayette De Mente

I am very glad to have found this book.

My first encounter with the life story of Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's most renowned combat strategist, was in the early 80's when I started to work for a large heavy & construction equipment conglomerate, which dealt primarily with Japanese principals & their products.

For the first time in my life, I was introduced to Japanese management culture, & the first 'Japanese' book I read was 'The Book of Five Rings', translated by a Victor Harris, a mechanical engineer like me.

Coming back to today: The author of this particular book is quite right. Miyamoto Musashi's original work was written for samurai warriors who are steeped into Buddhist & Shinto precepts, in the code of the samurai, in the long traditions of the samurai, & in allusions that were part of the culture of the times.

Like Japanese artists who leave it up to readers to complete their work, Miyamoto Musashi left it up to readers of his work to fill in the details of his allusions & advice from their own store of knowledge. Henceforth, it wasn't easy for me to read 'The Book of Five Rings.'

It took me quite a while to figure out the essence, digest the work & eventually managed to distill about ten strategies which I could understand & apply in my own sphere of work.

In this particular book, the author has attempted to identify & explain, in plain English, the philosophy, the strategy, & the ways of winning that Miyamoto Musashi sought to pass on to his disciples. The original work is about how to fight duels to the death & win! The author has made the fighting principles equally applicable to winning in business, & in virtually all other endeavours.

In fact, he has elegantly distilled them all down to 42 strategies (compared to my original ten strategies)!!!

The author's writing is almost straight-talk, & in easy-to-understand language. I would even recommend all teens to read it in order to achieve a quick head start in life, as the 42 strategies are also applicable in studies & in sports.

Interestingly, 'The Book of Five Rings' is, in Miyamoto Musashi's own words, "a guide for men who want to learn strategy."

In life, everything is possible. It is just a question of strategy.

In concluding my review, I must say this is excellent work.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I would rather earn 1 % of the efforts of 100 people than
100 % of my own efforts."
(J Paul Getty, billionaire & oil magnate)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


How can I accomplish ______ ?

What exists that I want to improve?

What would be ideal for me?

What are the steps I can take?

Suggestions: Areas to consider can include Building Wealth, Optimum Health, Building Intelligence, Career Development, Total Security, & Romantic Love;

BOOK REVIEW: 'MAKE YOUR IDEAS MEAN BUSINESS', by Jay Moreau

This book was published about four years ago but it has only caught my eye very recently.

At first glance, it is probably the only recent creativity book that I have read so far that contains no pictorial or graphic llustrations. It is relatively text heavy, but straight-to-the-point, content-wise.

Surprisingly, there is no bio-data about the author & his work. I find this very strange. The usual credits are also missing. The bibliography is sketchy, too.

In a nutshell, these are the chapters of the book:

Part I: The Basics of Onnovation

Chapter 1: Brainstorming, Why & How;
Chapter 2: Clarify for Shared Meaning;
Chapter 3: The Joy of Sorting;
Chapter 4: Selection & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance;
Chapter 5: Level the Playing field;

Part II: Where the Ideas Are

Chapter 6: Focus on Purpose;
Chapter 7: Welcome to the Performance Gap;
Chapter 8: Scotty, Give me Maximum Process;
Chapter 9: That's Why They Play the Game;
Chapter 10: Everything Old Just gets Old;

Part III: Mindblowing Thoughts for the Read World

Chapter 11: Welcome to the Idea Jungle;
Chapter 12: Like Money in the Idea Bank;
Chapter 13: Playing the Meeting Market;
Chapter 14: Passing It On;

However, & to my relief, the book has been very clearly & concisely written for the busy professional, who demands a systematic approach to problem/opportunity finding. In other words, this book is designed precisely as a workplace toolkit.

To maintain brevity, the author has narrowed down the creative cycle to four refreshing steps:

- brainstorming, using a disciplined set of tools outlined in the book;
- clarifying for shared meaning;
- sorting random batches of ideas & organising them into categories;
- selecting ideas for implementation;


Although the tools outlined in the book are not ground breaking, the author's presentation of them is commendable. In fact, there are the usual classic tools one would find in most creativity books. What the author has done specifically is adapting & synthesising them for business users to direct all creative efforts appropriately towards these strategic areas (of opportunity), within the context of the organisation's mission & vision:

- establishing purposes;
- defining gaps;
- improving processes;
- anticipating events;
- changing structures;


In this respect, the author has drawn some inspiration from Peter Drucker's pioneering work in innovation, management thinking & business leadership.

Additionally, what I like about the book is the numerous idea bank worksheets & checklist directions. They are well crafted by the author for use in a team setting.

The 'Wild Ideas at your Fingertips' at the end of the book is my favourite.

The author has also conveniently incorporated a Getting Started Checklist to help you start putting his tools to work immediately as follows:

1. Supply of sticky notes, index cards, or paper for Idea Cards;
2. Flipchart, whiteboard, bulletin board, or wall to post Idea Cards;
3. Pens, pencils, and other writing instruments;
4. Tape if not using sticky notes;
5. Information about your organization and workplace (e.g. Mission and Vision Statements);
6. Gather a wide mix of information that interests you e.g. newspapers, magazines, books, posters;
7. Printed copies of Idea Bank Worksheets and Directions from the book;

Although the book mentions a website (http://www.brainstormingatwork.com/) to go to, it is a dead end. What a disappointment! Even the link to the author at the publisher/distributor's website (http://www.booksurge.com/) also draws a blank. I am quite puzzled. When I read, I often like to know the author's biography & background as well as also to peek into his references/bibliography to see who & what had influenced him.

For a quick, no-frills but systematic approach to problem/opportuntiy finding in the real world, this is one marvellous book to read/digest/work with.

To conclude my review, this book certainly lives up to its title, 'Make Your Ideas Mean Business', even though some pertinent details are missing as mentioned.

LESSONS FROM PAUL MACCREADY, INVENTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE


Towards the end of the nineties, I had attended a premier event - the ‘7th International Conference on Thinking’ - at the Suntec Convention Centre. There were many brilliant speakers – I call them thought leaders - from the field of thinking methodologies, including Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, Edward de bono, Reuven Feuerstein (Israel), Luis Machado (Venezuela), David Perkins, Paul MacCready, Robert Sylwester, & Richard Paul.

The one speaker who really stood out from the academics & who impressed me the most was Paul MacCready, an aeronautical engineer from Pasadena, California, USA, known as the ‘Father of Human Powered Flight’. Today, he is the Founder & Chairman of AeroVironment – the organisation behind the successful Gossamer Condor & Gossamer Albatross projects during the late seventies.

For the uninitiated, Gossamer Condor was the first successful human powered aircraft to fly over the required 5 km course on 23rd August 1977. Gossamer Albatross was also the first successful human powered aircraft to fly across the English Channel on 12th June 1979. Both were feather-light aircrafts, piloted by Bryan Allen. Both projects were awarded the Kremer Prize.

Paul MacCready had struck me most because he broke conventional wisdom. He probably reminded me of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, whom I had a personal fascination.

Why did the Condor & Albatross projects work? What were the factors of success when so many others before them (in Europe – Italy, Germany, France, UK - & Japan) had failed?

The channel crossing was an incredibly challenging undertaking, despite the earlier success of the Condor. It was an eventual triumph for both man & machine.

According to a key team member of the Gossamer Squadron, Morton Grosser, who wrote a book, entitled ‘Gossamer Odyssey: The Triumph of Human Powered Flights’, & published in 1981, to document the history of development & flight behind both projects, Paul MacCready narrowed down to four principles:

SINGLE-MINDEDNESS:

- Keeping the goal in mind & doing only what had to be done;

PERSISTENCE:

- Having enough resolve to surmount the inevitable & recurrent stumbling blocks;

FLEXIBILITY:

- Being willing & able to change the design & solve problem by evolution;

CONFIDENCE:

- Being certain that the vehicles could be made to work;

From the book, I noted that the Gossamer Squadron had additionally listed the following factors for success:

- skilled direction;
- encouragement;
- grit;
- natural coordination & athletic ability;
- craftsmanship;
- quality material;
- patience;
- mutual respect; &
- humour;

(A year after the Channel flight, Paul MacCready was still awed & mystified by the physical & psychological resources that Bryan Allen, the pilot, was able to draw on during the crossing.)

At the conference, Paul MacCready had also made a very interesting personal observation, which had stayed with me for many years, & in fact till today:

“I soon found that a dominant factor in the way our minds work is the build-up of patterns that enable us to simplify the assimilation of complex issues. But this same patterning can be a weakness as well as a strength. The pattern makes it hard for a new idea to get fair treatment.”

Many thanks, Paul, for sharing your insights with the world!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What do I want?

Is that what I really want?

What am I not paying enough attention to in my life right now?

What is the easiest first step I can take now in the direction of what I want?

LESSONS FROM A NOBEL LAUREATE

ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS

Nobel laureate in Physics (in 1944, for his work on atomic nuclei), Isidor Issac Rabi, was once asked,

Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?”

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school:

‘Nu? Did you learn anything today?

But not my mother. She always asked me a different question.

Izzy,’ she would say, ‘Did you ask a good question today?‘

That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.”

[Source: Donald Sheff, New York Times, January 19, 1988]

[In parallel with this post, I would like to direct readers to read an excellent article, entitled 'Inquisitive Minds' by a former Prof. John Barell & published by 'Education Week on the Web' on March 14, 2001. It addresses 'Why curiosity is so important, & what can we do to create an embedded culture of inquisitiveness within schools & society'.]

BOOK REVIEW: 'TRIGGER POINTS - HOW TO MAKE DECISIONS 3 TIMES FASTER, INNOVATE SMARTER & BEAT YOUR COMPETITON BY 10%', by Mike Kami

The recommended reading technique, 'Razor Blade Reading & Clue Management' in this wonderful book is the best advice I have gotten!

Recently, I conducted a spring cleaning of my personal library & found a number of interesting business books, which I have totally forgotten about.

This is one of them. I remember I had acquired it at the time I was just moving into general management during the late 80s. The author had been a corporate planner & had also been a business strategist to Big Blue.

The most productive learning experience I got out of this book is the understanding & application of one of the action tools recommended by the author:

'Razor Blade Reading & Clue Management'

Till today, this has been an integral part of my life as an knowledge adventurer & technology explorer.

In a nut shell, this action tool entails scanning (before going to bed, in the bathroom, while waiting in line, while travelling) and clipping (with a razor blade!) interested articles from business/industry magazines; & reviewing them periodically (also, exchanging ideas with colleagues over drinks) by asking:

- can it affect my business?
- what problem may it create?
- what opportunity may it create?

This action also includes filing the articles in appropriate folders (to create a chronological series of data, information & clues on the particular subject)& reviewing each folder once a month for trends, gaps or revelations.

A final word from the author: 'Razor Blade Reading' is useless unless it leads to a decision & action. This is the final test of the real value of the process.

The author even recommends 'Razor Blade Reading' in the Sky for those busy travelling executives. He cautions: Please remove your address labels, otherwise the airlines may mail them back to you!

Although much of the book may be out of date as it was published prior to the internet era, I strongly feel the remaining action tools e.g. pyramid thinking, directed brainstorming, gap analysis, etc. as recommended by the author are still very relevant in today's context.

PETER KLINE'S PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE ON INFORMATION OVERLOAD

I can't recall where I had read about it, but I definitely concur with Peter Kline, who draws from his deep experience as an innovator, teacher & researcher in the field of learning & accelerated learning skills. He argues:

"Today, the amount of available information in all field is growing at more than a billion times the rate it was in 1950.

By 2010, the volume of available information will be continuing to expand by more than 10 billion times faster than in 1950."

Peter Kline has also contributed to the early development of the PhotoReading technology created by Paul Scheele of Learning Strategies Corporation in Minnesota, USA. I brought the technology - as well as the co developer, Patricia Danielson - to Singapore in the early nineties. I was among the first batch of student participants to learn PhotoReading. I was really glad I did that.

In addition to PhotoReading, I have also picked up, over the years, a lot of other important skill sets to enhance &/or turbo-charge my reading performance. For example:

- understanding information, from Richard Saul Wurman;
- understanding the four levels of reading & comprehension as well as syntopic reading, from Mortimer Adler;
- analytical reading & reasoning techniques from Arthur Whimbey;
- SQ5R, a wayfinding system through text, which I have adapted from SQ3R developed originally by Francis Robinson of Ohio State University in the forties;
- marginal annotations, as well as the Cornell Method as applied to reading, from Prof Walter Pauk of Cornell University;
- techniques for recognising various text organisational patterns & signal words (used by authors in their academic writings), from a host of learning experts, e.g. Shirley Quinn, Kathleen McWhorter, Royce Adams, Peter Sotiriou;
- 'razor blade reading' techniques for magazines, from Mike Kami;
- 'grokking' techniques derived from the work of Colin Rose, Roger Swartz, Michael McCarthy & Ronald Gross;
- supplementary techniques on extracting or mining information from books, from Mark Levy, Howard Berg, Peter Kump, Steve Moidel;
- cyberlearning skills - twelve powerful questions before/during/after reading -, from Adam Robinson;
- a broad variety of self-questioning techniques from Jamie MacKenzie to probe reading materials & to deepen my reading performance;
- a broad variety of mapping & other visual organising techniques from Gabrielle Rico, Tony Buzan, Nancy Margulies, Joseph Novak, David Hyerle, James Wandersee, Jim Burke, to serve as previewing (or pre-reading), inviewing (or during-reading) & reviewing (or post-reading) strategies;
- summarisation techniques from Rick Wormell, Jon Saphier & Mary Haley;
- scanning & information gathering techniques from non-reading experts, e.g. John Naisbitt, Joel Arthur Barker, Peter Schwartz, Robert Tucker, Art Turock;
- maximising the brain's potential in the reading process, based on the work of Roger Sperry, Paul MacLean, Karl Pribram, Marian Diamond, Howard Gardner, Richard Bandler & John Grinder;
- 'incremental reading' & 'active recall' techniques of Piotr Wozniak;
- discerning data, information & ideas, from Edward de bono, Arnold Penzias, Thomas Roszak & Stan Davis;

From time to time, I will share these personal learning experiences in my new posts with readers. Please stay tuned!

BRUCE LEE'S WISDOM FOR DAILY LIVING

Although martial arts do not fall under the purview of my personal interests, I have always been fascinated by Bruce Lee's writings, movies & philosophy which embody his unique fighting techniques known as 'Jeet kune do'.

Here are a few nuggets from my scratch pad to share with readers:

Learning to Truly See:

"We possess a pair of eyes, but most of us do not really see in the true sense of the word. I must say that when the eyes are used externally to observe the inevitable faults of other beings, most of us are rather quick with readily equipped condemnation. True seeing, in the sense of choice awareness, leads to new discovery & discovery is one of the means to uncovering our potentiality."

On Learning:

"Learning is discovery, the discovery of the cause of our ignorance. However, the best way of learning is not the computation of information. Learning is discovering, uncovering what is there to there in us. When we discover, we are uncovering our own ability; our own eyes, in order to find our potential, to see what is going on, to discover we can enlarge our lives, to find means at our disposal that will let us cope with a difficult situation. And all these, I maintain, is taking place in the here & now."

[Source: 'Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living' by John Little.]

TODAY'S VERY IMPORTANT POSE

"To see a thing uncoloured by one's own personal preferences & desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity."
(Bruce Lee)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LESSONS FROM THE MOVIES: ‘The Fast & the Furious - Tokyo Drift’

I have watched this action movie on TV only a few nights ago.

Apparently, this is the third movie in the ‘Fast & Furious’ trilogy, which includes ‘The Fast & The Furious’ (starring Paul Walker – he played an undercover cop who infiltrated an underworld subculture of Los Angeles street racers) in 2001 & ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ (starring Paul Walker again – this time he played an ex-cop – he was stripped off his badge at the end of the earlier movie -, recruited by the police with an offer to redeem himself by infiltrating the Miami street racing circuit) in 2003.

Interesting, this particular movie starred many Asian American actors as well as directed by an Asian American (Justin Lin).

There is even a cameo appearance of the legendary Sonny Chiba of the phenomenally popular & ultra violent 'The Street Fighter’ series of action movies during the 70's. He played the local Yakuza head in this movie. Readers may also recall him in 'Kill Bill Volume II'.

The story plot is quite simple & straight-forward:

After being caught by police for the second time in an illegal street race, a troubled young man, Shaun Boswell (played by Lucas Black) is sent to live with his father in Tokyo, Japan, to avoid jail time. While in school, beside the initial culture shock, he befriends Twinkie, who introduces him to the world of underground racing. He decides to race against the local "Drift King", nicknamed DK (played by Brian Tee) who has ties to the Yakuza, & loses. [According to the movie, ‘drifting’ is, car racing that involves dangerous hair pin turns & switchbacks.] To repay his debt, he gets the unsolicited help from the partner of DK, Han (played by Sung Kang), & eventually venture together into the deadly realm of the Tokyo underworld, where the stakes are life & death.

I really can’t help feeling that this movie resembles a rather old black & white movie I had watched while I was a teenager. The movie was ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, starring the legendary James Dean & Natalie Wood during the late fifties or so. It had more or less the same story plot, but with a different setting. James Dean played a rebellious young man with a troubled past who came into a new town, finding friends as well as enemies.

I love ‘The Fast & the Furious – Tokyo Drift’ not only for its brilliant cinematography & adrenaline-pumping car racing sequences, plus many beautiful damsels to match those fancy cars from Mitsubishi, Nissan & Toyota, but also for a couple of touching moments in the movie.

When Shaun was taken on by Han, who became his unsolicited mentor, the latter took the opportunity to share some personal insights about life with the troubled young man:

Han (to Shaun): Life's simple, you make choices, & you don't look back;

Han (to Shaun): Who you choose to be around you lets you know who you are;

When Shaun questioned Han about the latter’s motives, as exemplified in the following dialogue:

Shaun: Why'd you let me race your car? You knew I was gonna wreck it.
Han: Why not?
Shaun: 'Cause that's a lot of money.
Han: I have money. What I need around me is trust & character. And one car in exchange for finding out what a man's made of is a price I can live with.

Following the sudden death of his mentor because of DK, Shaun faces a dilemma as his father wants him to return to the United States. He stands his ground & makes a choice to take full responsibility to settle the score with DK, with the blessing of the local Yakuza head. He has certainly learned the life lessons well from Han.

For me, these were the most poignant moments in the movie, which more or less sum up my overall sentiments about the movie. I have really enjoyed watching it.

BOOK REVIEW: 'NEW VENTURE STRATEGIES', by Karl Vesper

A superbly researched book for entrepreneur wannabes!

In addition to Jeffry Timmons, the other author in the field of entrepreneurship education I have found is Karl Vesper.

I have bought & also read practically all the books that have been written by him. I must add that I am very impressed by the work of this author.

This is actually one of Vesper's earlier books. I am very glad to have bought & read it. The main topics include:

- perspectives on entrepreneurship;
- success & failure factors;
- career departure points;
- sequences in start-up;
- sources of venture ideas;
- evaluating venture ideas;
- main competitive entry wedges;
- other entry wedges;
- acquisition finding;
- acquisition dealing;

In essence, this book stresses the cultivation of learnable skills in the foregoing areas that can raise the odds of venturing successfully.

When compared with Timmons', Vesper's books are much more scholarly in content approach. So, Vesper's books are often a bit heavy going.

In this book, there are a lot of real-world examples of how entrepreneurs enter the venture jungle, how they select their ventures, how they explore lines of action, and how they build their businesses. The book explores the various strategies of these entrepreneurs, from both personal as well as commercial perspectives.

I have particularly digesting:

- chapter 2, which touches on the success & failure factors (wannabes, please pay attention here!);
- chapter 3, on career departure points;
- chapter 4, on sequences in start-up (this is a real gem to read!);
- chapter 5, on sources of venture ideas (another gem!);
- chapter 6, on evaluating venture ideas (another gem!).

From the standpoint of commercial value, the remaining chapters provide many interesting insights.

In terms of writing style, I am more comfortable with Timmons' books, but I am not saying Vesper does not write well.

At the end of each chapter, there is a summary. I generally like to read books written in this way. It makes reading & review fast & breezy.

For entrepreneur wannabes, this is a superbly researched book for your learning pursuit!

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MIND', by Jeffry Timmons

How do entrepreneurs strategise? Read this book!

In the course of designing & developing an entrepreneurship program for kids, & also expanding further my working knowledge on opportunity creation, I surfed through several online bookstores, including www.amazon.com to scout & pursue good books on entrepreneurship & new venture creation.

I perused practically every book review in this genre, & I managed to narrow down my selections to a handful of highly respected authors. Jeffry Timmons is one of them, & I bought practically all the books that have been written by him.

In the case of Jeffrey Timmons, who is internationally renowned for his pioneering research work in new ventures, venture capital, venture financing & entrepreneurship, he is also a well respected academic.

This is my first entrepreneurship book by the author.

This book addresses what makes winning entrepreneurs strategise - think, plan & act - in the marketplace.

Although it was written in the late 1980s, it still offers a tremendous wealth of information. It also addresses what they do & avoid doing to get the odds of success in their favour. It also focuses on the founders of new ventures as well as entrepreneurial managers, & provides many interesting answers that help to unlock the mystery - & mythology - of entrepreneurship.

Stretched over 187 pages, this book is really an insightful study of entrepreneurs, be they budding or mature, particularly from the standpoint of opportunity/new venture creation.

When I compare it with Rita Gunther McGrath & Ian MacMillan's 'The Entrepreneurial Mindset,' the latter has more profundity. It's also newer (it's published in mid-2000) & has over 380 pages.

In some way, because of its size, I feel this book can be excellent preamble to 'The Entrepreneurial Mindset.'

If you seriously want to know how winning entrepreneurs strategise, read both books - & start with this one first!

MAKING DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN A 'PROBLEM' & AN 'OPPORTUNITY'

from my scratch pad:

PROBLEM:

- something you know you need to attend to;
- requires responsiveness;
- your response is often reactive;
- results are obvious;
- calls for a short term & medium term solution;
- it seeks you out;
- it's in your face;
- solve it & it's done;

OPPORTUNITY:

- something that you don't know yet needs attention;
- requires foresight or farsightedness;
- your response needs to be proactive;
- results are not so obvious;
- calls for a long term solution;
- you seek it out;
- it's in the future;
- requires continuous improvement;

Now you have learned about & probably understood the distinctions, the next step is to look at a problem squarely & explore ways to convert it into an opportunity.

How to go about it?

Here are some personal suggestions:

- conduct a detailed SWOT Analysis of the problem situation with a view to amply the strengths, reduce the weaknesses, exploit the opportunities & reduce the threats;
- ask more probing questions: what is NOT happening or what has NOT happened yet? what is missing here? who is NOT involved? who instigates it? who benefits most if a solution is found?
- ask more creative & imaginative questions: what if...? so what...? what then? why not...?;
- explore the problem from various angles with the view of leading to opportunity identification: technology? financial? people orientation? political? environmental impact? legal?
- ask: "In how many ways can I convert this 'problem' into an 'opportunity'? & then brainstorm;
- ask: "If I have unlimited power, how can I resolve it?"
& then brainstorm;
- ask: "If there are no constraints with regard to time, money & people, how can I resolve it?
& then brainstorm;
- think synectics: explore the problem using a direct analogy? a symbolic analogy? a personal analogy? a fantasy analogy?

WHAT IS AN OPPORTUNITY?

According to Prof. Jeffrey Timmons, who is considered North America's foremost educator in entrepreneurship:

"An opportunity has the qualities of being attractive, durable, timely, & is anchored in a product or service which creates or adds value for a buyer &/or an end-user."

He adds that "entrepreneurship is the transformation of an idea into an opportunity".

Remember Dr Edward de bono's definition? According to him:

"An opportunity is a course of action that is possible & obviously worth pursuing."

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS

from my scratch pad:
"May I ask you the secret of your success?"

"There is no easy street. You just jump at your opportunity."

"But how can I tell when my opportunity comes?"

"You don't. You've got to keep on jumping."

The trouble with opportunity is that it's always more recognisable going than coming.

TODAY'S VERY IMPORTANT POSE

"I think luck is the sense to recognise an opportunity & the ability to take advantage of it. Everyone has bad breaks, but everyone also has opportunity. The man who can smile at his breaks & grab his chances gets one."
(Samuel Goldwin, one of the most distinguished of the old Hollywood movie moguls)

Monday, July 16, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'ARE YOU A TRANS-HUMAN?', by FM-2030

I reckon this book, especially the questionnaire, will help - & guide - readers to put Ashby's Law to work in your own life!

Towards the end of the eighties, I had came across a few unusual books from the fringe, which retrospectively had somehow influenced what I am doing today & in fact what I love to do today i.e. to pursue future-focused, change-oriented, brain-based technologies.

This unique book was one of them. It had been brilliantly written by a 'self-described chronic optimist' & a widely-travelled futurist/philosopher of Iranian origin, whose adopted name, FM-2030, seemed to resonate with his life-long obsessive conviction to create "a world of boundless wealth, endless life & unlimited free refills."

[His real name was F M Esfandiary. I understand FM-2030 died from pancreatic cancer on July 8, 2000 at the age of 69, & was placed in cryonic suspension at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his body remains today.]

Although I do not subscribe totally to all the author's beliefs & values as embodied in his book, I certainly admired his bold initiatives & far-sightedness.

This wonderful book spelt out both personal strategies & practical pathways to help people to achieve longevity & immortality. For me, it had served as a comprehensive field guide to life extension or 'trans-humanism', which was the term the author would prefer to use.

From my personal perspective, the greatest learning experience I got out of this book is learning - & understanding - how to access & apply available technologies &/or new products or services to extend human capabilities & capacities in an ethical, safe & responsible manner.

As far as application in the personal/individual sphere is concerned, my primary interest is in the physical & mental enhancement areas. I would term it 'intelligence amplification or enhancement.'

Specifically in this respect - & ever since the eighties -, this book, among a few other good ones, had happened to be my precursor to finding, accessing & learning about other good books & resources (to name a few, Brain/Mind Bulletin, IONS, MegaBrain Report, OMNI, Knowledge Systems, Loompanics Catalog, New Dimensions, Thinking Allowed, Tools for Exploration, UTNE Reader, Whole Earth Catalog, etc.) as part of my relentless personal journey to explore ways to build a better mind, a better body & a better life!

The book was more or less written in a questionnaire format. At the time I read the book, I found the questions to be most thought-provoking.

The key chapters (or more specifically, questions) are as follows:

- How Updated Is Your Vocabulary?;
- How Telespheral-age (post-industrial) Are You?;
- How Information Rich Are You?;
- How Time Rich Are You?;
- How Fluid Are You?;
- How High Tech Is Your Attention Span?;
- What Is Your Cultural Orientation?;
- How Power Oriented Are You?;
- How Affluent Are You?;
- How Ritualistic Are You?;
- How Creative Are You?;
- How Emotional Are You?;
- How Intelligent Are You?;
- How Family Oriented Are You?;
- How Ecology Conscious Are You?;
- How Tele-communitized Are You?;
- How Global Are You?;
- How Cosmic Are You?;
- What Is Your Ideological Orientation?;
- How Future Oriented Are You?;
- How Optimistic or Pessimistic Are You About the Future?;
- What Is Your Level of Humanity?;
- How Immortality Oriented Are You?;
- How Transhuman Are You?;
- Conclusion: Aligning and Accelerating Your Rate of Personal Growth;

I believe many readers would probably have heard or read about Ashby's Law, or better known to NLP practitioners/followers as the 'Law of Requisite Variety.' Well, one thing I am quite sure of is that this book, especially the questionnaire, will help - & guide - readers to put the law to work in your own life!

Nevertheless, please read it - & play, experiment & explore its ideas - with an open mind!

[For the uninitiated, please read my earlier post regarding Ashby's Law or the Law of Requisite Variety.]

Although the author had written several other books, including the landmark trilogy comprising 'Optimism One', 'Upwingers' & 'Telespheres', this is his only book I have access to, perused & assimilated.

LESSONS FROM THE NOAH'S ARK

I had taken the following notes in my scratch pad many years ago. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to record the source. I am also not able to trace it on the net. If you are the source, just drop me a note & I will accord you the appropriate credit.

1. Don't miss the boat.

2. Remember that we all are in the same boat.

3. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

4. Stay fit. When you are 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

5. Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

6. For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

7. Speed isn't always an advantage. Snails were on board with cheetahs.

8. Build your future on high ground.

9. When you are stressed, float a while.

10. Remember the ark was built by amateurs; the Titatnic by professionals.

11. No matter the storm, there's always a rainbow waiting.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What & how to extend & leverage what I do best?

What & how to try new things that work with my expertise?

How to stop doing the wrong things?

TODAY'S VERY IMPORTANT POSE

"It's only within the context of having properly developed your mind that you will be able to truly enjoy the achievement of your material values, including that of a muscular body."

(Mike Mentzer, the only bodybuilder ever to win the Mr Universe competition with a perfect score of 300 in 1978)

A CELEBRATION OF WIT

Here is a small selection of inspired mix of wise, witty words & captivating sketches of human foibles in all their rich diversity:

- Some people succeed in preserving a youthful appearance, but they show their age in their opinions.

- Everyone likes to be run after, but the difference between men & women is that men do not want to be caught & women do.

- By all means tell a woman you love her, but don’t tell her anything else.

- Women are always asking question & men are always inventing answers - & women are none the wiser.

- It’s a splendid plan to make a man after you, but remember that he won’t go on running indefinitely merely out of curiosity or hope. The time will come when he will sit down to rest – with someone else.

- Men will pretend to understand things that they don’t & women will pretend not to understand things that they do.

- The French describe a woman of over forty as of a ‘certain age,’ but as a matter of fact it is after she is forty that a woman’s age becomes more uncertain.

- Leaders of men have been known to be followers of women.

- When you see an old man alone you are looking at something very sad. When you see an old man with a young woman you are looking at something rich.

- To know & understand women requires brain; to know & understand men requires beauty.

- There are no middle-aged people now; they are young, wonderful for their age, & then dead.

- The history of the world is the story of how different people made the same mistake. Progress is the occasional departure from this order when someone has sufficient genius to think of a new sort of mistake to make.

- To look well dressed is a matter of technique; to loom well undressed requires natural gifts.

- No man ever regrets resisting temptation, because no man ever resists a temptation.

- What a woman doesn’t know she guesses, & what she guesses she knows.

[Source: Tatlings, by Sydney Tremayne]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'BUSINESS BLINDSPOTS, ILLUSIONS, MINDSETS & PARADIGMS' BOOKSHELF I

Drawing on my personal as well as professional experience, I have compiled this list of books to serve as an Executive Reading Guide to understanding 'Blindspots, Illusions, Mindsets & Paradigms.'

1) Future Edge: Discovering the New Paradigms of Success, by Joel Arthur Barker

Comments: “An excellent field guide to understanding your paradigms - & becoming a paradigm pioneer. My perennial favourite.”

2) Wide-Angle Vision: Beat Your Competition by Focusing on Fringe Competitors, Lost Customers, & Rogue Employees, by Wayne Burkan

Comments: “An excellent companion to "Future Edge," with many more industry-wide perspectives. A tactical book.”

3) Thoughtware: Change the Thinking & the Organization Will Change Itself, by J. Philip Kirby

Comments: “What we do is rooted in our thoughtware - the same for organisations. Change it & we will change our behaviour & create capability to manage the future. Read this book to find out how & why.”

4) The Whack-A-Mole Theory; Creating Breakthrough & Transformation in Organizations, by Lindsay Collier

Comments: “A humour-filled (whack a mole) approach to understanding how we can shift our thinking to create - personal as well as organisational - breakthroughs. Many questions for you to ponder.”

5) Mind-Set Management : The Heart of Leadership, by Samuel Culbert

Comments: “Before you can lead effectively, you must comprehend the mindsets of the people with whom you deal with. This book explores workable models with wealth of real-life anecdotes. A bit heavy going.”

6) Fatal Illusions: Shredding a Dozen Unrealities That Can Keep Your Organization from Success, by James R. Lucas

Comments: “This well-researched book explores 12 fatal illusions that people/organisations often cling to. Also, provides you with soul-sweating reality testing checklists & illusion cleansing pathways.”

7) Inevitable Illusions : How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds, by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini

Comments: “A little bit difficult to read, but provides excellent perspectives on the cognitive biases that are embedded inside our heads/that often distort the way we think. Still enjoyable to read.”

8) How Corporate Truths Become Competitive Traps, by Eileen Shapiro

Comments: “An excellent companion to "Fatal Illusions." This book identifies 8 deadly assumptions & shows you how to overcome them. Some examples may be dated.”

9) Imaginization : New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing, & Managing, by Gareth Morgan

Comments: “Very stimulating & highly provocative, just like his other books, which readers should also explore. Full of mind stretching & broadening ways to enhance your perceptual thinking processes.”

10) Business Blindspots: Replacing Your Company's Entrenched & Outdated Myths, Beliefs & Assumptions With the Realities of Today's Markets, by Benjamin Gilad

Comments: “From a business intelligence perspective, there’s a lot of good real-world stuff here. The author is believed to be an ex-Israeli intelligence operative, & a guru in his field.”

11) Mindfulness, by Ellen J. Langer

Comments: “Mindlessnes or mindfulness, which do you prefer? Read this excellent book, as the author proposes workable methods for developing a mindful, change-ready attitude. Enjoyable to read!”

12) Habitual Domains: Freeing Yourself from the Limits on Your Life, by Po-Lung Yu

Comments: “This Chinese author calls an individual's way of thinking, judging & responding, a habitual domain. He expounds innovative ways to free yourself of the limits of a rigid habitual domain. Enjoyable to read.”

13) The Dinosaur Strain: The Survivor's Guide to Personal & Business Success, by Marc Brown

Comments: “A simple, easy-going book to read, packed with provocative insights & actionable ideas on your reptilian brain, which often can screw up your success in life - & business!”

14) Dinosaur Brains : Dealing with All Those Impossible People at Work, by Albert J. Bernstein

Comments: “Using the 'dinosaur brain' metaphor, the author details the instinctual rules ('dinosaur logic') in all of us and how to use them to our competitive advantage. Fun to read!”

15) Leadershift, by Doug Murren

Comments: “Although written strictly from a Christian perspective, it offers plenty of insights and ideas. Still worth readers' exploring!”

16) The Learning Paradox: Gaining Success & Security in a World of Change, by Jim Harris

Comments: “In rapidly changing times, experience is your worst enemy! Almost every business rule has changed. Read this brilliant book to explore the changes & uncertainties - & gather lessons & insights!”

17) Blindsided: How to Spot the Next Breakthrough That Will Change Your Business, by Jim Harris

Comments: “In a fast-paced environment, the possibility of being blindsided is very real! Read this book to explore real-world examples that will cause you to stop, think & question all your own situations.”

18) The Paradigm Conspiracy : Why Our Social Systems Violate Human Potential - & How We Can Change Them, by Christopher Largent

Comments: “Not a business book, but the authors will definitely change how you see just about everything in our society -- & in yourself. Brilliantly written.”

Please enjoy your reading, exploration & assimilation.

[Watch out for 'Blindspots, Illusions, Mindsets & Paradigms' Bookshelf II]