Saturday, March 26, 2011

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1...

This week I conquered part 1 of an epic novel: Atlas Shrugged. I wanted to make sure that I at least got the first part of the book completed, so I could write about it and generate some excitement for the movie coming out April 15th. The book has been a bestseller for years and years and that's widely because the ideas in this book are timeless. I wish it weren't the case, but it is. I say that because the book is about government interaction within industry and how the more the government regulates the more it destroys the industry. The book is about 1200 pages and is Ayn Rand's longest and last book. She is a genius woman!

The story widely surrounds a character, Dagny Taggart. She is the VP of Operations for her family's once great international railroad. In the first part of the book you watch as Dagny gives blood, sweat, and tears to make the railroad survive. Her brother, Jim Taggart, is the face of the company and not much more than that. He lacks all business sense and both directly and indirectly makes decisions that hurt the railroad. Then there is this guy Hank Rearden who makes a new type of metal that is better than steel, but of course everyone is uptight about it because it's not 'fair' that Hank gets to profit from his new metal and the steel mills are worried he is going to put them out of business. So they run a smear campaign to tear down Readen Metal and when that doesn't work because Dagny still uses the metal to make the tracks and bridge on her new railway they come up with legislation to slow him down. At the end of Part 1 there is all types of legislation introduced that puts really challenging barriers on many companies: The railroad, Rearden Metal, and oil fields. This is the the mega-cliffnotes version of course. The book has so much going on and so many underlining concepts. I have never been so obsessed with a piece of fiction before now. The book is so expansive I can't dive in any more than this without writing a novel of my own. But I hope you read it because you can see some wonderful/bittersweet parallels between the book and what is happening in the US right now.

I want to leave you with two video clips... The first one is the movie trailer for Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 and the second is Ayn Rand speaking about free markets. WATCH THEM BOTH.





I hope you watched both of these, you won't regret it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Talking About Change...

I am very young in the scope of my life, however, I have been blessed to have introduction to somewhat consistent change at my young age. And the most important take away I have had is that change is inevitable.

The worst part of the whole deal is that because of who we are, change is uncomfortable, upsetting, discouraging and a lot of times it can be lonely. The best thing you can do is embrace it. Reading this, you have no idea what change you may encounter and you have no idea when it will hit you. It could be a great change, like a promotion, which even though it's exciting is still very daunting. Or it could be a negative change. It might be a job relocation, it could be the loss of a job, it could be having to move or some sort of financial downturn. However, no matter how difficult your personal experience might be if you lean into it and soak it all in and adapt, there is a whole new world for you on the other side. A lot of people are going through the experiences I listed... economy is pretty rough right now and that leads to layoff, which lead to money issues, which lead to readjusting your standard of living. It's not going to be easy.

I'm reminded of a quote from the movie 'Up in the Air' with George Clooney. His character said

"Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it."

Regardless of how corny it might sound. It's absolutely true. I would say half of the financial-guru-authors that I have read have lost it all and came back again... and it's what they learned with those experiences that make them worth reading about now. If you embrace every experience in your life, the good and the bad, you will learn so much. The most expensive education you can have is experience because a lot of times it means you made a mistake.

Lastly, I want to leave you with something my Grandpa always told me and when I have especially rough weeks I think about it. He told me that "God won't ever give you anything that you can't handle." Simple and True.

So to recap this week's post: Change will come, Embrace it, Learn from it, and Adapt.

If anyone has any questions don't hesitate to ask!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What Got You Here Won't Get You There...


The book of the week was What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. This book has a lot of merit. I was most interested in the '20 Habits You Need to Break.' There are quite a few that I can even see I do and something I should work on stopping and without reading that it's a bad habit I never would think to stop doing it.

Often in the leadership world, our coaches spend all their time teaching us the things we need to start doing, but seldom is there any emphasis on what habits we should stop doing.  And it's very important if you want to make a jump from middle management to upper management. The higher you get up the ladder, the more well-rounded you need to be. You can't just be technical or just be a good communicator. You need to have the whole package to set you apart from others.

The Habits to Stop:

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.

2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them

4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound
sharp and witty.

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.

8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.

9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward.

11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit when we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually trying to help us.

19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.

20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

It's not uncommon to see a few traits listed that apply to you. It is your job to notice these flaws and work to correct them. I know I'm going to!

This book was good. There are a lot of examples that help put these habits into context. As always, if you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Water.org

I had surgery yesterday so I am not really in any kind of mood to be writing. I wanted to talk about http://water.org/ It is a great organization that helps third world countries get clean water. I read a lot about the statistics of people dying from lack of clean water and it disgusted me. I can't even imagine how I would feel if I had friends and family members dying of polio because it's a disease that was cured a hundred years ago. Well people outside the US are dying from dysentery, typhoid, and cholera every single day because they don't have access to clean water.

Here is the mission statement from Water.org:

"Water.org is challenging the traditional approach to assisting people in developing countries. Our goals are to draw attention to the world’s number one health problem, unsafe and inadequate water supplies, and to raise funds to help fight this immense problem – one community at a time.
Our mission is to inspire people to act:
  • Donors – to provide consistent financial resources with a sense of solidarity for those in need of safe water
  • Staff and volunteers – to seek innovative and efficient solutions to meeting the global water supply needs of today and tomorrow
  • People in need of safe water – to take the lead in meeting their own needs
Together, these people form the “waterpartnership” that will allow us to realize our vision.
Develop high quality, sustainable water projects. We use our expertise to foster high-quality, sustainable, community-level water supply projects. We promote innovative solutions that enable communities to take a leading role in solving their own water supply problems.
Enable donors to invest wisely. We exist to create a global awareness of the water supply crisis and to help people respond. We carefully invest donors’ funds in only the highest quality projects through locally-based water development organizations. We hold ourselves accountable to donors and to people who benefit from the projects they support."
I think it is very important to support this organization. You can do so by buying a water bottle, all the proceeds go to helping create safe water sources one community at a time.

Have a great week!