Tuesday, September 11, 2012

PDPF, Part II - The Books

Earlier this week I mentioned that I felt it was time for a personal reassessment and re-commitment to some goals. The first goal was a self-actualization makeover, which mainly meant reading, listening to and embracing the lessons of ten of the greatest personal development books out there. 

The list I posted was not in any order of preference. They do represent the ten personal development books that most piqued my interest. I have read or listened to all but three of them. I did a little research on people's favorite PD titles a few months ago and was able to find copies of everything at the library except Think and Grow RichA New Earth and  Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I have a hold order in place for the one copy of A New Earth, which will hopefully be back in the library soon. I will probably end up buying the others on half.com or eBay.  

Here's my nutshell review of the book titles. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey - Probably the best known of all PD titles. Spawned a whole series of follow-ups and spin-offs and organizational tools. Success with this program requires more than reading and understanding - it requires repitition and practice until the concepts become second nature behaviors. Well worth the effort, though.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie - Perhaps the original self help book of the modern era. Carnegie's precepts are still applicable today, 75 years after its publication. Some of his examples sound kind of quaint to 21st century ears, but human nature hasn't changed as much as our technology and it's amazing how people continue to succumb to the same foibles.

Your First Year in Network Marketing, Mark Yarnell - I have friends that are doing quite well in direct marketing and they are all a font of great PD resources. I listened through this one - about 16 hours on CD - and came away with a great appreciation for trials and benefits of going with a direct marketing career. Mark Yarnell bravely lists all the pitfalls and then makes sense of why they happen and how to get past them. Some good lessons for anyone interested in going into business for themselves and, like the first two entries on this list, the lessons work well beyond the business arena.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Wayne Dyer - I read Your Erroneous Zones in my teens and put it down in disgust when I realized I had miread the title. Since then, my wife has turned me on to some of his other titles, all of which are recommendable. This one has the most useful and practical suggestions with concrete examples of  how to create a much more open and empathic mindset.

Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz - Another book I found lying around my Dad's shop in my teens. I'm glad I read it then because this one, like How to Win Friends or 7 Habits was a game changer. In my mind, it was around the time that this book was popular in the early '60s that the idea that  Americans were becoming too dependent on mass marketing for their self images and that maybe being good sheep following the Madison Avenue shepherds didn't make a lot of sense. In some ways, Psycho-Cybernetics laid part of the pathway that would lead to the rebellious late 60s.

The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey I am currently reading this one. The target audience is those people that embraced and regularly practice them. The subtitle sums up its goal: "From Effectiveness to Greatness". I can't imagine anyone who wishes to lead a world-class business not reading this book.

On My Up-and-Coming List:

First Things First, Stephen Covey - The last of my Covey triad for now. I started it last year and set it down with about a half dozen sticky flags sticking out of the pages. I need to start all over again to get the full effect as the main idea is to develop ways to prioritize things before you tackle them (and yes, I do recognize the irony).

A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle - More of a guide to spiritual enlightenment, but I guess that can't hurt if taken in moderation. I am the recipient of a CD set that has been handed down through three other listeners who recommend it highly. Reviews I  have read say that it is an expansion of Tolle's earlier book, The Power of Now. Although, I typically try to (actually, obsess on) reading an author's works in order, I'll try out A New Earth and then go back to TPON if it really resonates with me.

Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill - Written around the same time as Carnegie's HTWFAIP  , this title was just as big at that time, but seems to have faded from the common memory while Carnegie's works have taken on a life of their own. Still, this book is referenced in alost every other business/personal development book out there. Always good to be familiar with foundational work like this. 

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers - Okay, this one had me at just the title. So many things I have attempted in life have been accompanied by some paralyzing fear of some kind. Whether it is public speaking, going on an interview or starting a business, fear is usually along for the ride. It can be both an obstacle and a great motivator. I'm hoping this book provides good ways to turn the former into the latter.

More to follow later in the week - Next up is about the certifications I chose to pursue and why I felt each was necessary.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

People Who Know Me, Know THIS is my Pet Peeve...

I'm usually pretty restrained in letting people know when their statements or actions bother me. Although I find it ridiculous and irritating when bumped into by some oblivious person (please note the restraint I displayed by not using the term, moron, buffoon or imbecile) who is walking backwards in public. Sounds like only a prankster would do something like that, but people do it everyday in places like the mall, amusement parks, public sidewalks...I won't go on, because this is a peeve that I have overcome. Instead of railing at the offender's lack of geo-positional awareness, I just write my discomfort off to personal boundary issues and tell myself to get over it and move on (with due care and consideration for others, as always).

One thing I refuse to adapt to, though, is when people use inaccurate anecdotal tropes to illustrate some issue which defies "conventional wisdom". As an example, I submit the case of poor Stella Liebeck, the wrongfully maligned burn victim of a dangerously hot cup of McDonald's coffee. I won't rehash the particulars of the case for you, because there are numerous excellent articles out thereabout it. My peeve is that, even though the events occurred over twenty years ago, I hear, almost monthly, someone citing her successful litigation and award as an example of frivolous abuse of the American Justice System.

The third wish I would make, should I ever encounter a genie in a bottle (after restoring leadership as a priority in the mind of every politician and securing a viable population of Triceratopses), would be that the point of this much misused story would be forevermore focused on the hubris that McDonald's exhibited after being on the receiving end of the numerous lawsuits and regulatory warnings prior to Mrs. Liebeck's unfortunate accident. Instead, it is almost exclusively used to illustrate a textbook case of runaway juries and "jackpot justice".  There are many journalists and bloggers that have tried to present the actual facts and force a more accurate perspective on this issue, but the fallacy that she was just a stupid, old lady who wanted to get rich off a deep-pocketed corporate innocent persists in the majority of the minds of most people I've talked to on the subject.

My final words on this matter will be to reference the StellaAwards.com site. They provide documentation and commentary on legitimate examples of activist juries, jurists and frivolous cases. They themselves admit that the Liebeck case does not fit the category of cases that they  have built their site around. They have chosen though, to continue to name this whole category  after her only because her name has become so synonymous with frivolous cases. A weak justification, and justice denied for Stella's good name. 

Transcript of an early Wall Street Journal article on the case.

There has been some scholarly writing that refutes this point of view, but doesn't quite sway me.

PDPF (Personal Development Personal Favorites)

This summer my key project, besides finding a job, has been to take stock of my strengths and capabilities, map them out against my goals for the future and then identify the gaps and develop a plan to fill them. I felt this was an essential element to defining the way I would market myself. Three things came out of my self-assessment:

  1. My self-actualization skills needed a good makeover. I had immersed myself in the day-to-day work of operations management that I neglected to consider where I am, and where I should be, on my personal development arc.
  2. I have a lot of general knowledge, but few pieces of hard proof of my knowledge. In IT that translates to a paucity of certifications.
  3. I have a dismal record of keeping in touch with friends and family and I hadn't exactly made any new friends in the last few years.

Searching job sites, researching local businesses, crafting and submitting resumes and talking to agents, HR reps and a variety of other kind and helpful folks was to take up most of my day, as it should. I decided to set aside a couple hours of each day or night to address the rest. I will detail my excursions into social meeting, reconnecting with old acquaintances and chasing certifications another day. Today is a day for lists.

I like lists. They convey a good overview of interest and intention without all the overhead of conjunctions, gerunds and other standards of polite grammar. At this time I offer you my top ten list of motivational, organizational and inspirational personal development books (paper and audio) that I perused this summer. Don't think this is all I covered. I also read one historical non-fiction and four technical books. More about those another day.

Gary's Top Ten Favorite Personal Development (don't call them self help-that's so 80s) Titles in No Particular Order:
  • Your First Year in Network Marketing
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
  • The 8th Habit - Stephen Covey
  • Psycho-Cybernetics - Maxwell Maltz
  • Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life - Wayne Dyer
  • A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
  • Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
  • First Things First - Stephen Covey
  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers

Fair Disclosure: I only got around to the first six, so far. The list fell into the convenient ten title length based on what I read plus what I have committed myself to read. Considering my average reading speed, I figure I should be done with the rest by mid October.

Tomorrow I'll post my thoughts on a few of these. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ATM Insecurity - Caught in the Act

Thanks to TMBG, who I always rely on for relevant financial security info (Irony Disclaimer: TMBG is the musical duo "They Might Be Giants"). They posted a link on Facebook to the Krebsonsecurity blog that has a very interesting post about the nice folks who steal our PIN numbers at ATMs. The videos are amusing, but the point of the article is simple - COVER YOUR HAND AS YOU PUNCH IN YOUR PIN NUMBER.

PIN numbers and data encoded on an ATM card are stolen by installing a combination of "skimmer" devices that read the card and a miniature camera to capture the PIN number as it is typed in. This could be at a bank or a gas station or wherever. Don't think that you would be able to spot a skimmer device, either. Those things are precision built to verify tight specifications. Some of them are so small that they slide right into the slot where the card goes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hello, "Potential". It's nice to meet you.

I had my mind opened a little wider today during a job interview. It was brought to my attention that there are companies out there that actually value the development and well being of their coworkers as high as they value making a buck. I'm not talking about the companies that turn their workspaces into rumpus rooms or their campuses into quaint midwest towns, complete with soda shops and BBQ joints. In my opinion, those perks just keep the workers from taking too long at lunch or from moaning about how hard it is to find a good foosball table in this town. What fascinates me are the places that realize that the people they hire today can be smarter, happier and more productive tomorrow with just a little effort on the company's part.

Every company gives lip service to the value they put on their people. There are a few that go as far as integrate that value into their mission statement and then into the daily culture. The concept of "constant improvement" can be daunting to some people, but when you see that everyone around you is immersed in positive steps to improve their skills and balance their work and personal lives, the resistance to change tends to lower. Instead of having to think back over what you did in the last year for something to put on your self-appraisal, it prompts you to ask yourself "how did I improve myself today", each and every day.

I'm excited to see how Zappos and Panda Restaurants not only prioritize employee personal development, but how they publish it in big, bold color on their web sites. Hopefully, these public displays of employee affection will nudge other less forward-thinking companies to reconsider their people policies and work to unlock the potential of their very human resources. As I am made aware of liked-minded companies, I will post their links up here, too.