Sunday, November 30, 2014

Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General by Bill O'Reilly

Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious GeneralKilling Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General by Bill O'Reilly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book asserts that General George Patton, who died after being in a car accident, was actually murdered in a plot hatched by a combination of American and Russian spies. While the book does raise some questions, there wasn't enough here to convince me. However, the plot went on many small side trips through the events of World War II. These were both informative and sickening. To hear what men did to other human beings is a reminder that good and evil, right and wrong, do exist, something that somehow is not politically correct to say anymore.

So this may seem random or unrelated, but I'm going to share a business lesson I learned from this book. Patton was not a great manager. He may have been a good leader, and was obviously a gifted strategist, but when it comes to managerial effectiveness, I don't think it was his thing. My key takeaway is that it didn't matter. As a country we needed him for his strengths, and so we had to take the weaknesses too, and that was the right decision. Unfortunately the army, like life, gave him responsibilities in both his weak and strong areas. I'll give a brief example, and then an application.

On several occasions Patton assaulted men suffering from depression who couldn't fight anymore, called them cowards and in one case threatened to shoot the soldier. He was drawing his sidearm when the medical staff restrained him. Those scenes were not in the heat of battle, but in hospitals, and were driven by emotions that arose because of who he was. He felt that mental instability was really just cowardice. But no matter what happened, the Army, and the country, needed him so badly that we essentially had to put up with it.

This is easy for me to apply. Regularly I have the situation where an employee has a specific trait or skill set that I need, and in every case it is hard to deal with his/her weaknesses. It almost seems to correlate. The more specific expertise I need, the more baggage comes with the person who has the solution. I have thought in the past that this is something that I struggle with uniquely, but I realized that it is common. Then I consider how often I might have been that guy with weaknesses that my manager has to put up with. That is a sobering thought, to put yourself in those shoes. We are all imperfect people trying to win wars in spite of weaknesses, both those in others and our own.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should KnowStrong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On some levels this book was disturbing, not because the content was incorrect, but because the facts presented are themselves disturbing. In one section it gives a sample dialogue of what a teenage girl might be thinking as she becomes a victim of anorexia. In another she talks about the statistics and consequences of teenage sexual activity, focusing on STDs for a large part of it. It seems that each new chapter presents another disturbing issue that I don't really want to deal with, yet is a real issue. It was a hard read.

In another sense, I feel that this is the first true self-help book I have ever read. I love self-help books in general, but they are more about empowering yourself to make changes that you want to make to lead you to a happier, more successful life. This is different. This was more a book to inform you about a bunch of problems you may or may not be aware of/ready for, and to tell you what you need to do, and who you need to be if you don't want to screw up your daughter (or your sons, in my humble opinion.). Heavy. I'll need to read a bunch of normal self help books just to make sure I apply all of the instructions in this one...

Finally, while this review may seem to be a jumbled mess, I have to say that I agree with Meeker's viewpoints and moral stance in general. Many problems would be avoided if fathers would teach abstinence, humility, confidence, and faith, and avoid divorce, engage fully at home, shun pornography, and look towards God. The serious issues that are brought about this book are largely the result of negative behaviors by fathers, and if men would stop the excuses, society as a whole would improve.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Work WeekThe 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So before I start talking about what I liked and didn't like in this book, let's deal with the proverbial elephant in the room. Tim Ferriss is crazy. His views on life do not provide a strategy for successful family relationships, which I feel are the basis for long-term happiness. Life is not about finding ways to eat, drink and be merry, selecting new hobbies to fill your time, even if you do learn something. Life has inherent challenges, and necessary skills. There is something to be said for learning how to positively show up for work and give 40-50 hours week. Likewise, it is good to set down some roots and develop long-term relationships at some point. Throwing out society's lessons learned from the last few hundred years does not seem wise. And to be fair, Mr. Ferriss is still young. Perhaps as he gets older family opportunities may begin to pass him by as he searches for adventure. I'm interested to see if his tune changes somewhat down the road.

Having said all of that, I do agree with many of his observations, and appreciate the information he provides. In fact the business I'm currently engaged in sells VA services, and I've seen outsourcing provide some of the opportunities he mentions. I plan to review and implement a number of his ideas, and to spend time on his blog. I have dreams I want to fulfill, even if they don't involve salsa dancing, and this book is a great catalyst for getting someone like me moving.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the TrenchesEntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book, largely because I like Dave Ramsey's no-nonsense view on business. He's a straight talker, and whether or not he is 100% correct he obviously believes what he teaches is 100% correct.  His ideas feel authentic, in that he has practiced them and has achieved some level of success with them.

If I had any criticism of this book, it would be that it presents a single  view on people management, and to me it is somewhat incomplete.  Scaling his model would be tough. Also, sometimes Dave's financial advice is colored by his success. Some organic growth would take so long that it wouldn't even be worth it to be in that business, but could be achieved with some strategic, albeit conservative, debt.

I would recommend this to anyone who has, or wants to have, a successful small business. To me it is the best complete handbook on business basics.