Monthly Archives: January 2018

Selectively social

I am at ease in social situations where I know no one (or next to no one.) I have no problems sitting at a table of strangers and striking up one or more conversations. Working a room of new faces is easy and fun. I enjoy hosting gatherings with my wife when the express intent is simply socialization.

And yet, somewhat idiosyncratically, there are some innately social activities at which I balk. Continue reading

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink – excellent

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know how when you watch a movie you liked a lot a second time how maybe it wasn’t quite as funny, or as thrilling? I first read this five years ago and called it a paradigm shifter. I had to reread it for a class and there’s the “yeah, yeah, I know that already” feel.

But there’s a reason for that. When I first read this, I realized that Pink packaged what I knew innately but didn’t really know, and even if I did, probably couldn’t articulate well with the backup to support it. To say I’ve embraced Motivation 3.0 might be an understatement. I’ve vocally supported the move away from “pay for performance” (which my employer abandoned). I’ve advocated continuous feedback in lieu of annual performance appraisals, losing out on that so far. But by far the most important thing I’ve done to foster empowerment is adopt the four most important words I know. Note, this is me, not Pink, but totally in line with his premises of intrinsic rewards and supportive of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The four words? “What Do You Think?”

I can be in a design meeting and I’ll ask that question around the table…even the architect intern taking notes. (A coworker noticed that I tend to sit next to the people who might be “lower on the totem pole”…I didn’t even realize I was doing that!) The follow on key is to listen. I will still make the decisions, but I might go in a different direction than I might have had I been alone. I’ll ask one of my staff What Do You Think…? about whatever problem arises. It’s a powerful question.

I’m not going to detail this book – others have…well, and not so well… I read a lot of management and leadership books and rare is the one that makes an impact. This did. Read it if you haven’t, and read it again if you have.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – don’t bother

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well…that’s time I’ll never get back. The title is funny. There…I said something nice.

The description is laughable. “Generation-defining self-help guide”? “superstar blogger”? …I have never heard of this guy (mini-bio says he writes “personal development advice that doesn’t suck”…which tells any discerning adult a lot…) but if he’s defining a generation, we’re in a world of hurt. And if this is meant to offer help, self or otherwise, it’s worse than I can imagine.

I gather he thinks he knows something. No. I get the impression that he thinks he’s funny. Also no. But…he is highly repetitive and he is vulgar and churlish (don’t tell me that I missed the point of the title…I didn’t…he’s just not that good and has virtually nothing of value to offer to anyone with a brain.) This noxious mess oozes with self-indulgent frat-boy immaturity. I get the odd feeling that if the grabber actually could read he’d endorse this. No thinking adult needs to read this. Don’t waste your time. One star bonus for the title from what it really deserves.

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A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony – typical Anthony

A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth #1)A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read, and remember liking, this back when it came out. While Anthony is an anachronism today, he was one even when this was published in 1977. His sexism is pervasive – integral to the story? no; seems he just like being perverse. Some is couched: on page 53 of the paperback, he has a farmer laughing about the main character accidentally groping a female centaur and then he says that farmers had “an earthy sense of humor”. “Earthy”? “Lecherous” or “vulgar” is correct in the context he created. Constant references to females growing “shrewish”, or losing their looks…

And some is not couched. Only 3 pages after the “earthy” commentary, he describes a date rape surrogate trial (to protect innocent parties) with the outcome that would make a good ol’ boy, or a billionaire golf course owner, smirk. And two pages after that, a bit character, talking to the main character about an attractive female participant in the acted out trial: “Better have Wynne show you.” “Wynne?” “Your opposite. The one you almost raped.” [Note, the main character was conscripted to play a role, and the outcome, as noted, was in the favor of the male players…] “Not that I blame you.”

Yes, he went there. And that is a theme/attitude common throughout the first third of this book. Do we dismiss Anthony’s deplorable references for culturally relative reasons, or do we hold him accountable? I regret introducing Xanth to my third son, who read nearly all of the series (I stopped after four – and the fourth was pushing it too far.) As a teen, I seemed to have been largely oblivious to Anthony’s sexism, but it bothered me as an adult when I read some of his other series.

Now…there’s actually a decent story in here, despite Anthony. [Yes, I know…because of Anthony]. I will probably reread the other two of this trilogy to see if Anthony’s style – intriguing first novel of a trilogy, weak filler middle novel, sometimes okay conclusion – fits my memory. Now, I know that this particular series went beyond three…he’s still writing these things… It’s almost as if he’s in competition with himself to see how many inane stretches of wordplay he can work into every page. And they often get in the way of a potentially good story.

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