For the last episode of 2008, I’m going to leave you with some required reading, summarizing my favorite books for marketing, money, mini-retirement and Manhattan real estate.
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It’s the information age and every day you’re confronted with millions of websites, podcasts, email, online video, RSS feeds, text messages, phone calls and when you finally get home there’s a dozen shows waiting for you on your TiVo and a NetFlix movie and this month’s Wired Magazine in your mailbox.
So who has time to read a book anymore?
Admittedly, it’s a lot easier to read a short column on the web or fast forward through a few skits on Saturday Night Live than to plow through a 300 page novel. But maybe you can find some time over New Years, and besides, I know quite a few women that are in book clubs. Well, from what I hear they are actually wine and gossip clubs that they bring books to, but the effort is there.
Recently a friend of mine was visiting my apartment and looked at the books I had displayed. They said, “Jim, all your books are about self-help.” At first I was offended. Self-help? It made me sound like I had a wall full of Scientology books or the Tony Robbins collection. I was about to fire back but then I really took a moment to study what I had.
There were certainly no leather-bound copies of Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, or Robinson Crusoe. No novellas or poetry collections. No James Joyce or Arthur Miller. And definitely no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
Now that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the classics or haven’t read them in my youth. But the reality hit me that what’s ended up as keepers gracing my bookshelves could be summed up in two categories: How to do better in business, and in sports. For this podcast we’ll eliminate the latter, so send me an email if you want to know my thoughts on New England sports history and the best marathon training programs.
I’m not going to apologize for my collection… I’ve made sports and marketing my career and that what I truly enjoy reading. That’s how my brain is hard-wired, and there’s probably a good chance yours works this way too. Like music and art, it’s subjective.
So here are my 7 picks for the Shakespeare of business books covering for marketing, money, mini-retirement and Manhattan real estate.
The fact that it is now hip to write articles directly opposing his theories indicate the level of success that this book has had. Released back in 2000, most people have heard of it already and many have no doubt gone on to read his follow-ups Blink and newly-released Outliers.
The book was given to me as a Christmas gift from a friend right after I transitioned my career away from the tech side a bit and he simply said “someone at the bookstore said this is good about marketing stuff.”
Gladwell talks about the three types of people necessary to help virally spread an idea, trend, or social behavior from the flu to crime in New York City. I knew I wasn’t the salesperson type, but then I started reading about connectors. I said, oh yeah, I know a lot of people and help do some of those things, I must be a connector. But then I read about the third type, the mavens, and every single sentence he wrote was like he was listing my biography. I was like oh boy, that is me to a T. I am the very definition of a maven.
In a way, the book foreshadows the social networking we’re seeing on the internet right now, which I talk about in my hyper-influencer podcast. Still a must-read.
I’ve always said that if I didn’t find work in the fantasy sports industry, I would have made a good financial planner. Now you might think these two fields are unrelated, but in fact the skills necessary to succeed in both fields are very similar. The key to outperforming your peers is doing research, finding diamonds in the rough, unearthing statistical anomolies, avoiding busts, and knowing how to buy low and sell high.
While this might be a little too stat-heavy for some, the mavens and researchers and detail people will love it. When you think millionaire, many people think of the Donald Trumps and Bill Gates of the world. What this book illustrates is the surprising number of millionaires across the country doing things like owning a dry cleaning or construction business.
What’s most interesting to me are the detailed case studies of the habits these people have. They shop at Costco, they buy real estate intelligently, they do their research on the important decisions in life, and they live below their means. My favorite chapter was about the surprising cars that millionaires drive. One example listed all the reasons why a millionaire refused a Rolls Royce that was given to him as a gift. But the best was when one of the authors quipped that it was as if millionaires bought their cars based on the cost per pound… and then took the next step and did a detailed analysis of this theory and listed about 100 cars and their cost per pound.
I was shocked to see that this book originally came out in 1996, but it’s still worth checking out. Best of all, you can now get the paperback on Amazon for only $10, a price the authors would surely agree is a good investment.
This is the most recent book I purchased, and is very marketing-focused. It uses urban legends as an illustrative framework to show how stories – or ideally marketing and advertising campaigns – can be extremely memorable and viral.
While I took away some great points, I must admit that I have yet to finish it.
So I guess it didn’t totally stick.
While I didn’t quite make it all the way through Made to Stick, I actually read 4HWW twice. I first came across Tim Ferriss when he was named The Most Effective Self Promoter of All Time on a Wired survey, beating out Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Jesus.
This was especially interesting because I had never ever heard of him. It’s been getting a lot buzz this year, and it’s easy to understand why. He promises to give you the key steps to quitting your job, escaping the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich.
So is this just another â€˜get rich quick and retire’ book that over promises? No.
While it bills itself as a step-by-step guide to “luxury lifestyle design,” here is why you need to read this book. I found that it actually covers several different topics individually, and you are free to pick and choose the ones you want independently. For example:
– Quitting the workforce While this is the main theme, and he encourages working remotely and getting down to just a handful of hours, I’m actually OK with going to the office. The problem many people probably have, is not being at the office until 7 or 8 at night, not checking the Treo or Blackberry at all hours, and actually using up all your allocated vacation days every year.
– Mini-retirements The conventional wisdom is your work your butt off for 45 years and THEN you get to retire. Ferriss argues, what fun is that? Who decided that was the rules? His plan is to take a series of mini-retirements throughout your life.
– Marketing Ferriss shows some great examples of implementing the 80/20 rule. Is it simply rehashing a theory from an Italian economist born in 1848? Yes! And he admits it. But it’s still good to get a refresher on Pareto’s rule every once in awhile.
– Managing E-mail This is something that just about everyone can use help with. He has some great practical advice on when to check email, using out-of-office replies, and managing information overload.
– Virtual assistants Can you outsource all your mundane busy work to someone overseas? Tim says you can and while I haven’t tried it, it’s something I’d love to test.
– Starting an internet business to make passive income This one intrigued me the most, especially the stories about the French Sailor shirt and the Rock Climbing Yoga DVD. He makes it sound easy, but if you’re a smart marketer, internet savvy, have ever done a Google keyword buy, and are up on the latest social media, he gives some very, very compelling examples.
So again, if you’re sick of your job and you want to live in Buenos Aires and get a check for doing nothing every mont h, Tim steers you in the right direction. This could be your bible. But this is also a great read to pick up simple workday efficiency tips like batching your email. The example he gives is that you don’t do your laundry every single day after one of your shirts get dirty. It would be silly. There’s too much startup time to go to the basement, run the washer, add the soap, clean the shirt, take it out, put it in the dryer, etc.
So instead you put it all in a bundle and do it once a week. He argues it’s the same thing for a project you’re working on. If you’re in the middle of a budget spreadsheet and try to multi-task by tabbing over to answer a quick email or pick up the phone, when you go back to the spreadsheet there’s a huge startup time to ramp back up again. I highly recommend it.
If you identify yourself as a maven in The Tipping Point and love to do research before making a purchase, then this is a must-read. The author starts out by listing the unbelievable number of choices we are now given when shopping. Take aspirin alone. He noted eighty different pain relievers at his local supermarket (80!). Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofin. 350 milligrams or 500 milligrams. Caplets, capsules, and tablets. Coated or uncoated. You can get regular strength, extra strength, low dose, rapid release, back and body, heart advantage, cold and sinus, fever reducer, tension headache, and more.
He then noted 40 options for toothpaste, 360 types of shampoo and conditioner, 29 different chicken soups, 120 pasta sauces, and 275 types of cereal.
It’s enough to give you a migraine.
The first question is, is marketing to blame for all this? Is this all our fault? But the good news is, he helps you cut through the hype and figure out the BEST option for you, without having buyers remorse.
This is a fun, easy-reading book by real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran. Following the Manhattan real estate market isn’t far behind keeping track of celebrities and the fate of the Yankees and Mets as a full-time obsession for most New Yorkers, and Corcoran is a household name here.
It came out in 2003, so any book on real estate needs to be looked at with a different viewpoint.
But this isn’t a how-to book, but rather a series of life stories she learned from her mom growing up, that turn into keen marketing and business strategies that proved valuable in making the best of any situation, succeeding in business, starting your own company, and even taking on Donald Trump.
You know from previous podcasts that I enjoy talking about interviewing and resumes and mentoring. Let’s face it, these are tough economic times. If you find yourself laid off, when you do nail that interview you want to get as much money as you can.
I’ve purchased this book 4 or 5 times for friends and family members, because it gives such good advice. If you go to the career section of a bookstore, there’s a lot of time and effort spent on resumes and cover letters and interviewing, and not enough on the final step of getting the salary you deserve.
I want to talk more about it, but lets just say I plan to have more about this topic in the future…
That’s it for today, I hope you enjoy your reading.
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Happy New Year!