The June 2019 Too Many Books Review
photo Lacie Slezak, Unsplash
I’m glad to know the old earth library shows no sign of slowing down on book creation. I can’t keep up with it! And it’s bad Feng Shui to have a big pile at the bedside – yeah, I read that somewhere… Anywho, here is a roundup of some of the recent tomes threatening to disrupt my sleep as they topple over.
***Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain 2012
If you didn’t guess from the title, Susan Cain is an introvert and HSP*. A former Wall Street lawyer, she takes her formidable intelligence, depth of articulation and focused research chops to the subject of introversion and sensitivity. She suggests that though extroversion is thought to be a key personality trait necessary to succeed, effectively conduct business and be happy, much of the background and supposed advantage of extroversion is not accurately based.
I read this by listening to a book on tape in the car. The reader was not the author, but she seemed to have her sensibilities. I struggled a bit with what felt at times like a laborious approach and overly detailed discussion of her points. But then again, if you are challenging long held perspectives regarding how business and society work, you might need some back up from the research, as well as book length of 271 pages, and nearly 50 pages of footnotes. And, if you are an HSP, you may not clock in with the shortest dissertation in your cohort. This book took the author seven years to write.
Useful / relevant takeaways:
- The personality of the successful salesman (businessman) as confident and extroverted (the “extrovert ideal”) has faulty roots. Dale Carnegie started as a wimpy introvert but trained himself to be different under the influence of a public speaker he heard early on. He developed a public speaking business eventually and his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, suggested one didn’t need to be honest all the time, and manipulation wasn’t a problem. This was one of the roots where this ideal of success attributed to extroversion included the ability to entertain, sell yourself and not appear anxious.
- The idea of the charismatic leader or CEO as the model of success is also not all true – successful CEOs are often more quiet, and described as good listeners. Introverts and extroverts process dopamine differently, lending more Wall Street success to those who can make more measured decisions under pressure – yes, the introverts.
- Much of the big business school rhetoric and Ivy League formats had adopted the charismatic outgoing personality style as necessary and important to instill. Curriculums have required students to study and complete work in teams, an extrovert mode. This is a big challenge for the introverts, though many push through. The research supporting that quieter, more solitary study is the way most success and brilliant innovation needs to evolve will be a great balm to those who have struggled in those settings.
Susan Cain’s Quiet is a classic text for any HSP interested in an updated report of HSP related research. She debunks the extrovert ideal, explores how these traits are formed, and where one might need to stretch beyond their basic tendencies. She covers the Asian American culture as supporting a more “soft power” approach. Her suggestions of how to work and how to communicate across types are also useful and relevant for HSPs and non HSPs navigating today’s complex world.
***A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Different in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life,
by Ayelet Waldman, 2016
Another lawyer who digs research, Waldman struggled with mood for many years and tried lots of psychopharmaceuticals to address what was originally diagnosed as possible bipolar disorder and later seemed to be closer to PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In the book she chronicles a month long self-designed and conducted experiment microdosing (extremely small doses) with LSD to see if it would help. At the time she was struggling in a lot of areas and was concerned her irritability and mood instability would disrupt her marriage and other important areas of her life.
Waldman does her microdose every three days, and reports on the same categories every day through the book; areas like mood, work flow, physical pain (she was dealing with a frozen shoulder at the time). In the course of the book she also reviews the history of psychedelics as medicine and mental health aids. You may be familiar with Michael Pollan’s latest book which also details this history (How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, 2018). This history that accompanies the experiment’s report is useful and well done. It’s always good to hear more about this groundbreaking research and its history, besides the tune in-turn on- drop out derailment that was Leary’s suggestion.
Waldman’s experiment was a success, though because LSD is illegal and she ran out of it, it’s not clear that she’ll be able to continue to utilize micro dosing. It was cool in many ways how she described the inner workings of her mind and being, and the process of how deep beliefs and negative frameworks she previously held were shifted. At other times the sharing of her personality and ego sides feels a bit much. Overall it’s a worthwhile read, but one I might suggest the Joosr or Blikist guides (shortened main points) if it starts to grate on your nerves as it did mine. This is a similar suggestion I’d offer for those who find Cain’s style and personal deets a bit laborious.
***Building a Story Brand: Clarify your Message so Customers Will Listen, Donald Miller, 2017
Author Donald Miller has found a way to simplify a marketing message by using a model based on the 7 elements of any story. Once you use this framework to redefine your business, it will be clearer for customers to understand what you do, and for you to explain it to them. More clear communication will lead to improved client attraction and income, according to Miller, and that does make sense.
The biggest game changers offered here are how the story structure simplifies marketing message work, which can be elusive for the business owner when the service is intangible. This structure clarifies the customer’s process and journey. As a business owner and service provider, it’s natural to see yourself as the heroine of the story, if you help solve a problem for the customer. You use your “About” page to detail how you arrived at the skill level you have, so as to offer this service. But the customer doesn’t wish to hear about yet another hero, Miller notes. The customer wants to get to the point where they’re the hero of their story. And they want to know – will you help them?
In every story, the heroine has to work to get to the happy ending, and there is always a problem to be overcome. This in itself is a good reminder and reframe, for those who think adversity is their fault, or shouldn’t happen. In the story brand framework, the journey from stuckness to liberation is captured in this simple framework that can then be applied to all your marketing outlets. Your role now is as the “guide” for the customer / hero, and services and your plan for customer transformation can be more clearly discussed. This book is great in that it names a way to redesign the story framework to help your business better present its offerings and more concisely invite in those you can serve.
***Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business, Paul Jarvis, 2019
Canadian Paul Jarvis was a programmer working for an agency when he decided to leave the job and find another agency that was more attentive and respectful of the relationship with the customer. While he was in transition, the customers at the old job got in touch to see where he was going so they could continue to work with him. That’s a testimony in itself. At that point, Jarvis pivoted to start his own business. He was 19 years old and still living with his parents, which he continued to do as he created a successful, wait-listed business. His current book pushes back against the assumption that more is better and growth is god in terms of business success.
There are great stories of entrepreneurs who created hugely successful businesses, and it’s enjoyable to hear his research detail these journeys. But these business owners questioned and defied the path toward increasing employees, investors, infrastructure, followers and the rest – the assumed business growth model – in order to have a better life with more time for family and meaningful pursuits. He elucidates the current faulty models and start-up trajectories and where they go wrong. No wonder so many businesses don’t last, when the building is based on venture capitalists who want to see ROI, and are less concerned about valuing customers. No wonder so many businesses fail when growth is ordered to match projected profits versus being set in place after profits have actually arrived.
This book will appeal to many in the soul savvy tribe, who wish to make their contribution and be well supported. Paul is also an introvert, and the book starts with a huge success of his: moving to a quieter and less crowded location where he can continue his work and enjoy his local community.
Another big takeaway will appeal to HSPs: don’t wait for your service offering to be perfect. Launch early and often, he suggests, making improvements and revisions based on customers’ experience and feedback rather than the high standards that slow you down. That’s very helpful and though I’ve heard this suggestion before, somehow he makes it land with more sense and weight. It’s liberating to have more logic behind the advice to lose the perfectionism. After all, more offerings and launches could mean a faster arrival to that quieter and less crowded neighborhood where we’ll have our next ZOOM session…
Getting this written helped whittle down the pile a bit. Here are some of the titles next in line. Please comment below if you’ve got some suggestions for your fellow scholars.
The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections, Norman E. Rosenthal
The Hope Circuit: A psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism, Martin E. P. Seligman (founder of positive psychology)
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field, Mike Michalowicz
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Cal Newport
The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America, Ed. By Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing A World-Changing Book, Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse (my first life coach and a real gem of a woman – a brand new book).
Thanks to Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing for the Digital Minimalism and Company of One book suggestions. Charlie’s new book is ready for pre-order, Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.
Agree? Disagree? Add your thoughts and please comment below if you’ve got additional book suggestions for your fellow scholars.
*HSP- Highly Sensitive Person