Friday, August 21, 2009

More reading.

The Art of Being Kind by Stefan Einhorn (Paperback - Aug 4, 2009)

I wanted to like this book. It seemed like it had a simple premise that would demonstrate in some clear in demonstrable ways how being kind is an "art" and how this might make itself known in the world. The book is described as "groundbreaking," but the author never seems to scratch the surface, let alone a break ground, in a new way for understanding kindness.

If nothing else, I learned from this book, yet again, the people who have nothing of major significance to say can be published.

The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on Living the Good Life by M. A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas (Hardcover - April 10, 2009)

I enjoyed this short book, found it easy and interesting to read. I would not describe this book as being something that I would necessarily recommend to another person, but I might. One of the curious facts of this book that I enjoyed, is the idea that across time and through different social occasions, there are a few fundamental principles that seemed to guide live.

As I was reading the book, I could not help but think about the biblical wisdom tradition, and how the key attributes of this book line up with that wisdom tradition. I was impressed with both authors, clearly well-educated and astute in their fields, and as a result, they have the ability to summarize succinctly key bits of data. At the same time, as Qoheleth might say, there was indeed nothing new in this book.

Another observation I would make - the authors summarize the ten golden rules. Why must we always have a "top ten list"? I do not know.

1. Examine life

2. Worry only about those things under your control

3. Treasure friendship

4. Experience true pleasure

5. Master yourself

6. Avoid excess

7. Be a responsible human being

8. Don't be a prosperous fool

9. Don't do evil to others

10. Kindness to others tends to be rewarded

Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) [BARGAIN PRICE] (Hardcover)
by Jeffrey Kluger (Author)

I will let the words of a reviewer from summarize my perspective on this book.

"Based on the second half of the sub-title (How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple), I was expecting a "how to"
approach for finding the underlying simplicity in apparently complex environments. However, the book was more of a collection of articles that "report the news" versus a "how to" approach for practical application. "Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Levitt & Dubner has a similar flow, but did a much better job of providing insights on the analytics and approaches used to substantiate the causal relationships they assert.I did find the book enjoyable from an philosophical/entertainment point of view. If you agree with Claude Levi-Strauss' that, "The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions," then you should read the book. In my opinion the real value of the book is that it may open your mind to asking better questions about the nature of complex environments.In summary, if your are looking for a thought provoking piece on the nature of simplicity and complexity you will enjoy the book, but if you are tasked with making complex environments simple and looking for guidance the book won't further your journey."

What I did find insightful from the book is the idea that things that are complex, are actually patterns of attuned and actuating chaos. All of life, at some level, can be seen as chaos. Even a chair, with its rivets, woodwork, design, and construction is complex at some level. I also found it intriguing that things like traffic are complex, but only get problematically complex when just a few too many things get introduced to the complex system too quickly. Complexity is not a problem - it is the chaos associated with the complexity that make things chaotically and problematically complex.

Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life by Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver (Hardcover - Jun 24, 2008)

This is an exceptional book for teaching ethics. While the book does not deal clearly or directly with the classical systems for reflecting on ethical theory, there are input connections with the theoretical orientation throughout the text. What makes this book so good, is the way in which it can be used for working with business professionals who need to begin to think about their own practice of ethics. The book breaks down, ethical decisions into three major areas, which are a bit simplistic. And yet, addressed most of the issues that any person would face: lying, stealing, doing harm. The authors, near Ray examples from students, from business professionals, about ways in which persons should think practically to address real-life issues. Using specifically three dimensions of action: the legal, the ethical, and the Prudential.

I have used this text in order to teach ethics to business persons, and will continue to use it as a resource.

The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness by Noah St. John (Hardcover - Jan 20, 2009)

I tried to read on a regular basis in the literature of self-help, popular psychology, leadership and motivational thinking.

I am not certain that I can agree with the premise of the author. But I am convinced that if persons practice what he preaches, they will think differently about their life. The author claims that we need to ask different questions to ourselves or about ourselves. That will elicit positive emotional responses that will in turn, reshape the kind of people that we are. He calls these af-form-mations and not affirmations. In essence, he states that if we ask ourselves questions about why our life is so good, we will be attuned to why our life is good and will make positive decisions that move forward in positive ways.

Again, not convinced that the author is correct... but I am convinced that anybody who asks and reflects on the positive things in their life, will in fact view their life and more positive ways.

I plan to come back and reread this book and see if I feel differently about it in the future.

More Than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer: Redefining Risk and Reward for a Life of Purpose by Mark Albion and Liz Cutler Maw (Hardcover - Oct 12, 2008)

I picked up this book in order to consider what it might have to say to the Master of business administration students that I teach. While not helpful for the specific teaching purposes. In my course work, I did find the book helpful for any person who might need to rethink or reconsider where they are in life, and what is most important to them.

Here is a link to a powerpoint presentation over the book that summarizes the key points so I don’t have to.

The book offers reflections (wisdom) in and on life. I am surprised by how many books these days offer the same basic kind of wisdom that Qoheleth offered so many years ago – but suited or “dressed” for a new age.

The book was good. But, it’s wisdom is old.

I very much valued and appreciated the parable that begins the book, which sounds so much like Qoheleth!

There’s a wonderful story I read once, about an American Businessman who went on a holiday to Mexico. He stood at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico, when a small boat carrying a lone Mexican fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”
The American then asked, “If it took only a little while to catch these fine fish, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The fisherman explained that this catch was enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then L.A., and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
The American replied, “Fifteen to twenty years.”
“But what then, señor?” inquired the Mexican. The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?” asked the Mexican.
The American said, “Why, then you would retire, of course—move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village in the evenings, where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton (Hardcover - Jul 31, 2008)

I was unimpressed with this book. I hope to read it and glean from the author. Things that he learned while he was at Harvard business school. Instead, the book read like an extended journal, diary of his own unique experiences here in the book did not offer much more than anecdotal, experiential, personal vignettes.

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