Category Archives: Book Lady Choices

Solving the Omnivore’s Dilemma

wpid-20150630_150828.jpgIf the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan had come up while the Kalamazoo Business Book Club in person meetup still existed, I definitely would have approved it as a choice. Where I ended up learning about it was at a (Kalamazoo) Startup Grind event in May. The guest, Erika Block, founder of Local Orbit, stated that the reason she finally received funding was because an investor had read  a couple of Pollan’s books and it changed how he thought about food and eating. After reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I can see why!

I’m not sure what the difference in content is, since I happened to checkout the “young reader’s” edition. Pollan did a good job of narrating his journey and answering all of the types of questions there might be. In fact, he stated near the end that because of the book some vegetarians went back to eating meat, while others became vegetarians.

The definition of the “omnivore’s dilemma” given in the book was that we (humans) have access to a wide variety of food without knowing what is best for us. The experience has also changed where many were farmers and now there are only a few. In addition to this change, we have lost much of the knowledge of what is safe to eat from the land, contributing even more to the dilemma.

Have you ever wondered why corn exists in so many items, even when it is not a food item? Pollan started with the history of corn and how it became “King.” I can’t say that I have changed anything in my diet yet. It has definitely encouraged my thinking that I am on the right path and need to look more closely at the ingredients of what I do eat, and where it comes from and find ways to eat healthier overall with “real” food.

Another of Pollan’s points was about what is considered “organic.” According to the book, there is “industrial organic,” as one form of organic. In the case of the industrial version, the farms are created to have mass production. Because everything is geared towards mass production, the crops are limited (corn, at the least), and the animals are fed and treated for fast growth. The farms in these cases accomplish what they want and can  ship to anywhere. The farmers are always successful, too, because if the crops aren’t selling as well, then they receive government subsidies.

On the other side is the local sustainable meal which primarily comes from grass farms. Pollan wrote about his experience working at a grass farm for a week. The idea to do that was inspired by the fact that the farmer would not ship anything and told Pollan he would have to visit if he wanted to buy any of the food. Pollan’s work as a farm hand included being a part of the assembly line when it was chicken killing day. What freaked out Pollan the most was how fast killing chickens became “work.” The interesting part of the process was that it was all in the open so anyone who was going to purchase a chicken could see exactly the method being used. While at the farm, visitors could also see how the farm was run. According to the farmer, a grass farm helps create a natural ecosystem where each animal and plant has a part, all the way to the table. The grass farmer feeds the local community and does not ship far away. These farmers don’t receive the same subsidies as the industrial farmer since they grow and raise a variety of crops and animals. What they are able to do is feed themselves almost completely from the land, which I personally think is awesome.

The final part Pollan talks about is the hunter and gatherer. Pollan finds others who help him learn to hunt a wild boar and to gather mushrooms. After his experience hunting, Pollan decided to step back and be a vegetarian for a short while in order to check himself on the idea of eating meat.

After reading all of the experiences, I was thinking, “Ok, now what?” Pollan anticipated that and has sections with resources and ideas for how to handle the food dilemma. I appreciate the resources and afterword most of all and hope to follow up on some, such as buying more from the local farmer’s market or learning to grow some food myself.

If you haven’t read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I highly recommend it. If you have already read it, what was the one point that you remember most?

Thanks for reading! (and commenting/liking)

Stacy (a.k.a. “The book lady”)

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The Secret to Raving Fans

Raving Fans book coverI first heard about the book “Raving Fans,” by Ken Blanchard, while listening to a Startup Grind Kalamazoo interview with Chris Lampen-Crowell. Chris talked about it as required reading for the “world class training” he runs at Gazelle Sports. That sounded like a great reason to read it and, if the book club meetups were continuing, it would’ve been the next choice.

“Raving Fans” is different than many business related books since it is written in a parable style. Personally, although an easy read, I’m not sure I liked that style.

The parable revolves around an Area Manager and his Fairy Godmother, Charlie (yes, a male), and the journey to teach the Area Manager what it means to excel at customer service. The point is that satisfied customers are not loyal. If the customers rave about the service, than that is a different story.

The journey includes traveling, sometimes quite far, in order for the Area Manager to experience the concept and even become one of the raving fans. Three secrets are revealed, one at a time, until the Area Manager graduates and then is able to be a part of the journey for others.

The book definitely does a good job at creating the points and the support for them. What I wondered, as I was reading it, was why the concept of “Raving Fans” isn’t a “duh” factor. Why is the world ok with just being satisfied and having that as the expectation? My question to Chris would be “Do the employees have to buy into the concept, or is it a matter of how to provide the “world class customer service” at your company?

What do you think?

Thanks for reading (and commenting/liking)!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady“)

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Going from Zero to One

Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator, offered an awesome class in the Fall at Stanford on “How to Start a Startup.” The book “Zero to One” was recommended during one of the early lectures. For class #5, Peter Thiel, the author of “Zero to One,” was a guest lecturer. I had put the book on my list to read, and even though the homework for his lecture included the first three book chapters, I opted to wait until I could read the entire book. Since I made the choice to wait, I wasn’t sure I would actually like reading the book, based on the video. I was wrong.

The first point to know is that although it makes sense, if you do watch the video, the presentation has been condensed compared to the information in the book.

The second point to know is that Thiel offers many opposing views compared to what we are used to in the mainstream. He presents all of it well (book and video). In fact, even if you disagree with what he says, how he explains his points are clear and include evidence that is more than just his opinion. For these reasons, I highly recommend reading “Zero to One.”

Zero to One

Some other points:

  • Horizontal progress=globalization – taking things that work somewhere and making them work everywhere (p7)
  • Vertical (0 to 1) progress=technology – any new and better way of doing things (p7)
  • A Startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. (p10)
  • Why monopolies are important – see video above
  • You can expect the future to take a definite form or you can treat it as hazily uncertain. (p61) Shape vs randomness.

This one is longer (and more important) than a bullet point (p90): “The power law is not just important to investors; rather, it’s important to everybody because everybody is an investor. An entrepreneur makes a major investment just by spending her time working on a startup.” Also: “But Life is not a portfolio: not for a startup founder, and not for any individual. An entrepreneur cannot “diversify” herself.”

I took over three pages of notes, which is quite a bit and the content is barely included here. The last part I am going to write about before encouraging you to read the entire book are the 7 questions Thiel states that every business must answer (p153-154):

  1. The engineering question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. The timing question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. The monopoly question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. The people question: Do you have the right team?
  5. The distribution question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. The durability question: Will your market position be defensible 10 & 20 years into the future?
  7. The secret question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Thiel states the bottom line as being able to see the world new and fresh as if for the first time and creating the change which will make the future different and better.

Thanks for reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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Start with Why

Start with Why

The whole book spoke to me, maybe even at that “limbic” level of the brain Simon Sinek, the author, mentions, where you can’t articulate with words. He stated that it’s all about feelings, and those feelings inspire one to take the actions, when framed right. I am going to write this entry based on being an entrepreneur.

I have been hanging around the “startup” community in Kalamazoo for just over a year. Within that time, I have been inspired, encouraged and supported when I come up with my own ideas. Even with an MBA degree and a supportive community, that hasn’t made it easy. I want to do what is against most of what has been ingrained in me, and what the majority of people expect – not pursue finding a “real job.” I’m not sure why working for someone else is considered a “real job” versus starting your own or working at a startup. The work can be just as hard and more fulfilling when it is your passion you are following. It is ironic if working for a corporation seems more secure since it is common for layoffs and usually the application states something about being an “at will” employee. In other words, you are completely controlled by someone else’s decisions. On the other hand, starting your own business means that the only way you lose your job is if you quit.

A story in the book (p217) described “desperate thoughts, thoughts that for an entrepreneur are almost worse than suicide:” The author thought he was failing, and what he stated was “I thought about getting a job. Anything. Anything that would stop the feeling of falling I had almost every day.”

Stacy & WK

This is something I think about constantly. It is frantically worse at the times my credit card is close to being maxed out from covering bills, or rent savings is low. Yet, I don’t want to quit. I want to find a solution that will keep me on this path and not lose the basics, such as food and shelter for my cat and me.  My stomach turns and I get stressed because I want to be a part of something inspirational, and get paid as the outcome to cover those basic needs. The author states (p224) “We come to work to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.”

What are your experiences?

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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The Power of Book Clubs

Meeting Area

Can a book club change a person’s life? I don’t know about everyone. I can tell you that in the Kalamazoo Business Book Club that people are reading more than they were before it existed, at least one person renewed a library card and another one obtained a library card for the first time. Beyond that, it is awesome to discuss books with people who are like-minded yet bring different experiences and opinions to the topic. I definitely learn more than I might on a subject. Plus, given that the particular group’s favorite book choices tend to be on entrepreneurship, psychology, or (the all-time favorite) serendipity, I personally feel encouraged to choose alternate paths in life. In the article “How Can a Book Club Change Your Life,” the author talks about “the power of positive peer pressure.” To read this article, please click this link. What do you think?

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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Essential Books for Professional Development

This post is to give a shout out to my friend and MBA classmate, Dan Proczko, a marketing professional at Newmind Group. He put together a list of 15 essential books that have helped him develop professionally over the last couple of years. Please check out what he has to say here, and let him know what you might add to the list! 

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

I actually hope this book ends up as a book club choice, too. After reading “Outliers,” I wanted to read another book by Malcolm Gladwell. Since I know at least one person who had started reading “The Tipping Point,” that’s what I chose, and it was hard for me to put down!

In one section titled “The Law of the Few,” Gladwell defines, and then gives examples, of connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Paul Revere actually fit into two of those categories. The Revolutionary War could have ended differently if it had been someone other than Paul Revere riding from town to town to warn about the British coming.

Do you think you fit into one (or more) of these categories?

Connectors: people with a special gift for bringing the world together. They know lots of people casually, and in different circles.

Maven (Yiddish): One who accumulates knowledge on a lot of different products or prices or places and connects people to the marketplaces they know about to help and to educate.

Salesman: Good at subtle persuasion.

The other area I found interesting was in a section called “The Stickiness Factor.” One main example given was about a well-known children’s TV show that began in the late 1960’s – “Sesame Street.” However, to make a children’s TV show entertaining and educational took awhile of development and testing.

The creators of “Sesame Street” had wanted to separate fantasy (muppets) from reality (people) and found that the children’s interest didn’t hold. The result? Big Bird and other characters, and a very successful show.

Where “Sesame Street” was intended for a parent/child audience, “Blues Clues” creators wanted a children’s only TV show. They took some of what worked in “Sesame Street,” and then developed it just for the child viewer, including a five day single episode replay. “Blues Clues” caught on even faster.

For more in depth details on any of these topics, it is worth reading the book! Although there was much more content, many of the points led back to the idea of social epidemics, who helped them occur in the first place, and why they stuck.

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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