Tag Archives: Learners

Have you seen a Purple Cow?

wpid-20141110_195737.jpg

The book, “Purple Cow,” by Seth Godin, was nothing to sneeze about. Or was it? A topic that the five of us continually returned to while seated in the back of The Michigan News Agency was the group Godin referred to as the “sneezers.” These are the people who seek out the new ideas and not only try them out, they spread the word, too. These are the people who will be your early adopters if you have come up with a “Purple Cow.”

A “Purple Cow,” then, is another way of saying that something is remarkable. This means that your business is doing something different and original and it’s worth being noticed and talked about.  By the way, Godin states that the opposite of remarkable is “very good.” Another way of stating that would be “boring,” “average,” or “nothing special.” The Purple Cow, on the other hand, stands out, at least for a little while. Just like everything else, there are cycles for the Purple Cow products. The goal is for the early adopters (sneezers) to help move it to mass use and create a “cash cow.” After that, Godin states,  let the team who is good at “milking the cow” continue on while you reinvest towards the next time of doing it again. What happens if it fails?

Failure was another topic we discussed as part of why there are not more Purple Cows. According to Godin, in America, we learn to fail in first grade. It is where we realize it is best to try to fit in and color inside of the lines. In general, we are raised with the belief that criticism leads to failure and that being noticed gets us sent to the principal’s office, not to Harvard.

How are remarkable products discovered? The group discussed crowdsourcing, and Kickstarter as sources, which are newer ways of spreading the word. One question was if venture capitalists were specifically looking at those areas for investments or if it really is more of a grassroots support.

A few more points:

  • (p21) The old rule is to create safe, ordinary products and combine them with great marketing. The new rule is to create remarkable products that the right people seek out.
  • (p113) Marketing is in the core of the product and sharing the value. The better description for previous versions would have been advertising.
  • Reference to the book “Business Brilliant” by Lewis Schiff – the difference between dwelling and analyzing failures is what is learned. Or, as mentioned through a quote by Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I ask again…have you seen a Purple Cow?

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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Summer 2014 Reading Choices

Choosing a name

Since it is summertime, the focus of tonight’s discussion was a little bit different than normal. Everyone who wanted to participate put their name in a hat (my bike helmet was the hat). I asked Riley, who  works at the Michigan News Agency, to choose the first name. After that, the person speaking pulled the next name when time was done. We ended up with five different books being discussed tonight! Quite a bit to take in. Below the group picture is a short summary of each presentation.

group with books

The first name chosen was Moh’d, on the far left in the picture. He discussed “Doblin – The Ten Types of Innovation” by Larry Keeley. Moh’d stated that the book discussed innovation –  defined as what is new and useful – and how to apply it to different parts of a business to be profitable. He had a handout based on this page and discussed a few of the companies. Gillette, for example, will sell a razor really cheap, knowing that the consumer has to replace the blade. For a Keurig, the math shows that a $70 machine will mean an additional $700 spent in a year, based on two people having two cups per day at $.50 each cup (or $2/day). I’m definitely adding this one to my list! How about you?

Collection

The next person was Todd, who is on the far right in the group picture. He brought a business card and bookmark for everyone that went with the book that he wrote called “Out of the Darkness and Into the Blue.” Besides telling us what the book was about, Todd explained why he decided to write it in the first place, and the process for doing it. He was able to retire from his position as a public safety officer in December of 2012, and in order to remember his experiences, he started documenting it all. As he reviewed what he had written, Todd realized that not only was he writing a memoir,  there were training ideas that could be considered “lessons learned.” It was at that point that he decided to organize it for publishing. Todd’s main target market who he hopes will read his book are these three:

  1. Regular citizens, so that they have a better idea of why public safety officers do what they do.
  2. Potential future officers, so they have an idea of what to expect.
  3. Current officers, in a mentor role, so that they don’t make the same mistakes that he did.

If you are interested in this book and live in the Kalamazoo area, it is available at Michigan News and other local bookstores, and it is also available online.

Following Todd was my discussion on Conscious Capitalism, a previous book club choice and post. I had to return it before finishing it when I originally checked it out. I finally had a turn again and still didn’t quite finish it before it was due. Luckily, I found it at another local library and completed it! Most of what I discussed was from the appendices. My favorite section was about how businesses pursue profits like people pursue happiness. Both of those are  results, not something to chase after. This was emphasized in a section on conscious capitalism myths, which the authors agreed with or disputed.

If this book is on your list, I highly recommend reading those last sections! I liked the book enough that I want to buy it, and I don’t buy books often anymore.

 Poetry

The fourth book was presented by Barb with some help from  her son, Todd. It also had an interesting beginning. Barb’s mother’s mother’s father (great-grandfather to her) wrote poetry in the mid to late 1800’s. When Todd found the book as the family was going through old items, he organized and edited it so the world could have access. He was asked about his favorite poem, which he read for us. It was something different than the usual business book topics and everyone enjoyed hearing it. The book title is “Tommy Hawks Hill,” and is available locally or online.

 Finally, Matt was able to present his book choice, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which had also been a previous book choice and post. He discussed the definition of an outlier and gave physical and other types of examples of why a person or situation might be one, which included culture, the 10,000 hour rule, and birth month or year. It was pointed out that there was a lot of passion needed at some point, in all of those examples. Barb stated that all three of her children are passionate about something, and it is what they do in life, yet she didn’t have that same experience.

Matt and Moh’d and I stood outside of Michigan News after it closed and continued to chat. One of the topics that came up is how many projects each of us have going at any given time, on top of work, school, family or other commitments. Moh’d stated that after watching what others with a full plate seem to do he realized this: “When the plate is full, get a bigger plate.”

Happy reading!

Thanks,

Stacy (a.k.a. “The Book Lady”)

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The Black Swan

The Black Swan discussion group

 One of the reactions I received several times while advertising  The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb during the past month was the question, “The movie?” It was not the movie at all. According to Taleb, (in the prologue), “a Black Swan is –

  1. an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.
  2. it carries an extreme impact
  3. In spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrences after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”

If that sounds like a big and long explanation, it is. Taleb is a philosopher and statistician, and, as pointed out by Craig during the discussion in the back of the Michigan News Agency, the thesis is regurgitated throughout the book. The three of us agreed that the author’s thought process was apparent, and we could see why it was easy for him to write it. One of the other points is that  we liked that the author’s ideas were from a different point of view than what is common.

The bottom line? People want explanations for events, even when they are truly unexplainable, and random. We tend to find some way to make connections and explain why something did happen or that it should happen. Taleb basically states that the random and unexpected occurrences are outliers –  they happen outside of what is expected. It is how casinos can make money because people expect big winnings based on the few who do, for example.

Matt brought up the point of the antilibrary. Imagine a bookshelf full of books with all the knowledge you have. The books that are missing, or what you do NOT know, would be the antilibrary.

We also discussed:

  • What Taleb might have thought about the market crash in 2008 related to the book “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis.
  • The variety of financial information.
  • That economists basically don’t have a clue and can prove anything.
  • How incentives determine behaviors.
  • How everyone tries to get to the middle, yet the rich keep getting richer and there’s a definite divide.
  • That for the most part we already practice not watching the news, which was one of Taleb’s points since there usually isn’t anything important.
  •  Hedonic Happiness (my favorite point from p91): “…your happiness depends far more on the number of instances of positive feelings, what psychologists call “positive affect,” than on their intensity when they hit. In other words, good news is good news first; how good matters rather little. So to have a pleasant life you should spread these small “affects” across time as evenly as possible. Plenty of mildly good news is preferable to one single lump of great news.”

I am always happy when there are book discussions 🙂 What made you happy today?

Black Swan

One final note: If you live in or visit Michigan, you can see a black swan at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. As the definition of Black Swan suggests, the black swan is a rare bird and it is found in Australia. Thanks to John, who recommended the book and took the photograph.

Happy 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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Emotional Intelligence

 Stacy, Matt and Mariaa at The Michigan News Agency

Stacy, Matt and Mariia at
The Michigan News Agency

Why do we seem so “HAPPY?” The discussion about Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, started with the point of self-awareness. As a group we agreed that if we aren’t aware of feelings as they happen, then we probably are not going to change anything.

Being “HAPPY” is important, and it is easy to get sidetracked, or even too “emotionally involved” in a situation that does not require more than empathy. Sometimes, though, being empathic  is overwhelming.  Any Trekkies may remember the character Deana Troi in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” She could read feelings and would get ill from not being able to disconnect.  Other than extremes like this, empathy, according to Goleman, is the fundamental “people skill.”

Some of the other topics revolved around:

  • Groups – personal experiences and how they can be “dumb” even when everyone is “smart,” when talents are not shared well.
  • How it is easier to fix other people’s problems versus your own.
  • That when you realize you’re in a bad emotional state, STOP, and reframe.
  • That the world measures IQ more than EQ, and causes test anxiety, which, ironically, does not portray true IQ, such as with the SATs.
  • The idea that EQ training throughout school is great, whether as a separate course or a part of the curriculum, and that the rest of us allow therapists to make a living.
  • Flow…has nothing to do with the Progressive Insurance commercial, and everything to do with being in the moment and happy with the current task.
  • Quotes – can be inspiring for a minute. It is not the quote, but our own motivation, which drives us.

Bottom line – we all liked the book and, as Mariaa stated, “It was cheaper than therapy.”

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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Moneyball

Moneyball Discussion Group

Thanks to the Michigan News Agency for letting the five of us take over the back of the store to talk about two important topics – baseball and business. How do the two go together? I actually had not considered it while reading “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis. It was a point brought up by JJ (sitting next to me), who was leading the discussion group tonight. He said that the book implied methods for the future of baseball. “The problem is that it can’t just be statistics which are used. The human element is also needed.” This was a recurring point throughout the discussion.

JJ, along with Craig (in the Detroit Tigers shirt) and Eric (wearing red), are all baseball fans. Juan (in the striped top) and I had different perspectives if only because our source was strictly the book, not what has happened in baseball, especially to the Oakland A’s, since 2002.

Here were some of the main discussion points:

  • The agents in the book were divided between new and old guard, referring to the talent scouts. Many of us choose to run our own business because we disagree with the “old guard.”
  • Economic lesson – getting more for less especially when considering a minimum wage pitcher vs paying one $14 million who is injured. Sometimes spending money isn’t the best value.
  • Finance – how trades were strategically made. At the end of the day this would be used for business, not necessarily for a baseball team.

When it comes right down to the “Moneyball” story, it was all about Billy Beane. He was supposed to be “THE Guy,” super athlete, and drafted straight out of high school. Eventually, he became the manager of the Oakland A’s, a Major League Baseball team, and was determined to find players who were not like him, who didn’t cost a lot of money (because it wasn’t available to spend), and end up with a winning team.

Billy traded players like people trade stocks, trying to get the best deals. More than that, though, he had certain standards that were important to him. When players or staff did not buy into the standards, they ended up in one of his trades.

The question in the discussion was if the “Moneyball” method still applies as a winning concept now that the secret has been out for the last ten years, or has it been built into the culture? In other words, is it really about the statistics? Or is it that Billy created a culture, and the people who stayed were the ones who understood and bought into the concept? As Billy was known to say throughout examples in the book when referring to the distinct differences between the mainstream and some of his players,”We’re not selling jeans.”

Happy reading!

Stacy (a.k.a “The Book Lady”)

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