Here you go – this is my list of the Best of 2011 in a number of categories.
Best Business Book: The 3rd Alternative by Stephen Covey (New York: Free Press) – this book explains and promotes a tired “win-win” philosophy in a fresh way, opening up applications in multiple contexts for many people who give lip service to the concept likely have never thought of before. It didn’t stay on the best-seller lists long enough.
Best Non-Fiction Book: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I didn’t think he could ever top the biography he wrote called Truman, but this is a highly readable, novel-like approach of an important segment of American history, as played out overseas.
A close second: Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I’ve read a lot of books about JFK, and many a lot longer than this one, but I have never learned so much as I did with this account. Lots of inside information from an outside perspective by this MSNBC giant.
Best Fiction Book: 11-22-63 by Stephen King (New York: Scribner) – A fantasy about a high school teacher who travels back in time, attempting to change history, with the first stop in 1958. Quite a story! The picture of the author on the inside cover makes him look so intense!
Best Movie: Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. directed by Steve McQueen (Fox Searchlight films) – this is not entertaining, and a very difficult movie to watch, but it demonstrates the challenges that 3-5 million Americans with sex addictions face better than any documentary ever has or could.
Best Sporting News: Paterno and Penn State Fall – this is not a happy story, but time unravels strange tales, and a giant in a successful program faces the music, and we cannot ignore it; at the Ticket City Bowl on Monday, I saw two t-shirts: one said, “Joe Knows Football,” and another, “What Does Joe Know?” Unfortunately, with his diminishing physical condition, we may never find out.
Best Entertainer: Taylor Swift – a 22-year old captivates audiences and the music world with original songs from the heart, and she bonds with her listeners of all ages at concerts in ways that we have not seen since the Beatles; the song Story of Us will resonate with many people who have had heartbreaking relationships
Best Television Program: Friday Night Lights – when its final episode aired this spring, I realized how good it was, and how much I will miss it; if you never saw it, purchase the series on DVD’s.
Best News Story: Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami in May – riveting images of horror and sorrow followed by amazing stories of international and personal help and relief show the greatest contrast in bad and good that you could ask to see, and there still remains a lot of work to do.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
So what do you do when your village is pretty well wiped out by a Tsunami? You organize – fast!
In Hadenya, Japan, the people immediately went to work, organizing for their own survival. They identified a leader, Osamu Abe, who rose to the challenge. (this reminds me of the work of Luis Urzúa, Shift Foreman – Leader of the Decade).
The story is told by this terrific article in the New York Times: Severed From the World, Villagers Survive on Tight Bonds and To-Do Lists. (I read an edited verison in the print edition of today’s Dallas Morning News).
Yes, the story is a testament to the great Japanese spirit and culture:
The ability of the people of Hadenya to survive by banding together in a way so exemplary of Japan’s communal spirit and organizing abilities is a story being repeated day to day across the ravaged northern coastline, where the deadly earthquake and tsunami left survivors fending for themselves in isolated pockets.
But it is also the story of a leader who does, naturally, out of necessity, what good leaders do. He did a quick SWOT analysis, and set people into their specific work groups. Here are some of the details, (from the article):
…they began dividing tasks along gender lines, with women boiling water and preparing food, while men went scavenging for firewood and gasoline. Within days, they said, they had re-established a complex community, with a hierarchy and division of labor, in which members were assigned daily tasks.
Mr. Abe said he naturally assumed a leadership role over the frightened survivors because he had had a prominent job in the village, as head of the local nature center. He said the first thing he did after the tsunami was get the older schoolchildren to erect tents in the community center’s parking lot, since aftershocks made survivors afraid to sleep inside.
Later, he sent a group down to a marsh to get water, and others to gather firewood — mostly the wooden debris from broken houses — in order to boil it. When one woman turned out to be a nurse, he asked her to set up a makeshift clinic, behind a sheet in one corner of the center, which was now filled with survivors sleeping on the floor.
“People needed a sense of direction,” Mr. Abe said. “They were stunned from having lost everything.”
The next day, groups were sent to scour the wreckage for supplies. One found a truck washed up by the waves that was filled with food, which barely kept them fed until the first helicopters reached them four days later.
Another group searched for fuel. Shohei Miura, a 17-year-old high school junior, said he helped drain gasoline from the tanks of the dozens of smashed cars left behind by the tsunami. He also found kerosene in beached fishing boats.
So what did this leader, Mr. Abe, do? – with the full cooperation of his ready-to-listen-and-execute followers?
He assessed the most desperate needs.
He provided a sense of direction.
He assigned specific tasks to specific groups.
He discovered the unique abilities of individuals – he identified a nurse, and put her her to work setting up a clinic.
And he helped everyone remember that help would come – he helped keep hope alive.
I think, as we read all of these wonderful books about better known leaders, they these may all have been surpassed by Osamu Abe, community organizer and leader of the year.