If there is anyone to write credibly about money, it is Steve Forbes. He has had plenty. As you remember, he twice entered, then exited early from presidential party nomination campaigns, bankrolling his efforts with his family fortune.
In his newest book, co-authored with Elizabeth Ames, Forbes argues for a reliable gold standard in order to bring stability to the unreliable and uncertain value of the U.S. dollar. There is no more important currency in the world. The responsibility for the problem and the solution is squarely on the back of the Federal Reserve Board.
You know about Forbes. But, who is Elizabeth Ames? Elizabeth Ames is a communications executive, speaker and author. She has written two previous books with Steve Forbes, How Capitalism Will Save Us and Freedom Manifesto. She is not a huge fan of President Obama’s policies. Click here for an article she published in The Daily Caller.
The question becomes whether this book will propel Forbes again into the American spotlight. Will he, for example, be a guest on Sunday morning television news talk shows to discuss this book? Will elected officials introduce and debate these principles in blogs and sound bytes? Will congressional committees make any recommendations such as we see here? Will anyone in the Federal Reserve Board have any response? If not, this book will have no influence. It is just another hard cover book that will be on the bargain table at $7.99 next year. Only time will tell.
If you would like to read the review of this book, published in the Wall Street Journal on July 24, 2014, by George Melloan, a WSJ deputy editor and author of The Great Money Binge: Spending our Way to Socialism, click here.
As a disclaimer, I do not like Bill O’Reilly, nor his network, Fox News. You might, and that is just fine with me. I chose to become angry at his interview with President Obama before the Super Bowl, where he demonstrated poor questioning skills, poor probing skills, and abysmal listening skills. He was obviously more interested in making a scene for himself than providing a forum on issues for a national viewing audience. A quick review of his television career shows him to be a walking time-bomb, with explosive unsubstantiated commentary, often followed by apologies, corrections, and dissatisfying defenses delivered in a Howard Cosell-like manner. Yet, these are behaviors that make him popular, and create vast viewing audiences.
But, his three best-selling books are another matter. Henry Holt was the publisher of all of these. I have finished two of these, Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot (2012), and Killing Jesus: A History (2013), and am now into a third, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever (2011). As you see, that one was actually the first in the series. His co-author is Martin Dugard, a not-so-famous historian, who for all we know, may provide gravity to O’Reilly when he might otherwise stray from facts. The fourth, Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General, is due in September this year.
These are all highly readable accounts of famous history. I find them novel-like in their wording, pacing, and unfolding dramatics of events. He adds feelings to facts, and emotions are a strong appeal to his writing. All the books keep you focused, but also move you off-balance in a very positive way. You think you know what will come next, and it will, but not how you expect it. O’Reilly opens several windows as he writes, but not so many that you find yourself flipping back to review. Even his footnotes are interesting and explanatory. And, Iike many people, I don’t usually read footnotes.
The background and context are particularly strong elements. I am grateful, for example, that we are given a condensed review of ancient Roman and Judean history, including key events, characters, traditions, customs, geographies, among others, way before we even read about Jesus’ birth and brief time on earth. The writing is more appealing than even a visual imagery could provide.
I can tell you that I also read things in these books I have never seen before. If you read these, you may occasionally feel the same way. You might react with “I didn’t know that” or “oh, yeah?” Here are two I remember. The JFK-RFK interest in Marilyn Monroe is public knowledge, but I have never before read in such a strong and factually-appearing manner that JFK spent two consecutive nights with her in California. Tiberius was known as power-hungry and egotistical dictator, but I never knew that he swam with young boys who nibbled at him below the water. At minimum, I never remember studying that in Sunday School.
Years ago, I read the famous author, Jim Bishop, who wrote accounts of these same three. He called them The Day…. (Kennedy Died, Christ Died, Lincoln Died). They have been reprinted several times. They were good, but they are nothing like the O’Reilly accounts. Compared to the dynamism from O’Reilly, they seem static to me today.
Perhaps that may be due to the title. Note the word: “killing” begins each of his books. The use of the “ing” means that we are reading a process, not an event. “Kennedy killed” is an account. “Killing Kennedy” is a dynamic, in-action, unfolding of a story.
Put aside any feelings you may have about O’Reilly. If they are negative, don’t let that interfere with your access to these books. You will find your time well-spent by doing so.
And, I plan to order the Patton book when it is ready in September. If nothing else, I can read some new things and replace the George C. Scott image that seems to always be in my head.
Here’s a good read from the New York Times by Stephanie Clifford about David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, and the new book about President Obama, The Bridge. Clifford’s article is entitled Making It Look Easy at The New Yorker, . Here’s the quote that grabbed me:
“You have to be incredibly interested, and that’s not going to come along every five minutes.”
Here’s what Malcolm Gladwell says about Remnick:
“He likes to pretend that there’s no sweat,” said Malcolm Gladwell, a New Yorker staff writer and an old colleague from The Washington Post. “He cruises around and chats with people and then disappears and writes thousands of words in 15 minutes. It’s all part of that ‘making it look easy’ thing.”
But here’s my takeaway: when I read, I am curious, and have to be interested. That means the author has to be curious, and write interesting stuff. Curiosity… interest… these are real keys to good writing and good reading.
The best companies of the future will use the latest information processing, communications, and social networking technologies to become shape-shifters, constantly restructuring themselves to adapt to changing circumstances and new opportunities. They will become protean.
shape-shifter: able to change shape – yet remaining the same in the inner core… (“whatever form Proteus takes, he still retains his self.”)
Michael S. Malone, The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise and Fall of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You
Two leaders are very much in the public eye at the moment. One is our President. The other is probably the greatest college basketball coach (on the men’s side) of the era. And as I was reading about both of these leaders, I realized that they both have characteristics that are described so well in the Michael Malone book, The Future Arrived Yesterday.
They are both “shape-shifters.” A shape-shifter is not a flip flopper. Nor is a shape shifter a leader that has no true inner core. In fact, it is true that only a genuine inner core makes shape shifting possible. And though you may want to take exception to such a description of these two men, I think it makes sense.
If Obama’s belief system was fairly consistent, his public persona was not. Remnick returns repeatedly to the notion that Obama is a “shape-shifter,” with a remarkable ability to come across differently to disparate constituencies.
And regarding Coach K, the men’s basketball coach at Duke University, in an article in Slate.com, The Duke Fluke: Why are so many Blue Devils awesome in college and awful in the pros?, the author Josh Levin describes Coach K as the greatest motivator of all:
Coach K’s motivational techniques are too masterful. Part of the Krzyzewski mythos is that he is no mere coach. He is a leader of men…
But it is this trait that makes him a shape-shifting leader. For Coach K, it’s very direct, and brilliant. He simply coaches each year differently than he did the year before. He figures out what that year’s team needs, and changes everything he needs to to produce a winning year with that specific team. Again from Levin:
Mike Gminski, who played at Duke just before the Krzyzewski era and now broadcasts games for CBS, says Coach K’s “hook is to get his team together for that year.”
And here is the possible lesson for us all. What worked yesterday may not work today. What works today may not work tomorrow. What motivates one person may not motivate another. What motivates one team may not work with the next. In other words, the leader must be a true shape-shifter. True to an inner core, flexible and nimble in every other way. Companies have to do this. And so do individual leaders. We really do need shape-shifting leaders for a shape-shifting era.
I intentionally avoid political topics and themes on this blog. I realize that in this very volatile, divided era, once a name or a postition is named, some cheer, others condemn, and people want to argue. (See my earlier post on The Argument Culture, and how Deborah Tannen predicted the coming argument wars).
But this was too good to pass up. Whether you agree with the assessment or not, it provides for serious thought and discussion regarding leadership and decision making. The thought comes from David Brooks, one of the conservative columnists for the New York Times. In his column The Analytic Mode, December 3, 2009, he reflects on President Obama’s approach to his Afghanistan strategy and troop decision. This is what he wrote:
The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.
Brooks pictures the Obama approach as that of a learning organization. Here’s the definition (from Wikipedia): A Learning Organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
Though there are five identified traits of a learning organization — Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, and Team Learning — I think we can identify the following as critical to a learning organization’s success as a learning organization. A learning organization is an organization where the following is true:
1) Teaching and learning are at the center of the organization.
2) Everyone, from the leaders throughout the organization, values learning.
3) Disagreement and dissent are valued, because if there is no disagreement, learning does not happen. Instead, perpetuating frozen, possibly wrong, viewpoints becomes dominant – and the organization finds itself left behind in a hurry.
This the second time that an author has put modern day business labels on President Obama’s approach to governing. (at least, the second one that I am aware of). The earlier was an author calling President Obama our first GTD President. (see my post here). I’m a fan of the learning organization approach, and Brook’s observation gives me hope.
This is not a post about the politics, the stances of Barack Obama. It is a post about work challenge. And it is fully prompted by a provocative article from Slate.com — The Big Money: The Getting-Things-Done President: Is GTD any way to run a country? By Paul Smalera.
The article is based on the book, and the life/business approach of David Allen in Getting Things Done. Here is Smalera’s paragraph describing the value of Allen’s approach:
Getting Things Done is a productivity system invented by David Allen. Currently all the rage among the lifehacking set, Allen uses seminars, books, and private sessions to teach people how to handle all the “stuff” in their lives. Allen, echoing the theory of alienation that Marx applied to industrialized labor 165 years ago, thinks that the relentless stream of “stuff” white-collar workers process every day makes it hard for them to retain control over their accomplishments and larger purposes. His theory is basically this: By creating an external system to track our big goals and breaking those goals down into discrete actions, we free up our minds to actually complete those actions, which, after all, get us closer to our big goals. Then we use chunks of time to think, to plan our next steps, and to adjust our courses of action.
Smalera’s article is about what all is on Barack Obama’s plate. He has too much to do – and is tackling so much of it that he does not have time to do what the Getting Things Done approach is supposed to free him up to do: think, ponder, reflect – look at the big, big picture.
It may as well be about all of us. The information overload we experience, the to-do lists that are never finished, the dozens (hundreds) of e-mails we have to answer, all add up to an avalanche of “stuff.” This stuff has to get done, and it takes hard work and a very good system to get it all done. And we have to faithfully work the system – all the time, every day, day after day, or we get truly buried in stuff.
But the bad news is that when we do get it all done, when we are supposed to be freed up to be able to think and ponder, there is not time to sit and think and ponder – there is frequently only the arrival of more stuff.
In the article, Smalera includes link to an original Getting Things Done work-flow diagram, and a diagram created to capture what is on Obama’s plate. Take a look (click the earlier links in this paragraph for larger images):
Looking at President Obama’s chart does not seem to leave much room to think and ponder. I wonder what your chart, and my chart, would look like?
The article implies that President Obama should not try to do so much “stuff.” But – the stuff needs to be done. By him, and by us, tackling our own lists. And the more stuff there is, the less time we find for the really big tasks. (And, yes, I readily acknowledge that our schedules do not hold a candle to the president’s schedule).
We live in a really, really busy time!