Business strategy traditionally came from the smartest people in the room, the executive team, the bosses and when they needed help they turned to incredibly expensive consultants to build a brilliant foolproof plan. Everyone at the top laughed all the way to the bank. If the plan failed it was the consultants fault, if the plan succeeded it was the executives’ idea all along. Rarely does centralized, autocratic, command and control leadership work anymore.
This blog post is based on John Medina’s book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. I loved this book, it’s a thought-provoking read. It teaches you about your brain in a way that’s actionable and easily remembered. At the end of every chapter he sums up what the important parts of the chapter were. Kind of like a coles notes of his own book. Atta boy John, good on you.
My latest read is the ever-controversial Kevin O’Leary’s The Cold Hard Truth About Men, Women, and Money. It’s taken me a solid six months to get over my disdain for the man and the way he treats presenters on Dragon’s Den but this book has increased his standing in my eyes.
While other books on investing and personal financial management take a friendly approach to convincing you to pay yourself first, commit to saving, and live within your means, O’Leary basically takes the hardcover book and hits you over the head with it. His polarized views and no guff delivery leave you never wanting to buy another Starbucks coffee or smoke another cigarette.
Here are three things I took away from the book:
1. Be brutally honest with yourself
What’s preventing so many of us from getting a hold on our financial situations and taking the necessary steps to improving it is the inability and lack of desire to take a real look at debt, spending habits and current financial health. Start by being brutally honest with yourself and scrutinizing every detail of your credit card spending and excess spending on things like cigs, lunches, coffees, and magazines. (I use mint.com for this and it’s awesome)
2. Pay your student loans off in your 20s and pay down your mortgage in your 30s
Life is a constant battle to have the upper hand against the bank. This is much easier said than done. As Kevin says, from the moment you’re born, the bank and the world are trying to take money from you. By committing to paying off your student loans and your mortgage (if you choose to have one) as quickly as possible, you can finally be the one making money off of the bank – instead of their hand being a permanent fixture in your pocket.
3. Beans now, steak later
Too many young people start making a relatively decent salary and start living like rock stars. The reality is that going out for lunch 4 days a week, swinging by Starbucks a couple times a day, and going out for drinks a few times a week are sure ways to end up having to work until you’re 85 to afford retirement. Kevin uses the example of a man who bought rental property, spent 12 hours a day renovating, serving his renters, and collecting rent. He ate nothing but rice and beans for years. When he finally made his money back and was able to purchase another valuable property after 20+ years, he rewarded himself with a steak. “Beans now, steak later” is good motivation for living within your means and coming out way on top later on.
“There is no such thing as getting more than you put into anything.”
I love this quote, it’s attributed to Kim Nicolaides, I read it in Julien Smith and Chris Brogan’s new book called The Impact Equation. I’m about half way through and have been highlighting in my Kindle a lot. It’s like the no bullshit guide to marketing your company and yourself.
“Well, no matter what your stance, it’s the process of starting that matters. Starting once, on any given day, is easy. Starting every single day is hard, but it’s how your media will be created, how your book will get written, and how your empire will be built. As Kimon Nicolaides once said, “There is no such thing as getting more than you put into anything.” In other words, the work creates the results. There are no shortcuts.”
There’s no easy way about it. It takes a lot of hard, pain-in-the-ass work to accomplish anything amazing. You don’t just wake up one day and have a well read blog, huge Twitter Following or massive Facebook page, you wake up every morning and try to improve just a little bit. Being persistent, doing the work, and constantly improving, in time you’ll have created a masterpiece.
It’s very simple for anyone today to educate themselves on just about anything they could dream of. On Amazon, a simple search under any topic will bring up a list of books and more importantly the average rating people gave each book. Find the top rated books in whatever category interests you, buy the top ten rated, read them, boom instant genius.
Well it’s not quite that easy but you know what I mean. If you don’t read regularly find a way to do it, read in bed before you fall asleep, maybe go to the bathroom more at work and bring a book with you, read at the gym on the elliptical (two birds with one stone) where ever you can, do it. It’s one of the easiest ways to get smarter.
Here’s a list of mine from this past year, all of them on the list except for a few were outstanding. Tweet me (@JephMaystruck) if you want more details or if you have a question on a specific book.
In Martin Lindstrom‘s fascinating New York Times Bestseller, ‘Buy-ology‘, countless age-old advertising and marketing assumptions are obliterated. Perhaps the most provocative (intentional word choice) assumption that he topples is one we’ve probably heard once a week for our entire lives: Sex sells.
Skeptical? I don’t doubt it. Let’s take a closer look before we dismiss the claim…
Lindstrom goes to the next level in ‘Buy-ology’ by going beyond observational marketing. He draws from experiences with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanning to measure activity in certain areas of the human brain in response to the stimulation of advertisements. Taking a psychological/biological approach gives his findings the credibility that many marketing practices lack.
Think about Malcolm and the Middle vs. Sex and the City for a minute. One compelling experiment from Chapter 13 of the book had viewers of each show divided into two groups. One segment from each series was shown a grouping of sexually suggestive ads during the commercial breaks for products such as beer, shampoo, and perfume. Upon conclusion of each show, viewers were simply asked what they remembered. As Lindstrom regales, the group shown the sexually suggestive ads had no better recollection of which products they were for than those shown non-sexually suggestive ads. Furthermore, viewers of Sex and the City had even worse recollection than those who viewed Malcolm in the Middle. It turns out that the sexually suggestive nature of the show actually overshadowed the retention of the sexually suggestive nature of the commercials. Hence the conclusion: “sex does not sell anything other than itself.”
So, now you’re probably asking why sex and beauty are still used at such great lengths in marketing and advertising campaigns. Lindstrom’s fMRI brain scan experiments helped him find the answer.
In advertising and merchandising (take the pictures on underwear boxes, for example) attractive models actually activate the brain’s mirror neurons, making us view ourselves as one of them. From the shelf to the till (and probably all the way home until we look in the mirror) we view ourselves as the guys in the picture and adjust our confidence accordingly. Or, as Lindstrom points out, if a woman is buying underwear for a man, she’ll have no problem picturing him as fit and handsome as the guy she sees on the box.
Two important takeaways from just one chapter in Lindstrom’s eyeopening masterpiece:
1. Sex doesn’t sell anything other than itself.
2. Sex and beauty still work in advertising by activating mirror neurons.
In the business community, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Jim Collins. He wrote the classics, Built to Last with Jerry Porras (on the best seller list for 6 years), followed up by Good to Great (sold over 2.5 million hard cover copies) and How The Mighty Fall (didn’t do nearly as well as his first two).
Collins’ latest master piece might be his best work yet. Written with Morten T. Hansen, they teach lessons by telling riveting stories and relating them back to the various principles about the great companies profiled. One of the best written business books that gives you concepts, based on research, that you can implement in your business. I couldn’t put it down at times, the stories they share keep you glued to the book chapter after chapter. You’re learning through narrative. You can tell Collins’ is really honing in on his writing skill. By far the best book he’s written yet.
Below are the most important concepts you’ll learn in the book: