Book Week V – Changed and Forever

“Challenge yourself; the only path which leads to growth.”

–  Morgan Freeman (b. 1937), American actor and thinker

As a “growth guy,” I am drawn to change.  Meaningful, purposeful change.  Not just change for change’s sake.  That’s why I chose the two books featured today to wrap up Book Week.

I bought a book that a couple of subscribers suggested changed the way they think — I haven’t opened it yet, but the title is pretty compelling:  You Are Not So Smart:  Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.  

I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to reading it or terrified!

A Book That Changed The Way I Think

I did a three-part series on this book in March, and it’s not only changed the way I think and try to live, but it’s also changed the way I pray, interact with others, and the way I apply my Faith.  I’ve Seen The End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt and The Things We Think We Know.

Dr. W. Lee Warren is the author, and I was blessed to get introduced to him by a mutual friend during my series of Diff Posts on the book.  Here’s the first post in the series.  And the second.  And the third.

What Warren does in this book is get inside everything we think we know and provide us a context under which we can be better, all via an incredible, true story from his life and career. The book “bends the light to show us what’s really there.”   He’s a fantastic storyteller, wicked smart, and has an extraordinarily compelling set of experiences and perspectives that make the book an even better read.  Sorry, it’s a MUST read.

The One Book I’d Take For A Lifetime Stranded Alone on A Desert Island

Shocker alert…

Not really…

The Bible.

It reads like a novel.  It reads like an atlas.  It reads like a history lesson.  It reads like a futuristic thriller.  And it’s all of those things.  None of those are the reason I’d take it for a lifetime spent alone, stranded, however.

The reason I’d take it is that with this Book, we’re never alone.  We’re never stranded.



Book Week IV – Over Rated (Clap, Clap, ClapClapClap)

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

–  Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972), 33rd President of The United States of America

Full disclosure, I wish I hadn’t included this category.

The book that everyone raved about but that we think kinda sucks.  The over-rated book. It’s really a moot point, and to bag on someone’s work is sorta mean.

I chose this headline because I think the meanest thing high school and college sports crowds can chant at a kid is “over-rated!”  Look, the kid is just out there doing his best, and it’s not like he or she does the ratings, anyway.

I’ve recently turned over a bit of a new leaf — in our hypercritical society, and in a world where it seems too many focus on tearing down instead of building up — I’ve decided I’m not gonna comment or criticize stuff I don’t know anything about. I’ve never been a famous author — so who I am to say a book is over-rated?  Some of you aren’t big Malcolm Gladwell fans, and some of you are really not Jack Welch fans — yet their books have appealed a great deal to me.  Who’s right?  Both of us?  Wow.  Whodda thunkit!

So I Chose A Great Book That I Still Like But Has Lost Context For Me

I know, cop-out, right?

The Art of War by Sun Tzu is a great strategic and tactical primer.  Maybe even a standard.  I read it at a time in my career when the game was about the competition — and the book was a game-changer for me.  So why choose it here?  Because the game isn’t about the competition anymore.  It’s about the Clients.  The customers.  The people who buy the stuff we sell.  And, as a means of wiggling at least part of the way out of this conundrum, let me just say that any book that focuses on the competitors and ways to “beat them” is, in these times, over-rated.

Win-Win isn’t a cliche.  It’s a great way to run a business or a career.

So, The Art of War is still a great book.  It’s just over-rated in the context of today’s business environment.

Tomorrow, we close with books that changed the way we think, and the one book I’d take with me to the proverbial desert island, knowing it was the only one I could read, forever.



Book Week III – Best and Most Impactful

“A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

     – Graham Greene (1904 – 1991), English novelist, in the opening line of The End of the Affair, published in 1951*

And so it is with books.  There is no end-all, be-all, definitive list of the best, most impactful, most overrated, life-changing or irreplaceable books.

So, let’s try to start one, shall we?

You’re right, that’s a horrible idea.  How ’bout if we just start a discussion instead…?

First, though, thanks to those of you who weighed in via comment and e-mail.

Most Frequently Mentioned

The Bible was named in every category but “over-rated,” and while I know there are some who’d categorize it that way, it warms my heart that so many of you listed it as “best,” “most life-changing” and “most impactful.”  Warms my heart.

The Best Book(s) We Ever Read…

Kudos to those of you who went with fiction or farce, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Sh** My Dad Says (the lowbrows among us, mine being the lowest brow of the bunch) get a voice, too…

It’s a pseudo-business blog, though, so let’s tip our caps to Good To Great, Start With Why and Covey’s 7 Habits… No links there.  You clearly all have copies already!

For me, it’s a tie, unless you count the sequel as part of the original.

First Break All The Rules by Don Clifton and Marcus Buckingham, and their follow-up Now, Discover Your Strengths (upon which Buckingham has built an amazing career as a Difference Maker) simply captivated me from the first page, and they’ve shaped who I am as a leader, and hopefully as a mentor, father, and man.  The idea that doing the same crap over and over again is not a way to lead a team or a business and the idea that pouring into what makes each person on the team “tick” are foundational ideas that have impacted millions of lives, even those of people who have never read either book.

The Most Impactful Book(s) We Ever Read…

Again, fiction, Faith, sports and farce all made appearances, from the Frank Peretti This Present Darkness series, to Tom Clancy novels, biographies and, for at least one of the gang, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings From a Lifetime Of Golf 

Steve’s choice, again, is a series of books, not a book.  Patrick Lencioni’s Leadership Fables have hit me right between the eyes and reminded me that it’s not that freaking hard.  The link only goes to a boxed set of the first three, by the way.  If you made me pick one, it’d be Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty.  It’s where the concept of loyalty-over-satisfaction really got through to me, and it proves that value is the best way to stand apart in an ever-more-commoditized marketplace, even if the marketplace says you’re a commodity.  I probably could have listed this one under “made me think differently / changed my life,” but that’s for Part II of Part IV — also known as tomorrow’s post.

* as used in the June 7th Monday Morning Memo by Roy H Williams.  Subscribe now.  Just do it.  It will make you better, just as it does me, and everyone else who subscribes…  And if you’re not an “advertising type,” it might be even more important!

A Day Off For The Diff – Book Week Continues Tomorrow

Remember that time when life got in the way of a Daily Blog?


Me, too…


Back Wednesday with books that matter!


Book Week I – Join The Conversation

“The more you read, the more you’ll know; the more you learn, the more places you’ll go…”

–  Dr. Seuss

This week, the Diff zeroes in on books — and your input is requested.

Thanks to all of you who’ve already weighed in, either via comments here in the blog or via e-mail to

Tomorrow through Friday, your input, along with my perspective will guide us through the library – a virtual reading list for Difference Makers.

Let me know your thoughts on the following – tell me / us about:

  1. The BEST book you’ve ever read…

2. The MOST IMPACTFUL book you’ve ever read…

3. A book that everyone else thinks is amazing but you think sucks…


5. And finally, the one book you’d take to the proverbial desert island, knowing it’d be your only read for the rest of your life…

Tomorrow, we’ll cover the best and most impactful books.

Weigh in!  Join the conversation!

Booking It Next Week

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

–  Cicero

Next week, The Diff goes to the library.

No fewer than five books, multiple descriptions of how they help us make a difference.  Narrowing it down will be difficult for me, but I’m ready to give it a go.  I hope you’ll help me, though…

Join in:  In the comments below (or you can e-mail me if you’d like a more private forum) insert the title of the…

BEST book you’ve ever read

The MOST IMPACTFUL book you’ve ever read

A book that everyone else thinks is amazing but you think sucks


And finally, the one book you’d take to the proverbial desert island, knowing it’d be your only read…

Should be a fun week…

Make it a great weekend!

Coincidence? Random? I Think Not

“Maybe life is random, but I doubt it.”

–     Steven Tyler

How deep can I go if the lead singer of Aerosmith is my quote source….?

Well, he’s right.

If you think life is random, well, “dream on!”  You must have “toys in the attic…”

(Hey, at least I crack me up…)

This week I’ve had a half dozen “random” conversations.  Only they haven’t been random.  “Oh, you know ____________?”  “Hey, _____________ has told me that we should meet!  What a pleasant surprise…”

Surprises?  Yes.  Coincidences?  Nope.  Not buying it.

Regardless of your stance on Faith — arguing for random – for coincidence – is a loser’s bet.

So, instead of trying to lament (or even understand) why we’re here, now, let’s just be here, now, and find a way to make a difference.



The Resume

“I needed that title on my resume to take the next step.”

–  A young professional for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect

This week at a business conference, I ran into a young professional — one of the next generation of Difference Makers.  We were discussing “what’s next” in this person’s career.

“I needed that title…”

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Resumes matter, and facts on resumes have to be legit.

The next job, though, the next place to leave a mark, likely comes from someone we already know, or from someone who knows someone we already know.

The value of the network is exponentially more than the value of the resume.

A mentor of mine said, “It’s who you know that gets you in the door.  It’s what you do that keeps you there, and determines where you go from there.”

Focus on growth and building a quality network — the resume follows pretty closely behind — and the facts and titles you’ll be able to include might even surprise you.

Decide, Discuss, Measure

“The best coaches are the ones that decide their team is going to be good by doing certain things, then coming up with a way to make sure the team knows it’s important.”

– Attributed to Lute Olson’s coaching staff at the University of Arizona

In basketball, it might be man-to-man defense or in tennis, baseline groundstrokes.  In football, it might be run blocking or in baseball always hitting the “cutoff man.”

In business, it might be customer service.  It might be expectation setting.  It could be prospecting, presenting, delivering — heck, it could be whatever the leader decides it will be.

And, unless it’s a constant topic of conversation and feedback, and unless it’s measured and reported on relentlessly, it simply won’t matter.

What are the things that we’ve decided will make our teams good?  How objective are they?  How often do we discuss them?  How do we report on them and how do we measure progress?

How will our team know these things are important?  And, unless they do, how will we know whether they’re working?


Proximity Does Not Equal Presence

“I don’t own a cell phone or a pager.  I just hang around everyone I know, all the time.  If someone wants to get ahold of me, they just say, “Mitch,” and I say, “What?” and turn my head slightly.”

     –     Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005), American iconic stand-up comedian

Mitch was my favorite comedian, if not of all time, certainly of his time, and his admonishment has never been more pertinent than in this time.

For almost a year and a half, proximity has been the topic.  We haven’t had much close contact during that time.  Proximity has been dumbed down to video calls and even more cc’s and bcc’s on even more e-mails.  “It doesn’t matter where people are,” we’ve been told.

Except that it does.

It’s important to remember that proximity does not equal presence.  There are times that just being there counts.  More often than not, though, really being there makes a difference.

Being relentlessly focused on whomever we’re with not only makes it better for them, it makes it exponentially better for us.  We listen better.  We consume more completely.  We’re engaged, and engagement is a key component of presence.

It’s graduation season — and we’ve attended dozens of graduation parties, delivering gifts — “presents” — to those graduates.  The ones where our presence mattered more than our presents were the best use of time.  And being fully present will make a difference in our offices, our homes, and even, God forbid, on our video calls!