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Weekend Mashup Book Reviews

I've had a little extra time for reading this summer, and being a blogger helps feed my reading addiction, as I usually have a small cadre of publishers and publicists pushing their wares. I think I've mentioned before that I will never even mention a book or product if I don't like it and don't believe it warrants mention to my readers.

We_First_Mainwaring Simon Mainwaring's book, We First - How Brands & Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, is a good reminder for all of us about why we got into this thing called social media. He takes a page from Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" playbook and applies it to the ever-evolving world drama that plays out in real time every minute on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other media. I liked this book for a couple of reasons:

  1. Mainwaring provides applicable anecdotes thoughout to drive home his points, making it crystal clear why mutual sharing is the best way to do business
  2. He balances current universal political themes - capitalism and sustainability - to show that if we play our social media cards right, we can have our cake and eat it, too... and continue to have that cake around for a long, long time.

It's a meaty read that you won't tackle in one sitting, but it's worth the perusal all the same. I know of some "social media superstars" who could stand a refresher course in humility, starting with this book.

Nothing_to_Lose_Everything_to_Gain_Blair A while back, I received an advance copy of Ryan Blair's Nothing to Lose, Everything to gain - How I went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur (with Don Yaeger). The first part of this book is autobiographical, followed by an expounded list of business lessons. I'm going to be blunt and tell you not to buy this book for the lessons (they're all sound and good reminders of how business should be run). The true value of this book is, again, twofold:

  1. Blair is an outstanding story-teller, and his personal journey is one that needs to be shared. Many people lead very sheltered lives, and reminders of personal perseverence are helpful
  2. Blair understands systems thinking, and his bridge between life events and lessons are embedded in the relationship between inputs and outputs.

I think we too often get lost in the fallacy of a book that has to provide all the answers or it has no value. Blair's book provides answers, but he's going to motivate you to think for yourself to find them. I can respect that.

And finally, on the occasional project, you are thrown into the task of performing "due diligence" to determine whether a decision (usually to purchase or do business with another company) is a solid decision.

AMA's Handbook of Due Diligence takes away a lot of that angst, providing forms and templates and processes to help everyone from the due diligence novice to the expert make it through the process with less pain than if they'd try to go it alone. It's a good investment if you're in that mode, and the proven track record of AMA assures you it will be a good product.

So that's all from this side of the world... happy reading!

Know Your Terrain

DSC_0068 This summer, I decided exercise needed to be my focus. I had been eyeing this contraption called a Trikke for over a year, and so I figured it was time to hunker down and get serious. Of course, I've had an absolute blast riding it, and have dropped about 20 pounds in a couple of months. The health benefits of riding one are numerous... except, of course, when one crashes.

A couple of weeks ago, I was riding with the local dealer/trainer when he shouted "Follow me!" and took off down the hill and over a bridge. I complied. The only problem was that I was going too fast at the bottom of the hill and didn't notice the bump at the edge of the bridge. I lost control of the Trikke and wound up on my backside. No broken bones but a few bruised ribs (and other bruised unspeakables). My buddy described the crash as both "wicked" and "spectacular" (interesting word choices). Then he reminded me of one of the three cardinal rules of riding a Trikke: "Know Your Terrain."

As small as the wheels are on the Trikke, even the smallest crack or patch of sand can send a rider flying. So watching 3 feet, 10 feet, and 30 feet ahead at all times can help avoid the pain later. That was my problem... HE knew that particular parking lot quite well; I didn't.

"Know Your Terrain" helps when branding your accomplishments as well. I started a new project today with a new client. I'm going to be expected to learn the terrain quickly - the project scope, the personalities, the culture, the hot buttons - to avoid crashing my accomplishment. Obviously, knowing the terrain does not preclude learning new terrains. Still, being familiar with the landscape helps before one gains speed too quickly. Besides, if you don't know your terrain, you'll eventually end up being a burden on somebody else, who will help you limp to the nearest x-ray machine and bottle of ibuprofen. Knowing your terrain means you know how to add value to those around you. My buddy, Mike Wagner, calls this the "sweet spot" of branding. Steve Farber refers to it as "do what you love in the service of those who love what you do." However you put it, you'd better know your terrain.

So what about you? Do you know your terrain well enough to surf the concrete smoothly? Or are you going too fast to handle the bumps, loose gravel, and cracks of your accomplishments?

Something to think about before the weekend.

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