Category Archives: Randy’s blog entries

Entries by Randy Mayeux

With loss of focus, problems do not get solved…do they? – You can tackle this!

Stolen FocusWe are mostly not rising to solve our biggest challenges. Why? Part of the reason, I think, is that when attention breaks down, problem-solving breaks down. …Solving big problems requires the sustained focus of many people over many years. People who can’t focus will be more drawn to simplistic authoritarian solutions—and less likely to see clearly when they fail.

Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again

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I speak regularly  on Current Events for residents at Dallas Area Retirement Communities.  This afternoon, my list of items to discuss stands at 14. No, we will not  get to all fourteen.  But, we should.  All 14 are worthy of our serious attention.

And, I printed out my list of fourteen mid-morning.  There will likely be an item or two that I should add by the time I speak this afternoon.

In other words, there is something else, something new, something really important, to command our attention all…the…time.

Just think of all the big challenges we face:  inflation, the gravitation to remote work to back-to-the-office work to the hybrid work environment; possible recession; consolidation of companies (so many mergers and acquisitions); international problems (Ukraine/Russia), including a potential food shortage crisis that might just be devastating beyond words; climate change; gun violence and mass shootings… just a short list. Oh, and COVID, and Monkeypox, and even a Polio resurgence in London!

And…and…and…

And, companies are facing what appear to be talent challenges — finding, and hiring, and keeping good people – at a scale not seen before.

On an individual level, I feel perpetual whiplash.  I find it increasingly difficult to focus on the important tasks at hand.

In my work life, I find it hard to identify my current biggest challenge, and keep my focus firmly on that challenge.

And my loss of focus is not just my problem.  As the book Stolen Focus by Johann Hari argues, the loss of focus is truly at epidemic proportions.  And this loss of focus – this “stolen” focus – has ripple effects that are harmful in so many ways.

And one key way is that big problems are not solved because we cannot keep our focus on the problem at hand.

We need some interventional help with this .  And, in my view, that has to start with some serious inner-life work; reading, pondering, and resolve-making, even as we throw in some serious personal habit discipline..

Three books I highly recommend are:

deep-work-cal-newportStolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

and

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

and

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Read these three books.

Then, make a serious inventory of your own focus challenges.  Where is your attention going?  Why are you so easily distractable. (Yes; you are, aren’t you).

Make a list of the absolutely most important one or two problems or challenges you need to tackle.

Focus on them.  For extended periods of time.  Turn off notifications; lock your phone away in a lock box.

Get to work with deeper focus.

The problems are great.  They need your undivided attention.

You…I…have work to do.

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You might want to read these three blog posts:Atomic Habits

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And, you can purchase my synopses , with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handouts, along with the audio recordings of my presentations, of these three books by clicking on the links below:

Purchase synopsis of Stolen Focus

Purchase Synopsis of Deep Work

Purchase synopsis of Atomic Habits

(Click here for a list of the newest synopses now available).

There is a difference between simply reading and actually studying – a serious difference

One person said that there is a difference between reading a book and studying a book.  Yes; there is indeed! 

There is always more to learn.  And quick shallow dives into serious material will teach you very little.

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Left to my own devices, I would fix instant oatmeal in the microwave.  But, my wife prepares oatmeal the old fashioned way; on the stove, cooking it rather slowly (in my mind).

Guess which one tastes better?  Guess which one is better for me?

Yep, the old fashioned way.  The kind that takes time to prepare.

But…we live in a microwave, instant era, don’t we?

I have a confession. The very name of this web site is 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  But, the reality is that I now spend about 25 minutes presenting each synopsis.

And, I always wish I had more time…

And, when a company or organzation hires me to present one of my synopses to their teams members, I spend between one hour and two hours on a single synopsis, complete with lessons and takeaways, and “how can we apply this at our place” discussion.

People ask me if I am a speed-reader.  I can read fast; but I read books that I prepare and present quite slowly.  Slowly; deliberately.  I highlight dozens (hundreds) of passages in the book. I read, and stop, and ponder, and read, and stop, and ponder…

It is a slow process to read a book carefully and well – at least it is for me.

And, though it is possible to simply listen to my synopses, and barely skim the handouts, it won’t do you as much good as taking a slower, deeper dive.

My synopsis handouts are 10-12 pages.  They are pretty comprehensive.  And, I am convinced that if you listen, follow along with pen in hand, mark up your copy of the handout, and THEN READ IT ONE MORE TIME, COVER TO COVER, WITHIN THE SEVEN DAYS OR SO AFTER YOU ATTEND OR LISTEN TO MY SYNOPSIS, you have a shot a learning the key lessons and principles and warnings found in the book.

{Of course, if you read the book for yourself – with pen in hand to highlight passages, and taking notes as you read, that would be even better.  One person said that there is a difference between reading a book and studying a book.  Yes; there is indeed!}

This post is a simple appeal to take your studying seriously.  For all the years of your lifelong-learning life.

"Keep Learning" -- It's right there on our bookmarks - Click on image for full view

“Keep Learning” — It’s right there on our bookmarks – Click on image for full view

There is always more to learn.  And quick shallow dives into serious material will teach you very little.


My synopses are available to purchase on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

We have many synopses available. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page to search by book title.

Expertise – You likely have some additional expertise to develop…

Expertise:  the skill of an expert.

Expert:  one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.  …Having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

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It’s not a good era for non-experts, is it?

And, expertise in one arena does not mean expertise in any other arenas…even related arenas.

Recently, I have been asked to provide some speech coaching for a couple of very talented, sharp folks.  Experts in their fields.  Dripping with expertise.

But, communicating what they know is the challenge.  And they have spent so much time developing their primary expertise, they now need to develop a related expertise; how to communicate what they have learned so thoroughly.

One of the problems in today’s world is that we are all compared to the greatest experts.

We have seen so many exceptional TED Talks, and speeches, that we think that every speaker, regardless of the topic and expertise, should also excel at the speaking part of the equation.

And…that almost seems to be an unrealistic expectation; doesn’t it?

One of the ripple effects of this modern-day reality is that we have to keep getting better at everything –- every single thing — connected to our work.  You may have really developed your primary expertise; but now, you have to get better and better at your secondary areas of expertise.

I think back to the point made by Liz Wiseman in her book Impact Players.  She writes that everyone needs to get good at three of five key behaviors, and really, really good at one of the five.Impact Players

From her book Impact Players:

Get better (get good) at three of the five: (1) build a strong core by getting good at three of the Impact Player practices; (2) develop one practice into a towering, visible strength—something you become known for; and (3) eliminate any signs of under- contributor behavior.

The five are:  

• Make Yourself Useful
• Step Up, Step Back
• Finish Stronger
• Ask and Adjust
• Make Work Light

Getting good at speaking, like any other endeavor, requires practice, with knowledge about what you are doing well, and a clear understanding of what you need to work on (something a good coach can help you with). What the experts on skill development call “deliberate, purposeful practice.”   (See especially the book Peak:  Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericcson and Robert Pool. See my blog post:  Peak: The New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool – My Six Lessons and Takeaways).

If you have your primary expertise, and you don’t get good at communicating what you know, people will actually assume you don’t know that much at all.

This is unfair.  They are wrong; you know plenty.

But…the solution is not to bemoan the unfairness of their assessment.  It is to get better at the area where you need to improve.

So, what skills do you need to develop that are related to your primary expertise?  Identify them; work on them; get better at them…

 I know this:  communicating effectively is always…always…one of those needed related skills…

Focus on Mood, not Culture – (Insight from Jeffrey Hayzlett, and others…)

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Jeffrey Hayzlett

This week, at the Success North Dallas gathering (welcome back, Bill Wallace), Jeffrey Hayzlett spoke.  Jeffrey is Chairman of the C-Suite Network.  But mainly, Jeffrey is something of a force of nature.  He does not mince words.  He does not have much of a filter.  And, among other good things he had to say, he said this:

“Focus on Mood, not Culture!”

“Focus on mood, not culture,” is a direct quote from Jeffrey (I wrote it in my notes).  He also said (my paraphrase) that culture is too big, too hard to change, too…almost indefinable.  As he said this, I thought of these sentences from the book Change by John Kotter:

First, people often have great difficulty describing their own cultures, or agreeing on what their cultures are. Second, people have difficulty at least in part because cultural attributes were passed down informally and not through any intentional process.

One often hears in the business press a report of how “in the past year we have successfully changed the culture,” which, unless we are talking about a very small organization, is a fantasy.  

I wish I could have stopped Jeffrey Hayzett right then and there, and said – forget the rest of your talk, let’s talk about this mood thing.

I think he is onto something here.  Mood can be impacted; changed.  And, alas, changed for the worse as well as for the better.

I think of:  a good mood; a bad mood; a positive mood; an optimistic mood/hopeful mood; a pessimistic mood; a tense mood; a happy mood; an unhappy mood. 

In other words, don’t focus on corporate culture; focus on the corporate mood.

Jeffrey implied that one can sense the mood in a company, among its employees, almost immediately.

A number of years ago, in an earlier chapter of my life. I traveled the country speaking for the Center for Church Growth, an entity based in Houston.  One of the regular talks I gave was on building morale in the local church.  I gave full credit to a man named Charles Mylander from California, for the main idea in this talk.

Morale is so tangible to me.  High morale is great.  Low morale is…deadly.

I used to ask a simple question:  What were the best years for this church?

1950-1960      1960-1970        1970-1980      –Up through —     This year-forward.

There was only one good answer:  this year going forward.  The coming years will be the best years ever for this church.  Any other answer meant that the church leaders were living in the past; hoping to catch the glory years of the past.  …Deadly!

So, how do you build the kind of high morale among your people that they then find the energy, the resolve, to make the next years the very best years?  That is the challenge!

Morale is a mood issue.

You really can sense it, can’t you?  You go into a store; a restaurant; a company.  You can sense how the folks are feeling about things; what their mood is.  You sense it immediately.

And, in a flash, you think:  they don’t want to be here.

Or…

They really, really like working at this place.

So…Focus on mood; not culture.

It seems to me that the leader’s task is to work on improving the mood. And keeping the mood positive; forward thinking.

Keep morale up.  Keep the mood good; positive; hopeful.

That is all!

My synopsis of Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter is Today, Thursday, June 16, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – (And, here is my synopsis handout)

A special encouragement to attend today’s session, June 16, 2022, on Zoom.

Woke Racism, cover

Click on image to download the full synopsis handout

 

 

Today’s book, Woke Racism by John McWhorter, presents the “other side” from books by authors such as Ibram X. Kendi. Maybe it will be worth your time to hear that other side.

Please join us. All details below.

Randy


41U9EdNfO-LIf you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, June 16, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter.  Portfolio/Penguin (An Imprint of Penguin Random House). 2121.

Today, Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

This is a book that presents a different view from authors such as Ibram X. Kendi.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, June 16, 2022 – 12:30 pm (CST)
The Accommodation 
by Jim Schutze.

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022. 

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: June 16, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

—————————-

Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: June 16, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
(Every month on the Third Thursday, until Dec 15, 2022)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

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