Tag Archives: #businessbooksynopses

Do you have a strategy to close your most important gap – and then your other gaps?

Closing the Gap“It’s important that we have a strategy to close the gap.”
Jason Marshall, Cisco Systems – Area Manager, Global Enterprise South

(I recently presented my synopsis of Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin to the team Jason leads. This is a statement he made, in reflection after the book synopsis).


What’s your strategy to close the gap?

There is a gap, you know.

You have a gap.

There are so many gaps.

There is a gap between what you have learned, and what you want to learn.
There is a gap between what you do know, and what you should know.
There is a gap between how well your team works together, and how well you want your team to work together.
There is a gap between how well you communicate with your clients, your customers, and your prospective clients and customers, and how well you want to communicate with them.

There may be a gap between sales and marketing.
There may be a gap between strategy and execution.
There may be a gap between engineering and customer service.

There is a gap between what you have accomplished, and what you want to accomplish.

What other gaps do you face?

The gap will not close by itself.
The gaps will not close by themselves.

The gap will never close without working on closing the gap.

The gap will likely not close without learning some new things – about communication, and execution, and…

So it is important to identify the gap. And the gaps – to clearly identify every one of them.

And it is important  to develop a strategy to close each gap.

And then…

It’s important that we actually close the most important gap that we face right now.

And then, after we close that gap, we then tackle the next gap.  And the next.

So, how are you doing?  Have you closed any gaps lately?  Have you identified the next gap you need to close?

Good luck closing that next gap.

Passive Learning vs Active, fully engaged Learning – maybe a greater challenge than ever during the great Global Pandemic of 2020

Philip: “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The Ethiopian Eunuch:  “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?”
(from Acts 8)


Let’s be honest.  We forget so, so much of what we take in.

Recently, my wife and I were watching a Midsomer Murders episode that we were both sure we had never seen.  About half-way through, we realized; yep, we’ve already seen this one.

I watch Columbo occasionally.  I pretty much have a handful of episodes memorized.  But others, I watch, and I think I saw them years ago, but, I’m not sure. I can’t remember.

I’ve downloaded sample pages of books I have already read, and start reading, and realize – I’ve already read this.  That is so embarrassing.

It takes work to be an engaged viewer, reader, learner.

I can pretty much quote about two TED Talks.  But I’ve seen dozens.  I can tell you practically nothing from many — ok; most — of the ones I’ve seen.

Now, if it’s a tv mystery, it does not matter that I have forgotten them.  After, all, I was first watching Columbo nearly 50 years ago.  That is a long, long time ago.

But, If I go to the trouble of reading a book, especially a nonfiction book that I want to learn from, I need to up my engagement game.  A smart man with great life observations, who also happens to be an actor, that I follow on twitter (@jamespmorrison), observed that there is a difference between reading and studying.  Reading is one thing.  Studying is quite another thing.

How do you read as a student; as a learner?  That’s the challenge.

There are a lot of book summary services and products out there.  I’m sure that all of them are good.  But, if you just watch, or just listen, or just skim – sometimes, to be honest, while “multitasking” – you really won’t remember much, retain much,…learn much.

To learn, you have to engage.  You have to debate, argue, discuss, with an open mind. You probably have to go through the material more than once.  You have to work at it.

I am biased here, but I think that this is the unique value of the book synopses I present. Though one can just listen, I provide deeper engagement options.  In the old days, long ago when we had live gatherings (three months ago was our last before the shutdown), I would give every participant a physical synopsis handout for each book I present.  People would follow along; I would call attention to item after item on page after page.  Those who “learned” how to actively participate would have their pens out, marking key passages in the handouts, writing in the margins.  I have been told by many that they go back over the handouts later, re-reading them, re-absorbing and re-pondering them.

In other words, they actually study the handouts.

{Note:  in this remote era, I provide the pdfs of the synopses handouts before the event, and people print out their own copies at home.  And, as I look at the small images through Zoom, I see plenty of folks following along, pens in hand, just like the good old days…  But, I think that such full attentiveness may be an even greater challenge in this remote era}.

I can assure you of this:  I cannot prepare a synopsis without studying the book carefully.  I highlight hundreds of passages.  I reduce those to a smaller number (almost nearly a hundred) for my handouts.  I work diligently to capture the best lessons, and then to arrive at my lessons and takeaways.  Every time I present a book, it is almost like I am reading it four times

1st – I read the book
2nd – I prepare the handout, re-reading every highlight I made
3rd – I read over my handout carefully before I present the synopsis, marking up my notes with many underlinings, circling of key phrases, notes in the margin to myself
4th – I present the synopsis, and as I do, I am reminding myself again of the key lessons and takeaways

So, of course, I get the most out of the synopses.  Teachers learn

(Teachers learn, and then teach as well as they can. Remember the old adage:  if you really want to learn something, teach it to someone else. Here’s one version: “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” — Yogi Bhajan).

And then, those who are engaged, present, and attentive, tell me they get a great deal out of the presentations.

So… the question for you is this:  Are you simply a “passive learner?”  Just receiving what comes your way.  Or, do you prepare yourself to put aside all distractions, and engage fully in every learning opportunity you decide to pursue?

An engaged, active, attentive learner actually learns more than one who is unengaged, passive; not fully present.

How are you doing?

So, what are you doing with your time during the Great Pandemic of 2020? – You could be reading these 17+ books

there is always the right book to read next

there is always the right book to read next

So, what are you doing with your time during the Great Pandemic of 2020?

A lot of people are still hard at work.  But, many are not.  And, many have had their work greatly reduced; cancelled contracts, lost customers; opportunities that vanished.

There have been plenty of people who have not been able to get much done.  They are…dispirited.  They are low in energy.  They do the bare minimum, if that. And some of the things they need to work on have fallen by the wayside.

So, back to the question:  what are you doing with your time during the Great Pandemic of 2020?  What are you working on, when you can find the energy to work?

One area you could work on is personal development.  This is a perfect time to learn, to grow, to think. To strategize.  Yes, I realize – we all realize – that it is so very hard to think about getting fully back at it effectively when the pandemic lifts.  For one thing, we have no idea when that will truly happen.

But, let’s say that it does lift.  Let’s say that there is life after the pandemic.  Let’s even say that life will resemble the old normal life once a vaccine is developed and distributed.

Think about how you will feel then; think about what you will wish you had done with these months then; after the pandemic lifts.

Here’s my thinking.  Take advantage of every learning opportunity, even if the learning is not all that applicable to the situation today.  If it does open back up fully, what will you need to know then?

Pretend that you had done a serious inventory of your skills and capabilities before the pandemic hit.  If you had, you might have found a weak spot, or three…

  • are you the leader you wish you could be?
  • do you understand: measuring progress; marketing; networking; sales; personal productivity: time management , energy management?

The list is long, isn’t it?  Look at yourself carefully. Where are your weaknesses?  What can you do to improve in those areas?

I have presented synopses of good books on pretty much every conceivable challenge facing you in your professional life and development.  Here’s just a partial list:

Getting Things Done on time management.
The Power of Full Engagement on energy management
The E-Myth Revisited on business basics
Measure What Matters on…well, measuring what matters.  And on OKRs
The Catalyst on persuasion
To Sell is Human on sales
Contagious on marketing.
Many, many books by Jocko Willink, Phil Jackson, John Wooden, and others, on Leadership.
Managing Transitions on…managing transitions
Switch on change
Digital Transformation on…digital transformation
The Rise of the Robots on the spread of, and threat of, automation
Lean In, on women in business (and a bunch of others)
Willful Blindness, on the ethical dark holes of too many
Range, and Outliers, and Peak, on personal development, and being a generalist, and the 10,000 hour rule
You Can Do Anything on the surprising power of a liberal arts education

And so many more…

Do you get the idea;  there is a good book on practically every conceivable “weakness” that you need to tackle.

I generated that list of books just from the top of my head; from my quick, retrievable memory.  If I went carefully thorough the list of hundreds of books we have presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I would come up with many more… They are all good, helpful books.

Yes indeed, one thing you could definitely do with your time during the Great Pandemic of 2020 is read books that would help you be ready for a new chapter of success when the pandemic lifts.

I encourage you to read like your future depends on it.  It just might, after all.


Yes, I have presented synopses of all of these books, and many more.  My synopses are available for purchase.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopses handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation.  Go to the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, and do a search by title  Click here for our newest additions.

Is the Upper Limit of your mind lower than it used to be? – Why you may not be Reading, or Understanding, Books – Insight from David Brooks

A personal note:  this could be significant.  Please read it carefully…


Let’s just start with the excerpt from David Brooks.  It is important. Here it is: 

My worry is that, especially now that you’re out of college, you won’t put enough really excellent stuff into your brain. I’m talking about what you might call the “theory of maximum taste.” This theory is based on the idea that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. If you spend a lot of time with genius, your mind will end up bigger and broader than if you spend your time only with run-of-the-mill stuff.
The theory of maximum taste says that each person’s mind is defined by its upper limit—the best that it habitually consumes and is capable of consuming.
A few years ago, I was teaching students at a highly competitive college. Simultaneously, I was leading seminars for 30- and 40-somethings, many of whom had gone to that same college. I assigned the same essay to both groups, an essay on Tolstoy by the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin. The college students found it easy to read; it’s not that hard of an essay to grasp. The 30- and 40-somethings really struggled. Their reading-comprehension ability had declined in the decades since college, and so had their ability to play with ideas. The upper limit of their mind was lower than it used to be.
David Brooks, A Commencement Address Too Honest to Deliver in Person—The Atlantic, May 13, 2020

If you search out the statistics, you will discover that people kind of quit reading “serious” books after their college years.  Not all people.  But many people; too many.  Especially men.

Yes, I know the argument in favor of good novels.  But, I am mainly speaking about serious nonfiction books, and substantive essays here.  Books that take you on a learning journey; that teach you things that it would help you to know; or, maybe, even simply teaching you how to think about ideas.

I have long believed that there are book readers, and non-book readers. The comments from David Brooks maybe helps me understand the why behind this.

When you are in college, you pretty much have to read the assigned readings.  Books; essays; academic journals.  I know that I never read as much in as short a period of time as I did when I was doing graduate work at the University of Southern California.  It was a whole other level of reading.  Hundreds, thousands of pages assigned. I read, and read and read…

I remember when I first started my graduate program, it was a new field to me:  Communication: Rhetoric and Public Address.  I did not understand what I was reading.  One of my professors, a great professor, told me to just keep reading, and it would slowly begin to sink in.  He said it could take about six months, and then, I would understand as I read.  He was right.  I got acclimated to the vocabulary, to the ways of thinking.  I understood what I was reading.

I am lucky, in a sense.  I have found a way to make my living professionally by doing a fair amount of serious reading. I read books and present synopses of the books I read – somewhere around 40-50 book synopses a year. (I read more books than I present).  Business books, mainly.  But also books on social justice.  Some of the books are “popular.’’ Some are more academic.  But, my work requires me to take a deep dive into the books I present.

What David Brooks is saying is this:  use it, or you will lose it.  If you don’t keep reading, and discussing what you read, you will lose the ability to read with deep focus and understanding. And the result is that you will, in his phrase, drop down in the “theory of maximum taste” path: The upper limit of your mind will be lower than it used to be.

It’s a really alarming, and sad, insight, isn’t it?!

If he is right – and I think he is – then a whole bunch of folks need to get back to doing more serious reading.

When I present my synopses, I prepare multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handouts.  I make sure that every audience member has a copy, and I encourage them to follow along with pen in hand.  I read a significant portion of my handout aloud.  And the first section of the handout includes the best of my highlighted passages from the book.  I am, in a sense, helping my audience members read enough that it feels like something of a direct encounter with the book; with the author’s own words and ideas.

I add my own lessons and takeaways.  But, my audience members are active participants.  They are not simply watching slides, or passively listening; they are engaged with my synopsis of the text.  They are…learning.

So, what about you.  What are you doing to keep learning?  Would you be able to read a serious text, now, and discuss it intelligently?  Or is the upper limit of your mind lower than it used to be; lower than you want it to be?

Of course it would be better to read the book for yourself.  But, this is not nothing.  Maybe this could be a start to help one get back on the higher portions of “the theory of maximum taste” path.

Maybe it’s time to get back at it!


Try one of my synopses.  Each comes with my comprehensive handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation.  You can purchase them at the buy synopses tab at the top of this page. Click here for our newest additions.

Maybe we need distraction – with content

Call this a personal reflection.

I can barely handle another news broadcast.  It is just too…difficult… And, yes, I am aware that my difficulty in watching is nothing compared to the difficulty faced by those on the front lines. —  But, yes I will keep watching.

In the midst of the news, I am so appreciative of every time -consuming activity that gets my mind off of the difficulties.

My wife and I have a watched so many different kinds of programs.  Some we’ve liked; some we’ve sort of liked.  Some we’ve abandoned, pretty quickly.

I so welcome any program that takes my mind elsewhere. Because, whenever a program is over, we are back to the unwelcome reality.

Now, to work thoughts:  my impression is that people seek content on-line.  Content that takes their mind off of the difficulites; content that can linger in their minds, give them thoughts about being and staying productive, and moving forward, in whatever ways they can.

Finding such content is.not.easy.

I think that maybe my book synopses, delivered remotely, give a touch of such content to some.  I know that when I present the synopses, my mind is off of the difficulties.  And I am happy about that; grateful for that.

And, lately, I’ve been giving more and more of these to different audiences.  Maybe others are finding them especially useful during these difficult times.

So, if you are looking for “escape, with content,” mark your calendar for June 5, and join us for our next Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.  Two good books — distraction; with content.  What could be better, and more needed, at this moment?


Click here for details about the June 5 session: The Hard Thing about Hard Things, and; Think Like a Rocket Scientist – Coming for the June 5 First Friday Book Synopsis (on Zoom).

(I will post, on this blog, the link for downloading handouts, and the Zoom log-in link, a day of two before the June 5 event).


What are you doing for the next 13 weeks? – You could learn the key content of these books…

Book Titles copy

I can also provide “live/Remote” sessions for your team

My suggestion – try a book synopsis a week during the duration
Click on the buy synopses tab at the top, or
Click here for our newest additions


OK – it’s time to admit the truth about this present moment.  It is not going away by this afternoon.

We are stuck.  We may be stuck until there is a vaccine.  Maybe it will take more than one vaccine.

So, in the article The reason why your brain’s so foggy right now, according to a neurologist, we read this:

There’s also something to be said about starting something new in quarantine that you may not have gotten to otherwise. There’s a “fresh start energy” in the air right now. And as psychologist Laurie Santos, PhD, host of The Happiness Lab podcast and professor of Yale’s viral happiness course, recently said a Facebook live, “Wonderful research by Katie Milken and others shows that these new situations and these new moments of fresh starts allow us to form habits better.”

Now, you can be really ambitious:
Learn Japanese, or Spanish, or Arabic.
Take some math courses.
Learn to write computer code.
Learn to paint.

But here is a simple idea that could pay rich dividends. Something practical, and “easy.”

You can learn the key content of books that you have been intending to read.  
You can do this by listening to my synopses of some of the very best business books.

here is the cover sheet for the Lean In synopsis handout

here is the cover sheet for the Lean In synopsis handout

My synopses are just over 20 minutes.  You can listen to the audio, while following along with my comprehensive, multi-page handout.  Print out the handout, get your pen in hand, turn on the audio, and listen as you underline key thoughts and write notes to yourself in the margin.

Now:  why is Randy Mayeux qualified to present these synopses?  He has presented synopses of business books every month to a live audience in Dallas since April, 1998; 22+ years.  (The last two months have been live over Zoom).  One guy, reading and sharing.

Twenty minutes a week.  After ten weeks, you’ve learned the key content of ten books.

Is it better for you to fully read the books for yourself?  Of course.  But, you haven’t by now.  And this is more than enough to get your thoughts brewing. You will learn transferable principles, you will learn lessons to put to work, and you will become more literate.

This is the last page of the Steve Jobs handout, with my takeaways ("lessons") - click on image for full view

This is the last page of the Steve Jobs handout, with my takeaways (“lessons”) – click on image for full view

These are much more than book reviews.  These are quick, deeper dives into the key content of these books than you might imagine.

Here are thirteen titles to get you stated (Three months worth; one book a week for thirteen weeks).  This is just a recommendation.  I have many other titles to choose from.  But this list includes four books on the current New York Times list of best-selling business books, one book that was the Financial Times Business Book of the Year, two selections that were my own choices for the business book of the year, and one book that is the most important book I have ever read (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).

All of these are available in the buy synopses tab above — go to the search-by-title feature:Rise of the Robots

Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
Drive by Daniel Pink.
The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford.
Digital Transformation by Thomas Siebel.*
Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.
Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Great by Choice by Jim Collins.
Range by David Epsein.
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown.

These thirteen would provide a pretty good thirteen week “crash course” on business books.  And, there are many, many more to choose from.

Each synopsis is $4.99.  Or, you can purchase a subscription, and get all synopses available

Give it a try.  If nothing else, it might help you be better prepared for when things return to some other kind of normal,

* Note the full title of Digital Transformation by Siebel — Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction. Pretty graphic descriptive; maybe especially pertinent to this moment.

(Note: in the first many years, Randy was joined by his colleague Karl Krayer; each of them presenting one book a month.  Due to health difficulties, Karl had to drop out of the collaboration a few years ago.  So, some of the synopses from earlier years available on the web site were presented by Karl).