Gene Siskel used to say his favorite movies were about what people actually do all day. That’s what “Secretariat” is. It pays us the compliment of really caring about thoroughbred racing. In a low-key way, it conveys an enormous amount of information. And it creates characters who, because of spot-on casting, are vivid, human and complex.
Roger Ebert’s Review of Secretariat
Call this some misc. observations…
Back on some best-seller lists is the excellent book, how: Why HOW we Do Anything Means Everything…In Business (and in Life) by Dov Seidman. The current version is a re-issue, with updates, of the 2007 book. (I presented my synopsis of this book at the August, 2007 First Friday Book Synopsis).
Here are a few quotes from the book, revealing pieces of Seidman’s message.
Reciprocity – doing unto others as they do unto you – seems therefore to be a biological function; trust begets trust. We feel in our guts that keeping promises and connecting with others are what gives our lives meaning, and most of us seek meaning in our lives… If we live in a word more connected than ever before, shouldn’t we all find ways to connect better?
The key to long-term, sustained success does not lie in breaking all the rules; it lies in transcending the rules and harnessing the power of values.
To apologize is inherently a dangerous act, but one with latent power. To apologize is to accept responsibility, this we all know, but it is also to cede power to the wronged party. You place in their hands the decision to forgive you or not. Apologizing requires willful vulnerability. It is the ultimate act of transparency…
Culture is the way things really work, the way decisions are really made, e-mails really composed, promotions really earned and meted out, and people really treated every day.
You cannot do success… Success is something you get when you pursue something greater than yourself, and the word I use to describe that something is significance. Pursuing significance, in the end, is the ultimate HOW.
And here are some rather obvious observations.
First is that this book is about real life, the real day-to-day activities, of real people, especially at work. That’s what made me think of Ebert’s reference to Siskel, at the top of this post.
Second, many seem so fixated on “success,” that they just leap over any values considerations. (And, yes, that “many” just might include you and me). But Seidman calls us back to the centrality of values. It is a very good and worthy and noble call.
Third, we really are in this together. Really. Failure in Dallas might hurt someone in Europe. And vice versa. The Euro zone is so vary fragile, that the articles predicting this as their last hour are piling up. And if the Euro Zone collapses, it will hurt us all.
Fourth, it really is somebody’s fault – or, many somebodies. There have been some really, really big mistakes made in recent years. But to find an actual “it’s partly my fault, and I apologize” messenger is practically impossible. Consider again Seidman’s words: “To apologize is inherently a dangerous act, but one with latent power.” It might really do some good for some folks, somewhere, to apologize. But there have been far too few apologies. (And, maybe, far too few lessons learned from mistakes made).
I don’t know what will get us out of this big mess we all seem to be in. But I think a new look at How by Dov Seidman would be a pretty good use of a few hours.
You can purchase my synopsis of that first edition of How by Seidman, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
I am not well read. I wish I were. In an earlier chapter of my life, I read church books, theology books, books about church life and church growth and God. I liked those – then. Now I read business books, and quite a bit of general non-fiction. But I have never tackled much fiction. It is my loss. It has been a mistake. I wish I had… but I never did. Maybe one of these days…
Anyway, Roger Ebert is well read. Yes, he is. I blogged about his love of books earlier (Roger Ebert Reminds us All Just Why We Love Our Books), quoting from hisBooks do furnish a life. Now, here he is, in his own words, from Roger Ebert’s Journal, Does anyone want to be “well-read?”
For the book lovers who read this blog:
That’s how I’ve done my reading: Haphazardly, by inclination. I consider myself well read, but there has been no plan.
There is no pattern. My only goal is to enjoy reading. I learn that he average American teenager spends 17 minutes a weekend in voluntary reading. Surely that statistic is wrong. Do they mean reading of “serious” novels? I would certainly count science fiction, graphic novels, vampires, Harry Potter, newspapers, magazines, blogs–anything. Just to read for yourself for pleasure is the point. Dickens will come later, Henry James perhaps never.
At the end of the day, some authors will endure and most, including some very good ones, will not. Why do I think reading is important? It is such an effective medium between mind and mind. We think largely in words. A medium made only of words doesn’t impose the barrier of any other medium. It is naked and unprotected communication. That’s how you get pregnant. May you always be so.
In speech class, I have my students read poems – to work on diction, vocal variery, verbal punch.
Many/most of my students don’t know the poetry. Did you know that practically none of today’s students have ever even heard Casey at the Bat? Astonishing!
One of the poems I have them read is If by Rudyard Kipling; you know, the one that begins with:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
Here’s a paragraph from Wikipedia about the poem:
It is often voted Britain’s favourite poem. The poem’s line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same” is written on the wall of the centre court players’ entrance at the British tennis tournament, Wimbledon, and the entire poem was read in a promotional video for the Wimbledon 2008 gentleman’s final by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. (link below).
So, today I’m reading Ebert’s reviews of the new movies for the week (as I do nearly every Friday). He loved Secretariat – four stars, “This is one of the year’s best films” – his most coveted line!
And in his review, Secretariat, this line about Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) jumped out at me:
She looked at the greatest racehorse in the world and knew she was right, when all about her were losing their heads and blaming it on her.
The reading by Federer and Nadal is a protected video, so I can’t imbed it. Watch it here.
There is a lot being written about the way(s) the internet is stealing our ability to focus long and hard on a single thing – like a book. I have blogged about it recently.
But I would not give it up. It brings me too much – like Ebert!
And, now I tweet. (Follow me here). I suppose I use it too much to publicize our blog posts. I have not yet learned how to tweet well.
Roger Ebert won a webby, and gave his three word acceptance speech last night. (five word maximum. Watch the acceptance speeches here). Here was his speech, in full:
“Veni, vidi, vici.”
And here are a couple of paragraphs from his latest blog post, Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!:
I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.
Twitter is now a part of my daystream.
I’ve made a change recently. After writing my blog, “The quest for frisson” and reading two recent articles about internet addiction, I have looked hard at my own behavior. For some days now I have physically left the room with the computer in it, and settled down somewhere to read. All the old joy came back, and I realized the internet was stealing the reading of books away from me. Reading is calming, absorbing, and refreshing for the mind after hectic surfing. Chaz and I have quiet chats where we sit close and she talks and waits for my reply and this is soothing after the online tumult. I like the internet, but I don’t want to become its love slave.
…women make the best tweeters. They tweet more about life, and less about facts. Okay, so tell me I’m wrong.
We read to learn and connect and think and grow. Ebert is one that I read to keep learning and hopefully keep growing. I still read books – – fairly thoroughly and carefully. But there are so many books, and then so much more, to read…
(follow Ebert on Twitter here).
The Rise of the “Stupider”
The Rise of Substitute Intellectual Activity – a Plague!
Roger Ebert has written a column, The quest for frisson, in which he describes some of the ways we function differently with the arrival of the Web. One way: we read full, actual books less often. We are too easily distracted.
As the Signals guys put it in ReWork:
And the reason is interruptions… you can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop.
Instead, you should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.
During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings. Just shut up and get to work. You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.
Ebert printed a response from a student from Harvard named Daniel Goldhaber. The student argues that people are getting, for lack of a better word, “stupider” (his word).
“Every year I’ve seen go by has become – for lack of a better word – stupider,” he writes.
Here are a few more thoughts from the student
I go to Harvard University and chose to go instead of accepting a scholarship at USC Film School. My thought process was that even though I want to be a filmmaker, I thought it would make more sense to try to surround myself with people who – like me – enjoy thinking, talking, and reading about the world at large, not just film.
However, what I found stood in such stark contrast to the Harvard of the 70s and the 80s that I had read about in my youth. I found a place where superficiality was prized not just socially, but INTELLECTUALLY. It’s not about the number of books you’ve read, but the number of wikipedia articles on books that you’ve skimmed so that it appears as if you’ve read a lot of books (I’ve succumbed to this as much as anybody else – it’s a plague.)
I don’t know what to do with all this. These thoughts remind me of Scott Peck’s charge that the basic human flaw is laziness – not lazy, as in doing nothing, but lazy as in not doing the things you should be doing, not working on your life in the specific areas that need such work.
Maybe we are lazy. And maybe we want Wikipedia to do all of our thinking and reading for us.
Back in my preaching days, there were two kinds of preachers. Those who got their illustrations and quotes from books of famous illustrations and quotes. And those who read history, biography, philosophy, and built their own inventory of stories and quotes breathed in from wide, varied reading. Such preachers always had more depth.
You might say – “so, Randy, how do you justify your book synopses? You announce that you read the books so that we don’t have to.” I don’t know if I can justify what I do. But I have always held to the fantasy that my presentations will whet your appetite enough that you want to simply read and learn more. I see myself as a “keep learning” ambassador.
I think I know this. The rise of the “stupider” is a threat to our depth, our ethics, our very way of live. We really do need to fortify our defenses, to help us all keep learning.
Great advice from the master, Roger Ebert – forget career, just keep getting better
When a young Will Leitch wrote Roger Ebert for advice and counsel, Ebert wrote back:
He emphasized that such ephemera like “career” and “success” were mostly beside the point. “Just write, get better, keep writing, keep getting better. It’s the only thing you can control.”
Just keep getting better. That’s the challenge, in any and every endeavor, and the greatest advice of all.