Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Talking Face to Face

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

One of the gifts of my recent time spent canvassing was that I met a lot of people face to face.  Sure, I meet people all the time, but it's a different experience when you knock on their door and don't know anything about them.  When canvassing I did have a name, and sometimes an age or sex.  So it was always interesting to see who would open the door, how they would react, and what kind of person they would be.

In my normal life I spend a lot of time alone, which I like, because I work at home all day in my office.  I have the dogs to keep me company, and I enjoy the quiet.  But it's also nice to get to talk with someone, whether by email or on the phone, or even on Facebook.   This also gives extra emphasis to my time in the gym each day, as I've just spent the day alone and enjoy interacting with my fellow gym mates.  Luckily, my workout partner John is very social and would say hello to anyone at any time.  So we have a lot of friends and acquaintences in the gym which I appreciate.  These friendly interactions are important to my day.

It has been said that the Obama campaign won the election because of the ground game –many folks like myself who went door to door to speak with people.  In an article posted on slate.com by John Dickerson titled "Why Romney Never Saw it Coming", the author says this:

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign was openly dismissive of the Obama ground game. Why are they wasting so much money with neighborhood offices, they asked? (In Ohio, for example, Obama had almost 100 more offices than Romney.) In retrospect, the Romney team is in awe and full of praise of the Obama operation. “They spent four years working block by block, person by person to build their coalition,” says a top aide. They now recognize that those offices were created to build personal contacts, the most durable and useful way to gain voters.

I really do think this personal interaction is incredibly powerful.  If you want to convince someone of something, talk to them in person, face to face.  In this day of texts and tweets and electronic communication, some of this face time has been lost.  Even just Skyping a conversation with video, rather than talking on the phone, can add great power to communication.  But being in person is the most effective.

Many times over the course of the weeks I was walking neighborhoods, I had encounters which were quite powerful.  Standing on the front porch of a man's house as he describes how his business failed in the recession and how he has been working up north to make ends meet.  Talking to a women whose husband was incapacitated last year, and hearing her stories of struggling to make ends meet, running through their life savings, and having no time to herself at all.

One day I met the owner of Anthony's Pizza, and he was an undecided voter.  As I asked him what issues had him on the fence, he described quite personally how he was concerned about his business and his family.  But having the opportunity to discuss issues in person had an influence on both of us, and it felt like a piece of our democracy in action.

At another door I met two Asian parents who had voted.  But the name on my list to visit was their 22 year old son Max.  The parents were thrilled to see me, as they obviously had had no success in motivating Max to care about voting.  During my conversation with them, Max appeared on his way out the door.  I was able to talk with him personally, explain the importanct of his vote, and get him to promise to vote on Tuesday….with his parents nodding and smiling the entire time.  I have no way of knowing if Max made it to his polling station, but I can easily imagine thousands of conversations like this, all over the country, that DID make a difference on election day.

If you want to make an impact, do it in person.  If you need to talk with someone about something critically important, sit down with them and talk face to face.  I have felt energized by this learning experience during the campaign, and feel I've learned something important for my business and my life!  I hope you'll consider these lessons as well.

BOOKS: Dombey and Son

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Charles Dickens is my favorite author, and each novel I read causes my admiration to grow more and more.  “Dombey and Son” is a somber, moody book which is relentless in its exploration of greed and pride.

Dombey_&_Son_Phiz_detail_small_sLike a great 90 minute symphony, this book is a slow progression of story and mood that builds over 600 pages to a climax so chilling that I kept gasping aloud.  Reading some of these Dickens novels can be a test of patience, but I have yet to not feel rewarded for my efforts.  His deliberate and brilliant prose builds slowly over successive chapters toward a conclusion that we have been dreading for hundreds of pages.  And yet even being pulled through the ringer by this master writer feels satisfying as the impact of his message is so brilliantly constructed and devised.

Master Dombey of “Dombey and Son” is a study in pride and arrogance.  His negligence of his daughter, Florence (the true heroine of this book), is heart-breaking and maddening.  The many scenes where Florence pines for the love of her neglectful father and feels somehow responsible …sneaking downstairs to simply listen at the door for his breathing and hoping he might suddenly appear and hug her for once in her life… these moments are as heartbreaking as any I have ever experienced in any book.

In a master stroke, Dickens pairs Dombey with a “trophy wife” who surprises him by being as prideful as himself, and the great battle of the book ensues.  Caught in the crossfires are the usual cast of colorful characters that we always expect from Dickens.

Included are such delightful characters as Capt. Cuttle (never was such a colorful sea captain ever seen in the pages of a book!), Doctor Blimber, another in a long line of inept and pompous schoolmasters, Mrs. Blimber, who constantly laments that she never knew Cicero, and the lovable Mr. Toots, whose unrequited love gives him to say things like “If I could be run over–or– or trampled upon — or– or thrown off a very high place — or anything of that sort — for Miss Dombey’s sake, it would be the most delightful thing that could happen to me.”

The villian, the endlessly creepy Mr. Carker with his giant teeth and horrible smile, is maligned for being the ultimate brown-noser and suck-up.  His pretensions and fake intentions are the most horrible thing in a book full of neglect and shame, saying alot about Dickens’ feelings toward businessmen of this nature!

Overall, “Dombey and Son” is a somber book with many sad characters and events, but which all add up to a worthwhile and rewarding read.  It’s simply enjoyable to read Dickens’ brilliant prose, even if your foot shakes with impatience or the chill bumps attack each time Mr. Carker appears on the page.  It’s another brilliant novel by the author I admire above all others.

BOOKS: Review of “The Lost Symbol”

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

the_lost_symbol-thumb-500x757-8089SPOILER ALERT: Plots points and events are discussed, so stop reading NOW if you have not finished the book!

I don’t envy Dan Brown.  How in the world does anyone follow the best selling novel of all time?  What a mind-crushing task that must have been.

The book is the expected roller-coaster ride and many parts of it were great fun.  It includes the expected chase scenes and nail-biting close calls, along with lots of puzzles, mystical elements and symbols to decipher in cool ways.

I especially like the villain in this book, a hyper masculine tattooed crazy with delusions of saving the world from salvation.  His story and the surprises attached to it were one of the great pleasures of the book, and I found him a worthy foil for the adventure.

Also, I found the overall message of the book to be a good one, and one worth sharing with millions of readers.

But when this book is surely made into a movie, I will NOT be going to see it.  When I started the book I was looking forward to a fun thrill ride, but instead of the twists and turns of Space Mountain (or even The Hulk coaster), this speeding train takes us straight to Halloween Horror Nights.  Apparently Mr. Brown’s answer to how to “top” himself  was to add EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY terrifying thing he could imagine.  The situations read like a laundry list of mankind’s great phobias, including  drownings, dismemberment, being buried inside a tiny box in the dark, drowning inside a tiny box in the dark, being chased through a giant room in TOTAL darkness, death by fire, death by screw driver in the neck, death by home invasion, bleeding to death–it’s just exhausting.  It’s one thing to be forced to READ these passages, but there is no way I’m going to watch them actually happen on the big screen.

(I learned this lesson with “Revolutionary Road,” a gripping and shattering novel that was just too real on the screen.  Read the book instead!)

I’m not sorry I read this book, but I enjoyed both “DaVinci” and “Angels and Demons” much more.  His stories don’t need all this gore and blood to thrill us.  I’m glad to hear that Mr. Brown is now taking a vacation before resuming work!  I appreciate his talent and hope he gets back on track.