Today I am turning 46. People say to me “how come you are so comfortable in disclosing your age?”. The fact is, not only I am comfortable in letting people know how old I really am; I take great pride in doing so. The reason? I feel that, with each passing year, something that is equally valuable as time itself is added to my credit. That something is knowledge. As such, I tend to think of myself as wiser, not older, as time progresses.
Knowledge can come in many forms and from various sources. Seminars, workshops, documentaries, data and information downloaded from the world wide web. Knowledge is everywhere and up for grabs. It is then up to us to be selective with our intake of educational information and allow in only those pieces that can add real value to us – the “golden nuggets“ of wisdom, as I like to call them. Along the lines of this analogy, books are the equivalent of information goldmines.
So, without further delay, for my 46th birthday I thought I would present you with 46 such golden nuggets, in the form of my favorite 46 book passages. All 46 of them come from books that I read, cover-to-cover, and represent those parts possessing the greatest motivational value, accompanied by the moral that I personally derived from each and every part. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I did and, maybe, search for some or all of them in the books that accommodate them:
As Bill Gates notes in his Foreword to the book, “When you hit refresh on your browser, some of what’s on the page stays the same.”
My moral: No need to change everything in your life in order to have a brighter future. Effecting drastic changes is not always the way. Sometimes, a little (refresh) can go a long way.
“Consensus is horrible. Yes, if everyone really agrees on something and consensus comes about quickly and naturally, well that’s terrific. But, in teams, that isn’t how it usually works, and so consensus becomes an attempt to please everyone. The point is that the most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to.” page 95
My Moral: Don’t aim for consensus. If there is trust between team members then teams can disagree and commit to a common goal. Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor. Voicing a plethora of differing opinions within a team translates to as many possible solutions.
“Accepting the status quo means a leader feels no further improvement can be made. I never reached a point in my 40 years of teaching basketball where I felt no further improvement could not be made. And that applied to every area of the game, including my own leadership skills.” page 247
My moral: Never settle for what you know. “Quit” your job before your job quits you. Acquire skills. You’ve got to be ‘hungry’ and humble. Never give up on learning, for through it you grow from the inside out.
“Gaga with just a piano has the power to change people’s minds about her.” page 13
My moral: You have all the ‘ammunition’ you need. It lies between your two ears and is energized by your heart. Our connected world – through the world wide web – is your pathway to success. ‘Weapons’ don’t have to be of mass destruction to reach the masses and to convey your message and showcase your talent. Instead, use your collective skills, competencies and gray matter as weapons of mass influence and make the world your stage.
“… when customers are greeted with a warm, friendly welcome, their perception of how long they wait is positively altered and their overall experience is enhanced significantly.” page 110
My moral: A warm greeting can ‘reset’ clocks. It also ‘upgrades’ people from neutral to positive and from positive to very positive! How are you greeting your customers?
“One of the best ways to impress a buyer is to take a half-hour of his time when he’s expecting you to take an hour. One of the worst is to take an hour and a half.” page 98
My moral: Be succinct and to the point. Less is more. Do as the Spartans used to do – they were famous for their verbal austerity, yet pithy remarks. In other, fewer words, they were ‘laconic’, a term coined for them to denote their speech economics.
“Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, ‘You’re wrong’.” page 140
My moral: Martin Luther King was asked how, as a pacifist, he could be an admirer of Air Force General Daniel “Chappie” James, the nation’s then highest-ranking black officer. Dr. King replied, “I judge people by their own principles – not by my own.” All in all, we must agree to disagree. That sums it up.
“Indecision crystallizes into doubt, the two blend and become fear!” page 261
My moral: For the well-prepared and meticulous professional, fear is nothing more than a state of mind. Preparation nullifies indecision and prohibits doubt from forming, thus stopping fear at its source. How prepared are you?
“Why am I on the payroll?” page 35
My moral: You have been hired to get specific results. To make the maximum contribution to your organization you need to know what the specific results you need to produce are and then go about fulfilling your responsibilities. And remember – your boss is your Number 1 customer. If you are an entrepreneur, the same applies, but vice versa – your customer is your boss or, in the words of Walmart, “There is only one boss. The customer.“
“To build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service, we needed to make sure customers service was the entire company, not just a department.” page 131
My moral: Customer service is not a department; it is an attitude. In other words, customer service should be made into a proactive experience rather than a reactive remedy. Care for your customer before he/she needs you to.
“… the English word ‘worry’ is derived from an Old English word that means to strangle or to choke.” page 125
My moral: Some people tend to worry themselves to a serious illness and, sometimes, to death. Is it worth it? Being a worrier paralyzes you; being positive frees you up. What mindset will you opt for?
“You’re only as young as the new things you do” page 105
My moral: Break free from your comfort zone – outside of it is where the magic happens. Give new things a try. Learn. Experiment. Grow.
“The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.” page 1
My moral: You only get one shot at life. Make every second count. Dreaming is not enough; you have to act in order to turn your dreams into reality. Be a doer.
“Mayo Clinic exists to create a better quality of life rather than a better bottom line.” page 259
My moral: Social ‘profit’ is more important than financial profit. Money (which is of course important for sustaining Mayo) does not drive the clinic; mission does. The same applies in everyday life – a sense of purpose can drive you a million miles farther than chasing wealth will.
“When interacting with a customer, concentrate on the person not the personality. Concentrate on the caller not the call. Your first job is to help the customer – not yourself.” page 94
My moral: It‘s not about you, it‘s about your customers. Put your ego aside, be emotionally-sober and focus on how to best serve them. The key to achieving this is to hire happy people possessing a positive attitude and then furnish them with a crystal-clear target through structured training.
“Those who built good-to-great companies weren’t motivated by fear.” page 160
My moral: FEAR for the prepared individual, company or nation is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. Refuse to give in to fear. Instead, take the feeling of fear and turn it into the fire that will ignite your motivational engines.
“When Winston Churchill was asked what was England’s greatest weapon versus the Nazis, he responded in one word: hope.” page 95
My moral: “Hope dies last“, they say. The adage couldn’t be truer. No matter what your circumstances are, hope will always be there to shine that beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. Hope opens doors while despair closes them.
“Storytelling is not something we do. Storytelling is who we are.” Page XVII (Preface of the book)
My moral: The greatest story ever told is your own story. You have the exclusive rights to it – you are your story’s creator, proprietor and narrator; all three in one. Tell it like you live it.
“Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breath.” page 135
My moral: Writing is such a form of art that can be cathartic for the writer and enriching for the reader. It is an organic process that takes from your soul and gives to the world. It is not until you start jotting down words that you really come to understand what exactly it is that you carry within you; your emotional baggage.
“We may have different stories and different backgrounds, but we hold common hopes for the future of this country.” page 141
My moral: Find ways to unite your team by appealing to those common things that bring them closer rather than those that push them away from each other.
“I have yet to encounter anyone who has achieved massive success without closing themselves off from the demands of others or forgoing pastimes.” page 167
My moral: Success does not come cheap. As a matter of fact, it does not come at all, unless you get up and go after it, relentlessly and unconditionally. Sacrifices must be made if success is to be achieved. This means that you may have to endure periods of no play and the occasional 16-hour workday, but once success casts its shine and warmth on you, all your efforts will feel justified.
“Remembering you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose” page 167
My moral: Having the foresight to see what’s in store at the end of life’s trail equips us with the powerful knowledge that death is inevitable. Realizing that we live life on leasehold terms liberates us from the fear of failure that comes with attempting new things. Through this very realization that we have nothing to lose, we stand to win everything, if only we try.
“The phenomenon of clicking with another person is clearly a confluence of factors. It’s about the bridges we form with others by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with each other.” page 77
My moral: Be authentic, be honest, be direct, be open. In being all these, be also vulnerable with your fellow human beings, for it is only then that you can discover yourself and, through this discovery, form emotional links with others.
“Criticism comes to those who stand out.” page 45
My moral: In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible. To be seen, you must stand out, but if you stand out, you are likely to receive criticism. That’s fine! For it is better to be seen and receive some criticism along with a hefty amount of praise, rather than stay in the shadows and receive neither. Dare to stand out.
“Thousands of years ago, it was only kings, pharaohs, and emperors who had the ability to solve large scale problems.” page xii
My moral: Because of the advent of technology and its progression, any passionate and committed individual has access to the technology, minds and capital required to take on any challenge, anywhere in the world. As the authors point out, the best way to become a billionaire is to solve a billion-person problem!
“I’ve never met anyone who wanted to be insignificant.” page 29
My moral: You can opt to do work that helps you make a living or you can choose to make a living by doing work that makes you come alive. Everybody wants to be somebody, and to achieve this you need to develop a sense of purpose in your chosen vocation. Go for it.
“Feeling sorry for yourself does not put food on the table or pay off the rapidly rising bank debts.” page 95
My moral: Sorry is not a strategy. Nor is pessimism. I know of no monument that was erected to celebrate a person who went through life being negative. Opt for a positive state of mind instead.
“Since there is no limit to the amount of knowledge you can acquire, there is no limit to the amount of value you can create.” page 138
My moral: Knowledge is the best kind of personal investment that you can make. It is the kind of investment whose value grows exponentially, not linearly, and the interest it pays is compounded. It is also a risk-free investment, meaning that you will never find yourself at a loss of any kind when you invest in knowledge.
“What is a complaint? In simplest terms, a complaint is a statement about expectations that have not been met.” page 11
My moral: Guess what most people do when they receive a complaint from a customer? They become defensive. Wrong attitude. If the customer is wrong in complaining, they (and their business) lose nothing; just time to explain the situation to him/her. If the customer is right, they and their business can profit tremendously by making amends. A complaint is both a gift and an opportunity to show your customer your best professional self.
“Knowing why we win is as essential as knowing why we lose; not doing so throws away valuable study material.” page 184
My moral: When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Study your losses so you don’t repeat your mistakes but also study your wins so that you duplicate your successes.
“Social Media gives you the tools to touch your consumer and create an emotion where before there might not have been one.” page 84
My moral: Social Media is your communication powerhouse and your own broadcasting station. Overheads on social media are minimal. It involves your time and creativity combined with your willingness. How are you ‘touching’ people?
“Everyone needs something to aim for.” page 59
My moral: What’s your up and coming goal? What’s the next challenge you are taking on? By always having a goal to go after, ensures that you never lose sight of who you intend to be in life.
“Excess destroys success.” page 56
Moral: Successful companies stay ahead of their competition by having two eternal truisms in mind: (a) Stay Hungry and (b) Don’t ‘Get Fat’. Moderation is always key.
“The musical notes are only five in number but their melodies are so numerous that one cannot hear them all.” page 137
My Moral: You have the capability to be more and do (so much) more. The ‘secret’ lies in combining your time, resources, network, knowledge and ingenuity in the best way possible. You will realize then, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“Experience is a great teacher, but a person needs many more teachers to learn all that he needs to know.” page 23
Moral: Experience alone is not sufficient. According to the author, only a commitment to deliberate, curious, analytical, and structural learning can lead to a level of expertise that will boost your leadership and authority.
“There is one thing that 99% of ‘failures’ and ‘successful’ folks have in common – they all hate doing the same things. The difference is successful people do them anyway.” page 89
Moral: To have the things that other people don’t have you have to be willing to do the things that other people are not willing to do, even if this entails repetition to the point it numbs the mind! What are you waiting for?
When people feel deeply judged by a rejection, their impulse is to feel bad about themselves and to lash out in bitterness.” page 169
Moral: ‘No’ means ‘not yet’. Reverse the letter formation of ‘NO’ and you end up with “ON”! Patience is a virtue as is determination in the face of rejection. Do you know the definition of perseverance? It means “to continue a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure“. Are you perseverant enough?
“Steve Jobs does not deliver a presentation. He offers an experience.” page 85
Moral: Aim to create a strong emotional connection between yourself and your audience. It is not only down to what you say but also how you make them feel. ‘VHF’ is the secret recipe to success. Some people are visual (‘V’ for Visual), some people are auditory (‘H’ for Hearing) and some are kinesthetic (‘F’ for Feeling). An experience begins the moment you make sure that your presentation encompasses all facets of the VHF model.
“Putting all your commitments in writing can have a powerful effect on your ability to keep the promises you make to yourself.” page 85
Moral: Pale ink is better than the most retentive memory.
“I have a broken toe, not a broken spirit.” page 172
Moral: Your mood plays a vital role in decision making. Positive always outweighs sad. According to the authors, it can also make you a more capable negotiator, who is able to bring about the desired results.
“The Present is not the Past and it is not the Future.” page 31
Moral: The Present is Here and Now. Do the best you can with what you have, enjoying every moment in the process. As Nike and McDonald‘s say, ‘just do it’ and ‘I’m loving it‘!
“It is true that better understanding of their thinking may lead you to revise your own views about the merits of a situation.” page 25
Moral: Trying to understand the other person’s point of view is not a burden but a benefit. Rigidity does not lead to proximity.
“A good speaker leaves us with food for thought. A great speaker leaves his heart on the podium.” page 75
Moral: Words can have an impact but it is passion and enthusiasm combined that ignite the audience and set a speaker/salesman/lawyer/…add your profession here…. apart. Always speak from the heart instead of doing so from the mouth.
“Everyone takes the limits of their own vision for the limits of the world.” page 7 (a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer)
Moral: Limits are self-imposed, not world-imposed. In other words, limits are internal, not external.
“High-performing people in sports, arts, and business do not allow their mind to focus on the negative.” page 35
Moral: Maintaining a positive state of mind is your competitive advantage. A setback is a set up for a come back. If you see the world through a positive lens, you will see a world that is ripe with opportunities, waiting for you to seize them. Do I need to tell you what happens when you opt for a negative lens?
“’How can I give to others when at the moment I don’t have enough myself?’ You can bring a flower. One flower.” page 33
Moral: Make a decision to give wherever you go, whatever you can, to whoever you cross paths with. As long as you are giving, you will be receiving.
There is a proverb that says “knowledge is power“. I hope that, after reading the above passages and morals, you will feel more powerful than before, even if slightly! If you do, then I suggest that you strengthen that feeling even further by taking your pick of certain books mentioned above and which stood out in your eyes and mind, and have a further read. It will be worth your while.
As a concluding remark, I would like to mention that this is my first ever birthday that I’ll be spending without my beloved dad, Rolando G. Virardi, by my side. As such, to honor both his presence in my life and his today’s (unwilling) absence, this blog post is dedicated in his loving memory. As another great man that departed too early from mortal grounds (Steve Jobs – see passage 22 above) advised, our presence on this earth may be temporary but the legacy that we leave behind is everlasting. Rolando may have departed for greener pastures, but he continues to live through his legacy.
Here’s to you, dad.