Young Authors

Craig Orback, Illustrator
Craig Orback, Illustrator

This week I had the priviledge of attending a Young Authors Conference with 2 of my daughters who are in 4th and 5th grade.

It was a wonderful event where children from elementary schools all over the area converge on a community college (which happened to be on Spring Break) and get to learn from and interact with real authors and illustrators.  There were several presentations throughout the day and also a bookstore where you could buy the authors’ books and get their autograph.

This year’s theme was poetry, so we met two excellent poets, James Bertolino, and Lorraine Ferra (snagged their books and signatures) and also a very talented children’s book illustrator, Craig Orback – who is a real artist that can create art in a variety of mediums: oil and canvas, pen and ink, water color, pastels, chalk, pencil sketch, etc.

The point I’d like to make is that true scarce skills are still valuable.  These people actually make their living by being very good poets and artists.  Even though the publishing world is changing because anybody can publish a book online these days, and all the new digital tools for creating graphic arts allows almost anyone to become an artist, the fact remains that you still need to have skills to produce high quality material.

Craig told me that work hasn’t slowed down for him at all, just because of the digital age.  And these older poets we met have written many books and their poetry is used all over, in a variety of places.

James Bertolino, Poet
James Bertolino, Poet

So even though the world is changing, and the kids need to learn new skills these days, if they can be the best (or one of the best) in whatever skill they choose, people will want to experience what they produce.  And they’ll always have something to do.

Books Web sites

Building Communities

I finally found what I’m looking for.  This is my newest favorite blog, along with this one running a close second.

They’re about building communities, and more about the personal side of it than the technical side.  The posts are short and to the point and provide great insight.

It turns out that community building is now a whole new industry with many available jobs, consultants, books, and communities.  Who knew?

Of course I knew it was a hot topic and something that many people were talking about, but I never dug deep enough to find the actual experts on it.  And I still think I’ve just scratched the surface.

Call me naive or disconnected or out of the loop, but it’s still true: the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

The world is one big place, with a lot of stuff happening.  And just watching TV only makes you think you know what is happening.

Web sites

The Long Blog Tail

I know for a fact that there are a lot of talented musicians in the world that you have never heard of.

Like this guy for example.

By the same token, there are a lot of good blogs out there that some people may never see (like this one. The one you’re reading.)

So why not share a little and spread the knowledge of something good.

Here’s a good obscure blog that I found.  He has a great post with an interesting analogy for today’s financial situation.

(Okay, so he happens to be a friend at work.)

(Okay, so the musician happens to be my brother.)

How else would I find these things?

Oh yea, I suppose I could surf the net too.  But it doesn’t hurt to start with your world.

Web sites

The Alternative MBA

I thought it might be a good idea, once a week, to share the book review presentations that we are creating in the Alt-MBA program.  One reason is because they are really well done, and another was to give me some authomatic material at least once a week.

Well, it doesn’t make sense to continually share something that is already on a public web site (so much for automatic material.)  So I’ll just tell you to bookmark this website and check it each week as new book review presentations are posted. 

The guys running the program have done a bang up job.  We also have interviews with some of the authors and have shared those as podcasts in iTunes.  We are trying to show that with the new technology and social tools available today, it can be quite easy to redefine what it means to ‘get an education’.



Many people of the world understand the basic concept of this word, and in fact, demand it for themselves from others, but obviously we’re a long way from everyone really living it, otherwise we wouldn’t need locks on our house and car doors, security systems, virus protection software, police officers or armed forces.

All these things (and many others) protect us from the disrespect our fellow man gives to us and our property.

We may always need to design more airtight security systems and stronger defense mechanisms for those forces of disrespect that prevail, but they won’t address the root of the problem.

As history can testify, the most powerful force in the world, and therefore also the most dangerous, is an idea.

The most horrifying and extreme case of man’s inhumanity to man in recent history is the story of the holocaust in Nazi Germany, although there are many other similar stories around the world that have not been as publicized.  Our recent terrorist attacks are also examples of the awful brutality that can be administered by our fellow man.

These extreme cases, along with all the others of lesser extreme, are due to some idea held in the hearts of man that justifies their actions.

Therefore, the best offense and defense against these dangerous ideas is to spread the opposing idea of respect for our fellow man.  And when I say ‘spread’ I don’t mean like a news story that everyone hears about one day, then forgets the next day. The idea of respect must lie deep in the heart of every individual so that it guides every decision and therefore all their actions.

This kind of deep, imbedded standard of behavior usually doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes many years and most easily occurs during the time when our minds are most impressionable.

It’s called upbringing.

Therefore, the solution is for me to teach my children to respect others.  And to try to teach others to teach their children respect for their fellow human beings.  And when I say ‘teach’ I don’t just mean ‘tell’.  It must be part of our entire way of life.  I must lead by example, and through many little opportunities I must instill in my children’s hearts the strong desire to respect others.

It may not be easy, or work very quickly, but in the end, it’s the only viable solution.


Citizen Marketers

A while ago I posted about a group I joined where we were getting our Personal MBA.  It amounts to reading a bunch of the latest business books and having discussions about them, even sometimes having the authors speak to us in an online forum.

Well, we’ve actually called our version the Alt-MBA (for Alternative) and have been going gangbusters.  We’ve picked our own list of 25 books that we’re reading in 25 weeks, and our only graduation requirement is that we have to teach someone else something we learned.

Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t been keeping up with reading every book (actually the first few were ones I’ve already read) but I’ve still learned a lot from the summary presentations and the discussions, and will be catching up by purchasing a few tomorrow.

So what I really wanted to share today is this latest book presentation on Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba.  The presentation is by Cassie Pruett and is best viewed in full screen mode. (She does an awesome job.)  Check it out, it’s only 22 slides and will take you 2 minutes.

By the way, all our presentations are located on SlideShare and all of our podcasts are on iTunes.  A good idea would have been for me to share these presentations once a week when they come out, but since I just thought of it, I’ll try and catch up (we’re only on week 7.)

Anyway, Citizen Marketers is a good one about the new influencers and how it’s all about the online community and (digital) word of mouth these days.

Now go tell someone about it.

Books Web sites

Changing the World

What happens when you write a blog post every day for two months and then all of a sudden stop?

Well, both of your readers get upset.

Or, nobody notices.

I’m hoping the later.

But here’s something that might be interesting.

Seth Godin doesn’t promote too many books from other people, only when it’s something he completely believes in.  And let me tell you that Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, is one of his favorite people.  So when she releases her first book, The Blue Sweater, you know he is going to promote it as best as he can.

Here is his explanation of why you should buy her book.  (I wouldn’t doubt that he is the anonymous donor.)

I think this is interesting because we’re learning how possible it really is to change the world.  Maybe because there are so many parts of the world that have a lot of room for improvement, and we’re able to more easily connect those who can help with those who need the help.

I’m guessing that is what The Blue Sweater is about since the subtitle is “Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World”.

That looks like a good book to own.  Plus, by buying it, you are doing your part to change the world.

Web sites

Lessons on Marketing from Twitter

I really don’t like referring to one blogger all the time, and I don’t even read his blog every day, but somehow I stumbled on this post and thought it was relevant to my post yesterday.  (And as I write this, I’m watching a Nightline story on Twitter, so I feel like I’m right on the cutting edge of relevance.)

There are two concepts that Chris demonstrates in his post:

  1. The new marketing is about personal, human contact that is easy now because of web tools, not the spam messages that are also easy with the new tools.  Spam is the lazy way, and the old school business model, which actually damages your reputation and is more detrimental to your business than the few sales or traffic you may get from it.
  2. The new web tools (and influence built with them) also allow changes to be made quickly, which makes your business nimble and responsive, able to address your customer’s concerns instantly.  And that is invaluable to your customer, in fact, so amazing that they might tell all their friends about how you treated them so well.  And that’s really good for you.


I guess the overall message is that we should be careful about every interaction we have with anyone, because that is who we are to that person, especially if they have no other information on which to base their impressions.

So this post actually ends up being about the new marketing and not so much about Twitter.  Because you can do good and bad marketing with other tools also.

Web sites

Everyone’s doing it

Okay, maybe not everyone.  I’m not even doing it on a regular basis.

But I know about it, and I dable.

What am I talking about?        Twitter.

Even if you think it is a complete waste of time and has absolutely no value, you should understand it, and how and why it works.

I’m sure people thought telephones, TV, the internet, and blogging were useless and of no value when they started also.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

It appears that people are really helping their business with it, along with plenty of other useful features, such as organizing live groups in an instant, emergency messages, and knowing what is going on in general.

So here’s a pretty good Beginner’s Guide I came across.  I’m sure there are many others. 

Check it out if you’re curious.

Remember, only the curious learn new things.

Books Web sites

Your Next Presentation

There are lots of books and web sites and people who give advice on how to give good presentations.  And if you give presentations (who doesn’t) it’s probably a good idea to learn as much as you can.

But even though there may be timeless principles on presenting a message, I think you’ll find that there are some new ideas that are challenging some of the old ones that have been around a while.

Check out this great post I found recently from Chris Brogan .  It seems to match some of the other concepts I’ve heard from successful presenters lately.

For the interested student, other current masters of presentations are:


Learn something different and make your next presentation a smash hit.



What of virtue?

It’s not a word that is used very often these days, and depending on your background or worldview it can have various meanings.  But based on my limited research, most definitions of the word are good, and my only point in bringing it up is to try to get the word back into circulation.  I think it might help the world for this word to be part of more conversations.

Here’s why:

The first definition from Webster’s is:  conformity to a standard of right.

This implies that there is a standard of right that one should conform to.  Yes, we all may not agree on the particular details of that standard, but I think deep down, we probably have more area that we agree on than disagree.  Even those who don’t conform to the standard will agree on a right and wrong, they just usually have a reason or justification of why they might have deviated from the standard.

The second part of that definition is: a particular moral excellence.

Morality or having morals is about a system of principles or rules of conduct, and if having virtue is on the ‘excellence’ side of our rules of conduct then that means that someone is conducting themselves better or higher than whatever standard is normal.  And we usually respect those people who are able to live at a higher standard because we all know that being ‘excellent’ is more difficult.  Making a choice between something easy and hard is difficult, so choosing to be excellent is usually the hard side.

The other two definitions of virtue that I think are interesting to be both part of the same word are:

  1. manly strength or courage
  2. chastity especially in a woman


It appears to me that most concepts in the world today associated with manly strength or courage would not be associated with chastity.  In fact, probably the opposite, which is why I think the word virtue should be used more often, so that people can connect these two concepts:  that real manly strength, courage or valor involves protecting the chastity of women.


Do whatever you want (doesn’t that sound fun?)

I know it’s old news so I’m sure you’ve heard about how Google employees get to spend 20% of their time on what ever they want.  It’s not time to goof off, it’s actually working on a project that you either came up with yourself or that someone else came up with but you also find interesting. 

I’ve just been thinking about that concept lately and how innovative and productive that would be.  People always dream of being entrepreneurs and being their own boss, why not give them that thrill without all the risk and hassel of funding and other issues.  For the most part, people want to do good, and they want the company they work for to do well.  So if they can think of something that will benefit the company, or the group they work in, why not let them do it?

Being the boss and telling people what to do and how to do it assumes that you know more than the people you’ve hired.  And if you believe that, then that means that your boss must know more than you. (Most everyone has a boss.)  Now it may be true that high ranking executives or leaders are very smart and talented, but it is impossible that they are smarter in every area than every employee who works beneath them.  Therefore, they ought to be harvesting the talent, skills, and knowledge of everyone in the company to make the company better, more profitable, gain more market share, have a better working environment, or whatever ‘better’ means to the company and the individuals.

And what better way to do that than to say, hey at least 20% of your time should be dedicated to improving things.  I guess it really comes down to trust. 

I suppose people may work on things that may not be such a good idea, but the value that is gained by the improved morale and company loyalty is worth it.  Besides, there should probably be some kind of subjective evaluation to see if the effort is worthwhile.  But it shouldn’t be too detailed, only enough to determine if it will cause major negative repercussions.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve decided I’m going to do if I’m ever in charge of a group of people.

Consultants Web sites


fansHave you heard about creating fans instead of customers?

I’ve heard that all you need is 1000 true fans and you’re financially set for life.

Here is an excellent  slideshare presentation that talks about the new fan economy.

Wow, the things you learn when you know people (or the right people).  This guy, Bud Caddell, gets paid to sit around and think all day.  He reads about 300 blogs a day. (So I guess he does more than thinking.)

Maybe I’ll give him one more to read.

flickr photo by wvs

Thoughts Web sites

Do you trust us with the new tools?

Companies set up systems in order to produce their products, then they put their heads down and produce. tools

“We don’t have time for that new fangled mumbo jumbo, we’re busy doing real work here.”

I wonder when the first company decided that telephones were a good idea to give their workers?

And give a computer to every employee? That’s crazy talk!

I do remember when everyone in our company was given full access to the internet.  That was quite the controversy.  “They’ll just be surfin’ the web all day.”  Maybe, but it seems like each new advance in tools or technology requires a lot of trust.  Mostly because the most powerful tools can be used for good or bad, productivity or wastefulness, innovation or drivel.

Well, here we are in another phase of new tools – Web 2.0.  It seems like companies should be able to learn from the past.  And I think they are, but there is still resistance, and progress is slow.  Again, trust is a factor, plus a lack of understanding of the impact or potential that the new tools can provide.

Here is a great article from a reputable source (McKinsey) on how companies can make the new Web 2.0 tools work for them.  

The info is out there.  Companies really have no excuse for not understanding  and benefitting from new things.

flickr photo by docman


Build an Igloo (or do something else really hard)

Everyone should have the experience of building an igloo. 

That’s what I did this weekend.  And let me tell you, it’s not easy.

But I learned many lessons that I think could be applied in other situations.

1.  To get the great feeling of significant accomplishment, you have to do something really difficult.

     Spending 5 hours packing snow, shoveling snow and lifting heavy blocks is not a small task.  And it helps your motivation if you have nowhere else to sleep that night.  Commit to something big, and you’ll feel great when it’s over.

2.  Follow instructions.

     If someone has experience, or knows more than you, and has provided you instructions, it would be wise for you to follow them.  We had specific instructions for building an igloo, including layout size, block sizes, and techniques.  There were others who tried to  build igloos just based on what they thought was a good idea, but in the end, they didn’t turn out so well.

3.  Have faith in those with experience.

     This is similar to # 2 but there were times when the instructions just didn’t seem to make sense.  Only later in the process did we understand the wisdom of the specific instructions.  There were also times when we didn’t think the blocks were very stable and that the whole thing could come crashing down in an instant.  But we had faith, followed the instructions, and the structure turned out very sturdy.

4.  Persist.

     When you’re really tired, and nothing seems to be going right, and you want to quit… don’t.  Don’t give up.  The thrill of success will be so much sweeter when you’ve gone to the edge of defeat.  When one of our key large blocks broke, we thought we were done and had no way to finish, but we kept working it and figured out a way to make it work.  Only pure persistence got us through, because logically, we didn’t seem to have any options.

These probably sound like old fashioned lessons, but that’s why they’re so valuable, they have stood the test of time and apply to almost any situation. 

It took building an igloo for me to understand them at a deeper level.

Destroying our 7' high igloo
Destroying our 7' high igloo