What I'm Reading Now

Check out my thoughts about some of the articles, books, and other items I've been reading. 

August 5, 2018
I recently read French Lessons: A Memoir, by Alice Kaplan. She discusses her embrace of the French language and culture, which provided a new identity to fill a void in the culture in which she was raised. The descriptions of intersections between her Jewish upbringing, family life, and academic career particularly resonated with me. 

I also read "Pedagogy of the Distressed," an often-cited article that outlines one college instructor's personal evolution as a teacher. She began by focusing on "showing students how smart, knowledgeable, and prepared she was (p. 654)" In time, she focused more narrowly on the needs students, as she came to see each one "as a live volcano. . .a walking field of energy teeming with agendas (p. 659)" It's an instructional and inspirational read for anyone who teaches at the university level.  

July 25, 2018
I recently finished reading Meet and Grow Rich, which aims to be a primer on how to establish a successful MasterMind group. There's good material in the first part of the book, especially how it differentiates between different kinds of groups. Attracting members committed to your specific purpose is vital for success, the authors argue. I'm hopeful that the upcoming new edition of the work delves more into how technological developments since the first edition (published in 2006) have helped to strengthen MasterMind groups. 

July 13, 2018
I recently finished reading Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. It's a wonderful, inspiring read about an artist (primarily a musician) who's unapologetically living a public, authentic life and using social media in support of that. She truly wants to connect with fans and others in meaningful, substantive ways. Her experiences in doing so haven't always been positive, as she's dealt with her fair share of abuse online. Nonetheless, she models how to meld the personal and professional in ways that can't fail to inspire people like me who I continue to grapple with such challenges. 

I've started to read Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History. It's a deep dive into a single event in the early 20th century that has had a significant impact to this day on Jewish history. My interest in the book was piqued for two reasons. First, my master's thesis explored French Catholic antisemitism in the late 19th century in response to the outbreak of pogroms in Russia in the 1880s. Second, I've been delving into my family's roots in Russia. I'll share more when I complete the book. 

June 18, 2018
I've finished reading Doug Levy's new book for public information officers (PIOs), The Communications Golden Hour. Check out my review here

June 18, 2018
Check out my notes on Time for Success: A Goal-Getters Strategy

June 6, 2018
Check out my notes on The Power of Intention

May 20, 2018
I finished Irving Yalom's Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. It's a deceptively easy read but communicates powerful points about dealing with our mortality from a secular perspective. It helped me enormously to make further sense of my father's death in 2015 (and the loss of my job that followed shortly after it). 

May 15, 2018
See my notes on Alex Osborn's Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving

May 11, 2018
See my notes on George Leonard's classic work, Mastery

May 10, 2018
See my notes on The Power of Focus.

May 9, 2018
See my notes on Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, which I first read many years ago and recently revisited. 

April 6, 2018
I've reviewed possible core texts for a course I'm teaching on communications campaigns this summer at University of San Francisco, where I am a faculty member. To learn more about the course, go here

The first, Strategic Public Relations Management, offers a comprehensive look at what's involved in creating an effective campaign with an emphasis on research options and methodologies. Anyone without a grounding in that area (or who simply wants to brush up on skills) would find it invaluable for that reason alone.

Developing the Public Relations Campaign offers a different approach to the same topic. What it sacrifices in depth of treatment of any one aspect of a campaign it more than makes up for in terms of the breadth of its coverage. I'm confident that my students would be able to develop a campaign after reading this book. That's why it will be required reading in my course. 

March 16, 2018
Trying to figure out what's happening politically, culturally, and socially in Europe--and how to use that insight to better understand U.S. developments? Then you'll want to read Rethinking the Twentieth Century, a work by the late Tony Judt (in partnership with Timothy Snyder). As a dialogue between two eminent historians, it's an engaging and thought-provoking look at some of the broader issues at play today. For an even deeper dive, I'm now looking at another one of Judt's highly regarding works, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. More will follow once I complete the book. 

February 5, 2018
Charging an hourly fee for professional services limits income. You only have so much available time. Instead, sell the value you deliver or impact you have to reap greater profits.

That’s the premise of Breaking the Time Barrier. This short ebook outlines the main tenets of this value-based sales approach. This story of two fictional graphic designers explores fundamental marketing challenges. These zero in on difficulties posed by selling one’s services based on price alone. One graphic designer offers an alternative. She highlights benefits to vendors and clients alike that a focus on value provides. That is, exploring value

1. Creates trust. You show interest in understanding a client’s problems. You craft a solution tailored to meet their specific needs.

2. Fosters alignment. You probe for major client problems and goals. This clarity fuels mutual understanding of desired outcomes.

3. Helps your client to better evaluate vendors. When service providers focus on value they deliver, they showcase their abilities. In turn, they differentiate themselves from vendors who compete based on price alone.

4. Frames your solution as an investment, not an expense. When you highlight the value or impact of your service, the client sees it as an investment. In contrast, a price-based focus becomes an expense in the client’s eyes.

5. Inspires action. A focus on results generates energy and enthusiasm. In turn, the client wants to act.

6. Allows your client to make an informed business decision. The value-based vendor offers options with distinct prices. Clients choose among them. They’re clear about the trade-offs involved.

7. Establishes a trust partnership. Once the client’s investment manifests in real value or impact, the vendor becomes a trusted partner. The relationship flourishes. Other opportunities develop.

In short, vendors selling value come up with ways to serve their clients. In the process, they redefine their work. They explore ways to differentiate themselves and their services.

This transition from a price-based to values-based approach is not an easy one. It begins with a transformation in how you as a vendor see yourself. You aim to build mutually beneficial relationships rather than manage one-off engagements. It’s more demanding and, the authors of Breaking the Time Barrier conclude, much more rewarding for all parties.

Breaking the Time Barrier doesn’t break new ground, as works like Alan Weiss’ Value-Based Fees offer more in-depth treatment of similar issues. Nonetheless, by offering a compelling case for values-based sales via a parable, it offers an invaluable addition to the literature that’s no doubt contributing to its positive word of mouth online.   

January 20, 2018
I'll start with a new book, Impromptu: Leading in the MomentAs a professor of management communication and leadership/communications coach and consultant, I immediately sought out this book based on its title. By highlighting the prevalence of impromptu speaking opportunities, the author (Judith Humphrey) has identified a critical change and with it has mapped out concomitant skills and aptitudes individuals must master to thrive. The book overall offers a quick read with short chapters designed to serve as an ongoing reference. Humphrey covers a lot of ground here and that's a strength. 

That said, some chapters covered territory (e.g., the scripting template on pg. 98, how to handle questions and answers) that undoubtedly will be familiar to experienced communicators, Toastmasters, and others who've spent time looking at other books in the field. I wish Humphrey had mentioned some of these books (I'm thinking specifically of Roger Ailes' You are the Message and Thomas Montalbo's The Power of Eloquence) which would benefit the reader seeking additional insight. Her argument overall is sound, although the dichotomy between prepared and impromptu speeches is often fuzzier than the reader might conclude. To that point, many of her main points could just as well apply to occasions when formal presentations are required. 

These latter points aside, Humphrey has delivered a worthwhile book bound to be helpful to professionals seeking further insight into the complexities of communicating in our times.

Go here to view a list of books in my library. 

Last updated August 5, 2018

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