Category Archives: Book Reviews

SBR: The Short Victorious War

I have been on a David Weber kick for the last few weeks. The third book in the Honorverse series of novels is almost as interesting to me as a political analysis tool as it is a science fiction novel about one of my favorite heroes.

Setting the Scene

Set a little over 2 millennia from now, the entire series is based off of a war between two star nations that look a significant amount like England and France as I discussed in the review of the first book, On Basilisk Station.

The tension has been built in the two previous books as the People’s Republic of Haven prepares to invade Manticore in order to shore up a failing centralized economy.

This is the scene for the book, and the book is the opening of the war that will continue for over 10 more books afterwards.

In other words, the short victorious war is anything but short or victorious.

And, isn’t that how things go in real life?

The Plot

After we have seen the main character get placed in unique places that require her to engage the enemy as a single ship’s captain, The Short Victorious War begins to introduce a great cast of characters that will come into play throughout the entire series.

Many characters on both sides die, because its a war, and the book sets the scene for the development of Honor’s character as a main plot driver through the next decades of war between Manticore and Haven.

SBR: The Short Victorious War

While I really enjoy the entire science fiction world that David Weber created, The Short Victorious War tends to be something that is a good part of the series, but I would recommend reading other books in the series if you were to choose a standalone read.

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SBR: The Honor of the Queen

One of my favorite science fiction series (read my first book review, On Basilisk Station) is the Honor Harrington book series. In the second book in the Honorverse series (the author has several series based in this sci-fi universe), David Weber introduces a culture on a planet that has an incredibly interesting religious culture that interacts with his cosmopolitan and pluralistic main culture of Manticore.

As an aside, the group originated from Idaho, in many ways the Graysons’ (so named for their planet) feel like home. But, they have developed some interesting theology and culture in the face of a 1000 year fight for survival on a planet that was poisoning them.

One of the best things about David Weber’s writing is how he explores duty and honor, and how people who act honorably often face significant consequences. In this book, he sets up a cold war confrontation between two sects of the religious group who founded the planet. One group was kicked off hundreds of years earlier to live on a better planet. The other group, those who stated on the toxic planet, had to change their philosophy and theology of life from something Amish-like that saw modern technology as a problem to an interesting take of American evangelicalism that was at once both incredibly personal and had much of the form and governmental structure of another religious group, the LDS church.

On the other hand, the people who were on a better planet, had grown like weeds, still thought technology was bad, but were willing to use it in order to destroy Grayson.

Into this mix, you have the two larger players attempting to create treaties and position their countries to be better prepared when the shooting starts.

Forging the Peace

This is where the look at Honor and how she will protect a culture that sees her as incompetent at best or as the root of all evil at worse, because she is a woman. The whole book looks at how to forge a peace between different cultures and when a culture or an individual is not able to forge a peace.

Peace comes when people willingly put down their arms, or when there is no one left to fight. And, this book shows how both sets of people (willing peacemakers and stubborn fighters) can come from the same culture, same religion, and similar racial background. One planet will not rest until the other is destroyed while the other planet will compromise and build relationships with others.

Without going into too much of the plot with spoilers, the book dives into how Honor Harrington uses duty to forge peace between many parties in the book.

Understanding Religion

This book attempts to show interactions between people from multiple religions, including a secular state, two free states (one pluralistic and one with a separation but a virtual monopoly of one religion), and a really weird Presbyterian theocracy. In other words, Honor of the Queen brings some of the ideological fight of the global Cold War into an interesting fusion of western American religious ideas.

SBR: Yea or Nay?

As one of my favorite books to read, because I love to see how pioneers from Idaho have survived, fought, and adapted over a 1000 year period, I still recommend this book as a good novel and as a good read on what it means to live and act from the strength of duty.

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Saturday Book Review: Built to Last

One of my favorite business books, Built to Last is the doctoral work of Jim Collins. The book attempts to look at what sets an entire company apart from other companies.

Many people look at successful companies and think it is one or two visionary products, a visionary leader, or just plain luck. In Built to Last, Collins and Porras survey hundreds of business executives asking them to list visionary companies. From the companies submitted, they looked at companies that were over 50 years old (not just one visionary leader) and had outperformed the stock market.

Once they had that list, they created a second list. This list was of companies that were in the same industry, were started around the same time as their counterparts, and had at least some measure of success in the company’s lifetime.

This gave them 18 visionary companies and 18 not-so-visionary ones.

The Lessons Learned

In the book, they came up with a list of items that the visionary companies generally had and the not-so-visionary ones did not.

While many people have criticized the results of the book, which led to Collins writing multiple books after this one, it is still a powerful example of how visionary businesses can impact their industries and the world.

BHAG

The BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, is one of the items they came up with that I have often struggled with. I set goals that are too large and am unable to reach them. Looking at the goals they hold up, they were overly bold to the rest of the world, but to the people within the businesses the BHAGs just made sense.

This is one area where my understanding has grown since originally reading the book. The best goals stretch us but they are also attainable. Because when we achieve goals, we get to celebrate and win.

Preserve the Core

This is the term that Collins and Porras used to describe how the visionary companies all had values and culture that significantly impacted who that company was to the world. Whether it was Phillip Morris (who eventually went under because of tobacco regulations) and their radically individualism or Merck’s commitment to give away medicine to the developing world, each company had core values that were more important than the bottom line.

For aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs, freelance writers and marketers, I think this value is key for our success.

If we understand the core values of our readers, our customers, and our own team, we are able to build rapport, gain interest, and connect with them.

Have you read the book? If so, what were your most significant takeaways from Built to Last?

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SBR: On Basilisk Station

Her Majesty’s Ship, Fearless, is sent to a backwater posting to enforce smuggling laws and protect Queen Elizabeth’s shipping lanes. While there, the young commander runs afoul of an old superior, uncovers a plot to start a war with the Kingdom, and winds up in a ship-to-ship battle with a much larger and better armed vessel.

If you think I am writing the description of a story set in Elizabethan England describing the battles between the scrappy British navy and Spanish privateers, I think that is what the author wanted.

On Basilisk Station: A Space Seafaring Novel

Much of what we love about the drama of the high seas is included in this novel by David Weber, from the political intrigues that make British drama so interesting to the idea of a ship that seems to be literally held together by the will of a captain.

On Basilisk Station opens a unique sci-fi universe, where faster than light travel is possible by navigated hyperspace, something Weber seems to have researched significantly but is beyond this review.

Setting the Scene

While the queen is indeed named Elizabeth, she is not the ruling monarch of a small island nation on earth, she is the ruling monarch of a small binary system that has 3 inhabitable planets.

Humanity has spread across the galaxy in the last millennia and the largest multi-system nation near Manticore is The People’s Republic of Haven, a hereditary country where most of the citizens are on a Universal Basic Income, called the Dole, and the government has to continually expand to pay for their social safety net.

Because of the physics that Weber creates for the series, space ships that fight in large, 3 dimensional space, tend to actually behave like 18th century sailing ships, so you have a strong, female lead, Commander Honor Harrington, opening the stage for one of my favorite book series.

Lessons Learned

Even though you should read for enjoyment, I often take away more from a good novel than I do from many more serious non-fiction works and how-to type books.

Leadership Requires Full-Spectrum Activity

Commander Harrington is sent to the backwater station the book gets its name from through no fault of her own, but her crew blames her for it. Although she prefers to inspire love and creativity, she has to spend a significant amount of time demanding it because of their own attitudes.

Although she rarely ever raises her voice, she does tend to get very intense. She also does not take excuses or offer them, and her crew learns to believe in themselves when they meet her demands, then they learn to love her as their captain.

Don’t Attempt to Recreate the Wheel

This book opened the main series of 14 novels on Honor Harrington, as well as multiple spin-off series, anthologies, comic books, and more. And there are two basic premises of the book:

  1. Creating a consistent science fiction novel that feels rooted in history.
  2. Introducing a strong heroine who overcomes significant adversity to not only survive but earn the love of her followers.

So often, fantasy and sci-fi novels attempt to do to much. We attempt to create an entirely unique world or just copy the other worlds in our genre. The best writers understand that they have to create something unique and infuse it with as much of their experience and viewpoint of reality as they can.

Don’t Give Up Hope

There is a point in the novel where the crew of Fearless realizes that they are hopelessly out massed and outgunned. But, they keep going.

It is the right thing to do, because they are worried that the ship they are fighting will bring reinforcements if it escapes.

And towards the end of the fight, there is no alternative.

And, the little ship that could does not give up.

To Read or Not?

If you enjoy space-based science fiction, enjoy a unique universe or are interested in strong protagonists, I highly recommend this novel.

David Weber’s On Basilisk Station is a highly engaging and entertaining read.

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Saturday Book Review: Credibility

Today’s Saturday Book Review: Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. Written by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, this book distill some of their data from tens of thousands and counting interviews with people across the world in multiple industries to write Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. This book is a course on leadership, especially if you study their bibliography (208 Endnotes). You can also read this with the resource The Leadership Challenge.

Kouzes and Posner “relied upon our own surveys, which over the years have been administered to well over 100,000 people from around the world.” They claim that the results of the studies have not changed since they started in the early 1980s. They cover those surveys and in-depth analysis with their encyclopedic book; in this book they cover the 6 essential activities they see credible leaders providing in their surveys.

The Six Disciplines for Earning and Sustaining Credibility

Kouzes and Posner are excellent prose writers; some of this book is very hard to read, but it is all valuable. A discipline is an activity that you improve with practice, and the core of Credibility are the disciplines listed below:

  1. Discover Your Self
  2. Appreciate Constituents
  3. Affirm Shared Values
  4. Develop Capacity
  5. Serve a Purpose
  6. Sustain Hope

Discover Your Self

The classic statement from Delphi and the oracle of Apollo is to Know Yourself, and this statement is as needed today as it was then. If a leader is going to be believable to your constituents, you need to believe what you’re selling, yourself.

Appreciate Constituents

If you have ever read Joy Starts Here, another book for another Saturday, you will know that shared appreciation is tremendous! It builds joy skills, develops our neural pathways, and establishes credibility. In this chapter, Kouzes and Posner discuss how to show appreciation that aligns with your shared values, while embracing conflict and engendering trust.

It is difficult to think about how to hold these positions in tension with each other, but Kouzes and Posner tell many stories of how leaders do just that.

Affirm Shared Values

This chapter starts with a tremendous story of a village elder who lived on the mountainside. One day he noticed that an earthen dam upstream from the village was about to give way. He thought through what he could do to save the lives of the people in his village, and he lit his own house on fire. The whole village rushed up the mountain to save his house, and in doing so all their lives were saved from the flood.

Shared values are important for credibility because you are able to trust how people within a group will act in a given situation.

Develop Capacity

The two activities that develop capacity that resonated with me were to foster confidence and create a climate for learning. I have been a part of many organizations where employees were put down or disciplined for systematic mistakes. This removed confidence and create a climate where true learning was feared. If you want to develop capacity in an organization, team or just among your friends, find a way to help them feel more confident and free to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” To borrow from one of my children’s favorite shows.

Serve a Purpose

Kouzes and Posner wait until 2/3rds of the way through the book to introduce a concept that was a buzz word in many leadership circles for some time, “servant leadership.” One of the key activities that I appreciated in this chapter was the fact that leaders who are serving a purpose beyond themselves will do what it takes to restore credibility once it is lost.

Sustain Hope

The final of the disciplines a credible leader will engage in is sustaining hope. This chapter is key to the fact that leaders are often called to go it alone but need to have a hope in the vision they see; when hope stops and forward activity stop, the leader loses a key attribute of what it means to be a leader, to be forward-looking.

This book is a great resource for people who are looking to become a better leader. But, I must warn you that it is not an easy or fast read. A notebook of notes or video journaling your thoughts as you read through it could be a good way to get more out of the dense and content-rich reading.

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SBR: Becoming

I love memoirs. They challenge me to see the world from someone else’s point of view, to understand a new way of doing things or thinking.

So, when I saw a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becomingat a friends house, I decided to pick it up for the next Saturday Book Review. Politically, I am about as far from President Obama’s administration as you could be. But, a significant reason for reading a memoir like this is to see from someone else’s point of view.

Becomingis a well-written book with insight into the family life of the family of the 44th President of the United States and to much of the periphery of their leadership.

It is also the story of how an African-American from south Chicago met a Kenyan-American from Hawaii and his charm, charisma, and passion for the political process led them both to become our first black Presidential family.

Leadership Lessons Learned

Sometimes We Have to Be Comfortable in the Supporting Role

Michelle Obama had to balance the life of a Princeton and Harvard educated lawyer with a career of her own with the life of the primary household and child manager for the years that Barack was in office.

This is a key lesson that I think anyone looking to grow in life should learn: designating one parent as the at-home parent is key for most larger than life goals.

Yes, Michelle is a strong woman. Yes, she has her own career. But, no, she is not able to have an independent career and remain married to the President of the United States. This isn’t a gender thing, it’s the fact that some positions require so much energy that the entire family gets behind it, even if one member is the figurehead.

The Supporting Role Can Be More Meaningful

After Donald Trump became President, he worked to undo much of President Obama’s signature legislative legacy and executive policies. I was struck while reading Becoming  that some of Michelle Obama’s silent work on the side is more likely to survive partisan pruning.

Will the White House’s Vegetable Garden remain?

Longer than the Iranian nuclear treaty.

Michelle was the First Lady of the United States and she never expressed the desire for power that Hillary Clinton was known for in Bill Clinton’s presidency. But, her quiet determination to do something for America’s children had a measurable and long-term impact in both legislative and private processes.

Be Confident

One of the things that attracted Michelle to Barack was the ease of movement that he had, he always portrayed a sense of confidence. Agree or disagree with him on policy, only a reactionary jerk would say that President Obama did not hold himself with presidential decorum.

If you are going to build a business, advance your career, or run for the most powerful position on the planet, you need to show the world a calm confidence in what you do.

Don’t Give Power to Naysayers

Michelle talks about the pain of being a target for conservative media; being a leader in politics today means that your opponents will throw everything at you.

But, she mentions how the goals and worldview they had going in as a couple were the same as when they left. She also talks about how Obama kept an even keel when hurtful coverage threatened to capsize her.

If you want to be in leadership, understand that naysayers will attack you, no matter what.

Read Lots of Books

One story that really stood out to me was when Michelle mentioned that Barack had to have a room where he could spread out his reading materials.

When they were first friends and she tried setting him up with friends at a happy hour, Barack was annoyed because of the chit-chat. He would rather read a book then talk about the social ladder of Chicago urbanites.

This is now my favorite thing about President Obama, and if I ever were to meet him, the first question I would ask is what is the best book he has read recently.

Understanding The Other

It was interesting to read about a politician who I mostly disagreed with from the viewpoint of his biggest fan. It was also interesting to see the comments Michelle made in the book about the other side in American politics.

If you have lived under a rock as far as social media, news, and modern politics, you might have missed the fact that America is deeply divided. As a conservative constitutionalist-libertarianish-almost-anarchist biblically-submitted white boy from a lower income family in rural Idaho, I tend to fall pretty heavily on the “other side” from the Obamas.

That’s why I love true reading.

Reading gives you a viewpoint you might never have. I am 100% certain that I will never ask the Obamas what they thought about the racism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even if I met them.

Why am I so confident?

Because Michelle talked about how a news media put together a timeline of racist sermons and it struck them to see from an outsiders point of view. Everybody puts up with their crazy uncle unless it’s someone else’s crazy uncle.

When I read her comments on that, I put the book down and cried. Why? Because I have felt judged because of my race and never before have I even heard someone acknowledge that my feelings are OK to have. Michelle Obama did in her acknowledgement that some of Rev. Wright’s speeches are vitriolic and racist.

valso helped me understand where I consumed news content, and probably shared, that was not political discourse but prejudiced crap.

Understanding the other requires that we listen, and books are one of the best ways to listen, and take the time to truly see where we can come together and where our disagreements can be made with politeness but firmness.

Understanding the other requires that we don’t give up our principles, but relish the discussion.

Whether you loved the Obamas and want a fun look back at their ascendency and time in office or you think almost all of Obama’s laws should be repealed, I highly recommend that you read this book, apply some of President Obama’s habits to your own public presence, and engage in the process of Becoming.

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SBR – Jack: Straight from the Gut

Jack: Straight from the Gut is the memoir of Jack Welch, the CEO of the General Electric Corporation from 1981 to 2001. During his tenure as CEO, General Electric was included in the 1990’s business book Built to Last as a visionary company.

5 Lessons I Learned from Jack

Jack Welch had an amazing career in a period of intense change. When he started his career at GE, it was at the tail end of the Mad Men years, in 1960.

His first break came as a leader for a small plastics research team in GE. His team was able to drastically improve the quality of GE’s plastics manufacturing and keep them competitive in a technological revolution many people do not know happened. The advancements in plastics that have happened since 1960 are incredible, and Jack Welch was at the forefront of the research for it when he started his career.

Be Willing to Experiment

The first lesson I learned from Jack Welch’s autobiography was that we need to embrace learning while realizing that principles continue working even in major technological shifts. Jack Welch was so frustrated with the bureaucracy at GE when he started that he nearly quit.

It was only the intervention of a manager over him who ensured that he would have freedom to work and experiment that convinced him to stay at GE.

When he was the CEO, he kept an agile focus even while growing one of the largest corporations in the world.

Business Leaders Build People

The second lesson I learned from Jack:Straight from the Gut was that to be a great business leader, you have to focus your creativity in building people and culture. Although he received bad press in the 1980’s for hundreds of thousands of layoffs, the book really communicated that he did not want to do layoffs but saw it as the only way to keep GE competitive and enable better paying jobs.

Throughout the entire book, he discussed the people that he worked with, the people he promoted, the people who left GE to lead other companies. Another issue, that I disagree with him on, was his review and reward process. He fired the bottom 10% of managers in every business in GE every year!

Even though he made choices many people do not agree with, I found it very educational to read how the choices impacted the culture of GE during his 20 years as chairman. I was also interested to discover how much the culture he built impacted growth in manufacturing, expanding into services, and globalization.

The Importance of Family

I always read biographies of rich or famous people with an eye towards their families. It is incredibly difficult to be successful at work and successful in your family. Although this book was mostly about his time as CEO at GE, there was some information about how his lower income mom and dad impacted him, especially how his mother gave him a competitive spirit.

Also, he talked briefly about his divorce from his first wife and subsequent remarriage. He mentioned that when he got remarried he purposefully looked for a woman who would be able to spend time with him in traditional business settings like golf. I think this is a key part of any type of leadership and familial success. Bring your family with you.

Think Long Term

This book focused on the period of Jack’s life from 1960, when he started at GE until he retired in 2001, 41 years. During that time, he built businesses within the company, patented new technologies, succeeded one president and brought in another to replace himself.

He oversaw the growth of GE capital, the globalization of the company and using quality control to keep competitive in a more competitive world. It is so easy for people starting a business or career in the fast-paced online world and we forget that the most successful people always take time to build culture, to cultivate the process, and to become experts in what they do.

Careers are Not That Bad

If you have ever read or heard about Robert Kiyosaki’s Cash-Flow Quadrant, you have probably heard that you want to be an investor or business owner in order to be wealthy.

Jack Welch spent his entire life as an employee. He had to learn how to balance career and family life, he had to learn how to manage people and time. And, at the end of that amazing career, he retired with 100’s of millions of dollars.

You don’t have to be a business owner to retire with incredible wealth in this country, and that was one of the inspiring things I read in the book.

Jack, In Conclusion

Although you can read some of the heated debates that have and continue to surround this man, his autobiography is an interesting look at one of America’s most memorable careers. It is highly worth reading if you are interested in leadership, in building a business, or in the history of American business.

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Saturday Book Review: Developing the Leader Within You

It’s Saturday, and it’s time for another Saturday Book Review on Paul Davis Solution’s Writer’s Cue. (Say that 10 times fast).

This article is about the book by leadership speaker, John Maxwell called Developing The Leader Within You.

Introduction to John Maxwell

If you have never heard, read, or watched anything by John Maxwell, you can read more about him at his website. John Maxwell is an influential thought leader on leadership, and this book, Developing the Leader Within You is one of the first books I read on my entrepreneurial journey, 16 years ago.

Maxwell has many different books on leadership, and I recommend reading at least a couple if leadership in business and life is interesting to you.

How to Grow from the Book if You are a Solopreneur

This book is great for someone who is just starting out on their leadership journey because it is about self-development. Much of the principles in the book are applicable whether you are leading a multi-person team or just disciplining yourself to get things done.

Influence

The first attribute of a  leader that Maxwell talks about is influence. While it is not the most important ingredient in learning and developing leadership, it is a defining element. If you do not have influence over others, you are not a leader. But, if you do have influence, you are a leader. Understanding influence and how to use it in life and in business is a key part of leadership development.

Priorities

Pareto Principle? Check. The Urgency/Importance Quadrants? Check.

This section of Developing the Leader Within You delivers enough gold in prioritizing and time management that the book is worth this chapter alone. Also, if you have no idea what the Pareto Principle is or what the Urgency/Importance Quadrant is, Google is your friend.

Integrity

Leadership books that do not talk about Integrity are not worth your time to pick up. According to the decades of extensive research by Kouzes and Posner, Integrity is the most desired trait people look for in their leaders. One of the more important parts of this chapter for people starting an online business, or any business for that matter, is the charts on how the more of a leader you are, the more responsibilities you have and the less rights.

Creating Positive Change

If people want their leaders to be people of integrity, followers want their leaders to do positive changes for the organization and community. One of the more powerful parts of this chapter was a paragraph sandwiched in between a section on changing yourself and changing an organization.The paragraph stated that you start with a certain amount of “change” or permission from your followers. If you work well in relationship and produce positive changes, that “change” in your pocket increases. This increased “change” gives you permission in the minds of your followers to do more significant changes.

Problem Solving

Maxwell quotes his mentor, Fred Smith, who says that a problem you cannot do anything about is not a problem, it’s a fact of life. Learning problem solving is a key part of developing leadership within you.

Attitude

Attitude is the most important attribute for continued growth in leadership, and John Maxwell illustrates this point with a story from visiting his then 70 year old father who had motivational books in his briefcase. John asked his dad why he still read motivational books at 70 when he has had such a great attitude for so many years. His dad told him “I have to keep working on my thought life. I am responsible to have a great attitude and maintain it. My attitude does not run on automatic.”

This quote is important for people starting their own business because we have to commit to having continually better attitudes no matter how long we take.

People

A good leader cares for people. Your most important attribute in building a business is how you treat people: your customers, your employees, your family, and your friends.

Vision

Corporate ownership of a vision is important and a difficult part of leadership. Even if you are a solopreneur, you have family and friends to share your vision with. You have to convince your customers of your vision; and, this chapter deals with much you will need to know to share the vision with others.

Self-Discipline

Maxwell’s advice on self-discipline is a great bookend to this book on developing the leader within you. Self-discipline is important and part of building integrity, crafting habits necessary for success, and convincing your followers that you are worth following. There are methods for working on self-discipline, setting and tracking goals, and more in this chapter.

Staff Development

By this time in the book, the last chapter feels almost like an epilogue, but an important one. As you develop the leader within you, you will build and lead teams of people. This last chapter helps you understand how to build, train, and motivate a team of people who are working with you on your vision.

Conclusion

Developing the Leader Within You is a great book for studying some of the basics of leadership and a good opening for more in-depth leadership resources.

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Saturday Book Review: The Merchant Bankers

The Merchant Bankers

The Merchant Bankers, by Joseph Wechsberg, had a tremendous impact on the way I think about my business. Because it is written well before the housing crash of 2008 that sullied many merchant banker’s names (notably Lehman Brothers), like 42 years before, it does not address many of the issues regarding modern business and political processes.

But, what was it that inspired me and I think will inspire others by reading this book?

5 Things to Learn from The Merchant Bankers

Learn to Trust Your Intuition

Although much banking is based on numbers, Wechsberg interviews and studies multiple houses of merchant banking families (3 in England, 1 each in the United States, Italy, Germany, and then he covers the Rothschilds). Through interviews and research, he tells about how much of a merchant banking operation is based off of the intuition that comes from many mistakes combined with an innate sense of relationships. Whether building a business or teaching a classs, writing a book or digging a ditch, I think that we can learn to treat our mistakes as necessary parts of learning a business and learn that the people we interact with are more important than the numbers on a spreadsheet.

Never Forget Your Core Values

Wechsberg mentions in the chapter on Lehman Brothers how they loaned money to a company that lost their Chief Administrative Officer. Lehman Brothers sent one of their managers to work without charge to the company until a replacement could be found. Contrast that to the attitude of unbridled greed selling bad loan certificates in the 90’s and 00’s and you will see that when a business or group of individuals forgets what made them great in the first place, they will cause catastrophes.

The Rich Are People Like Us

Reading the history of some of the most elite families in the history of humanity in terms of riches and power associated with those riches, I was struck with the fact that they really are not that different from us. People who take a risk, make mistakes, and grow something of value can be found on any corner of any street throughout this world. Some may say the rich are just lucky, but as I read the stories of these families and individuals, I realized that the rich generally do certain activities to get rich, and avoid activities which don’t increase their income and profits.

In the same manner, many people I know consistently choose activities which will increase the value of their friends and family over the value of their wealth. I have many poor friends who are surrounded by richer culture and relationships than any of the merchant bankers I read about. On the other hand, I know people who are rich in computer games and poor in just about everything else.

History is a Valuable Study

Do you read historical books? Do you understand who the major players were in world history? Your nation’s history? The merchant bankers Wechsberg studied were well versed in their respective histories; they were steeped in it. Even the West German merchant banker, Abs, who lead the way to economic recovery after the devastation of World War II, made a purposeful choice to acknowledge the history of his people that lead to the rise of the German Reisch and then depart from that history.

Other merchant bankers would tell stories of the time their ancestor ran supplies through the lines in this war or that one, and all the time, they reinforce the values and strategies that made their homes great.

Free Market Capitalism Has Nearly Died Out

I know that people talk about how capitalist a society we are, but reading the analysis of a dying breed of business in the 60’s that has become almost extinct today, I was reminded that our modern society is more socialist than not. Because the government controls the money supplies and the private banks, the type of entrepreneurial spirit and desire for return on capital that we saw in the past has been nearly regulated out of existence.

It is a sad thing, but many people say it is a necessary thing.

If you want an interesting look at bygone eras in western finance and European culture, I highly recommend reading through The Merchant Bankers.

 

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Saturday Book Review: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia)and the entire Chronicles of Narnia are worth reading. They impact my life every time I read them, and they can change your life, too. That is my review in a nutshell.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Review

If you want a little more information on the first book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, including how it can impact your entrepreneurial journey, read on.

Plot Summary

In case you have not read the books, or watched the movies, the plot of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is as follows.

Introduction to Narnia

  • 4 Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to live in a large house in the countryside. This is during the Battle of Britain in WWII. They have some grand adventures there.
  • While exploring the house, the youngest, Lucy, wanders into the land of Narnia through a Wardrobe.
  • After meeting a Faun, her older siblings do not believe that she actually went to Narnia. Edmund teases her mercilessly until he stumbles into Narnia after Lucy. In Narnia, he meets the White Witch who realizes that the four siblings may be the cause of her downfall. She slips Edmund some enchanted food that causes an addiction so that he will betray his siblings to get more.
  • When the children are trying to hide from the housekeeper, who gives tours of the home, all 4 children stumble into Narnia. There, they discover that Lucy’s Faun friend has been captured by the secret police. In an attempt to find out more information, they get lost in the woods and find a Beaver who says he is a friend of Tumnus.

Edmund’s Betrayal and Rescue

  • After dinner with the Beavers, Edmund sneaks off to betray his brother and sisters to the White Witch and Peter, Susan, Lucy and the Beavers head off to meet Aslan, the Lion.
  • Edmund is captured by the Witch, realizes he is a fool, and she prepares to kill him to prevent a prophecy from coming true. The others meet Father Christmas, trek to the Stone Table and meet Aslan. Then Peter kills Maugrim the wolf chief of police.
  • Aslan sends some Narnian creatures to rescue Edmund, the Witch demands his blood, and the two of them come to some agreement. Aslan and company leave the Stone Table.

Aslan’s Sacrifice and the Conclusion

  • Susan and Lucy cannot sleep because they are worried about Aslan, so they find him walking back to the Stone Table where he offers himself for Edmund. They mourn all night, and he is resurrected with the morning light.
  • Susan, Lucy, and Aslan head to the Witch’s castle where Aslan frees the Witch’s captives who were turned into stone, and they all come back to save Peter and Edmund’s army as they fight the Witch and her army.
  • The children are crowned kings and queens of Narnia where they reign for a period of time before they accidentally stumble back through the Wardrobe and discover that they arrive precisely when they left.

How The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Impacts My Life

It seems silly to say that this series remains a significant influence in my life, but it is true. Written words have a way of transporting me to new places, and helping me see new ways of looking at our own world. Narnia may not be true, but then again, it might. You never can tell.

But, Narnia is a hope for me, a reminder of the idea of happy endings. Each of the books in the series, including this one, end with the main characters learning from their adventure but also coming out ahead on the other side of it.

Key Business Take Aways

Business is hard. Some days it feels like overthrowing a 100-year-old curse and defeating the powerful enchantress might be easier than doing business. Narnia reminds us that we can keep our chin held high. (When you walk through a storm…. sorry, different review)

Narnia also reminds me to enjoy life as it comes. If all we focus on is winning the game of business, we will be miserable old gits. Even in the midst of an adventure seeking to free Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, the children enjoy a great meal and friends. And C.S. Lewis delights in telling us there is nothing quite like fish caught half an hour before and just coming out of the frying pan.

I happen to agree with him. But, if food is not your thing, it is important that you take time to rest and enjoy the company of others. Especially when you are pulling 80 hour weeks trying to get your business off the ground.

When business gets overwhelming and I get in the feels, it helps me to remember the middle of the book. When Edmund is being driven on the sleigh for hours or Susan and Lucy are weeping at Aslan’s deathbed, there is no hope. But, the story has a different ending.

Your life can be that way, too. Hope is a powerful remedy.

In Conclusion

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) is an inspiring tale of adventure and overcoming hardship. As a father, I love reading it to my kids. As a businessman, I love reading it to remind myself that there is hope in the most difficult days.

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