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I’m ready for a beach vacation. Sitting on the sand or walking along the shore, I love to dive into books, audio programs and podcasts. I celebrate both nonfiction and fiction, as long as the words make me think or feel or learn something. I hope to be heading to the coast soon, or at least to Table Rock Lake, for a mental and physical recharge. How about you?
Here are my latest, favorite recommendations for Beach Book Club:
• “Bumps on The Road to Riches,” Jim Olsztynski
Jim was my very first editor when I started writing business columns for trade magazines. He was encouraging and helpfully critical. I hear him in my head as I craft this sentence! (Use simple noun/verb sentence construction. Avoid the long opening clause. Limit the exclamation points!!!)
He’s an industry icon with a deep appreciation for tradespeople. Jim won multiple awards for journalism and is a former president of the Construction Writers Association. He’s met and befriended so many contractors who are great at their craft but don’t have the business acumen to be financially successful.
And he’s studied those who have learned and implemented sound business practices and reaped their deserved rewards. In this thoughtful book, Jim gets real about navigating the inevitable bumps on the road to riches, such as troublemaking employees, picky customers and cash crises.
Here’s an example of his no-nonsense advice:
“It’s called The Golden Rule, and we’ve all heard of it: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In a pinch, TGR can substitute for formal management training. In fact, be wary of any management system that doesn’t have it as a core value.
“It’s unfashionable nowadays to speak of morality. It makes many people uncomfortable. The beautiful thing about TGR is it serves double-duty as a moral imperative and profit-generating business principle.”
Hear, hear! He credits inspiration from icons Al Levi, Dan Holohan and Frank Blau, his best friends and colleagues for umpteen years. You’ll also learn a bit about the history of construction and contracting in the United States. Check it out at Amazon.
• “Unsheltered: A Novel,” Barbara Kingsolver
Yes, please, to well-written fiction. Barbara is one of my all-time favorites. In “Unsheltered,” she strings two characters together who live in the same poorly built house, 100 years apart. Based in Vineland, N.J., she connects Thatcher, a high school science teacher exploring Darwinism in the Victorian era, and Willa, an out-of-work writer trying to keep the roof, and her multi-generational immigrant family, from collapsing. And you may relate to the kind-hearted contractor who has to break the bad news about the home’s construction.
A great fiction writer humanizes our societal challenges and that’s helpful in these politically polarizing times. One heartbreaking chapter begins: “Willa bumped down the sidewalk feeling like a tourist of the laughingstock class, pulling two rolling suitcases — huge and huger — with extra items attached on top with bungee cords. Here was the flotsam of a family, everything too precious or too worthless to sell on eBay.”
Isn’t that more thought provoking than the feed on Facebook? Vacation is an excellent time to do less tweeting and more page turning.
• “On Writing — A Memoir of the Craft,” Stephen King
Oh, if you are a Stephen King fan, as I am, this book has loads of delicious details about his extensive body of work. (Such as the flash of inspiration that saved “The Stand” from being flung onto the garbage heap.)
Stephen King is a businessman. His writing advice has a terrific commercial tinge to it. Because he is such a prolific writer, I assumed writing comes easy to him. Not so. His first advance ($2,500) came for “Carrie,” a book he worked at for years, while he, his wife Tabitha and young kids lived on a new teacher’s salary in rural Maine. He’s got a dirt-under-his-nails work ethic, very much like the tradespeople in my life.
Stephen includes a section on his writing spaces throughout his career. Once he started to generate some cash flow, he dreamed of a pool-table-sized desk centered in a spacious, glamorous office. Ultimately, he built that office and found it to be a distraction. It made writing a bigger deal than it was supposed to be. So, he is back to a small table in the corner of the living room. Stephen suggests: “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
For advice on life and business, this book is worthwhile. For help becoming a better communicator, this book is essential.
• “Brene Brown: The Call to Courage,” Netflix Special
Shame, vulnerability, fear — does that sound hilarious? Brene strikes every emotional note in her Netflix live-recorded stage show. She is super funny and painfully honest as she makes a case for vulnerability and failure. Indeed, if one is to dare greatly, failure is inevitable. Not possible. Not probable. Inevitable.
If you can get your head around that, you may find life “in the arena” well worth living. If not, you may ask yourself at the end of your life, “What if I would have shown up?”
There are lessons here for family and work relationships. And Brene’s presentation style is brilliant. I laughed and cried and committed to heeding the call to courage.
• The Rich Roll Podcast
Rich is an ultra-athlete and a recovering addict, which is a recipe for an intense personality. I love his candid communication style and his unusual offering of podcast guests. Ever heard of John Joseph or Catra Corbett or Wim Hoff? I hadn’t either and I am so glad to have met them. Rich offers a long format interview that facilitates deep conversations with quirky, passionate people. They start by talking about health and fitness and then go everywhere else.
I just listened to the Lindsey Vonn interview. Lindsey gets real about the pressures of being successful. She’s the most decorated skier — man or woman — in U.S. history. And, just sayin’, she scored a hole-in-one on her very first round of golf. She grinds. She struggles with depression and her body has been through the wringer. It hurts to fall on ice at 100 mph. Still, as Lindsey says, “It’s hard to beat the person who won’t quit.”
That’s what I look for in a podcast…inspiration. Find Rich Roll and friends at www.richroll.com/category/podcast/. Warning: Many of his guests swear — a lot.
• The Home Service Expert Podcast
Tommy Mello has a terrific podcast at www.homeserviceexpert.com. He finds CEOs and experts from our industry and delivers a lively interview. Check out the conversation with Matt Jones, host of another cool podcast from down under, The Site Shed.
Also, a couple of rockin’ TED Talks:
• “A Prosecutor’s Vision for a Better Justice System,” Adam Foss
Does punishment work? Adam shares ideas for justice reform that resonate in the workplace, too. Here’s to second chances. https://bit.ly/1VzsJsI
• “Embrace the Shake,” Phil Hansen
Phil Hanson permanently damaged his hand as a result of practicing his craft. At first devastated, he found boundless new creative opportunities once he “embraced the shake.” Nice reminder that the worst thing becomes the best thing. https://bit.ly/1BFOr4Z
And, if you haven’t read them yet, bring along these business classics as you head to the beach:
• “The 7 Power Contractor,” Al Levi. I think every contractor should get a tattoo that says, “Do what Al tells you to do.” Lean, on-point counsel from my favorite sage.
• “The Power of Community,” Howard Partridge. Healthy communities foster successful businesses. My friend and mentor Howard shares tactical tips for developing meaningful relationships.
• “The E Myth,” Michael Gerber. I have recommended this book more than any other since I read it 30 years ago. Essential business philosophy for building a business that helps ordinary people do extraordinary things.
Let me know how these offerings affect you. And please make your suggestions, too. Thanks! Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.