the War of Art – Book Review

9/10

Author: Steven Pressfield

Title: The War of Art

Elevator Pitch: What most people call procrastination is really a invisible force called resistance that stands against you in accomplishing anything. It causes fear, insecurity and even arrogance. It cares nothing about you, only that you don’t succeed.

Favorite Quotes:

“In short, if the Muse exists, she does not whisper to the untalented.”

“When we drug ourselves to blot out our soul’s call, we are being good Americans and exemplary consumers. We’re doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialist culture have been brainwashing us to do from birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard world, we simply consume a product.”

“The professional… does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.”

Thoughts:

I almost hate to give this book such a high score. But, at the same time I don’t at all. I would give it a perfect 10 because it is that good, but it just doesn’t feel right to give a book that you can read in one sitting a 10. Sorry Steve.

This book she really be read by everyone. Such a kick in the butt to get started. It goes hand in hand with my all time favorite quote.. “Whatever you can do or dream, begin it now.”

PS. Check this out…

Trattoria Centrale – Birmingham, AL

As a new feature, and because of my passionate distaste for monotony, I wanted to share a new restaurant that I recently visited with the wife.

Trattoria Centrale was a recommendation from a friend. His description was pretty spot on; small dining room, not quite as fancy as it is cool, and really good food for a good price. He had me at good price.

Overall: 8/10

Food: Italian, but done really well. Interesting dishes on the small menu that must change pretty constantly. Very unique and as far as Beef Stroganoff that I had cooked pretty perfectly.

Dining Room: Small, but comfortable. Not a place to take a group of 12, this is a double date at most in my opinion.

Service: Very helpful especially since you order, and find your own seat. I was impressed with the friendliness of the gentleman that took my order.

Check it out.

Road Rules #1

Ever since moving to Birmingham to work with Avalaunch, I have had a few more chances to travel than I did while I was in any of my previous roles. The newness of flying and renting cars has worn off and now it is more of a game. Maybe it is the strategic planner in me, but I really like to travel for the game of it all. The game of getting off the plane as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is a challenge, similar to picking the quickest line at the grocery store or getting out of the HOV lane in traffic at just the right moment. Hard to describe, but none the less satisfying…

I have picked up some tips from other folks along the way so it only feels right to share them. So here you have it. My top 10 keys to sanity and overall kick-ass efficiency on the road.

10. Starbucks Iphone App – Not only does this handy guy tell you where they are, but it tells you if they are open at any given moment. Of this, I am a fan.

9. Southwest Airlines – Talk about a fun game, there are no assigned seats, and if you play your cards right, you might have the chance to have no one in the middle seat between you and a colleague? What about that isn’t fun..? Also, they have by far the best website for booking flights that I am aware of.

8. Orbitz.com – Really handy when you have all of the information already saved in there. (Credit cards, birthdays, names, airline frequent flyer miles..)

7. Passport – Traveling with a passport is completely unnecessary when you are flying domestically, but I swear you get treated better in security when you flash it around. Try it and tell me I am crazy..

6. Twitter – If you are married, you are more than likely not traveling with your spouse on trips for work. But, when you both tweet all of the stupid trivialities of your day, it helps you not feel like you are as far away. Before you go saying that I am a bad husband for not calling, I do still call, but this just helps in the times when you aren’t on the phone.

5. iPhone – I can’t imagine traveling without an iphone. Not to be overly dramatic, but I always struggle to remember 5 years ago when you had to print confirmation emails and had to write down phone numbers in your journal. Throw on top of logistics ease the fact that you can throw in headphones and bounce back and forth between music, TV shows, and phone calls with the touch of a button on your headphones and not even take your phone out of our pocket. All that to say, I think we take smartphones in general for granted.

4. Netflix – Streaming access to your favorite shows and movies without having to pack DVDs in your bag.

3. Blazers – No, this is not the name of a fancy app that keeps up with your information for you, I am referring to a good old fashioned jacket with an inside pocket. 9 times out of 10 they keep you the right temperature, and like the passport, I am convinced that people treat you a little nicer when you have on a nice coat.

2. Beat Headphones – But not the kind that make you look like you are a record producer, but the kind that fit in your ear like normal ones. These guys not only sound pretty tasty, but work with the iphone. Add to that noise canceling powers and you have a pretty good bargin for the price.

1. Tripit.com – This thing is amazing. Truly. When you make any plans, just add them to your itinerary by forwarding your emails to plans@tripit.com. That is it… that adds them to your iCal, Tripit Iphone App and keeps up with confirmation numbers, dates, departure/arrival times, the local weather and directions in a taxi as well as connecting you to the other people on the trip. There is a PRO version of this program that in my opinion is overpriced, but I have no problems with the free version. Check it out, and if you are disappointed, I will buy you a cup of coffee.

There you have it. Got any tips that I need to hear?

The Great Reset

7/10

Favorite Quote:

“Too much of what led up to the crisis in the old bubble days – the conspicuous consumption, the latter-day Gatsbyism- was fueled by a need to fill a huge emotional and psychological void left by the absence of meaningful work. When people cease to find meaning in work, when work is boring, alienating, and dehumanizing, the only option becomes the urge to consume – to buy happiness off the shelf, a phenomenon we now know cannot suffice in the long term.”

Elevator Pitch:

Your college macroeconomics professor meets Seth Godin.

Overview: This is a good read to remind you that the rules that we operate under haven’t always been around. While this book mainly chronicles changes in our current culture based on the years that followed the two major economic crashes in US history, it .  I am a big fan of books that talk on a macroeconomic level.

Saturdays at the bergs

There has been a new tradition at the berg household on Saturday mornings. I call it the french-fried egg stackup.

I can already hear your mouth watering from here, so let me walk you through the steps. If you have a pan and a stove, I promise you can make this.

Step 1. Friday night, go to Five Guys Burgers and order a regular size order of fries and put them in the fridge.

Step 2. Wake up on Saturday.

Step 3. Cook some bacon, and then chop it up. Place to the side

Step 4. Cook 3 eggs over medium. Place to the side

Step 5. Throw a little oil in the same pan (all of this should only take one pan by the way…) and toss in some of those fries. No need to warm them up, they will recook and warm through in the pan.

Step 6. Once you fries are hot, and basically twice fried, stack the eggs in there, add the bacon, and top it off with some shredded cheese. I am a personal fan of sharp cheddar when it comes to breakfast, but pretty much any basic cheese will work.

Step 7. As soon as the cheese melts, slide it onto a plate, and enjoy.

I told you it was easy.

Step 8 & 9. Take a nap, and when you wake up go for a run, so you don’t die of heart desease…

Make plans? or just plan?

I was digging through old files tonight and found some business plans that I put together for my senior thesis at Auburn. It made me google business plan writing, which led me to this image.

It is amazing how simple things seem when they haven’t started yet, but when they get going, how complicated things can get. A good plan will get you started but in all honesty it doesn’t help you put out fires. It doesn’t even help you get more business. All that a business plan is good for is making you and all involved have conversations before you have to. When the founders all agree that they want to be the best experience in town, and not the low cost leader, that guides a lot of decisions later down the road. There are things that are off the table because everyone agreed to that.

As I think about it, here are the big mistakes with plans:

Planning too far into the future. (You don’t have a crystal ball, so don’t plan for 15 years from now.. you just can’t do it.)

Sticking to the plan. (When you actually get started, you have to be willing to throw the plan out the window and make the right decision with the information that you didn’t have when you got started)

Thinking you are superman. (Your yellow pad brilliance won’t help you make payroll in month 7. So make some realistic plans, and have an exit strategy.)

At the end of the day, you have to remember what Eisenhower said.. “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”

The act of planning is more valuable than the plan itself. Planning makes you realize that you can’t just show up and wing it. A plan once made, on the other hand, can keep you from making the best possible decision. So plan and plan well, but just don’t follow it too closely once it is done or you will head somewhere you might not want to be.

What are your thoughts? How often do you make a plan, stick to it, and it works out.

The Tension is Good | Catalyst 2010

Catalyst this year was phenomenal. Great creativity, amazing speakers, great music, and spaces to connect and interact with friends and strangers. I was fortunate enough to have the ability to go and even meet some of the team that spend all year preparing for the event.

The theme this year was The Tension is Good. I can’t tell you the sigh of relief that you could hear in the crowd when the host explained this concept. The concept of we all have a place we are heading, and yet, we aren’t there yet. We have a lot of work to do. For some of us, a lot of work.

I was blown away by Seth Godin’s talk, I am sure you are not surprised, which was a combination of his new book Graceful, Linchpin, Purple Cow, and Tribes all in one. I really liked hearing Daniel Pink rehashing a lot of his book Drive. He is such a good writer, and that book will change the way you think about the world.

I am sitting is Starbucks writing this, and I can’t help but think of my all time favorite quote (on my about page) by Goethe. The quote is simple but much harder to actually live out…

“Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

The challenge here isn’t coming up with an idea, it isn’t finding the right people to surround yourself with, it isn’t finding the funding or capital needed, it isn’t finding and identifying your target market. It is just getting started right now. “Begin it now”.

For some folks with all the resources in the world and all the confidence that one could ever need, this might not be an issue. For the rest of us, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the fact that we can do it. It really comes down to believing in yourself enough to get started… You don’t have to finish right now, but you have to get started.

Do it. Start. Today. Now.

NOTE: I realize that there are lots of things that can keep us from getting started and I really only mentioned one or two. (maybe that deserves a full post in itself)

Matchstic – New site. New look.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the new Matchstic.com website. Remarkable in every sense of the word. If the goal is customer engagement, then here is someone doing it well.

Let me throw this out there. For a branding company, the majority of your business is project based. Most clients are one time clients, due to the fact that you typically aren’t rebranding everyday. (unless you are doing something very wrong) So to keep a dialogue going with clients, to keep a relationship going, and even more to keep your customers (or friends as they would call them) engaged, is a huge challenge for a firm like this. In my opinion, not many people do it better than these guys.

I must admit I am biased, but I will say that there a few days where I don’t mention something that I learned while I was at the stic. I am therefore very appreciative of the guys that took a chance on me, and have connected me to every employer that I have had since. (all former clients, and now friends)

#kudos

Making Ideas Happen – Book Review

9/10

Elevator Pitch: Having ideas can be a lot more fun than executing them. Because of this, we have a lot of work to actually make ideas happen.

Overview: I am a big fan of this book, and a bigger fan of the system of productivity that it suggests. Without giving away the book, the author makes the argument that not everything in life is “actionable”, but by focusing on the things that are, we will be more productive, and therefore more likely to actually make those genius ideas that we all have come true.

Ideas are cheap. The real world influencers and changers are actually making their ideas happen. Disciplined thought and behavior leads to progress and progress begets progress.

Favorite quotes:

“Creativity X Organization = Impact”

“History is made by passionate, creative people and organizations with the rate ability to lead others – and themselves.”

“I always try to hire people with a high level of intrinsic motivation…”

“Feeling progress is an important part of execution.”

Thoughts:

I had the pleasure of attending a conference led by Belsky while I was reading this book, and even though all of his examples, illustations, and outline came straight from the book, I highly recommend finding his next talk and buying a ticket. He is a great communicator with a very simple challenge, get stuff done.