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Friday Roundup #2: Useful Articles, Books, and Apps
Thanks for the great feedback on last week's roundup! As a reminder, I'm doing this as an experiment for August to see how we like it, so your feedback counts.
I've often wondered about all of the problems we'll see as time goes on about the effects of craning our necks to stare at small screens all day. What Too Much Screen Time Does to Your Eyes hints that endemic near-sightedness may be on the rise, but another interesting note was this: "There's some evidence that you need some natural light, for the eye's maturity and if you don't have that natural light, the eyes might get longer and more near-sighted." My suggestion: walk around your block four times a day while either leaving the smartphone at home or keep it in your pocket it you're listening to something.
We're seeing a growing trend of millennial men wanting to be stay-at-home dads. The challenge is that economic forces and societal norms aren't changing as fast as the values and expectations of parents. This article points to studies that show that parental policies are still heavily skewed toward women and that fathers face a higher stigma for using the policies their companies offer. This has the potential to be a thorny issue that'll take decades to work through because it combines wage inequality with career inequality - it's hard to find the all-party agreement and clarity to get the leverage needed to make progress on it when those two are conjoined.
Many MBAs find that their education hasn't at all prepared them for the world of small business and entrepreneurship. The general reason is that A Small Business is Not Just A Little Big Business. This classic article from Harvard Business Review makes this point brilliantly by looking at how different the financial models are. It's a longer article that may take a couple of reads if you're not familiar with financial analysis, but the main point is this: small businesses have to focus more on liquidity (available cash) than profit. A common pattern I've helped clients work through is being highly profitable but not having the cashflow needed to stay in business and grow. I'm considering either providing commentary on the article OR writing my own explanation that would (hopefully) be more accessible for people who aren't as comfortable with the finance side of things.
Our culture's death rituals have always fascinated me and the industry that's built on top of it is doubly interesting. Inside the Alternative Death Care Movement gives a quick history on the funeral-industrial complex and shows some alternatives that either have been around (but aren't really known about) or some of the emerging options available. Having seen the drama families get into around funerals and inheritances, it's important that we check out the options and specify how we want things to go - as an interviewee from the article says, "no one wants to experiment with mom." Or their sibling. Or their child. The natural order of things may seem to be that children bury their parents AND our lives don't often follow that natural order.
Think positive emotions make you more creative? Turns out that's often not the case. From The Emotions That Make Us More Creative: "the ability to broaden attention and the ability to narrow attention are both key contributors to creativity" and "people who reported experiencing extreme or intense emotions on a regular basis scored higher on measures of creative capacity than those who simply reported feeling positive or negative emotions." The latter point may be why women often identify themselves as creative or give some basis for the common belief that women are more creative than men, as the situations that trigger extreme or intense emotions for adult men have largely been eliminated or minimized in modern society outside of now-outlier contexts like intense performances (creative, athletic, or otherwise) or intense careers (firefighting, military service, police officers, etc.). I've often joked that my generally positive, laid-back demeanor prevents me from being a great song-writer; perhaps that's closer to the truth than I knew. This article also reminded me of some of the insights in Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener's fantastic The Upside of Your Darkside, too.
How to Save Your Business When Your Industry Gets Disrupted by Geoffrey Moore, author of the influential entrepreneurial classic Crossing the Chasm, is a challenging but insightful read. His point is that there is a big difference between a system of engagement that alters the way customers interact with your business and systems of business that disrupts an industry. Systems of engagement lead to an incremental competition scenario, whereas a new system of business leads to the inevitable decline in businesses. For example: internet connected cars are a system of engagement; remote-driven or Google cars are a system of business. Car rental companies need to incorporate the former, whereas the latter puts them out of business (eventually).
Todd Sattersten's How to Build an Author Platform in 742 Steps is a must read for writers, authors, and thought leaders. Though the summary is "Create Meaning. Keep Writing. Share Your Work.", it contains so many gems and insights that it's both a primer for authors and a good reminder about what we need to be doing. Thanks, Todd.
If you're pitching big ideas, Andy Raskin's Want A Better Pitch? Watch This is a great read and watch. While its intended audience is startups looking for investors, the 5 steps Andy lists applies universally.
Rhonda Abrams' Hire Your First Employee is a great reference if you're in the "need to hire but don't know how" situation. The templates she provides in it will make your life a lot easier, too.
Todd Henry's new book, Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, is worth reading for the reminders that crafting our own unique voice is more important than checking of ToDos and because he does a great job of giving everyday practices for voice-building. While so many people are espousing the importance of having a unique, authentic voice, Louder than Words goes further and shows how to go about doing it.
Caret is a free text editor for Chrome that makes my life a lot easier by making it easy to copy, format, and paste words throughout the day. I found it because I was looking for a simple but robust text editor for my Chromebook - I like having a cross-platform tool so I don't have a "on the Mac" workflow and a "on the Chromebook" workflow.