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Think and Grow Rich Audio BookSeveral months ago, I read Think and Grow Rich, the classic motivational book by Napoleon Hill.  I have listened to an audio book version, specifically the 21st Century Edition, but I wanted to have the original 1937 edition as an audio book so that I could listen to the book without the additional modern commentary to distract from the original text. I also wanted to provide this as a free download here on my blog.  I initially began recording the book, but a series of winter colds, travel, and other commitments have prevented me from completing this in a timely manner.

As a result, I decided to create the audio book using high quality text-to-speech (TTS) software.  I used TTS software for several reasons: [click to continue…]
Fractal Image

Everything in the universe is connected to Facebook, except Matrice Consulting.

If you look for Matrice Consulting, LLC on Facebook.com, you will not find us. If you are looking for Facebook on matricellc.com, this post is the only place you will find it.  I am asked or told at least once a week, “Why aren’t you on Facebook? You should be on Facebook”.  I am one of those skeptics, one of those people who are somewhat distrustful of all things Facebook.  I also find, through observing other people, that it is a huge productivity killer.  This is not news, of course:

And those are just the really old articles.  Personally, I have found that distractions, such as Skype, email, text messaging, and phone calls break my concentration and it takes time for me to recover from those distractions.  As I finished the last sentence, a spam text message came through, case in point. 😡  This is one of the reasons I wake up early in the morning and check my email only at fixed times during the day.  Do not misunderstand me: all of these communications have a place in our office.

Linkedin is our Facebook and is minimally distracting. I use Twitter, but only to send out new blog articles, which takes 1 click.  I believe social networking is good, in some ways, but I cannot justify using Facebook because of the amount of time that I see it consuming.  I would much rather play with my children and spend time with my wife.

Maybe one day we will grace a few of the billions of pages of Facebook, but that day is not today, tomorrow, or next month.  Sorry Mark Z.

Andrew Summers Rowan and General Garcia

Andrews Summers Rowan in the center, General Calixto García on the right.

I stumbled across an amazing story, A Message to Garcia, about 6 months ago, which sums up what we all should strive to be and should look for when hiring people.  This book is in the public domain, and I am including copies at the end of this review, based on the Project Gutenberg texts.

The book, which is really more of an essay, was written by Elbert Hubbard, an American writer and philosopher who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He wrote this story shortly after the end of the Spanish-American War, based on the actions of Andrew Summers Rowan.  During the war, Rowan was asked by his general to deliver a message from President McKinley to General Calixto García, leader of the Cuban resistance, who was hidden in the mountains in an unknown location.  Not asking how he was going to accomplish such a task, he took the message from his general, and without a word he set off and successfully delivered the message to Garcia.

The essay extols the virtues of Rowan as a desirable trait for all people.  Here is the crux of Hubbard’s message, as I see it:

The world needs people who can take a task and complete it, without question, complaint, or fuss.

Many of us are that person.  As managers, these are the person we want working on our teams.  As entrepreneurs, these are definitely the people we want for our startups.  Hubbard describes those who cannot take or follow through on orders as morally deformed or crippled.  He sympathisizes with the hard working person, who does their job without complaint, without stupid questions.  To quote Hubbard:

“His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village—in every office, shop, store and factory.”

I am not going to try an analyze the book from head to tail here, because I would do an injustice to it.  The one thing that strikes me is that this book could have been written yesterday.  I believe it is as important a book as any I have read in years and should be required reading for every child, high school student, college student, worker, soldier, and citizen.  It is short enough to read in a few minutes and I very highly recommend it.  You can download or read the book here:

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I am forming an opinion lately that books do not need to be long, but rather short.  This was first brought to my attention while reading Seth Godin’s “The Dip”.  There are too many non-fiction books that have filler, because apparently some publishers charge for books by the pound.  There may be a prevailing thought that a short book does not carry as much perceived value as a long, large, heavy one.  This is why we end up abandoning books before finishing them, unless the content is very compelling.

I believe books need to be shorter, not longer.  I think that takes a great deal of time and thought to write a shorter book than it does a longer book.  To quote Cicero (also attributed to Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, and others):

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

To quote my wife:

“Land the plane.”

SisyphusThe 4-Hour Workweek, a book by Timothy Ferriss, has been exhaustively praised and panned across the globe.  The book is part self-help, part DIY, part romanticism.  As of this writing, both the first and second editions have been reviewed on Amazon.com 2,333 times.  The ‘Expanded and Updated’ edition has an Amazon.com rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.  I have chosen to write a review from the perspective of the independent consultant, business owner, and entrepreneur.  As a critical reviewer, I give the book 4 stars because of some inconsistencies and awkwardness in the book.  On a personal and professional level, I give this 5 stars because this book has proven to be very valuable to me and my company.

I will start with these questions:

  1. Is the book worth your time and money?  Yes, if you take just one of the recommended actions.
  2. Does the book add value to your work or personal life? Yes, if you apply one or more of the recommended actions.
  3. Is the book a panacea?  For a select few people, yes; for most people, no. [click to continue…]

Riley Freeman from The BoondocksA Word to the Haters

Riley: “There he goes again! Hatin’!”

Granddad: “Boy! Stop Hatin’!”

Boondocks, Season 1 Episode 11 – Let’s Nab Oprah

 I am not sure what some of the people who read this book were expecting.  This is what some of the people on Amazon.com have to say in their reviews:

  • “A con artist with a motivational speech”
  • “His shameless self-promotion and braggadicious (sic) style is second only to the undisputed champion of the genre, Donald Trump.”
  • “The whole book is about how to become a sleazy snake-oil salesman in the modern internet era.”
  • “A con man who needs to be taken down”

Yes, the book is painful to read at times.  Ferriss mixes up his message sometimes, which makes him come across as a charlatan and brings his sincerity and integrity into question.  He is from the school of Dan S. Kennedy, which is all about tireless, persistent promotion.  But he is honest, to a fault, which is something that is missed by his harshest critics.  Timothy Ferriss isn’t perfect and sometimes his message is confusing.  Here are some of the problems the people who hate (yes hate) this book seem to have:

  • They had a hard time extracting anything useful from the book, which is unfortunate;
  • They did not approach his concepts with an open mind;
  • They confuse the meaning of ‘rich’, or to use Ferriss’ term ‘New Rich’, to mean monetary wealth;
  • They see only a common con-artist;
  • They believe that self-promotion is a bad thing.

The message is very much about living a richer life with less material wealth.  Timothy Ferriss is a hustler, not a con-artist.  So is Jay-Z and so am I, though they are both much better at it than I am. We are out there working, finding the opportunities, and seeing what works and what does not.   If Ferriss really wanted to, he could exploit this book much in the same way that Steven Covey and many others have with their successful books, holding seminars, giving lectures, etc. and charges thousands of dollars to do so.  I know I would.  He gave the public a manual and challenged people to apply it.

Harrison DillardConclusion

Can the 4-Hour Workweek be done?  If you are an artist, a laborer, or assembly line worker, and you want to continue doing that, then the answer is “No”.  If you are a consultant and you want to continue doing that, the answer is “No”.  If you are a business owner, the answer is “Maybe”, depending on your business.  If you are an entrepreneur, you analyze it, break it into pieces, and say “Probably” or “Yes”.  Personally, I think it is completely achievable and in some respects I am already moving in that direction.

The problem with entrepreneurship, for most people, is the risk.  I am not referring to starting a business.  Starting a business is easy, but this is not the same thing as entrepreneurship.  As entrepreneurs, we expose our minds, bodies, and souls to the world at-large.  Accepting risk as a normal thing is difficult, as humans are biologically programmed, by way of the evolutionary process, to avoid risk.  Implementing a 4-hour workweek takes skill, daring, and a certain amount of fearlessness.

How has this book improved Matrice Consulting?

  • A measurable time savings of at least 5 hours per week since implementing some of the time saving tips and tricks;
  • Hiring of a phenomenal virtual assistant, Taby, who helps us with a variety of back office activities, which included rebuilding this website and blog;
  • Opened my mind to pursuing other opportunities;
  • Allowed us to produce more billable hours, which means more revenue and more opportunity for growth.

How has this book improved my personal life?

  • As mentioned earlier, I have more time with my wife and children;
  • I am able to relax at the end of the day;
  • My mind is generating all sorts of new ideas and concepts, as a result of the recommended media fast;
  • I no longer work on weekends.
My recommendation to you is this: ignore the haters and bad reviews, read the book with healthy skepticism, and try to implement what you can. Your life will be richer as a result.  If you feel that you should not give money to Timothy Ferriss or his publisher because you think he is a con artist, then borrow the book from your library, buy it used, or borrow a copy from a friend.  Once you cut away some of the fluff, there are some valuable gems in there.

Smiling Frog

Fast Company has a fairly good article on how successful people spend the first hour of their day: What Successful People Do With The First Hour Of Their Work Day.

I would change the word successful to effective, but it makes for a juicier headline. In any case, I have been following a similar regimen since January: [click to continue…]