The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This book has been on the often over-hyped best seller lists for months. I often put books on this list down, frustrated and disappointed.
Not this book.Some readers complain many concepts in this book aren’t new, my main man Willy Wonka and his crew were always trying to teach me how to break bad habits like gluttony , envy , chewing gum or watching TV . Leaders in the time management, diet and money management sectors always tell us to “write down how we spend our time, what we eat and how we spend money every single day” – with analysis and reflection we can make change. They’ve been saying that for a long time and it works that’s why they’re famous. But maybe, it’s only part of the solution.

We all have triggers in our life, negative and positive. We react to those daily triggers with responses that have become habit because the result is positive and pleasing. Adults don’t change habits easily, many won’t be able to at all because the triggers never go away and we need our positive pleasure at the end of the habit. This book teaches the reader how to understand the trigger, change the response to get the same reward. A tricky thing but there are dozens of story from live, business and history that vividly tell this tale of cause and effect.

I love that this book is BS-free. “Companies aren’t families, they’re battlefields in a civil war”. Worked at a company like that once? Me too. We needs solutions, not coping mechanisms. A powerful year in my career was when I grew to hate institutional and professional arrogance and bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. Hate it like murder. It’s why I started reading management /leadership books and started this blog. Many people won’t find their way to real work-excellence because their jobs aren’t about life or death, so they aren’t forced to want to do better. There’s a story in this book about how silo’s and bureaucracy actually killed people in a subway fire in London England. The stories told are powerful, they will stay with you and help you think about how you can make change in your own work and life.

This book continues the focus on where neuroscience and the brain meets business strategy and marketing. I am the grocery shopping for my family – the book’s tale of how we are controlled by supermarkets like rats in a capitalistic maze read like my weekly routine. It offends and impresses me how hard they are working to make me break the list I bring each week!

When the author does interviews he often talks about a case study in the book where a department store did such deep data analysis they captured part of the massive baby market because they could tell a woman was pregnant before she had told ANYONE, spouse/family included. You’ll leave this story realizing how much better you can serve your clients/donors if you apply this “life cycle” observation approach.

The book’s many valuable touch points on networking include a great chapter on the power of weak ties. I know that it’s tied to the power of LinkedIn which allows us to find “people like us” quickly in the business world, and time is money right?

Some great business lessons from the dozens of stories…

-how the music industry uses the power of the familiar

– how cities and the military study habits to make or stop crowds from forming community or tearing it down

– how athletes use the power of training to get instant response from their minds/bodies to succeed

– how businesses capture the power of “one small thing” that affects every part of the business to positivity influence major change

– how to harness the power of peer pressure and how to make it work for you was brilliant and again, really down to earthIt’s a fabulous read that will no doubt spark your creative mind to take a lot of notes for today and turn them into business improvement and revenue tomorrow.

Would love to hear your comments on the book!
In the mean time here’s Charles talking about the book in his own words… enjoy!


Giving Away Presents on your Birthday?

The folks at “Box of Crayons” have waaaay too much fun

They help people do less ‘Good’ work and more GREAT work…

Recently I went head over heels for their book published with marketing uber-inspirationist Seth Godin ( you mean you haven’t read “End Malaria” $20 for advice 62 of the world’s most awesome business authors?!?!? )

They are well known for their awesome thoughtful videos to help you do better work…

And they already give away a ton of free stuff..

But on their 10th birthday they want to help you! Check out this boatload of great  stuff (from authors like Pam Slim and Mark Bowden ) to live with more focus, strategy in your work and life…

Enjoy, here’s a little more about these great folks… follow @BoxofCrayons and please wish them a happy birthday by tweeting them at #BOC10 today!!

Hope it’s of value! Thanks for reading…


LinkedIn and Twitter breakup is GREAT for networking strategy

It’s been a thoughtful few days for me….
I’m neck deep in one of the most popular business books in North America, I watched the video at the end of this post which has me very thoughtful and last week LinkedIn and Twitter broke up.
I’m ecstatic.
I’ve been saying for a while now that people should disconnect their twitter and LinkedIn accounts because although they are both critical voices in a “business media” strategy ( I’ve no interest in social media ) these are voices that should be different. Leave it a great peer of mine Promod Sharma to have one of the best business discussions on the net about the practical applications of the split. Read his post here.
Recently, while defending my useless brother-in-law my Mother mentioned something her Mother told her… “every finger on the hand is different, all are important and serve a purpose“. Old and wise words indeed.
So how do are these voices different? Let’s look at that hand shall we? In 2012, your thumb is the communications dept: because that’s how Blackberry talks and how we tweet quickly. Like LinkedIn, the index finger is the leader, the strategic one; it tells by pointing direction, it asks by scratching the head. The middle finger, often used for the expression of profanity is the social one, nuff said. The third or ‘ring’ finger is what I call the iFinger- eating messy foods it’s the one kept clean to operate iphones, ipads and other devices. And lastly, because this is a Canadian blog and Planned Giving professionals do drink a lot of tea the pinky needs to always stand at the ready should the need arise…
Fact is we need to think more strategically about the business use of LinkedIn and Twitter. We need a game plan says George Bradt in Forbes, he cowrote one of my favourite books I recommend to peers on how to make a full spectrum plan for success that includes face to face networking and online connecting.
LinkedIn is the business powerhouse, classic thoughtful style like this great R&B song I love, Knock on Wood. But! Too many business professionals write off Twitter. Sure it’s a little flashy, can be seen as gaudy but it drives more online referrals faster. Much like clients find us because of new, flashy ideas, I had never heard of the original song because being born in the 1970’s I only know it’s flashy, #1 Platinum hit reincarnation by Amii Stewart. The two can work together to drive business but we need to get back to WHY what we do has value.
We need to MAKE time to think. 
So many in my network are head over heels for this guy Simon Sinek. They brought him to speak at Canada’s largest fundraising conference — he shared great insight and rocked it….so enjoy the talk below.
I hope it will leave you as thoughtful as it did me….after all it IS the summer people. Years gone by we would slow down and use this time to think. Thinking and strategy ARE important assets in business right?!
More on “The Power of Habit” soon…
Thanks for reading,

Anyone who is going to slow down and think this summer feel free to join me next weekend at my informal networking afternoon July 15 and enjoy this great Toronto artist and song!!!

A public thank you to Jacklyn Atlas

A pet peeve of mine

People who use wedding pictures and other terrible shots to represent themselves on LinkedIn and other social media feeds

Used to be that only consultants, celebrities and politicians took headshots. Many good hard working intelligent folks ( mostly thinkers /introverts ) tell themselves it’s a mark of vanity.

But in a DIY career world – you are a brand
Your digital footprint is your calling card
You need to make a good first impression.

I know a few great photographers:
A very kind charity-peer took my first headshot for LinkedIn. I met one of Canada’s only national corporate photography business owners through BNI and last year an awesome guy I met through Timeraiser took the best picture I’ve ever had taken in my life.

But as even LinkedIn says, you need to refresh your brand every six-months to a year so it was time for a new look. I’ve been yammering on that I need to become a non-tie-guy and that creating your brand before you become it is the way to make goals a reality…

Enter Jacklyn Atlas – the secret of a few heavy hitting major Canadian charities I know. We met while she was working on such a project and we took a few shots to connect my profile, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds…

A humble and thoroughly insightful professional, her character made a connection – her entrepreneurial spirit makes me admire her and helps me to confidently refer.

You should reach out to your network and find the photogs – amateur or professional. It’s time to make sure your brand speaks for you.

After all if a picture speaks a thousand words, that same picture could speak more than all the words on your dumb paper resume that never gets any damn response right?

Not to worry though, I promise to hold an even in August ( like last summer ) or September with a photographer to take headshots….

Until then, Jacklyn, you’re awesome. Thank you.


(Donna Newman takes us out with some more important tips on how to use LinkedIn besides just a great headshot…. )

Payback by Margaret Atwood

This is a book for those who are curious, about what the future has in store for us in the coming age of “austerity“.A slight deviation from the New York Times, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Harvard Business Review best seller lists I frequent…I’d almost forgot where I started this journey! In 2008 I asked about 50 of my greatest mentors to give me one or two books that got them to where they are. They gave me a list of 200, and in less than two years I read them all. My business book addiction has been a wonderful journey but I had to remember…to follow my mentors and not the best seller lists.

It’s hard to put aside the artistic alchemist that is Atwood. She writes like Yo-yo ma works the Cello, classic but engaging, moving and educative. And her twitter mastery? Don’t get me started but let’s park the Canadian adoration and focus on the curiosity…the business payoff…why you should read it.

First off, I love that this book goes eons beyond the concept of monetary debt because like so many things in life, the thing….isn’t the thing.

It’s much, much more.

To understand, as always you need to back. Waaay back, proto-debt. Monkey stuff. Atwood does, and it provides great context.
Wonderful lessons from history, stories of Roman tax collectors and why Robin Hood was such a hero for stealing from the Sheriff…

I’ve been fascinated by the topic since debt shows first came on the scene this decade. I’m not proud to admit it but in the awkward phase when my good friends earned vastly different salaries we use to play poker for a common valued currency – winner slaps the losers in the face.

Looking at the concept of debt and the justice of payback from the view of several world religions is fascinating. Consider debt in the archetypes of truly momentous literary icons like Shakespeare’s Shylock, Dicken’s Scrooge and the great legend of Faust.

Is it delightful that a modern day Scrooge considers the concepts of Environmental debt and ends up in 2012 Toronto at a dinner party? It’s delicious ! Add in recurring themes of two wonderful games that have been played throughout history:

1) Try and Collect

2) Kill the Creditors

and you have a read that is part history, part fiction, part reflection and you have the kind of stuff that stuff business books will never be able to use to engage your brain….if business books are the meat and potatoes of brain food, this is the molecular-gastronomic-amuse-bouche: it’s the deconstruction of something important and powerful that will influence your life and work.

If business was smart enough to stop and think.
This is what it would dream.

Looking for a summer read/ audio listen? You just found it.

Enjoy this great interview on the book,