Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hey, I am 44.4% Successful!

     The internet and social media is rife with lists of all kinds. There are lists ranking this and that from the Best Places to Live to the Worst Places to go to School. From the number of them, as well as the number of them that overlap or focus on the same thing, one would assume we are obsessed with these lists. Probably, we only look at the ones that apply to us, looking for validation that we live in the right or wrong place, went to the right or wrong university, or chose the right or wrong profession. If one list doesn't give the validation sought, perhaps the next one on the very same subject will. 
     A recent list extolled the 9 Books that All Successful People Read.  The erroneous and majority causal assumption is “Wowsers, if I read these books, I will be successful.”
  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  3. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  5. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  6. The 4 Hour Week by Tim Ferriss
  7. The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Chirstiansen
  8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  9. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar
     Reading the list, as with a fair number of these lists, reveals no more than the title, 9 Books That All Successful People Read, is more compelling and promising than the content of the list. Any notion, hint, or promise of causation evaporated. It was unclear if there was any correlation.  It cannot be possible that ALL successful people have read these books.
     OK. The Carnegie, Godin, and Hill book make sense. They are about getting along with people, marketing and innovation, and gaining wealth. These all contribute to being successful. A glaring omission might be Machiavelli’s The Prince. There is nothing by Drucker or Deming either.
     The Ferriss book was a recent best seller as was the Godin book. Having read both, Purple Cow resonated more and providing some very good advice about the need these days to differentiate ones brands and ones product and services. Seth Godin is revered by many probably because his writing is slow clear. He may be the heir of Peter Drucker which again begs the question if one can really be successful without having at least read a Peter Drucker article? Tim Ferriss is no Seth Godin. His book is not for everyone but he must be pleased as punch that so many people have bought it. He is message is “I have a way cooler life than you will ever have. Via being smarter than you will ever be and using smoke and mirrors while bandying about my giant ego, I have created the illusion that I only work 4 hours a week. Read this book and gain a few well worn tidbits on time management and prioritization."
     How about the The Great Gatsby and The Cather in the Rye? Surely, they are standard classics of American literature and round us out as human beings. As literature goes, Salinger’s short stories are much better than The Catcher in the Rye. Why not Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, or For Whom the Bell Tolls? They are all classics of American literature and probably read by the same class of people. Heck, there could be a case made that every successful, powerful, rich, and influential American who learned to read from the 1930s to the 1970s has read and mastered Fun with Dick and Jane. There was just a piece in a recent Wall Street Journal in which Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is chosen for the WSJ Book Club. As many successful people read a the Wall Street Journal, The Maltese Falcon may make the next list.
     Even more fundamental, how is successful defined? How did the authors assemble this list? Was there a poll involved? Did a committee just select these books? The article does shed some light on this.

  • Here are 9 books that all successful, powerful (and, well, rich) people read and that are sure to set you on your path.
  • Our staff writers have expertise in a wide variety of areas. Each article that they write is thoroughly researched.
     Now we know, successful includes the powerful and rich. We also know that everything was “thoroughly researched.” The inclusion of Maya Angelou’s book, another classic of American Literature, is on the list. Did they include this to bring a woman and person of color to this list that was so thoroughly researched. Why not The Color Purple, Go tell it on the Mountain, or Native Son?
     Who are these folks at America’s Business Guide? The About Us feature of their website site states:

America’s Business Guide was created by business experts with over 70 combined years of entrepreneurial and business experience. America’s Business Guide’s mission is to promote key strategic news and advice that can help you grow your own business or move up the ranks in someone else’s business. You will find America’s Business Guide as your go to source for insight into the exciting business world.
     Wow. 70 years of combined business experience. That is not all that impressive as I have 40 years of experience myself.
     In the end, what is the end result of all this ranting, raving, and whining about this list:
     I have read 4 of the 9 books. That makes me 44.4% successful. 
That seems about right.  My son has only read one of the books and I definitely consider him more successful than I am. 
     Of the books, I have not read I probably should read all of them beginner with The Innovator's Dilemma.  Therefore the list has been of some value to me. I got a bloggy bit out of it, I have validated that I am 44.4% successful, and I have added five more books to my already too long reading list. 
     Maybe, I should just re-read Fun with Dick and Jane…

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