On the four-day business trip(I am too embarassed to say what “business” I have done – I didn’t invent that phrase – uh, customer visit is more appropriate) to Hong Kong & Shenzhen, I read two books on the plane. On Writing, by Steven King, on the way to Hong Kong and Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew Grove, on the way back home. I never thought I can finish reading this much; 450 pages altogether in 8 hours- partly because of the business class seat (there was no economy seat available: I thanked the usually evil holiday rush from the heart) and the improvement of my reading skill, but the true reason is that they are written in a plain and easy English, but not losing the edge of their comments – straightforward and concise. Also I never lost my concentration while reading them. They are both written based on the author’s real life stories, which has more ups and downs than most of us. If somebody thinks these books are boring, something is wrong with him or he is a boring person.
On Writing is a book about, ah, writing. King focuses on fiction writing, but most of his comments applies to any kind of writing, from presentation material to poem. In the first half of the book, he talks about how a writer was developed, how he became fascinated to the horror stories as a kid and started his career in his teenage, how he managed to survive his early days working at laundry, raising two kids and receiving lots of rejected letter from the magazines. In the second half of the book, which I likes greatly, the “lesson” part starts, in which he describes what makes a writer a writer, and what is necessary to become a good writer. Here I summarize some of his messages which I like and I think I can adopt. Well, try to adopt. The second one is still daunting.
* Read a lot and write a lot.
* Never watch TV.
* Set a firm writing habit for everyday.
* You can never create a complete article at the first try.
* Don’t do it for money.
* It is impossible for a bad writer to become a good one. It is also impossible for a good writer to become a great one. But it is possible for a competent writer to become a good one.
First I have to become a competent writer, though. (it would be better if I quote some of his words, but stupidly I didn’t put any mark on the important points..) He also recommends Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White, as a primary textbook for the writing skill, like many others. So I will start reading this one as well. It is also posted on the web.
Only the Paranoid survives talks about one thing, mostly. The thing called startegic inflection points.
I worry about products getting screwed up, and I worry about products getting introduced prematurely. …… But these worries pale in comparison to how I feel about what I call strategic inflection points. …. let me just say that a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change.
Throughout the book, his message is clear. Whether in business or personal life, you cannot escape from the fundamental change, the kind of change that unless you abandon the old way and invent a new method to cope with it, you will get a serious damage.
This time I marked the interesting comments, here are some of them.
People who have no emotional stake in a decision can see what needs to be done sooner. I believe this has a great deal to do with why there is such a high turnover in the ranks of CEO today….. I suspect that the people coming in are probably no better managers or leaders than the people they are replacing……unlike the person who has devoted their life to the company…..the new managers come unencumbered by such emotional involvement and therefore are capable of applying an impersonal logic to the situation.
if you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enourmous symbolic value. It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give. Strategic changes doesn’t just start at the top. It starts with your calendar.
a business reporter told me of an encounter with the head of a major Japanese corporation…. When he asked questions that tried to clarify the strategy of the corporation, the other man angrily retorted, “Why would I tell you our strategy? So I could help our competitors?” I think this man wouldn’t talk about his strategy not because he was afraid of helping his competitors but because he didn’t have one: