Thursday, August 29, 2019

"Trillion Dollar Coach" - Pure Gold for Coaches and CEOs - The Wisdom of Bill Campbell

Before reading "Trillion Dollar Coach," I had not been aware of the legendary career of Bill Campbell, for many years Silicon Valley's uber coach to leading executives. Despite his success as a leading executive and coach, during his lifetime Campbell opted to stay out of the public eye - often refusing to step into the limelight. After Campbell's death in 2016, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle got together and decided that an appropriate way to honor Campbell's life and legacy would be to distill his wisdom into a book, sort of a posthumous festschrift. The result of their distillation efforts is this book that is worth its weight in gold.

In his lifetime, Campbell coached football at Columbia University, moved to the business world when Kodak hired him, and then carved out a remarkable third career in Silicon Valley. He founded several successful companies, and began to serve on Boards and to invest in companies and to coach their leaders. The likes of Steve Jobs,  Al Gore, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, and Sheryl Sandberg. The total valuation of the leaders he coached is well north of one trillion dollars, hence the book's title. Among those companies are Google, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Intuit, Claris, and Adobe. Campbell served on the Board of Apple, and was instrumental in bringing Steve Jobs back to the helm of the company.

As effective as Bill was in coaching and befriending individual leaders, his real secret sauce was his emphasis on coaching teams of leaders. He was convinced that even in a cutthroat place like Silicon Valley, webs of relationships of trust were essential to success. As a former football coach, he was not averse to dispensing some tough love, telling those he coached the hard truths they needed to hear. But because he had established a strong foundation of trust, and they knew that he was on their side, they were able to hear and accept what would have been painful coming from any other source.

The book is filled with nuggets of gold drawn from Bill  Campbell's relationships with those who were eager to share vignettes of their encounters with Coach Bill. The consistent thread that ties these recollections together is Bill's consistent message that addressing the strength and health of the team was usually the straightest path to solving complex problems. In his life, he would go to extreme lengths to be the catalyst who  would pull together effective teams - within companies and across corporate boundaries. His annual trips to the Super Bowl became events that numerous individuals looked forward to. The game was secondary; the opportun enjoy the relationships within the traveling group was the primary point of these outings. There were also weekly gatherings at a sports bar in Palo Alto in which Bill was invested to build a sense of community among the participants.

Like any effective executive coach, Bill would abstain from offering his own solutions. He would listen carefully, ask probing questions, challenge assumptions, and over time help the leader he was coaching to arrive at wise decisions on her own. Now, thanks to the work done by this trio of authors, his wisdom and spirit can live on in perpetuity, allowing those of us who did not meet him in his lifetime to encounter him through the reflections of those he invested in.

I recommend this book to anyone who finds himself or herself in the role of coach, as well as those who are leading companies and teams. Campbell was emphatic that any leader worth his salt should also be intentionally coaching those he was leading.



Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"The Pioneers" by David McCullough - An Excellent Saga of the Settling of the Northwest Territory across the Ohio River

I have come to appreciate David McCullough's unique gift at making various periods of American history come to life. In his latest work,  "The Pioneers," the historian focuses his attention on the little town of Marietta, Ohio as the first settlement in the territory opened up by Congress passing the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. Part of my enjoyment of this book can be attributed to the fact that I found a number of points of personal connection. The settling of Marietta by a group of New Englanders was engineered by the team of Manasseh Cutler and General Rufus Putnam. Cutler was a minister living in Ipswich, Massachusetts, just down the road from where I grew up in Newburyport. Putnam had served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. His headquarters were situated on Inman Street in Cambridgeport, across the street from where I lived for several years.

The New England residents who saw an opportunity to establish a new and prosperous life on the bank of the Ohio displayed remarkable courage and perseverance, clawing a lasting settlement out of the heavily forested wilderness across the Ohio River from Virginia. Marietta was established at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, downstream from Pittsburgh.

The reader sees the settling of the Northwest Territory through the lens of the lives of several key families: the Cutlers, the Putnams, the Bakers, the Hildreths. We also experience developments in the life of the young nation as seen through the eyes of the denizens of Marietta. Among these larger issues were the wars with the Indians, the War of 1812, the British Embargo, the fight to keep slavery from encroaching on the new states, the Underground Railroad, the fight for free public education, and the impact of steamboats to open up the inland rivers to commerce and navigation. We also get to experience visits to Marietta from several notable figures in American history: Aaron Burr, General Lafayette, John Quincy Adams among them.

This aspect of the history of the westward expansion of our nation was something I had not been very familiar with. McCullough's account of the establishment of Marietta and the towns and cities that followed gave me a deeper appreciation of the the vision and tenacity of those who left New England to establish a new City On a Hill to replicate what had been created in Boston.



Sunday, August 18, 2019

"Elevate" by Robert Glazer - Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others

Two years ago, Robert Glazer published "Performance Partnerships," a book that drew on his broad experience as a thought leader in the Affiliate Marketing world.

See the White Rhino Report review below:

White Rhino Report Review of "Performance Partnerships

With his latest book, "Elevate," Bob widens the aperture of his lens to look at four ways in which any person can increase their capacity to live - and to lead - in an integrated way. The four realms are spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional. Many of the ideas that the author shares are not new to anyone who has been paying attention to the evolving worlds of commerce and wellness. But he presents these familiar ideas in a simple template that is refreshing and accessible, offering concrete Action Steps to take in applying the principles of each chapter. He shares personal experiences, and the stories of others who have struggled to elevate their capacity to perform in each of these areas. He shares ideas from other authors whom he has come to respect, especially Carol Dwek's "Mindset," and Anglea Duckworth's "Grit."

He generously thanks many who have contributed to his own journey toward integration of these four kinds of capacity. I was humbled and pleasantly surprised when I turned the page to find his recollection of a lunch that he and I had shared a few years ago. Bob was wrestling with a sense of satisfaction with his current role and current company.

"Later that year, I went to lunch with my friend, Al Chase. During lunch I shared with him my situation and why I felt that the responsible choice was to stay for a few years to gain operating experience and prove I was not a job hopper.

Al listened and then looked me square in the eye and said, 'My friend, I give you permission to leave.' Seeing the confused look on my face, he explained his advice. 'You have got to do what's right for you.'

This was a pivotal moment for me and a great example of how to inspire someone by pushing them outside their comfort zone ... Al's advice turned a lightbulb on in my head: I had accepted the middle lane and put what I wanted most on hold. I wasn't learning and I wasn't getting better. My capacity had plateaued." (page 40)

I share this passage for several reasons. First, it reveals Bob's generosity of spirit in acknowledging the many individuals who have contributed to his growth and success over the ears. I also share it because it reveals what Seth Godin would call a "Free Prize Inside," Hidden beneath the surface of Glazer's sharing is the heuristic that when we reach out to help others, we are also helping ourselves. The teacher learners as he teaches.The mentor gains wisdom as she shares two way dialogue with her mentee. I recall that lunch conversation as vividly as does Bob, and I recall being inspired by Bob's intellectual curiosity and his courage to consider moving out of his comfort zone. we both walkedaway from the encounter having been filled by more than the luncheon fare.

In keeping with this principle of mutual benefit, allow me to suggest that this book could be used as a Swiss Army Knife with several blades. Buy a copy for yourself and work through the Actions Steps at the end of each chapter. Then, buy in bulk and begin to share this treasure with those whose development you are willing to invest in - your staff, your clients, your families. The holidays are fast approaching, and this book would make a terrific gift. (The official release date is October 1. You can pre-order now on

As you Elevate yourself, I invite you to also Elevate those you care about.



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"The Book of African Proverbs" by Gerd de Ley - A Treasury of Folk Wisdom

Drawing from a wide variety of primary sources, author Gerd de Ley has compiled a fascinating collection of proverbs and sayings from across the African continent. Many different nations, tribes, and cultures are represented in the hundreds of pithy sayings that populate this book. I have spent time living in the Republic of Haiti. This nation boasts many traditions that hark back to the African roots of former slaves. I was struck by how similar many of the African proverbs are to ones I had come to know in Haiti.

The proverbs are organized in nine chapters, with headings such as Life and Death, The Value of Hard Work, Animal Wisdom, and Words to the Wise. I was impressed with how much universal wisdom is shared across the globe. This Zulu proverb, "The Horse That Arrives Early Gets Good Drinking Water," is very similar in spirit to our familiar trope,"The Early Bird Catches The Worm."

This is the kind of book that can be read and enjoyed a few pages at a time - in a professional waiting room, in the bathroom, during a commute. It is a delightful addition to our appreciation of the universality of folk wisdom,



Neal Stephenson Waxes Philosophical In His Latest Novel "Fall"

Over the years, I have derived enormous pleasure and intellectual stimulation from Neal Stephenson's novels. In the case of his latest tome, "Fall," I had a different experience.The narrative revolves around two worlds: Meatspace and Bitworld. Meatspace is the plane of existence that we live in the flesh here on earth. Bitworld is a digital realm that consist of entities that are pure neural connections. In the foreseeable future, neural science will have allowed machines to scan human brains and digitize each neural connection. These composite connections and memories are captured before the moment of death, and sent into the ether as digital reincarnations of the disembodied person who life in Meatspace is about to end.

As the narrative develops, as Bitworld becomes populated with more and more digital entities, is recapitulating the history of mankind in many respects, including elements of Creation stories and mythologies from a variety of cultures and religions, a Fall from Grace, an Adam and Eve, a Garden and an Exile from the Garden. And finally, an Armageddon.

Stephenson explores several levels of philosophical inquiry as he develops the interactions between Bitworld and Meatspace. Metaphysics  predominates, as he examines the nature of reality. Certainly Epistemology is much on his mind - how do we know the things that we know. Ethical questions abound as rules of living in a digital world evolve.

The problem with all of this intellectual wrangling is that for the first time in my experience of reading a Stephenson work, I found that he failed to create real characters that I care about. I found myself plodding through the nearly thousand pages. I am accustomed to experiencing a Neal Stephenson novel like a fine steak that is delicious, nutritious, and requires just the right amount of chewing. In the case of "Fall,"I felt like I was forcing myself to finish a heaping plate of rutabagas. Not terrible - but not something I would Yelp about.  I simply did not care about the fate of any of the characters.