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Posts Tagged “Maureen Dowd”

Contemporary comic book writer and graphic novelist Joshua Dysart writes: “People, we’re always reaching for these big things…you know? Big ideas…big moments…big lives. And all the while the little things we’re ignoring are undoing us.”

I was reading a Maureen Dowd op-ed a couple of years ago in the NY Times. It was enjoyably full of her scathing, caustic observations, on this occasion commenting on a recent “Get Motivated!” seminar at the Verizon Center in Washington. As usual, Dowd was funny and more than a little mean. And right on.

My general feeling about these massive feel-good inspirational gatherings is that they’re a bunch of hooey. Not wrong in their stated insights, just shallow and quite temporary in their efficacy. Kind of like a business pep rally. Certainly not my cup of tea.

However, amidst Ms. Dowd’s cynical reportage on talks by the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Dan Rather and Rick Belluzo, I was caught by some business advice shared by General Colin Powell. His advice? Simply to be nice and particularly to be nice to the little people like the folks who clean your office and park your car (or simply other people on your elevator who sometimes turn out to be the CEO). He also avers the value of small details. For instance, Powell reports writing thank you notes on personalized 4-by-6 inch cards. “I write with a fountain pen. Never a Sharpie. Never a ball point pen. A fountain pen.” Dowd reports.

It seems to me Colin Powell is quite on to a real truth here. It’s little things that set the tone for successful entrepreneurship–little considerations, little details. Focusing on the small decencies creates an ambiance of service and real carefulness in business dealings. It becomes reflected in the larger actions of a company.

To expand on General Powell’s concern for the small things, I always recommend that any missive or serious communication one sends out go on high-quality stationary and be sent by snail mail, ideally with a commemorative stamp. This is sometimes cause for eye-rolling impatience by some cutting-edge entrepreneurs enamored of the wonders of Tweeting, Friending, Linking-in, etc. But there is a method to my antediluvian madness. Yes, it takes extra time and money to communicate in such qualitative ways, but the very effort communicates care and valuation on a subconscious level. There is a sensual subconscious statement that is communicated by the very feel of high-quality stationary. It creates an aura of seriousness, reflecting both respect for your client and the general business process. It unspokenly says exactly the manner you would represent a client and effectively serve her.

Additionally, the very fact that the personal letter is increasingly rare gives special notice to those who use it. It is not a dinosaur inefficiency. It is a notable differentiator that, in the long-term, makes a branding statement, as well as creating a subrosa gravitas and a sense of business seriousness.

Or, as John Donne says in his poem To Sir Henry(1663) “Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.” Thank you, John Donne.

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I’m pretty sure it helps to be a little crazy if you want to be an entrepreneur.  I suspect I am.

I am personally not the world’s best businessman.  I’m just not.  Fortunately, a series of gifted associates have always been able to buttress my considerable dearth of quotidian business skills at my executive sales outsourcing firm Corporate Rain International.

Part of the inadequacy of my basic business backgrounding is chosen.  I simply don’t enjoy administration, spreadsheets,  human resources, and quantitative analysis.  What does interest me are the more elusive values of entrepreneurship–the envisioning, the strategy, the philosophy, the ethics and the collegiality of it.  What I want out of my business is no less than freedom, truth and salvation.  I want entrance into that metaphorical Golden City On The Hill, what Shakespeare calls “the brightest heaven of invention.” (Henry V, Act One, Prologue)  I think great entrepreneurs (which I am most assuredly not one) have this procrustean longing and intent.  In this myopically secular age, many business founders are perhaps inchoately and unconsciously involved in a closeted, low level search for God.

Certainly that was the case with Steve Jobs.  Walter Isaacson has just written a biography of Jobs.  (I have not yet read his book, but only read criticism and seen 60 Minutes on the book.)  But one thing that struck me from reportage was that Jobs was more than a bit nuts.  And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Maureen Dowd, in a NY Times op-ed on October 26, referred to Jobs as a “monstre sacre.”  She says, “…his life sounded like the darkest hell of volatility,” a bipolar madness.

I have already talked about Jobs as an artist in a posting on October 11, but he was also a avid spiritual searcher and seeker of ultimate truth.  Because he sought to find his spiritual center in his business, doesn’t mean he was a nice man.  He was difficult, bullying, and arrogant.  His spiritual entrepreneurial journey did not make him Mother Theresa.  Yet like Moses, Jesus and Captain Kirk he went boldly where no man had gone before.  Ultimately his business journey was a uniquely autodidactic search for personal meaning and God in a non-religious age.

Here is what Plato, by way of Socrates, said about poetry, but it could apply equally to the heart of the entrepreneur.

“…if any man come to the gates of poetry without the madness of the Muses, persuaded that skill alone will make him a good poet, then shall he and his works of sanity with him be brought naught by the poetry of madness…”

Thank you, Plato.

Comments 4 Comments »

I was reading a Maureen Dowd op-ed in the NY Times on October 5th. It was enjoyably full of her scathing, bitchy observations, on this occasion commenting on a recent “Get Motivated!” seminar at the Verizon Center in Washington. As usual, Dowd was funny and more than a little mean. And right on.

My general feeling about these massive feel-good inspirational gatherings is that they’re a bunch of hooey. Not wrong in their stated insights, just shallow and quite temporary in their efficacy. Kind of like a business pep rally. Certainly not my cup of tea.

However, amidst Ms. Dowd’s cynical reportage on talks by Terry Bradshaw, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Dan Rather and Rick Belluzo, I was caught by some business advice shared by General Colin Powell. His advice? Simply to be nice and particularly to be nice to the little people like the folks who clean your office and park your car. He also avers the value of small details. For instance, Powell reports writing thank you notes on personalized 4-by-6 inch cards. “I write with a fountain pen. Never a Sharpie. Never a ball point pen. A fountain pen.” Dowd reports.

It seems to me Colin Powell is quite on to a real truth here. It’s the little things that set the tone for sales–little considerations, little details. Focusing on the small decencies creates an ambiance of service and real carefulness in business dealings. It becomes reflected in the larger actions of a company.

To expand on General Powell’s concern for the small things, I always recommend to my sales outsourcing clients at Corporate Rain that any missive or serious communication they send out go on high-quality stationary and be sent by snail mail, ideally with a commemorative stamp. This is sometimes cause for eye-rolling impatience by some of my cutting-edge clients enamored of the wonders of tweeting, friending and linking-in. But there is a method to my antediluvian madness. Yes, it takes extra time and money to communicate in such qualitative ways, but the very effort communicates care and valuation on a subconscious level. There is a sensual subconscious statement that is communicated by the very feel of high-quality stationary. It creates an aura of seriousness, reflecting both respect for your client and the general business process. It unspokenly says exactly the manner you would represent a client and effectively serve.

Additionally, the very fact that the personal letter is increasingly not used gives special notice to those who use it qualitatively. It is not a dinosaur inefficiency. It is a notable differentiator that, in the long-term, makes a branding statement, as well as creating a subrosa gravitas.

Comments 2 Comments »

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