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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Leadership and excessive advocacy

A few days ago our nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day. The progress our nation has made - especially over the last several decades - has been extraordinary.

That is not to say that we have reached a state free of prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred toward those who are different in one way or another.

Whether those differences are manifest in race, ethnicity, culture, religion, or any other number of factors is to an extent not the key issue. More important than how any one group is treated is how and why various American populations interact with others as they do.

Several years ago, I was privileged to attend a lecture with a prestigious civil rights advocate. I was mesmerized as I listened to him speak concurrently with speed, passion, vocabulary, rhetoric, and insight. I had little doubt I could spend weeks studying a transcript of his lecture and only touch the surface. He inspired me. I wanted to be more like him in so many ways.

But the overall message disturbed me - or at least the way he presented his message.

For him, America would never be good enough at those things for which he lobbied and advocated. For him, progress should be ignored as a matter of practice - or minimized if left no other option.While I agreed with so much of what he said, I left disturbed.

To this day I wonder.

Obviously, the job of an advocate is to advocate. And as long as there is room for improvement, it is natural that improvement should be encouraged.

But can we do damage to our own causes by denying recognition of progress?

Advocacy is like an incessant primary election. Extremism is the name of the game and there typically does not come a time similar to a general election where candidates move toward middle ground to garner more votes. Or, in the case of advocates, more followers and adherents.

The man I listened to at this particular event was legitimately sapient. Yet ever since that encounter I have approached his advocacy with a degree of skepticism. The world he described existed in isolated areas and absolutely needed and needs to be corrected. But so much of the country was ready for the next step. And the ones after that.

For those who make it their calling and profession to influence others, it is my personal belief that recognizing shortfalls while also lauding achievements is likely to yield a more unified, synergistic, enthusiastic populace than what can be gained by embracing extremism.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson (Photo Source: Deseret News)
I realized I never posted the actual text of my review of Brandon Sanderson's book, Words of Radiance on the blog. The original text can be read here in the Deseret News. The text of the review published in March 2014 reads as follows:

"WORDS OF RADIANCE, The Stormlight Archive, Book 2," by Brandon Sanderson, Tor Books, $28.99, 1,068 pages (f)

The mysteries and discoveries Brandon Sanderson provides in "Words of Radiance" signal an adventure to come that's larger than many may have imagined.

The Utah author's novel “Words of Radiance” is the second book in a planned 10-volume fantasy series titled The Stormlight Archive.

Sanderson wrote the manuscript under the working title of “The Book of Endless Pages,” to refer to a book and a theme of endless learning set forth in his first book, according to a blog post featuring Sanderson on tor.com. Yet after presenting the title to his editor, Sanderson says in the post, his editor said, “Uh, are you sure you want to name a very long, very thick fantasy book 'The Book of Endless Pages'?”

The book weighs in at more than a thousand pages, but the only drawback regarding its length is that the book doesn’t immediately transition into the third volume in the series.

The series focuses on four individuals and is set within a world that is constantly assailed by storms, that has magical swords that appear and disappear in 10 heartbeats and that has a connection with the past and future that seems to both blur and clear as the story unfolds.

Sanderson’s world-building is strong enough to engage readers and make them feel at home in a strange world. His character arcs and the complexity of his characters' gradual self-awareness and interactions with one another are also written masterfully.

Mysteries set forth in “The Way of Kings” unfold in “Words of Radiance,” yet new mysteries will be presented as well, and it's easy to see that the journey is only just beginning.

The book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times's hardcover fiction best-seller list, and only readers with tremendous self-control will be able to set this book down without calling in sick to work or planning several all-nighters.

“Words of Radiance” contains the level of language, sex and violence that would be found in a contemporary PG-13 movie. Some swearing is implied through words and phrases native to the world in which the story takes place.

Sanderson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches a creative writing course at Brigham Young University each year and has a Hugo Award-winning weekly podcast online at writingexcuses.com. Videos of classes are available for free at the website writeaboutdragons.com, and his website is at brandonsanderson.com.

Steve Ott and The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector

I stumbled across this reference today and am grateful to Steve Ott for acknowledging me. It was a challenge to pour over the manuscript with everything else going on at that time in my life, but it is a decision I could never regret.

Steve Ott is the most influential teacher I have had in my life and I hope all those who are mentored and taught by him recognize the truly remarkable and unique experience they are being provided. Steve's fingerprints are on the results I a privileged to help nonprofit organizations produce as a consultant.

He once came across me in the halls at the University of Utah as I was cramming for an exam in his class less than an hour later. He said the scene of me walking the halls with my face buried in a book would make a great marketing picture.

Well, I got my face in marketing pictures in due time. But if I was an ideal student, Steve was and remains the most ideal of teachers. He is Socratic, he is respectful, he is the epitome of professional, and he remains a student - one who is willing to learn from even the least of his students. While Steve has his own established theory that is studied in graduate courses around the world, it is my humble belief that Steve's lasting legacy will not be his theory or his writings, but the reality that his influence on students and their impact on the nonprofit sector will continue long past his lifetime. Regardless, he is one whose legacy has already been secured.

And a legacy is no small thing.

My recognition in the Acknowledgments of the Second Edition of his book, The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector, reads as follows:

We wish that we could acknowledge everyone who contributed ideas, insights, support, challenges, and constructive criticisms since the publication of the first edition, but we must limit our words of appreciation to those who played central roles in shaping our vision and refining our ideas into a cohesive second edition of this anthology. Among those whose intellectual contributions must absolutely be acknowledged... (include) Kurt Manwaring....

Link to Amazon:
The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector, edited by J. Steven Ott and Lisa A. Dicke

Monday, December 15, 2014

An extraordinary act of compassion

This past Saturday, I was the recipient of an extraordinary act of compassion doled out by a complete stranger. All that connected us were our geographic location and the soon-to-be-discerned revelation we both shared a similar trial.

I am honored to have been the recipient of both kindness and cruelty during the course of events that have unfolded since my car accident as both attributes have the potential to build character. But this is the first time someone so unfamiliar had impacted me so completely. I suppose the act itself can be to a certain extent quantified - except that in all the ways that affect me most, it simply cannot be measured.

How do you place a number next to a smile that starts in the heart and finds its way to the face? More importantly, how do you measure the quality of soul that leads one to identify a need, contemplate action, and then act, repeatedly, in such a way as to cause a smile like that?

Another thing I find pleasantly puzzling about this encounter: At some point during this prolonged encounter, it became obvious that the giver and the receiver had shared in similar experiences. In fact, we shared this much with each other. What makes the encounter both strange and natural, however, is that the totality of what was shared - especially preceding the acts of compassion - compiled so few words.

Which leads me to believe that some experiences shared by strangers at different times in different places under different circumstances affect them both somehow so they are less than strangers when they meet.

To this individual, how grateful I am the choice was made once upon a time to forsake the temptation to respond to a trial with bitterness and accept the challenge and opportunity to grow by consciously softening the heart. That decision led thought by thought, feeling by feeling, act by act, until eventually two not-so-dissimilar strangers met and shared what they could to provide one another with the compassion straight from the heart.

To those who will no doubt be affected for good by this individual in the future, may you strive to make similar choices that the compassion may be shared and made all the more sweet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Coming soon: Gold Rush, the Los Angeles Lakers, and a polarizing business principle

I am working on a fun article that uses some examples from modern culture to shed light on the business principle/management philosophy of front-loading.

Now, the principle is usually either loved or hated. By its very nature it is not designed to be lukewarm and have participants buy-in without having a strong opinion one way or another.

Two of the subjects of the article will feature individuals who are similarly polarizing.

And the contestants are...

 Tony Beets from the Discovery Channel's hit television show, Gold Rush;
Tony "the Viking" Beets (left)













And from the Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Byrant and Phil Jackson
Photo Source: espn.go.com












One of the fun things about this article is that it doesn't require the willful suspension of disbelief to read. There is no need to force these individuals into the story because they fall so naturally into it on their own.

This is one of those situations where the individuals, their approaches to life (and business), and the effect it has on their business success fit seamlessly into a legitimate discussion of the true star of the upcoming article: the business principle known as front-loading.

Marketing graphic options

I have been working on some graphics to marketing my consulting skills and related business. These are some of my favorites so far...


Since old books personify me so well...




Manwaring gets his own magazine profile...

An afternoon at the business art museum...

Who doesn't love a good business flick?
Actually not my largest newspaper photo



Let me help get you on that billboard!
Teaching classes, telling stories, smiling along the way

Friday, October 10, 2014

New business series in development

I am pleased to announce the development of a new business series intended for syndication. The series will focus on common business concepts commonly misunderstood - and how becoming more proficient can make a significant difference in the workplace.

Are you a business student? An entrepreneur? An aspiring leader? A proven executive?

Individual articles are designed to be easily understood by the least knowledgeable and challenging to those most experienced. And continuing my trademark style, anecdotes will play a key role in demonstrating how to put each concept to work.

If you would like to request certain topics be considered for articles, please contact me or leave a comment on this post.