“Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.”– Dwight D. Eisenhower

How to Stop Your Boss From Turning You Into a Human Suggestion Box 

I have a reputation for being a pain in the ass. As a founder of or major investor in many businesses, I am constantly sending CEOs memos about new product ideas, new marketing strategies, new management protocols, etc., etc., etc.

The usual response is polite agreement, followed by an explanation of why they are already doing “something like that.” (They rarely are.) Or why they are currently too busy to take it on.

Of course, this doesn’t make me back off. On the contrary, it makes me wonder how on top of their game they really are. And so I keep pushing.

And they dream of a day when I drop dead or at least suffer a stroke that makes it impossible for me to send any more emails.

Here’s the thing. I don’t expect every suggestion I make to be executed. I understand how much CEOs of  growing businesses have to deal with every day. But I am not going to refrain from making suggestions because it stresses them out. My obligation is not to them or their employees. It is to the quality and quantity of products and services the business produces. In other words, my interest is in increasing the value we bring to customers.

Recently, though, one of my CEOs did a very smart thing. Tired of circumventing my emails, she began sending me her suggestions. I think she decided to give me a taste of my own medicine to see how I liked it… and, well, I liked it very much.

Some of her suggestions were terrific and I told her that. More importantly, she demonstrated that she was fully committed to the same goals and objectives I had – to make the business all it could be.

I’ll continue to send suggestions to all my CEOs – but in her case,  I no longer feel the urgency. I’ve been able to relax a bit and enjoy her momentum.

What she did reminded me of something I did about 30 years ago, working for JSN. He was constantly putting monkeys on my back, and I wasted far too much time trying to explain to him why I could only handle so much. Then one day I somehow caught his bug and began coming up with ideas myself. I got so good at it that he stopped pushing me and let me push myself.

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circumvent (vert) 

To circumvent (sur-kum-VENT) is to manage to get around an obstacle or difficulty; to avoid defeat, failure, unpleasantness, etc. by ingenuity or deception. As I used it today: “Recently, though, one of my CEOs did a very smart thing. Tired of circumventing my emails, she began sending me her suggestions.”

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How many words are in the English language?

Last week, citing the Oxford English Dictionary, I said that there are 171,476 English words in current use. But after thinking about it, that number seemed awfully low. So I did a little research – and I found estimates all over the place, some as high as a million. It depends on how the “count” is done. The OED counts only “full” entries. Other sources count different versions of the same word (plurals, tenses, spelling), obscure and obsolete words, etc. So the answer to the question “How many words are in the English language?” appears to be: Nobody really knows.

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If you’re looking for something good to read, you might like one of these books from my January reading journal:

MoonshotsCreating a World of Abundance by Naveen Jain– Ignore the first three chapters, which read like a mundane treatment of the philosophy of abundance. After that, it gets much better, with lots of examples of how technological progress is accelerating even faster than Moore’s Law predicted. Jain gives you good reason to believe that many if not all of our biggest problems, including war, poverty, and global warming, could be largely solved in the relatively short term.

Ansel Adams400 Photographs– Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a particular artist is considered to be a standout, while his contemporaries whose works seem similar are not. It’s much easier if you look at the entire scope of the artist’s work instead of a single example that is considered to be “brilliant.” Such was my experience looking through this collection of Ansel Adams photos, mostly landscapes but including a handful of mesmerizing portraits and still lifes.

AlchemyThe Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Lifeby Rory Sutherland– Thoughts from an advertising man about how imagination can transform experience and our understanding of the world.

I Used to Know ThatStuff You Forgot From School by Caroline Taggart– True to its title, the book is chock full of interesting bits you could have learned in school. Example: In geometry class, I learned how to calculate perimeters and areas and have used those simple equations thousands of times since then. But I had forgotten how to measure the circumference of a circle (diameter times pi) and  got reacquainted with the Pythagorean theorem – fun to know but apparently useless.

And here’s a book that’s not worth your time…

Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation by Eva Illouz– I began with the best expectations, but couldn’t finish it. This is a profoundly stupid book that argues that “love” doesn’t work today because the  “institutional organization of marriage” precludes the “possibility of maintaining romantic love as an intense and all-consuming passion.”

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In this recent video posted on BusinessMadeSimple.com, Donald Miller explained that he likes to eat lunch alone because that’s when he gets his best ideas. LINK

I buy that. I rarely have business lunches because I’ve found that they are like basketball games. All the important action happens in about 5 minutes. It’s much more efficient to have 15-minute meetings in my office. What’s even better than those short meetings in my office are Zoom meetings. Zoom (and like technologies) is amazingly good. You can see all the participants. And when someone speaks, their face enlarges – drawing your attention like it does when someone speaks at a “live” meeting.

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