Today’s Word: maladroit (adjective) –Someone who is maladroit (mal-uh-DROIT) is unskillful, awkward, bungling, and/or tactless. As used by Alexis de Tocqueville, describing a French cabinet minister: “His mind was narrow, maladroit, provoking, disparaging and ingenious rather than just.”

Did You Know?: The human head weighs, on average, 8 pounds and contains 5 trillion atoms.

Worth Quoting: “The gentleman calls attention to the good points in others; he does not call attention to their defects. The small man does just the reverse.” – Confucius

 Recommended Reading

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

By Amy Cuddy

2015, 352 pages

 When she was a college sophomore, Amy Cuddy suffered a brain injury in a car crash that reduced her IQ by 30 points. She was told she probably would not be able to finish her bachelor’s degree.

She did, of course. Then she went on to graduate school and eventually got a PhD in Social Psychology from Princeton. That was how she introduced herself when she gave her now-famous TED Talk in 2012.

I am always skeptical of overcoming-all-odds stories – especially when the details are hard to verify. So I read Presence skeptically. And that skepticism swelled every time the author referred to herself as a scientist.

Impressive bio and academic credentials aside, Presence is essentially a self-help book. In some circles, that is a bad thing. But when self-help books are based on the writer’s actual experience and those experiences are replicated by others, I want to listen.

Turns out Cuddy has some good advice on how to feel more confident and exhibit more personal power by practicing certain physical behaviors. The habit of smiling frequently, for example, improves one’s disposition – even if the smiling is artificial.  Habitual frowning has the opposite effect. Walking tall – if you make a habit of it – will make you feel more confident and that confidence will be noticed and respected by others.

Today’s Word: panoply (noun) – A panoply (PAN-uh-plee) is a complete or impressive collection of things. As used by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins: “Humans are just a very, very small part of the panoply of life, and it is arguable that in a certain sense, humans have emancipated themselves from Darwinian selection.”

Did You Know?: In most lotteries, the chance that you will die on the way to buy your ticket is greater than the chance that you will win the big prize.

Worth Quoting: “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” – Umberto Eco

Watch This

The Elephants That Came to Dinner

 

 

Today’s Word: inalienable (adjective) – Something that is inalienable (in-AIL-yuh-nuh-buhl) cannot be taken away from you, surrendered, or transferred to someone else. As I used it today: “Consciousness: the greatest natural gift — your innate and inalienable ability to experience the world around you, to notice and to appreciate a million possible things.”

Did You Know?: During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson refused to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. According to most historians, because it was considered to be a day of prayer, he believed it violated the First Amendment. (The part that prevents the government from recognizing or favoring any religion – which has come to be known as “separation of church and state.”)

Worth Quoting: “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” – George Horace Lorimer

 Watch This

An old friend and Vietnam vet sent this to me:

 

 

 

 

Today’s Word: amortize (verb) – To amortize (AM-er-tize) is to gradually pay off the initial cost of an obligation (such as a mortgage or car loan). As used by Porter Bibb, best known as the first publisher of Rolling Stone: “NBC corporate is looking to get the best return they can on the $80 million that they paid for the broadcast rights to the World Series. Obviously, the longer the series runs, the better they do in amortizing their investment in getting the rights.”

Did You Know?: Male penguin court a female by searching the beach for the perfect pebble and placing it in front of her.

Worth Quoting: “By the age of fifty, you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth.” – Marya Mannes

Q&A

Why You Must Know (or Learn) How to Sell Your Products

LD wants to know: As the founder/head of a business, if you have some other sort of expert knowledge, is it necessary to learn the marketing side as well?

The short answer is “yes.”

If you are not an expert marketer yourself, it makes sense for you to partner with someone who is. But don’t allow yourself to stay ignorant of the marketing and sales secrets. You must learn them as they are discovered. As founder/head of the business, you must become a master at selling your product/service… even if someone else does the actual work.

If you don’t, you will always be at the mercy of your marketer. If sales are good, he will be able to demand more compensation than you want to give. And if you refuse, he can leave you without a marketing machine. Or worse… he might start another business to compete against you.

So if you are not an expert marketer now, you are going to have to engage someone to fill that role. Problem is, you won’t be in a position to know if the person you hire is up to the job.

After a few weeks or months, you may find out that he doesn’t meet your needs. And then what will you do? My suggestion: Pay a big signing bonus to acquire the best talent you can. But write a contract that lets you disengage after 3 to 6 months if you are dissatisfied with him for any reason.

And let your new marketer know that he has two jobs: to sell your products and to show you exactly what he’s doing. That way, if you do have to let him go (or if he leaves), you won’t be completely up the sales and marketing ditch.

Today’s Word: brouhaha (noun) – A brouhaha (BROO-ha-ha) is an uproar, a noisy and overexcited response or reaction to something. As used by the British writer Tom Hodgkinson: “Truly, the bench is a boon to idlers. Whoever first came up with the idea is a genius: free public resting places where you can take time out from the bustle and brouhaha of the city, and simply sit and watch and reflect.”

Did You Know?: In traditional Japan culture, saying “no” directly is considered rude.

Worth Quoting: “Without that element of uncertainty, the bringing off of even the greatest business triumph would be dull, routine, and eminently unsatisfying.” – J. Paul Getty

Check It Out

On October 16, I told you about the premiere of Off the Rails, a coming-of-age movie that my friends and I wrote and produced. It tracked a few years of our lives back in the rocking 1970s. Here’s a look at the new poster we’ll be featuring in March at the US premiere in Miami. Notice those laurel leaves on the bottom. Looking good!

And here’s a link to the trailer for the movie: https://www.offtherailsfilm.com

 

Today’s Word: Schadenfreude (noun) – Schadenfreude (SCHA-den-froy-duh), a German word, is a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else. As used by investment manager James Chanos: “I’ll always understand the Schadenfreude aspect to short-selling. I get that no one will always like it. I’m also convinced to the deepest part of my bones that short-selling plays the role of real-time financial watchdog. It’s one of the few checks and balances in the market.”

Did You Know?: People recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year but visual recall sinks to 50% after only 3 months.

Worth Quoting: “We are all born unfree and unequal, subject to our physical and psychological heredity, and to the customs and traditions of our group, diversely endowed in health and strength, in mental capacity and qualities of characters.” – Will and Ariel Durant

Recommended Reading

Lake Success

By Gary Shteyngart

2018, 352 pages

Lake Success is the story of Barry Cohen, a wealthy hedge fund manager who likes to believe his wealth is deserved, despite the fact that his funds have all gone belly up. You might think of him as Willy Loman selling hedge funds… or a Jewish Jay Gatsby before he comes to West Egg.

Lake Success is Shteyngart’s attempt to step beyond the realm of social satire – a genre of literary fiction that he brilliantly mastered with Super Sad True Love Story– and into Great American Novel territory. And Lake Success has all the requirements: The background is America, the protagonist is flawed, and through his journey to find himself, the reader discovers something important about the culture of the country.

Ultimately, though, I see it as a failed novel. And that’s because it lacks the one thing all GANs have: the author’s deeply felt sympathy for his protagonist.

That said, a strong recommendation from me. A failed Shteyngart novel is still a very worthy and very enjoyable read.

 

Today’s Word: sibilant (adjective) – Sibilant (SIB-uh-lunt) describes a soft hissing sound. As used by Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass: “This face is a dog’s snout sniffing for garbage, snakes nest in that mouth, I hear the sibilant threat.”

Did You Know?: Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse after Mickey Rooney, whose mother he dated for some time.

Worth Quoting: “Gambling is a sure way of getting nothing from something.” – Wilson Mizner.

Watch This

Great little video that shows you how to make a rocking chair out of aa stump of wood without using any power tools. It may inspire you to try something similar. It had a different effect on me. It made me realize how great it is to be able to afford to buy handmade stuff.

 

Today’s Word: mawkish (adjective) – Mawkish (MAWK-ish) means overly sentimental; emotional in a silly and embarrassing way. As used by H.L. Mencken: “One of the most mawkish of human delusions is the notion that friendship should be eternal, or, at all events, life-long, and that any act which puts a term to it is somehow discreditable.”

Did You Know?: The world is inhabited by 1.4 million species of animals and 500,000 species of plants.

Worth Quoting: “For every path you choose there is another you must abandon, usually forever.” – Joan D. Vinge

Watch This

This guy is an impressive dancer. But do you see how he is trying to “out-dance” his partner? This is very bad form. He’s drawing attention to himself when he should be making his partner the primary focus. (And she, by the way, is dancing impeccably.) Also notice how he holds his hands… and his head. More athletic than elegant. He’s great… but he’s no Fred Astaire.

 

Today’s Word: Luddite (noun) – The Luddites (LUHD-ites) – followers of John Luddite – were a group of English textile workers during the 19thcentury Industrial Revolution. As a form of protest, they destroyed the “newfangled” machinery that they viewed as a threat to their jobs. Today, we use “Luddite” to refer to someone who is opposed to technological change. Example from Elton John: “I am so in the past. I’m such a Luddite when it comes to making music. All I can do is write at the piano.”

Did You Know?: The dot above the “i” is called a tittle.

Worth Quoting: “The only thing I can be sure of is that anyone that has an ideology has stopped thinking.” – J.D. Salinger

 

Recommended Reading

Nobody Knows my Name

By James Baldwin

1961, 340 pages

 The book is a collection of 13 essays that were written between 1956 and 1961 “in various places in many states and in many states of mind.” This was after Baldwin’s life in Europe had ended and he was living in America where, he says, “the color of my skin had stood between myself and me.”

Although the main barrier he speaks of is integration, the fundamental problems he deals with (including the deep resentment blacks have because of historical oppression and current prejudices) are just as relevant today as then.