February 20, 2008

39 Books

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 5:07 pm

My friend Michael Caruso is a guy full of good ideas. I was delighted to see my book You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader made his list of the 39 books he read in the past year. Check out his blog here.

February 5, 2008

New Website and New Blog

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 11:05 am

We’ve relaunched www.marksanborn.com and hope you’ll visit. There is a new design and a vastly expanded list of resources available.

I will also be blogging from that site as well. Click here.

Book Statistics

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 10:07 am

My friend Dan Poynter at Para Publishing has compiled an amazing array of statistics about books and publishing. Find it here.

February 1, 2008

Authenticity Under Attack

Filed under: Observations, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 11:49 am

A recent article in USAToday about fake accents said, “…faking an accent can be considered cool, not unauthentic…”

How can anything fake be considered “not unauthentic”?

Our culture considers to butcher words and concepts for convenience. Katie Couric said moving outside one’s comfort zone “almost always makes you uncomfortable.” Another butchered concept, only it got airtime on national television. Moving outside your comfort zone, by definition, means you’ll be uncomfortable.

Granting that Ms. Couric was just sloppy in her choice of words, let’s return to “fake” becoming a form of “authentic.”

In a world where Second Life is a popular online virtual reality–you can be anyone you choose to be–why wouldn’t we start rearranging the meaning of words and concepts?
And if we do, what’s the harm?

To have value, words must have fixed and shared meaning. While the definition of words can and do change over time, we’ve never accepted individual capriciousness as a valid reason for change.

Bill Clinton was the first public example of redefinition I can recall. Suddenly “oral sex” stopped being “sex.”

Underneath authenticity under attack is the problem of relativism. Why use an external and absolute standard when you can create your own? It isn’t just that people can’t agree on an absolute external standard, it’s that they don’t want to. It is inconvenient to answer to a higher purpose, principle or power.

The result: authentic fakes, or fake authenticity. Sometimes comfortable discomfort. Things that no longer belong to the category they came from.

And an overall demise of the ability to communicate and live with clarity.

January 31, 2008


Filed under: Observations, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 11:26 am

It seems that this time of year I fight the blues a little more often than normal. While I think positive thinking is vitally important, I don’t think it is necessarily the antidote to negativity. I’ve come to believe that gratitude is the best cure.

I don’t know who originally said it, but it is helpful to remember: gratefulness creates a great fullness of heart.

All of our lives are filled with a mix of the good and the bad. The ratio of the mix changes and how it changes is often beyond our control. What doesn’t change is our ability to choose where we direct our focus.

Focusing on the blessings and good things in our life isn’t a form of denial. We still know the challenges exist. Gratitude does, somehow, recharge our batteries and provide new energy with which to face the challenges.

I think one reason shows like Jerry Springer are popular is because in a perverse way it reminds us that our lives aren’t nearly as screwed up as the people on the screen.

A better option than watching bad reality television is simply to practice the age old art of counting your blessings.

January 28, 2008


Filed under: Observations, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 11:43 am

We choose our words and then our words create our lives. Whether we wound or heal, help or hurt, create or destroy, words are the tools we use.

A careless choice of words, no matter how well intentioned, can be one’s undoing. The right words delivered with the wrong tone of voice create a decidedly different result. Marriages have been saved or lost by the consistent and careful choice of words. Deals have been done or undone with a few small but significant words. Emotions are elevated or inflamed by the choice of words.

Language is the software of the mind. It is also the primary tool for interactions. Musician Larry Norman correctly observed that a limitation of language results in a limitation of thought. It also limits our ability to create.

We often become careless with out words. How often we forget to attend to our tongues. Theologians and philosophers have repeatedly warned us about the danger of using words poorly, but we seem to consistently ignore them.

Are your words creating the life you desire?

January 21, 2008

Commitment without Constraints

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 5:52 pm

According to a CNN quick poll, 10% of respondents said they believed it was never too cold to exercise outside. I don’t share it but I admire their espoused commitment.

That little survey started me thinking about commitment. What am I completely committed to doing no matter what the circumstances or conditions? What am I always willing to do regardless of difficulties or obstacles? Which of my commitments have limits? (I try to exercise six days a week, but I often do it indoors. At what temperature do I go inside?)

My brief contemplation suggests that while I do have some “complete commitments” I have more commitments with limits than without. Commitment uniformed by reason and the resultant limits can become fanaticism. Commitments with many or severe limits quickly cease being commitments.

I haven’t come up with any quick answers to the question of ultimate commitments, but I’ve gained a few insights from asking the question.

The Attack of the Angry

Filed under: Observations, Relationships, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:06 am

A speaker friend is dealing with a blistering attack from an audience member. Amazon reviews call authors name and make slanderous suggestions about their motives. Political candidates attack each other rather than each others’ ideas.

It seems there is an increase in personal attacks made by angry people. I find it very disconcerting.

I learned a long time ago that there is little to be gained from attacking the person rather than the problem. While it offers a short-term and immature gratification, it kills much chance for dialogue. It is normal for someone to become defensive when he or she feels attacked, and it is difficult to respond sanely and rationally to defend one’s position when one’s person is the thing being attacked.

It is helpful, but hard, to remember that people who attack inappropriately are often coming from their own woundedness. As a person of faith, I try to recall that Jesus answered anger with love. On a good day I do. On a not so good day I tend to forget.

Once we become adults, we owe it to ourselves and others to deal with our anger issues if we have any. Working them out on others increases the misery in the world and there is already more than enough of that.

January 14, 2008

Space and Place to Think

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 5:38 pm

For the past few days I’ve been in Mexico with my wife Darla. I spoke on Friday but we spent a couple extra days enjoying the location. I did some good thinking while we were there. The beauty of the area and the sound of the ocean invigorated me. Thinking is much harder to do without enough space and a good place to do it.
“Space” is about interrupting your typical schedule to think instead of letting it interrupt your thinking. Nobody has time for the important stuff; we make the time needed for the important stuff. Otherwise the unimportant fills up our days. It is the nature of the world we live in.

“Place” is important, too. You can think anywhere, but to think better thoughts find better places to think. I love mountains and I love the ocean, so I tend to do my best thinking in one of those places. More often than not I’m at Starbucks down the street from the office doing my thinking, but when I get the chance, I take advantage of inspiring places to think.

Make some space. Find a good place. Then think.

January 5, 2008

Leadership and Politics

Filed under: Observations, Leadership, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 5:00 pm

The two are not the same. There is a political dimension to leadership (wherever you have two or more people, there will always be some level of politics involved in the interactions). Not all politicians are great leaders. To think the two are the same is truly naive.

I read Peggy Noonan every Saturday in the Wall Street Journal and it is rare that I don’t pick up a nugget or two of wisdom. In today’s paper she questions whether Mike Huckabee is truly leading a revolution or simply riding a wave. The growing concern among American, she conjectures, is not the war or economy so much as it is our culture. Mike Huckabee for many stands for a return to the values that made America great. That doesn’t necessarily demonstrate leadership unless you include the definition “find out which way the crowd is going and get in the front of the line.”

She also points out that it isn’t easy for politicians–even good ones–to impact the culture of the country much. Sure, they can influence the economy and policy, but culture is a bigger conglomerate than either. Whether or not you agree with her, she warns not to get too excited about electing a president who is going to dramatically change the culture.

Just as Guiliani has gotten dinged for talking too much about 9/11, I’m tired of every so-called conservative talking about Ronald Regan, and I admired and respected Reagan very much. The problem is that despite his good ideas (and I believe he was a politican who knew who to lead), he’s gone. We live in a different country and a different time. Although we can learn much from his legacy, it is foolish to attempt to replicate it; it is hard to step into the future with one foot firmly planted in the past. As I blogged about several months ago (and this is Noonan’s phrase much as I wish it were mine), we need “a new kind of greatness.” We don’t need Ronald Reagan wannabes.

Obama beat Clinton in Iowa for basically the same reason Huckabee beat Romney: both winners seemed more human and more likable. Yes, that is a generalization, but I’ll stand by it and many pundits and commentators smarter than me believe the same thing. We don’t just want leaders and politicians we respect, we want leaders and politicians that are nice, decent people. (That isn’t too suggest Mitt and Hillary aren’t nice decent folks; the caucus in Iowa seemed to think their opponents nicer and more decent. Romney comes across as a bit too analytical and Clinton as having an air of entitlement.)

So what about Edwards? Isn’t he nice and likable? Well yeah, if you buy his story that he is just like you and even though he’s a really rich guy that made his millions as a lawyer and didn’t get re-elected by the voters of his own state. His platform is the most disingenuous I’ve seen. It is one thing to say “I once was like you and then made it big but I remember my roots.” Edwards doesn’t say that. He distances himself from the kind of people he is: affluent, successful voters. He has no qualms about throwing the rich under the bus to get the vote of the common man. Deja moo: same old bull as last time he ran.

After twenty years in leadership development, I know there are many excellent leaders who have no desire to go into politics. It is a different skill set, and the price is high.

I also know politicians who have demonstrated their leadership ability. But, it seems, it is increasingly rare that politics and leadership go hand-in-hand.

We can hope for presidential candidates from both parties that truly know how to lead, but it remains to be seen.

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