February 28, 2007

A Learning Magazine

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 10:58 am

Recently I ran across a corporate “learning” magazine in a friend’s office. I won’t specfically site the title, but it was aimed at C-level executives interested in employee development. What struck me most was how boring the design of the magazine was. The cover was decidedly ho-hum and the design format inside wasn’t any better.

It struck me as ironic that training and development can be ineffective for the same reason: they’re boring. Boredom doesn’t enhance the learning process.

Maybe there was a metaphor hidden in the learning magazine’s design.

February 27, 2007

Pick 5 Books

Filed under: Success — Mark Sanborn @ 7:03 pm

What are your five favorite books? What five books do you consider most important and essential?

If you were stranded on an island (in which case re-readability is essential), which five books would you choose?

Email me at Mark@MarkSanborn.com and let me know.

February 26, 2007

Are You Strategic?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 5:34 pm

Gary Hamel has famously said, “If it isn’t different it isn’t strategic.”

So are you strategic? It isn’t enough to be different (not to be confused with being odd). The objective is to be different in a way that not only sets you apart from your competition, but in a way that is valued by your customer or employer.

Goethe said there were so many echoes and so few original voices. One problem with popular career advice is that if everyone does what it says, everyone will be basically the same. There are ideas that will keep you even in the game, and there are ideas that will get you ahead. Being strategic is the latter.

 In a competitive marketplace, being different in a way that is valued should be a high priority, for products and services as well as individuals.

February 25, 2007

There Aren’t Many Secrets

Filed under: Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 9:51 am

The word “secret” has mystery about it. That might explain why it is so often used by authors, copywriters and advertisers. If we could only find the “secret” to health, wealth, happiness, etc., then our lives would be forever changed.

Knowledge that goes beyond the superficial usually requires some searching and study, but there aren’t many “secrets” about what we need to know in life. If there are “secrets,” they are the type often hidden in plain sight. What is often called a secret is either information not known and/or practiced by many, or something already known but attractively repackaged. Just because I’ve not heard of an idea before doesn’t qualify it as a secret.

There is a supposed type of secret that conspiracy theorists love, and that is the critical information intentionally kept hidden by those who benefit from doing so. But by and large, I don’t think there is a conspiracy to keep the common man or woman from the information they need to live a full and rewarding life.

Something that can take any of us years to discover is that the key to success in any area of life requires learning and application. Once you have a burning desire to know and understand, the information you need is almost certainly available in some form, whether in an out-of-print book, a conversation with an expert, a seminar or training program or a webpage. But even the most cleverly packaged “secret” won’t help the man or woman who chooses not to use the information.

The most potentially dangerous secrets are those that promise much in exchange for nothing. Just “knowing” the secret, as the premise goes, will magically get you what you want. There is no commitment, cost or effort required. This type of secret purports to bypass the process of cause and effect.

I’ve probably used the word “secret” loosely in my own writing from time to time, and there’s probably little harm in doing so. But in the interest of intellectual honesty, I’d prefer to focus not on “the secrets” but “the search.” The search should be for useful, factual information that we can learn and apply in our lives to live better and be of bigger service to others. That is a search worth undertaking.

February 24, 2007

“Amazing Grace” is an Amazing Movie

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 5:46 pm

Even if you’ve never heard of William Wilberforce, you’ll most likely be inspired by his life as portrayed in the new movie Amazing Grace. Wilberforce was a tireless crusader in Britian against the slave trade in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. He was influenced by John Newton, the former slave trader who found faith and wrote the immortal hymn, Amazing Grace.

Prior to seeing the movie, I had read mixed reviews. One that stood out criticized the movie for not being overt enough in portraying the role of faith in Wilberforce’s life. That is somewhat ironic as movies with an openly faith-based theme are often criticized for being too overt. Filmmakers who try to take a higher road seem caught in a double bind.

I thought the influence of faith of Wilberforce’s life was obvious in the film without being heavy-handed. After all, the movie wasn’t about Wilberforce’s faith per se, but his resolve in ending slavery. And that nearly single-minded resolve cost him his health and, at the time, his reputation.

The acting was excellent, and the insights into politics of the time most interesting. This isn’t your typical Hollywood offering, so if you want to think, be inspired and probably emotinally moved, I’d recommend Amazing Grace.

February 22, 2007

On Education

Filed under: Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 4:28 pm

H.L. Mencken believed that education ought to teach a person how to go about finding out what he or she doesn’t know.

The storehouse of knowledge grows daily, and the one of the best tools for accessing what is relevant and needed is the internet. As an author, my search abilities are mostly self-taught with the help of online resources and books. But I wonder how many adults past college age are making the time to understand this increasingly critical skill.

Being well-read is important, but it isn’t enough. In business and life challenges arise the require specific information and solutions not found in general publications.

A secondary skill for self-education in the age of accelerated technology is the ability to separate fact from fiction and  sound judgment from silly opinion. While the web contains unlimited information, a significant amount isn’t just inaccurate but wrong.

What are you doing to make sure you are, according to Mencken, well educated? That is to say, what are you doing to make sure you know how to find what you need to know when you need to know it?

JetBlue and What to Do

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 9:26 am

If you want to see a letter of apology to customers that is well written and has heart, check out today’s USAToday and the fullpage apology. JetBlue should be a role model to other carriers (although I highly doubt the other major carriers are paying attention or, if they are, that they have the fortitude to emulate JetBlue’s example….)

An Easy Prediction

Filed under: Uncategorized, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 9:20 am

The upcoming presidential elections will have more vitriol than usual, and what will make it interesting is that it will be within parties.

Hillary Clinton is already showing her true colors by demanding Barack Obama apologize for remarks somebody else (David Geffen) made.

We’re used to the Democrats and Republicans lambasting each other, but I think it is a sure bet that the Democrats will be pummeling each other more than normal during these primaries.

By the way, Barack has taken the high road and said he respects Hillary Clinton as a fellow senator but that he isn’t apologizing for the comments of others. (Classy guy. Don’t know if he’d make a good president, but I do like his style.)

By and large, politics serves as a negative example for other leaders. The best we can hope to learn most of the time from politics is what not to do.

February 20, 2007


Filed under: Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 11:50 am

Make it your aim to discover something new, or to rediscover something important or worthwhile that has been lost or forgotten.

Chesterton said that the world never lacks for wonders, but only for wonder.

Jesus said the greatest among us would be like little children. One attribute of children is their sense of perpetual wonderment. For them, every day holds new discoveries.

We age in inverse proportion to how much we discover or rediscover each day.

A Tough Test

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 11:46 am

Thomas Carlyle had a tough test for books:

“No book that will not improve by repeated readings deserves to be read at all.”

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