Episode 3 - Randy Mayeux
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Brett Cowell: Hi, it's Brett Cowell. This is the Total Life Complete Podcast. Today I'm here with Randy Mayeux; speaker, leadership trainer and business book guru. Welcome, Randy.
Randy Mayeux: I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Brett Cowell: It's a pleasure. Now, I hope sometime today we might get around the subjects of whether a book can change your life, perhaps talk a little bit about social justice and perhaps even about tennis if we've got enough time.
Randy Mayeux: Okay.
Brett Cowell: I want to start with the same question that I ask all the guests, which is, you do so many different things, how do you introduce yourself at a party?
Randy Mayeux: I am, among other things, I am a person who likes to read books and help people know what's in them. I'm a life long reader and the fact that I have done an event called, The First Friday Book Synopsis, has flowed ... flows out of my love of reading books and that's how I got started. I am a business consultant, I'm a leadership trainer informed by the best business books. Then, I also do the same kinds of presentations on issues of social justice; race, education, diversity issues, those kinds of issues.
Brett Cowell: Okay. Let's start with the First Friday Book Synopsis 'cause that's how our paths crossed originally and we were talking off mic a little bit earlier about how I found out about it. It was pretty hard not to find out. You've been established and I'll let you tell the story of it but, when I left my corporate job to found a startup and this podcast and I wanted to network, and the same names and suggestions came up again and again and one was The First Friday Club. Despite the early starting hour, I went to the last one and was pleasantly ... enjoyed it and we connected afterwards. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that was and how it started?
Randy Mayeux: Karl Krayer and I are the two people who host The First Friday Book Synopsis and we began in April of 1998. We're in our 20th year and we have met every month, pretty much without exception. I think one time, we had a snow closure. It was ice and snow. Other than that, we've met every month since April of '98. He reads a book, I read a book, we prepare multipage handouts. They have gotten better in the years that we've been doing this. Our first years, I'm not sure I was as proud as I look back on that. We've developed, we've evolved into, I think, a more comprehensive and thorough template that we use.
We pick the best business books. We are not asking people to read them before they come. We read them for people and we find the transferable principles and we share them and we do it in a very fast pace there. The reason we meet ... You mention that you're not wild about the early hour, we meet at seven o'clock so that people can leave by 8:10 and go to work but, when I am brought into a company and or organization, to do a longer presentation, I can spend up to an hour and a half on the content of one of these books. That's kind of how we got started.
Brett Cowell: I know, having spent a couple of decades as a management consultant, reading these business books is kind of occupational hazard, I began to call it and I actually, probably gave them up a while ago. A lot of people don't find enough time. Was that the motivation to start doing it? You kind of recognize a need, that there's a lot of great books out there and people just don't have the time to read as much as they would?
Randy Mayeux: I'd like to say yes but, it might have been the second reason. The main reason was that I like to read and I like an outlet to share what I've read and so, we came up with this system, this idea that maybe others would like to get in on what we've learned but we certainly have learned, and in fact, the research is clear, the average college graduate American male in the United States, reads less than one full book a year. People don't read. Now, there are people who read a lot of books but I've got a personal theory; if someone is 30 years old and they're not yet reading books, they're probably never going to be reading books and yet, plenty of people wish they knew what were in, what was in these books. We read them, say, "This is what's in them," and give them the key transferable, usable principles and we felt like there was a market for that and there is.
Brett Cowell: Yeah. This has been going for, I think, as long as my entire first phase of my career has gone. I started in 1998 in consulting and obviously, there's still a market for it now. How’ve the books changed over this time? What were the topics then and now? Are business books getting better or worse?
Randy Mayeux: That's a terrific question. My first comment is that in one sense, the themes continue and the themes kind of fall into two or three major categories; how do you make an organization profitable, how do you keep an organization healthy, how do you make a person more productive? In one sense, I'm willing to bet that I could take any book over the 20 years, and find the slot to put them in. On the other hand, they have gotten better. The writing is better. There are better writers now writing business books. I think of the quality of writing from people like Malcolm Gladwell and Charles Duhigg. These are terrific writers. They're journalists, they're marvelous storytellers and so, when they write a story, it is an engaging story.
There are plenty of business books. I say it this way to my wife, "I don't want to read it. I want to have read it." I don't want to go through the process of reading it. It's a boring read. It's an academic read. Many business books, you can almost get the whole point by reading the foreword, the introduction and the conclusion and everything else is a little bit of fleshing out but that's happening less often. The last few months, the books I've read have been engaging and comprehensive and I'm glad I've read, and I do read every word of every business book that I present in my synopses. I'm glad that I'm reading the books.
The one I did this past month, The Attention Merchants by, Tim Wu, it was absolutely captivating. He is a terrific writer. Yeah, they've gotten better. They've gotten better but in general, they deal with the same themes and big questions that they've dealt with all along. That's my view.
Brett Cowell: Okay. No, very good. There's been this dynamic of different ways to publish, not only self-publishing but blogs and LinkedIn articles and all these other sort of things. I wonder if that's changed the expectations of the users out of the ... of business books and what they ... what is value in getting these key messages. Just for an example, you can go to an online book seller and you can look at the comments and quite often, the low starred ratings are people saying, "This shouldn't be a book, this should be a blog article."
Randy Mayeux: That's right. There's a lot of that. Probably, I need to talk about how we choose our books. We don't choose self-published books. We don't choose books that are Kindle only. We choose, what we would call, either a current or a former or a potential genuine best seller. There are lots of different best selling lists out there. The one that I use, personally, most, that seems to have the most credibility is, the New York Times Monthly Business Book Best Sellers List. Now, if you're asking me, "Have I read a fair number of books that are not all that written, all that well written?" The answer is yes.
My Kindle app is filled with sample pages of books that somebody said, "Check this out," I did. I'm not going to name these but, it's barely worth checking out. Has it changed? The best books are still published by the best publishers, by well-known publishers. I know because of what I've read about the process, that they have good editors and, generally, good fact checkers. These are legitimate and responsible books that we choose for First Friday Book Synopsis.
Brett Cowell: I know that you've done some work on your bubble charts that I'll post in the show notes, a link to that: [http://www.15minutebusinessbooks.com/blog/2017/06/07/12-books-and-2-articles-you-should-read-pretty-soon/]. One of my observations is always, you can read all these books on kind of seemingly disparate topics but, how do you actually get sustainable benefit out of that? To answer that I think, everything comes back to a framework and if you can kind of slot that in, mentally, to a problem you have or a part of your leadership or personal management arsenal that is going to be strengthened by this book, you're going to get a lot more out of the book.
Randy Mayeux: One of the problems in business books is, and this is been written about, it's called the Halo effect. In fact, there's a book by Jeffrey Pfeffer called, Leadership BS. He teaches at Stanford. He's a very sharp writer and he basically says we have spent massive amounts of money, we have published numerous books, we've had seminars and workshops and overall, the level of leadership has gone down. It is not gone up. It's all leadership BS. Well, the Halo effect basically argues that a good writer will find some company, some leader, some organization that has done something well and then they go study and say, "Oh, look, here are the principles that were used there. Now, go and do likewise."
The problem is that, you can look at what Steve Jobs did and you don't have Steve Jobs. You can look at what so and so did and you don't have that person. There are some books that are remarkably useful, practicable ... That's a word I did not yet know before I started reading these books, and a book that I did recently by Kim Scott. Kim Scott is a former high up person within Google, worked major processes at Apple and her book is called, Radical Candor. She has a step-by-step process on what a manager does in interactions with people to help them get better at what they do.
It was the most useful book I've read in a decade, on leadership because it was so practicable and reading it, I have started giving myself radical candor. The book was valuable to me. All right. Delicate here. There are wonderful speakers, motivational speakers who are motivating but you walk away and you've been motivated, now what? Going from, being motivated to, knowing what to do, is tougher. A whopping best seller, in the last six months is, Tim Ferriss' book, Tools of Titans. He wrote, The Four Hour Work Week and, The Four Hour Chef, and he's a wild man. Tools of Titans is his podcast. They are the guests from his podcast and he's had a hundred million downloads.
Tim Ferriss, has taken the practicable, applicable, actionable, that's the word he uses, actionable items from these podcasts. Here's something tangible. I now get out of bed every morning and I do 20 push-ups before I do anything else. I got that from that book. The book says, "Do some reps first thing in the morning." That's not your exercise, that's to get the juices flowing so you're not groggy in the morning.
Randy Mayeux: It has made a difference for the better. I'm not a young guy. I'm in my 60's but that little step has made me more productive, early in the morning and I got that out of a wonderful book. That's an idea for some of that.
Brett Cowell: This brings me to the next question, can a book change your life?
Randy Mayeux: I'm a little more hesitant about that. I know that that's something we like to talk about. Can a book change your life? Can listening to a speaker change your life? There are skills you can learn, that can change your life. There are ideas that you can learn that can change your life but I'm a pretty big fan of what we know as the 10,000 hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in Outliers but, it actually was started by Anders Ericsson and he's got a book called, Peak. He learned the kind of work it requires, you have to put in X number of hours and, it's around 10,000 to master anything.
If you read his book, what he's really saying is, you don't get better at anything without working at it with purposeful practice that is deliberate purposeful practice for the purpose of getting better at what you do. Does the book change your life? No. Can reading a book lead you to make a decision that can put your life on a better trajectory? Yes. We're sitting in a building, having this interview, that is connected to a nonprofit and a church. Well, if you know anything at all about preaching, few sermons change a life but, listen to enough sermons over the long haul and you'll begin having a trajectory for your life that is for the better. So those are some of my thoughts on that.
Brett Cowell: There's a kind of a reinforcement or a stacking effect. There's different terms that people use to say, repeating those same things. I think you said, yourself said last week in the summary that, we need to hear something 17 times now to act on it.
Randy Mayeux: That's right. That's right.
Brett Cowell: That said, I thought it used to be three times, it might be due to inflation and fragmentation, it's gone up to 17
Randy Mayeux: Yeah. Yeah.
Brett Cowell: That's a lot of times but, for sure. I want to talk about ... it's something that you alluded to now, can a book change your life but there's this thing about mastery and it's certainly something that I'm experiencing in my life as a way to live. Mastery and excellence and there's various other words that are associated with it. As a mindset, rather than reading something in a book. Can the book or other stories help give you an attitude of mastery that you can then use to go forward then apply in your own way, through life, which is ... To give another concrete book example, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit One was about being proactive, that's the first self-help book I had ever read.
Randy Mayeux: That's right.
Brett Cowell: Being proactive and that is, as far as anything, not just the term here today, being proactive about, I don't know, taking out the trash but, it's an attitude toward life where you determine your destiny and the results you get out of and I think, mastery and other terms that are useful as a life philosophy.
Randy Mayeux: What Stephen Covey did in Seven Habits is, he took ancient principles and he said, "Let me put 'em in seven phrases." It's not that you learned to be proactive, it is that he gave you a handle to hang that on and it's very good. It's very good. You're right. There are a multitude of books that, in one way or another say, "Be proactive." I'm a fan of that concept and if you don't take the action, if you are not proactive then, things aren't going to happen. That one's pretty clear. Backing up, do books change your life? In many books, but Tools of Titans was a good one for this, Tim Ferriss asked everybody, "What book have you read that had an impact on you?"
I'm thinking about, I'm not fully set in cement but I'm thinking about doing some extra sessions under the umbrella of First Friday Book Synopsis, on what I might called, The Great Books, where I do a synopsis of a book that enough people have talked about and a whole lot of people out there say, "Man, I should of read that and I never did," or, "I read it back in my college days and totally forgot it." The first book I would do if I did this, and I'm leaning towards this, is Man's Search for Meaning by, Viktor Frankl. How many people know about that book, but haven't read it? I think about the really provocative book by Sigmund Freud called, Civilization and its Discontents.
A premise that is so profound and yet, most people if they did read it, they don't remember it or they've heard about it but they've never read it. That's something that I'm playing with but I have not yet decided. In that sense, there are books that I have read that the concept has lingered for a lifetime. Man's Search for Meaning is one. Civilization and its Discontents is another. A Christian book that I read, Mere Christianity by, C. S. Lewis. There is a principle specifically in that book that I have never forgotten and I believe it has shaped all sorts of my thinking. Those are some examples of a book that have had, if not changing your life, lingering effects on your life.
Brett Cowell: Well, and I wondered how much of that is the art of the writer and the clarity of the writer and how much, when a book does change your life, is it's the right book at the right time, for you in your stage of life.
Randy Mayeux: Here's something that happens, somebody has a book that really affects them in a very positive way, then they want all of their friends to be affected, in the same way, by that book and what I have come to understand is, books and readers have relationships. I am okay if I recommend this book with great passion to you and you say to me, "It didn't do it for me." I've surely had to say that to people that have told me about how great a book is and I've read it and I've said, "It didn't do it for me," and they get so disappointed. It's like art and in fact, the old line from Aristotle, "Rhetoric is the art of finding the available means of persuasion." One person looks at Picasso and says, "Great art," and the other person says, "I don't get it. I don't get it." One person listens to music and says, "Great music," and the other person says, "Nah, I don't get that." Books are art and so people have reactions that are very personal to books. That's a concept.
Brett Cowell: I like the idea of the relationship there and maybe a concept of match making-
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: -to people.
Randy Mayeux: In the book, Eleven Rings, Phil Jackson, great coach, I learned that he would give every one of his players a book at the beginning of a season. Not the same book. He would give each player a book that he chose for that player. That tells you two things about Phil Jackson. Number one, he knew books, plural. Number two, he knew his players as individuals. He could match book to player and some of the players would read the books, some of them, he described it, would literally toss them in the trash can but, they knew that he had picked out a book for them and that ... He's the only coach with 11 rings. It's pretty amazing. He understood that books and people have to be matched really well. I like that about him.
Brett Cowell: I have to ask you, what is your favorite book of all time, that you've reviewed or inside or outside?
Randy Mayeux: The Grapes of Wrath. That's my favorite book of all time. If people ask me, "What's the greatest book you've read?" It's the Grapes of Wrath. That's, of course fiction but it is drenched in insight. I don't read much fiction and I need to and that's one of my regrets. When you try to get to that question, what's the most, the greatest book? There is not a greatest business book, in my view. We have to ask, "What's the best book about blank?" I can fill in some blanks. What's the ... If you only had time to read one book on time management, what do you read? You read Getting Things Done by, David Allen. That's the Bible on time management. If you had only one book to read on leadership, boy, it's tougher. It's tougher.
Number one, and by the way, I haven't read all the books on time management. I haven't read all the books on leadership. I'm fairly well read. I know a guy who reads far more than I do but I'm fairly well read, compared to many. At the moment, if you ask me, "What are the few books to read on leadership?" My list is this list: Eleven rings by Phil Jackson, a great leader, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two former Navy Seals, whopping best seller. Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner and now I'm adding Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
If you ask me, "What's the number one book on quality?" Aiming for high quality. It's got to be The Goal by, and I never remember how to say his name, Eliyahu Goldratt. I'm not sure that I'm saying that correctly. I think if you're dealing with quality and the Six Sigma type arena, you ought to read, The Goal. If you ask, "What's the book to read to just make sure you're aiming at getting better at your organization, at your processes, at your own productivity?" There is a relatively new book that I'm very high on and it's called, Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. He wrote, The Power of Habit.
There are ... If you give me a category, if you say, "What's the best book about blank?" I can tell you what's the most useful book that I've read about that and I generally have a book for each category you can name. Now, same thing with social justice. If you ask me, "What's the book to read on race relations, in the United States?" Well, I got to have two. I've got to have, between ... It's Ta-Nehisi Coates' book. I think it's, Between the World and Me. It's a great book. Then, there's a new book by Kendi, [Ibram] X. Kendi. He's a professor, and it's called Stamped From the Beginning and it is a terrific book on race relations.
I've got books within categories and including within mega categories. I can give subcategories to business books and subcategories to social justice. Anyway, I could keep going on like that but, I've got other examples.
Brett Cowell: I do want to come to social justice in a second. The Goal, picking that as a book and that that's something that a lot of management consultants and others out there have read, might have read and people in operations. The message of the book is embedded in a story. We hear a lot about storytelling. I spend almost my whole day talking about storytelling.
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: In their own lives, about charities, about business, about everything. Everyone wants to know how to do it. There seems to be quite a lot of misuse and abuse of storytelling as well. What's the potential of storytelling in books but also, in our society as it is?
Randy Mayeux: Okay. I got to be cautious here. The Goal is what I call a parable book. The whole book is an imaginary story. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which is the book on making sure your team is functional, that's a parable. It's not that I'm not wild about that but I think it has been maybe over used a little and in general, like in Five Dysfunctions of a Team, at the end of each portion of the story, they get to the principles. I like the principles better than the story. I'm more of a fan of ... How do I use this phrase? The real stories. The kinds of stories that are told in biographies like Isaacson on Steve Jobs. I'd rather read the story about what happened and it's a real story, that's me.
There are plenty of people who write those stories poorly and so, when you find somebody who's good at it, Like Walter Isaacson, like Charles Duhigg, like Kim Scott in this book, Radical Candor. She's a remarkably good storyteller. When you can find somebody who can tell a real story and sometimes, they say, "Now this is what you do with this story," and sometimes they just leave it there and you have to decide on your own. I like that better. Frank Luntz, he's a Republican communication consultant and forget your politics, he knows what he's talking about when it comes to communication. Frank Luntz says that you need to remember that all stories, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. My view, is that too many stories start and end in the middle. They don't give a beginning, they' don't give an ending.
By the way, that's what happens with speeches. Speeches need, in the words of a professor at University of Southern California, Tom Hollihan, "A good speech has to arouse the audience." You have to hook the audience and then at the end, you have to fulfill what you've aroused. You've given them what you promised and so, arouse and fulfill. Good storytelling; beginning, middle, and end, work hard on the beginning. Oh my goodness, that's the hardest part in my view, is the beginning.
Brett Cowell: When you were going to college, etc. did you anticipate that you might end up being a leadership trainer?
Randy Mayeux: I spent 20 years in ministry. I was a preacher and when I ended up leaving my denomination and leaving preaching, I had always been a reader. If you were to read my LinkedIn page, it would say something like this, "I started with comic books, then I went to The Hardy Boys, and then I went to Nero Wolfe, and then I went to more substantive nonfiction books," etc. I've always been a reader and so, I'm a reader and a speaker. I was a reader and a preacher. I've always known that I would read and speak. I don't know where that first came from, certainly in my high school years I had a sense of this.
I love speaking and I would hate speaking without having an equal amount of time of continuing to read. The greatest invention in history, I say with a smile, is the iPad because I can pause the TV, read my paragraph, I am reading books on Kindle all the time. I'm reading serious essays all the time. The fact that I can have the Kindle anywhere, or the iPad anywhere, has been just a terrific boon to someone like me who wants to keep learning. For a life long learner, it's far better than a cell phone, that's too small a screen. This is just right. Farhad Manjoo is the New York Times Technology Writer. He says, "The iPad is an input device." It's not output. You don't use it to type. You input with it. That's how I use it. I lean back in my Easy Chair and I'm reading my iPad and the only time I put it down is when there is a compelling, engaging drama on television. If a game is on television, I'm reading my iPad.
Brett Cowell: We talked earlier about a book being a relationship, like a relationship. Does the device, the way you consume that or you interact with that, is that different if it's a paper book or an iPad or a Kindle or such?
Randy Mayeux: I'm like so many others who said, "I'll never not read on paper." I've got friends who say, "I'll never do that." I was an immediate and now adamant convert to the Kindle app on the iPad. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the reasons is, I can underline with my finger, highlight, and then all of my highlights are available to copy and paste into a Word document. For a guy like me, if you saw my handout at First Friday Book Synopsis, you know I include a few pages of excerpts from the book. “The Best of Randy's Highlights.” That's valuable. It has a search feature. If I can remember a phrase, I can find it.
In the old days, I would write in the margins and I do miss writing in the margin. I would remember where to find something in the book because I'd remember the look of my writing on the right hand margin about a third of the way through the book. I would remember stuff like that. Now, this is bizarre, I remember that in my handouts for my synopses. I remember, "Oh yeah, that's at the bottom of the page and I read that quote." Has it changed? Yes but, the pluses of digital far outweigh the minuses. I can get on an airplane and I can have 15 books in my lap. I can read the sample pages or I can do the deeper dive while I fly and by the way, the best place to read is airplane mode on a plane. Nothing else can distract you.
Brett Cowell: I think there's a lot of us that travel a lot for work or certainly, had done ... that appreciate their plane mode and are probably not that wild about wifi on planes and other things because, I think if you don't have anytime that you can actually reflect and to engage in something without being distracted every few seconds then ...
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: Life is worse off as a result. I've not been able to do that. I find that, I think for books, I was very much of the school of treating books as a sacred thing that would be ... I mean that in the sense of a precious thing that is ... I'd read a book and it would look still as if it had just come out of the book shop. I didn't underline and then ... I think ... I went across an invisible line where I wanted to mark and write in the books.
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: Really get the most out of them and I think that's an important thing to do. Kindle and others make that very easy. I was just thinking the other day, is this really changing the way that I'm reading the book 'cause I'm not reading the whole thing through. I'm kind of reading it in small chunks and highlighting that later on, then to go back and reread all of the highlights that I've gotten.
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: I'm not sure whether that's better or worse or more quicker or ...
Randy Mayeux: I will say this, in the books, I think it's ... I've read enough books that I don't always remember where I read what but I'm pretty sure in Smarter Faster Better by Duhigg, he talks about the discover that people taking notes on a screen, a laptop, do not remember as well as people who take notes on paper. The First Friday Book Synopsis, you were there, everybody in the room has the multipage handout. I am very directive. "Turn to page three. Look at quote number 18. Write this in the margin." I mean, I am very directive and my conviction is that when people engage pen, paper, mind, they remember better.
In that sense, reading on digital is not as good but, I highlight constantly, I occasionally write in the note feature. I don't find that as easy to use. I'm waiting for Jeff Bezos to find a way to write in the margin digitally. That would be fun. But yeah, I'm a fan of Duhigg's, he didn't discover it, he quoted the research that said it, that people remember better, using pen and paper, than they do using a screen and I think that was interesting.
Brett Cowell: Certainly. I find that so and ... there's something about, probably genetic that is there but I think in adult education and how people learn ... people learn from experience and then, from stories about others' experience.
Randy Mayeux: That's right.
Brett Cowell: They're the most powerful ways of doing it and perhaps some way, by getting the pen and writing it down, you're having an experience that engages a different part of your brain. There's probably a book about that as well!
Randy Mayeux: This is a problem. One of the great books I ever read was, The World's Great Letters. I just did a vacation where we went to the Museums of the Civil Rights Movement. We went to Atlanta and Birmingham and Selma and Montgomery and there are all sorts of handwritten letters from people, Martin Luther King Junior and others, about what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement. There will never be a book on the world's great Tweets or the world's great emails. We're losing something by people not writing letters by hand so that's a sadness to me. But count me in, I don't write letters by hand. I send emails and bad ones, bad ones.
Brett Cowell: What are the keys of-
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: -being a good communicator and is it different for digital?
Randy Mayeux: Yeah. Well, very simply, if you have something to communicate, we start there. Aristotle had some cannons of communication and two of his five were invention and delivery and I summarize these this way: invention is, have something worth while to say and delivery is, deliver it very well, speak it very well, say it very well. We live in an era in which, sometimes we put more emphasis on the delivery than we do the message and I think that's a mistake but, it is an equal mistake to have a great message and deliver it poorly. These are equal needs. Have something worthwhile to say, say it very well.
Now, you're asking me to give you keys and it's a full day seminar to get you started. But, when you try to have something worth while to say, you research well, you edit down and you get to the essence and until you get to the essence, until you can say what you need to say in a sentence or two, you're not ready and then you flesh it out. On delivering it well, I'm back to this arouse and fulfill.
Brett Cowell: Right. Right.
Randy Mayeux: You've got to hook your listener or reader very quickly and then, at the end of the process, you've delivered what you promised. When I teach this, I say, "What's the greatest beginning of all time?" Once upon a time. "Ooh, now I get to hear a story," although, I might argue that the current greatest beginning is: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Any what's the greatest ending? "And they lived happily ever after," and that tells you the story's finished and it ended the way you wanted it to. Those are some thoughts on communication but, I will tell you that getting the words right, in the right order, and only the right words and no words that shouldn't be there, is a very demanding process.
Brett Cowell: It's interesting that ... so very good. It's interesting to see that you can get into, what's the purpose of communication and is, does stream of consciousness have a value in itself? It's communication I guess because a message or something is going out there?
Randy Mayeux: You have to ask, "What are the purposes of communication?" You would not want the First Officer and the Pilot, in the plane that landed in the Hudson River, to have a stream of consciousness communication. Chesley Sullenberger famously said, "My controls," because the First Officer had been flying and that's pilot speak for, "I'm gonna fly right now. Is that okay with you?" The First Officer said, "Your controls," which means, "I'm relinquishing. You've got it. You're flying now." The old textbooks on communication are; you need the sender and the receiver and, did the receiver receive the message?
Stream of consciousness is a different kind of communication. When you get into that, when you get into great fiction and great stream of consciousness, you're talking about a different kind of communication than the average business communication, the average nonfiction communication, in some sense. Is that valuable? Wildly valuable, different than what I do.
Brett Cowell: Yeah. Well you mentioned Tim Ferriss, right, and just picking him as an example that a lot of people know. The best practice, if I can put it that way, in building a business, a personality led business, is to tell people what you're having [to eat] and what your dogs doing and all that sort of stuff. That's clearly communicating something and maybe it's allowing an intimacy to the reader that you don't get from this ... from some books that are written in this kind of nondescript vacuum of the world where facts are coming out, business book or whatever. This is very much tied to that person and their journey through their day or whatever.
Randy Mayeux: That's right.
Brett Cowell: I think, will that evolve into something else? I can't ... It's different purposes for communication I guess so. It's very interesting to see how you know, I'm not getting a list of bullet points coming through my email.
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: ...from people that are ... have made the leap into this new era of communication. They seem to be, if you took all of their personal updates out and just left the facts, it would seem pretty, pretty cold or old fashioned I guess.
Randy Mayeux: I'm fairly saddened at the shorter attention span of the era. People are not willing to invest the time in lengthier reading. I believe that you can get great help from great essays but I want a full essay length. Essays by Atul Gawande. By the way, everybody out to read Personal Best by Atul Gawande, that's a wonderful essay. Essays by Malcolm Gladwell. The Great Essays by David Halberstam. I'm not a fan of, let's reduce it down, even though I said, let's get it down to one or two sentences, that's your starting point. You want to be clear but, you want time to flesh it out. This Twitter era of 140 charters is, at times, a little frustrating, even though I Tweet constantly.
Brett Cowell: Okay. Let's get onto social justice then. What’s social justice to you ... 'cause it's a term that a lot of people use, and particularly in the U.S. though, not necessarily hear, elsewhere ... What is it and what drives you to this?
Randy Mayeux: Tell me the question again?
Brett Cowell: What is it? What is social justice in terms of-
Randy Mayeux: Okay. What is social justice? Okay. That's a big question. I'm sadly persuaded and I'm very sad about this, that the history of human kind is, "My group is better than your group," and so, in America, it's white supremacy but it's not just white supremacy. It's, "My group is better than your group." If you study our history, Jewish people came over, they were not treated acceptably well, equally. Polish people, Italian people, Hispanic people, black people of course, were brought as slaves in the beginning. Social justice means ...
Martin Luther King Junior, in the last speech of his life, delivered on April 3, 1968, it's called, I've Been to the Mountaintop. It has the greatest line I've ever read. He said, "All we're asking, is that America be true to what it says on paper." Social justice is being true to what we say on paper. If education is important, everybody deserves a good education. If ... I believe, I'm giving you my bias here, that healthcare is a right, that people, when they are ill, need to be treated for their illness. The history of America is a history of white supremacy and other kind[s] of supremacy and that is not social justice.
Social justice is removing that blight and getting closer to the idea that we are true to what we say on paper. Justice, again, this is a business discussion but, the idea of justice comes out of what Christians called, The Old Testament Prophets and Amos is one of my favorites on that. He talks about that God is saying, "I will not accept your worship until the poor are treated well." I think that's right. Those are some thoughts about social justice. I've done a book a month, synopsis of a book a month in social justice, for 12 years. Not as long as the business books, First Friday Book Synopsis but, 12 years, every month. I'm doing one, today's Tuesday, I'm doing one this Thursday.
Brett Cowell: It's an interesting comment and I know and I hope that the listeners here will be broad enough minded to see that business is a part of life and society. To say look, there's kind of a business discussion here and then the social justice. What's the interplay? Are they two different realms or are they really part of the same thing?
Randy Mayeux: Yeah. Insightful question. They shouldn't be two separate rooms and I believe, although ... Okay. Now, here's the bad news; there are really nice people who are servant leaders, who I would not hire to run my company. They don't produce results and there are really giant jerks, that I would hire my company because they produce results. If you're a city and you got potholes, you want somebody to fix the pothole. Now, is it nicer to have nice leaders who are servant leaders who create teams that everybody's glad they're a part of it? Yes but, if the team is not fixing the potholes, you don't have a good leader and you don't have a good team.
There is no connection. I don't like what I'm saying here. There is no connection between nice people, social justice, treating people equally and producing the results that are sometimes needed in business. I believe that there are examples of servant leaders who had great results and I believe there are examples of jerks who had great results. I think of Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines. He might have been a profane man, he liked to cuss and he liked to drink but he loved his people. He was a servant leader. He would put on a Santa Claus outfit and he would toss luggage on Christmas Eve, at the airport, with his baggage handlers. They would walk through walls for that guy.
He served his people. I call that social justice. I call that treating people right. That's treating people equally. Whereas, I know people who are that nice but didn't produce the results he did. Those are some thoughts about that but do they overlap? Yes but, turning a bad person into a nice person, which is not easy, doesn't mean they'll get results. The issue of business is; what is the proof that you have succeeded? If you go out of business because you have no profits, you have not succeeded. My preference is, and the people who study servant leadership, servant leadership was coined by Robert Greenleaf. The people who study servant leadership say, "No, no. Servant leadership is; you treat people right and you produce the results." I think that's correct. When you get them both, you've got the ideal.
Brett Cowell: There's a lot of talk about Conscious Capitalism and Corporate Social Responsibility and these things and I think that's, to not be cynical, that's an attempt to engage the communities that businesses operate in and say, "Look, there's more goals uh, than just profit." If you're living within a ... You have to be interdependent-
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: -with the society that you're a part of.
Randy Mayeux: We are all at the mercy of forces bigger than us. Conscious Capitalism, The Container Store, the Kip Tindell, the CEO of the Container Store, is a firm believer and a part of the Conscious Capitalism Movement. I'm a fan of that but, the day will come. Let's pretend, that I'm just going to use this as a quick illustration. Pretend that Research in Motion, was the greatest Conscious Capitalism company in history. When the iPhone hit, the Blackberry was finished.
It took a few years to have the burial but, it was finished. In an era of disruption, you can have a company following the principles of Conscious Capitalism and a disruptive technology can come along and put them out of business, over night. That's the reality of this era. That's an interesting problem.
Brett Cowell: Let's maybe talk about Dallas for a little bit, as well. Just in terms of ... How do you describe Dallas to people that have never been here? How would you describe it?
Randy Mayeux: Well-
Brett Cowell: In terms of how it works, and the types of people you may encounter.
Randy Mayeux: You can't be in Dallas without loving the Cowboys.
Brett Cowell: Yeah.
Randy Mayeux: It's way too hot. It is a community that is blind to the poverty because the poverty is immense in Dallas. The social justice book club that I do, The Urban Engagement Book Club, is sponsored by CitySquare, which started as Central Dallas Ministries, which started as a little food pantry. It's a large nonprofit. They just can't keep up with the need and they're doing a great job. Dallas is business. The business of Dallas, is business.
There's a wonderful book by Lawrence Wright who won the Pulitzer for The Looming Tower, about Al-Qaeda. An early book about growing up in Dallas called, In the New World: Growing up with America 1960-1984. He lived in Lakewood, in Dallas. He described, in that book, how Dallas ... and you'd have to know a little Texas and a little Dallas to know this but, how Dallas ended up with the Centennial celebration, which became the buildings of Fair Park. Dallas had nothing to do with the origins of Texas. It did not belong here but, the business people of Dallas walked into the Governor's office and made it a financially smart choice to bring that to Dallas. The business of Dallas, is business. You got to understand that about Dallas, it cares about business.
Brett Cowell: No, I think that's spot on. It's interesting, given our discussion about business and social justice that you can see such a business capital with so much poverty yet so many charities that are doing so much good work. I just, I think, why is that? I know a lot of great minds and good educational institutions as well. I'm constantly astounded by that. What's the missing link in there to be ... If you can't make social justice work here then ...
Randy Mayeux: Well, I want you to know that I believe deeply in this issue but, I'm also ... I've got a lot of background in understanding it. Martin Luther King Junior, in the speech, I Have A Dream, talked about the lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. He wasn't talking about Dallas but he was absolutely talking about Dallas. It is an American city reality and if you study the building of the highways and the building of the freeways and the building of the overpasses and the legalization of segregation with housing restrictions, we built the cities to be cities of inequality.
There's some interesting new books about that that I'm delving into at the moment. This is ... It's not a mystery. Rich people of a certain color want their communities kept their way and they don't want anybody else to come and lower them. I don't say that with any kind of ugliness. The history backs that up. That's true in Dallas and other cities also.
Brett Cowell: There's a structural element to the city planning-
Randy Mayeux: That's right.
Brett Cowell: Or, it kind of embeds some of these social problems but, at the same time, we look around and see gentrification, which might be just...
Randy Mayeux: Yeah.
Brett Cowell: Relocation in another term. If we look around Dallas' growing up and all this.
Randy Mayeux: There are people who are well motivated, who try to do the right thing but that doesn't mean they're smart enough to know what the right thing is. I'm not implying that I'm smart enough to know what the right thing is. We're having to learn this as we go but, I think a starting point to remember is; there are some people who want to keep other people down. We need to remember that. That's my little sermon for you.
Brett Cowell: Just on a more positive note, for the listeners here and I think, for folks interested in getting the most out of life, reaching their personal and professional goals and potentially giving back, what are your messages from ... I'm going to put it this way and, don't be offended at all; on your tombstone, what are your three bullet points of advice that you want to give to people about how to live life?
Randy Mayeux: Yeah. Keep aiming to get better. Treat people with love and kindness and never be arrogant.
Brett Cowell: That's great advice to live by.
Randy Mayeux: I need to write those down.
Brett Cowell: Yeah. yeah. yeah. Well, we'll be putting the transcript up on the website so you heard it hear first folks.
Randy Mayeux: Okay.
Brett Cowell: Okay. Let's get into current projects in our last few minutes together here. How can people find you and, you know, being inspired and interested to follow up with you, how can they get in touch?
Randy Mayeux: I blog regularly. We have one website that has a blog tab and other tabs. It is 15, 1-5, www.15minutebusinessbooks.com. If you go to that website, you'll see which two books we're going to be presenting at next month's First Friday Book Synopsis. You'll find me blogging about books on social justice as well as business. You'll find links to The Urban Engagement Book Club on Social Justice. When we present our synopses at First Friday Book Synopsis, you can purchase those synopses. What you get with it is the PDF of the handout.
That is exactly what people get when they come to the public event and then, you also get an audio recording, MP3, of what we said. When I say we, I do one book and a colleague named Karl Krayer, does the other. They're 18, it's not quite 15 minutes. They're 18 to 22 minutes in length and so you can listen to me as I give the synopsis. It is ideal, you can listen while you drive but it's ideal if you follow along on the handout that way, in 20 minutes, you'll get a lot of the book. Then, you can find ways to contact me and if you've got an organization that wants to take a deeper dive into a leadership principle from a good business book, give me a call.
Brett Cowell: Sounds good. Any other final words for the listeners?
Randy Mayeux: Final words: there's always the next good book to be reading. Get it and read it. Keep learning. There's always the next good thing, new thing, to learn. Keep learning. Keep reading. Don't stagnate. That's my final word.
Brett Cowell: That's great.
Randy Mayeux: Thank you for having me.
Brett Cowell: Thanks Randy Mayeux, for joining us today. All right, for the listeners, you can download the transcript of today's conversation at www.totallifecomplete.com
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