My Take-Aways from The Ultimate Gift

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, August 23, 2007 at 05:44 AM with 0 comments

You can’t take it with you. Growing up Italian-American, I heard that phrase a lot because Italians always talk about death. You can start talking about pasta or baseball, but it would ultimately lead to the topic of death. And when receiving an unexpected gift from a relative, their response to your questioning the gift is they can’t take it with them, so they want you to have it so they can see you enjoy it before their, well, you know.

You may not be able to take money with you to the grave, but can you effect what happens to your money after you die? Especially if you realized near the end of your life you didn’t do such a good job with doling it out when alive? This is the core of The Ultimate Gift.

Though the book is fiction, it tells a true tale of the value of money and life and can resonate with anyone. The book was published almost a decade ago, but a recent mention in Forbes magazine and an upcoming movie based on the book have refocused attention on it. It is the story Howard “Red” Stevens, a successful entrepreneur who dies at the beginning of the story. At the reading of his will, his drooling relatives get their inheritances, with the exception of one, his great-nephew Jason. Red’s attorney, Ted Hamilton, is charged in Red’s will with leading Jason on a year-long journey, and at the end if he completes all 12 one-month steps, he gets to inherit “The Ultimate Gift” which is not revealed unless he completes all steps. Needless to say Jason is irked but agrees to go through the process, and the book tells of the learning odyssey by all parties involved.

I read this book right after The 4-Hour Workweek, and it turned out to be a good order to read them. It continued my thinking of how to evaluate how we spend our time and what is truly important in life. As Red Stevens learned this in life, he reassured my thinking of how we can only affect what happens going forward, and cannot change the past. This is important from an entrepreneur’s standpoint for if we fail or don’t do as planned, we can always try again!

It is a short book and a quick read. Each month of the journey is interesting, and I was compelled to want to finish the book to find out if Jason gets The Ultimate Gift and what it is. If you’re looking for a light-hearted read this is a good book you can read on a single flight. And I would not be complete if I didn’t point out there is a reference in the book to my beloved New England Patriots, as the attorney is based in Boston.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Take-Aways from the The 4-Hour Workweek

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, August 04, 2007 at 10:31 AM with 1 comments

The title alone enticed me to read it – The 4-Hour Workweek. Who doesn’t want to work just one-tenth of the standard work week? Not knowing anything more about it, other than it being mentioned on numerous blogs and podcasts, I picked up a copy and read a great book that both reaffirmed and inspired.

Tim Ferriss wrote this book based on his life. He was a typical office worker who was frustrated with his situation. He then took a look at his life, what he wanted to do, and built a business of selling supplements where all company functions were outsourced and he only needed a few hours a week – thus the title – to operate his business. With the rest of his time he travels the world, learned martial arts and to dance, and now is an author and speaker.

You don’t have to want to be an entrepreneur to read this book. It gives a unique perspective to how people spend their time, and how they could be spending their time. Even if you like what you do for a living – like myself – there is plenty to enjoy about this book.

My biggest takeaway from 4-Hour is quantifying your goals and dreams. Many people want to do something but think they can’t do it for many reasons, namely they can’t afford to. He talks through scenarios in his own life and even offers planning tools on his Web site to help you objectively determine if you can really do what you want to. In most cases you probably can, and seeing it in black and white will help you move towards your dreams.

Ferriss also professes something I have mastered owning my own business, working remotely. Many companies are moving towards telecommuting, but many do not allow people to work from home, or wherever they are connecting to the Internet. I once worked for a company that would not allow this as the director of my department liked seeing people in their cubicles! He walks the reader through how to approach it and once approved, how to manage it. With voice-over IP technology today, you could be calling a vendor from Denmark without them even knowing you’re outside of the US... not that I have done that myself!

Outsourcing is a key to how Ferriss has been successful. Some may not familiar with outsourcing overseas or the thought of someone in India balancing your US checkbook may be hard to grasp. The old adage that someone who earns $100 an hour should not be doing a task that can be done by someone who earns $10 an hour is a simplification of this concept, and taking a hard look at your life will probably show some of these tasks that can be done by others.

I recommend this book for anyone, whether you are an entrepreneur or are well into your career in a company. It is a high-energy and positive read and give many examples of services you can use to help you reach your goals, even if you just want to stay working under 40 hours a week.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Take-Aways from Clients for Life

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, July 29, 2007 at 10:24 AM with 0 comments

Once during an annual performance appraisal I was told I was a generalist, and as they supposedly could not sell me as an expert, I was not going to receive a raise or bonus. This came almost a month after I received a “client service” award from the same person. What was my reaction? I smiled, and thanked my reviewer as I considered it a compliment to be called a generalist, and then pointed out how the 1.5 year project I just completed needed a generalist. A month later I quit that company.

For some reason there is a perception being a generalist is bad. You see this more in medicine, as doctors want to be a specialist and not a general practitioner. I see this often in the IT world, as people want to be solely a programmer or designer or database administrator and only focus on those areas, and see the others as places on the other side of a thick wall. For those of us who consider ourselves generalists or those who don’t understand us, the book Clients for Life is a must read.

This book was written in 2000 so some of the company examples may no longer be in business, but the themes and messages ring true today. It takes a perspective beyond being solely a generalist and focuses on being an unselfish, independent, deep generalist advisor to your clients. Rather than offering specific advice or a service and focusing on a one-time deal with the hope of more business, the authors take the viewpoint that by being there, readily available to advice clients on a wide variety of topics and areas and being able to guide them to specific resources or services is equally rewarding and profitable. This can be summed up as the difference between a transaction and a relationship.

As this is how my career interests have come to form over the years, my primary take away was an affirmation of my goals. It also promotes the sense of long-term relationships in building a client base and as a result revenue. Anyone can tell you that the best source of business is repeat business from existing clients and referrals to others from them.

The book is a good read – at times it seems like it is repeating itself to make its point though. Some of the examples of people who were deep generalists had sometimes tragic or dramatic ends to their lives. Even if you don’t believe in this philosophy 100%, I would recommend reading it as it may help form some of your own thoughts on client development.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Take-Aways from the book Cancer’s Spouse

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 08:35 AM with 0 comments

Cover of Cancer's SpouseThey say in a relationship there are three sides to every story. There is one person’s side, there is the other person’s side, and somewhere between them is the truth. Understanding this helps in life and in business, and getting reminders of it is, in my mind a good thing.

This was the biggest take-away for me from the book Cancer’s Spouse. It was written by very good friends of mine, Mark and Glenna Sanford. Glenna is an amazing person, and now is going on 5 years as a cancer survivor. The book chronicles the time from when she was first diagnosed to today, and all of the trials and tests that come with it. What is unique about the book is that each chapter is broken into two – Mark’s side, then Glenna’s side. Apparently the book wasn’t planned to be written that way from the beginning, but in the end it is a unique tale of a family’s journey.

In addition to the many sides of life, another great takeaway I got from this was keeping in mind there may be issues you are not aware of. This can be hard for many people, as emotions often come into play. In business, we tend to lose sight of this and overanalyze situations when things may not be going as planned, only to find out something else is going on. The fact that someone hasn’t returned a call, for example, could be due to a family emergency or a surprise visit from a friend.

I highly recommend people read this book, and it’s not just because I know the authors! For anyone who is or has gone through an illness personally or alongside someone close to them, it gives perspective over that trying time. If thus far you have been fortunate to not have gone through such an experience, the book can prepare you for it. Part of the proceeds from the book goes to cancer research, so another side is also enriched by the purchase of this book.

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My Take-Aways from the book The Education of a Coach

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 09:28 AM with 3 comments

As I have mentioned before, I am a New England Patriots fan. So it goes as no surprise that I would have received the biography on current Patriots coach Bill Belichick for Christmas from my wife, and this was my read for February.

For a book on football, The Education of a Coach had many takeaways for business. The biggest one that permeated the entire story was networking. Even though Belichick’s father was a well-known and respected Naval Academy football scout, on his own he continually sought out connections with coaches, general managers and owners. This is due to the lack of job security in athletic coaching, which in some regards is no different than contracting in the business world. The second, yet of equal importance, was mentorship. Though Belichick was skilled at reviewing football film to analyze past games, he sought out positions that would allow him to continually grow and be overseen by coaches that were willing to take him under his wing. He then paid it forward as he did the same for young and up-and-coming coaches. Where mentorship may not be as much in vogue today as it was years ago in business, I believe it should be.

If you are a football or sports fan, I highly recommend this book. But if you are not a sports fan, you may lose interest in the detailed descriptions of coaches, teams and games. For the fan, the book reads like you are hearing stories of people and games as being told by an old uncle who may have been at the game themself. And if you are a Patriots fan, it fills in many details of the career of coach that has made you proud of your team again!

Note that the title of this book is The Education of a Coach and not The Education of a Man. People who are familiar with Bill Belichick know all too well that he is an extremely private and publicly shy person and abhors the limelight. Where you get great insight into his maturity as a coach, you learn very little to nothing about him personally. There are barely 4 sentences about his family – only mentioning he got married, had to have his family protected when he was the coach of the Cleveland Browns, got divorced and likes to spend time with his kids. In an age where you know far too much about celebrities, as much as this is different it is also refreshing.

Shortly after I finished reading this book, its author, David Halberstam, was tragically killed in a car crash. The Education of a Coach would be his last book, though others were in process or completed but not published. After reading Halberstam’s style of storytelling, I am eager to explore his other works.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Book catch-up

By Mike Maddaloni on with 0 comments

Back in January I pledged to read one book a month, and write not a review but take-aways I got from the book. If you read regularly, you will only see that I have posted one take-away so far. Well, I am catching up, both on my reading and writing. I am one book behind on my reading and have several take-away posts swirling in my head - watch for more!

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My Take-Aways from the book Small Giants

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 06:30 PM with 3 comments

This year I have a goal to read one book a month. Where for some this may not seem like much, it is a big deal for me. I have not been much of a reader in the past, with the exception of trade magazines and technical manuals. As I finish each book, I will write not a review but my "take-away" or the things that made me go “hmmm” after I put the book down for a final time.

My book for January was Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, editor-at-large at Inc. magazine. It highlights several companies that are "giants" in their respective industries, but chose to remain at a certain, smaller size, and details their path to this decision. Some of the companies featured include Anchor Brewing, CLIF Bar and Chicago's Artists' Frame Service.

When people talk about growing their business, the discussion starts at getting larger, but it does not tend to stop anyplace. The companies in this book made a decision to get to a certain size – by the number of staff or services they offer – and are content there. They do not see themselves being limited by this, and the contrary they feel much better about their businesses and its vitality, and in turn themselves. As I plan to grow my own business, this book has given me a different perspective on what growth is, and insight into some choices I may have to make in the future. I recommend fellow small business folks to give this book a few hours to read.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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