My Take-Aways from The Crucible

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Growing up in Massachusetts I was well versed on the story of the Salem with trials in the town on the north shore of the east coast of the Bay State. But like many things in your backyard, I have only been there once, and that was just a few years ago. The story of the witch hunt came back to mind as I read The Crucible, the play written by Arthur Miller in the 1950’s. Little did I think beforehand I would find lessons of business as well as life in its pages.

Miller’s play was written at the time of anti-Communist sentiment and inquisitions in Washington DC, and these events inspired Miller to write The Crucible as he saw parallels to the inquisition of a few hundred years earlier. The book version of the play has a detailed introduction describing both time periods and how the play came into being, and is an excellent context to the play as well as a recap of history.

My greatest take-away from the play is a quest for the truth. It is needless to say the entirety of the witch trials were based on hearsay and emotion and not the truth. This is not to say business should be totally devoid of emotion or compassion, rather in the face of insanity and chaos that can slip into a business setting, a quest toward facts will more likely than not be the best path to take.

Another take-away from the play is considering the impact of your actions on your environment. Even if a decision you might make is unpopular and pursuing its resolution is the best course to take, you can take steps to minimize its impact on the community you are in. This can be everything from being completely covert to completely transparent. The way information is delivered as well can satisfy those who may not agree with the decision. Sometimes the medium is the message.

Speaking of community, I read this book as it was a gift from Chicago’s One Book, One Chicago program. This is an excellent promotion of literacy around the Windy City where thousands of people are reading the same book at the same time!

I enjoyed The Crucible and recommend it to anyone. It is a well-written story accurately retelling a dark period of the early history of the US. Its script format helps the reader get deeper into the characters and see the story as someone living at that time. Though Halloween has passed, read it now, and then re-read it next October.

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 Perpetual Motivation

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 01:27 PM with 0 comments

No matter how beautiful or comforting a home is, if it is not built on a solid foundation it will surely crumble. This analogy can be used for many things in our world, from ourselves to families to businesses to sports teams. Having a strong foundation and core values will provide a solid base for everything else in life. It’s not that everything else will come automatically, as anything in life worth achieving is worth working for.

There are many books published on the topic of motivation. Some speak more scientifically and others more organizationally. I have read a few of these books myself, as a self-employed entrepreneur keeping motivated is key. After reading the book Perpetual Motivation by Dave Durand, I learned to take a step back and look inward to find the motivators to keep me positive and progressing.

Perpetual Motivation, like many motivational books and stories, has an equation to help keep you going. The formula in the book was different from others I have seen, as it seemed more humbling and therefore more achievable. The equation states motivation is the result of balance plus influence plus creativity plus a sense of humor minus runaway self-esteem. Where Durand does a better job of describing all of these than myself, his exclusion of it being all about “me” and being about family and friends is a refreshing approach.

My greatest take-away from the book is focusing on the pursuit of balance. This goes contrary to the common notion where you must work hard and be focused on work and from that rewards will come, everything else being a distraction. The catalyst for many entrepreneurs is independence and calling the shots, allowing them greater control over their work and personal time, and hopefully more of the latter. However the demand of the job, revenue and success make the personal venture at times comparable to that previous full-time job. Durand reminds us that the pursuit of balance is necessary to keep everything in perspective and equal.

I recommend any of my readers to pick up a copy of Perpetual Motivation. It is a good read and packed with real world examples and stories and does not have excessive fluff or hype (just maybe one too many references to the Green Bay Packers!). I enjoyed reading this book and its unique perspective.

Ironically I had this book sitting on my bookshelf for sometime, and honestly I don’t recall where I got it, if I bought it or if it was a gift. The fact I am now going through and reading all of these books I have accumulated itself shows my belief in the message from this book.

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

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My Take-Aways from The Prince

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, November 05, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Whenever one thinks of written word that has stood the test of time over the centuries, religious text or government laws may come to mind. Through the course of reading many of the books I have read and blogged about, I found references to one text in particular, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, which intrigued me enough to read it myself. As much as the book itself was interesting was the fact it was published in 1532.

The Prince is written in the form of letters to a person who has newly become a prince. Additional reading of the time period when Machiavelli lived can help explain how princes and religious figures ruled Europe and especially his homeland of Italy. In this political treatise, he gives advice to a prince on how to rule and maintain his rule. As I read this short text, I began to see why many business books quote Machiavelli – many of his recommendations to political leaders almost 500 years ago hold true to business leaders today. His applicable advice is my take away from The Prince.

The one that rang truest to me was his recommendation of not using mercenary forces for the military and to build and maintain a military force of your own. This relates to today not only for the military but for business, namely in the hiring and development of a team of employees rather than working solely with contractors and consultants. His justifications included loyalty, and the fact that mercenaries are more concerned with getting paid than the work they do. Where this latter point is not always the case with hired help, having some “skin in the game” is a good motivator. As I am expanding my own operations, Machiavelli’s thinking is similar to my own.

Other advice from Machiavelli included seeking counsel from others while avoiding flattery but ultimately making the decision yourself, being decisive in your decision making, not seeking to be liked but to be respected and to takes sides in any battles.

If you pick up a copy you will find it has been translated into English from its native Italian and heavily annotated for the benefit of the reader. It is a short but powerful book, and you can glean a hint of sarcasm in Machiavelli’s approach to offering his advice. I recommend The Prince to any leader or would-be leader, as words of so long ago still ring true today.

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 Not On The Level by Michael V. Maddaloni

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, September 17, 2007 at 01:00 AM with 0 comments

Where I was behind on meeting my goal of reading one book a month this year and writing my “take-aways” from them here at The Hot Iron, I am well ahead on reading but behind on writing! This post gets me caught up on a journey of reading, not to mention clearing off my bookshelf. As I read books, I give them away. This makes room on my shelf and I can share what I read with others.

The book Not On The Level by Michael V. Maddaloni is a welcome departure from the books I have read so far as it is fiction. It is the story of Joe DeFalco, a first-generation Italian-American baby-boomer who grows up in Philadelphia and his life story from grade school to retirement. As an Italian-American myself, I greatly enjoyed reading this story.

If you read the story and then read the bio of the author, you will see they are very similar, so it can be assumed that much of the book is based on real events or stories heard through his life. The book takes you from his youth in Catholic schools to the Marines, college, the Secret Service and corporate America to this retirement. At each stage there are opportunities presented to Joe and decisions to be made. Where some earlier decisions in his life may not have been the best he made, many of these were influenced by his environment. As he grows and experiences more of life, his wisdom shows in his decision-making.

As a result a take-away from this book was on decision-making and how much they are influenced by our environment. Fresh in a new environment, these influences are greater than later as we get accustomed to it and make our own observations and couple them with past experiences. I also have to admit another take-away is to read something other than business books.

My overall take-away from this book is that you need to know who else is out there who shares the same name as you! Though our middle initials are different, I share the same name as the author of this book. I first found about the book and author when Googling myself, and many others have pointed this out to me as well. I don’t think we are related, as Maddaloni is a town in Italy and many people have surnames derived from where their ancestors are from. Nonetheless, in addition to my recommendation to read this book here on The Hot Iron, I will contact him directly with my praise for his enjoyable work.

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

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My Take-Aways from Art of Money Getting

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 12:00 AM with 4 comments

cover of Art of Money GettingYou don’t have to walk far into any bookstore today to see a myriad of books about making money and getting rich. Where some of these publications give a unique perspective, some are merely reiterating timeless advice on money and wealth. This became more evident when I read Art of Money Getting, published in 1880 by an iconic businessman.

P.T. Barnum name is recognized in the full name of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. He was a businessman and showman whose entertainment was billed as “the greatest show on Earth” a phrase that still is popular today. He published several books in his life as a way to promote himself and his entertainment offerings. Art of Getting Money was one of them, and it is a quick read that offers very practical information about living life and earning, saving and spending money.

My biggest take-away from the book was how appropriate in 2007 Barnum’s advice is. For example, the chapter titled “Advertise Your Business” not only applies today, but today’s media, including online advertising. The name of the title speaks loudly of getting directly to your point without any fluff. For someone of Barnum’s reputation, he uses many quotes from famous people from Benjamin Franklin to Goethe to reinforce his statements and points. If this book was a Web site, it would be full of hyperlinks!

I recommend reading Art of Getting Money. It is a quick read that packs a lot of useful information is a confident tone. The book has attitude, and could be compared to The 4-Hour Workweek or any book written by Donald Trump. Now that would be a good pair to get in a room, P.T, Barnum and Donald Trump, but I digress.

Of note is how I read this book. I read the book over a series of email messages from DailyLit, a service that delivery many public-domain books in this manner. For this book, it was distributed over 26 emails. It will automatically send one email a day, or you can request the next message sent once you read the first one. Check out the site, as it is a unique and quality service.

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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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