Have Something to Say

Today I want to post on “Style – Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace” by Joseph M. Williams. The book teaches you how to write so that people will read what you wrote.

Right off the bat, I’ll share that this book was a hard read. There were so many examples of bad writing that it made it very difficult to read.

In this blog post I hope to write out something that will at least make it so that you can take away the content without having to read this tedious book.

The author writes, “That’s the aim of this book: to explain how to overcome a problem that has afflicted generations of writers – a style that, instead of revealing ideas, hides them.”

I still don’t regret reading it. I just wish the format had been a little more digestible and that the book had been filled with fewer examples and tests for the reader to complete.

Here are five of the ten lessons that made the most impact on me:

  1. Have something to say
  2. Know what you’re talking about
  3. Keep it Simple
  4. Write Shitty First Drafts
  5. Apply Economy to your Writing

I’ve included quotes from the book below to support the five lessons I’ve selected to share.

1. Have something to say

“Have something to say , and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.” – Matthew Arnold

2. Know what you’re talking about

“Some writers choose complicated language not only to plump up their ideas, but to mask their absence, hoping that turgidity will impress those who confuse difficulty with substance. When we don’t know what we’re talking about, our first recourse is usually to put up a smoke screen of big words in long sentences.” – Williams

“We usually find that we are able to write more clearly once we more clearly understand what we are writing about. When we have to write about a subject that confuses us, we will almost invariably write in ways that confuses others.” – Williams

3. Keep it Simple

“One of the most certain evidences of a man of high breeding, is his simplicity of speech: a simplicity that is equally removed from vulgarity and exaggeration… He does not say, in speaking of a dance that “the attribute of the lades was exceedingly elegant and peculiarly becoming at the late assembly” but that “the women were well dressed at the last ball.” – Williams

“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Samuel Johnson

4. Write Shitty First Drafts

“Experienced writers get something down on paper as fast as they can, just so they can revise it into something clear, and if they are lucky, in the process discover something new.” – Williams

5. Apply economy to your writing

“To get to that sentence, I applied five principles of economy:

  1. Delete words that mean little or nothing.
  2. Delete words that repeat other words.
  3. Delete words whose meaning your reader can infer from other words.
  4. Replace a phrase with a word.
  5. Change unnecessary negatives to affirmatives.”

– Williams

I hope this list of notes on style and grace in writing have made an impact on you. I hope the next time you write something, you make sure you have something to say, know what you’re talking about, keep it simple, write a shitty first draft, and apply economy to your writing.

Contact me if this blog helped you!


Never Appear Needy. They can’t reject you if you don’t need them.

Today I wanted to post on “Start with No…” by James R. Camp.

I’ll be the first to say, some of these suggestions are hard to stomach.

I say that because some of these tactics seem a little nefarious at first. But after a few days of considering the things the author is requesting of us, it’s just that I feel a little uncomfortable doing them.

This reminds me of rejection therapy. Never heard of rejection therapy? Long story short, this guy had a hard time dealing with life. He’d stop himself from doing things because he was afraid of getting rejected. After reading about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, he decided to use the methods to rid himself of the fear of rejection. He set out to get rejected every single day to remove the sting that kept him immobile. Of course his method worked and he created a TED talk on Rejection Therapy to discuss it.

The main points of the book to negotiate involve the following 6 suggestions:

  • Never appear needy. They can’t reject you if you don’t need them.
  • Start with no. Win-win is actually lose lose.
  • The greatest presentation you’ll ever make is the one your client doesn’t see.
  • Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.
  • Don’t save the adversary. Don’t try to be friends. Your only goal is the be businesslike and effective.
  • Make sure your adversary is ok. I’m ok, you’re ok.

Never appear needy. They can’t reject you if you don’t need them.

“He needed to feel important. This is a common issue that hard-driving, alpha-male types have to deal with daily: They want to know it all, or, short of that, they want to be seen to know it all. The adrenaline kicks in, the neediness becomes a biochemical fact, then the neediness becomes a biochemical addiction. It’s true.” – Camp

Slow down so you don’t appear needy.

“If he’s not careful, he’ll lose discipline, start thinking about the payday, get excited, become needy. That’s when defeat may be snatched from the jaws of victory. Do yourself a favor: treat every warm call as though it’s the coldest one you ever made.” – Camp

This point is so important he keeps talking about it.

“When emotions run hot and heavy in negotiations, the high-pitched voice is a sure sign of need. The rushed delivery is another sure sign. While needy negotiators raise their voices, negotiators under control lower their voices. So lower your voice in times of inner turmoil. Slow down.” – Camp

Beware of projecting neediness. They can’t reject you if you don’t need them.

“Your adversaries in a negotiation cannot reject you. There’s nothing you need from them, so how can they reject you? It’s impossible. Never allow them to believe that they have the power to reject you.” – Camp

A rush to judgement projects neediness. Do not do this.

“Nothing, but nothing will blow a negotiation faster than such a rush to judgement. Why? You have a vision of neediness, which makes anyone feel uncomfortable emotionally, and which also serves as a warning to look closer at this deal.” – Camp

What happens when you appear needy?

“The moment we are needy we’ve lost control. We know in our head that this yes isn’t real and final , but the emotion in our heart surges nevertheless. And then, hours or days or weeks later, when this yes is followed by the adversary’s subtle if, but, however, when, or some other dangerous qualifier, we’ve lost our focus and become vulnerable to unnecessary compromise.” – Camp

Start with no. Win-win is actually lose lose.

It’s important to have the vocabulary to change your behaviors.

“Pete, I’m not sure that anything I do fits with you. I don’t know. So if this doesn’t make any sense, just tell me and I’ll get off the phone. Is that fair?” – Camp

What can I do with a “No”?

“Embrace no at every opportunity in a negotiation. Don’t fear the word, invite it. You do not take it as a personal rejection because you are not needy. You understand that every no is reversible.” – Camp

The greatest presentation you’ll ever make is the one your client doesn’t see.

“Present only the information that addresses your adversary’
s concern, the information that addresses the adversary’s pain – or what you know about it, which is probably not much, or you wouldn’t be presenting in the first place.” – Camp

It takes a lot of discipline to hold back in your presentations.

“He presented in the world of each specific coach, not his own world. He showed them what he had decided they wanted to see, not what he thought they should want to see, or what he wanted to see of himself. That approach took a lot of discipline and a lot of work.” – Camp

Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.

This one didn’t make sense to me the first time I read it. So read it again.

“Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. The naturally glib negotiator talks too much. The brilliant negotiator tries to overpower his adversary with intelligence.” – Camp

Don’t save the adversary. Don’t try to be friends. Your only goal is the be businesslike and effective.

“One of the most dangerous mistakes you can make in a negotiation is trying to save the adversary. There can be no saving of the adversary emotionally, intellectually, financially, or on any level. No none. Never.” – Camp

I’m a huge fan of the underdog. Every single time. This can be used against you if you’re always looking to save the adversary in the negotiation. It’s not your job to save the friendship when the negotiation starts to tank. It’s not your job to save the adversary. Your need to help them save face will ruin your negotiation.

“Making decisions based on a sense that the adversary seeks your friendship is misguided. They would much prefer your effectiveness.” – Camp

Make sure your adversary is ok. I’m ok, you’re ok.

“The wise negotiator knows that only one person in a negotiation can feel okay, and that person is the adversary.” – Camp

No one sides with you and your views if you make them feel like they can’t say no.

“The next time you find yourself in a situation in which your adversary is maybe just a little standoffish or doubtful, try being a little less okay. Pretend your pen has run out of ink and ask to borrow one for a moment. Or search your pocket for your notepad and come up short and ask to borrow a slip of paper. Or pretend your Palm Pilot has run out of power – again. And then try to tell me you don’t notice an immediate, beneficial difference in the atmosphere of the negotiation.” – Camp

So here’s the list of 6 suggestions again:

  • Never appear needy. They can’t reject you if you don’t need them.
  • Start with no. Win-win is actually lose lose.
  • The greatest presentation you’ll ever make is the one your client doesn’t see.
  • Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.
  • Don’t save the adversary. Don’t try to be friends. Your only goal is the be businesslike and effective.
  • Make sure your adversary is ok. I’m ok, you’re ok.

I hope this blog post helped clarify some tactics for your next negotiation. Contact me if you have any questions!

Goals begin behaviors. Consequences maintain behaviors.

Last month I finished reading “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D. Who knew such a thin book could contain so much wisdom!

There’s a lot of content in this tiny book. Today I wanted to focus on the section I found the most helpful – the one minute reprimand.

Do you have a hard time disciplining your direct reports? Do you hold back because you think you’re being too strict? Do you let their poor performance sneak by because you’re afraid of confronting them?

“The feedback on the one minute reprimand is immediate. That is, you get to the individual as soon as you observe the misbehavior or your data information system tips you off. It is not appropriate to gunnysack or save up negative feelings about someone’s poor performance.” – Blanchard and Johnson

I read in different business books that you’re not meant to address bad behavior the first time you witness it. I always thought you were supposed to wait for 3 instances of the bad behavior before you confronted your direct reports on the issue.

Now I see the benefits of confronting the behaviors right when you witness it. It’s more powerful because it’s still fresh and the feedback is clear because it’s so immediate.

But be careful not to act if you only hear about the bad behavior second-hand:

“Before giving a reprimand you have to see the behavior yourself – you can’t depend on what someone else saw. You never give a reprimand on hearsay.” – Blanchard and Johnson

And here’s the formula that describes how you deliver the one minute reprimand:

“These three basic ingredients: telling people what they did wrong, telling people how you feel about it, and reminding people that they are valuable and worthwhile lead to significant improvements in people’s behavior.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Keep your focus on the behavior:

“It’s very important when you are managing people to remember that behavior and worth are not the same things. What is really worthwhile is the person managing their own behavior. If you are first tough on the behavior, and then supportive of the person, it works.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Sometimes it’s easier to just let bad behavior slide. You don’t want to be too harsh right? Wrong, you need to care.

“Sometimes you have to care enough to be tough. And I am. I am very tough on poor performance – but only on the performance. I am never tough on the person. The people he worked with felt that he was honestly on their side from the very beginning. And that made all the difference.” – Blanchard and Johnson

Did this post on the one minute reprimand clarify your role as a manager? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it!

Rules for Reading More

I read some of these book reviews and takeaway posts at the marketing meetings at work. When I finished reading the latest one, someone asked me how I read so much. “Do you read a book a week?” I shared a quick tip, “It’s important to have about 7 books going at the same time to make sure you don’t get bored with any one book.”

This question kept popping into my mind as the week went on. Finally, I sat down and came up with a list of ways I push myself to read more to share with the marketing team.

Here’s my list of rules for reading more. First I’ll sum them up. Then I’ll list each one out and elaborate on why it made it onto this list. Here we go.

Rules for Reading More:

  1. Read at least 5-7 books at a time.
  2. Stick to the “10 pages or I’m out” rule.
  3. Diversify your reading collection.
  4. Go for a chapter then take a break.
  5. Set a timer and stick to it.

Read at least 5-7 books at a time.

That way you won’t get bored with any particularly boring chapter in a book. Here’s a list of the books I’m currently reading. Notice the mix of non-fiction and fiction:

Stick to the “10 pages or I’m out” rule.

Someone suggested that I read “Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. It’s a book that I’ve heard a lot of great things about but I had never read it. So I borrowed it from the library. Then I started to read it. Very dry, very archaic, ultimately boring.

Never stick with a book that can’t hold your attention for the first 10 pages. If the writer didn’t invest enough effort to make the first 10 pages as compelling as possible, there’s a good chance he won’t have put in enough effort to keep your interest on page 100. Sorry Mr. Faulkner. No time.

Diversify your reading collection.

Do you love non-fiction books because you can apply their wisdom to your life? Get a compelling fiction book like “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline to balance it out. You want to give your brain a rest after it’s been too deep into the non-fiction books.

Video games are made up of really tough sections moderated by very easy sections to keep you playing. Think about reading like this. Do the heavy lifting, then switch up to tiny fiction weights to give your brain a rest and let your soul feast.

Go for a chapter then take a break.

There’s a famous book on writing called “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamont. The book gets its name from a story the author tells about her little brother in middle school. He needed to write a report on the 50 state birds.

He waits until the night before it’s due to start the paper and he’s miserable. Just as he’s about the give up, his dad gives him some simple advice, “Take it bird by bird.” In the same way, don’t look at the book as 300 pages, look at it as 30 chapters, broken up for you to take breaks between long stretches of reading.

Keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast rule. If you’re reading a chapter and just can’t make it, cut yourself some slack. Even if you read a single page it’s good enough. Don’t burn out with reading. Be kind to yourself.

Set a timer and stick to it.

Buddhist meditators set a timer for themselves sometimes. The timer isn’t set to tell them when the sitting is finished. No, it’s actually a more subtle maneuver.  They set the timer so that when they do the meditation they know that they owe the world nothing for this solid hour.

By setting a timer you don’t need to attend to anything else in the world. Everything can manage without your thinking and attention for 1 hour. In setting this timer, you are allowing yourself full access to the task at hand.

Finally, here’s the list again:

  1. Read at least 5-7 books at a time.
  2. Stick to the 10 pages or I’m out rule.
  3. Diversify your reading collection.
  4. Go for a chapter then take a break.
  5. Set a timer and stick to it.

I hope this list has helped you learn how to read more. It works for me. I’m always looking to add to this list so if you have any other tips that might help me out and contact me!