Category: Business/Economy (Page 1 of 5)

Author Q & A with Gene Dattel

Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (November 5)

reckoning with raceCultural and economic historian Gene Dattel, who grew up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Ruleville, tackles questions about what he calls “America’s most intractable problem–race”–up close and in depth in his newest book, Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure (Encounter Books).

The biggest and most necessary part of bridging the racial divide, he said, is “economics–which means jobs,” a goal he believes is possible with what he calls “the right kind of assimilation.” To Dattel, that means avoiding what he believes is a harmful separatism while at the same time allowing for full expression of one’s cultural heritage.

Dattel’s lifelong interest in racial history, and its ties to economic history and colonial nationalism, was launched in the early 60s when he was entering Yale University at the same time James Meredith was entering Ole Miss.

After his early years in Ruleville, located in what he calls “the heart of the majority-black cotton country of the Mississippi Delta,” he graduated from Yale, and then Vanderbilt University Law School. Of his 21-year career in finance as a managing director at Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley, 15 were spent in London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. He has done advisory work for the Pentagon, major financial institutions, and cultural organizations from the New York Historical Society to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

His previous books include Cotton and Race in the Making of America and The Sun That Never Rose.

What prepared you to write this book, (as in, I’m curious–what exactly is a “cultural historian,” and how did you become one?) and what do you hope your book will accomplish?

The small-town dynamic of my youth mean that I had to adjust to people–old/young, middle class/poor, black/white–regularly. Beginning at age 13, I worked in my family’s dry goods store on Saturday night when most of the customers were black. I entered Yale at the same time James Meredith integrated Ole Miss. This triggered my profound interest in racial history, economic history, and colonial nationalism.

A career in finance brought home the importance of economics in the lives of people. My 11-year stay in Japan was transformative; there, I observed the first major economic challenge to the United States by a non-white, non-Western nation. For eight years, I performed a “Parallel Lives” Program with black author (and businessman” Clifton Taulbert about my growing up Jewish and his growing up black in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s. My book Cotton and Race in the Making of America (2009), a description of the fateful intersection of the power of cotton and the African-American experience, was the stepping stone to Reckoning with Race.

My definition of a cultural historian: one who examines the impact of a broad range of topics–literature, art, movies, music, tradition, communication, values, rhetoric, humor, and fusion in a society. It is my sincere hope that this book contributes to a frank discussion about the hardest of all hard topics in America–race. I believe our goal should be to concentrate on access for the mass of blacks into the American economic mainstream.

In your book, you present a great deal of historical research that most of us never heard in our school history classes about the open hypocrisy of Northern and Midwestern states–dating back as far as the 1700s–of extreme racist attitudes toward blacks. Instead, the history that has captured the nation’s interest has, for the most part, emphasized the racial atrocities of the South. Why has this discrepancy largely remained a well-kept “secret”?

One has only to look at the quotes at the opening of the book’s chapters to recognize how white Northern racial attitudes have frequently been overlooked:

  • White abolitionists “best love the colored man at a distance.” – Samuel R. Ward, Black Abolitionist, 1840s
  • No free Negro, or Mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of this constitution shall come, reside, or be within this state. – Oregon State Constitution, 1857
  • The New York Times, Feb. 26, 1865, in the text: “The negro race…would exist side by side with the white for centuries being constantly elevated by it, individuals of it rising to an equality with the superior white race.”

The white North has almost no exposure to its true historical racial attitudes. White Northern racial hypocrisy and self-righteousness has resulted. Historians extol the abolitionists but neglect the anti-black attitudes that doomed Reconstruction, created a containment policy of keeping blacks in the South, and trapped them in combustible urban ghettos. The drama of the civil rights movement in the 1960s was particularly visual and suited for television; millennials have seen countless clips of Birmingham hoses and dogs, etc. I have found that “going local” is effective in creating awareness for Northern audiences. When in Connecticut, include Connecticut’s past.

You state that, despite decades of political advancement, economics gains and the passage of civil rights legislation, “the practical task facing America is the economic elevation of the black community–desperately for the underclass and significantly for the fragile (but growing) middle class.” To that end, you emphasize the importance of personal responsibility and assimilation into American society. Explain why you believe this idea is so important.

America’s unique strength, its ability to foster the “right kind” of assimilation, allows its people to retain their cultural heritage. We are the only grand experiment of a multiethnic country that does not resort to tribalism. At the same time, we have seen no successful large scale self-sufficient economic group within America, able to function outside the economic mainstream. The acceptance of common values–color-blind middle-class norms–is a prerequisite for mass entrance into the economic mainstream.

In a competitive global marketplace, individuals must aspire to resiliency, a byproduct of personal responsibility.

You cover many government programs that have been implemented through the years to help African-Americans raise their standards of living, often with little progress. Why do you think it’s been so difficult to find lasting solutions toward economic progress?

Gene Dattel

Gene Dattel

Large government programs are plagued by bureaucracy, inefficiency, and most importantly, lack of accountability. I would argue, if a program is not working, change it or reduce it; if a program is working, expand it. I describe several small programs that are successful but cannot be replicated on a mass scale.

We need to understand and speak about the currently taboo topics of black culture and structure. The only way to move forward economically is to develop viable structures for family, church, and community. Education, the portable credential for employment, largely depends on these influences. Education provides the skill set and thought process for success. Or, in the words of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: “My mom and dad were constant mentors, my first and greatest teachers….[From my father] I learned the connection between hard work, discipline, and reward.”

Part of America’s problem in finding racial unity, you say, has been a “hypersensitivity” to real or perceived “slights” that seem to be arising more frequently, especially on college campuses. Why is this, and how can these be dealt with constructively?

Today’s iteration of multiculturalism fosters and encourages differences, to the detriment of what Americans have in common. Our inability to discuss real or perceived sensitive topics further inhibits dialogue and promotes separatism. Greater contact and discussion in a responsible, objective way is the best way to achieve trust. College is supposed to be the proper venue for challenging and preparing students for life and exposing them to a diversity of ideas. The interaction with different opinions promotes resiliency and should be pursued on an individual basis.

Despite hopes that an Obama presidency would help heal some racial divides, you state that “racial divisiveness is more evident now than it was when Obama took office.” To what do you attribute this change?

The racial divide had already been set in motion before the Obama presidency. Powerful forces–multiculturalism, frustration at the ineffectiveness of many programs, social media, separatism as expressed in identity politics, economic recession with a weak recovery, and the lack of a frank racial discussion–were at work. President Obama’s leadership could not produce the necessary unity given these factors.

You speak of a racial mindset in this country that seems to be heading more toward separatism than the defining goal of integration in the ’60s. Explain what that ultimately means, and what your hopes are for our future.

As of the end of 2016, the overall numbers for black progress in education and economic well-being were disheartening. The poverty level of blacks has remained three times that of white for the last 45 years. Also, 32.9 percent of black children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Only 38.7 percent of black children under 18 live in a two-parent family. Black Americans’ college majors, according to a 2016 Georgetown University study, “tend to be low earning.”

As we move int a stage of self-imposed, heightened racial identity, the goals of integration and assimilation become loaded terms with negative connotations. This separatism is highly detrimental in accessing a proper education, combating poverty, and attaining economic parity.

As for the future, we must remember America’s strength. Where else could a man, whose father was Kenyan and whose mother was a white American, become president?

Gene Dattel will sign copies of Reckoning with Race on Monday, November 13, at 5:00 p.m. at Lemuria.

Repost: Christmas in Small Business, Mississippi

Originally posted during the intoxicating rush of Christmas season 2014.

“Why are there 10 people behind the desk right now?!”

It’s a frequently asked question here during the holidays at Lemuria. You could say that we prepare for Christmas the way armies prepare for war…but it’s less terrible and way more fun. We beef up the staff, pump up the inventory, order pizza for the troops, and wait at the front lines to take special orders, ship presents to your cousins in L.A., and find you the perfect novel for your best friend.

Working at Lemuria during the holidays is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. Tis the season for Kelly and myself to don dresses and blazers, lovely earrings and kitten heels, sore feet be damned. It’s when I can put my favorite classics into the hands of parents to give to their children. Classics for Christmas! I can’t explain it, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s when we get to reflect on all of the books that we read in the past year and tell you all about them. Me? I killed some pretty incredible middle grade this year. Oh and graphic novels? Don’t even get me started, it’s been 12 months of nothing but wonderful discovery in that area.

Christmas in a bookstore is when we’re stretched both mentally and physically. Those boxes of of the Jackson book are definitely heavier than they look. Christmas is about lifting with your legs, not your back. We get asked some pretty weird questions around this time of year, too. You guys love your friends and family so much that you’re willing to go to almost any lengths possible to get them what they want for Christmas, and we appreciate that. Still, there’s only so much we can do when you ask for books by “Jill Lasagna”. (not a real person)

Anywhere else in the world, working retail during the holidays can truly be a nightmare, but here at this little bookstore, we are so lucky to be selling something that we all love so much to people who have kept us in business all these years. A lot of times, I tell my friends that it’s like something from a movie with all the bustling about with wrapped packages and the warm coziness of being surrounded by books. The store is full, and although we wish it was this full all year long, we cherish the few weeks leading up to Christmas. We love talking to you all. We love recommending books that will spread joy and imagination.

Be the Boss (You Wish to Work For): A Letter for Ladies

sheryl sandberg time magazine coverIt’s a book for ladies, but it’s written to women and men. In Lean In Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, describes her years of experience in reputable professional environments (Google included) in which she witnessed a trend: women tended to sell themselves short compared to men. They tended to take fewer risks and be less fearless, which serves women poorly in the competitive business world. Women need to understand this divide, why it exists, and “lean in” – sit at the table in meetings, and not in the extra chairs lined up along the walls, and voice their ideas.  And there’s a lot more to it; she explains her experience with maternity, and how she thinks both women and men can better facilitate women’s careers during this phase of life. (She tells women that the best time, perhaps, to have kids is while they are at the peak of their careers.)

I read this book in advance of its publication and it made my day to see that it made the cover of the New York Times Book Review. This book is extremely important, and I think that its being a conception of a woman who is the COO of Facebook only validates its contemporaneity. It’s seriously great.

Lean InI always respect a book that is written with a mindfulness of the form: it lives up to its expectations, as a piece of work that people pick out of all the possible choices in the bookstore, and sit with quietly for hours. Is it worthy? Five times out of 5, this book absolutely is. I hope that all of my friends and coworkers internalize an understanding of the still-problematic place of women that Sandberg brings to light here: be fearless, make impact, take risks to get there.

I hope that the ideas here reach every “stuck” 20-something. And every graduating senior woman – high school or college – will benefit from reading Sandberg’s book; please skip the towels and give them this instead.

Watch Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDtalk – the precursor to this book and a fine introduction – here. Also follow her on Twitter and (haha) Facebook.

by Whitney

The Commitment Engine by John Jantsch

The Commitment Engine by John Jantsch, Portfolio, October 2012.

“John’s book is insanely brave and breathtakingly important. Take the time to read it slowly.

-Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

Commitment determines the liveliness of your business. Commitment cannot be manufactured quickly. It’s not something you can talk about and bingo, it happens. Commitment must be cultivated carefully and nurtured. Commitment requires a clear understanding of your work. Understanding how commitment fits into your workplace culture and into your community determines your focus.

Real life marketing strategy is the core of what a business is. This is the way your community understands your brand. Marketing and customer service is the way your patrons receive what you offer through the effects of your work.

Jantsch’s fine book is divided into three parts:

1. The Path: Clarity

2. The Patron: Culture

3. The Promise: Community

I enjoyed Commitment Engine. While reading I reflected on Lemuria’s path. In doing so, I have become more conscious of our desired future path, a journey to be carved by Lemuria’s hard work and our customer service. We know that the only way for our customers to feel our commitment is to be fully alive in it ourselves.

Lemuria wants to engage you, our community, and help you be a part of our story. Our outreach team, Maggie, Emily and Lisa, make up our effort to go off site wherever you are. Another way we share is through our Remembering Miss Welty blog series. By sharing your story or just reading other stories, you can show our community how much Miss Welty still means to us. For 37 years, I feel like our customers have been part of our Lemuria story. However, we hope we can strengthen our relationship with our community. A total customer experience is our bookstore goal.

In conclusion, Commitment Engine helps you to review your work relationship with purpose and to readdress the meaningful ways your brand and your stories work within your community. Interwoven with clear authentic marketing and a complete brand commitment, reading Jantsch can help you define your real life strategy.

If you are interested in addressing your work commitment individually or as a business, read this book. Commitment Engine can help you understand how to challenge yourself.

The iPhone Turns 5

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success

Portfolio/Penguin (April 2012)

The iPhone has turned five. As Ken Segall finished writing Insanely Simple, he felt that the iBrand and the Apple brand were equally strong. He probably finished his final edit a year or so ago. As I read his enlightening book, I feel the iBrand is now stronger than its parent Apple.

Ken Segall played a key role in Apple’s resurrection. He worked closely with Jobs in the creation of the company’s most critical and memorable marketing campaigns, including Think Different. He laid the foundation for Apple’s product naming framework by naming the iMac. Of all the interesting aspects of Apple and facts discussed, this iProcess was my favorite.

Apple’s deep, almost religious, belief in the power of simplicity is what sets Apple apart from other tech companies. For Jobs, simplicity equals power. The strength to keep things simple, and to protect them from becoming complex, was a Jobs’ driving force. Becoming skilled at simplicity isn’t simple. You have to work toward automatic and straightforward business interactions.

Steve Jobs told you what was on his mind and didn’t really care about your feelings or being nice. He had an honest quality and strove to be that way all the time. Simplicity gives work integrity. Simplicity with business honesty keeps you from having to defend issues you don’t believe in. By keeping information simple and compartmentalized you are in the position to make correct business decisions with proper focus.

I wonder what working with Jobs was like, but a challenge I’m sure of. I’m not sure I would have liked him personally, however,  Ido respect his work ethic. We are all astonished by his creative drive, and simplicity was the root of his process.

Jobs believe his every product was a manifestation of the Apple brand. The goal of the brand to make things easier for his customers. Simplicity, in its most powerful form, connects directly to our humanity. A tone of common sense allows people to feel they understand you which leads to brand trust and more authenticity.

“Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” -Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs believed simplicity itself was the greatest business weapon of our time. He believed that when you make mistakes you should admit them quickly and get on with your other ideas.

Ken’s study of Apple is easy to read, insightful while challenging you to address your own brand and marketing.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS

“With every book you purchase, a new book will be provided to a child in need. One for One”

(Spiegel & Grau, 2011)

Earlier this past fall, I read a Wall Street Journal review of Start Something That Matters. The reviewer peaked my interest about the “TOMS” marketing concepts. I got a copy and started being a believer. So much so that Start Something became my main Christmas present for 2011.

Start Something is the story of a young man’s journey in building a business from scratch. Blake started in 2006 with a most unusual and creative business plan. Tom’s foundation (Tomorrow’s Shoes) runs on this idea: When a customer buys a pair of shoes, a needy child receives a free pair. How could this concept not work? Blake writes about how his unique idea became a reality and now, six years later, is a household name. His inspiration has been a major influence on new business start ups all over.

For example, my son Austin and his college pal, Richard, believe in supporting live music. Two years ago they created the first legal distillery in Mississippi and founded Cat Head Vodka. Their core philosophy involves giving a dollar to musician relief funds, arts councils, etc., for every bottle of Cat Head Vodka sold. Like Mycoskie, Austin and Richard wanted a business plan that gave back with meaning from the very start of their business.

These ideas about marketing are creative and can be easily adopted to suit each individual context. Another example is a new initiative by the book industry. Printers, publishers, book distributors, authors and bookstores are all behind World Book Night. On April 23rd one million books will be given away in the United States. Basically, I see this as a way for the book industry to go local and support a grass roots effort to get more people reading through the simplicity of people sharing physical books in physical places in their own communities. (The deadline has passed to sign-up but you can still contact Lisa if you are interested: lisa (at) lemuriabooks (dot) com.)

Reading Start Something That Matters will inspire you to analyze your own work life and find ways to challenge yourself. Sure, it takes effort, desire and decent ethics to pull this off. In return for your efforts, you receive much more than a pay check. You’ll know that your work makes a difference in the lives of others.

As you know, I believe in small business. But more so, I believe in young people doing work that makes them fulfilled and being unique. Blake Mycoskie appears to be a real champion in this regard. He is an inspiration and marketing leader for those trying to figure it out. Being an old guy who was 24 when I started Lemuria, I’ve found Blake’s story a reinforcement to keep going.

The book is designed to be stimulating and reader friendly. This is not surprising since TOMS is user and customer friendly as a company. TOMS also has a business plan to encourage more reading. Fifty percent of Blake’s proceeds from this book will be used to provide access to new books for children in need. Learn more here:

At home and abroad, there’s certainly a lot going on in our communities for the good. Check out Blake’s story, suport live music and local business with Cathead Vodka. Especially help Lemuria make a difference with World Book Night for Jackson. We hope Lemuria endures and grows with the help of your concern and support. Bound to Read.

Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It

Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It

by Amy Cortese

(John Wiley, 2011)

Having just completed in October my 36th year as a small business owner, I was interested in reading Cortese’s book as soon as I learned of it. Having always been interested in the promotion of importance and betterment of local business for my community, Locavesting caught my eye.

Locavesting is fundamentally about fixing our broken economic system. It’s about restoring a more just and participatory form of capitalism, one that allocates capital for productive use in the community. It’s about forming alternative ideas and practices rather than a win or take all economy. It’s about rebuilding our savings, our communities and strengthening the core of our culture, and hopefully about influencing the culture of our country, which I feel is being challenged by too much government influence. As announced this week, the U.S. debt is now equal to our economy which means our entire debt is as big as everything we produce in our country.

Locavesting emphasizes investing in what you know, local companies that you can see, touch and understand their community value and contribution. It’s about spending your dollars for services where service is strengthened and the dollar investment is recirculated in the local market, planting the seed for further growth equals a more self-reliant community.

As it seems to me, our government is intent on growing our dependency on manipulated entitlements. Locavesting is offering new considerations and explanations on how the work we do is one with ownership. A work lifestyle like this might help us make more of a difference. Perhaps the contributions we make for our community can somehow combat the reckless spending of “Too Big to Fail” business and government. Local business can at least take the bull by the horns in our communities and contribute to the local well-being day by day. We all know about the battle “Main Street” is fighting. It’s up to each of us to be a part of the solution. We don’t need to accept the malaise, and we must remember that our small steps can lead to a broader awareness.

Cortese presents arguments and statistics reinforcing the financial benefits of dollars being recirculated in the local markets. She explores which small businesses make a difference to our community culture. However, Locavesting is not anti-big business. The emphasis is on considering the implications of how our choices benefit local enterprises.

Reading Locavesting has enhanced my feelings as we move into 2012 on the importance of broadening this type of awareness. Not only do I want to be more aware of community from a personal standpoint, but also as a part of the Lemuria team as we broaden our outreach interests. We need to be more aware and more effective with our local community efforts and work with greater determination to achieve our outreach goals.

I was disappointed when I finished that Cortese does not have a two or three page suggested reading list. I feel that by not suggesting more reading on this subject, she missed the boat on further stimulating her message to her readers.

Consciously, Lemuria plans to utilize the core of our work to expand our mission into a larger community footprint. We welcome your input and participation.


The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry

(Portfolio/Penguin, July 2011)

It seems to me that now is the perfect time to read this book. As a result of the recession, those of us in small business have been slammed with challenges  in which we don’t have defined skill sets to meet. We question whether we can stay inspired since our old ways of being successful are not working so well. We wonder where our needed level of creativity will come from. Everyday we are faced with frenetic demands that effect our creativity and productivity. Producing insights for success is a constant need. New challenges are causing more demands on our creative ideas. Figuring out that these money-making creative sparks are harder to activate.

Todd Henry’s broad book can helps us actualize our creative juices. Accidental Creative is a guide for establishing a new framework to help move our business forward and set realistic goals.

We own our growth. It is up to each of us to build practices that help us to bring about and focus our creative energy. Creative accidents can bring the best of who we are to our work. At the same time, we need the stability and consistency to take a chance on the ideas brought about by creative insight.

Todd’s new book gives insight on how to hone skill sets and manage boundaries. Several key elements are vital for discovering a personal creative rhythm.

1. Maintain a defined goal, a road map–it will be easier to react to opportunities and take risks with a goal in mind.

2. Work together with a team-ego to yield unselfish results that head in the direction of that defined goal. We improve as we learn to share and receive insights and perspectives from others.

3. Manage energy in order to follow through, not wasting our resources on unproductive projects. Stay out of ruts. Creative work requires that we stay ahead of our work. Stop reacting to work load. Manage the work load with a goal and framework in mind. If we are wise with our energy management, we will find that ideas energy when we least expect them.

4. Choose input strategically. Develop a BS meter. Get real wisdom from books and practice the application daily. Look at opposing ideas at the same time and make decisions that fit into the framework.

As I’ve studied The Accidental Creative, I’ve not only found it helpful in reestablishing my own operative framework, but I’m adapting this pursuit in my own group of Lemuria booksellers. As we create a successful team ego, we hope to become a more consistent and predictable unit. And in the end, we will seek out creative tasks which yield more rewards and satisfaction.

Not only is Lemuria striving to be more creative within but also to generate more creative energy in our community, especially Jackson. Chuck’s Damned Book Night was the first JXRX event. JXRX is a grass roots community campaign is now launched. We encourage individuals and businesses in Jackson to carry the JXRX banner to make Jackson a better place to enjoy our creative talents.

Driving Excellence by Mark Aesch

Driving Excellence: Transforming your Organization’s Culture and Achieve Revolutionary Results

by Mark Aesch (Hyperion, 2011)

Our recession has pointed out to struggling businesses that in case you didn’t already know it, your business is broken.

You can’t do things the old way and survive. As Dylan used to say, “The times they are a changin’.”

We can’t fix our organizations without people and their willpower to set aside the status quo, take risks and do things differently. Generally, improvements in employee work is either selfishly motivated to save their jobs or organizationally motivated to operate more productively.

Mark Aesch’s fine book is about creating a new business culture for his business, basically a city-owned bus business. His basis of success lies in creating a culture of non-ego, eliminating competition within the team. My take on his actions is to turn the individual egos of the team members toward developing the team ego into a strong unit. The team should be focused on customer benefits rather than what I call “entitled neurosis” or the neurotic ego demands of employees.

When I picked up Driving Excellence, I never thought I would be interested in reading a book about a city bus transit system and I didn’t think that I would finish it. I was really surprised. Mark’s story is inspiring and his experiences can be influential if you want to transform your own business.

In April 2004, Mark Aesch was appointed the CEO of Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) and was confronted with a $27.5 million deficit. Two years later RGRTA has a $19.7 million surplus and its fares are the lowest they’ve been since 1991. Ridership has increased by 20% and customer satisfaction has never been higher.

Mark’s story takes him to the front lines of war with the union’s self-centered demands and their lack of customer service interest. His hard-edged story of these conflicts demonstrate his strength of character and dedication to the improvement through honest dialogue. The presence to continue to make the right decisions to benefit the whole. His battle took him from the union to the politicians–individuals who live by their votes rather than doing right-minded work directed toward efficiency.

Mark’s story is told directly without inflating himself or his ability to succeed. While reading I was encouraged to analyze our bookstore and its chemistry, even while studying the bus business, which I think is a testimony for his book and his work efforts.

Success for a small business requires team ego. Success is too difficult if all employees do not pursue one goal–the best customer service. Mark moved me so much with his story that I ordered four copies for my staff to study and pass around. By reading Mark’s influential book I hope Lemuria’s drive to excellence will achieve the goal of giving Jackson a top-notch local community bookstore. We don’t want to fall into the pitfall of entitled customer support; We want to earn our customers’ business. Lemuria will live or die by our choices. Lemuria needs to earn our community’s support and I hope we are up to the task. Mark, learning from your book, we appreciate the challenge.

Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t

Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t 

by John Sullivan (Penguin, 2010)

Booksellers are in a unique position in that they constantly watch what people read and get new ideas for reading adventures from their customers. I had a fun experience learning about the latest book by Paul Sullivan.

My first encounter with Clutch was in September at a Texas airport having a beer. The young pretty gal next to me was reading it and so of course I took notice.

Some time later, an old youth baseball coaching pal came in and bought a copy. He then came back and ordered eight more copies. That caught my attention. I got a copy and laid it on the pile until the time was right.

Clutch is having the ability to do what you can do normally while under immense pressure. Success under intensity is hard work. Sullivan’s goal with Clutch was to find people who were clutch and deconstruct what made them so good. By using two areas, money and sports, where people choke the most, the author explains how we can make better decisions under pressure. Sullivan wants to show people how to become better while under pressure and avoid the simple mistakes that cause most of us to choke.

Sullivan asserts that there are several traits which make an individual clutch.

1) Focus: The basis for all great performers under pressure. Focus is not just about concentration. It’s about trusting yourself and allowing your hard work and assets to come forward when situations get tough.

2) Discipline: This is the battle within yourself. Through discipline, set up a strong foundation in your work instead of giving into neurosis and the demands of the ego.

3) Adaptability: When your plan fails, focus on the intent and an outcome based on solutions. The focus must be outward and big picture and not inward on emotions and details.

4) Be present: This involves being ready for whatever comes your way and developing a heightened awareness that prepares you to respond.

5) Fear and Desire: Carry your drama and recycle it into discipline. Learn big picture, macro not micro. Shape your destiny.

Why do people choke? Part of success may involve how people perceive their actions. Take responsibility and learning from your mistakes. Be accountable for your actions. My actions = my results. On the other hand, Sullivan also explores the dangers of over thinking and over confidence traps.

Finally Sullivan analyzes how to be clutch and what it can teach you. Clutch awareness allows you to enjoy your pleasures fully as the opportunity presents itself. Being prepared mentally and enjoying the process naturally.

Being a bookseller in 2011, I found reading Clutch helpful as I prepare mentally for this time of publishing change. Clutch decisions for small bookstores are critical as we try to stay in business as the recession subsides. Understanding your clutch strengths and weaknesses are a good tool in the work toward success and survival. Move forward without fear and haste; utilize your strengths to increase the endurance of your business.

Clutch by John Sullivan (Penguin, 2010)

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