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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

AN 86 YEAR OLD BOOK REVIEW

Posted by Tim Bryce on October 6, 2010

Looking for something to read, I went back into my library and pulled out a copy of “The Autobiography of Mark Twain” which I have had since High School. I’ve always been an admirer of Samuel Clemens’ work, but I have to admit I balked at taking his autobiography seriously years ago. This time though, I was in the proper frame of mind and wanted to know more about the renowned author and humorist, not so much about the facts and history of his life, but more about his perspective of the times. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book was originally published in 1924 (fourteen years after Twain’s death) and basically consists of sketches describing his life spanning the years from 1835 to 1910, which is known as a very rich period of American history. He describes life prior to the Civil War, his involvement during the war, and the expansion west. I found his narratives of life in the Midwest, both as a child and an adult, particularly colorful and interesting. Clemens did a remarkable job describing life as a boy living on a farm. His description of the foods of the period made me hungry and I could vividly visualize the school he attended and life on the farm.

I’m afraid African-Americans will not be too happy with the book as Twain uses the “N” word liberally, but not maliciously. It was just the way people talked back then. There was no ulterior motive for using the word, nor venom in his language, it was simply a snapshot of the times. Nonetheless, African-Americans may call for the book to be banned from schools if they read it.

As a writer, I found his rich vocabulary, sentence structure, and punctuation particularly interesting. It was much different than what I am used to in the 21st century. Unlike today where we typically try to gorge ourselves on a novel as expeditiously as possible, Twain’s style forces the reader to slow down and savor each sentence. You can tell that it was written by a craftsman intimate with the English language.

His humor is also different. Instead of today’s “in your face” approach to comedy, Twain mischievously takes the reader down an unknown path where he inevitably springs a humorous conclusion on you. It is not backslapping funny, just elegant humor very tastefully presented. His anecdotes are always designed to teach a lesson and cause a chuckle in the process.

I wanted to read his autobiography, not so much to learn about his family history, which he volunteered reluctantly, but more to understand his perspective of the times which I found was essentially no different today than 100 years ago.

He made a few comments that particularly caught my attention; the first was the cycle of life, to wit:

“A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other. Age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities. Those they love are taken from them and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year. At length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release in their place. It comes at last – and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; will lament them a day and forget them forever. Then another myriad takes their place and copies all they did and goes along the same profitless road and vanishes as they vanished – to make room for another and another and a million other myriads to follow the same arid path through the same desert and accomplish what the first myriad and all the myriads that came after it accomplished – nothing!”

The second observation that caught my attention was his comments regarding success. In the book, he comments on the many bad business deals he had made in his lifetime which cost him dearly. He also missed an opportunity to invest in Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention, the telephone. However, an acquaintance of Twain’s invested $5,000 in the company and was paid back many times over thereby causing the writer to observe:

“It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced so often and so undeservedly succeed when the informed and the experienced fail.”

Concerning heroes:

“Our heroes are the men who do things which we recognize with regret and sometimes with secret shame that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be someone else. If everybody was satisfied with himself there would be no heroes.”

On writing, which I wholeheartedly agree:

“…when the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time, while you are asleep – also while you are at work at other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious and profitable cerebration is going on.”

Samuel Clemens was a past master of the anecdote. His autobiography was assembled more as a collection of such stories as opposed to a flowing history. I appreciated his cogent comments regarding the world of the 1800’s. His ability to paint a picture with words and tell a story was like taking a ride on a time machine. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the trip, but I’m not sure today’s younger readers would feel likewise as his stories are less about the complexities of life and more about the simple truths of living it.

The book is still available in print. Look for it on the Internet – see Amazon.

Most book reviews are printed either just prior to publication or shortly thereafter. I apologize for the slight delay.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Books, Literature | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

1ST LESSONS IN JOINING THE WORK FORCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 28, 2010

We recently released our popular “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force” as an eBook (PDF format). The book represents a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. It includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force.

In the Introduction, I prefaced the book by describing some of life’s hard lessons a young reader should expect upon entering the adult world. There is nothing magical here, yet you won’t find these lessons in the business schools, only in the school of hard knocks, to wit…

There are several lessons to be learned in order to make the transition from school into the work force, but none more important than these first basic truths you should always be mindful of:

* You are entitled to nothing. If you want something, you are going to have to go out and earn it.

* Nothing is free. Forget what the promotion says, people do not offer something without wanting something in return.

* Life is not fair. In fact it can be downright cruel and dehumanizing. Keep in mind, with rare exception, companies are not democracies; they are dictatorships. As such, they operate at the whims of the person in charge.

* Becoming an adult means assuming responsibility, be it on the personal or professional sides of our lives. Knowing this, put your best face on and act like a professional, someone you want others to respect.

* Becoming an adult also means making decisions. In theory, if you make 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be successful. Also, do not procrastinate; if you do not make a decision, the decision will be made for you (and probably not to your liking).

* If anything in life is constant, it is change. Some you will like, others you will have trouble swallowing. Nonetheless learn to accommodate change. Learn and adapt.

* People act on their perceptions, regardless if they are valid or not. As an old systems man, I can tell you authoritatively, if the input is wrong, everything that follows will also be wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions; always seek the truth.

* The only good business relationship is when both parties benefit (aka “Win-Win” relationship). Avoid situations where one party benefits at the expense of the other (aka “Win-Lose” relationship).

* Everything begins with a sale. All of our efforts, regardless of how mundane they may seem, should be geared towards producing income for the company. Without sales, everything else will eventually come to a halt.

* There is only one problem with common sense, it is not very common. The obvious is not obvious to a lot of people. You will undoubtedly discover that decisions are based more on emotion as opposed to logic.

* Your personal and professional lives are one and the same. Some people like to separate the two, but the fact remains, there is only one you.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a thought from a good friend of mine who survived over thirty years of corporate politics:

“You cannot move to the top of the ladder by breaking rungs and breaking rules….we all must move through the learnings, the little successes, the disappointments, to develop and grow.”
– Michael B. Snyder

I have had several parents tell me they appreciate this section out of the book as they have experienced this themselves and found it to be valid rules to live by.

For more information on the book, both the eBook and paper versions, see MBA Press at: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/mbapress.htm

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Books, Business, Management, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE DIGITAL PANDEMIC (Book Review)

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 17, 2010

As someone who has written on the “Adverse Effects of Technology,” my interests were recently piqued by a new book entitled, “The Digital Pandemic” by Mack R. Hicks, Ph.D. (New Horizon Press), a fascinating thesis on the effect of technology on our youth. So much so, I believe it should be considered mandatory reading for everyone involved with PTA and school SAC programs. The premise behind Dr. Hicks’ book is that technology has an addictive quality to it which will have long-term adverse effects on our culture.

The book includes statistics demonstrating the pervasiveness of technology. For example, he points out 97% of twelve to 17 year-olds play video games, a third of which play adult games. This may not be startling to those of us who already guessed it but, as a noted psychologist and educator, he goes on to describe how it physically affects human thinking patterns. There have been plenty of such studies to indicate the adverse affect of technology, such as the King’s College London University study by Dr. Glenn Wilson which found that workers distracted by technology suffer a greater loss of IQ than if they’d smoked marijuana, but Hicks’ work goes further to demonstrate how technology alters the minds of impressionable youth. Further, they begin to exhibit the same robotic mannerisms of the technology they use which is not conducive for grooming socialization skills. Hicks basically argues that technology is a genuine threat to the human spirit. Such a claim should sound warning bells to parents as well as business people who will have to deal with these youngsters in the years ahead. He writes:

“This whole electronic revolution, with its emphasis on generational differences, is reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, but this time the goal isn’t peace and love as much as unfettered, self-directed pleasure (and learning?). Well, if you’re a kid and you don’t trust adults, it’s likely you’re headed for trouble, big time.”

Hicks stresses the need for effective mentoring and parenting, something which may sound reminiscent of a bygone era. Aside from simply describing the problem, he goes on to offer pragmatic suggestions for parents, kids, and schools to help curb technology addiction. He devotes a whole chapter (17) to “Suggestions for Inoculating the Family,” as well as “Suggestions for Schools” in the Appendix.

The adverse effects of technology is a bona fide problem, and I, for one, applaud Dr. Hicks’ initiative for bringing this to the attention for all of us. As he writes, “If the growing epidemic of machines infests us all, I believe we’ll lose our humanity.”

Hicks’ work basically confirms one of our Bryce’s Laws, whereas: “As the use of technology increases, social skills decrease.”

“Digital Pandemic” by Mack R. Hicks, Ph.D.
List: $14.95
Printed 2010
http://digitalpandemic.info/ISBN-13: 978-0-88282-315-7
ISBN-10: 0-88282-315-9
New Horizon Press Books
Available at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Borders

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Books, Computers, Family, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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