Member must reads, part 5

- January 17, 2015 3 MIN READ

Edwin Lynch, Thomas Fisher and Kathie Stove share the books that have had the most influence on the way they run their business.

Edwin Lynch

I usually read hard science or business books, but this one really struck me. I didn’t have much work, so I nervously read a book called A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born To Do by Thomas Moore.

In it, Thomas successfully suggests that good work is a kind of spiritual calling. Without being too religious or overtly new-agey, he talks about ways that we can bring real soul to what we do in our work-day lives. By working outward, from the soul, we attract what it is we want into our lives.

I put the book down and thought, “Fat chance, bud”. Nice volition, but I couldn’t really reconcile making a profit with any kind of quasi-religious ‘spiritual’ journey.

Moments later my phone rang and I got the usual non-brief from a guy who wanted a site for a second hand boat yard. “Hey Ed, Can you do me a website by Friday?” (That’s how most of my briefs go). So much for spiritual satisfaction. I quoted him $2,000 for a simple website and spent the next day and night putting it together.

I really poured my soul into that website. There was no content. I had to make it up. Without a brief I was free to do exactly what I wanted, borrowing and then modifying from other sources. I assumed he’d want to change everything.

In two days it was done. I wrote the invoice. I was about to send it when I felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I waited a day. I had a shower. Went for a ride on my bike. Called a friend to offload my feelings of guilt. Finally, I sent the guy a link to his done-in-two-days brand new website.

I have to admit, even though it only took me two days, it was a great looking site. It worked on all browsers, the forms worked – everything looked pretty schmick.

I got the call back. Uh oh. . .

He loved it more than his own family. This was the best site he had ever seen. Period. He was almost crying on the phone, telling me I was the best guy in the world etc. He wired the money into my account while I was there on the phone.

I could taste relief. My guilt boomeranged away (I knew it would be back). And then I thought about Thomas Moore’s book which was just sitting there quietly on a shelf. Winking at me. He was right. I had poured my soul into this simple website for two days. This is my calling. I thoroughly enjoyed the rush of it.

When I went to my bank, the guy had deposited $2,500 into my account – a $500 bonus! That book taught me never to panic – especially if I have few clients. More will come. But weirdly, only when I need a new client, one pops into my inbox. Tom’s book taught me why.

Thomas Fisher,

I recently read Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and it had a profound impact on the way I think about lead generation.

Traction explores over a half a dozen different marketing channels – from old school PR to the latest techniques in Search Engine Marketing, and everything in between. There’s a real emphasis on practical applications and it’s a super easy read. I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen!

Kathie Stove

The complete plain words by Sir Ernest Gowers has been in print since 1954 and has been my bible since I began editing 25 years ago. (And Wikipedia tells me a 2014 edition has been released – I’m off to the bookstore.) This masterpiece shows how to reduce officialese to plain English, with wit, charm and clarity.

The front cover of my 1986 edition has examples of poor English, the first being: “If the baby does not thrive on raw milk, boil it”. I still laugh.

The sections on correctness, and choosing and handling words, are full of good advice but the section I find most useful is ‘A checklist: words and phrases to be used with care’. It never goes out of date.

Unfortunately, there are still far too many people in the business and government worlds who haven’t read it or don’t follow its suggestions. Fortunately, that’s what keeps me in work.

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