Category Archives: Randy’s blog entries

Entries by Randy Mayeux

Download the Synopsis Handout for tomorrow’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis – April 3, 2020


One Book Synopsis: Upstream by Dan Heath

Where: on ZOOM

Click on the image to download the synopsis handout

Click on the image to download the synopsis handout

When: This Friday, April 3, 7:30 am
The presentation will conclude by 8:15 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux


We are all set for tomorrow’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.

#1 — Download, and print the synopsis handout by clicking here.

If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive.  You really will be able to follow along better with a physical copy of the handout in front of you.So, if you have a printer, please print the handout.

#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can.  I am new to this whole Zoom practice, but I have enabled the “enable join before host” button.  So, I think that means you can come in, and talk to people.  I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, but will keep myself pretty much muted until I begin the program at 7:30.  And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude. (I hope I am correct about how this will work…).

#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: First Friday Book Synopsis, April 3, 2020
Time: Apr 3, 2020 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 206 395 039

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Reminder: The cost of this first remote meeting is “free.” But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $10.00 directly to him through PayPal.
(His e-mail address for PayPal is ).
Please:  Spread the word far and wide.  Help make this a success.
Thanks to all,.

Remote Book Synopsis this Friday April 3, 2020, 7:30 am – Upstream by Dan Heath

Here is the e-mail I just sent out.  If you would like to join this learning session, please plan to do so.  I will post the Zoom info on Thursday on this blog.

One Book Synopsis: Upstream by Dan Heath
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, April 3, 7:30 am
The presentation will conclude by 8:05 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux

A number of people have requested/suggested that I present the First Friday Book Synopsis in a virtual/remote format.
So, we are on for this Friday. I do apologize for the late notice.
Here is what to expect:
I will present one synopsis, of about 30 minutes in length. I will present one of the two books I had originally planned for this Friday: Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before they Happen by Dan Heath, — Yes, there wil be other problems to solve during this difficult time, and after the coronavirus problem is under control.
I will begin the synopsis at 7:30 am. So, you will have to prepare your own omelette before we begin. (And, there will be no dress code expectation for this virtual meeting).
I will send out another e-mail on Thursday, with the Zoom log-in info. And, I will provide a way for you to download the pdf of the handout. You will have to print it out yourself, which I strongly suggest that you plan to do.
Cost: I have not figured that out at all. So, this one is “free.”
But, if you would like to contribute to participate, I would welcome you to send up to $10.00 directly to me through PayPal. I am also open to input on what you think is a reasonable price point for future sessions of our remote book club.
(my e-mail address for PayPal is ).
To remind you: I will send out the e-mail on Thursday afternoon, with log-in info, and the link to download the handout.
I do hope to resume our live events as soon as possible. I will miss seeing all of you on Friday!
And, a request — since this is a “remote” synopsis, please invite your friends and colleagues who are near, and far away…
Stay safe and stay well.
Thank you.
Randy Mayeux
You might want to read this blog post, especially:

Productivity Formula (T + CD + EE = P) – Maybe this explains why we are having such difficulty being productive

You are having trouble reaching your top levels of productivity right now.  Right?  I know that I am.

Among all of the ripple effects of the current health crisis, with so many, many of us working from home, we are having trouble concentrating on, focusing on, and accomplishing, our work.

This might help explain it.  Let’s call it the simple productivity formula.  It was prompted by an image I saw on a Twitter feed from from lizandmollie; @lizandmollie (see image).


Here’s the formula:
Time + Clear Direction + Emotional Energy = Productivity
T + CD + EE = P

All three of these are needed to be effective and productive, aren’t they?

During this difficult moment, many have an abundance of time.  But for too many, there is a lack of clear direction (“this is what I need to get accomplished right now”).  And for practically everybody, there is a shortage of emotional energy.  Especially for people who flourish through interactions with others; we are especially drained right now.

Usually, in these blog posts, I include some hint of what to do. At this moment, I’ve got little hint of what to do.

But, if you’ve got all three of these – T + CD + EE — then you are in for a really productive time.  Good for you!



Here’s another image from lizandmollie; @lizandmollie 



Since you are likely working from home, this might help — Insight from David Allen, Daniel Pink, Atul Gawande, and others

Since you are likely working from home, it is time to do a pretty thorough analysis of your working-from-home skills.

Yes, I know; there are only 38 gazillion articles on how to master the art of working from home.  But, I want to jump in with four strong suggestions of my own, with a few book-reading recommendations thrown in.

drive_book-by-daniel-pink_danpinkdotcom1Think about the long-established wisdom of having a good strategy, and then executing on that strategy,  So, you need to decide what to do (strategy), you need to develop a plan to get that done (tactics, and execution), and you need to communicate – to overcommunicate – to everyone involved.  And, you need to reach deep inside yourself to develop an ever-stronger internal motivation.

So, here are my four critical elements of becoming a success at working from homie:

#1 – Decide on your strategy.  Having a big, overarching, “this is what I intend to accomplish” plan will set the stage for all else.

#2 Cultivate an ever-stronger internal motivation.  The kind of motivation that does not rely on carrots and sticks.  The kind of motivation that the experts call “intrinsic motivation.”

Getting Things Done - the Unending Quest

Getting Things Done – the Unending Quest

Book Suggestion:  this is a good time to read Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates You by Daniel Pink.  Here is his own “twitter summary” of his book: “Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”

It boils down to this:  when working from home, you have to be your own taskmaster.  You have to want to do the work that you need to do; want to do it from somewhere deep inside of you.  Reading this book can help you think through this challenge, and work on deepening your own intrinsic motivation.

#3 – After you decide what to do – what “big things” to do, and what incremental things to do along the way — then you need to get your things done.

Two strong reading recommendations for this part of the work-at-home puzzle.  The first is the “bible” of getting things done:  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  This book is overflowing with practicable, usable advice on how to get your things done.

checklist_200-s6-c10The other is The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.  Dr. Gawande knows a thing or two about checklists;  he developed the WHO surgical checklist, and helped develop the Ebola checklist.  But, if you read this book, he looks at checklists from medicine, from construction managers (from really big construction projects), and chefs, and pilots, and…

Read this book, work on and use your checklists, and you will have far fewer things fall through the cracks.

#4 – And…you need to communicate with everyone, all the time.  You need to over-communicate!

Though there are snippets of wisdom in a number of books about this, what I most recommend is that you read this blog post: “The Rule of Seventeen” – If you Want to Get Your Message Across & Accepted, Repeat, and Repeat and…..

One of the developers of this concept is Ed Savage, a regular participant at our First Friday Book Synopsis events in Dallas, and an organizational development guru.  This practice is critical.

When you work from home, you simply have no “accidental” encounters to help spread the word; about anything.  No coffee break encounters.  No spur of the moment “let’s have lunch” conversations.  No bumping into each other in the hall, to ask quick questions.  So, you have to become very, very intentional about overcommunicating.

Communicate; then communicate again; and again; and then some more.

As Verne Harnish put it in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: “until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”

Remember the Rule of 17 - (Click on image for full view)

Remember the Rule of 17 – (Click on image for full view)

Now, admittedly, this post did not deal with many other critical issues of working from home:  how to set up your office; what to wear while working; how many cat videos to watch a day.  But, if you pay attention to these four, and do some serious reading, you will get better at the job of doing good work from home.



I have presented synopses of all of the books I mentioned in this post.  You can purchase my synopses:  each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation.  Click on the “buy synopsis” tab at the top of this page, and search by title.  Click here for our newest additions.


Lessons Learned; Lessons that Should have been Learned – Insight from Taleb, Rosling, and Willink, for these difficult days

I have read, and presented synopses of, well over 500 books since we began the First Friday Book Synopsis back in the late 1990s.  The books I have presented deal with every aspect of business, and, other books I have presented for the Urban Engagement Book Club deal with issues of social justice (poverty; racism; education; homelessness…).

I have learned so many lessons from these authors and their books.  And, there are a few lessons that I have read in book after book, time and again, that I’m not sure we have learned at all.

Here are two that come to mind at this moment in our new crisis:

the_black_swan(from The Black Swan and Factfulness, among other books):
Lesson #1 – The unexpected bad thing will happen. Be ready for a bad thing to happen, even if you don’t know what that bad thing is.

In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb says that no one can predict any specific black swan.  By definition, a black swan is something (usually, something bad) that no one could see coming.  But, they can see this:  a black swan is coming.  Don’t be surprised when it does arrive.

In Factfulness, Hans Rosling included a global pandemic as one of the six bad things that genuinely worried him. #6, by the way, was the bad thing that no one knows how to predict; the unknown, thus utterly unpredictable, bad thing.

But, if you read this book, you realize that we should have had teams of people developing solid plans for the coming global pandemic.  It was predicted.  It has arrived.  And we were not ready, when we should have been.

(from Jocko Willink, and others, about the value of the after-action review)
Lesson #2 – You will make mistakes. So, be sure to carve out time to learn from your mistakes.  Then, actually learn from your mistakes.

Each branch of the military apparently has a different vocabulary for these critical exercises, but it goes like this:  when you plan and then execute an operation, you then do an after-action review.  You ask four key questions;

#1 – What was supposed to happen?  What was our intent?
#2 – What actually happened?
#3 – Why was there a difference between what was intended — what was supposed to happen — and what actually happened?
#4 – What can we learn from this so that that bad thing does not happen again?

There already have been plenty of mistakes made during this crisis. Some of them (many of them) are genuinely deadly; people are dying.  But we need to do plenty of very careful, honest, humble after-action review work when all of this is over.

And leaders who are not willing to learn from mistakes made are very bad leaders, because they doom us to make the same mistakes again.

There are other lessons I am pondering. But these two stand out pretty clearly to me.

Stay safe; and stay well.


By the way, the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a book to help you become “antifragile,” the opposite of fragile.  This book seems like a needed read for times such as this.

My synopses of books by Taleb, and Willink, and many others, are available for purchase.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation.  Go to the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, and do a search by title. Click here for our newest additions.

Viktor Frankl; David Allen; John Steinbeck (and, Daniel Silva) – Suggested Book Reading for these shelter-in-place days

Man's Search for MeaningIn the midst of this shelter-in-place moment, plenty of us – especially those of us who work in some kind of independent capacity – are having trouble getting started, getting scheduled, and getting things done.

I’ve tried to think about books that might be useful in such a moment.  So, here is a farily short suggested shelter-in-place reading list.

(And, a reminder:  if you own a Kindle, or have the Kindle app on your iPad, you might be able to get the Kindle versions for free from your local library for free).


Suggestion #1 – Read (or re-read) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  Viktor Frankl survived the death camps, and wrote this masterpiece in a matter of days.  It is a two-part book.  Part two was actually a manuscript that he had written in the period before his ordeal; lost, of course.   He reconstructed it from his memory, and refined it.

This is probably the most important book I have ever read.  And, its insights come from the darkest of the dark days of all.  If you have never read I, now would be a good time.200px-Getting_Things_Done

Suggestion #2 – Read Getting Things Done by David Allen.  You have got to be the ultimate self-starter in these days.  This book will give you a framework for your work.

I was tempted to recommended Drive by Daniel Pink, in this slot, on the power of intrinsic motivation.  And/or The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The three of these together might give you a deeper understanding of why and how to be a good “remote:” worker, to help you prepare for the unique challenges you face a this moment.

Suggestion #3 – Read (or re-read) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  This book is one of the novels called “The Great American Novel,” and may be the best book I have ever read (Frankl, the most important; this, the best).

From Wikipedia:
The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

grapes of wrathThe Grapes of Wrath is begins with what happens to people who are hard working, on their family farms, and yet through no fault of their own, their lives are turned totally upside down.  It is about more than that – but it is about that.

Those are my top three suggestions  And here is a…

Bonus Suggestion #4 – Daniel Silva, The Kill Artist. You need a little escape, don’t you?  I go with thrillers.  And if you have never discovered Daniel Silva’s Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon, it is time to make his acquaintance.  You may as well start with book #1 in the series:  The Kill Artist.  This summer, book #20 is scheduled for release.  (Yes; I have read them all).

Click here to see the list of the Gabriel Allon books in order. 

I believe you will find these suggestions worthy of your time.  Give them a try!

One of Gabriel Allon's many harrowing adventures

One of Gabriel Allon’s many harrowing adventures


I have synopses available for the books by Frankl, Allen, Pink, and Gawande.  (First time to purchase?: be sure to read my FAQs)  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation .  Check them out.  I have many more synopses to choose from.
Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page (you can search by title).  And, click here for the newest additions.