Author Archives: randy

The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream by Steve Case – Here are my Seven Lessons and Takeaways

the-rise-of-the-rest-9781982191849_hrThe Rise of the Rest means just what it says: a way to lift the prospects of the rest of the nation—those who live and work outside the coastal tech centers in California, New York, and Massachusetts. Currently, 75 percent of venture capital for startups flows to those three states, with the rest of the country left to fight it out for the remaining 25 percent.

When we decided to hit the road with our Rise of the Rest bus, we wanted to go deep into each city we visited, to really understand what was happening, to use our platform to shine a spotlight on people and ideas, and to drive more collaboration. We also wanted to attract local press attention, so the stories of startups would get more focus.

Their reasoning for the relaunch was in sync with the Rise of the Rest message: you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to make it, and in fact sometimes other cities can be more welcoming for your company.  

Here is my prediction. Over the next decade, a majority of the iconic startup companies—the ones that create tens of thousands of jobs and end up being worth billions of dollars—will not be in Silicon Valley, but all across the country. It’s already happening.  

The most critical challenge for entrepreneurs in the twenty-first century is building the tools for a sustainable world.  There’s been a significant shift from defining it as a problem to solve, which of course it is, to more of an opportunity to seize.

Investors, communities, and local governments are waking up to the fact that most of the job creation in this country does not come from small businesses or big businesses. It comes from new high-growth startups. Therefore, local communities, states, and regions increasingly recognize that it is a worthwhile investment to back startups.

Government can—and must—play a role, but it’s clear that we can’t rely solely on government to fix something that’s wrong in the marrow of our communities. We need to lead from the grassroots, and we especially need the nation’s entrepreneurs to step up. My goal is to see that entrepreneurial dynamism happening all across the country, so we can create jobs, hope, and opportunity everywhere, and build a brighter shared future for America.

Some might think my views are a little naive, or Pollyannaish, but I truly believe that a key to unifying America has been—and will be—unleashing innovation and growth.

Steve Case, The Rise of the Rest:  How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream

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At the November First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream by Steve Case.  Steve Case has been at this technological innovation for quite a while; he co-founded America Online (AOL).

I am liking his books.  I included this quick review of his earlier book, The Third Wave, in this presentation:

  • A quick review (from his earlier book, The Third Wave):
  • This is an optimistic book — It starts with developing a point of view—a hypothesis that the world is changing.  {Note; in this new book, he states: When we look back at this moment in America’s history, all the complicated challenges that face our country may be summarized most simply as a battle between optimists and pessimists. I am an optimist}.
  • Alvin Toffler’s three waves:

#1 –  The “First Wave” of humanity was the settled agricultural society that was dominant for thousands of years.

#2 – The “Second Wave” was the post–Industrial Revolution world, where mass production and distribution transformed how people lived.

#3 – The “Third Wave” was the information age: an electronic global village 

  • Steve Case’s three waves of the Internet:

#1 — The First Wave of the Internet was all about building the infrastructure and foundation for an online world

#2 — The Second Wave was about building on top of the Internet. Search engines like Google. …Amazon and eBay turned their corner of the Internet into a one-stop shop. 

#3 – Everything and everyone is “connected.”  (moving from “the Internet of Things” to the “Internet is Everything”).

  • A couple of lessons: 
  • Lesson – Once a wave” is past, you have to operate within the new wave!
  • Lesson – invest for impact (“invest” = time, money, collaborations) – invest for impact, not for profit!
  • “invest for profit” is short term
  • go for lasting impact to make the world, and our lives, better

—–

This new book is all about the need to have entrepreneurs rise up across the country; not just in the big three technological innovation centers of Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York.  And, he chronicles efforts in many of the places where this is happening.  His own efforts, with a bus criss-crossing the country with “The Rise of the Rest” plastered on the outside, is providing cash prizes for budding entrepreneurs and their startups.

If you are concerned about spreading the possibilities, this book is worth reading.

As I always do, I begin my synopses with “What is the point? of this book.  Here is the point for The Rise of the Rest The future will be built by entrepreneurs through their many, many startups.  This is being done, and will be done, all across the country.  (Not just in Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York).  It is the rise of…the rest!

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book: 

#1 – This book chronicles the modern history of the movement away from the tech centers of yesterday and today to the many, multiple tech centers of tomorrow.

#2 – This book assumes that technology can be “practiced” anywhere and everywhere.

#3 – This book is a reminder that business effectiveness and success is about spotting problems, and coming up with and providing the best solutions. 

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book—the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are quite a few of the best of the best of my highlighted passages  from this book:

There are a number of reasons for America’s success over nearly two and a half centuries, but much of the credit goes to the inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovators. 

The strategic questions are clear: How do we continue to lead, inventing the technologies that can enable the industries of the future to flourish? And how do we figure out ways to create more opportunity, for more people, in more places, so the United States can develop a more inclusive innovation economy? Part of the reason our country is so divided right now is that many people feel left behind in the new economy. 

We must be more thoughtful about backing startups in every part of the country to offset inevitable job losses with new opportunities and help more people participate in a growing economy. 

Kurt Vonnegut expressed dismay at the state of the nation and suggested that the country could use a new cabinet position: the secretary of the future.  

Worried about changes, people often became cautious and risk-averse—less open to change. 

AOL, promoting grassroots access for everyone, was ahead of its time.  Our challenge was to help people visualize it, experience it, and believe in it. We had to show them that the internet could be life changing—not just technology for technology’s sake.

Startups are reimagining cities.  …And they are cracking the equity code, engaging diverse populations.  

In many ways, the Rise of the Rest is the answer to the question of whether America can maintain its lead in the world. 

One hundred years ago Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its day. The tech stars then were called Car Guys. 

About 90 percent of all startups fail—good idea or not.

It didn’t take long for us to realize we were on to something. First in Detroit and then in the other cities, we found tenacious communities determined to fight their way back to relevancy.   

We learned that there is real value in showing up. Showing up, and meeting people face-to-face, in their cities, opened our eyes to what was really happening and strengthened our connection to and affection for each community we visited. Our interactions, on and off the bus, were meaningful and catalytic. 

It’s all about making connections, which is pretty much the same thing I was doing early in my career when I cofounded AOL. With Rise of the Rest, I’m back in the network-building business.  

Entrepreneurs need somebody to back them and say, “I’m going to invest in you because I believe in you and believe in your idea.” …Everything starts with one yes. At Revolution we try to catalyze more yeses. 

At Rise of the Rest we have found that small but mighty startup communities can help the cities rise, as a more manageable, accessible, and founder-friendly market can attract top talent and startups to the region.   

We focused on the “three Cs”—capital, community, and celebration. We concluded that there needed to be more of a celebration of entrepreneurship and startups. 

On the road with Rise of the Rest it is becoming increasingly common to hear entrepreneurs express a desire to change the world, or at least their corner of the world. It’s not enough to do something cool; they want to do something that matters. 

On every Rise of the Rest tour, we’ve had public officials present who serve as hands-on partners, and often leaders of these innovation efforts. …one of the most consistent driving forces in the emergence of successful ecosystems is universities, which are often the leading laboratories for innovation.

I suggested to the audience that Louisville could benefit by thinking of itself as part of a broader region that also includes nearby Midwestern cities, such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Nashville. They could draw resources from each other and help each other grow. That’s an example of what we mean when we talk about entrepreneurship as a team sport.   

As we toured the center, I took note of a famous Ali saying, as it was especially relevant to entrepreneurs: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”   

The only way out of the decline was to find ways to create more jobs, and that’s where startups come in.   

Forbes set out to identify which cities were emerging as the top startup cities for the next decade and beyond. Columbus, Ohio, earned the number one spot. Forbes cited its low cost of living, low cost of doing business, college support, and the number of venture capital deals since 2013 that showed Columbus was on the rise.  …Starting with 208 cities in the United States that had more than 150,000 people, they developed a set of criteria. “The biggest was cost of living, which immediately took out Boston, New York, San Francisco, and anywhere in Hawaii.”  Once they narrowed the candidate cities down to twenty-one, they looked at different livability factors for various demographics, and came up with the finalists: Austin, Raleigh, Durham, Nashville, and Columbus.

“That’s the cool thing about technology today,” she said. “You don’t need anyone’s approval to be able to do it. No longer do those hierarchies hold.”

I always remind entrepreneurs, in the spirit of our nation’s founders, that entrepreneurship is hard. Entrepreneurs are surrounded by doubters and skeptics—even including family and friends who are acting out of love. To press on, through doubt and fear, with no certainty of what will come—that’s the courage it takes to ultimately prevail.  

…a blend of serious commitment by business and government with a strong sense of community engagement. …The experience is always unique to the locale, and it’s often moving. 

There are megatrends that were brewing before the pandemic but which definitely have accelerated. One megatrend is the “Great Resignation”—people leaving their jobs, often to upgrade to better opportunities. The pandemic also led to a great rethinking—what the role of companies should be, increasing the importance of investing in resilient supply chains and a broad range of sustainable businesses. … People are hungry to bring new meaning to what they do, and to be empowered by their work.

The battle for talent—attracting and keeping the best people—would be a priority, and that would necessitate flexibility, including supporting remote work long after the pandemic subsided. 

Once people were forced to use it, and everybody was on the same level—in boxes on a Zoom screen—they realized it did allow for collaboration, with an added level of convenience and flexibility. …But I wondered how companies would adjust to a post-pandemic world, where some are in the office and others are working from home. It’s likely to be much trickier in terms of team dynamics, company cultures, and trust.  

Pew Research predicts that when everything has opened up, the percentage of fully remote workers could remain as high as 25 percent.  

“Cities are going to have to compete for talent. And I think the cities that win will be the cities that most welcome talent.”

According to a Kauffman Foundation study, one-fourth of US-based startups were launched by foreign-born founders; in Silicon Valley, that number is closer to 50 percent. …History teaches us that progress belongs to countries that are open, and that has always been America’s edge. … The global battle for talent is real, and it’s fierce. We want the best talent to come here, as they have in the past.

“After the murder of George Floyd, I saw money move in a way that I’ve never seen before. People were waking up to realities that they had never woken up to before.” 

People are like, ‘Tech unicorns don’t come from McKinney, Texas, or Buffalo.’ And we say, ‘You wanna see?’   

And here are a number of the points and observations from this book that I included in my synopsis:

Randy’s attempt at describing a key difference:

  • a startup is started to immediately grow larger; with some intention to disrupt.Startups need investment capital.  Startups are intended to “scale.”  Investors invest hoping to see a home run return on their investment.
  • a small business is started to make money from day one.Maybe; consider a small business more “self-contained,” not intended to scale, or disrupt.
  • Investors, communities, and local governments are waking up to the fact that most of the job creation in this country does not come from small businesses or big businesses. It comes from new high-growth startups. Therefore, local communities, states, and regions increasingly recognize that it is a worthwhile investment to back startups.
  • Steve Case believes:
  • Our country was created by entrepreneurs and their inventiveness
  • We need to constantly revive and nurture that spirit
  • That spirit can be found, and should be nurtured, in every nook and cranny of our country. — Just as they helped build America in its first two centuries, entrepreneurs can once again help to lead the way.
  • People were attracted to Silicon Valley; thus they left home. (it looked to me as if 95 percent were from someplace else). Now, he wants to bring the same mindset and help to all places of “home.”
  • And I think there is a certain stubbornness that comes from being tied to community that says, ‘There’s no reason we can’t build here.’ 
  • What is this book? — part history lesson, part pep-talk, part blueprint 
  • Then…now…
  • Then, you needed rivers, ports, and like-minded people all gathered in “one” place
  • Now, with technology, you can gather enough such like-minded people in any and every place – smaller clusters work wonders – and, they can even be “gathered” remotely.
  • Now and next…
  • technology has to make a difference; in a way that matters; with the right kind of social and societal impact. (In other words, the pursuit of profits alone is not what will drive tomorrow’s breakthroughs).
  • Three great questions:
  • We begin with three questions: Why me?  Why now?  Who cares?
  • Answering the “Why me?” question forces founders to stand on their own and make the case for themselves and their company. What’s original about it? Does it make sense as a business? Does it meet a felt need? Is it venture backable? Can it scale quickly?
  • “Why now?” is a timing question. It is often said that timing is everything, and that became clear during the pandemic.
  • “Who cares?” asks about the market. We want to encourage innovation in important aspects of our lives and disrupt—and reimagine—the largest industries in the world. 
  • The magic mix…
  • Think of the tech ecosystem as a wheel with seven spokes, connected and in motion. The spokes are comprised of: (1) startups, (2) investors, (3) universities, (4) government, (5) corporations, (6) startup support organizations, and (7) local media. These entities use a variety of levers to help convene, educate, inform, and link startups. Their efforts, in turn, inspire an environment that is conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship. — This isn’t a list; it’s a wheel.
  • Dallas has its own section in the book:
  • DALLAS: Innovation in D-Town — Harlan Crow, chairman of Crow Holdings; Ron Kirk, former Dallas mayor and US trade representative; Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T’s chief technology officer; Jennifer Sampson, CEO of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas; Dale Petroskey, president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber; Rob Kaplan, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president and CEO; and Richard Benson, president of the University of Texas at Dallas.
  • Dallas, which is a large city with a tremendous amount of wealth, and get them to focus on innovation and entrepreneurship and the power of startups.
  • Paul Quinn College in South Dallas, an area that most of them typically didn’t visit. Paul Quinn College, under the direction of its president Michael Sorrell, was a surprising startup story. — “Forget football. We don’t have food. We don’t have jobs.” — He tore up the football field and turned it into an urban farm.
  • Four Trends, building strength, starting to converge:

            #1 – The emergence of tech centers around industry expertise.

            #2 – The rise of more job-creating startup hubs.

            #3 – The pandemic fueled acceleration of innovation trends.

            #4 – The increased engagement of government as a catalyst. 

  • Maybe…we should be welcoming on purpose…
  • According to Forbes, immigrant entrepreneurs start 25 percent of all new businesses in the United States. An MIT Sloan study found that those new businesses create 42 percent more jobs thatn those started by US-born entrepreneurs. 
  • And…we need to work on this: the Diversity Imperative:
  • Only 1 percent of venture capital goes to Black founders and less than 10 percent to women.
  • Remember – be optimistic; it can be done!
  • it stands to reason that the big problems we face, such as climate change, food insecurity, and inequality, can be tackled by creative entrepreneurs.
  • And if we can only give everybody with an idea for a new company a way to actually do something about it, no matter where they live, or what their background, or who they know – that’s what will ensure America remains the pioneering country that got us here, and preserve our lead as the most entrepreneurial nation on earth. There is indeed something special about America.  It’s a nation of possibility, focused more on the future than on the past. – I’m reminded of that when we celebrate the founding of our once-startup nation each year on the Fourth of July.
  • Big whopping observations
  • as good as Zoom and Webex have gotten, today will be the worst they will ever be moving forward! It’s just that this is the worst video technology will ever be ever again, right? It’s only going to be better. Bandwidth’s going to improve, screen technology is going to improve. We’re going to have more tools for connection. It’s going to get even easier.” He believes that as the technology becomes more seamless, workers are going to have more options to live where they want.
  • always…start with “a problem to be solved!”“If you see a problem that needs to be solved, it’s easier than ever to get into it. And now, more than ever, you can do it from right here.”
  • “I had in my head hundreds of cities, maybe, and I’m thinking around the world. So, I think it’s going to be extremely distributed. The place to be will be the internet. You can access it anywhere.”
  • Maybe…anyone, at anyplace, at any and all times…
  • Take the requirement for a college degree out of the equation and focus on the underlying talent…

And here are my Seven Lessons and Takeaways:

#1 – You need an idea.

#2 – You need like-minded people to help you with your idea; plenty with the right technological training.

#3 – Thus, you need clusters of people who have the training, and the entrepreneurial spirit, to feed each others ideas.

#4 – And, you need lots of help– from government, big business, customers…

#5 – And, you need money.

#6 – For our country to truly continue to succeed, startup world needs to be anywhere, and everywhere, all the time!

#7 – And, though we need to love and nurture new small businesses, the startup eco-system is more than, and different than, just that.

I like books that are calling for innovators to rise up everywhere!  And, I like this book because it is optimistic.  My goodness, do new need more optimism these days.

I think you will find The Rise of the Rest a book worth adding to your reading stack.

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You can purchase our synopses presentations from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  On that page, you can search by book title. And click here for our newest additions.  My synopsis of The Rise of the Rest will be available soon.

Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation delivered at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.

Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of November Twentieth Century by J. Bradford DeLong – Here are my five lessons and takeaways

Slouching Towards UtopiaUtopias are, by definition, the be-all and end-all.  

The history of the long twentieth century cannot be told as a triumphal gallop, or a march, or even a walk of progress along the road that brings us closer to utopia. It is, rather, a slouch. At best. …Slouching, however, is better than standing still, let alone going backward.

In 1870 a major shift took place for humanity. With the coming of the industrial research lab, the modern corporation, and truly cheap ocean and land transport and communication, we went from a world in which economic patterns formed a semistable backdrop of grinding mass poverty to one where the economy was constantly revolutionizing itself, entering into states of increasing prosperity via the discovery, development, and deployment of new technologies.  

Thus I see the history of the long twentieth century as primarily the history of four things—technology-fueled growth, globalization, an exceptional America, and confidence that humanity could at least slouch toward utopia as governments solved political-economic problems.  

The laboratory, the corporation, global transportation, global communications, and falling barriers—together, these factors were more than enough to trigger the decisive watershed and carry humanity out of Malthusian poverty.

And yet, after World War II, the world, or at least the global north, picked up its mat and walked—nay, ran—forward toward true utopia. 

Economic improvement, attained by slouch or gallop, matters. The attainment of more than enough—more than enough calories, shelter, clothing, material goods—matters.

In some sense, I am more optimistic.

J. Bradford DeLong, Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of November Twentieth Century 

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I feel inadequate to this task; writing my blog post on this important book.

For 24+ years, I have presented synopses every month of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  In November, I presented my synopsis of Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of November Twentieth Century by J. Bradford DeLong.  J. Bradford DeLong, an economic historian, is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury during the Clinton administration. He writes a widely read economics blog, now at braddelong.substack.com. He lives in Berkeley, California.

This book is a big book.  It is a big, big picture book.  It covers plenty of ground that was new to me.  And, to be honest, I felt a little overwhelmed by its scope and breadth.  In other words, I felt inadequate to the task of presenting a synopsis of this important book.

And, it is indeed important!  I think we need to understand the big picture of our economic history over the last few decades.  I am glad I read this book.  I encourage you to add it to your reading stack, and read it slowly.  (It is not a book to skim or speed read!)

As always, in my synopses, I ask “What is the point? of the book.  Here is what I said is the point of this book: We made great progress for many (most) people on planet earth during the long century from 1870-2010.  Will we continue to?  Are we still slouching toward utopia?

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This is a comprehensive economic history of the last 150 years.

#2 – This book is filled with insight about how we were able to make great progress.

#3 – This book is a warning of current and coming dangers, while also pointing to possible ways to move forward towards utopia, in the coming years. 

I always include a few pages of quotes and Excerpts from the book—the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are quite a few of the best of the best I included for this book: 

(Growth) shot up from about 0.45 percent per year before 1870 to 2.1 percent per year afterward, truly a watershed boundary-crossing difference. A 2.1 percent average growth for the 140 years from 1870 to 2010 is a multiplication by a factor of 21.5.

There were six times as many people in 2010 as there were in 1870.

As a rough guess, average world income per capita in 2010 would be 8.8 times what it was in 1870, meaning an average income per capita in 2010 of perhaps $ 11,000 per year. (To get the figure of 8.8, you divide 21.5 by the square root of 6.) Hold these figures in your head as a very rough guide to the amount by which humanity was richer in 2010 than it was in 1870—and never forget that the riches were vastly more unequally distributed around the globe in 2010 than they were in 1870.   

 A revolutionized economy every generation cannot but revolutionize society and politics, and a government trying to cope with such repeated revolutions cannot help but be greatly stressed in its attempts to manage and provide for its people in the storms. 

People can and do use technologies—both the harder ones, for manipulating nature, and the softer ones, for organizing humans—to exploit, to dominate, and to tyrannize.   

RETURN TO MY CLAIM above that the long twentieth century was the first century in which the most important historical thread was the economic one. That is a claim worth pausing over.   

John Stuart Mill claimed, with some justification, that “it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” You have to go forward a generation after 1870 before general material progress becomes unquestionable.   

To listen to music on demand in around 1900 you had to have—in your house or nearby—an instrument, and someone trained to play it. 

Economics during the twentieth century has worked just shy of miracles.  … Today, less than 9 percent of humanity lives at or below the roughly $ 2-a-day living standard we think of as “extreme poverty,” down from approximately 70 percent in 1870.

Today, the typical citizens of these economies can wield powers—of mobility, of communication, of creation, and of destruction—that approach those attributed to sorcerers and gods in ages past.   

Call the century after 1770 the coming of the age of the “Industrial Revolution.” By 1870 the index of the value of knowledge stood at 1, more than twice as large as in 1500. It had taken 9,500 years to get the tenfold jump from 0.04 to 0.43—an average time-to-double of some 2,800 years—and then the next doubling took less than 370 years.   

The numbers are important: indeed, they are key. …the secret weapon of the economist is the ability to count.  …individual stories are only important if they concern individuals at a crossroads whose actions end up shaping humanity’s path, or if they concern individuals who are especially representative of the great swath of humanity. It is only by counting that we can tell which stories are at all representative and which decisions truly matter.  

With even moderately well-fed people, human sexuality can and does do much more: British settler populations in North America in the yellow-fever-free zone north of the Mason-Dixon Line quadrupled by natural increase along every one hundred years, without any of the advantages of modern public health.   

They produced new and better ways of doing old things: of making thread, of weaving cloth, of carrying goods about, of making iron, of raising coal, and of growing wheat and rice and corn. Having pioneered these improvements, their inventors then set about finding ways to exploit them. It was a process that required inventors to be not just researchers but development engineers, maintenance technicians, human resource managers, bosses, cheerleaders, marketers, impresarios, and financiers as well.   

Consider the invention of the steam engine in the eighteenth century. It needed a cheap source of fuel, it needed something important and profitable to do, and it needed societal competence at the metalworking technological frontier.  

What changed after 1870 was that the most advanced North Atlantic economies had invented invention. They had invented not just textile machinery and railroads, but also the industrial research lab and the forms of bureaucracy that gave rise to the large corporation. Thereafter, what was invented in the industrial research labs could be deployed at national or continental scale. Perhaps most importantly, these economies discovered that there was a great deal of money to be made and satisfaction to be earned by not just inventing better ways of making old things, but inventing brand-new things. Not just inventions, but the systematic invention of how to invent. Not just individual large-scale organizations, but organizing how to organize.  

The economist Robert Gordon wrote of “one big wave” consisting of everything from flush toilets to microwave ovens, after which the low-and even the moderate-hanging fruit of organic chemicals, internal combustion engines, and electric power had been picked and technology was bound to slow. 

Worldwide steel production would rise from trivial amounts—enough for swords, some cutlery, and a few tools that needed the sharpest attainable edge—to some 70 million tons a year by 1914. By 1950 this would grow to 170 million tons, and as of 2020 it is 1.5 billion tons a year.

…But it was not just steel. Robert Gordon was 100 percent right when he wrote that the year 1870 was the dawn of something new in the world, for over the next several decades, “every aspect of life experienced a revolution. By 1929, urban America [had] electricity, natural gas, the telephone, and clean running water,… the horse had almost vanished from urban streets,… and the household… enjoyed entertainments… beyond the 1870 imagination.”

…From the railroad and the steel mill as the high-tech edge of the economy in 1870, to the dynamo and the motor car as the high-tech edge in 1903, to the assembly line and the aircraft of 1936, to the television set and rocket (both moon and military) of 1969, to the microprocessor and World Wide Web of 2002—technological revolution, with its economic and then its sociological and political consequences, problems, and adjustments, came faster and more furiously than in any previous age.

In 1914 perhaps two-thirds of nearly all humans still tilled the earth to grow the bulk of the food their families ate. Most humans could not read; nor had they seen a steam engine up close, traveled on a railway train, spoken on a telephone, or lived in a city. Life expectancy was still little higher than it had been in the Agrarian Age.   

But by the time Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany went to war in 1939, four-fifths of the wheeled and tracked vehicles in his army were still powered by horses and mules. 

As Eisenhower put it, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”  Voters, in other words, distrusted politicians who sought to cut these programs back, and tended to find taxes earmarked to support social insurance programs less distasteful than other taxes. Outside of the United States, right-of-center parties have seldom made any serious attempt to take a stand against social democracy.   

By 1946 Walter Reuther was head of the UAW, following a strategy of using the union’s power not just to win higher wages and better working conditions for its members, but to “fight for the welfare of the public at large… as an instrument of social change. 

The United States’ social insurance state turned out to be significantly less generous than the typical European iteration.  …Even the conservative Margaret Thatcher in Britain found the absence of state-sponsored medical care in the United States appalling, and even barbarous. 

Four forces in particular led to things playing out the way they did. The first was post–World War II reglobalization: the reversal of the step backward away from the 1870–1914 globalization that had taken place over the period 1914–1950. The second was a big shift in technology: starting in the mid-1950s, the steel-box shipping container conquered the world. The third was another big shift in technology: the nearly ethereal zeros and ones of information technology conquered the world. The fourth consisted of the neoliberal policies themselves and how they interacted with the other three. Together these four forces turned reglobalization into hyperglobalization. 

And then, in my synopses, I include some key points from the book.  Here are a number from Slouching Towards Utopia:

  • The Long Twentieth Century –
  • The 140 years from 1870 to 2010 of the long twentieth century were, I strongly believe, the most consequential years of all humanity’s centuries. And it was the first century in which the most important historical thread was what anyone would call the economic one, for it was the century that saw us end our near-universal dire material poverty. 
  • The three great forces/sources, around 1870 — the triple emergence, which ushered in changes that began to pull the world out of the dire poverty that had been humanity’s lot for the previous ten thousand years, since the discovery of agriculture.
  • globalization
  • the industrial research lab
  • But the creation of the industrial research lab was not the action of one, or of even only a few, humans. It took many working together, often at cross-purposes, over a course of years. Inevitable? No, but many people working together over time does make a particular outcome increasingly likely.
  • the modern corporation
  • Things changed starting around 1870. Then we got the institutions for organization and research and the technologies—we got full globalization, the industrial research laboratory, and the modern corporation. These were the keys. These unlocked the gate that had previously kept humanity in dire poverty.
  • The research laboratory, the corporation, and globalization powered the wave of discovery, invention, innovation, deployment, and global economic integration that have so boosted our global useful-economic-knowledge index.
  • What we now have…
  • Everything… electricity…indoor plumbing, heat and cold, food (FOOD!), music on demand, all entertainment on demand…
  • “If we [in the 1800s] could have devised an arrangement for providing everybody with music in their homes, perfect in quality, unlimited in quantity, suited to every mood, and beginning and ceasing at will, we should have considered the limit of human felicity already attained.” Think of that: the limit of human felicity.
  • There are more than enough calories produced in the world, so it is not necessary for anybody to be hungry. There is more than enough shelter on the globe, so it is not necessary for anybody to be wet. There is more than enough clothing in our warehouses, so it is not necessary for anybody to be cold. And there is more than enough stuff lying around and being produced daily, so nobody need feel the lack of something necessary. In short, we are no longer in anything that we could call “the realm of necessity.” 
  • Yet…maybe not so fast…
  • any triumphalist narrative would collapse in the face of the conspicuous failures over the previous decade by the stewards of the global economy.
  • Plenty – yet so uneven…
  • Yes, during the years between 1870 and 2010, technology and organization repeatedly lapped fecundity. But material prosperity is unevenly distributed around the globe to a gross, even criminal, extent.
  • What happened during this long century?
  • 1870–2010 was the century when the United States became a superpower. Second, it was during this period that the world came to be composed primarily of nations rather than empires. Third, the economy’s center of gravity came to consist of large oligopolistic firms ringmastering value chains. Finally, it made a world in which political orders would be primarily legitimated, at least notionally, by elections with universal suffrage—rather than the claims of plutocracy, tradition, “fitness,” leadership charisma, or knowledge of a secret key to historical destiny. 
  • Important Processes: From this explosion flowed five important processes and sets of forces that constitute the major themes of this book:
  • History became economic: Because of the explosion of wealth, the long twentieth century was the first century ever in which history was predominantly a matter of economics: the economy was the dominant arena of events and change, and economic changes were the driving force behind other changes, in a way never seen before.
  • The world globalized: As had never been the case before, things happening on other continents became not just minor fringe factors but among the central determinants of what happened in every single place human beings lived.
  • The technological cornucopia was the driver: Enabling the enormous increase in material wealth—its essential prerequisite, in fact—was the explosion in human technological knowledge. This required not just a culture and educational system that created large numbers of scientists and engineers, and means of communication and memory, so that they could build on previous discoveries, but also a market economy structured in such a way that it was worth people’s while to funnel resources to scientists and engineers so that they could do their jobs.
  • Governments mismanaged, creating insecurity and dissatisfaction: The governments of the long twentieth century had little clue as to how to regulate the un-self-regulating market to maintain prosperity, to ensure opportunity, or to produce substantial equality.
  • Tyrannies intensified: The long twentieth century’s tyrannies were more brutal and more barbaric than those of any previous century—and were, in strange, complicated, and confused ways, closely related to the forces that made the explosion of wealth so great. 
  • Some numbers, and key milestones:
  • In 1870, 5 ounces of copper were mined per person worldwide; by 2016, we mined 5 pounds per person. In 1870, 1 pound of steel was produced per person worldwide; by 2016, we produced 350 pounds per person.
  • What did happen was post-1870 innovation growth acceleration: a third watershed boundary crossing. Around 1870 the proportional rate of growth of humanity’s technological and organizational capabilities took a further fourfold upward leap to our current 2.1 percent per year or so. Thereafter, technology far outran population growth. And thereafter, population growth in the richest economies began to decline: humans became rich enough and long-lived enough that limiting fertility became a desirable option.
  • Britain burned 194 million tons of coal in 1914. The total coal-equivalent energy consumption of Britain today is only 2.5 times that.
  • US railroads carried passengers some 350 miles per citizen, on average, in 1914. Today US airlines carry passengers 3,000 miles per citizen.
  • Compared to the past, it was almost utopia. Globally, the real wages of unskilled workers in 1914 were half again above their levels of 1870. Such a standard of living hadn’t been attained since before we’d moved to the farm.
  • Four percent of Americans had flush toilets at home in 1870; 20 percent had them in 1920, 71 percent in 1950, and 96 percent in 1970. No American had a landline telephone in 1880; 28 percent had one in 1914, 62 percent in 1950, and 87 percent in 1970. Eighteen percent of Americans had electric power in 1913; 94 percent had it by 1950.
  • Migration really mattered!
  • Yet another aspect of globalization was a lack of barriers. Of the consequences arising from open borders, the most influential was migration—with the very important caveat that the poorest migrants, those from China, India, and so on, were not allowed into the temperate settlements. Those were reserved for Europeans (and sometimes Middle Easterners). Caveat aside, a vast population of people moved: between 1870 and 1914, one in fourteen humans—one hundred million people—changed their continent of residence.
  • Joseph Schumpeter
  • “Capitalism,” economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote in 1942, “never can be stationary.… The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates.… Industrial mutation… incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one.… This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”  — Great wealth is created by the creation. Poverty is imposed by the destruction. And uncertainty and anxiety are created by the threat. 
  • The failure/challenges.. (from the official book description):
  • Our ancestors would have presumed we would have used such powers to build utopia. But it was not so. When 1870–2010 ended, the world instead saw global warming; economic depression, uncertainty, and inequality; and broad rejection of the status quo. 

And I end with my own Lessons and Takeaways.  Here are my 5 lessons and takeaways for this book:

#1 – The big steps forward really mattered; technological progress; organizational progress; these mattered!

#2 – Things can get worse…pretty quickly.  Therefore, we have to care about big picture issues, and be vigilant.

#3 – I think maybe we should be very concerned about the collapse of globalization. – It really is better for countries to work together.

#4 – Inequality is very real – and genuinely harmful.  We need to pay plenty of attention to this challenge.

#5 – Uncertainty makes us…uncertain.  The loss of stability and certainty is a loss to be especially mindful of.

I believe that we read books for different reasons.  But reading to learn is always at the top of my list for choosing a book to read.  I read Slouching Towards Utopia, and learned much.  I encourage you to do the same.

——————

You can purchase our synopses presentations from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  On that page, you can search by book title. And click here for our newest additions. My synopsis of Slouching Towards Utopia will be available soon.

Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation delivered at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.

My synopsis of Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser is Today, Thursday, November 17, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – And, here is my synopsis handout

A special encouragement to attend today’s session, November 17, 2022, on Zoom

Click on image to download handout

Click on image to download handout

Today’s book, Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser is a provocative, somewhat convicting book.

Please join us. All details below.

————

If you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, November 17, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser.

Cassandra SpeaksToday, Thursday, November 17, 2022 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, October 20, 2022 – 12:30 pm (CST)

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022. 

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: November 17, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

—————————-

Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: November 17 , 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
(Every month on the Third Thursday, until Dec 15, 2022)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

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Neoteny – The Essential Trait for the Perpetually-Learning Generation – (Thanks to Bill George, True North)

Warren Bennis described his philosophy of the third phase of leadership with the littleknown True North, Emerging Leadersterm neoteny, “the retention of all those wonderful qualities we associate with youth: curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy.” …Older people with neoteny continue to grow while retaining the youthful qualities of joy, exploration, and discovery.

Bill George, True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition

 

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

A favorite quote shared by long-time First Friday Book Synopsis participant, Jim Young.

———————

Here is a question:

When is it ok to quit learning?

When is it ok to no longer learn?

When can you retire from learning?

You already know the answer, don’t you?!  The correct answer is…never!

But, think about it.  Look around you.  Think about the people you work with.  Have they quit learning?

Ask them, what is the latest book you read?  Be silent, waiting for a response.  How many people do you know who have a ready answer to that question?  Too long a pause is a clue:  “Well, to be honest…I’ve pretty much quit learning…”

Watch the people who attend a seminar, a conference.  Actually watch them.  How attentive are they?  How seriously do they focus on the messages; how meticulous are they about taking notes?

Are they truly learning anything – or just going through the motions, just pretending to be learning?

Now, ask yourself…are you still learning?  Are you still taking your learning seriously?  What is the latest book you read?  What did you learn from it?

I’ve run across this concept of neoteny before.  I suspect it was when I read Warren Bennis in earlier years.  So, I am appreciative of this reminder from Bill George. It is a great concept.

I found this paragraph from The Meaning of Neoteny:

Adulthood in the past meant that you finished learning most of what you needed to learn and you switched to production mode and started focusing on repeating tasks and narrowing your focus. I think that with the amount of change in the world today, it is impossible to “grow up” and finish your learning. I think Neoteny will become more and more of a survival trait in the future.

Look at the qualities of neoteny that Bill George emphasized:

curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy. 

They all communicate this:  I have more to learn, I’m still at it all the time; my energy is high; my exploration and discovery is ongoing; I am an eager learner; I am…curious. I am a curious life-long learner.

So, a few hints:

Are you reading books “outside” your normal interest?

Can you name some new thought, some new idea, that you have recently been exposed to?

Are you working at staying current?  Are you working at staying ahead of the curve?

Since the world is changing, it is up to us to keep learning.

I think I am safe in saying this:  you are either a lifelong learner, or you have quit learning?

Which are you?


A quick and easy clue:  do you have current reading stack, and a soon-to-read reading stack?  If not, it might be time to up your game…

So, so many good books to learn from...

So, so many good books to learn from…

Are we Adrift? Are we Lacking in Discipline? – Two challenging books for the December 2 First Friday Book Synopsis

At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we make each month’s session a genuine learning event.  You learn from the best business books, and then it is up to you to put into practice the things you learn.

I'll present this book at the December 2, 2022 First Friday Book Synopsis

I’ll present this book at the December 2, 2022 First Friday Book Synopsis

For the December 2, 2022 session, I (Randy Mayeux) will present my synopsis of the challenging new book by Scott Galloway, Adrift:  America in 100 Charts.

And guest speaker Karl Krayer will present his synopsis of the latest book by Ryan Holiday, Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control.

We will present our synopses of these two books at the December 2, 2022 First Friday Book SynopsisClick here to register for the in-person session.  (Zoom info is below).

For over 24 years, we have presented synopses of business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  So many of these books that I have read and presented have shaped my thinking and helped me understand business success…and failure.

Mark your calendar for December 2.  Attend in person, or on Zoom.  Here are all the details.

——————–

Two good books for the December 2 First Friday Book Synopsis:

1. Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control by Ryan Holiday – Karl Krayer will present this synopsis.

2. Adrift: America in 100 Charts by Scott Galloway. – Randy Mayeux will present the synopsis.


FFBS, 12,2022

In our 25th YEAR of the First Friday Book Synopsis

First Friday Book Synopsis
Friday, December 2, 2022 — 7:00 am, (Central Time)

Randy Mayeux provides thorough synopses of the content of useful, best-selling business books. He provides a comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, that concludes with his own lessons and takeaways from each book he presents.

“I love good books; and I read books
And share their core concepts
To help people become more literate
And know what to work on
To do a better job
To build a better company
And, ultimately, to build a better life.”
Randy Mayeux
——————-

For 24+ years, Randy has been presenting synopses of best-selling, useful, helpful business books.  Every month!  

What we know, we know because we have learned.
And, much of our learning begins with the thoughts we think, and the words we read and hear.

And, one good way to keep learning – some would argue the best way to keep learning – is to learn what is in the best books.

I hope you can join us to learn from two terrific and important books.

December 2, 2022 – Park City Club; and on Zoom 

What to expect:
Two fast paced synopsis presentations.

For In-person participants, you will be given copies of the two synopsis handouts.  For those attending remotely, you will receive a synopsis handout to download for each of the two books, delivered the day before the event, via e-mail (and, available on this blog).

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO READ THE BOOKS IN ADVANCE! – No pre-reading of the books required!

If you are like many, you do not have time to read all of the books you would like to read. The First Friday Book Synopsis is designed for you.

Our synopses are comprehensive, thorough, and they will give you plenty of the key content from each book. You will learn, and be able to ponder the ideas in a useful way. And, even if you have read the book, my synopsis will help you remember more of what you read.

I hope you can join us.

For in-person participants: click here to register for in-person attendance.

For remote participants:
The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”
But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” through PayPal.

For remote participants, here is the Zoom info.  The Zoom meeting requires no registration.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: First Friday Book Synopsis, December 2, 2022 07:00 AM

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89712138204?pwd=ODYrbnR2R2tTNUtiSFM2V2VnZmNDUT09

Meeting ID: 897 1213 8204
Passcode: 060540

The New York Times has published its list of best-selling business books for November, 2022. Atomic Habits is still at the top spot; but there are some new books joining this month’s list

The New York Times has published its list of best-selling business books for November, 2022.  Though Atomic Habits is still at the top spot — it pretty much has been since Abraham Lincoln was president, at this point —  there are some new titles on this month’s list.

At the First Friday Book Synopsis, where I present synopses of two books each month (now in our 25th year), we have presented synopses of four of these five, and one more is scheduled for December.

I'll present this book at the December 2, 2022 First Friday Book Synopsis

I’ll present this book at the December 2, 2022 First Friday Book Synopsis

I have presented my synopses of Atomic Habits,  Dare to Lead, and Extreme Ownership.  And I have scheduled Adrift for presenting at the December 2 First Friday Book Synopsis.  In addition, my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented his synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I am probably going to select When McKenzie Comes to Town for a month fairly early in 2023.

Here is the list of best-selling business books for November, 2022, from the New York Times.  Click over to their web site for a review of one of these books.

#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear

#2 – Adrift by Scott Galloway

#3 – The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban

#4 – If You Want Something Done by Nikki Haley

#5 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

#6 – When McKenzie Comes to Town by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe

#7 – Chip War by Chris Miller

#8 – Like a Rolling Stone by Jann S. Wenner

#9 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babib

#10 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Here's another good book that stays on this list month after month...

Here’s another good book that stays on this list month after month…

You can purchase our synopses presentations from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  On that page, you can search by book title. And click here for our newest additions.

Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation delivered at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.