Archive | May 2015

How to read more

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Review   Title:             How To Read More

Author:                        Martin Udogie

Publisher:                   Author House

Reviewer:                    Frederick Mordi

Pages:                         155

Genre:                          Motivational

Price:                            Not stated  

How To Read More: Simple Steps to a Life-long Habit of Enjoyable and Rewarding Reading, is a motivational book that provides guidelines for developing effective reading skills. The 155-page publication is divided into 17 chapters. Each chapter is prefaced by a short story that whets the reader’s appetite, before the main course. There are, in all, 19 of such short stories. The author also offers 10 tips on the right techniques for reading more.

In the first seven chapters, the author explains why he decides to write the book. In the Prologue, the author recalls watching a programme on CNN, where Richard Quest, the presenter, asks a CEO of a major international corporation, what he reads. The CEO’s reply that he hardly finds the time to read owing to his tight schedule, comes as a surprise to the author, who was at the time, putting together the book. He says he has been thinking all along that successful business executive are voracious readers.

Apparently eager to know if this is a general trend among CEOs, he does extensive research on the reading habits of famous people and discovers that they have all something in common: they read a lot! From Ben Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon, who recently declared his interest to contest in the 2016 American presidential election, to George W. Bush, whose unusual formula for reading was to enter into a reading contest with one of his top presidential aides, Karl Rowe.

From his personal experience, the author says one of the reasons people do not read as much as they would love to, is the books themselves. Not all books are fun to read, he admits. He asserts that a book should not be hard to read, but should be exciting enough both in terms of cover title, design, and content, to attract the reader’s interest, and hold his attention to the end.

“One of the things that make books enjoyable is the style they are written in,” he explains in Chapter One. “So a book that seeks to encourage or even attempt to teach people to form the habit of reading itself, has to pass the test.”

He reinforces this view in Chapter Two, where he sheds more light on the format of his book. “When it comes to books that hold people’s interest, the style, as well as the format a book is written in, seems to hold the key. Books that are simple, practical and tell stories tend to belong to this category.”

He cites authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Jim Collins as examples of writers who are experts in the art of telling stories. He says his book adopts the story-telling style, to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.

In Chapter Three, he laments the sharp drop in academic performance of Nigerian students and attributes this to poor reading culture. He cites statistics to buttress his argument. He also makes reference to the Economist magazine, which in 2007, noted that Chimamanda Adichie’s popular novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, sold just 5,000 copies in her native Nigeria, and more than 240,000 copies in Britain. He argues that the perceived poor reading habits of some Nigerians cannot be attributed to poverty or time, and draws a comparison between reading, and exercising. Both require commitment, time and effort, he adds.

In Chapter Four, he argues that habits can be changed, such that people who do not have the propensity for reading, can quickly develop the skill. He enunciates the benefits of reading in the next chapter.

In Chapter Six, he tells a personal story on how he started the journey to reading. He reveals that his spell at the then Andersen Consulting, turned him into a bookworm.

In Chapter Seven, he highlights the reading style of world leaders such as President Barack Obama, Harry Truman and Lee Kuan Yew. The author devotes the next 10 chapters to effective techniques for both writing and reading.

The language of the book, presented in a ‘how-to’ style, is accessible to readers, owing to its simplicity and aesthetic appeal. The text is well spaced out making reading a pleasurable experience. The use of short stories is very commendable, while the author also deserves praise for taking pains to list the source of his works in the Glossary.

But the author admits that it is not enough to simply write a book and expect people to see it as the panacea to their poor reading habit. He says the whole idea is to use the book to ignite a silent revolution that will encourage people to discover the treasure in reading books.

However, like most printed matter, some errors are noticed in the book. Some of them are typographical in nature, while others have to do with unintended discrepancies. For instance, on page 18, paragraph two, Colllins’ team should have been Collins’ team. In the second paragraph on page 26, where you have “stories” we buried deep in the book…should have been “stories” were buried deep in the book. Also, vanishes is not correctly spelt in the first paragraph on page 128, where it is written as varnishes. On page 105, in the seventh paragraph, where you have… notice that is has wandered…should have been…notice that it has wandered.

There is also the need to maintain consistency in the use of full stop after quotes, and the title of books. In some cases, the period is used inside the quote, which is the correct style, and in others, outside the quote. There is, in addition, the need to be consistent in the type face of book titles. For instance on page 92, where he makes reference to Steve Jobs’ autobiography in paragraphs one and two, the title should have been italicised. (Steve Job). This will make it difficult for the reader to differentiate between the book and the man. The author should address these identified errors in subsequent revisions.

For a first time work, the author deserves credit for being innovative. In all, the publication offers an exciting perspective into reading, and for that matter, writing. It comes highly recommended to those that seek adventure in the world of books.

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Two bosses who are different

By Frederick Mordi

“Eki, you are not looking your usual cheerful self today,” Mr. Etim, her boss, observed, as soon as he got to the office that morning. “I hope there is no problem?”

“Sir, it is my baby. She is sick. I…”

“Oh! I am sorry about that. What’s the problem?”

“She was running temperature this morning and…”

“Why don’t you take the day off so you can look after your baby?”

“That’s very kind of you sir. I will do just that! Thank you sir.”

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Another boss.

“Is this all you can do after spending all day writing a simple report?” Mr. Wood thundered. He threw the paper back at his harassed subordinate that shook like a leaf. “It seems you are not cut out for this job. A child in primary one could have done better!”

“I…I… am sorry, sir…” the poor secretary stammered, “I got a call from home that…”

“Don’t give me that crap!” her boss barked again. “I don’t care about your domestic troubles! They are none of my business. All I want is result. Is that clear?”

“Yes Sir. I am sorry Sir.”

The boss hissed and stormed into his office.

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These are two examples of superior-subordinate communication in a typical work environment. The first boss conveyed empathy towards his staff; the second boss clearly did not have time for excuses. Eki must surely count herself lucky to have such an understanding boss, unlike the other boss that acts like a tyrant.

The relationship between a boss and his subordinates tells a lot about his leadership style. Research has shown that the real reason talented people often leave their plum jobs is the overbearing boss. The personality of the boss matters a lot.

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Bad bosses create a toxic work environment where the subordinates often live in perpetual fear of the unknown. Such bosses believe the use of force alone is the answer to maintaining workplace discipline. This may appear to be a wrong strategy as Terence, the Roman dramatist once warned:

“He makes a great mistake … who supposes that authority is firmer or better established when it is founded by force than that which is welded by affection.”

A study entitled: The Value of Bosses, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), seems to support this view. According to the study, replacing a bad boss with a good one increases productivity of each subordinate’s output by more than 10 percent.

Good leadership on the other hand, instils in the subordinate, a sense of loyalty to both his superior and to the organisation. Charles Schwab, a famous American investor, put it better when he said: “I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”

Nevertheless, experts say bosses should draw the line between being ‘nice’ or ‘tough.’ Most bosses, who prefer the latter style think putting pressure on employees would increase performance. However, too much pressure can be counter-productive as it increases the levels of stress of employees. This has several negative implications including increased cost of treatment for stress-related ailments, absenteeism, and high turnover.

On the other hand, ‘nice’ bosses that use the right strategies, are perceived to achieve better results, according to other research. Indeed, a 2013 Gallup’s Poll on Workplace showed that most employees prefer happiness to high pay.

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“Taken together, this body of research shows that creating a leadership model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a culture that is happier, in which employees help each other, and (as a consequence) become more productive in the long run,” adds Dr. Emma Seppala, Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. “No wonder their nice bosses get promoted.”

In reality, some bosses are often too far from their subordinates to relate to them. An example is Mr. Wood, who demonstrated total indifference to his secretary’s plight. It is doubtful if Mr. Wood would get the best out of that secretary, unlike the first lady that would be prepared to give her all to her organisation because of the way her boss treats her with respect.

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them,” counseled John Maxwell.

Clearly, there is a world of a difference between being a leader and a boss. Is your manager a leader or a boss? Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States provided a yardstick you can use to answer this question: “The leader leads, and the boss drives.”

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Spartans and their verbal austerity

Frederick Mordi

By Frederick Mordi

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“Brevity,” Polonius once said in Shakespeare’s famous work, Hamlet, “is the soul of wit.” The ancient Spartans, who are known for their simple habits, bravery and unequalled brevity in the use of words, amply demonstrated this witty saying. Their words are short and sharp just like their swords.

Spartans were expected to always hit the nail on the head. In fact, it is said that a Spartan boy, who is too verbose, while responding to a teacher’s question, was liable to have his thumb bitten as punishment for wasting words. Spartan women also reportedly gave a departing warrior his shield with the words: “With it or on it!” This implies that he should return either victorious with his shield, or with his dead body upon it, but by no means, should he lose it.

Their legendary reputation for verbal austerity even in the face of danger…

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