Welcome back! It has been such a long time since I read and reviewed a new book that I’m thrilled to get back into the groove by writing a book review of Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office, the memoir of Bill McDermott with Joanne Gordon.
Nonfiction/ Biographies of Business Professionals/ Motivational Business Management
Synopsis of Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office:
A leadership and career manifesto told through the narrative of one of today’s most inspiring, admired, and successful global leaders.
In Winners Dream, Bill McDermott—the CEO of the world’s largest business software company, SAP—chronicles how relentless optimism, hard work, and disciplined execution embolden people and equip organizations to achieve audacious goals.
Growing up in working-class Long Island, a sixteen-year-old Bill traded three hourly wage jobs to buy a small deli, which he ran by instinctively applying ideas that would be the seeds for his future success. After paying for and graduating college, Bill talked his way into a job selling copiers door-to-door for Xerox, where he went on to rank number one in every sales position he held and eventually became the company’s youngest-ever corporate officer. Eventually, Bill left Xerox and in 2002 became the unlikely president of SAP’s flailing American business unit. There, he injected enthusiasm and accountability into the demoralized culture by scaling his deli, sales, and management strategies. In 2010, Bill was named co-CEO, and in May 2014 became SAP’s sole, and first non-European, CEO.
Colorful and fast-paced, Bill’s anecdotes contain effective takeaways: gutsy career moves; empathetic sales strategies; incentives that yield exceptional team performance; and proof of the competitive advantages of optimism and hard work. At the heart of Bill’s story is a blueprint for success and the knowledge that the real dream is the journey, not a preconceived destination.
My Take on Winners Dream:
I struggled at first, as I expected this book to be less memoir-like and more of a guide to success like The Oz Principle. IDK why, perhaps the “A global CEO’s life lessons in sales, motivation, and leadership” just felt like the book would be more focused on how to achieve success and not so much on the stories that shaped this man’s life in particular. That’s what happens when you grab a book at random from a book trade.
While this is a classic tale of rags to riches and starts with a lot of stories from his childhood that shaped who he is today, there were a lot of great nuggets of wisdom throughout that one can use to guide one’s own journey of success. Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous person that sets the tone for the chapter. I appreciated a lot of his childhood experiences and can relate to the struggles. The messages of optimism he experienced with his mom are fantastic. His shared experiences with his first jobs are relatable to an older generation. The drive to improve is a message that really resonated with me.
I am curious how much of the greatness of this book is because a certain generation can relate to it and anyone in sales/ marketing for more than 10 years would be able to relate. I cannot help but wonder if a younger generation could glean much from it and what they would get. Definitely encouraging Little Man to read this next and see what he gets from it as he is in his senior year of high school and at a different level.
My favorite message in the book is that you have to enjoy the journey to success and keep adapting and adjusting your goals as you go through life. That really struck a chord as I am going through my own priority shifts.
Have you read Winners Dream? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. If not, go ahead and take a peek inside and see what you think.
Today, Travis Steffen is a well-known business guru. As a successful serial entrepreneur and author of the book Viral Hero, he has helped different enterprises in fine-tuning their growth and marketing strategies. But before he rose to prominence in the world of business, Steffen was a professional poker player and strength and conditioning specialist. And back in 2010, he wrote arguably the most useful book on the game of poker, Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game.
While primarily a book about being the best poker player you can be, Peak Performance Poker doubles up as a self-help book for anyone looking to cultivate either physical or mental fitness. Steffen believes that achieving peak performance as a poker player entails being able to enter a ‘flow state’ of relaxed intensity and focus. And achieving this state requires being in the best physical and mental shape that you can be.
The true value of Peak Performance Poker is in its Action Points and their supporting appendices. In between explanations of poker basics and strategies, these Action Points contain detailed instructions on both physical and mental exercises that readers can perform immediately. This includes stamina-focused exercises, time management tips, nutrition data, and knowing how to rest for refreshing the mind. Meanwhile, the appendices include food comparisons, instructions for equipment-less exercises, and even an extensive bibliography of references – for those who want to go even deeper into the Action Points.
Indeed, 2010’s Peak Performance Poker is in many ways a glimpse into the full-blown serial entrepreneur and strategist that Steffen would later become. In many instances, he writes more like a motivational speaker than a poker strategist. But don’t be fooled by the motivational tone of the book – Steffen is an academically-trained fitness expert. Even if his Action Points are more than 10 years old, they’re actually backed by the most recent and comprehensive research on physical and mental fitness.
The relationship between physical activity and increased brain function is well documented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In an umbrella review published by the NIH.gov, data from 76 articles collated from 2013 to 2017 revealed “moderate-to-strong support” that cognition is enhanced by exercise. In particular, researchers found that physical activity can improve cognitive performance in neuropsychological tests measuring memory, speed, and executive function.
These are the primary brain functions needed for understanding poker strategy, which are based on mathematical elements. As the ranking chart of poker hands by Poker.org shows, mastering these elements can allow players to much more easily calculate odds on the fly and predict other players’ hands. These elements include the statistical probability for poker hands to show up and the number of each hand’s possible combinations. A ranking chart summarizes this information and arranges hands by how rarely they occur. But while the ranking helps, staying on top of these numbers – while assessing opponents’ physical tells and other factors – require significant cognitive effort. And as the science reveals, being physically healthier can actually improve your speed and memory in terms of implementing sound poker strategies.
Despite being more than a decade old, Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game is still one of the best poker books out there. And because of its deep and practical insights on physical and mental fitness, it’s also a useful book for anyone pursuing self-improvement. Whether you’re looking for sound advice on poker, general fitness, or optimizing your Keto lifestyle, Peak Performance Poker is a good read.
Blogger, book hound, and online counselor Jenny Allen believes that wisdom can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places and situations. When she’s not rummaging through online and offline thrift shops for books, antiques, and trinkets, Jenny is either chasing deadlines or resisting the urge to go back to bed with her 3 cats.
“Since it was originally published in 1994, The Oz Principle has sold nearly 600,000 copies and become the worldwide bible on accountability. Through its practical and invaluable advice, thousands of companies have learned just how vital personal and organizational accountability is for a company to achieve and maintain its best results.
At the core of the authors’ message is the idea that when people take personal ownership of their organization’s goals and accept responsibility for their own performance, they become more invested and work at a higher level to ensure not only their own success, but everyone’s. Now more than ever, The Oz Principle is vital to anyone charged with obtaining results. It is a must have, must read, and must apply classic business book.”
So, full confession, I picked this book up after interviewing for a sales enablement position for a local SAAS company. The interviewer mentioned that the executive suite was really big on The Oz Principle and creating a team based on accountability. They even had one of the authors come out and teach the whole team a seminar on the principles. It sounded like a great place to prep for my second interview.
I really struggled with the first half of this book. It seems like principles that are so obvious and which I was raised to practice in my life. I have always looked at every situation, whether personal or business and asked myself three key questions.
1. What went well?
2. What didn’t go well?
3. What can I do to make things go better next time?
I guess it was something my mother taught me as a self-reflection tool for building strong communication and accountability. But honestly, I cannot recall being “taught” this. Perhaps I just learned it through observing her? Hard to say.
Around 1/3 of the way into the book, with a bit of reflecting, I realized I do know people for whom being accountable is not the norm. I had dealt with people who were always blaming others for what went wrong. It had not occurred to me that this behavior was the norm or that it could get built into company culture.
Now, on the other side of reading and reflecting on The Oz Principle, I actually see it ALL. THE. TIME. Especially with the crisis hitting just as I was finishing reading it. Companies complaining because they couldn’t afford to be closed. Laying off employees because they would rather take a wait and see approach. Many people who were furloughed fell into the same wait and see pattern. I watched people take to the streets protesting and blaming the government for not being able to work.
I also watched people take on the Oz Principle quite quickly and adapt to this crisis. Change their business model to meet the public’s needs during lockdown. Individuals starting new businesses online, focusing on their side hustle and treating it like a real job rather than just waiting for their steady check to come back. The difference in the outlooks of each group is quite striking.
So what is the Oz Principle? In a nutshell, it is 4 basic principles done in a specific order.
Step 1- See It
The book lists a ton of examples of companies who did not acknowledge that there was a problem until they were already flying off a cliff. I watched a bunch of companies who had no contingency plan for when COVID-19 struck and were not prepared. They didn’t know what to do except close their doors. But there were a lot of companies who were prepared. For example, my husband works for a global corporation. They saw how this was spreading through their non-US communities. They knew that when it hit the Americas where the bulk of their businesses were, they needed to be prepared. A week before New York went into lockdown, corporate sent out a notice to all offices to encourage staff to work from home.
They have always allowed 1 day a week that staff could work from home. The network was originally only designed to support 20% of the team. After IT did some major rework, they estimated it could maintain 80-100% of the workload but were not sure. Without wanting to panic the teams, they encouraged a greater number of people to work from home specifically so that they could test the system. When New York was required to go to lockdown, my husband’s company was ready and confident they could handle the whole corporation’s workload. They saw the potential problem and they followed the steps recommended by their teams to keep their employees operating.
Step 2- Own It
So often we see problems in the world, in an organization, in our relationships. We know the problem is there, but we blame others for the problem. By blaming others, we (according to the book) allow ourselves to be the victims. As victims, we have no responsibility. But we also have no power to change anything either.
This section was really hard for me because I am an over-owner. To the point that I feel guilt and responsibility for things for which I have little ability to control or change the outcomes. It leads to me offering advice unsolicited, developing programs to try and help others, and spending entirely too much of my time trying to solve major problems alone. I then get angry when others feel no responsibility to try to solve them. For example, for over 4 years I have listened to friends and loved ones complain about the political divide in this country and how the other side blames all the ills on them…. and then watch them do the same thing.
Over and over and over.
I point out when people are doing it, suggest non-biased articles to “fact-check” opinion bias, and try to get either side to see the other’s point. In return, I am called a Libtard by one side and an Alt-right “snowflake” by the other.
I can’t fix how people choose to communicate, however, I can choose how to invest my time. If my previous approach one-on-one is not working, I can choose to take a different approach. In my case, rather than telling people why they are wrong, I refer them to Fighting Disinformation. I suggest that they take a look at some of the tools and recommendations to aid in fighting disinformation.
Step 3- Solve It
This is the natural progression of seeing the problem then owning the problem. If you own it then you empower yourself to take the next step, solving the problem. When I got to this section I realized that perhaps I had experienced this more than I thought. When everyone is implementing the Oz Principle, then everyone welcomes input on how to address problems. When you operate in a siloed management style where X department is responsible for Y then having someone not from your department pointing out a problem that exists and making recommendations to address said problem could feel like blaming or finger-pointing instead of that person taking ownership of helping to address a problem. No matter how much “we” language that person coaches the suggestion in. The same in your personal relationships. When someone asks for advice and you provide concrete steps for them, often they justify and shut down the advice you offered because for them your advice may feel like blame. What they really are looking for is someone to tell them it is not their fault.
Step 4- Do It
It is impossible to get to Do It if you cannot agree that there is a problem. Then take responsibility for solving the problem. You must also come up with a solution to the problem. Yet, once you establish those elements, it is not guaranteed that the “Do it” part of the equation will happen or continue to happen. It is easy to slip back into old habits or ways of doing things. Creating systems to help remind one another to continue operating with The Oz Principle is key to keep moving forward.
The suggested way to do so using The Oz Principle is to look at actions and behaviors that “separate success from failure”. “Above The Line” represents the area of “accountability and success”. “Below The Line” represents the area of “self-victimization and failure.”
Using those terms allows everyone to support and monitor themselves and the organization in the path to improvement and growth.
Those were the big takeaways from the book. The rest of the book is made up of hundreds of examples of companies and people. Many of whom the authors had coached or worked with. Discussing how they get stuck below the line and use the principles to bring themselves above the line to have massive success.
The Downside of The Oz Principle
And that is one of the problems I have with both the book, and the principles expressed in the book. The authors used Enron as an example repeatedly. And yet, I think their problem was not that they didn’t see the problem, own the problem, solve the problem, and do it. As a matter of fact, the biggest problem was that they did exactly that to an unethical degree.
The examples of people reaching success are always tied to people doing whatever it takes to achieve the goals and needs of the company. One example was of a company that was shipping a new product. They were so invested in success that there was a party as the trucker who was contracted to deliver the product was leaving. He was so swept up in their excitement at completing on time that he went above and beyond when his truck broke down and he ran into issues with the delivery. He did not want to be the reason that they did not achieve what they had hoped.
It is awesome that the trucker went above and beyond. I do fully agree that there are times when going above and beyond is needed. However, one must be cautious not to get so caught up in the optimizing process that setting unrealistic expectations becomes the norm. Going above and beyond every day is the norm. That is a quick path to burnout and turnover.
This is a concern that can be addressed using the “see it, own it, solve it, do it” approach. Yet, I know the press and exhilaration of doing more than just a job. Of getting caught up in the delight of “building something”. The pain of not realizing until I was already burned out that burnout had hit.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I struggled reading The Oz Principle because I have always been one to look at things and ask:
1. What went well?
2. What didn’t go well?
3. What can I do to make things go better next time?
I am very much in control of my life. I hate when I feel like I am not. Reading the Oz Principle made me realize that a lot of people do not have that empowerment. I cannot fathom how trapped that must make people feel.
If you often feel like you have no control over your life. If you find yourself caught in a pattern where everything that happens is somehow because of someone else. When you find yourself constantly just reacting to what life throws at you. You may very well find a deep benefit in adopting my questions or practicing the Oz Principle.
However, a small warning. Be careful that you do not over-practice these principles to the point that you constantly blame yourself. I have found myself caught in that trap. You can look at what went wrong, ask yourself what you could’ve done better, and then hold that for your future. But dwelling on it for too long turns into a form of self-masochism. Once you’ve done that analysis let it go.
As an example, I was part of a start-up a few years ago. Things fell apart. I beat myself up for too long about it failing. The reality is that there were 25 other people involved. It was not all on my shoulders to make it succeed. When I finally stopped beating myself up for it, I took from it expectations of what worked and what didn’t. When I was invited to be part of another start-up, I was able to look at what worked and what didn’t from the previous start-up. Then I could determine how invested I wanted to be with this start-up and plan an exit strategy that did not leave me so deep in the start-up that my own dreams went to the wayside. I set clear boundaries so that I wouldn’t become so invested that if it failed, I was a failure.
All that to say, while I appreciate the Oz Principle, as with anything there must be a balance in life. Find your balance and empower yourself, without making yourself accountable for everything that happens in the world. Set realistic expectations of yourself and others.
You know what is one of my favorite parts of my mom visiting? She always brings books! My mother is definitely the person to thank for my vociferous love of reading and my wide range of genre love. She is the reason I give books as gifts for every occasion. And she gives books for every occasion and for no reason other than she just knew you have to read this. I love that woman.
An Unseen Angel is something I read on her advice. She figured I would appreciate it because there are some familiar places in the story and she really wanted me to read it because the author is Mormon, like my mom.
Nonfiction historical/ memoir/ religious experience?
Amazon has it listed under Christian Death and Grief so…. Yeah.
As the mother of one of the children who died at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Alissa Parker had her world shattered by a mass murderer’s rampage. She was left to make sense of her daughter’s life and death and to rebuild, seeking a deeply spiritual path to carry on with her life and find new meaning and purpose.
As a co-founder of SafeandSoundSchools.org, a touring national advocacy group that helps people take action to make schools safer, Alissa has talked to hundreds of parents around the country about her ordeal and how she was able to endure the unspeakable horror of Sandy Hook.
An Unseen Angel takes readers though Alissa’s complete journey, chronicling the moment-by-moment account of the day that began with every parent’s worst nightmare: hearing, “There’s been a shooting at your child’s school.” It follows her faith-filled spiritual path to coping, healing, forgiving, and eventually feeling gratitude for the life and love of her daughter Emilie. She describes a bond of love between a mother and daughter that is so profound it transcends the physical body and touches Alissa and the people who loved Emilie who feel her presence every day. And she articulates her deep Christian faith, which guided the answers to Alissa’s gut-wrenching, post-tragedy questioning:
“Where is Emilie now?”
“Can love transcend the physical body?”
“How can I know that Emilie is in a better place?”
“How do I deal with the ‘here and now’ when the pain and anger I feel is so overwhelming?”
This is the first book about the school-shooting tragedies with a focus on faith and spirituality. As we learn Alissa’s story, we are introduced to a special little girl who was wise beyond her years and whose lessons about life and the transcendent power of love continued even after she had passed away.”
I wanted to kick my mother so hard when I got into the book because silly me, I started reading without knowing what I was reading, and she KNOWS I cannot not finish something once I’ve started! Seriously, I balled while reading this book. Not only because it was about an event that struck me really hard when I read about it in the press. (my boys were only a bit older than those children, and I am a helicopter mom as is) but because it is told from the perspective of the mother of one of those children, sharing every mother’s worst nightmare, and how her family was able to come through it. It was made all the more poignant by the fact that I am living in SLC and recognize a lot of the places mentioned in the book and the actions and behaviors of people in the book, being immersed in the culture out here. What I love most about this book is that it doesn’t focus on the killer, it doesn’t focus on the crime, it focuses on the remembering of one of the victims, and on the path the family took to not let this horrible tragedy define them and their daughter, but to instead choose a different path and to not be victims, but survivors. If you are looking for a good cry, a book that explores how one’s faith can help one through horrific situations, and how a couple can survive what many other couples do not, then this is the read for you. Grab your copy on Amazon for $10.49 in e-book or $10.19 in paperback. Until next time, Keep Reading!
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