My 10 Favorite Books of the Year 2016

  • Posted on January 2, 2017
  • by Alan Blume

My Top 10 Books of the Year 2016Every year I look back at the books I read and select my ten favorites. This past year certainly a tumultuous one, a year of bitter campaigning, failed pollster predictions, and the surprise election of a real estate magnate who refused to release his taxes and had six bankruptcies on his resume. This may have influenced my reading selection which tended to be fictionally centric, perhaps in part because of the constant reality of political bickering during the election. Also notable was that none of my ten favorite books of the year were about politics! This year I read some great fiction and non-fiction, science fiction, business, and poetry books. For what it’s worth, here were my favorites in alphabetical order:

  1. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

In the early months of WWI, an opulent ocean liner sailed from New York toward Liverpool. The Lusitania was one of the fastest liners in service, and thought to be able to outrun attackers, if any dared to threaten a civilian ship. Enter U-boat Unterseeboot-20, on a mission to sink large tonnage ships, and the mystery of why British intelligence tracked this U-boat, but failed to warn the Lusitania. Though we all know this sad tale, Larson once again provides a compelling, historically accurate story that makes the reader feel like they were there. Another great work by Erik Larson.

  1. IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation by Edwin Black

In this day and age, where a single smart phone provides greater computing power than a building full of computers in 1940, it’s hard to fathom how thousands of IBM keypunch machines and tabulators effectively ran the Nazi war effort. But Edwin Black details the intricate and concerning business dealings of International Business Machines (IBM) and its European subsidiaries, as they helped the Hitler government during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Black’s meticulous research examines, in disturbing detail, how IBM’s Hollerith based technology helped facilitate everything from Nazi genocide to the efficient running of the German train system. Black illuminates how every Nazi concentration camp maintained its own Hollerith Department, responsible for keeping tabs on inmates using IBM punch card technology. It brings a new and nefarious connotation to the “Hollerith punch card” and how IBM and Watson capitalized on profits by empowering Germany’s national data programs.

  1. Macaroni And Cheese Manifesto by Steven H. Biondolillo

This is a wonderful collection of poems and prose by an author who has faced and overcome adversity. Many of the poems have an athletic theme, including my favorite, In Centerfield. To read these poems is to understand the author, his life, his challenges and his pervasive optimism. Biondolillo was orphaned by the age of 10, went on to become an elite free style wrestler, and ultimately a successful entrepreneur and businessman. I found the poems compelling and inspirational.

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Foer is on a mission to improve his memory, and decides to seek out the top mental athletes of our time, those competing in the world memory master championships. Along the way he explains the history of memory training, and how it’s changed over the millennia. Readers learn about the link method, the story method, the peg system, the Loci method and the memory palace. Ultimately Foer trains for, and enters the USA Memory Championship, with surprising results.

  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In this interesting, illuminating and entertaining book, Gladwell asks what attributes, conditions and circumstances make people the most successful. In what way are these over achievers different from others? His answers are intricate and fascinating, stating that timing, culture, family, their generational imprint and their up upbringing are all part of a complex formula that separates the greats from the rest. From Bill Gates attending the right high school at the right time with the right computer technology, to why hockey players need to be born early in the year to become stars, to why the Beatles became one of the greatest rock bands, Gladwell advances his surprising findings.

  1. The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series by Rick Yancey

This is a YA novel is similar in genre to Hunger Games and Divergent. It is an apocalyptic scenario, where aliens invade earth in five well defined waves. The first wave results in an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which destroys all electronics. In the second wave, an object causes massive coastal flooding, wreaking havoc and destruction on all coastlines. The third wave unleashes a virus which wipes out most of the remaining population. And so on. The book follows our heroine Cassie, as she forages to survive, and meets some interesting people and challenges along the way.

  1. The Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown

I’d describe this as a “Star Trek meets Star Wars” series of 15 books. Each book is an episode, similar perhaps to one hour television show (or perhaps a two hour Star Wars type movie). The year is 3472 and the Earth is recovering from a millennia of despair caused by a plague that nearly destroyed the entire population. However the discovery of a “data ark” allows the Earth to advance rapidly. Enter a brutal enemy invasion, a James T. Kirk type captain, and a loyal starship crew, and Ryk Brown has a formula for an entertaining book series, and perhaps a new TV show. Readers who like Star Trek and Star Wars, will probably like this series.

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This work was written in an interesting style, from the first person perspective of three women, Rachel, Anna, and Megan. Rachel is a 32-year-old alcoholic, Anna is a young stay-at-home mom, and Megan is a beautiful woman with a troubled past. It was a little confusing in the beginning, as the author slowly weaved the progressively intertwining tales of these women. The Girl on the Train is full of twists and turns, mystery and suspense, love and murder. It keeps the reader guessing until the very end. What did not come as a surprise, was that it could be repurposed into a movie.

  1. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

If you liked River of Doubt, you’ll undoubtedly like this book. This is a story about an explorer, Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in 1925. He vanished with his son while exploring the Amazon in search of an ancient lost city. For decades thereafter, dozens of explorers and scientists tried to find evidence of his journey, without success. Enter David Grann, a New York journalist who knows little if anything about camping or exploring, who is compelled to make his own journey into the Amazon, to find new evidence about Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z.

  1. The Second Variety by Philip K. Dick

PK Dick was ahead of his time, and a prolific writer. Many of his works have become movies (Total Recall, Blade Runner, etc.), and most recently Amazon has created a TV series, Man in the High Castle, based on one of his stories. The Second Variety is a post-apocalyptic tale, where the world has been destroyed by a US/Russian nuclear war. The last remaining humans are hunkered down, fighting from bunkers. But perhaps there is hope, as the Americans have invented robots capable of roaming and killing the Russians. Then again, it looks like the Russians may have invented robots of their own. Or is it the robots who have invented new robots, a foretelling of the famous Terminator stories to come?

And for those who might like to read one of my books, or learn more about marketing, please visit my website: http://startupselling.com/web-marketing-books/

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My Top Ten Books Of The Year

  • Posted on December 29, 2014
  • by Alan Blume

Sell More & Work LessIt’s that time again, time to reflect upon the most enjoyable books of the year, and to map out a reading list for 2015. For the last several years, I’ve attempted to integrate more classics into my reading list, along with business, fiction, historical non-fiction, health and science fiction. I read another Michael Lewis book this year (Flash Boys), and several books by Philip K. Dick. In case that author’s name doesn’t ring a bell, Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories which resulted in eleven popular films including Total Recall and Blade Runner. Though some of his works seem a little dated, many are still thought provoking and entertaining. With such diverse genres, it’s difficult to assemble my top 10 books of 2014, that said, here’s my list, published in reverse alphabetical order, for no particular reason:

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde: If you’re only going to write one novel, this would be an enviable candidate. Written in a classic and compelling style, Oscar Wilde’s tale of a handsome and stylish young man who sells his soul for eternal youth is one of the author’s best known works. This cautionary tale is still eerie today, as Wilde captures the imagination of the reader with dynamic characters including Dorian his well-off friend Lord Henry, and the painter Basil Hallward. For those few still unfamiliar with the plot, the painter creates a picture of Dorian Gray, which is so beautiful, that it makes Dorian wish he would stop aging. His wish is fulfilled and the painting starts aging instead of young Dorian. The consequences are tragic, as Dorian evolves from deceit, to blackmail to murder. Considering the darkness of this work and The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, Wilde shows his great talent and depth with comedic plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest.
  2. The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust – Edith H. Beer, Susan Dworkin: Edith Hahn was a young woman living in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a labor camp. When she returned home some months later, she went underground. With the help of a Christian friend, she created a new identify and became Grete Denner. She then met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her, married her and kept her Jewish identity a secret. In this work, Edith relives her life of constant fear, detailing everything from the birth of her daughter to the drunken Russian soldiers raping random women on the German streets. This work grips the reader with a haunting, disturbing and yet triumphant story.
  3. The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck: This classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about one family’s shifting fortunes amidst a rapidly changing China. The backdrop for the story takes place in 1920s China, during the reign of the last emperor. It’s a classic tale of an honest, hard working farmer, who becomes a wealthy man, and the impact of that wealth on himself and his family. Though this plot has been done many times, the changing social and political backdrop in China make this a compelling and fascinating read.
  4. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World – Eric Weiner: NPR correspondent and self-confessed grump Eric Weiner embarks on a yearlong tour in search of the happiest places on the planet. He selects an eclectic list of countries including Iceland, Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland and England, in search of happiness, or perhaps what factors contribute to the happiest populations in the world. This reader found the story interesting and amusing, an entertaining read.
  5. The 9 Principles For A Lean & Defined Body – Philip J. Hoffman: I’ve read many fitness and nutrition books and found this to be one of the better that I’ve encountered. It resulted in some profound changes in habits and lifestyle for this reader. Hoffman preaches practical, pragmatic and attainable lifestyle changes, eschewing fads, gimmicks or supplements. His approach to nutrition is similar to Pollan’s In Defense of Food, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Hoffman focuses on nutrition and high intensity resistance training (HIRT = weight training with very short intervals between reps will deliver better results). He also discusses preparation and organization, and the elimination of processed foods. Seizing upon Hoffman’s logical approach, I now average five 30 minutes HIRT workouts a week (45 seconds between sets and reps), dramatically increased vegetable consumption, eliminated processed foods and reduced red meat consumption. The results were impressive, in a five month period I lost 10 pounds, waist size decreased 2 inches and LDL lowered by 25%. I can’t say it will work for everyone, but it worked for me.
  6. How We Got To Now – Steven Johnson: It’s all about perspective and this book offers just that, a new perspective on our technical evolution, and how discovery has dramatically and often surprisingly impacted our lives. Johnson dismisses the notion of the “eureka/light bulb” idea moment, and discusses idea and innovation evolution and collaboration, insisting the great advancements often evolve over decades (or more) and are contingent on a series of discoveries. The book discusses six single innovations: Glass, Cold, Sound, Clean, Time and Light, then offers examples of how these innovations intermingle historically, resulting in “How We Got To Now”. How does cleanliness or cold play such a significant role in our society, and what does Las Vegas have to do with these? Johnson offers a compelling and interesting perspective on this and this work is a worthwhile and engaging read.
  7. Flash Boys – Michael Lewis: Lewis delves into the little known and difficult to fathom world of flash trading, which some think is a thinly veiled attempt to skim money off the top from Wall Street, at the expense of every day investors. Both fascinating and concerning, Lewis does an excellent job explaining how flash traders operate, and the required speed and technology allowing them to do so. Though Money Ball remains my favorite Lewis work, Flash Boys is certainly an informative and interesting work.
  8. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune – Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.: This fascinating book follows the life of the Clark family subsequently focusing on the eccentricities of Hugette Clark. Hugette’s father, William Andrews Clark, Sr., became one of the wealthiest men in the country, a copper baron and US Senator, and built the largest mansion in New York City, a 30 plus room, Tiffany-decorated monument. A significant portion of his estate was left to his eclectic daughter Huguette, who became a recluse, collecting everything from antique dolls to Monet and Degas, and living the last decades of her life in an austere hospital room. The authors did an outstanding job researching Huguette and piecing together her mysterious and reclusive life. This was a truly enjoyable work, from the historical legacy of W.A. Clark, to the odd and unusual life of his daughter.
  9. Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Sheep – Philip K. Dick: This great novel, first published in 1968, was ultimately used as the basis for the film Blade Runner. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear impacted Earth. The plot revolves around Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, who must retire (destroy) six ultra sophisticated, escaped androids. Considering this was written almost 50 years ago, this science fiction work has admirably stood the test of time.
  10. Divergent – Veronica Roth: Divergent is of a similar genre to Hunger Games. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago, based on a society which defines citizens by their social and personality-related characteristics. This has resulted in five distinct factions: Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Erudite (intelligent), Amity (peaceful) and Candor (honest) The expected result ensues, with the contentious interaction between these factions. It’s a fast and easy to read young adult work.

 

Next year I hope to focus on business, fiction, historical non-fiction, and fitness related books. I’d like to read more about the complexities of Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, business innovation and American history. For those interested in sales and marketing, I humbly suggest Sell More & Work Less.

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Your Virtual Success – Selecting Your Target Market

  • Posted on June 9, 2014
  • by Alan Blume

Entrepreneurs, startups and emerging businesses need to define and test their markets. There were multiple criteria recommended in the Business Basics Chapter of Your Virtual Success. Is the recommended criteria written five years ago still valid today?

B2B Web Marketing

B2B Web Marketing

  1. Vetting the value proposition
  2. Is it a want or a true need
  3. Will prospects pay the target selling price
  4. How does it compare to competing products and services
  5. If it’s an innovation, is the market ready to adopt it
  6. Is it affordable for a sufficient number of prospects
  7. Is there current demand for this product or service
  8. How difficult to reach the buyer
  9. How long is the sales cycle
  10. Can you collect up front (deposits)

Little seems to have changed in this list – it is as valid then as it is today. If we were to apply this to an emerging agency, they would need to determine which lines of coverage to offer, the size of the target prospect by revenues or employees, would they need to add experts to their sales efforts (compliance expert for ACA for example), how difficult would it be to reach a given decision maker (risk manager, owner, VP HR, ect.), and the competition in their given target sales area. For more information on Your Virtual Success, or my new book Sell More & Work Less, visit www.startupselling.com/book.html. For assistance with b2b marketing or insurance web marketing, call (518) 222-6392.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, business, Business Book Review, emerging business, Entrepeneurship, Home Office Business, Virtual Business
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Web Marketing & Sales for Business

Web Marketing

In 2010, my first book was published by Career Press, entitled Your Virtual Success. Though it was published four years ago, it was written over five years ago, due to the editing, processing and marketing lag common with most traditional publishers. Is a five year old web selling and marketing book still relevant today? In the ensuing series of blogs, I’ll review some of the key concepts and suggestions offered to start ups, small businesses and agents, that are still relevant today. And – I’ll note some of the concepts which are now taken for granted, as a better way to approach business. Let’s begin with a concept in Chapter 3, Business Basics. There are four key elements to consider for most individuals or small businesses to consider, when building or expanding their business:

  1. A short path to the money (limited ramp up or development time)
  2. No upfront capital (or limited capital)
  3. Customer deposits in advance (cash flow)
  4. Contractor based assistance (limit full time employees)

For example, wouldn’t a startup business be better off starting from a home office? Could they leverage a part time virtual assistance instead a full time receptionist/assistant? Can they find a business where capital investment was nominal as opposed to developing a new widget or software solution which required months of development and thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars? Can this company expand with part time or on demand contractors, as opposed to full time employees? Can prospect meetings (or the entire sales process) be accomplished with web meetings instead of on-site meetings? From a general perspective, these four elements seem as germane today as they did five years ago. Though today, one would assume, many new businesses are conversant or at least familiar with the benefits of web meetings. That said, I still see many salespeople who over utilize face to face meetings, and under utilize web meetings. Look for additional blog entries on virtual business and insurance agency web marketing in upcoming posts.

For more information on Your Virtual Success, or my new book Sell More & Work Less, visit http://www.startupselling.com/book.html. For assistance with b2b or insurance web marketing, call (518) 222-6392.

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My Top Ten Books of The Year

  • Posted on December 2, 2013
  • by Alan Blume

MY Top 10 Books of the YearIn December I typically reflect upon the books I read during the year, determine my favorites, and map out a plan for the types of books I hope to read in the ensuing year. One of my goals last year was to diversify my reading selection, by choosing a more comprehensive amalgamation of genres. I tried to include classics, historical fiction and non-fiction, poetry, science fiction, German language books and business books. What follows is a list and brief synopsis of my top ten books of the year.

I read two more Eric Larson books this year, “Thunderstruck” and “In the Garden of Beasts”. As with all the Larson books I’ve read, this work contains great detail, rich characterizations, and the integration of multiple story lines within an interesting historical context. Though I preferred “Devil in the White City”, both “Thunderstruck” and “In the Garden of Beasts” are worthwhile reads, containing important historical perspectives, and in the case of the latter, the ominous and portentous issues of 1930’s Germany. It’s somewhat challenging to determine a top 10 list, as the genres are so diverse, instead of thinking of my “ten best”, a more appropriate list description might be the 10 books I most enjoyed. That said, here is my list:

  1. Tale of Two Cities: My favorite book of the year, this Dickens classic, is a classic for many reasons, including the famous first paragraph, and the memorable last two sentences. This work truly conveys the evocative imagery of this tumultuous period.  The elite “charging” through the streets in their carriages, makes even my fellow Bostonian drivers seem tame and languid. “With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way.”
  2. The Beautiful and the Damned: I thought the reincarnation of the Great Gatsby movie fell flat, but departed with the motivation to read a Fitzgerald novel. I opted for “The Beautiful and the Damned”. In this work, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates his great literary form, with flowing descriptions and vivid characterizations. He creates characters you love to hate, or perhaps hate to love.
  3. Thunderstruck: An excellent historical work by Larson, this one revolving around the advent of wireless telegraphy, while providing a parallel plot line revolving around the strange life of a London couple. I thought “Devil in the White City” was better, but still enjoyed “Thunderstruck”.
  4. In the Garden of Beasts: Another excellent book by Larson, this one revolving around the tumultuous times in the 1930’s during Hitler’s rise to power. It follows newly appointed US Ambassador William Dodd and his family, and their surreal life in Berlin.
  5. Destiny of the Republic Destiny of the Republic: Back in 1881, when anyone could visit the White House, before the advent of the presidential security details, Garfield demonstrates why this openness had dire consequences. This was a very good Candice Millard book, though I enjoyed “River of Doubt” even more.
  6. Lost in Shangri-La: Excellent WWII read, pertaining to a remote region of the globe, in a time and place with limited technology, and when many regions were still yet unexplored.
  7. The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Wadsworth and Frost are two of my favorite poets. This public domain work includes The Arrow and the Song, The Wreck of the Hesperus, The Song of Hiawatha and many other great poems. From my perspective, Longfellow poems range from whimsical to evocative to didactic. If you like traditional poets, you can find a great selection of poems in this extensive collection (note that the table of contents did not hyperlink on my Kindle).
  8. The Songs of Distant Earth: An Arthur Clarke classic which makes the reader ponder when and how the human race will explore and populate other planets.
  9. Pebble in The Sky: An early Asimov work (1950), which includes foundational elements the for the Foundation series. Though some of the references may be dated, like a Jules Verne novel, it’s still an entertaining and thought provoking work.
  10. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking: From my perspective, not as engaging as “The Tipping Point”, but still provides Gladwell’s unique perspective.

This year I also read multiple books on German vocabulary, verb drills, short stories and logged numerous hours on Rosetta Stone. Many of these were helpful, though I think personal preference and learning styles vary dramatically, making it difficult to determine what other readers might prefer. I do enjoy Rosetta Stone, though I think they should include an on demand translation dictionary in their program.

Next year I expect the genres to remain similar, and hope to include Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Tolkien, historical non-fiction, perhaps Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and several new business books. It seems like it’s time to start writing again, my most recent book was written over a year ago, Sell More & Work Less (http://sellmoreandworkless.com/). I’ve been pondering a book on digital marketing and integrated pipeline building and have rough outline in mind. And perhaps someday, a novel, though I’m truly humbled by the many great authors above. Regardless, like many, I find both reading and writing, a worthwhile, enlightening and often cathartic process.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, business, Business Book Review, Getting published, Virtual Business
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Insurance Leads Book

Insurance Agency Leads

Insurance agents, like any salesperson, need to embrace the web to enhance their sales efforts. This begins by defining a clear and simple insurance sales strategy, and following through with simple but effective tactics on a daily basis.  Sell More & Work Less: Web Selling Techniques Everyone Should Use, will help agents, producers and agency executives enhance their insurance agency sales efforts. This web selling tips book will help producers develop a cogent sales process and utilize web sales techniques to improve their sales effectiveness. The 4-Phase Virtual Sales Process facilitates the transition to a more web centric sales model for improved efficiency. Agents can replicate the 4-Phase Virtual Sales Process to create their own tailored sales process using the techniques explained in this book. There are many pragmatic examples and real world scenarios provided to help agents create their own personalized sales process. For more information, visit http://www.sellmoreandworkless.com.

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Insurance Leads and Web Selling Book for the New Year

  • Posted on December 31, 2012
  • by Alan Blume
Insurance Leads Book

Insurance Agency Leads

An Insurance Leads and Web Selling Book for the New Year: Sell More & Work Less will help insurance sales professionals create a streamlined process to sell better and more efficiently. It will help them think in more virtual terms.  Sell More & Work Less provides:

  • 101 Web Based Sales Tips
  • 20 Power Tips to Improve Your Web Selling Skills
  • 10 Real – World Examples of Web Based Selling Scenarios
  • 8 In-Depth Reviews of Advanced Web Selling Techniques
  • 4 Sales Traps To Avoid
  • 4-Phase Virtual Sales Process – and how to build your own custom process
  • How to Build a Prospect Scorecard – a fast and simple way to qualify your best prospects
  • The 4-Phase Sales Process Workbook

Make 2013 a more efficient year. Sell More & Work Less is a fast and easy read, offering quick tips, in depth reviews and real world scenarios to help existing or aspiring sales people to sell more… and work less. For more information on Insurance Sales Tips go to: www.sellmoreandworkless.com. For more information on Insurance Agency Leads, visit www.StartUpSelling.com.

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Ben Franklin – Democrat or Republican

  • Posted on November 14, 2012
  • by Alan Blume

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is written in a relatively archaic style, though much of his sage advice on life and politics, remains current and relevant to this day. It makes me think in contemporary terms when pondering today’s political gridlock. I wonder what Ben might think of our political system some 220 years later,  and if Ben would be a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

Franklin had quite the resume, he campaigned for colonial unity, was the first United States Ambassador to France, the first Postmaster, founded the first lending library, invented the lightning rod and the Franklin Stove, and started the  first police and fire departments. He preached and practiced the value of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and believed it was the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.

Franklin is famous to this day for his pithy aphorisms, a few of the better known are below. Some of these are in use colloquially (No Pain – No Gain), others are still used literally, and all of these seem to have stood the test of time:

  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • There are no gains without pains.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Industry gives comfort and plenty and respect.
  • Fools make feasts and wise men eat them.
  • He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
  • Sell not virtue to purchase wealth nor liberty to purchase power.
  • Hear no ill of a friend, nor speak any of an enemy.
  • Love your neighbor yet don’t pull down your hedge.
  • He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.
  • Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.
  • Beauty and folly are old companions.
  • Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Would Franklin be a Democrat, Republican or Independent today? He was clearly a community activist, and supporter of increased government services (paving, fire and police departments, street lights, hospitals, etc.). But he valued thrift, believed in a strong military and eschewed debt. He was a consensus builder and diplomat, and was steadfast in his anti-authoritarian beliefs. Could Ben Franklin succeed in today’s politics? I’d like to think of Ben as an Independent, bridging the acrimonious divide that seems so pervasive in politics. Regardless of his party affiliation, I think everyone can agree that his writings and sayings remain germane to this very day.

I read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin on my Kindle Fire and it’s a very worthwhile read, though written in the style of the times. For a more contemporary work on web marketing and Virtual Business, try Sell More & Work Less.

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The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century, by Robert Lomas, offers background on Tesla’s childhood, his technical prowess, and his ability to grasp concepts well ahead of his timeincluding electricity, radio an remote control. For readers with limited background about Tesla, and his substantial contributions to modern civilization, this book is a great place to start.

Tesla, an accomplished scientist, was not nearly as proficient in business. The results are not surprising, when compared with Edison, the latter receiving far greater notoriety and success, even though it was Tesla who understood, embraced and advanced Alternating Current (which was the correct choice) as opposed to Edison’s Direct Current. There were frequent comparisons between Tesla, a true scientist, and Edison, often framed as an experimenter and refiner.

If you happen to be a scientist or engineer and are looking for the technical nuances of Tesla’s progression, this work may not satisfy you, but for other readers, including those interested in history, business or both, this is an interesting read. I read this on my Kindle Fire. If you’re interested in Virtual Business, try Sell More & Work Less.

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Kindle Fire Product Review

  • Posted on February 26, 2012
  • by Alan Blume

Kindle Fire Product Review

I recently purchased a Kindle Fire, replacing my original Kindle, which had seen increasing use over the last few years. Ironically, the Kindle Fire was purchased at a traditional brick and mortar establishment, as I wanted to check out the size and weight of the device prior to purchase. I use the term ironic, as these types of devices may represent another building block in the future demise of the brick and mortar operations selling them. My decision would be Kindle versus Apple iPad, with size, weight and interface key factors.

My immediate take on the Kindle Fire was very positive. It was larger than my original Kindle, but small enough to be considered a book substitute. I found the screen much easier to read than my original Kindle, and it offered all the advantages of a color display. Two major enhancements included the ability to browse the web and to download apps, including very important and useful apps, such as Angry Birds. The web browser works wherever one can find Wi-Fi access, including HotSpots. The Apple iPad was also very impressive, offering greater functionality albeit at a larger size and weight, at about 21 ounces compared to the 14 ounces of the Kindle.

I purchased the Kindle Fire, selling for $199 as of that time, and was on my way. The Kindle Fire is like having your own personal public library in the palm of your hand. Many classics are free, or very inexpensive eliminating the need to drive to a bookstore or local library. The Kindle Fire, allows users to specifically (or randomly) choose almost any new book sample or classics to read. Striving to mix in some classics with my recent business selections (Blink, Steve Jobs, Moneyball) I also downloaded: Mountain Interval (Robert Frost), Prufrock and Other Observations (T.S. Eliot), Walking (Thoreau), The Wreck of the Hesperus (Longfellow) and Notebooks of Leonardo daVinci. These are not entirely random as the appearance of T.S. Elliot’s character in Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, provided the catalyst to review at least one of these works. And that’s one of the great advantages of the Kindle, within seconds of hearing about, or thinking about a book or an author, you can be reading a sample or the actual book. Amazon also offers a Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program ($79 per year) which provides a free library of books (currently about 5,000) and access to a free video streaming service with over 10,000 movies and television episodes. It also provides free shipping on Amazon purchases and is essentially a “no brainer” if you purchase a book or more per month, as the estimated costs would be over $100 per year to do so.

Also notable as the Kindle Fire supports web surfing and downloading and streaming of video. I use the former often, but have not yet used the latter. The Kindle Fire, eReaders and other tablet type solutions are clearly going to change future consumption of content. I’ve seen friends who I would consider “technology laggards” now migrating to eReaders and tablets. The convenience of being able to transport a dozen or more books on any vacation or business trip, sample any book before purchasing, changing font size and brightness to accommodate personal preferences and access  to a growing online library are just a few of the catalysts driving behavioral changes. Though not all books are yet available on the Kindle, I’ve seen estimates of 650,000+ and I’m sure this will grow rapidly to accommodate consumer purchasing habits as more people move to eReaders. Bottom line, as of this writing, I think the Kindle Fire is a great solution for almost anyone who enjoys to read.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, Business Book Review, Insurance Agency Marketing, Kindle Fire Product Review, Law Firm Marketing
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