From the Desk of Erson – January 2019

Since finishing my dissertation in November 2018, I’ve had a little more time on my hands to read. It’s almost like I’ve been reading in an attempt to fill a void that has been left in me since I’m not continually researching and writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing and publishing my dissertation but I did miss the opportunity to read a book or article for enjoyment purposes. To that end, I have read a few books and I thought I would share those with you all. 

Lincoln The Unknown, by Dale Carnegie

A few months ago, I read a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (you can see my thoughts on that book here). In his book, Carnegie discussed some of Abraham Lincoln’s approach to leadership and mentioned that he had written a book about his life; that peaked my interest and caused me to read Lincoln the Unknown. I have always been a huge fan of presidential history. I have a bust of President Kennedy and a drawing of Abraham Lincoln in my office. While studying political science (that was my minor) in my undergrad, I took a class solely dedicated to the presidential history and political strategy. To top all that, I own and have read Kennedy’s dissertation that he wrote while finishing his Master’s degree, Why England Slept. The point of all that: I am a presidential nerd. 

In Carnegie’s book, he does a fabulous job depicting many details about how Lincoln came to live in the White House. It was both sad and fascinating to be reminded that Lincoln was met mostly with failure in his life: multiple businesses that failed, a disappointing political career (until he obtained the Republican nomination for President), an meager law practice, and a very sad marriage. But what I found most interesting was that even in the face of so much disappointment, Lincoln pushed forward for what he believed in: re-uniting the Union. Amongst all the political and personal set backs, Lincoln continued the fight for what was moral and right. The amount of character that he exhibited was astounding. I can only hope and pray that I leave a legacy of similar magnitude. 

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Dare to Serve, by Cheryl Bachelder

This book by Bachelder serves as a good reminder about why we, as leaders, work. Don’t confuse that statement with organizational purpose, but rather a personal purpose that fuels our passion for people each and every day. For those of you who know me, you know how strong my feelings are about finding purpose in our work. I cannot and will not work to make a rich man richer; I do not work for a good-looking bottom line. That is not who I am. Just to balance that out, I am a businessman and understand the ins and outs of a healthy P&L. The point I’m making here is not that we should ignore the P&L but rather as leaders, our emphasis should be on the people and the purpose we serve first and foremost. Then, using that approach, we can drive a healthy P&L. 

In her book, Bachelder reminds us of the importance of putting people first in the business. She discusses in depth the important characteristics of a servant leader: humility, inspiration, accountability, stepping out of the spotlight, and helping your team find personal purpose. Bachelder sums it up best in her definition of servant leadership: “Servant leadership simply means service above self“.

I aspire to be servant leader. Abraham Lincoln was a servant leader, often found sitting and talking to the soldiers fighting in the Civil War discussing their needs and their personal life. Even Christ, in his short time on this earth, exhibited the characteristics of a servant leader. Look at how Matthew describes servant leadership: “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28 NLT.

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The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

This is not the typical book you would see me read, much less write about. But I have to say, this book caught my attention. And not just because the title (I mean, who wouldn’t want to limit their work week to just 4-hours); it got my attention because of two things: 1) It was incredibly entrepreneurial. The ideas and concepts presented by Ferriss, while extreme, do have merit in the corporate world when used appropriately. 2) His simple, no nonsense, approach to business is very appealing. The idea of eliminating all distractions and focusing on short snippets of work in a hyper-effective manner is refreshing. 

I happened to read this book over Christmas break, just in time to have it influence my new year’s resolutions. Just to be clear on this, I don’t love the idea of resolutions; for me, I use this time of year to regain focus on the things I’d like to make a priority for the coming year. The concept that stood out to me in this book was the frequency in which Ferriss checks his email; to be most accurate, I really should have said the infrequency in which he checks email. Ferriss states that he only checks email for an hour on Monday mornings. That’s it. One hour each week. That blew me away. I live and breathe by my inbox. For the most part, what appears in my inbox drives that tasks that end of doing each day. And often, the tasks that I do on the weekend. I have anxiety about unread items in my inbox, to the point where I check email more that 50 times in a day. That’s insane! No wonder I’m behind on all my work; I spend too much time reading and responding to email. 

To counter that this year, I am trying something new. I am only checking email 3 times a day: first thing in the morning (usually at about 7:15a), around the noon hour (assuming I can find a few minutes at my desk for lunch), and just before I leave the office for the day. If you work with me in some capacity, don’t freak out by this; I’ve been doing it for 3-weeks and no one has asked me why it took 4-hours to respond to their email versus 4-minutes. My inbox is very much up-to-date, I’m just choosing when I spend time on my inbox versus other items on my long list of things to accomplish. 


What are you reading? What should I read next? I’d love your thoughts and feedback!