Review: Frank Figliuzzi – The FBI Way (S)

The FBI Way
Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence
Frank Figliuzzi

“The FBI’s former head of counterintelligence reveals the Bureau’s field-tested playbook for unlocking individual and organizational excellence, illustrated through dramatic stories from his own storied career. Frank Figliuzzi was the “Keeper of the Code,” appointed the FBI’s Chief Inspector by then-Director Robert Mueller. Charged with overseeing sensitive internal inquiries, shooting reviews, and performance audits, he ensured each employee met the Bureau’s exacting standards of performance, integrity, and conduct. Now, drawing on his distinguished career, Figliuzzi reveals how the Bureau achieves its extraordinary standard of excellence—from the training of new recruits in “The FBI Way” to the Bureau’s rigorous maintenance of its standards up and down the organization. Unafraid to identify FBI execs who erred, he cites them as the exceptions that prove the rule.”

This book offers an insightful look into the inner workings of the FBI, narrated through the lens of an experienced agent. It demonstrates how the following principles are fundamental not only to FBI operations but also to broader applications in business and personal life. The author delves into the Bureau’s adherence to the seven C’s:

  • Code
  • Conservancy
  • Clarity
  • Consequences
  • Compassion
  • Credibility
  • Consistency

Despite initially questioning its relevance to my interests, I found the book to be a compelling exploration of leadership and ethical conduct within a high-stakes environment. Through storytelling and practical examples the author provides readers with a deeper understanding of the FBI’s culture of excellence.

The book prompts reflection on individual and organizational ethics, making it a valuable resource for anyone seeking to enhance their moral compass or improve their company’s framework.

In a world where integrity is paramount, the author’s work serves as a beacon of inspiration, offering practical insights for navigating complex ethical dilemmas. I wholeheartedly recommend “The FBI Way” to professionals eager to cultivate a culture of integrity and excellence within their organizations. 3.5 stars.

Review: Brandon Webb & John David Mann – Mastering Fear (S)

Mastering Fear
A Navy SEAL’s Guide
Brandon Webb and John David Mann

“From New York Times bestselling author and former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb comes a simple yet powerful five-step guide to transforming your life by making your fears work for you instead of against you. As a Navy SEAL, he learned how to manage the natural impulse to panic in the face of terrifying situations. As media CEO and national television commentator, he has learned how to apply those same skills in civilian life. Drawing on his experiences in combat and business, along with colorful anecdotes from his vast network of super-achiever friends from astronauts to billionaires, Webb shows how people from all walks of life can stretch and transcend their boundaries and learn to use their fears as fuel to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”

I approached this book with a sense of uncertainty, unsure whether it would be exceptionally good or disappointingly bad. To my delight, it turned out to be a truly commendable read, deserving a solid four stars. I was concerned that it might be overly centered on Navy SEAL anecdotes at the expense of practical business applications, but I found the abundance of such stories surprisingly captivating. Despite my initial reservations, the author successfully bridged the gap between the SEAL experiences and their relevance to the business world to create a compelling narrative.

What set this book apart for me was its departure from the typical business book formula. While it offered unique perspectives, it still delivered substantial knowledge and valuable takeaways. Although not compelling enough for a re-read and thus falling short of a five-star rating, the practice points at the end of each chapter serving as both summaries and exercises added a practical dimension.

The author’s concept of mastering fear, as expounded in the book, revolves around leveraging fear, steering internal dialogues, and focusing on positive outcomes rather than potential pitfalls. The advice to filter out distractions, dismiss unwarranted concerns, and recognize that fear is genuine while safety is an illusion was particularly resonant. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone facing tough decisions or seeking personal mastery over their fears.

Review: Cal Turner Jr – My Father’s Business (S)

My Father’s Business
The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company
Cal Turner Jr

“Longtime Dollar General CEO Cal Turner, Jr. shares his extraordinary life as heir to the company founded by his father, Cal Turner, Sr., and his grandfather, a dirt farmer turned Depression-era entrepreneur. Cal’s narrative is at its heart a father-son story, from his childhood in Scottsville, Kentucky, where business and family were one, to the triumph of reaching the Fortune 300 — at the cost of risking that very father/son relationship. Cal shares how the small-town values with which he was raised helped him guide Dollar General from family enterprise to national powerhouse.”

The readers are treated to a comprehensive exploration of the company’s history. The narrative seamlessly weaves together the personal stories of Cal Turner Senior and Cal Turner Jr, offering a delightful blend of humor and insightful anecdotes from the company’s journey.

The book sheds light on the founding fathers of Dollar General, individuals rooted in small-town values, emphasizing hard work, honesty, and community spirit. The fundamental principles of the company—providing everyday items at the lowest prices and cherishing the core customer base—are consistently underscored.

For those who appreciate authentic tales of real people navigating the business world, presented in a straightforward manner, this book is a captivating read. While the narrative occasionally lapses into repetition and unnecessary details, the overall experience is engaging and informative.

The genuine charm lies in the depiction of the Turners’ lives and the humorous accounts of pivotal events. The book offers a compelling glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of maintaining retail stores, making it a worthwhile read for anyone intrigued by the intricacies of business operations.

I particularly enjoyed the insights into Cal Jr. and his family, and the book’s focus on the economic aspects of running a business. I recommend “My Father’s Business” to aspiring entrepreneurs, and those fascinated by the inner workings of retail establishments. Despite minor flaws, the book successfully captures the essence of Dollar General’s success and the values that propelled it to become a billion-dollar company. The book is well written and a good read, 4 stars.

Review: Alexis Ohanian – Without Their Permission (S)

Without Their Permission
The Story of Reddit and a Blueprint for How to Change the World
Alexis Ohanian

“As Alexis Ohanian learned when he helped to co-found the immensely popular, the internet is the most powerful and democratic tool for disseminating information in human history. And when that power is harnessed to create new communities, technologies, businesses or charities, the results can be absolutely stunning. In this book, Alexis will share his ideas, tips and even his own doodles about harnessing the power of the web for good, and along the way, he will share his philosophy with young entrepreneurs all over the globe.”

I absolutely loved reading this book. It hooked me right from the start and kept me engaged throughout. Alexis writes just like I do, saying what’s on his mind and giving us a raw account of events. I have to admit, he does go a bit overboard with the use of brackets (but hey, I’m guilty of that too!)

The book wasn’t exactly what I expected, though. I thought it would be a straightforward chronological story of how Reddit came to be. Instead, the story of Reddit is brief and not presented in order. But once I got past that initial surprise and understood the book’s style, it was all good. Alexis takes us on a journey beyond Reddit, sharing his experiences with other companies and providing what he calls “the blueprint” for creating your own successful internet startup. So, if you’re looking for insights and inspiration in the world of internet startups, this book has got you covered.

I should mention that this book is very focused on internet startups, so it might not be as applicable to other types of businesses. Don’t let that discourage you. It’s still a fascinating and entertaining read. I genuinely enjoyed it from start to finish. I’d give it a solid 4 stars.

Review: Abra Pressler – Love and Other Scores

Love and Other Scores
Abra Pressler

Noah’s just drifting from place to place in Melbourne – the best part about his life is his older adult housemate and the drag queen who drops in to visit him at his job. Gabriel is driven from country to country in pursuit of a Grand Slam tennis title – barely thinking about anything other than his sport. A chance meeting at a bar starts some heat between them – but what secrets are each of them hiding?

The blurb promised me twists and turns, but it really was exactly what I expected it to be (including Noah’s delay at various crucial points). I think it still counts as a ‘meet-cute’, and apart from the sex scenes (pretty tastefully written, nothing too racy) it doesn’t have that much new to offer. I did read it pretty quickly, just to see if it would turn out as expected. It did.

This book is good in that it presents monogamy, but not in a boring or ‘they settled for it’ way. I’ve read a LOT of books with sex happening all over the place, and it’s refreshing to have two men (rather than teenagers) interacting and not having it all about sex or teenage hormones. I also liked the individual charm that was included in the scenery, and I could see them sneaking (both huge men!!) through the backstreets of Melbourne.

I HATE TENNIS. I find it super boring, I don’t understand the rules and I can’t think anything too positive about a sport that regularly leaves people vomiting on the court from heat exhaustion. Oh, and don’t mention the huge amount of traffic the Australian Open causes in Melbourne. I associate tennis with hot summer nights and a lack of sleep.

If you are looking for an Australian novel with a gay sporting protagonist, this is it! It gave me echoes of Anything But Fine and Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell, but for an adult audience rather than a teenager one. I’m not excited by tennis, but this book was still a good solid read.

Pan Macmillan | 28 November 2023 | AU$26.99 | paperback

Review: Patrick Lencioni – Getting Naked (S)

Getting Naked
A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
Patrick Lencioni

“Another extraordinary business fable from the New York Times bestselling author Patrick Lencioni Written in the same dynamic style as his previous bestsellers including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni illustrates the principles of inspiring client loyalty through a fascinating business fable. He explains the theory of vulnerability in depth and presents concrete steps for putting it to work in any organization. The story follows a small consulting firm, Lighthouse Partners, which often beats out big-name competitors for top clients. One such competitor buys out Lighthouse and learns important lessons about what it means to provide value to its clients.”

I am a fan of this particular author, having delved into several of his captivating works. As I embarked upon “Getting Naked,” I found myself comforted by the familiar cadence and structure that I had come to associate with his novels. This book also adheres to his trademark style of weaving a fable throughout the narrative, imparting invaluable lessons to the characters and, by extension, the readers.

Lencioni expounds upon the concept of vulnerability, urging us to embrace it both in our interactions with employees and clients alike. While this book didn’t quite achieve the same level of gripping suspense that some of his other works possess, perhaps my familiarity with his narrative structure contributed to my ability to predict the end. Nevertheless, it remains an engaging read, with the author skillfully interweaving his principles within the fable.

The Three Fears:

  1. Fear of losing the business
  2. Fear of being embarrassed
  3. Fear of feeling inferior

The core principles presented in this book, particularly those surrounding vulnerability and the 3 fears, hold significant value, particularly for those in the service industry. It is rare to find a book that caters specifically to businesses that offer services as their primary product. In this regard, the author excels, providing practical insights and guidance for service businesses.

Overall, “Getting Naked” is a commendable addition to the author’s repertoire, although it may not stand out as his most exceptional work. Admittedly, the topic at hand is not new, as other authors such as Brené Brown have also explored the importance of vulnerability. The fact that multiple authors have tackled this subject underscores its significance and relevance in our lives. Taking into account its strengths and its place in the broader literary landscape, I give this book 4 stars.

Review: John C. Maxwell – Developing the Leader Within You (S)

Developing the Leader Within You
John C. Maxwell

“In this repackaged bestseller John Maxwell examines the differences between leadership styles, outlines principles for inspiring, motivating, and influencing others. These principles can be used in any organization to foster integrity and self-discipline and bring a positive change. Developing the Leader Within You also allows readers to examine how to be effective in the highest calling of leadership by understanding the five characteristics that set “leader managers” apart from “run-of-the-mill managers.” In this John Maxwell classic, he shows readers how to develop the vision, value, influence, and motivation required of successful leaders.”

In this book, there are both commendable and average aspects. Some sections can be skimmed through, while others provide valuable insights. Unfortunately, the author’s frequent use of poems, motivational and self-help language didn’t resonate with me.

I was captivated by the first portion of the book. However, it then went downhill and didn’t improve for the rest of the book. Although there is a wealth of valuable content within these pages, locating it can be challenging due to poor organization and vagueness. Certain sections suffer from being overly general, and much of the information presented seems to rely on common sense rather than groundbreaking ideas. Examples and stories would have enhanced the reading experience. It’s worth noting that the book does incorporate thought-provoking questions and self-evaluations regarding one’s leadership abilities.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Jeffrey Hull – Flex (S)

The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World
Jeffrey Hull

“Based on his popular classes with Harvard Medical School physicians and New York University business students, Hull has identified the six key elements that leaders in this new workplace need to succeed, known as Flexibility, Intentionality, Emotional Intelligence, Realness, Collaboration, and Engagement. From start-ups to universities to Fortune 500 companies, he’s been able to help leaders across the board develop the skill sets that have advanced their careers and won them accolades.”

This book is a thought-provoking book that truly inspires its readers to become better leaders. The author introduces the concept of beta leaders, a unique approach to leadership that challenges conventional thinking and encourages introverted collaborative leaders in an ever-changing world.

While the concept of beta leaders is interesting I found myself occasionally distracted by the abundance of case studies within the book. These real-world examples provide valuable insights, but their sheer quantity made it somewhat challenging to keep track of each individual and their unique circumstances. I often wished for more in-depth exploration of a single character’s leadership journey and the theory that goes with it. Then I could have been following the character through various scenarios to see how they evolved.

The book excels in presenting a collection of coaching tips, each bundled with profound leadership insights tailored for the modern workplace. It highlights numerous areas where anyone can enhance their leadership skills. I found myself particularly engrossed in the sections that resonated with my own leadership style, while some other sections didn’t capture my attention as strongly.

One of the book’s strong points is the well-crafted summaries and practical takeaways at the end of each chapter. I will re-read these again later. These sections offer a concise and valuable outline of the key ideas, making it easy for readers to reflect on and apply what they’ve learned.

In conclusion, “Flex” is an inspiring book that challenges traditional leadership paradigms and equips readers with the tools to adapt and excel in today’s work environment. The overall impact of the book is undeniably positive. It’s a valuable resource for those looking to enhance their leadership skills and navigate the complexities of a changing world. Especially in an inspiring way! I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: Carl J. Schramm – Burn the Business Plan (S)

Burn the Business Plan
What Great Entrepreneurs Really Do
Carl J. Schramm

“Schramm explains that the importance of a business plan is only one of the many misconceptions about starting a company. Another is the myth of the kid genius—that all entrepreneurs are young software prodigies. In fact, the average entrepreneur is thirty-nine years old and has worked in corporate America for at least a decade. Schramm discusses why people with work experience in corporate America have an advantage as entrepreneurs. For one thing, they often have important contacts in the business world who may be customers for their new service or product. For another, they often have the opportunity to strategize with knowledgeable people and get valuable advice.”

I quite enjoyed this book and I’m giving it a solid 4 stars. It provides a refreshing take on business and entrepreneurship, shedding light on the real struggles in a down-to-earth way. The stories are cool, especially the ones about businesses hitting the skids after years of hustling – kind of a bummer but definitely eye-opening.

Now, let’s talk real talk – the book had a bit of a slow start. The “why start a company” section? Meh. I could’ve used less of that. But hey, it rallied and got awesome towards the end. It’s a gem for anyone in the business game, especially if you’re just starting out. Forget the textbook stuff; this is some more realistic ideas of building a business from scratch. It is a reflective and impactful piece that can dispel numerous misconceptions about entrepreneurship, the pleasures of managing a business, and various other aspects.

If the idea of an MBA ever creeps into my mind, I’ll flip through this book again for a reality check. If you’re hustling in business or dipping your toes, this book’s got your back. If you love entrepreneurship, this is definitely the book for you! It’s not a perfect five, but it’s damn close and definitely worth a read. 4 stars.

Review: Kim Lock – The Three of Us

The Three of Us
Kim Lock

Elsie isn’t quite satisfied with the life of a 1960s housewife – there’s only so many times she can wash the sheets and try to make food from her Women’s Weekly cookbook. Her husband Thomas keeps himself busy at work, and Elsie is lonely enough to approach the quiet stranger next door. Aida is unmarried and confined to her house for the next nine months, determined to keep to herself.

I really enjoyed this novel because it portrays life as a polyamory thruple that isn’t just about having mind-blowing and random sex all the time! Instead, it delicately probes what it looks like to be in a committed relationship with more than two people. I was plesently surprised by the whole book.

I dealt with the multiple perspectives quite well, even if I didn’t quite ever connect with Thomas. Thomas has two women – which is something that most men would say they wanted – but he’s a perfect gentleman about the whole thing. The framing of the novel is a little odd, and to my mind unecessary. It was quite clear to me what would happen, the only surprise was the, well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!

I had never read anything by Kim Lock, but maybe I should go and seek out a few more of her novels if they all have this beautiful relationship aspect. I was very impressed and surprised to find it from an Australian author. Although I used to hate Australian fiction for being dry and boring (like our weather!), newer authors are changing my mind. Amazing stuff.