Thursday, April 28, 2011

Illustrated Man - Review & Writing Idea

This group of short stories outshine the rest in its class. On its surface, its a collection of stories that relate to the tattoos on a wandering man. As his new companion looks on, the tattoos come to life and each of them has a powerful story to share.

The overall idea for this collection is perfect, and it really works to tie all of the stories together. But the real gems are the stories themselves. In a few short pages Bradbury uses each story to reveal timeless truths about religion, God, race, fear, the future, and much more. The first story, The Veldt, is a haunting tale that highlights the dangers of technology. Written fifty years ago, it is nothing short of prophetic and it perfect for our times.

There are a couple of stories that are slower than the rest, but only because the are compared to the other brilliant stories contained in the book. Highly recommended.

Writing Idea: I love how Bradbury used the tattoos on this man to tie all of his stories together in a really interesting way. Its a great idea and a good exercise in creativity to write stories in this manner. If we had an artist create a drawing of a new tattooed man, is anyone interested in writing stories that relate to his tattoos? The original Illustrated Man had nineteen tattoos and that sounds like a good number. We would accept entries on each tattoo, choose the best, and publish a collection of short stories. Any ideas for the tattoos themselves? If you are interested in this project, contact me via email or comment below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poke the Box Review

Hard to describe what this book really is, but it's best summed up as a pop-business-philosophy-motivational book. Godin repeatedly emphasizes the importance of starting things through a variety of anecdotes, truisms, and mini-essays. It's a short read, but can be very valuable for anyone who is stuck in there job or anyone who has not quite pushed that great idea out from their brain to their fingertips.

Easy to read (and recommend to others)
Great, quotable statements throughout
One of the better books I've read on "getting started"

On the simple side
Basically one idea repeated in 100 ways, albeit interesting ways
Starting is only half the battle in my experience

It's really a good read and you can't beat the price. Pick up a copy and you may find out that you have been stuck at square one for awhile. The quote below is one of the best in the book, and summarizes the thrust of the entire book.

"What's the disctinction between carrying around a great idea, being a brainstormer, tinkering-and starting something?

Starting means you're going to finish. If it doesn't ship, you've failed. You haven't poked the box if the box doesn't realize it's been poked.

To merely start without finishing is just boasting, or stalling, or a waste of time. I have no patience at all for people who believe they are doing their best work but are hiding it from the market. If you don't ship, you actually haven't started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked. otherwise, it's merely a hobby" (45,46).

Monday, April 25, 2011

$100 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway

$100 Giveaway! Two Chances to Win!

To celebrate our 100th post on The Lucid Blog, we are going to give away a $100 Amazon Giftcard! All you have to do in order to win is comment on this post. Next week on Cinco de Mayo, we will randomly select a winner and the giftcard is all yours. Odds are a lot better than the lottery already, but we want to help you double your chance to win . . . 

Double Your Chance to Win!

So, we will give away another card to a randomly selected subscriber/follower on the blog as well! You can subscribe and get email updates via the box at the top right of the blog, or follow using the button at the top left, right under the tool bar. Again, as long as you are a subscriber (or follower) by Cinco de Mayo, you are eligible to win (this includes people already subscribed.) Good luck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jonathan Edwards, On Beauty - Review

This quick read is a part of the Essential Edwards Collection and the first one that I have read. It is a good introduction to the works of Jonathan Edwards, but the only really great sections are excerpts from his works. This book serves a narrow purpose - to introduce some interested parties to Edwards, who will then move on to larger works or not read him altogether. I would recommend that someone start with the books that he wrote or copies of his sermons, all available for free on Yale's new Jonathan Edwards site ( But if someone was on the fence about reading Edwards or wanted short, topical overviews, then this book would serve that purpose.

The book is organized into five main sections. The Beauty of God, Creation, Christ, Church, and the Trinitarian Afterlife. The Beauty of God is a great section and really sets the stage for Edwards thoughts on Beauty. For Edwards, God is the starting point of theology and His attributes form a multi-faceted diamond that is incomparable. As good as the first section is, the last chapter on the Trinitarian Afterlife really ties the book together. Edwards thoughts on the Trinity, love, and the believer's entrance into the shared life are eye-opening. These passages from his works will give you a glimpse into his thoughts and theology, and should inspire anyone to read more of his works.

Below is a mind map of the book. (For more information about Mind Maps click here and here).

Again, this is a good introduction to America's most gifted theologian. Recommended.

The Old Rules of Marketing Are Dead: 6 New Rules - Review

Timothy R. Pearson writes to companies and individuals who are fixated on the marketing rules of the past. He writes persuasively and effectively about how anyone can reinvent their brand for the new economy that we live in. It is addressed to larger companies mainly, but its useful for small businesses and individuals as well.

What are the 6 New Rules?

Rule One: The Core is Everything. The first part of the book helps to focus attention on what really matters, what the essence of the brand is. Very good advice here on how to emphasize points of differentiation in your field. Many businesses skip this crucial step, but without knowing your essence, you have nothing to build on.

Rule Two: You Have Nothing Without the Foundation. Guard your reputation carefully. Recognize that marketing should be defensive and offensive strategy, and use the tools for both. This section also has a great chapter on the power of a good logo design and why it is important (Principle #7).

Rule Three: There Are Many Choices but Only One Customer. This section focuses on your customer's perceptions of your strategy. It is the core of the book, and the most helpful section. The chapter on why you should measure all marketing choices, and how to do implement it, is worth the price of the book. Marketing without measurement is a waste of money. Too many people focus on marketing as an art rather than a science, but for a good business it is both.

Rule Four: Do the Right Things for the Right Reasons. Some good information here about social media's role in the new economy, but some of the other principles only apply to larger companies.

Rule Five: Infrastructure Is More than Just Pipes. Very good discussion on technology as the enabler of reinvention in the Principle #21 chapter.

Rule Six: Leadership Isn't a Noun, It's a Verb. Great conclusion. The author wraps up his thoughts on marketing and makes the case that marketing should be the leader for all areas of business, welcoming the changes and the accountability that is now crucial in today's marketplace.

I thought that some of the principles under each rule were forced and did not tie together well and that a few were only applicable to larger companies. I would have liked to see more hands-on advice as well, though the principles should point you in the right direction.

All in all, a good book, and a recommended read for any business (or individual) looking to reinvent their brand.

Other Business Book Reviews:
Entrepreneurial DNA
The Four-Hour Workweek
One Simple Idea

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3 Ways to Use Mind Maps

I recently picked up a copy of The Mind Map Book, mostly by accident. I was looking for memory books in a Half Price Bookstore, and came across it in the Memory section. It is written by one of the most prolific authors on memory, Tony Buzan, but it is a departure from some of his other memory books.

Mind mapping is essentially brainstorming on paper, but Buzan has really applied this simple technique to multiple arenas. Mind Maps can be used to help make decisions, take notes, give presentations, organize complex data, and much more.

It is surprisingly simple and easy to use, but there is a lot you can learn from it. Your brain will do most of the work for you once you get started, and you will be surprised by the associations you will make beween different ideas.

For authors, there are three main ways I would suggest using Mind Maps:

1. Outline books you have read. This is a great way to have a "bird's-eye view" of an entire book. You can fit an entire book on one page, and it will have almost too much information. Very helpful if you make one of these for each book as you read it. Not only will you remember the material better, you will be able to refer back to your map to refresh your memory.

2. Brainstorming writing ideas. I always urge authors to come up with new ideas, but it can be difficult. Using Mind Maps, you should be able to brainstorm a lot of ideas quickly. The goal is to come up with a new category or a new idea, and be the first author in that category. After all, if you are first, you are the best by default. Use the Mind Map to find more ideas than you will ever be able to use.

3. Outlining your book. Use a Mind Map when you are doing your initial outline of your book. This will help you organize your data better, see associations you missed before, and spark new ideas. It will also help you break down your book into small chunks to write on. It is much easier to break down your book into smaller parts to get your writing started; sitting down to write 300 pages at once is daunting for anyone.

Example Mind Map

Use these links to find Mind Map material online. I highly recommend picking up The Mind Map Book.

Wikipedia Definition
Free Online Mind Map creation - limit 3
Mindtools Info

See my first mind map here. Have you made any mind maps? What do you find them most useful for?

The Mind Map Book - Review

This book presents a great tool that you can use to organize, memorize, and revolutionize your thinking. It is very simple to use, and you will be mind mapping after reading the first few chapters. This book would be way too long if it was just a how-to book, but it is much more than that. It is 250 pages full of examples, ideas, and full-color mind maps that you can use to get ideas from. 

It will seem almost too simple when you first start to use them, but they do provide some surprising insights. I am currently mapping out a book as I read it, and it is amazing to see exactly how the book is organized and how well the thoughts connect together. I plan to post a book review and the outline on my blog soon so others can see how well it works (Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (The Essential Edwards Collection)).

I also see huge potential for note-making, presentations, note-taking, and for initial outlines for writing your own book. There are so many things you can do with it, its hard to narrow it down.

This book may not maximize your brain's potential as the authors claim, but it is a worthwhile investment and will help you in many areas. Highly recommended.

See my first mind map here.

Three Ways To Use Mind Maps.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Biblical Eldership - Review

"I doubt that many evangelical leaders would say `It doesn't matter how the U.S. government is structured as long as there is some form of leadership.' Yet, that is precisely what I have heard some evangelical leaders say." (102) 

The fact is, many people in the church today do not think about church leadership. As long as something is in place, as long as the church is headed in the right direction, that is good enough. Alexander Strauch has written Biblical Eldership to reveal the truth about church leadership, plainly revealed in God's Word.

Part One defines what Biblical eldership is. "According to the New Testament concept of eldership, elders lead the church, teach and preach the Word, protect the church from false teachers, exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine, visit the sick and pray, and judge doctrinal issues. In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church." (16)

Strauch covers Pastoral Leadership, Shared Leadership, Male Leadership, Qualified Leadership, and Servant Leadership each in a separate chapter. Each chapter is thorough, easy to read, and back up with scripture references throughout.

Part Two is a defense of Biblical Eldership. The average church member is not interested in the leadership structure in the church, but it is hugely important. As Strauch says, the structure of church government will help determine how people think and act in the church. In my experience, people just don't want to talk about eldership for one reason or another, choosing to focus on the "more important" issues. However, "the New Testament offers more instruction regarding elders than on other important church subjects such as the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Day, baptism, or the spiritual gifts." (103)

Obviously, eldership is hugely important in Scripture and needs to be carefully considered by every local church.

Part Three serves as the exposition of Scripture on eldership. It essentially covers the same material as Parts One and Two, but expositionally instead of topically.

Part Four includes two short chapters, one on the appointment of elders and one on the relationship with elders and their congregation.

Biblical Eldership is a great book that covers an underserved area of theology and should serve as an example for other Christian authors who want to cover church topics. It is Biblical, thorough, and well written. Highly recommended for all readers interested in Biblical leadership in the church.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Maker's Schedule

Great post from Paul Graham on the difference between a manager's schedule and a maker's schedule. Very useful for authors to think through . . . excerpt and link to the essay are below.

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they're on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you're doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it's merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you're done.

Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Entrepreneurial DNA - Review

What kind of entrepreneur are you? What types of business are potential disasters for your skill set? What kind of people should you work with? 

If you are interested in the answers to these questions, this book will help answer them. First time author Joe Abraham has developed a simple quadrant that will help any entrepreneur leverage their strengths. The four types of DNA that Abraham divides entrepreneurs into are:

Builder - An entrepreneur who loves building businesses from the ground up.

Opportunist - An entrepreneur who wants to leverage money and time to make money fast.

Specialist - An entrepreneur characterized by their strong expertise.

Innovator - An entrepreneur gifted at product creation.

Part One serves as a general introduction. Most of Part One is pretty basic information, unless you need convincing that entrepreneurs personalities and skill sets vary widely. Near the end of Part One, their is a test that you take online that will give you the BOSI profile that fits you. The test only takes a couple of minutes, and it seems to be surprisingly accurate.

Part Two has a separate section for each the BOSI Primary DNA types, followed by Seven Business Optimization Strategies for each. Unless you are trying to understand more entrepreneurs than yourself, you can really just read your section. For my DNA type, the profile fit very well. The seven optimization strategies were helpful as well, although the "stay healthy" one seems like it was thrown in just to bump the number up to seven. These strategies will certainly help, but it is even more fruitful to recognize what your weaknesses are. Once you identify your weaknesses (and are able to admit them) you can outsource, partner, or strategize to overcome them.

Part Three is the action portion of the book. Here you will refine your vision and mission, set goals for the short term, and realign your business practices to fit with your DNA. Some of these are more helpful than the others . . . again, seven seems forced here. The paper napkin exercise at the beginning of Part Three is an interesting to test to see whether your current reality still reflects your original dream for your business.

Overall, this book is recommended for any entrepreneur or anyone who wants to be one. It is helpful and its a quick read, especially if you decide to skip the sections dedicated to other DNA types. Anytime you divide everyone into just four groups, it won't always fit your personality perfectly. However, it should be close enough to give you some real insight on your business needs and what types of business practices you should be focusing on.

Other Entrepreneurship Book Recommendations:
The Four-Hour Workweek
One Simple Idea

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Economics of Good and Evil - Review

The Economics of Good and Evil is a book that will change the way you think about economics, history, religion, and myth. The author blends ancient texts with modern economics, and the results are stunning. This book is one of the best I have read in the past year, and I can promise that it will help you look at things in a new way. Half of my book is already highlighted and I'm ready to read through it again. 

The author states the book's purpose in the introduction: "to look for economic thought in ancient myths and vice versa to look for myths in today's economics." Just as economics attempts to interpret the world around us today, stories and ancient texts defined the world around us in the past. The author carefully examines ancient works and shows how economics permeates the text. For instance, in the chapter on the Old Testament there is a long discussion about the introduction of linear time and progress. Before the Old Testament, time was considered to by cyclical by the ancients. Linear time, and therefore real progress, was born when in part by the Old Testament records of creation and the longing for the end of history when the Messiah returns. This is just one of the insights in the Old Testament chapter that economics will shed light on.

The entire book was a great read, but I especially enjoyed the sections on the Old Testament and Christianity. You will walk away from reading this with a better understanding of economics in the ancient and in the modern world. Not only is this book good on its own merit, but it should serve as a shining example of how to combine different genres into a great book. Religion, Christianity, Business, and Economics are some of my favorite genres, and this book fits every category. My highest recommendation.

The Table of Contents is divided into two main parts:


Part One: Ancient Economics

The Epic of Gilgamesh: On Effectiveness, Immortality, and the Economics of Friendship

The Old Testament: Earthliness and Goodness

Ancient Greece

Christianity: Spirituality in the Material World

Descartes the Mechanic

Bernhard Mandeville's Beehive of Vice

Adam Smith, Blacksmith of Economics

Part Two: Blasphemous Thoughts

Need for Greed: The History of Want

Progress, New Adam, and Sabbath Economics

The Axis of Good and Evil and the Bibles of Economics

The History of the Invisible Hand of the Market and Homo Economicus

The History of Animal Spirits: The Dream Never Sleeps


Masters of Truth: Science, Myths, and Faith 

3 Tips For Speed Reading

Speed reading can change the way you research, evaluate, and how you read for pleasure. Contrary to popular belief, comprehension increases when you read faster. I read How To Read a Book a few years ago, and there are a few tips in that book that have stuck with me and helped me to read faster.

1. Don't focus on the lines of words, but the white space between the lines.

2. Don't focus on each word. Try using just two focal points, one near the beginning of each line and one near the end. You will be surprised how easy it is to read this way.

3. Force yourself to read faster. Use your finger to follow the words as you read them, and gradually increase the speed that you move your finger until you cannot keep up. Continue reading until your eyes learn to keep up with your finger.

Bonus Tip: Do not read non-fiction like you read fiction. If you don't use different reading techniques for different genres, I can promise that you are missing out. Pick up How To Read A Book for some great information on reading different genres.

Bonus Tip 2: Go to and take a free speed reading test. I have never used their software, but you should be able to rank yourself here and see what you can improve.

How many words a minute do you read? I am at 412 words per minute on the computer test with 91% comprehension. Feels a little harder to read on a screen like this than the words on a page. What speed are you at? Have any other tips to share that have helped increase your speed?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Price/Value Mismatch

Great post from business guru Seth Godin on Price and Value. Valuable information for every author . . .

"How's the wine?"
You really can't answer that question out of context. Compared to what? Compared to a hundred dollar bottle? Not so good. Compared to any other $12 bottle... great!
"How was the hotel?"
"How's the service at the post office?"
In just about all the decisions we make, we consider the price. A shipper doesn't expect the same level of service quality from a first class letter delivery than it does from an overnight international courier service. Of course not.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tell To Win - Review

Peter Guber, former CEO of Sony Pictures, uses Tell To Win to convince businesses to unleash the power of story. It is an engaging book that draws on a wide variety of stories from successful people, and it is worth reading for anyone interested in how narrative can be used to string facts together in an emotional way. 

The author starts off in Part One by describing the power that a story can have. The book is full of his personal examples, all of which are entertaining. Here, he draws on his failure to sell the Las Vegas mayor on hosting a minor league baseball team. After convincing the reader that stories do have power, the author follows it up with the elements of a story and who can tell it.

The short analysis of what makes a story is great. Though there is not much information given, you will learn exactly what a story is and how to frame a story when you present it. One of the things I really liked about this book was the discussion about "violation of expectation" and how it makes a story.

The last chapter of Part One is titled The Story That Runs Your Story. This chapter contains very little information and I would recommend skipping it. The author talks about Deepak Chopra and narrative medicine and getting past the story that "runs" you so you can tell other stories effectively. Not helpful.

Part Two contains more practical information about how to craft stories, tell stories, and deliver them. It is still light on the "how-to" aspect of storytelling, but it does have many great examples that should help you gain perspective on storytelling as an art form. While this section is good, how it relates to business seems like an afterthought rather than a main thrust most of the time.

This book is great, and one that I would recommend to anyone that wants to learn more about the power of story to convey truths, whether in business or not. Not surprisingly, it is told through stories instead of a practical how-to guide, but it still would have been nice to include more practical advice throughout.

- Great read, great examples, easy to follow.
- Subject matter handled with ease. You will learn more about the hidden power of story.
- Will help anyone convey information in story format. I can see this being very useful for non-fiction writers from all walks (even though oral storytelling is much more powerful according to the author)

- Most of the professionals quoted are from UCLA, where the author teaches. Would have been nice to expand research and expertise beyond.
- While you will realize the power of story, the how-to most has to be derived from the many examples
- Hard to think of this as a "business book." It's a good book that is really addressed to a wider audience than business alone.