Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Rise of Superman - Ultimate Human Performance

For those who are regular viewers of sports, Olympic level or professional, extreme sports or even golf, you know that what human beings are capable of is constantly increasing.

What we are learning, is that the extension of human performance is not just about higher, or stronger, or faster, it’s also about the mental component.  It's the mental performance we are able to achieve, that makes the physical possible.  This has been called being in the zone, or flow.

The idea of "flow" has been around and widely studied for many years. But today, with our new forms of peering into the brain and into the very idea of consciousness, we are finding both the internal insights and the far flung potential of human performance.

Steven Kotler takes us to the edge in The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.

My conversation with Steven Kotler:

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Monday, April 28, 2014

What is The Confidence Code?

In the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, says that, “I always thought it would be better, to be a fake somebody... than a real nobody.”

This insecurity, this lack of confidence in who we are, is such a critical part of life, that it has been immortalized repeatedly in movies and literature.

But, beyond that, it has real life consequences that go beyond art and definitions in the DMS. For women in particular, this lack of confidence and yes, even our confidence genes, drive relationships, families and the workplace in ways that create a kind of confidence feedback loop. In this loop, lack of confined produces a fear, that in turn produces further lack of confidence. And while the issue is a particularly important one for woman, we all are part of that loop.

This is where  Katty Kay and Claire Shipman begin The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know.

My conversation with Claire Shipman and Katty Kay:

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Black Power

Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy notwithstanding, the past year has seen us engaged in a celebration of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington and Freedom Summer. All seminal events in the amazing history of the Civil Rights movement.

But what we sometimes forget is that the movement itself, mostly because of its scope and inclusiveness, started a bigger revolution. One that took up opposition to Vietnam, the fight for social and economic justice and the movement beyond nonviolence, for more than just public accommodation, but the struggle for real political, social and economic power.

Present at the creation of that effort was Stokely Carmichael. He was a bridge between the nonviolence of Dr. King, the anger of Malcolm X and the urban struggle for civil rights led by the Black Panthers.

Carmichael has been somewhat forgotten in the pantheon of leaders from the period, that is until Peniel Joseph's new biography, Stokely: A Life

My conversation with Peniel Joseph:

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice

It’s always good when we are having legitimate debates about public policy. And when the subject is education, it’s even better. However, amidst all the debate, we should not forget that there are people deeply engaged, every day, in the effort. The children, the parents and the teachers have real experiences that often trump the ideas of policy makers.

That’s why it’s so important to look deeply inside the system and see what’s really going on. This is what education consultant and researcher Sam Chaltain has done in the context of his new book Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice.

My conversation with Sam Chaltain:

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

How the Rise of Working Women has Created a Far Less Equal World

Except perhaps for brief periods of historical time, there have always been cultural divides in America and in the world. Sometimes it’s been about race, or about ethnicity. Sometimes about gender or status. Today, that divide is fueled by education, class and economic attainment.

Is it any surprise then, that we have completely shuffled the deck on success and that modern marketing and media reinforce those ideas. Those with means, with college and postgraduate education, have similar goals, similar objectives and similar lifestyles. It matters far less what gender, or what race; what matters is education and income. That, coupled with the long standing idea of associative mating, has grown and reinforced an economic elite, where its members have far more in common with each other, than with others of their race, or even their gender. Sisterhood and brotherhood have given rise to what David Brooks might call bobohood.

How this has impacted women and society, is the subject of The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf.

My conversation with Alison Wolf:

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

There once was a time when technology was sold just to business to help create new and “softer” consumer products. Today, we know there is a mass market for technology itself and it’s often sold directly to consumers.

Given that new, particularly disruptive, technology usually begins with a blank page, an audience of zero for technological products that did not exist, how has the market for these products changed and what’s the nexus with our habits and adoption of the technology itself?

Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm, has long been the bible for entrepreneurs bringing products to larger and larger markets...but what’s different today.?

Moore is just out with a new and updated volume, Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.

My conversation with Geoffrey Moore:

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Monday, April 21, 2014

My Usual Table

For many people, particularly in urban America, restaurants represent the place where they live life. Spending time with friends, memorable meals, socializing and simply being a third place, not home, not office, but an urban extension of their lives.

For some, those third places become like songs or great books. Simply mention them and they become triggers of thought that short circuit time and make yesterday's events, today’s reality.

That's what Colman Andrews has done with his memoir, My Usual Table: A Life in Restaurants. It not only tells of Andrews’ life, but captures the zeitgeist of an era, specifically Los Angeles in the 70’s and 80’s.

My conversation with Colman Andrews:

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

All the President's Bankers

At this point in our history, it should come as no surprise that the adage “follow the money,” applies not just to tracking down criminal activity, but to virtually every aspect of our economic and political system.

In a world where free markets are expanding, where economic and political stability are closely linked, where nations compete for the free flow of money around the globe, where bankers cozy up to leaders and leader cozy up to bankers, sometimes those relationships can be out of balance.

To understand how, it’s worthwhile to see how we got here and look at the 100+ year relationship between Wall Street and the administrations of 18 Presidents, of all political persuasions.

In her new book, All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power,  financial journalist Nomi Prins explores how a small number of bankers have played critical roles in shaping a century's worth of financial, foreign and domestic policy.  She examines how these relationships have influenced events from the creation of the Federal Reserve, the response to the Great Depression, and the founding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

My conversation with Nomi Prins:

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How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

When we talk about drugs, or see the myriad array of pharmaceutical ads, we usually hear about a whole range of unique side effects. These are not just side effects, they are real effects with real medical consequences.

This is true not just for the complex, highly marketed drugs, but even from our most basic antibiotics. While we’ve come think of this class of drugs as almost free from consequence, the truth is they may have bigger and more far reaching consequences than the drugs that may cause individual problems. For these drugs, the side effects may be to our whole species and to the ancient human microbiome that makes up a large part of who we are as individuals and as a species. We may be seeing these consequences every day, in the increase in childhood asthma, autism, obesity, and certain types of cancers.

This discovery has been the life's work of Dr. Martin Blaser.  He examines this in Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

My conversation with Dr. Martin Blaser:

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to really create a culture of innovation

In almost every way, today's workplace is very different than the world of Mad Men. Yet one thing seems to be consistent. The nexus between the culture of an organization and its performance, is direct and powerful.

But what constitutes that culture, and how can it be changed? It’s ironic that corporate culture often seems both immutable and fragile. One jerk can seemingly ruin it, and yet CEO’s often spend whole careers trying to change it. How can both be true?

We look inside organizational culture, not in a Dilbertesque way, but through the eyes of dozens of leaders and CEO that have talked with Adam Bryant, the creator of the “Corner Office” feature in The New York Times and the author of Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation.

My conversation with Adam Bryant:

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Class, Cultures and Social Movements

Progressive and social activists are too often portrayed as latte drinking, sushi eating, Volvo driving, arugula eating, white wine sipping, Birkenstock wearing, NPR listening, New York Times reading, tofu eating…etc. You get the idea.

This isn’t just another ordinary line of attack, because what it does, what it means to do, is to drive a wedge between classes. Class groups that often have common goals, shared values, and a true desire to solve real problems.

But the attacks often work because sometimes the leaders of social movements themselves, forget that while goals may be shared, many groups and different classes bring very different experiences and approaches along with different worldviews to solve similar problems.

So how can this circle be squared? How can these groups not work against their self interest in a “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” kind of way? Betsy Leondar-Wright gets to the core of the problem and potential solutions in her new book Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups.

My conversation with Betsy Leondar-Wright:

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The making of a monster in wartime: How torturer happens

The task of bearing witness to war and terror, even for a journalist, is not to reduce events to our own understanding, but by acknowledging and reporting them, to serve both the dead and the living. Thierry Cruvellier has done this as one of the only journalists to have attended the trials of all of our contemporary international war crimes tribunals.

Yet few such trials are more powerful than that of a mild mannered math teacher who was one of the principal executioners of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in the 70’s.  He tells that story in his new book The Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer.

My conversation with Thierry Cruvellier:

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Money is not what you think it is

Few things are more ubiquitous than money. Yet what seems so simple, can often become so complex. Money is far more than just the notes and coins we carry in our pockets. It’s part of a complex system of debits and credits and clearing. Just look at the workings of Bitcoin and you start to see how those notes and coins are really just tokens and symbols that represent a much larger and more complex world of money.

That's the world that Felix Martin ushers us into in Money: The Unauthorized Biography.

My conversation with Felix Martin:

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Advertising and the Golden Age of Radio OR Everything Old, is New Again

During what was once considered the “golden age of radio," from roughly the late 1920s until the late 1940s, advertising agencies were the most important source of radio entertainment. Most nationally broadcast programs, on network radio, were created, produced, written, and/or managed by advertising agencies.

For those old enough, you might remember something like Kraft Music Hall, or Maxwell House Showboat.

When television came along, again it was the advertising agencies that produced and drove the entertainment decisions and production. If you’ve been watching Mad Men, you’ve seen the evolution of this. It’s funny how today, in some ways, we seem to be coming back full circle, to this old notion of “branded programming.”

Cynthia Meyers, takes us back, to this time gone by, in her new book A Word from Our Sponsor: Admen, Advertising, and the Golden Age of Radio.

My conversation with Cynthia Meyers:

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Jared Diamond on Evolution and the Future of the Human Animal

From High School biology class, to treating the most complex diseases, evolution lies at the core of our existence. Whether we’re trying to figure out world conflict, medical breakthroughs or even what might happen if we encounter alien beings, evolution provides the foundation.

Today, with the world moving so rapidly, with technology so much a part of shaping that world, it seems more important than ever, that we all, especially young people, understand our roots, where we came from and what it might mean for our future. Few do this better than UCLA Professor, and Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gun, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond.

In his latest book, The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: On the Evolution and Future of the Human Animal, he brings young people deeply into the discussion.

My conversation with Jared Diamond

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All Joy and No Fun

Think for a moment about how much has changed about life, just in our own lifetime. Everyday there are new ideas or new products that disrupt existing paradigms. Is it any wonder then that parenthood today is very different than in our parents or grandparents time?

Where once children were looked at as economic units to the family, today we live in a child centered society, where the rules, the expectations and the impact on parents have all changed.

Are we better off? Are we having more fun, are children more rewarding? The answer is, it depends.

That’s the landscape that Jennifer Senior enters into in her wide ranging looking at parenthood, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.

My conversation with Jennifer Senior:

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Monday, April 7, 2014

How Paris became Paris

Bogie reminded us “that we’ll always have Paris.” Indeed, we will. Paris defines what a city should be. Beyond it’s being a City of Lights, a Moveable Feast, and so many other things, it is a model, the model for what urban life should be. And that’s how it grew up. From a desolate, war torn landscape to one of the first cities to embrace street life, to welcome pedestrians, to be lit at night, to have public gardens and where, as Joni Mitchell said, “they kiss on main street.”

Joan DeJean celebrates this history and explains How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City.

My conversation with Joan DeJean:

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