Why the Little Things Matter

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/ScottTalent

Not too long ago, a major power outage affected millions of people in Arizona, California and Mexico.  Two nuclear reactors were temporarily shut down.  Traffic backed up for miles all over the area.  Cars collided as frustrated drivers navigated without traffic signals.  Airports were shut down, stranding passengers.  Happening on an incredibly hot, triple-digit-temperature September day, the power outage knocked out much needed air conditioning.  It left people stuck in elevators.  Even the outdoors was affected.  San Diego beaches were closed when almost two million gallons of raw sewage spilled, a result of the water pumps failure at the regional station.  The failure continued to wreak havoc days after it was resolved.

Why did all of this happen?

What Was So Great About Catherine the Great?

Catherine the Great was by any definition a political success story.  Baptized Sophia Augusta Frederica, she rose from a young German girl to later take the name of Catherine II and become the most powerful woman in the world.  Moving to Russia at just fourteen years old, with no knowledge of the language and no hereditary claim to the throne, she later ascended to power in a coup.  The people of Russia loved her and she became one of the greatest benevolent despots ever known.

How she achieved such power is a fascinating study in leadership whether you agree with her methods or not.  Robert K. Massie now chronicles her extraordinary life in his new book, Catherine the Great.  Massie is a superlative author, historian and biographer.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for Peter the Great:  His Life and World.  His many books are loved for his ability to bring his characters to life.

What were some of the personal qualities serving Catherine’s goals?

Tom Perrotta Talks Leftovers (Not Last Night’s Meal)

Tom Perrotta has written seven novels: The Leftovers, The Abstinence Teacher, Little Children, Joe College, Election, The Wishbones, and Bad Haircut.  Both Little Children and Election were made into award-winning films.

Tom’s latest book, The Leftovers, has won numerous awards and mentions from almost every publication from Oprah’s O magazine to the New York Times.  The cover of the book was featured as one of the best book covers of 2011.

Maile Meloy — Literature’s Newest Apothecary

I first met Maile Meloy in the pages of her first novel for young readers, The Apothecary.  Aimed at middle-schoolers, it’s a wonderfully entertaining story set in the 1950s and full of magic, spies, nuclear disaster, science and suspense.  It’s also beautifully illustrated by Ian Schoenherr.

Though new to young readers, Maile is far from a new writer.  Her work includes short stories and novels:Liars and Saints, A Family Daughter, and Half in Love.  She also wrote Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, which the New York Times named one of the 10 Best Books of 2009.  Her family is creative, too.  For example, her brother, Colin, is the lead singer of the folk rock group the Decemberists.

If you’re looking for a book to interest a young reader, look no further.  The Apothecary is a perfect gift.  But, if you’re like me, you may want to sit down and read it first before you pass it on.

Finding the Needle in the Office

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/iqoncept

What needle?

The expression “moving the needle” first appeared in England during the industrial revolution.  The reference was to gauges on steam engines.  During World War II, it became a more common term in reference to aviation gauges.  In business today it’s synonymous with making progress.

I’ve seen three major types of people in business.  One person can describe the needle, the other can move the needle, and rarely someone can do both.  What do I mean?