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JAN
31

The Blizzard that Didn't

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I was certainly hoping for more snow. Not because it would do the city any favors…30 inches would have been much more chaotic than the 8 or so that we got…but because I just wanted to see all the hype materialize. I wanted it to be something. I wanted to wake up and have to pick my lower jaw off the floor when I looked outside. I wanted to be snowed in. I wanted to have an excuse to stay home all day and do nothing but write. (I got many messages from people around the country as the storm made ready, messages telling me to be safe and stay warm, but my favorite was from a fan on the west coast who said she and her coworkers, also fans, were hoping I would use the storm to hunker down and finish my third book.)

Snow storms have always been tainted for me, in that the stress of having to commute to work regardless of the weather made me hate them. People never seem to pay attention to the words of the song ‘Let It Snow’ (“And since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow") which clearly confirm my theory, which is that if you have to be somewhere, if you have to do anything other than stare wistfully out the window at it, snow absolutely sucks.

Being sans car here in the city means I can appreciate snow in a way I never could before, and the best part about snow storms (as opposed to storms of other varieties) is how quiet they are. And I guess that’s the biggest reason why I wish it would have kept right on snowing this week. Because that night they shut the city down, that night they made everyone get off the streets by 11pm, it was unbelievably peaceful. I always sleep with my window open, and for the first time, there were no sirens. There was no honking. No yelling. No one banging doors shut as they came in and out of the building. In a city like this one, how rare that is. On a night when it would have been much easier than usual to fall asleep, I stayed up much later than I should have.

MAR
20

To Sell is Human

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I'm long since past the days of reading textbooks, so I confess that the thought of reading for anything other than pleasure causes panic and painful flashbacks. I kid, I kid. Anyone who's read Schooled knows I loved being a student and dreaded the beginning of real life, but now that I'm in it, I do groan when I see informative books on the shelves. Who reads these? I once saw a stat of how many books you could read in your life if you were an average reader (and most of us read far less frequently than the average reader), and the number was disturbingly low. And if I can only read a very select number of books in my life, I certainly don't want to read any that are not for fun, don't make me laugh, and do nothing to help me escape.

So whenever I find myself reading a business-themed book, it surprises me. Even more so when I really enjoy it. Which is exactly what I can say about this book. True that I work in sales already, so it's not like I really needed a lot of convincing about selling in today's world being very different than in eras past. Or the presence of sales-related activities even in non-sales jobs. Or the amount of time we spend trying to move others; to convince people to part with something they have in exchange for something we can give. I already see this and fully believe it. I am the proverbial choir.

Nothing earth-shattering then, but what I loved about this book were the practical examples shared to illustrate each principle, the clear explanation of the ways we can become better and more effective movers in this information age, and the recommended exercises (sometimes very simple) to help us become better attuned, buoyant, and clear. Very readable and incredibly relatable (much like Quiet), it's always satisfying to read a book that gets it right. If you work in sales, manage a team of salespeople, or just want to read a fascinating account of the shift away from the Fuller Brush Man style of selling that was once so prevalent, you should read this book.

FEB
07

Out With the Old

b2ap3_thumbnail_monopoly.jpgWell, it's over. Monopoly has officially booted the Iron game piece in favor of--inexplicably--a cat. Actually, I find the entire line of choices for the proposed new game piece a bit baffling, not to mention the entire concept of consumer voting in these types of decisions. Or maybe what I'm getting at is I don't see the need for these types of decisions in the first place. What was wrong with the old pieces? Or the original M&M colors for that matter? Other than the marketing element meant to generate renewed interest in a classic product, why change at all?

I'm not averse to change, although I do think I struggle with it more than most, and a good portion of that (as I learned from this book) is probably my introversion. Another part of it is that I'm sentimental. I get attached to situations and people I like. When I quit my job to go to business school, I cried like a baby, and it wasn't because I was averse to the changes that business school would bring into my life. It's because I was sad to be leaving a job I loved and the co-workers who had become such good friends to me over the years I had worked there. And on a much smaller scale, I hate when my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers trade players in the name of some sort of overall franchise strategy. Strategy shmategy. Winning record or not, I would prefer to keep the same guys around. Because I get attached to them, dammit, and I wish it could be about playing for a city instead of playing for a championship. (You listening, LBJ?)

The interesting thing about change is that sometimes it is good. But not always. The trick for me and my stubborn, overly-sentimental self is to identify which changes are truly bad ideas (or at least unnecessary) and which ones are good ideas that I would eagerly welcome if I only knew what I was missing. Take technology. I never wanted an iPod, but once someone gave me one, I didn't know how I'd lived without it. I don't have a Smart phone, nor do I have any desire to own one, but maybe it would change my life. For the better. Or at least keep me from grocery store conundrums like buying a cinema gift card for my parents at a theater they would actually have to leave the state in order to use.

My confession to you today is that while I am old-fashioned to the core and hope to always be, there are some things that despite kicking and screaming about how uninteresting, useless, and stupid they are, customers will in actuality snap up like hotcakes once they hit the market. Translation: Sometimes you have to tell customers what they want. It's not always easy, and it doesn't always work (never forget that some changes really are bad), but even just acknowledging that changes we dread or don't want or fight are sometimes exactly what we (and the world) need is a big step. Not that this means I'm OK with the Iron getting booted. But I'll tell you who is. Clementine (pictured below) is delighted with the new game piece. I think she voted more than I did.

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JAN
16

Busted

Yesterday I received an anonymous note in my mailbox at work. The intrigue! It came in an interoffice envelope and was simply a print-out of this blog post from late December. If you go back and read it, it's true that I may or may not have slightly bashed corporate America and expressed frustration over the worship of all things extrovertish, but I never guessed that anyone from my office was actually paying attention. On the printed-out blog post in my mailbox was the following handwritten note: "Poor Tali. And we thought you actually liked working with us." And to the sender of this note, whoever you are, you must know that this struck me as so funny and clever that I had to chuckle to myself in sheer delight. So, thank you. Unless you are from HR and are trying to get me canned. In which case, is it too late to apologize for sounding like I hate working here? And while I'm at it, don't take it personally that I vehemently shamed our decision to send e-cards to customers last month in this post or read too much into my admission in this gem of a post that I wrote it while sitting at my desk. None of that is important. What's important is this: We are now pen pals.

DEC
31

Quiet

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I knew this would be a phenomenal book just by reading the description, and not just because I'm an introvert. But especially because I'm an introvert. An introvert who went through business school getting lackluster grades because I didn't speak up enough in class and because, despite knowing the answers, my mind went blank every time I was cold called or unexpectedly put on the spot. An introvert who now works in corporate America where I'm sick of the emphasis on group work and constant collaboration, where I see introverts routinely passed over (or let go) because they "don't fit" the leadership style (think extrovert) the company seeks, and where I frequently lie on the personality tests the company sends out for fear they wouldn't want to keep me if they knew how truly introverted I was.

Susan Cain makes the case that introverts get far less credit than they deserve, and it's not just her opinion. Au contraire. For the entire book is filled to the brim with study after study, example after example, of how the premium society places on being an uber-social go-getter (and the pressure introverts feel to fake it in order to make it) is ridiculously unwarranted. It's an opinion I've had for quite some time, as personally I've always found that my strengths as an introvert have lent themselves well to my line of work. I am, after all, in the business of building relationships. And aren't we all?

Rarely do I read a book that makes me gush, and I'll stop before I get carried away, but as far as I'm concerned, this is a must read. My only frustration is that in order for things to change in the corporate world, every CEO, hiring manager, team leader, and business school director would have to read this book. It seems an uphill battle, but this book is an excellent step in the right direction.

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