The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
Bob Burg and John David Mann. Portfolio, $19.95 (144p) ISBN 9781591842002
This modern-day business parable, a quick read in the spirit of The Greatest Salesman in the World and The One Minute Manager, should do well with eager corporate-ladder climbers, who may at first be confused by its focus: on putting the other guy first—be it a colleague, competitor, customer, friend or family member. Told through the fictitious story of an ambitious young salesman named Joe, Burg and Mann communicate their points through the advice of an enigmatic (and highly likeable) mentor character known as Pindar. Rather than help Joe snag a fast sale, the consultant introduces him to series of “go-givers” who personify the “Five Laws of Stratospheric Success.” Over the course of five days, a restaurateur, a CEO, a financial advisor, a real-estate broker and the mysterious “Connector” teach Joe about the laws of value, compensation, influence, authenticity and receptivity—concepts that make more immediate sense in this fictional context than they would in a formal business book. Burg (Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts Into Sales) and Mann (You Call the Shots) write with a simple, informal style that offers a working-person’s interpretation of the old adage “give, and you shall receive.” (Jan.)
Archive for December, 2007
The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
It’s just a week before The Go-Giver officially launches, and the press-release promotion is flying thick and fast. Here is a very sweet podcast/interview with my coauthor Bob Burg, interviewed by Melody at talkshoe.com.
It’s a bit stiff and formal for the first ten minutes or so. Hang in there: as they go, the interviewer loosens up and gets personal, and Bob loosens up as well — and it starts to really hum! By the time Bob is talking about “Jimmy Gandhi” and Melody opens up about her fourteen-year-old son, the interview becomes very personal and quite sweet. Well worth the listen.
The first rule of writing is to use fewer words than you think you need to. I violate this rule every time I put my fingers on the keyboard.
(There’s always tomorrow.)
Last month, the day before Thanksgiving, I was pumping gas into my car, or trying to, anyway. After a few tries, the gizmo still wasn’t working. I was annoyed. I turned to step over the hose and head into the station to get an attendant.
Suddenly I heard an eerie sound: it sounded just like the thwack! of a baseball and bat making contact. But it was neither bat nor ball, it was the sound of a human head—mine—slamming into concrete. I’d tripped on the hose, and I was face-down in blood.
It’s so easy to forget, but this is exactly how life operates. One second you’re standing upright, absorbed in a petty annoyance, and a split second later you’re lying prone on concrete, bleeding profusely and marveling at how utterly and instantaneously your reality has changed.
People have asked me, “What lessons did you learn from having your head cracked open on a filling station pavement?” I ponder this.
Lesson #1: Concrete is hard. Also, be careful how you step over things. These are two parts of the same lesson, and it’s a good one.
Lesson #2: That stitching thing they do at hospitals, that’s amazing. I’d never been awake for stitches before. It makes me immensely grateful that we have doctors, antiseptics, and hospitals. (Of my six stitches, Ana successfully removed five, ten days later at home; the sixth was coy, and I eventually ended up having the local doc coax that one out.)
Lesson #3: Life is shockingly fragile. And, astonishingly resilient. I was flabbergasted to find myself so suddenly, unexpectedly and irrevocably at the center of an emergency room event. And equally flabbergasted, just hours later, at how little damage had occurred, and how quickly recovery came on the heels of trauma.
No concussion. No swelling. No pain medication at any point, not even a Tylenol, not then nor in the days that followed. (A horrific ugly yellow-purple shiner by day #4, but that soon vanished.) And now, three weeks later? You wouldn’t even know it had happened. The scar is half-hidden behind my left eyebrow. At the hospital that night, the triage nurse looked in my pupil with a flashlight and said, “Do you feel confused?” I replied, “No more than usual.” That’s still true.
How human beings are built to heal—it’s astonishing.
Then again, we have a friend who has a cousin, a fellow my own age, who fell the other day, slipped on the ice and went down on his head. Bat, baseball, trauma—and no recovery. Two days later, he was gone.
It is both terrifying and marvelous to contemplate how it is we actually live each day: suspended in thin air, without a net, between the two poles of frailty and resilience. We know frailty will ultimately win out and declare our mortality. So while we’re here, we throw ourselves into creating works, connections and footprints that will stay on past our departure, declaring our resilience.
[Update, 12-13: Terry Brock gave the book a wonderful review here on today’s video at his site, “Achieve Your Success.” Click on the video in the link; as it loads, you’ll find you can advance the player a bit if you want to fast-forward. (Or just take the four minutes and listen to what Terry has to say—it’s worth it.) He starts talking about The Go-Giver at about 4:05, and goes on for close to a minute. Very nice.]
Although it’s not officially released yet (and I don’t think Amazon will ship till December 27), Networking Times managed to get hold of enough inventory to send out a promotional emailing this past weekend, and they’ve got it listed in their holiday catalog—so if you want to give it this year as a holiday gift, looks like this may be a way to do that.
Earlier this year, I worked on a book proposal for Chris Warner, a world-famous mountaineer, and Don Schmincke, a scientist and corporate trainer. The book is about leadership lessons learned on the peaks of the world’s most dangerous mountains. And this is no armchair speculation: even as we put finishing touches on the proposal to show to publishers, Chris was leading an expedition along the insanely dangerous Pakistan-Afghanistan border and on to ascend K2, one of the world’s deadliest peaks.
On July 20, Chris and his team summited. It was the most successful climb in the history of the mountain, though not without tragedy: two died in the attempt. This Sunday at 2 p.m. EST, NBC will air a one-hour special on the expedition.
Chris is an amazing man—a savvy entrepreneur and terrific writer as well as world-class climber. Working with him was an honor and a thrill. If you can possibly get in front of a television this Sunday, watch the broadcast; it’ll be worth it.
For more info, visit Chris’s web site: www.SharedSummits.com.
P.S. The proposal cleared its summit, too, and the book is in process; I’ll post a note when it’s about to release.
Dec. 4: The Go-Giver is ranking at #26,547 on Amazon tonight. This is a pretty decent ranking for a normally selling book. But here’s the thing: the book hasn’t actually been released yet, and won’t be for another three weeks.
[12-8 – Update, four days later: I just checked again, and today it’s at #21,479. Other authors have warned us not to get too caught up in the business of monitoring Amazon ranking, like day traders obsessively fussing over their Wall Street tickertapes. Good advice. Still, for a book that hasn’t arrived yet, our title seems to be moving rather briskly!]
[12-9 – Update, yet another day later: It’s hard not to obsess: the ranking just hit #17,488. It keeps bobbing up and down, but the lower number (i.e., better ranking) keeps getting lower (i.e., better)!]
I’ve just spent a week, more or less, doing what is for me the hardest part of writing: starting.
I’m working on a new book for teens (will say more about what it is soon), and need to have it done in a few weeks. But that’s not the hard part. The hard part is figuring out what the book is. This is the cutting-down-the-trees part of the cabinet-making, the part in the very beginning, the part nobody ever sees. This is the part when there’s nothing to show for what you’ve been doing all day. You can easily spend the whole day sweating and laboring mightily, and end up feeling like you’ve wasted your day.
Once a project is in full swing, I might turn out one or two thousand words a day, or even more. At that point, the book sprouts like an adolescent hitting high-hormone growth spurt. At that point, the project makes a lot of noise.
Later, when the book is in completed first draft and it’s time to go through it, refining, rewriting, adjusting — that’s the easiest part. At that point, you’re dealing with a fully (or mostly) grown adult. It behaves itself. There’s plenty to show for each day’s effort, and it goes fast. I’ve gone through an entire book, doing full-on copy-edits and even major rewrites in a matter of days, dealing with tens of thousands of words per day.
But not now. At this messy stage, the project isn’t even really born yet. I can’t see it. I don’t know what it is. And so I spend the day groping, messing around with a few paragraphs of clumsy ideas, and they don’t look much different (certainly no better) at dinner than they did at breakfast.
Hours go by. I catch myself playing solitaire on my mobile phone. I’m doing email. Oops. Back to the book. I never realized ironing was this much fun. Back to the book. (“I’m hungry.” “Stop that. You just had lunch an hour ago.” “Buddaym huuunnnngreee…” “I said no.”) Back to the book.
You don’t have to be a writer to know what this is like. This is the hardest part of anything. It’s the invisible part, the part where there’s no glory, where you feel the most unsure — and it’s where the real work happens. This is the time of trusting yourself. For me, it’s where I have to trust that there is a book in there waiting to be found. That once its ideas have been excavated, I’m going to feel like I know what I’m doing, it’s going to get easier.
And it goes like this for days.
And then today, I find something. I’m doodling around, polishing an introduction that I wrote ages ago (and needs no polishing) and playing with a few other pieces of text that I might or might not use, and I realize I have just unearthed a few core ideas. I reword them, and now they seem like key principles . . . six of them. I write them down, rewrite them, sort them and shuffle. Something’s missing. Then, a seventh. Clunk.
It’s a magical moment, like a key fitting into a lock. All at once, I feel the thing turning and starting to creak open. Creeeeeak . . .
And I’m in.
Now I know what this book is about, and how it works, how its pieces fit together. All I have to do is write it. That looks like the hard part, where all the “work” happens, but it isn’t, not really. The hard part is behind me now: it was being willing to struggle with the unseen, to spend days working hard, only to end up at bedtime with no visible evidence that anything had happened, and still trust that something did.
“I write to find out what I think.” — Stephen King (from the Afterword to The Colorado Kid)