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For the first 100 pages, I was imagining I was Christian Grey.  I immediately changed my mind after that and starting from around page 300, I found myself losing patience and skimming toward the end.  If not without a few daily interruptions in the past week,  I would have finished this worldwide bestseller in less than 3 days.  And no, even though I already have them on my iPad, I don’t think I’m going to continue to parts 2 and 3.

Yes, I’m talking about the renowned Fifty Shades Trilogy that has recently taken the world by storm.  The first part is Fifty Shades of Grey, followed by Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed as the grand finale.  I first heard about it from the Today Show one morning, and recently encouraged by a friend to give it a go.  I was eager to join the 40 million (and fastly growing) readers in finding out what the fuss is all about with this literary sensation that has swept past the Harry Porter series in terms of sales and popularity.

I’m positive that the essence of erotica lies in the imagination.  Everyone got something different out of fictional characters, and there simply isn’t an absolute right or wrong of whether the novel works or not.  At least, it saves you from a world of stress and headaches and transports you into a heaven of fantasies, 500 pages or so.  With that, there is only one single story line which even an 8-year old would follow.  Although this is not exactly the kind of reading material you would share with an 8-year old.

There was some suspense when the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) was out, and believe me I will never look at the NDA in the same way, at work, from now on. (Oh and don’t forget my “soft and hard limits”.  I will surely use them in my next negotiation at work.)  What is this dreamy, rich, handsome, charismatic, tasteful, young, hunky, “cocky”, self-made CEO with a heart to save the world from hunger is hiding from Anastasia?  Well once you find out Fifty Shades of Grey is actually 50 Ways to Play, the hype is quickly over.

I believe the fascination lies on the unthinkable, or a side which not many of us have crossed.  Like what some have mentioned, little did I know that I have been living such a vanilla life.  I seriously think sales at hardware stores around town would surge, and I can certainly see product placements appearing in the rumored movie version of the trilogy.  Yet that hype (and high) passes quickly as you read on, and soon you will be faced with 300 more pages of a highly repetitious story line of “should I?” and “should I not?” revelations.

Indeed.  The book has 79 “Oh My…!”, 82 “Jeez…” and 101 “Crap!”.  I thought Ana could only bite her lip and Christian cocks his head from side to side at all times.  Because the attraction is almost purely sexual in nature, there isn’t any emotional element to draw me to the end, undisturbed.  Yes I know you wouldn’t expect a literary masterpiece from erotica, but it certainly can be more varied and sophisticated in terms of the writing.  I know the following 2 parts will continue to unveil the 50 shades of Mr. Grey in probably a psychological manner, sadly I don’t care anymore as the main characters look a bit silly and stupid to me.

If you ask me the writing has pretty much taken away the excitement, or kinkiness, away from the book.  Nevertheless, the fact that the trilogy has captivated so many women around the world proves that there are so many of us who are dissatisfied with our sex lives, or to put it a bit mildly, way too vanilla.  It certainly is a topic worth studying.  I recently have the same sentiment when I witness the thousands of ecstatic women and men screaming at the 60 hunky, chiseled, 6-packed, jaw-dropping handsome, 6-feet-2 shirtless models staging outside the new Abercrombie & Fitch store in Central.  Yes, we all need a piece of fantasy every now and then.  And yes, sex always sells.

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I was captivated by the title of this book by Anita Bruzzese a few years ago.  I think it was my wicked sense of humor to attempt to do some of these 45 things to get even with my boss at the time.  Yes I said it was wicked, and I plead myself guilty.  However, at the end of the day, I did nothing of the sort since I cared so much more about my own professional reputation rather than some silly grudges over the most childish cases of office politics.

Are you curious about what these 45 things are?  Well, they are not as obnoxious as you think.  Or are they?

  1. Treating the office like it’s your love shack
  2. Punching the soda machine when you’re stressed out and ticked off
  3. Goofing off on a business trip
  4. Earning a reputation as a whiner, drama queen or general pain in the neck
  5. Discussing your personal beliefs at work
  6. Telling dirty jokes and cussing on the job
  7. Having questionable personal integrity
  8. Blogging about your job (Oh no….)
  9. Having poor writing and spelling skills
  10. Failing to write thank-you notes
  11. Committing e-mail blunders
  12. Failing to speak intelligently
  13. Wearing the wrong thing to work
  14. Behaving immaturely at company parties
  15. Being disorganized
  16. Being a poor listener
  17. Losing sleep
  18. Using your personal cell phone too much
  19. Acting like a boot at business meals
  20. Not appreciating coworkers
  21. Failing to delegate
  22. Being intolerant
  23. Disrespecting a mentor
  24. Not getting to know others in the company
  25. Giving feedback that is deliberately hurtful
  26. Fostering an offensive workplace
  27. Gossiping
  28. Not giving or accepting an apology
  29. Crying at work
  30. Caving in to a bully
  31. Failing to learn from mistakes
  32. Being unable to overcome obstacles
  33. Having too much – or too little – confidence
  34. Neglecting to write things down
  35. Asking for a raise you don’t deserve
  36. Lacking knowledge of current events
  37. Holding grudges (bingo…)
  38. Giving lackluster speeches or presentations
  39. Squandering time at seminars
  40. Skipping company-sponsored events
  41. Ignoring the company’s goals
  42. Dodging meetings
  43. Not going beyond your job description
  44. Neglecting new coworkers
  45. Fighting change

I recommend this book if you are eager to find out how you can avoid the mistakes and mend things with your boss, or, if you have the same devious reason as I did.

Well, of course I’m kidding.

 

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I couldn’t put the book down and finished reading it within a day.  It’s the New York Times bestseller Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong, by Martin Lindstrom.   Lindstrom is one of the world’s most respected marketing gurus, and he has been traveling around the world advising the biggest Fortune 500 companies, at least 300 days of a year.  Most of us believe that we are smart shoppers, and that we are careful with how we make our buying choices through conscious thinking.  In fact, we are far from there.  And as Lindstrom points out, we are actually getting worse and worse.

The better we think we are, the more we let our guards down, and the more vulnerable we are for everything happening around us.  One example, a supermarket with a whole stack of canned soups priced at $1.95 receives no customers.  The next day, the store puts up a giant sign saying “Maximum 6 cans per customer”, and the soups are flying off the shelf at the same $1.95 price tag.  Mind games working, huh?

On the book’s back cover, Lindstrom lists out a few intriguing questions:

  • Why did so many people who took the “Pepsi challenge” say they preferred Pepsi, only to carry on buying Coca-Cola?
  • Why do the majority of anti-smoking campaigns inadvertently encourage people to smoke?
  • Why does the scent of melons help sell electronic products?

Lindstrom addresses all these questions with his main theme of neuromarketing.  We used to rely on old school questionnaires and focus groups to study what customers want.  The fact that more and more of these traditional studies failed miserably has led to the widespread effectiveness and popularity of neuromarketing.  It is very well a science for subjects’ brains to be scanned when shown various advertisements and marketing programs.  The results are startling, and in many cases, contradicts completely with what we would admit, on paper.

I find the topic of product placement and the American Idol example fascinating.  With Idol’s 3 main sponsors, Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ford, who do you think gets the most of their advertising money’s worth?  Who fails miserably?  Why do some product placements fail?  Do you remember Elliott places pieces of Reese’ Pieces candy to lure E.T. out of his hiding 19 years ago?  Tom Cruise with his Ray-Ban sunglasses in 1983’s Risky Business, Top Gun and the later Will Smith in Men in Black II?

In the next chapter, Lindstrom describes how mirror neurons are responsible for why we often unwittingly imitate other people’s behavior.  Apple and its iPod sensation.  Abercrombie & Fitch with their all gorgeous American popular teens image that is ever so irresistible for 14 year-olds.

Do subliminal messages exist?  Yes, but its power has little to do with the product itself.  Instead, it lies in our own brains.  Tobacco companies spend huge percentage of their marketing budget into subliminal brand exposure.  “…Philip Morris, for example, offers bar owners financial incentives to fill their venues with color schemes, specifically designed furniture, ashtrays, suggestive tiles designed in captivating shapes similar to parts of the Marlboro logo, and other subtle symbols that, when combined, convey the very essence of Marlboro – without even the mention of the brand name or the sight of an actual logo.”  It’s an irony that because of government bans, tobacco companies have been forced to develop a whole new set of marketing skills, a set that is now vastly copied by many other industries.  Don’t let yourself fall prey to them.

Other topics of ritual, superstition, faith, religion, our somatic markers, senses, and sex are expressly covered.  Does sex really sell, or are consumers too distracted from the steamy images that they have forgotten entirely about the product?  Is it the sex that is selling or is it the controversy?  Well the latter is actually the more potent factor, though mirror neurons explain why sex and beauty continues to be popular in advertising everywhere around the world.

I highly recommend Lindstrom’s book and it’s one of the best investments I had made, considering the subliminal messages I was put through from his various appearances on CNBC prior to my purchase.   We will continue to shop for sure, but if we can all at least remember bits and pieces of this mind-provoking book and pause for a while before we take out our credit cards, we can at least delay the unavoidably path of becoming worse and worse shoppers, as Lindstrom predicted.

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In Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There“, the renowned executive coach writes about how the very characteristic that you believe got you where you are, may exactly be the one that is holding you back.

On the back cover of the book, it writes: “Your hard work is paying off.  You are doing well in your field.  But there is something standing between you and the next level of achievement.  That something may just be one of your own annoying habits.  Perhaps one small flaw – a behavior you barely even recognize – is the only thing that’s keeping you from where you want to be. “

“The Harvard Business Review asked Goldsmith, “What is the most common problem faced by the executives that you coach?”…he answers this question by discussing not only the key beliefs of successful leaders, but also the behaviors that hold them back…. Say, for example, you have an extremely loyal and talented staff.  You are known for spotting and nurturing talent.  Your inner circle of employees regularly gets assigned the plum projects.  You may think you are building a solid team, but from the outside looking in, you are encouraging sucking up.  You are guilty of Habit # 14: Playing favorites.  Goldsmith outlines twenty such habits commonly found in the corporate environment and provides a systematic approach to helping you achieve a positive change in behavior.”

The so-called 20 habits are the most common flaws, but they are not flaws of skills, intelligence or personality.  They are challenges of interpersonal behavior, often leadership behavior.

  1. Winning too much:  The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
  2. Adding too much value:  The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgement:  The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments:  The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”:  The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right.  You’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the world how smart we are:  The need to show people we’re smarter than we think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry:  Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why they won’t work”:  The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information:  The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failure to give proper recognition:  The inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve:  The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses:  The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past:  The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favorites:  Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret:  The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening:  The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude:  The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger:  The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck:  The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”:  Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

If any of the above sends a chill up your spine when you read it, good.  It’s better realizing it than never.  If you are doubting Mr. Goldsmith’s observations, you may want to know he has been the personal coach of corporate CEOs including American Express, Boeing, GlaxoSmithKline, U.S. Army, Sun Microsystems, GE, Goldman Sachs, etc..  His credibility is second to none.

I seriously recommend this book to everyone who want to be more successful from where they already are.  Learn from Marshall Goldsmith, and learn from the corporate world’s biggest CEOs.

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The Joy of Laziness

Turns out I don’t need this book to know how to slow down and live longer.  When I buy books I usually keep the cashier’s receipt out of habit.  Tonight when I picked out this unread book from my bookshelf, I shockingly discovered that I bought it in March 2005 – almost 6 years ago!  I am too lazy to read a book I purchased that talks about the joy and benefits of laziness!

The book is an easy read.  The authors Dr. Peter Axt and Dr. Michaela Axt-Gadermann finds a solution to combat our daily demands on our energy, which is hurry, frustration, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, work stress etc..  To feel good we engage in intensive fitness regimes, competitive sports, and radical diets.  These activities actually take a toll on our health, accelerating the ageing process, making us more susceptible to illness, and shortening our lives.   What’s the solution? Laziness.

According to scientific research, the authors list out actions that have a positive effect on our health indicators.  Namely:

  • Moderation in eating (weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, uric acid)
  • Relaxation and calmness (blood pressure, blood sugar, antibodies, stress-hormone levels)
  • Moderate exercise (weight, stress-hormone levels, blood pressure, antibodies)
  • Warmth and sunlight (blood sugar level, blood pressure, weight)
  • Sufficient sleep (cortisol level, antibodies, blood sugar level)

The authors talk about conserving energy by doing nothing.  Eating less will make us live longer because food costs us energy.  In fact, fasting delays the ageing process and lengthens life.  Relaxing makes us more intelligent.  Laughter is the number one stress fighter.   And we all know that lack of sleep makes us old, stupid, cranky, ill, and fat, so the authors believe that we can all become younger in our sleep, since it affects body temperature, stress level, and metabolism.

It surely doesn’t sound like anything you haven’t heard of before, but think about it, if we can all learn how to manage our stress level  by being more relaxed and composed, that is already a big step towards a younger looking and longer life!

I recommend this book to my ex-colleagues and bosses, for reasons known only to themselves.

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