Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 31, 2014: 8 Books

 I read a shitload of books today and really don't feel like writing long reviews of any of them, especially since I am writing and posting the first 6 days of my challenge all at once, on the 7th day. Please forgive me for the cursory nature of the following 8 reviews, which will hopefully cover each book adequately without coming off as flippant or dismissive. Thanks in advance for bearing with my brevity...

10. Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple by Dan Clements and Tara Gignac

This is the first of 3 books on taking personal enrichment sabbaticals that I reread today. Actually, after my 2013 one-month long language immersion trip to Hong Kong (with the purpose of practicing my conversational Cantonese and learning more about Chinese culture in person as opposed to from books and from friends in New York's Chinatown), I became very interested in the idea of taking at least 1 month every year to travel and experience language and culture immersions in the various foreign languages that I am currently studying. That is a whole other topic, but for those of you interested in reading about some of my recent language pursuits, please check out or for other blogs I have written about my experiences.

Anywho, Escape 101 is a very helpful, very short (163 page) book. Highlights for me were sections on financing time off via freelancing services; the very important stage in the planning process of being VERY clear about that you want to accomplish during your time off and then talking about your intentions with everyone possible to create an accountability trail of sorts (something which, unrelated to this book, I will be collaborating on with my friend Asim (previously mentioned in this blog), as he and I are currently helping each other become clearer in our respective life and career visions as de facto life coaches of sorts); and recommended reading, which led me to some of the other books I have read (and now reread) on the topic of personal sabbaticals.

11. Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break by Allen, Bearg, Foley and Smith

Out of  the 3 books I read today on taking a sabbatical, this was hands down the very best. If I were to recommend only one book to any of my readers who might be interested in taking anywhere from 1 to 6 months off your current job or lifestyle to travel and experience something different in another place in order to take a break from your current life and create space for yourself to reevaluate your goals and direction, THIS would be THE book.

That's pretty much what I want to say about this title. Even though this review is shorter than the previous one, THIS is the book to get if you are interested in exploring this possibility for yourself. To quote the great Stan Lee, one of my comic book writer heroes, "'Nuff said."

12. Six Months Off: How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break You Need Without Burning Bridges or Going Broke by Dlugozima, Scott, and Sharp

This is an older book from the 90s, published before the internet made most of the steps and suggestions contained in this volume second nature.  Still, there are some very good points in this book which are worth mentioning:
  • Suggestions for funding a sabbatical, including grants, scholarships and fellowships -- something that greatly interests me for the future. My last "almost girlfriend" was a Fullbright Scholar from Chile, who had used her grant money to come to the US and pursue a masters at NYU in social media as it pertains to international government. Pretty smart stuff.
  • Strategies for really thinking through and planning a sabbatical in advance, so that you will be very clear about what you want to accomplish and what you DON'T want to accomplish or have to deal with during your time off. 
  • Sample US and foreign sabbatical possibilities to whet the reader's appetite for adventure.

13. Your Idea, Inc.: 12 Steps to Building a Million-Dollar Business Starting Today by Sandy Abrams

Another re-read of a book that I purchased from the Strand either at the end of last year or the beginning of this year.  Solid book for inventors about taking an invention from IDEA stage to FINAL PRODUCT stage, with many examples from recent companies and products, including the author's own moisturizing hand gloves, which made her a multimillionaire in a matter of years. If you are interested in patenting a creative idea and then following it through from design stage to product available in a store for sale stage, this would be a good book to begin that journey. Because I have many product ideas in my various NYC journals that I have kept over the past 16 years, this is definitely something that I am interested in exploring at some point...


14. Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner

Though written for musicians as a manual to get over practice hang-ups and to cut through creative and personal / emotional blocks in order to maximize talent and artistic potential, this book might actually have a much wider audience among creative types from all artistic areas, assuming those artists might be able to extrapolate certain universal truths about the creative process and what creative people do on a regular basis to second-guess and sabotage their own processes, however those processes might manifest.

Because I am the king of self-sabotage when it comes to my own music and singing (the very reason I moved to NYC in 1998), this book resonates deeply every time that I reread it. I will continue to reread it until I actually "get" it and begin to make the same positive changes in my life that Kenny Werner experienced in his own jazz piano journey. I recommend this book if you are a blocked musician, or if you feel that your practice routine doesn't function the way it should, at a very basic level, in order for you to maximize your artistry.

15: Music Business 101 For Aspiring Producers, Writers, Musicians, Singers, and Future Record Moguls by Brian Wesley Peters

If there were one book AND ONLY ONE BOOK that aspiring musicians and music business folks should read about the music business as of 2005 (so, pretty much the state of the biz today with some exceptions), THIS would be that book. I read this book 7 and a half years ago when I first started working for Roberta Flack as a member of her management team, a job I held until this past March, and I recently repurchased this title with the intention of reviewing all of the basic vocabulary and concepts that I will need on the tip of my tongue for the launch of my own music and entertainment business consulting company (which Facebook friends will remember that I set up during the months of July and August, 2014).

Written as an illustrated dictionary or encyclopedia of sorts, though organized according to concepts and the actual functioning of the music business in the real world, as opposed to in alphabetical order as you might expect in a summary volume such as this, Mr. Peters has accomplished something truly remarkable in just 181 pages: he has actually described the detailed functioning of every major and minor aspect of the American music business in a format that will cover most, if not all, bases for both novices to the industry as well as seasoned professionals (or at least ones with 7 years of management team knowledge and an additional 10+ years of performance, engineering, and production experience -- in other words, moi).

16. Managing Artists in Pop Music: What Every Artist and Manager Must Know to Succeed by Mitch Weiss and Perri Gaffney
This is a weird book, given to me by my dear and super duper talented singer songwriter friend Cassandra Kubinsky, very active on the NYC scene and a must-see for anyone out there who doesn't already know who she is. How many indie singer songwriters can say that Billy Joel found her online, sought her out, asked her to hang out to discuss her career, and then offered his advice and possible collaboration? Pretty amazing friend, Cassie K.

This book, though...Its only real redeeming features are the actual contracts and music business documents interspersed throughout the otherwise turgid fictionalized storyline about an personal manager in the music business and his client list -- none of whom appears to be particularly engaging,  talented, interesting, or even attractive in the sample photos provided throughout the book.

I am most definitely jaded, having worked up close on a daily basis M-F for 7 years with an R&B soul legend. I spent a lot of time at her NYC home as well as backstage and on the road with her and her band. I am certain that if I read this book not knowing what I know of my former employer, its storyline would have seemed very dynamic and exciting. Having lived this stuff and much, much more for 7 years, though, I found this book to be much tamer and limper than the way the music business and artist management really works -- at least on a world-class level, which I was SO lucky and blessed to have been a part of at that level for so long.

17. First Things First by Stephen R. Covey with Merrill and Merrill

A follow-up to the outrageously popular business self-help / time management book, The Seven Habits of Highly Affected People -- uh, I mean Effective People -- this is actually a great book on time management, if planner-driven written schedule-driven time management is your bag. Definitely worthwhile is the early-on distinction between the 4 quadrants of time management -- urgent and important; not urgent but important; urgent but not important; and not urgent and not important.

After an exploration of what these 4 categories mean and how they manifest themselves in the real world of business, Covey and fellow authors spend the rest of the book first clarifying and strategizing quadrant 2 (not urgent but important) as the most important category of time management for the productive worker (and person in general). Following this, they compare the various time management strategies published since the 50s or so, showing why quadrant 2 time management is, of course, the key to creating the most productive existence possible in the world today.

I love the idea of what this book puts out there. However, there are many cultures -- even "Western" (Central and South American and other) countries -- which carry a completely different concept / understanding of time, and in particular of "business scheduling." Still, this is definitely something to strive for -- the concept of prioritizing on a daily basis those tasks and involvements which are not urgent (in other words not sudden emergencies, but rather ones that were known in advance, and so come with less stress and less anxiety), and yet still most important.

I tend to shy away from any book written for mainstream "suit and tie business world America," but I have to say that this is really a good book, regardless of whether you are a one-dimensional stockbroker or a multi-interest creative person like me who is still figuring out his life direction at age 41.

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