Friday, May 29, 2009

Personal Branding Interview

Personal branding, in a way, is a notion that Fast Company helped launch with Tom Peters' legendary essay, "The Brand Called You." Now the game has come full circle: I get my personal brand explored in the context of Rules of Thumb by the champion of personal branding, Dan Schawbel.

Here is a short excerpt from the interview. (You can read the full interview here)

In a time of economic struggle, how can people thrive and survive, without losing everything they’ve already worked hard for?

Well, I don’t think anyone can guarantee that any of us won’t lose what we worked hard to create or earn; those kinds of guarantees never existed and don’t exist now. I think the best way for all of us to deal with this period of great uncertainty is to focus on what really matters. Several of my Rules of Thumb are designed to help people do that.

Rule #23: Keep two lists. What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night? In other words, pay attention to what excites you the most about your work and life, and pay equal attention to what you feel passionate about changing in the world around you.

Rule #3: Ask the last question first. The last question is, what’s the point of the exercise? Why do you do what you do? What’s your definition of victory?

Rule #4: Don’t implement solutions. Prevent problems. The point here is, the least expensive, most effective way to get results is to prevent a problem from happening, rather than waiting and then having to clean it up. In some way, this current economic mess is an invitation for all of us to think freshly about how we want to work and live, how we want to do business and pursue our own path.

Rules of Thumb is a reminder, in some cases, of things we all know but may have forgotten. It’s a set of core principles that can guide leaders, entrepreneurs, kids just starting in business, or old-timers trying to make sense out of so much change.

(You can read the full interview here)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The New York Times on ROT

The New York Times is still, for most people, the newspaper of record. It not only prints all the news that's fit to print, it casts its discerning journalistic eye on all the books that are fit to read. Which makes it very gratifying, indeed, that today's NYT saw fit to say nice things about Rules of Thumb, a business book for small business people, entrepreneurs, and others too numerous to name! You can read what Paul Brown had to say right (here)

Huffington Post Contribution

It's hard to think of a site that gets more passionate and interested (and interesting) readers than the HuffPo, which is why I'm delighted to get my thoughts added to the roll call there. Here's my most recent contribution:

The Real Stress Test: What Does Leadership Look Like?
The eyes of the punditocracy are fixed on the banks and their performance under the Obama administration's stress tests -- and whether the tests to determine the banks' financial stability were tough enough. Meanwhile, the real story is, as usual, hiding in plain sight. We're watching America learn a new definition of leadership, one that, interestingly, finally gets us past the test of toughness.

For as long as I can remember, Americans have adopted a one-size fits all definition of leadership. Whether in politics or business, we wanted leaders who were tough enough to make the hard decisions. Sure, as vice president, Dick Cheney was a glowering, mean SOB -- but he was our glowering, mean SOB! His scowl was enough to keep the terrorists at bay. On Wall Street, Jimmy Cayne, Bear Stearns ex-CEO, and his ilk were famous -- or notorious -- for lacking any visible sign of weakness... or humanity. Leaders, real leaders, we thought, not only never let the other side see them sweat; they never admit a mistake, never acknowledge any doubt, and never, never apologize. Because, as George W. Bush famously demonstrated when asked the question during one of the presidential debates, real leaders never make a mistake.

(Click Here) for the rest of the article.

Terri Lonier Review of Rules

Terri Lonier was one of the early adopters of Fast Company. When the magazine first came out, she got it--she knew it would help people who were "soloists"--people working as entrepreneurs, as "free agents", as independent contractors in the world of work, which was changing to rely more and more on people who wanted to be able to call their own shots and define their own career path. Terri became their advocate and guide, a trusted source of ideas and practical tips on how to navigate in the rapidly evolving world of soloists. Well, it's been a few years (ok, more than a few) and the good news is, she's stuck with it, held true to her own star, and is still the trusted source of information for millions of free agents. Now she's turned her discerning eye to Rules of Thumb; you can read her review by Clicking Here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Great Book Review

Steve Roesler has a blog that focuses on "all things workplace." His most recent post is a rave review of Rules of Thumb--a very generous, genuine, and thoughtful take that you can read by clicking (here).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rules of Google!

A few weeks ago I was invited to come to the Google-plex and give a talk as part of Google's program to bring authors on to the campus. The hardest part was actually finding the right building: I googled the address, but got bad results. Go figure. But once I was there, the Google folks couldn't have been nicer, more welcoming, more friendly, or more interesting. Brian Rose, who helped organize the visit, just sent me the link to the talk, which is now posted, and also paid me a generous compliment: He said he'd just finished reading Rules and it was "like finding a mentor-in-a-box." So now I can claim as an endorsement: "Like a mentor-in-a-box"! Google says!
How's that for marketing by extrapolation! Hope you enjoy the video!
(Click here to watch the video)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Kind of Review Every Writer Wants!

Ross Hollman remembers the first issue of Fast Company--which makes him a stark raving fan, in the words of Tom Peters. But more than that he's a careful and discerning reader of business journalism and business books, the kind of reader who's always on the look out for the good, new stuff and looking to avoid the same old predictable stuff. I won't tell you exactly what he wrote about RULES, except to say, it's the kind of comments any author hopes to read about their book! So here's a big thank you to Ross--and a link to his review.

(Click here for Ross' review)

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Column today in the Harvard Business Review

Three Rules for These Times
Most economists agree that the worst of this financial meltdown is now behind us. Unemployment is at a 25-year high, it's true, but at least the pace of lay-offs has slowed. If there was a doubt before, it seems safe to conclude that we're going to make it through this mess. There will be enormous social costs. People have lost their livelihoods and their life savings. Seniors have seen their retirement nest eggs disappear; young people have seen their employment hopes vanish. But we're going to make it.

The question is, what, if anything will we learn from this disaster? Already economists are subjecting their field to a long overdo critical review. In their thoughtful book, "Animal Spirits," George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, suggest that economics has left out the human factor--the emotional components that drive economic behavior. Alan Greenspan has publicly acknowledged that his mental model of the economy clearly did not match reality. It seems clear that we'll soon see new regulations put in place, new oversight and legislation designed to change the way the public sector referees the behavior of the private sector in economic matters.

(Click here for the rest of the column)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Video Book Review by Chris Brogan

Here's a great review by Chris,

"Rarely do I get so into a book that I have to write all over it. Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber is one of those books. I started it on the plane, and ended up getting it consumed in only a few hours. I read it again taking feverish notes (you’ll see some in the video). It’s not that the book is utterly brilliant, but rather that it makes you think about how you’re doing business. I challenge you to read Rules of Thumb without finding yourself taking notes and thinking about things."

(Click here for Chris's video review)

A Rule Of Thumb with a German Ring

While in Europe someone said to me, "The old boss has to go," it says in German. What I was trying to say was, it's awfully hard for the old boss, who created the organization and built the team, to have the courage and vision to take it apart and transform it. This much is clear: there is an international appetite for a serious discussion of how we got into this mess, what it's going to take to get out of it and, what, if anything, we're going to learn from the experience. I keep repeating Rule #5: change is a math formula. Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Great Review in The Washington Times

BOOK REVIEW: 'Learn to take No as a question'
(Click Here for the article in The Washington Times)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A ride with Tim Ferriss author of The Four Hour Work Week

(The following is from Tim's Blog: Click Here) Tim writes...

Several weeks ago, I found myself in the passenger seat of a car going nowhere fast.

My friend, Peter Sims, who had earlier introduced me to the Stanford D.School, was leading the charge into the unknown, hurtling us (hopefully) towards dinner in exotic Burlingame, where people from SF and Palo Alto compromise to break bread.

The “us” included Alan M. Webber, whom I’d never met. He sat behind me, and — as getting lost tends to promote — we ended up talking about nothing in particular and everything in general: publishing, the game of business, Mr. T, you name it. I didn’t know Alan, but it soon became clear that I should listen as much as possible.

(Click Here for the rest of Tim's blog post)
Tim has a great community conversation going on over at his blog.

Rules of Thumb Visits Big Think. That said, the more I think about Rules of Thumb, the more I think the ideas in it aren't so much big as useful, insightful, and derived from real experience. Not sure if that qualifies as "big"--in fact, I'm not sure I trust "big ideas" these days, if "big" means "one size fits all," or "silver bullet," or "this is the next big thing." Maybe one of the lessons of the Big Meltdown is that we need a series of smaller ideas that have been road-tested and reality-driven before we apply them to work, finance, and personal affairs. Any way, it's another way to think about thinking big versus thinking real.

How can we conceive of alternatives to work?

When will we have web 3.0?

How can Americans be more globally minded?

What do we need to be talking about as people?

(Click here for more videos at the

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rick Levinson Interview @Bloomberg News

May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and author of “Rules of Thumb, 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self”, says a lifetime of meeting and listening to people helped him become a successful innovator and leader.

To make sure you remember what folks tell you, in his book he suggests carrying a stack of 3x5 cards so you can write it all down and create your own 52 rules for succeeding in business and, Webber says, life.
(Click here for the rest of the interview)

800-CEO-READ Interview

Todd Sattersten talks with author Alan Webber about what it takes to figure out the new rules of business. In his book Rules of Thumb, Webber talks about how quickly things are changing and how to look at these changes as opportunities.
(Click here to listen to the interview)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Column in The Huffington Post

Why 2009 College Graduates Will Win Big
On campuses all across America you can practically feel the fear. But despite schools closing with sick students, kids and parents aren't afraid of the swine flu. In the wake of the economic crash, they're afraid that the jobs flew.
If you scratch below the surface of this recession-triggered fear, you quickly discover two key realities. First, what really has graduates most disturbed is not the scarcity of jobs--it's the disappearance of business-as-usual jobs. Gone are the big-ticket positions on Wall Street; the blue-chip jobs at management consulting firms have dried up; the high-end jobs at old and storied companies and sexy technology startups aren't there for the picking. In other words, the cool jobs that top students effortlessly slid into in the past, complete with signing bonuses and ego strokes, aren't in the cards for the Great Class of 2009.
The second reality is that the Great Class of 2009 is better off because those jobs aren't waiting for them. This year's graduates dodged a bullet. It's the bullet that nailed the CEOs of America's car companies when they mindlessly flew to Washington, D.C. in their private jets to ask Congress for a bailout. It's the bullet that hit the Wall Street bankers who mindlessly handed out bonuses to their bailed-out executives using money from the public treasury.
(Click Here) For the rest of the Column

Andy Nulman's Book Review

Below is a link to Andy Nulman's very nice blog review of Rules Of Thumb. Thanks Andy.

World-Wide Webber
Have to say that I’ve been enjoying the romp through Alan Webber’s book “Rules of Thumb.” Ostensibly, the co-founder of Fast Company sliced up his reams of real-life wisdom (or “Truths,” as he calls ‘em) into 52 segments so that they can be digested one-per-week for a year, but paraphrasing that classic Lay’s Potato Chips challenge, betcha can’t read just one. I defy you to put the book down without plowing through six or seven of said “Truths” at one sitting.
(Click Here for the rest of Andy's review)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Column in USAToday, today

Hey, grads, it's time to write new rules.
If you listen to conventional wisdom, it's a tough time to be graduating from college or getting your MBA: Unemployment is at a 25-year high and, according to experts, employers expect to hire 22% fewer graduates this year than last year.

Now that commencement season is upon us, I've been thinking about what I'd say to this group that's coming of age at a time of national questioning. I've drafted this all-purpose address as my answer to that challenge.

If you know a graduate, forward this on to him or her. If you're the one getting the diploma, carry it with you and read it at your ceremony instead of listening to that boring speaker who's still talking on stage:
(click here for the rest of the Column)

Video interview with JaffeJuice

Here is a funny interview with Jaffe. (Click Here)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Radio Chat with Jim Blasingame on Rules & Small Business

As part of my recent Radio Tour of America on behalf of Rules, I did a fun radio show with Jim Blasingame--not only a smart and experienced voice for small business but also a relative of former Cardinal Second Baseman Don Blasingame! How cool is that? Click to listen!

The 3 x 5 Card: The Next Big Thing

Last week I did a Conversation Starter for my old friends at the Harvard Business Review--looking to make a big claim for a small card: the 3 x 5 card--a trick that I learned when I ran HBR under the aegis of the brilliant Ted Levitt. To read what I had to say about Ted's big idea, and how it helped create Rules of Thumb, go here.

Polly and Alan Talk Rules of Thumb at Japan Society

Last week, former Fast Company super-star Polly LaBarre and I reunited for an evening on stage at the Japan Society of New York. A raucous crowd of more than 100 friends and colleagues gathered for give and take on Rules of Thumb! Check it out!

So, you ask, how do you know a Rule of Thumb when you hear one?

(Well, actually you didn't ask; actually I asked, but it's an interesting question, and I'm sure you meant to ask it.) The way I think about it, there are 5 criteria worth considering--at least as starting points:
1. A Rule of Thumb is succinct. It usually consists of a few well-chosen words that are absolutely spot on. Not long ago, I was talking with a friend about emotions and relationships. He said to me, "The opposite of love isn't hate. It's indifference." Bam! Short. Succinct. To the point. Spot on. The words were well-chosen and perfectly placed. It was as if he'd invented an insight or an aphorism on the spot.
2. A Rule of Thumb captures something you've been fumbling around in your own head trying to figure out. Someone can say something that is succinct and to the point, but if it isn't something that you've been working on yourself (even if you don't know you're working on it) it isn't going to connect with you. But if you've been thinking about work or entrepreneurship, family or career, and then someone unexpectedly nails your quest for insight with a simple observation, it's like taking a 2 x 4 on the forehead.
3. A Rule of Thumb opens up a new line of sight for you. I call the practice of capturing Rules "mental chiropracty." You know it when it happens because all of a sudden your brain snaps into alignment.
4. A Rule of Thumb helps you make sense. It puts words to a way of seeing or thinking. It opens your eyes to something that was right there in front of you, but you hadn't had the lenses to see it yet.
5. A Rule of Thumb gets you thinking. If it doesn't make you thirst for the next logical application of that kind of insight, then it's not really a rule; it's just a good line. But when you start to think about things with a fresh mind, and it applies to a number of areas that regularly come into your work or life, then you're putting a rule of thumb to very good use.
That's it for me, in a nutshell.
What would you add?

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb