David McCullough tells the best stories about American history through the lens of leadership. Last year, he shared his encouraging, grounded perspective with Scott Berinato in this interview for HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. Here are my favorite observations.
When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The love of learning. The pursuit of improvement and excellence.
Are we in a special or particularly fraught moment in our history? A turning point?
I’m very annoyed when I hear people who ought to know better flannelling away about how it was a simpler time “back then.” There was no simpler time. Never, ever. Imagine being in our country in 1918, and 500,000 people have died of a disease. No one knows where it came from or how long it’s going to stay or how to get rid of it. Would that be called a simpler time? Would the Civil War, or the Great Depression?
What makes a president a great leader?
The capacity to lift our sights a little higher. Someone who can call on us to make sacrifices, not promise to give us more. One who can say I’m not going to make it easier for us. I’m going to make it harder, because we have hard things to do. And let’s be grown up about this.
At the end of John Adams’s life, Ralph Waldo Emerson went to talk with the old president. Adams said to him, “I would to God there were more ambition in the country.” And then he paused and said, “by that I mean ambition of the laudable kind, ambition to excel.” Not ambition to get rich or famous or powerful but to excel. That’s when human beings are at their best. I like people who work hard; the people who are best at what they do almost without exception are also the hardest workers.
One of the best aspects of living life digitally is being able to share what I read in a millisecond. I remember copying, faxing and mailing articles to clients. Then I remember emailing them. The tools we have now are an article clipper's dream.
Today, I use StumbleUpon and Google Reader both to catalog my favorites and to share them with followers on those sites. I'm starting to do more on Facebook and LinkedIn as well, mainly through a standing link from my Twitter feed to those networks. My goal is to wean myself off saving things to my computer.
As part of this process, I'm attempting to share five articles, saved and shared to my various networks, here on the blog every week, too. So here they are.
- The obituary of Edward Stobart in The Economist.
- How to hold attention, by the brilliant John Hagel, with John Seely Brown, on Harvard Business Review.
- Figuring out where your buyers are, from the blog by Content Marketing Institute.
- The backlash against the academic Mafia [my phrase!], in The Atlantic.
- Mitch Wagner's take on Don Tapscott's view of capitalism, on The CMO Site.
These five articles reach beyond short-term business trends to point us in a new direction — one that takes leaders to game-changing practices for managing growth, culture and image.
Sharing value: how to reinvent capitalism, co-authored by the great Michael Porter; HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Worthless Wall Street: by John Cassidy, this is the best explanation yet of Wall Street's culture — read it to avoid the traps; THE NEW YORKER
Personalizing social media: you can influence what is said about you simply by using networks; HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Understanding brand and marketing now: learn how to deploy the benefits of new tools in the context of tried-and-true marketing; BRANDING STRATEGY INSIDER
Communicating about performance in real time: it's now possible to do away with the annual performance review and improve employee relations; MASHABLE [disclaimer: Rypple is a client]
Lots of folks weighed in today on the subject of how Twitter can be profitable and how to assess its progress. Here are three of them.