Spreadsheets….

“This confirmed my long held suspicion that many people use spreadsheets as an alternative to thinking.”
 
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Rees’s Reads #1 – Setting The Table by Danny Meyer

Setting The Table – The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

This book should be compulsory reading for everyone who works in any business that serves customers face to face. I believe it is essential for any dentist looking to differentiate themselves – especially from corporate practices.

Danny Meyer is a restauranteur. The CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group this books describes how his passion for food and service led to his founding, over a 21 year period, five “white-table” restaurants, an urban barbecue joint, a feel-good jazz club, a neo-roadside hotdog & burger stand, three modern museum cafes and on off-premises, restaurant quality catering company. At the time of writing he had not had to close any of them.

The basis of his an any successful restaurants is the quality of the food allied with a dedication to the best possible service. Danny describes the non-food elements as “hospitality”. His aim when opening a new venue is to, “draw the best elements of the classic, make it authentic for its present context, and then try to execute it with excellence.” 

Throughout the book he presents case studies, words of wisdom, stories of what has worked and what hasn’t, the lessons he has learned and above all how to be successful by serving the public but on your own terms.

Here are a few quotes:

Self: I have always viewed excellence as a journey rather than a destination. Taking that journey demands a form of athleticism. It is the athlete’s nature to call on all resources to compete and win. I believe it’s possible to apply to business the same skills I would apply on a tennis court or baseball diamond. I see this as a combination of innate ability, focused training, and a persistent zeal to win.

Marketing: Know Thyself: Before you go to market, know what you are selling and to whom. It’s a very rare business that can (or should) be all things to all people. Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight product focus. That will help you improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.

Service: Best described through what he has written of how he discovered “enlightened hospitality” after his wife miscarried twins and his life took a different perspective. He describes outlining what he considered non-negotiable about how he does business. “Nothing would ever matter more to me than how we expressed hospitality to each one another. And then in descending order, our next core values would be to extend gracious hospitality to our guests, our community, our suppliers, and finally our investors.”

People: He talks about the 51% that he looks for in employees whether they be chefs or the front of house team. He says he wants people who have 51% emotional hospitality and 49% technical ability. He seeks the “excellence reflex” in people which is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. “This “excellence reflex” is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring and practice.”

In the chapter, “Whoever wrote the rule…?” he questions acceptance of the status quo and the conventional ways of doing things saying, “The commitment to add something fresh to an existing dialogue informs every decision my colleagues and I make.”

I could go on but I have exceeded the 500 words I allow myself here. Just get the book, read it and be inspired.

Buy it from The Book Depository HERE.

 

The Weekend Read. Silence by Erling Kagge.

I thought I would start the New Year with a mention for this absolute gem of a book. It follows on beautifully from Deep Work and Solitude which I have mentioned before. I am grateful to my neighbours Walt and Ann from the other side of the hill here at ReesAcres for their recommendation. They are both mountaineers as is Erling Kagge the book’s author.

We live in a world that is full of noise. Traffic, mobile phones, radio, TV and the other machinery of modern man all conspire to disturb, interrupt and distract us. From what do they distract us? The purity of silence.

Kagge has had a career as a lawyer, publisher and politician but it as an explorer that he has wider acclaim. He was the first person to walk to the South Pole and he describes how he removed the batteries from his radio before exiting the ‘plane at the drop off point. In 1994 he became the first to complete the “Three Poles challenge” – reaching the North & South Poles and the summit of Everest.

These 33 short essays are as much about finding solitude and inner silence and I particularly liked his addressing the need for a control of the chaos in our minds, where we all too often submit to the “noise” of constant sensory input. The quotation of Blaise Pascal’s words of wisdom from the 1600s, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”, struck home. (Are you listening in The White House?)

A lovely little book, that I hope will help you want to experience more silence from this age of noise.

 

The Weekend Read – This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Very few, if any, books have made me weep with laughter and cry with upset in the space of a couple of pages but Adam Kay’s memoir of his years as a junior hospital doctor managed it. The final chapter left me in bits for many reasons.

I ordered the book thinking it would be a 21st century continuation of Richard Gordon’s, “Doctor in the House” or Colin Douglas’s “The Houseman’s Tale”. In one sense it is; the language is not entirely medical, Adam refers to Obs & Gynae, his chosen speciality, as “brats and twats” and there is plenty of normal hospital human behaviour. Clearly the author was able to tolerate the life of a junior doctor even though, “The hours are terrible, the pay is terrible . . . But there’s no better job in the world”, until something happened.

The significant difference is that whilst the idealism, the diseases, the people and their mistakes have remained much the same, the political interference and attitude to professionals has fundamentally changed. Doctor in the House was written in the idealism of the immediate post-Bevan years (1952) and The Houseman’s Tale just pre-Thatcher (1978) when I was just starting my spell as a hospital resident. This is set in am era dominated by Jeremy Hunt’s predecessors and their ilk, (the author includes an open letter to The Secretary of State for Health) where there has been a slow strangulation of health care in spite of the best efforts of those working within it the system. These diaries were written during the years 2006-10, sadly things have not improved.

Essential reading for anyone who works in or is a recipient of healthcare in the UK – perhaps not if you and your partner are expecting your first child.

Available from The Book Depository HERE

 

 

The Weekend Read – Solitude by Michael Harris

This makes the ideal companion to “Deep Work” of which I have already written. This book which feels like a collection of essays explores the fact that our connectedness means that we have lost something that is vitally important to our lives, namely our solitude. I found it entertaining, thought provoking and important.

The author’s argument is that our increasing busyness, our being always “on” and the ever present communication devices (count how many of the next 50 people you see have got a ‘phone, smart or otherwise, in their hand) has resulted in our being unable to turn ourselves off, to experience being alone with ourselves. We all need time to think, to re-charge, to turn off without it we are losing something wonderful and valuable.

Our days are consumed by the desires that others place on us. These others are often unseen and unknown from advertisers trying to convince you that you need whatever they are selling this time through Facebook checking to see that others are having the time of their lives whilst you’re Billy no-mates to the incessant supply of emails that “demand” to be read.

We know that choice does not make us happy, that many Facebook users have or develop a need for social assurance. We are now being encouraged to make our homes connected via “The Internet of Everything”. When I ask the question “why” the only answer that I understand is, “because we can”. That’s not good enough.

When was the last time that you were truly on your own, disconnected from “the grid” as some say? Have you consciously allowed this lack of solitude to develop or has it just crept in without your specific permission, “everybody is so everybody should”.

Earlier this week I used the “Google Maps” app on my phone to guide me to someone’s house in a suburb of Manchester. I had looked at the route before I set off, it was a 25 minute walk, a pretty easy route but rather than trust my memory, my good sense of direction and my instinct I used the app. I had been there once before 4 months or so ago and didn’t want to get lost. The result – I did get lost, for some reason the app chose (can I really say it chose? Surely I was the one making the choice) to take me round three sides of a square instead of leading me to the destination directly. I knew it was wrong but allowed it to happen. Why trust something so fallible, something that has been programmed to sell me things that “it” has decided I need? I don’t know either.

A lovely book, entertaining, amusing and questioning, you’ll never see your iPhone in quite the same way again. I agree with Douglas Coupland, “I came away from this book a better human being. Michael Harris’ take on existence is calm, unique, and makes one’s soul feel good.”

You can get it from The Book Depository.

 

The Monday Morning Quote #442

“The solutions are all simple – after you have arrived at them.

But they’re simple only when you know already what they are.”

Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Weekend Read – The 50 Rules of Life by Eric Sanford

I can find little about Eric Sanford online but I know that he is a journalist and photographer who fell into writing after spending too much time “drinking beer” when studying engineering at college. I believe he spends as much time as he can sailing – there is a scary account of his being swept overboard (when breaking one of the rules of sailing as it happens) in Ocean Navigator.

I have no idea when I bought this little (82 pages)book*. It has a dedication in the front which reads, “To Alun – If you play by the rules you miss all the fun! Eric”. Delicious Library (my cataloging programme for books etc) tells me that this was first published in 2005, the year that I decided that clinical dentistry was no fun anymore but this edition was released in January 2011.

So far so good, in the forward Eric explains that he wrote the book when, after making the same mistakes over and over again, he determined to learn some lessons so he wouldn’t keep repeating his blunders. Although his rules are personal many can apply equally to most of us. Using “50 Rules” helps me to stay grounded, reminds me of my core values and helps me gain perspective. I think Eric’s exercise is one that most of us could and should copy. I have a document on the desktop which I copied from the Guardian, “This much I know” which makes a start.

The reason that I have re-read it this week is that I am in the middle of one of my regular periods of re-appraisal, examining my mindset, my motives and my methods reflecting on what’s working, what isn’t and what adjustments in course I need to make for the next year or so.

Here are some examples from the book:

  • Rule #1 Make your dreams come true.
  • Rule #2 Write it down.
  • Rule #3 Do it now.
  • Rule #28 Believe only what you see with your own eyes or hear with your own ears.
  • Rule #33 Don’t assume that others share your views.
  • Rule #47 Question authority.

Having now written about “The 50 Rules of Life” I am minded to write my own as an exercise, why don’t you?

I believe you can buy a copy from LULU.com.

*PS. I realise that I bought it on the recommendation of my friend the ocean rower, environmental campaigner and coach Roz Savage MBE, FRGS, who is mentioned, but not named, in the opening chapter. 

 

 

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