Category Archives: Book That Inspired Me

A fortnightly series on books that have inspired our Wall of Famers

Book That Inspired Me: Break From The Pack

This book has a particular resonance for many graduates of Smarter Egg programmes. The award-winning documentary photographer, Roger Overall, shares his unique reflections on how the book has inspired him.

For me, it was and always has been, the first book Aodan introduced me to: Break From The Pack – How To Compete In A Copycat Economy by Oren Harari. Ironically, the book is possibly more relevant to me now than it was two years ago when I first sat down to read it.

The book appealed to me at the time because of where I was mentally and commercially. I was breaking, or had just broken, from the pack. In my case, the pack was photographers, specifically wedding photographers. I’d taken a decision to provide a very documentary approach to my wedding coverage – a wedding photojournalist, if you will. Now, this approach wasn’t unique to me and I most certainly wasn’t the first ever photographer to shoot weddings in this style. What set me aside, or ahead, in Ireland was the vigour and passion with which I’d latched on to genuine documentary photography as the ideal storytelling device for weddings.

The reason for my zeal was tragedy – the death of my sister from cancer at a young age four years ago. I took the last photograph of her, her husband and her daughter together. It captures a moment of happiness. A day or so later, she was dead. That photograph has been the bedrock of my career since. A true, unposed moment that shows the love of a family under difficult circumstances. No posed photograph could ever compete with that.

I became very vocal on the issue of pure moments on wedding days rather than faked ones. It earned me a reputation. Awards followed, which enhanced that reputation. Soon, I was in a relentless and stimulating groove. I even developed a new concept for a wedding album: a book that combined photographs with a couple’s own recollection of their wedding day, written by me based on a formal interview with them. The latter drew on my experience as a journalist in a previous life. I called it my “Legacy” product.

So there I was reading a book that made total sense to me because I could understand exactly what the author, Oren Harari was saying. He was writing about my own experience – putting into words what I had only sensed but couldn’t articulate. That was a very powerful experience.

Then, gradually, it all started to go wrong. People started copying me. Copying my techniques, copying my compositions, even copying the way I phrased things. The pack was catching up. Worse, “Legacy” proved a failure. It drew interest, but never flew – either it was too far ahead of its time, or it was misconceived to begin with. Then the wedding industry started to shift seismically. For reasons too boring to go into here (I have my own blog for that sort of thing), the niche I’d carved out for myself in the wedding market could no longer sustain me. In fact, such has been the change that I’ve taken the decision to leave the wedding market. That is chapter 5 in the book: ‘Dominate or Leave’.

Leaving was a very hard decision. I’m a storyteller at heart, so not being able to tell the stories I wanted to through photographs was a bit of a wrench. I’m seeking other outlets, but it is slow going.

In many ways, I’m back at “GO”. I’m refocusing my business, plotting my next breakaway. This time, though, rather than instinctively knowing what to do and acting with rapier precision and direction, I’m feeling my way. This time around, Oren’s book isn’t telling me what I’ve just done, it’s guiding me to what I need to do.



* I should add that the programme inspired by this book is back again in revised form for 2012. Full details here.  (Aodan)

Book That Inspired Me: The Emotionally Intelligent Manager

This week, Eadine Hickey of Eadine Hickey Coaching explores a critical area for all of us in the workplace – how to develop our emotional intelligence.

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by Caruso and Salovey was recommended to me about two years ago but it took me until this summer to read it. In fact it was the first book I read on Kindle (which I now have a love hate relationship with!).

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager presents a view (contrary to most corporate environments) that emotions are not just important to making good decisions, but they are in fact absolutely necessary. The book is organised around an ability-based approach with four specific skills which can be improved in order to become an ‘emotionally intelligent manager’.

These are:

  • Identifying Emotions
  • Using Emotions
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Managing Emotions

I read the book in preparation for a workshop with MBA’s on Emotional Intelligence. At the time I was trying to figure out the best approach to convince MBA’s that emotions matter in a work context. A discussion about emotional intelligence can be interesting in a corporate environment, as the starting point is often ‘but we don’t do emotions here!’ Having worked with two multi-nationals, I can absolutely appreciate this view-point, but having seen the merits of emotional intelligence in action I was searching for a good way of approaching the issue. The Emotionally Intelligent Manager presented me with the solution.

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager proposes that Emotions are in fact ‘information’, information that should be considered in making decisions, in problem solving etc. We would not dream of omitting a piece of statistical data from a decision, yet it is commonplace to omit information relating to emotions. I was able to relate to this when I reflected on a change programme that I had managed almost 10 years ago. Whilst it was delivered on time and on budget (with my project manager hat firmly on), I now know that the project could have been a greater success had I incorporated emotions into my decision making.

When reflecting on this and other experiences of leading change in organisations, I am absolutely convinced of the significant role that Emotional Intelligence plays in this process. I believe it is crucial to creating a shared need for change, shaping the vision and mobilising commitment in order to then deliver the change.

Another theme within the book is the linkage between thinking and emotions. Caruso and Salovey explain through examples and whilst it makes complete sense on reading it, the concept is not something that we would be encouraged to believe in today’s business world. Imagine doing a brain-storming session when you are really annoyed about something. It’s hard to imagine the creative juices flowing as negative emotions restrict our thinking. Now imagine doing a really tough performance appraisal with an under-performing team member when you have just won the lotto. Again it’s hard to see how this is going to be effective unless you can ‘bring yourself down’ to focus on the issues at hand. The message is that in order to be an Emotionally Intelligent Manager, we must learn to match the mood with the moment.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their emotional intelligence.


Book that inspired me: Africa on a shoestring

When we started this series, I was looking forward to seeing the diverse and unexpected sources of inspiration that people in business could find. Not everyone follows a conventional path and today’s contribution from Elaine Rogers of Smart Solutions is the perfect example of that!

I have read dozens of inspiring business books. It is rare to read a knowledgeable book, and not take anything worthwhile from it. Even if we do not agree with the content, it can provide food for thought, and help us think outside the box in relation to our business.

The book that inspired me the most, not so much directly, was the 1992 edition of Lonely Planet “AFRICA on a shoestring”. This book, little did my partner and myself know, would help educate, guide and shape our journey through Africa during a 2-year period 1995-1996.

The book has 1363 pages and is 7cm thick. These early guidebooks were laden with actual stories written by previous travellers, and made for educating and entertaining reading, to say the least. More importantly, they provided a wealth of hard earned knowledge, often through mistakes made and negative experiences.

The big winner for me for this book was the combination of our motivation, enthusiasm and relentless energy, married with the wealth of knowledge amongst the 54 chapters. The book alone did not prepare us for our extended journey. 6 months of hard labour to save money, 6 months of getting shots against disease, 6 months of applying for visas, 6 months of shopping for motorcycle and camping gear did that.

But we didn’t realise when we went to the book shop to buy our travel “bible”, that this book would indirectly guide us through very tough terrain as independent travellers, inform us about things to watch out for (water and fuel supplies in the least known places) and ultimately educate us about the political, geographical and economic issues that we would face.

It was like having a map of the future in our possession. Anyone who has travelled in countries like Mauritania, Nigeria, Zaire and Mozambique will appreciate how vital good, accurate information is. This information dictates certain things in the path of a journey.

And what has this got to do with business? That’s the easy part. Whilst travelling, we managed 2 businesses to pay for the next legs of our journey, which included a further 3 years in South America, Central America, Mexico, USA and Canada. And not a smart phone in sight!

We built on the resources within us to successfully earn money hard and fast in order to achieve our goals. These very skills have helped both of us individually in our careers since settling back into mainstream existence (buying property, paying taxes etc).

I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say, this very book, along with the other travel books we used over that 5 year period, helped us deal with the highs and lows of our journeys. And when I say journeys, I mean personal journeys, experiential journeys, our journey as a couple, our journeys through history, and not least the actual 120,000km journey that shaped us into the people we are today.

Was it a life changing experience? Definitely. My own journey of independence armed me with the confidence to start my own businesses, and trust in the world skills I picked up along the way. Integrated with further education and professional experience, I have a plethora of skills that many business owners struggle to learn in our conventional world.

At 1kg and 7cm thick, this book could have been replaced with 2 extra t-shirts, extra cookery ware, extra medicine or extra water. However, it always had a place in the bike, always easily accessible when required, just like the important things in our businesses. It was not replaceable. As a bulk of printed paper, it was more valuable than life itself, as it helped keep us alive.

I recommend you go out right now, and buy a travel guide for a place that intrigues you. You just never know when you may need that backup of information. And please feel free to recommend a business book for me!


Book That Inspired Me: The Jelly Effect

This week, Sam Rathling, Managing Director of Expect Talent, shares her story of how she learned to stop flinging jelly at her clients. Read on to see what exactly that means!

Before I tell you about this book, I am going to tell you more about the person who first introduced it to me. The late James Cruikshank, who passed away in the summer of 2011 was a colleague, mentor and friend of mine who I met through BNI, the world’s largest and most successful referral organisation. James was an inspiration to me in more ways than I can say and I have him to thank for every event that has happened in my business since this book, “The Jelly Effect”, came into my life.

The many ideas that I have since implemented from this book have transformed my business, and helped me to land my biggest, most high profile client, one of the most-well known companies on the planet!  For those of you who know me or my recruitment business I am sure you can guess which company I am referring to.

In 2008, James was a keynote speaker at a conference in Mayo, which is a 6 hour drive from where I live in Cork.  After his inspiring presentation about a key concept in the book – the AFTERS, I bought “The Jelly Effect”.  On the long journey home I sat in the back seat of the car, and in that 6 hour drive, I read the entire book from front to back. I just could not put it down, despite my fatigue from a great weekend event.

Before long, ideas were flowing into my head as I turned every page and I could not wait to start applying some of the key principles and concepts written by Andy Bounds.  The following week was like a Ctrl>Alt>Del reset on all the marketing material and content that had gone before.

The themes in this book revolve around making your communication stick, whether you are networking with new people, sitting in a sales call in front of a prospect, writing copy for your marketing material or delivering a presentation to a board of Directors. Until I read this book, I was simply chucking ‘jelly’, otherwise known as totally irrelevant information, out there, hoping that it was going to stick with a prospect client and new contacts.  The AFTERS concept in the book changed all that for me, and this is now my focus in every aspect of my business communication.  If you take nothing else away from the book this one concept will transform the way you communicate in business.

Now as a professional speaker, I avoid ‘Death by PowerPoint” and I vow to never start another presentation with the first line “We were established in…, because as Andy explores in the book, who gives a flying monkey if you were started in 1947 or 2009, the customer only cares about whether you can take away their pain and solve their problem today, with solid proof that you have successfully done this for other people in the same situation.  A key element for me was learning how people remember and retain the information you give them, which helped me to tailor some major pitches to clients and win more sales.  Today I apply this to my keynote presentations which I deliver to audiences worldwide.

The brilliant ‘I don’t care’ test on all of my marketing, website, sales presentations stripped out all of that jelly and got me focusing on the information I was delivering being customer focused and not on me and how brilliant my business is in my eyes, but more in the customers eyes.  The YOUnique selling points are genius.

Its not all about sales, you will also learn how to catch big fish whilst networking and how to have relevant conversations which lead to better relationships whilst networking with strangers. The analogies Andy uses throughout, including the one on finding your first love, will have you engaged, connected and enthralled.

I guarantee if you pick up this book, you will find some of the most useful business advice you will ever read in plain, normal English – just as if you were listening to a close friend. No business jargon, just plain simple, easy to absorb advice on everyday situations that most business people face. As you would hope from a book on communication it is easy to follow, and has the gift of being simple without being simplistic.

The best part is everything has been written in such a way as you can apply it and immediately. Regardless of your type of business, profession or your level of ability in the area of sales, presentations, networking and referral marketing you cannot fail to glean useful advice from “The Jelly Effect”. It will have an instant and profound impact on your communication and can take your business places you never thought it could go. I am living proof of that.

So thank you James, I will be eternally grateful to you for recommending this book, and to Andy, who I am now privileged to know, admire and respect as part of my ever-growing network I really appreciate everything you have done for me and my business.

Book That Inspired Me: Influence

This week, Mike Collins, Owner and Head Coach at The Coaching Partnership, shares how he has been inspired by Robert Cialdini’s work on the psychology of persuasion. A perfect fit, as Mike’s work is all about helping experienced presenters make their mission-critical presentations more persuasive.

Now, persuade us Mike!

What do you do when YOU are “inspired”?

Inspired by another person – inspired by the writings of another person.

For me, the clearest signal that I am inspired is that I want to take action in some way.

An “inspiring” book makes me sit up and look at an old situation in a new way – or want to get up and do something new and different.

An inspiring book makes me say “I never knew I could do that!“

The book that has inspired me – more than any other book – to think and act differently is “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

Now, don’t be put off by the academic title – it is the most practical, entertaining and fun book on Influence that I have come across. Why? The reason is simple – because Cialdini tries out everything. He tests all of his theories in real life situations – and then lets us know what happened.

Cialdini suggests that we have millions of years of evolutionary programming inside each of us – and we make decisions every hour of every day unconsciously – using this programming. He advocates using “unconscious persuasion” – a more subtle form of persuasion and influence – a form where the other person, or audience, does not feel the pressure of being “persuaded” or argued with.

This approach is well known by the “professional persuaders” in our society such as advertising professionals, copywriters and the great orators such as Barack Obama.

Cialdini has distilled 6 Principles of Persuasion: Reciprocation, Commitment, Social Proof, Authority, Liking and Scarcity, Here’s an example of a “commitment” experiement from the book:

A researcher, posing as a volunteer worker, went from door to door in an affluential Californian neighbourhood. He made a ridiculous request to the homeowners – to allow a massive billboard be installed on their front lawn. The billboard would contain a notice on safe driving. The majority of homeowners he approached, quite reasonably, refused – 83% (what were the other 17% thinking?).

Then, he changed tack for a second group of homeowners. First, a different worker approached the new homeowners and asked them to display a small sticker on their doors. The 3 x 3 inch sticker read “Be a Safe Driver”. The vast majority of these homeowners were more than happy to agree to such a small request.

And then …. the new group were approached again 2 weeks later and asked to display the billboard on their front lawns. This time – 76% of the homeowners complied with this seemingly ridiculous request! The only difference between the 2 groups was the use of the 3 x 3 inch sticker. The conclusions that Cialdini and his researchers drew from this experiment was that people always look to be consistent in their actions. When we commit to a little – it illustrates to us that that we believe in this thing – and we may as well keep on believing.

AND THEN – these results inspired me to conduct the following experiment of my own:

I had started an email subscription list for presentation coaching tips in 2009. It had built up a readership of about 600 persons. I wanted to see an increase. So, I sent out email invitations to people I know. The compliance (acceptance) rate was about 15%.

So, for my experiment on “Commitment” – I decided to see if I could persuade MORE people to sign up to the newsletter using Cialdinis approach.

I divided my target of new signups into 2 groups:

  • Group 1: – 20 persons – I issued an email invitation to sign up to my email newsletter. The compliance rate was 30% – that is, 6 people agreed.
  • Group 2: – A different 20 persons. However, these 20 persons were already members of “Linkedin” – the networking website. First, I asked each of these people to link with me professionally through Linkedin. After 7 days, there was a 90% success rate – 18 people agreed to become my business “link”.
  • THEN – 4 days later, I asked my new Linkedin friends to subscribe to my Presentation Coaching Tips. This time, the compliance rate was 14 out of the 18 people – or approximately 75% success!

So, the numbers were small – but the results were large!

Since then – I have used stories and approaches from the Cialdini book with almost all of my clients. The reaction is almost always the same – “that would never work on me!” and then they are surprised to find out that the approaches work really well on other people.

So – pick up a copy of “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion” – dip into it – and become inspired to act!

Book That Inspired Me: Good To Great


This is the first in a new, weekly series where people in business share their reflections on a book that has inspired them. This week, Greg Canty, a partner of Fuzion, tells his personal story of a book that has become his business bible.

Over to you Greg!

Before I jump into telling you about this book I will definitely have to paint the scene..

The holidays to the fabulous Greek island of Santorini was booked and you know the drill – the week or so before you head on leave… “Any holiday plans?” … “Well actually, I am off next week” …”Would you recommend any books to read?”

I had this conversation with Finbarr Warren the General Manager of Wm. O’Brien Plant Hire and I owe him a huge debt of eternal gratitude for his recommendation.

This is tricky as you are actually relying on someone’s personal taste so you proceed with caution – sure enough they had it in Waterstones and I quickly read the sleeve and proceeded to purchase it. If I am honest I often find these books can let you down with a bang, in particular business books so my expectations were poor. If I didn’t like it I could pick up something out there.

First day on holidays we make our way to the beach with towels, sun tan oil, bottles of water and as white as the driven snow (except for many freckles!) compared to all the beautiful bronzed beauties who definitely look like a totally different species. We hide under our umbrella! My wife and business partner Deirdre takes out her “chick” book and I take out Good to Great by Jim Collins from our beach bag. Dee gives me a real angry glare and kicks off – “For god’s sake (or some words close to that!), you work too bloody hard and are supposed to be chilling out and now you are going to get yourself all wound up”.

What can I say – she was right … “Ah, don’t worry, I’ll just flick through it and read it properly when I go home”

Let’s just say the book wasn’t put down until it was finished…

Good to Great has become my business bible.

Jim Collins and his team of researchers simply studied the habits of Great companies – he defined those as companies who excelled above and beyond their competitors over a sustained period (10 years and more).

His task was to unearth the magic – what were the common factors about each of these Great companies that played a part in their success. His team took a scientific approach to it, analysing, discussing, re-analysing and discussing each of the elements they discovered until they had it narrowed down to a definite list of common success factors.

Jim has a great writing style and he illuminates each of these success factors in detail. The book is full of gems with everyone being 100% relevant, which I find can be applied to everything that you do. It covers topics such as leadership, adopting new technology, guidelines for diversification, recruitment, teamwork and faith!

Without giving away any of the secrets the core principle behind the book is that Good is the enemy of Great – stop doing good work!

The only way I can do it justice to the book fully is by telling you to buy it – you won’t be the first I have told!