Books Bullish on Books


  Thursday, 25 Sep 2008 | 12:30 PM ET

When Failure Leads to Success - New Book Offers “Billion Dollar Lessons”

Billion Dollar Lessons
Billion Dollar Lessons

Failure is in the air and let’s admit that it feels well, un-American.

We have always been told that failure is not an option. Yet we do fail and sometimes we fail in spectacular fashion – just take a look at what’s going on right now on Wall Street.

A new book, “BILLION DOLLAR LESSONS: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years” couldn’t have come at a better time.

I recently exchanged emails with the authors Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui about their book:

B.O.B.: Failure is on everyone's mind right now - but you were interested in failure before all of this bad news - why did you want to focus on failure - which seems so "un-American" rather than success?

Actually, we became interested in failure because businesses had such a run of success. We worried that, under pressure to find growth and continue that success, executives might make rash choices and end up failing. We wanted to explore history to try to warn people off the mistakes they might be tempted to make.

B.O.B.: Do you see cases of history repeating itself right now - current companies that are making the same mistakes of those listed/researched in your book?

Absolutely. Bank of America's agreement to purchase Merrill Lynch fits numerous failure patterns. B of A seems to be focusing on the benefits while glossing over the potentially enormous additional problems that may come with Merrill's real-estate investments. B of A seems to be assuming that it can manage a brokerage business, an investment bank and a risky investment portfolio even though it has no expertise in any of those businesses--and actually got out of investment banking in the last year or so because it found the business perplexing. B of A's mistakes mimic those that Conseco made when it bought Green Tree Financial, then went into bankruptcy proceedings.

B.O.B.: Not many success stories in the news today - does that mean that businesses are getting worse at learning from the past?

No, businesses don't seem to be getting worse. The problem is they're not getting better, even though many of the mistakes that are coming to light have been made before and could have been identified ahead of time as bad ideas. Green Tree Financial was a well-known failure a decade ago, yet the subprime lenders repeated the mistakes. Long Term Capital Management's collapse drew all kinds of attention around the same time, yet Merrill Lynch, AIG and others that bought and held mortgage securities repeated LTCM's errors. Let's at least make new mistakes.

B.O.B.: Isn't it against our very nature to think about failure - aren't we supposed to be emulating the successful companies - not those who have failed?

Yes, humans aren't inclined to think about failure, and that's the problem. It isn't enough just to look at success stories. That would be like talking to the winners at a roulette table and assuming that following their strategies will let you win, too. You have to understand the failures to get a full picture.

B.O.B.: Looking ahead - do you think this tidal wave of failure will truly educate and enlighten our business leaders?

Most lessons won't stick, especially in the heat of the moment. That's why we recommend process and culture change mechanisms that might well stick. The smartest companies and managers will instill those mechanisms now, at a teachable moment, so that they won't fail to remember those lessons later, in the heat of the moment.

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Friday, 19 Sep 2008 | 12:25 PM ET

Oprah "Bullish" On Edgar


Wall Street has Paulson – Publishers have Oprah!

Today David Wroblewski became one really lucky man.

The AP is reporting Oprah has chosen his debut novel, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" as her latest book club pick. Winfrey said in a release, "It's everything you want a book to be… I think this book is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written."

Keep in mind on the book’s cover was Stephen King’s rave, “I don't reread many books because life is too short…I will be re-reading this one."

The book was already a must-read for the summer and now that the good folks at HarperCollins can add those “Oprah” stickers to the jacket – their fall is going to be just grand.

    • More: David Wroblewski's novel gets the nod from Winfrey
    • Author's success rooted in family, landscape

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 18 Sep 2008 | 1:23 PM ET

Business Book of the Year Contenders Announced

Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs

And the winner is -

Today we got word of who made the so-called shortlist of candidates to win the prestigious Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award.

The 6 contenders for the title are:

Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times said in a statement, "At no time has there been a greater need for books that provide an insight into modern business issues. The finalists were chosen from the greatest number of titles ever submitted in the award’s four year history, and we’re delighted to have such a strong shortlist from which to select a winner in October." Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs added, “The finalists address what we think are the most important global issues spanning a broad array of industries and disciplines.”

The winner will be announced October 14 at a gala dinner at The Plaza in New York. Our own Maria Bartiromo will emcee the evening and Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, CEO, and President of IBM, will be the keynote speaker.

Programming note: Mohamed El-Erian will guest host "Squawk Box" on Monday September 22 beginning at 7AM/ET.

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 17 Sep 2008 | 9:49 AM ET

We Need Some New “Wise Guys” – New Book May Help Us Find Them


Never before have we needed the wisest among us making the wisest decisions of their lives.

All those “Masters of the Universe” are desperately trying to save their companies, their fortunes and their necks and the rest of us are desperately looking at them to do something well --- masterful!

A new book, “HOW THE WISE DECIDE: The Lessons of 21 Extraordinary Leaders” takes a look at how some of the most experienced, successful and wisest leaders come by their decisions.

The authors, Bryn Zeckhauser and Aaron Sandoski both HBS grads met at McKinsey & Company and were under what they call enormous pressure to make difficult decisions in their first jobs as managers. Despite the platinum pedigrees, they didn’t feel like they were prepared or had been trained to make so-called great decisions.

I had lunch today with Aaron and he told he how for more than 3 years they researched and interviewed some of the world’s most successful CEOs and thought leaders - including Stephen Schwarzman, John Whitehead, Shelly Lazarus, Harvey Golub and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer - and found that those who are known for having made many wise decisions basically follow six primary principles:

  • Go to the Source
  • Fill a Room with Barbarians
  • Conquer the Fear of Risk
  • Make Vision Your Daily Guide
  • Listen with Purpose
  • Be Transparent

The book is chocked full of lessons to be learned from some remarkable leaders whose shared wisdom can surely help foster the wise decisions needed in today’s troubled times.

See excerpt here.
Reprinted, with permission, from HOW THE WISE DECIDE: THE LESSONS OF 21 EXTRAORDINARY LEADERS Copyright © 2008 by Bryn Zeckhauser and Aaron Sandoski. Published by Crown Business,
a division of Random House, Inc. 6

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Monday, 15 Sep 2008 | 1:46 PM ET

“Bulletproof Your Job”: New Book Offers Survivor’s Guide

Bulletproof Your Job by Stephen Viscusi
Bulletproof Your Job by Stephen Viscusi

A new book, BULLETPROOF YOUR JOB: 4 Simple Strategies To Ride Out The Rough Times And Come Out On Top At Work by Stephen Viscusi couldn’t have come out at a better time especially with the news about Lehman, Merrill Lynch and AIG.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t work on Wall Street what happens in the world’s financial capital can be felt thousands of miles away from Manhattan.

Viscusi’s book delivers a sucker punch to the gut – one that wakes you up and knocks you silly with real strategies to protect your job and your family’s financial future.

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  Monday, 8 Sep 2008 | 3:40 PM ET

Greenspan Book Rewrites Publishing History

The Age of Turbulence - By Alan Greenspan
The Age of Turbulence - By Alan Greenspan

WOW – Talk about rewriting the book!

In a first -- the folks at Penguin will release tomorrow an electronic version of the epilogue being added to Alan Greenspan’s paperback edition of “THE AGE OF TURBULENCE.” The epilogue updates The Maestro’s view of all the economic changes including the current credit crisis since the original publication of the book in September 2007.

Kindle, Sony Readers and others will be able to download the new 26 pages for $5 just as the paperback editions go on sale in stores.

Penguin is putting together a team to help put out even more of these so-called “eSpecials”.

And mark your calendars now for this very important and timely programming reminder – Greenspan will be on LIVE from Washington tomorrow (Tuesday 9/9) at 4 o’clock with Maria Bartiromo on "Closing Bell."

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Monday, 8 Sep 2008 | 11:46 AM ET

Publishers Push Palin: New Book Being Rushed

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin

Zondervan, a Christian publisher of the HarperCollins company is rushing out a biography on Alaska Governor/Republican VP candidate, Sarah Palin.

From the company’s release, “A new biography, titled “Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader” by Joe Hilley … will explore themes from her career in politics, her life as a hockey mom, and her strongly held Christian faith, explaining how they influence her new style of leadership and align with our changing economy in the information age.

The book is scheduled for release nationwide on October 10, 2008.

This is the 2nd book about the PTA/hockey mom/political star - the first Kaylene Johnson’s “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down”.

See Slideshow: The Many Sides of Sarah Palin.

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Friday, 5 Sep 2008 | 2:52 PM ET

Greenspan, Buffett & Anonymous: Fall's Must Reads

The Age of Turbulence - By Alan Greenspan
The Age of Turbulence - By Alan Greenspan

It’s back to school time for my kids and it’s back to work for me after an amazing summer full of great reads, interesting meetings with authors and loads of conversations with publicists about upcoming books.

This fall promises to be incredibly busy with the publications of some highly anticipated books that will surely become must reads including: Alice Schroeder’s “THE SNOWBALL: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”

Alan Greenspan’s “AGE OF TURBULENCE: Adventures in a New World” will include a new epilogue for its paperback release - and “Anonymous” will reveal him/herself when “BEAR TRAP: The Fall of Bear Stearns and the Panic of 2008” is released later this month.

YES of course all these authors will appear on CNBC – I mean c’mon that was the whole point of all that reading, all those meetings and all those chats I had this summer - sheesh. First up: Greenspan with Maria Bartiromo Tuesday September 9.

Oh yeah, I’ve also updated what I’m reading and what I’m hoping to read. You can check these new read lists out on the Bullish On Books main cover page.

Let me know what is on your must read list for this fall or send me your questions and/or comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Monday, 25 Aug 2008 | 12:44 PM ET

Are You Nice Enough To Lead? New Book Challenges Old Beliefs.

Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office - by Russ Edelman
Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office - by Russ Edelman

Nice guys are in big demand: Every mother wants their daughter to marry one - every homeowner hopes their next door neighbor will be one and every time you interview for a new job – you hope the boss will be one of those “nice guys.”

But somehow, somewhere nice guys have gotten the bum rap.

Nice guys are perceived as wusses – unable to make tough decisions, the so-called corporate doormats – not the type of person you want running a division much less an entire company.

But maybe it’s time to start rethinking our beliefs about nice guys.

Russ Edelman, Timothy Hiltabiddle and Charles Manz believe nice guys may be the biggest untapped resource in business and are hoping to redefine our notion of the “Nice Guy”.

The trio has just written “NICE GUYS CAN GET THE CORNER OFFICE: Eight Strategies for Winning in Business Without Being a Jerk”.

The authors have put together a compelling results-oriented strategy to succeed while being nice! They say today’s leaders – and those who strive to be - owe it to their employees, their shareholders and themselves to be nice.

When Edelman and I recently sat down for lunch I told him I have a sick but great respect for the corporate jerks. In fact I told him one of the best jobs I ever had was working for a world-class jerk. He was a terror: early morning wake-up calls, late night screaming matches, vein-popping/spitting in my face/cursing threats – and those were the good days. Working for that jerk made me tough.

But Edelman says I’ve got it wrong, that a tyrant is as bad for a business as an overly nice guy. He defines a “nice guy” as someone who is strong, courageous, principled, ethical and authentic.

Employees stay with their “nice” bosses, they go the distance, they sing their praises, they revere and work hard for the nice guy in the corner office. Nice guys can put together great teams who can build great companies.

Included in the book are interviews with some legendary “nice guys” among them: Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Vanguard’s John Bogle, Jim Turley of Ernst & Young and Sam DiPiazza of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Being called a nice guy may not be your goal - but leading a successful team, building a successful company and having the respect of your employers and employees, well c’mon now isn’t that nice…isn’t that what we call success?

As for that poster child of a jerk I worked for – I left him and that company for something much better, something much nicer.

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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  Friday, 22 Aug 2008 | 1:09 PM ET

Phelps Dives In Again: Book #2 Announced!

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps

Oh we knew it would only be a matter of time – and today they finally announced it:

Armed with the new eight gold medals around his neck – Olympic uberstar Michael Phelps is going to write a new book.

“BUILT TO SUCCEED” will be published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster this December - just in time for the holidays.

Agents and publicists are promising the book will reveal the secrets of Phelps’ success and go behind the scenes of his approach to training, competition, and winning.

The 23-year old swimmer/author will use his experiences at these Games to include anecdotes about his family, his coach and his passion for the sport. He’ll also include some personal stuff like how he overcame certain obstacles like being diagnosed with ADHD and being raised by a single mom.

This is Michael’s second book – his first, a pre-Beijing autobiography, “Michael Phelps: Beneath the Surface” was written after the Athens Games.

Questions, comments? bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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About Bullish on Books Blog

  • I read recently that about 11,000 business books are published per year. That’s a lot of books! You don’t have time to read all of them, but I’m trying. Here at Bullish on Books I will be your guide to the best business books on the market today.


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