Book Review: The Race Underground

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most is an excellent book. I can’t imagine how much lumber and steel when into building these two subways. Below is an excerpt about Manhattan.

The Race UndergroundThe Race Underground

FOR AN ISLAND THAT STRETCHED only seven miles long, Manhattan presented an unusual array of engineering nightmares. The softer rock had a grainy texture, almost like sugar, and was known as dolomitic marble. It was mostly at the island’s northern end. The more solid, challenging rock, Manhattan schist, was dangerous to bore into because it could fracture more easily and collapse on workers. It was at the southern portion. The island’s widest point stretches only about two miles, from river to river, near 125th Street, but just north of that it narrows quickly like a soda bottle. And though it appears flat to pedestrians, most of the city’s terrain is actually quite rolling and rocky, especially between Twenty-Third Street and the northern tip of Central Park. North of 110th Street the island has a steep rise in elevation that tops out at 268 feet above sea level, Manhattan’s peak, in Inwood near Fort Washington Avenue and 185th Street. In this northern portion, there were two hurdles for major digging. The bedrock of Manhattan has two major cracks, or fault lines, one at 125th Street and the other further north near what is now Fort Tryon Park, that have existed for millions of years. Although gravel, sand, and silt deposits have mostly filled them in, the faults weaken the structure of the bedrock hundreds of feet beneath the sea.


Outlier: The Story of Success

The book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is a great book. Below is an excerpt from the book and the definition of an outlier.


1: a person whose residence and place of business are at a distance
2: something (as a geological feature) that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body
3: a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample

Biologists often talk about the “ecology” of an organism: the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and the rabbits and lumberjacks they were lucky enough to avoid?

Are you an outlier? What achievements have you made that make you an outlier?

Washing Rental Cars

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin is a must read. Seth always give you a new prospective on customers and peers. Here is an excerpt about washing a rental cars:

Washing Rental Cars

My friend Julie used to say, “No one washes a rental car before they return it.”

The reason should now be obvious: Avis is not a member of our tribe. I paid for the car, they got the money, they should wash it. It’s a transaction.

Transaction distance parties from each other. The transaction establishes the rules of the engagement, and if it’s not in the rules, you don’t have to worry about it. If I eat in your restaurant tonight and pay my check, there’s no obligation for me to return tomorrow or for you to send me a Christmas card. We had a deal, a deal’s a deal (what a great expression), and we can move on. In many ways, this tribeless relationship brings a great deal of freedom to our commerce and allows things to grow and spread and change quite rapidly.

Consider the alternative: The bellboy who refuses a tip for helping an elderly customer. The doctor who drives out of her way to check on a patient even though it’s her day off. The restaurant owner who sends out a few special dishes to a regular customer and refuses to charge for them.

In each case, the lack of a transaction created a bond between the giver and the recipient, and perhaps surprisingly, the giver usually comes out even further ahead.

Hyatt Hotels is now treating different customers differently. Since they know who their best customers are, they’re working not to charge them more, but to give them more. They’re setting out to randomly cover bar tabs, offer free massages, and provide other services that they could otherwise charge for. If they do it in a corporate, by-the-book way, it’ll feel fake and will fail. But if they empower their employees to actually be generous, it can’t help but work.

Book List for 2010

Below is a list of books I am interested in reading this year. If you are interested in any of these books just click on the title or author. Also, please leave a comment (at bottom) if you want to have a discussion about these books.

Linchpin:Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin Read

The Checklist Manifesto By Atul Gawande #13 NY Time Bestseller Hardcover Non-Fiction for February 26, 2010 Read

Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths By Timothy Butler

I Love You More Than My Dog By Jeanne Bliss

How to Work a Room: Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing (Revised) By Susan RoAne

It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand for: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose By Roy M Spence, Haley Rushing

Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy’s Art During World War II by Ilaria Dagnini Brey Read

The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman (Women in the West) by Margot Mifflin

Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton

Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne

Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn Read

Drucker’s Leadership Idea

I just started reading Inside Drucker’s Brain by Jeffrey A. Krames. I would recommend buying this book. It is a quick read and is worthy of note taking. Below is an except about Drucker’s leadership idea.


Just as there are “no leadership qualities,” there is no one critical factor. “Leadership is doing the right things,” and that entails many factors. We do know that Drucker’s ideal leader had the following traits and habits:


Possesses character and courage: these are two of the most fundamental characteristics of a leader.

Creates a clear mission: a leader paints a clear picture of the finish line.

Instills loyalty: a leader understands that loyalty is a two-way street.

Focuses on strength: a leader makes “strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.

Does not fear strong subordinates: their successes are your successes.

Is consistent: leadership is not a function of being clever, it is based on consistency.

Develops tomorrow’s leaders: the best leaders understand that it is their responsibility to develop leaders who will guide their organization in the years ahead.

Gridlock Economy

I read The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Cost Lives by Michael Heller. What attracted me to this book was the subtitle about ownership. The last chapter is the best part of the book: Chapter 8 – A Solution Tool Kit. An excerpt below is an example of gridlock.


“By now, this type of gridlock should be familiar. When private negotiations failed, the Conservation Fund stepped in. One recent beneficiary of this market-maker philanthropy, International Paper, owned seventy-five thousand acres of prime Tennessee timberland that was tied up in a “foot-deep thicket of deeds, buyback rights, and other legal paper.” Sound familiar? International Paper owned the land and timber rights; Tennessee Mining Company claimed the coal, oil, and gas reserves underneath. Neither could agree on how to proceed without interfering with the other.”


If you go to the website , you will find more information.