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Saturday, August 13, 2005

PowerPoint Over Proust

In a delightful piece in The New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich (who earlier wrote Nickel And Dimed) skewers all those cheesy business self-help books. One simply has no choice but to offer up large extracts:

"...they're directed at an audience more familiar with Power Point than Proust.... The few words that do appear in these books are likely to be bolded, bulleted or boxed. Lists are unavoidable...Herewith are 'The Five Essential Principles of Business Success Books,' conveniently condensed for consumption in five minutes or less.

The 24/7 Happy Hour. Be positive, upbeat and perky at all times. Once, the job of corporate functionaries was to make things happen. Today, their mission is apparently to keep their colleagues company in the office....If you happen to be downsized, right-sized or outsourced again, just grin and bear your smiley face to the next potential employer...

Avoid Victimism and Anyone Who Indulges in It. People who fail at being positive -- and dwell morbidly on their last demotion or downsizing, for example -- easily fall into what 'The 8th Habit' diagnoses as 'the mind-set of victimism and culture of blame.' Avoid them...

Masters of the Universe. Being positive and upbeat not only improves your health and popularity, it actually changes the world....If you think money -- in a totally urgent, focused and positive way, of course -- it will come flying into your pockets.

The Mice Come Out Ahead. ...When the cheese is moved, the tiny people waste time ranting and raving 'at the injustice of it all,'...But the mice just scurry off to locate an alternative cheese source. They prevail, we learn, because they 'kept life simple. They didn't overanalyze or overcomplicate things.'...

Passionate. ...The endlessly churning, cutthroat, 21st-century business world demands greatness -- which means being not only enthusiastic but also passionate about your work. Presumably, you will pull all-nighters, neglect your family -- whatever it takes. And when you do lose your job, you will embrace your next one -- in, say, modular building construction -- with the same raging passion for greatness.

There you have it, the five highly condensed secrets of business success. If you find them immoral, delusional or insulting to the human spirit, you should humbly consider the fact that, to judge from the blurbs on the backs of these books, they have won the endorsement of numerous actual C.E.O.'s of prominent companies. Maybe the books tell us what these fellows want their underlings to believe. Be more like mice, for example. Or -- and this is the truly scary possibility -- maybe the principles embody what the C.E.O.'s themselves believe, and it is in fact the delusional, the immoral and the verbally challenged who are running the show."

To which one might add: not only are they running the show in companies everywhere, but they're also, it would appear, at the helm of the Mumbai civic administration.


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