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Paychecks and Playchecks: Retirement Solutions for Life
Paychecks and Playchecks: Retirement Solutions for Life
Price: $14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars More actionable advice for securing your retirement from rapidly-escalating risks, January 24, 2016
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I've posted several reviews on books about retiring. Almost all of those talk about similar topics, like waiting as late as possible to file for Social Security, saving as much as possible and using diverse products to protect against a variety of risks. Our financial adviser is a big proponent of life insurance products and we've talked about a variety of products like annuities, life insurance and long term care. Each of those conversations came in discrete discussions as we considered individual risks.

Last week I went to a seminar about maximizing Social Security and "Pay Checks and Play Checks" was recommended as a fact-based, non-emotional book about securing your retirement. I ordered the Kindle version and just completed it. It was as billed ... a step-by-step discussion of a variety of insurance products that can work together to secure one's retirement regardless of what the financial markets do. It starts by laying out the many, many bad things that can happen and risks that exist that can result in running out of money. The beginning was not unlike what many of the more recent retirement books warn against but in this case there was more than luck that could be counted upon.

Hegna then gets into a discussion of Social Security, annuities, life insurance, long term care and estate planning. He gets into enough detail to explain how the products in each of those areas can be adapted to each person's/couple's specific needs. As you see these different possibilities it opens up more questions that make you realize you need an expert's help to make these kinds of decisions. Which is what he definitely recommends.

This book is great because it explains that there are things you can do to lock in a secure retirement. As is always the case, having the assets saved is critical, but Hegna points out that even those with limited resources can benefit from using these insurance products. He is so positive about the life insurance industry because of their stability (compared to banks) and because they've seen it all as they build data analysis into their design and marketing of their products.

I'm extremely happy with the advice my financial adviser has given us but will continue to attend workshops and read books about these topics because the stakes are so high if the advice doesn't work out. "Pay Checks and Play Checks" has added to my learning and confidence that there is a structure and context that should be considered to confront all the risks that threaten each of our retirements.


Terra Mortuis:  Island of the Damned
Terra Mortuis: Island of the Damned
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More apocalypse terror that feels like it could almost really happen ..., November 1, 2015
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I've read all three of Kevin's books--two of which are apocalypse stories. His first book "The Storm" seemed unlikely, but just today I heard Dan Rather talking about a possible attack on our electric grid and how people wouldn't survive it long ... exactly the scenario in Kevin's first book. Let's just hope the zombie apocalypse described in "Terra Mortius" isn't also a viable scenario.

As in all three of his books, we jump around to different points of view in each of his short, readable chapters. At the end of many chapters something shocking happens and then we jump over to the events from a different person's perspective to catch up on what had just happened. Kevin beautifully weaves these different chapters together as the story plays out. By meeting different groups who are converging on the small island of Terra Mortius, we also learn more about the zombie plague that has consumed the planet. But the focus here is not on the zombies as much as the impact this danger has had on first three families, then an individual, and finally a fourth family who are all thrown together to survive.

As was the case with Kevin's other stories, this is a fast read. Not so much because it is short (168 pages) but because it is consuming. Survival stories are always captivating as the players use MacGyver-like planning and ingenuity to cheat death (or in this case something that's worse than death). Kevin does a great job of laying out those plans to use what is available without making everything feel like a set-up. Like movies where every seemingly-disconnected scene comes together in a surprise ending, so too does"Terra Mortius" keep you intrigued to the very last page.


Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer's Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business
Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer's Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business
Price: $13.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful (that's a compliment) Way of Engaging Changing Buyers, September 26, 2015
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I recently read Mark Roberge’s “The Sales Acceleration Formula,” which describes how he built a Sales function from scratch that aligned sales hiring, training, coaching and the work of the Marketing and Sales departments because there were no real political constraints in making everything work together. He had a great chapter where he laid out a Buyer Persona / Buyer Journey matrix, which provided a new way of looking at prospects and customers and how they made buying decisions. Because Amazon is getting scary-good at suggesting related books to what you’ve either read or even just searched, I was quickly attracted to read more about buyer personas when seeing Adele Revella’s “Buyer Personas” recommendation.

First of all the book itself is great and well-organized. In linking to her blog from the Amazon product page, it’s easy to see that Revella's mission is getting readers to see the importance of engaging buyers to learn about their true buying motivations. She is clearly concerned that what many organizations are doing badly in the name of creating and using buyer personas and they need to get back on track. As she mentions in the book and on her blog, she’d rather fight this battle in-person in workshops and seminars but this book has the chance to broaden her audience.

What I found especially interesting alongside “The Sales Acceleration Formula” is that Revella seems to be attempting to do the same thing Roberge did in his book. Where Roberge is trying to win greater awareness and respect for what Sales can do in a changing buying, media and technology environment, Revella is lobbying for Marketing to recognize how much B2C and especially B2B customers are doing before they ever come in contact with a company. Where Roberge was able to build Sales from scratch, Revella realizes that the real challenge of moving Marketing to a more buyer-centric orientation is talking marketing and senior management teams into it. Really from opposite directions, these two books show how important it is to get support to address the rapidly-changing habits and needs of new consumers and business customers.

The book uses a number of case studies typically within the tech industry because that’s where Revella has worked primarily. Right now I’m working in retail but I still consider our business (selling mattresses and sleep systems) a medium-consideration decision as consumers start to realize how important sleep is in their general health and wellness. It was a little difficult making the translation between her tech focus and cases, but I still got a lot out of this read.

The book also took me back to a project I worked on with IBM in the late 80’s. We built sales simulations where sales trainees would sit in a kiosk and interact with video simulations of customers … not only responding to multiple-choice “what would I do/say next” scenarios but also recording video of their presentations and responses. At the end of each simulation the trainee could re-play the video which showed the back-and-forth responses between the customers pre-recorded on video interspersed with the trainee’s own video responses. What was relevant to this book is that the IBM project required the trainee to work through a series of simulations with a variety of influencers before they qualified to talk with the ultimate decision-maker. As I think back to how we worked with IBM to cast, dress and direct actors to play those various customer roles, we were essentially building buyer personas of those customers, who needed to symbolize what “typical” customers in those roles said, looked like and decided.

In summary, this is a good book to read to re-connect with how customers are changing as they can start to make purchasing decisions in their own ways—not just with the salesperson—but before and after as they talk to peers and find out a lot more information online.


The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million
The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million
Price: $13.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has gotten a lot of accolades, and totally deserves it, September 15, 2015
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I’ve rarely seen a Customer Review listing with so many people who are clearly not the “usual reviewers.” These are business people who are positively gushing about Mark Roberge and the write-up of his 6 years as VP of Sales for HubSpot. The only hint of criticism is that his techniques worked for him in a specialized industry, but they might not be so effective for other companies in other industries.

I’ve spent 40+ years developing training (mostly sales training) including stints at two tech companies that aspired to do what HubSpot is clearly excelling at. Working and consulting for big, famous companies and smaller companies showed me that every company—regardless of their business and sales strategy—will absolutely benefit from reading this book. The stories he tells, the way his selling initiatives fit together, the combination of selling and technology he describes … even the use cases he lists make the approach that Roberge describes applicable to any sales organization—however well-entrenched.

While he implies that he had no right to be so successful because of a lack of selling experience, that’s perhaps why Roberge was/is so successful. He had no legacy of selling assumptions to overcome, no selling organization politics to get around, no technology in place to have to work off of. What a great opportunity to work from the bottom up and put something in place that could be tested. When I worked for a company that built sales simulations for companies like IBM, BellSouth and others, we assumed that those clients had their sales processes fully documented and ready to build into a series of selling steps. We never met a client where that was the case, and it took months to get agreement about what those best practices really were. I loved how Roberge could get started on different aspects of his sales operations—after hiring his initial salespeople, conducting his initial training classes, training his first sales managers, trying out new technology, and on and on—and then use that experience to make things always better.

This is an exciting book because it shows not only how you can intertwine Sales with other functions but really how Sales can and must lead the way in how the organization runs. Because let’s face it … without successful sales sooner rather than later you’ve got nothing. Roberge’s final sentiment to get Sales the respect they deserve is the perfect touch. This book clearly deserves all the enthusiasm and passion it’s generating.


Why We Work (TED Books)
Why We Work (TED Books)
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An elegant argument for work that works for employers, for the employees themselves and for society as a whole, September 9, 2015
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“Why We Work” is an elegant book that confronts a collection of some of the seemingly unsolvable and unrelated problems of our time, including:
• Why a majority of employees are not engaged in their work
• Why children are pre-destined to learning based on the perceptions and expectations of their teachers
• Why doctors and lawyers are forced to become unethical
• Why products and services are sold aggressively to customers regardless of whether they will benefit them
• Why unskilled workers don’t have the leeway to have interesting work

The author Barry Schwartz presents a balanced discussion of how these and other issues have resulted from a mis-read of Adam Smith’s belief set forth in 1776 in “The Wealth of Nations” that people hate to work and do so only for money. This—followed by the scientific movement led by Frederick Turner and the research of B.F. Skinner—has relegated us to the ideology that work by its very nature is not and cannot be fulfilling. He then describes how a variety of theories, inventions, scripts, rules, management controls, work incentives, data-driven schemes, etc. have been used in negative ways to make companies successful because of their efficiency vs. in positive ways to increase the motivation of their employees.

This view of history and progress—that ideas and technologies that at the time seem correct but are eventually discredited and replaced by new ideas that may also be later discredited—is presented by Schwartz in a straightforward and disarming way that is completely different from most of the political and social science books we read today, where conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans draw themselves into opposing camps—each arguing and baiting the others until nothing is accomplished. Schwartz frames our opportunity differently with this powerful dichotomy—“… we are what society expects us to be. If society asks little of us, it gets little. It is clear that, under these circumstances, we must be sure that we have arranged rules and incentives in a way that induces people to act in ways that serve the objectives of the rule makers and the incentive setters. If society asks more of us, and arranges its social institutions appropriately, it will get more.”

With only four reviews posted so far, this book is destined to generate some interesting and opposing reviews—based on the diverse work experiences and philosophies of its reviewers. I, for one, am an optimist about this. I’ve spent my career working for a string of organizations that were either already or about to be recognized for their powerful and successful business models. Although they typically already had strong training & development programs, I was hired to open up dialogue that would make their employees even better, more motivated and more self-directed. We built new leadership programs, simulations, job descriptions and social media that got incumbents talking about and improving their best practices and customer experiences to make them ever better. Most of those companies were motivated to get their employees thinking like the workers Schwartz describes who had the flexibility to make their jobs better.

I highly recommend “Why We Work.” It not only gets you thinking but offers some structure for making things better. It is an elegant book.


Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want
Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $11.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Even with help to tell her story, Leap never really offers the advice some may be hoping for, September 6, 2015
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I read the Kindle version of this book for two reasons. First, it was promoted in a Yahoo online article and that same morning the author was interviewed on morning TV about her new book. Usually, that kind of extra promotion indicates the book will be pretty good. And second, I'm toward the end of my career and was interested how others decided it was time to leave their careers. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by both the extra promotion and by the lack of the promised insights.

Tess Vigeland spends much of the book talking about her own situation and how great she was doing in her public broadcasting radio career--I guess to dramatize what she was giving up by resigning. I go through spells of listening to NPR and in general like their stories. But the author lacks a filter in describing what she had accomplished and how she talked to her parents, her friends and to others who contacted her in her research for this book. Those stories were almost too emotional and personal--relevant to her and not people hoping for some insights about whether or not they should leap to another career. Not until the very end of the book does she even mention what she saw as her purpose in better informing her audience. Up until then it was only her side of the job, how far she had risen in the NPR organization, how good she was at interviewing people, how others did the dirty work of putting together the broadcast, etc.

I wondered throughout if this was indicative of the celebrity culture we're increasingly a part of. People getting exposure, gaining Facebook and Twitter followers, getting people to admire them from afar. Was Tess Vigeland worried more about that side of her career or what she was able to do from that platform? As other reviewers have mentioned, the book and chapters jump around from one point to another and it's difficult to figure it all out.

Others' stories of their own leaps are sprinkled in throughout the author's own story. At the end of the book she talks about how important it is to be able to tell your story about how and what you've accomplished in your career. That's essentially what is done in these stories about others. While several of those people apparently benefitted from their career shifts, very few seem to have found what they were hoping for. If this book was meant to encourage people to make the leap, it doesn't do a very good job of accomplishing that.

Finally, in the last chapter, Vigeland almost apologizes for having implied up-front that she could give others insights but has pretty much failed to accomplish that. She admits that she was approached about writing this book (for money) only 11 days after she resigned from her job. And this was her first book. Writing your first book is tough, so you have to admire the effort. But people have to admire the person who has written a memoir, and it felt like the author needed to build up her credentials so as to be admired. At that point some insights might have been helpful, but--unfortunately--they never came.


Thinking Smarter: Seven Steps to Your Fulfilling Retirement...and Life
Thinking Smarter: Seven Steps to Your Fulfilling Retirement...and Life
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A broader way to think about and plan for a balanced retirement, May 30, 2015
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I was drawn to this book by the twin topics of behavioral economics and retirement. Most articles and books about retirement--and there are tons of them--tell you to think personally about how you want to spend your retirement ... easier said than done. Benartzi uses behavioral economics to help you do it.

I like to read and review books that don't already have hundreds of reviews . I was a little mystified why this and his earlier book had literally no reviews (although one finally appeared a couple of days ago). Especially since he is exploring technological and social developments that you'd think would attract the kinds of readers who like to share their reactions and ideas. After reading "Think Smarter," I'm still confused by his lack of reviews. Anyway, here's mine ...

The authors have provided an easy-to-read and--better--easy-to-apply process for exploring and evaluating one's retirement goals and priorities. I decided to read the whole book first and then immediately apply the7-step process all at one time after reading it. The chapters about each of the 7 steps each had a couple of examples of why the steps worked in today's world. While not as interesting, they offered a juxtaposition of ideas that then fit together by the end of each chapter--similar to what Malcolm Gladwell does in his books.

By keeping examples to a minimum in each chapter the reader is encouraged to think through his/her own values-based goals and priorities. But by then bringing in two fleshed-out ideas featuring a 50-year old and 70-year old at strategic points, you do have something to compare your ideas to. I found the activity to be very worthwhile and now I do have more confidence that I'm looking at my own retirement planning more broadly and objectively.

My last comment is on behavioral economics itself. I find the Dan Gilbert retirement ads to be quite simple and yet valuable and thought-provoking. Those ads make the point that people are so intimidated by the challenge of saving for retirement that they end up doing little or nothing to prepare. Benartzi makes a number of observations about how difficult it is becoming for people to think for themselves about big and scary transitions--and there are few as big and scary as retirement. The 7-step process could be a helpful tool if more people were to read and share it.


Road Rage
Road Rage
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting side project on the way to a bigger story idea ..., May 24, 2015
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This review is from: Road Rage (Kindle Edition)
Kevin's style is interesting because he seems to get an idea in his head and then uses his own daily experiences to build out the story. This book was essentially that ... you could picture that some of those areas that Hope navigated through were places Kevin was familiar with himself.

The ending was a surprise and came quickly out of nowhere ... actually ripped from the headlines (like an episode of "Law & Order") that I was reminded of while reading it.

This is good hour's read that will leave you thinking ... not just about the chase but about diversity and young people's expectations in America. I can see a book in Kevin's future that will get into greater depth as he now practices on some side stories as he works on that bigger story.

This writing style and strategy is pretty interesting in today's day and age ... get an idea and experiment with it ... publish a mini-book to get some feedback and then continue forward.


The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World's Toughest Marketplace
The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World's Toughest Marketplace
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for seeing the external trends of how consumers and shopping are changing, May 4, 2015
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I purchased and read this book along with "Non Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future." Many of the ideas the authors of "The New Rules of Retail" present from the perspective of what retailers are doing to attract the new consumer dovetailed nicely with the trends the author of Non Obvious proposed. You could see why we may be moving to a showroom / online mentality from the sellers' and buyers' perspective.

I'm working with a retailer that has just gone national and they are looking for ways to bring together disparate acquisitions and once-competing brands into a multi-brand national company. It's one thing to look at how these different cultures may fit together and how we can integrate our selling and delivery processes to offer the best of what all used to offer.

It's quite another thing to consider the external forces and trends that will eventually determine if this company is successful. "The New Rules of Retail" does a good job of laying out the directions that will be required to make this happen.


Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance
Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance
Offered by HarperCollins Publishing
Price: $9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Advanced, spiritual advice about what to do as you transition into retirement, April 1, 2015
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This is another in the series of books that I've been reading recently about retiring. It was recommended by a friend who thought I'd like it, with the caveat that he knows "I'm not as religious as he is so try to get past that as you read it." The book is quite different from the others I've reviewed ... it assumes readers have the financial resources they need to retire so they can start shifting to more part-time work or to delegating daily tasks to others. Buford continues to address that objection that one can move to the second half without being wealthy, but it is an assumption many readers may find difficult to get past.

The structure of the book is interesting in that it addresses issues related to the first half (of one's life) in the first part, to halftime when the person decides to make a change in part two, and to the second half in part three. Each of the chapters within those parts is relatively short and looks at those stages almost in an essay format. Buford mentioned that he struggled to complete the book. I got the feeling that he may have worked on each of those essays individually over time and then compiled them into the finished format as the book was completed.

To my friend's concern, I was a little put off by the project he had decided to dedicate his second half to--helping churches to do more good works beyond their congregations in their communities. But not so much for what his purpose had become but because of how much he continued to reference it. As I attempted to think through how this book would help me, his constant reference to his project made it more difficult to consider my own decision. As others have noted, it makes the author come across as too self-centered.

Where the end of book source notes and indices in most books are typically not very helpful to me, I liked Buford's content at the end of the book which really did help to pull his thoughts together. I'm a big fan of Peter Drucker and Jim Collins, and Buford worked with both of them in putting this book together. In fact, Drucker wrote the Forward to the first edition and Collins the Forward to the second edition. Some of the advice Buford attributes to Drucker is incredibly helpful and insightful. That section in the End Notes was probably my favorite part.

So,did this book help me in my personal transition into retirement? I read this while on vacation with several of my friends--all of whom have retired for 5-10 years now. I was able to ask them questions and observe how they've transitioned into their second halves. "Half Time" addresses the more spiritual aspect of retirement, which other retirement books mention but in nowhere near the depth that Buford does. His counsel to apply what makes you successful in your first half to become more significant in your second half really gave me a better structure in which to consider this. This could be a very important book to help people plan for their retirement, but maybe not as their initial read.


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