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Reflections and Selections

What is This?

 This is my take on The Wall Street Journal’s “Notable and Quotable” news.  Below are the most recent or the most compelling books that I have read and recommend in addition to my favorite quotations from the books.  I’ll post a link to where each book can be purchased as well.  Enjoy!
My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

“I’ve made peace with insecurity…because there is no security of any kind.”

-Dick van Dyke

It’s easy for me to say that Dick van Dyke is a legend.  For someone who grew up in “the heartland of America” (that’s Danville, Illinois to be specific), and who rose to the very top of the entertainment industry, with a career that spans over 60 years and includes such hits as Mary Poppins and his own self-titled show, my first thought about that individual has to be: man, what a legend!

What’s maybe more unique about this one-of-a-kind performer is that his legend not only grew from humble origins but seemed he has remained humble even as his stardom reached new heights.  By quietly and ceaselessly working for his audiences, whether they be the millions of fans who’ve tapped their feet to the tune of “Step in Time” or the young children at City of Hope Medical Center who’ve heard his harmonized Disney classics from the showstopper himself, Mr. van Dyke has showed the world what it means to be a true professional entertainer.

And that’s what this autobiography, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, shows.  We get to see the verity of being famous, the day-in, day-out hard work of a man who never thought he would amount to anything in particular.  We share in the good and the bad, the well-earned successes and the often unfair failures.  Mr. van Dyke opens up his whole life for us to inspect because that’s what a true performer does; he lays it all out on the “stage” of life, with no curtains to hide behind.

I have always believed that there is a very strong similarity to hospitality and entertainment.  Both exist to delight and serve, and one could even say that the entertainment industry is a subsect of the hospitality industry.  Maybe that’s why my foray into hospitality came so naturally (since my days in high school often revolved around musical theatre and plays).  It all comes down to serving our guests, and it doesn’t matter whether they are sitting in the audience or sleeping in your hotel.  Mr. Van Dyke has showed me, more clearly than ever, that connection and he will also serve as an amazing role model for what hard work, from humble origins, can produce for the purpose of serving others.

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

“The most likely result of having read this book is a simple one: you may find yourself asking a lot of questions.”

I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I finished my Applied Business Analytics class, and I am so glad I finally got around to it.  The message in Freakonomics is so simple: data is king.  Any debatable issue that exists in this world, from abortion, to drug use, to helicopter parents (all chapters in the book), have a treasure-trove of data behind them just waiting to be analyzed and interrpreted.  All you have to do is ask the right questions.  What’s even better, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dunbner have already done a good majority of the work for us with regards to some very polarizing issues.  The writing is succinnct and objective; whether you agree with the data’s conclusion or not, the data is telling the real story, not “S&S”.  They’ve even writen more books since this one, and although I cannot personally recommend them as of yet, I am sure that they are still quite full of interesting facts and figures.

Living a more analytically-inclined life (and by that I mean more critical thinking and question-asking) really has changed the way I interpret information on a daily basis.  This book, therefore, is a great catalyst to get you thinking and asking questions about that type of thinking and living, and I highly recommend it!

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends & Influence People

While I was reading this book and discussing its contents with some friends of mine, another one of my friends came over and disdainfully spat at me “Oh, so you’re reading a self help book?”  And after thinking about what she said for sometime, I came to the conclusion that yes, I was reading a self-help book, and that it is the original self help book.  I’m not sure if she saw the cover, but Dale Carnegie’s influential book sold over 15,000,000 copies and is one of the most well-known books on human relations in the world.  After spending nearly 2 months reading How to Win Friends (I read through it twice), I can see why the book has done sold well: How to Win Friends is a simple yet stunning masterpiece in explaining how to effictively communicate with people.  It includes accounts from both the famous and powerful (Abraham Lincoln is shown particular preference, and for good reason), but also the ordinary citizen, treating each story with equal praise and respect as a valuable lesson in dealing with our fellow man.  I lost count of the amount of times that a scenario in the book reminded me of a similar situation I was facing at the time or had previously experienced.   On top of that, the solutions that Dale Carnegie provides to these everyday problems are, as I mentioned earlier, simple, foreseeable, almost in front of your eyes, yet masterful in their analysis and explanation.  This is definitively my new favorite book and one that I will be revisiting often as I learn new ways to “be hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise” or how not to “criticize, condemn, or complain”.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone aspiring to become an effective communicator; this work will be an indespinsible tool in your oratory toolbelt.

As quoted in the book, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way.  In that, I learn of him.” Dale Carnegie was clearly the superior to many of us in numerous ways, so let us learn of him.

How to Win Friends & Influence People (Revised)

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be

Having gone through the college admissions process myself and with a sister currently doing the same, I can say that the “mania” as this book characterizes the entire ordeal is incredibly accurate.  Frank Bruni gives a unique and severely under-examined look into what drives parents, students, and schools absolutely crazy when applying to universities.  The interviews are thought-provoking and passionate, with commentary from Condoleezza Rice, Howard Shultz, and Christiane Amanpour about how each of them and others kept level heads during the entire process and even without going to the supposedly “best” schools, made it out on top.  Because graduates from the University of Denver, Northern Michigan University, or the University of Rhode Island (where each of the above personalities attended undergraduate school respectively) can achieve just as much if not more than graduates from any number of Ivy League schools.  And that’s the message; it’s not where you go that matters, it’s what you do once there, the hard work you put in day in and day out, and the relationships that you forge along the way.

This book spoke to me in particular because I was definitely caught up in the craziness.  I applied to way too many schools, focused too hard on just getting to a certain location and not on planning what I would do once I inevitably ended up at one.  This inherent obsession with a select few schools as the determining factor for future success is what I initially struggled with at the University of Pittsburgh, since I couldn’t for the longest time reconcile my rejection from other schools with the idea that I could still be successful at my current school.  This book has only affirmed for me what my experiences at Pitt have been teaching me all along, that attendance at a top echelon university is not the one route to success.  My parents are living examples and so are the many scholars, diplomats, and business men and women whose stories can be found in this book.  I implore anyone who has been, will be, or currently is struggling through the chaos of choosing a college to read this book and realize that where you go is not who you’ll be.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Setting the Table

Setting the Table

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer is a must read for anyone, like myself, who is interested in the hospitality industry.  The book revolves around the idea of “enlightened hospitality”, a hierarchy of stakeholders and specific needs these stakeholders have , which altogether creates an environment where everything is taken care of proactively.  While I enjoyed Danny’s stories and tips, I couldn’t help being caught off guard by how serious and demanding his standards are for hospitable service, down to the act of assigning direct percentages to the amount of emotional hospitality and technical skill an employee should have.  However, I realized that this attention to excellence not only produces an exceptional staff and quality atmosphere at each of his restaurants but also supports the many restaurants he has founded with an unwavering urge to serve and delight including Union Square Cafe and Shake Shack.  Setting the Table gives true insight in to what makes a restaurateur, or anyone obsessed with hospitality and business, tick.

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business

Without Reservations Marriott

Without Reservations

Without Reservations by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. is the inspiring story of the rise of the Marriott company and the winning culture behind it.  Being a hospitality fanatic and dreaming of working for Marriott myself, I knew this was a book that I had to read to get a better look into how the premiere modern hotel company functions, and I certainly wasn’t wrong.  The many anecdotes and quotes found throughout this fascinating story add a surprising amount of humor and charm to an already very intriguing book on how a company was built from the ground up from a single root beer stand in Washington D.C.  More than just a book for aspiring hoteliers, anyone who has to manage people will benefit from Marriott’s core beliefs and principles, which range from the importance of listening to a fundamental obsession with details.  For me, it’s the Marriott credo that really resonates: “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers.”  As someone who aspires to leadership positions in all that I do, taking care of your associates or members or teammates really is the most important thing that any organization can do, and this book, with its concrete and powerful examples at the core, demonstrates that in the best way possible.

Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew into a Global Hotel Company