"Kiss That Frog — 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work" by Brian Tracy & Christina Tracy Stein (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $22.95.)
The five inches between our ears can be our greatest asset or our worst obstacle. When we think negative, we act and react negatively. Why? All emotions distort logical evaluation. Negative emotions are particularly destructive because they program us to look for the downside of people, issues and situations. Cynicism and pessimism become the dominant mindsets.
The key chapter, "Drain the Swamp," deals with the roots of negative emotions that result from people, issues and conflicts at work and at home. The "frogs" that keep us from jumping forward are: "justification, identification, hypersensitivity, judgementalism and rationalism."
• Justification — You convince yourself that someone or something is bad in some way, while "you are pure and innocent and therefore entitled to feel the way you do." You get angry; the more you think about things, the angrier you get. Always remember, it takes two to tangle.
• Identification and Hypersensitivity are kindred frogs — You look for reasons to take things personally. You dissect conversations and read between every line searching for the something negative about you. Doing so reinforces confidence-destructive feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Don't expect others to believe in you when you don't believe in yourself.
• Judgmentalism — When you always look for the negative in someone first, it sets the stage for conflict. The individual will sense your attitude which may result in his/her negative reaction to you — which of course validates your initial negative impression. Build bridges, not walls. Being open to the perspectives of others allows you to learn about them and you.
• Rationalism — When you put forth an explanation for your unacceptable actions, you "rational-lies." Those not sharing your views become the constant sources of conflict. Playing "It's not me" and "blame game" won't build the functional relationships. Own up to the the reality of the situation — the good and the bad.
The bottom line: Creating a "constantly-at-risk" mindset keeps you from seeing your upside.
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"Culturematic" by Grant McCracken (Harvard Business Review Press, $28.)
Culturematic (n.) — an understanding of our changing culture and a willingness to playfully experiment with one's product and message so it engages the public and gets it talking to you and about you.
McCracken sees Culturematic as innovation's smart bomb and fills his book with examples drawn from organizations that hit their targets by taking an offbeat approach. Here are a few:
• Ford Fiesta Movement — To introduce the Fiesta to potential buyers, Ford gave 100 Fiestas to drivers for six months. Ford asked that they complete a mission each month and document their monthly mission on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. People followed the missions on social media. Ford created buzz.
• Gatorade's replay — Fifteen years after a high school football game ended in a tie, Gatorade gave the teams a second chance at winning. The athletes, now in their 30's, could renew their rivalry. Ten thousand tickets sold in 90 minutes. This time there was no tie; Phillipsburg defeated Easton, its 100-year arch rival, 27-12. Gatorade footed the bill for the event and reaped the reward of its message: "It doesn't matter how old you are. Eight to eighty, you are always an athlete." It expanded the concept on reality TV.
• WhySoSerious.com began as a promotion for the 2008 Batman film "the Dark Knight." Instead of simply using movie trailers, the site created a game filled with clues. Click on the fragments of information on the screen and the quest begins. The site remains live; check it out.
McCracken's message: "Nimble corporations are learning to abandon their existing business model before someone rips it out from under them."