Tag Archives: Biography

East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler

Summary
  1. The life and story of Amelia Earhart
Key Takeaways
  1. The author spends a lot of time describing Amelia’s ancestors, their settlement in Kansas which was a hotbed for abolishment and pro-slavery tension and how this affected her desire for equality in opportunity
  2. Amelia was smart, healthy and independent from a very early age – singing herself to sleep by age 2. She was adventurous and would always love exploring and trying new things. Because of the restrictions placed on girls, her and her friends would often pretend to be boys and roughhouse with the  boys near them
  3. Her father, Edwin, eventually became an alcoholic and forced the family to move several times. He saw reality not as it was but how he wanted it to be and this often put him and his family in a difficult position. Amelia also had to take care of her mother for a while because of poor health. She didn’t have much time to simply be a teenager
  4. Amelia volunteered to help serve the wounded in Canada during WWI and this got her exposure to airplanes and flying. Her obsession grew with every air meet and once she moved out to California, her passion was stoked. She learned from some great teachers but she was able to recognize their flaws and limitations and either find someone else to learn from or went her own way. She soon became quite well known for her stunts and other flight tricks.
  5. Pasadena, Glendale and LA became the hotbed for everything related to avionics
  6. She went to Columbia but experienced some financial difficulty and health issues and at 28 was further away from a career than she was at 21
  7. A relative of steel baron Henry Phipps wanted to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic after Lindbergh accomplished the feat in 1927 but determined it was too risky. Instead, she wanted to choose an able women she thought could do it. She wanted someone young, educated, attractive and who had some flight experience. They chose Amelia
  8. Amelia was always a fan of poetry and had a tendency to retreat into it when uncomfortable or difficult situations arose
  9. Amelia received much attention and recognition after completing her first cross-Atlantic flight on the Friendship as a passenger. She gained incredible notoriety and was able to work at the Cosmopolitan magazine, fly and continue her social work
  10. Several years later she would fly transatlantic solo and be the first person to have flown over twice
  11. She married George Putnam of the famous publishing house. Though she was married, she made it clear that her career and ambitions would come first
  12. She used her name wealth and notoriety to get into many different new projects from helping start an airline (what would eventually become Northeastern Airlines) to designing her own line of flying clothes which were prominently displayed at Marshall Field’s stores
  13. Amelia got involved with Purdue to inspire women and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics
  14. Will Rogers, probably the most popular man in America, did more than anybody except Lindbergh to popularize flying
  15. Amelia began her round the world flight just before her 40th birthday. The trip was quite smooth until her leg from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island. The US Navy, her suspected lover Gene Vidal and her husband didn’t give up looking for her for nearly a year. Incredible conspiracy stories arose from the Japanese having captured and tortured her, to her being a spy for the Navy to study Japanese defenses and more but eventually it was agreed that she had crashed and her plan had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific in 1937
  16. Amelia was an inspiration in her generation and has been since her death. She set her mind and made her goals happen in a time when many of these goals were deemed inappropriate for women to pursue
What I got out of it
  1. Good biography on Amelia Earhart and her accomplishments – first solo female flight across the Atlantic, many other flight records and many successful ventures in business and academia

The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz

Summary
  1. Trump’s philosophy on negotiation, business and more as well as some of his background and early life
Key Takeaways
  1. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks
  2. Most people are surprised by the way I work. I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be too imaginative or entrepreneurial jd you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops
  3. It never stops and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the pr sent. That’s where the fun it. And if it can’t be fun, what’s the point?
  4. Sometimes it pays to be a little wild
  5. I don’t hold it against people that have opposed me. I’m just looking to hire the best talent, whenever I can find it
  6. I hate la suits and depositions but the fact is that if you’re right, you’ve got to take a stand, or people will walk all over you
  7. Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – less is more
  8. I always take calls from my kids, no matter what I’m doing
  9. I understand the game and while I don’t like to play it, there is no graceful way out
  10. I’m not too big on parties because I can’t stand small talk. Unfortunately they’re a part of doing business so I find myself going to more than I’d like and then trying hard to leave early
  11. I like to keep as many options open as I can
  12. Ivana is one of the most organized people I know…she’s almost as competitive as I am…I wouldn’t bet against her
  13. I’m loyal to people who’ve done good work for me
  14. It just goes to show that it pays to move quickly and decisively when the time is right
  15. That experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make
  16. My philosophy is to always hire the best from the best
  17. If the city won’t approve something I think makes sense economically, I’ll just wait for the next administration and try again
  18. Small details make all the difference in the look and ambiance of a building
  19. My style of deal making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought but in most cases I still end up with what I want
  20. More than anything else, I think Deal making is an ability you’re born with. It’s in the genes. I don’t say that egotistically. It’s not about being brilliant. It does take a certain intelligence, but mostly it’s about instincts. Most people who do have the instincts will never recognize that they do because they don’t have the courage or good fortune to discover their potential
  21. Trump Cards – deal making tips
    1. Think big – most people think small because most people are afraid of Success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage. One of the keys to thinking big is total focus. I think of it almost as a controlled neurosis, which is a quality I’ve noticed in many highly successful entrepreneurs. They’re obsessive, they’re driven, they’re single minded and sometimes they’re almost maniacal, but it’s all channeled into their work. Where other people are paralyzed by neurosis, the people in talking about are actually helped by it. I don’t say this trait leads to a happier life, or a better life, but it’s great when it comes to getting what you want
    2. Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself – people think I’m a gambler. I’ve never gambled in my life. I happen to be very conservative in business I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst – if you can live with the worst – the good will always take care of itself. You can’t be too greedy
    3. Maximize your options – never get too attached to one deal or one approach. Even if deals are made, I always come up with at least half a dozen approaches to making it work because anything can happen
    4. Know your market – I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions. I don’t hurt many number crunchers. I’m a great believer in asking everyone for an opinion before I make a decision. I ask and I ask and I ask until I begin to get a gut feeling about something. And that’s when I make a decision. Another group I don’t trust is critics as very few of them have any feeling for what the public wants
    5. Use your leverage – the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood and then you’re dead. The best thing you can do is deal from strength and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without. It often takes salesmanship and imagination to come up with leverage
    6. Enhance your location – more than purely location, a great deal enhanced by promotion and marketing is the key
    7. Get the word out – hiring outside consultants is never as good as doing it yourself. Be straight with reporters, have bravado and play to peoples fantasies
    8. Fight back – if you believe in something deeply and people are obstructing you unjustly, fight back
    9. Deliver the goods – you can’t con people, at least not for long. At some point you must deliver the goods
    10. Contain the costs – every dollar counts
    11. Have fun
  22. Father was a real estate developer as well and built low income and rent controlled housing in NY
  23. Almost boasts about the fact that he gave a teacher a black eye when he was in the second grade
  24. Learned to “finesse and manage” the drill instructor at the military academy
    1. Maybe shows some of the early innate manipulation or as Scott Adams says, hypnotic, powers that Trumpe exhibits
  25. His father was a great negotiator because he knew the price of everything and was always fair and reliable
  26. Clean and well maintained apartments are always worth the investment
  27. Finds ways to cleverly deal with people and situations – manager Irving great but stole so paid him a low salary and expected him to steal
    1. Seems like a temporary strategy which will only destroy cukture and hurt in the end
  28. You can’t show fear. You have to stand your ground and whatever happens happens
  29. The simplest approach is often the most effective
  30. Early on I didn’t have much but what I did have was the willingness to go after things that people even in a better position wouldn’t consider seeking. I also couldn’t sell people early on on my experience or accomplishments so I sold them on my energy and enthusiasm
  31. In the end, we won by wearing everyone else down. We never gave up and the opposition slowly began to melt away
  32. The city’s desperate circumstances became my biggest weapon. I could act when others weren’t willing and help the city get back on its feet
  33. If you’re going to make a deal of any significance, you have to go to the top
  34. New manager at Grand Hyatt got Trump and his wife to leave them alone by being overly friendly and solicitous, asking for their opinion on every mundane decision
  35. Much more often than you’d think, sheer persistence is the difference between success and failure
  36. Regardless of industry, you want your customers to feel special
  37. I understand now that certain events can take on symbolic importance
  38. Controversy sells
  39. When you set the highest standards, they’re expensive to maintain
  40. Good way to end a partnership on a classy note – “as with most things in life, time calls for change and it jd best to accept that fact. Nevertheless, I shall always be proud of my involvement in the creation of Trump Tower and finely remember how we worked to bring it about.”
  41. I think it better to pay more for a sure thing
  42. There is always a buyer for the best
  43. I have a very simple rule when it comes to management: hire the best people from your competitors, pay them more than they were earning and give them bonuses and incentives based on their performance. That’s how you build a first class operation
  44. You don’t act on an impulse, even a charitable one, without considering the downside
  45. In any partnership, you’re only as strong as your weakest link
  46. Committees and high priced consultants can’t hold a candle to a group of guys with reasonable amount of common sense and their own money on the line
  47. My attitude is that you do your best and if it doesn’t work, you move onto the next thing
  48. You’re not measured by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish
  49. What I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line
What I got out of it
  1. Some revealing insights from Trump how he thinks about business, life, competition. Some I thought were helpful but the vast majority show what I think is a “win/lose mindset” which isn’t sustainable

Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

Summary
  1. Duncan Clark describes the history of Jack Ma, his personality, how and why he founded Alibaba (after a couple failed start-up attempts), his vision for the future and more
Key Takeaways
  1. Jack founded Aibaba in Hangzhou in 1999
  2. Alibaba looks to exploit the inefficiencies created by a government who exerts as much control as China does without pissing them off
  3. Alibaba’s strengths lie in ecommerce, logistics and finance
  4. Consumer discretionary spending is only about one third of GDP versus close to two thirds of GDP in the US. Latent spending power and high savings rates and lack of things to spend money on are the main causes for this discrepancy
  5. Alibaba is even China’s largest retailer
  6. Taobao is like a bazaar with 9m merchants and alibaba has no inventory and TMall is like a glitzy shopping mall. Major brands like Amazon Costco apple Zara and Moore are all on T-Mall
  7. About 10% of retail spending in China is done online compared to 7% in the US. China has been able to leap frog the brick-and-mortar retail business model which is much less efficient and expensive than e-commerce
  8. Nature abhors a vacuum and in China the Internet is filling in for eight created by an official state owned enterprises and government regulations
  9. Alibaba accounts for 40% of grocery sales in China and even does next day delivery of refrigerated items. It stands at only 10% in the US
  10. The rate of e-commerce packages is growing like crazy and has years of high-growth ahead with less than one package per customer per month being delivered on average today
  11.  JD.com it’s taking a different approach than Alibaba in that it is investing directly in logistics and becoming acid heavy versus acid light. JD wants to control the process from order to delivery end to end and I think a good analogy is Apple and other closed and companies that want to control quality throughout
  12. Alibaba‘s finance edge comes from Ali pay which is Alibaba is equivalent of PayPal  Ali pay handles more than $750 billion every year. Always pay is no longer own by Alibaba but is controlled by jack and has become the defect of method of transactions for an increasingly digital China. Alibaba can also serve as a savings account and often gives better rates than the banks. Because Alibaba had so much data on its customers it can better underwrite the credit risk of people who invest and pay through their platforms
  13. Jack is it your typical corporate titan and is quite humble and talks his intellect and ability down often. He said that the most influential role model in his life was Forrest Gump
  14. Jack’s presentation and oratorical skills are superb mainly because he focuses on messages he is deeply fluid in and suddenly changes his emphasis or message depending on the crowd and their expectations. Jack is quite funny and empathetic and the nature of his speeches tend to reach a broader audience due to his fluent English and Mandarin
  15. Jack’s mantra his customers first employee second and shareholders third. Another popular “often heard from Jack is 102 years with the point of trying to survive through out three different centuries
  16. Corruption and counterfeit goods are some of Alibaba’s major obstacles but they are taking certain precautions to begin limiting the amount
  17. When Jack was a boy he would relish the opportunity to practice his English often waking up before dawn riding his bike for 40 minutes to the nearest big hotel just to talk to English speaking tourists. Jack for friended on Australian family who he visited one day and on this visit he saw that what he had been taught that China was the richest country on earth was in fact falls and this taught him that he had to think for himself make his own decisions and use his brain to truly determine what was true and what he believed in
  18. Jack twice failed the college entrance exam and eventually on his third time got a good enough score to go to a fourth grade university in his hometown. Today he speaks of these failures as a badge of honor
  19. After university Jack became an English teacher but soon started his first company called hope which helped local companies find foreign customers. Jack has the uncanny ability to sell his vision and get people excited and to buy in completely
  20. Wong Joe were Alibaba is headquartered has been a prime an important trading hub for over 1000 years connecting the northern and southern China
  21. Jack was first exposed to computers and the Internet in the mid 90s when he travel to the US. From this exposure he started china pages which was the Chinese equivalent of yellow pages. China pages failed after a couple years and from the adventure Jack went on to work for the government for sometime before founding Alibaba
  22. Alibaba was chosen as the name of his company because it is a universal name that everyone can pronounce and most people know the story behind Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. This has saved a lot of money on marketing and advertising as the image of open Sesame and everything else that comes with the name is tied in to most people’s memories already
  23. Jack decided to distance himself from other Chinese portals such as Sina so who and that is by focusing on shrimp or small businesses
  24. Alibaba got first major investment from Goldman Sachs – $5m for 50%. A few weeks later soft bank invested $20m for 30%
  25. Jack decided to start hiring people who were a notch below the top of the class because he found they were better at handling adversity than the people at the very top of the class
  26. Today is brutal. Tomorrow is more brutal. But the day after that is beautiful. However, most people die tomorrow night
  27. The bursting of the Internet bubble was actually good for alibaba as this meant their competitors would not be receiving money and they had a lot in the bank from soft bank
  28. Author makes an interesting connection between the 2002 SARS outbreak and a massive ramp up in broadband usage, texting and increased investor appetite in china tech
  29. Taobao was alibaba’s response to eBay and was able to fend off the global powerhouse by better understanding the local market – free registration, busier home pages, free listings, ability to negotiate, online payment with Alipay, complacency and arrogance
  30. If you simply use money to solve problems, there’d be no need for businessmen. Businessmen are able to solve problems with few resources and leverage them to great benefit. eBay simply tried throwing money at china to regain their dominance and at this point Jack knew he had them. They first didn’t treat them like a rival at all and then took them too seriously. They showed their hand and didn’t change strategies at all
  31. There is a lot of controversy over the transfer of and financial to Jack’s personal account where he had total control of the company. Defenders say that without doing this day would never have gained financial approval from the Chinese government but other say this is not the case
  32. Shortly after the IPO Alibaba I got into some controversy what the government over baked goods which still is lingering over the company today
  33. Alibaba is beginning to expand into cloud computing, healthcare, entertainment and other markets where retail is inefficient and ecommerce under-penetrated
What I got out of it
  1. Does an excellent job providing some history of Jack and the company as well as some of the cultural differences between Chinese and American entrepreneurs and their relationship with their respective governments. Jack’s vision, persistence and charm were all really interesting and inspiring to read about

An American Original: Walt Disney by Bob Thomas

Summary
  1. Disney was able to entertain billions of people the world over. His background doesn’t point the way to how he achieved this, His parents were plain people, young Walt showed no brilliance as a student, and his drawings were often uninspired but in the end he is one of the most successful entertainers in businessmen in history
Key Takeaways
  1. Didn’t want to be devious unless constructive in some fashion
  2. Disney put his name on everything so that people knew that when they saw ‘Walt Disney’ on a picture, they would know that meant good, family entertainment
  3. Walt was his own best publicist
  4. Very little retrospection, his visionary eye was always set on the future
  5. Mickey and Walt were inextricable – Walt’s personality was completely reflected in Mickey’s
  6. Fair man but little patience for anything bad or weak
  7. “I want Disneyland to be a place where parents can bring their children – or come by themselves and have a good time”
  8. He seemed to consider his time limited, and his impatience to get things done sometimes made him hard to work for. Little patience for those whose thinking was earthbound. When he dropped an idea, he didn’t expect you to pick it up where he left it, you were supposed to move a couple of steps beyond
  9. Disney possessed a remarkable skill for drawing the best from those who worked with him and had an uncanny capacity for reaching the human heart
  10. Had a natural progression, moving the audience from spectators to participants
  11. Ancestors were from France and last name was Isigny
  12. Father Elias had many misadventures in business and was a stern man
  13. Older brothers Herb and Ray left family due to Elias’ tyrannical nature and soon after Roy left too
  14. Customer service instilled during his time as a newspaper boy – father forced him to place the newspaper on people’s porches, even in the middle of freezing winter
  15. Only paid attention to what interested him – animation, magic, trains
  16. He stepped on a nail and this injury gave him time to think of the future and it was then he determined he wanted to go into cartooning
  17. Walt welcomed criticism from a young age
  18. Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt and Walt left for Hollywood to get out of cartooning and into directing
    1. Felt he was too late to cartooning now and couldn’t catch up to those in New York but soon his deal with Winkler on Alice got him back into it
  19. Had rare powers of persuasion – shown when he convinced Ub to move to Hollywood to join him in the Disney Bros. Studio
  20. “It wasn’t enough to be an original and creative artist, Disney learned; survival in the film business required a jungle toughness
  21. Grew his mustache as a bet and left it because it made him look older
  22. Almost messianic in the leadership of his staff
    1. Got incredible devotion and long hours but encouraged periods of refresh (played baseball during lunch)
  23. Strong, attractive central character is essential and a good storyline is always needed but too much plot can destroy laughter
  24. Loss of Oswald to Mintz solidified view of never working for anyone
  25. Realized quickly the importance of sound and action being in sync and eventually also added color. Those who got in first lead to big advantage if you can work for quality, rather than quantity and quick money
  26. Walt did not believe in holding grudges
  27. Silly Symphonies began to allow Walt to expand creative outlet
  28. Was swindled by Pat Powers of Cinephone of $100,000+
  29. Two years after the creation of Mickey Mouse, the Mickey Mouse Club had more than 1 million members and was known in every civilized country
    1. Licensing revenues were enormous – Ingersoll sold 2.5 million watches in two years
  30. Walt had developed one of the most valuable traits of a leader – the ability to recognize talent and forcing them to reach their potential
  31. Long-term and second order thinking – “Maybe United Artists won’t give us any more dough [to produce color pictures], but the pictures will create so much excitement that we’ll get longer playdates and bigger rentals. That’ll bring the money back eventually.”
  32. Feed during difficult times – “Depression my greatest ally in assembling top flight talent”
  33. Created systematic training courses for young animators in order to develop:
    1. Good draftsmanship
    2. Knowledge of caricature, of action as well as features
    3. Knowledge and appreciation of acting
    4. Ability to think up gags and put over gags
    5. Knowledge of story construction and audience values
    6. Knowledge and understanding of all the mechanical and detailed routine involved in his work, in order that he may be able to apply his other abilities without becoming tied in a knot by lack of technique along these lines
  34. Always challenged himself – “As he discovered each new, unexplored medium, his interested dwindled in the one that he had previously conquered.”
  35. New office predecessor to Disneyland – Walt involved and thoughtful of every detail
  36. Issued stock due to debt
  37. On Unions – “It’s the law of the universe that the strong shall survive and the weak must fall by the way, and I don’t care what idealistic plan is cooked up, nothing can change that.”
    1. Strike had taken away some of Disney’s idealism – creatives at the studio would never again have the same, intimate relationship with Walt
  38. Disney production was pretty much put on hold during WWII and they produced many educational and propaganda films for the government
  39. Walt was a times gruff, not given to intimacy and self-revelation. Rarely issued direct praise for work that had been done well and seemed to expect excellence and did not express gratitude when he received it. Commendation usually came in the form of a bonus check or a remark to a third person, with the realization that the praise would be handed on. He commanded attention – he wouldn’t let go o four eyes, people couldn’t stand up to him if they weren’t pretty confident
  40. Disney soon became synonymous with quality entertainment for the entire family. “Look – Disney is a thing, an image in the public mind. Disney is something they think of as a kind of entertainment, a kind of family thing, and it’s all wrapped up in the name Disney…You see, I’m not Disney anymore. I used to be Disney, but now Disney is something we’ve built up in the public mind over the years  It stands for something, and you don’t have to explain what it is to the public. They know they’re gonna get a certain quality, a certain kind of entertainment. And that’s what Disney is.”
  41. Lillian was no ‘yes-wife’ – she stood up to Walt and would honestly share her opinion on films and other topics Walt asked her about
  42. Considered self religious but no church and respected every religion
  43. Had no Disney items in his own home
  44. “We can lick ’em with product”
  45. Was a tough boss but in times of crisis was especially gentle
  46. Assigned all top talent to Cinderella when success was paramount
  47. Struggle with Alice led to Walt to never mess with a tamper-proof classic again
  48. Race against time – a fortune teller told Walt at a young age that he would die by the age of 35. He was not superstitious but this prediction had a profound effect on him and continued to brood about it long after it had been proven false – instilled a sense of urgency in him
  49. Understood the value of publicity and always made himself available
  50. How Walt thought of himself in some regards – “The last of the benevolent monarchs”
  51. 2 dislikes at work – being interrupted while interpreting a scene and someone arguing a point he had already rejected
  52. Studied amusement parks, fairs, zoos, etc. the world over in order to get inspired for Disneyland. His metric for gaging the success of the park was whether people felt entertained or cheated
  53. TV allowed public to get to know original plots and characters rather than this simply happening through theater productions
  54. With Disneyland, quickly gained deep fluency in architecture and engineering. Was always extremely adept at mastering new things quickly
  55. Faith in people – “We can run Disneyland as well as anyone. All you need are people who are eager, energetic, friendly and willing to learn. They’ll make mistakes, but we can learn from their mistakes.”
  56. From the beginning, he insisted on utter cleanliness at Disneyland. “Remembering the tawdry carnivals he had visited with his daughters, he told the staff that if you keep a place clean, people will respect it; if you let it get dirty, they’ll make it worse. He didn’t want peanut shells strewn on the sidewalks; only shelled nuts were sold. No gum could be purchased inside the park. Young men strolled through the crowds, retrieving trash as soon at it was discarded
  57. On music – “I just want you to remember one thing: if the people can’t go away whistling it, don’t play it.”
  58. Desire for utmost control – studio was almost self-sufficient from the beginning
  59. Opening day of Disneyland was a debacle but, as always, Walt never dwelled on disappointment
  60. TV vision – “we’re not going to talk down to the kids. Let’s aim for 12 year olds. The younger ones will watch because they’ll want to see what their older brothers and sisters are looking at. And if the show is good enough, the teenagers will be interested, and adults too.”
    1. Mouseketeers were normal kids, not Hollywood personalities – produced an audience response that TV had never seen before. With this incredible response and fan devotion, Mickey’s status as a folk hero was guaranteed for another generation
  61. On money – “I’ve always been bored making money. I’ve wanted to do things, I wanted to build things. Get something going. people look at me in different ways. Some of them say, “the guy has no regard for money.” That is not true. I have had regard for money. But I’m not like some people who worship money as something you’ve got to have piled up in a big pile somewhere. I’ve only thought of money in one way, and that is to do something with it, you see? i don’t think there is a thing that I own that I will ever get the benefit of, except through doing things with it.”
  62. On art – “I was a corny kind of guy, so I went for corn…Be commercial. What is art, anyway? It’s what people like. So give them what they like. There’s nothing wrong with being commercial.”
  63. Walt and Ray fought – Walt often cause but also first to apologize
    1. Most empires have a yin/yang leadership situation
  64. Always succeeded with quality and uniqueness, not in following trends
  65. Bought out ABC in 1960 so that they owned Disneyland outright
    1. Moved TV to NBC because they could pursue color with them and Walt determined that was the future
  66. Guests, not customers – we’re selling happiness
    1. If they ever stop caring, it’ll cost 10x to get the guests back
  67. Cartoons designed to be timeless – re-releases were essentially pure profit
  68. Walt did not like to be oversold on anything
  69. Always put self in the position of the public – “At Disneyland, queues were doubled back, so that those in line would have a sense of advancing toward their goal and would see a constantly changing human vista
  70. On time and urgency – “Time is getting on, and I still have things left to do. I don’t want to go back and cover the same ground.”
  71. “I have a theory that if it’s good enough, the public will pay you back for it.”
  72. On Chouinard – students must learn a variety of skills, be multi-disciplinary and have a place where cross-pollinization is possible. “Imagination is an intuitive thing; I think it’s something you’re born with. But it has to be developed.”
  73. Disney World started out with the vision of being the utopian city of tomorrow – EPCOT, “an experimental monarchy”
    1. “When I see things I don’t like, I ask myself, why do they have to be like this and how can I improve them?”
  74. Roy, who is typically the profit-focused financier – “Wait a minute, let’s give them a better deal. They’ve been good to us, and we may have to go back to the well again. Besides, the offering will be oversubscribed  His staff felt that they had lost their negotiating power, but Roy’s strategy proved correct. He had made friends, as well as lenders, of the Eastern banks.” – Understood the power of thinking ahead, of reciprocation and of placing the cue ball for future shots and not just the first shot
What I got out of it
  1. Fascinating biography which had a lot of detail about Walt’s childhood and his personality – quirks and strengths alike. Vision was extraordinary and we can learn a lot from how he thought, dealt with people, issues and decision making

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Summary

  1. Disney’s influence is hard to overstate. He completely changed American culture and its consciousness by bringing in a lighter, more fun world during tough times. He completely changed animation and helped invent graphic design. His concept of a theme park was completely novel too as it was a totally immersive, imaginative experience
New Takeaways
  1. Isn’t actually frozen after passing away as many believe but shows how much Disney was associated with futuristic technology
  2. Disney reinvented the American past by adding nostalgia and patriotism to rural movies. He also garnered enthusiasm for technological advancement through his own films and it even helped NASA gain support
  3. He was able to blend paradoxes such as being a classicist and a futurist through his animation and family values and then through projects like tomorrow world which helped spur American interest in space exploration
  4. He invented the wildlife documentary and helped spread conservationist movements
  5. He created the first modern media corporation by blending TV, movies, action heroes, theme parks and more
  6. Above all his accomplishments however, his greatest achievement may have been instilling a belief of wish fulfillment in people – fantasy can be empowering and sometimes even transform the world
  7. He was able to tap into the essence, the fundamental, the genetic code to truly bring alive any project and make it resonate with people in a timeless way. He had platonic templates in his head for everything and was able to act on it, forming the archetype of anything he took on. This desire for an idyllic world lead him to create his various animations as well as Disney World. He wanted total control and since this ain’t possible in real life, he made a fictional world where he could
  8. Artistic reputation was hurt towards the end of his career and many considered him an Huber capital list which supplanted other countries cultures with Americas. He was also considered an anti-Semite and a racist. Many also thought he had sold out and become to corporate and therefore lost his artistic and creative power
  9. Even for those closest to Walt he was difficult to know intimately and was often moody and tough to work with
  10. Walt’s grandparents were from Ireland and his dad after moving around a bit decided to settle in Kansas which was a rough life at that time. They later moved to Marcilene, Missouri which Walt considered his home and the nature and serenity had a big influence on his creativity and his later animation’s focus on animals, farms and trains
  11. A local doctor named Dr. Sherwood encouraged walk early on to not be nervous about admitting ignorant and annoying her edging him that he was a good artist
  12. His father was a very hard working, frugal, strict and religious man. Elias had Walt deliver papers early in the morning for nearly no pay and he worked so hard he hardly he any free time as a boy. This made him very careful with his time as he grew older. Walt grew up to become extremely different from his father – light hearted, enthusiastic, charming, personable. Walt’s older brother of 8 years, Roy, was more of a surrogate father than brother and they became very close
  13. Walt quickly found that he was attracted to performing, drawing and show business and meticulously studied his idols such as Charlie Chaplin
  14. Walt entered into service for WWI but got influenza and ended up not heading to Europe to fight but was soon sent over to help with the occupation in France. His time in France helped him mature and solidify his desire to be an artist or actor
  15. Walked always had great confidence in his abilities even before he had croup and self or had any experience. When Disney became fascinated with something, he could spend days focusing only on that
  16. Animation was completely new at this time so Walt was not behind anyone although he was young. Him and a couple others would pioneer this field and make huge leaps in the following decades
  17. Even at 20, with little to no experience, Walt was too hard headed to be comfortable with being anyone’s employee and started a company called Laugh-O-Gram and was an incredible salesman getting employees and investors interested in working for him. The company struggled although Walt and his employees loved it and it soon went bankrupt. He then decided to leave Kansas City and went to Hollywood
  18. Walt almost always exaggerated the truth to make himself or his story more dramatic. He was absolutely a happy and extremely determined man with a lot of confidence but he, like everyone, had times of doubt
  19. Walt started up Disney Bros. with his older brother Roy in the early 1920s and began work on the Alice cartoons. From the beginning Walt had a deep need for artistic and creative control over the whole process in order to precisely execute his vision. He was tough on Ub Iwerks and the rest of his employees and often made others miserable and cause resentment until they either improved or left the studio. He soon lost his distribution partner in Winkler and many of his own employees even tried sabotaging him. It was at this point he decided he would never work for anybody ever again
  20. Mickey Mouse was first named Mortimer and the first idea was for Mickey to fly a plane in order to impress a lady mouse which was inspired by Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Mickey was designed for maximum ease as circles were easier to animate and by subtly changing some features, Mickey could easily become a cat, rabbit, dog, etc.
  21. Mickey struggled to gain a foothold until Roy and Walt brainstormed and determined to add sound to the animation. It was shown as a short reel before movies and became a nationwide hit. Mickey eventually evolved and became more real and proper and he lost popularity because of it. Donald Duck was soon after conceived to be Mickey’s foil, to be rude, offensive, hot tempered and this is exactly what the world wanted at this time
  22. Walt understood early on how important it was to make himself a brand as a producer that the country would recognize. He opened up a sound recording studio in California to gain a foothold in this up and coming area of animation. After the initial trouble with Laugh-O-Gram, Disney wanted a dominant, unassailable position in the animation market and determined to replace Felix the Cat with his own Mickey as worlds most popular cartoon
  23. Although the culture at Disney was casual, work was done with the utmost care and planning and the biggest difference from other animation studios was expectations. Walt would not settle for anything less than the best. He was always this way with all his early cartoons – Alice, Oswald, Mickey, Skeleton Dance and other silly shorts. Disney always took great pride in his informality, he always considered him equal to his employees
  24. Powers, who ran Cinephony Studios, was the man Walt relied on for sound recording and producing. Powers wasn’t a very trustworthy man and took advantage of Walt’s enthusiasm by promising to fulfill his vision as well as Walt’s lack of business acumen by crafting very unfavorable terms. Tensions eventually split the relationship after costly legal action but Powers managed to get Iwerks and Stalling to leave Disney studios
  25. Once Disney and his cartoons started getting a foothold in California, they began expanding nationally with the Mickey Mouse club which eventually reached over 800 chapters and 1m members. Mickey soon became a worldwide phenomenon and one of the most recognized figures in the whole world. Mickey had mass appeal due to his ability to allow people to escape the Great Depression and tyrannical leaders, his simplicity and people’s desire to root for the underdog – ultimate wish fulfillment. Mickey was also modeled after two of that generations most popular actors – Fairbanks and Chaplain. However, Mickey would ultimately evolve and could be considered simply an extension of Walt himself
  26. Walt only hired the best and created a very hard working but fraternal culture. The ethos was that all work had to be better than what was previously made and much better than any competitor
  27. Many of Walt’s colleagues believes that he achieved extraordinary success because his focus was never on money, but on providing the best product to his customers, something he could have fun with and be proud of
  28. His relationship with his wife became strained as he ended up in the office pretty much every night working late which eventually led to an emotional breakdown
  29. Disney avoided much of the pain of the Great Depression by plowing every dollar earned back into his company rather than the stock market. His cartoons were some of the best escapes for people going through tough times. Disney studios thrived during these tough times as they were able to hire some of the best animators in the business from studios that had gone out of business. The Disney short of three little pigs was a sensation and delivered one of the eras anthems with the big bad wolf song
  30. One of biggest contributions to animation was that he gave the cartoons a storyline and the characters life, a personality, embodied emotions, adding color, even taking gravity into consideration
  31. Disney studios entered another inflection point once they began licensing Mickey to distributors to put on lunch boxes, watches, clothing, toys, etc. This eventually became a larger source of profits than the cartoons themselves
  32. Walt played the bashful tycoon in public but this was part of his carefully crafted image which was influenced by Will Rogers. In private, Walt was often moody and sometimes blunt and egomaniacal. Walt stopped drawing and even procuring most of the cartoons but his influence and approval was still felt throughout. He was very instinctive, he a great mind for gags and had a great sense for what the public wanted and needed
  33. One of Walt’s main talents was his ability to bond a group, get the most out of them and always think in “we” terms. He made everyone feel great pride in the work they did and made them truly believe that it was important
  34. Walt took great pride in keeping ahead of the pack and his next step was a full length film, Snow White
  35. After a trip to Europe Walt decided to try to make his cartoons more universal by keeping dialogue to a minimum so that translation errors wouldn’t affect enjoyment
  36. Believed it was easier to train young people with no experience and bad habits that to hire people who did have some experience
  37. Walt was very exacting and demanding of his employees but he paid them extremely well, gave them great benefits and created an exciting and innovative atmosphere people loved. Again, money was always secondary to talent, customer experience and quality
  38. Snow White was an undertaking unlike any other. He got the most out of his people by aligning incentives – their bonuses were tied to the success of the movie. After toiling away for years, Snow White was released and became a huge success – the highest grossing movie ever in the US
  39. Walt was a self absorbed workaholic who had no close friends. He devoted himself entirely to his vision
  40. After Snow White, Disney and his crew began work on Bambi but put it on hold to start work on Pinocchio
  41. The move from the studio in Hyperion to Burbank was necessary but it also removed some of the informality, morale and drastically increased bureaucracy
  42. In 1940, Disney decided to issue shares to the public to raise money for Bambi, Disney shorts and other projects. He never wanted to do this but the company was spending money like crazy
  43. Disney – “Every mistake I made was because I didn’t truly feel it.”
  44. Disney was very loyal to those who stuck with him during the early stages but he later was very callous and cold hearted with firings of newer employees. A union workers strike soon ensued and killed much of the esprit de courts of the studio
  45. Walt got to making educational films for the navy and government during WWII. He often lost money on these and they distracted him from other endeavors. He was totally absorbed with these features for the four years of the war. Competition increased a lot after the war as the other major studios started expanding and focusing on animation – Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes
  46. Bambi was finally released to mixed reviews. The seriousness of the movie was a little too much for many people in a time which had already seen such devastation. This was a difficult time for the studio as Bambi wasn’t a hit and they were spending most of their time now on war and educational films
  47. Disney was so focused on pushing the boundaries creatively and in other ways that he refused to do sequels even though they were likely to be commercial successes
  48. Disney had a strong aversion to organization and bureaucracy even as the studio grew. If he did decide to manage, he would micromanage everything and everyone. He would never delegate creative decisions
  49. Disney’s do epitome advantages came from the sheer talent of its animators, their dedication, Walt’s vision and fire, their focus on quality and customer experience over profit and always looking to push boundaries
  50. The author does not believe Disney was racist or anti-Semitic but like most white Americans of his generation, he was insensitive
  51. Disney pioneers the nature documentary as we know it today through Seal Island
  52. Disney was apolitical except for his strong aversion to Communism
  53. Disney didn’t spend much time with his family as he was so busy but he spoiled his daughters. They described him as sympathetic but firm
  54. Disney seemed to focus less on his studio and more on miniature cities and trains. These hobbies influenced him greatly in building an amusement park where the whole family could have fun together. Disneyland was Walt’s dream – he was able to exert absolute control and make his vision real. He was able to transport people to a different, better time. The pro was a combination of experience, amusement and Disney’s own values
  55. Disney was one of the few to recognize the power of the television. It was not the enemy of the motion picture but it’s ally. They could recycle old movies, make TV shows out of movies, get new customers and fans, and would launch its own channel using past Disney shorts. He also recognized that this was an incredible tool to promote awareness and interest in Disneyland. Disney partnered with ABC who needed awareness with the growing young family population and Disney needed money to make Disneyland happen. Television made Disney more famous than ever before. It was his animation and movies which were popular before but now it was the man, the man who embodied wholesomeness and decency. He often felt imprisoned by this new persona
    1. “In retrospect, Disney’s greatest creation was Walt Disney.”
    2. Davy Crockett became an immediate, nationwide sensation. He embodied American ideals at a time when tensions with the Soviet Union were growing. Crockett was never profitable for Disney but it did accomplish its goal – publicize Disneyland. The Mickey Mouse Club was another phenomenon which also bolstered Disneyland’s image and its awareness
    3. Imagineers were tasked with designing the parks and every single detail – subliminally making guests feel powerful, calm and have the best experience possible
    4. Disney had a constant focus on creating eternal products
    5. He constantly said that Disneyland would never be finished – there is always someway to improve and expand
  56. Another major milestone in Disney’s history was the formation of its own distribution arm – it now controlled the process end to end
  57. Walt didn’t want anybody with amusement park experience working on Disneyland because he wanted fresh eyes and no preconceived notions or biases. Established Disney university to train all employees in order to give a great, consistent experience. Dress, facial hair, and more were all strictly dictated. Cleanliness was an obsession with Walt and his parks were always meticulous – one of the small ways Disney conceived of to make his parks an escape from reality
  58. Several years later Walt secretly scouted out locations on the East coast and decided to build Disney World in Orlando, Florida. His vision was to build not only a world class amusement park, but a Utopian city – EPCOT
  59. Disney never felt he could rest – he was always working to “stay 25 years ahead of the competition” and was worried he’d die before he’d have time to accomplish everything
  60. Walt went to the hospital for what he thought was a minor surgery when they found lung cancer, he was 64. He was clearly very weak but defiant until his last breath. His focus went almost solely to Disney World and EPCOT at this point. He died about a year later in 1966
  61. One of Disney’s main contributions was a living example of how one could successfully impose their will on the world. Above being a master of fun, animation, reverence or anything else, he was a master of order
  62. First hour and last 10 minutes a very good summary
What I got out of it
  1. Endless enthusiasm, optimism and confidence, the highest standards of quality in the business, fanatical about his work and in pushing the limits to give customers the best experience possible, sole focus on customer experience and not money.

The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney by Michael Barrier

Summary
  1. Michael Barrier gives a detailed account of Walt Disney’s background, personality, accomplishments, flaws and impact on the world
Key Takeaways
  1. Sound animation and later Snow White was what truly set Disney Studio apart
  2. Walt started in animation as a businessman and ended as an artist
  3. Healthy bonuses kept employees happy but a deeply held cherished and shared mission was the true driver and uniter
    1. People from other studios took large pay cuts to join as they came to learn and be part of something great
    2. Semiannual bonuses based on profits and on a rating determined by five factors, including importance to the organization and production department ratings as to footage and quality of work
    3. Disney was the first to relax the grim grind on animators and as a result got more work out of them because they worked out of love for what they were doing and also because they thought they were doing something they thought would be imperishable
    4. Instituted a “trial without pay” for first time animators
    5. Like any large company, Disney placed some people in jobs they were not capable of filling (Peter Principle)
    6. “You always knew you had a little raise ahead – about $2 more per week every 2-3 months (Goal Gradient Effect)
  4. Walt had blind faith that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship will win against all odds
  5. Was extremely jealous and controlling with all artistic decisions – wanted complete control
    Disney had changed America’s perception of leisure and entertainment
  6. Elias, Walt’s father, was a very hard working, tough father
    1. Walt would always remember the struggle with delivering newspapers as a boy, having to weather freezing cold and sleeping through class
    2. Freeing self of father’s rigid, debilitating beliefs was central to Walt’s success
  7. Never was a great businessman as focus was never on money
  8. Walt’s first successful business venture was Laugh-O-Graham but it would eventually go out of business
  9. Walt was always determined to be his own boss and be the sole man in charge
  10. Tended to recall memories with rose-colored glasses and always exaggerated things
  11. Important to deal with hard failure when young
  12. Walt would never have survived without Roy’s organizational and financial skills
  13. Walt had always worried, always enthusiastic, no inhibitions, a talker
  14. First to add a coherent story into the cartoons and if the cartoons acted as if they were real, the audience would buy it too
    1. Syncing sound a breakthrough too and was first exhibited in Steamboat Willie
  15. Life in Marcilene, Missouri imprinted a nostalgia of small town, farm life on Walt that would be with him forever and would later be idealized in Disneyland
  16. Was a tough, demanding boss and early on many decided to leave to try to start their own studios
  17. Formed Disney Studios on October 16, 1923
    1. The Alice Cartoons were his first success followed by Mickey Mouse in 1927
  18. Focus was never money – “we can lick them all with quality”
  19. Early on, Disney’s vision and ambition was rather modest – “he was not some visionary leader…he was notoriously inarticulate…difficult for him to translate his ideas into guidance for his animators.”
    1. Disney himself did not introduce stunning advances but he recognized, accepted and often encouraged the improvements that his people were coming up with on their own
  20. Wrote with a lot of “…” in order to promote free association
  21. Early cartoons were a little risqué – all animators were young, untrained men with no college educations
  22. After Ub Iwerks and Stalling left, Disney would have no other partners besides Roy, Roy’s wife and his wife Lilian until the company went public
  23. Disney focused intently on laughs and personality – Chaplin was part of the inspiration for Mickey’s character
  24. Licensing began in 1930 but wouldn’t have a massive impact on the company’s profitability until later
  25. Only tolerated those who were all in – once fired a man for looking for another job
  26. Three Little Pigs became an instant national sensation – quality, music, timing, personality in characters, “real” feeling
  27. As Disney’s processes advanced and improved, they started closing doors to outside artists and instead promoted from within and encouraged their animators to take art classes
  28. “Once a formula has been established, it exerts a powerful gravitational pull on artists who have used it. Resisting it, and observing life directly with the idea of reproducing it more accurately, is hard work, as the Disney animators found.”
  29. Did not revisit even recent mistakes – “best we can do is to profit fro mistakes by improving future pictures”
  30. Vacation to Europe inspired his movies and eventually Disneyland
  31. Best cartoons appeal to masses as well as those with specialized tastes
    1. Animators had to know idea and feeling behind a cartoon before pitching an idea – had to study psychology and deeply embody their characters
      1. “Our most important aim is to develop definite personalities in our cartoon characters.”
    2. When Walt had an idea, he visualized it 100% and often acted it out, totally embodying the different characters – the legend behind Snow White is that Walt called in the main animators and acted out the entire movie, every character
    3. Very detailed to make sure characters were consistent and conformed to image
  32. Snow White was a massive hit – had to overcome technical limits, cartoons at that time only funny, nobody knew if people would have patience for a full-length cartoon
    1. “I made it for adults. For the child that exists in all adults.”
    2. Most important aim is to create definitely personalities in the cartoon characters
    3. Plowed money from Snow White into new movies, a new studio and bonuses – total reinvestment
  33. Walt saw Disney Studios as an extension of himself – he was terrible at delegating and demanded his approval on every major decision
  34. More important to draw what people expect rather than be 100% accurate
  35. Pinocchio was a flop and forced Disney to issue shares in 1940 – Walt maintained a huge controlling stake and this element of control was central to his personality and vision
  36. Every animator who entered Disney was expected to make animation his life work – “animation to us was a religion. That’s all we talked…talent was taken for granted, no one thought much about it one way or the other.”
    1. “Every day was an excitement .Whatever we were doing had never been done before. It was such a great thrill to go in there. There was excitement and competition; everyone was young and everyone was doing something…”
  37. Disney was often very encouraging and always stressed quality, personality and feeling but was also often irascible, impatient and demanding
  38. Had a very rural sense of humor which allowed him to sense what the average person would like
  39. Built studio for animator’s – relaxed, air conditioning, best equipment but the size and complexity took some of the familial, start-up feel away from the Studio which eventually lead to some union issues in the 1940s
    1. “I feel that people must earn it. You can’t give people anything.”
  40. “Time clocks place a premium on deception and it is no bar to dishonesty”
  41. Goodwill tour of South America lead to a couple cartoons and exhibited Disney’s flawless worldwide persona as he was cheered everywhere he went
  42. Role in studio – “I am the bee that carries the pollen” to spread ideas
  43. Shackles of success – “the public demands repetition, not change”
  44. Incredible understanding of psychology and human nature / emotion were deeply embedded into his cartoons
  45. Helped WWII efforts through his “Why We Fight” Series – financial struggles led to layoffs, fraying loyalty which led to many employees seeing Disney as a job and not a calling like it used to be
  46. He didn’t ever want anything to look like a repeat of what he had done before
  47. “Dad thought we ought to have our own church. He didn’t want anything to influence us.” – Diane Disney on Walt letting his kids form their own opinions
  48. His husbanding of authority was an expensive bottleneck but was the only way Walt would have it – he was the critical path
    1. Created much jealousy, frustration and politicking within the studio
  49. Didn’t have very many friends – he didn’t have time and “had to have a clear mind for work the next day”
  50. Invented the nature documentary category through “Seal Island”
  51. Developed an obsession with trains and miniatures which would persist throughout his life and play a prominent role in Disneyland and Disney World
  52. Ford’s Greenfield Village in Detroit inspired Walt to brainstorm a “Mickey Mouse Park”
  53. Tremendous memory and capacity for learning – often impatient with others – “He understood the mechanics of everything. Everything was a new toy.”
  54. Disney was not so much hostile to TV as unsure of how to best make use of the median but by 1950 had a TV show to promote the studio and recognized TV’s importance to get new audience and further engage them
  55. For his cartoons and eventually theme parks, Walt had a very vivid mental image of it all
  56. Roy was skeptical of Disneyland so Walt formed a separate private company – Walt Disney Enterprises, later renamed as WED Enterprises
  57. No rigid decision process – things just seemed to happen recalled on employee
    1. Later on learned that he needed a solid footing of some kind before he made a speculative leap
  58. Walt’s major investment in Disneyland would be committed to creating a storytelling environment, rides would be subordinate to story and setting
  59. Struck a massive TV programming deal with ABC for 1 hour weekly episodes intended in part to promote Disneyland. This deal provided the necessary funds to move forward with constructing Disneyland
  60. Disneyland was extremely rushed and massively over budget and opening day was a disaster – brutally hot, many rides broke down
  61. Took inspiration from Denmark’s Tivoli
  62. Disney succeeded in making Disneyland fun for all – families would stay 3x longer and spend nearly 3x as much
  63. Outside contractors failed miserably and soon Disney replaced them with Disney employees who had been trained to be customer-friendly. No matter how good the park looked, surly employees could spoil the Utopian effect
    1. “It is easier to maintain control over customers if they think they are doing what they want to do, as opposed to what someone else wants them to do. To preserve that illusion of autonomy, Disney was more than willing to make countless small adjustments, like paving a shortcut that visitors were taking through a flower bed, rather than putting up a fence to keep them out.”
    2. Designers had to study customers up close, wait in line with them, go on rides with them, eat with them in order to get an idea of what was going on in their minds
  64. Disney is a model entrepreneur, acutely sensitive to how customers respond to his business
  65. Reduced role of animation with rise of TV, live-action films and theme parks
  66. “It truly was a one-man studio. Everything had Walt’s touch”
  67. “I am not a literary person. As far as realism is concerned, you can find dirt any place you look for it. I’m one of those optimists. There’s always a rainbow. The great masses like happy endings. If you can pull a tear out of them, they’ll remember your picture.”
  68. “Styles may change on the surface, but at bottom the big audience taste doesn’t change” They like sympathetic characters and life-like action. And that’s what I like, too, whether it’s cartoons, live action or all those creatures at Disneyland.”
  69. Had a persona as a simple, rural man but many who knew him well considered him one of the most widely read, most widely traveled, most artistic men in Hollywood
  70. Finger tapping typically a warning sign, as was his loud cough
  71. “I don’t care about critics. It’s the public I’m making pictures for.”
  72. Criteria for a good movie was impact on the public and Snow White was the gold standard
  73. Essentially subsidized Chouinard music school to create a “multi-disciplined” school of the arts (later became CalArts)
  74. Disney often dressed down in order to not intimidate people – he knew he scared the daylights out of people and didn’t want to let that get in the way of being able to work with him. Otherwise all he’d have is a bunch of people agreeing with him and their expertise wouldn’t show
  75. Disney’s death led to some paralysis within the company and movies went downhill though Disney World was a smash. Disney struggled for some time and replaced Ron Miller, Disney’s son-in-law, with Michael Eisner in 1984. Eisner did some great things for the studio – helping oversee a string of hits and acquiring ABC but was eventually replaced by Bob Iger in 2005
  76. “It was this combination, his powerful entrepreneurial drive combined with his new artist’s sensibility, that made Disney so inspiring a figure to many of the people who worked for him. Somehow, Walt always made it seem to that the most important thing in the world was to help him make a picture look the way he wanted it to look. It was a lot of fun to feel I was doing the most important thing in the world, every day.”
What I got out of it
  1. A really good read with some fascinating details about Walt’s life, personality, vision, quirks, etc.

DisneyWar by James Stewart

Summary
  1. The incredible story of the Eisner era – it’s successes and debacles
Key Takeaways
  1. Walt Disney’s nephew Roy Disney and the CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, did not get along. Eisner was a very controlling and difficult CEO to get along with and he eventually decided to get Roy off the Board. Ironically, Roy was the one who removed the CEO before Eisner in order to bring Eisner on board
  2. In 1984, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy lead a coup to oust Ron Miller who was Walt Disney’s son-in-law. This is when Michael Eisner took over as chairman and CEO. Eisner had a little knowledge of Disney but since the company was under threat of take over and it’s creative output was so low his skills were necessary. He was responsible for an incredible string of successes at Paramount and brought with him some of the senior executives such as Jeffrey Katzenberg. It was thought that Eisner’s creativity and charisma would be perfect to help turn Disney around. He was very charismatic man and a great storyteller
  3. Disney operates differently than other studios in that they have their own in-house team to make all the movies instead of hiring and firing people once a movie is done
  4. Disney’s incredible attention to detail and quality live on today even going so far as having exacting standards and extensive training for the costume characters at Disney World
  5. Walt can be characterized as resilient, restless optimistic, creative and a visionary
  6. Eisner had a very different upbringing from Walt – he was Jewish, raised in a wealthy family in the heart of NYC where Walt was in a very typical Midwestern family who struggled with money at times and he of course idealized the countryside. Eisner was a literature major and playwright in college and this helped him oversee the production of some major cultural hits during his time at Paramount such as Footloose and Saturday Night Fever
  7. Eisner was a very frugal CEO who fired a lot of old Disney employees and established a culture of survival of the fittest. His replacement of fired Disney employees with Paramount employees was also somewhat controversial
  8. Eisner saw himself as Walt Disney’s heir apparent and made that very clear when he became the face of the TV show The Wonderful World of Disney
  9. Eisner had a great vision and a sense for what would be culturally popular and important and wasn’t afraid to pay up when he saw these rare opportunities such as with Indiana Jones
  10. Euro Land Disney was a major effort for Eisner and the Imagineers but ended up being a humongous flop. Although the park opened on time, it was billions of dollars over budget and they had misunderstood the difference between American and European spending habits and customs. Since Europeans have more vacation, they spend less per trip than Americans which hurt Euro Land DIsney
  11. For a long time and maybe even a little bit today, Disney was mired in what people would call the “what would Walt do syndrome”
  12. Eisner lead the development of Disney-run retail stores across the most prominent shopping areas in the country and immediately began setting records for sales per square foot
  13. Selling and mass marketing home videos was a controversial idea as they thought it might cheapen the experience of going to the theater and they were also counting on showing the movies on their television programs to attract viewers. The first release was priced at $80 so that only rental companies could afford to buy a lot. This experiment was a tremendous success and the next release was priced at $30 but also included network advertising within the home video with the hopes of changing consumer habits. Home-video soon became Disney’s biggest profit center apart from theme parks
  14. Eisner, Wells and Katzenberg were responsible for the most impressive corporate media turn around in history. The three main areas that helped balloon Disney’s profits were raising the prices for tickets to the theme parks, increasing the number of hotel rooms worldwide and the burgeoning home video Market.
    1. Besides the obvious dollar profit, the way Disney handled the situations added a luster and prestige which allowed them to sell and license their products at incredible rates
  15. Katzenberg was responsible for coming up with the idea for the Lion King. He immediately saw the appeal of a coming of age story but this was a big risk for Disney as it would be the first time that the main character was an animal instead of a human and it wasn’t based on a classic fairytale
  16. After an incredible run of successes in the 1990s, Disney fell into a common trap of the successful and lost some of the essence which was responsible for it’s success as its costs ballooned and. The incredible success at Disney led to a feeling of complacency, even boredom with many senior executives
  17. Eisner told people he wanted to hear bad news early but the way he reacted disincentivized it. He hated it and frankly was not used to it and this kept others from being forthright, as witnessed by the Euro Disney debacle
  18. Tensions started mounting between Eisner and Wells/Katzenberg. They were driving each other crazy, especially as Eisner began getting a bloated ego
  19. Disney moved into the Broadway arena and decided to buy their own theater in New York City
  20. Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter accident in 1994. During contract negotiations, Eisner promised Katzenberg that if anything ever happened to Wells, he would become Disney’s #2. However, this didn’t happen and Katzenberg knew from then on that their relationship was over as Eisner wasn’t being honest or owning up to his word. Katzenberg threatened to leave and Eisner spoke with close confidants, many of whom which hated Katzenberg
  21. After the movie The Mighty Ducks became a sensational hit, Disney franchised the Mighty Ducks into an NHL team. Disney took control of the Anaheim Angels in 1997 after their movie Angels in the Outfield became a hit – both teams were sold in 1999/2000
  22. Eisner had emergency heart surgery and felt like he lost some of his competitiveness and drive after that – younger in body but older in spirit. He no longer felt immortal but he had now made his peace with death and was happier.
  23. Succession was up in the air but Eisner sensed that the company was undergoing an internal corporate restructuring of sorts and knew from firsthand experience how vital it is to keep employees happy and challenged in the midst of great past successes
  24. The tensions between Katzenberg and Eisner eventually became too much and Jeffrey left. He founded, along side Spielberg and good friend David Geffen, DreamWorks SKG
  25. Disney attempted to build a historic park in Virginia but certain groups thought it was too close to important Civil War grounds and attempted to block it – Disney held off as they had lost the “perception game”
  26. With record profits, Disney had to decide what to do with all this money and they felt that they need a distribution arm so they started looking at networks. The initial thoughts of buying NBC from GE fizzled and it then came down to CBS, Time Warner and Capital Cities / ABC. The merger with Cap Cities happened in 1995 for $20b and was the second largest merger of all time. This brought A&E Networks as well as ESPN into the Disney fold
  27. After much deliberation, Eisner’s good friend Michael Ovitz was hired but Eisner immediately regretted it. Ovitz founded Creative Artists Agency, one of the world’s largest talent agencies and his style of business was much different – lavish parties bringing talent together and expensive presents are norms as an agent but Eisner disapproved
  28. The tension between “Eisner and the rest of the company consumed so much of everyone’s efforts but Disney had such a deep bench that they were still able to come out with successful movies, TV shows and theme park rides. Ovitz was eventually fired at the end of 1996.
  29. Eisner may have gotten some bad reputation because in the months before Ovitz’s firing he told the media that there were no issues and everything was great. Shortly after Eisner signed a new 10 year contract with Disney which was valued at close to $200 million with options and many other perks. Eisner’s ownership eventually became the second largest in the world only behind Sid Bass and this would lead to terrible incentives and non-independent board behavior
  30. After the enormous success of The Lion King, Disney began to struggle with their animation unit. They were having some success in their partnerships with Pixar and even though many inside Disney had suggested buying Pixar in 1997, nothing came of it. The relationship with Pixar experienced tension when negotiations between Jobs and Eisner went south. Jobs said he would never sell to Disney as long as Eisner was there
  31. The Lion King Broadway show was released in 1997 and in many ways this can be seen as the pinnacle of the Eisner era for its originality and creativity
  32. One fatal flaw of both Eisner and Katzenberg is that they never knew how to encourage celebrating small wins
  33. Eisner’s management style lead to a very political, backstabbing, insecure environment where people were always looking behind their back and unsure of their place in the company
  34. Eisner’s style forced many executives to start making decisions without any help or input from the people below them
  35. The merging of AOL and Time Warner was difficult and dangerous for Disney but they eventually reached a favorable settlement in which Iger proved himself that content and is king over distribution
  36. Eisner’s major mistakes included his massive spending on Euro Disney, forays into the Internet and the acquisition of the Fox Family cable network – each of which is a mistake of more than $1b. This does not even include the firing of Katzenberg and Ovitz – both mistakes of hundreds of millions of dollars
  37. As Eisner called for Roy’s removal from the Board due to his age, Stanley Gold and Roy began a “Save Disney” campaign and called for Eisner’s removal due to terrible results the previous five years. They eventually garnered enough votes of no confidence from shareholders that Eisner stepped down. He was responsible for one of the greatest media turnarounds in history, bringing in an era of creativity and growth few expected but his egomaniacal  dishonest, micromanagement style lead to insider unhappiness and revolt. During his tenure, there was also widespread shareholder revolt for corporate governance abuses and Disney was at fault in a major way too. Many were insiders and not truly independent, getting huge paychecks from Eisner personally
  38. The catalyst for the wheels falling off during Eisner’s reign was Frank Wells’ death in 1994 – Wells was Eisner’s check and balance, rudder and sounding board. He made executives feel appreciated where Eisner was often stingy with praise. However, not even Wells could save the Euroland Disney debacle or the firing of Katzenberg
  39. Eisner was extremely creative and had massive energy. This was the shot of the arm Disney needed in 1984 when he was brought in but with success, Eisner’s ego started getting in the way and his image even fused with that of the Disney company itself. Eisner’s downfall also came from his dishonesty and “bending of the truth” to fit his needs
  What I got out of it
  1. A really good background and overview of the Eisner era – the incredible growth and creativity followed by bad management style which lead to insider revolt, poor results and his eventual ousting

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Summary

  1. Chernow’s goal is to make Washington as close to the living, breathing figure he was to his contemporaries, rather than the lifeless role model he is today to most people. He was only able to achieve so much because he could bottle and funnel his intense emotion to his noble cause
Key Takeaways
  1. Washington always sought to conceal his feelings and not express too much emotion. He was a master at controlling his emotions but when he cracked, he was full of great wrath. Opacity was his means for influence and shaping events. He commanded respect from all because people knew how emotional and passionate he was, yet how well he managed these emotions. He possessed the gift of listening and self command but only after work hard at attaining these traits
  2. Washington’s great grandfather was a successful military man who later came to possess thousands of acres in Virginia and this wealth would be eventually passed down to George. Washington’s father remarried to Marry Ball after his first wife died and she would have a tremendous influence on George. She was a very moral woman who stood strong in times adversity but had a temper. Washington’s father died young and forced Washington to take much responsibility at a young age. His mother was tough and they did not have a loving relationship. She made George uneasy with criticism and emotionally closed. His older brother Lawrence was a great influence on him and pushed him to pursue a military career
  3. Washington is an incredible case of self improvement as he had little to no formal education but was self taught through books and experience. Washington is a story of self construction. Washington was also a physical specimen – taller than 6′ with almost comically large hands and feet, athletic, graceful and a good dancer
  4. Washington’s first job was as a land surveyor and this would influence his future love of land and land speculation
  5. Already by the age of 22 Washington had distinguished himself militarily and politically but a skirmish with the French almost ruined his reputation. However, he acted bravely and his reputation was soon restored. He learned early on the effectiveness of guerrilla type warfare that the Native Americans fought. Washington had to learn to mask his ambition as he too often butted heads with more senior leaders. He often felt slighted by the British military traditions and was sometimes passed for deserving promotions
  6. Early on Washington decided it was of utmost importance to have a loyal and well trained army. He was able to take a ragtag group and instill some training and order into this already courageous group. He came to love his men and through his leadership and courage on the battlefield, his men came to love him too – was able to get the most out of his men 
  7. Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a short, wealthy widow with a warm, even temperament. She had two children, Jackie and Patsy, who Washington adopted. The oldest son, Jackie, was a jet setter and ignored the education Washington so badly wanted as a youth. Patsy died young and caused her parents much grief but it gave Washington a sizable inheritance which helped a lot with his large debt and to expand Mt. Vernon. He had no children of his own
  8. Washington was strict but relatively fair and humane with his slaves
  9. Washington was extremely prompt and believed a judicious and efficient use of time was a sure path to success
  10. The Tea Party was a seminal moment as it furthered the colonists’ aversion to taxation without representation. Washington, having been out of the military since his glory days of the French and Indian War, took an important political position at this time and much frustration with the British began bubbling over in him and advocated a petition of British goods and perhaps even military action. Washington was soon elected to the First Continental Congress. He was soon after unanimously elected to be the commander in chief of the continental army once it was assembled. His wealth and self command made him a popular choice. His ragtag army from every corner of the colonies was difficult to unite and train but they showed more courage and will than any other army. There were many other obstacles too such as lack of gunpowder, fewer fit men than he had anticipated and much more. His self command was vital at this time in order to keep his men optimistic even though he knew how dismal the situation looked. Secrecy and deception were key tools he used throughout the war. Washington saw the war as a struggle of good vs evil and urged his men to treat POW humanely and to be a model citizen for all the colonies. Creating a draft was not politically possible at this time and Washington eventually decided to bar slaves from serving but free blacks were allowed in
  11. Washington was careful but a bit unorthodox in his selection of high ranking generals. General Greene had almost no military experience and General Knox was very overweight. Washington bucked his aristocratic streak and gave promising men the opportunity to rise and learn although they didn’t seem to have the credentials. Nearly all the men he chose performed admirably. Washington excelled as a leader because he was able to select the men he saw as most able and then get the most out of them. After the war, Washington assembled one of the most impressive and effect cabinet members in history, notably Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury and Jefferson as Secretary of State
  12. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense energized a demoralized American army and the populace for American independence
  13. Washington was able to win back Boston from the British by setting up cannons in the middle of the night and scaring the British. This was a great victory with no deaths and Washington was praised the country over
  14. The American army were getting beat early but Washington pulled some military magic and got some much needed victories at Trenton and Princeton. Washington portrayed a mystique and energy which won him over the admiration and respect of every man under his command
  15. Hamilton was very young when he became Washington’s aide de camp and helped extensively with any written correspondence. They made a great team but their very different personalities often clashed
  16. Horatio Gates rose through the military ranks and while he won several important battles, he butted heads with Washington as he tried to blacken his name and remove him from his position as general
  17. Marquis de Lafayette became Washington’s protege and one of the key commanders of the American Revolution. Baron Von Steuben introduced order and uniformity across the army
  18. It is to Washington’s credit that he studied England’s weaknesses but also her strengths in order to determine what practices to exploit and which to emulate. With Hamilton’s influence, Washington established the national debt and national bank
  19. Washington had full faith in Benedict Arnold and was shaken and distraught when he found out he had a betrayed his country
  20. Washington greatest achievement laid in cobbling together unifying and motivating a dove verse group of people who had to come over substantial odds to be the British army
  21. Washington’s view on abolition softened over his tenure and throughout the war
  22. After the United States Britain the prospect of keys was difficult for Washington too. He was worried about exerting his own influence and speaking his mind on what he used to be the correct course of action for the United States after gaining independence. Washington ceding his power after the war was one of his most important and meaningful acts. He understood his power to be “on rent” and returned it as soon as it was appropriate to do so. Washington had a very busy public life, entertaining thousands of people who wanted to see and meet this great hero. Washington was nominated to be president a couple years later which again but him in a non partisan role
  23. Washington left Martha and Mt. Vernon for over 4 months to join the Constitutional Convention which drew up the Constitution. As the Constitution was ratified, Washington was expected to put it into action as the first President. This expectation was likely a major cause for the great support the Constitution received. That Washington willingly gave up his military power after the war, was seen as reluctantly accepting the presidential nomination and the fact he had no children added to people’s desire for him to lead. His no children made it less likely that power would simply be handed down
  24. Washington never lost his stylish desire and lived quite lavishly although he faced significant financial worries
  25. Washington saw the VP as the head of the legislature which diminished Adam’s role and influence
  26. After having the capital in Philadelphia for a temporary 10 year stint, Washington, Jefferson and L’enfant chose the site and designed America’s new capital in Washington DC
  27. It was vital that Washington serve as president although he was reluctant to step back into the public light. He was sure he’d retire after his first term but there was much fraction and his continued tenure was necessary for the success of the new nation
  28. Washington rose even higher in people’s minds when he willingly gave up political power after his second term. Washington’s farewell address touched on many important political points and took a clear Federalist stance. He thought there should be commercial over political ties and that a strong central government was important for the future success of the country. His just actions and influential decisions forever shaped the presidential role and proved that a republic could be run without absolute authority and that the leader is an extension of the people. His biggest failings lay in not abolishing slavery and the poor dealings with Native American uprisings 
  29. Adams became the second president and Jefferson the VP
  30. Washington was able to put his conscience at ease once he revised his will and freed all the slaves he owned once he passed away
What I got out of it
  1. Learning about Washington the man was really interesting to me. His desire to keep learning, his like of English fashion and at times extravagant spending, how indebted he became during the war, his relationship with Martha which was more friendly than loving and the raging temper which was buried beneath his icy interior

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

Summary
  1. Stone attempts to describe the Amazon story, its founder and how Wall St. and the world’s perception has changed these 20+ years
Key Takeaways
  1. Bezos is a visionary who has redefined customer service and runs his company like a chess grandmaster. He is extremely difficult to work for, intense and micromanaged but casts a reality distortion field and paints a vision people who work at Amazon are passionate and committed to
  2. The idea of an everything store which would serve as an intermediary between producers and consumers was hatched during his time at DE Shaw, a technologically advanced hedge fund
  3. Regret minimization framework – put yourself on your deathbed and imagine what you’d regret. If you’re facing a difficult decision, this exercise is very helpful to gain perspective
  4. Bezos recognized early on the importance of having transparent customer reviews in order to gain trust and provide a better shopping experience
  5. Focus on customers, not competitors
  6. Bezos is frugal about his operations but can be very aggressive and bold with acquisitions or new lines of business when he feels it is appropriate
  7. Always take and implement the best ideas from those who came before you, even if not in your direct field
  8. Had a pretty clear vision from the beginning of being the starting point for people’s shopping experience as they trusted Amazon would have pretty much anything you could want
  9. 6 core values – customer obsession, frugality, innovation, bias for action, ownership, high bar for talent
  10. It is the goal of nearly every tech company to become a platform others can/need to use. Amazon achieved this with its distribution system, marketplace and later through AWS
  11. Leadership – have backbone; disagree and commit; be vocally self-critical; think big; bias for action
  12. Bezos learned a lot from Walmart execs about the finer points of retailing and distribution and about every day low prices and customer loyalty from Costco. There are retailers who work to figure out how to charge customers more and those who work to try to charge customers less. Amazon is the latter
  13. It is almost always harder to be kind than clever
  14. Has had the dream of colonizing and traveling through space since he was a child and took his first step with his company, Blue Origin who’s mission is to create an enduring human presence in space. Many people close to Jeff say he is accumulating wealth in order to pursue his space dreams
  15. Jeff Wilke was brought in in 1999 to revamp amazon’s distribution and logistics network which would one day be the most automated and efficient system of its kind
  16. AWS is an incredible business which allows individuals or companies of any size to rent computing capacity. It scales infinitely and while the margins are slim it is incredibly profitable. It helps give start ups and individuals a more equal footing to established players. It has helped spur innovation as this once large fixed cost has turned into a variable cost which can scale in proportion to your business
  17. Influenced by a book called Creation by Steve Grand. Instead of trying to predict what people want, offer the smallest amounts of infrastructure to developers, get out of the way and see what happens and then iterate. AWS helps startups, individuals and companies achieve this business strategy
  18. Far better to cannibalize yourself than have somebody else do it. This belief along with Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma fueled Bezos and co. to dive fully into developing an ebook reader which would control the customer’s entire reading experience, much like Apple did with music and its iPod. As Amazon grew and its scale and influence increased, it sought more favorable terms with book publishers for physical books and also to begin growing the online catalogue for ebooks. Amazon aggressively pressured both large and small publishers and created some bad karma with suppliers. Many inside the company were also unsure of these new tactics as those who were onboard with Bezos’ vision and ruthless enough to achieve it whatever the costs were promoted while others were phased out
  19. Start with the customer and work backwards
  20. Many people talk about the truth but Bezos actively seeks it out and embraces it. He is also not tethered to conventional ways of thinking – only the laws of physics limits him and everything else is open to discussion
  21. Zappos was at first not interested in being acquired so Bezos and team created endless.com which pressured Zappos enough for them to reconsider. Zappos built great relationships with its suppliers like Nike who was afraid of putting their goods on Amazon because they were afraid their newest and most expensive styles would immediately go into the “bargain bin” because of Amazon’s focus on low prices. This was very much the same worry book publishers had with the switch to ebooks and their $9.99 price tag
  22. Successful Companies tend to be loved (whole foods, Costco, Disney) or feared (Microsoft, Goldman Sachs). Bezos wrote a memo describing how he wants Amazon to act in order to be more loved – polite, risk taking, winners, inventing, empowering others, conviction, authenticity, thinking big…
  23. Bezos believes truth arises when different perspectives and beliefs are argued transparently, even sometimes explosively
  24. The question “will amazon enter this area or do this…” Is almost inevitably yes, eventually. It may just move from the everything store to the everything everything
  25. “We don’t have any single big advantage, but we do have thousands of small advantages
What I got out of it
  1. Bezos is a visionary who is difficult to work for but gets the most out of his people in order to bring about the most customer obsessed company in the word to keep expanding and innovating. Fascinating culture and company and will be interesting to see how the company fares in the future and which markets they try to penetrate
“Amazon.love” memo
  • Rudeness is not cool.
  • Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  • Close-following is not cool.
  • Young is cool.
  • Risk taking is cool.
  • Winning is cool.
  • Polite is cool.
  • Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  • Inventing is cool.
  • Explorers are cool.
  • Conquerors are not cool.
  • Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  • Empowering others is cool.
  • Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  • Leadership is cool.
  • Conviction is cool.
  • Straightforwardness is cool.
  • Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  • Hypocrisy is not cool.
  • Authenticity is cool.
  • Thinking big is cool.
  • The unexpected is cool.
  • Missionaries are cool.
  • Mercenaries are not cool.” – Jeff Bezos

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Summary
  1. Interesting biography on the philosopher/politician who was responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, instilling a belief in America of continuous improvement and more
Key Takeaways
  1. Can be considered one of the most successful political figures of The first 50 years of the American republic (1743-1826). His dynasty of similar thinking presidents was unmatched and their goal was the development and furtherance of a popular government – the will of an enlightened majority should prevail. The public is the hope and savior of the republic – opposite the view of the Federalists
  2. The greatest leaders are not dreamers nor dictators but those who understand the mechanics of influence and know when to change their minds. People are always torn between the ideal and the real. The true leaders know how to balance this tension. Jefferson’s combination of philosopher and politician is what helped make him so powerful
  3. His escape was Monticello and he was very well read and multidimensional in his talents and studies.
  4. Foes thought of him as an atheist, dreamer, womanizer, Francophile.
  5. Responsible for the rise of individualism, Louisiana purchase and the opening of the west, Lewis and Clark expedition, democratic move in America to check the power of established forces, gave the nation the idea of American progress and the future will be better than the past. Thought of as the designer of America
  6. Jefferson was very worried and perhaps paranoid about Britain and anything remotely resembling monarchy. He considered America in a perennial war and nothing in America to be secure
  7. Jefferson’s father was a rich and powerful farmer who taught him how to wield and handle power effectively. His father died when he was 14 but his mother was very impressive and held down the home
  8. Jefferson headed to William and Mary where he was exposed to the world of politics
  9. Jefferson considered sloth and indolence a sin and was known to spend 15 hours per day studying and reading. Believed history is philosophy teaching by example and spent a lot of time studying history to know how to respond when it repeats itself
  10. Jefferson married Martha Wales Skelton in 1772 when he was 28. His first daughter Jane died before her second birthday and was devastating for him and his wife
  11. Jefferson played a critical role in the second continental congress which was charged with prepping the country for war against Britain
  12. Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia at a very unstable time where Britain was threatening to attack and abolish slavery. Jefferson was not a great leader during this time and failed to react quickly enough to stave off Benedict Arnold, Cornwallis and the English. Soon after he retired from his post and spent much time at Monticello in an almost secluded manner. Although many were fascinated and awed by Jefferson, he considered himself a failure at this point in his life
  13. His wife died when he was only 39 and it caused him severe depression
  14. Jefferson took the post of US Minister to France and moved to Paris with his eldest daughter, Patsy. His goal was to study and adapt the best European inventions, designs and other ways of life for American use. He was enamored with the French culture and later criticized for being a Francophile. He was Franklin’s successor and promoted a strong and united America for Europe. He lived quite lavishly and became close friends with John Adams and his family until e moved back to the US to become Secretary of State
  15. After a contentious bill to abolish slavery was not passed, Jefferson decided it was not worth his political reputation to fight for an idea who’s time he believed had not yet come
  16. Sally Hemings was the slave Jefferson had sexual relations with and was in fact his wife’s half sister
  17. Jefferson butted heads with Alexander Hamilton who was Secretary of the Treasury and who wanted to fund a national debt, charter a national bank, absorb state debts and raise funds from tariffs on imports and liquor. They had a lifelong rivalry that would shape the nation      Republican vs Federalist. Populist vs monarchist
  18. The meeting of principles must often be undertaken away from the public eye
  19. Jefferson retired as Secretary of State but soon returned and won the VP nomination. He was instrumental during the quasi war with France which never escalated to full out warfare
  20. Jefferson was elected as the third president of the US with Aaron Burr as his VP
  21. Although a populist and widely believed in the will of the people, Jefferson was very aware of how important it was to have differing opinions and public discourse. To try to minimize that would lead to tyranny
  22. Tensions with Spain arose as Jefferson expanded and explored the continent westward. However, he decided a stance of neutrality would best serve the nation and did not sign any treaties with Britain
  23. Jefferson, like nearly all politicians, was forced to moderate and compromise his political ideals once he was actually in office
  24. Aaron Burr posed a bug threat for some time as he was thought to be building a militia in the west with possible hopes of either attacking or splitting off from America to form his own empire
  25. Time often resolves the problems of the hour
  26. An attack by a British ship on an American ship almost lead to war and in this time of crisis Jefferson greatly expanded the power of the executive branch. He enacted a very controversial embargo
  27. Jefferson retired after his second term to Monticello where he spent much time with family and studying. He eventually made amends with Adams and corresponded with him regularly
  28. Jefferson fought through old age and illness to make it to his last Fourth of July in 1826
What I got out of it
  1. After reading Hamilton and John Adams, I wanted to get a different perspective and Meacham provided that. Jefferson was a politician/philosopher who believed in the common people and instilled in the nation a sense of progress where the future can always be better than the past