Mike Bland

The End Malaria Book: Inspiration and Hubris

A good cause, despite the gag-inducing ego-tripping

- New York
Tags: books

The other day I bought a Kindle copy of End Malaria after having learned about it from Seth Godin’s blog. I’m halfway through the book now, which is composed of very short essays on the broad topic of removing obstacles to doing really important work that you love. Aside from the philanthropic aspect of the purchase, there are some really good bits of advice in the book and it’s definitely worth a quick weekend or travel read, though I’m tickled/irked by the apparent hubris of some of the authors—more on this later.

The benefit of having the authors conform to such a limited format is that some true gems of insight do pop out; some felt like genuine eggs of Columbus thrown straight at my head. Here are a few I came across while reading today that resonated deeply; maybe they’ll intrigue you enough to check out the whole book—and bear in mind that 100% of the $20 for a Kindle copy of the book goes to Malaria No More:

If we choose invulnerability, we have to settle for a type of counterfeit connection that often comes from being what we think we’re supposed to be, rather than being who we are.
—Brené Brown

No one ever said, “This product is terrible, but they have a great mission statement, so I’m going to buy from them again! They really ‘strive for market synergy!’”
—Scott Stratten

“The most precious asset you have is your time. Your calendar is a truthful representation of what you think is important.”
—Tom Peters

While you’re thinking about your calendar, take time to consider whom you hang out with. Did you know that you act like the six people that you’re closest to? If you look at your current gang, this can obviously be very good news or very bad news.
—Tom Peters

Kindness is free. Thoughtfulness is free. And people will remember that kindness thirty years later.
—Tom Peters

THOUGHT: I have to say yes to everything I’m asked to do, to show that I’m a team player.
REALITY: If you say yes to everything, you devalue yourself. This is one of my favorite quotes; it’s from Jim Rohn: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
—Ryan Vanderbilt

Most of us would like our eulogy to read “She followed her bliss,” but instead we live a life of “She never missed a meeting, no matter how wasteful it was.”
—Bill Jensen

I’m asked that by most every manager I meet. From Mr. Simplicity, they expect a checklist. I try to comply. I build what matters into how to write better emails, run better meetings, build better strategies. But I also try to help those managers discover that those are just Trojan horse to-do’s. As we discuss each one, I’m sneaking in something much more valuable. The real answer is always introspection—to draw upon something inside yourself that forces you to keep remembering, “This is what really matters,” and to constantly build that into your daily actions.
—Bill Jensen

Wanting to do two non-compatible things has a name. It’s called stress.
—Seth Godin

Now for a comment on hubris: Many of the essays of End Malaria make really valuable points without coming off as selling Web 2.0 social media hype. Others make good points in spite of it, but the overconfident, melodramatic, simplistically prescriptive, self-impressed overtones in parts of the presentation distracted from the quality of the information.

Case in point: Each essay starts with a brief biographical paragraph. One such paragraph actually describes its author as “a force in social media”. Another describes its author as “one of the key influencers on Twitter [who] has created viral videos that have been seen more than 60 million times”. Another: “She has a reputation for enabling companies to win, if not dominate, their markets.” Another starts with: “If there’s such a thing as an über-guru, so-and-so is probably it”, and the first line of the corresponding essay is “If you know me at all, you know I stand for Excellence.” Ironically, these quotes closely follow a piece by another author making a case for allowing oneself to be vulnerable instead of presenting an artificial air of invulnerability.

Not only are these names no one would self-apply where I come from, but these bombastic claims lead me to make comparisions to the instigators of the Arab Spring revolutions, for example, which have completely changed the political landscape of Arab nations heretofore ruled by autocratic dictators. I haven’t tried to research too deeply, but I’ve read quite a few online news articles as events have unfolded, and none of them have specifically pointed out the individuals who started the online campaigns (or at least they haven’t been mentioned boldly or frequently enough for me to remember). In that light, what am I supposed to think of these other self-labeled “forces in social media”, “key influencers on Twitter”, and “über-gurus” I’ve only just learned about? I’m not a member of the infoculture (still shaking the venom out of a pending post deconstructing that particular concept), and as such I’m unaware of these folks’ accomplishments, and my value system is not aligned with many in the social media sphere. Even trying to account for that, however, I fail to see significant social or economic value in 60 million viral video views as an accomplishment in itself, or a justification for other such self-congratulatory claims when held up against phenomena such as the Arab Spring and other equally seismic social events that happened before social media existed.

Even so, even the most grandiose of these authors contributed their time, energy, and ideas to a book that is designed to benefit the reader as well as potentially save lives, completely pro bono. They certainly have my respect for doing so, as this is one social media phenomenon with a specific, tangible, achievable, and laudable social goal. I’ve yet to contribute to such a project, but now I’ve a good example to follow—though I think I’ll hold back on the self-aggrandizement when I finally get around to it.