Life is beauty and worth fighting for. This is a sentimental first line, but it resonated while I was reading your story "A Design for Living" (August), which I very much enjoyed. Most of all, your story provided inspiration. The protagonist, Michael Graves, is ultimately a practitioner of design as a life force. He's transforming the sentiment of the first line into a way of life, which must remain design's drive and destiny. Thank you for a meaningful and warm piece of writing for all practitioners of not only the discipline of design but of living.
Nate Burgos Inc.
We all thought Amazon.com ("Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos," August) would collapse. But we all also thought there was a lot to learn from it. The story's argument on fact versus gut feeling proved that. With Amazon now showing a profit, it's a great positive learning example in the New Economy.
Your insights into Jeff Bezos the person provided moral support and inspiration. My business partner and I both have reputations for being a bit "out there." It's nice to know that we are in such good company!
Jack G. Ellis
Invictus Integrated Logistics LLC
I think Jeff Bezos is remarkable in many ways, but his comments about using facts in decision making are, like so many management bromides, too facile to be of much use.
Rochester, New York
The Myth of the Labor Myth
As an ardent fan of your magazine, I was taken aback by "The Labor-Shortage Myth" (August). The writer's thesis disagrees with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, well-regarded organizations such as Intel, and all of the research I've done this past year that concluded that we are about to have a worker crisis. The article alludes to the fact that the labor shortage is all about retiring baby boomers. There is another statistic to consider: the birthrate dropped by 40% between 1955 and 1973. Also, there are myriad reasons that so many people no longer want to work for corporate America. They continue to increase the numbers of entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. In another article, Anthony Carnevale, former chairman of the National Commission for Employment Policy said, "We are about to face a demographically driven shortfall in labor that will make the late 1990s seem like a minor irritation." That article also stated that executives at Cigna, Intel, Sprint, SAS, Whirlpool, WPP, Adecco, and the National Association of Manufacturers agree with him.
ÊI do concur with Alison Overholt's conclusion, though: Companies need to "invest in the right technologies and their own employees to stay ever more productive."Ê
CEO and president
North Bay Management Academy Inc.
San Rafael, California
Brand of Shame
Linda Tischler's piece ("The Good Brand," August) showed some tired thinking on branding, now an almost meaningless buzzword and certainly one of the least understood topics in business today. Most of the future "trends" she purports to predict for us are either rehashes of well-established marketing knowledge or mushy brand-speak. With all due respect to Tom Peters, brands are not people, they are labels for commercial products and services. Saying that the "line between entertainment and brands will blur" is like letting us in on the fact that the Pope is Catholic. The line between public and private ownership of our country is what's blurring, and the implications are disastrous. Implying that America's ruined foreign relations is a marketing problem is ludicrous and an indication of how we now so easily think of effective political action as the responsibility of corporations rather than of government.
San Francisco, California
Your article about how brand trends have changed is well written and technically accurate, but it's just semantics. Brands are about what they've always been about: Save me time, or money; leverage my risk; or entertain me. Coke or Pepsi? It's not about the red can or taste tests. It's about Coke finally getting it that a lot of people like cola with lime. It's about having me carry home one less thing from the grocery store.
Gidley Consulting LLC
Tower Lakes, Illinois
Cheers for Courage
Your courage issue (September) is dead-on. It is the key leadership characteristic needed in today's restless and unstable corporate cultures. It is also the single weakest managerial trait. Managerial courage is pretty simple: Clearly set expectations, assertively manage performance based on those expectations, provide straight feedback, delegate where appropriate, encourage collaboration, and hold employees and colleagues accountable for behavior and results. Why, then, is it so difficult for many managers to step up? The answer is also pretty simple: Most organizations have been built on the premise of safety . . . the opposite of courage.
The Joy Group
I cannot describe the emotional high that ran through my body reading your courage issue from cover to cover. I love that many of the stories in your issue challenge all of us not just in business but in our personal and public lives to fight for what is right, not just for what is acceptable.
Edward T. Hrudka
CEO and owner
Comfort Financial Services
Sherman Oaks, California
Cowardice or Courage?
Your effort to synthesize the timeless virtue of courage with the adaptive trait of leadership came a cropper at the "Cowards of the Year" awards (September). Grasso's hoard, Clinton's evasions, and Selig's silence are valid targets all right, but Michael Eisner's decision not to distribute a documentary movie that plays fast and loose with the truth is perhaps better viewed as an exemplar of courage rather than cowardice. Eisner's decision carried a higher degree of difficulty than, say, Ed Breen just doing the job he was hired to do at Tyco and earning your praise for it.
Your column sniffs that Mr. Eisner fecklessly ignored shareholder value in refusing Michael Moore's box-office monster, but using the same set of facts, one might propose that he showed great foresight and courage in risking the ire of investors so as to stay clear of a piece of cinematic propaganda. Not everyone was dazzled by Fahrenheit 9/11 and perhaps Mr. Eisner was wise and brave not to let his company distribute it. It's funny how courage endures despite the slings and arrows of the critics who fail utterly to see it for what it is.
Joseph A. Crowley
Performance Strategies LLC
Women Are Courageous Too!
I was astonished, disappointed, and then filled with frustration to find that the courage issue was devoted almost exclusively to men in business. Were all the women executives on vacation when this issue was being put together? There was one article that included a woman business executive — Anne Gust at the Gap — and that article largely focused on her colleague Dan Henkle. Granted, the stories about women such as Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen ("Daring to Fail"), Eleanor Josaitis ("Choosing to Make a Difference"), and Cheri Blauwet ("A Day in the Life of Courage"), are certainly inspiring and can help readers think about business in a new way. But the rest of the courage articles either featured male executives or were essays written by men.ÊÊÊ
Even the lighter side featured another "male" viewpoint: the SpongeBob SquarePants approach to leadership. What about Dora the Explorer (another Nickelodeon hit) or the Powerpuff Girls? Sure, the lion in The Wizard of Oz went on a quest for courage. But if it weren't for Dorothy's courageous leadership throughout the journey to see the wizard, the lion never would have made it.
Dearborn Trade Publishing
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A version of this article appeared in the October 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.