People in business who like to Get Shit Done fall in love with each version of The New. When I was a kid, new was the the Apple II. Then the IBM PC, digital phones and voice mail, the Mac — oh God, the Mac! — word processing, email, the cell phone, the Internet — mmmmm, the Internet! — and then the iPhone — oh…the iPhone!
Well damn the iPhone, because I lay at its feet the death of the most efficient technology ever created for the speedy disposition of Getting Shit Done — the plain old telephone. But not just any old-school telephone. The high tech, multi-line, digitally switched telephone of the late 1980s — the kind of phone upon which you could conduct, merge, and manage multiple direct conversations with your peers, colleagues, partners and adversaries — a direct line of human expression brain to brain — the kind of shit it’ll take us decades to replicate (if we ever do).
Why did we all stop calling each other when we had business to discuss? It's getting ridiculous.
In 1919, as the White and Red armies fought a brutal, seesaw war for control of Russia, British War Secretary Winston Churchill prodded his government to commit troops to the fight. The Bolsheviks, he declared, were “swarms of typhus bearing vermin.” They “hop and caper like ferocious baboons amid the ruins of their cities and the corpses of their victims.” Churchill’s rhetoric was so inflammatory that, after he addressed the House of Commons on the topic, Tory Party leader A.J. Balfour felt compelled to comment. With quintessential British coolness, the former Prime Minister told the future Prime Minister, “I admire the exaggerated way you tell the truth.”
Unfortunately, exaggerated truth-telling is as commonplace in business as in politics. Walter Isaacson cites Steve Job’s “reality-distortion field” repeatedly in the go-to biography of Apple’s mercurial chief. “[Jobs] would assert something — be it a fact about world history or a recounting of who suggested an idea at a meeting — without considering the truth,” writes Isaacson. He would conjure up an impossible production date, for instance, and demand it be met. Surprisingly, as Isaacson recounts, it often was.
Imagine yourself rediscovering your favorite book for the first time. Remember that feeling when you couldn’t put it down no matter how late in the night it was? Remember folding the book in half and cracking the spine as you turned from page to page wondering what would happen next. You loved that book. You felt that every word was strategically placed for your eyes and your eyes only.
I rekindled that feeling as I leafed through a book that has been collecting dust for three years.