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Sonata Days and Nights

Seoul Man amazon

Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis & Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan by Frank Ahrens (Harper Business, $27.99, 336 pages)

“I could live here for forty years, learn the language inside out, and still not understand Korea.”

Seoul Man is basically two books in one. The first is a “fish out of water” story of a middle-aged, married later in life, American who finds himself living and working in South Korea. It’s a completely different world than the one he knew as a reporter in Washington, D.C.

Seoul Man city

Much of Korean culture – one focused on society first and individuals second, makes little sense to Western eyes. Plus, the basic conservatism of the culture appears to now be overrun by a tsunami wave of dangerous binge drinking (Koreans now consume the most alcohol, by far, of any people on the planet). Still, this part of the true account is fun, engaging and entertaining.

Not so entertaining is the part of the book where Ahrens writes about the corporate culture at Hyundai Motor; about his Christian beliefs (which apparently did not negate his participation in drinking fests); and time spent away from his wife and baby daughter. In fact, a long chapter about time spent in Indonesia adds nothing, while detracting from the natural narrative style. It should have been dumped.

Seoul Man back cover

There’s not enough within the pages of Seoul Man to classify it as a true business book. (Automobile lovers will find it lacking in the inside details they may expect to find.) It’s definitely a memoir, one that starts with an exciting bang before it ends on a dull whimper. Wait for the paperback version, or not.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book will be released on August 16, 2016.

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Be True to Your School

Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You by Gina Amaro Rudan (Touchstone, $24.99, 203 pages)

Ready, set, GO!   Professional development and training coach Gina Rudan can be a bit overwhelming as she enthusiastically offers up her philosophy for success.   Summed up it is – Be the best you by mining deeply held inner goals while simultaneously exploiting people who may be able to assist your climb upward.   Oh, and always maintain personal integrity by selflessly promoting the ones your are using.

That’s quite a challenge; however, Ms. Rudan offers herself as the poster child for this method.   She jumped ship from the Fortune 500 employers of her past to begin a second career as a consultant.   Clearly, the field of personal development is a crowded one that spans several decades.   M. Scott Peck, Jack Canfield and David Shenk immediately come to mind.   Dr. Shenk is listed because he too has written a book specifically focused on the topic of genius, The Genius in All of Us.   His view of genius and ways to achieve it are expressed in a calm, well-considered approach.   (A review of the book will be posted next on this site.)

Ms. Rudan’s target audience appears to be the 35-40 year old female who is at a point where she is stuck in her professional life.   The spin for Rudan’s method is a bit titillating with “the Other G spot” and dating rules for those who can assist with a climb into practical genius status.   She stresses the need for personal congruity – a balance of hard and soft assets.   It is at the intersection of one’s marketable skills (hard assets) and personal passions, creativity and values (soft assets) where the Other G spot exists.   Finding that spot and making it yours is the point of the book.

Each element of the process is thoroughly developed; however, this reviewer found the bouncy enthusiasm and perspective shifts in the early chapters a bit unsettling.   Moreover, the rambling in some sentences makes the case for keeping it simple:

Expressing your practical genius is not about expressing the limitedness of our personalities or egos but more about expressing wonder of the depths of the oceans of who we are as complex multi-dimensional creatures.

The later chapters get down to business with boxed hints for the reader and lengthy descriptions or definitions of what Ms. Rudan thinks is the ideal mix of characters that will become the players in the reader’s life changing drama.

Given today’s legions of unemployed and underemployed persons, this book may have an audience in persons seeking more than just putting food on the table and a roof over one’s head.   Then again, maybe it does not.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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