Lance's Letter
Lance's Letter
Highlights 2020: Week 36

Highlights 2020: Week 36

At the recommendation of a reader, I’m putting this week’s highlights in audio form. It was a lot of fun!

Small Business Highlights

"Wrong location? Move it," he says. "Wrong people? Replace 'em. Wrong industry? I don't believe it. I've got a company in the machine tools industry, and we're doing great. I'd happily go into the coal business. It's how you look at something and how it's managed that make the difference."

2006 Inc Magazine article about Ken Hendricks, “Create Jobs, Eliminate Waste, Preserve Value”

I’m not saying problem avoidance is should go out the window, but this flies in the face of the Buffett/Munger idea that of problem avoidance. From the limited info I could find, Hendricks seemed to have a knack for smashing problems. Seems like an intelligent fanatic who was an outstanding operator and a good capital allocator to boot. The real secret could be that he married an amazing business partner.

Feedback needs to be immediate. As soon as someone steps off the path or veers into dangerous territory, let them know. Ideally during the first 90 days, give people “an exorbitant amount of feedback,” Lopp says.

First Round Capital, “The Best Approach to the Worst Conversation”

[O]ne of the first things you need to recognize is that the fundamental problem in making your prices stick is that you’re competing with many people and businesses who are actually going broke.

Lawrence L. Steinmetz and William T. Brooks, How to Sell At Margins Higher than Your Competitors

It’s always amazed me to consider industries that drive prices down until NO ONE is making a profit. Construction and grocery stores come to mind. Why do we feel like profit is a bad thing?

Christian Living Highlights

In the final analysis, the act of flattery is an act of deceit. It is a lie that many are willing to believe because they excessively long for approval of others.

Lou Priolo in Pleasing People

Sales pros talk a lot about “building rapport”. I can be a bit of a people pleaser, so this quote hit me right in the kisser. Flattery is an act of deceit.

What is “greatness”? It is not something quantitative; not what we mean when we say, “The number one hundred is greater than the number ten.” Rather, it is a manner of thinking and of meeting the world. It means the strictness of man’s demands upon himself and the willingness to stand for what is important, a breadth of vision and boldness of decision, a depth of involvement, originality, and creative power.


It is not an easy thing to confront greatness. It can discourage, even paralyze, for the greatness of another makes me feel my own littleness. Goethe said that there is only one defense against great superiority, and that is love. I wonder if this is true. It may not always be possible to love. Perhaps it may be more correct to say that the defense against great superiority consists in truth and reverence, which say: “He is great, I am not. But it is good that greatness should be, even if it is not in me but in another.” Then there is an open space, and envy disappears.

Romano Guardini, Learning the Virtues

I realized why I love playing sports but am not crazy about watching them. It can be hard to come face-to-face with a level of grace I’m never going to touch. But there’s good news too. Beauty doesn’t have to be mine for me to enjoy it!

Fiction Highlights

This week I tore through Naomi Novik’s book, Spinning Silver. It’s a retelling of the fable, Rumpelstiltskin. All these highlights come from the last third of the book. The cost the characters paid made the truth they told matter more.

But I had not known that I was strong enough to do any of those things until they were over and I had done them. I had to do the work first, not knowing.

Preach sister!! While it’s helpful to count the cost, sometimes I’ve realized I’ve just got to try. Most of the time I blow it. But the winners pay for the losers anyway.

Which is a perfect segue to our next idea…

He would only shrug and look at me expectantly again, waiting for high magic: magic that came only when you made some larger version of yourself with words and promises, and then stepped inside and somehow grew to fill it.

Clarification: this isn’t about fibbing, biting off more than you can chew or bragging. It’s about the forcing function public commitment can give. Scratch that, it’s the forcing function a deep-rooted decision gives.

This doesn’t always look how I think it will. The king steps into a larger version of himself, by taking on a smaller version of himself. 🤯

“If you really wanted to court me,” I said, “you’d have to do it by my family’s laws, and you’d have to marry me the same way. Save your time!” He paused and looked at me, and his eyes kindled with light suddenly; he took a step towards me, and held out his hand, and said urgently, “And if so? Whatever they are, I will venture them, if you will give me hope.” “Oh, will you,” I said, and folded my arms, knowing that would be the end of it, of course. And I wasn’t sorry; I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t regret any man who wouldn’t do that, no matter what else he was or offered me; that much had lived in my heart all my life, a promise between me and my people, that my children would still be Israel no matter where they lived. Even if in some sneaking corner of my mind I might have thought, once or twice, for only a moment, that it would be worth something to have a husband who’d sooner slit his own throat than ever lie to you or cheat you. But not if he didn’t value you at least as high as his pride. I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom. 

Lance's Letter
Lance's Letter
Weekly highlights from books and articles on business, Christian living and fantasy fiction/sci-fi.
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Lance Johnson