Entrepreneurial Lessons from Soichiro Honda [They Beat the Odds #2]

Soichiro Honda - Founder of Honda Motor Company Successful people don’t expect or wait around for the perfect conditions; instead they stay focused on their hopes and dreams. They persist in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances. They don’t achieve greatness because of their optimal surroundings; they achieve it in spite of all of the challenges they face.

Grit and entrepreneurial mindset are lessons from the life of Soichiro Honda (1906–91,) the iconic founder of the Honda Motor Company.

Early Influences Can Open up the Future

Soichiro was born in 1906, just as Japan’s pre-war agricultural economy was shifting towards manufacturing. He inherited from his blacksmith-father an inborn manual dexterity and curiosity about machineries. Even in childhood, Soichiro developed a keen interest in the new engines, pumps, airplanes, and machines that were creating Japan’s nascent industrial base. A Ford Model T motor car that had visited his village when he was a toddler enthused him to no end; in later life he often recalled running behind the car in excitement and never forgot the smell of oil that had dripped from the engine.

Like his lifelong hero, American inventor Thomas Edison, Soichiro had barely any formal education and even less interest in conventional wisdom. He developed a carefree, disobedient personality: once, when a teacher berated him for not finishing a school assignment, Honda angrily retorted that the school’s diploma had less value than a ticket to the movies.

Honda A-Type Auxiliary Bicycle Engine

Obsessive Attention to Detail

With no interest in book learning, Soichiro plunged into hands-on work with cars and engines. He abandoned school at age 15 to seek work as an automotive mechanic in Tokyo. His first job was scarcely promising: for a year, he cared for an infant baby of his boss’s family. With the baby in tow, he often meandered the garage, observed the mechanics at work, and gave suggestions. Soichiro also tinkered with engines in between diaper changes and bottle feedings. He developed a passion for rebuilding engines, and just six years later, opened his own repair shop in his native Hamamatsu. At the same time, he began building and driving racecars. He also developed a fondness for reckless behavior especially with racing cars and sporadically overindulged in sake.

By 1937, Soichiro had more than 100 patents to his name and perfected a technique for making piston rings for Toyota. He started his own company called Tokai Seiki, but was forced to switch to building engines for the Imperial Navy’s boats and planes to support the growing Japanese military.

During World War II, the Allies bombed and leveled his factory; Honda adroitly built his own alcohol-distilling stills and ran a brewery.

It’s Important to Do What You Love

Soichiro Honda Riding the Honda Dream C70 In 1948, Soichiro returned to his true love: building engines. He started Honda Motor Company in a wooden shack. He focused on engineering and production. He found the administrative aspects of running the company boring and delegated them to his partner, Honda Motor Company’s co-founder Takeo Fujisawa.

Honda’s first motorized bicycle, Bata-Bata, became a huge hit in impoverished Japan. The ever-popular Dream motorcycle followed it. By 1959, Honda had become the world’s leading maker of motorcycles.

Soichiro spent long hours in the shop with engineers and focused on superior handling, fuel efficiency, and reliability. In 1957, Honda introduced its first car, the N360. Honda’s big hit came with the revolutionary CVCC engine that burned a leaner mix of gasoline. The Japanese government unsuccessfully tried to restrain his startup and coerced Honda into merging his company with one of Japan’s stronger, bigger automakers.

In 1972, Honda introduced Civic, a compact car with a clean-burning engine that fit the miles-per-gallon mood of the time. The Civic took the U.S. by storm and created as much resentment in Tokyo as it did in Detroit. When the Big Three lobbied to get limitations on imports, Honda started building cars in the U.S. Within a few years, Honda’s Civic and Accord models became the cars of choice for millions of middle-class Americans.

Honda Motor Company Founders Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa

Entrepreneurs Are Non-Conformists

'Japan's Emergence as a Global Power' by James I. Matray (ISBN 0313299722) The nonconformist Soichiro eschewed conventional Japanese managerial traditions by promoting “the Honda Way,” which relied on personal initiative coupled with a close relationship between workers and management. Soichiro’s obsessive attention to detail prompted him to personally test new car and motorcycle models.

Even after retirement from the company presidency in 1973, Soichiro took the title of “supreme adviser.” He made an 18-month driving tour of Japan, visited Honda’s 700 production factories and car dealerships, and reported his findings to the corporate headquarters.

Soichiro Honda died of liver failure in 1991. In building a company that epitomizes Japan’s Emergence as a Global Power as a leader in automobile production, Soichiro was a radical freethinker in a nation that valued conformity. He is renowned for his defiant spirit as an entrepreneur and fabulous creativity as an engineer.

Idea for Impact: Stop waiting for the perfect conditions and get to work. Maintain optimism during difficult times; take action that moves you closer to your goals, day after day after day.

Reference: Soichiro Honda and His Philosophy of Entrepreneurship, Koshi Oizumi’s 2003 Ph.D. dissertation at California State University

Silicon Valley’s Founding Fathers & Their ‘HP Way’ [Book Review & Summary]

Bill Hewlett and David Packard: Silicon Valley's Founding Fathers

'The HP Way' by David Packard (ISBN 0060845791) David Packard’s The HP Way recalls how he and Bill Hewlett started one of the world’s most successful corporations in 1937 with just $538 (today’s $8,850 when adjusted for inflation) and a rented one-car garage in Palo Alto, California. That garage is recognized today as the birthplace not only of Silicon Valley, but also of a new management approach.

Bill and David first met as electrical engineering students at Stanford University. Despite their different dispositions, they shared a passion for the outdoors and, with a professor’s encouragement, started Hewlett-Packard (HP) to commercialize the latest “radio engineering” theories. Over the decades, HP invented many groundbreaking electrical gadgets that were crucial to the development of radars, instrumentation devices, computers, and other technological revolutions.

In addition to their technical innovations, Bill and David established many progressive management practices that prevail even today. Starting in the initial days at the garage, the culture that Bill and David engendered at HP was unlike the hierarchical and egalitarian management practices that existed at other corporations of their day.

HP Garage: Birthplace Silicon Valley & New Management Style The essence of the “HP Way” was openness and respect for the individual. (Bill Hewlett once sawed a lock off a tool-room cabinet and left a note, “HP trusts its employees.”)

Management by objectives, managing by wandering about, nursing-mother facilities, flextime, decentralization, intrapreneurship, catastrophic medical insurance, profit sharing, employee stock ownership, tuition assistance, and many other management principles that dominate human resources practices today were all pioneered—if not invented—at HP.

Recommendation: Read. The HP Way tells the story how Bill and David built a company based on a framework of principles and the simplicity of their management methods. Good to Great author Jim Collins once wrote in commending David Packard’s The HP Way, “The greatest lesson to be divined from this book isn’t so much how to create a similar company but how creating a company based on a strong and clear set of values can lead to outstanding success.”

Postscript: Notes from ‘The HP Way’

  • Like Sam Walton, the other illustrious entrepreneur of their generation, Bill and David grew up witnessing Americans’ hardships during the Great Depression. This made them risk-averse; they vowed never to incur long-term debt to expand their fledgling company.
  • On the day Hewlett-Packard went public in 1961, David Packard took a subway instead of a taxi to Wall Street, lost his way, and reached the New York Stock Exchange late.
  • The foundations that Bill Hewlett and David Packard established individually with 95% of their stakes in HP are today two of the most prominent philanthropies in America.

Lessons from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works: Autonomy Can Create Innovative Workplaces

Lockheed Skunk Works

Lockheed Corporation's Skunk Works: A top-secret research and production facility In 1943, Lockheed Corporation established a top-secret research and production facility informally called Skunk Works. It was explicitly tasked with developing a high-speed fighter aircraft within 180 days. This new aircraft was to compete with aircraft produced by the German aircraft manufacturing company Messerschmitt.

Skunk Works consisted of Lockheed’s best design engineers and technicians who occupied a rented circus shelter adjacent to a foul-smelling plastic factory (hence the Skunk Works moniker.) More significantly, Skunk Works was isolated from corporate bureaucracy, granted much autonomy over decision-making, and encouraged to disregard standard procedures in the interest of expediency. In a record 143 days, Skunk Works designed, developed, and delivered the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star aircraft, the first jet fighter operated by the United States Army Air Forces.

The Skunk Works framework of innovation was so successful that Lockheed has continued to operate this division for decades. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, team leader of the first Lockheed Skunk Works project, codified 14 rules for all Skunk Works projects. Over the years, Lockheed’s Skunk Works designed and developed many aircraft, including the famous U-2 reconnaissance plane.

Disentangled from Bureaucracy and Management Constraints

Other companies borrowed this innovation idea from Lockheed to develop advanced products or discover product/service/business ideas that are entirely new to their parent organizations. Many businesses and engineering companies started their own “skunkworks” divisions consisting of self-directing teams of highly talented individuals who were seconded from their regular work environments. Unconstrained by executive interference, they operated under the radar. They were given a high degree of autonomy, access to R&D funds, and exceptional freedom from the parent organization’s bureaucracy and management constraints. Here are some examples of skunkworks projects.

  • At IBM, a skunkworks project in 1981 pioneered industry standards to adapt personal computers for business needs and released the IBM PC. This helped IBM break away from its lynchpin mainframe business and launch its celebrated personal computers division. IBM has since continued the skunkworks tradition. In the 2000s, IBM established many “emerging-business opportunities” or EBO teams and assigned its best and brightest people in charge of risky startup ideas that could germinate new business lines in five to seven years.
  • At Motorola in the mid-2000s, a team of designers and engineers defied the company’s own rules to develop the best-selling RAZR mobile phone. This skunkworks team was isolated from Motorola’s main R&D facility. Fortune magazine noted that this “tight-knit team repeatedly flouted Motorola’s own rules for developing new products. They kept the project top-secret, even from their colleagues. They used materials and techniques Motorola had never tried before. After contentious internal battles, they threw out accepted models of what a mobile telephone should look and feel like. In short, the team that created the RAZR broke the mold, and in the process rejuvenated the company.”
  • Google's Collaborative Office Spaces Encourage Innovation Google’s famous 20% rule and innovative workspaces lets employees collaborate across the company and work on their dream projects, but bring those projects to the larger collective for further funding and development. Many of Google’s innovative products and features in Gmail, Google News, Google Talk, Google Suggest, Transit Directions, etc. originated as 20% projects.
  • Microsoft’s skunkworks located in Studio B facility on its Redmond campus developed Kinect, Surface tablets and computers, and other recent products.
  • Apple has the most celebrated of skunkworks teams. Apple Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive’s design laboratory consists of a few handpicked designers who work on “very experimental material that the world is not quite ready for.” Working in an area separate from Apple’s main Cupertino campus, Ive’s team maintains a culture of incredible secrecy.

Skunkworks Innovation Model and Startup Cultures

In the 1960s and 1970s, the skunkworks concept fell out of favor, as many companies started to see skunkworks teams as distractions and as cost centers “with an attitude.” However, with a renewed emphasis on teamwork and a focus on setting up startup-like innovative workplaces where teams can flourish, the skunkworks model of innovation has been renewed and revived in the last two decades.

Inertia, internal politics, bureaucracy, layers upon layers of management questioning risk and rewards, and the fear of failure weigh heavily on many a company’s pursuit of new products and services. The skunkworks innovation model and the startup culture offer frameworks for organizations to pursue growth ideas separate from current lines of business.

In 2013, General Electric instituted a program called FastWorks to mimic Silicon Valley’s startup culture in a company-wide effort to foster innovation and develop products quickly and cost-effectively. Boeing’s Phantom Works, Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and Sports Research Lab, Amazon’s Lab126 and A9 laboratories, Google X, and Walmart Labs are some of today’s prominent skunkworks organizations.

Idea for Impact: Autonomy Fosters a Creative Environment

Employee Autonomy Can Create Innovative Workplaces For managers, the key take-away from the skunkworks concept is that giving autonomy to employees and teams not only engenders a happier and satisfied workforce, but also fosters a creative environment. Some ideas to consider:

  • Give much autonomy to those employees and teams who have demonstrated the promise of being self-directed and maintaining alignment with the larger organizational goals. Direct them, oversee their progress, and follow-up when necessary. Micromanage when you must.
  • Give employees discretion over their tasks and resources. Create a favorable environment in which people are encouraged to discover, use, and grow their unique skills.
  • Don’t second-guess employees’ and teams’ ideas and decisions unless necessary. Judging or criticizing not only undermines their confidence, but also keeps them from sharing their ideas with you in the future.
  • Allow employees and teams to experiment, iterate their ideas, gather data and develop performance metrics, and quickly discard less promising ideas in favor of stronger ones.
  • Support risk-taking and failure. Celebrate failure as it can provide valuable technical and organizational insights. Encourage employees to be confident enough to try to fail and learn lessons without being apprehensive about being rebuked.

Find out What Your Customers Want and Give It to Them

“Nobody asked the dogs what they wanted”

Dog Food Product Once upon a time, a pet-foods company struggled to sell a new dog food product they’d recently introduced to the market.

The company’s CEO called the department heads together to discuss why the new product wouldn’t sell.

The head of production said he’d done everything right; it wasn’t his department’s fault.

The heads of the sales, advertising, finance, packaging, shipping, and distribution departments had done everything right. None of them were to blame.

The CEO demanded, “Darn! What happened? Why won’t our new product sell?”

A junior staffer shouted from the back of the room, “Sir, it’s just that the dogs simply won’t eat our doggone food. You see, nobody asked the dogs what they wanted.”

Idea for Impact: Customer Focus Drives Company Success

Your research and development efforts will be successful only if they’re driven by a thorough understanding of what your customers want. Engage your customers. Pay close attention to their needs in every phase of product/service design including idea generation, product design, prototyping, production, distribution, and service. Remember Peter Drucker’s dictum that “the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.”

Serendipity and Entrepreneurship in the Invention of Corn Flakes

In previous articles about Johnson’s Baby Powder and Picasso’s Blue Period, I discussed serendipity as a rich phenomenon that is central to entrepreneurial and artistic processes. In this article, I will discuss another case study of ideas born by chance and reinforced by casual observation and customer input.

One of America’s Favorite Cereals was Invented by Fortuitous Accident

Will Keith Kellogg invented corn flakes in 1894 at a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan Will Keith Kellogg invented corn flakes in 1894 at a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. Will worked there as an assistant to his brother Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and helped research patients’ diets.

One day, while making bread dough at the sanitarium, Will accidentally left boiled wheat sitting out overnight unattended. When he returned to roll the wheat into dough, he discovered that it had dried out and was flaky. Interested to see what would happen, Will passed the flaky dough through the bread rollers and baked them to create a crunchy snack. He seasoned the flakes with salt and fed them with milk to the sanitarium’s patients. The wheat flakes were an immediate hit. Indeed, after some patients left the sanitarium, they ordered Kellogg’s flakes by post.

Will Kellogg’s Entrepreneurial Ingenuity

Serendipity and Entrepreneurship in the Invention of Kellogg Corn flakes Will Kellogg then tinkered his recipe for wheat flakes and ultimately settled on using corn in place of wheat as the flakes’ main ingredient.

In 1906, Will Kellogg launched “The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company.” In addition to inventing corn flakes, Kellogg had a genius for business and marketing. He was a pioneer in testing markets, sampling products, using multi-color print advertisements, and developing innovative marketing campaigns.

Kellogg was keen on using slogans to promote his company’s products. In 1907, he introduced a marketing campaign that declared, “Wednesday is Wink Day in New York.” Every woman who winked at her grocer on a Wednesday received a free packet of corn flakes. Corn flakes sales skyrocketed.

Will Kellogg was also a prominent philanthropist and, in 1934, started the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The company Will Kellogg founded eventually became Kellogg Company, a prominent cereal and convenience foods multinational.

Picasso’s Blue Period: A Serendipitous Invention

The Soup, 1902 by Pablo Picasso (from his Blue Period)

In October 1900, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) moved to Paris and opened a studio there at age 19. Shortly thereafter, Picasso was deeply affected by a close friend and fellow artist’s suicide. Art historians believe this event marked the onset of Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904,) during which he produced many stoic and sentimental paintings in mostly monochromatic shades of blue and blue-green. The Art Institute of Chicago remarks,

Picasso’s Blue Period … was triggered in part by the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901. The works of this period are characterized by their blue palette, somber subject matter, and destitute characters. His paintings feature begging mothers and fathers with small children and haggard old men and women with arms outstretched or huddled in despair.

Perhaps Picasso’s Blue Period is an instance of serendipity. Legend has it that one day Picasso had only blue paint to work with. When he started toying with the effects of painting with one color, he discovered the potential to produce interesting paintings that conveyed a sense of melancholy.

In what would become the hallmark of this greatest artist of the 20th century, thanks to serendipity, Picasso leveraged an apparent constraint into an unintended creative outcome. As such serendipity goes, the confluence of many factors helped Picasso initiate a new art genre showcasing themes of alienation, poverty, and psychological depression that, though now considered marvelous, then kept potential patrons away.

How Johnson’s Baby Powder Got Started: Serendipity and Entrepreneurship

1921 Advertisement: Johnson's Toilet and Baby Powder - Antiseptic Borated Talcum Powder

Making Fortunate Discoveries Accidentally

Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist famous for his 1922 discovery of penicillin, once said, “Have you ever given it a thought how decisively hazard—chance, fate, destiny, call it what you please—governs our lives?”

Serendipity is the accidental discovery of something that, post hoc, turns out to be valuable.

'Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science' by Royston M. Roberts (ISBN 0471602035) The history of science is replete with such serendipitous discoveries. “Happy findings” made when scientists accidentally discovered something they were not explicitly looking for led to the discovery or invention of the urea, dynamite, saccharin, penicillin, nylon, microwave ovens, DNA, implantable cardiac pacemaker, and much more … even the ruins of Pompeii and Newton’s law of universal gravitation. (I recommend reading Royston Roberts’s Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science)

In each of these instances, the crucial role of discovery or insight occurred in accidental circumstances. Therefore, we must understand serendipity’s role in terms of the circumstances that surround it.

Serendipity has also played a pivotal role in establishing many successful businesses. In fact, serendipity is a rich idea that is very central to the entrepreneurial process. As the following case study will demonstrate, many experimental ideas are born by chance and are often reinforced by casual observation and customer input.

Johnson & Johnson Got into the Baby Powder Business by Accident

Johnson & Johnson Got into the Baby Powder Business by Accident In 1885, entrepreneur Robert Wood Johnson was deeply inspired by a lecture of Joseph Lister, a British surgeon well known for his advocacy of antiseptic surgery. Johnson started tinkering with several different ideas in an effort to make sterile surgery products.

A year later, Johnson joined his two brothers to establish Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Their first commercial product was a sterile, ready-to-use, medicated plaster-bandage that promised to reduce the rate of infections after surgical procedures. As business developed, the Johnson brothers compiled the latest medical opinions about surgical infections and distributed a booklet called Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment as part of their marketing efforts.

Within a few years, a doctor complained to J&J that their bandages caused skin irritation in his patients. In response, J&J’s scientific director Dr. Frederick Kilmer sent the doctor a packet of scented Italian talcum powder to help soothe the irritation. Since the doctor liked it, J&J started to include a small sample of talc powder with every package of medicated bandages.

By 1891, consumers discovered that the talc also helped alleviate diaper rash. They asked to buy it separately. The astounded J&J’s leadership quickly introduced Johnson’s Baby Powder “for toilet and nursery.” Over the years, J&J built on that huge initial success and created the dominant Johnson’s Baby product line with creams, shampoos, soaps, body lotions, oils, gels, and wipes.

J&J Got into the Sanitary Protection Products Business Too by Accident

Serendipity also played the key role in establishing J&J’s sanitary napkin business. In 1894, J&J launched midwife’s maternity kits to make childbirth safer for mothers and babies. These kits included twelve “Lister’s Towels,” sanitary napkins to staunch post-birth bleeding. Before long, J&J received hundreds of letters from women who wanted to know where they could buy just the sanitary napkins. In response, J&J introduced disposable sanitary napkins as part of its consumer products line. J&J thus became the first company in the United States to mass-produce sanitary protection products for women.

Lessons from the Biography of Elon Musk

I recently finished reading Ashlee Vance’s riveting portrait of Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, CEO of SpaceX, chairman of SolarCity, and previously the founder of PayPal and other companies.

Musk has emerged as the foremost superstar/visionary-entrepreneur of Silicon Valley since Apple’s Steve Jobs passed away in 2011.

'Elon Musk' by Ashlee Vance (ISBN 0062301233) Vance’s biography reveals how Musk’s “willingness to tackle impossible things” has “turned him into a deity in Silicon Valley.”

Vance’s biography portrays Musk as an obsessively focused and a remarkably driven entrepreneur, but one who is almost unbearably difficult to work with. Musk is tirelessly demanding of employees, has low tolerance for underperformers, and does not like to share credit for successful ventures.

The book’s key takeaway is actually an admonitory lesson: Elon Musk may well be one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time—if your characterization of success is rather narrow. However, having an extreme personality and attaining great success come at the cost of many other things. In his drive to win, Musk sacrifices friends, business associates, and even his family to get what he wants. The story of Elon Musk exemplifies what happens when an overachieving leader regards individuals as tools and attaches more importance to his projects than to his people.

Complement Ashlee Vance’s “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” with biographies of two other entrepreneur-visionaries with aggressively competitive personalities: Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” and Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store” Like Elon Musk, both Jobs and Bezos are reputed for their personal influence on every aspect of Apple and Amazon’s products and services. They are described as being demanding and demeaning to people who helped them realize their visionary aspirations.

Starbucks Founder and CEO Howard Schultz’s Onward [Book Review & Summary]

Starbucks founder, Chairman, and CEO Howard Schultz’s “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” is an interesting case study of organizational change as orchestrated by a passionate entrepreneur. The book covers the first two years of the turnaround of Starbucks after Schultz returned as CEO.

'Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul' by Howard Schultz, Joanne Gordon (ISBN 1609613821) In 2007, in the face of falling consumer spending and the upcoming Great Recession, the consumer discretionary sector was hit hard. Like other companies in that realm, Starbucks’ sales and profitability had dropped. The company’s stock price plummeted after Wall Street pared the rich valuations (high price-to-earning) of the company’s once-hot growth stock. Through these trials, Schultz worked at the company’s Seattle headquarters as chairman. Even after retiring as CEO in 2001, he had never left the company entirely and had even interjected often during Starbucks’ presentations to investors.

Starbucks’ financial under-performance was likely as much due to the economic slowdown as it was self-inflicted. In an apparent instance of misplaced cause-and-effect, Schultz blamed the company’s leadership for focusing too much on rapid expansion, opening too many stores, and diluting the in-store Starbucks experience. Behind the CEO’s back, Schultz started working with strategy consultants and other board members to develop a “transformational agenda” centered on the core values of the company he had founded in 1982.

In January 2008, Schultz invited the CEO home on a Sunday evening, fired him, and assumed the CEO position for a second stint. Over the next two years, Schultz rejuvenated the company’s mojo by making operational improvements and focusing on employee engagement, Starbucks’ specialty coffee products and its distinctive in-store customer experience.

Schultz’s vision, focus, and execution of this transformation makes up the bulk of “Onward”. One dominant theme in the book is founder’s syndrome—the intense reluctance of entrepreneurs like Schultz to cede control of their businesses.

Starbucks founder, Chairman, and CEO Howard Schultz

Towards the end of 2009 (when “Onward” was authored,) the economy started to improve. A measured recovery in consumer confidence invigorated the fortunes of most consumer discretionary companies that had suffered during the downturn. At Starbucks, customers returned to stores and spent more. Sales and profitability improved. The company’s valuation on Wall Street soared again. Conceivably, Starbucks may have enjoyed a comeback even if Schultz had remained just the chairman, retained and supported the CEO, and worked with the company’s leadership team to initiate course corrections.

That Starbucks continues to be an American success story and has done extraordinarily well to date under Schultz’s leadership is one more instance of a beloved fairy tale in the world of business—that of a company in distress rescued by the return of its visionary founder.

“Onward” is Schultz’s somewhat grandiose narrative of his return as CEO. The 350-page book is brimming with peripheral details, self-congratulatory superlatives, recurring claims, and Pollyanna-isms that are illustrative of a charismatic entrepreneur and a brilliant corporate cheerleader.

Recommendation: Skim. (For Starbucks aficionados: Read.)

The Best Inspirational Quotations by Maya Angelou

The Best Inspirational Quotations by Maya Angelou

Today marks the birthday of Maya Angelou (1928-2014.) Born Marguerite Ann Johnson, the renowned African-American author adopted an extraordinary range of roles: she was a poet, memoirist, singer, dancer, playwright, director, actor, and even a civil rights activist.

Through all of these lenses, Angelou inspired generations of fans. She enthusiastically shared the great wisdom she acquired from many hardships, including an abusive childhood, the oppressive 1930s Deep South, and various experiences during her early adulthood.

Angelou famously channeled this hard-won wisdom through writing. Her seven autobiographies, three collections of essays and books of poetry chronicle the African American experience. Here are four must-reads from the late American author and poet:

  • 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou (ISBN 0345514408) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969,) Angelou’s first autobiography, particularly garnered critical acclaim and international recognition. This work tells her life story of suffering and human endurance up until her teenage years and paints a stirring portrait of a young Angelou. Sent away by her parents to live with grandparents, Angelou faces and overcomes racism and deprivation. She is raped by her mother’s lover, who is later murdered. After his death, Angelou withdraws into herself, taking on a nearly mute state for the next 5 years. Later, with a mentor’s guidance, she develops a passion for books and finds her own voice. Throughout the piece, Angelou steadily gains strength of character, transforms into a dignified young woman, and is even appointed as San Francisco’s first African-American and first woman streetcar conductor. At the conclusion of this moving coming-of-age story, Angelou becomes a 16-year-old mother.
  • “And Still I Rise” (1978,) Angelou’s third volume of poetry, contains her iconic titular poem. “Still I Rise” provides rousing commentary on her ancestors’ struggles and expresses hope for a better future. The poem concludes, “I am the dream and the hope of the slave … I rise … I rise … I rise.” In 1994, Nelson Mandela recited this poem at his inauguration as President of South Africa.
  • “The Heart of a Woman” (1981,) Angelou’s fourth autobiographical installment, recounts the years between 1957 and 1962, during which she was politically active in the civil rights movement and travelled the world. The book reflects on the meaning and enormous responsibilities of motherhood as well as Angelou’s relationship with her teenage son, who, at the book’s end, leaves for college.
  • “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993.) In January 1993, at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, Angelou once again made history. She became the second poet, the first African-American, and the first woman to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. Angelou wrote and recited the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” to emphasize unity, social change, and public responsibility.

Inspirational Quotations by Maya Angelou

The love of the family, the love of the person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.
Maya Angelou

Live life as if it were created just for you.
Maya Angelou

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
Maya Angelou

Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.
Maya Angelou

The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear.
Maya Angelou

A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best, challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.
Maya Angelou

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
Maya Angelou

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.
Maya Angelou

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
Maya Angelou

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
Maya Angelou

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Maya Angelou

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Maya Angelou

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
Maya Angelou

Try to be a rainbow in someone?s cloud.
Maya Angelou

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
Maya Angelou

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
Maya Angelou

Courage is the most important of all the virtues … One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
Maya Angelou

Ask For What You Want And Be Prepared To Get It.
Maya Angelou

It is the belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.
Maya Angelou

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
Maya Angelou

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.
Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.
Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
Maya Angelou

No sun outlasts its sunset but will rise again and bring the dawn.
Maya Angelou

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
Maya Angelou

The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.
Maya Angelou

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Maya Angelou

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
Maya Angelou

No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
Maya Angelou

I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, “I love you.” There is an African saying which is: “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
Maya Angelou

If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
Maya Angelou

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
Maya Angelou

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.
Maya Angelou

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
Maya Angelou

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
Maya Angelou

Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.
Maya Angelou

Nothing will work unless you do.
Maya Angelou

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.
Maya Angelou

The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.
Maya Angelou

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
Maya Angelou

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I’m with you kid. Let’s go.”
Maya Angelou

I am overwhelmed by the grace and persistence of my people.
Maya Angelou

There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.
Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou shared the great wisdom she acquired from many hardships

When an interviewer asked Angelou in 1985 what she’d like to read in her own obituary, Angelou replied, “What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love. By love, I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.”

“Caged Bird”—A Poem by Maya Angelou

'Conversations with Maya Angelou' by Jeffrey M. Elliot (ISBN 087805362X) Here is a snippet of Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Bird” from the collection “Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?”

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.