HTBU has been described as "smart" (Chicago Tribune), "engaging" (The Washington Post), "helpful" (New York magazine), "frequently hilarious" (The Guardian), "pretty terrific" (January magazine), "sharp [and] witty [and] brimming with advice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune), "odd" (The Montreal Gazette), "fortuitous" (Utne Reader), and "clever and, as the title promises, useful" (Newsweek).

On Feedback

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Don’t succumb to the temptation to put off the inevitable outside feedback; it doesn’t get easier. Rather, accept the reactions of your first readers, then go back to work.

“This doesn’t mean you have to change everything that anyone objected to or didn’t understand or didn’t buy into. The feedback has identified a potential problem, but you must determine for yourself whether it truly is a problem that needs to be fixed.”

—David Howard, The Tools of Screenwriting


Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: devotionals, nothing to do with the book | Tags: , | No Comments »

“Say you want to eat a whole pie. If you put your face down in the pie, you get pie all over your face. But if you slice out one piece at a time, you’ve a chance of getting it done.”

As long as I’m keeping a running list, cont.

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: nothing to do with the book | Tags: , | No Comments »

“How to Be Useful” as per 2 Corinthians.

And in common-school education during George III’s reign:

There were no cheap books or newspapers, and no proper system of public instruction. The poor seldom left the counties in which they were born. They knew nothing of what was going on in the world. Their education was wholly of that practical kind which comes from work and things, not from books and teachers; yet many of them with only these simple helps found out two secrets which the highest culture sometimes misses, – how to be useful and how to be happy.

As long as I’m keeping a running list, cont.

Posted: January 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: nothing to do with the book | Tags: , | No Comments »

Maestronet forums:

“This is a personal thing. Fortunately my food, clothing, shelter and basic violin making needs are covered. I would starve if I had to make violins for a living. I would enjoy making a contribution to knowledge in the field. Folksinger Pete Seeger (90) recently said “I just want to be useful.” I agree with that. My grandchildren will better remember me if I teach them how to be useful.”

Quoting Howard Rheingold:

Just participating isn’t enough. You must have something of value to others.”, “Need to feed (people) what’s valuable to them. To participate you have to learn how not to be boring and how to be useful.”

Character advancement in gaming:

…they adopted a girl from a primitive world, and set about to start teaching her how to be useful aboard ship.

Gamers — saucy. Earlier: Here and here and here.

The Peter Principle

Posted: December 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: good examples of bad advice, recaps, Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Peter Principle made an appearance in ch. 7 because it helped explain bewildering organizational structures. By which I mean it helps explain why there are people at high levels of the organization who are blatantly incompetent. (A brief refresher: The Peter Principle states that people who are good at their jobs get promoted until they finally arrive at a position at which they can’t perform. They’ve “reach[ed] the level of their own incompetence.” And there they stay, enjoying big paychecks.)

Now the New Scientist reports that one way to get around this outcome is to promote people at random, and so presumably both high and low performers had an an equal shot. This is a deeply stupid idea that professor Rajiv Mehta politely terms “a really interesting alternative approach to looking at the Peter Principle.”

He continues: “But it would turn on its head almost every established theory of human behaviour and would face a multitude of problems.”

I’m not sure the Peter Principle is something you can regulate around, not least, as one commenter pointed out, because good people who aren’t rewarded at a company tend to quit in disgust and seek their fortunes elsewhere. As I saw it, its usefulness — as a theory — is that it helps stave off despair when you’re stuck working beneath incompetents. It’s not you, and it’s not even them. It’s the system. Knowing this helps frustrated junior employees from overdosing on self-doubt.

As long as I’m keeping a running list of “how to be useful” mentions…

Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 4 Comments »

How to be useful = a trait which can’t be cultivated by accident, tends to be learned alongside independence. Says a mom.

Sting contemplates his new Christmas album

Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

As quoted in several AP-fed papers: “I’m 58. I’m not in the winter of my life but I’m definitely preparing for it, so it reminds you of your mortality, the short span of years we have on the planet, what to do with that, how to be useful, how to be meaningful.”

How to be useful = release an album of Old(e) English Christmas songs.

“where the borderline between usefulness and uselessness lies”

Posted: December 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The root problem, Lord Turner, free-thinking chairman of the Financial Services Authority, the UK industry regulator, famously said this summer, is that too much business over the past decade has been “socially useless” – a buzz-phrase that has since informed the thinking of regulators and politicians. Many of the derivative products dreamt up by bankers, not to mention the “casino banking” practised by proprietary traders betting the banks’ own capital, would fall into Lord Turner’s “useless” category.

–From an article in the FT about London bankers convening to discuss how to salvage their souls. Merry Christmas!

Usually the links are to articles on dog training

Posted: November 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Google Blogs Alert for: “How to Be Useful”

Jim Collins “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” at EDUCAUSE
By Gale Stafford
Don’t’ worry about your success. Don’t worry about your careers. Put your time into this: how to be useful. —. Note: Jim has excerpts from his monograph, “Good to Great an the Social Sectors” on his website.
The Gale Stafford Weblog –
Are You Experienced? | Coley Perry
By Coley Perry
I suggest they start engaging their customers and understand how to be useful. (Maybe they don’t care and only want frequent business travelers that are in the “Admirals Club”. If so, just tell the marketplace and you will not have so
Coley Perry –

More yammering about usefulness

Posted: October 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: devotionals | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

During the publicity jag for the How to Be Useful hardcover, an interviewer, reaching into her mail bag, proposed that usefulness wasn’t something serious people aspired to. “What if I don’t want to be useful?” she asked. It was an excellent question, and deserved a more thoughtful answer than the one I gave. (A terse “Better hope you have a trust fund.”)

At its most basic level, wanting to be useful involves changing one’s orientation so that one’s primary question in any endeavor is, simply, how can I help? The few people I’ve spoken to who curl up their lips at the idea see how can I be useful here? as a denial of self. But other people with a more evolved understanding of usefulness, just know that more interesting things happen to them when they try to be useful.

PopTech, where I had the privilege of spending this weekend, was liberally studded with these kinds of people. They had looked around, observed what needs doing, and are attempting to find meaningful solutions. I rather like that some of them have commercial reasons as well for aspiring to usefulness — that being of service, or fulfilling a social need, can translate to piles of money is a theme woven into self-help books and American literature ever since Benjamin Franklin. The moral as discussed in business books tend to boil down to this: If you’re not useful, you won’t make money. If you’d like to make more money, be more useful.

That’s not as crass as it sounds. “Merit makes its way in the world by renting itself out in some marketplace or other, by being of use,” the sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in 1956′s The Power Elite, before going on to make the point I tried to get at with my trust fund quip: Only the exceedingly wealthy can spurn being useful. The rest of us can’t afford to; we need to get paid.

Now it’s abundantly clear, with plastics finding their way into the stomachs of baby albatrosses and a whole host of worrying developments, that we, collectively, privileged or not, can’t afford to spurn being useful. Complacency is expensive. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in September. I really hope these people succeed. I hope they get the chance to employ scads of people. And soon.