Earlier this week I was asked for a book that changed my life. I read The Phantom Tollbooth when I was in 5th grade. It is a story about Milo’s wonderful adventure, one that teaches him that in using knowledge, he has power. It’s idea is simple enough for a child however complex enough that even as an adult, I think of something new each time I read it. Here are the key messages I got from this time through:

“It is all in the way you look at things.”

pexels-photo-69213Norton Juster, showed young readers how to recognize and respect a different point of view. In our world, as kids grow older, they get taller and they learn from falling down and scraping a knee. In Norton’s book the kids grow down, because they are floating in mid-air when they do fall down there is no pain or blood.

As I have chosen a career in marketing I am constantly reminded that we don’t respond to stories the same way. Take this as an example, when a Southwest airline pilot learned that one of his passengers would be late, he held the plane. This ensured that the passenger would get to see his grandson before he was was taken off life support. You can find the whole story here on CNN. Some might say by holding the flight, the pilot devalued the other passengers on the plane.

Words and Numbers have Value

Like many students I switched my major. I will never forget the meeting with my new academic adviser because he took one look at my transcript and said, “Calculus? Are you sure you want to be a communications major?” (Before you judge, I did alright in calculus, that is not why I switched.)

It is a running joke, communication majors generally don’t like math…or numbers. This stereo type is a disservice. Most communications students go on to work in business, their job is an indication of their companies’ health. When companies struggle PR, Marketing and trainers are the first departments to get cut. In times of famine, the number of impressions is not a strong enough figure. It is critical you tie into the bottom line.

Identifying Demons

In the last few chapters, Norton Juster identifies some powerful but familiar demons:

  • Meaningless Tasks
  • Continuously taking bad advice
  • Insincerity
  • Losing yourself in an attempt to blend in
  • Fear of change
  • Losing your sense of purpose
  • Compromising too much
  • Hate and malice
  • Know-it-all attitude
  • Gross Exaggeration
  • Excuses
  • Dilemma

Although he introduces them with much more flair, they hold a lot of power over people. Unfortunately defeating one doesn’t mean an automatic victory over the others. The best weapon I have found over the years is acceptance and forgiveness. We make decisions in real time with the limited information, they are not always going to be perfect. The best we can do is learn what questions to ask next time and then move on.

What have you learned from your favorite book?

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