Now Reading: Mike Tyson’s thug life, Kruse on Bounty, bad decisions, Bezos

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Tyson: My Life as a Young Thug

We were beefing with these guys called the Puma Boys.

That’s the first sentence in Mike Tyson’s essay about his childhood – taken from his upcoming book – and the storytelling continues to be superb from there. Tyson details the rough conditions growing up in Brooklyn, the shame he felt being a shy kid with a speech impediment from a chaotic household that couldn’t always pay the bills. He turned to fighting, to earn respect and trust and credibility in the streets, and in this desperation he found his gift.

I know Tyson didn’t actually type the words of this piece. He likely dictate the tales and then his co-author, Larry Sloman, hit the keys and made the words sing. But the story is written in Tyson’s diction and it mirror’s his on-air voice. The sentences are punchy. The language is heavy and descriptive. The scenes are emotional and sometimes painfully honest. The writing is Tyson even if he didn’t actually do the writing.

That’s important because I never thought there’d be writing advice to learn from Mike Tyson, but there is, all centered around the storytelling. Each section has a potent hook. The drama is well crafted and keeps you moving through the paragraphs. The endings of sections don’t try to be profound but often are because of the rawness and humility of the stories.

What an incredible piece (from Mike Tyson!). I highly recommend you read it.

The Last Voyage of the Bounty, Part I

Michael Kruse over at The Tampa Bay Times released the first part of his three-part story on the HMS Bounty that was hit hard in Hurricane Sandy last year. Michael tells the story of a crew that decided to set sail from New London, C.T., heading south to St. Petersburg, Fla., at the same time Sandy was barreling west and north along the Atlantic coast.

Most stories divulge the name of only the writer. On this piece, we know the names of the editor (Bill Duryea), the illustrator (Don Morris), the designers (Lee Glynn, Alexis N. Sanchez) and others, because it is one of those interactive presentations that we’re seeing pop up more now. It’s incredible work from the Times’ staff, not just Michael. The words are brilliant, the photos and graphics and beautiful – it’s quite a production. You need some time to take it all in, but it’s worth it.

Parts two and three of this story will be released over the next week. I can’t wait to read them.

Why We Make Bad Decisions

Noreena Hertz wrote an interesting piece in the New York Times about why we make bad decisions. To set up her argument, she used a personal anecdote of a serious medical situation. Before going into meetings with different doctors, she made sure to thoroughly research her symptoms and the feedback and options each doctor gave her. She wanted to be as informed as possible and empowered by the information so she could challenge the medical experts when she saw a loophole.

The source for many of our bad decisions, Hertz writes, is that we are wired to ignore information we don’t want to hear and cling to information that supports our desired outcome. It doesn’t matter what’s true or not, but only what coincides with our desires.

The Secrets of Bezos

Enjoyed this excerpt from Brad Stone’s book, “The Secrets of Bezos: How Amazon Became the Everything Store,” on the culture Amazon CEO Jeff Bezon has built in his company.

Stone, who writes for Bloomberg Businessweek, depicts a hostile and combative culture at Amazon, which he says is the fuel for the company and flows from its leader. Bezos challenges his employees and can be very dismissive and rude – even belittling, at times – in the process. As Stone writes, this type of management style isn’t uncommon among some of the most successful tech tycoons.

It strikes me as a little odd that someone who is clearly brilliant – enough so that he can build a business from scratch and make it worth almost $100 billion – would conclude that this is the best way to motivate people. A competitive culture is necessary, and I’d argue some friction can even be healthy if channeled in the right way.

But how is a company better when employees work in fear most of the time? How does being a self-righteous bully, at times, make your company better? I don’t have any answers; it just seems like there’s 80 percent good in the management style Bezos has chosen and 20 percent counterproductive.

Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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