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The Editor Answers

BK's Executive Managing Editor grudgingly answers all your questions about publishing and the whole wretched industry.

  • David Marshall

    Why a "Moment of Silence" Before BK Staff Meetings?

    Created by David Marshall

    I should know the answer this one since I've been an employee at Berrett-Koehler, but I don't. At the beginning of formal meetings (Editorial Meeting, BK Staff Meeting, Management Meeting, Publication Board, etc). we start with a moment of silence. I never encounterd this practice at any other company I've worked for though the years, but I find it somehow calming to take a deep breath and clear my mind and settle my body before starting the gathering. What is the origin of this practice at BK?

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  • Jeevan Sivasubramaniam

    Mark Levy Asks Me About Life, Chickens, and Jimmy Hoffa

    Created by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam

    Author Mark Levy asks:

    1. What is the meaning of life?
    2. Why is there something and not nothing?
    3. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
    4. Why do good things happen to bad people?
    5. What is the sound of one hand clapping? 
    6. Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried?

    From time to time I am asked these questions by elders, leaders, statesmen, the Dalai Lama, and Miley Ray Cyrus.  The answers are, of course, simple:

    1. The meaning of life is a life of meaning.

    2. There's always something and not nothing because even nothing is something. (A bit like the words of the immortal Geddy Lee : If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.)

    3. The egg came first.  All chickens lay eggs but not all eggs come from chickens, so the only logical conclusion is that of all given possibilities, the chicken arrived first.

    4. Good things happen to bad people because, unfortunately, bad things happen to good people.  Good things also happen to good people and bad things also happen to bad people -- the universe must balance out all things.

    5. That depends on what the one hand is clapping.  Clapping, by it's very nature, is an activity that requires two components so a single hand can't clap by itself. Or you can just say that the sound of one hand clapping is very much the same as the sound of a rabbit yawning.  Yeah, figure that one out, silly Zen Buddhists.

    6. Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried? Who said he was dead?

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  • Jeevan Sivasubramaniam

    Question: How Much Does Steve Work?

    Created by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam

    A BK community member who did not wish to be identified asked me the following question:

    "I get emails from Steve at ridiculous hours and times -- including on the weekend.  However, whenever I talk to him, he always seems to be full of energy and well-rested.  How many hours a week does Steve put in anyway?"

    The answer to that question would involve me giving away a  company secret.  Steve actually doesn't work crazy hours, he just sets his computer to Italian time so that all messages seem to go out with date stamps that suggest that he's working incredibly late in the evening or incredibly early in the morning.  Most of the time, Steve can be found relaxing with a cigar and a copy of the Wall Street Journal ("The NY Times is for polly-annas and communists," he often says) by his infinity pool at his Four Seasons Residences penthouse in downtown San Francisco.

    Alright, yes, Steve works insane hours from his home office in Pinole. He works six days a week for about 12-14 hours a day. I have worked with Steve for over a decade now and there's no sign of him letting up. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen him come bouncing into the office in the morning only to find out that he never went to sleep the night before.  Really.

    It's quite disgusting, in my opinion. I just wish there was some way to package and mass-produce whatever it is that drives him -- imagine the money I could make selling that on the open markets!  Unfortunately there's no way to bottle belief, faith, and mission -- but I'm working on it.

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  • Jeevan Sivasubramaniam

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam
    Why a "Moment of Silence" Before BK Staff Meetings?

    This practice is actually an elaborate ruse by Steve. While everyone has their eyes closes, he furiously hunts about for the material he should have prepared for the meeting at hand and tries to sneak in a quick read.

    Okay, that's not true. That's just what I do.

    The practice started years back where Steve would open meetings with a prayer. It wasn't just staff meetings but all sorts of other gatherings -- he even asked if he could say a short prayer before starting to interview me ten years back. Even back then, he did always check that others would not feel uncomfortable in any way by this practice. In those earlier days, with significantly fewer employees and less diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds, this was not an issue. As time passed, we took on additional staff members of other faiths as well as a few avowed atheists and I suppose he may have felt that the tradition was too closely tied to Christianity (even though his prayers were more general in nature). So, to maintain the practice for himself and to afford others their own, it slowly evolved into a moment of silence during which people could say a silent prayer, simply collect their thoughts, focus their energies, or do nothing at all.

    Now and again, Steve still pulls the old prayer move. In fact, he does it with all authors at the beginning of their meetings with him. The difference now is that he asks the authors if they would like to say a prayer related to their particular faith or practice and then joins them. Most recently he joined our author Devora Zack in a traditional Hebrew meditation before starting the meeting.

    I agree, it is unique, and it always catches authors off-guard, but in a pleasant way. A spiritual moment in a corporate environment is still a rare thing.