Over the years, since my first book was published in 1970, I have written lots of books, booklets and manuals; over 40 in fact.  They all say much the same things about the importance of being an effective learner and being interpersonally skilled (I have never worried about repeating myself!).

A number of these books (not all) have been described (not by me) as best sellers.  I’m not sure whether there are universally agreed criteria that have to be met before a ‘best seller’ description becomes authentic.  Undoubtedly the Honey & Mumford  Learning Styles Questionnaire qualifies because, to my certain knowledge, it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies since it was first published in 1982.  But there may be other books written by me – some of my paperbacks published by the CIPD for example – that have been genuine best sellers.  I’m not sure.

I’m not speculating about earning a best seller label in a boastful way – indeed, I have always been astonished that anyone bought, let alone read, any of my writings. Sometimes people at conferences come up to me and say they have read everything I have written.  I don’t of course for one minute believe them.  My standard reply is to say, ‘Really?  That’s more than I have done.  I didn’t read them, I just wrote them’.  A slight exaggeration actually because, foolishly, I used to attempt to proof-read manuscripts before the presses rolled (a big mistake, I always slipped into reading for sense rather than seeing glaringly obvious typos until it was too late i.e. two thousand copies had been printed!).

Anyway, the other day an Absolutely Amazing thing happened.  On the Bakerloo Line a young woman sitting diagonally opposite me was reading one of my paperbacks – 50 Cautionary Tales for Managers.  She was doing so quite brazenly – no plain paper cover, nothing clandestine – and I could see she was about half way through the book.

I was so flabbergasted that I sat quietly watching her trying to decide whether to say something.  If so, what on earth should I say? I could simply say, ‘Is that book a good read?’  Dangerous, she might say its crap.  Or I could say, ‘That book has an intriguing title.  Do you recommend it?’  Risky, she might say no.  Or I could come clean and say, ‘Glad to see you are reading that book. I wrote it’. Seriously risky, she might say that’s the worst chat up line I’ve ever heard.

As I watched her, she smiled slightly and turned a page.  I took this to be an encouraging sign (some of the stories in the book are amusing).  She appeared to be enjoying it.  My station stop approached and, at Waterloo, I stepped off the train and left her to it.

So, she never knew that the author of the book she was reading had been within touching distance.

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To hell with soft-skills; they are the strong-skills