Of Women, Whale Hunting, and Big Deals

by | May 12, 2009

whalehuntingwomen.v1.jpgIn which I offer the first of, I hope, many book reviews in collaboration with Nikki Leigh of Virtual Blog Tours. Wrestling with the twin demons of hopeful enthusiasm and faint praise. Declining to worry for more than a moment about whether or not you think today’s book applies to you (it does). And, all in all, curious to see where this goes and looking forward to your comments.
First impressions: a bit of stream of consciousness context.

Oh! I didn’t realize it was an e-book. That’s okay. I wonder what it costs. Geez, only $18.95. That’s cool. Hey! I love this: “Elvis is Dead—the rock star era of sales is over…” Uh oh. Is this going to be about “bigger is better”? Wow. A person could use this – I mean, really work with the material – to get out of her own way, big time!

Whale Hunting Women, by Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith, is part manifesto, part workbook, and part roadmap to making Big Deals. Her metaphor for making Big Deals is hunting whales.
Before you run screaming into the night (or daylight, for that matter), listen to what the author says about Big Deals.

Disproportionately, women run the charities, raise the money, educate the children, cultivate the arts, and serve the community. All of this work requires that we do Big Deals.

Can’t argue with that. She goes on to say:

Yet, I find that women often undervalue those experiences and contributions that are outside of the traditional realm of “business.” And even when in business or aspiring to be in business, women do not always embrace the Big Deal mantra.

Is that a look of recognition on your face (or is that me in the mirror, again?).
Having cleared up the Big Deal thing, let’s deal with the whale hunting metaphor. I mean, what’s up with that?
What’s up with whale hunting is this:

[T]o land a whale, the Inuit people built trustworthy teams, minimized risk, taught their children, and spent all year in patient preparation.

For my money, the purpose and reigning metaphor of Whale Hunting Women pass the smell test with flying colors. And having established that, we can get on with the show.
Weaver Smith dedicates her book to “women who do big deals every day—with grace, strength, dignity, and passion—in the world of business, education, sports and philanthropy.” She states,

I have come to appreciate that ‘the whale’ can be your next Big Deal in any arena—from your next big job to your next big charitable endeavor to your next big learning or experiential challenge.

This is important to keep in mind as you read the book lest you think it applies to a woman who is bigger and more ambitious and less fearful than you. Because it’s not. As far as I can tell, it’s written for little old you (I mean, me).
My favorite thing about Whale Hunting Women is that it demonstrates how women can accomplish significant projects by drawing on values and skills that they taught to cultivate and rewarded for demonstrating. An entire chapter is devoted to exploring three of these traits: listening, alignment, and empathy.
Like I said, it passes the smell test. So how does it measure up in terms of action?
Quite nicely. Each chapter includes journal-like exercises to help you identify opportunities, gather resources, uncover hidden obstacles, and specify modest, actionable steps for hunting your whale, whatever that may be.
These are well thought out exercises, not random questions to fill space and place the burden of making sense of the material on you. To the contrary, the material makes heaps of sense just the way it is. That said, paradigms emerge from practice, not vice versa. Unless whale hunting comes naturally, embracing and embodying this paradigm requires the kind of practice the exercises are designed to provide.
My second favorite thing about this book is Weaver Smith’s take on abundance. “Money is cheap,” she writes.

You can spend frugally and feel blessed or you can spend flagrantly and feel deprived. Rather, it’s about culture. Belief in a world of possibility, not constraint. Money is cheap. It’s the culture of abundance that’s priceless.

I like that. A lot.
Here’s another goodie to contemplate. According to Weaver Smith, abundance is the ability to say no. No to work that isn’t engaging, meaningful, and profitable. No to impossible deadlines, scope creep, or disrespect. “But,” she points out, “saying no takes confidence, courage, and belief in an abundant universe.”
I’ve only scratched the surface of what is covered in this succinct volume. In addition to the things I’ve mentioned, Whale Hunting Women includes chapters on collaboration versus competition, trust, teams, and some provocative observations about what it really means to move fast.
Next week I’ll be posting an interview with Dr. Weaver Smith. I’ll be asking her to say more about how the principles and practices in her book apply to the very small, as he and one woman, business. She has also agreed to answer questions from you, and I’ll post those the week after next. Send your questions to me at mgordon@mollygordon.com.
The details:
Whale Hunting Women
By Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith, President and CEO, The Whale Hunters
Published in Indianapolis, IN by The Whale Hunters LLC
ISBN 978-0-9822091-5-8 (eBook) | Price: $18.95