BR 295: Spoon Fed by Tim Spector

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Comments: I think Tim’s work is fantastic – well researched (a good portion of which is his own research), thoughtful, measured, and wise. A must read for anyone looking to make sense of nutrition research.

Insights that resonated: 

At some point 4 years or so ago, someone replied to a post about nutrition/wellness and strongly recommended “The Diet Myth” by Prof Tim Spector. I took 3 things away from that book –

(1) There is no such thing as the “perfect diet” for the “average person.” Our response to food is unique as a function of the gut bacteria that we have in our bodies. And we’re going to be better off eating food that helps us diversify the gut bacteria in our system by eating natural food and avoiding processed food which destroys our gut bacteria. (Prof Spector’s leadership on understanding the gut microbiome and its massive impact on our health has been game changing!)

(2) Fasting is a routine part of ancient cultures because it is good for our system. The idea that snacking has good health benefits is a result of heavy marketing by food companies that have made billions selling snacks.

This inspired me to try 16:8 intermittent fasting (eat during an 8 hour window and fast for 16 hours) – a practice I’ve stuck to since.

(3) Extreme views are rarely helpful as food diversity is helpful (again, gut bacteria!). And food research is really hard given ethical considerations. So, stay curious, keep experimenting, and do your best to make better choices.

So, it was helpful to read Spoon Fed – his next book. It was a reminder of the many lessons from “The Diet Myth” along with a few new ones.

Here’s a summary –

(a) Beware simple fixes to diet and health. Health and nutrition are complex and highly personal. The most important thing we can do is to remain curious about ourselves, our food, the science, and do our best to not be fooled by great marketing.

(b) Eat a diverse diet – with mostly plants and no added chemicals. Sustainably grown/caught meat and fish once a week, for example, work fine. However, the benefits of fish have recently been over-marketed relative to the growing number of health risks associated with the increase in microplastics.

(c) Food companies make billions of dollars marketing food that is either ultra-processed or unnecessary. Examples are processed cereals, health supplements, and multi-vitamin tablets – all of which have questionable health benefits.

The biggest of these head fakes is bottled water. The highest amounts of bottled water are sold in countries with the highest quality tap water. It is a lose-lose-lose.

(d) Understand you’re not average. Experiment with yourself – with meal timing, with different kinds of food, etc., to better understand what works for you. In time, you’ll have the support of apps and tools that help you do so.

(e) It isn’t easy to understand the sustainability of food. Tomatoes grown in season in another continent may be more sustainable than those grown in a greenhouse in the local grower. This is why absolutes don’t work.

(f) Fermented food – e.g., yogurt, cheese – and red wine help us diversify the gut bacteria in our system. Again, as natural as possible.

(g) There are a collection of lopsided incentives that lead to more money and research driven into curing diseases vs. preventing them. Food and nutrition are fundamental to living high quality lives. And it is worth staying curious and investing in understanding what works for you.

(h) In sum – eat a diverse diet – mostly plants, keep it natural and avoid ultra-processed foods, experiment with yourself to understand what works for you, and stay curious.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Creativity

BR 294: The Practice by Seth Godin

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Comments: My approach to Seth’s recent books like this one is to always buy them and then open them when I need inspiration – they deliver. Seth’s voice and message is consistent and uplifting.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) Seth shares a great story about an author called Robert Caro in “The Practice.” Caro had quit his job as a reporter and begun writing his first major biography – “The Power Broker.”

He took a modest advance and moved his family to a tiny apartment. But, years later, the end didn’t seem in sight. In 1975, he wrote a poignant story for The New York Times describing his despair.

Then, he was given a key to a back room at the New York Public Library. Only eleven writers had keys, and each was given a desk to write.

One day, he looked up and found James Flexner – one of his idols – ask a question he’d come to dread – “How long have you been working on it?”

“Five years”

“Oh, that’s not so long. I’ve been working on my Washington for nine years.”

The next day, another of his idols said quietly – “Eleanor and Franklin took me seven.”

He could have jumped up and kissed them. In a couple of sentences, both men – his idols – had wiped away five years of doubt.

The lesson “Find your cohort. The generous ones.” resonated deeply.

(2) “Asking why teaches you to see how things got to be the way they are. Asking why also puts us on the hook – it means that we’re also open to being asked why, and it means that at some level, we’re now responsible for doing something about the status quo.”


“If you want to get in shape, it’s not difficult. Spend an hour a day running or at the gym. Do that for six months or a year. Done.

That’s not the difficult part.

The difficult part is becoming the kind of person who goes to the gym every day.”

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Business · Leadership

BR 293: Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

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Comments: This may be one of my favorite business books of all time. An early contender for book of the year. I think it is the sheer number of insightful ideas about leadership and creating memorable experiences for others that sets this book apart. I tend to be biased toward books that share frameworks vs. lists of ideas. This is a clear exception to the rule. While there is a loose framework (“unreasonable hospitality”), Will’s use of short stories and anecdotes to make his point and deliver an incredible amount of wisdom per page make this book special.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) “Language creates culture.” The book had many references to the unique language they used. “Make the charitable assumption,” “be the swan,” “constant, gentle pressure” etc. A great reminder about the importance of language in shaping culture or how we do things here.

(2) This speech from a GM at USG was on point – “I’m excited to be here; I believe in and love this restaurant with all my heart. I’m also clear about what my job is, which is to what’s best for the restaurant, not to do what’s best for any of you. More often than not, what’s best for the restaurant will include doing what’s best for you. But the only way I can take care of all of you as individuals is by always putting the restaurant first.”

(3) Two things happen when the best leaders walk into a room. The people who work for them straighten a little, making sure that everything’s perfect – and they smile, too. That’s how we were with Floyd.” | Will Guidara on working with the late Indian chef Floyd Cardoz in “Unreasonable”

There were so many great quotes from the book. A true pleasure to read.

2. BUY it! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Career · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 292: Build by Tony Faddell

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Comments: I enjoyed Tony Fadell’s book. It felt honest, direct, and helpful.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) I appreciated the many Apple/Steve Jobs stories. Some of it confirmed Steve’s intensity (e.g., Jobs on vacation was worse than Jobs at work) and some of it also showed just how much Steve cared about the details. For example, there was a lot of debate between Apple’s product and marketing teams about an “all glass” iPhone. The marketing team wanted something similar to the Blackberry. Steve simply stepped in, made the call, and asked the team to move on.

(2) I appreciated how long Tony spent thinking about thermostats. There’s a whole saga about thermostats at his home in Tahoe. My mental model for starting a company is that you should only start a company when you can’t not do it. It certainly was the case with Nest.

(3) Tony’s story about Nest at Google was a true and sobering look at big company acquisitions. Few work as intended.

(4) Tony keeps driving home the importance of having high standards as a leader. Everything flows from there. That resonated.

2. BUY it! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions

BR 291: The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

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Comments: Walter Isaacson writes incredible biographies – that is known. I felt a rush of gratitude to him for such an in-depth take into the research process of one of the greatest breakthroughs of all time. The iterative process of discovery and the story of the collaboration between Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier and their respective research teams is a nice combination of fascinating, inspiring, and riveting.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) A recurring theme in the story was the power of bringing together people with curiosity, single-minded determination, resilience, and a willingness to collaborate on thoughtful hypothesis driven experimentation.

It is a great reminder of an enduring idea – high quality teams, led by strong and capable leaders, can accomplish amazing things.

(2) The discovery of CRISPR was a first step to humans being able to reprogram ourselves – a step as seminal as any. And yet, I appreciated the thoughtfulness with which the scientists involved proceeded. They attempted to continue to experiment while ensuring there was an ongoing conversation on the responsibilities and guardrails required. It was heartwarming to see the amount of thought paid to unintended consequences.

3. SHELF it · Technology

BR 290: Empowered by Marty Cagan with Chris Jones

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Comments: I loved Marty Cagan’s book “Inspired” and was curious about “Empowered.” It read more as a compilation of ideas tailored toward companies/people outside of technology/software-oriented industries.

Insight(s) that resonated: 

(1) A reminder of the importance of coaching in the PM manager role.

(2) Platform teams have very different success metrics vs. experience teams.

(3) Bad strategy is a consequence of leaders not willing to make trade-offs.

3. SHELF it · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Psychology · Sales

BR 289: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

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Comments: Will makes 2 simple points – (1) storytelling makes us human and (2) all story arcs rhyme with the hero’s journey. Use it to tell your stories better.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) “We organize much of our lives around reassuring ourselves about the accuracy of the hallucinated model world inside our skulls.”

(2) The 5 part story arc is: (i) Introduce hero with a system of control, (ii) Hero sees evidence that system of control doesn’t work, (iii) Hero is challenged significantly, (iv) Hero faces a reckoning, (v) Hero emerges changed and in control.

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies

BR 288: Will by Will Smith, Mark Manson

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Comments: My book of the year. Raw, vulnerable, thoughtful, and insightful.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) Internal confidence comes from insight and proficiency”

(2) “It is easy to be a good student when you know your teachers love you.”

(3) Will’s success as a rapper, then television actor, and then movie star had all the ups, downs, and challenges you’d expect. The common thread – outside of the usual doses of luck – was a sometimes-ridiculous amount of drive and grit. Will and his loyal team (many of whom have worked together for over 20 years) get an A for effort.

I also appreciated the refreshing honesty and vulnerability about his insecurities. The first few chapters of the book felt like it could have been written as an explanation to what might have driven that infamous Oscar slap.

I came away with many reflections about the nature of fame and success and the trade-offs that come with it.

3. SHELF it · Business · Leadership · Management · Technology

BR 286: Amp It Up by Frank Slootman

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Comments: An interesting insight into the psychology of a 3 x successful tech CEO – Kevin Slootman scaled Datadog, ServiceNow, and Snowflake.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) “Years ago, I used to hesitate and wait situations out, often trying to fix underperforming people or products instead of pulling the plug. Back then I was seen as a much more reasonable and thoughtful leader — but that didn’t mean I was right. As I got more experience, I realized that I was often just wasting everybody’s time. If we knew that something or someone wasn’t working, why wait? As the saying goes, when there is doubt, there is no doubt.

(2) There’s a lot of upside to be unlocked by just being operationally excellent. Build good strategy and then spend disproportionate amount of energy creating a great operational cadence that helps your team/organization execute well.

2. BUY it! · Business · Psychology · Skills

BR 287: Making Numbers Count by Chip Heath and Karla Starr

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Comments: Another Heath Brothers classic – interesting research put masterfully together to make a simple point -> take the time to think about how we use numbers to make a point. There’s a lot of upside to getting it right.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) A million seconds is 12 days from now. A billion seconds?

32 years.

That difference surprised me as it wasn’t what I expected. A billion is significantly bigger than I had imagined.

We don’t have an intuitive understanding of big numbers. The implication is that we need to make the effort to always put numbers in context for the people we’re presenting to.

(2) Some “translations” that resonated:

The fastest human, Usain Bolt, would be beaten in a 100m dash by a Rhino by 2s and would be close to a Chimpanzee. he wouldn’t be close to a Cheetah or an Ostrich.

If cows were a country, they’d be #4 in Carbon emissions. They emit more than Saudi Arabia or Australia.

Apple market cap wealth is greater than 150 out of 171 countries. (or at least was – until recently :-))

If California were a country, it’s GDP would be more than all but 5 countries in the world.

Six sigma is 3.4 defects per millions. That means baking 2 decent chocolate chip cookies every day and going 37 years before baking one without a defect.

If everyone ate as much meat as a person in America, we would need to use every bit of land on the planet and add an extra Africa and Australia to meet the demand 

Imagine your (US) tax payment is visualized as employment over the course of a year. It would mean working 2 weeks for social security, 2 weeks for Medicare and Medicaid, 5 days on national debt, 1.5 weeks for Defence, then most of the rest of the year would be government payroll, 6 hours for “SNAP” (Nutrition assistance), 12 minutes to National Parks, and 2 mins to NASA.

Translations make abstract numbers accessible.

(3) Florence Nightingale was a data wizard (more in the book ;-)).