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 ;-)).

2. BUY it! · Psychology · Relationships

BR 283: The Power of Regret by Dan Pink

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Comments: This is a classic Dan Pink book – well researched, extremely well structured, and chock full of thought provoking notes.

Insights that resonated: Dan recently shared a summary of the book in a few paragraphs in a short “graduation speech.” My cliff notes –

(1) Foundation regrets“The first of the big four regrets is what I call Foundation regrets. Foundation regrets emerge from small choices we make earlier in life that accumulate to negative consequences later in life.

We spend too much and save too little. We don’t eat right, sleep enough, or exercise
regularly. We apply only grudging effort on the job – or, yes, in the classroom”

“Foundation regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the work.”

(2) Boldness regrets“All regrets begin when we’re at a juncture. And with this category, the juncture presents a choice: Play it safe – or take the chance? And when we don’t take the chance – not all the time, but most of the time – we regret it.”

Boldness regrets sound like this: If only I’d taken the chance.

(3) Moral regrets“Once again, we’re at a juncture. We can take the high road
or we can take the low road. And when we choose what our conscience says is the wrong path, most of us – most of the time – regret it.

We hurt others. We break our word. We degrade what ought to be revered. And while at first the decision can feel fine – even exhilarating – before long it eats at us.”

“Moral regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the right thing.”

(4) Connection regrets“These are regrets about all the relationships in our lives. Partners. Parents. Children. Siblings. Cousins. Friends. Colleagues. Classmates.
A 45-year-old woman, from the District of Columbia, offered this: “My brother died
suddenly at forty-one. I regret not saying, ‘I love you,’ more.””

Connection regrets sound like this: If only I’d reached out.

(5) That brings us to the reverse image of a life well lived.

A decent foundation – enough stability so that life is not precarious. Boldness – a chance to learn and grow and do something meaningful during the vanishingly short time we’re alive. Morality – being good and decent and just. Connection – having people we love and who love us.

Or put differently.

Do the work.

Take the chance.

Do the right thing.

Reach out.

And ignore the rest.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Technology

BR 281: Amazon Unbound by Brad Stone

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Comments: Amazon Unbound is the follow up to Brad Stone’s excellent first book about Amazon – “The Everything Store.” It chronicles the growth of Amazon from incredible retailer to an all conquering conglomerate. A fascinating read for anyone interested in technology.

Insights that resonated: 
(1) “It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” | John Steinbeck

An amazing starting quote.

(2) I was repeatedly blown away by Jeff Bezos’ propensity to invest in new and interesting bets. There are a number of occasions where his best and brightest share conversations with him that led to their deployment into a completely new and unproven bet. These bets went onto become billion dollar companies. But, the intentionality with which Bezos went after these – both in deploying high potential talent and staying close to it in the early days – was telling.

(3) The book drove home how much Amazon culture just resembles Jeff Bezos. The drive and intensity of the company mirrors Jeff’s drive and intensity.

(4) Brad also spent time on how wealth changed Jeff – leading eventually to the failure of his marriage. Extreme wealth and celebrity are very hard to handle.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy

BR 272: A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine

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Comments: If you have any interest in philosophy or stoicism, this book would be in the “Read ASAP” list. It is an awesome Stoicism 101 – the sort of book that could be a course in Stoic philosophy.

Insights that resonated: While there were individual lessons like negative visualization or many notes on focusing on the process that reminded me of the Bhagavad Gita, the best thing the book did was inspire more reading. Following this, I began compiling notes/principles that resonated and began reading the trifecta of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus.

Thank you, William Irvine, for a beautiful synthesis.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · Skills

BR 270: Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

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Comments: This is a fantastic book on writing. A true masterpiece. As an added bonus, it has plenty of wisdom about skills, practice, and life.

Insights that resonated: I’ve shared a few passages that resonated deeply here. My favorite is the one below.

Why are we talking about sentences?
Why no talk about the work as a whole, about shape, form, genre, the book, the feature story, the profile, even the paragraph?

The answer is simple.
Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Most of your time will be spent making sentences in your head.
In your head.
Did no one ever tell you this?
That is the writer’s life.
Never imagine you’ve left the level of the sentence behind.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Money · Psychology

BR 263: Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

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Comments: This is an interesting book because it isn’t about how to invest or how to think about money. Instead, I describe it as a book that is about how to think about thinking about money. It is a collection of stories and anecdotes that you’ve likely heard of before and that provide food for thought. And, it can either be a light heavy read depending on how you’re feeling.

I walked away with a list of questions that I intend to work through in the coming days. It made me think. And, for that I’m grateful.

Insights that resonated:

1. Our savings = Our earnings – Cost of essentials – Cost of our ego (all expenses related to looking good)

2. Manage your money in a way that helps you sleep well at night. 

3. Luck and risk in complex systems explain outcomes better than deliberate action. Respect them. Then do what you control. 

4. The key with compounding is to not interrupt it. 99% of Warren Buffett’s net worth came after his 50th birthday, and 97% came after he turned 65.

5. Luck and risk in complex systems explain outcomes better than deliberate action. Respect them. Then do what you control. 

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Self Improvement

BR 258: Reboot by Jerry Colonna

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Comments: This isn’t a “how to” lead book. It is a “here’s what leading technology companies looks like” from the perspective of a CEO coach. This book will resonate a lot more with you if you have an interest in tech start-ups. For everyone else, it may be a category 3 (“shelf it” for later book). I still believe it is one of those that you have to include on your bookshelf because I believe the central premise of the book is important – better humans make better leaders.

Insights that resonated:

1. Better humans make better leaders.

2. Heartbreak is universal. True grit is not only having your heart broken – but it is also managing to keep that heart open despite the losses.

3. What if being lost is part of the path? What if we are supposed to tack across the surface of the lake, sailing into the wind instead of wishing it was only at our backs? What if feeling lost, directionless, and uncertain of the progress is an indicator of growth? What if it means you’re exactly where you need to be, on the pathless path?

4. I took a few writing courses in college. The extraordinary poet Marie Ponsot would talk about the crow sitting on your shoulder saying things like: “That sucks,” ”How could you write that?” and “Are you kidding me?”

Diminutive, chain-smoking Marie would jut her tobacco-stained finger into the air, punctuating every word: Shoot. The. Damn. Crow.

5. One day, the Tibetan teacher Milarepa left his cave to gather firewood. When he returned, he found that his cave had been taken over by demons. There were demons everywhere!

His first thought upon seeing them was, “I have got to get rid of them!” He lunges toward them, chasing after them, trying forcefully to get them out of his cave. But the demons are completely unfazed. In fact, the more he chases them, the more comfortable and settled-in they seem to be.

Realizing that his efforts to run them out have failed miserably, Milarepa opts for a new approach and decides to teach them the dharma. If chasing them out won’t work, then maybe hearing the teachings will change their minds and get them to go. So he takes his seat and begins teaching about existence and nonexistence, compassion and kindness, the nature of impermanence.

After a while he looks around and realizes all the demons are still there. They simply stare at him with their huge bulging eyes; not a single one is leaving.

At this point Milarepa lets out a deep breath of surrender, knowing now that these demons will not be manipulated into leaving and that maybe he has something to learn from them. He looks deeply into the eyes of each demon and bows, saying, “It looks like we’re going to be here together. I open myself to whatever you have to teach me.”

In that moment all the demons but one disappear. One huge and especially fierce demon, with flaring nostrils and dripping fangs, is still there.

So Milarepa lets go even further. Stepping over to the largest demon, he offers himself completely, holding nothing back. “Eat me if you wish.” He places his head in the demon’s mouth, and at that moment the largest demon bows low and dissolves into space.


When dealing with the toughest challenges – the kind that involves the demons inside of us – brute force turns out to be a blunt instrument. Acceptance, kindness, and a willingness to open our hearts and minds to the learning ahead of us enable us to make the progress we seek.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Self Improvement

BR 256: Upstream by Dan Heath

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Comments: I love books by the Heath brothers. While this didn’t quite hit the heights of a Decisive or Switch, it was still a good book that sought to focus energy on attempting to solve problems upstream vs. simply reacting to crises.

Insights that resonated:

1. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”

2. I loved this story from the beginning of the book.

“You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river. Suddenly you hear a shout from the direction of the water—a child is drowning. Without thinking, you both dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore.

Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help. You and your friend jump back in the river to rescue her as well.

Then another struggling child drifts into sight. . . and another. . . and another.

The two of you can barely keep up.

Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water, seeming to leave you alone.

‘Where are you going?’ you demand.

Your friend answers, ‘I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water.’”

Other notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 255: Range by David Epstein

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Comments: I think this book is an important read as it is an antidote to the “start early and specialize as quickly as possible” advice that is sometimes peddled. While it might appear that David Epstein is against the notion of deliberate practice and specialization, I didn’t take it as such. Instead, his push is for us to appreciate breadth and the meandering path we might take to figure out what we want to specialize in. He makes the case (repeatedly) that the meandering path gives us the range to make the specialization count.

Top 3 Lessons:

1. Breadth of experiences are both key and undervalued. So, take the time to choose where you’d like to focus.

2. Lean into what your experiences have given you. And, also remember to lean into the experiences you are presented with. The dots only connect backward.

3. There is no such thing as “falling behind.” Comparisons are useless too. You are on your own unique path – one that will be defined by the range of skills you develop.