2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills · Sports

BR 181: Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Anders Ericsson, peak, performance

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Peak is the culmination of the life’s work of a legendary researcher – Prof Anders Ericsson. Prof Ericsson has single handedly changed our understanding of performance and expertise. It is a lovely read – well written and flows beautifully. The only reason I have it as a category 2 is because author Geoff Colvin did a good job of bringing Prof Ericsson’s research to the mainstream with “Talent is Overrated.”

Top 3 Learnings:

1. There is absolutely no evidence for innate talent beyond a few physical advantages in certain sports. The dark side of this is denying kids the opportunity to get good with very little evidence (think Outliers).

While the average IQ of scientists is higher than the average person, there is no correlation between IQ and scientific productivity. Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of all time wouldn’t make it to MENSA with his 126 IQ. Researchers have suggested that the minimum requirements for performing capably as a scientist are around 110 – beyond which there is little or no additional benefit. It is unclear if this requirement is one to succeed as a scientist or to do the writing and admission tests required to get a PhD.

Similarly, for some sports, one could speculate about some minimum talent requirements – e.g. some basic physical traits such as height and body size. Beyond that, however, practice trumps everything else.

We might be born with preference for music over sports, for example. But, that counts for little if we don’t practice it.

2. Our body literally changes with deliberate practice. The key difference between deliberate practice and purposeful practice is a teacher. Having a teacher who has been through what we’ve been through changes everything.

3. The focus when we perform deliberate practice is not on knowledge, but on skills. That will be key in making deliberate practice applicable in education.

Book notes here

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

BR 180: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

willpower

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: A super practical and applicable guide to willpower.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. There is no point beating yourself up for a willpower failure. We do better when we learn to be kind to ourselves.

2. Pay attention to your thoughts and accept them. Just remember that you don’t have to act on them. Resisting thoughts is a bad idea.

3. The best long term solution to willpower is mindfulness when you feel cravings. That’s how you learn to conquer them.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 177: Deep Work by Cal Newport

deep work

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I love Cal Newport’s thought process and approach to excellence and the idea of optimizing life for “deep work” is one that has stuck with me.

This book approaches the “Deep Work” idea exhaustively. I’ve put this as a priority 2 book simply because it is important you ease into this as this is more a “how to” book and requires the context before you buy into the hows and whats. The first step would be to read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport and then read this.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The quality of your life is likely directly proportional to the amount of time you spend in deep work. A deep life is a good life.

2. Attention residue is the biggest problem with small distraction. Our brain takes time to switch between tasks and this task switching drains us.

3. A deep work approach to life requires you to make hard choices on what you spend time on. The point isn’t so much about whether something you spend time on gives you benefit. It is understanding everything we give up. Understanding trade-offs are critical.

Book notes here.

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

BR 175: Why CEO’s Fail by David Dotlich and Peter C Cairo

why ceo's fail, ceo

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Powerful book that is best characterized by a single powerful insight – most CEO failures are really failures of self awareness. It is hard for senior leaders to be self aware because, as you move up, your jokes become funnier and your insights become more insightful.

I didn’t do a book summary but did reflect on the takeaways from the book – that’s here.

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

BR 174: The Outsiders by William Thorndike

outsiders, ceo, management

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is a very good book on the border of priorities 2 and 3. I debated pushing it down to priority 3 as I find myself becoming a tougher rater over time. The more books I’ve read, the harder it is to find new insight that truly changes the way I think. This book does a great job bringing together a few really good ideas. However, playing devil’s advocate again, I wonder if a long blog post / research paper would have sufficed.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Counter intuitive results require counter intuitive moves. Outsider CEO’s were most defined as they zigged when their opponents zagged.

2. CEO’s can spend their time (their most valuable resource) doing 3 things – investor relations, operations, or capital allocation. The outsider CEO’s spent most of their time on capital allocation, little on operations and almost none on investor relations. Nearly every one of them adopted some financial instrument that was under used – e.g. buy backs, mergers, acquisitions, etc.

3. They ran lean central teams and often hired strong COO’s who complemented their strengths.

Book notes here.

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

BR 167: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: If you have any interest in technology whatsoever, this book is a must read. Awesome awesome 140 odd year journey starting from when Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace conceptualized the modern computer.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. History favors writing about the individual but great innovations were always made by teams that worked incredibly well with each other.. and almost always built upon the good work done by many others.

2. A collection technology change makers have been at the intersection of the arts and sciences (e.g. Steve Jobs). The big learning here is that diversity of skills, interests, etc., are really productive. The greatest tech innovations have come about when diverse minds came together.

3. Artificial intelligence has always been two decades away.. (;-))

Book notes here

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

BR 166: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Good book overall. Greg’s concepts and thoughts definitely resonated and felt consistent. However, I felt that the book repeatedly prescribed ways to do things and hardly ever spoke about the psychology or the “why” behind things. In that sense, I felt it lacked the depth I’d have liked and often skated over the difficult stuff. And, I felt it was often a collection of lists without structure. (as a good illustration, I had to go back to the book notes to write my 3 top learnings..)

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A lovely story about Stephen Covey prioritizing his daughter above a friend who he ran into. The learning here was that we need to learn to say no to stuff we don’t prioritize so we can say yes to the stuff we do prioritize

2. Mission statements need to be concrete and inspirational (think of them as a 2×2)

3. Less is more. :)

Book notes here

2. BUY it! · Business · Management

BR 159: The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

Priority: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1) Read ASAP! 2) BUY it! 3) SHELF it 4) SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Outstanding book. The only reason it is priority 2 vs. 1 is because Operations Management may not be everyone’s forte. I read this just beforegraduate  school and I’m sure it’ll be covered in the Operations Management introduction class. I can’t wait.

The other note – it is an excellent audio book as it is produced like an audio movie. Makes for a very interesting read.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. First, understand the goal and ONLY optimize with respect to the goal. Once you understand the goal, understand the bottlenecks. Imagine a plant’s bottleneck / constrained resource can produce 400 units. Having non bottleneck machines produce more than 400 only excess inventory. In fact, if market demand is 300, we are in our interest to produce around 300. The rest is waste.

2.  “Local efficiencies” are useless. Having one part of the plant product top class equipment while everyone is below average and late is useless. The big picture is what matters. Once again, understand the goal and only optimize for it. Beware metrics that result in optimizing parts of the picture at the expense of the whole (e.g. cost cutting on R&D that messes with future pipeline)

3. When trying to understand a problem, think of the Toyota 5 Why system. Ask why 5 times so you get to the route of the problem.

Book notes here.

Add on Mar 16, 2016: This book has had a huge impact on me in retrospect. Some very powerful life analogies here. 2 lessons I’ve repeated many a time –

1. Productivity is actions that us move toward the goal.

2. You can’t optimize sub-systems (point 2).

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Sports

BR 149: Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Another Michael Lewis masterpiece. I saw the movie before I read the book. The book was really interesting. Many of the baseball terms and statistics went a bit over the head as I’ve never watched baseball. However, the story and insight were fantastic.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Value is created when you understand market inefficiencies and exploit them. In the case of baseball, the whole player measurement system was flawed and based on the look of a player rather than statistics that actually contributed to the team. Billy Beane simply went ahead and used these inefficiencies to cause a revolution in the way players were scouted.

2. If you HAVE to do a deal, you are doing to pay too much for it.

3. My favorite insight was Beane’s approach of building a baseball team rather than a collection of players. For example, Beane and his team identified that a play off team needed to score 900 runs to qualify for the play offs (if I remember right). So, they went about building a team that would score the runs together building on each other’s strengths. Focus on the whole, not on the parts. Don’t replace players.. Replace their statistics with one or more players. Top draw insight!

Book notes here.

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

BR 148: Boomerang by Michael Lewis

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This was a really good read. I have to say this about all Michael Lewis books. His books are a real lesson in writing. He really takes you on a journey with him and beautifully extracts the insight out of it. He doesn’t do many interesting stories and anecdotes. Instead, he runs a few stories in parallel bringing out a central theme or insight. Just fantastic.

Boomerang is about his travels in Europe following the credit crisis. He explores what Iceland,  Greece, Ireland and Germany did with the explosion of cheap credit.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. It’s hard to do the right things when conflicts of interest are afoot. Banks, for example, employed analysts who were supposed to give an unbiased view of the markets. However, in the case of Phil Werner, who predicted the Irish property bubble, this didn’t work in practice because Merrill Lynch’s angry clients were the banks who were behind the property bubble.

2. It’s amazing how quickly old financial institutions let go of traditions when a new upstart comes in with a ridiculous idea that seems to make money.

Anglo Irish Bank was that upstart. A property developer could practically walk in the morning and walk out by afternoon with 100s of millions of euros. Soon, all Irish banks had divisions which paid their staff based on the amount of money they lent (talk about bad incentives). Allied Irish even had a department called ABA – anybody but Anglo with salespeople focused on poaching anglos customer.

3.The effect of cheap credit had different effects in different places. Americans decide to use it to buy houses they couldnt afford. The Greeks decided to use it to fund a lifestyle that was definitely beyond their means. The Irish used it to buy more of Ireland from each other. The Germans behaved responsibly within but went crazy in enabling everyone else. In fact, the Germans were the ones who bought all crap assets until the very end. The followed the rules and took AAA rated bonds at face value to devastating effects

Book notes here.