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.

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

BR 143: The Everything Store by Brad Stone

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

Comments: A very powerful insight into the one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this generation. It is symbolic that Bezos wanted to call Amazon “Relentless.com” because that is exactly what he is – relentless. Incredibly smart, incredibly driven, incredibly well read, and incredibly determined – a one in a billion combination.

A very inspiring story – there is a lot to learn from this book and from Bezos’ studied and researched style. I loved it. Must read for anybody interested in technology.

Top 3 Learnings
1. Bezos banned PowerPoint in Amazon’s meetings. Instead, he uses 1-6 page memos called narratives. He believes people can hide behind bullet points but it is impossible to not have clarity of thought if you are forced to write full sentences. He is absolutely right, of course. I’ve been using narratives in various projects and it means more thorough preparation than ever before.

2. As Bezos’ grandfather once taught him, it is harder to be kind than clever.

3. This learning isn’t so much from the book as much as it is as a synthesis on the man. The description that comes to mind when I think of is Bezos is “driven learning machine.” Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are examples. What’s amazing about these people is, aside from their penchant for learning, they are not afraid to take very big swings. It’s an awe inspiring combination and is a reminder that success isn’t a flash in the pan. As they illustrate, it’s a habit.

Book notes here

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Career · Psychology · Relationships

BR 141: Give and Take by Adam Grant

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

Comments: A very good book. It does really make you think about how you lead your life and establishes giving to be the best long term strategy.

Top 3 Learnings
1. There are 3 kinds of people – givers, takers and matchers. Takers never do well in the short term, matchers do consistently well whereever they go and the givers are either at the top or the very bottom of their fields. The givers at the top of their fields are what Grant calls “Other”-ish givers. They have a self interest in giving but don’t give at the expense of their performance. The givers at the bottom are those who give even if it is not in their long term interest to do so. Give a lot.. but be a bit selfish (not self centered) about it.

2. It is best to “chunk” your giving rather than do little bits every day. People who volunteer 3 hours on a  weekend are happier than those who do 30 mins every day. 100 hours was found to be the golden number for volunteering that gave maximum happiness returns.

3. It is in our interest to give a lot more than we get. In the old economy, takers weren’t as easily found out as today. Our track record follows us everywhere and being short term focused isn’t a good strategy.. and definitely isn’t a path to happiness.

Book notes here

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

BR 140: Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

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

Comments: This is a really fast paced, fun book with many simple but actionable insights on how to live a happier life. Improv acting sounds very fun and Patricia Ryan Madson distils 12 principles for us to follow and incorporate into our lives.

I enjoyed the book and interviewed Patricia too – she was everything I’d imagined her to be after reading her book.

Top 3 Learnings

1. Life is no different from an improv act. You can make all the plans you want.. but you just have to learn to improvise to be happy.

2. Patricia cautions us against over preparation. Often, we overdo the amount of preparation and forget to be human and fallible.

3. Notice your gifts. Every day, we use and consume things that have been made with a lot of effort by others. It is only when we learn to notice these gifts and become more aware of our blessings do we get better at improv and thus, life.

Book notes here

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

BR 138: His Needs Her Needs by William F Harley Jr

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

Comments: The only reason this book is not on the “Read ASAP” list is because it isn’t applicable to everyone. If you are married or due to get married soon, I’d suggest reading it. For best results, I’d suggest reading it with your partner.

My wife and I read this on our honeymoon and it’s served as a great way to start our journey as husband and wife. William F Harley completely “gets” marriages having been a successful counsellor for many decades. He does what great authors do – puts together a framework to help you think about what makes great marriages truly great. Fantastic book.

Top 3 Learnings

1. We all require our relationships to meet a collection of emotional needs. Some are much more important than others and men and women typically give importance to diametrically opposite needs. For example, top needs for women are affection, honesty and openness, intimate conversation, and financial support while top needs for men are sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, physical attractiveness, etc.

2. Great marriages thrive when the needs of the spouse are consciously or unconsciously identified and met. When not met, the disgruntled spouse typically resorts to an affair which meets the need.

3. It’s okay to be “obvious” in trying to meet your partner’s needs. In fact, the obviousness works very well. For example, in the chapter on affection, we saw an example of “affection habits” that a wife wanted in her husband. So, the husband literally put together a list and began working on it every day till it became sub conscious. We are testing it out too and it seems to work really well.

Overall, superb book. We’re very glad we read it and we’re looking forward to “living” it.

Add on Mar 16, 2016: We did live the book. And, it has worked great for us. We still joke about some of the anecdotes from the book and talk about our needs (from the exercise in the book).

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

BR 136: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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

Comments: SO inspiring.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The “resistance” is the most toxic force on the planet. It’s an internal force of nature that thwarts us every time we try to move from a lower to higher place – when we want to start a new venture, work on a piece of art, or embark on an education of any kind. We move forward when we learn how to fight our resistance.
2. Art is the most noble thing we can set out to do. An artist believes the best lies ahead and constantly works on imagining and creating this future and thus taking the human race forward. This is opposite to the fundamentalist who tries to destroy to take us back to the basics as it is his belief that the best existed in the past.
3. Being an artist is all about behaving like a pro. That involves showing up every day, working on your art relentlessly, listening to feedback, ignoring critics, not taking failure personally, and exhibiting humility and patience.
It’s very hard to just talk about 3 things that I learnt from this book. It is so inspirational.. and Steven Pressfield is such an accomplished writer that attempting to say it in anything but his own words doesn’t do it justice.

Book notes

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

BR 135: The Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam

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

Comments: Really good book. This book was recommended to me by one of my favorite authors William J Bernstein when I asked him for Singapore specific investment advice.

A must-read for folks living outside the US looking for solid money and investment advice.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Live like a millionaire. Millionaires wear cheap watches, buy second hand cars, and live in the suburbs. Real millionaires live frugally and invest wisely.
2. Compound interest is the most important mathematical concept you need to know. The earlier you start investing, the better it is for you as compound interest will take over. Invest in simple plain vanilla index funds (same as Bernstein’s advice.. the value add here is clear steps for folks living in Canada, UK, Australia, and Singapore) and remember that financial service firms are out to eat into your money. Actively managed mutual funds are a no-no.
3. Every generation is gripped by irrational financial madness at some points (the tech bubble being an example). When you see a market behaving irrationally, be fearful. The relationship between the value of a stock and it’s earning is similar to a dog on a leash with it’s master. One can be far ahead of the other for only a short while.

Click here for book notes from the book

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

BR 134: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

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

Comments: Ramit’s book is very US centric but many of the principles hold true wherever you are. I think this book is worth reading because he explains very basic personal money management concepts very well. I liked his no-bullshit approach and his simple-yet-good advice.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Don’t buy the Dave Ramsey advice of “cancel all your credit cards.” If you are sane about using your credit cards, improving your credit score and credit history can save you 1000s of dollars in terms of better interest rates over a lifetime.

2. The following ratios off your paycheck are healthy –
50-60% Fixed costs – rent, utilities, debts, transport, normal food, health
10% Investment
10% Savings for upcoming expenses vacation, gifts for friends and family
20-30% Guilt free spending

3. Conscious spending is key. Spend on great experiences and never regret.

Book notes.

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

BR 133: To Sell is Human by Daniel H Pink

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

Comments: I’ve been a fan of Dan Pink’s approach of presenting well researched trends with a nice framework and “so what’s”   – ‘A Whole New Mind’ and ‘Drive’ did it well. “To Sell is Human” doesn’t disappoint.

Top 3 Learnings: Selling has moved from the old ABC (Always Be Closing) to the new ABC of Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.

1. Attunement: This section is all about empathy, connection, and most importantly, asking great questions. The main trend here is that we have moved from information asymmetry between buyers and sellers to information symmetry. Buyers now have all the information that sellers have and don’t need sales people in the traditional sense. They need folks who will help them solve their problems.

2. Buoyancy: Recent research points to the important of having a healthy ratio of positive:negative thoughts but not approaching everything by just pumping yourself up. In fact, research shows that interrogative self talk (i.e. asking yourself – can I do it?) works much better.

It also involves learning optimism (Martin Seligman style) and making sure we aren’t knocked out by rejection.

3. Clarity: Clarity of purpose and making it personal are critical. Many many experiments show that an appeal to a deep, intrinsic purpose moves people.

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

BR 130: The Investors Manifesto by William J Bernstein

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

Comments: William Bernstein deals with the very basics of investing and dispels some commonly held myths. An excellent book. May not interest everyone but if you are interested in understanding personal finance and investing, it’s a great book.

Top 3 learnings:

1. You don’t invest to get rich, you invest so as to not die poor. Great investments are not risky investments that produce prolific returns. They produce steady returns and avoid worst case scenarios. Of course, you cannot get great returns without great risk.

2. Understanding financial history is critical for a good investor. Long term capital management’s famous failure was because their equation did not take financial history into account.

3. You are your worst enemy. You cannot time the market. Don’t try. And don’t look for patterns in the financial markets. There are none.

A collection of other conclusions I put together – if it interests you

A pre condition to being a successful investor is a firm grasp of financial history

– High returns can only be achieved with high risk

– losing money in a bear market is a part of being investor

– study and understand the Gordon equation to calculate real returns

– whenever you buy or sell an individual stock or bond, you are competing against the best in the world

– Stocks: a growth company stock generally pays out less than a collection of bad company stocks

– primary decision as investor is overall mix of stocks and bonds. Diversify diversify.

– focus on the portfolio. Do not pay too much attention to best/worst. They change.

– You are your worst enemy. You cannot time the market. Don’t try.

– Don’t look for patterns in the financial markets. There are none.

– Stock brokers are out to fleece you. It’s the nature of the business

– Mutual funds aren’t different unless they are owned by stakeholders/ are private

– Live as modestly as you can and save as you can for as long as you can

– The best gift to your heirs is not cold hard cash. Rather its the ability to save, spend wisely and invest prudently

– Remember pascal wager – goal of investing is not to get rich but to not die poor

– index fund – consistent 8/10. It will never hit 10/10 but it won’t be a 1/10 either. Returns are proportional to risk…..

– Pro Tip – House: Whenever you go to a realtor, find out what the house rents at and multiply by 150. If you are charged above that, you are paying too much.