1. Read ASAP! · Career · Leadership · Management · Self Improvement

BR 237: Great at Work by Morten Hansen

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

Comments: Morten Hansen kicks this book off sharing that he thinks of this book as the work accompaniment of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (he also has 7 work principles). As someone who thinks of the 7 Habits as the best book I’ve read, this is a bold claim. But, and here’s the best part, his book lives up. I found it insightful, useful, and applicable. This book was part of my end-of-year reflection and will be a big part of my “get better” themes for 2019. And, it is a book I wish I had when I started my career.

First 3 principles:

  1. “Do less, then obsess.” In sharing the difference between the South pole expeditions of Robert Scott and Ronald Amundsen, Morten Hansen makes an interesting point on focus. Amundsen focused completely on one form of transportation – dogs – while Robert Scott struggled with five.
  2. “Redesign your work for value.” Cutting priorities isn’t enough. We need to obsess about value. Value = Benefits to others x effectiveness x efficiency.
  3. “Passion + Purpose.” Purpose is when you make valuable contributions to others or society that you find meaningful and doesn’t do harm. Purpose asks what can I contribute while passion asks the opposite. Match both.

Every principle resonated. Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Career · Marketing · Skills

BR 236: This is Marketing by Seth Godin

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Comments: “Marketers help drive change for the people they serve. Change happens with trust and tension.” All of Seth’s work drives home a few vital points – if we seek to drive change for people we serve, we are marketers. And, in the long run, our ability to be good marketers comes from consistently acting in a way that wins trust. And, we win trust by behaving in a trustworthy manner in whatever we do.

In many ways, Seth’s book was a “1 – Read ASAP” before it even showed up at my table because Seth has won my trust through years of daily writing on his excellent blog. His brand shines through. I expected it to change how I think about marketing.. and it did.

Finally, in the spirit of being targeted at an audience, this book is for fans of Seth’s blog. And, it delivers if you are one. :)

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. The famous adage about people buying a hole versus a drill still misses the point. People don’t buy the hole, they buy the shelf, cleanliness, and eventually the satisfaction of being clean. People buy experiences.
  2. The symbols and logos you use are part of your brand – a set of expectations. Brand is a set of associations that people care about.Direct marketing involves measuring everything. Brand doesn’t. Refuse to measure brand marketing – you should only do it if you are willing to be consistent and patient.

    People associate frequency with trust. Don’t change ads or what you’re communicating when you are tired. :) (Question for myself – what is my brand? What are the consistent messages?)

  3. In the 1960s, legendary salesman and coach Zig Ziglar used to sell pots and pans. The standard approach for a salesperson at the time was to hit a new town, sell as many pots and pans over the course of a day, and drive out to the next one. However, Zig did it differently. When he picked a town, he moved in for a few weeks. He made sure he got the early adopters his colleagues got on day one. But, then, he stayed long enough to make friends, organize dinners, and get to know the community. As his behavior was so unusual, he began winning the trust of the folks on the other side of the chasm until he’d successfully sold his wares to anyone in the town who had a need for them. The magic of Zig’s approach was to intentionally commit to being patient to make the change he sought to make.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Career · Leadership · Parenting · Psychology · Relationships · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 233: Non violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg

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Comments: Simple, profound, life changing. Someone I know describes this as “algebra” for communication – a must read for anyone who communicates (i.e. all of us). I think that’s a great description. Putting this book to action will be my top focus in 2019.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Keeping observation and evaluation separate in our thinking and communication is one of the hardest things to do. There’s a time to observe and a time to evaluate – almost never a good idea to do both at the same time.

    Words like always and never communicate evaluation. Communicating observations can be powerful.

  2. I feel is often misused when we use it so say things we think. “I feel I’ve been mistreated” or I feel misunderstood or I feel you..
  3. We don’t know how to communicate needs. :) empathic listening is all about listening to feelings and needs.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · History · Novel Concepts · Psychology

BR 230: Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb

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Comments: Albert Wenger has a great post explaining why you should read “Skin in the Game” that sums up my thoughts. Nassim Taleb is a brilliant jerk and it comes through in the book. There are moments of brilliance that make it well worth the experience and then there are moments when you are left shaking your head at his desire to pick fights and insult people for the sake of doing so. Albert also makes a great point at the end about reading books from folks we may not always agree with – “This is a good moment to point out that we should all seek out writers with whom we disagree at least some of the time. If we only read books by authors where we agree with every one of their tweets, why bother? What are we expecting to learn? Too many times we are letting our emotional reaction to something an author has said or done stand in the way of engaging with their arguments. Taleb certainly provokes a strong reaction at times, but by all means read “Skin in the Game” nonetheless.”

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. When someone says it is good for you when it is also good for them and when they don’t face downside, it isn’t good for you.
  2. Better fences make better neighbors. It is easier for people to like each other as neighbors than roommates. Interventionists keep trying to get people to not act sectarian when being sectarian is in our nature. Better to use that to keep groups and design systems that encourage us to work with each other. (Powerful implications in management and life)
  3. Loss aversion doesn’t exist (big statement!). The flaw in psychology papers is to believe that the subject doesn’t take any other tail risks anywhere outside the experiment and will never take tail risks again. The idea of “loss aversion” have not been thought through properly –it is not measurable the way it has been measured (if at all mesasurable). Say you ask a subject how much he would pay to insure a 1% probability of losing $100. You are trying to figure out how much he is “overpaying” for “risk aversion” or something even more stupid, “loss aversion”. But you cannot possibly ignore all the other present and future financial risks he will be taking. You need to figure out other risks in the real world: if he has a car outside that can be scratched, if he has a financial portfolio that can lose money, if he has a bakery that may risk a fine, if he has a child in college who may cost unexpectedly more, if he can be laid off. All these risks add up and the attitude of the subject reflects them all. Ruin is indivisible and invariant to the source of randomness that may cause it.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Business · Career · Skills

BR 228: The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto

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Comments: This is my second review of this book after a first read ~7-8 years ago as it felt like I was reading this for the first time. I decided to re-read this book as I was getting some feedback about a lack of clarity in a couple of strategy documents I presented at work. This book made a marked change in my outputs in the second half of the year by simply pushing me to commit to rewriting once I put the ideas down. It is book I’m going to be reading again.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. “For the average business or professional writer, producing more literate memos and reports does not mean writing shorter sentences or choosing better words. Rather, it means formally separating the thinking process from the writing process, so that you can complete your thinking before you begin to write.”
  2. As a consequence of the above learning, expect to break up with the first draft. The challenge – “Once you put ideas in writing, they take on an incredible beauty in the author’s eyes. They seem to glow with a fine patina that you will be quite reluctant to disturb.”
  3. Rest in the book notes here.
1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills · Sports

BR 227: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

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Comments: Awesome book by a former national chess champion and child prodigy who then became a Martial arts champion. The depth of insight in this book blew me away.

Top 3 Lessons: Going to go with my top 5 instead :)

  1. Investing in loss. The gifted boxer with a fabulous right and no left will get beat up while he tries the jab. And, the excellent soccer player with no left foot will be significant less effective while she invests in it. And, yet, investing in loss is the only way forward.
  2. Amateur chess coaches start by teaching their students opening variations. Students learn by memorizing the “right” openings and by avoiding problematic ones. Expert chess coaches, on the other hand, start with the lowest amount of complexity. They start with just three pieces on the chess board – king and pawn versus a king. Then, they might substitute a pawn with a bishop or rook.

    Piece by piece, expert coaches build an understanding of the power of each piece and a comfort with space on the chess board. Over time, they add more pieces to the board and build their student’s understanding of the game from first principles.

  3. It is Chen’s opinion that a large obstacle to a calm, healthy, present existence is the constant interruption of our natural breathing patterns. A thought or ringing phone or honking car interrupts an out-breath and so we stop and begin to inhale. Then we have another thought and stop before exhaling. The result is shallow breathing and deficient flushing of carbon dioxide from our systems, so our cells never have as much pure oxygen as they could. Tai Chi meditation is, among other things, a haven of unimpaired oxygenation.
  4. A woman was about to cross the 33rd street in New York City. As she was about to cross, she looked the wrong way and took a step forward. But, a bicyclist she didn’t see swerved and narrowly missed her. She fell.

    Instead of taking a step back to the pavement, however, she began screaming at the bicyclist. This turned out to be an unfortunate error as a taxicab followed the bicyclist a few seconds later and hit her.

    There’s a saying that it takes at least 7 consecutive mistakes or unfortunate occurrence for a plane crash to occur. And, we’ve all likely witnessed downward spirals of varying degrees of severity. For example, we see it frequently in sports when talented sportsmen fall apart once they make a mistake on a big stage.

    In all these spirals, it is not the first mistake that counts. Instead, it is when we get caught in the emotions of the moment – anger, annoyance, fear – and refuse to move on. That’s when we commit the second, third and the costly fourth mistake.

    It is much easier to write about avoiding downward spirals than it is to do it – especially if you are given to bursts of emotions. But, in these critical moments, the only way out is to recognize you’ve made a mistake, stop, take a few deep breaths and snap out of the emotion as quickly as possible.

  5. “Learners and performers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are aggressive, others are cautious. Some of us like questions, others prefer answers. Some bubble with confidence, always hungering for a challenge, while others break into a sweat at the notion of taking on something new. Most of us are a complicated mix of greys.We have areas of stability and others in which we are wobbly. In my experience the greatest of artists and competitors are masters of navigating their own psychologies, playing on their strengths, controlling their tone of battle so that it fits with their personalities.

    I have found that in the intricate endeavors of competition, learning, and performance, there is more than one solution to virtually every meaningful problem. We are unique individuals who should put our own flair in everything we do.”

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Leadership · Parenting · Psychology · Self Improvement

BR 218: Mindset by Carol Dweck

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Comments: This is a seminal work. The concept underlying this is the same as in Marilee Adams’ book – Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. However, this makes the case for a growth mindset by adding a ton of well researched examples and a lot of scientific rigor.

Mindset is central to how we approach things. And, we always have a choice between fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.

The belief that people/adults cannot change wreaks a lot of havoc in the world. Here’s hoping more folks read this book.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Companies are better off reminding manager’s about Growth mindset first before doing any kind of training.

2. The best environments combine challenge and nurture. They involve high standards in an environment of trust.

3. Praise children for effort, not ability. When a child does something fast and perfect, Carol says – “sorry that was so easy and a waste of your time.”

Book notes here.