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.

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.

3. SHELF it · Business · Design

BR 285: The Secret Lives of Customers by David Scott Duncan

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Comments: This book attempts to bring the idea of “Jobs to be done” to life with a story about a company that lost its way as it pursued hyper growth. It was an interesting read and one that I might come back to as I figure out how to apply “jobs to be done.”

Insights that resonated: 

(1) Customers hire our products to get specific jobs done – the more we understand these jobs, the more success we’ll find building the right solutions.

3. SHELF it · Psychology

BR 284: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

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Comments: This was an interesting read with good ideas that occasionally felt a touch long. That said, I loved the fact that Oliver Burkeman wrote this to remind us of the brevity of life and the importance of saying no to things that don’t matter to make space for the things that do.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) “Consider all the technology intended to help us gain the upper hand over time: by any sane logic, in a world with dishwashers, microwaves, and jet engines, time ought to feel more expansive and abundant, thanks to all the hours freed up.

But this is nobody’s actual experience. Instead, life accelerates, and everyone grows more impatient. It’s somehow vastly more aggravating to wait two minutes for the microwave than two hours for the over – or ten seconds for a slow-loading web page versus three days to receive the same information by mail.”

(2) “The original Latin word for “decide”, decidere, means “to cut off,” as in slicing away alternatives; it’s a close cousin of words like “homicide” and “suicide.”

(3) “Some Zen Buddhists hold that the entirety of human suffering can be boiled down to this effort to resist paying full attention to the way things are going, because we wish they were going differently (“This shouldn’t be happening!”), or because we wish we felt more in control of the process.

There is a very down-to-earth kind of liberation in grasping that there are certain truths about being a limited human from which you’ll never be liberated. You don’t get to dictate the course of events. And the paradoxical reward for accepting reality’s constraints is that they no longer feel so constraining.”

(4) “The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. But that isn’t a reason for unremitting despair, or for living in an anxiety-fueled panic about making the most of your limited time. It’s a cause for relief.

You get to give up on something that was always impossible – the quest to become the optimized, infinitely capable, emotionally invincible, fully independent person you’re officially supposed to be. Then you get to roll up your sleeves and start work on what’s gloriously possible instead.” 

(5) Robert Boice, a psychological professor, spent his career studying the writing habits of fellow academics.

His conclusion was that the most productive and successful among them made writing a smaller part of their daily routine than others. They wrote in brief daily sessions – sometimes as short as 10 minutes and never longer than 4 hours – and religiously took weekends off.

They cultivated the patience to tolerate the fact that they probably wouldn’t be producing very much on any given day, with the result that they produced much more over the long term.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Design · Psychology

BR 280: Competing against Luck by Clay Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David Duncan

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Comments: Competing Against Luck is intended to be an introduction to the “Job to be done” framework. It was an interesting read – however, it was less sticky than I hoped.

Insights that resonated: 

How do you figure out the job to be done? It involves asking 5 questions –

  1. What progress is that person trying to achieve? (Functional, social, emotional)
  2. What are the circumstances of the struggle?
  3. What obstacles are getting in the way of the person making progress?
  4. Are consumers making do with imperfect solutions or cobbling together hacks?
  5. How would they define what quality means and what trade-offs are they willing to make?
3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · History

BR 277: Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner

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Comments: This book was a classic Eric Weiner book – lots of fascinating stories artfully weaved together with humor. A fun read and one for the bookshelf for when you’re in the mood for it.

Insights that resonated: 

(1) “What is honored in a country is cultivated there.” | Plato

(2) “Walking quiets the mind without silencing it completely.” | Eric Weiner, Geography of Genius

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy

BR 275: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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Comments: A fascinating peek into the diary of the most powerful man in the world at the time.

Insights that resonated:  The one word that I’ll remember the book by is “perspective.”

“Keep perspective” seems to be the one piece of advice Marcus reflects on the most. He does this by constantly reminding himself of death.

In doing so, he reflects on the futility of chasing fame and sensory pleasures. And, he doesn’t seem to tire of reminding himself of his place in the world – that of an evolutionary speck – in these reflections.

Marcus Aurelius was probably the most powerful person in the world at the time. So, the nature of these notes are all the more impressive given the immense power he held. He clearly passed his stoic examinations with flying colors.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy

BR 274: Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

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Comments: It is so amazing to think about the sheer power of making insights accessible. Seneca’s notes were written two centuries ago.. but so many are still relevant today.

Insights that resonated: A few among many that stood out to me –

  • All ideas with merit are common property (more)
  • Treat everyone as you’d treat your superiors.
  • Spend less time mourning your friend and instead go ahead and make one. (more)
  • There is nothing a wise man does reluctantly. He escapes necessity because he wills what necessity will force on him.
  • Something that can never be learnt too thoroughly can never be said too often.
3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Management

BR 273: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou

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Comments: A practical book for the first time manager. I’ve enjoyed Julie’s blog posts and think she comes across as positive and authentic. She did so here too.

Insights that resonated: The premise of the book is – be thoughtful about how you manage your team and keep adapting your style and processes as time passes. I thought Julie delivered on that with lots of insights from her time leading a fast growing design team.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Fiction

BR 268: Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

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Comments: Ender’s Game from the point-of-view of Bean. If you haven’t read Ender’s Game, I’d start there. If you have and liked it, you’re likely to love this too.

Insights that resonated: None – just an engaging read. :-)