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

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Management · Relationships · Technology

BR 142: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

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

Comments: If you love technology, you will find this book very interesting. It felt a bit gossip-y in that it focused a lot more on the dynamics of a handful of people who were responsible in building Twitter. You come to learn how Twitter nearly imploded multiple times but, against the odds, survived to change the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A strong board of directors is a key in every company as in life. It is very important to have people who have a long term interest in you who are then willing to call bullshit on your decisions and occasionally, guide you to move to a better place.

2. Complexity, conflict, clash of egos, etc., are not the words that come to mind when you think of the glory of a start-up’s journey to success. They’re part and parcel of the journey, however. And, it is worth remembering that no good comes without significant pain and learning. The book explores the path of these multi millionaires who all learnt some very tough life lessons in the process.

3. Twitter was founded by a bunch of geeks who saw it as a way of connecting with people. These weren’t people with strong social bonds or relationships. They understood the power of technology in helping people like themselves find connection. I thought it interesting that Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in the process of getting back at the girlfriend who dumped him. Scratching your own itch is a very powerful reason to build a company that changes the world.

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy · Psychology

BR 119: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor.E.Frankl

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

Comments: Man’s search for meaning is as sincere and heartfelt a book you will find. It’s one of those books that is a must read simply because it teaches us what it means to be human.

The story details the experiences of Dr Frankl in Nazi concentration camps and his observations about life and the importance of meaning.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. We are often told that the essence of life is the pursuit of happiness. Frankl’s experiences taught him otherwise. In his experience, it’s meaning that makes life worth living..

2. There is an incredible paragraph on love by Viktor Frankl. It’s one of those that reminds us of the importance of love in this world, and the special place it holds in our life.

3. Success and happiness will ensue if we keep doing the right things. At the end of the day, we will be successful only because we forgot to think about it. Here’s the link to that incredible paragraph.

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

BR 107: The Big Short by Michael Lewis

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

Comments: I am fast becoming a Michael Lewis fan. I loved the 2 movies his books inspired ‘The Moneyball’ and his fantastic article on Vanity Fair detailing the Irish bubble. ‘The Big Short’ was recommended to me by a colleague as a great book on the financial crisis.

This book takes a look at the unique characters who actually saw the collapse of the financial system coming and details the trials, tribulations and change they went through before and after the crisis.

Great book. A Dan Brown-esque page turner for those with an interest in understanding how we got to the biggest financial crisis since the great depression.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. ‘There is a fine line that divides investing and gambling.’ Not a new learning but the whole book’s essential synthesis was re-learning this concept.

2. The concept of rating agencies like S&P, Moody’s, Fitch and the like are broken. They are easily fooled by the smarter investment bankers far too often.

3. It’s amazing how badly broken the financial system was/is. When we pause for a moment, the financial system doesn’t really create anything. Yet, it accounted for 40% of the US economy in 2007. Banks essentially went from organizations that helped provide capital to businesses to profit generation machines. Sprinkle generous amounts of greed and take away any sense of principles/values from the dish and you can see the recipee for disaster.

And one more..

4. It’s amazing how each of the ‘outliers’ who actually saw the crisis coming was, by all accounts, a weirdo in his own right. Even the smartest people out there drank their own kool aid and got deluded in the mass hysteria.

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BR 101: Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

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

Comments: A good book that gives great insight into the personality of one of the iconic businessmen of our time.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Entrepreneurship begins with initiative and a deep deep desire to take action and change things.

2. The most important leadership trait – authenticity. You can only be yourself. Be the best possible version..

3. When attempting to change things, a general irreverence helps a great deal. And a great support system (family and friends) to support you when you fail is vital because the irreverence regularly results in steep falls!

Good book. Definitely worth a read..

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

BR 96: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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

Comments: This book tells the story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this generation complete with the many ups and downs that were part of the journey. It helped me understand what made Jobs the man he was and gave me tons of learnings along the way.

Top 3 Learnings:

I learnt that the best way to learn from books about great men is to understand their strengths. Here is a list of strengths I feel Steve GOT –

1. Relentless strength focus (resulted in someone who was not balanced by any stretch of the imagination. But bloody good at what he did.)

2. Focus on top performers – Johnny Ives is a great example. The moment he discovered Ives, he made sure Ives reported to him directly!

3. Intersection of technology and creativity – This, of course, was his speciality.

4. Balance between design and engineering – Concurrent designing and engineering meant that the teams worked with each other. And, unlike other CEO’s, he gave Design first priority over engineering!

5. Shipping – All his greatest projects involved some amount of rework. But, when they shipped, they were generally perfect!

6. Simplification and simplicity – One button on the iPhone. What more can I say?

7. Finding great talent – From Wozniak and Lasseter to Ives and Cook. A great talent spotter.

8. Understanding Technology and Art. “Art takes discipline and technology takes creativity”

9. Marketing IS the product. All his products had their marketing built in. He cared. And it showed.

10. Negotiation – I’m unsure if anyone else would have been capable of single handedly disrupting the music industry. And let’s not forget his negotiations with Disney.

11. Showmanship. In this, he was probably without peer.

12. Marketing – He learnt a lesson early from his mentor Mike Markula. A great brand must impute i.e. demonstrate it’s greatness in everything it did.

13. Understood  natural materials – Really understood the intricacies of metal, plastic and glass and applied it on the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone and in all the Apple Stores.

14. Importance of Environment – His workplaces had to be well designed. They had to present fantastic collaborative working environments. See NEXT, Pixar and the new Apple complex.

15. Surrounding himself with people that complemented him – Tim Cook was a great example. In his final act, he surrounded himself with persistent folk who managed him.

16. Saying No. How else could he simplify the way he did? He also focused Apple’s energies on few products but made them world class.

(Of course, he was not a role model for many things – e.g.: relationships, diet and the like. But, I couldn’t help marveling at the list of things he was good at.)

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BR 95: Gandhi – An Autobiography by M K Gandhi

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

Comments: This is a fascinating book. I actually had no idea where to place this book. It didn’t seem to fit in any of the category. I decided to eventually place it in the ‘Shelf it’ category simply because this is a fascinating read and you won’t regret having this on your bookshelf.

However, it is of course likely to have extra significance if you are Indian as you will probably relate to the story that much better. Every time I think  of Gandhi, the word ‘fascinating’ comes to mind. I wouldn’t do a lot of what he did simply because it wouldn’t be part of my make up. He was definitely one of a kind. A real throwback to a different time, and generation.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Every experience of Gandhi’s was equated to an ‘experiment’. He was always experimenting.. an ultimate lesson in the ‘leaner’ mentality. Again, the word fascinating comes to mind.

2. He was capable of a tremendous amount of introspection and focus on what he could control. No wonder he is considered a supreme example of someone who acted within his circle of influence.

3. Gandhi was a fascinating man. Fascinating again. There’s no other word for it. Read it and tell me otherwise.. :)