3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · History · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Psychology

BR 179: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

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

Comments: Malcolm Gladwell is a masterful writer and weaves together many stories into a compelling book that asks us to rethink our traditional ideas of what constitutes an advantage.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. You may be better off being a big fish in a small pond. More people get discouraged and depressed being average at a top institution.

2. David and Goliath was a mismatched battle. As a slinger, Goliath actually stood no chance.

3. There is such a thing as a desired level of adversity. That’s how character is built.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Management · Technology

BR 178: The Alliance by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

alliance

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

Comments: The contents and philosophy behind this book is very close to my heart as I’m heading to work at LinkedIn post school. A lot of it felt very familiar and true from my experience at LinkedIn over the summer. Thanks Reid – for sharing it with the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The best way to retain talent is to accept the fact that talented folks will want to leave. Plan for that.

2. Build talent management around “tours of duty.” These are “missions” of sort which challenge talented employees for a certain period of time and ensure a win-win scenario for both the company and the employee.

3. The best companies treat employee relationships as a two-way alliance. This lasts long after the employee leaves the company.

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · Entrepreneurship · Skills · Technology

BR 173: The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett

user experience, UI, UX

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

Comments: This is a user experience book that attempts to structure how you build tools (in this case, websites) that result in a good user experience.

Top Learning: Book notes here (it is the sort of book I might come back to when I’m designing a website)

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Creativity · Entrepreneurship · Philosophy · Self Improvement

BR 170: How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams,

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

Comments: I debated about whether this should be a priority 1 or priority 2 book. I went with priority 1 because I think this book mixes personal experience with provocative ideas and a solid collection of “good life” principles that I’ve found true. I also love (and try living by) Scott’s experimentation based approach to life.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Goals are for losers. Focus on building systems that will last. E.g. instead of trying to lose 10 pounds in 6 months, focus on building a system of exercising 3 times every week.

2. Collect skills like a crazy person. Every skill you collect doubles your chances of success. Greatness is often a collection of mediocre skills.

3. Experiment away your way to a great life. Failure is an important part of experimentation

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 169: Zero to One by Peter Thiel

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

Comments: This book disappointed. It could be the high expectations I’d gone in with or perhaps it was the fact that I’d read Thiel’s thinking around monopoly businesses on the internet before the book. It could also have been the mindset I was in when i was reading this book.

Either way, it didn’t work for me.

Top 2 Learnings:

1. Horizontal progress is when we take an idea that works in one place and copy it everywhere else. Vertical progress is true technological innovation (0 to 1).

2. Monopoly businesses are the best. Competition is for losers.

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

1. Read ASAP! · Entrepreneurship · Self Improvement

BR 160: What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin

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

Comments and Learning: 

First, I have to acknowledge that the rating for this book is VERY biased. Here’s why –

1. I love Seth’s blog. I think it is the best blog out there. When I sit down to write out my blog post for the day on ALearningaDay, I just try to make it worthy of Seth’s blog. I fail on most days and succeed on some. I’m just hoping I’ll increase the percentage.

2. Seth is everything he talks about. As a result, I feel like I know him well even if we haven’t met. So, I think of his work as an extension of himself.

3. Seth has been an enormous ALearningaDay cheerleader. And, in this book, he’s been generous enough to share an ALearningaDay post on page 97.

I think of this book as similar in style to “The War of Art” – it is a book you can pick up whenever you need inspiration and you will not be disappointed. It is also a much better paper book because it has a lot of images that makes reading it really easy.

It is written in the style of a collection of some of his best blog posts. And I love that. It won’t take you more than 2 hours and it is well worth it. Check it out. :-)

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Management · Technology

BR 152: The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

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

Comments: If you are, even in the slightest, interested in running a company of your own someday, this book is an absolute must read. This is probably the closest any book will come to being a “CEO how-to” manual.

It is a book I will revisit from time to time.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Leadership is about 3 things – the ability to articulate an idea so people follow you (The Steve Jobs attribute), the ability to be ambitious for the team and not for yourself /to have the right kind of ambition (the Bill Campbell attribute) and the ability to achieve the results you articulate (the Andy Grove attribute) – I’ve never heard leadership spelt out as clearly.

2. The purpose of an organization chart is to facilitate communication. The closer people are on an organization chart, the more they will communicate. (Such a simple idea but one I’d never understood.)]

3. A few money quotes –

The amount of communication required in a relationship is inversely proportional to the amount of trust there is.
‘Managing by numbers is like painting by numbers. It is only for amateurs.’
‘The hero and the coward feel the same. They just do different things. People who watch you judge you on what you do not what you feel.’
‘Hire for strength, not for lack of weakness’
‘Embrace the struggle and remember – the hard things will always be hard things.’

Book notes here.

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · Entrepreneurship · Technology

BR 151: Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone

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

Comments: This book is another one of those really good books I’d recommend to anyone interested in technology. This is Biz Stone’s story and thus, in large part, his narration of important parts of the Twitter story.

It feels sincere and heartfelt and, that is, from what I’ve heard, what Biz Stone is all about.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Opportunity is manufactured. As Biz Stone did not train in the traditional sports, he was well behind sporting level in his high school. As he really wanted to play sports, he started a high school lacrosse team. Since everyone who signed up was a beginner, he was on a level playing field and  had a great time.

2. Constraints are great. When Steven Spielberg was shooting jaws, he wanted to create a realistic model of a shark so they could film it attacking people for all the scary scenes. However, this was going to be very expensive and beyond their budget. Faced with this constraint, Spielberg had a new low budget idea – shoot it from the point of view of the shark under water.  And guess what? Way scarier!

Twitter did well with constraints as well, of course. :)

3. Pick opportunities based on what inspires you. Biz Stone lives this idea. He left university because he got an inspiring opportunity to apprentice in a creative agency. He then left Google even though he had millions of dollars worth of stock options to vest because he wanted to continue working with his former boss and friend, Evan Williams. It’s a great story and it obviously works out for him. But, the thing to note is his incessant positivity and his habit of zeroing on the things that really matter.

Book notes here.