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.

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BR 232: Algorithms to Live By Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

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Comments: Really fun, geeky, book that doubled up as being insightful and applicable.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Explore/exploit: Exploration early in the lifecycle is the right strategy. Kids were considered intellectually deficient. But, as researchers opened up to the idea that they were in the exploration phase of their life, it made sense. Same with smaller social networks for the elderly.
  2. Wrong lesson from the marshmellow test. University of Rochester researchers exposed kids to an adult who promised to bring them better supplies but didn’t. When those kids were exposed to the marshmellow test, they did far worse.

    Willpower is important in enabling kids to be successful. But, it is likely more important for kids to grow up in an environment where they trust the adults they grow up with. Still a small sample (28 kids) but worth revisiting the learning.

  3. Prisoner’s dilemma has a dominant strategy that is worse for everyone. Unlimited vacation works like that because everyone wants to be perceived as a little more hard working. Equilibrium is 0.
    The only way companies can get around that is by shifting equilibrium – e.g. enforce x weeks of mandatory vacation.

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! · 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.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Creativity · Novel Concepts · Psychology

BR 222: When by Dan Pink

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Comments: Dan Pink, like the Heath brothers, is a specialist at condensing tons of great research into a few digestible ideas. He does that again by bringing together a ton of great research on timing with “When.”

Top 3 Lessons: I’ve gone with 5 as there were many cool nuggets.

  1. All studies on energy show a spike in the morning, a trough in the afternoon and a rebound in the evening. This is because nearly 70% of the population are “larks” and have spikes in the morning (stays true for most of life except in our teenage years – where most of us become “owls”). The afternoon trough is dangerous – more surgery mistakes, more accidents, and lower test scores.
  2. American Association of Pediatrics in 2014 and even the CDC have issued guidance that middle schools and upward should have starting times after 830. Starting early for kids who are going through prime owl years is a recipe for lower test scores, tardiness, less learning and even more accidents.
  3. Endings matter a lot. At the end of your week, note what you have accomplished, plan the next day, and send a thank you to someone.
  4. Managers email response time to their subordinates was a leading indicator of their subordinates happiness. (Fascinating)
  5. Living in the present isn’t always great advice. Instead, life requires us to integrate our past, present and future.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Creativity · Marketing · Novel Concepts · Psychology · Relationships

BR 221: The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

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Comments: I love books by Chip and Dan Heath. While this book didn’t resonate as strongly as Decisive (their previous book) did, I thought it brought together lessons on a very important topic, Great moments are what we remember in this life. Understanding how these get made is, thus, as important a lesson as any.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. A formula for excellent mentorship: High expectations + Assurance + Direction + Support
  2. Responsiveness is the key to strong relationships. It means you are attuned to the other person. The idea that physicians ask patients “what matters to you” revolutionized children’s healthcare in Scotland.
    Do we understand what matters to the people we care about? (Deep questions, thus, are a great way to get to know people.)
  3. In the short term, we often choose to fix problems over creating moments. In the long term, that backfires. Moments are not a means to the end, they are the end. They are what we remember in the end.

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.