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BR 182: The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

One thing

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

Comments: The One Thing was a pleasant read. It felt like a “starter” self help book. Lots of interesting ideas packaged in a “how to,” without much focus on “why.”

Top 3 Learnings: Just one learning – of course.

At any given time, it will feel like you have many things you need to make progress on.

Take a step back and ask yourself – what is the ONE thing you need to focus on?

Then, make progress on that.

(No other book notes :))

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills · Sports

BR 181: Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Anders Ericsson, peak, performance

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

Comments: Peak is the culmination of the life’s work of a legendary researcher – Prof Anders Ericsson. Prof Ericsson has single handedly changed our understanding of performance and expertise. It is a lovely read – well written and flows beautifully. The only reason I have it as a category 2 is because author Geoff Colvin did a good job of bringing Prof Ericsson’s research to the mainstream with “Talent is Overrated.”

Top 3 Learnings:

1. There is absolutely no evidence for innate talent beyond a few physical advantages in certain sports. The dark side of this is denying kids the opportunity to get good with very little evidence (think Outliers).

While the average IQ of scientists is higher than the average person, there is no correlation between IQ and scientific productivity. Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of all time wouldn’t make it to MENSA with his 126 IQ. Researchers have suggested that the minimum requirements for performing capably as a scientist are around 110 – beyond which there is little or no additional benefit. It is unclear if this requirement is one to succeed as a scientist or to do the writing and admission tests required to get a PhD.

Similarly, for some sports, one could speculate about some minimum talent requirements – e.g. some basic physical traits such as height and body size. Beyond that, however, practice trumps everything else.

We might be born with preference for music over sports, for example. But, that counts for little if we don’t practice it.

2. Our body literally changes with deliberate practice. The key difference between deliberate practice and purposeful practice is a teacher. Having a teacher who has been through what we’ve been through changes everything.

3. The focus when we perform deliberate practice is not on knowledge, but on skills. That will be key in making deliberate practice applicable in education.

Book notes here

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology · Self Improvement

BR 180: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

willpower

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

Comments: A super practical and applicable guide to willpower.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. There is no point beating yourself up for a willpower failure. We do better when we learn to be kind to ourselves.

2. Pay attention to your thoughts and accept them. Just remember that you don’t have to act on them. Resisting thoughts is a bad idea.

3. The best long term solution to willpower is mindfulness when you feel cravings. That’s how you learn to conquer them.

Book notes here.

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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.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 177: Deep Work by Cal Newport

deep work

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

Comments: I love Cal Newport’s thought process and approach to excellence and the idea of optimizing life for “deep work” is one that has stuck with me.

This book approaches the “Deep Work” idea exhaustively. I’ve put this as a priority 2 book simply because it is important you ease into this as this is more a “how to” book and requires the context before you buy into the hows and whats. The first step would be to read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport and then read this.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The quality of your life is likely directly proportional to the amount of time you spend in deep work. A deep life is a good life.

2. Attention residue is the biggest problem with small distraction. Our brain takes time to switch between tasks and this task switching drains us.

3. A deep work approach to life requires you to make hard choices on what you spend time on. The point isn’t so much about whether something you spend time on gives you benefit. It is understanding everything we give up. Understanding trade-offs are critical.

Book notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Leadership · Psychology · Self Improvement

BR 175: Why CEO’s Fail by David Dotlich and Peter C Cairo

why ceo's fail, ceo

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

Comments: Powerful book that is best characterized by a single powerful insight – most CEO failures are really failures of self awareness. It is hard for senior leaders to be self aware because, as you move up, your jokes become funnier and your insights become more insightful.

I didn’t do a book summary but did reflect on the takeaways from the book – that’s here.

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BR 168: Mastery by Robert Greene

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

Comments: A Robert Greene masterclass. Lovely mix of biographical stories wrapped within a compelling framework. A lot of the stuff isn’t new. But, the combination is potent.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Mastery is a culmination of years of intense deep work. There is no easy way.

2. Apprenticeship is both awesome and dangerous. On the one hand, your learning curve speeds up with great mentors. However, very few mentors turn out to be large minded enough to “let go” – it is the typical bad parent problem all over again

3. Developing emotional intelligence is a useful tool to make sure your mastery gets the credit it deserves. This section spoke to me. I assumed I had high EI but had learnt from a relationship that that wasn’t the case. This chapter taught me one simple but critical lesson – stop listening to what people say. Instead, listen to what they do.

Book notes here

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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

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BR 161: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

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

Comments and Learning:
1. This is a very important book – designers all over have probably read this book. I think of it as a must read if you are interested in anything to do with design. I read this as I was thinking of product design.

2. If a user keeps making an error when using your product, the problem is with your product.

3. Learnings here

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 144: Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

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

Comments: I think the Heath brothers are the best business book authors out there. Made to Stick was brilliant. They managed to surpass it with “Switch.” And, against the odds, they’ve delivered another great book.

As always, a perfect blend of stories, research “wrapped” in an easy-to-remember and apply framework. I’ve begun implementing the learnings from this book already and I’m sure it will go on to be a very important part of my decision making.

(Add on Mar 16 2016: Quick add more than a year after writing this post: This book did impact my decision making and I carry the WRAP framework card in my wallet. )

Top 3 learnings:

Instead of 3 learnings, I’ll share a somewhat long overall synthesis. Please ignore the formatting – this is just a copy paste. You’ll see a better formatted learnographic on http://www.learnographics.com soon. :)

The first step to decision making is understanding the difference between kind environments and wicked environments.

Kind environments – where feedback is clear, immediate, and unbiased by the act of prediction. e.g. the weather.

Wicked environments – where feedback is unclear, delayed and biased by the act of prediction. e.g. stock markets, new products introductions.

“Gut” works well in kind environments e.g. if you are well trained in chess/football, you know there are only so many different possibilities. So, your gut is an important data point.

In the stock markets, however, the gut might be a data point but doesn’t suffice.  Life is also a wicked environment. As a result, we tend to make decisions with narrow frames and overweight the short term.

We need a good decision making process to make good long term decisions. Hence, the WRAP framework –

W – Widen your options (avoid narrow frames and “whether or not” decisions)

R – Reality test your assumptions (fight confirmation bias)

A – Attain distance before deciding (resist short term influences, make decisions aligned to core priorities)

P – Prepare to be wrong (don’t get cocky about your decisions)

W – Widen your options (avoid narrow frames and “whether or not” decisions)

  1. Make sure you have at least 3 options before making a decision – and think AND not OR – can you follow multiple options at once?
    Whenever you hear a decision being prefaced by “whether or not,” it is time to reconsider.

  1. Find someone who has solved your problem.
    Sam Walton who made many Walmart decisions by copying competitors.

  2. Toggle between “Promotion” and “Prevention” mindsets.
    Circuit City’s actions in the aftermath of the 2001 stock market crash was a perfect example – they cut down underperforming stores (prevention) and also invested in new product lines (promotion)

R – Reality test your assumptions (fight confirmation bias)

  1. Tripadvisor it!  Zoom out (consider base rates) and zoom in (take a close up)
    Pick a job like you would a sushi bar on tripadvisor. Speak to lots of people and get an overall rating. Then, take a close up at negative feedback.
    Similarly, when engaging with experts, don’t ask them for predictions. Ask them historical trends and understand them to really understand your probabilities of success.

  2. Fight confirmation bias – spark constructive disagreement by considering the opposite point of view
    Alfred Sloan, legendary CEO of General Motors, refused to make decisions if there wasn’t at least one opposing point of view.

  3. Ooch before you leap
    An “ooch” is a small experiment to test a hypothesis. Approach a decision like a designer approaches a design – put together a prototype first and gather feedback.

A – Attain distance before deciding (resist short term influences, make decisions aligned to core priorities)

  1. Identify and refer to your 3 core priorities
    Take stock of what matters to you. You might decide against that expensive car if your long term priorities are to save and invest wisely.

  2. What would you advise your best friend to do? / What would a new person do?
    Intel took one of it’s biggest decisions after years of debate – getting out of memory and focusing entirely on processors – by asking the question “What would a new person do?”

  3. Try the 10/10/10 rule
    How would you feel 10 minutes from now? What about 10 months from now? And 10 years from now?

P – Prepare to be wrong (don’t get cocky about your decisions)

  1. Bookend the future – view it as a full spectrum of possibilities
    A top fund manager creates a whole range of potential future stock prices and a list of criteria that would make the upper end of the range more of a possibility. Predicting the future is impossible – viewing it as a spectrum of possibilities is realistic and guards against over confidence.

  2. Set a tripwire/trigger to review your decision
    What if Kodak, who religiously followed their 1980 report that said digital cameras would not get mainstream in the next decade, had a set a “tripwire” saying that they would review their decision not to enter digital cameras if adoption was greater than 10%? Would it have filed for bankruptcy in 2010?

  3. Create a realistic job preview
    Call centers did a much better job of retaining employees when they gave them a one day job preview taking them through the worst situations they might face. This triggered all sorts of coping mechanisms and also increased determination among the future employees.

If you were to make a quick spur-of-the-moment decision, I’d suggest a quick version of the WRAP process

W – Make sure you have at least 3 options or find someone who has solved your problem

R – Tripadvisor it!

A – Identify and refer to your 3 core priorities

P – View the future as a spectrum of possibilities and set a tripwire

The key principle – Follow and trust the process. You might fail on individual decisions. That’s okay.

Bookbytes here and learnographic here.