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.

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

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Creativity · History · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

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

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. :-)

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Self Improvement

BR 156: How to Become a Straight A Student by Cal Newport

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

Comments: I enjoyed reading this book. It had been a while since I had actually thought about academics and I love Cal Newport’s writing. If you’re going to school and if you’re generally geeky, I’d definitely recommend it. 1 line summary of the book is – be organized and disciplined. :-)

Of course, the principles don’t just apply to school.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Make sure your schedule is very well organized. Block out times for future assignments and study in advance.

2. Compile your own summary of all lectures as a pre-exam study guide

3. Take control of your own calendar. Schedule meeting such that they don’t interfere with your productive time.

Book notes here.