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BR 259: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

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

Comments: I think this book is a good place to start if it is one of the first books you read about leadership and culture. Dan Coyle pieces together many wise notes – the importance of vulnerability, psychological safety, sharing appreciation, etc. – with a collection of good stories. It just didn’t work for me.

Insights that resonated: Trust in a team is proportional to psychological safety.

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

BR 258: Reboot by Jerry Colonna

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

Comments: This isn’t a “how to” lead book. It is a “here’s what leading technology companies looks like” from the perspective of a CEO coach. This book will resonate a lot more with you if you have an interest in tech start-ups. For everyone else, it may be a category 3 (“shelf it” for later book). I still believe it is one of those that you have to include on your bookshelf because I believe the central premise of the book is important – better humans make better leaders.

Insights that resonated:

1. Better humans make better leaders.

2. Heartbreak is universal. True grit is not only having your heart broken – but it is also managing to keep that heart open despite the losses.

3. What if being lost is part of the path? What if we are supposed to tack across the surface of the lake, sailing into the wind instead of wishing it was only at our backs? What if feeling lost, directionless, and uncertain of the progress is an indicator of growth? What if it means you’re exactly where you need to be, on the pathless path?

4. I took a few writing courses in college. The extraordinary poet Marie Ponsot would talk about the crow sitting on your shoulder saying things like: “That sucks,” ”How could you write that?” and “Are you kidding me?”

Diminutive, chain-smoking Marie would jut her tobacco-stained finger into the air, punctuating every word: Shoot. The. Damn. Crow.

5. One day, the Tibetan teacher Milarepa left his cave to gather firewood. When he returned, he found that his cave had been taken over by demons. There were demons everywhere!

His first thought upon seeing them was, “I have got to get rid of them!” He lunges toward them, chasing after them, trying forcefully to get them out of his cave. But the demons are completely unfazed. In fact, the more he chases them, the more comfortable and settled-in they seem to be.

Realizing that his efforts to run them out have failed miserably, Milarepa opts for a new approach and decides to teach them the dharma. If chasing them out won’t work, then maybe hearing the teachings will change their minds and get them to go. So he takes his seat and begins teaching about existence and nonexistence, compassion and kindness, the nature of impermanence.

After a while he looks around and realizes all the demons are still there. They simply stare at him with their huge bulging eyes; not a single one is leaving.

At this point Milarepa lets out a deep breath of surrender, knowing now that these demons will not be manipulated into leaving and that maybe he has something to learn from them. He looks deeply into the eyes of each demon and bows, saying, “It looks like we’re going to be here together. I open myself to whatever you have to teach me.”

In that moment all the demons but one disappear. One huge and especially fierce demon, with flaring nostrils and dripping fangs, is still there.

So Milarepa lets go even further. Stepping over to the largest demon, he offers himself completely, holding nothing back. “Eat me if you wish.” He places his head in the demon’s mouth, and at that moment the largest demon bows low and dissolves into space.


When dealing with the toughest challenges – the kind that involves the demons inside of us – brute force turns out to be a blunt instrument. Acceptance, kindness, and a willingness to open our hearts and minds to the learning ahead of us enable us to make the progress we seek.

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

BR 257: The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

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

Comments: A nice read – one of those books that could have been a long blog post though. :-)

Insights that resonated:

1. Values aren’t values until they cost us something. This lesson from a while ago was reinforced with a story focusing on the decision made by CVS pharmacies to not sell cigarettes (more here).

2. To change outcomes, we must change behavior. And, to change behavior, we must change culture. There was a memorable story about how Alan Mullaly changed the culture within Ford by insisting executives stopped bringing slides that showed all their initiatives marked as “green” despite the company not turning a profit. “We are going to lose billions of dollars this year. Is there anything that’s not going well here?” (more here)

3. The title itself. Life is an infinite game.. think long term. :-)

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

BR 256: Upstream by Dan Heath

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

Comments: I love books by the Heath brothers. While this didn’t quite hit the heights of a Decisive or Switch, it was still a good book that sought to focus energy on attempting to solve problems upstream vs. simply reacting to crises.

Insights that resonated:

1. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”

2. I loved this story from the beginning of the book.

“You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river. Suddenly you hear a shout from the direction of the water—a child is drowning. Without thinking, you both dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore.

Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help. You and your friend jump back in the river to rescue her as well.

Then another struggling child drifts into sight. . . and another. . . and another.

The two of you can barely keep up.

Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water, seeming to leave you alone.

‘Where are you going?’ you demand.

Your friend answers, ‘I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water.’”

Other notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 255: Range by David Epstein

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

Comments: I think this book is an important read as it is an antidote to the “start early and specialize as quickly as possible” advice that is sometimes peddled. While it might appear that David Epstein is against the notion of deliberate practice and specialization, I didn’t take it as such. Instead, his push is for us to appreciate breadth and the meandering path we might take to figure out what we want to specialize in. He makes the case (repeatedly) that the meandering path gives us the range to make the specialization count.

Top 3 Lessons:

1. Breadth of experiences are both key and undervalued. So, take the time to choose where you’d like to focus.

2. Lean into what your experiences have given you. And, also remember to lean into the experiences you are presented with. The dots only connect backward.

3. There is no such thing as “falling behind.” Comparisons are useless too. You are on your own unique path – one that will be defined by the range of skills you develop.

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Leadership · Management

BR 254: The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

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

Comments: This book is to corporate leaders what “Shoe Dog” is to sports entrepreneurs and “The Hard Things About Hard Things” is to tech entrepreneurs. Surprisingly candid, incisive, and insightful. A phenomenal read – the sort of book that should be mandatory reading in every graduate school of business.

Top 3(+) Lessons: 

1. There’s a wonderful story about how Bob got Roy Disney to waive off a lawsuit against him early in the book. The lawsuit was a culmination of years of perceived slights and pent up frustration against the Disney board and leadership. Bob gave Roy the title of Chairman Emeritus, a small consulting fee, and an office at Disney. While folks criticized Bob for bending over to Roy’s demands, Bob shared that most people just want a bit of respect. And, in difficult situations, it is so important to not let our ego get in the way of that happening.

2. I love how straightforward Bob is through the course of the book. There is no false humility. He believed he deserved to be CEO, hated that he was made to go through the ringer for it, and made it count when he got the chance.

3. That said, he also demonstrated a lot of patience as he went through a series of changes and acquisitions before getting the job. He was 54 when he finally became CEO.. and, boy, did he make it count.

4. “Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest manufacturer of trombone oil in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of trombone oil a year.”

5. There was an incredible anecdote about how he pulled the plug on the Twitter acquisition on the sunday before the deal was announced. “It just didn’t feel right” – he’d earned the right to trust his gut by then.

6. When faced with expected internal resistance about Disney+, he convinced the Board to change all executive bonus agreements to a rating decided by him on how much they were contributing to the shift to streaming. Another brave move.

 

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BR 252: Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

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

Comments: Got off to a promising start as it promised to detail how Bill Campbell became such an influential executive coach. However, it quickly just became a gushing list of platitudes. So, the book works as a lovely memoir if you knew Bill Campbell in some ways. For folks who’d like to learn more about the “how” behind Campbell’s magic, it falls short.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research

BR 250: Who Gets What and Why? by Alvin E Roth

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

Comments: This was a case of reality unable to meet expectations. Prof Roth is a Nobel Prize winner thanks to his pioneering work on creating a market for kidney transplants and it was recommended by a good friend who works with me on our hiring marketplace at LinkedIn. The book started off with plenty of promise as he spoke about the impact of marketplaces in our lives.. but the book was understandably focused on the marketplaces he’s worked on (kidney exchange, school enrollment, and law clerk enrollment). It is great in many respects and opened my eyes to some of the complexities involved in these markets.

It was just not what I was seeking. :)