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

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

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.

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BR 222: When by Dan Pink

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

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.

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BR 218: Mindset by Carol Dweck

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

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.

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BR 214: The Right and Wrong Stuff by Carter Cast

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

Comments: I am a biased reviewer here as this is written by one of my favorite Professors and a good (wise) friend. But, I think this is an important book and one everyone should have on their bookshelves. We all think about and talk about careers. We also talk about folks who are successful and folks who aren’t (or those who have derailed). This book brings together a lot of wisdom around what makes and breaks careers and packages it nicely.

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Brilliant careers derail due to a variety of reasons. But, the biggest among them is a lack of self awareness that blinds a person to their tendency to overdo their strengths.
  2. 3 strengths/traits that accompany great careers – initiative, the ability to build positive relationships and a combination of perseverance and drive.
  3. The right stuff formula: (Job Skills + Industry Knowledge + Operational ability) x (3 Distinctive strengths/Derailers). This is a nice summary. Start with hard skills, industry knowledge and the ability to get stuff done. These are table stakes. Differentiate based on everything else.
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.

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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