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

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.
3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy · Psychology · Self Improvement

BR 213: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

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

Comments: The Obstacle is the Way is a book that reads almost as a beginner’s guide to stoic philosophy. If someone were to write a book about the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, I’d expect this to be that book. A nice, positive read.

Top 3 Learnings:

  1. Courage is taking action.
  2. Out of 280 successful victories analyzed by historians, only 6 were a result of direct assault. In many of these, disadvantages were turned into advantages. :)
  3. Perception is how we see and understand what occurs around us—and what we decide those events will mean. Our perceptions can be a source of strength or of great weakness.
2. BUY it! · Novel Concepts · Psychology · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 205: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

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

Comments: Solid book. Lots of great stories and a compilation of powerful principles.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. A combination of many interesting studies and a long research project at Google determined that there is one attribute that all high performing teams share – they all enable psychological safety.

2. In all, it remains an intriguing thought: if you want to build a successful company, you should not seek to attract the biggest rock stars. Instead, a loyal orchestra of employees will perform better – provided there is a dissenting tone every once in a while, to keep everyone focused.

3. I found this story incredibly inspiring

Tetsuro Toyoda was visiting NUMMI (a plant in Fremont California that is a joint collaboration between Toyota and GM). He saw Joe, an assembly line worker, struggling to install a taillight. He kept imploring him to pull the Andon cord and stop the assembly line. After many attempts – “Joe, please,” Toyoda said. Then he stepped over, took Joe’s hand in his own and guided it to the andon cord, and together they pulled. A flashing light began spinning.

When the chassis reached the end of Joe’s station without the taillight correctly in place, the line stopped moving. Joe was shaking so much, he had to hold his crowbar with both hands. He finally got the taillight positioned and, with a terrified glance at his bosses, reached up and pulled the andon cord, restarting the line.

Toyoda faced Joe and bowed. He began speaking in Japanese.
“Joe, please forgive me,” a lieutenant translated. “I have done a poor job of instructing your managers of the importance of helping you pull the cord when there is a problem. You are the most important part of this plant. Only you can make every car great. I promise I will do everything in  my power to never fail you again.”

Next day, a dozen pulls happened. And in a week, a hundred. It still cost a lot but given the responsibility, employee motivation increased. Most productive GM plan. Absenteeism decreased from 45% to 3% and productivity soared. NUUMI was legendary.

Book notes here.

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Leadership · Parenting · Philosophy · Psychology · Relationships · Self Improvement

BR 199: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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

Comments: I rarely re-read books but decided to re-read this during my end-of-year break as I’ve come to appreciate how wise this book is. It delivered, again. I’d spent most of my first reading in the first half/personal victories portion of the book. This time, I spent more time in the public victories. So much to learn, do and build.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. To know and not to do is not to learn. Beautifully drove home the point that I haven’t “learned” nearly as much I say I have.

2. Seek to understand and then to be understood. In the spirit of knowing and not doing, this has become an important part of “engagement” theme this year. I am still too impatient too often.

3. Seeking win-win requires a combination of courage and consideration.

Stephen Covey’s masterpiece is so good that it makes the “Read ASAP” list twice. :)

Book notes here.

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

BR 184: Persuadable by Al Pitampalli

persuadable, al pitampalli

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

Comments: A really good book. I didn’t find it as new simply because it involves broadening Jeff Bezos’ philosophy about people who are right a lot continually changing their mind. In Persuadable, Al helps us understand how to think about being persuadable and shares a compelling rationale for being so.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Two of my favorite business tales – Jeff Bezos on being right a lot  and Ray Dalio’s investment approach.

In 1981, Dalio was sure US was on the brink of a recession because he felt the government was too leveraged. He began publicizing it. But, to Dalio’s surprise, the stock market surged and led to a tremendous embarrassment and loss of fortune.

So kept detailed records of every trade he made and began noting what happened with every investment – learning from both his success and painful losses. Pain + success = progress. Kept finding “rules” for the market and kept improving it.

2. Thanks to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings which normally emphasize leadership bravado and single-mindedness, we focus a lot on consistency. So much so that whole political campaigns are won the moment a candidate switches views on a topic. While the rationale for this is because political candidates are often guilty of changing views based on when it suits them, we also end up punishing those who’re changing it because of better data.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, was a notorious flip flopper who changed his views on the civil rights movement as new data presented itself. even black scholar and activist W E B De Buy? who was often critical of Lincoln admired his always critical and flexible brand of leadership.

3. The overall point of the book is to view our approach to life and business as an evolving thesis. Seek new information, keep improving the thesis and get better.

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · Psychology · Self Improvement

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