September 2019 Reading Update

Image source: Pixabay

Hi everyone, just wanted to provide a quick update on my reading.

I have started a new strategy. I have this long spreadsheet listing every book I bought. I am going back and reading all the books I bought and never finished reading. Some of them I never event started. This list is called my reading backlog.

Recently I finished reading a few titles which I recommend:

  1. The Everything Store by Brad Stone
  2. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Everything Store is an unofficial telling of the story. It’s a few years out-of-date but it does cover the origins of Kindle and Amazon Web Services. I was not old enough to experience the drama of the dotcom boom and bust, so I really enjoyed those parts.

The Lean Startup is a must read for software professionals. I’m not sure why I put it off so long. This book changed the way I think about multiple aspects of my job. And I’m recommending it to peers who haven’t read it.

Now, I’m working my way through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography titled Total Recall. I haven’t gotten far but it is interesting to see what it was like living in post-WWII Austria.

I think reading is one of the best ways to increase income. There is millions of dollars worth of knowledge sitting on bookshelves.

Here’s the rest of my reading backlog. 29 titles and growing. At my current pace this will take 1-2 years to burn through.

Dotcom SecretsRussel Brunson
Beyond Band of BrothersDick Winters
QEDRichard Feynman
Thomas JeffersonJohn Meacham
Search Inside YourselfTan, Goleman, Kabat-Zinn
TribesSeth Godin
The Ten Faces of InnovationKelley, Littman
Napoleon: A LifeAndrew Roberts
The Power of MythJoseph Campbell
Rise of the YoupreneurChris Ducker
48 Laws of PowerRobert Greene
UnshakeableTony Robbins
SapiensYuval Harari
Homo DeusYuval Harari
21 Lessons for the 21st CenturyYuval Harari
JRR Tolkien : A BiographyHenry Carpenter
Washington: A LifeRon Chernow
HamiltonRon Chernow
GrantRon Chernow
Fooled By RandomnessNN Taleb
The Black SwanNN Taleb
The Bed of ProcrustesNN Taleb
Anti-FragileNN Taleb
Skin in the GameNN Taleb
An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist.Richard Dawkins
Getting Things DoneDavid Allen
Stillness Is The KeyRyan Holiday
The Infinite GameSimon Sinek

What I learned from So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I asked a dozen engineering VP’s and Directors for advice on getting a promotion. The best answer by far was “be so good I have to promote you.”

The advice reminds me of a book which often comes up in my 1 on 1 meetings with engineers. It’s called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link) It’s an excellent book which challenges conventional career advice. If you’d like to borrow my copy, let me know. I thoroughly enjoyed this book along with Newport’s follow up title Deep Work (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link). More on that one in a future post…

Here are 10 of the book’s nuggets that resonated with me:

1. The passion hypothesis is false.

Instead of searching for work you love, start to love your work. Take ownership of your work and change it in subtle ways that make you love it more.

2. The craftsman mindset beats the passion mindset.

Do remarkable work. Take pride in your work. Whistle while you work. This will get you farther than chasing your passions.

3. Build career capital and invest it to gain creativity, impact, control

The path to gain creative freedom, have more impact, and take more control over your agenda requires career capital. You have to build career capital gradually over months and years of delivering great results and building a support network.

4. Record your day in 15 minute increments

Where is your time actually going? Are you spending time on important work that moves you toward your goals? Or low value tasks that have little ROI?

5. Limit email to 90 min/day

Email is not work. (Unless your job is primarily writing emails)

6. Look for career capital already available to you, right in front of you.

You have career resources you may not realize. Your network, alumni groups, community are great examples. Enroll these people in your support network. This is an important part of building career capital.

7. Control is the dream job elixir.

Spend and invest your career capital to gain more control over your work. This is the path to loving your work and producing something remarkable. The path to finding, carving out your dream job.

8. Get paid

Getting paid is a measure of the career capital theory. You are ready to pursue an idea when you find someone to pay you to pursue it. If no one will pay you for the work, you aren’t good enough yet.

9. Do marketable, remarkable work

Do work that stands out. Work that stands out is remarkable and marketable. It gets people’s attention because it stands out and it makes you stand out from the crowd.

10. Working right trumps finding the right work

Stop searching for the perfect project. YOU are the project.

Nugget from Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Happiness comes from four things:

  • Perceived control
  • Perceived progress
  • Human connection- depth and number of relationships
  • Being part of something bigger than yourself

How to Apply It:

Set aside time for all of these things. Build career capital for later investment, to gain more control of your life. Set incremental SMART goals to progress on. Take time to reconnect with friends and family. Don’t forget how large the universe is compared to you.

The library of traveling books – What if books could walk and talk?

I am seeking partners to execute this idea; I don’t much enjoy solo projects. Would you like to join me on this venture?

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut, famously said: “You promised me Mars colonies. Instead I got Facebook”. For the past 20 years or so, the human race has been really busy exploring cyber-space. We took a detour from the real world, which I call meat-space. I am fascinated by cyber-space ideas that enhance meat-space. The idea I describe below is one such idea which combines elements of book-love and the sharing economy.

The idea is driven by two questions:

  1. What if books had legs?
  2. What if books could talk?

By pondering these two questions I ended up at: we could build the world’s most distributed library, and it would enable books to walk and talk. What if you could give away a hundred books and follow their travels?

How would it work?

We need a few technology elements to execute on The Library of Traveling Books. We need a website and we need stick-on labels.

The website would be the hub of our library. It provides guest books for all of the traveling books. It provides educational material, instructions for how to contribute to the community by adding new books to the library. The website must also encourage new guests to keep the books traveling.

The labels are crucial for educating new guests and connecting books to their unique guest book. Each book in the library requires a unique label, with a unique URL, and a unique QR-style barcode. The labels are the gateway, and they need to concisely explain and encourage new guests to make their way to the website.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a 2 dimensional barcode. QR codes are great for connecting meat-space objects to their digital identities.

This is an example of a QR-code. When scanned, it leads you to this blog.

QR code for

The Fun Bits – We Love Books

As book lovers, curation of the library is exciting! Which books would be selected for traveling? Would we choose only classics? Books that change lives? Hardcovers only with protective covers?
How will this invention help book-lover community and connect like-minded people? Make the world a bigger place, spread gratitude and love?

The Problems – What could go wrong?

Of course, there are pitfalls to this approach. Problems make it more interesting! It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.
Books may end up on the trash

Books may sit on a shelf for a really long time.

Books get wet and books get damaged

How do we make super-durable books? Library-grade books, battle-hardened books. Books that will last forever.

Celebrate the Winners

While acknowledging problems will be run into, we will celebrate the successes. Celebrate the books that keep traveling. The books that are so remarkable that the reader insists on passing it to a friend, or giving it back to the universe, sending it on it’s traveling way.
What will be the longest book journey?

What will the guests say about the books in the travel log?

What Ifs

What if you put money in the books to incentivize book hunting, like geocaching.

What if it took off and we formed a 501c3, accepting charitable donations to add more books?

What if we went for-profit and used the attention to market to book lovers.

What if we turn the library into a sort of “perennial bestsellers list” which authors aspire to land on. We could position the list as a higher honor than New York Times bestseller.

What if we get really techno-fancy, and embed some kind of low power computer into the books, making them “smart books”.


What would it take to implement this:

  •  A website
  •  A printer
  •  Labels
  •  A Books
  •  A person to take a book to an airport.

Iterate! Experiment! Learn! Adapt! Evolve!

Thanks for reading. Together we build a world free of fear. What would you do if you were not afraid? Be legendary.

Reading Roundup – Second Quarter 2017

In April, May, and June I read some great books. I want to take some time to share what I’ve learned. Enjoy!

Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl

Dr. Frankl practiced psycho-therapy and miraculously survived Nazi work camps. He studied himself and peers throughout the experience. Being in the camps is described as worse than nightmares. Accounts of atrocities committed in the camps are best not paraphrased. Go read it!

One insight taken away is: man finds meaning in love, work, and suffering. The author pulled himself through hell by frequently thinking about his wife, the love of his life.

Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler

Jesse Itzler invited a Navy Seal to live with and train him for a month. The ensuing tale is hilarious.

Lessons learned: 

  • Mind over matter. You have more in you than you think (60% more).
  • Make big decisions by considering, after it plays out, how great telling the story will be.
  • Watch out for getting stuck on routines and call in outside help (e.g. Personal trainer) to get unstuck.
  • The human spirit is powerful, and the mind gives up before the body gives up (usually).

I discovered the book via this YouTube video.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Sandberg abruptly lost her husband. She embarked on a journey to deal with own grief and in the process learned how to give better support to others overcoming tragedy.

Many of the stories in the book refer back to the three P’s of tragedy processing.

Personalization – I am the reason this happened. I failed to stop it from happening. It is my fault.

Pervasiveness – Because this happened, every part of my life is ruined.

Permanence – Life is going to be like this forever. It will never get better.

When consoling grief-stricken friends, try not to say things like “let me know if there is anything I can do”. The phrase pushes the burden of asking onto them. Instead, take action, show up at the door with a casserole. Help them through the three P’s: tragedy isn’t their fault, it won’t ruin everything, and the feelings are temporary.

Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson

The focus of Expert Secrets is how to create and sell information products, after becoming a subject matter expert. Expert Secrets has many nuggets, and I’ll share the few most memorable to me.

Status – Why People Buy Things
The reason people buy most things is to increase their status. Status means different things to different people. To some a luxury car is a status symbol, and to others a ten year old junker is a status symbol.

Big Domino Theory
Instead of trying to solve a hundred small problems, look for the biggest domino. The biggest domino, once knocked over, knocks over all the smaller ones.

The Heroes Two Journeys
Most stories follow the format of the heroes two journeys. The hero has an external goal and a more subtle internal struggle. The hero may never achieve the external goal, but while on the journey resolves the inner struggles and completes a transformation.

I also really enjoyed these works by Derek Sivers

To hone your writing, hire a translator 

I think creating less noise is a measure of emotional maturity. Optimize for action instead of talk. Do work, not just press releases.

Parenting: Who is it really for? 

A long attention span is a super power when among highly distractible masses. This reminds me of Cal Newport’s Deep Work which says a blacksmith may work a single blade for seven hours uninterrupted.

Meaningful, quality work requires an above-average attention span.

Long attention span might be a key to success. It could require a decades long focus to turn vision into reality.

Thank you for reading!

Together we build a world free of fear.  What would you do if you were not afraid?

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Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni (affiliate link)(non-affiliate link)

What I’ve learned from the Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars:

  • Crisis is a powerful, reuniting force
  • It’s better not to wait for a true crisis to make changes. You can create a internal crisis
  • Common goals bring the organization together.

The organizations goals can be organized as:

  • The Thematic Goal – 1 primary objective with a time line.
  • The Defining Objectives – milestones and subtasks required to achieve the primary goal. Objectives are owned by units of the organization.
  • The Standard Operating Objectives – some things need to be happening all the time despite not directly moving towards The Thematic Goal. You gotta keep the lights on, and you can’t neglect the fundamentals in pursuit of other objectives.

What inspired me from this book:

The story of this book reminds me of my favorite part of Apollo 13. *spoiler alert*. When the astronauts of Apollo mission 13 are at risk of coming home, the news was all over television and radio. The spacecrafts engineering team lead immediately flew back to his office. He arrived at 2am to find the whole team (hundreds of people) there, looking for ways to help.  Crisis brings the best out of people. People put themselves aside and show up to help without being asked.

Notes on Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni

Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link)

What I learned from Four Obsessions:

The four obsessions are COHESIVE, CLARITY, OVER-COMMUNICATE, REINFORCE. Build a cohesive team. Create clarity of values, mission, strategy. Over-communicate these things to the company. And reinforce them in processes like hiring and onboarding.

Simple performance management questions are: what did you accomplish? What will you accomplish next? What can you improve? Are you embracing the values?

Most executives focus on organizational intelligence, but ignore organizational health. The latter is crucial for things like retention and explosive growth. Executives are ultimately responsible for setting the culture of their organization.

What inspired me from Four Obsessions:

Like other Patrick Lencioni texts, this is a leadership parable. This story reminded me of a similar one Simon Sinek tells to explain the difference between finite and infinite players. A company that’s obsessed with beating the competition is a finite player, playing a finite game. Playing to win. The infinite player plays an infinite game, and uses higher level thinking. Instead of thinking about beating the competition, the infinite player thinks how to make the very best product or service. Even though, it’s not a finite competition, the infinite player never loses.