📖 Reading For Success

July 27, 2018
Finding motivation

Everyone has challenges and hard times. If you’re living the startup life or any sort of entrepreneur, self-starter mentality then you know exactly the very unique challenges associated with this life choice. This is the environment I live in. And many of you do as well, I am sure.

Each week I post a Reading for Success post reviewing the 3 books I read over the past seven days. But this post and these reviews I discovered don’t tell you the full story behind why I do this. And as you know, I like to identify and share the why behind things.

As I was saying, we all have challenges and struggles. We face obstacles which may seem insurmountable and we may find ourselves believing all hope is lost and there’s no reason to continue our current course of action. These feelings threaten our success and steal our motivation. In order to be successful we need to find ways to overcome these feelings and find the motivation to continue working. Success comes to those who don’t give up, who never stop trying. There’s an entirely different message to be drawn from that last sentence since, of course, we want to learn and grow and change our actions to be smart – but that’s a post for another day.

This week rather than sharing merely the books I read I’d like to share with you four ways to find motivation and then tie that into our Reading 4 Success series I publish each week. So without any more elaborate of a lead-in, here are four ways I believe you can find your motivation and stir that passion inside you to keep going.

Find sources of encouragement.

There’s incredible value in being able to find and identify sources of encouragement. Whether that’s taking the time to look back at your past successes or listening to the stories of others and recognizing the ways your work has impacted their lives – these sources of encouragement help you keep things in perspective. These words or feelings of encouragement help to bolster your spirit and strengthen your resolve.

Now, sometimes it might be hard to find sources of encouragement for your own work (particularly if you’re just getting started) so there need to be alternative ways to seek out encouragement. For example, you may find encouragement in the work of someone else. Listen to their stories of success, or rather, listen to their stories of failure after failure on the way to success. This can be a massive source of strength when things are looking bleak.

Identify creative outlets.

There are a couple different ways in which this can be considered. Creative outlets are an awesome opportunity to allow your brain a chance to rest from the day-to-day challenges you face. The freedom to be creative and explore the world often yields positive side effects on the very challenges you have been facing. Sometimes your brain simply needs the opportunity to not think about a particular problem before you can solve it. So what are creative outlets? There’s a beautiful world full of them. Here’s just a smattering:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Kickboxing
  • Bowling
  • Skating
  • Board games
  • Movies
  • Concerts
  • Theater
  • Writing
  • Reading

There truly is an infinite list of creative outlets. The key is to find those outlets that are best for you and your brain. You absolutely don’t have to pick just one. In fact, I’d recommend having several you enjoy doing (and that’s key – you have to enjoy doing them).

There’s value in some of the things you choose requiring physical activity as these help your entire body while also requiring your mental focus (taking your thoughts off your current challenges).

Build a trusted network.

There is more to finding motivation then could ever be found in a single soul alone. We’ve all heard the old saying “No man is an island.” And yet we so often tend to think that if we’re not sharing something positive or something successful we need to keep it to ourselves. (I blame social media in part for this major flaw in our thinking.) 

Now, I’m not saying go share your grievances and your deepest darkest fears with the world at large. Rather, you need to build a trusted network of close friends and trusted compatriots who understand the depths of the challenges you face, the daily struggles you are undertaking and know best how you “tick.” These are friends who are able to relate to you and know what you need when you need it most. Sometimes that trust network will offer you advice, sometimes they’ll merely listen. These individuals are incredibly important to finding your motivation.

 

Take a deep breath (or two).

The last suggestion I’ll give for when you are struggling and need to find your motivation is to simply stop, take a deep breath (or two) and clear your mind. Call it meditation, call it a silent prayer, whatever your preference the goal is a clear mind. So whether you do this once a day, once a week or once an hour…there is immense value in these deep and cleansing breaths.

Now, quickly let’s tie this all back in to the topic of this post. My goal is to explain some of my why for sharing what I am reading and what I learn from these books.

Reading

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time then you can probably guess where one of my creative outlets lies. Books. I find reading to be a source of encouragement as well as a creative outlet. And to be honest I also find reading to give me an excellent opportunity to take a deep breath. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, this week’s Reading for Success is a bit different because I want to share with you just one of the books I read this week but more importantly I want to give you a glimpse into why I read and why this book was helpful to me.

The Third Door

This book is the only one I’m going to highlight this week because it lead me to share everything above. Alex Banayan wrote The Third Door, as a means by which to uncover other successful people’s paths and their secrets to success but realized some powerful truths about himself along the way.

Alex tells a wild tale full of color and excitement which leads the reader along a crazy journey through the lives of well-known celebrities in his quest to understand what made them successful. The truth of the journey led to a series of unexpected revelations about himself and a very different conclusion than what he expected.

I’m not going to spoil this one for you, but let me tell you, this is a book worth your time to read. And it’s an easy read at that. Trust me. You’ll laugh, you’ll contemplate your choices, and you’ll hopefully find some motivation!


The other books from this week:

 

July 6, 2018
Reading for Success: The Art Of

This week was a holiday week in the United States. On Wednesday July 4, we celebrated our independence as a country. This particular holiday comes equipped with fireworks, late night parties, and depending on your personal preferences a variety of typical “summer” and “outdoor” activities.

I think interestingly enough due to the middle-of-the-week nature of this particular holiday celebration this year the nation as a whole seemed to take a more casual and relaxed approach to the office and to work. Days were quieter, the pace less frantic, and the general busyness of people seemed to be slightly less. (Honestly, to me it was slightly reminiscent of the slower more family-focused approach to living I think tends to be more commonly seen in European and South American cultures).

I personally appreciate a thoughtful approach to life and to work because I believe it starts to put things more into their proper place. It’s almost as though the purposes for meeting with others and sharing time with other people becomes a little more focused on the “right things”.

I also found this idea to be one which perhaps was more immediately evident to my thinking based on the reading I did this week. As you know I like to share three books with you centered around a common theme and this week is no different. Here’s the interesting common thread I am going to propose for these books:

Life is as much an art as it is a science. Whether it’s how we meet and share life with others, how we handle our own lives, or thinking deeper about the underlying why behind it all. Even in the age of data – art and our creative brains are an extraordinary force for shaping our world.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

art understanding whyThe first book for this week has sat on my shelf for a while. Although I’ve skimmed parts of it multiple times, the aggressive nature of the title, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, had kept me from highlighting it in a weekly post. I read it more in depth this week and am excited to share with you some key takeaways.

In this book the author Mark Manson seeks to share his opinion and thoughts on how to live a good life in a somewhat counterintuitive approach. Mark is known for never softening his punches or being particularly politically correct. He’s far more interested in making a difference and encouraging others to improve their lives by being incredibly real, honest and transparent about themselves and their feelings. 

While the style of the writing is meant to be familiar and personable Mark still manages to mix scientific quotes and data with his relaxed approach to language. Although he doesn’t share revolutionary new thoughts he does encourage a revisiting of and thoughtful introspective approach to some common themes. (Themes I’ve even written about myself in the past though perhaps with a slightly more formal approach.) Here’s a couple of highlights:

  • Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.
  • Certainty is the enemy of growth. Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are. Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.

There are of course many more of these ideas and I’ve only pieced together a few snippets to help give you an idea of the thoughts Mark presents. The takeaways are clear. Don’t try to live a fake life where everything is perfect and nothing bad ever happens. Rather, seek to be truly happy by appreciating all of life for what it truly is, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why It Matters

gathering understanding why meetingThe second book this week covers the topic of meetings, why we hold them, how we hold them, and why they matter. In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker addresses this idea and others based on history, culture and human nature around the world. She focuses on thinking more about meeting with purpose and understanding the implications of each interaction.

Priya says this near the beginning of her book, “Gathering—the conscious bringing together of people for a reason—shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world.” This is the basis on which she then continues to draw meaning and value from meetings, interactions, and the underlying need for humans to gather together.

First, I need to say as someone who dislikes meetings and the purpose or lack of purpose which seems to form the basis for many such meetings, I was hesitant about how I would feel about this book and its focus. I was relieved and surprised to see the values Priya holds to as meaningful and relevant were very much in alignment with my own. This book speaks to a thoughtful and deliberate approach to meetings and gatherings. She encourages passion, debate, and even heated discussion suggesting that in the proper context and with the proper boundaries these are all very important and necessary parts of meeting.

Priya’s focus and goal is a simple one: Always seek to identify your purpose for gathering. And in all things, be aware of when and where to draw the finish line and then walk over it with those you are with.

The Book of Why

As I am oft prone to do I have saved my favorite book of the week for last. Not to be confused with a similar “why” book which I refer to frequently, this book, The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl is an incredibly smart book discussing the idea and science behind cause and effect. This is a very tricky topic which Judea handles expertly and with a skillful deftness.

Judea tackles the challenges of correlation versus causation and soundly defeats this decades-old incantation chanted by scientists intent on not picking a side in a debate. He does so in a compelling manner and all while exploring not only yesterday’s but perhaps even more interestingly he does so in light of tomorrow’s opportunities. I speak specifically about artificial intelligence.

As many frequent readers to my posts will recognize the topic of machine learning and artificial intelligence is one which has gained significant attention and has become a common topic for our weekly “what’s ahead” posts. I almost hesitated to include this book in this week’s reading because I enjoyed it so much and believe there is much to draw out to share, but I will probably follow up with another post regardless to focus on those things.  Here’s a few high level takeaways:

  • “If I could sum up the message of this book in one pithy phrase, it would be that you are smarter than your data. Data do not understand causes and effects; humans do.”
  • The book is centered around the concept of “the Ladder of Causation” which includes observation, intervention, and counterfactuals. This leveling up mentality around causation is the basis for the modeling found throughout the book. Judea uses causal diagrams extensively to provide a visual representation of the mathematical and scientific thoughts surrounding causal effect.
  • The understanding and recognition of the value of causation in the theory and science of artificial intelligence is the key to unlocking the true power of this machine learning. Judea focuses on the concept of Bayesian networks as a central factor for proper and true artificial intelligence.

I’ll leave this book review with a quote from the author:

I believe that causal reasoning is essential for machines to communicate with us in our own language about policies, experiments, explanations, theories, regret, responsibility, free will, and obligations—and, eventually, to make their own moral decisions.
Judea Pearl

All in all, this book is amazing. I couldn’t put it down and I would highly recommend others read it with thoughtful intentionality. I’ll be using it for more in a future post but trust me when I say it’s worth the time to read.


Art and Understanding

The understanding of “why” has incredible implications for what we create as individuals. I realized in retrospect there is incredible value in placing these three books together in a single write-up. Cause and effect come into play repeatedly through the creation of art, expressing creativity in our own personal growth and in better understanding our relationships, gatherings times, and meetings with others. Whether you read the above books or not, I hope these take aways are helpful for you and relevant to your life. Maybe the next time you meet with someone or think about saying “yes” when you should say no, you’ll think of this post and these books.

Value and Importance of Time Management

June 22, 2018
Reading For Success: The Value of Time

Most of you have been following my blog for years now and you know the topics that are most interesting and important to me. You could probably rattle off a short list of the typical subjects which I tend to gravitate towards and wax eloquent on for yet another 1,000+ word post! One of these cornerstone topics has surfaced yet again this week in the form of our next installment in our Reading For Success series. Every Friday I share with you insights I uncovered from the books I have read over the past week (for better or worse – remember you’re getting what you paid for).

Last week we discussed the importance of recognizing what matters, and the week before that also closely related to the same. As such I am sure you half-expect today’s R4S to follow along the same line. But that’s linear thinking. That type of thinking suggests time is follows a straight line and the past (behind us) informs us about the future (before us). In this case you would be mistaken.

This Week’s Theme: The Value of Time

This week we are digging deep into a personal favorite topic of mine: the study of time; or maybe to phrase it differently the value of time. As I shared at the beginning, this is a topic which resides near and dear to my heart and you’ll find me frequently sharing thoughts and opinions on the subject. As my list of shelved books waiting to be read have deemed it to be so, this week I focus on the value of time and the many implications time has upon our lives. Hold on to your seats, we go pretty deep this week.

When Einstein Walked with Gödel

Time Relativity Einstein GodelThis book, When Einstein Walked with Gödel, written by Jim Holt gives away the depth about to be encountered merely by reading the subtitle; Excursions to the edge of thought. As such I admit this book has been calling my name for a while but due to the many business and personal development books I’ve been reading I have not allowed myself the indulgence.

Soaking into something so comfortable and familiar as a look into the essays of Albert Einstein is a treat; and requires less effort than other books I have recently undertaken. This week however as I was determining the topic and books available I simply could not withstand the draw any longer. My deep love for thinking and the value found in pondering the deeper concepts of mathematics, physics, and our universe should come as no shock given my education and personal interests and this book was a mental delicacy in which I found numerous morsels of intellectual delight. Here’s the highest and easiest summarization I can muster:

In this book Jim focuses on a number of deep-thought essays published by Einstein, Gödel, Mandelbrot, Turing, Dawkins, and many many more. Given the diffuse knowledge of the authors the subjects also span time, space, relativity, the cosmos, even dipping into philosophy.

This book is not for the faint-of-heart, however, the concepts are explained well and shared with enough humor and secondary detail to make the reading enjoyable for even the slightly-less technically entertained reader (a.k.a. ‘non-nerd’). I was reminded of some of the lectures I had soaked in early in my career and was able to renew my deep fascination and appreciation for earlier thinkers. Not to mention, the physics and mathematical computations involved in the study of time are endlessly enthralling.

The Order of Time

The Order and Importance of TimeI cannot say for certain if Amazon was the instigator behind the second book this week, The Order of Timeby Carlo Rovelli. However, I imagine you may find this as a recommended purchase should you explore the first title we just finished. I suspect this power of suggestion influenced my library accordingly and I’ll begrudgingly thank Amazon later for their algorithm prowess later.

If you follow along reading as I do then I think it only fair to warn you the depth uncovered in the first book mentioned previously is only exacerbated in this novel. In fact, I would recommend not attempting an immediate journey directly into this book, but rather break things up a bit with the third book we shall review in a few paragraphs. After this brief interlude return then to this book and fortify your mind for the journey beyond.

I have not read many books that stretch my analytical and scientific thinking to the extent this book did. Carlo does a masterful job using colorful imagery and practical application to convey incredibly difficult thoughts in an attempt to simply a topic as complex as any studied by humans in all of history. The concept of time. Carlo divides his book into three sections: The Crumbling of TimeThe World Without Time, and The Sources of Time. The author begins by an exploration of what modern physics understands about time and how our understanding has evolved, followed by a reflective look at the implications of these findings on our world today, before closing with how we take this new understanding of the ambiguity of the concept of time and yet still contrive meaning from our surroundings and differentiate our past from our future.

I fear I will be unable to summarize this book adequately so perhaps I’ll share only one compacted thought in a feeble attempt to whet your mental appetite. 

What is happening “now” in a distant place? Imagine, for example, that your sister has gone to Proxima b, the recently discovered planet that orbits a star at approximately four light-years’ distance from us. What is your sister doing now on Proxima b? The only correct answer is that the question makes no sense. It is like asking “What is here , in Beijing?” when we are in Venice. It makes no sense because if I use the word “here” in Venice, I am referring to a place in Venice, not in Beijing.

If you ask what your sister, who is in the room with you, is doing now , the answer is usually an easy one: you look at her and you can tell. If she’s far away, you phone her and ask what she’s doing. But take care: if you look at your sister, you are receiving light that travels from her to your eyes. The light takes time to reach you, let’s say a few nanoseconds—a tiny fraction of a second—therefore, you are not quite seeing what she is doing now but what she was doing a few nanoseconds ago.

If she is in New York and you phone her from Liverpool, her voice takes a few milliseconds to reach you, so the most you can claim to know is what your sister was up to a few milliseconds ago. Not a significant difference, perhaps.

If your sister is on Proxima b, however, light takes four years to reach you from there. Hence, if you look at her through a telescope, or receive a radio communication from her, you know what she was doing four years ago rather than what she is doing now….There is no special moment on Proxima b that corresponds to what constitutes the present here and now.

Our “present” does not extend throughout the universe. It is like a bubble around us….How far does this bubble extend? It depends on the precision with which we determine time. If by nanoseconds, the present is defined only over a few meters; if by milliseconds, it is defined over thousands of kilometers. As humans, we distinguish tenths of a second only with great difficulty; we can easily consider our entire planet to be like a single bubble where we can speak of the present as if it were an instant shared by us all. This is as far as we can go.

I apologize for the length of that excerpt, however the implications and revelations found in even this simplified extraction from the greater work is deep and impactful. As Carlo states, “...it is the most astounding conclusion arrived at in the whole of contemporary physics.”

I must restrain myself from continuing on with this particular book, the theory and concepts proposed are eye-opening and world-altering. If you had to read only one book from this week’s selection – make it this one.

Side Note: If you are unable to read this book, you also have the awesome opportunity to listen to one of my favorite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, read this work

My Morning Routine

Successful people and how to planAs suggested previously in synecdochical fashion, my final book this week should be read non-sequentially as listed and you should interpose My Morning Routineby Benjamin Spall between the previous. This is an enjoyable easy-read filled with anecdotal advice and real-life notes from dozens of successful individuals.

This compilation of ideas covers all manner of time management, meditation, self-control, personal awareness, mental health, and a host of other topics. I have often found it fascinating to dig into the lives of well-known respected individuals and learn about their particular habits and routines. This book provides the perfect gateway by which to do so. As an interesting aside, I would recommend the real value in studying the lives of others is not to merely copy a routine of a successful person, but rather, the true value of a book such as this lies in the insights into the thinking behind the decisions made for a particular lifestyle or routine.

Your goal should never be to merely attempt to be someone else by copying their habits and life choices. Instead, choose to be yourself, choose to seek out what matters most to you as an individual, what resonates with your personal worldview and then seek to live in such a way as to accentuate and nurture the best version of you possible. I’ve shared this thought before, but it bears repeating: every person is unique, with unique talents and abilities. There is no other you in the world. Don’t attempt to be someone else. Instead, be the best you possible.

Incidentally, although significantly less mentally-intense compared to the previous two books, I felt this title also conveyed an underlying theme around the importance of time. In this case the application is far more practical and far less theoretical. Rather than attempting to understand the nature and meaning of time (or as we now know, the absence of the construct) in this book we focus on how we use our time most effectively. What routines and habits allow us to capitalize on our strengths and maximize our personal talents in the most efficient way possible. In this sense this book also deals with an important topic related to the subject of time.

I apologize for the length of this post as it extends beyond the typical, however, summarized book reviews are quite difficult to provide and still capture the full beauty and power found in the eloquence of the authors. In some cases they required upwards of 800 pages to accomplish their point. Regardless, I do hope you enjoyed this post and consider expanding your thinking on the meaning of time. I would suggest any of these three books are well-worth your time. As Carlo suggests, there really isn’t any such thing as time. 

Recognizing What Matters: old power new power thinking in moments

June 15, 2018
Reading For Success: Recognizing What Matters

We made it back to Friday! Congratulations for all you accomplished over the last 5 days. (7 days if you’re a weekend warrior.) We have all experienced things this last week that have shaped us and made us more unique. We’ve learned things, we’ve probably failed at things, and we’ve hopefully grown and improved in our growth as individuals. Quick question, can you identify anything specific you learned? Can you identify any particular moments that jump out at you as memorable? Lastly, have you found any way to grow as a result of the world’s new powers?

(I bet you found the last one to be a bit harder to discern what I mean, but hopefully by the end of this post it will make more sense.) This is the next post in our Reading For Success series which I run every Friday. (You can read last week’s post here, and keep following the trail backwards if you like.) Let’s dig into the posts this week and see what we can learn. What’s the common concept threaded throughout these three books?

Common Concept: There are certain moments which stand out as unique in our lives, they impact our thinking and they cause us to change our minds about something, usually driven by some powerful current in today’s technologically-advanced society.

Look at that, this week I gave you the common concept up front! Let’s now look at how I came to this concept through the books read this week.

The Power of Moments

powerful moments and how they impact usThe first book I read this week entitled, The Power of Moments, by Chip & Dan Heath discusses the idea of defining moments, how to recognize them, identify them, and in a business perspective attempt to create them. The authors use some fantastic story-telling to convey their ideas about moments. To begin with here is their definition of a defining moment:

“For the sake of this book, a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.” – The Power Of Moments

Throughout the book we explore the foundational 4 elements identified in a defining moment: ElevationInsightPride, and Connection. Every defining moments consists of one more of these elements. Here’s a very brief synopsis of each:

  • Elevation: Defining moments transcend normal events; they are in some form or fashion “extraordinary” in the truest sense of the word.
  • Insight: These moments make us “re-think” our situations or see ourselves and the world differently. That “spark” or “aha” moment.
  • Pride: Defining moments are those times when we are personally proud of an accomplishment or achievement. When we exhibit our ideal character.
  • Connection: Lastly, defining moments are frequently tied to social events or occurrences. They involve others and the relationships we share with them.

These defining moments are not completely serendipitous and with a proper definition and understanding of the recipe and its ingredients it is possible to carefully craft a defining moment. The authors give true stories and real life examples to help enforce each of their points above (both positively and negatively). Overall I found the book to be easy to read and created a defining moment for me (as I assume was the intent).

How to Change Your Mind

The idea of changing your mind and depressionThe second book for this week was one that I wasn’t immediately drawn to but felt that even faced with the lack of some visceral positive reaction it would be a good “stretch” book for me personally. I’m glad I did. Although perhaps not immediately apparent the core focus of this book will challenge your thinking and encourage you to re-think (or evaluate) your basis for beliefs.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan doesn’t have the type of title that just immediately grabs you. In fact, it feels a bit like the author has thrown as many buzzwords as possible into the subtitle for the sake of Amazon search optimization. Regardless, after reading this book I found there were several fascinating thoughts I was able to take away.

The author discusses the use of psychedelics, the misnomers and myths spread about its usage and the resulting mistrust in any useful clinical or medicinal benefits (partly held to this incorrect view of the subject).

Through detailed interviews with scientists focused on revisiting the potential values of psychedelics as a form of therapy for a variety of mental illnesses the case is presented to be entirely possible to reset the mind, and change the way we see the world. Most importantly Pollan challenges himself throughout the book to not make assumptions without facts and to use science to properly set a worldview and to formulate an opinion. Lastly, he encourages the reader to be open-minded about the possibilities of changing your mind.

Changes to consciousness and behavior based on the manipulation and transformation of molecules is possible and understanding this relationship dynamic can teach us about our minds and ultimately how we change our thinking.

Takeaway: After several decades of suppression and neglect, psychedelics are having a renaissance. A new generation of scientists, many of them inspired by their own personal experience of the compounds, are testing their potential to heal mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction. Other scientists are using psychedelics in conjunction with new brain-imaging tools to explore the links between brain and mind, hoping to unravel some of the mysteries of consciousness.
How to Change Your Mind

New Power

living in a hyperconnected worldThe third and final book for this week is entitled New PowerHow Power Works in Our Hyperconnected world – and How to Make it Work for You. This book was endorsed by some incredible entrepreneurs and society leaders. To be perfectly honest, it was the foreword by Richard Branson which convinced me to read this one.

As always, we should start with a bit of a definition, the authors define “Old Power” and “New Power” as follows:

  • Old power works like a currency . It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.
  • New power operates differently, like a current . It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

Throughout the book the authors then proceed to offer example after example of successes and failures related to these two approaches to business as well as community. They don’t advocate entirely for one approach over the other which is a welcome acknowledgement that one-size doesn’t fit all.

Connectors, Crowds, Castles, Cheerleaders

Sometimes a picture (or chart) helps to understand and define things so I’ll share two graphics from the book which might lend some aid in forming an understanding of the topics in this book. This matrix-style approach above is carried throughout the book with a variety of axes. Another style of chart employed frequently throughout this book is a comparison graphic as seen below:

Understand old power vs new power

Ultimately I found this book to be an easy one to read and a very insightful one as well. I’d recommend this book for everyone in management either in a business or in a community. The insights and takeaways are invaluable in learning how to better empower and organize people around an idea and use the thinking and culture of today to carry a movement.

Bringing it all together

I’m always surprised (I know you’ve heard me say that before) how different books which come from completely different sources tend to find a way of working together to help inform my thinking on a particular topic. This week was no different, from a personal study on an individual leading to a book recommendation by Richard Branson, to the well-timed article on Harvard Business Review, to yet another New York Times Best Seller. Inspiration is all around us. 

Serendipity is not as happenstance as one might expect, and all it takes is a little thought, a little careful attention to detail, and a little curiosity to explore the world around us with a desire to learn.

Hit Refresh Factfulness Measure What Matters ebook

June 7, 2018
Reading Weekly Wrap-up

Happy Friday everyone! The reading this week ended quite different than I thought it would when I began. I actually love weeks like that. I don’t know if it’s because I dislike routine or if I just like the idea of change. (Ironically enough I hate surprises!) I didn’t foresee when the week began how impactful the week would be. And I don’t mean simply for my reading habit but for the world, specifically the open source world.

In case you missed my Monday post, about the Microsoft GitHub acquisition, I’d recommend going and taking a read, it was quite the story and I saw a lot of interest in the topic. This $7.5 billion transaction caused a lot of questions and concerns in the open source community, mostly due to Microsoft’s storied history. As a result of this semi-controversial start to the week my book selection took a slight different direction.

This week’s theme: “Knowing What Matters”

As with previous weeks I found a common theme though this week I believe it’s a bit less serendipitous and a bit more expected given the announcement made. (Although I would suggest the conclusions I draw are still very interesting and aligned along a particular line of thinking.) Let’s jump right in!

Factfulness

The world is getting better - factfulness

The first book I picked up this week was one that I had sitting on my bookshelf (virtual of course) but I hadn’t started yet. Factfulness, by Hans Rosling had come across my path I believe from a best seller’s list and the impactful, bold cover caught my eye and although I am the first to tell you not to judge a book by it’s cover – the typography lover inside of me was instantly attracted to pick this one up.

But what encouraged me to start reading it this week was due actually in part to the Microsoft headlines which then led me to Bill Gates news which eventually led me to his announcement this week about paying for a copy of this particular book to any graduating student who might be interested.

Now that is a lead-in story right there isn’t it?! Okay so what is it about this book that captured Mr. Gates’ attention to this level? Let’s pick out just a few highlights:

  • Things are better than they seem: Hans points out through a series of charts, graphs, and data plots the severity to which our perception of the world is skewed. We have held onto the fatalistic thinking of approximately 50 years ago. And even worse we’ve passed these static misconceptions on to the next generation.
  • Measurements matter when in perspective: the author is not suggesting that everything is perfect, nor does he suggest we “look at the world through rose-colored glasses“. Instead the point being made is we can better appreciate the negative and the positive when we put the measurements in the proper perspective.
  • The dangers of human instincts: Humans are incredibly smart, highly educated, and yet score worse than chimpanzees (or pure and random guessing) on the various survey questions asked throughout the book. This comes from our overdramatic worldview instead of a fact-based worldview. Our instincts, left unchecked, tend towards drama beyond fact.

Ultimately this book is the author’s attempt to encourage the reader to not be embarrassed by their dramatic tendencies, but rather use data (Hans and team uses a lot of data) to inform a factual viewpoint, control instincts and replace misconceptions. Overall a fantastic read.

Measure What Matters

Google Gates Foundation Measuring Success

As you can probably guess I read a lot of books from the NYT Best Seller’s Lists. Measure What Matters, by John Doerr carries a subtitle that intrigued me: “How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs”. Catch the subtle link to the first book in that subtitle? Yep, the Gates Foundation. Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation is referenced heavily in this book.

Now, before anyone feels too bad, I need to say I’m a very very big advocate for removing acronyms from most common vernacular. They tend to make people feel dumb when instead it’s simply an unfamiliar subject matter. Don’t feel bad – you can’t be a SME (subject matter expert…see how annoying that can be?) about everything!

  • What is an OKR? This is simply an abbreviated way of saying Objectives and Key Results. See, not that big a deal. What is meant by the term is a type of protocol for companies, teams, and individuals for collaborative goal-setting. Objectives are simply WHAT is to be achieved. They are concrete, meaningful, action-oriented and even inspirational. Objectives are the way to fight against feelings, overly dramatic views, and poor execution. Key Results are the ways objectives can be benchmarked and measured. This is the manner by which we measure HOW we get to the aforementioned objective. Incredibly important to a key result is the ability to be measurable and verifiable.

“It’s not a key result unless it has a number” – Marissa Mayer

  • Continuous Performance Management: The second half of the book focuses on the contemporary alternative to annual performance reviews. (Watch out here comes another acronym) CFR’s which stand for conversations, feedback, and recognition are how this idea of continuous performance management is implemented and evaluated.

This book is jammed full of real-life case studies and stories from some of the world’s best known companies. Split into two parts (OKR’s and CRF’s) the true stories illustrate how these two theories are related and when both are functioning deliver a complete system for measuring what matters.

Hit Refresh

Microsoft acquires GitHub 7.5 billion dollars

And now we come to the final book for the week. I hesitated to include this book in the list since technically this was a re-read but felt that it absolutely fit into the sub-theme for the week. Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella caught my eye as particularly timely this week. In case you didn’t know Satya assumed the role of Microsoft CEO in 2014. This book is his thoughts.

I can’t imagine stepping into a behemoth corporation such as Microsoft and hoping to “right the course” or “turn the ship around”. It’s almost an unthinkable monumental challenge but as I read through Satya’s story I found myself becoming convinced if anyone could conquer this challenge, Satya could.

  • Learning to Lead: The first few chapters in this book share incredible thoughts on leadership and seeing opportunities. Satya discusses the power of innovation, teamwork, and transformations when led by an empathetic leader.
  • Recognizing what’s important: Satya shares what he learned along the road to change and what it required both as a leader and as an established company. The power of a shared mission, a vision that empowered every person and rediscovering the soul of Microsoft.
  • Looking at the future: In the final part of the book Satya begins to explore what is required in the years ahead for the changes to Microsoft’s culture to be realized and their mission fulfilled.

Obviously, as you can now see the sub-theme for this particular’s week of reading involved a subtle thread of Microsoft’s influence in the world. From the recent announcement of Microsoft’s latest acquisition to the words written almost presciently by Satya Nadella:

Over the years, I’ve found that openness is the best way to get things done and to ensure all parties feel terrific about the outcome. In a world where innovation is continuous and rapid, no one has time to waste on unnecessary cycles of work and effort. Being straightforward with one another is the best way to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome in the fastest time possible.
– Satya Nadella

But, Microsoft’s journey is only the secondary theme for this week. Were you able to pick up on the primary motif carried throughout this week by these three books? It comes down to a simple concept:

Human emotions, feelings, and their endeavors are heavily influenced by their worldview; and only with proper facts, knowledge, and wisdom can they accomplish those things which matter most.

Reading for success and personal growth

June 1, 2018
Self-Help Reading Week: Russell, Randy, Leslie

As I shared last week I like to find some common theme that runs through the books I read each week and in retrospect I found this week to have a theme of self-help or personal growth or self-improvement.

It’s Friday again! This week flew by, as is usually the case when the first day of the week is a holiday. Since I posted last week’s Reading 4 Success post on Tuesday it feels as though this post comes even quicker this week. As such I apologize if you feel inundated with book reviews and recommendations. My intent is never to overwhelm you with yet another summary of a book. Rather, I strive to add value to the summaries I share and bring some semblance of a “takeaway thought” to each in order to help put your mind in a favorable disposition towards one or more of the author’s works I’ve uncovered.

Bottom Line: I want to encourage you to explore the world of literature in greater detail and to make the art of reading something you include in your daily habits. I promise you it changes everything.

Reaffirming my thinking and purpose behind these review articles is also a way to ensure my writing stays meaningful as I share with you the various books I’ve read in the previous 7 days. This week in particular the theme of the books I read are an excellent case-in-point for this purpose.

I’m labeling this week the “Self-Help Series”

As I shared last week I like to find some common theme that runs through the books I read each week and in retrospect I found this week to have a theme of self-help or personal growth or self-improvement. I recognize this particular topic or theme could be applied to any number of books and personal stories but this week in particular I found the label to be apropos.

Without further delay, let’s explore three different author’s views on the subject of personal growth.

Failing Up

Finding success in failures take risks, aim higher, never stop learningLeslie Odom’s book, Failing Up, takes us on a very personal approach to self-improvement outlining how to find success in failures by studying his own journey of successes (or should I say failures) in his life. Leslie discusses the ways he was forced to grow and improve in his journey as an actor and facing difficult choices along the way. (Just as a brief background, Leslie is most well known for his role as Alexander Burr in the Broadway show Hamilton). He includes various life lessons including the power in saying “no”. A few memorable highlights of mine include:

“Everything changed in an instant the first time I really gave myself the room and the permission to fail spectacularly.”

I think this quote sums up one of the major takeaways Leslie hopes to leave you with after reading his book. He also shares the idea that “Preparation is the sign of your intention.” (This one is a personal favorite of mine from the book). The encouragement that Leslie seeks to leave you with is the concept that constant self-improvement comes from being willing to set yourself free, to take chances, but all of this happening with a dedication to being prepared. This isn’t wild, unfounded risk-taking; this is planned, prepared, intentional striving after success without fear of failure.

Recovery

Finding freedom from addictions and something more, something deeperThe second book I want to share with you this week was Recovery, Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand. I have to admit I have a personal like and dislike for Russell due to his somewhat inflammatory manner of dialogue and his personal penchant for lewd language in his somewhat pedantic diatribes. I dislike the use of strong language as the main vehicle to communicate a point, but at the same time recognize the value in pushing my own thinking to look past conventional differences and explore the concepts shared instead. Even in this way I suppose Russell is forcing my furthered self-improvement.

In Recovery the writing centers around the concept of a 12 step process or journey that Russell underwent. His tendency to verbosity and superfluity of language which he tends to employ to enhance the writing at some points distracts too much from the point he wishes to communicate. But, in spite of this flowery approach Russell does a fantastic job communicating his thoughts (as I have always found him to do).

As I filter through his words a few striking concepts surfaced for me. Russell alludes to his initial desire to seek help from his addictions slowly evolving into a deeper and more meaningful acknowledgement of personal realizations and his own ‘depravity’. He acknowledges perfection may be something unattainable and perhaps a better and more reasonable aspiration would be a manageable and then beautiful life.

Mad Genius

Mad Genius Book and thinking differentlyThere are some books that I pick up and instantly recognize a style of writing, of thinking, or just general philosophy I immediately resonate with on a personal level. Randy writes very much with a type of ideology that I personally advocate for frequently. Unlike the previous book which pushed me to think differently, Mad Genius by Randy Gage is very much the opposite. Randy’s approach, thinking, and suggestions were all easy to digest and I found myself frequently nodding in agreement as I read. (Truthfully it was probably more of a soft under-my-breath grunt of agreement, but that just sounds far less intelligent don’t you agree?)

Randy’s book focuses on what lives inside each of us but is rarely tapped into by most people. The idea of thinking through things, questioning reasons, and tackling problems. When Randy speaks about questioning things what he really refers to is the notion of discovering the “why” behind the way things are done. (I’m sure you can see now the reason I found this book particularly enjoyable. Exhibit A, Exhibit B)

This book is far more prescriptive than the other two and speak to very specific challenges or “tasks” that the reader might endeavor to improve themselves and find their hidden “Mad Genius” as the author likes to label it. Overall, I found myself in agreement with most of the book and while the concepts were not new to me I found them to be a fresh approach to thinking bout some of the same interesting topics I spend a good deal of time thinking and writing about. I would definitely recommend reading this book. But…

Reading about self-help is only the beginning

Why are self-help topics so popular? This is a question I see asked frequently and the bookstores attest to the validity of such a question with the overabundance of books and tutorials and guides on how to “be a better you”. Clearly humans have a deep-seated desire to be better than they are. While I don’t necessarily suggest this to be a bad subject or one that should be avoided I don’t believe simply reading books on the topic will make the difference.

Rather, the reading of various self-help principles only provide the first step towards change and personal growth. After the reading comes the application. I believe this is where the struggle becomes more evident for most people. Breaking old habits; forming new habits; the changing of what has become part of our daily lives and person is much more challenging. Everyone has probably heard the concept regarding forming habits. Quotes, such as the following, overrun the internet:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Aristotle

Indeed, studies have shown it takes 21 days to form a habit (at least the easy habits). So while we recognize the work required to form a new habit, the amount of effort to improve oneself is not without its challenges.

I am always glad to read a new book on the topic of self-improvement and find great value in the different outlooks and opinions shared by the various authors. I appreciate the sometimes contradictory viewpoints and the encouragement to expand my own thinking. Beyond the simple reading of new ideas I hope the application of what I read becomes more a part of my daily life and informs my habits.

Similarly I hope you will find these book review posts to provide you direction as you seek out new material to consume and new topics to stretch your mind. But this is only the first step in the journey and I would encourage you to continue your growth beyond simple reading or review of others opinions. Take the more challenging path of self-improvement and start forming new habits!


Reading for Success - Focus on Process

May 29, 2018
Reading List Recommendations

I decided rather than post my weekly reading list update on Friday I would wait and post on Tuesday instead. Given the long holiday weekend in the US I had my expectations that this would afford me a bit of extra time to read. Excitingly enough I was correct and have a few more books I’d like to add to this post. In addition to my usually non-fiction reviews I’m also sharing some of the fiction books I was able to find time to indulge in as well. I hope you’ll find something in here that will inspire, encourage, or motivate you to pick up a new book as well.

Business books & a common theme

Just as I have done in weeks past I’ll start by sharing the three business books I read this past week and after the summary and takeaway from each I’ll share what I believe might be considered a common thread between them. Interestingly enough, this week, as with weeks past, I am not purposefully selecting books that I believe share a common theme. However, I have been once again pleasantly surprised with how these three disparate books and authors have some common themes and relevant points shared.

Accelerate

This book was one I picked up because the subtitle completely caught my eye. The full title of the book is Accelerate, Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. The subtitle jumps out at me because of the challenges and opportunities Mautic is encountering as we continue to grow at such a rapid pace. Thankfully I was able to enjoy reading this book as Mautic has overcome many of the early struggles we had handling such great growth. I say enjoy because I wasn’t forced to scour the pages in an attempt to uncover some instant fix in the midst of a crisis!

This book was only recently published and has been receiving quite a bit of publicity (at least in my circles) so I was quite eager to read it, particularly given the individuals recommending it. I can now solidly add my own name to that list and say, if you are in any technology-related position in any organization, you should absolutely pick up a copy of this book. In fact, any time I read a book and discover the amount of my highlighted text exceeds the un-highlighted I know I have read something truly meaningful. That being said I don’t have any idea how I’m supposed to shrink down things into a simple handful of bullet points. Here is the best I can do for you:

  • Practical Application: This book has performed incredible studies into real-life use cases and organizations and extracted useful results from them.
  • Process Makes Perfect: To twist a common saying, the authors focus on creating the best processes for scaling a successful organization.
  • Psychometrics and Surveys: The authors focus on collecting data through surveys (some consider this questionable or too subjective) and then applying science to study the results.

I feel terrible offering three meager snippets for a book of this quality but also recognize I cannot paraphrase the entirety of the book here. I can only suggest you pick up a copy and read it yourself. Whether you’re concerned about deployment processes, employee satisfaction, product stability, or just a better understanding of what other highly successful organizations do, this book is a must read.

The process by which an organization accelerates the development and delivery of software improves profitability, productivity, and market share as well as improved effectiveness, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

SPRINT

The second book I read this weekend was technically a bit of a re-read since I had read it once before and I don’t frequently take the time to read a book through a second time but this book is one that serves such a practical nature it’s more of a handbook or manual then it is a book. The book, SPRINT by Jake Knapp is a playbook for how to successfully “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”. There are many reasons why I recommend this book but let me give you just a few:

  • Plan and Execute: The author uses a story-telling narrative as he shares how to organize a team, identify a specific problem, and create a prototype in only one week.
  • Pick a Path: Storyboarding, brainstorming, idea sharing all play a role within the team as a path is outlined to solve the problem.
  • Prototyping: In this week of incredibly fast iterative development it’s important to recognize the outcomes anticipated and focus on getting insights. A prototype rather than a polished finish product is the week’s goal.

I should be clear: this book is not referring to agile development sprints. Just in case there’s confusion I realize it’s important to mention this book and its outcomes are applicable to any organization and any problem. The author is quick to point out the principles and processes here can be applied to any industry and any problem.

Ultimately, this book provides a fascinating and highly specific 5 day (almost hour by hour) journey through a process to go from idea to customer-tested prototype.

Human + Machine

The last of the non-fiction books I read last week was a more future-focused look at how humans work alongside artificial intelligence. In, Human + Machine, Reimagining Work in the Age of AI the authors Paul Daughtery and H. James Wilson focus on how a future work experience looks like as we begin to realize that we are not competing with AI for all jobs but rather how we will work together in a mutually beneficial relationship to accomplish a goal.

I personally enjoyed this book as I am constantly thinking about and sharing how I believe AI will revolutionize the marketing automation space and what machine learning really means (beyond just fancy marketing jargon that some companies like to throw around).

The authors break the book into two parts, first studying what advancements we have already made in the world of artificial intelligence today. They point to the seamless and even elegant interaction between robots and humans in factories where previously these machines were completely restricted to assembly line motions. They continue to draw the reader to conclude how much “AI” we are already consuming today. This serves to emphasize their point that we are currently already living in this humans and machines symbiosis.

The second half of the book is where the authors take more creative liberties to explore what this future looks like if things continue at their current pace. They explore many of the topics which strike fear however unfounded in the hearts of workers everywhere (The imagined future where all jobs are owned by AI). Instead of such a bleak outlook the writers focus instead on the many benefits and attempt to set straight a realistic view of this future world. This is where things get interesting for me. The book focuses on a concept colloquially termed “the missing middle”, or ways of working which currently don’t exist in today’s economy.

This book is a thought-provoking study into how businesses will achieve the greatest success when machines and humans work as allies to create a process which takes advantage of complementary strengths.


As I selected them and read throughout the week these three books did not seem at first glance to have any real correlation. However, as I read them I was struck by what once again seemed to be a common theme.

The Common Theme: Process

The concept of process was pervasive in these three books, whether in product departments of an organization, in how a sprint is handled, or in how machines and humans work together for the betterment of the business. Across all these different thoughts and areas of focus the singular idea of the importance of a clear process was immediately evident.

Personally I admit I may have been slightly predisposed to this notion as the concept of processes is one I personally study heavily, speak about publicly, and even write about with some frequency (The Importance of Process, An 8 Step On-boarding Process, The Importance of Planning, The Importance of Planning: Practically Speaking just to list a few examples.)

As a result of this personal interest I found these three books to touch on unique yet similar aspects of this concept in fresh ways (or in the case of SPRINT, refreshing ways). If you have not read one (or any) of these books, I would certainly recommend you consider adding them to your bookshelf. I would recommend them in the order in which I’ve written about them here and depending on your field of focus might recommend switching #1 and #2. However, if you’re in the technical side of an organization you simply must read Accelerate.

Too often we get caught up in the details of a particular problem and fail to either look at the bigger picture or more accurately, we fail to see how the part fits into the whole. We lose sight of the process. These books helped remind me that the process is critically important as businesses grow and develop.

Bonus: Fiction Fun

Okay, as I said in the beginning due to the long holiday weekend I was able to read a few more just-for-fun books as well. Rather than doing any sort of write-up on them I’ll just share the titles with you in case you’re curious what else I read.

I’m a bit of a mystery thriller fan and love reading a good book with a “twist”. Regardless of your personal interests, I’d recommend anything by James Patterson, he’s a very easy-to-read fiction author (not to mention phenomenally prolific and I find myself inspired by his drive and work ethic). Whatever your pleasure-reading preference might be I encourage you to find a new book, new author, or new topic.


What's your name, listening and paying attention

December 28, 2015
What’s Your Name

I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from a rather famous book entitled, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Granted, this book is almost a rite of passage for some industries and now sits among others on the shelf of great books. There are many lessons you can learn and practical tips you can take away from this author’s suggestions and advice. One of them which I doubt I will ever fully master (though I continue to try) is the importance of remembering a person’s name. One of the quotes from the book perfectly encapsulates this idea:

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

If this is the sweetest and most important sound than what a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that you also find them important. Simply remember their name. There are of course numerous ways to attempt to do this. I’m sure you’ve experienced the sad, and awkward occurrence when someone tries to remember your name by repeating it at you over and over through the course of a one minute conversation. Clearly this is somewhat embarrassing and a bit annoying. They’re attempting to use a technique which has been around forever. Remember this?

“Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning.”

This advice, though accurate, can be detrimental to the relationship if used inappropriately or done too obtrusively. Therefore, remember the importance of learning someone’s name but also the importance of doing it the right way.

A person’s name is special. Even though there may be millions of Davids, or Steves in the universe to each individual that name is special and unique. If there is one way to improve your relationship with someone then prove that they are important to you by remembering something special to them: their name. It’s almost an offhand conversation starter. What do you do when you meet someone for the first time? You ask their name. You’re probably not even listening to the answer because you have already moved on to the next question in your mind or the next thought you want to share. But this is a mistake if you want to build a relationship (and all those times when you don’t know if you want to build a relationship). Because you don’t always know where a road will lead.

Asking someone their name therefore is your first chance to build the right foundation for a relationship. Don’t take the opportunity lightly and don’t let the moment pass you by. Ask with care, ask with purpose, ask and then…listen. Your first question is also your best chance to start right. Take a moment the next time you ask: What’s your name?

June 2, 2014
Book Review: ZAG

As we continue our reading for success series (R4S), remember this book review series is for the purpose of providing resources to busy people who wish to know what books are available and what books can help in being successful. In this review we explore a fantastic book focused on understanding the importance of branding.

Before we begin, I’d like to offer a quick thank you to my good friend, Chiara, for presenting me a copy of this book and introducing me to this excellent resource.

The book we are examining in this article is a well-written, easy-to-read book which is quite conducive to picking up, reading quickly and taking important snippets away. The author, Marty Neumeier, does an excellent job of defining a plan and then diving deeper into each point.

ZAG

By Marty Neumeier

Author’s Quote

When everybody zigs, zag…Radical differentiation…is about finding a whole new market space you can own and defend, thereby delivering profits over years instead of months…the engine for a high-performance brand.

My Synopsis

Marty delivers a clear message through the use of examples and a clearly defined process which has been the cornerstone for a successful business. There are three aspects of the “zag” which Marty focuses on. These three parts are: Finding your zag, designing your zag, and renewing your zag. The value of each is quickly outlined and defined. In particular the process of “designing your zag” is outlined through the process of answering seventeen questions. If you are interested in effectively disrupting a market and finding your brand then these questions are not only important but critical to your process.

What is a zag? According to the author the ‘zag’ is the differentiating factor which when viewed by others will define your brand. The common misconception centers around businesses creating their own unique brand and value proposition. In reality Marty suggests the brand is in actuality the reputation of the business as perceived by the customer. This graphic outlines the main portions which make up a successful brand and summarizes the various points of the book quite well.

zag book successful branding

Because of the importance of being able to define your differentiating factors, or the initial part of the process I will focus this review on those seventeen questions you should ask of your business.

Key Points

As mentioned, I am focusing in particular on the seventeen questions outlining the designing of your brand. There were many other key points to this particular article however these are a great place to get you started. If you’re interested in more, you should absolutely read this book.

  1. Who Are You?
    The ability of your business to recognize what drives you is critical to defining your zag. This is what empowers and drives not just the leader of the company but is the passion which consumes the entire company
  2. What Do You Do?
    Beyond just identifying your passion as a business you need to be able to clearly point to what your business seeks to accomplish. This is your business’s core purpose.
  3. Whats Your Vision?
    Once you have established core purpose the next step involves refining this purpose to a very specific and concrete vision which defines the business. Be sure to not confuse the leader’s vision with the company vision. The leader may share a rather abstract idealistic vision but this is not the same as the vision which drives the business.
  4. What Wave Are You Riding?
    The wave is the current trend which allows your business and your brand to ‘seize the moment’ and explode onto the scene. When identifying and riding this trend you will find an energy source to continue driving the business forward.
  5. Who Shares The Brandscape?
    Obviously in most industries the brand will not be singular or completely different from other businesses in the same sector. Therefore, because the brand space may be shared you need to focus on your uniqueness not your admirable qualities.
  6. What Makes You The Only?
    When focusing on what makes your business unique and different you should be sure you’re not only just different but radically different. Be able to answer the question, what makes you the only _____ that ______ .
  7. What Should You Add or Subtract?
    Don’t confuse your customers. Be sure your business is focused and don’t add new strategic directions merely because your competitors are offering a particular feature or service.
  8. Who Loves You?
    Every brand is built by a community. In addition, every member of that community is important and should be appreciated for their contributions. Showing the value of each customer makes them fall even more in love with you.
  9. Who Is The Enemy?
    Not everyone is an ally. Every business has competitors. When you are doing your research, be sure your strongest and most successful competitor is who you align yourself against when differentiating yourself.
  10. What Do They Call You?
    When hear the question, ‘what’s in a name?’ you should take it very seriously. How your customers define you and what they call you is important. You should be very conscious when selecting your name.
  11. How Do You Explain Yourself?
    All brand communications should originate from a single internal position. This position is referred to as your ‘trueline’. This is the singular thing which you can say based on your brand and its identity.
  12. How Do You Spread The Word?
    Your brand (business) should use one voice when communicating through all marketing channels. In addition, your business communication should disseminate your message through all available channels.
  13. How Do People Engage With You?
    Even before you begin spreading your message and sharing your vision you need to examine how people will connect with you. This involves a bit of a gut check rather than logistics and means getting in touch with your customers.
  14. What Do They Experience?
    More than simply defining how you communicate and how people engage you need to see how experience your business. This means actively seeking out the process from first impression through the entire sales cycle.
  15. How Do You Earn Their Loyalty?
    Keep in mind that loyalty cannot be forced and loyalty cannot be programmed into people. Loyalty is not bought but loyalty is earned. When communicating with your customers and focusing on their user experience you need to keep in mind the importance as it relates to their loyalty.
  16. How Do You Extend Your Success?
    Often the best way to continue to extend success is to grow your brand through a series of additional products or services. This should be done carefully as it can potentially conflict with the early question regarding adding or subtracting from your business.
  17. How Do You Protect Your Portfolio?
    Brand portfolios (a brand house as mentioned in the previous question) face the risk of four specific dangers not found in a single brand. These are specifically: contagion, confusion, contradiction, and complexity. As a business owner you should focus on the differences between stretchiness and stickiness.

Renewing Your Zag

While the bulk of this book focuses on finding your zag and beginning the process, this book also provides valuable resources for renewing your zag if you are an established business who may have potentially lost its focus.

This last section provides key insights for businesses to once again find their uniqueness and their vision. It’s important to recognize the author understands the loss of this radical differentiation is a common problem and rather than avoiding it or pretending it’s in-existence it is much better to acknowledge and address the problem.

I encourage anyone interested in either beginning their own business and identifying their vision and the many other aspects the above questions seek to help to read this book. The resources are valuable and the questions insightful. It is an easy read and yet incredibly helpful to small businesses seeking to establish themselves.

 

May 13, 2014
[R4S] Reading For Success

reading for success book series

This is the start of a ridiculously fun series about reading for success. I hope to share insights and advice I’ve received from various business books. If you struggle to find time to read or what to read maybe this series will help.

I should begin by sharing that I love to read. In fact is one of y all time favorite things to do and I’m pretty fast. (Interested in how fast you are? You can take a very quick test here for free. If you’re curious I’ll share what my average normally is.) And thankfully I can retain most everything I read and recall it later.

I thought perhaps others would be interested in an abbreviated list of books and summaries I’ve found to be helpful as they relate to business and personal success. Please don’t think I’ve been successful with all of these or have already mastered the advice. I merely hope to share things that I find interesting or helpful.

If you have ideas or recommendations of books I should read please let me know! You can tweet me, friend me, or email me. I am always looking for good quality books on a wide variety of topics!

Ok, without any further delay, let’s jump into the first book.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

By John C. Maxwell


Author’s Quote

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says Maxwell. “These laws carry consequences with them. I’ve seen them at work in more than ninety countries around the world. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. But here’s the good news: every one of the laws can be learned.”

My Synopsis

In this book John Maxwell highlights 21 principles he’s uncovered throughout his business career. He applies these principles to various situations throughout history and provides anecdotal applications based on these 21 principles. Many of them are logical and easy to understand.

Some of these “laws” you’re probably already aware of, Maxwell simply gives it a name and applies to to a particular situation to make it easier to grasp. Overall, I found this book to be an easy one to read and held some good applicable concepts which I could relate to and apply to my own business.

I highly recommend this book and have personally found many great applicable ideas. Especially when looking at the power of an open source community and examining how some of these dynamics relate to an open source situation. If you have the time you should definitely pick up a copy (ebooks are great).

Key Points

Here are the 21 laws as defined by the author. So many of these are of incredible importance and help define a strong leader.

  1. The Law of the Lid
    Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to lead, the lower the lid on your potential.
  2. The Law of Influence
    The power to influence lies in the ability to get people to participate. If no one follows then you are not leading. Management is part of being a leader, but managing is not the only requirement of a leader.
  3. The Law of Process
    This law demonstrates what matters most is what you do for the long haul. A good leader requires a lifetime of dedication and perseverance. Truly successful leaders are demonstrated in the day-to-day.
  4. The Law of Navigation
    Leaders are navigators. They count the cost before making commitments for themselves and for others. Anyone can steer. Leaders chart a course.
  5. The Law of E.F. Hutton
    When real leaders speak, people listen. Learn how a person became a leader: their background, who, what, where, when, why.
  6. The Law of Solid Ground
    Good character builds trust. Trust is the foundation of leadership. To build trust a leader must demonstrate: competence, connection and character.
  7. The Law of Respect
    People naturally follow leaders who are stronger than they are. if people do not trust you they will not respect you and they will not follow you.
  8. The Law of Intuition
    Leaders see things with a bias. Leaders instinctively know what should be done in a situation. Leadership intuition separates the great leaders from good leaders.
  9. The Law of Magnetism
    Who you are will define who you attract. People follow leaders with whom they share several key areas (e.g. attitude, generation, background, values, life experience etc…)
  10. The Law of Connection
    Strong leaders touch hearts before asking for hands. Each connection is between individuals and the relationship between them is what matters most. Six keys to connection are provided.
  11. The Law of the Inner Circle
    A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. Look for greatness in others. Find people you should include in your inner circle.
  12. The Law of Empowerment
    Secure leaders give power to others. If a leader is able to give away power the organization becomes more powerful. Only empowered people reach their full potential.
  13. The Law of Reproduction
    Leaders are the ones which help others become leaders. Leaders develop others to see the big picture, attract other leaders, create an environment which nurtures leadership.
  14. The Law of Buy-In
    People follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. The leader and the vision always go together. A leader must have people believe in them and the vision before becoming a reality.
  15. The Law of Victory
    Leaders find ways for their team to win. There are 3 components to victory: unity of vision, diversity of skills, encourages others to reach potential.
  16. The Law of the Big Mo
    Leaders develop momentum. Leaders concentrate on what they can accomplish not what they can’t. They celebrate victories regardless of the size. Leaders endure under pressure.
  17. The Law of Priorities
    Leaders recognize the importance of organization. Leaders follow the 3 R’s when prioritizing: required, return, and reward.
  18. The Law of Sacrifice
    Leaders are willing to give up to go up. Sacrifice is the true nature of strong leaders.
  19. The Law of Timing
    Leaders understand knowing when to lead is just as important as knowing what to do and where to go. The right action at the right time is what bring success.
  20. The Law of Explosive Growth
    Explosive growth requires the ability to develop the right leaders. Leaders who develop leaders position themselves for explosive growth as compared to leaders who develop followers.
  21. The Law of Legacy
    A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. A team of good leaders is required to succeed long-term. Always be developing your successor. A good leader knows when to walk away.