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Library

Below is the visual library for all the books I have summarized
To access the searchable library, click here

                                                                        9780943045092-us-300  jewel-book-cover-357f955151cf194549275a2106e6f18e7ba5313706ac343769e9da3e0c9e724b 517loszzml-_sx335_bo1204203200_  capture 51p5t5cw4tl-_sx302_bo1204203200_  2632830 51af4jqgawl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ 41uty3mqrvl-_sx319_bo1204203200_ 51lnqvt3ol-_sx328_bo1204203200_ disneywar 411pfl4nmzl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ 41dsslntrl-_sx316_bo1204203200_ 51qqnglcidl-_sx318_bo1204203200_ 51pna4itnjl-_sx334_bo1204203200_ 51j0aco1hol-_sx317_bo1204203200_ 41dkjoqvu-l-_sx321_bo1204203200_ 71zpp045ywl 6190ig5x2rl-_sx331_bo1204203200_ 51iwrjcuw6l-_sy344_bo1204203200_ 41ozgec8e6l-_sx331_bo1204203200_ 3 sync bak 51NNRZBJ+sL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51zvuHPCgoL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ les-schwab-pride-in-performance-keep-it-going-19 0060916575-01-_sx200_sclzzzzzzz_1 510aKu0sPTL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_ 41KY2u4d4ZL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1995421all_i_want_to_know41TGRwvg4YL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_  deep-work-cal-newport  16248196  51N7s0z8kXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 174713 Washington_A_Life_book_cover Power vs Force Softcover 510aKu0sPTL 41-eYMXLKqL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_  41ZDNyKoHlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 9780805052534 16130 517oIyvrNDL 13533740 41rJVsU7tJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ download md184556324162688773851a9rND+uPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 513dRdOldWL._SX329_BO1204203200_ 5143bEJRfqL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ 9780300216974 heroes-of-history-9780743235945_hr{488DB970-C6F6-4E88-AE18-11A93B255D66}Img400 41cmM6UedGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 41ElRO9ypBL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_ 41jeohotvgL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ 41qKdrO4wnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51zp+qPAe-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ 511yBt6KhlL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ 812rexUR0rL The_Power_Broker_book_cover 41jFVZL72YL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_ 41JvQj9sJAL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_ 41VatwrWCeL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ 51dLDq5mkcL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_ 51gN-yGw5oL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51Mt5H5lX2L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_51YHqfdHJeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 81aGCwitXcL 516qbIR3suL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_ 1305 LoyaltyEffectRevCover 516pEhuhDlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  41m0N7IIcsL 41rfAKBZVuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51WnDA3RrUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51YE689GC7L._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_ 4144JvvbfkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 5486 cover225x225  the-silo-effect-9781451644739_hr  51DWYZY76QL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_41+nfGp2AgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41lz22fodhL._AC_UL320_SR212,320_ 41WrIQaCTBL 41Z3XNXTcHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51-j173j-LL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51jWkjTVbBL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ 51l6k9k4HsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51pBocD9LPL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_  Beyond-Training-Cover  cb6ef9e8fa38798e99972aaef7cdcc4d  david-goliath  FinalCover2 TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover What_do_you_care_what_other_people_thinkGEB Lindbergh The Innovators Obstacle is the Way Body by Science Bridgewater Education of a Value Investor The Loser's Game The Prince remains-of-the-day   Stroke of Insight   This is WaterBirmingham Jail  Lolita   Letters from a Self Made Merchant Peter the Great  Antifragile  Think and Grow Rich 48 Laws of Power What the Most Successful To Kill a Mockingbird I and Thou Influence  Manuscripts found in Accra  Ben Franklin Measure Your Life  How to Read a Book   The Small Cap Advantage My Own Life  Buddha Standard Time Decoded Checklist Manifesto The Outsiders Seeking Wisdom Bold Buddha Brain 10 Happier Cyrus the Great Hedonistic Imperative The Winner's Game Diary of Soren Adultery  Where are the customers yachts Education of a Coach Zen in the Art of Archery Moral Sayings of Publius Art of Stillness 51lPZw1WaOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51r0fm0Y82L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Killing Kennedy 5 Rules Brave New World Common Sense Investing The Little Book That Builds Wealth Never Eat Alone  Warrior Within  Poor Charlie's Almanack Killing Lincoln Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy A New Earth Tao Teh Ching Hurricane Startup of You Essentialism innoutAmerican Gods Do the Work Future of the Mind How to Love The Luck Factor Radical Acceptance   Nudge Eleven Rings The Hard Thing About Hard Things 33 strategies delivering happiness good to great monk and philosopher on china one click power of full story of philosophy thinking big way we're working zen and art 41z+F+i4C2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51cvElYU7WL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ 51fN0mD37nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51nPvo5Su3L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_ 51OVTLXoJ+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 61zkSQ8mjbL 81fncUPB6cL 518PbRACTQL 17859574 a curious mind Brain-That-Changes-Itself George-True-North-Authentic  power thebrainswayofhealingCapture 41ckYWIZtNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41HVo-Vf+zL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41xs4vbcTPL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51BWHwWGCoL 51jCcKixK1L 51NcUB2HTxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51NL4ze5EkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ 51o2zBoDItL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 71tHnQXwJtL 514Y9hUYhRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 519MS8HD0CL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  1152-2 0399139435 41SNnGFamQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_   51EOw3BYhrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51fIjlYbsVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51g8CrvBr8L._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_ 51pmlYf63+L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ 51T7HIMnjvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51y+hZEulnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Fooled_by_Randomness_Paperback  Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_Isaacson the-fountainhead  tumblr_mzf8b0ZtUv1tq3nx5o1_1280  WceGgDUNlCA8RPHOz66AbHHs4RI12Vqg+OoBRGBrKx2plCphEkAr3aizNSRpuGHkIoDZcS4gLRs3LNNbucM2tzHjr1b6gOv!JK2gG4iMspVQ5iDKyCBWtzAWMsmQ+7PK41cpg1ESArL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41OLNqCiM0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41ujSlRdt3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51dOQ2ytN-L._SX374_BO1,204,203,200_  51mF+0T9o5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  51oHuRxOgIL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51q71sE7c5L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ 51xwPegEzlL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_ 51Z6PrTDb4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 413fr2eoPPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 416qS30-lQL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_ 830 23289992 Organized-Mind 9900241KHCQnx1EL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51aUygppA+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51cx5AfHpZL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_ 51ETE8NqvcL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ 51kbKLCazgL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ 51XkLHJz++L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 71ahJkud8uL 71X3Y9yRtlL 81wBzBcSclL 857333 littlebets  prophet-cover_1_op_397x548 Screen-Shot-2015-09-14-at-2.22.25-PMreagan-151fc0+DDh9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51iuMfmHHHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 51tkKRzS5YL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ 51xrAg9mceL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ FINDING-ULTRA-COVER-FINAL1  TheBoysintheBoat9780812993257 How_We_Decide_cover  OmnivoresDilemma_full  brothers k Happiness-Hypothesis unbroken-crjpg-ce0987f837463333  mans_search_for_meaning  simplicity  9781571745712 81B9+kACYLL BotanyofDesire_full 300x300 cn_image.size.swerve-book rise of superman  year-without-pants-752x1128  getting to yes 51V38NLW5zL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ TheIntelligentInvestor 51XcaFJirNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Jesus  BP Diet  Zorba_book Flowers for Algernon  1776 Auto of Black Hawk Genghis Khan Making Onward God Delusion Moonwalking_with_einstein Stroke of Insight Einstein Isaacson Siddhartha Titan fooling super brain Lila Meditations Fahrenheit 451  On the Road   Cooked On the Shortness of Life What every body is saying Aleph Animal Farm Sports Gene Love WinsBorn to Run  Emotional Intelligence Cool Tools Sun also rises Inutition Pumps  Moby Dick  Free to Choose  Power of Positive Thinking Experiments with Truth Vagabonding Slaughterhouse Five Aristotle in Outline the social animal_3.indd Cat's Cradle Thinking Fast and Slow  The Alchemist  Walden  Art of War  The Charisma Myth  Flatland  Mr. Feynman Money master the game 51qwpkjNP7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  7126 41ry6MoUc3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51JNMx5G3iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Berkshire 51K28NKVF3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 1984-by-opallynn-d4lnuoh 6596 17184 cover2 cvr9781451695182_9781451695182_hr Mastery_Cover movieposter PicofDorianGray-728143 Rye_catcher subliminal_seduction  TheJungleSinclair  The-Richest-Man-In-Babylon-George-Clason

 

December 2017 + Yearly Overview

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
     
Jump In. 
 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc.   

Books

Full list of books read in 20172016, 2015, 2014

Any book, which is at all important, should be immediately re-read

 

Teacher’s Reference Guides

  • Nothing new for this month

Monthly Challenges

  • Pareto Spring Cleaning checklist 
  • Host Defense immune support – hard to know but didn’t get sick this winter and was traveling a lot
  • Clarify intentions / goals for the week first thing Monday morning  – a simple 5-10 minute exercise which has helped me prioritize my focus and time spend for the week

Other

  

Best of 2017

I always enjoy my monthly challenges but below are the ones I got the most out of:

Thank you for the support and all the best in 2018!

Amor Fati

Blas

 

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

 
     
   
   
 
To unsubscribe click here, to edit your profile click here.

November 2017

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
     
Jump In. 
 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc.   

Books

Full list of books read in 20172016, 2015, 2014

Any book, which is at all important, should be immediately re-read

 

Teacher’s Reference Guides

Monthly Challenges

  • At the end of the day, reflect on my day – what surprised me, what I could have done better, how did I feel, etc. Also, review my schedule and goals for the next day.

Other

  • Wanderers by Erik Wernquist – a beautiful, short film about human’s innate need to explore
  • Building a School Culture of High Standards by Ron Berger – one of the best pieces on education I’ve come across. Discusses the importance of high standards, shifting from quantity to quality work, merging “school” and “real” life so that a learning mindset is always present and encouraged, and more. Long but absolutely worth reading in its entirety
  • Naked Brands by David Perell – great article about the nature of brands and their evolution within a digital society. More about trust, transparency and emotional connection than ever before
  • A Conversation with Three Scientists – a deep and wide ranging conversation with Philip Ball, Ian Stewart and Brian Goodwin. Covers complexity, chaos, recursion, phase transitions, quality, metaphors, and more.
  • Inaugural address to the University St. Andrews by John Stuart Mill – beautiful piece written 150 years ago but is still fully relevant today. Touches on the role of education, specialization vs. generalization, the role of logic, the difference between knowing the name of something and truly knowing it, and much more. 
  • Hash Power by Patrick O’Shaughnessy – a really well-organized overview of the blockchain and cryptocurrency space 
  • Fun video about biomimicry

  

Amor Fati

Blas

 

“A war is not won if the defeated enemy has not been turned into a friend.” – Eric Hoffer

 
     
   
   
 
To unsubscribe click here, to edit your profile click here.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

Summary
  1. Although it may not seem like it, violence has seen a steady downward trend over the last several hundred years and we may in fact be living in the most peaceful time in our history. This book describes why this has occurred
Key Takeaways
  1. Hard to make any real progress when you are constantly worried about being attacked and pillaged. Changes not only how life is lived but also how life is understood
  2. Decline in violence has been paralleled by changes in the perception and glorification of violence and brutality, letting “the better angels of our nature” shine through and gain the spotlight
  3. Humans are not innately good nor bad – we have inner demons and angels and, along with culture and history, these guide men in their use of violence
  4. 6 major trends
    1. Pacification process – Shift from anarchy of hunter gatherer to more organized, agricultural life.
    2. Civilizing process – consolidation of land into feudal territories with a central authority
    3. Humanitarian revolution – progress towards removal of group-wide violence such as slavery and despotism
    4. Long peace – after WWII, major world powers have stopped waging wars on one another
    5. New peace – organized wars of all kinds have been on the decline
    6. The rights revolutions – more and more groups are gaining undisputed universal rights
  5. 5 inner demons
    1. Predatory violence
    2. Dominance
    3. Revenge
    4. Sadism
    5. Ideology
  6. 4 better angels
    1. Empathy
    2. Self control
    3. Moral sense through culture
    4. Faculty of reason
  7. 5 historical forces which have driven decreasing violence
    1. The Leviathan – legitimate use of force is encouraged by the central power and makes people feel they are on the right side of the angels when they use violence
    2. Feminization – increased respect for women and women’s rights
    3. Commerce – exchange of goods and ideas allowed quicker spread of more enlightened culture and is not zero sum
    4. Cosmopolitanism – literacy, mobility and mass media allow people to absorb different cultures and move away from immediate surroundings
    5. Escalator of reason – force people to reframe violence and see it as something which we can reduce
  8. Describes in gruesome detail the violence and its common occurrence during the hunter gatherer and early agricultural times. Especially as it’s depicted in the Bible
  9. Honor is a strange thing in that it exists only because we believe others believe it exists
  10. The US has a much higher homicide rate than Europe and most other developed countries and southern US far higher than northern. The author says that a culture of honor which was passed down from herders is the reason. Most southerners descended from herders and herders have a quicker anger trigger and are more likely to retaliate because livestock is easy to steal whereas land, which is what most northerner’s wealth was tied to, isn’t.
  11. One universal constant of violence is that 15-30 year old men conduct most of it
  12. Nature abhors a lop sided sex ratio
  13. Government does not deter violence because its citizens feels like Big Brother is always watching but because there is a reliable and consistent system in place where there is a good shot that you’ll get caught and punished if you commit a crime
  14. As books became more abundant after the printing press, the “bubble of empathy” was inflated as people were more commonly learning about secular rather than only religious topics and able to take fresh perspectives through novels and travel books
  15. War has steadily been decreasing in number but increasing in its total damage
  16. Wars declined substantially in the 18th century as many of the world powers shifted from conquest to commerce.
  17. Democracy, trade and intergovernmental ties reduce violence due to intermingling and inter-reliance
  18. To kill millions, more than weapons, you need an ideology
  19. The author believes that the single greatest catalyst of the rights revolution was the increasing spread and usage of technology which fostered noble action.
  20. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the most important ideas / explanations of the 20th century. It has found that the “tit-for-tat” strategy most often leads to the best outcomes. If you mirror what the other party does, you get the most cooperation and benefits. An even superior strategy, which could be taken advantage of if there are too many “defectors” or “freeloaders” is tit-for-tat with added forgiveness. Mirror what the other person/team/company/etc. does and if they make a decision once which hurts you, forgive them (once).
  21. Increasing self-control over the last several centuries is a key reason for the huge drops in violence we have seen. A culture of honor shifted to a culture of dignity where men were more respected for their self control than for lashing out for any offenses
  22. Intelligence and self-control are the best predictors of success and decreased violence in both individuals and states. Reason has shown to negatively correlate to violence and the Flynn Effect (increasing intelligence seen over periods of decades rather than generations) have helped decrease violence
What I got out of it
  1. A deep and fascinating book. Does a great job of taking a big picture historical overview to describe many trends which have led to decreasing violence

To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski

Summary
  1. An introduction to engineering and what engineers do for the non-technical
Key Takeaways
  1. The colossal disasters that do occur are ultimately failures of design but the lessons learned from those disasters can do more to advance engineering knowledge than all the successful machines and structures in the world. Indeed, failures appear to be inevitable in the wake of prolonged success, which encourages lower margins of safety. Failures in turn lead to greater margins of safety and, hence, new periods of success. To understand what engineering is and what engineers do is to understand how failures can happen and how they can contribute more than successes to advance technology
  2. Engineering has as its principal objective not the given world but the world that engineers themselves create, one which is ever changing. Like our art, we like our structures to be fashionable and since our tastes change, so do our structures
  3. It is the process of design, in which diverse parts of the given world of the scientist and the made world of the engineer are reformed and assembled into something the likes of which Naturr has not dreamed, that divorces engineering from science and marries it to art
  4. We may wonder if human evolution may not be the greatest engineering feat of all time
  5. If ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, if all that has come to be human races before the fetus floating in its own prehistory, then the child playing relives the evolution of structural engineering in its blocks
  6. One of the most important calculations of the modern engineer is the one that predicts how long it will take before cracks or the simple degradation of its materials threaten the structure’s life
  7. Structural engineers must often deal in probabilities and combinations of probabilities. A safe structure will be one whose weakest link is never overloaded by the greatest force to which the structure is subjected
  8. A scientific hypothesis is tested by comparing its conclusions with the reality of the world as it is
  9. The fundamental feature of all angineering hypotheses is that they state, implicitly if not explicitly, that a designed structure will not fail if it is used as intended
  10. Success is foreseeing failure. Nobody wants to learn by mistakes but we cannot learn enough from successes to go beyond the state of the art. The object of engineering design is to anticipate failure and to design against it. This is done by understanding how much load a structure can carry without letting go or breaking
  11. Designing a bridge or any other large structure is not unlike planning a trip. The end may be clear and simple: to go from here to there. But the means may be limited only by our imaginations. It is this aspect of the writer to engineer analogy that is most helpful in understanding how the celebrated writers and engineers alike learn more from the errors of their predecessors and contemporaries than they do from all the successes in the world. There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few mistakes early in life
  12. Engineering, like poetry, is an attempt to approach perfection. And, engineers, like poets, are seldom completely satisfied with their creations
  13. One of the most comforting means, employed in virtually all engineering designs, hs been the factor of safety. Also known as the factor of ignorance, it is used to provide a margin of error that allows for a considerable number of corollaries to Murphy’s Law to compound without threatening the success of an engineering endeavor. factors of safety are intended to allow for the bridge built of the weakest imaginable batch of steel to stand up under the hackers imaginable truck going over the largest imaginable pothole and bouncing across the roadway in a storm. The factor of safety is calculated by dividing the load require to cause failure by the maximum load expected to act on a structure. The essential idea behind a factor of safety is that a means of failure must be made explicit, and tr load to cause that failure must be calculable or determinable by experiment. This clearly indicates that it ks a failure that the engineer is trying to avoid in his design, and that is why failures of real structures are so interesting to engineers.
  14. Each new structural hypothesis is open to disproof by counterexample, and the rational designer will respond immediately to th credible failure brought to his attention
  15. 50-90% of all structural failures are believed to be the result of crack growth. The cracks often grow slowly and only when they reach intolerable proportions for the structure and still go undetected that catastrophic can occur – classic sign of fatigue. Fatigue can theoretically be avoided but overdesigning structures do that peak stresses never exceed the threshold level is not practical
  16. Quality control is supposed to eliminate unacceptably large flaws by minimizing deviations from an acceptable norm and by rejecting inferior workmanship. But, unfortunately, the techniques for the detection of predicting cracks in fabricated structures are wanting. Not only are instruments relatively insensitive, but also their use and interpretation are often more art than science
  17. A second basic design philosophy to obviate structural failure is called the safe-life criterion. Safe-life design, which allows for the inevitability of failure well beyond the service life of the structure, is not so simple to realize. Nuclear reactors have very conservative designs and have proven to have sufficient factors of safety built into the system, and the leak-before-break criterion appears to be a sound concept. A system is only as strong as its weakest link
  18. In engineering, as in nature, bigger is not necessarily even better nor even a good idea
  19. Because Paxton was not steeped in the traditions of either engineering or architecture, he approached design problems without any academically ingrained propensity for a particular structural or aesthetic style. He often solved problems unconventionally in both construction and architectural style
  20. The paradox of engineering design is that successful structural concepts devolve into failures, while the colossal failure contribute to the evolution of innovative and inspiring structures
  21. Computer aided design (CAD) is helpful for making many decisions but one instance it lacks is understanding how a structure might fail. Many worry that we are becoming too dependent on these modeling softwares and that future failures may stem from us not truly understanding what we are doing
  22. The most dramatic failures have occurred in a climate of overconfidence and carelessness, and the least we can learn from those incidents is to be more vigilant
  23. Causes of failure
    1. Ignorance
      1. Incompetent men in charge of design, construction or inspection
      2. Supervision and maintenance by men without necessary intelligence
      3. Assumption of vital responsibility by men without necessary intelligence
      4. Competition without supervision
      5. Lack of precedent
      6. Lack of sufficient preliminary information
    2. Economy
      1. In first cost
      2. In maintenance
    3. Lapses, or carelessness
      1. An engineer or architect, otherwise careful and competent, shows negligence in some certain part of the work
      2. A contractor or superintendent takes a chance, knowing he is taking it
      3. Lack of proper coordination in production of plans
    4. Unusual occurrences – earthquakes, extreme storms, fires and the like
    5. Limit states
      1. Overload – geophysical, dead, wind
      2. Understrength – structure, materials instability
      3. Movement – foundation settlement, creep, shrinkage
      4. Deterioration – cracking, fatigue, corrosion, erosion
  24. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. And experience is frequently the result of bad judgment. But to learn from the experience of others requires those who have the experience to share the knowledge with those who follow
What I got out of it
  1. A good overview on the basics of engineering

Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams

Summary
  1. Discusses how emotional rather than rational people really are and how to use this fact to persuade people. He uses the recent Trump presidential campaign to tie in real life examples of his persuasion tips
Key Takeaways
  1. Trump’s presidential victory “ripped a whole in the fabric of the universe” in the sense that people have had to alter their mental models to fit reality. Objectivity was believed to be synonymous with reality but Trump’s victory shows that we have to alter the “movie in our head” to model what is really happening. This was one of the biggest perceptual shifts to ever occur
  2. A good mental filter is one which helps you predict the future and makes you happy. Adams does not say that the persuasion filter is an accurate representation of reality
  3. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are two phenomena which affects everyone.
    1. Adams’ blog and prediction of a Trump victory was partly motivated by him wanting to make sure people were looking at the situation through the right lens. Trump remade the Republican Party in his own image, destroyed the media’s credibility and crushed the Democrats.
    2. The tell for cognitive dissonance is not the quality of explanations but how many of them there are. Also, overly emotional or aggressive responses, the psychic psychiatrist (thinking you can know other people’s unspoken feelings or thoughts), retreating to analogy, extreme social or professional pressure to agree with the assumed answer, and attacking the messenger are other tells.
    3. Cognitive dissonance isn’t a bug in the operating system. It is the system. Mass delusions are the norm
  4. Always keep an eye out for leaders who have a “reality distortion field”
  5. 2D v. 3D world
    1. Second dimension – mental model most people use which says that people are mostly rational. Master persuaders operate on the third dimension where people are irrational 90% of the time. Humans think they are rational and that they can understand reality but they are wrong on both accounts. The truth is that humans bounce around from illusion to illusion, thinking we see reality.
    2. Facts play little role in the big decisions in our lives as we are emotional creatures. We make emotional decisions and then rationalize them after the fact
    3. When emotions are involved, people simply don’t change their minds just because facts are presented
  6. Evolution doesn’t care if your representation of reality is accurate as long as you procreate
  7. Moist robot filter – people are like software and if you feed them certain inputs, you’ll likely get certain outputs
  8. To attract the other sex, aim to be talented rather than nice. This signals good genes
  9. When someone exceeds your expectations, look to see if they have a talent stack – a grouping of talents which add onto the others and allows them to excel
  10. Some of the most powerful words in history have been “turn the other cheek” and “we the people”
  11. Look for situations or decisions which give you multiple ways to win and none or minimal ways to lose. The importance of systems over goals
  12. Persuasion tips
    1. Fear is the strongest form of persuasion
    2. When you identify as part of a group, your beliefs tend to fall towards the consensus of that group
    3. Reciprocity is a huge tool for the persuader
    4. Persuasion works on the subject even when they know its being used on them
    5. The things you think about the most will irrationally rise in importance in your mind
    6. If you are not a master persuader, find a balance between never apologizing and apologizing too much
    7. Don’t trust any explanation of reality which isn’t able to predict
    8. People are more influenced by the direction of things than by their current state
    9. Display confidence whether real or not to improve persuasion
    10. Hypnosis works best when the hypnotist has credibility
    11. Calling out what someone is thinking when they are thinking it makes you connect and gives you more persuasive power
    12. Leave enough blank spaces in your content/argument/etc. so people can fill it in with whatever makes them happiest (Dilbert has no last name and don’t know what industry he’s in so more people can connect…)
    13. People are more addicted and respond better to unpredictable rewards compared to predictable rewards
    14. Aligning yourself and making yourself a key part of helping people reach their aspirations is a great tool of persuasion
    15. It is easier to persuade when you establish and signal any form of credibility
    16. People hate uncertainty and those who offered we are simple and strong answers even if they’re wrong are more persuasive
    17. Visual persuasion is far more powerful than non-visual persuasion
    18. People are more persuaded by contrast than by fact or reason. Humans need contrast in order to make decisions and prioritize. Find ways to set yourself apart from competitors
    19. Association is a very strong form of persuasion. All people and all companies are always “marketing.” What you associate yourself with becomes your brand and what people think of when they think of you. Associate carefully with positive factors. People forget what you say but not how you make them feel
    20. People almost always get used to small annoyances. We love novelty and almost always adjust to things as they routine
    21. All communication depends upon what we believe is in the mind of the person communicating. What you say is important but not nearly as important as what people think you are thinking
    22. High energy is taken for competent leadership even when it is not
    23. Direct requests are persuasive. Ask the customer if they want to buy. Trump ends many sentences with “believe me.” A command disguised as throw away words but in fact become associated with him over time as he repeats this over time
    24. Repetition is persuasion. Repetition is persuasion.
    25. Match the pace of the people you want to persuade and then you can lead. Copy their emotion and speaking style
      1. Trump matched the emotional base of his constituency and played to it. He made big, outrageous first ask and later, when he compromised, the other side felt relieved but more got done than maybe otherwise would have. Policies during the election weren’t that important as he would figure out the details later
    26. People love the simplest explanation of things but in a “3D” world this is hardly ever accurate
    27. Simple explanations are more credible than complicated ones even if wrong or incomplete
    28. Have to be memorable to be persuasive. Easily remember things which violate our expectations. A good general rule is that people are more influenced by visual persuasion, emotion and repetition of facts
      1. People put far more importance on the first part of a sentence than the second. Structure them carefully
    29. Analogies are great tools to describe a new concept but are terrible tools to try to persuade others
    30. Provide a “fake because”. This is a reason which those on the fence can fall back on and use as their excuse for deciding the way you want them to
    31. Making an exaggerated statement which is directionally correct is another form of persuasion as it tends to stick better in people’s minds
    32. The master persuader move energy and attention to where it helps him the most
    33. High ground maneuver – elevating a debate from the details on which people disagree to a broader concept on which people tend to agree on. Instead of attacking people’s actions, take the high ground and ask them if that is truly the person they want to be. Point out the gap and watch it close
    34. Linguistic kill shot – a nickname or short phrase which is so persuasive that it can end a debate immediately
      1. Trump is a master at using images, visual perception. Low Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, The Wall
    35. Nothing kills humor like a boring and general truth. Steve Jobs’ response to issues with the iPhone 4s antenna is a prime example
What I got out of it
  1.  A lot of gems and great tips / cautions on how to go about being a better persuader. If you know the rules / tactics, you’ll be better able to spot them and combat them from being used on you

Heat by Bill Buford

Summary
  1. Bill Buford recounts his time with Mario Batali and in Italy as he learns to cook a variety of meals and styles
Key Takeaways
  1. Batali started in the kitchen of a pub learning from Marco Pierre White – as his “slave.” Marco was known for his violent temper
  2. One only learns by doing, by experimenting. Not simply by reading
  3. A dish is a success when the love is obvious. “Food has always had erotic associations, and I suspect that cooking with love is an inversion of a different principle: cooking to be loved. The premise of a romantic meal is that by stimulating and satisfying one appetite another will be analogously stimulated as well
  4. Time in Italy focused Mario, gave him his culture, settled him down
  5. “But how to go forward? There was no place for me [Buford]. these people were at a higher level of labor. They didn’t think. Their skills were so deeply inculcated they were available to them as instincts. I didn’t have skills of that kind and couldn’t imagine how you’d learn them. I was aware of being poised on the verge of something: a long, arduous, confidence-bashing, profoundly humiliating experience.
  6. Only time Mario gets upset is when VIPs are neglected – these customers mean everything to a restaurant
  7. Has a salesman’s gift for recognizing physiological discomfort in others
  8. Consistency under tremendous pressure – that’s the name of the game
  9. Once become a true cook, one works by the senses rather than by time or temperature
  10. When the grill gets busy, you need the obvious – cheats, checklists, systems to fall back on
  11. It’s easier to remain in the kitchen – the contradictions between cook and guest never surface
  12. “But it was the coincidence that I found so compelling, and once I’d discovered it I couldn’t stop myself from musing on just how bad life in the pub’s dinky kitchen must have been: that no pay would have been more attractive – that anything would have been more attractive – than these two outsized, alpha males’ being cooped up in that hellhole together [Pierre White and Batali]. The coincidence was also instructive. This, it told me, is what you have to do to learn this craft: you keep having to be a slave – not to one master but several, one after the another, until you arrive at a proficiency (whatever that might be) or your own style (however long it takes) or else conclude that, finally, you just know a lot more than anyone else.”
  13. “Like most dyslexics, Marco can spend an hour reading a page of The Times and remember nothing. In a dyslexic, the brain’s abnormalities at processing visual information often develop into unlikely strengths. Marco has an exceptional sense of proportion. “Those disco balls – no one believed they’d come through the door and they started to take down the frames, but I knew there was a millimeter to spare.” He also has a knack for numbers and an uncanny visual sense. White has a photographic memory for dishes and an ability to recall every plate served to him in the last twenty years…When Marco talks like this, I thought, You’re a freak. You’re not seeing the same world I see. He’s like the tall guy in school, who, because of his height, can play basketball better than anyone else. Marco has, in effect, an exaggerated facility to survive in a kitchen. At some point, Marco learned he had this gift but kept it to himself. “Early on, I realized I had a photographic memory for food but wouldn’t tell the chef. I’d be at a new job, working on starters, say, but was always watching and memorizing the other stations so that when I was moved to one I knew exactly what to do. They all thought I was a genius.” Marco’s genius might be nothing more than an exaggerated variation of Mario’s “kitchen awareness,” but it made me realize how this visual facility was not one I had developed, probably because I’m a word guy – most of us are – and for most of my life the learning I’ve done has been through language.”
  14. “You got in trouble and fell behind if you switched your pan from your left hand to your right (took too much time); you got in trouble if you had to ask or wonder or remember, so you aspired to have everything memorized on such a deep level – like language or the alphabet or numbers – that you never found yourself thinking.”
  15. “Good smells and good eating. Very straightforward, very English. Nothing fancy, except that it’s very hard to get the simple things right…Nature is the artist. In normal life, “simplicity” is synonymous with “easy to do,” but when a chef uses the word it means “Take a lifetime to learn.” I made a practice, therefore, of asking Marco about really simple things. I once asked him how he cooks an egg. “Whoa,” he said, “an egg is very important. Give a chef an egg, and you’ll know what kind of cook he is. It takes a lot to cook an egg. You have to understand the egg in order to cook an egg, especially if it’s one you want to eat.” For two days we talked about eggs. How does he fry one, for instance…”
  16. Never challenge the person in charge, especially when he’s wrong
  17. “Once again the same challenge. Was I ready? Yes and Yes. I set up the station. I saw what was missing. I cooked and browned my fennel. I cut my rosemary – fast: bam  bam, bam. I sorted out the thyme. I prepared six sauté pans of rabbit. And the more I did, the looser I got, like an athlete warming up. The thickness in my head melted away. My movements became more fluid. I completed a task and knew what I had to do next and what I needed to do after that one was done. The service started. I was ready. I fell into a rhythm. I was seeing the kitchen in a way I’d never seen it. I seemed to be seeing everything. Was this adrenaline? Was it a clarity that comes from exhaustion? I couldn’t explain why I was feeling so good, especially after feeling so bad. I knew where everyone was at every point in their preparations. I understood all the tickets and all the items on them. I was working with Frankie, but again somehow, I don’t know how, I knew what he was going to do before he did it, when he wanted something before he asked for it. “Bill, I need the -” but whatever it was, now I already had it. I was cooking: fast, hard, effectively. It was the most satisfying evening of labor I’d ever experienced.”
  18. The abuse was good because it taught me who I didn’t want to be
  19. Note the seeking in another and for “culinary secrets” and other mythological seeming things which seems a bit sad, great passion, but sad
  20. Can’t do traditional work at a modern pace. Traditional work has traditional rhythms. You need calm. You can be busy, but you must remain calm.
  21. Tuscan soul made up of beef, wine from sangiovese grapes and bread
  22. Sometimes have to be in a place a long time before you see it
  23. Spent time with Dario, Tuscan butcher, rather, an artist
  24. Most important type of knowledge is understanding what you can’t do.
What I got out of it
  1. Fun read with a really good insight into the world of high level cooking

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Summary
  1. The authors describe some of the self-justification mechanisms people often use to help them navigate the world. While they may help avoid psychological discomfort, they can lead to painful errors, bad decisions and not learning from one’s mistakes
Key Takeaways
  1. Once proven wrong, people tend to even more voraciously protect their point of view or, if they do admit they were wrong, the responsibility for it falls to someone else
  2. Self justification is so powerful and insidious because it allows people to save face, have a clear conscience, helps to convince themselves that they did everything they could, and, often, what they did was in fact it was the right thing to do. We justify the small or big things so that we can keep doing them without having to change our behavior or see ourselves as bad people or hypocrites
  3. Self justification can help us psychologically but it won’t help us change bad habits or confront reality
  4. Cognitive dissonance is a prime motivator for self justification. People very rarely can face their mistakes and change their minds. It is easier to change their memory or pass on blame to someone or something external
  5. If we have to do something painful or embarrassing we will most likely become more attached to the group, outcome, idea, etc. (i.e., hazing ties people psychologically to the group and the more painful/embarrassing the more they associate)
  6. Everyone has blind spots and they’re so dangerous because they convince us we don’t have blind spots but all others do
  7. It is vital to surround yourself with people who have different views, who are willing to disagree with you, and to study and focus on disconfirming evidence so that you do not fall into the confirmation bias trap and only see things or spend time with people who agree with you
  8. Our memories are extremely flimsy and vulnerable to manipulation or simple fabrication. This is important to remember as many of our life narratives, relationships, etc. are based on memories which very likely aren’t totally accurate and in some cases totally made up
  9. Imagination inflation – the more you imagine something the more confident you become and the more details you add to these memories or images
  10. Repetition slowly chips away at people’s skepticism and is why it is so often used by salesmen and other people tying to persuade you
  11. The victim mindset is often used as it gives people someone or something to blame. Making them feel better and externalize responsibility
  12. Happy partners give each other the benefit of the doubt. Ascribing bad moods to their situation rather than character and thoughtful actions as genuine rather than trying to cover something up. 5:1 positive to negative interactions is the minimum for happy relationships
  13. Shame, mocking, and contempt are the final indications of failing relationships
  14. Owning up to mistakes and apologizing is often the best thing we can do and in fact often gains us favor and standing in the eyes of others. It is of course difficult to admit fault but even more insidious is the fact that we often don’t recognize that we even need to apologize because our self justification is operating at a near sub-conscious level
What I got out of it
  1. Self justification, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the slow and gradual giving in and laxing of morals can have disastrous results on our learning and decision-making over time. We probably can never get rid of them completely, but we can be aware of them and how they might creep up in our lives.

Sol Price: Retail Revolutionary and Social Innovator by Robert Price

Summary

  1. Robert Price, Sol Price’s son, recalls his father’s history, personality and journey founding FedMart and The Price Club. “Sol always said that luck plays a big part in what happens during one’s lifetime. This is undoubtedly true. Sol was lucky. His parents emigrated from Russia to the United States well before World War II. He was born with a brilliant mind. He was in good health for most of his life. His family moved from New York to California, which led to his love affair with and marriage to my mother. What Sol added to his good luck is what this book is all about.”

 

Key Takeaways

Sol’s Business Philosophy & Practices

  1. Sol’s core business philosophy was simple: drive operational efficiencies to save on costs; pass these savings onto customers; provide the best possible value to customers; excellent quality products at the lowest possible prices; pay good wages and provide good benefits, including health insurance to employees; maintain honest business practices; treat suppliers better than anyone else; make money for investors.
  2. Discount stores appeared in 1948 and FedMart followed the Fedco template in most every way including membership, concessionaires and a warehouse building. Perhaps the most significant difference between Fedco and FedMart was that Fedco was operated purely as a not for profit whereas FedMart was a not for profit combined with a separate corporation, Loma Supply, which operated as a for profit corporation. Customers would have to pay a minimal fee to become a member, hours were convenient for business owners, products were displayed and sold on makeshift fixtures rather than in display cases and most products, other than jewelry, were self-service, and the selection was limited. Most products were paid at a central register area in cash or with a check, no credit except for purchases of furniture or appliances. The products offered for sale included mattresses, clothing, luggage, furniture, power appliances, hardware, large and small appliances and liquor. Some of the departments were operated by concessionaires, while others were operated by FedMart. In addition, FedMart refused to stock products from manufacturers who enforced Fair Trade laws – companies such as Samsonite Luggage and Gillette Razor Blade Company.
  3. 20 years after founding FedMart, Sol sold control of FedMart to Hugo Mann in 1975 but the relationship quickly soured, inspiring Sol to later found Price Club. Happiest when challenged and new business was a clear slate – thought through all lessons learned and tried to wipe clean all assumptions. He settled on a wholesale business selling to a cross section of small businesses. The Price Club idea was finally conceived sometime in the middle of January 1976 – a wholesale business selling merchandise to small, independent businesses. The business owners would come to a large warehouse, select the products from steel rack displays, pay either by check or cash, and take the products back to their stores, restaurants, or offices. Instead of each business owner purchasing products from various suppliers who specialized in specific product categories, hundreds or even thousands of small businesses would pool their buying power by shopping at our wholesale warehouse. The warehouse would also serve as a storage facility for the various business owners so they would not have to buy and store large quantities of merchandise at their stores or offices. In effect, we would be their warehouses. The wholesale warehouse would buy directly from manufacturers and pass along the savings generated from volume purchasing directly to the store owners
  4. The word “club” was selected because customers would be required to purchase a membership. The customer would be a member of a club, a club that sold merchandise. Thus, the name Price Club was chosen. There were a number of reasons for charging a membership fee of $25, a significant amount of money compared to the rather nominal $2 membership fee that members at FedMart had paid. The most important reasons was to use the membership money to lower prices by including the fee in the calculation of merchandise gross margins. We assumed that, on average, each member would spend $1,000 a year in purchases at Price Club. The $25 membership fee was equivalent to 2.5% of $1,000. When included in gross margin, the prices of merchandise were reduced as shown in the following example:
    1. Example 1 – no membership fee:
      1. Product from supplier: $10.00
      2. Product selling price: $11.12
      3. Margin: 10.5%
    2. Example 2 – $25 membership charged
      1. Product from supplier: $10.00
      2. Product selling price: $10.86
      3. 8% markup plus 2.5% membership fee = $10.5%
    3. The $25 membership fee also operated as an incentive for the member to purchase more as a way to leverage the membership fee as a percent of purchases. In addition, the membership concept helped reduce operating expenses for the business because the membership psychologically tied the member to Price Club and eliminated the need to advertise
  5. Sol always said that teamwork is the key to success
  6. Was a very tough negotiator. He was not afraid to be tough when he felt it was necessary. He was willing to fight for what was right, even if it meant potentially losing, although Sol rarely lost. People wanted Sol in their corner because they knew he had integrity, he was smart, and he was strong. Sol’s experience as an attorney representing clients, and his own moral code, became a foundational feature of the FedMart business. Sol described his business approach as “the professional fiduciary relationship between us (the retailer) and the member (the customer). We felt we were representing the customer. You had a duty to be very, very honest and fair with them and so we avoided sales and advertising. We have in effect said that the very best advertising is by our members, the unsolicited testimonial of the satisfied customer. This fiduciary relationship with the customer was similar to the Golden Rule; the way Sol put it – if you want to be successful in retail, just put yourself in the place of a cranky, demanding customer. In other words, see your business through the eyes of the customer.
  7. Our first duty is to our customers. Our second duty is to our employees. Our third duty is to our stockholders
  8. By reducing merchandise acquisition costs for retailers and other businesses, everyone would win. Small businesses would pay less for their wholesale goods and supplies, retailers could charge lower prices – in turn improving their ability to compete against chain stores, especially the growing number of discount stores that were underpricing small businesses.
  9. Expert Fallacy – “Fortunately most of us had backgrounds that were alien to retailing. We didn’t know what wouldn’t work or what we couldn’t do.” If Sol had been an experienced traditional retail executive, he probably would have focused FedMart’s expansion in Southern California and Arizona, thereby solidifying FedMart’s market dominance in that region. Instead, Sol made his decisions from the point of view of his own experience: the fact that he was an attorney and not a retailer, and that he was an entrepreneur and not a chain store executive. He was never driven by the need to have the most stores or the most money, but by the desire to give the customer the best deal and to provide fair wages and benefits to FedMart’s employees
  10. Of course, everyone wanted to work at FedMart. The fact that Sol was concerned about giving decent wages to employees was one thing, but why would he require FedMart wages to be twice as much as the competitors? FedMart was paying industry-best wages per hour in San Diego and Phoenix. The wage decision in San Antonio was simple: employees in San Antonio worked just as hard and as well as other FedMart employees. FedMart had excellent profits in San Diego and Phoenix while paying good wages, why not apply the same wage philosophy in San Antonio?
  11. Sol always believed real estate was a good investment and the financial characteristics of the business made it a cash flow machine, allowing for easy, fast expansion
  12. Touching the medium – As The Price Company prospered, Sol focused much of his attention on the numbers, daily sales, and monthly financial operating results – the balance sheet and cash flow. He would ask someone from the Morena Price Club or a new Price Club to call him at home every night and tell him what the final sales were for the day. He was intrigued by the Price Club financials, especially how different they were from the financials at FedMart. Comparing FedMart’s financial results for the fiscal year ending August 1969 with Price Club’s financial results for the year ending August 1979, the first major difference was the cost of sales (merchandise markup). FedMart had a 30% markup compared to Price Club’s 11.7% markup. FedMart’s total operating expenses were 17% compared to Price Club’s 9%. Moreover, Price Club’s sales were approaching $1,000 per square foot, at least twice as much as a typical FedMart store. The FedMart/Price Club balance sheet comparison provided other interesting insights. In 1969 FedMart had $20m in inventory and accounts payable of $12m, a 60% payable to inventory ratio. Price Club had $8m in inventory and accounts payable of $7m, a nearly 90% payable to inventory ratio. By the end of the fiscal year in 1981, Price Club’s accounts payable ratio had increased to over 120%. In short, Price Club’s suppliers were financing The Price Company’s business
  13. FedMart developed a line of private label merchandise. It was usually sold with the label FM, or for liquor, with the names of company executives. FedMart purchased these products with specifications and standards as nearly equivalent to the national brands as possible and stocked the FM brand next to the national brand to demonstrate the savings. FedMart’s low price merchandise, limited selection, yet breadth of product offerings had a major impact on the retail world. The challenge would be to operate a geographically widespread business successfully and respond to the competition that was sure to come
  14. Sol really wanted all FedMart employees to think about and understand why their jobs were important to the success of FedMart. He was not a big fan of procedures and training manuals because he believed that manuals were a substitute for thinking
  15. As the number of FedMart’s grew, Sol concluded that FedMart would be well served with central merchandise distribution facilities.
  16. Sol’s emphasis on teaching was expressed in the phrase “alter ego,” a rather simple concept He used the following example. If the owner of a store was able to do all the jobs himself – greet customers, order and receive merchandise, do the accounting, sweep the floors and clean the bathrooms – he would. But the reality is that normally the owner can’t do all the work himself. Therefore, he must hire people to perform their jobs as well or better than he, the owner, would if he had the time. As a corollary, the owner of the store needs to use his time to do the highest-skilled work and to delegate less-skilled work to his “alter egos.” In that way, the owner will devote his time to “managing” the business and making sure that his “alter egos” are doing their jobs and doing them well. The “alter ego” was the management component of a much more comprehensive philosophy that Sol taught to FedMart’s management team and, in fact, to all employees. Sol taught by example and he taught by engaging people in challenging discussions, demanding that they use their brains. Many people, who would later become successful in their own right, learned by following in Sol’s footsteps.
  17. Sol believed in building a long-term relationship with customers. He described his business philosophy as the professional fiduciary relationship between the retailer and the customer. In his words, “If you recognize you’re really a fiduciary for the customer, you shouldn’t make too much money.” The underpinnings of this fiduciary relationship were consistently high quality merchandise and consistently low prices. Sol infused FedMart’s employees with the belief that they were representing the interests of the customer. Sol’s sense of duty to FedMart members was punctuated by FedMart’s return policy: “Everything we sell is guaranteed unconditionally. We will give an immediate cash refund to any customer not completely satisfied with a purchase made at FedMart. No questions asked.”
  18. Sol’s approach to FedMart employees mirrored the relationship he had with FedMart members. He felt a responsibility – a fiduciary duty – to provide excellent wages, benefits, and working conditions for employees. In a bulletin to FedMart employees, Sol said: “You must feel confident that you are working for a fine and honest company. Somehow we must make this mean to each of you that you will be permitted, encouraged, and sometimes even coerced into growing with the company to the limit of your ability. We believe that you should be paid the best wages in your community for the job you perform. We believe that you should be provided with an opportunity to invest in the company so that you can prosper as it prospers. We believe that you should be encouraged to express yourself freely and without fear of recrimination or retaliation. We believe that you should be happy with your work so that your occupation becomes a source of satisfaction as well as a means of livelihood.”
  19. Nothing demonstrated FedMart’s commitment to business integrity more than the pricing of products. According to Sol, FedMart was not a discount store. He described FedMart as a “low margin retailer.” Discount stores set their prices in relationship to a percentage off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. FedMart priced merchandise starting with the cost of the product and taking as small a markup as possible – consistent with covering expenses and a small profit while giving the customer the best price. Sol also had a rule against pricing any product below cost, the traditional “loss leader.” His reasoning: if some products are sold below cost, other products must be sold at very high margins to make up for the losses. In fact, when grocery stores were selling items such as sugar or coffee below cost, Sol told FedMart managers to place signs next to FedMart’s display of sugar or coffee advising customers to purchase these products at those grocery stores.
  20. The trusting relationship with members was reinforced by FedMart’s unique merchandise selection – limited selection and large pack sizes. Sol proved that it was possible to do more sales with fewer merchandise items (stock keeping units – SKUs). He pioneered large package sizes as a way of lowering prices. One of the more intriguing questions is: why does limited selection result in higher sales? Part of the answer lies in what Sol called “the intelligent loss of sales.” Conventional wisdom in retailing is to stock as many items as possible in order to satisfy every customer’s needs and wants. The “intelligent loss of sales” turns that theory on its head, postulating that the customer demand is most sensitive to price, not selection. And low prices are possible only if there is integrity in the pricing combined with being the most efficient operator. What does limited selection have to do with efficiency? Because payroll and benefits represent approximately 80% of a retailer’s cost of operations, pricing advantage follows labor productivity. Fewer items result in reduced labor hours throughout all of the product supply channels: ordering from suppliers; receiving at the distribution center; stocking at the store; checking out the merchandise; and paying vendor invoices. Put simply, the cost to deal with 4,500 items is a lot less than the cost to deal with 50,000 items
  21. The reality of Sol’s FedMart/Price Club compensation approach was more complicated that simple generosity. Sol was committed to the idea that paying good wages and befits would attract better employees who would remain loyal to FedMart. Providing excellent compensation and treating all employees as part of the team would also result in better job performance, loyalty and honesty. The success of FedMart and later Price Club had a lot to do with being the lowest-cost operator but low operating expenses were never achieved by short changing employees. Because such a large portion of the expense structure in retailing is employee compensation, how is it possible to provide excellent compensation and still be the lost cost operator? Employees who are paid well and treated fairly perform better. In addition, paying high wages puts a focus on continued improvement in labor productivity. As productivity improves, the resulting expense savings are reflected in lower merchandise prices. In return for providing a great workplace for FedMart employees, Sol asked only two things of his employees: that they work hard and that they think. In order to assist employees in thinking about their work, he created a management tool that he called “the Six Rights.” He summarized his ideas as follows: I believed the business broke down into three categories – personnel, product and facilities – and that the same six rules applied to them all. You’ve got to have the right kind, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity, in the right condition, at the right price. Along with The Six Rights, Sol insisted that FedMart stores have low displays and wide aisles. Sol had two inviolable rules: the 54-inch height rule and the six-foot aisle rule. His reason for these rules was to make shopping more comfortable for the FedMart member by giving the shopper the feeling of an open and uncluttered shopping environment. When Sol toured the stores, he would quickly spot any infractions.
  22. Nearly everything was wrong with Price Club when first opened – “The Six Rights are all wrong.” For the most part the product selection was based on the incorrect assumption that hardware and variety stores would be major purchasers when, in fact, there weren’t many independent hardware and variety stores left in San Diego. Most products were sold by the case, but the mom-and-pop store owners wanted to purchase in less than case-load quantities. The assumption that most members would want to shop early in the morning was wrong. The choice of Morena Boulevard for a merchandise business was wrong too. The site was difficult to get to and was located away from traditional shopping areas. And, many business owners were just not willing to give up the convenience of sales people calling on them, delivery, and credit in exchange for lower prices. Eventually decided to open up to Credit Union members. They were not charged a fee but had a 5% markup on all items. This turned the business around quickly
  23. Sol had an inner compass that steered him to honest business practices. Obeying the law was foremost in Sol’s mind. Nevertheless, when he thought the law was wrong – Fair Trade laws, separate bathrooms based on race – he had the courage to find a way to get what he knew was the right answer. He was courageous and tenacious
  24. Sold would not permit FedMart buyers to knowingly do business with suppliers who treated their employees unfairly
  25. Sol placed the highest priority on delivering the best possible deal to the consumer and providing excellent wages and benefits to employees. He said that the customer comes first, the employees second and the shareholders third. Yet, throughout his business career, Sol was remarkably successful in making money for people who invested in his business deals. Sol’s concern for investors played out in the success of the publicly traded stock of companies he launched, and in the private business partnerships he created for his friends and family. Sol developed a reputation for making good business decisions.

 

On Charity & Giving Back

  1. An underlying theme of Sol’s life was his generosity and concern for others
  1. A good businessman has to find the time to take care of being involved with his family and charity; it gives him balance. If you’re lucky, you have the obligation to put a lot back into the pot.
  2. He believed that people give charity for one or more of three reasons: ego, guilt or emotion. Sol said that his main motivators were guilt and emotion, not ego. Sol’s “guilt” was related to his realization of the capriciousness of his life, his having such good fortune compared to those who were not so fortunate. For Sol, sharing his advice and financial resources with someone in need was his way of trying to right a wrong and even out the playing field. With regard to ego, Sol maintained a low profile in everything he did. He never sought publicity or recognition. His and Helen’s names were not usually attached to the gifts they made. Sol did have an ego, and a strong one at that. His ego was defined by his existential sense of the meaning of life – the idea that he always had to be thinking and doing, functioning at the highest performance level to find the right answers, whether in business, in making someone’s life better, or in improving society
  3. As a point of reference, he often cited Andrew Carnegie: “The man who dies rich…dies disgraced.”
  4. The logic for rich people to give back personally and through taxes took two paths – fairness and political pragmatism. Sol believed that fairness was a moral imperative. He would say that rich people often think that they gained their wealth on their own when, in fact, their success was the product of their teachers, along with government workers, service providers, and the employees in their companies. He believed that a just and fair society provides good wages and benefits to the working people who are, fundamentally, partners in wealthy people’s success.
  5. It is much easier to make money than deciding how to best give it away
  6. Through his philanthropy, Sol became social innovator, especially in San Diego

 

Sol’s Legacy

  1. The remarkable thing about Sol was not just that he knew what was right. Most people know the right thing to do. But he was able to be creative and had the courage to do what was right in the face of a lot of opposition. It’s not easy to stick to your guns if you are swimming against the current of traditional thought when it comes to wage and compensation plans for employees. His lessons and philosophy – that business is about more than making money and that a company also has an obligation to serve society – are still valuable reminders for many of us in business today. The fact that he instilled these concepts in so many who were around him is, in my mind, his greatest legacy.
  2. What greater legacy could there be from a father to son than leaving the gift of life skills necessary to carry on?
  3. Unlike many people who retreat into themselves as they age, Sol continued to engage with a broad range of friends, young and old. Sol’s conversations with friends were rarely retrospective. They talked about politics, ethics, the latest books they had read; they told stories and shared jokes. Sol seldom talked about his past accomplishments
  4. Even more than his willingness to fight for what he believed in, Sol never compromised his values. Sol’s retail success was grounded in an absolute commitment to bringing the best value to his customers. Just as importantly, he insisted on paying high wages and good benefits, including health care, to his employees. He had a real conscience satisfied only by giving the best deal he could to just about everyone
  5. Whatever I [Robert] have learned about business I learned from my father – everything – from how to read a financial statement to management to good judgment and fair dealings. My father taught me how to think and how to question and not to fall into the trap of assuming rather than checking things out for myself. He also taught me to be humble, to appreciate the unpredictability of life, to care for people, to remain hopeful, and always to be there for people who are in need.
  6. Many people who worked for my father were afraid to speak up, although, in truth, he always listened carefully to what other people said
  7. What really made our relationship special was the trust that we had in each other and the knowledge that, beyond the arguing, there were shared values and a loyalty and love that would endure
  8. People often have good ideas. Sol was inspired to make his good ideas happen. Sol’s actions were rooted in a value system that he learned early in life and from which he never strayed, a belief that life can and should be lived with purpose, and lived in the right way. Sol’s life was a testament to the truth that success can be achieved by acting in the right way.

 

Other

  1. Sol had a knack for putting together seemingly unrelated facts to form clever solutions
  2. Sol was more creative, enjoying the brainstorming and conceptual part of starting businesses whereas his son, Robert, was more operations-focused
  3. My father expected to be informed, fully, openly and honestly, even if he didn’t like what he heard
  4. Sol was a really smart man but what set him apart was his exceptional wisdom. A wise person is someone who knows what’s important. Moral reasoning, that is, the ability to judge right from wrong; compassion; kindness and empathy; humility; altruism; patience; successfully dealing with uncertainty. My dad’s life encompassed all these qualities
  5. Sol’s social conscience was molded by his parents’ beliefs and by their actions. He would later apply the lessons he had learned at home to all aspects of his life, the practice of law, the operation of his businesses, and his personal generosity to family, friends, and society.
  6. “I’m not a great student of the Bible. I can’t rationalize giving God credit for mercy and all the good things that happen – who takes the responsibility for the bad things?…It would be very easy for me to be an atheist except for two things: No. 1 – I’m unable to understand or cope with infinity, and No. 2 – over the years there have been many smart people – much smarter than I – who have wrestled with the concerns I have stated above and who end up – in spite of that – believing. What am I missing?”
  7. Learned the value of reputation and trusting relationships as a lawyer. Did a lot of pro-bono work for Jewish charities when he was a lawyer
  8. Incredible work ethic – taking advantage of every hour
  9. Exemplars – Always had an older person as a mentor
  10. Balance – Although Sol was intense when he was dealing with FedMart businesses, he always found time during his business trips and other travels to have fun
  11. Throughout his legal and business careers, Sol believed that he was given too much credit for his success because he felt that people did not always recognize the role luck played in his life. “Most of life is luck [and] much of what is referred to as genius…is luck.”
  12. Skin in the game – Sol personally invested in Loma Supply because he believed that FedMart would be successful. He would never ask anyone else to invest unless he invested, and Sol was willing to take some risks. This willingness to take risks was to be an important factor in his life.
  13. Sol and his companies changed consumer habits, especially with respect to pharmaceuticals and gasoline
  14. Wasn’t afraid to fire people and act boldly if he thought the company was headed in the wrong direction
  15. Influenced by Dutch chain Makro – pallets, “passport” membership, massive warehouses
  16. Sol felt that before investing a lot of money and hiring people, it would be a good idea to do some market research contacting as many small store owners, restaurant operators, and professionals as possible to confirm that the concept would work. Contacts were made with liquor store operators who sold cigarettes and candy, convenience store owners, hardware and houseware store owners, restaurant owners, and lawyers and accountants. The questions were always the same: Where do you buy your merchandise? Which products do you spend the most money on? How much are you paying? What do you like about the way you are purchasing? What don’t you like? There were some consistent threads in their answers: a few of their products represented a large proportion of total purchases; and they preferred the traditional wholesale system; which involved salesman calling for orders, truck delivery, credit and billing; and they thought that the prices they were paying were high. When asked whether they would be willing to give up some conveniences in exchange for lower prices, most seemed mildly interested but some were not interested at all. Even though the market survey was not all that encouraging, we made a decision to give the wholesale idea a try
  17. Rick was the head buyer and little by little created what would become the opening product assortment. He asked: How do we secure a location? Where to begin? Where should the warehouse be located? How big should it be? How much parking area?
  18. Sol was averse to debt for financing his business, for his customers and personally
  19. Respected velocity – Sol’s motto – “Do it now.”
  20. Sol always said he was lucky and that luck was a huge part of his success
  21. Sampling of products was a major hit. The buyers would showcase new products they liked and human’s inclination for reciprocity when they receive something free made them buy more
  22. Even though Price Club had tried to stay under the radar, people in the retail industry were taking notice. In 1978 Bernard Marcus, soon to be the founder of Home Depot, came to see the Price Club and to visit Sol. Sol inspired dozens of similar concepts – Costco, WalMart, Home Depot, Target, etc.
  23. True believer in competition because lead to better results for the consumer – gave away many secrets and best practices
  24. Having pioneered the warehouse club concept, The Price Company had lost the initiative to competitors. Rather than sticking to a well-planned business strategy, many decisions were being made reactively in response to what the competition was doing. The Price Club was like a sports team that comes into the game with a pre-planned, well thought out strategy, but once the game starts the other team has its own strategy, so the first team gets confused and does not stick with its game plan. Sol admitted he made mistakes in not franchising fast enough and being reluctant to add fresh food departments, allowing Costco and Sam’s Club to rise and expand quickly
  25. Price Club and Costco merged in 1993. Price Enterprises later spun off which Robert, Sol’s son, ran

 

What I got out of it

An inspiring man! Sol was so innovative and caring – his intentions seemed pure as he truly wanted to help the customer. He revolutionized shopping and inspired a new era of retailing. Be as efficient as possible and pass those savings on quality products to customers; no advertising, no superlatives, everyday low pricing, honest and fair dealing, win/win decisions, pay employees well and treat suppliers a step up. Good advice for any business!

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Summary
  1. This is a book about the similarities in symbology between diverse religions and cultures. Once understood, it will be seen that the differences are not nearly as large as is commonly thought
Key Takeaways
  1. “The Keys”
    1. The call to adventure
    2. Refusal of the call
    3. Meeting the mentor
    4. Crossing the threshold
    5. Tests
    6. Approaching the innermost cave
    7. Ordeal
    8. Reward / bliss
    9. The road back
    10. Resurrection
    11. Master of two worlds
  2. Monomyth – all stories from all cultures are basically the same since they try to convey universal truths and how the human experience is reflected as part of our larger universe
  3. The desire for humans to explains leads to myths, heroes, religions, science
  4. Mythology is everywhere the same regardless of the surface costumes they may wear
  5. All neurotics are either Oedipus or Hamlet. Father or mother is the perceived enemy of the child
  6. Dreams bubble up and anthropomorphize issues we are dealing with. There is much noise but it can provide insight as well
  7. Nuclear unit of the monomyth lies in going away, initiation and return
  8. Regrets are illuminations made too late
  9. Cosmogonic Cycle – the creation and destruction of the universe. Universe begins as amorphous blob until a creative force gives it shape. It is initially perfect until people create chaos, leading to the end of the world and back to a unified whole where the cycle repeats
What I got out of it
  1. The “master key” to storytelling. Amazing how this blueprint is found in all varieties of religions, myths, histories and other stories!

Jesus: A 21st Century Biography by Paul Johnson

Summary
  1. Author wrote this book to broadly summarize the life of Jesus and to explain the joy he gets from following him
Key Takeaways
  1. Jesus was born in the context of a very powerful and expanding Rome and a wealthy Judea ruled by Herod
  2. When Gabriel told Mary that she would bear Jesus, The Annunciation as it later became known, is one of the most touching moments in history
  3. Jesus’ time as a shepherd affected him throughout his life – his love of high places for prayer and how he delivered and thought about sermons
  4. No prophet is accepted in his own country
  5. Jesus was a reluctant performer of miracles as he knew that this could cause a stir and possibly riots. It made people realize he was special but also aroused the anger of the authorities
  6. Jesus’ teachings were often new and counterintuitive. They stressed forgiveness and inner acceptance rather than riches and outer rewards
  7. Compassion has quite literally no limits. Not race, sex, religion, status or any other common dividing line
  8. Jesus was a poet and almost always used very memorable images and parables to get his lessons across. It was his way of directing and capturing emotion
  9. We are all neighbors and our salvation and happiness depends on kindness and charity, not tribe or nationality or race
  10. Heaven is not so much about justice as mercy
  11. Jesus’ redeeming feature was his friendliness, opennness and willingness to listen. He accepted everyone as they were
  12. Jesus made marriage indissoluble and this gave women status like never before. He was also unique in his love of children and their innocence
  13. The aim of Jesus was not to change the world but to make its inhabitants fit for the kingdom of God. He did not want to start a new regime but portray a new way of life. A leader whose goals are entirely spiritual was new to the world at this point
  14. Personality is unique but incomplete. Soul is given by God and has a need to return. Through free will we can accept this and return to the kingdom
  15. You cannot lay down laws of love but you can show them and that is how Jesus lives his life
  16. A life of mercy is a holy one. Grace is mercy. By showing mercy, we act as close to God as we can
  17. He was a man who always kept his head, was always equanimous
  18. Was against those whose minds were closed
  19. Truth is both found in God and in nature. That is why he went to the desert to pray
  20. Jesus frightened the current religious orders as he was attracting a huge following. The priests trembled for their lives, jobs and property. They did not believe or understand that Jesus’ kingdom was solely a spiritual one
  21. Pilate did not condemn Jesus because he thought he was guilty but because he was afraid that the Jewish religious leaders would report him to Rome. In fact, him and his wife thought him innocent
  22. After the crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected and Mary Magdalene was the first to see him and to report back to the Disciples. Shortly after, there was a mass baptism for 3,000 people and thus began Christianity
  23. The Gospels are meant to be read and re-read, gaining something new or a deeper understanding every time
What I got out of it
  1. I really enjoyed and learned a lot about Jesus, his teachings and more from this short biography