Category Archives: Books

Breath by James Nestor

Summary

  1. Shut your mouth, breathe only through your nose, exhale longer than you inhale, chew a lot to build up the muscles in your mouth and face which then opens up your airways, breathe a lot on occasion, hold your breath on occasion, breathe in and out every 11 seconds

Key Takeaways

  1. Your breath is a key pillar in your health and wellness
  2. Nose breathing helps you stay in aerobic rather than anaerobic, which is 16x more effective
  3. The body craves more carbon dioxide, not oxygen. It is the chief hormone if the entire body
  4. Slow breathing, particularly exhalation, has tremendous positive benefits. People breathe too much, breathe less and as lightly as possible
  5. Lung capacity is most tightly correlated to longevity. Not blood pressure or HRV or anything else – lung capacity. There are many breathing and stretching videos you can check out at Nestor’s site
  6. Buteyko breathing and other practices that help you slow down your breathing and breathe less have shown remarkably effective in helping all sorts of diseases. Counterintuitively, You want to increase the carbon dioxide in your blood. Increase the time for exhalation, rest, inhalation – it is no wonder or surprise that slowing down your breathing and heart rate can help you live longer. The ideal is 5.5 inhales and exhales per minute
  7. The modern diet has shrunken our mouths, faces, and airways, making us terrible breathers. However, it isn’t just the vitamins, but the softness of our foods. Our ancestors chewed for hours per day which gave us a wide and strong mouth and jaw
  8. Proper posture, a lot of chewing of hard foods, and some mewing will help improve your breathing
  9. Those with the worst anxiety tend to have the worst breathing – fast and shallow. Simply by learning how to breathe properly, panic attacks and general anxiety were greatly reduced
  10. Prana (life force, chi, rua, etc…) is a very little understood force. It isn’t hormones or oxygen, but something more. Master yogis have shown that they can focus their prana on different parts of the body to have it heat up, sweat, slow down / speed up their hearts, etc.

What I got out of it

  1. Loved learning about the lengths Nestor went to learn about breathing. This is such a ubiquitous and automatic process, yet in today’s world it has been hijacked and is something we need to bring into our consciousness. Simply breathe slower, through your nose

Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

Summary

  1. The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration”. Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions.


Key Takeaways

  1. When a culture is in the process of denying its own roots, it becomes most important to know what these roots are. We had best know what we reject before we reject it. If we are going to build a chair, the first thing we need to know, above all else, is what a chair is. Otherwise, we can do nothing.
  2. This little book by the German philosopher Josef Pieper is simply a gem. No book its size will teach us so many true things about everything we need to know to understand what and why we are or about how to live a life worth living. This book is one of the first I recommend for waking us up to what life is all about, to what is essential to and glorious about our lives.
  3. Culture depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with divine worship.
  4. The original conception of leisure, as it arose in the civilized world of Greece, has, however, become unrecognizable in the world of planned diligence and “total labor”; and in order to gain a clear notion of leisure we must begin by setting aside the prejudice—our prejudice—that comes from overvaluing the sphere of work. In his well-known study of capitalism Max Weber1 quotes the saying, that “one does not work to live; one lives to work”, which nowadays no one has much difficulty in understanding: it expresses the current opinion. We even find some difficulty in grasping that it reverses the order of things and stands them on their head.
  5. And in the same way, the essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality. Moreover, just as the highest form of virtue knows nothing of “difficulty”, so too the highest form of knowledge comes to man like a gift—the sudden illumination, a stroke of genius, true contemplation; it comes effortlessly and without trouble.
  6. The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.
  7. Education concerns the whole man; an educated man is a man with a point of view from which he takes in the whole world. Education concerns the whole man, man capax universi, capable of grasping the totality of existing things.
  8. I have never bothered or asked”, Goethe said to Friedrich Soret in 1830, “in what way I was useful to society as a whole; I contented myself with expressing what I recognized as good and true. That has certainly been useful in a wide circle; but that was not the aim; it was the necessary result.”35 In the Middle Ages the same view prevailed. “It is necessary for the perfection of human society”, Aquinas writes, “that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation”—nota bene, necessary not only for the good of the individual who so devotes himself, but for the good of human society.
  9. Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude—it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analyzed: work as activity, as toil, as a social function. Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as activity, leisure implies (in the first place) an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy”, but letting things happen. Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality: only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear. Silence, as it is used in this context, does not mean “dumbness” or “noiselessness”; it means more nearly that the soul’s power to “answer” to the reality of the world is left undisturbed. For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation.
  10. leisure does not exist for the sake of work—however much strength it may give a man to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical; and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually too, that is not the point. Leisure, like contemplation, is of a higher order than the vita activa (although the active life is the proper human life in a more special sense). And order, in this sense, cannot be overturned or reversed. Thus, however true it may be that the man who says his nightly prayers sleeps the better for it, nevertheless no one could say his nightly prayers with that in mind. In the same way, no one who looks to leisure simply to restore his working powers will ever discover the fruit of leisure; he will never know the quickening that follows, almost as though from some deep sleep. The point and the justification of leisure are not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man—and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity meant to reach Wholeness.14 Because Wholeness is what man strives for, the power to achieve leisure is one of the fundamental powers of the human soul.

What I got out of it

  1. Leisure implies n attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being “busy”, but letting things happen.

The 48 Ways to Wisdom by Noah Weinberg

Summary

  1. Rabbi Noah Weinberg distills his wisdom into 48 deep principles

Key Takeaways

  1. Be Aware of Every Moment – To achieve significant results in life, the effort must be constant. Don’t waste a minute.
  2. Listen Effectively – When the media hits you with another message, don’t take it for granted. Analyze and question.
  3. Say it out loud – Articulate your beliefs out loud, and find out if you really believe what you say.
  4. Introduce yourself to yourself – Don’t go through life making assumptions about who you are. Take time now before a crisis comes along and forces the issue.
  5. The power of awe – In the face of the Grand Canyon or a hurricane, we feel exhilaratingly small. It’s the power of awe.
  6. Mastering fear – Roller coasters and horror movies… we pay good money to be scared out of our wits. Harness the energy of “fear” for positive purposes.
  7. The true charisma – Humility is not an inferiority complex. It’s doing the right thing and not being dependent on the opinion of others.
  8. Constant joy – Joy gives you the power, motivation and confidence to achieve things that otherwise seem too difficult to attempt. Better than a granola bar – joy is pure energy.
  9. Total concentration – Don’t read about wisdom in a book. Find an expert and watch how he works.
  10. Honor the wise person – Don’t read about wisdom in a book. Find an expert and watch how he works.
  11. Work it through friends – Companies test-market new products. To know the value of your ideas, find friends to give you straight, honest feedback.
  12. Growth through teaching – Don’t let your idea remain a hazy notion in your imagination. Transmit it to others and make it a reality.
  13. Think about it – We make snap decisions or may mull over decisions for too long. Become skilled at a happy medium of decision-making.
  14. Written instructions for living – Torah is not an arcane text of the ancient world. It is the essence of Judaism, which is the essence of ourselves.
  15. Oral instructions for living – Judaism is not a reference work sitting on the shelf. It’s to be lived and internalized.
  16. Apply business acumen to living – A business has to function at maximum efficiency. Apply those same core principles to your pursuit of a great personal and spiritual life.
  17. Marriage power – Intimacy is a powerful drive, second only to survival itself. Use it wisely.
  18. The use of physical pleasure – The physical world is for our pleasure. Spiritual growth comes through elevating the mundane world.
  19. Wake up and live – Minimize sleep – because on a deeper level, it’s about “waking up” to life.
  20. The art of conversation – People today are busier than ever, “conversation time” is diminishing. Is anyone out there listening?
  21. Laughter is serious business – Laughter is a deeply spiritual emotion. Understand the dynamics of laughter and use it wisely.
  22. Conquer frustration – It’s a tough world and we have to be persistent. Accept the frustration as a challenge – and love it!
  23. The good heart – Be aware of your inner struggle between the two conflicting inclinations – to do the right thing, or to be selfish.
  24. Search for wisdom – Wisdom makes the wheels of life spin forward. Pursue it.
  25. No pain, no gain – Pain is the price we pay for real, lasting pleasure.
  26. Know your place – Every person has a unique contribution to make in this world. Figure out your role in the grand scheme.
  27. Happiness – You can be rich and miserable. Happiness is a state of mind. Develop tools for how to get it.
  28. Protect what is precious – A fence keeps a safe distance from danger. If you find a “hole” in your life, take precautions to avoid stumbling into errors.
  29. Subtle traps of arrogance – Distinguish between pride (“I’m better than others”) and pleasure (“I’m fortunate”).
  30. Be loved by others – The human desire to be loved is deep and natural. If you give warmth, you’ll attract warmth.
  31. Seek the ultimate pleasure – Even with lots of money and power, no human being is truly satisfied without the transcendent dimension.
  32. Love humanity – Imagine having never seen a human being before. What a fantastic gadget!
  33. Fulfill your obligations – Don’t grumble about obligations. They actualize potential and are the basis of self esteem.
  34. Use your inner guide – Buried within the subconscious lies the knowledge of everything we need to know about living.
  35. Love Criticism – Criticism is not a personal attack, but a way to reach your Olympic-level potential
  36. Handling social pressure – Don’t spend your life trying to impress others. Be true to your own convictions.
  37. Never be bored – Don’t take life for granted. Look for fresh insights. Reawaken the mystery.
  38. Responsible decisions – Every conscious moment is another decision. The most important decision is “What am I living for?”
  39. Share the burden – Sensitizing yourself to the pain of others will give you renewed awareness for living.
  40. Make others meritorious – We all recognize the need to take responsibility when someone is in physical danger. We’re just as obligated when it’s a spiritual danger.
  41. Getting into reality – Life is breathtaking. Wouldn’t you rather experience love than watch it in a movie? Get out of the illusion and into reality
  42. Peace of mind – Even with the world in turmoil, we can be at inner peace. To attain that equilibrium, focus on the needs of your soul.
  43. Fascination with living – Children live in a natural state of awe. To reclaim that energy, pursue your goals with relentless fascination.
  44. Analyze the issues – The best defense against abuse is to question what you see. Use your intellect to uncover inconsistencies and rationalizations.
  45. Expand your ideas – Whenever you learn a piece of wisdom, extract what’s relevant to your life. Rake it to its ultimate conclusion and live with it.
  46. Learn in order to teach – If you know something worthwhile, share it. By reaching others, you will reach yourself.
  47. Learn in order to do – The power of wisdom is to make life better. There is no greater waste than to have great ideas and then not to use them.
  48. Educate the educators – Don’t swallow wholesale what others say. Check out whether it make sense.
  49. Bonus
    1. Organize your mind – The human brain is a sophisticated filing cabinet. Organize in order to access that information.
    2. Reward of gratitude – Acknowledge your gifts and be grateful to the source. Because if you know from whom you’re receiving, you can always go back for more.

What I got out of it

  1. A profoundly deep book that likely needs several reads and several years to truly absorb it

How to Be More Tree: Essential Life Lessons for Perennial Happiness by Liz Marvin

Summary

  1. Liz Marvin describes what we can learn from a variety of different trees to improve our thinking and life.

Key Takeaways

  1. Mangrove – Life can often feel like a struggle, and it’s easy to get caught up in dealing with the day-to-day. Although thoughts of the future can be overwhelming, it really does pay to plan ahead. Mangroves have developed some amazing adaptations so they can live in salty water, even finding a clever way to use the water to spread future generations of trees. Instead of seeds, mangroves produce little seedlings called propagules that grow from the parent plant until they are big enough to float away on the current and take root in their own spot
  2. Giant Sequoia – We all push ourselves too hard sometimes and don’t always appreciate the things within our reach. If this is you, think about the giant sequoia. This amazing tree can grow as tall as a skyscraper, but it still knows when to stop and take stock. Trees use a clever process of evaporation to pump water up to the canopies, were photosynthesis takes place. But the laws of physics dictate that this only works up to about 390 feet. The tallest tree on earth is a giant sequoia called Hyperion that stands at 379 feet. See?
  3. Sugar Maple – we’ve all felt like a small sapling in a big forest at some point. So when you start to get a bit more established, with a little patch of sunlight to call your own, don’t forget the little guys coming up behind. Woodland trees like the sugar maple use their underground networks to pump sugars to the younger generation who might be struggling in the shade. So look around. Does anyone in your forest need a bit of help to get them growing?

What I got out of it

  1. Beautiful book that should be paired with Hidden Life of Trees. So much to learn from the book of nature

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Summary

  1. The 80/20 Principle applied to business has one key theme—to generate the most money with the least expenditure of assets and effort. But, what is the 80/20 Principle? The 80/20 Principle tells us that in any population, some things are likely to be much more important than others. A good benchmark or hypothesis is that 80 percent of results or outputs flow from 20 percent of causes, and sometimes from a much smaller proportion of powerful forces…The 80/20 pattern that we have come to recognize for over a century—and which has been remarkably consistent, varying mainly between, say, 70/30 and 90/10—is rapidly increasing to 90/10 and 99/1. Understanding this trend and how to be on the right side of it can change your life

Key Takeaways

  1. It is very rarely true that 50 percent of causes lead to 50 percent of results. The universe is predictably unbalanced. Few things really matter. Truly effective people and organizations batten on to the few powerful forces at work in their worlds and turn them to their advantage.
  2. In 1949 Zipf discovered the “Principle of Least Effort,” which was actually a rediscovery and elaboration of Pareto’s principle. Zipf’s principle said that resources (people, goods, time, skills, or anything else that is productive) tended to arrange themselves so as to minimize work, so that approximately 20–30 percent of any resource accounted for 70–80 percent of the activity related to that resource.
  3. In 1963, IBM discovered that about 80 percent of a computer’s time is spent executing about 20 percent of the operating code. The company immediately rewrote its operating software to make the most-used 20 percent very accessible and user friendly, thus making IBM computers more efficient and faster than competitors’ machines for the majority of applications.
  4. The reason that the 80/20 Principle is so valuable is that it is counterintuitive. We tend to expect that all causes will have roughly the same significance. That all customers are equally valuable. That every bit of business, every product, and every dollar of sales revenue is as good as any other. this “50/50 fallacy” is one of the most inaccurate and harmful, as well as the most deeply rooted, of our mental maps. The 80/20 Principle asserts that when two sets of data, relating to causes and results, can be examined and analyzed, the most likely result is that there will be a pattern of imbalance. The imbalance may be 65/35, 70/30, 75/25, 80/20, 95/5, or 99.9/0.1, or any set of numbers in between. However, the two numbers in the comparison don’t have to add up to 100. The 80/20 Principle also asserts that when we know the true relationship, we are likely to be surprised at how unbalanced it is.
  5. Related to the idea of feedback loops is the concept of the tipping point. Up to a certain point, a new force—whether it is a new product, a disease, a new rock group, or a new social habit such as jogging or roller blading—finds it difficult to make headway. A great deal of effort generates little by way of results. At this point many pioneers give up. But if the new force persists and can cross a certain invisible line, a small amount of additional effort can reap huge returns. This invisible line is the tipping point. The concept comes from the principles of epidemic theory. The tipping point is “the point at which an ordinary and stable phenomenon—a low-level flu outbreak—can turn into a public-health crisis,”10 because of the number of people who are infected and can therefore infect others. And since the behavior of epidemics is nonlinear and they don’t behave in the way we expect, “small changes—like bringing new infections down to thirty thousand from forty thousand—can have huge effects…It all depends when and how the changes are made.”
  6. A few things are important; most are not.
  7. The common view is that we are short of time. My application of the 80/20 Principle suggests the reverse: that we are actually awash with time and profligate in its abuse.
  8. Conventional wisdom is not to put all your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.
  9. A new and complementary way to use the 80/20 Principle is what I call 80/20 Thinking. This requires deep thought about any issue that is important to you and asks you to make a judgment on whether the 80/20 Principle is working in that area.
  10. Application of the 80/20 Principle implies that we should do the following:
    1. Celebrate exceptional productivity, rather than raise average efforts
    2. Look for the short cut, rather than run the full course
    3. Exercise control over our lives with the least possible effort
    4. Be selective, not exhaustive
    5. Strive for excellence in few things, rather than good performance in many
    6. Delegate or outsource as much as possible in our daily lives and be encouraged rather than penalized by tax systems to do this (use gardeners, car mechanics, decorators, and other specialists to the maximum, instead of doing the work ourselves)
    7. Choose our careers and employers with extraordinary care, and if possible employ others rather than being employed ourselves
    8. Only do the thing we are best at doing and enjoy most
    9. Look beneath the normal texture of life to uncover ironies and oddities
    10. In every important sphere, work out where 20 percent of effort can lead to 80 percent of returns
    11. Calm down, work less and target a limited number of very valuable goals where the 80/20 Principle will work for us, rather than pursuing every available opportunity.
    12. Make the most of those few “lucky streaks” in our life where we are at our creative peak and the stars line up to guarantee success.
  11. Consider the Interface Corporation of Georgia, now an $800 million carpet supplier. It used to sell carpets; now it leases them, installing carpet tiles rather than whole carpets. Interface realized that 20 percent of any carpet receives 80 percent of the wear. Normally a carpet is replaced when most of it is still perfectly good. Under Interface’s leasing scheme, carpets are regularly inspected and any worn or damaged carpet tile is replaced. This lowers costs for both Interface and the customer. A trivial 80/20 observation has transformed one company and could lead to widespread future changes in the industry.
  12. Understanding the cost of complexity allows us to take a major leap forward in the debate about corporate size. It is not that small is beautiful. All other things being equal, big is beautiful. But all other things are not equal. Big is only ugly and expensive because it is complex. Big can be beautiful. But it is simple that is always beautiful.
  13. All effective techniques to reduce costs use three 80/20 insights: simplification, through elimination of unprofitable activity; focus, on a few key drivers of improvements; and comparison of performance.
  14. Because business is wasteful, and because complexity and waste feed on each other, a simple business will always be better than a complex business. Because scale is normally valuable, for any given level of complexity, it is better to have a larger business. The large and simple business is the best. The way to create something great is to create something simple. Anyone who is serious about delivering better value to customers can easily do so, by reducing complexity. Any large business is stuffed full of passengers—unprofitable products, processes, suppliers, customers, and, heaviest of all, managers. The passengers obstruct the evolution of commerce. Progress requires simplicity, and simplicity requires ruthlessness. This helps to explain why simple is as rare as it is beautiful.
  15. But profitability is only a scorecard providing an after-the-fact measure of a business’s health. The real measure of a healthy business lies in the strength, depth, and length of its relationship with its core customers. Customer loyalty is the basic fact that drives profitability in any case.
  16. When something is working well, double and redouble your bets.
  17. Impose an impossible time scale This will ensure that the project team does only the really high-value tasks:
  18. When I was a partner at management consultants Bain & Company, we proved conclusively that the best-managed projects we undertook—those that had the highest client and consultant satisfaction, the least wasted time, and the highest margins—were those where there was the greatest ratio of planning time to execution time.
  19. Build up a long list of spurious concerns and requirements early in a negotiation, making them seem as important to you as possible. These points must, however, be inherently unreasonable, or at least incapable of concession by the other party without real hurt (otherwise they will gain credit for being flexible and conceding the points). Then, in the closing stages of the negotiation, you can concede the points that are unimportant to you in exchange for more than a fair share of the really important points.
  20. If your insights are not unconventional, you are not thinking 80/20.
  21. We have been conditioned to think that high ambition must go with thrusting hyperactivity, long hours, ruthlessness, the sacrifice both of self and others to the cause, and extreme busyness. In short, the rat race. We pay dearly for this association of ideas. The combination is neither desirable nor necessary. A much more attractive, and at least equally attainable, combination is that of extreme ambition with confidence, relaxation, and a civilized manner. This is the 80/20 ideal, but it rests on solid empirical foundations. Most great achievements are made through a combination of steady application and sudden insight. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve.
  22. The Top 10 highest-value uses of time
    1. Things that advance your overall purpose in life
    2. Things you have always wanted to do
    3. Things already in the 20/80 relationship of time to results
    4. Innovative ways of doing things that promise to slash the time required and/or multiply the quality of results
    5. Things other people tell you can’t be done
    6. Things other people have done successfully in a different arena
    7. Things that use your own creativity
    8. Things that you can get other people to do for you with relatively little effort on your part
    9. Anything with high-quality collaborators who have already transcended the 80/20 rule of time, who use time eccentrically and effectively
    10. Things for which it is now or never
    11. When thinking about any potential use of time, ask two questions: • Is it unconventional? • Does it promise to multiply effectiveness? It is unlikely to be a good use of time unless the answer to both questions is yes.
  23. It is important to focus on what you find easy. This is where most motivational writers go wrong. They assume you should try things that are difficult for you;
  24. The 80/20 Principle is clear. Pursue those few things where you are amazingly better than others and that you enjoy most.
  25. 10 golden rules for career success
    1. Specialize in a very small niche; develop a core skill
    2. Choose a niche that you enjoy, where you can excel and stand a chance of becoming an acknowledged leader
    3. Realize that knowledge is power
    4. Identify your market and your core customers and serve them best
    5. Identify where 20 percent of effort gives 80 percent of returns
    6. Learn from the best
    7. Become self-employed early in your career
    8. Employ as many net value creators as possible
    9. Use outside contractors for everything but your core skill
    10. Exploit capital leverage
  26. Obtain the four forms of labor leverage. First, leverage your own time. Second, capture 100 percent of its value by becoming self-employed. Third, employ as many net value creators as possible. Fourth, contract out everything that you and your colleagues are not several times better at doing.
  27. Koch’s 10 commandments of investment
    1. Make your investment philosophy reflect your personality
    2. Be proactive and unbalanced
    3. Invest mainly in the stock market
    4. Invest for the long term
    5. Invest most when the market is low
    6. If you can’t beat the market, track it
    7. Build your investments on your expertise
    8. Consider the merits of emerging markets
    9. Cull your loss makers
    10. Run your gains
  28. No doubt you have your own pressure points. Write them down: now! Consciously engineer your life to avoid them; write down how: now! Check each month how far you are succeeding. Congratulate yourself on each small avoidance victory.
  29. I think I know the explanation, and it also explains why 80/20 is becoming even more prevalent, affecting our lives in mysterious and perplexing ways. The answer is in the burgeoning power of networks. The number and influence of networks has been growing for a long time, at first a slow increase over the past few centuries, but since about 1970 the increase has become faster and more dramatic. Networks also behave in an 80/20 way—in the way characteristic of 80/20 distributions. And often in an extremely lopsided way. So the principle is becoming more pervasive because the same is true of networks. More networks, more 80/20 phenomena.
  30. In keeping with the selective nature of the principle, this short chapter gives you the five most potent hints that I have discovered in four decades of searching.
    1. Only work in networks
    2. Small size, very high growth
    3. ONly work for an 80/20 boss – someone who consciously or unconsciously follows the principle
    4. Find your 80/20 idea
    5. Become joyfully, usefully unique
  31. Those who have embraced the principle find that the line between work and non-work becomes increasingly blurred. In this sense, the yin and yang of life are re-established. Although there are two apparently opposite dimensions to the 80/20 Principle—efficiency and life enhancement—the dimensions are entirely complementary and interwoven. The efficiency dimension allows us room for the life-enhancing dimension. The common thread is knowing what gives us the results we want, and knowing what matters.

What I got out of it

  1. Nothing “new”, but incredible reminders and thoughtful ways to implement 80/20 thinking into your life. Be ruthless about finding what these things are and double down on them

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

Summary

  1. Diving into the rise of the epic tech companies of the 21st century – Uber and AirBnb

Key Takeaways

  1. Travis’ Law – politicians who are accountable to their people can be influenced if the product or service being delivered is markedly better than the status quo
  2. The best but hardest solution is to meet the people who hate you – Brian Chesky
  3. Amazing how often a company has to recreate itself as it scales. The right approach, leadership, philosophy, strategy, mindset that gets you from 0 to 1, often isn’t the mindset that lets you create a large and enduring company

What I got out of it

  1. An inspiring overview of the founding and growth of two epic companies. Makes you want to go out and build something world changing. Didn’t take a lot of notes, but the stories behind these two companies is so amazing to learn about

When More is Not Better: Overcoming America’s Obsession with Economic Efficiency by Roger L. Martin

Summary

  1. The economy is currently seen as a machine we can optimize, but is more accurately seen as a complex adaptive system. In this view, it changes how we should approach, understanding any action will have an impact and will require constant adjustment. It also forces optimization of a second feature beyond efficiency, resiliency. If the machine metaphor is kept in place it will simply allow those who are in control to profit for longer then if we treated the economy as a complex adaptive system

Key Takeaways

  1. In a CAS, there is no perfection or end in sight. The players adapt reflexively and this must always be taken into account. Relentless tweaking is the best route to steer towards a perfection that will never be achieved
  2. Metaphors are so powerful, which is why changing the “economy is a machine” to the economy is a complex adaptive system is so important
  3. Surrogation – when you surrogate the terrain for the map, when proxies become goals. The followers of great thinkers often take their ideas too far, mistaking more for better. More trade agreements, more efficiency, more division of labor is not always better
  4. Economic effects are not independent. One action could cause more of that action as scale and efficiencies increase. Interdependence moves us from a Gaussian to a Pareto distribution
  5. Pressure can help drive efficiencies and progress but it can also be taken too far if the incentives are not aligned. You just also introduce some limits and fridtion in order to ensure resiliency. These can be thought of as productive frictions in the long term. For example, pitchers are more likely to blow out their arms in the end of a game than the beginning. Pitch count restrictions help limit how much a pitcher can do and therefore prolongs the pitchers life in the long term
  6. Must balance connectedness with separation, efficiency and resilience, pressure and friction, perfection and improvement
  7. Anomalies are a treasure trove. Answers to really difficult problems tend to be found in Data points that don’t fit the current framework. Don’t ignore them, dive into them
  8. Joe’s Stone Crab is the most profitable standalone restaurant in the US. It has been around for over 100 years (resiliency) and is profitable (efficiency). They treat their company like a CAS and don’t fall prey to linear and reductionist thinking. They understand how some frictions actually make the overall system healthier. Similarly, The Four Seasons takes a win/win mentality with every stakeholder and enjoys the longest employee tenure in the industry and massive profits. They take a holistic view and don’t have a “head of guest experiences” because they feel that is every employees’ responsibility. Slack is not the enemy – seek optimal slack rather than zero slack
  9. To avoid proxies becoming a goal, use multiple internal proxies that tend to be contradictory to measure progress of the model against the goal. This forces a systems thinking rather than a reductionist one. Southwest Airlines uses 4 proxies – cost, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and profitability
  10. Argues against monopolies as it leads to complacency, bloat and fragility. Great companies need great competitors to keep them great

What I got out of it

  1. Fascinating deep dive into complex adaptive systems and how organizations can learn from complexity science how to build a robust firm that is also efficient. Efficiency is not the be all end all, some slack is necessary. Infinite tweaking and adjusting is necessary in an interconnected and dynamic world

Ask Your Developer by Jeff Lawson

Summary

  1. Jeff Lawson – co-founder and CEO of Twilio – discusses why developers are more important than ever and any successful tech company will need to understand their developers, what matters to them, how to motivate them, and invest in their success

Key Takeaways

  1. Build Vs. Buy has become build vs. die. The great companies will need to be world class builders
    1. If something is core to your business , something hour customers deeply care about, you should build. Otherwise, buy.  The way you integrate micro services and build the customer facing solutions is what will differentiate you
    2. Don’t neglect to ask your developers what you should build vs buy
  2. Leverage and lean on software over hardware as much as possible. Software can iterate and be updated daily. It can plug into other tools and always become more useful. Hardware, by contrast, is quite static and slow
  3. If you’re an incumbent, it isn’t enough to simply hire developers, you have to change your entire culture and mindset. Own the code and be agile, move quickly and iterate. You should think of yourself as a software company that happens to do X, rather than simply doing X
  4. We are in the third great era of software, one of building blocks rather than solutions. These building blocks are APIs and today’s leading companies stitch together APIs into unique value propositions. They are chunks of code that can be combined in an infinite way. These now comprise your digital supply chain and it is important to understand how they work and what to look out for. AWS changed the game by creating the foundation for these building blocks. This created a new species of startup that was much faster and leaner than their predecessors. It also allowed for small teams and individuals to buy software rather than only the C-Suite at large enterprises
  5. Business people and developers tend not to naturally work. However, things get easier when business people start sharing problems rather than solutions and let the creative developers figure it out. Code is creative
  6. Experimenting is key but you have to have a hypothesis. What are you measuring? What does success and failure look like? Will the opportunity be big enough? These things must be written down before you start and will help guide your progress
  7. Think of each small team as an independent startup where the product or service is clear, pricing is transparent and there is a contract. This makes collaboration easy as it is mostly automated through documentation and APIs. Think of your output as a product that is serving a customer, even if that customer is internal.
  8. Small teams are easier to coordinate and they need a vision and a customer they care about. Small, multidisciplinary teams with single threaded leaders keeps the teams agile, accountable, close to the customers, and knowing that their work matters
  9. Agile – plan, develop, test, deliver, assess
    1. Expect changes (limit WIP, push decisions out as much as possible), close collaboration between business development and devs
  10. Rather than adding bodies, look to see if you can invest in improving your infrastructure

What I got out of it

  1. Sharing problems rather than solutions, understanding how to structure effective developer teams (small, customer they care about, transparent pricing, agile, single threaded leaders, accountable, close to the customer) will stay with me

Hacking the Unconscious by Rory Sutherland

Summary

  1. The author discusses some legendary marketing events and how to think about why they were successful

Key Takeaways

  1. What are the product’s higher order benefits? tap into that in an aspirational way. Coke is just a drink but it can help build bonds and strong bonds can prevent war. This might only be available to the global leader. Coke can do this, RC Cola, maybe not
  2. The allure of altruism – those who do public demonstrations of helping others actually end up donating less or doing less than those who help quietly
  3. Campaigning for real women – the first rule of advertising is to get the audience’s attention and generally nothing does that better than sex. Dove overturned this with their real beauty campaign. They were real and vulnerable and it worked. Give people permission to be themselves
  4. Diamonds and the peacocks tail – signaling theory is everywhere and it is a supremely useful lens to view the world. Organisms are a marketing machine for their genes. When you see life as a series of signals, a whole bunch of things that didn’t make sense of a sudden do. Who is advertising what to whom?
  5. From ads to art – breaking the rules creates the best art and the best ads (Guinness the best things come to those who wait)
  6. Selling a philosophy – Nike’s now famous slogan – just do it – helped them move from an aspirational company to an inspirational company. The words were never spoken so it is up to the watcher to interpret it as a command a statement or whatever else speaks to them. Nike is selling their philosophy that they can do anything
  7. Designated driver – giving something a name, makes it feel more legitimate and real. Those who didn’t drink were party poopers before, but now they’re designated drivers which is a perfectly acceptable reason to not drink
  8. Marketing is so love / hate because it holds up a mirror to who we truly are. It works because it taps into things deep in our nature, whether we like it or not
  9. People are incredible at self deception. Don’t underestimate this ability
  10. If you’re given a budget for one car you’re choose a very boring and conventional car that isn’t too fast or too big or too small. However if you’re given a budget for two cars your criteria totally changed. You may choose one big SUV and one more fun car or a normal car and a moped. The same could be happening with diversity efforts where the safe and boring candidate is most often chosen
  11. Market research get people to say what they think they want you to say and this leads us astray. The logical and rational will not help us innovate. We need the absurd sounding and crazy people to take risks
  12. Showing investment in effort is as important as the product or service itself. Think of the knowledge test London cabbies have to take or the whole engagement and marriage process. Value derived from commitment. However, commitment signaling must be swept under the rug or all else goes haywire. Be aware of then, but don’t verbalize or expose them 

What I got out of it

  1. So fascinating to hear Sutherland talk about some of the all-time great ads and some of the psychology behind what made them successful. Selling a philosophy, understanding signaling and self-deception, investment in effort will stand out to me

The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Summary

  1. Many CEOs put the success of their organization in jeopardy as they’re unwilling to face themselves and the 5 temptations of a CEO

Key Takeaways

  1. Temptation 1 – placing ego over achievement.
    1. Running a company is simple, but people make it complicated as they’re not willing to face their own issues, revealing their temptations for others to see and help with. Don’t trade the lack of short term pain for long term success
  2. Temptation 2 – popularity over accountability
    1. Have to hold people accountable or they won’t know how seriously to take you and you won’t be consistent
  3. Temptation 3 – certainty over clarity
    1. Have to set vision and expectations for yourself and entire team. Can’t hold people accountable if they don’t have clarity on their expectations
    2. Clear and timely decisions are so important. Nearly any decision is better than no decision
  4. Temptation 4 – harmony over conflict
    1. Healthy dialogue and conflict is necessary to grow
    2. Must benefit from all the ideas and feedback from your team
  5. Temptation 5 – invulnerability over trust 

What I got out of it

  1. A fun, short read that highlights the importance of an achievement oriented mentality, accountability, clarity, healthy conflict, and trust