BR 193: The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zheihan

The accidental superpower, peter zheihan

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

Comments: This is a very powerful book. It is the sort of book that completely changes how you see the world. For example, I doubt I’ll ever look at a map of the world the same way again. It is also unlikely I’ll easily buy a story about how a country became a superpower. In this book, Peter Zheihan does a terrific job explaining why the world is the way it is from a geopolitics perspective. He, then, attempts to predict the future. You may not agree with his predictions. But, they are still worth listening to as they will likely help shape yours. In my case, I thought a lot of it was very prescient. I wish he’d been a bit more forthcoming about how we expected technology to change his assumptions though.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Geography is the primary reason superpowers become superpowers. Typically, it is some combination of access to arable land, presence of internal waterways, and a location that isn’t easy to access that makes places superpowers.

2. Demographics are an important driver of economic growth. Kids and retirees drain economic resources. On the other hand, young adults make it consumption driven. And, older adults infuse a lot of capital. Thus, the majority group in the population drives the sort of activity in the economy.

3. The last few decades have witnessed unprecedented peace. That’s a result of an unusual move by “the accidental superpower” – the United States – to govern the world via free trade. However, this period is ending since the biggest reason for that pact was to keep Russia at bay. Now, with the absence of a cold war and the sheer expense to maintain this pact, it is perhaps only a matter of time before we see this pact (from the meeting at Bretton Woods in 1945) called off.

Book notes here.

BR 192: The Seventh Sense by Joshua Cooper Ramo

the seventh sense, joshua cooper ramo

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

Comments: This is an interesting book. On paper, it is one that should have many fascinating takeaways. But, somehow, it fell short of the mark. I didn’t really have all that many interesting takeaways. And, I really expected to. Maybe it was a case of expectations versus reality.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A series of nodes connected to each other is a network. And, a connection of objects can change the nature of the object itself.

2. Power was asymmetric in the age of aristocrats. Since then, power has been going through a gradual decentralization. However, networks have been making power asymmetric via power law distributions.

3. Gate keeping is very valuable in the age of networks. Threatening to leave countries out of networks like the internet could be an effective way to enforce nuclear pacts.

(The author believes that we are in great danger of being wiped out by artificial intelligence.)

Book notes here.

BR 191: Be Prepared by Gary Greenberg, Jeannie Hayden

be prepared

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

Comments: A really fun book that I’d recommend for all prospective Dads.

Top 3 Learnings:

I’m going to aim to come back to this after I put it in action. 🙂

BR 190: The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

the inevitable, kevin kelly

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

Comments: The Inevitable is a fascinating book. It is one I’d recommend to anyone – regardless of their interest in technology. And, it is a must read if you are interested in technology. I think Kevin Kelly has structured the book very well. The book focuses on verbs instead of trends. Kevin Kelly takes a collection of 12 verbs that technology has enabled (e.g. sharing, tracking) and imagines what the world would look like if we took the verbs to their natural end.

Top 3 learnings:

1. The biggest challenge with developing artificial intelligence is that we have to redefine how we think about intelligence. Driving a car requires an intelligence that is very different from the playing chess. Over time, as we break up these tasks, we’ll find that AI can solve problems in ways that are very different from how we’d solve them. Most of our jobs will go away. Our main role will be figuring out what the machines will do for us.

2. Expect screens and augmented reality to be everywhere. So, we will expect to interact with anything and everything as we’ll expect anything and everything to have a screen. AR glasses are likely going to be something that everyone wears.

3. The singularity might be a reality. Because, as machines consume more data, they will inevitably be able to do things that the human mind can’t. While the optimists focus on a future where machines and humans co-exist, who is to say that needs to be true? In many ways, we’re only at the beginning. Thus, the future may unfold very differently from what we expect.

Book notes here.

BR 189: Conscious Business by Fred Kofman

conscious business, fred kofman

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

Comments: Conscious Business is an all star business book and deservedly so. It is one of those books that can fundamentally change your perspective. I didn’t find the principles necessarily new (lots of overlap with the 7 Habits way of life)- but I thought Fred Kofman’s spin on it was great. The only reason it wasn’t Priority 1 for me is because it goes into “How to” territory a fair bit. While it definitely helped illustrate points he was making, I think it works better for readers who are new to this sort of book.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Consciousness is our ability to be aware and to choose. I found this definition very powerful.

2. Kofman shared the steps to drive people crazy. I found this similar to the steps to creating a cult in Robert Greene’s book on Power. Essentially, it involves being very inconsistent and pretending to be open while not being so. The inconsistency drives people nuts. Sadly, such behavior is a common cause for schizophrenia.

3. Don’t question the emotion. Instead, question the underlying beliefs that lead to the emotion. For example, if Fred’s son believes that there are monsters in the basement, there is no point expecting him not to be scared. After all, we would be scared if we thought so too.

Book notes here.

BR 188: The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias

only investment guide, andrew tobias

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

Comments: The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need was a recommendation on Seth’s blog. I picked it up at a time when I needed a bit of a refresh on all things investments since I’d taken all money off indexes to pay for graduate school. It was nice to “get back” with this book and, as with all Seth recommendations, this didn’t disappoint. It definitely lives up to its name as the “only” investment guide you’ll ever need. It is witty, smart and worth following.

If this topic interests you, do check out a learnographic I co-created here.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A penny saved is a lot more valuable than a penny earned. The quote from Benjamin Franklin was from a time when there were no taxes. Now that we live with taxes, it actually takes a lot more than a penny earned to save a penny. So, spend less than you earn, save and watch it grow. This is a lesson that has stuck with me since the book.

2. When there are too many borrowers, governments raise interest rates. This means bond prices fall. When there are less borrowers, bond prices go up. High interest rates tend to affect stocks since they discourage people from investing in risky stocks. They also affect business’ cost of borrowing.

3. Keep short term money somewhere safe and convenient. Then, invest long term money in stock indexes where you must buy low, buy low, buy low. This is opposite what everyone else does. A simple vanguard index will outperform everything else in the long run.

I would still recommend reading 2-3 investment guides before you zero in on your investing strategy. That is not because the advice in the only investment guide is any different. However, if you haven’t been exposed to this world before, it is reassuring to see the same principles at work everywhere.

Book notes here.

BR 187: The Expectant Father by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash

expectant father, armin brott, jennifer ash

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

Comments: If you are enroute to becoming a dad, I would highly recommend this book. It strikes the balance between man-language and science very nicely and strikes a really good tone. The first parts are all about understanding what your partner is going through during pregnancy. The second half brings a lot of checklists – while I haven’t tested them out yet, I found them useful. I also think the understanding of all the medical procedures involved puts you more at ease when you visit the doctor as an expectant father.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The expectant father’s most important role is being of help to the expectant mother. As the month’s progress, your partner’s discomfort will increase with time. Do your best to make sure she eats healthy, exercises and feels supported.

2. Understand all the procedures and tests so you can help her make decisions. At the end of the day, the decisions will be led by your partner until delivery. Know what they all entail, provide good counsel and be supportive.

3. Plan for the birth and time after birth. You will need to plan financially (leave some extra buffer) and also have a home, furniture, etc., that will be ready for the baby. Refer the book’s checklists when that happens.

Book notes here.

BR 186: The Third Wave by Steve Case

the third wave, steve case

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

Comments: This book read as part autobiography, part technology book, part political change manifesto. It was an interesting read until a point after which I felt it got a bit repetitive. I definitely agreed with his thesis that working with the government will become critical for the next generation/”third wave” of entrepreneurs. I also enjoyed Steve Case talking about his time at AOL as this was a part of internet history I didn’t experience.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. The first wave was the start of the internet. The second was the social wave and was about communication and social media. The third wave will be the internet of everything.

2. As entrepreneurs attempt to disrupt large industries, they will need to partner more with incumbents and the governments. It will not be possible to disrupt industries like infrastructure and energy from the outside like in the second wave. Regulatory nous will be key as there will be plenty of government interaction in the third wave.

3. Entrepreneurs often slam the government as holding them back. However, the internet wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for government programs. Build bridges instead of burning them.

BR 185: The Jobs To Be Done Handbook by Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek

Jobs to be done, handbook, bob moesta, jtbd

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

Comments: Practical how-to guide on conducting “jobs to be done” interviews. I had attended a Bob Moesta presentation in person once and this book just felt like the extended version of that. Lots of tips and tricks.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. With jobs to be done, it is all about finding the “why” behind customer decisions and then figuring out ways to meet the unmet need

2. To hire a product, you must fire another product. Every customer has only so much space in their lives to use products. So, if you are trying to get them to change behavior, they will need to let go of a product that isn’t doing the job so well.

3. Good jobs to be done interviewing does not connect the dots for the interviewee. Be ignorant, make no assumptions and keep asking them questions. Again, in the live presentation, Bob Moesta conducted a demo interviewed and showcased this beautifully – that will stay with me. 🙂

Book notes here.

BR 184: Persuadable by Al Pitampalli

persuadable, al pitampalli

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

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

Top 3 Learnings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book notes here