BR 206: Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)
*A category 1 – Read ASAP book if you ever attempt to design a website. I still put it in category 2 because we’re all web design consumers (and, hopefully, creators?) now. 🙂

Comments: Awesome design book.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. Where possible, stick to design conventions. We are creatures of habit and design conventions go a long way in helping us understand what we should do next.

2. Always prioritize user testing. Simple, continuous, lightweight user testing beats heavy research done every once a while.

3. The question to ask isn’t – what does the average user like? There isn’t an average user.
The question to ask is – Does this feature with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?

Book notes here.

BR 205: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

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

Comments: Solid book. Lots of great stories and a compilation of powerful principles.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. A combination of many interesting studies and a long research project at Google determined that there is one attribute that all high performing teams share – they all enable psychological safety.

2. In all, it remains an intriguing thought: if you want to build a successful company, you should not seek to attract the biggest rock stars. Instead, a loyal orchestra of employees will perform better – provided there is a dissenting tone every once in a while, to keep everyone focused.

3. I found this story incredibly inspiring

Tetsuro Toyoda was visiting NUMMI (a plant in Fremont California that is a joint collaboration between Toyota and GM). He saw Joe, an assembly line worker, struggling to install a taillight. He kept imploring him to pull the Andon cord and stop the assembly line. After many attempts – “Joe, please,” Toyoda said. Then he stepped over, took Joe’s hand in his own and guided it to the andon cord, and together they pulled. A flashing light began spinning.

When the chassis reached the end of Joe’s station without the taillight correctly in place, the line stopped moving. Joe was shaking so much, he had to hold his crowbar with both hands. He finally got the taillight positioned and, with a terrified glance at his bosses, reached up and pulled the andon cord, restarting the line.

Toyoda faced Joe and bowed. He began speaking in Japanese.
“Joe, please forgive me,” a lieutenant translated. “I have done a poor job of instructing your managers of the importance of helping you pull the cord when there is a problem. You are the most important part of this plant. Only you can make every car great. I promise I will do everything in  my power to never fail you again.”

Next day, a dozen pulls happened. And in a week, a hundred. It still cost a lot but given the responsibility, employee motivation increased. Most productive GM plan. Absenteeism decreased from 45% to 3% and productivity soared. NUUMI was legendary.

Book notes here.

BR 203: Payoff by Dan Ariely

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

Comments: Payoff is a short book that is both simple and powerful. If you love Dan Ariely’s work and/or behavioral economics, you will enjoy this book.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. We tend to underestimate the power of goodwill in building motivated teams and work environments. If there’s one thing you take away from this book, it is that appreciation and goodwill are more powerful incentives than any financial incentives (assuming people’s pay covers basic needs).

2. Purpose matters over pleasure. Understanding why we do things goes a long way in helping us stay motivated.

3. As humans, we care a great deal about legacy. We’ve had a big fascination for life after death since the time of the pharaohs and that fascination continues today.

Book notes here.

BR 197: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

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

Comments: This is an important book. If you are interested in understanding topics like shame, vulnerability and insecurity, Brene Brown does a fantastic job putting her research and thinking together.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Perfection doesn’t exist with parenting. Labeling good or bad parenting isn’t helpful. Are you engaged? Then make mistakes and have fun!

2. Women and men. Women feel shame due to a plethora of reasons – most dominant of those is their appearance and their ability to be mothers while being capable. Hence the whole pressure to have it all.

3. Men, on the other hand, are shamed by the idea of being a “pussy”. Being weak is seen as shameful. (So true) this is especially the case with the women in their lives who want them to man up more than they want them to be vulnerable. So, men keep silent. And when they are provoked, they either get pissed off or shut down.

Book notes here.

BR 196: The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

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

Comments: I think I might have called this a “Priority 1” book if it wasn’t for business school. This was a very good refresher on how to think about predictions and data. As the ultimate data geek, Nate Silver does a very good job introducing us to the world of prediction and statistics.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Sometimes, predictions change the nature of the thing. If everyone is using an app that predicts highway x will have lesser traffic, everyone could end up on highway x.

2. Bayesian approach was to make a small prediction and keep improving on it. Probability was seen by Laplace and Bayes  as a step toward progress. Bayes theorem is concerned with conditional probability. Think probabilistically. Require you to accept that your subjective representations of the world are not truth.

3. Terrorist attacks are similar to earthquakes – high uncertainty. However, when you plot frequency and destruction wrought by terrorist attacks on a double logarithmic scale, it is a straight line!

The broken windows theory was embraced in the US despite limited scientific evidence perhaps because it is easier for police to imprison a 16 year old with drugs than solve a difficult crime.

Israel has taken the opposite approach – it treats small acts of terror as normal but has worked hard to eliminate large threats. Israel’s power law distribution curve looks different from what you might expect – due to their strategic choices.

Book notes here.

BR 194: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

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

Comments: The Happiest Baby on the Block is an all star parenting book/video. The list of parents who recommend this is very long. And, we were very thankful for Dr Harvey Karp. We just bought the 45 minute video and that worked great. I would posit that the video is probably better than the book as it is better to see what he says in action.

It had a transformational effect on me. I had never held babies before ours was born and was generally a bit nervous around them. But, his framework gave me so much confidence and served us extremely well in the first week as we were getting a hang of handling a baby.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Human babies come out less developed than animal babies due to the relative large size of our head. So, the first 2-3 months is, effectively, a fourth trimester. We must learn to view and treat our baby as a foetus.

2. A natural next step is to understand what calms a foetus. Dr Karp suggests that all babies have a “calming” reflex. And, this reflex is triggered when it feels it is still in mom’s stomach.

3. Hence, the 5 S’ – swaddle, shush, swing, side, and suck. Together and in combination, these work to help calm babies.

(Note: You can’t replace the 5S’ for a feed, of course. But, you can help calm your baby. And, that makes a huge difference in the first week.)

Book notes here.

PS: Parenting 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 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.