BR 199: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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

Comments: I rarely re-read books but decided to re-read this during my end-of-year break as I’ve come to appreciate how wise this book is. It delivered, again. I’d spent most of my first reading in the first half/personal victories portion of the book. This time, I spent more time in the public victories. So much to learn, do and build.

Top 3 Learnings:
1. To know and not to do is not to learn. Beautifully drove home the point that I haven’t “learned” nearly as much I say I have.

2. Seek to understand and then to be understood. In the spirit of knowing and not doing, this has become an important part of “engagement” theme this year. I am still too impatient too often.

3. Seeking win-win requires a combination of courage and consideration.

Stephen Covey’s masterpiece is so good that it makes the “Read ASAP” list twice. 🙂

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 142: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

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

Comments: If you love technology, you will find this book very interesting. It felt a bit gossip-y in that it focused a lot more on the dynamics of a handful of people who were responsible in building Twitter. You come to learn how Twitter nearly imploded multiple times but, against the odds, survived to change the world.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A strong board of directors is a key in every company as in life. It is very important to have people who have a long term interest in you who are then willing to call bullshit on your decisions and occasionally, guide you to move to a better place.

2. Complexity, conflict, clash of egos, etc., are not the words that come to mind when you think of the glory of a start-up’s journey to success. They’re part and parcel of the journey, however. And, it is worth remembering that no good comes without significant pain and learning. The book explores the path of these multi millionaires who all learnt some very tough life lessons in the process.

3. Twitter was founded by a bunch of geeks who saw it as a way of connecting with people. These weren’t people with strong social bonds or relationships. They understood the power of technology in helping people like themselves find connection. I thought it interesting that Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in the process of getting back at the girlfriend who dumped him. Scratching your own itch is a very powerful reason to build a company that changes the world.

BR 141: Give and Take by Adam Grant

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

Comments: A very good book. It does really make you think about how you lead your life and establishes giving to be the best long term strategy.

Top 3 Learnings
1. There are 3 kinds of people – givers, takers and matchers. Takers never do well in the short term, matchers do consistently well whereever they go and the givers are either at the top or the very bottom of their fields. The givers at the top of their fields are what Grant calls “Other”-ish givers. They have a self interest in giving but don’t give at the expense of their performance. The givers at the bottom are those who give even if it is not in their long term interest to do so. Give a lot.. but be a bit selfish (not self centered) about it.

2. It is best to “chunk” your giving rather than do little bits every day. People who volunteer 3 hours on a  weekend are happier than those who do 30 mins every day. 100 hours was found to be the golden number for volunteering that gave maximum happiness returns.

3. It is in our interest to give a lot more than we get. In the old economy, takers weren’t as easily found out as today. Our track record follows us everywhere and being short term focused isn’t a good strategy.. and definitely isn’t a path to happiness.

Book notes here

BR 140: Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

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

Comments: This is a really fast paced, fun book with many simple but actionable insights on how to live a happier life. Improv acting sounds very fun and Patricia Ryan Madson distils 12 principles for us to follow and incorporate into our lives.

I enjoyed the book and interviewed Patricia too – she was everything I’d imagined her to be after reading her book.

Top 3 Learnings

1. Life is no different from an improv act. You can make all the plans you want.. but you just have to learn to improvise to be happy.

2. Patricia cautions us against over preparation. Often, we overdo the amount of preparation and forget to be human and fallible.

3. Notice your gifts. Every day, we use and consume things that have been made with a lot of effort by others. It is only when we learn to notice these gifts and become more aware of our blessings do we get better at improv and thus, life.

Book notes here

BR 138: His Needs Her Needs by William F Harley Jr

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

Comments: The only reason this book is not on the “Read ASAP” list is because it isn’t applicable to everyone. If you are married or due to get married soon, I’d suggest reading it. For best results, I’d suggest reading it with your partner.

My wife and I read this on our honeymoon and it’s served as a great way to start our journey as husband and wife. William F Harley completely “gets” marriages having been a successful counsellor for many decades. He does what great authors do – puts together a framework to help you think about what makes great marriages truly great. Fantastic book.

Top 3 Learnings

1. We all require our relationships to meet a collection of emotional needs. Some are much more important than others and men and women typically give importance to diametrically opposite needs. For example, top needs for women are affection, honesty and openness, intimate conversation, and financial support while top needs for men are sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, physical attractiveness, etc.

2. Great marriages thrive when the needs of the spouse are consciously or unconsciously identified and met. When not met, the disgruntled spouse typically resorts to an affair which meets the need.

3. It’s okay to be “obvious” in trying to meet your partner’s needs. In fact, the obviousness works very well. For example, in the chapter on affection, we saw an example of “affection habits” that a wife wanted in her husband. So, the husband literally put together a list and began working on it every day till it became sub conscious. We are testing it out too and it seems to work really well.

Overall, superb book. We’re very glad we read it and we’re looking forward to “living” it.

Add on Mar 16, 2016: We did live the book. And, it has worked great for us. We still joke about some of the anecdotes from the book and talk about our needs (from the exercise in the book).

BR 137: Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage by Mark Gungor

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

Comments: I read this book for 2 reasons – because I’m getting married and because I loved Gungor’s famous YouTube video on men’s and women’s brains. The book was okay – very good in parts and pretty okay for the most part.

Gungor is occasionally scientific and structured but for the most part it centers around his observations as a pastor. I also think it didn’t help that he wrote this for Christians. There were way too many bible, Jesus references for a non Christian.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Boxed in (watch Mark Gungor’s famous nothing box video on YouTube for this section). Men’s brains are like boxes – they are dealt with one at a time and DO NOT TOUCH. And a man’s favorite box is the nothing box… Given a choice, we love the nothing box and hence, love staring into the ceiling.

This is contrast to a woman’s brain which is like a bunch of wires and is typically thinking of many things at once.

2. Communication. When men communicate, they say what they mean and mean what they say. Women, on the other hand, are masters of nuance. Words are just one part of communication. So, in a women case, what is said matters less than how it is said.
The way to get past this is to implement the Covey principle of understanding – seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

3. What men want: Respect – unconditional respect. Men don’t want to earn respect on performance. They want it because of who they are. They don’t want criticism or women to change them – they want to be loved as they are. But just because men aren’t resistant to improvement doesn’t mean they can’t be improved, a women’s effect on a man’s maturity, cleanliness, etc is always massive. Strong women make a huge difference to a man’s life. A touch of fear of the wife has also found to be good in strong marriages. 🙂

What women want – women want to be picked. They want to know that you would choose them above all else – your tv show, your outing with the lads, etc. the more you

Book notes

BR 42: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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

Comments: I can hear all the anti-self help/self improvement activists scream right now. And before I give my comments, let me give you a warning – this book is very preachy. It is also true that this book doesn’t delve into the human psyche like the ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’, for example, among other books. This book is purely focused on the personality side of things and yes, you can ‘fake’ all those ideas in the book and yet, they might just work.

Having said that, this book offers a starting point for those who have difficulty connecting with people. And if that is not enough, the book makes it easier for us (thanks to many many stories) to understand why people are the way they are. And as a result, we are then empowered to use all the ideas and traits mentioned in the book in our day-to-day life.

And, while it can be argued that anyone can adopt most of the principles by ‘pretending’ or ‘faking’ it, I doubt anyone can do so without being found out in due time. If you care, it shows.

My view was simple – if we can even fully understand and implement principles that are consistent with our styles, we would likely be more successful socially and professionally than we are now. Principles vary from ‘Never criticize’ to ‘Compliment people’ among many others. Simple in theory, difficult in action.

If you haven’t read it, I’d still recommend buying it and read it. And if you still don’t like it, that’s still fine. I believe you will be richer by this experience. At the very least, just make sure you read the ‘Father Forgets’ letter twice. 🙂

Add on Mar 16, 2016: I think I’ve become less and less a fan of the book over time. However, I still think it is worth reading it to understand what the fuss is about. I definitely learnt a thing or two from the book. And, as a psychology oriented book, it was definitely well ahead of its time.

BR 35: Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

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

Comments: I didn’t find the audio so appealing. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the paperback. It had many stories/experiences of people who learnt the hard way that saying ‘No’ is a must for the sake of their own happiness. Good book in principle as I remember it having the right concepts. But, I didn’t find it very memorable.

BR 34: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

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

Comments: Very very very good book. It clarifies that networking is really caring more than a next person, and that it can go a long way in taking you far in life!

What to expect: The story of a person who made it big thanks (in big part) to fantastic networking ability honed with time. It was an eye opener for me as it clarified what networking really is – making an effort to reach out, connect and care. And most importantly, it made me realize that keeping in touch is, and requires, hard work!!

Do I recommend this book?: Very good book. Almost a great one – not so much on the story line but very high on learnings and impact! 🙂

Add on Mar 16, 2016: This was one of the first business books I read. Definitely impacted me very positively!