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 183: The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck

Scott Peck

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

Comments: This is a legendary psychology book for good reason. Some of the insights are truly profound. However, I found the first half of the book a LOT better than the second half. The second half starts delving into psychotherapy territory with Scott Peck’s thoughts on religion. I found this part less interesting.

All said and done, Scott Peck’s definition of love (below) has changed the way I think about it.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

To love, then, requires us to use our will to extend ourselves to grow and to enable the growth of others. It begins with learning to love ourselves. To love ourselves, we have to sign up for a journey toward continuous growth of the mind and spirit. In doing so, we expand our capacity to love others. But, to truly love others, we must be able to help them on their own journeys.

2. “The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive.”

3. “Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Book notes here (not much more beyond these notes above)

BR 170: How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams,

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

Comments: I debated about whether this should be a priority 1 or priority 2 book. I went with priority 1 because I think this book mixes personal experience with provocative ideas and a solid collection of “good life” principles that I’ve found true. I also love (and try living by) Scott’s experimentation based approach to life.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Goals are for losers. Focus on building systems that will last. E.g. instead of trying to lose 10 pounds in 6 months, focus on building a system of exercising 3 times every week.

2. Collect skills like a crazy person. Every skill you collect doubles your chances of success. Greatness is often a collection of mediocre skills.

3. Experiment away your way to a great life. Failure is an important part of experimentation

Book notes here

BR 166: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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

Comments: Good book overall. Greg’s concepts and thoughts definitely resonated and felt consistent. However, I felt that the book repeatedly prescribed ways to do things and hardly ever spoke about the psychology or the “why” behind things. In that sense, I felt it lacked the depth I’d have liked and often skated over the difficult stuff. And, I felt it was often a collection of lists without structure. (as a good illustration, I had to go back to the book notes to write my 3 top learnings..)

Top 3 Learnings:

1. A lovely story about Stephen Covey prioritizing his daughter above a friend who he ran into. The learning here was that we need to learn to say no to stuff we don’t prioritize so we can say yes to the stuff we do prioritize

2. Mission statements need to be concrete and inspirational (think of them as a 2×2)

3. Less is more. 🙂

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 131: How will you measure your life? by Clayton Christensen

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

Comments: I wish I had gotten to this book sooner. Clayton Christensen has such a thorough and clear thought process that reading this book is like embarking on an interesting intellectual journey with him.

This book is all about “how” to think rather than “what” to do. It has inspired some immediate changes in my life and I’m sure will continue to do so.

I loved it. I’m sure I’ll be sharing stories from the book for a long long time.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Be careful about viewing indiscretions in terms of marginal cost i.e. maybe I’ll do it just this time. You might think you are making allowance for an extenuating circumstance but life is just a series of extenuating circumstances. No athlete starts out with doping in mind.. it happens one bad decision after another. We can’t commit to 99% of an idea. It’s 100% or nothing.

2. Don’t look products as something people buy. Look at them as things people rent to get a job done. Ikea doesn’t win because it has the most amazing furniture. It wins because people hire Ikea for a quick, painless, cost effective way of re-decorating a home.

Similarly, great relationships involve asking yourself – why would my partner hire a husband/wife in this situation? This way, we focus on empathizing with what the other person wants rather than giving them what we think they should want.

3. Be careful about outsourcing your capabilities – Capability = Resources (what) + processes (how) + priorities (why). Dell began outsourcing small parts of manufacturing to Asus.. and 16 years later, Asus was manufacturing the whole computer. Asus soon started it’s own line of computers and Dell could do nothing since it had outsources it’s capabilities.

It’s important to think of this in terms of our kids. If our kids are constantly raised by someone else and learn processes and priorities from someone else, whose kids are they?

Add on Mar 16, 2016: This book changed my life. Up there with Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits.

BR 126: Anything you want by Derek Sivers

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

Comments: Really simple, quick and breezy read. Again, my rating is likely biased by the fact that I am fully aligned with Derek’s way of looking at the world. He’s another one of those who walks his talk and I find him very inspirational.

Top 3 learnings:

1. REALLY understand what you want. It’s very easy to get caught up in a rat race where you end up chasing things you don’t really want. In Derek’s case, he made many decisions – to give up a large portion of what he made to charity, to not own a house or car.. He realized he’s very happy where is and doesn’t “need” too much more. And, he wanted to stay that way..

My sense here is that we often lose touch with our soul as we grow/progress. Keep checking in with very simple questions – is this what I want? Am I really happy?

2. Small can be brilliant. Derek made CDBaby class by attempting to always keep it small, but world class. The funny paradox – the less you need or aim for money, the more of it comes. (true of many things in life)

3. The best way to delegate is to share your thought process with your team. They need to always know the answer to “What will ___ do?” – not by just cataloguing answers to every possible question but by understanding the principles behind a decision.

Derek did this at CDBaby by getting all his employees together every time they had a question and then answering it by describing the principles and thought process to all. He then made sure they documented the answer.. Over time, the number of questions reduced and new employees had a “hand book” to understand the CDBaby.

A note of caution – delegate but do not abdicate/ delegate but keep control. Derek’s abdication resulted in his employees instituting a profit sharing scheme that went against his principles. A chain of events followed leading to Derek selling CDBaby.

BR 120: Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman

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

Comments: Martin E.P. Seligman is the father of positive psychology and his book lived up to expectations. I didn’t find it “ground breaking” and that’s thanks to having read many a happiness book that builds on Seligman’s ground break findings.

The only miss is the lack of a “framework” in the book. I remember it as a collection of great anecdotes, many of which I’m sure to write about. I’ve always maintained that great books give you a framework in which to remember the key learnings – e.g. the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey.

Top 3 Learnings

1. Two groups of school kids were studied for their happiness level. Group I involved the geeky kids who studied hard, attended various classes after school and played hard. Group II involved the “cool” kids who hung out in the mall. It was found that the geeky kids tested happier on every aspect except one – they thought the kids in the mall were happier.

What an awesome story.

2. Optimism is an acquired trait based on the 3 P’s – Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personalization. Optimists don’t believe a bad event is permanent, pervasive and that the world is “out to get them.”

3. Expressing anger and negative emotions does NOT help – contrary to popular belief.

BR 119: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor.E.Frankl

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

Comments: Man’s search for meaning is as sincere and heartfelt a book you will find. It’s one of those books that is a must read simply because it teaches us what it means to be human.

The story details the experiences of Dr Frankl in Nazi concentration camps and his observations about life and the importance of meaning.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. We are often told that the essence of life is the pursuit of happiness. Frankl’s experiences taught him otherwise. In his experience, it’s meaning that makes life worth living..

2. There is an incredible paragraph on love by Viktor Frankl. It’s one of those that reminds us of the importance of love in this world, and the special place it holds in our life.

3. Success and happiness will ensue if we keep doing the right things. At the end of the day, we will be successful only because we forgot to think about it. Here’s the link to that incredible paragraph.