BR 116: The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

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

Comments: Another Dan Ariely masterclass with very practical information about cheating. Very useful for us when we define “trust” systems as well as in our lifelong quest to manage ourselves.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Most people, when given a chance, cheat just a little bit. The reason for the “little bit” is that we work hard to stay consistent with our self image of being honest, straightforward people. But, at the same time, we find it hard to resist easy gains when we feel we cannot be found out.

2. Any reminders of ethics and responsibilities completely removes this cheating element e.g. students who were asked to recollect the ten commandments before heading into this experiment did not cheap. Similarly, signing honor codes etc at the start of the document prevent all cheating.

3. Every little act of cheating gives rise to more. In a fascinating set of experiments, it was found that people who fear fake brands or rip offs were more likely to cheat and view the world with a more suspicious lens that people who didn’t. This was a big insight for me.

Essentially, the cost of fakes and illegal downloads goes far beyond reducing profits of the companies involved.

BR 115: Quiet by Susan Cain

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

Comments: A very good book. Make that very very good particularly if you are an introverted person.

Susan Cain nicely lays out many of the things about modern society that are overly extrovert focused and thus, broken.

My only issue is that Susan falls prey to her own stereotyping very often i.e. she tends to describe or refer to introverts as a shy, lonely bunch. While that may be true for the majority, it sometimes tends to discount the fact that you can possess very good social skills as an introvert. In parts, it feels a bit more autobiographical/biographical than it should be.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Introverts kick ass. No, seriously. Susan brings out a lot of evidence of the power of introverts. And a lot of it makes intuitive sense since introverts do tend to do well in roles that require reflection and serious thought.

2. When you build, manage teams and organize gatherings, events, meetings and offsites – make allowances for both the introverts and the extroverts. As a team leader, make sure introverts have enough non group time. And as an offsite organizer, make sure there is enough personal time in the agenda for introverts to recuperate.

3. As a parent, watch for your child’s preference of introversion and extroversion. It may turn out that your child’s preferences are opposite to yours. Many extroverted parents respond to this by taking their child to a psychologist! Beware..

BR 114: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson

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

Comments: This is an HBR article expanded into a book. A very short, breezy read.

Top 3 learnings:

1. There are 2 kinds of optimism – unrealistic and realistic.

Realistic optimists have a belief that good things will happen but caveat it with the understanding that hard work would need to go in, and that bumps along the way are inevitable.

2. There are 2 ways of interpreting the world i.e. entity theory and incremental theory.

This is essentially the “fixed” and “fluid” mentality concept. Entity theorists believe that intelligence and ability are constant while incremental theorists believe that everything is malleable.

The easy test is what you do when things go wrong. Entity theorists respond with “maybe I’m not any good at this” while incremental theorists focus on improving their preparation, their strategy etc.

3. There are 2 types of goals – “be good” goals and “get better” goals “Be good” goals are those that focus on showcasing excellence. If it is achieved, that’s great. But if not, they kill our confidence.

Get better goals are those that focus on constant improvement and that allow us to fail.

Conclusion: Be a realistic optimist, an entity theorist and set “get better” goals. 🙂

BR 113: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

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

Comments: Interesting book with a take on “lifestyle” entrepreneurs i.e. entrepreneurs who do things they like and fund a very good lifestyle for themselves.

If you are in touch with tech/entrepreneurship on the internet at large, it’s unlikely most of the ideas in the book are new. It still makes for a good read. (The other side of the story is – if you are interested in or are contemplating entrepreneurship, it’s a nice  book to read)

Top 3 learnings:

1. Launch fast and iterate. This has become common wisdom in a way but this books shows many examples of those who launched, iterated and got much better.

2. Keep working on side projects. Most of the lifestyle entrepreneurs’ ventures began as side projects.

3. Resourcefulness and initiatives go a long way. Lots of great examples again of people who generated significant value out of practically nothing (hence, the $100 start up)

BR 112: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

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

Comments: Good book. Lots of good ideas packaged together by a team that clearly walk the talk. A nice breezy read.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Scale is optional. Everyone talks about having a big business. You don’t need to chase scale if you want to have a high quality business + a great life. (Resonates personally with my beliefs)

2. Quality is not optional. There’s a lovely story about a sandwich maker who are generally open only till early afternoon after which their sandwiches sell out. The reason for that is they are unwilling to compromise on having anything less than the first round of bread baked by their baker of choice.

3. Question a lot of the basic norms in work today. 37 Signals seem to be the anti thesis of a normal company today – they don’t work long hours, don’t do long meetings and do almost everything contrary to the norm. And it works. (Resonates fully again with my belief that we must always ask ‘why’ and understand why things are the way they are. If the reasoning doesn’t make sense, make sure we ask ‘why not’.)

BR 111: What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro

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

Comments: Nice book. Not necessarily the most entertaining book in the world but definitely has interesting insights.

Top 3 learnings:

1. The most honest parts of our body are our legs. As we move further up the body, we become increasingly dishonest as we learn to mask our emotions over time. As a result, if you see a couple in serious argument at a dinner table with their legs entangled – rest assured, all is well.

2. Any position that makes it hard for us to run is one that indicates our comfort. Our “lymbic” system is wired to react to any kind of threat. That explains why we immediately sit up when someone unknown enters a room (Especially if we are lying sprawled on the floor).

Another defence mechanism is covering important parts of our body. The best example here is the percentage of freshman girls who cover their chests with books.

3. Gravity defying gestures indicate happiness. Dancing, jumping, hugging, throwing our arms up are all gestures that define gravity and hence, indicate happiness.

Similarly, gestures that work with gravity i.e. shoulders drooping, head down etc indicate sadness. (Learnings here and here)

BR 110: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

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

Comments: It hammers home a simple idea and really demonstrates the power of a (simple) framework in making ideas stick. Only downside is that it can occasionally be repetitive – but, maybe, that is the point. 🙂

Top 3 learnings:

1. Start with Why

2. Start with Why. Then move to the ‘how’ and the ‘what’.

3. Start with Why. Always explain your purpose.

I have been working on implementing this in everything I do. It hasn’t become habitual yet but I’m hoping it will become soon. A simple, really powerful idea.

There are lots of other little lessons from the book that I could list in the top 3 learnings but I fear diluting what I really took away from the book.