BR 198: Einstein by Walter Isaacson

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

Comments: I understand this book wouldn’t be for everyone. However, if you have any interest in science and the life and works of Albert Einstein, I’d suggest taking your time reading this one. The middle portion might get a bit boring. But, the end is worth it. Walter Isaacson takes his time to develop Einstein’s character. And, by the end, you realize that the time taken was completely worth it.

I began reading to understand Einstein the genius. And, I finished understanding Einstein, the wise human being. 🙂

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Einstein’s genius wasn’t about his brain but how his mind works. He was the true example of endless curiosity. You can imagine him as a kid lying sick and wondering about how the compass works and then wondering what it might be like to travel alongside a wave.

2. The most striking thing about Einstein was his wry detachment and equanimity. He never took himself or his work seriously. He may have blown hot or cold with his family when he felt confined. But, otherwise, he was a passionate and caring man who was adored by his colleagues. They hosted a wonderful 70th birthday ceremony where they spoke more about his character than his work.

He used his old age to defend the rights of those who were young and to use the luxury of his reputation to pursue his field theory. However, over the years, he relied more on complex math than the physics that had made him great. A part of his resistance was his now quaint refusal to accept quantum mechanics.

3.Is everything alright? “Everything is alright. I am not.” – he said to his secretary on his last day at the institute. 🙂 His “wry detachment” is evident.

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 195: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

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

Comments: First, I hope you get the audible version. The narrator makes a special book feel extra special. In some ways, that’s what this book is all about – feelings. It is about the feelings that go into building something special. Nike founder Phil Knight takes us on a wonderful adventure. In doing so, he shares things he did well and things he wished he hadn’t done. For example, he does a couple of downright wrong stuff (ethically). But, somehow you forgive him. You forgive him because of his authenticity and because you feel you might have done the same in that situation.

This is a book about Nike. But, really, it is a book about spirit, care and the joy of the pursuit. Very heartfelt and beautifully written.

Top 3 learnings:

1. Businesses are about money just as a body is about blood. You need it to operate but life is so much more than that. And, business IS personal.

2. You measure yourself by the number of people who measure themselves by you.

3. The art of competing is forgetting that competition exists.

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.