I finally mastered my reading list!

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of ways to plow through the never ending suggestions of books that I “need to read”. I’ve kept lists in paper notebooks, Facebook books, Goodreads, my iOS Notepad, and even as a Reminders list. The list keeps getting longer. I buy books I don’t end up liking or reading, or just forget to place one in the barrel next time a get some free time to read.

Recently I discovered a way to automatically manage my list and get the book in my hands in almost any format or device — for free! Here’s how:

First, download the Libby app.

Libby is an app by Overdrive that helps make checking out books from the library easy. No, don’t worry, it’s not a way to checkout paper books. Libby is focused on helping you download audiobooks and digital books and allows you to push them to your Kindle, iBooks or whatever works for you.

Now, before you disregard the power of your local library (the institution your tax dollars pay for) let’s flip the script. Libby allows you to grab books you’re interested in.

So, think of how it plays out: You hear about a book that “you need to read.” You search for it on your Libby app, and you place a hold on it. Yes, there is a wait list for your book, and popular ones often have longer wait lists. But, guess what? You don’t care!

This is your reading list!

When books are available, they pop onto you phone or Kindle. If you don’t have time to read it, just put it back into the hold lists for the next go around. If you want to read a few chapters and put it away, that works too. The hold queue isn’t just some arbitrary list you keep that is disconnected from the act of reading — they are one and the same.

I have been doing this for the past year and love the fact that I don’t need to feel bad about falling behind on my reading. I know I’ll just read the next book that becomes available, and not think twice about my queue.

It took a while to get to “reading zen”, so I thought I’d share it. Hope it works for you too!

How To Think by Alan Jacobs

How to think by Alan Jacobs

Fair warning, this is not a book for those looking to sharpen their thinking skills just to win more arguments. On the contrary, this book helps one recognize that losing may be just as valuable. That thinking well is not a joyful or direct path. Or, that what we believe to be the attributes of an “open mind” is more likely to be just a different form of a “closed mind” validated by a different group. Thinking is all about learning to do the uncomfortable, and if one can understand how thinking works, one may become a better thinker over all. To posit those theories, and many others like it, Alan Jacobs deals with optimism, community, solidarity, truth, social affiliation, kindness and vice by asking how they blend or contradict one another.

I especially love the fact that the book is current, and cites examples from events familiar to global state of consciousness. It helps that the author is as unbiased as a person could be, while still able to make sharp and concise points, and because of that, no other book is as important for any affiliation or creeds to benefit. In our polarized, highly emotional world, it’s refreshing, and necessary. As current as he is, he is no stranger to the history of thinking. From Luther, to T.S. Elliot, to Kannanman his references aren’t always made to simply validate, but to argue against, assert, or deconstruct the art and science around thinking.

It’s easy to assume the social conscience of the world is more worse for ware now than ever before, and the new phenomena of the internet and social media is mostly to blame. Instead of leaning into that assumption, Alan offers some perspective look back to early writers, like a quite T.S. Elliot who said, “The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information—deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when everyone knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts.” That is surely something as appropriate today as it was 100 years ago.

There are quite a few gems sprinkled throughout the book that can get the wheels churning. Like how Alan challenges his readers to separate a single thought from all the context and emotion laid around it. For example, “A madman is not one has lost reason … a madman is one that has lost everything but reason.“ Indeed, the separation of fact, from emotion, or affiliation, let’s facts get tangled up into a single, lump of subjective “truth”. That affiliation and process of lumping makes it easier for us to turn every “neighbor” into what Alan Jacob’s called the “Repugnant Cultural Other” AKA  “RCO”. When more and more people are classified as an RCO based on a discrete piece of truth we decide to focus on, then we fail to allow ourselves to learn, or accept, anything else form them. As Alan puts it, “If that person over there is both ‘other’ and ‘repugnant’, I may never discover that that person and I like the same television program, or like the same books (even if not for the same reasons), or that we both know what it’s like to nurse someone through a long illness. All of which is to say, that I may forget that political, social and religious differences are not the whole of human experience.” That posit is very much a reality with the current collective human psyche. It does in fact feel as though more and more of us are at odds with our neighbors, and we are so with less and less information to guide it.

Of course separation via classifying others as an RCO goes well beyond politics and social media. As both an academic and a christian, Alan adds religion to the ring by noting, “When I hear academica talk about christians I think, ‘that’s not quite right. I don’t think you understand the people you think your disagreeing with’, and when I listen to christians talk about academics I have the precisely the same thought.”

Why do we decide to stick to a bandwagon, against all evidence to steer us away, or care to even search for a deeper truth? Alan quotes Robinson to underline this part of the human condition at play. “It is a great example of our collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information about the thing disparaged when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved.” Alan continues, “Why would people ever think, when thinking deprives them of the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved? If you want to think, then you have to shrink that hypertrophic need for consensus.”

Where academia is concerned, Alan pulls a quote from Jeff Schmidt’s to assert that education is not necessarily an avenue e toward greater thinking either. In “Disciplined Minds” Schmidt says, “Academia and high-racking professions are good at maintaining “ideological discipline”… people who do well … tend to have “assignable curiosity”, which is to say, they are obediently interested in the things they are told to be interested in.”

Though, there are some academic environments that are created to nurture true thinking. Alan tells an anecdote from the Yale Political Union debate club. As he observed at Yale, you are scored not just by wins, but by the number of times you flip your beliefs mid-debate. love how that metric aligns with not the speaker ability to power their will on others, but in the power and flexibility of being a good, open minded, listener.

This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year and a great supplement to the best selling books Thinking Fast and Slow and Blink. It is well worth the time so, after each chapter, sit back, and push embrace “How to Think” better.

[Video Excerpt] Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolph Plots

I heard about this book from Tim Ferriss’ podcast. In it, Tim dedicated an entire show to the author’s reading of this book. It got me hooked.

Usually with books I review I’ll append all the excerpts I’ve highlighted from my Kindle into the my blog post. For this book however, I found myself highlighting almost every sentence. He really nails the philosophy of long term travel including the feelings, challenges and rewards that come with . I’ve thought about writing my own philosophical experiences down, but why build when you can buy, right?!

This guy is like the Confucius of travel.

Here is a short 4-minute excerpt from Tim’s podcast, and here is the book on Audible and Amazon if you end up getting hooked too.

Long-term travel doesn’t require a massive “bundle of cash”; it only requires that we walk through the world in a more deliberate way.

This deliberate way of walking through the world has always been intrinsic to a time-honored, quietly available travel tradition known as “vagabonding”.

Vagabonding involves taking an extended time-out from your normal life — six weeks, four months, two years — to travel the world on your own terms.

But beyond travel, vagabonding is an outlook on life. Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions. Vagabonding is about looking for adventure in normal life, and normal life within adventure. Vagabonding is an attitude — a friendly interest in people, places and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word.

Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life — a value adjustment from which action naturally follows.

And, as much as anything, vagabonding is about time — our only real commodity — and how we choose to use it.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Don’t read this book please! If you do you’ll make it much harder for me and others to sell you something.

In all seriousness though, this book has completely evolved the way I look at pricing, marketing, positioning, and more. One major take away is this:

People have a hard time comparing things that are different from one another. Give people the opportunity to recognize your goal in that context, as a comparison between similar things. Of those similar things, make it obvious that your goal is the best option.

In the context of pricing, try to place the juicy orange you want to sell next to a dying one, and place both oranges next to an apple of any kind. You will sell more oranges.

In the context of mating, be sure you hang out with someone that looks similar to you but less attractive. You will end up being more attractive than anyone in the room.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

There are other gold nuggets in the book, such as how providing a sense of ownership to a buyer (before they buy) can garner an items maximum value. And, how a strong grasp of “market norms” and “social norms” can provide you with harder working employees.

But, the book is more than a few tips and facts, Dan takes you through the experiments and their results so you can understand the genesis of his conclusions.

Since reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely I have been able to benefit from many of its conclusions in my everyday life. It is very much worth the read. If you are thinking about selling a product, service or good read this book first!

I’ve copied some of my notes from the book below. Let me know if you have any comments, discussion points or ideas around them – I’d love to hear about them!

The discipline that allows me to play with this subject matter is called behavioral economics, or judgment and decision making (JDM).

humans rarely choose things in absolute terms.

We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth.

most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context.

I found the recurring theme in the book to be: pricing (or in a larger scope, decision making) is more about a person following a path of least resistance than a true evaluation of values and rationale. The context you give helps to guide that path.

The decision between the Internet-only and print-only options would take a bit of thinking.

The path of least resistance equates to the path with the least requirement to think. The way you balance your offering helps decrease the need for thought.

Sam also knows that given three choices, most people will take the middle choice (as in landing your plane between the runway lights). So guess which television Sam prices as the middle option? That’s right—the one he wants to sell!

I’ve heard this concept before, but just creating a “middle” is over simplifying what is really going on here. It is more about the previous point of context. Provide things a person can compare most easily and but that beside something too different to compare without a deeper level of thought. For example, if you want someone to buy an orange, put it next to a similar orange – then put those oranges next to an apple. Well, I’ll let him explain it ….

It was the mere presence of the decoy that sent 84 of them to the print-and-Internet option (and 16 to the Internet-only option). And the absence of the decoy had them choosing differently, with 32 for print-and-Internet and 68 for Internet-only.

we not only tend to compare things with one another but also tend to focus on comparing things that are easily comparable—and avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily. That may be a confusing thought,

Studies even find that countries with the “happiest” people are not among those with the highest personal income.

pinstripe suit for $455 and decide to buy it, but then another customer whispers in your ear that the exact same suit is on sale for only $448 at another store, just 15 minutes away. Do you make this second 15-minute trip? In this case, most people say that they would not. But

The only question you should ask yourself in these cases is whether the trip across town, and the 15 extra minutes it would take, is worth the extra $7 you would save.

We compare the relative advantage of the cheap pen with the expensive one, and this contrast makes it obvious to us that we should spend the extra time to save the $7. At the same time, the relative advantage of the cheaper suit is very small, so we spend the extra $7.

We made this mistake  A LOT on our trip. When prices adjust we found ourselves worrying about 50 cents on a $1 charge BECAUSE we couldn’t help think “hey, this is off by 50%!”

This is also why it is so easy for a person to add $200 to a $5,000 catering bill for a soup entrée, when the same person will clip coupons to save 25 cents on a one-dollar can of condensed soup.

we find it easy to spend $3,000 to upgrade to leather seats when we buy a new $25,000 car, but difficult to spend the same amount on a new leather sofa (even though we know we will spend more time at home on the sofa than in the car). Yet

we could better assess what we could do with the $3,000 that we are considering spending on upgrading the car seats. Would we perhaps be better off spending it on books, clothes, or a vacation?

“I don’t want to live the life of a Boxster,” he told the New York Times, “because when you get a Boxster you wish you had a 911, and you know what people who have 911s wish they had? They wish they had a Ferrari.”

Another very relevant point to my recent experiences. I took a trip to eject from the cycle of not-enoughism.

Harry Winston, the legendary gemstone dealer. Winston agreed to put them in the window of his store on Fifth Avenue, with an outrageously high price tag attached. Assael, meanwhile, commissioned a full-page advertisement that ran in the glossiest of magazines. There, a string of Tahitian black pearls glowed, set among a …

Above was a great example of context. The marketer simply positioned a non-precious item along with extremely precious things.

not only that goslings make initial decisions based on what’s available in their environment, but that they stick with a decision once it has been made. Lorenz called this natural phenomenon imprinting…

… once we buy a new product at a particular price, we become anchored to that price.

The basic idea of arbitrary coherence is this: although initial prices (such as the price of Assael’s pearls) are “arbitrary,” once those prices are established in our minds they will shape not only present prices but also future prices (this makes them “coherent”).

the students with the highest-ending social security digits (from 80 to 99) bid highest, while those with the lowest-ending numbers (1 to 20) bid lowest.

This was a very impressive experiment. Just using high numbers in your context, *even if they have ZERO relevance to a price or your product*, effect the value a person places on your good. Just – wow.

But price tags by themselves are not necessarily anchors. They become anchors when we contemplate buying a product or service at that particular price. That’s when the imprint is set. From then on, we are willing to accept a range of prices—but as with the pull of a bungee cord, we always refer back to the original anchor. Thus the first anchor influences not only the immediate buying decision but many others that follow.

high-definition television on sale for $3,000, for instance. The price tag is not the anchor. But if we decide to buy it (or seriously contemplate buying it) at that price, then the decision becomes our anchor henceforth in terms of LCD television sets. That’s

The only way out of this box, in fact, is to rent a home in the new location for a year or so. That way, we adjust to the new environment—and, after a while, we are able to make a purchase that aligns with the local market.

“Well, I listened previously to that annoying sound for a high amount. This sound is not much different. So since I said a high amount for the previous one, I guess I could bear this sound for about the same price.”

you think to yourself. “People are standing in line.” So you stand behind these people. Another person walks by. He sees three people standing in line and thinks, “This must be a fantastic restaurant,” and joins the line. Others join. We call this type of behavior herding.

It happens when we assume that something is good (or bad) on the basis of other people’s previous behavior, and our own actions follow suit.

you think to yourself. “People are standing in line.” So you stand behind these people. Another person walks by. He sees three people standing in line and thinks, “This must be a fantastic restaurant,” and joins the line. Others join. We call this type of behavior herding. It happens when we assume that something is good (or bad) on the basis of other people’s previous behavior, and our own actions follow suit.

self-herding. This happens when we believe something is good (or bad) on the basis of our own previous behavior. Essentially,

Herding is a fairly obvious occurrence, but self-herding was more of an eye-opener.

the prices at the two places; and, of course, the cost (or value) of walking a few more blocks to get to Dunkin’ Donuts. This is a complex computation—so instead, you resort to the simple approach: “I went to Starbucks before, and I enjoyed myself and the coffee, so this must be a good decision for me.” So you walk in and get another small cup of coffee.

Buying coffee at Starbucks has become a habit with you.

Starbucks did everything in its power, in other words, to make the experience feel different—so different that we would not use the prices at Dunkin’ Donuts as an anchor, but instead would be open to the new anchor that Starbucks was preparing for us.

Could it be that the lives we have so carefully crafted are largely just a product of arbitrary coherence?

Could it be that we made arbitrary decisions at some point in the past (like the goslings that adopted Lorenz as their parent) and have built our lives on them ever since, assuming that the original decisions were wise? Is

it might seem to us that this is just one decision, without large consequences; but in fact the power of the first decision can have such a long-lasting effect that it will percolate into our future decisions for years to come.

with the price and quality of the truffle, and then made their choice. About 73 percent of them chose the truffle and 27 percent chose a Kiss. Now we decided to see how FREE! might change the situation. So

But what a difference FREE! made. The humble Hershey’s Kiss became a big favorite. Some 69 percent of our customers (up from 27 percent before) chose the FREE!

The critical issue arises when FREE! becomes a struggle between a free item and another item

Why? I think it’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it’s free). But suppose we choose the item that’s not free. Uh-oh, now there’s a risk of having made a poor decision—the possibility of a loss. And

Suppose I offered you a choice between a free $10 Amazon gift certificate and a $20 gift certificate for seven dollars. Think quickly. Which would you take?

a $20 gift certificate for seven dollars delivers a $13 profit. That’s clearly better than getting a $10 certificate free (earning $10). Can you see the irrational behavior in action?*

immortal words of Woody Allen: “The most expensive sex is free sex.”

In line with the ethos of market norms, those who received five dollars dragged on average 159 circles, and those who received 50 cents dragged on average 101 circles. As expected, more money caused our participants to be more motivated and work harder

He doesn’t mention it, but this chapter dances between the cost/benefits of capitalism, socialism as well as charities. Where does hard work truly stem from, and what motivates truly great work?

The results showed that on average they dragged 168 circles, much more than those who were paid 50 cents, and just slightly more than those who were paid five dollars.

people will work more for a cause than for cash.

This is yet another good reason to always look for the societal benefits in what you bring to market. Tangentially or directly.

AARP asked some lawyers if they would offer less expensive services to needy retirees, at something like $30 an hour. The lawyers said no. Then the program manager from AARP had a brilliant idea: he asked the lawyers if they would offer free services to needy retirees. Overwhelmingly, the lawyers said yes. … What was going on here? …

When money was mentioned, the lawyers used market norms and found the offer lacking, relative to their market salary. When no money was mentioned they used social norms and were willing to volunteer their time.

Why didn’t they just accept the $30, thinking of themselves as volunteers who received $30? Because once market norms enter our considerations, the social norms depart.

The structure he defines between market norms and social norms is very compelling. Definitely good food for thought in your everyday life.

IN THE PREVIOUS experiment, then, those who got paid 50 cents didn’t say to themselves, “Good for me; I get to do this favor for these researchers, and I am getting some money out of this,” and continue to work harder than those who were paid nothing. Instead they switched themselves over to the market norms, decided that 50 cents wasn’t much, and worked halfheartedly.

no one is offended by a small gift, because even small gifts keep us in the social exchange world and away from market norms.

They reacted to the explicitly priced gift in exactly the way they reacted to cash, and the gift no longer invoked social norms—by the mention of its cost, the gift had passed into the realm of market norms.

As it turned out, the students who had first worked on the “salary” task struggled with the puzzle for about five and a half minutes before asking for help, whereas those who had first worked on the neutral task asked for help after about three minutes. Thinking about money, then, made the participants in the “salary” group more self-reliant

In fact, after thinking about money these participants were less willing to help an experimenter enter data, less likely to assist another participant who seemed confused, and less likely to help a “stranger” (an experimenter in disguise) who “accidentally” spilled a box of pencils.

The inherent philanthropic traits we hold are pretty inspiring.  Even if subliminal.

the participants in the “salary” group showed many of the characteristics of the market: they were more selfish and self-reliant; they wanted to spend more time alone; they were more likely to select tasks that required individual input rather than teamwork; and when they were deciding where they wanted to sit, they chose seats farther away from whomever they were told to work with. Indeed, just thinking about money makes us behave as most economists believe we behave—and less like the social animals we are in our daily lives.

How do you balance this fact with setting up the most effective work environment?

For example, what happens when a customer’s check bounces? If the relationship is based on market norms, the bank charges a fee, and the customer shakes it off. Business is business. While the fee is annoying, it’s nonetheless acceptable. In a social relationship, however, a hefty late fee—rather than a friendly call from the manager or an automatic fee waiver—is not only a relationship-killer; it’s a stab in the back.

If you’re a company, my advice is to remember that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t treat your customers like family one moment and then treat them impersonally—or, even worse, as a nuisance or a competitor—a moment later when this becomes more convenient or profitable.

There is much more of a responsibility a company has when they use the sense of “family” with customers or employees. There are a greater consequences between benefits and failures.

In this 24/7 work environment social norms have a great advantage: they tend to make employees passionate, hardworking, flexible, and concerned. In a market where employees’ loyalty to their employers is often wilting, social norms are one of the best ways to make workers loyal, as well as motivated.

If corporations started thinking in terms of social norms, they would realize that these norms build loyalty and—more important—make people want to extend themselves to the degree that corporations need today: to be flexible, concerned, and willing to pitch in. That’s what a social relationship delivers.

we could elevate the social norm, making the officer feel that his mission is worth more than his base pay

MONEY, AS IT turns out, is very often the most expensive way to motivate people.

You move mountains with gospel, not cash. Create a vision and sell it.

to make informed decisions we need to somehow experience and understand the emotional state we will be in at the other side of the experience.

Go back to a home built before we had to have everything, for instance, and check out the size of the closets. Our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, was built in 1890. It has no closets whatsoever. Houses in the 1940s had closets barely big enough to stand in. The closet of the 1970s was a bit larger, perhaps deep enough for a fondue pot, a box of eight-track tapes, and a few disco dresses. But the closet of today is a different breed. “Walk-in closet” means that you can literally walk in for quite a distance. And no matter how deep these closets are, Americans have found ways to fill them right up to the closet door.

The average American family now has six credit cards (in 2005 alone, Americans received 6 billion direct-mail solicitations for credit cards). Frighteningly, the average family debt on these cards is about $9,000; and seven in 10 households borrow on credit cards to cover such basic living expenses as food, utilities, and clothing.

like the self-imposed deadlines I gave to Gaurav and his classmates (the deadlines that offered personal choice, but also had penalties attached for the procrastinators)? This might be the perfect compromise between authoritarianism, on the one hand, and what we have too often in preventive health today—complete freedom to fail.

Would you be willing to commit to a $200 deposit, refundable only if you arrived at the appointment on time? If so, you will have replicated the condition that I offered Gaurav’s class, a condition that certainly motivated the students to be responsible for their own decisions.

The reminds me of two thoughts, a Ulysses Contract and/or libertarianism vs. dictatorship.

HOW ELSE COULD we defeat procrastination in health care?

the “endowment effect,” we predicted that when we own something … we begin to value it more than other people do.

A powerful concept. In short, give a person the sense of ownership before the sale is made to maximize value.

Those who owned a ticket, on the other hand, demanded about $2,400 for it. Like Joseph, they justified their price in terms of the importance of the experience and the lifelong memories it would create.

The first quirk, as we saw in the case of the basketball tickets, is that we fall in love with what we already have. … The second quirk is that we focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain…The third quirk is that we assume other people will see the transaction from the same perspective as we do.

OWNERSHIP ALSO HAS what I’d call “peculiarities.” For one, the more work you put into something, the more ownership you begin to feel for it. Think about the last time you assembled some furniture. Figuring out which piece goes where and which screw fits into which hole boosts the feeling of ownership.

There’s another way that we can get drawn into ownership. Often, companies will have “trial” promotions. If we have a basic cable television package, for instance, we are lured into a “digital gold package” by a special “trial” rate (only $59 a month instead of the usual $89). After all, we tell ourselves, we can always go back to basic cable or downgrade to the “silver package.” But once we try the gold package, of course, we claim ownership of it. Will we really have the strength to downgrade back to basic or even to “digital silver”? Doubtful. At the onset, we may think that we can easily return to the basic service, but once we are comfortable with the digital picture, we begin to incorporate our ownership of it into our view of the world and ourselves, and quickly rationalize away the additional price.

More than that, our aversion to loss—the loss of that nice crisp “gold package” picture and the extra channels—is too much for us to bear. In other words, before we make the switch we may not be certain that the cost of the digital gold package is worth the full price; but once we have it, the emotions of ownership come welling up, to tell us that the loss of “digital gold” is more painful than spending a few more dollars a month.

But, once we change our possessions we have a very hard time going back down.

Would this keep our participants from clicking on it anyhow? No. To our surprise, they continued to waste their clicks on the “reincarnating” door, even though its disappearance had no real consequences and could always be easily reversed. They just couldn’t tolerate the idea of the loss, and so they did whatever was necessary to prevent their doors from closing.

philosopher Erich Fromm wrote a book called Escape from Freedom. In a modern democracy, he said, people are beset not by a lack of opportunity, but by a dizzying abundance of it. In our modern society this is emphatically so. We are continually reminded that we can do anything and be anything we want to be. The problem is in living up to this dream. We must develop ourselves in every way possible; must taste every aspect of life; must make sure that of the 1,000 things to see before dying, we have not stopped at number 999. But then comes a problem—are we spreading ourselves too thin? The temptation Fromm was describing, I believe, is what we saw as we watched our participants racing from one door to another.

THE OTHER SIDE of this tragedy develops when we fail to realize that some things really are disappearing doors, and need our immediate attention. We may work more hours at our jobs, for instance, without realizing that the childhood of our

What we need is to consciously start closing some of our doors. Small doors, of course, are rather easy to close.

I have based a lot of my life on a similar theory.

But the bigger doors (or those that seem bigger) are harder to close. Doors that just might lead to a new career or to a better job might be hard to close. Doors that are tied to our dreams are also hard to close.

We need to drop out of committees that are a waste of our time and stop sending holiday cards to people who have moved on to other lives and friends. We need to determine whether we really have time to watch basketball and play both golf and squash and keep our family together; perhaps we should put some of these sports behind us. We ought to shut them because they draw energy and commitment away from the doors that should be left open—and because they drive us crazy.

WHEN WE BELIEVE beforehand that something will be good, therefore, it generally will be good—and when we think it will be bad, it will bad. But how deep are these influences?

Reminds me of Stumbling On Happiness a bit.

But the advantage of Coke over Pepsi was due to Cokes’s brand—which activated the higher-order brain mechanisms.

But because a stereotype provides us with specific expectations about members of a group, it can also unfavorably influence both our perceptions and our behavior.

Research on stereotypes shows not only that we react differently when we have a stereotype of a certain group of people, but also that stereotyped people themselves react differently when they are aware of the label that they are forced to wear (in psychological parlance, they are “primed” with this label).

placebos work. One is belief—our confidence or faith in the drug, the procedure, or the caregiver. Sometimes just the fact that a doctor or nurse is paying attention to us and reassuring us not only makes us feel better but also triggers our internal healing processes.

The second mechanism is conditioning. Like Pavlov’s famous dogs (that learned to salivate at the ring of a bell), the body builds up expectancy after repeated experiences and releases various chemicals to prepare us for the future.

it is easy to imagine that a $4,000 couch will be more comfortable than a $400 couch;

When it comes to medicines, then, we learned that you get what you pay for. Price can change the experience.

In 2004, the total cost of all robberies in the United States was $525 million, and the average loss from a single robbery was about $1,300.18

In general, a compelling stat.

In the control condition, in which cheating was not possible, participants solved on average three problems (out of 20). In the second condition, in which the participants could pocket their answers, they claimed to have solved on average 5.5 problems. What was remarkable was the third situation—in which the participants pocketed their answer sheets, but had also signed the honor code statement. In this case they claimed to have solved, on average, three problems—exactly the same number as the control group.

The effect of signing a statement about an honor code is particularly amazing

Just an honor code can do so much. It reminds me of a study of how much more giving people were if they watched superman or info on a charity before the test.

occasional swearing of oaths and occasional statements of adherence to rules are not enough. From our experiments, it is clear that oaths and rules must be recalled at, or just before, the moment of temptation. Also,

we are able to “bend” reality, see the world in terms compatible with our selfish interest, and become dishonest. What

We are very irrational with our ethics. In short, ask yourself which is worst : stealing a $1 pen or stealing $1 in cash. Why?

Do you see what we were doing? Would the insertion of a token into the transaction—a piece of valueless, nonmonetary currency—affect the students’ honesty? Would the token make the students less honest in tallying their answers than the students who received cash immediately? If so, by how much?

He related this compulsion to our use of “tokens” as a way to separate our minds from the cash value we place upon an expense.

the tendency to order alcoholic beverages that were different from what other people at the table had chosen and a personality trait called “need for uniqueness.” In essence, individuals more concerned with portraying their own uniqueness were more likely to select an alcoholic beverage not yet ordered at their table in an effort to demonstrate that they were in fact one of a kind. What these

people, particularly those with a high need for uniqueness, may sacrifice personal utility in order to gain reputational utility.

Did he just describe a hipster? 😉

In Hong Kong, individuals also selected food that they did not like as much when they selected it in public rather than in private, but these participants were more likely to select the same item as the people ordering before them—again making a regrettable mistake, though a different type of mistake, when ordering food.

Perhaps restaurant owners should ask their customers to write out orders privately (or quietly give their orders to the waiters), so that no customer will be influenced by the orders of his or her companions.

but maybe we can realize that we have such biases and listen more carefully to the advice and feedback we get from others.

You can check out other reviews I’ve posted about books I’ve read here, or check out my read books list on FB here.

The Martian: A perfect book for the casual Product Manager

About two years ago a couple of nerdy colleagues of mine told me of an amazing new book they were reading. “A man is stuck on Mars and must figure out how to survive by planting crops and re-engineering his habitat. It is very precise and it takes you step by step through his thought process by using his ship’s log entries.”, they explained. It didn’t sell me. Actually, it sounded pretty awful at the time. Although I have dabbled in some Sci-Fi reading I don’t seek it out, it’s either classics or learning books for me. So, I passed.

Fast-forward to 2015, and, as you probably have heard, Matt Damon was selected to play the lead (Mark Watney) in the new blockbuster movie of the same name. I was shocked to hear it. I began seeing “The Martian” on newsstands all over the world as we traveled. It altered my expectations of just how good this “nerdy” novel could be. The tipping point occurred when I found out my fiancé Jackie (a major anti-nerd type) had begun reading it as well. Soon after, I dove into my trusty kindle to see what all the fuss was about. The marketing had won.

As it turns out Jackie never made it through the entire novel, and I can see why. Although I loved the book, it was, as she put it: “full of acronyms and terminology that made it tough to keep up with.” (You can learn more about the termonology used in the book in the appendix below.) My initial perception of the book was correct, it is definitely a nerdy novel. That being said, Weir has done an amazing thing I can fully appreciate: he places you on mars in a very plausible and realistic way. The reader walks, step-by-step at times, through what a visit to the red planet would be like. Nerd or not, from my perspective that turned out to be pretty cool, and an emotional rollercoaster to boot! To keep you from feeling too much like you deserve a wedgie while reading it, Watney’s character constantly downplays his intensely analytical and scientific mind with wit and sarcasm.

The product manager side of me was constantly finding itself relating to Watney’s thought process as he worked his way through solving one life threatening challenge at a time. Sure, it’s a stretch to say surviving on a habitable planet  is a lot like building a product – but it is. You have a goal and are confronted with two sets of problems: ones that have mappable solutions and ones that have never been solved before that are full of unknowns. You need to run tests and create hypotheses to try and derive knowns from those unknowns so you can begin to generate a sense of effort and time. Some days you feel like you’re working hard for nothing and it is time to quit, other days you feel like you’re king of the world; the first to successfully solve a problem, a problem that no one has solved before. And, most importantly, you’re goal is awash if you don’t figure out how to prioritize your tasks one problem at a time as it relates to your mission.

I especially love hearing him think aloud as he works his way through each hurdle. First he imagines his goal (often one that has never been seen by mankind before) and then works backwards with “how can I get that done?”, dissecting each larger problem into smaller ones to attack; often putting some off for later. For example, here is an excerpt of him working out how he can get enough calories (vis-a-vis potatoes) to last another couple of years while he awaits a rescue mission.

I need to create calories. And I need enough to last the 1387 sols until Ares 4 arrives. If I don’t get rescued by Ares 4, I’m dead anyway. A sol is 39 minutes longer than a day, so it works out to be 1425 days. That’s my target: 1425 days of food…

Presuming I can overcome the problems, they net me another 20 square meters, bringing my farmland up to 126. One hundred and twenty-six square meters of potato plants. That’s something to work with. I still don’t have the water to moisten all that soil, but like I said, one thing at a time.

He also often exemplifies the iterative development life-cycle mentality, per the excerpt below. He fully understanding that his initial assumptions may not stand up to his tests, but recognizes that something must be done to be able to gather real data, and improve the plan from there.

Things weren’t 100% succesful. They say no plan survives first contact with implementation. I’d have to agree.

If you’re in the product development field (or interested in improving your skills in the field) I think you will find this book highly engaging. It’s educational while still being action packed and an emotional novel about space colonization to boot! If you’re going to nerd it up with a novel, I say The Martian by Andy Weir is the way to go.

The Martian Word Appendix

For those feeling intimidated by the Acronym laden read, here are a few words and their definitions to keep things flowing smoothly for you. Let me know if I am missing any so I can update the list for others.

EVA: Extra-Vehicular Activity. Describes both the space suit and the activities done while using the space suit.

The Hab: Short for the Mars Lander habitat: a high-tech tent astronauts can relax in without wearing a spacesuit. Their home away from home.

Sol: A Solar Day, which is 24 hours, 39 minutes

MAV: Mars Ascent Vehicle. Basically a ship used to leave the Mars surface. In the book a MAV was left behind in the previously failed missions. The MAV has tons of equipment Watney may be able to use to survive but it is far from his HAB.

MDV: Mars Descent Vehicle: the device used to land on Mars

RTG: Radioisotope Thermonuclear Generator. It is a radioactive electrical generator. Though, Watney uses it as a heater since it gets really hot and Mars is very cold.

ARES: Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey. A name for the Mars mission what is on. Just like the Apollo missions got people to the moon, ARES missions exploring different parts of Mars. Watney is a crew member of Ares 3. For him to get rescued he has to find a way to stay alove until ARES 4 as able to save him.

Mars Opportunity Rover:  A probe that landed on Mars in 2004, as of July 28th, 2014 it had traveled over 25 miles, which is about 40 kilometers. If the rover is able to continue on and get to 26.2 miles it will be able to examine what is called Marathon Valley.

Mars Pathfinder: Landed on Mars on July 4th, 1997- it seemed to be only effective for a couple of years.

Phobos: The innermost of Mars two moons. It’s also the largest of the two moons. Phobos is closer to any planet than any other moon in the solar system.

Deneb: brightest star in constellation Cygnus, one of the vertices of the summer triangle and the 19th brightest star in the night sky. It’s many more times illuminos than our own sun.

In Pamplona The Sun Also Rises

My self-improvement/educational books began getting dry and it was time to learn more indirectly by ingesting some classic novels again. It may seem pretty naive of me looking back, but when I picked up a copy of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises I had no idea how relevant it would be to our trip. I’ve read a couple of Hemingway’s books before and loved their balance between simplicity and great emotional depth.

As many of you seem to already know, the majority of the Sun Also Rises is based out of Pamplona, Spain. There, Hemingway’s characters find themselves in a bizarre love (or loveless) story entangled within its now famous annual fiesta of San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls. As it turns out, Hemingway’s story is exactly what gave the Running of the Bulls international popularity. Today San Fermin is now the largest festival in the entire world which he himself attended nine times in his life.

As Jake (the main character in the book) drew closer to his visit to Pamplona, I in turn drew closer to mine. I arrived with about twenty more pages to go and find it fitting to finish the book while I’m here.

It is amazing to walk the very same streets that he made famous in the novel. In some ways I feel like I’ve been here before – seventy years or so ago. Before we began doing research online for our standard “things to do” list, I surprisingly already knew when the rockets would go off, where the bulls would run and a general idea of what to expect in the chaos. I would never have thought a novel would make such a great travel guide! It is such an unforgettable feeling to experience a town in two ways such as this and I am excited to enjoy the festival only 24 hours away!

Off to finish the book and start my very own version of the experience. (I’ll add notes about the book in a later update.)


Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

I really enjoyed reading this book! Not only did it have the insight into how a successful entrepreneur created his empire, but it is a story of how a pioneer gave birth to an entirely new industry. To add to the storyline you’ll get a behind the scenes look into the making of some of the classic pixar movies like “Up”; interactions with the late, great Steve Jobs; a look into a merger with one of the largest culture-driven companies in history, Disney; sprinkled in with nerdy facts like who invented anti-aliasing and where the name Pixar came from. It wasn’t like many business books out there, but, then again, I wouldn’t expect less from a book written by Ed Catmull with the word “creativity” in the title.

One thing I am skeptical about is how his glowing positive outlook on all the events and outcomes that transpired actually trickled down emotionally to the average employee. Having been on both sides of the founder/employee persona I  know it is easy to relishes your triumphs while realistically most people don’t care as much as you think. At times the book sounds a bit “let them eat cake” esque. That being said, I don’t think it takes away from the stories and points he makes. After all, he did create a billion dollar company, a trillion dollar industry and many award winning films along the way – so I still think his advice is sound 😉

Based on the above you may think I would say he lacked humility in the book, that’s not quite what I am saying. One thing I enjoyed immensely is how upfront he was about where things went wrong and how he pushed his ideal of creating a candid work environment. I just wonder how everyone else responded to the ideals in the day-to-day.

Throughout the book Ed does a great job giving the reader what they are ultimately looking for: tips. He summarizes many of his stories as concise lessons and at the end of the book he literally creates a list of overarching tips he believes are important. What can I say, the man knows how to tell a story. Definitely a must read.

Related Books with Similar Themes:

Some of my Kindle Highlights, with notes, from the book:

Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).

This is a common thought, but how he frames it as a “consequence of doing something new” was especially attractive to me.

“Get a bike that’s as low to the ground as you can find, put on elbow and knee pads so you’re not afraid of falling, and go,”

If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.

Is the question being asked: Whose fault was this? If so, your culture is one that vilifies failure. Failure is difficult enough without it being compounded by the search for a scapegoat.

In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.

A nice way to tweeze out the root causes that lead to a lack of innovation (on this case creativity.) A culture that grows into creating repeats and derivatives to avoid risk. Overtime, it can becomes so hidden within a culture that no one can see it. This concept comes up again when he describes the merger with Disney.

it’s easier to plan derivative work—

overplanners just take longer to be wrong (and, when things inevitably go awry, are more crushed by the feeling that they have failed).

I found a life lesson here. I am a major advocate when it comes to product development to recognize that almost no plans can be too long term since variables constantly change along the way; my playbook is often to iterate with a big picture vision. For some reason, in life outside of work, I tend to overplan a lot. And, get upset when all the work that went into planning goes awry. Until I read this passage I never viewed them side by side. For me it was eye opening.

It was as if we’d picked four talented musicians, left them to their own devices, and hoped like hell they’d figure out how to be the Beatles.

Part of our job is to protect the new from people who don’t understand that in order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness

I have found some companies want it all. They want new, greatness, speed, and growth all at once. In that way they use one rule for all situations and inevitably lose the ability to grow and be creative. In their mind they are iterating away from problems – in actuality they are killing the seeds of a truly iterable future.

Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.

Love that. Definitely a first principles thought that I try to remind myself of all the time. Take a step back, what is the true root problem you are solving. Then regroup.

When efficiency or consistency of workflow are not balanced by other equally strong countervailing forces, the result is that new ideas—our ugly babies—aren’t afforded the attention and protection they need to shine and mature.

Each group, then, is trying to do the right thing, but they’re pulling in different directions. If any one of those groups “wins,” we lose.

Ed makes a great case for making sure you have an environment in which many cultures can exists, but they must have the same ideals and mindset. The importance of conflict in perspective is in how it can spawn new and creative ideas.

In an unhealthy culture, each group believes that if their objectives trump the goals of the other groups, the company will be better off. In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires—they want to be heard, but they don’t have to win.

The key is to view conflict as essential, because that’s how we know the best ideas will be tested and survive.

It is management’s job to figure out how to help others see conflict as healthy—as a route to balance, which benefits us all in the long run. I’m

if history is any guide, some are diligently trying to polish a brick.

It wasn’t just that the interns lightened the workload by taking on projects. Teaching them Pixar’s ways made our people examine how they did things, which led to improvements for all.

The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.

Which meant that the people working on Up had to be able to roll with that evolution without panicking, shutting down, or growing discouraged. It helped that Pete understood what they were feeling.

“It wasn’t until I finished directing Monsters, Inc. that I realized failure is a healthy part of the process,” he told me. “Throughout the making of that film, I took it personally—I believed my mistakes were personal shortcomings, and if I were only a better director I wouldn’t make them.” To this day, he says, “I tend to flood and freeze up if I’m feeling overwhelmed. When this happens, it’s usually because I feel like the world is crashing down and all is lost. One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong.

It also helped that Pete never lost sight of his mission on Up, which was to drill down to the emotional core of his characters and then build the story around that.

“I feel like the only reason we’re able to find some of these unique ideas, characters, and story twists is through discovery. And, by definition, ‘discovery’ means you don’t know the answer when you start.

For many people, changing course is also a sign of weakness, tantamount to admitting that you don’t know what you are doing. This strikes me as particularly bizarre—personally, I think the person who can’t change his or her mind is dangerous. Steve Jobs was known for changing his mind instantly in the light of new facts, and I don’t know anyone who thought he was weak.

This was an interesting bit of insight. I have personally seen people change their mind at work and to many (often including myself) it called in to question our ability to trust their judgement. With this section I took a different tune. If you can’t change your mind you can’t make those important mistakes and learnings. With those I was particularly close to we changed one another’s minds all the time – and I actually enjoyed the feelings and perspectives it gave me. So, how do you create a trusting culture where anyone can make claims and change their mind without consequence? Something to think about.

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” For many, these are words to live by.

To be clear, I am not endorsing change for change’s sake. There are often good reasons to hang on to things that work. The wrong kind of change can endanger our projects, which is why those who oppose it are in earnest when they say that they just want to protect the companies in which they work.

When companies are successful, it is natural to assume that this is a result of leaders making shrewd decisions. Those leaders go forward believing that they have figured out the key to building a thriving company. In fact, randomness and luck played a key role in that success.

After the loss of the film, our list of priorities, in order, were: (1) Restore the film; (2) Fix our …. Notably, one item was not on our list: Find the person responsible who typed the wrong command and punish him or her. Some people may question that decision, reasoning that as valuable as creating a trusting environment can be, responsibility without accountability can undermine an expectation of excellence. I’m all for accountability. But in this case, my reasoning went like this: Our people have good intentions. To think you can control or prevent random problems by making an example of someone is naïve and wrongheaded. Moreover, if you say it is important to let the people you work with solve their own problems, then you must behave like you mean it. Drill down, certainly, to make sure everyone understands how important it is that we strive to avoid such problems in the future. But always—always—walk your talk.

If you don’t try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

. If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse

Mark Twain once said, “lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” The cat’s hindsight, in other words, distorts her view. The past should be our teacher, not our master.

I especially like the summary, “The past should be our teacher, not our master.” It eloquently puts the conflict between when we change from our past and when we don’t. There isn’t one answer, and that summary says it all.

An adage worth repeating is also halfway to being irrelevant.

Ed often dives into how much he is afraid of creating “rules of thumb.” He is afraid that with every repetition the meaning and reasoning is slightly lost and eventually it gets misused or becomes a crutch. He touches on a huge philosophical perspective here that I find relates to life as a whole. The fear of dogma. This reminds me of my  a but of my favorite philosopher Nietzsche  that speak of the same avoidances.

Do not fall for the illusion that by preventing errors, you won’t have errors to fix. The truth is, the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.

Similarly, it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.

Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.

I like the way he frames it. In essence you trust that they likely screwed up for understandable reasons. Or, in other words, they would not have screwed up had it not be for a good reason.

Protect the future, not the past.

Balance is more important than stability.

Stability is an illusion after all 😉

Quiet by Susan Cain

quiet-final-jacketAs a whole I found this book enlightening and well deserving of my “Must Reads” list.  For some it will provide insight into a community of like minded people. For others it will provide a fresh perspective on those they live with and work with. In addition to interesting stories and statistics on introverted and extroverted personality types, Susan offers ways she believes they may best interact, be it a parent/child relationship or between coworkers or spouses.

Some of the more interesting stories are of the author’s first hand experiences, as an introvert herself, where you follow how she deals with the extroverted world around her. She recounts stories of how she pushed herself to her boundaries by attending situations outside her comfort zone and paints a vivid picture of the emotions and thoughts that went through her mind while living them.

As a closet introvert myself, the stories bring a sort of comfort in knowing others have the same feeling and battles as I do, and, as a special bonus, they are told within a structure I can learn from. It is nice to know all those seemingly unrelated thoughts and emotions I’ve had can actually all be related to a more explicitly defined state of mind.

Those who know me well have been a part of many of my post (or pre) interaction stress, warm up time and exhaustion, and those who are shocked to hear it gives me a sense of pride that I have come so far. One event that is probably the most publicly noted, is the story of how I met Jackie (which she loves to tell) and goes, “I noticed Sean reading a book in the middle of a keg filled pool party when I wanted to walk over and say hi to him.” While writing this blog I found a Ted Talk of Susan Cain speaking of her book (below.) I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when she opened with a story explaining all the same feelings I had leading up to that moment.

Does it put me completely at ease that there is now a definition and even a positive perspective on these emotions?  Not quite. I have worked quite hard, like the Author, to constantly challenge myself to go against these anxieties and practice being a better extrovert. As such, there are stories I no longer relate to as much. Now, for example, when I need to give a presentation I write a script, rehearse it, and turn anxiety into a sort of adrenaline rush; like going skydiving. Though, afterwards, I still spend hours analyzing how badly I did and need a serious nap.

But have I beat it? Is it even something that I should consider needing to be beat? Have I changed or grown or just adapted slightly? On one hand, I don’t think I could have done all things I’ve done if I stayed in my introverted mindset. I mean, how can I fully embrace my introverted tendencies in a world where the writer of a pro-introversion book has to get on Ted Talk in front of thousands of people to get the word out?

I think the overarching lesson may be that it is okay to adapt, but it is even more important to know how to manage your emotions and energy and not ignore them so you can find time to decompress and process your day without guilt. I think I can find a bit of closure on that.

Books I found relating topic in:

Some highilights, and notes, from my Kindle:

Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.

Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience. When you were a child you were probably called “shy,” and to this day feel nervous when you’re being evaluated, for example when giving a speech or on a first date.

we know that 70 percent of sensitives are introverts, and the other 30 percent tend to report needing a lot of “down time.”)

Americans found themselves working no longer with neighbors but with strangers. “Citizens” morphed into “employees,” facing the question of how to make a good impression on people to whom they had no civic or family ties.

In the increasingly anonymous business and social relationships of the age, one might suspect that anything—including a first impression—had made the crucial difference.”

One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts. They were interpersonally skilled but “not of an especially sociable or participative temperament.” They described themselves as independent and individualistic. As teens, many had been shy and solitary.

introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to be the one who generates the move.

Here I thought I just loved to work at night when everyone was asleep. And, my desires of working on an isolated farm no longer seem as random as I once thought.

Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure.

He also suggests “No-Talk Thursdays,” one day a week in which employees aren’t allowed to speak to each other.

Indeed, after all these years of evidence that conventional brainstorming groups don’t work, they remain as popular as ever. Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did, which points to a valuable reason for their continued popularity—group brainstorming makes people feel attached. A worthy goal, so long as we understand that social glue, as opposed to creativity, is the principal benefit.

This is a very controversial topic she drops into. It is so counterintuitive to what we learn these days in the workplace it challenges so much of the ideation sessions we have become accustomed to. Not sure if it changes my mind just yet, but it does answer a lot of questions I’ve had internally about working alone or in groups.

Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.

the question of how your inborn temperament interacts with the environment and with your own free will. To what degree is temperament destiny?

Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.

realize it’s not true that I’m no longer shy; I’ve just learned to talk myself down from the ledge (thank you, prefrontal cortex!). By now I do it so automatically that I’m hardly aware it’s happening.

Imagine how much better you’ll be at this sweet-spot game once you’re aware of playing it.

sweet spots have the power to leave jobs that exhaust them and start new and satisfying businesses.

I also speak on topics that matter to me deeply, and have found that I feel much more centered when I truly care about my subject.

This touched me as well. I have always said I would be an awful salesman since after the initial feeling of an idea or concept is revealed it no longer is as interesting to me and that loss of interest can hurt a sale. My former co-founder, who is an awesome salesman, can give the same pitch with the same intensity multiple times a day. I’ve always admired that, but this puts it into more perspective. I just simply enjoy depth and so I should follow that preference in what I do.

Sometimes speakers need to talk about subjects that don’t interest them much, especially at work. I believe this is harder for introverts, who have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm.

The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her).
They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.

Amazing. It is like she gets inside my thoughts. Things I don’t talk about openly and have always had since I was kid. My love of philosophy, my aversion to getting drunk and a like, and myself regulation of my emotions on big events. While others rave about an event they always ask why I am not more excited – and I never could answer it. I’ve always disliked that question…

sensitive people also process information about their environments—both physical and emotional—unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss—another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.

It may also help explain why they’re so bored by small talk. “If you’re thinking in more complicated ways,” she told me, “then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.”

scientists have discovered that approximately 20 percent of the members of many species are “slow to warm up,”

Remind me of how my cousin Reza would mention my slowness to warm up, and as we got older he would play into it and almost study it when we would hangout with new groups.

In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse. They “enjoy small talk only after they’ve gone deep,” says Strickland.

“When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and chitchat just as much as anyone else.”

In short, introverts just don’t buzz as easily.

extroverts are more likely than introverts to be killed while driving, be hospitalized as a result of accident or injury, smoke, have risky sex, participate in high-risk sports, have affairs, and remarry.

In one study, scientists gave participants the choice of a small reward immediately (a gift certificate from Amazon) or a bigger gift certificate in two to four weeks. Objectively, the bigger reward in the near but not immediate future was the more desirable option. But many people went for the “I want it now” choice—and when they did, a brain scanner revealed that their reward network was activated. Those who held out for the larger reward two weeks hence showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex—the part of the new brain that talks us out of sending ill-considered e-mails and eating too much chocolate cake.

Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.”

According to IQ scores, the two types are equally intelligent.

Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload.

Introverts’ reflectiveness uses up a lot of cognitive capacity, according to Joseph Newman.

This is because most tasks are goal-directed. Extroverts appear to allocate most of their cognitive capacity to the goal at hand, while introverts use up capacity by monitoring how the task is going.

If you are threat-oriented: 1. Criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit. 2. I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me. 3. If I think something unpleasant is going to happen, I usually get pretty “worked up.” 4. I feel worried when I think I have done poorly at something important. 5. I worry about making mistakes.

But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.

If you’re the kind of person who frets every time the quarter is good, you may have trouble rising to the top of a corporate pyramid.

Johnson, who is a frequent public speaker on education despite a lifelong public speaking phobia, knows firsthand how well this works. “I haven’t overcome my shyness,” she says. “It is sitting in the corner, calling to me. But I am passionate about changing our schools, so my passion overcomes my shyness once I get started on a speech. If you find something that arouses your passion or provides a welcome challenge, you forget yourself for a while. It’s like an emotional vacation.”

I have to work far less when presenting on a topic I care about. Instead of fighting it I think the lesson it to find things you enjoy being “extroverted” about.

Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier, and reward yourself when you’re done.

Here’s a rule of thumb for networking events: one new honest-to-goodness relationship is worth ten fistfuls of business cards. Rush home afterward and kick back on your sofa. Carve out restorative niches.

If you’re a manager, remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear that way or not. Think twice about how you design your organization’s office space. Don’t

If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone’s had a chance to contribute.

How Google Works: What is innovation?

My friend William and I started a book club – of two. So, I guess book duo would be more precise. Anyhow, our first book we read together was How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. One question that sparked a conversation at one of our meetings was was with the definition in the book on innovation.

The book states “For something to be innovative, it needs to be new, surprising, and radically useful.”

The questions that came up were:

  • Did we agree with that definition?
  • To what extent do you agree with this statement?
  • Is the innovation defined on a continuum/scale, or is the question of something being innovative a yes/no question?
  • How do you measure “radically useful”?
  • Why must it be “surprising?”
  • When do you determine when something is useful?

After some disagreements and concession this here is what we concluded:

Innovation is not binary, it can lie on a continuum.

We broke “innovation” down into invention (something new), innovation (an invention that is 2X or more better than what exists), disruption (an invention that is 10X+ better than what exists and that displaces, or noticeable begins to displace, something heavily used today.)

Using an example in the book, where does an improvement such as the auto-search functionality lie? Is what you are planning to do iterative? Is it 2X, 3X or 10X better?

I’ve had applied this more detailed perspective to some projects I am working on during the planning of potential roadmaps. In some cases this question hurt the iterative process, it caused us to overthink simple iterations that in aggregate could lead to something greater in the future. After all, sometimes *trying* to innovate kills the creative free thinking environment that breeds innovation. In other cases it helped us stretch our ideas into something more impactful, for example asking “How much better do you think that is than what we have, 2X, 3X ….?”

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

51IjORMFLkLSo Good They Can’t Ignore You is a story of a man’s search for the truth behind our quest to find passion in one’s work. He uses his interviews, with those that have claimed to have found passion in what they do, to derive a thesis that he believes is THE way to find a positive work environment.

Two key take aways I had from this books are the importance of:

  1. Deliberate practice
  2. Small projects

The two make up critical pieces needed for the “10,000” hours of expertise Malcolm Gladwell made famous.  Deliberate practice specifically looks at the importance of getting a steady stream of critique for your craft while you practive. “Small projects” look at the importance of dipping your toe into side projects that help you explore your craft, while building new skills. As a tinkerer I relate to those two points immensely, though I can improve on my search for harsh outside critique. For that I often think I am my own worst enemy, but that’s just a copout.

As a book I found the writing to be a bit redundant. Not a bad book per se, and the stories and perspective on what could be a common myth to “follow your passion” are interesting, but he could have done it with a book half its size – or just a long blog post. Unfortunately, because of the way it is written, you have to work through the repetitiveness to get to the good parts. Is it a must read? In a way, yes – it is a nice supplemental to books like Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. But, I think the cliff notes may do just as well.

His conclusion to find work you love rests of the following rules:

  1. Rule #1: Don’t Follow Your Passion.

  2. Rule #2: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

  3. Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion.

  4. Rule #4: Think Small, Act Big.

Related Books or Similar Themes:

  • Outliers