Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process

I was about to purchase Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee, but then I read Who Can Afford to Write Like John McPhee?. Apparently most of the book has already been published in The New Yorker. So I might just settle for the audiobook, and/or read the articles in Instapaper (probably both; to listen to it in transit, with the ability to highlight notes in the articles).

First, I needed a table of contents. Then I found pretty much all his work at his author page. Now the articles, presented in order:

Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

I listened to Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang and I quite enjoyed it. Its clear you need to rest for success.

Some key takeaways: rest, take regular vacations (maybe coupled with a think week), have focused mornings (when the alarm goes off, don’t read social media or your email; have a plan for what you want to achieve before being interrupted – consider this your leader time), allow your mind to wander, and exercise regularly.

Some quick notes:

  • Rest is not the adversary of work. Rest is the partner of work. They complement and complete each other.
  • A stoic would say, no good life without good work. One provided means to live, while one gave meaning to life.
  • If you want rest you have to take it
  • Learn to breathe (I think this is something the Apple Watch helps with as well; it reminds you from time to time to take a breather for a minute, and then it quantifies it for you as well).
  • Rest in ways that are challenging or rewarding
  • Long creative lives tend to be lives rich in work and rest. Don’t worry about age
  • Don’t say labor rather than contemplation is what gives you success – this is why you have workaholics
  • Do you have convergent or divergent thinking? Wikipedia has some good reading on this: Convergent thinking, Divergent thinking.
  • Brief periods of mind wandering boosts creativity
  • Associative thinking – maybe this is why people like working in cafes
  • Deliberate practice
  • Have focused mornings
  • Inspiration must find you working
  • Awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up – our brain can only do one not the other (our brains don’t multitask)
  • There’s a link between lack of sleep and dementia as well as sleep disturbance and dementia
  • Vacations are like sleep. Take them regularly.
  • Build rest into your schedule
  • Use recovery activities to help with creativity (why exercise is useful)
  • Exercise regularly. Otherwise strenuous exercise will tire you out!
  • Finishing an entire book is close to manual labor according to Murakami (quote from: Haruki Murakami: Writing Novels Is an Endurance Sport)
  • Exercise in your mid life (40–50s) will really help you later in life
  • To stay ahead, it’s necessary sometimes to step back
  • Bill Gates think week – he spent a week away from everyone including family to read and figure out new things. Very interesting concept, WSJ In Secret Hideaway, Bill Gates Ponders Microsoft’s Future reports its a twice yearly ritual for him.
  • The Samsung Electronics sabbatical plan is quite interesting; you go around the world, immerse in local culture, and it helps the company overall. Read Why Samsung pays its stars to goof off.
  • Depth of experience abroad is important. More important than breadth, i.e. just travel abroad. Working in 2 countries a year is good but 8 will be too much (I personally like this idea tremendously; it also makes for diverse networks).
  • Detachment is important during a sabbatical
  • Annie Dillard: “who would call a day reading a good day? But a life spent reading, that is a good life” (full quote)
  • From a book in 1895, titled The Use of Life by John Lubbock, he makes a distinction between idleness and leisure: “Leisure is one of the grandest blessings, idleness one of the greatest curses. One is the source of happiness, the other of misery.” People sometimes mistake rest for idleness but this is obviously a mistake.

Trust Agents

Remember Trying Audible Gets You Two Free Audiobooks. Listened to Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust and had a few takeaways:

  • Make us want a product. Make us trust a person. 
  • Trust agents plant seeds that bloom into evangelism on their own. Simply to create a positive impression of the brand. 
  • Acknowledge. Apologize. Act. 
  • Always be connecting. 
  • Mastermind groups – likeminded people to call your own. Connect with others. This is an idea from Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. 
  • Ronin – masterless samurai. I had no idea about this before, but I have certainly read up on the Ronin since.
  • Have a wide network and you will never be in need of work.

Again, like most books on social media, this probably made a lot of sense to read in 2010, but listening to it now is also just as good. Even if you’re adept at social media, you will still learn something new which is a good thing. 

Audible: Crush It, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

I’ve been an Audible subscriber for many years, but it’s only been in recent times that I’m listening to audiobooks a lot more diligently (cutting out many podcasts in favour of this; good production quality and it’s not conversational, means you kind of win in terms of knowledge and time). Why not try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks?

Today I’ll talk about two Gary Vaynerchuk books: Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion and The Thank You Economy. These were both very easy listens, and Gary is known as a social media maven with his WineLibrary.tv and now his agency. I didn’t quite enjoy that he went off-script a lot, which made these books very podcast like.

As for the positives? Learn how to build your personal brand, why great content matters, the importance of authenticity in your messaging, and how to monetise your passion and create a new life for yourself. I know social media (or at least I think I do; I was an early adopter of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) so it may be useful for some but not necessarily all folk.

The Thank You Economy had a bit more for me:

  • B2B buyers are really also individual customers – there is a human behind the purchasing decision. This is where social and a good relationship makes sense
  • When you spend money, do you spend it back on your customers (i.e. Throw a party) versus spending it thru an intermediary (i.e. Run a billboard ad). This could be interesting from the standpoint of booth vs party
  • Word of mouse (you click nowadays!)
  • JDV Hotels took to social media very well and they have a program to wow guests (and they have empowered their employees). They comb your social media profiles and listen to you. Was very impressed by the authenticity.
  • Handling a public customer complaint is better than praise. Handling criticism > praise. Social media is public. This is important.
  • Business is personal. B2B too.
  • Don’t be afraid to say what you think. But don’t forget to listen
  • The humanisation of business is what social media is doing

There were a few other interesting case studies as well, so I can highly recommend listening or reading The Thank You Economy.

I also found the idea of having a Chief Culture Officer as an interesting idea. His bet on virtual goods, for me at least, wasn’t true (so I tweeted him) — the idea that we’ll all be buying lots of them pretty quickly.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about him: An Entrepreneur’s Life Video had some notes too.

Many of these tips are timeless, and can be applied even if social media isn’t hot any longer. If you had to pick between the two, I’d go for the Thank You Economy. But why pick, when you can Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks?

Malcolm Gladwell audiobooks

The first book from Malcolm Gladwell I read was The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference back in 2007. I continued to read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking in 2008. And then it seems I’ve weaned off Gladwell, with the exception of his pieces in magazines like The New Yorker. 

I’ve started listening to audiobooks again, most of last year, because I find that when I go to the gym, its much better than listening to music on repeat. So I listened to Blink again which further cemented ideas in my head. Then I thought I needed to listen to a new book — Outliers: The Story of Success

This is his famous book that suggests you have to get some kind of “luck” to practice 10,000 hours to get proficient in things (known as the 10,000 hour rule). Examples include the fact that Bill Gates got access to a computer terminal when he was in high school; something that doesn’t happen for many people during that time. Opportunities can equate to luck

Some choice quotes:

  1. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.
  2. Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us.

I think its worth reading or listening to these books. I know I’m behind on Gladwell’s stuff – I hear David and Goliath is a good read, and I guess that’s next on my to-read list from him. As for the audiobook format, I think its worth picking books carefully as I like the idea of highlighting on the Kindle (and before that, dog-earing pages and writing copious quotes/notes). It’s quite hard to do when you’re driving and listen to a great point — wait for my thoughts on Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle which after listening to the audiobook, I also grabbed the Kindle edition (and for what it’s worth, I happen to have the dead-tree edition as well — go figure).


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