Back in early 2015, I watched the documentary series, “The Men Who Built America”. It was inspiring to watch how industrialists such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford transformed America during the late 19th and early 20th century. While it can be debated how much came at the expense of the lower and middle classes, the fact remains that their ideas and the businesses they created had a profound impact felt around the world.
On the whole, I am rather disappointed with the innovation in our current generation. Too much energy and money is spent chasing the latest “quick buck” ideas rather than exceptional breakthroughs. Fortunately, there are two clear exceptions in my opinion – Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
I enjoy following and learning about how they have pursued their passions and built companies around their visions. One of my favorite books from 2015 was “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. It was a fascinating tale of how Jeff Bezos conceived and built Amazon. When I saw that a similar book had been written about Elon Musk, I knew I had to read it.
After reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson last year, I decided to make a change in my reading habits this year. Instead of reading one book at a time, I decided to read two books at once. I split my reading list into two pieces – learning books and recreational books. I decided to read the recreational books at night and the learning books in the morning. As Olson said in The Slight Edge, if you read about 10 pages/day from a learning book, you’ll finish it in a month. It went well with Psycho-Cybernetics, so I decided to continue the morning reading with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
To be honest, I’m not sure how or why I hadn’t read 7 Habits already. I’d heard about it and had it recommended to me numerous times, but I never got around to reading it. I finally decided it was time to push it toward the top of my reading list after seeing this post on the Learning A Day blog that I follow. The blog’s author, Rohan, wrote in that post that 7 Habits was the one book that had deepest impact on how he approached life. With a recommendation like that, I wanted to read it to see if it would be just as inspirational for me.
It’s rare to find books that stand the test of time, especially as it applies to personal development, self-help and psychological theory. So many of these books are written based on the trend of the day in an attempt to ride the wave to making a quick buck. Even rarer is finding a personal development book that you know you will come back to on a regular basis. As the saying goes, these are even fewer and farther between.
Fortunately, I discovered a book that fits these qualities – The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz.
I’m not exactly sure how I happened across Maltz’s work, but I’m glad I did. “Game-changer” can be such an overused and over-hyped word, but it applies in this case. In other words, reading The New Psycho-Cybernetics has had a profound outlook on my approach to life. It is what I would call a foundation book in the realm of personal development. It revealss the science behind how we can employ basic techniques to control our brain and inner voices to get the most out of life. Since reading it, I’ve noticed that many of the concepts discussed are referenced and built upon in other popular personal development books. For these reasons alone, it is a book that I plan to refer back to on a regular basis.
Our society has become obsessed with the overnight sensation. We are entranced by the performer who sings with perfection, the star athlete who makes all the right moves at the right time, and the businessman who comes out of nowhere to build a massively successful business. We focus on the outcome. We attribute them to being gifted with special talents. It makes one pause. Are successful people simply lucky, or is there a path or formula that anyone can follow in order to succeed?
While luck may play a role in one’s success, I’ve come to believe that there is more to it. For example, in order to take advantage of luck, one has to be ready and prepared when the opportunity presents itself. In many cases, a person creates their own luck. So what is it a person does to reach such high levels of achievement, success and happiness? The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness by Jeff Olson sets out to provide answers to this question.
Between my recreational, science fiction reads, I like reading books to brush up on product and business development, software development techniques, management and leadership skills, and business strategy. Strangely enough (tongue in cheek), the emails I get from Amazon are either full of sci-fi books or business books. Therefore, I was not surprised when UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want by Jamie Levy showed up in my Amazon recommendations. Since I work with clients on product development strategies, as well as potential product ideas for my business, UX Strategy looked like it had a lot of potential. The strong reviews on Amazon certainly didn’t hurt its cause, so I added it to my short list of books for 2016.
Even though I have a reading list that has grown to out of control proportions of 150+ books strong, I’m always on the lookout for book recommendation sources. I have a few friends and blogs that have become trusted sources. There’s my ever present nemesis – the infamous Amazon recommendation engine. For my latest read, I decided to try a new recommendation source – Gizmodo, one of the tech blogs that I follow. One of their must reads from a while back was Pines from the Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch. Since I follow the site primarily for tech gadget news, I was a little concerned about the potential quality of their book recommendations, but I figured it was worth at least a shot.
Given how often management theories change and evolve, there are very few “classic” management books. High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove qualifies as one. For those who are unfamiliar with Andrew (Andy) Grove, he was one of the founders of Intel Corporation, became its CEO in 1987, and served as Chairman of the Board from 1997-2005. He was an instrumental figure in many of Intel’s business strategies, particularly the decision to change Intel’s focus from memory chips to microprocessors. In other words, Andy Grove is synonymous with Intel. Even today, a lot of the business practices, strategies, and culture of Intel are a reflection of his philosophies of building and running a successful company.
Now, look, let’s start with the three fundamental Rules of Robotics – the three rules that are built most deeply into a robot’s positronic brain.
One, a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Two, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
These are Isaac Asimov’s easily recognizable and famous Three Laws of Robotics as laid out in his collection of short stories – I, Robot. For science fiction aficionados, these are easily identified and, most likely, committed to memory. Unfortunately for me, I just recently learned these laws. Sure, I’d heard them paraphrased many times and referenced in numerous books, but I never knew the true context in which they were used by Asimov. Now that I know the context, the rules are even more poignant and relevant in my mind.
When I told Steve Hudson, a good friend of mine, that I was going to read Wheat Belly, he strongly suggested that I also read Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, too. He said that I might even like it better.
Grain Brain explores the question “what if everything we’ve been told about diet and nutrition has been wrong?” It’s definitely an interesting perspective on things. If you look at what’s happened over the last 25 years since low fat, high carb diets with lots of whole grains has been promoted as the healthy way to eat, the results have not been stellar. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes has increased considerably. According to statistics cited in the book, diabetes cases among Americans doubled between 1997 and 2007 and continue to rise. And diabetes is just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Perlmutter shows how the effects of grains and carbohydrates also contributes to brain related maladies like Alzheimer’s and dimentia, which have also been on the rise recently.
While I may not agree with 100% of the theories cited in the book, here are a few of the key takeaways that I got from the book and have incorporated into my daily eating habits.
When a good friend of yours recommends a book, you add it to your reading list. When two friends recommend the same book, you move it to the top. Such was the case with Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. Both Bob Nunn and Steve Hudson, two friends of mine who don’t know each other, independently recommended the book to me. It took a little longer that I would have liked to get around to reading it, but I decided to make it a priority in 2016. Seeing the benefits of cutting sugar out of my diet throughout 2015, I wanted to read a couple of nutritional books in 2016 to see if there were any additional tweaks I should be making to my eating habits.