Book review: The Stone Man

Book cover for The Stone Man by Luke SmitherdMy recreational reading habits involve reading quite a bit of science fiction. The genre is extremely deep. There are plenty of well known, popular authors and books to choose from, but I love discovering the lesser known, sometimes self-published ones. The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd is one such example. I’m not sure how it ended up on my reading list, but my best guess would be that I found it through the Amazon recommendation engine. Either way, it was in my preferred genre, and the description and reviews made it sound like an interesting read.

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The measure of a life is not time or money

I wish I could take credit for title of this post, but I stole it from the end of Steve Blank’s commencement speech to the 2019 graduating class at UC Santa Cruz. I would urge you to swing by Steve’s website and read the speech in its entirety, or watch the video if that’s more you’re thing. Here’s the link to it – https://steveblank.com/2019/06/18/u-c-santa-cruz-commencement-speech-2019/.

Even though I have never personally met Steve, I have a lot of respect for his writings, what he has done for the tech entrepreneurial community, and his public service, which he discusses in his commencement speech. Living in California, the stories he has written about his time spent on the California Coastal Commission have been very informative. It has made me more aware and appreciative of the natural beauty of the California coastline, and the effort that it takes to protect and keep it that way.

Steve’s writings are always full of good insight, such as this one on the failings of the current generation of start-ups (and this one too),. Very few people in the tech community have the courage to call out the need for change, but this is a story for another time that I’ll hopefully get around to posting about soon.

In the meantime, getting back on topic, Steve covers four important lessons he learned while working on the Coastal Commission. The lessons aren’t just for the college graduates. They are life lessons that all of us can benefit from.

I’m going to close this post the same way Steve closed his speech. Here are his words to the graduates, which are words we should all keep front of mind as we go about our daily activities:

Graudates, as you set out on your own extraordinary adventures, remember the measure of a life is not time or money. It’s the impact you make serving God, your family, community, and country.

Your report card is whether you leave the world a better place.

 

Book review: Company

Book cover - Company by Max BarryMy reading list is long. It may not be the longest out there, but by my standards, it’s ridiculously long. There are books that I’ve added to it that sit there for years before I get to them. Such was the case with Company by Max Barry.

I’m not 100% certain how I came across Company, but my best guess is that it was my nemesis, the Amazon recommendation engine. What I am sure of is that I added the book to my reading list years ago. It made it to my reading list for 2017, but I didn’t quite get down that far. Since I like sampling books for different authors, I prioritized it in my 2018 reading list, and finally got around to it (yes, I know, I’m still quite a bit behind on my book reviews).

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On meditation

Near the beginning of this year, I decided to add meditation to my morning routine. Numerous books I had read recently talked about the benefits of regular meditation, so I figured it would be worth trying.

I started by doing unguided meditations, which pretty much involved sitting quietly on the floor with my eyes closed for five minutes. Since then, I’ve transitioned to doing guided meditations using the Headspace app, which came recommended by a close friend. 

After doing a few weeks of unguided meditations, and now using Headspace for almost 3 months, here are my thoughts on the activity.

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Book review: The Intel Trinity

The Intel Trinity by Michael S. Malone book coverI started my career working in the semiconductor industry back in the early 90’s. By that time, Intel had firmly established itself as the leader in the microprocessor space. They were in the process of moving their 486 to mainstream production. In fact, the first personal computer I purchased had a 486 processor that operated at a blazing 20MHz.

Being inside the industry, I was generally in awe of Intel. They were on the cutting edge of semiconductor development. They were the creator and keeper of Moore’s Law, which stated the number of transistors on a computer chip would double every two years. It was a law which drove Intel for over 50 years.

Given my history in the industry, and on the recommendation of a good friend and a trusted recommendation source (Brad Feld’s blog), The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World’s Most Important Company by Michael S. Malone felt like an interesting book to read. I’ve read quite a few biographical business books, but never one that was directly related to industry I was involved in. That reason alone had me eager to learn more about how the most influential company in the semiconductor industry came to be.

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Book review: Happier – Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar book cover

In The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor makes numerous references to the work of his mentor Tal Ben-Shahar, who he studied under at Harvard. Given how much I liked Achor’s book, I figured it would behoove me to read some of Shahar’s work. I decided to start with Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. It seemed like it would be a good follow-up that would reinforce what I had read in The Happiness Advantage. It also fit in very nicely with the goals and theme of my morning reading activity.

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Living in the Moment

My latest life experiment is taking up the practice of meditation. Since practicing meditation appears regularly in my readings, I wanted to explore and experience it first hand. Some of the benefits I read about from those who meditate consistently are peace of mind, a sense of calm, and ability to focus on the important things in life. I don’t know about you, but those all sound like pretty good things to me.

I’m too early in my meditation activities to say that it has made an impact or changed my outlook on life significantly. I’m reminded regularly by the guided mediation app I use, Headspace (which, by the way, I think is great and really enjoy), that if we are only interested in the results from meditation that we defeat the purpose. The process of meditating and self discovery is the purpose.

One of the recurring themes I have picked up on from my first 45 days of meditation is being present, being mindful, living in the moment. It hadn’t occurred to me prior to meditating how hard it is for us to truly do this on a regular basis. It’s so easy for us to get caught up reliving our past or being anxious about the future. What’s interesting is that we can’t change our past, and we can’t control how the future unfolds. The only thing we can control is what happens now, in this moment.

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Book review: Start With Why

Start With Why by Simon Sinek book cover

One of the better habits I’ve developed over the last couple of years is setting aside 10-20 minutes in the morning to read. The books I read during this time are geared toward personal development. They are about business, leadership, personal growth, and related topics. As someone told me a few years ago, if you’re able to read 10-15 pages a day, you end up completing a book every month. Over the last two years, I’ve read over 25 books this way.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Start With Why by Simon Sinek ended up as one of my morning reads. It was recommended through Sean Murphy’s blog that I follow, SKMurphy. The book’s also highly rated and has received plenty of positive press since it’s release in 2009. Given the short shelf life of most business books, part of my curiosity was to see if the ideas in the book were still relevant almost 10 years later.

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Enough

Over the last 5 years, I have dramatically altered my consumption of mainstream media. The leading influences in driving that change were Neil Postman’s work Amusing Ourselves to Death and Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying. These two books enlightened me as to how mainstream media and technology – the internet, our smartphones, social media, etc. – were affecting me, and our society at large. The messages in these books are not weakening as time passes. The messages are getting stronger and becoming even more relevant.

A couple of years ago, Seth Godin wrote a great post that reinforced the messages of these books titled, What’s the next step for media (and for us)? Seth admits that it turned into a bit of rant, but I don’t fault him for it. I agree, and here’s why.

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Book review: Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Book cover for Deep Work by Cal Newport

There is a long list of items that compete for our attention these days. There are the everyday responsibilities that emanate from our professional and personal lives. There are the abundant entertainment options available from television, movies, and sports. There is the online world which covers email, web surfing, and social media. Basically, there are lots of ways available for us to spend our time.

Conventional thinking says the most successful people are able to incorporate and manage all of these distractions into their daily lives. They achieve their level of success because they are able to multi-task, meaning switch quickly and efficiently between distractions, better than others. In other words, they don’t spend a lot of time on any single task but are able to spend small amounts of time on many items throughout the day.

What if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the most successful people are those who are able to filter out all of the distractions and instead focus on a singular, meaningful, important, complex task? Is it possible that multi-tasking is not a true indicator of success?

In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport explores this very topic. He makes the case that the ability to focus is more important than the ability to multi-task. I was intrigued by his contrarian point of view and was interested in learning more.

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