In June 2013, Edward Snowden provided reporter Glenn Greenwald with top secret documents from the NSA. It was the first of many leaks Snowden would supply to various media organizations. Those leaks revealed both the breadth and depth of the US government’s surveillance programs.
The leaks ignited a firestorm of controversy. People were appalled at the amount of information the government was collecting from individuals around the world, including its own citizens. Reforms of surveillance programs were requested, demanded even.
Were these reforms ever implemented? We’ll never know.
One would be naive to think our government no longer collects people’s personal information, listens to their private conversations, or monitors their movements. I’m convinced the government is collecting even more data about us than when Snowden made his revelations.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In his fictional novel, The God’s Eye View, author Barry Eisler explores how the government might still be collecting data on us, and the consequences of such a program if a megalomaniac happened to be in charge of the agency responsible for safeguarding that information.
It’s interesting to see the path people take developing their skills, interests, and hobbies. I’ll read stories about those who are passionate about something and have focused intently on building a skill since they were little kids. They’ve written books, created television shows, maintain active social media channels, and have loyal fan bases. It seems so simple. Pick something. Focus on it. Become an expert.
I’ve rarely found that to be the case for me. I also doubt that it’s the case for most other people as well.
When I look back on my hobbies, it’s more of a long and winding road than a straight path to success. I find that I tend to dabble in lots of things, working on them here and there. I’ll accumulate knowledge and skill until it reaches a flashpoint. Then, out of nowhere, a spark comes along, and wham! I’m hooked.
Such is the case with how I developed my passion for baking.
When it comes to business books, I tend to drop them into one of 5 categories:
Founder/CEO autobiographies – these are the glamorized stories told by the founder recounting their effortless journey to massive success.
Founder/CEO biographies – these are told by a third party and go behind the scenes to tell the real stories of how a founder succeeded or failed.
Company biographies – these describe how a business evolved from inception to success, demise, or to present day.
Theoretical frameworks – these are those books that feel like college textbooks and are usually told by people who haven’t run a business but by researching successful businesses publish the common themes that led to their success.
Practical handbooks – these are the books written by people in the trenches who have experienced the emotional highs and lows of starting a business, lived to tell about it, and then documented their findings into a handbook that others can use.
I find the books in categories two and three entertaining, and generally dislike those in categories one and four. Founder/CEO autobiographies feel too much like a self-congratulatory pat on the back, while theoretical frameworks are a slog that try to separate a framework from a complex business system. The resulting framework is hard to apply and rarely succeeds, especially when trying to apply it to a small business.
It leaves those books in category five, which I’ve really come to enjoy. I call these practical handbooks because they teach you straightforward concepts and give you suggestions on how to apply them in your business. In some cases, these suggestions are broken into steps you can follow to help get you started. Books like Allan Dib’s1-Page Marketing Plan and Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand fall into this category.
I’m a big fan of Rohan’s Learning A Day blog. He does a great job synthesizing complex topics into powerful statements. In this case, his point is that “media companies have somehow convinced us that there are few things that matter more than staying up to date.” We are bombarded by content from emails, news articles, blogs, podcasts, social media, and television. There is so much coming at us that it’s impossible to stay up to date. As he would say, it’s a “fool’s errand.”
Believe me, there was a point in time where I bought into what the media companies were selling. I tried to stay up to date, and I failed. And out of the failure came a valuable lesson. Life is not about the amount of content you consume, it’s about the quality.
The best book recommendations come from those who are closest to you. They are the ones who know you best. Since my two oldest daughters have started reading regularly, one of the side benefits has been getting book recommendations from them. For example, last summer Amanda recommended Recursion by Blake Crouch, which I really liked. Then, later in the year, Courtney recommended Lexicon by Max Barry, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As it turned out both books had been on my reading list, but their recommendations pushed them to the top.
So when both of them recommended American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a book that wasn’t previously on my radar, I didn’t just add it to my reading list. I put it at the top. I figured it deserved priority treatment since they both suggested I read it.
Even if you haven’t watched the movie The Social Dilemma, which I would highly recommend by the way, you know that users are being exploited on the internet. It’s no secret that social media, news, and many other types of websites and mobile apps make money selling their users’ data. If we know this, why do we keep giving it to them?
Yes, the website owners, app developers, and software engineers bear a lot of the responsibility, but it’s not all their fault. We, as users, bear a lot of the responsibility by enabling them. So long as we are willing to trade our data for “free” software, the owners and producers will continue exploiting us for their gain. It’s like a person addicted to smoking blaming the cigarette makers for their poor health. Yes, the cigarette makers are responsible. But, if one knows smoking is bad for you, why would one keep doing it?
Giving away our data and engaging in questionable online behaviors are bad for us. It’s time for us to “just say no” and change our internet and overall software habits.
I’m intrigued and constantly amazed by the power of the human brain. I’m convinced had I not taken a liking to computers and electronics growing up that I would have ended up a neuroscientist. The more I read about the brain, the more fascinated and interested I become. What’s most amazing to me is how little we understand of its operation, even after all the brain research that’s been done over the last century . After all that time and energy, researchers have only scratched the surface. There is still so much more they have yet to discover.
A lot of my interest in the brain is understanding how to maximize its utilization. If one was to compare the human body to a computer, the brain is the microprocessor. It has the job of processing the inputs our senses provide, which is our interface to our environment. Those inputs, which make up our experiences, in turn affect the make up of our brain, which in turn determine our personality, which is in effect who we are. In my opinion, the better we are at using our brain, the closer we get to realizing our true potential.
While house cleaning blog topics recently, I stumbled across a few articles lamenting the state of the technology industry. The common theme throughout these articles was how technology companies were exploiting users for their personal gain. You would think that these articles would have been written in the last year or two.
Think again. Many of these articles were at least three or four years old, with a couple written ten years ago.
Where am I going with this? We’ve known about the dangers of the large, powerful technology companies for at least ten years. During that time, nothing has changed. Nothing. If anything the problem is only getting worse.
I enjoy reading, as evidenced by the number of book reviews on my blog. So it’s been great to see my two older daughters develop a regular reading habit. Our reading interests aren’t completely aligned, but there’s enough overlap that we occasionally recommend books to each other.
When I do get a recommendation from my duaghters, I do my best to move it toward the top of my reading list. Such was the case with Lexicon by Max Barry. The book had been languishing on my reading list for quite some time. My daughter Courtney read it recently, and given how highly she spoke of it, I decided it was time to move it up the queue.
It’s been said that we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our family. For better or worse, we’re stuck with them. In my case, even if I were able to choose my family, I wouldn’t choose any differently. I’d choose the same parents. Every. time. I wouldn’t trade them for any others. Ever.