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.
I like discovering new authors. Each one has a unique writing style and way of storytelling that adds welcome variety to my reading list. After I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I knew I would be reading more of his work. When Armada, his second full-length novel came out, I immediately added it to my reading list. And when it got a positive review from one of my go-to sources for books, Brad Feld’s blog, I bumped it up a few rungs on the list to make certain I’d get to it in a reasonable amount of time.
Running a technology business, I’m always on the lookout for ways to tweak or improve processes, particularly around new product development. As a smaller company, resources are valuable and precious. Chasing a new product that doesn’t pan out can have dire consequences for the business. You want every advantage you can get screening product ideas and determining product-market fit.
We’d implemented agile methodologies in our development workflows, but these concepts have more of an impact on scheduling and getting product releases completed. They have minimal, if any impact on what product or features should be built. If what is getting put into the top of the development funnel isn’t a viable product, it doesn’t matter how fast or how good the product is that comes out the other side. You need to have a good methodology in place for building the right stuff.
For suggestions in this area, I turned to Sprint – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp. I wanted to get ideas and gather insight into evaluating and fine-tuning new product ideas.
The short story genre feels like it is a dying breed. For whatever reason, there seems to be pressure for authors to write full-length novels these days. In some cases these novels turn into trilogies, and others turn into even longer series (yes, I’m looking at you Harry Potter).
While I certainly enjoy a well written full-length novel, I love a good short story. For one, it makes for a quick read that can be read in under an hour. Second, it’s a great way to sample and get introduced to an author’s writing.
It’s why I was interested in reading All I Can Be: A Time Travel Story by Michael Bunker. I had heard some good things about a couple of his novels, but I figured that sampling a short story of his first would be a good way to see if I’d like his writing style in a longer format book.
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron had been on my reading list for quite some time. When our family dog passed away at the end of 2017, I decided to move the book up a few slots. I figured it would be good to read as one of the final steps in the healing process. I realize that I could have just watched the movie, but I prefer reading the book. Instead of going into details as to why, let’s just say it’s part of who I am. We’ll save those details for a post some other time.
(For the record, I finished the book last February. Yes, I know. I’m a little behind on my book reviews but doing my best to catch up).
Normally, I like to read a book before watching the movie adaptation of it. Why? I’ve seen one too many movie adaptations that either weren’t true to the book, tainted my memory of a good read, or were just poorly done.
I had quite a few close friends, whose recommendations I trust, tell me that I needed to watch the movie Arrival. Yes, they used the word ‘needed’. I knew it was based on the short story Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which was on my reading list. I tried to hold out until I read the story, but when Arrival appeared as a selection on Amazon Prime, I was hit with a dilemma. Movies come and go on Prime. If I waited, I might miss my opportunity to see it as part of Prime. If I watched, I might ruin the book that I wanted to read. What was I to do?
I enjoy reading and discovering new authors. My first interaction with Blake Crouch’s work was the Wayward Pines trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After finishing it, I knew that I would want to read more of his work. When the Amazon recommendation engine kicked in and suggested Dark Matter, which was reinforced by a strong review by Brad Feld (a regular source of book recommendations for me), it was done. Dark Matter would be my second foray into the works of Blake Crouch.
Autobiographical business narratives are generally not my thing. I’ve read enough of them to know the general format. The beginning of the book is a recount of how the narrator built their business, the middle tells how the narrator overcame various trials and tribulations to achieve the pinnacle of success, and the remainder of the book is either a defense of their character, an explanation of why their company is not evil, or a lecture on how to grow and run a business. I find the beginning of the books interesting, and then tend to zone out through the rest.
Therefore, it was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I wasn’t excited about reading it, but it was very highly recommended by a close friend and had also received a good review on Brad Feld’s blog, where I’ve gotten many, many good book recommendations.
When it comes to personal development books, most tend to be abstract, theoretical pieces. They discuss the concepts of becoming a better person, being more self aware, leading people, and other desirable traits in high level terms. In other words, they leave the application of the concepts they espouse as an exercise for the reader. On occasion, you run into books that are different. Such is the case with Get It Done: by Michael Mackintosh. Sure, it has high level concepts in it, but more importantly, it has all the things you need to implement the system he professes. I would consider it more of an instruction manual than a personal development, self-help book.
I’m going to kick-off this book review with a short story that shows the network effect as it applies to books. You see, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Ninja Selling installation in Orange County. It turned out to be a significant event for me. It wasn’t because of what it taught me about selling. It was the information they presented about creating the proper mindset for success. The installation inspired me to read Larry Kendall’s book, Ninja Selling: Subtle Skills, Big Results, which I liked a lot. One of the books that Larry mentioned in his book was The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. Larry talked so highly of the book that I knew that I had to add it to my 2018 reading list.