There are times that I resist reading a book simply because of its title. If the title looks like it covers a subject that I’m not interested in, why should I read it?
Case in point is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I had heard people talk about it, and I’d had people recommend it to me. Since I don’t ride motorcycles and have no interest in them, I kept wondering why people would think that I would want to read a book on motorcycle maintenance. To be honest, it didn’t sound all that interesting.
After reading a post on Sean Murphy’s blog, where he talks mostly about startups, I had a change of heart. Sean had pulled a few quotes from the book and related them to discerning the future and running a startup. It intrigued me because the quotes he pulled from the book didn’t relate to repairing motorcycles. It felt like there was something bigger lurking behind that title that had frightened me away in the past. As it turns out, there was.
The Martian is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved the near-term science fiction that seemed to cover all the intricate details of a manned mission to Mars. The first person narration from astronaut Nick Watney’s point of view was top notch as well. It felt like I was stranded on Mars with him.
When author Andy Weir came out with his second novel, Artemis, there was no question in my mind that I was going to read it. I was eager to see if he would tackle the challenge of establishing a colony on the moon with the same level of detail as he did a manned mission to Mars. I was also looking forward to being entertained, which certainly wasn’t an issue in The Martian. Let’s see how Weir did with his follow-on.
Personal development books are one of my primary reading genres. Since I’ve started down this path a few years back, I’ve discovered a seemingly limitless number of books and related resources. Some have come through the Amazon recommendation engine. Many others have come through discussions with friends and colleagues about the books we’ve read. At the end of the day, it’s amazing how many great resources are available to us these days.
The best of these resources are books that provide both guidance on better living and challenge our thinking, whether it is about ourselves or the world around us. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson clearly fits and definitely belongs in this category.
There aren’t a lot of books available that apply to small business owners. Most business books focus on theoretical concepts that apply to bigger businesses and corporations. The techniques and principles are complex, require large teams and specialized resources, and may even require complex tools or software to implement. They don’t take into account the limited time and budget a small business owner has.
When you’re running a small business or just starting out, it’s the simple things that are important. As the business owner or CEO, you need to stay focused on the marketing of your product(s) and service(s) in order to generate the sales to maintain and grow it. Usually, you don’t need a lot of time, money, or resources to effectively market your business. What you need is discipline, perseverance, and a well thought out plan. Fortunately, I was introduced to a book recently that fits these requirements perfectly, the The 1-Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib.
My 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.
My 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).
I 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.
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.
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.
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.