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 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.
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.
The best way to start one’s day is by reading something positive and inspirational. For 2018, I used The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations of Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday. I discovered the book through one of my trusted review sources, the blog of Brad Feld. He wrote about it towards the end of 2017. After reading his review, I figured it would be a great way to start my day throughout 2018. Previously, I had been using numerous blogs for daily readings, but there’s something different about a daily reading that follows a theme and has a purpose. For me, it’s one of the many things that makes The Daily Stoic special.
You would think that a self-help book written over 100 years ago, in 1903 to be exact, would not be applicable in the modern world. A person writing a book at that time would not have to deal with the distractions of mobile phones, email, social media, and incessant negativity in the media. How could their wisdom possibly help someone today?
As it turns out, some pieces of wisdom are timeless when it comes to personal development. The guidance James Allen provides in As a Man Thinketh is one such case in point. It was the first book I read in 2018, and it was a great way to kick off the year.
A couple of years ago, I made the choice to take a more focused approach with my reading. Instead of sprinkling personal development reads in with my fun reads, I chose to separate them into their own list. I also decided that I would dedicate time each morning to reading those books. The purpose was (is) two-fold:
- I wanted to develop better habits to manage my behaviors and actions; and
- I wanted to start the day with positive energy and thoughts, which you don’t get from reading the daily news or from morning talk shows
My adventure has been both interesting and rewarding. What’s interesting is that once you make the choice to explore a specific genre of books, you discover that the depth of books in that genre is limitless. In addition to getting tips from Amazon’s relentless recommendation engine, the books themselves contain their own recommendations, reading lists, and resources to explore.
Such is how I discovered The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor. The book was suggested reading in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which was one of my top reads for 2017. So it should come as no surprise that The Happiness Advantage was one of my top suggested reads for 2018. So yes, even though I finished the book over a year ago, here is my review.
Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that success is directly correlated to how we manage ourselves, especially our inner voice or self talk. To improve, I’ve sought out a number of books on the topic and have adjusted my routine by adding a morning reading session focused on personal development. One of the books I consistently come back to is Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It has had such a significant impact that I figured I should pick up another book authored by him (or in this case inspired by him), which led me to Zero Resistance Selling.
A couple of things stand-out with regards to the book. First, it would appear that it is a book about sales, which it is. However, there is a lot of things you can take from the book and apply to your specific career and, more generally speaking, your life. Second, the book isn’t directly authored by Dr. Maltz but by a collection of five authors who apply his Psycho-Cybernetics teaching to the profession of sales. Regardless, the book still feels as though it is written in the voice of Dr. Maltz himself.
When you dig into a genre of books, you quickly find that the depth of additional books you discover gets deeper and deeper. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
For example, last year I split my reading into morning and evening reads. Evening reads are my traditional fun reads, which include science fiction, business narratives, and health & fitness. My morning reads were a new addition to my routine. These reads focus on developing the proper mindset and approach to life. I had a good seed of books to get me started. What’s great is that the more of these books you read, the more books and resources that you discover. While they are all variations on the same theme, the repetition and reinforcement is good for developing the mind. It’s no different than lifting weights to build strength. The exercises may vary and work different parts of the body, but the combined effect of repeatedly performing the exercises keeps you physically fit. Well my morning reads keep me mentally fit.
One of the books that consistently appeared in my morning reads was The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. It was referenced so many times that I knew I had to read it for myself.
My go-to resource for web analytics is Avinash Kaushik. Guru does not adequately describe his level of expertise on the topic. If you have any interest in analytics, his blog is a great resource that is chock full of information. The articles are deep dives into the concepts, techniques, and tools that allow you to get the most out of your online presence. For bite-sized pieces of insight, I’d recommend subscribing to his newsletter, which you can do from his website.
So what does Avinash Kaushik have to do with the book Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It? In June of last year, Avinash mentioned the book in one of his newsletters. I have such high regard for his opinions and insights, that I immediately added the book to the top of my reading list.
I wasn’t disappointed.