Archive | Book Review

I’m a Bear… Learning About One’s Chronotype

Apparently I'm a Bear… which means I'm part of 50% of the US Population whose bio-clock rises and sets with the sun.

A friend recently told me to visit this website and take a short and no-cost quiz that would identify me into one of 4 “chronotypes” named after animals. Different than most of the quizzes I see floating around social media, there is actually some legitimate value to knowing ones chronotype and understanding how to optimize one's schedule to be more productive and happy.

The quiz was created by Dr. Michael Breus, PhD. It correlates with a book he has recently published titled, “The Power of When” which I finished reading a few days ago. At the end of the quiz Dr Breus presents a short video explaining more about your chronotype (Bear, Lion, Wolf, or Dophin) and then of course tells you how important it is that you buy his book so you can understand WHEN you should do things.

It is actually a little crazy to consider that with all the business and self-help books I've consumed there is a ton of information about WHAT to do and HOW to do it but as Breus points out there isn't really anything out there about WHEN to do it.

WHEN TO DO WHAT?

Everything. When to eat, write, be creative, be funny, take medicine, exercise, ask for a raise, sleep, nap, play, etc. The book doesn't suggest any chronotype is better than any other but the purpose according to the author is to optimize WHEN you do things to best fit in rhythm with your own biology. Biology is the best word because, according to Breus, your chronotype is in your DNA and is heretic.

The book is more or less broken down like this:

  1. The Quiz for people who like math, writing with a pencil or are otherwise unable to operate a computer (Point: do the quiz online and skip this part of the book)
  2. Chapters specific to each of the four chronotypes with more info about their bio-clock and an ideal schedule.
  3. Chapters about specific activities and when to do them like: Sleep, Work, Sex, Play, Eat, Exercise, Be Creative, Be Happy, Be Flexible, Be Agreeable, etc.

There are also some nice parts of the book that are about interacting between people. So for example if a wolf is married to a lion; when should them have constructive discussions, have sex, and avoid each other completely?

Ok, so you get the gist of the book…. but what are my own thoughts?

I Dig It. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars because the author doesn't babble… short and easy to consume chapters. The content is valuable and immediately applicable… no finishing the book and saying to yourself… huh… interesting but what do I do with this info.

You might be tempted to skip the chapters that you don't think apply to you. Avoid this temptation because understanding other chronotypes will be immensely helpful in life and even though I don't consistently take any medication I still learned some things in that chapter that may be valuable to me later in life.

Bears vs Dolphins?

My wonderful wife is a dolphin. Reading about dolphins gave me renewed respect and understanding for her. Life is always better when you understand the WHY behind things and this book was a journey of discovery not only in understanding myself but also my wife and others in my life. In total I've probably “forced” about 30 people around me to take this quiz so far including all immediate family members, all my employees and major business partners, etc.

The book is available in audio and I listened to it in it's entirety however I also purchased a physical copy because there are a lot of charts and other info that the audio book constantly calls out with “visit the website for the PDF download with this chart.”

When Should You Take the Quiz and Read this Book?

NOW.

As soon as you finish the quiz comment below and tell us what you are and what if anything in the video (free video after the quiz) resonated with you!

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On Fire At Work by Eric Chester

on-fire-at-work-lgRegular readers will recognize the name Eric Chester from when I reviewed his last book, “Reviving Work Ethic.” Eric has just released a new book called “On Fire At Work – How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out.” As you may suspect from the title Eric's book addresses the topic of employee engagement.

Why You Should Read This Book

If you haven't asked yourself how to get good employees and how to keep them then you have never worked in a leadership or management position. It is the fundamental fulcrum on which all success balances.

Eric's approach flips around the almost silly notion that good people are just born and if you are lucky you will hire one. Instead Eric approaches engagement with the philosophy that good people are inspired and led to be good. Thus it is the leader that makes the people.

Eric uses examples and stories from interviews with over 25 founders/CEOs/presidents of companies like Marriott, Siemens, BB&T Bank, Wegmans, 7-Eleven, Hormel, Canadian WestJet, Ben & Jerry’s, and The Container Store, along with smaller companies like Firehouse Subs, the Nerdery, and Build-A-Bear.

Download the First Chapter Here

Eric has made the first chapter available to interested readers. Click here to get it.

–>Shop/Buy the book on Amazon

Unlocking Potential by Michael Simpson

unlocking-potential-bookThis book provides a great overview of coaching. The author has a clear mentality of abundance, feeling that the primary job of a leader is to help his people grow. We are all born with the potential to succeed and the leader helps to unlock that potential in others.

The book reviews 7 key coaching skills that make for an effective leader/coach. I think each of the 7 skills could be lengthy books by themselves but as an overview of coaching Simpson does a good job addressing them to an appropriate degree.

The 7 skills are:
* Build Trust
* Challenge Paradigms
* Seek Strategic Clarity
* Execute Flawlessly
* Give Effective Feedback
* Tap Into Talent
* Move the Middle

One of the key insights I gleaned was from the section that discusses question based coaching. The author teaches that the most effective way to coach is to ask questions. This ensures that the insights come from within the individual and truly unlock existing potential.

I also loved the idea of moving the middle. Directly identify those members of the middle of the organization that can easily adopt the patterns of top performers and become tomorrow's leaders.

I recommend this book to anyone who may find themselves in a leadership position at school, home, work, church, or in any other meaningful life arena.

 

–>Buy On Amazon

The Road to Reinvention by Josh Linkner

Road to ReinventionI recently finished reading “The Road to Reinvention” by Venture Capitalist and best selling author Josh Linkner. The cover of the book illustrates the innovation of the wheel in history. This jumped right out to me right when I picked up the book since we have grown accustomed to telling people “don't reinvent the wheel.” I suppose we should all be glad that the wheel has been reinvented so many times and it probably will be reinvented again.

Josh poses the argument that if we don't put ourselves out of business somebody else will. At the core of a successful organization, department, or individual is the drive to constantly innovate, change, and reinvent. He divides the book up into 8 core sections which are:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Encourage courage.
3. Embrace failure.
4. Do the opposite.
5. Imagine the possibilities.
6. Put yourself out of business.
7. Reject limits.
8. Aim beyond.

One of my favorite insights was the need to reinvent processes. Sometimes we get stuck assuming that innovation and reinvention need to happen in our product line and development. Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs happen when we take a bigger look at the way we do something and reinvent the process. Organizations need to stop doing things the way they have always been done.

I also appreciated a very short section of the book that talks to the need of creating a company culture to support reinvention. Specifically I thought this book put a rather complex topic like company culture, very simply, but suggesting that cultures are made up of rituals. While we often feel like culture is an intangible, rituals are something that we can both influence and often invent and control.

I would recommend this book to anyone who all entrepreneurs and business executives and any individual who feels like they need a change.

The Myths of Creativity by David Burkus

Burkus_3DI just got off of a live Q&A call with David Burkus talking about his book, “The Myths of Creativity.” The call was very inspiring and David is a very sincere and great person. I've been reading his book throughout this month and finished it earlier this week. “The Myths of Creativity” addresses the various things that we believe to be true about creative ideas and creative people that are in fact myths. In addressing the myths David also references the science and then explains the truth as it relates to each of these questions.

One of my favorite chapters was the Eureka Myth. This chapter helps explain the core processes that we go through when developing ideas. Of particular note is the incubation phase in which we are not directly focused the project or problem. It is because of this process that we feel like our best ideas come to us in the shower or when we aren't thinking about it directly.

I also really appreciated the originality myth. We tend to believe that when we have a good idea we alone are responsible for it and that the idea is new and unique. In this chapter we learn that all ideas are built upon other ideas. They are the natural evolution or combination of existing thoughts and ideas.

The third chapter I will mention here is the expert myth. We tend to believe that the more expert someone is in any given area the more likely they are to be able to generate unique ideas in that field. This is far from the truth. The science suggests that while we need a basic understanding of the field, an expert is generally to bias to the existing ideas and science to truly think outside of the box.

Each chapter of this book discusses a myth, the science behind that myth, and the reality of how creativity really works. While this book plays well toward professionals who work in a “creative” environment I think anyone could benefit and enjoy reading this book.

Execution IS The Strategy by Laura Stack

In July I read “Execution IS The Strategy” by Laura Stack as part of my 12 Books Group. The title sales the concept really well. As the speed of business has increased over the years new challenges have emerged. After the C-level executives work out a new strategy and begin to push it out to the team the environment is already changing. Often by the time the various teams begin to implement and make changes the strategy is already outdated. Laura Stack makes the argument that the key strategy that is allowing business to flourish in that type of environment is execution itself.

LEAD DiagramThe majority of the book is dedicated to helping individuals, leaders, and organizations identify where their execution is weak and how to address it. As the diagram suggest, the book is divided into 4 core parts (which create the acronym L-E-A-D) with 3 sub sections to each of those 4 parts. To get the most out of the reading experience the author suggests, and I wholly agree that the reader should first take the “execution quotient” assessment provided for free on the website. This helps you identify which parts of this book are going to be most important to your learning process. I read the whole book regardless, paying extra close attention to those sections that I identified as my weaknesses in execution.

Execution-IS-the-Strategy238x367The book is full of great insights and ideas of how to remove the barriers that slow and stop execution. I found a lot of value in the sections about Training and Coaching. Understanding how to best create an environment of mentors for example was really helpful.

I also felt like the section about communication was very helpful. As companies grow larger I think we lose the skills of listening and communicating well with our people and our teams. Laura addresses well how that hinders execution and gives several great ideas of how to take down that barrier to success.

Check out this book and I think you will be impressed with the insights and the lessons you can glean from Laura's years of coaching and productivity excellence.

 

Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet

Turn-the-ship-aroundThis book is full of simple and clear insights that work together to help anyone create a “leader/leader” culture. The author tells the story of his own experience as a captain in the US Navy and uses his experience to illustrate how to transform an organization that is used to top down command type leadership into one he describes as “Leader/Leader” in which each individual is truly empowered and proactive.

I especially like the way the book is laid out into chapters will clear summaries at the end of each chapter with a review of the principle and how to put it into action.

My favorite quote from the book, “Move Authority to Where the Information Is.”

A few of the other golden nuggets I gleaned:

The true ability of leadership is only measured and known after the leader leaves the organization. It is his “clock-builder” skills and not time-keeping skills that prove the test of time. This puts a greater emphasis on moving authority down the ladder.

In order for the leader/leader model to work you must have competence and clarity. Competence requires a lot of training and finding the right people. Clarity requires making sure that everyone in the organization understand the WHY and has clear communication and expectations.

Read this book and you will learn and improve!

>>Find on Amazon<<

Compelling People by Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger

Compelling PeopleThis book is a unique and powerful look at real science and research to determine the various factors that influence others. The book is broken into two parts. First is “The Hand You Were Dealt” and this section deals with some of the research based facts that surround being a certain gender, ethnicity, have certain facial features, etc.

The second part of the book deals with “Playing Your Hand” and talks about how you can work to become more influential.

I was fortunate to attend a live Q&A webinar with the authors as part of the 12 Books Group. I took a lot of key lessons from this material.

First is that you can't fake it. You can pretend to like people or be interested in what they say. Your motives, feelings, and sentiments have to be genuine as a prerequisite to anything else the book suggests.

Second is that even if you are authentic and genuine your own bad habits or subconscious behavior can undermine you. This book gives the tips and research based ideas that can help us overcome some of those problems.

The book addresses the balance between Strength and Warmth as the keys to compelling people and the need to recognize and balance the two. Through this paradigm any discussion about influence, public speaking, sales, etc can be filtered and addressed.

–>Get the Book on Amazon

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

leaders eat lastWell, I figured it would be near impossible to do better than his first book, “Start With Why” and this comes really close 🙂

I watched the introduction video of Simon's on YouTube and was really surprised when he talked about good leadership being a “literal” part of human survival. I didn't see how a leadership book was going to go there but it did.

The book sticks to science by discussing in part how our own physiology as humans plays a part of our own satisfaction in the work place. This breaks down the various chemicals in our body that are designed to help us survive but often reinforce a negative environment.

One of the key things I took from this is how leaders have to essentially care for the people in their ranks the same way a parent cares for their children. We would have a lot less turn over and decrease expenses if instead of dismissing people who don't meet expectations we instead think of how we can help them grow into who we need them to be.

I also love his premise that we all have the responsibility to be leaders by keeping the circle of safety strong. When we feel safe, able to be vulnerable, we are able to work at our very best.

These are just a few of the many strong insights and powerful ideas in this book. I would strongly recommend this for anyone who works with other people.

–>Buy on Amazon

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards

Behavior-GapCarl's best selling book is about making smart and rational decisions about money. The principles of removing emotions from important decisions does apply beyond just financial decisions.

As an example we all know that we should buy investments low and sell high but most people do the opposite.  When the market is strong people think it's a good time to buy.  When it tanks fear tells us to sell.  It's not that we are stupid, as Carl says, we are just built to avoid pain even when it's not rational.

Carl teaches that we all are motivated by fear and greed. Most of us are motivated by both but generally lean toward one or the other. This is why so many financial planners have their clients take some sort of test to judge their tolerance of risk.

The online conversation in my book group was interesting as it turned to a chat about the various life arenas where it is difficult to make logical and rational decisions in the face of great emotion. Thinking of the various decisions in our careers, business, relationship, shopping, and the way we spend our time.

One of the other strong lessons this book cemented for me is the importance of having a third party (councilor, adviser, friend) to help us make the more difficult decisions where emotions tend to cloud our judgement.

–>Look at book on Amazon (affiliate link)