Archive | Book Review

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)


Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

Ctrl Alt DeleteIn December I read the newest book by “Media Hacker” Mitch Joel. This was followed up by a live Q&A call I hosted with Mitch. Ctrl Alt Delete, despite its name is a positive book about opportunity in the new world of digital media. The book is seemingly split into two; first addressing businesses and organizations and then addressing individuals.

The book really addresses the idea that media is changing so fast that we all have a need of starting afresh with a new strategy, new plan, and new tools.

One of the biggest lessons for me were Mitch's thoughts about Utility Marketing. Digital media has forced companies to figure out how they can stop broadcasting messages and advertising and start creating more value to their customers. By becoming useful we create a relationship with the consumer.

Mitch also speaks about how in today's world we are all publishers. Publishing content is no longer reserved for newspapers and broadcast companies. This wave of content forces us to stand above the noise and dig deeper to create value.

Mitch reiterates the importance of mining data and making informed decisions. Even small local businesses today can quickly gather fast and relevant data about their product, market, and customers to help grow the business faster and improve it's service or product.

These are among some of the great concepts discussed in the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who is overwhelmed with the introduction of digital media and to anyone who works in the media or marketing industry.

The book is available in Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audio


Hunger Games Trilogy Book Review

the Hunger gamesI don't read very much fiction. My reading list of business, self-help, and US history tends to be long enough that its only occasionally that the pressure of society (or my wife) is strong enough to get me to pick up the newest critically acclaimed novel. When this does happen I read them with a different motivation or intention than I suspect most people do. I don't crave or desire entertainment from any of my reading. Even with fiction, I want to be inspired and educated and the best fiction stories do both.

Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins made up a story that still has my head spinning even a few days after finishing. Intending to tell you enough to inspire, while holding back enough to prevent from spoiling the story, is a challenge I'm willing to tackle.

For me, this is above all else a story about the nature of humanity, the human need for power, and the individual struggle of discovery one's identity, deeper purpose and place in the games of life. The story is different from many of the traditionally popular literary epics that tell a story of Good VS Evil (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc). In The Hunger Games the good guys and bad guys are not so easily discernible and this turns out to not be a story about a triumph over evil.

The story tackles the age old debate around the sanctity of human life. How easily we justify the taking of life in order to save a greater number of lives. “The Greater Good” debate has allowed mankind to justify monstrous acts as well as smaller more evil acts as well. It is indeed a fuzzy place where man tries to justify the loss of life and yet we know that it often must be in order to maintain the freedom of others. In the Hunger Games, the Capital City of the country conducts these games of death in order to keep the various districts in check against a potential war and uprising. When the war comes the good guys don't think twice about the death they have to inflict in order to restore freedom. This seemingly cold position between the rock and the hard place forces the lead character to question the sanity of both sides of the debate.

The author does such a good job of pulling us into the lead character to understand and identify with her humanly flawed personality. We go on a journey of self discovery as she (Katniss) tries to understand survival, love, and purpose. This led me to consider how many people in our world truly don't know what their own deeper purpose really is. As Katniss attempts to understand who she is and what she must do she becomes indefinitely lost in trying to understand WHY she is. What is her deeper purpose in life. As she discovers her purpose she begins to understand what she must do and how she must do it. It is the same for each of us.

I read all three books in December of 2013 and while I enjoyed the story as a whole I was often frustrated or crushed. These are signs of being sucked into a powerful read. The story wasn't perfect. It had its flaws, and as it turned out, was never meant to have a happy ending. I'm not sure if it inspired me. It made me think about some critical ideas and questions and I suppose that is enough. On the bad side the last book is bound to leave the reader broken. You become so invested into the characters that you can't help but feel empty and lost when the book details the breaking of the lead characters followed by an epilogue of only a few pages that leaves you to imagine a semi-fuzzy return to life by the same.


The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

I recently finishing reading the book, “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. As part of my book group I hosted a live call with Jay Papasan and members of the group last week. This book was very insightful. I judge books in this genre based on asking myself, “How much, if at all, will this book change my daily behavior?” Based on that criteria I would have to rank this book very high as it will change my behavior.

The premise of The ONE Thing is that at any given point in time, there is only one thing that you should focus on doing. Your one thing is the thing that moves you the closest or the fastest toward your goal.

Around that theme the authors talk about the major lies that exist in the “productivity” community. These include the idea of multitasking, being disciplined, a balanced life, and others. The core of the book focuses around what the authors call the “Focusing Question,” which is, What is the One thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? The books also talks about 3 commitments to productivity, 4 Thieves of productivity and other helpful insights around time management and time blocking.

I loved this book. Its concept is obviously simple and yet very important. Its easy to apply immediately and it can product dramatic results fast. One of my favorite ideas from the book is the idea that we must time block our one thing. That means putting it on our schedule and protecting that time. If we lose some of that time (which is inevitable) from distractions or emergencies we must replace it.

Another great insight I took from the book is the idea of aligning the “right now moment” with our long term goals and plans. If my goal is to help people become greater producers then I need to ask, “What is the ONE thing I can do in the next five years to help people become greater producers?” Then ask, what is the one thing I can do this year to achieve my five year goal to help people become greater producers?” Then ask, what is the one thing I can do this month…. and then this week, and then right now; to help me achieve that goal? The questions are stacked and this of course implies that we all have a lot of ONE things but at any given time or moment we really do only have one thing.

I also love the chapter about will power. It reminded me of the sections about will power from “The Power of Habit” that I read last year and it was a good reminder about how critical it is to do the most important things when you have a full reserve of will power and to build habits out of the important things that currently require a lot of will power to accomplish.

And in case you are wondering why writing this blog post right now is my ONE thing… the answer is this. My ONE thing is to bring out the inner producer in all of us, and right now the ONE thing I can do is to share this book with the greatest number of people within my circle of influence as possible. Enjoy the book.


Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level by Joel Garfinkle

Getting AheadIn September of this year our online book group read “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level” by Joel Garfinkle. Joel is one of America's top 50 executive coaches and the author of several books. This, his latest work, is designed to act as a guide to help people move forward in their careers.

The book makes a baseline assumption that high performance is in place and that other factors are preventing one from advancing. The book focuses on three factors; perception, visibility, and influence.

Many of the members of our group correctly jumped to the conclusion that these three factors (referred to as the PVI model) are what we often think of as office politics. With that in mind, while office politics has a negative connotation, PVI has a real place in understanding how the world works. It is also a realistic view of how one can add value to an organization and oneself beyond high performance.

One of the insights from the book I enjoyed the most was a point the author made about visibility. Many people are hesitant to voice their opinion in small or large group meetings. There seem to be a lot of excuses that people make to stay quiet. The truth, as the author explains, is that if we have any respect for ourselves we should value our own insights and opinions high enough to share them with the organization.

Another great lesson I learned from the author was the importance of managing up as well as down. A good manager works more on managing those above him/her than those below. A good leader also works on creating greater influence down, across, and up the organization. The greatest way to create influence is to help and serve others. Find out what they need and what their goals are and find a way to be part of the solution.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a high performer who struggles with getting ahead due to having too low a profile or too quiet a personality.


Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data by Phil Simon

Too-Big-to-Ignore1I read this book as the September monthly selection in the 12 Books Group.

In short I think this book is a great read for anyone who is trying to understand what Big Data is and what the positive and potential negative implications are for businesses. It has the right amount of technical information presented in a concise and easy to understand layout.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the book was the chapter that discussed the various tools, programs, and companies that currently exist to frame and support the technical side of Big Data. Learning more about this tools and understanding how companies are implementing them really put the whole thing into perspective for me.

I also really took a lot from the chapter about the potential negative impacts of Big Data. This serves as a good reminder that with great data comes certain responsibility to be ethical with the data and to protect it from those who may have bad intentions.

If you are trying to wrap your head around Big Data with an intention of knowing how you can get started, if/who you can use Big Data in your organization; then I would recommend starting with this book by Phil Simon.


Fred Factor and Fred 2.0 by Mark Sanborn

In our book group last month we read “Fred 2.0” by Mark Sanborn which is a sequel of sorts to the best selling book “The Fred Factor.” These books tell the story of Fred the Postman and use his story as an example of extraordinary service and results.

Fred 2.0Fred the Postman, once the postman for the author is Denver Colorado, lives a life of service. Fred believes that its only the right thing to do to go the extra mile and take care of people under your stewardship. Mark's first book, “The Fred Factor” talked about the 4 Fredlike principles and sold over 2 million copies. This second book, “Fred 2.0” is like the graduate course and expands on what it means to truly be a Fred.

The book is full of great insights and reminders. Among those, one the biggest things that sticks out to me is the emphasis on living a life of service based on loving and feeling compassion for those around us. This paradigm sounds a little mushy on the surface and even more impossible in real application. The harsh truth is that we must first love people so that we can serve them and create value for them. Only then can we create lasting relationships and acquire wealth in all its forms.

I also loved the core idea that we need to raise Fred Jr. today. Mark gives some great examples of how we can teach our youth the Fred principles and the types of results we may expect from that effort. Another chapter that stuck with me is called “Renew Your Resolve.” As much as any of us strive to provide great service and to serve those around us, we will on occasion find ourselves knocked down to the ground. Without the ability to renew and re-commit ourselves to the greater purpose that drives us we will ultimately lower our standards to mediocrity.

Lastly I might add that among my favorite things about these books is that they are not lengthy. In the authors words he told me, “You could buy the book in the Dallas airport and have it read before you land in New York.” That is true and I appreciate an author who writes about big ideas in few words.


Start With Why by Simon Sinek

In June of this year I read Start With Why by Simon Sinek as part of my online business book group. It has been awhile since I read a book that drove so many actions in my life. My approach has been better aligned with my values and I'm better communicating in a way that illustrates what I believe and who I am.

Simon-Sinek-168Sinek's book operates under the premise that everything that a person or organization does should emulate the why. Specifically, why they do it. The book is full of examples of great companies that started with a clear vision of why they were in business and eventually lost their why. Everything suggests that the clear sense of why that drives action effects the bottom line and long term viability of any business or venture.

I loved his use of examples that we can all understand such as Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, Dell, etc. There are a lot of things that I took from this. For one, I need to remember that my target market (regardless of the venture) consists of those people who share the same why. People who share the same why become natural advocates of the company, service, or product and tend to be connected to others who share the same why. That is how viral marketing happens in principle.

I learned that nobody cares as much about what I do or how I do it as they do about why I do it. As I read through this book I went to the About pages on all of my websites and rewrote them to include a clear transfer of belief instead of the usual this is who we are and what we do. This also lead to significant changes in places like marketing materials and LinkedIn pages and profiles.

I learned that while sometimes strange or awkward I will only create stronger relationships with people and organizations if I ask them WHY. Next time I'm at a marketing event or sitting next to someone on an airplane I will be asking the question, “Why do you do what you do?” So far this simple change in directing conversations has led to amazing experiences.

So let me ask you. Why?


Craving by Dr. Omar Manejwala

Craving OmarI recently finished reading a new book called “Craving, Why We Can't Seem to Get Enough” by Omar Manejwala. I was really curious about this book and the science behind cravings and addictions.

I like the balance in the book between science and self-help. The author makes it clear that cravings are a part of life regardless if you suffer from some of the more common addictions like smoking or drinking or maybe chocolate or internet use.

This book explains the neurological science behind addictions and cravings before talking about the common barriers that prevent control and recovery. As the author gives tips and techniques for recovery I appreciate that he makes it clear that you need to quit or work toward recovery as many times as it takes.

The book ends with some tips specific to the more popular addictions. If you are at all curious about the neurological science of cravings I think this is a great book.

–>Check it our on Amazon