Book Review, Posts

Deep Work – Cal Newport

  • Deep Work audiobook cover artTitle: Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
  • Author: Cal Newport, PhD
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Recommendation Score: 4 / 5

Book Review

The population of “knowledge workers” is increasing with the shift towards an information economy. These workers, such as researchers, journalists, engineers, computer programmers, designers, etc. need “deep work” to be productive and creative. However, they often find themselves in a working environment where they are prone to distractions and frequent interruptions. They are losing calm offices to get open spaces, they spend their time in multitasking, jumping between meetings, chats, and emails, they are expected to remain available for instant messaging platforms, and sometimes they are forced onto social media.

Cal Newport addresses these topics in his book “Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. He coined the term “Deep Work” to define the professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration, and that stretches one’s capabilities to their limits.

Deep Work is Valuable, Rare and Meaningful

The author argues that:

  • Deep work is valuable for learning, productivity, and creativity.
  • Deep work is rare since we live in a world where we are distracted permanently.
  • Deep work is meaningful and brings calm and satisfaction to our lives.

The book investigates several ways to incorporate deep work into our working habits, illustrated with real-life stories. Continue reading “Deep Work – Cal Newport”

Book Review, Posts

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Image result for blink audible
  • Title: Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Author: Malcolm Gladwell
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Recommendation Score: 3.5/5

Book Review

“Blink” is about experts’ intuition. The takeaway of the book is: the experts cannot be fooled easily because of their “thin-slicing” ability, that is, they can judge and find patterns in events based on a narrow window of experience, thanks to their intuition. On the other hand, experts can be easily (catastrophically) fooled, as in the case of “Warren Harding Error” (chapter 3). The book leaves you confused about when to trust an expert intuition and when not to.

Gladwell is a good writer and knows how to attract his reader’s attention. He is a talented journalist, who reads tons of articles and books, and interviews a lot of people, to write a good story. His storytelling style makes the reading of the book pleasant. When it comes to the content, the author is far from being an expert on the topic. In many chapters, Gladwell seems to jump between 2 or 3 stories to come to some conclusion, without citing solid evidence about the conclusion.

If you want to read a book that is based on solid scientific research, “Blink” may not satisfy your need.

Book Review, Management, Posts

The Personal MBA – Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business audiobook cover art
Audible Audio-book
  • Title: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business
  • Author: Josh Kaufman
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Recommendation Score: 5 / 5

Book Review

The author, Josh Kaufman, argues that MBA programs are too expensive, with a low return on investment. Especially that the best MBA programs are highly selective, they will pick the candidates who have promising profiles, and who would climb the ladder with or without an MBA. He suggests that business school is unnecessary, and that reading books and gaining real-life experience is a better option.

“The Personal MBA” book as a distilled summary of a huge number of business and personal development books. It gives a boost of knowledge about business, but you need to complete it with further readings and practical experience. As the author puts it: The Personal MBA is a “Do-It-Yourself” approach to business education, but “Do-It-Yourself” does not mean “Do-It-By-Yourself”.

The book comprises both the technical and emotional skills needed for a successful career. The chapters pursue the following outline:

  • Value Creation
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Value Delivery
  • Finance
  • The Human Mind
  • Working With Yourself
  • Working With Others
  • Understanding Systems
  • Analyzing Systems
  • Improving Systems

Continue reading “The Personal MBA – Josh Kaufman”

Book Review, Personal Development, Posts, TED Talks, Understand Yourself

Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little

Couverture de Who Are You, Really?

Audible Audio-book
  • Title: Who Are You, Really? The Surprising Puzzle of Personality

  • Author: Brian R. Little, PhD
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Recommendation Score: 4.5 / 5

Book Review

Who are you, really? Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? Are you compassionate or rather detached? What defines your personality traits? Can you change your character?

The book “Who are you, really?” provides insights about the personality traits based on latest psychological studies. The good news is: you are not destined to have a certain character, you can change your personality traits. How? By pursuing your personal projects, you define who you are. In other words, the well-doing can change your character, and has an impact on your well-being. More details below.

Biogenic, Sociogenic and Idiogenic selves

The author argues that everyone has three ‘selves’:

  • The biogenic self: your genes define some of the traits of your character. This is the fixed part of your personality.
  • The sociogenic self: other traits of your personality are imposed by your social context and the culture you grew in; people who are important to you, your family, friends and colleagues.
  • The idiogenic self: what you decide to do, your projects and plans, are the last layer of your character. Studies have shown that what you do can even has an impact on the manifestation of your genes, and, in a sense, influence your genome at least temporally.

Fortunately, your genes and social context are not the only determinants of your personality. Your idiogenic self is your hero.

Continue reading “Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little”

Book Review, Posts

Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker


Book Review

If you find yourself making a lot of stupid mistakes, having difficulty remembering names, and being unable to connect with people due to your bad mood, then you might need to consider to have more sleep.

“Why We Sleep” is a must read for all those who think that sleep is a waste of time, and that 5 or 6 hours of sleep are sufficient for them. It explains how modern life style is deteriorating our sleep quality and quantity, and its impact on our everyday lives, on organisations and on society.

In a nutshell, here are the proven benefits of a full night of sleep as the author puts it : it makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.

Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.

Insomnia

SleepLossObesity
Sleep Loss (dotted) and Obesity in the US

The author warns the reader against the use of sleeping pills, and recommends the cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, which is proved to be more effective and is rapidly being embraced by the medical community as the first-line treatment. The tips below include some of the CBT-I methods.

Tips for a better sleep

Continue reading “Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker”

Book Review, Posts

The Willpower Instinct – Kelly McGonigal

Image result for The Willpower Instinct

Audible Audio-Book

 

  • TitleThe Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
  • Author: Kelly McGonigal, PhD
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Recommendation Score: 4.5 / 5

Book Review

The book is written in a “coaching” style, and is full of research-based tips and practices that help you understand better the self-control mechanisms and employ them to gain more willpower.

One of the best interesting ideas that I find helpful is to mind the gap between your “Present self”, that is yourself, and your “Future self”, that super-human that can stick to any plan or budget. More details in the takeaways below.

The intelligent want self-control; children want candy.

Rumi

Some takeaways:

Willpower is a biological instinct, like stress, that evolved to help us protect ourselves from ourselves. It helps us to be a better version of ourselves.

Self-control is like a muscle. It gets tired from use, but regular exercise makes it stronger. When your are too tired, you are most likely to give in to temptations. Self-control is highest in the morning and deteriorates over the course of the day. Try to accomplish your most important tasks early in the morning. When you come back from a hard day of work, exhausted, you are less likely to exercise, and more likely to overeat. Similarly, don’t get yourself into exhaustion before moments of big decisions. This includes sleeping well and eating well. Continue reading “The Willpower Instinct – Kelly McGonigal”

Book Review, Personal Development, Posts

Atomic Habits – James Clear

  • Image result for Atomic Habits - James Clear
    Audible Audio-book

    Title: Atomic Habits – An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

  • Author: James Clear
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Recommendation Score: 4.5 / 5

Book Review

Very interesting book that deals with the science of habits. It can be considered an extension to the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, with more examples and a kind of user manual guidelines for building and breaking habits (see the tables below).

The author presents the ideas very clearly, inspired by many real-life cases and based on recent results of academic research. He provides useful chapters’ summaries and other insightful resources that you may check on the author’s website jamesclear.com.

The main guidelines that the author suggests to build a new habit or break an old one are presented below (source: jamesclear.com).

How to build a habit

built_habit.png

Continue reading “Atomic Habits – James Clear”

Book Review, Personal Development, Posts

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

ThePowerOfHabit.jpg
Audible Audio-book
  • Title: The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change.
  • Author: Charles Duhigg
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Recommendation Score: 4.5 / 5

Book Review

The book deals with habit aspects, at individual level, in organizations and in societies. It is quite enjoyable to read. It helps you understand how habits work, how to create them and how to replace them (unfortunately they cannot be removed).

What I really liked about the book is the examples and how they are meshed with the results of academic research. Examples of ordinary people, organizations (Alcoa, Starbucks, etc.), sports teams, social and political movements (the civil rights movement, Saddleback church), etc. show how habits shape our everyday life, and how they are able to create dramatic changes if changed carefully.

Here are some takeaways

  • The habit loop: Cue –> Routine –> Reward. Once the cue appears, the loop is triggered.
  • The craving brain: the cue, in addition to triggering the routine, must elicit a craving for the reward. The brain starts to anticipate (crave) the reward as soon as the cue shows up.
  • The golden rule of habit change: keep the same cue, the same reward, change the routine by inserting a new one. It is not easy, and it needs a Belief that the (permanent) change is possible.
  • Keystone habits: some habits are more powerful than the others, they are called “keystone habits”. They have an impact on other habits and have the power to change them. A very interesting example of Paul O’Neill, when CEO of Alcoa company, is presented to highlight how a keystone habit can transform an organization.
  • Small wins convert cumulative successes into routines.
  • Willpower: it is a very important keystone habit, it is a “muscle” that needs to be trained. It helps individuals to build self-discipline and to develop self-control.
  • Crisis are opportunities for good leaders to remake organizational habits.

Continue reading “The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg”

Book Review, Posts

Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens

EverybodyLies
Audible Audio-book
  • Title: Everybody Lies – Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
  • Author: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Recommendation Score: 3.5/5

Book Review

The key idea of the book is the following: people lie to everyone, but when they are alone in front of Google, they confess their deepest secrets. Therefore, using Google (anonymous) research data is very helpful in several domains, including social sciences, medicine, marketing, political campaigns, etc.

The book is divided into 3 parts. The first two parts emphasize the importance of data, and the fact that almost ‘anything’ can be data; pictures, words, any real-world measurements, etc. The author gives interesting insights about the potential uses of Big Data. However, in some paragraphs, the importance and usefulness of Big Data seems to be exaggerated. In other paragraphs, some evident facts (in 2017) about data are presented as new discoveries.

The last part of the book is the most important part to me. It deals with questions such as:  how do we handle Big Data? Can we trust all data? What data? Data correlation vs. causality, how much is data relevant? Big Data and the empowerment of corporations and governments?

Continue reading “Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens”