Reading – 2012

December 2012

  • D-Day: The Battle for Normandy NOTES: nothing necessarily quotable, I enjoyed reading it since I’ve recently started reading more history. The cities and the battles start running together at some point which is sad since most of them resulted in ten to one hundred humans losing their lives. World War II was / is insane, especially relative to the “wars” we’re in now.
  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin NOTES: picked this one up at Powell’s the day before I flew to Berlin and then Dresden Germany. Enjoyed it, was especially fun since I was flying into some of the same areas.
  • The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal NOTES: enjoyed this book, you’ll enjoy it if you feel strapped for time / energy and are looking for ways of strategically deploying your ‘best’. Some interesting quotes / excerpts:
    • “The primary markers of physical capacity are strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. These are precisely the same markers of capacity emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Flexibility, at the physical level, for example, means that muscle has a broad range of motion. Stretching increases flexibility…. The same is true emotionally. Emotional flexibility reflects the ability to move freely and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions rather than responding rigidly or defensively. Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from experiences of disappointment, frustration and even loss.”
    • On stress: “… over time [stress] may prompt symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, impatience, irritability, anger, self-absorption and insensitivity to others.”
    • One of the stories was about a guy that was having problems developing ‘real’ relationships with his direct reports and his family. He instituted three different ‘habits’ (a big theme in the book): a) he did a weekly Monday night dinner with his daughter so that his wife was freed up to take a college class, b) he started doing lunch every Friday with one of his direct reports, no agenda and c) he started doing an activity with his team on a Friday every other month.
    • On values and virtues: values are a source of inspiration in our lives, virtues are those values put to action. Some good questions to ask yourself: a) jump ahead to the end of your life: what are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical? b) think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire. c) who are you at your best? d) what one sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?
    • More questions: a) on a scale of 1 to 10, how engaged are you in your work? what is standing in your way? b) how closely does your everyday behavior match your values and serve your mission? where are the disconnects? c) how fully are you embodying your values and vision for yourself at work? at home? in your community? where are you falling short? d) how effectively are the choices that you are making physically — your habits of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and the balance of stress and recovery — serving your key values? e) how consistent with your values is your emotional response in any given situation? is it different at work than it is at home and if so, how? f) to what degree do you establish clear priorities and sustain attention to tasks? how consistent are those priorities with what you say is most important to you?
    • Page 161: really great couple paragraphs about leadership, the willingness to admit that you’re wrong and the correlation between leaders who do so and companies that show great results long term.
    • Page 166: more reinforcing stuff about how important rituals are in our lives and how setting up good rituals / habits makes us have to think a lot less about the non-essential stuff and frees us up to think about really really important / high value stuff.
    • Chapter on basic training for setting up good habits: a) chart the course in the morning, set aside 5 minutes to figure out what you want to accomplish that day … and then b) chart your progress, at the end of the day record whether or not you accomplished the goal you set out to do.
    • A follow up story on a guy that they highlighted throughout the book… one of the stories that they told is a habit that he put in place for emergencies… where previously he would immediately reply / be under stress, he put a habit in place where he would reply “I understand and I’d like to take a little time to digest this before I respond.” so that he wasn’t reactive / impatient. *Totally* need to put this in place in my own life. 🙂


November 2012

  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 NOTES: Really enjoyed this (long) book, haven’t read much about World War II, this book gives you a pretty deep understanding of what led to that war, at least from the standpoint of Churchill and the English. Lots of important lessons here for our generation in the 2000’s as we (most likely) face similar challenges with the environment, climate change, health and economy but for whatever reason we as a society have chosen to ignore the elephant in the room. Wish that someone of Churchill’s stature would rise up for our time. Also, focus, focus, focus. Some quotes / excerpts:
    • “.. William James once wrote that menu of genius differ from ordinary men not in any innate quality of the brain, but in the aims an purpose on which they concentrate and in the degree of concentration which they manage to achieve. Napoleon, himself great, called it the mental power ‘de fixer les objets longtemps sans être fatigué’ — to concentrate on objectives for long periods without tiring.”
    • “The unforgivable sin of a commander, said Napoleon, is to ‘form a picture’ — to assume that the enemy will act a certain way in a given situation, when in fact his response may be altogether different.”

October 2012

  • In The Company Of Heroes NOTES: Quick fun read.
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom NOTES: Lots of really really interesting stuff about our brains (rider, logical) and how it interacts with our emotions (elephant, emotional / automatic). Some of the interesting ideas / thoughts: a) conspicuous vs. inconspicuous consumption, where we spend money on stuff that makes us look good in front of others but that doesn’t make us happy because it’s a zero sum game…we’d all be better off if we worked less, took more vacation and hung out with our families and friends more, b) the research done on children wrt attachment… “if you want your children to grow up healthy and independent, you should hold them, hug them, cuddle them and love them.”, c) great time course graph on companionate vs. passionate love over time, d) the research into suffering (does it actually make us strong?) and how it’s good for certain ages / times in lives as long as it’s not to severe and we’re surrounded by people afterwards that we can talk about the experience with, but then otherwise is actually negative, e) writing about your issues and talking about them with others has a demonstrated effect on your health, f) the turn from character ethics (where we talk about what we should be striving towards) to quandary ethics (where we talk about what we shouldn’t be doing), g) the list of (in theory) universal character strengths (list) where instead of having a New Year’s Resolution where you’re fixing a flaw, instead focus on reinforcing each of the strengths listed above. Highly recommend, very much enjoyed this book.
  • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right NOTES: one sentence summary: checklists, you should use them. Longer summary: great stories about why you should use them and how they’re being used in a bunch of different fields. Bullet points: a) complexity science broadly breaks up problems into three types of problems: the simple (baking a cake from a mix: a few basic techniques, once learned then solution = easy), the complicated (sending a rocket to the moon, usually can be broken down into a series of simple problems, but never a straightforward recipe, success usually requires multiple people / teams and specialized expertise) and the complex (raising a child: it’s never the same from kid to kid, raising one successfully doesn’t guarantee success with the second, etc..). Checklists are useful for simple problems but you shouldn’t attempt to solve one massive complicated problem with a checklist, better would be to break it down into the small parts and then potentially apply checklists where necessary… and definitely apply checklists to the interplay of the smaller parts (ie: story of the construction / skyscraper building process). b) when starting up ad hoc teams, make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s name and role… having to say your name = “activation phenomenon“. c) pilot checklists:DO-CONFIRM or READ-DO. d) checklists should NOT be comprehensive, they should aim to be quick / simple guardrails. d) Sample checklists at the back of the book, one good one: surgical safety checklist and finally e) the checklist for checklists. Book website =

September 2012

August 2012

  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk NOTES: Great book, really enjoyed the stories / examples. Good summary here to review every couple months.
  • Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit NOTES: great story telling, amazing hard job that sometimes sounds like a ton of fun (ie: here’s a $1000, evade the FBI for the next 48 hours and accomplish this mission over N cities)
  • Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice NOTES: fun book, very different from the other war / special ops books I’ve read in that it was more of an academic look at what it takes to have a successful operation. Six principles (author’s theory) of special operations: simplicity (can’t have too many people / departments involved), security (has to be quiet), repetition (doing something over and over again makes it automatic), surprise (lots of interesting anecdotes that show how important it is to surprise the enemy.. they’re unprepared and confused… and usually very quickly dead), speed (the faster you go, the less time they have to organize / mount any kind of defense) and purpose (having the entire team bought into the mission AND clear about exactly what the mission is).

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

  • Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds Notes: quick read, great story.
  • Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War Notes: my pops gave me this book over the holidays, ~600 pages, fiction (which isn’t normally my thing). Some good stuff in between the lines about leadership, politics within an organization, racism, sacrifice and life. Also: MAN my job is easy.
  • The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption Notes: A quote: “… if it has a number by it, eliminate it.”, was in reference to software and all the “you’ve got 9 new messages” that you see everywhere.. sensitive to this since I’m in the industry that’s creating counters. 🙂 Pretty short book, only took a couple hours to read, not sure that I’d recommend buying it, just read it at the airport on a layover or something. Definitely has prompted me to think more about what and WHY I consume certain things. The references to dopamine and inbox counters was revealing… I find that I use ALT-TAB WAY too often to find out what’s new between my Gmail inbox, my Jive inbox, my corporate email inbox, Twitter, Adium, Google Reader, iCal and everything else that shows a “you’ve got mail icon!”. Definitely need to start turning off email, IM and other stuff for extended periods of time.

January 2012

Now with 50% less caffeine!