Tag Archives: Books & Reading

What I’m up to lately…. February 2015

Read Time: 4-5 minutes What I’What

If we haven’t chatted in a while, feel free to pick-up the phone and call me. If there’s anything I can do to help you with anything, please please please let me know…

Work Stuff:

  • Blend is the focus of my work life. Lots of travel to and from Dallas, with occasional travel to NYC and Washington DC. It’s been more than a year since I joined the team full-time, and we’ve grown the team about 3x since last January – 30+ people now.
  • The work is challenging, mostly because of the complexity of the projects and our target clients. We sell software to banks and lenders in the residential mortgage market, which in today’s world of regulation and compliance, plus the path dependency of existing systems and models, makes the decision and implementation process highly complex. In one implementation, I’ve counted more than 75 people on the customer side that have been involved with the process. That’s just one project at one customer.
  • It’s not particularly difficult work, just challenging from the standpoint of balancing the self-interest of everyone involved with each specific sale, plus the extenuating affects on other systems and people not directly involved.

Daily Practice:

  • Morning Pages: I wake up every morning and journal three pages – a practice I learned from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way.” I’ve been doing this for more than a year now. Very effective to figure out what’s going on in my head before the day gets going, and writing out three full pages is enough to talk myself through whatever is bugging me.
  • Meditation: This started with 15 minutes of simply sitting still and focusing on my breathing. After about a month, I’m now able to go 30 minutes and about 25% of days, I do a guided mediation. Tara Brach has been my go-to on this so far. I download the podcasts so I can have little session even on a train or plane.
  • Evening Journal: The evening journal is a quick sketch of the day – what I accomplished. This is a very short exercise – 5-10 minutes. It’s been super useful to bookend the day, and offers some closure so that I’m not waking up and writing my morning pages about stuff that happened yesterday. I learned this from a Tim Ferriss podcast with Josh Waitzkin.

Helping Others:

  • I’ve made it a sort of personal challenge to seek and find people to help in achieving their professional goals.
  • Just before Christmas, I downloaded my LinkedIn contacts and I’ve started pinging 2-3 people every couple of days that I haven’t spoken with in a while. I send them a personal message to the effect: “It’s a been a while. Looks like you’re doing great. Need help with anything?” Pretty interesting to see the types of responses. A few (just a few…) haven’t responded. A couple people respond back with – “Great to hear from you. Hope all is well.” And then a good chunk of people send back specific requests, most of which are things for which I can actually help – connecting them with people I know, sending them articles and ideas, etc. Check out this James Altucher blog post on how to be a “super connector.”
  • Coaching, Workshops, etc. – I’ve gotten involved with lots of different groups over the past six months, mostly around entrepreneurship and startups. Meeting really great people from all over the world, literally. A few groups with which I’ve worked recently – The Nordic Innovation Group, BelCham, Startup Weekend, Social Venture Partners, SAGEGlobal, Women’s Startup Lab, Hult International Business School, and UC-Berkeley Extension.

Life Tips:

  • Free days – I almost always take a “free day” on the weekends – one day when I don’t check email, or even think about work, an idea I learned from Strategic Coach, a coaching program I tried out about a year ago. It takes some real discipline to avoid checking my phone during idle moments – whether short moments in line at the store or longer stretches like my son’s nap time over the weekend.
  • Naps – Yes to these. I try to nap every Sat and Sun when my son goes down.
  • Decluttering – Been tackling areas of the house to get rid of stuff I don’t need or use. Worked through laundry room, living room, and kitchen so far. Started on my closet. Found receipts and documents going all the way back to the mid-1990s. WTF… Liberating to throw stuff away, and give away that which might be useful to others – clothes, office supplies, etc.

Training & Racing:

  • Coming off knee surgery back in September. Took me much longer to recover than I expected (which is why professional athletes retire at 40…) I’m finally back to 5-6 mile runs and nearly 20 miles a week.
  • Planning on a half-marathon this Spring, a short triathlon or two this summer, then a marathon and ultra-marathon in the Fall.
  • Ironman? I get asked if I’m doing another. I usually tell people that I have another 1-2 in me, just not this year. But soonish…
  • Learned lots of cross-fit exercises over the past year – has really helped me with balance and running with more of my body, not just legs. Here’s an example workout from New Year’s Day.

What I’m feeding my brain:

  • Podcasts: Tim Ferris, Tara Brach
  • Blogs: James Altucher, Jason Lemkin
  • Books (recent & current):
    • “The Art of Asking,” Amanda Palmer – Indie punk musician that figured out how to ask people for help. Great lessons in here that you don’t have to do everything on your own. Here TED talk is a good summary, and thought I do recommend the book for the full story and context.
    • “Annals of a Former World,” John McPhee – A book about the geologic history of the US. It’s a tome that I don’t plan to finish. It’s really five books consolidated into one, and the book that’s most interesting is “Book 4 – Assembling California.” Big focus on Northern California and researchers based at UC-Davis. It’s good bed-time reading. Three pages and I’m ready to snooze. I’m amazed at the amount of research and learning that went into this book.
    • “Influence,” Robert Cialdini – Re-reading. Good airplane/business read on exactly what you’d think from the title. Research based – not a “manipulate people” book.
    • “Principles,” Ray Dalio – Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater, a huge hedge fund. Super interesting read on how he approaches learning and communication.

And a huge thank you to Matt Slater, a friend and former student for the inspiration for this post.

My review of “The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk

After watching an interview on Charlie Rose, I downloaded “The White Castle” by Orhan Pamuk. The story seemed most interesting to me (an Italian that is captured and assigned to slavery in Turkey) compared to Pamuk’s more recent work that deploys love and politics as the driver.

My thoughts:

  • Meh.  I expected more from a Nobel Laureate.  I began reading more than a month ago.  After chewing through the first 5-6 chapters, my personal disdain for incomplete tasks forced me back to finish.  Perhaps though, that says enough about the story’s development that it pulled me back even if for choring.
  • The focus on the psychological struggle between the protagonists and Hoja is interesting at first, but grows wearisome as the book continues.
  • As the chapters proceeded, I awaited a major shift in the book’s direction, an “Aha!” moment. Instead Pamuk deliver twists and turns that resemble a meandering path instead of a fundamental shift in the book’s direction.  That’s my fault for expecting this instead of working with the author as he unfolds the story.  
  • I wonder if the shallow nature of the story and its characters is intentional to emphasize even complex relationships like a master-slave, can only run as deep as the individuals themselves.  I found the Protagonist prolonged attempts to enjoy knowledge and natural wisdom beyond his reach becoming tiresome, while Hoja’s behavior akin to watching a spoiled child in a restaurant refuse to each their applesauce.
  • After recounting the book’s development, my sense is that a few middle chapters could be skipped altogether without the reader missing much from the book’s denouement. 

I’m still deciding whether to give the author another shot, though not likely anytime soon.

The Charlie Rose interview proved an interesting window into Turkey and it’s balance between religion and secular society.

Yes. That’s cotton candy for dessert

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On the brain

Posting a couple of articles/resources I'm collecting for eventual reading related to the human brain.  I think this recent interest in the brain and its working started after watching parts of The Charlie Rose Show's "Brain Series"  over the past couple of months.  Last week I came across this 2001 interview with Danny Hillis. As the superconscious would have it, resources on this topic have displayed themselves to me. Though I believe the kernel germinated back in my days of economic study where I was introduced to experimental economics and neuro-economics. 

So here's today's reading list:

"A mind of one's own" by Raymond Tallis
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2011/02/mind-self-consciousness-brain

"What the science of human nature can teach us" by David Brooks
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/17/110117fa_fact_brooks?currentPage=all

Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphry

Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio

More to come…