2019 Books

I’ve been terrible with books my entire life and 2019 was the year I wanted to change that. So, I finished 10 books in 12 months (maybe 2020 will be 12/12!). There was no particular topic for the books, but I just picked things that I found interesting at the time or were recommended.

I’ll go over each book with my own thought and then dump my favourite quotes. In no particular order:

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On by Chris Voss

I picked this up to learn how to negotiate since it’s something I’d never have really done in the past. Super good book - highly recommend if you’re looking for a method to negotiate.

Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.

The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation. It’s tripling the strength of whatever dynamic you’re trying to drill into at the moment. In doing so, it uncovers problems before they happen. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.

American Kingpin by Nick Bolton

Based off the real story of The Silk Road - a marketplace built on Tor and Bitcoin which sold anything from drugs to eventually hitmen. The story is about the founder, Ross, who is claimed to build and operate the entire thing. Quite a feat, if true. This book had great story-telling, mixed with tech, crime, and politics. Definitely one to check out and form your own opinion on afterwards.

Most people go through life thinking that tomorrow they’re going to do something great. Tomorrow will be the day that they wake up and discover what they were put on this earth to do. But then tomorrow comes—and goes. As does the next day. Before long, they realize that there aren’t that many tomorrows left.

You type lines of code into a computer, and out comes a world that didn’t exist before. There are no laws here except your laws. You decide who is given power and who is not. And then you wake up one morning and you’re not you anymore. You’re one of the most notorious drug dealers alive.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

I’ll be honest, I’d never thought the story for Nike would interest me in any way. But this book kept popping up as a people-favourite. I was not disapointed. Shoe Dog really goes into Phil Knight’s entrie journey from a kid who had no business selling shoes, to fighting through breucracy, doing things that don’t scale, and then figuring out why things are actually working.

I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.

I wanted to win. No, that’s not right. I simply didn’t want to lose.

More than once, over my first cup of coffee in the morning, or while trying to fall asleep at night, I’d tell myself: Maybe I’m a fool? Maybe this whole damn shoe thing is a fool’s errand? Michelangelo was miserable while painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. His back and neck ached. Paint fell constantly into his hair and eyes. He couldn’t wait to be finished, he told his friends.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah narrates his audiobook Born A Crime - and the narration is what makes this so good. The favourite part of this book is priviledge - or lack of - defines us as who we are. The more we get or have, the more we crave. Trevors life in South Africa is probably a gentle introduction to how life really is in South Africa and other nations that have been destroyed by colonialism and politics. Plenty of great content in this book.

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.

The name Hitler does not offend a black South African because Hitler is not the worst thing a black South African can imagine. Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus.

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have to answer to. “What if…” “If only…””I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

I love books that study other groups or people and dive into their lives. The Culture Code does exactly that. It identifies high-throughput groups and tries to identify what makes them thrive.

Several leaders of successful groups have the habit of leaving the group alone at key moments. One of the best at this is Gregg Popovich. Most NBA teams run time-outs according to a choreographed protocol: First the coaches huddle as a group for a few seconds to settle on a message, then they walk over to the bench to deliver that message to the players. However, during about one time-out a month, the Spurs coaches huddle for a time-out…and then never walk over to the players. The players sit on the bench, waiting for Popovich to show up. Then, as they belatedly realize he isn’t coming, they take charge, start talking among themselves, and figure out a plan.

The End is Always Near by Dan Carlin

When Dan Carlin comes out with anything - you have to read/listen to it. Dan talks about what he typically would talk about in his podcasts: How the world will end based on previous human behaviours.

The historian Gwynne Dyer has said that Sennacherib destroyed Babylon as thoroughly as a nuclear bomb would have. In fact, the only difference between the ancient world and the modern is that it took a lot more human muscle power to accomplish the same thing.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Another one that comes highly recommended. I don’t do many business/coachine/entrepreuneur books but Ben’s book has plenty of examples from his personal journey, and it’s one of the better buisness books that I’ve come across.

My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits — in that order.” It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of the people means that your company is a good place to work. Most workplaces are far from good. As organisations grow large, important work can go unnoticed, the hardest workers can get passed over by the best politicians, and bureaucratic process can choke out the creativity and remove all the joy.

The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim

The Phoenix Project is an acquired taste. It’s a fictional story mostly about Dev Ops and how to create a functional organization. Definitely brings a lot flashbacks from working at larger companies!

I’ve seen this movie before. The plot is simple: First, you take an urgent date-driven project, where the shipment date cannot be delayed because of external commitments made to Wall Street or customers. Then you add a bunch of developers who use up all the time in the schedule, leaving no time for testing or operations deployment. And because no one is willing to slip the deployment date, everyone after Development has to take outrageous and unacceptable shortcuts to hit the date.

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Since I enjoyed The Culture Code, I thought The Talent Code would be good as well. That wasn’t really the case - this was probably the hardest book I had to go through. Mostly because you knew what was coming and what the answer was.

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.

What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz

Also another book that I picked up because the previous one by Ben was good. This one again, feels a little bit like its stretching the stories into fitting into the premise of the book. Being a big history fan, I find it hard to believe anyone that quotes “Genghis Khan” and “entrepreneur” in the same sentence. Also, it includes a lot of repetition from the previous book.

Without trust, communication breaks. Here’s why: In any human interaction the required amount of community is inversely proportional to the level of trust.