My Reading List

Jan 25, 2018 18:46 · 1993 words · 10 minute read review book

Recently, I have revisited my approach to learning. I’ve decided to start a reading list and outline reviews of the books I’ve read. To ensure the benefits of the reading, I take paper notes first; then once I finish the book, I flush notes out to the blog while re-reading and re-thinking the content.

Plan To Read

Books I plan to read next listed in order of my reading priority. One I want to read next is at the top.

The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham

According to Buckingham, great managers can identify their employees’ strengths and capitalize on them. This approach, he argues, is considerably more effective than trying to improve people’s weak points.

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. It is a book by Peter Senge that explains how to become a learning organization. It describes principles and roles of mental models in building a learning team.

The Dance of Change by Peter Senge

The continuation of Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline” which describes challenges of becoming a learning organization. It also proposes solutions to how to overcome these obstacles.

Thinking, Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman

Written by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman. The main theme of the book is a dichotomy between two styles of thought: “System 1” is fast (instinctive and emotional); “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book describes cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking, starting with author’s research on loss aversion.

Seductive Interaction Design by Anderson Stephen P.

My colleague suggested that book to get the grasp of a good user experience. This book provides basics of the interface approach and shapes the mind to think about interactions, not colors.

Books In Progress

Book(s) I am currently reading or listening.

Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn

Book on advanced scrum. The book is for practical usage, for those who already tried and faced obstacles. It contains concrete suggestions and cases that can be applied right away. It explains how to introduce, scale and be efficient with scrum in organizations of any size.

I’ve started a review already. It deserves a separate article.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Old-school classics on human behaviour. I’ve read it when I was in school and I liked it. However, I rethought it once started the company and discarded most of the advices as “too old” by the age of 20. I am 28 now and it feels like it’s time to go over the basics once again!


The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum

A collection of practical advises on how to practice as a top musician. The author explains the approach to practice and how to utilize a learning time most efficiently. Numerous stories are telling the reader how others are doing it and why it is working. No matter what you are trying to learn (music, math, leadership, programming, etc.), the practices described in this book will help you to move faster on this journey.

My Review

Despite the fact the book is aimed for musicians, I found it useful for myself too. I’ve never played any music instrument but the principles and ideas covered in the Practice of Practice can be used in learning any subject. As a software engineer and director of the company, I found particularly interesting that learning music is very much like running a company in a sense that you must do small steps, push yourself outside the comfort zone and fail in a smart way.

I recommend this book for anyone who is learning how to learn (not just guitar or piano players). In fact, this might be even more useful for non-musicians. Guitar or piano players are used to do practice and they intuitively do a lot of things right, however as an entrepreneur, engineer, designer or whoever else, it is not that common to think about constant improvements and ways of doing it efficiently.

Key ideas:

  • Practice is crucial for any skill. Talent can be neglected compare to learning
  • You are not too old to learn new things (regardless of your age)
  • Newbies can’t see theirs mistakes, although they do them a lot. A lot more than others
  • Prepare surrounding area for the education and practice. Get your desk ready. Make guitar available. Prepare your papers
  • Some say you can’t learn more than few hours per day efficiently. That’s only true when you mastered the skill to near perfection. When you start - put as much as you want - learn to learn
  • Eliminate errors early so you practice the right thing. Errors will be learned the same way as the correct way of doing the same so it is crucial to not practice errors
  • Find a mentor and/or teacher
  • Teacher will also show how to perform, not only explain
  • Mimic the teacher to get a right feeling
  • Teacher inspires and motivates
  • Experienced musicians practice very effectively for that reason they don’t need 12 hours a day
  • All kinds of exposure will help to learn. Practicing music instrument is not only playing it but al;so listening others playing it, singing, trying out other instruments, etc. Attack it from different angles
  • Improvise, try weird things
  • Every single try and minute counts
  • Break it in tiny chunks. Set small goals for every practice session so that there is some tangible progress every time
  • Intensify the learning. Concentrate, focus, really feel the subject! That what’s called deliberate practice
  • Chaining and back-chaining. Practice piece by piece with slight overlaps so every part of the subject receives equal amount of attention
  • Collaborate with others and learn in groups (this actually reminds me about Learning Organizations that I am going to read about very soon)
  • Sleep reinforces learning so make sure to get enough

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Former FBI hostage negotiator shares his experience on how to approach negotiations and influence people. He shares the principles he and his colleagues have developed and followed to become the best in what they are doing. These principles are valuable to anyone who has ever negotiated, meaning to all of us.

My Review

This book is incredible! The content is very dense and full of practical suggestions that the reader can implement right away. Surprisingly, the author rejects the idea of win-win and seeking for compromise and propose to get the most you can from the other part. It is fascinating how the learning process has occurred through continuous refinements and constant improvements over time. Chris explains how important it is to actively listen and truly understand your counterpart opposed to just waiting for your turn to speak.

The stories in the book are engaging and well-written. They are far from trivial and provide real-world examples of human interactions. The book is also supplied with a cheat-sheet that I use to prepare for the meetings from now on.

This book reminded me another book called Crucial Conversations ()by Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler, Ron McMillan) which I would call a simpler version of Never Split The Difference. It emphasizes the same critical points of negotiations, and I would recommend to read it as well. However, Never Split The Difference has much more advanced information and dive into greater details concerning specifics.

Key ideas:

  • Prepare for your meetings
  • Hypotheses are not assumptions. Use negotiation to test hypotheses
  • Find out what counterpart actually needs
  • Make them feeling safe
  • Active listening to express empathy. Let them talk
  • Consider three tones of voices: playful (default), late-night DJ voice (calm and slow), aggressive (rarely)
  • Mirroring is very powerful. Repeat what your counterpart just said
  • Use labeling to validate the emotion. It seems like… It looks like…
  • Use silence to make mirrors and labels work
  • Replace negatives by labeling
  • Start with NO to involve the partner in discussion
  • That’s right vs. You are right
  • Trigger That’s right by summarizing, mirroring, labeling, etc.
  • Never. Split. The. Difference. One black shoe + One brown shoe isn’t optimal for anyone
  • Deadlines are not rigid often
  • Don’t rush. Make others rush. Make them act impulsively
  • Deal with F word (Fair). Don’t fall into the emotions
  • Extreme anchor to make the actual offer seem reasonable. Sometimes, use ranges
  • Loss Aversion. Willingness to take risks are greater to avoid losses than making gains
  • Let counterpart think that there is something to lose
  • Let him or her to provide a price first
  • Use similar offers and deals as a reference to the price
  • Odd numbers seem precise and thoughtful
  • Calibrated questions to provoke the other party to expand. How?, What?, rarely Why?. Not Can?, Is?, Does?.
  • Avoid Yes/No questions
  • How? helps to ensure execution of the deal
  • Information: 7% content, 38% tone of voice 55%, body language & face
  • Meet people in person. Face time meeting
  • Decisions makers words: We, They, Them. Overuse of I, Me, My - less important
  • Use your name
  • Saying No using calibrated questions four times to get the best deal
  • Leverages: positive (I have something you want), negative (I can make you suffer) - more powerful, normative (Inconsistencies between beliefs and actions)
  • Listen, take notes, re-listen and listen again
  • People trust their group - make yourself similar to the counterpart
  • Crazy is not crazy. Understand the other party. Changes are that they are: ill-informed, don’t have power (have constraints), hidden interests

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

The book explains how following your passion is not the best advice for your career. In fact, how following this advice can severely harm. The author also proposes the ways of building up the passion by learning and becoming a highly skilled professional.

My Review

If there is one thing I can extract from this book, it can be summarized in a single sentence: “Focus on improving your skills and don’t buy into this follow your passion paradigm.“. Passion often corresponds to something you enjoy and in most cases this something you can do well or think you can do well. This is why becoming good at something will automatically create a passion for that activity.

I realized that this book is great when the author mentioned deliberate practice as a core requirement to become a professional. He emphasizes the necessity of it and explains how doing what you already know how is the opposite of what you should do to become a craftsman. Being mentally uncomfortable while learning is OK and should be perceived as a signal that you are doing the right thing.

This goes hand in hand to what the author calls career capital - the value that you can give to others. I liked the idea of building up the skill as if you are increasing your capital. It is done gradually, step by step, adding more and more value to what you are doing. It is exactly the opposite of what is called talent or genius which implies a certain level of skill that you born with.

All the rest of the book explains how to build up the career capital, how to practice and what to expect in the journey. The book also tells several real-life stories that appealed to me and resonated with what I was experienced previously in my life. The key ideas that I noted are:

  • Passion follows skill. Not vice verse.
  • Deliberate practice is crucial. Go beyond the average by getting out of comfort zone
  • Think of what’s valuable. Build rare and valuable skills
  • Would people pay for what you are doing?
  • Build up value gradually
  • Gain autonomy and control when skill is there
  • Embrace the improvements and embark upon the journey
  • Being uncomfortable means, you are doing the right thing
  • Innovations are only possible when you are at the cutting edge already
  • A mission grows from the skill
  • Do what successful people do. Not what they say
  • Continuous feedback accelerates grows

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