Read Real Books!


Over the past few months, I’ve learned more and more about behavior. What drives us to do the things we do? How do I get someone to take a certain action?

The field of behavior design is growing. Leading companies are applying science to almost every design feature. LinkedIn is a great example – they perform all manner of tricks to get the users to provide more information.

Here’s one example: you get an email that shows who has viewed your profile -> you click to see the full list -> LinkedIn shows you where you rank among your connections -> LinkedIn offers tips to have you increase your profile views -> most of these tips involve adding more information to your profile -> LinkedIn is able to make money off of this information by selling premium services to recruiting and other professionals.

Behavior happens when three things come together: motivation, ability and a prompt. LinkedIn’s email serves as the prompt. The site makes it extremely easy to add information and LinkedIn motivates you by playing to our desire to be noticed.

So what am I doing with my understanding of behavior design? I’m moving a lot of my activities offline. One change is in how I read. I’m starting to read real books! (I’m also changing more of what I read, but that’s for another post). I used to think that my kindle app was provided for huge efficiency gains. I could read on any device. I could copy/paste text to a word doc with notes. I could listen to the audio version while driving.

These are all valid points. The connectivity of smart devices allowed me to do all these things. BUT, it also allowed for distractions that would take my attention away from reading. In addition, have you ever tried to highlight a passage and make notes on an e-book? Sure – there are features that allow for this behavior, but I find it much easier to do this with a real book.

If you’re interested in getting more out of your reading, I’d recommend you check out some of Ryan Holiday’s methods. He’s written a great blog post titled THE NOTECARD SYSTEM: THE KEY FOR REMEMBERING, ORGANIZING AND USING EVERYTHING YOU READ.

You are free to choose what devices you use, but know this – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc all employ some of the smartest people on the planet who are working tirelessly to keep you using their products. If you want less distractions, you should consider moving more of your work offline.


Reading Update – Q1

My writing is suffering this year. I started 2014 with the goal to become a better writer, but for that to be realized one has to WRITE more. That’s the key!

My blog is an outlet for my writing. It’s where I can share a great book or article I have read. Or even a half baked thought. But lately, it’s been gathering dust.

So I am dusting off the shelf and sharing one area where I have outpaced a goal I set – reading. My goal: to read 24 books in 2014, and over the last 3 months, I have read 11 – 83% ahead of goal!

Below is what I’ve read (listed in the order read) and some of the key takeaways for me:

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind – Jocelyn K. Glei (Editor)

This is a collection of essays from highly effective people. I picked up a few tips and it was a quick and easy read. One tip I really like is keeping a notebook by your nightstand. Instead of first reaching for your phone, reach for the notebook and write anything. It can be a dream, an idea you had…the important key is to write.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams

One of my favorites so far. Scott Adams shares many of his life failures and shows us how to get the most from a failure. He’s also super process oriented, which surprised me. We often confuse outcome and process. Was failure the result of an unfortunate outcome from a solid process, or a flawed process? Conversely, was your success a lucky outcome from a terrible process? The difference is important. I sent out a chapter of this book to my entire team as required reading.

Choose Yourself! – James Altucher

In a similar vein as Scott Adams, James is no stranger to failure – making millions of dollars and then losing all his wealth a couple of times over. He discusses a daily system that he follows to help keep him creative. The book has a self-help feel to it, but it is worth the read.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos and was an early investor in the company. He writes about Zappos’ values and what makes the company unique – purpose comes first. There are many great stories in this book, but only company policy that is fabulous – Zappos offers new hires $2k to quit after a few weeks on the job. The company figures that if you are there just for the money, you’ll take the offer. They want employees that are aligned with the company’s purpose.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

This book could also be titled “How to Talk So Humans Will Listen…” The authors teach that empathy is an important skill to have to connect with children. Think about how often you tell your kids, “how could you feel tired?” or “how could you be hungry?” In some sense, when we make these statements we are teaching our kids to deny their feelings. A better approach is empathy – to try and understand what your child is feeling.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work – Timothy Keller

I am using this book to lead a group at our church on the topic of work and faith. Scriptures depict God as a gardener and Jesus as a carpenter, yet many of us feel like manual work is demeaning. Keller shows us how every good endeavor is service to God. He also encourages us to find work that is in line with our unique gifts and personality, rather than work that will maximize our income.

Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t – Kevin Maney

For anyone connected to product development or for those running a business, this is a must read. Maney gives us an excellent framework (high vs low fidelity, high vs low convenience) to evaluate product positioning. There are many examples of products finding their way into the “fidelity belly” (not really loved or convenient). The most successful products are either loved or needed – it is a mirage to think that your product can be both.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers – Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is one of the founders of the world class venture capital firm, Andreesen Horowitz. He shares with us wisdom he has accumulated over his years as the CEO of several technology based startups. I was most surprised by how process oriented is he was. A couple of examples – first, he didn’t feel like his product managers were meeting his expectations. Realizing he hadn’t properly trained them, he wrote a fabulous product management guide, Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager. Second story, Horowitz is a big believer in the 1-on-1 meeting between manager and employee. He had some employees that were not consistently having 1-on-1s or others that were not doing a good job. Again, he created training materials to help facilitate these meetings. If you to know how the 1-on-1 should be done, read this.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is the definitive quote from the best book I have read so far this year. Most people focus on what they do or even how they do it, with giving little thought to the WHY. Starting with WHY gives clarity to all actions. This has great application for individuals, but also for companies. If you only read one book off this list, please start with why.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail – Clayton M. Christensen

While in between books, I decided to re-read Christensen’s seminal work around innovation. In an established business, resources are focused on executing the existing business model. Focus is on optimization rather than discover of new opportunities. Christensen’s solution is to have groups focused on new opportunities separated from the established enterprise. Everyone in business should read this.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness – Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

Nudge dives deeply into the field of choice architecture. If you are designing the layout of a form (for example), what should the default be? How many choices should there be? In the school lunchroom, should the veggies or dessert come first? Anyone involved in design, (at work, at home or anywhere else), should read this book.

2013 Reading List

I was fortunate to read some great books in 2013. From time to time, I am asked what I’ve been reading. For those of you that are interested (and for my sake!) below is a list of the books I read in 2013.

Mostly everything was business focused. In 2014, I’d like to expand my non-fiction and read more – a lot more. My blogging hero, Shane Parrish, has read 16 books in December alone! (note: please check out Shane’s blog!)

I was able to make it through 18 this year (with read a few of those on the list twice). In 2014, I have the goal of reading 26 books – 1 every 2 weeks.

Thanks for checking out my blog in 2013. Happy New Year!


Books listed in the order read.

1. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel Pink

2. What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World – Tina Seelig

3. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works – Roger Martin and AG Lafley

4. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Timothy Keller

5. Shepherding a Child’s Heart – Tedd Tripp

6. Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy – Joan Magretta

7. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation – Tim Brown

8. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg

9. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – Seth Godin

10. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries

11. The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development – Jeffrey Liker and Gary L. Convis

12. Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy – Dev Patnaik

13. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen

14. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell

15. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – Brad Stone

16. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All – Tom Kelley and David Kelley

17. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip and Dan Heath

18. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip and Dan Heath

Always improving


As I was reading to my daughters last night, I thought about two things I do while reading to them that relate to this idea of improving:

  1. When I read I try to work on voice inflection – not being monotone, using different voices – in general, I try to get into the story as much as possible
  2. I try to read long passages at a time without looking at the page. Read a sentence quickly to myself, look up, and then say the sentence out loud. I’m not sure when this will come in handy (apart from having to deliver a pre-written speech in front of a large audience) but it’s something I practice anyway

So after typing these out, I realize this may sound very strange, but my kids love #1 and they don’t even realize that I am playing a memory game (I had typed out “they don’t even realize that I am doing #2” but I decided that sounded ridiculous!). I read to my kids every night, so every night is an opportunity to use the time I have to also work on my ability to speak in public.

What is something you do every day that could also help you improve on a skill you need for your job? Do you have an opportunity to take on a leadership role at a non-profit that you are involved in? I had a co-worker who viewed volunteering to read scripture in church as a way to improve her confidence to speak in public. Is “always improving” a reason on it’s own to volunteer? Of course not. I read to my kids because I love spending the time with them…it’s one of the highlights of my day. That said, I’m always looking for ways to improve.