What I’ve read in 2021
When my infant daughter had colic, it rocked our world. Beyond the loss of sleep and other challenges, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to read in the evenings anymore.
When the colic stopped, things got better. I started reading again, and I felt more like myself. I’ve been more grateful for reading since this happened. I feel lucky that books are a source of discovery, calm and happiness for me.
This year I experimented with reading twice a day, instead of once. I found this helps with momentum. A short reading session in the morning (5–10 pages) can be really enjoyable, and I’ll continue to experiment with this.
I also started using Audible, and have enjoyed listening to a few books during my commute.
This is the first Sci-fi book I’ve read in what feels like a long time. I was impressed that the author was able to explore these topics. When he was speaking about tribal living, I wondered: How did he know about this? I’ve lived in a village. Has he?
I ended the book feeling inspired to explore the future by writing about it.
‘How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi details his struggles with racism and his vision for a better way to address racial inequality in the USA.
I benefited from living the transformation Kendi wanted me to live; to explore racism through the lens of power and policy, instead of individual hate and prejudice. I was also engaged by all the examples he provided of documented racist ideas, publications and authors.
I struggled with his ideas about racial groups existing or not existing, and their influence or non-influence on individuals. Further, the idea of taking the stance of “different, not better or worse” proved challenging. There is an opportunity to dig deeper in philosophy here, as this is an idea that has been more meaningfully explored in other works.
Through the book, Kendi uses dualities to bring to life new ways of looking at racism that can help us take a better approach. This writing style successfully sparked many insights for me, and this was enough to make the book more than worthwhile. I was disappointed that the book felt short on creating solid definitions that could be used practically. However,that might not be a fair expectation in the first place.
I also enjoyed Kendi’s critical lens, which he applies to his own life and asks us to apply to antiracist efforts. I am curious regarding the next chapter of Kendi’s career, which will likely feature a deeper exploration of one of the main ideas in this book: how to create and change policy to address inequality. Overall, the book might not bring all the clarity a social scientist might expect, but it provides more than enough insight to engage in a new perspective on race that is needed at this time.
À train perdu (En français)
Une exploration sur comment s’y prendre pour vivre notre mort, si on souhaite vivre notre mort à notre propre façon. Les thèmes qui m’ont marqué: le Nord (Ontario + Québec), les school train, la vie rurale, l’importance d’une seule décision.
“Les personnes qui ont eu une enfance heureuse croient au bonheur, et sont capables de le chercher, alors celles qui n’ont pas été heureuses dans leur enfance ne savent même pas que cela existe ou s’en croient indignes.” Jocelyne Saucier
12 Rules for Life (audiobook)
I enjoyed reading Peterson’s ideas about how to live a good life. I am constantly surprised about how differently he sees the world than how I see it. For example, Peterson believes that the world is a difficult, miserable place to live in. I disagree. All the stoic writing that has shaped my worldview pushes me to think that I am the main source of my suffering (and that I can change this).
I learned that his thinking is heavily influenced by his religions beliefs. Reading about the bible was also a first for me. Most of the authors I read are atheists, so there was a lot of new content for me to explore. I’m still surprised on how differently him and I see how the world is changing in relation to gender, diversity, equity and inclusion and transgenderism. I almost feel like a radical optimist in comparison to him, based on his views about the present and the future.
I’m aware that Peterson is a controversial thinker. He has taken polarizing stances on several issues and he has been heavily criticized for his views. I’m quite motivated to learn from people who are different from me. Especially in this case, as Jordan is a psychologist, a profession that has always fascinated me. When reading or listening to him, I don’t find it difficult to separate his opinions from the facts he shares.
I expect I will continue to listen to Jordan’s ideas. It’s rare that you can have access (through his writing and videos) to someone who thinks differently than you do, especially if their views are different from the mainstream. It helps that he is not afraid of saying the wrong thing, so that I can think more deeply about where I might be wrong. I’m sure that I will continue to agree and disagree with his conclusions, but that he will be a constant source for a different way of looking at the world.
The Psychology of Money (audiobook)
I wanted to understand people’s psychology about money. I’m still trying to figure out my own, but I’ve been inspired by Seth Godin’s perspective regarding your story about money. What I learned was that an individual’s psychology about money varies tremendously, and we need to become aware of this (our own psychology and others’) if we want some sense of agency around what to do with our money, and how it can serve us.
Some great quotes:
“Beware taking financial cues from people playing a different game than you are.”
“Money’s greatest intrinsic value — and this can’t be overstated — is its ability to give you control over your time.”
“Use money to gain control over your time, because not having control of your time is such a powerful and universal drag on happiness. The ability to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, for as long as you want to, pays the highest dividend that exists in finance.”
“Your personal experiences with money make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.”
“The only way to be wealthy is to not spend the money that you do have. It’s not just the only way to accumulate wealth; it’s the very definition of wealth.”
I also learned general advice about personal finances that I can apply immediately. This includes: “You don’t need a reason to save.” Saving is a valuable activity on its own.
If You Want to Write (audiobook)
Speak the truth. Your truth. The way you see it. That’s what will make your writing great. This book was useful to me as I wrote the first draft of the Challenge mindset book. It’s encouraging me to find the truth in what I am trying to say, instead of constantly worrying what the reader will think.
I really enjoyed the small writing samples that provided to illuminate her messages.
“…writing [or art, music, photography, inspiration] is this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it.”
“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his *true* self and not from the self he thinks he *should* be. ”
“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another. ”
Steve was an extreme version of himself. I admire that. Steve treated people poorly. I don’t admire that.
It took a lot of stories and a lot of pages to get to Walter Isaacson’s delicious point of view: Steve was wrong in the way he treated people. His approach didn’t lead to better results.
Steve was right about so many other things. Some of his ideas changed our world. Maybe not as profoundly as other innovators, but he did shape the most profitable company in history.
I found this book easy to read, and I enjoyed immersing myself in Steve’s entrepreneurship lessons, his successes and failures, his idiosyncrasies and his bold vision. It was fascinating to read about wild journeys at Apple and Pixar, as well as his personal life.
Steve stood at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I wish we could continue to hear his points of view about how humans will continue to change in the future.
A biography with sprinkles of simplistic, retrospective do’s and don’ts. It’s hard to find a reason to read this book, as there are better sources on entrepreneurship, business biographies and philanthropy.
Eli spent a lot of time on his accomplishments, and sometimes it felt like he was justifying himself. Especially his philanthropic work.
Unfortunately, I liked Eli Broad less and less as the book went on. He was definitely more than ok with not being liked, but one wonders how he truly feels about his legacy.
Guys’ personal stories show that he is a humble man with great values: Helping. Learning. Doing your best. Giving back to others. Be different. It was a joy to read the stories that bring his ideas to life.
The flywheel concept gave me a new way to understand my business and plan for the future. I recommend that every entrepreneur who is trying to create a scalable business experiments with creating their own flywheel.
80/20 Sales and Marketing (audiobook)
The pareto principle is fractal, meaning you can look within your top 20 (customer, marketing, activities, etc.) to find additional leverage. Practical advice on how to market, sell and think about business. Recommended for founders and marketers.
Creative inspiration for how to build your culture, from someone who has built and invested in several companies. Read this book if you want to create a culture on purpose.
To thrive as an entrepreneur, you can create a ‘franchise-model’ business, with a sophisticated architecture that helps your employees thrive. This includes the creation of strategies, systems, processes and checklists. Instead of stifling them, your systems help your employees learn your business to it’s core, the way it was meant to be learned. This book has pushed me to take far more responsibility for documenting and sharing the art and science behind my work, so that it can be delivered at a world-class level, every time.
I worked for Craig Dowden for two years. Imagine how much you learn when your boss is a world-class leadership coach! Divided into six pillars, this guide will help you navigate the integration of positive leadership practices into your day to day. This book gives you instant access to Craig’s favourite research and practices. If you believe you might want to ‘do good to lead well’, pick up this book and start applying its lessons immediately.
Our assumptions about how we work are grounded in our history. Specifically, our transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Many principles that we still believe in today (the importance of hard work, worrying about the future, the length of our work days and weeks), were born when we started farming. Are these assumptions and principles still serving us today? Will they serve us in the future? By examining the genesis of these ideas, it’s easier to associate them as a relic of our past that we can respect, but not worship. To thrive in the next centuries, we might need to base our work assumptions and principles on completely new ideas. It’s through this change that we can widen the scope of possibilities for how we can structure our careers and our lives.
Highlights for me: 1) Write a scorecard for the job, including a mission and outcomes. 2) Keep asking people: Who are the most talented people you know who I should hire? You should always be recruiting top talent.
The book is focused on hiring senior executives, so I found it less useful to my immediate hiring needs. I was also irked when they confused competencies with attributes, something my industrial-organizational psychology friends would hate!
This book inspired me to ask people: How long do you want to live?
Personally, I picked 101. Wanting to live until 101 has changed multiple decisions in my day to day life. From a health perspective, I am doing functional patterns and hired a coach to help me address some structural issues and improve my athleticism.
You might feel some doom and gloom as read through their vision of the future. It was hard to stomach, but I think it’s necessary that we reflect on what is coming next.
Some of my favourite sections were about crafting your identity and reinventing yourself.
Some sections made me question my own choices: did I make the right decisions? Am I making the right decision now?
The authors share some broad strokes of advice I disagree with. For example, they describe our personal and professional assets as on/off switches. In my mind, the daily, weekly and monthly integration will still be more important to figure out. In addition, I am not sure how well they understand the following topics: how to explore your career, entrepreneurship and corporate learning (companies’ ambitions for supporting employees are much bigger than what the authors give them credit for).
Started but didn’t finish:
Promised Land (Audiobook — Chapter 6) — It was exciting to learn about how Barack Obama won the election. It was so discouraging to learn about the resistance he faced when he started in office. It was so painful to hear, I decided not to finish it!
Atomic Habits — I started reading this when my daughter had colic. I’m sure I will pick it up again.
The Road to Character — Not the book I was looking for.
Continuing to read into 2022: