Book Review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

While continuing on the path of listening to many older but classic books, I had to include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.

I remember first reading this book shortly after it was released. I note that the version I listened to in Audible recently was the 25th anniversary edition. I'd say it's stood the test of time pretty well. An enormous number of copies (over 25 million) have apparently been sold over those years.

This book had an almost cult following when it first appeared. I know people who believed it completely changed their lives. There were also many associated seminars at the time.

Even though it's dated, what the book is full of is moments where you'll be forced to reflect on your life and realize he's talking about you.

I do like the way he included a lot of practical advice on changes that you can start making. It is written in a pretty matter of fact, yet encouraging tone, designed to make you think about the choices you make or have made, how they are affecting you now, and what you might do to regain control.

He was also writing at a more religious time and place, and I don't share his belief of the importance of religion in his life.

This is by no means a perfect book and again some aspects of it haven't weathered the years all that well but it's still full of meaningful insights.

I was glad that I went through it again, all these years later.

Greg's rating: 7 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

Book Review: The Rosie Effect – by Graeme Simsion

I mentioned in a previous review about how much I enjoyed The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I couldn't wait for the sequel to come out and so I eagerly read The Rosie Effect: A Novel as soon as it was released.

The first book introduced us to Don Tillman, working on genetics at a local university and trying to help Rosie find her father. All along, he's trying to find a wife using scientific principles.

In this book, we move ahead to where Don is now a dad. Nothing goes quite to plan. And of course that's the way it always happens with children.

I clearly remember a friend of mine whose wife was a project manager, and she had planned out the entire pregnancy and afterwards using Microsoft Project. My friend was allocated various tracked tasks to complete.

I won't say more than it ended in tears.

So it's no surprise that there are a few bumps ahead for Don in this book.

I didn't find this book as compelling as the first (I think that's a syndrome involving sequels) but it's still a way better book than most.

I really liked it.

Greg's rating: 9 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

Book Review: The Case Against Sugar – Gary Taubes

You would have to be hiding under a rock to have missed the current low-carb ways of eating, and particularly the ketogenic thinking about food. Central to much of this thinking though is cutting carbs in general. The hard part about this for most people, is cutting the primary source of carbs and that's sugar.

If ever there was a leader of the fight against sugar, it's Gary Taubes. His book The Case Against Sugar is very significant.

I remember him shocking people years ago by pretty much pronouncing sugar as toxic. When I look back over my own life to date, I think he's right. If there's anything that I wish I could go back and change, it would have been my various forms of addiction to sugar, in all its forms, including innocuous ones like bread and rice.

In this book, Gary presents a case directly against sugar and implicates it primarily as the the number one thing that's led the world into a Type 2 Diabetes epidemic. I'm one of those people, and when I make the best progress, it's when I've basically eliminated sugar and carbs.

The verdict isn't totally in, as you can imagine, but I think you'd be pretty hard-pressed to read or listen to this book, and not come to the same conclusion. And every single day, I now see the results of this in various forums that I'm part of.

As a book, it's compelling but I do think he belabors a number of points. I'm sure he's doing that to simply drive the main message home. But there are some sections where I think he made the same point again, and again, and again. That could have been less.

I really suspect that in the future, when the dust settles on all of this, Gary's thinking will be seen to have been seminal in starting to fix our current issues.

It's interesting that the sugar industry is now seeing the writing on the wall. Sugar was one of Australia's key exports in the past. Fortunately that's in decline. But I note with interest the pop-up stalls in shopping malls now where sugar is being defended with near religious zeal. I'm reminded of how cigarettes were defended when I was young.

Bottom line: If you have any doubts about the role that sugar plays in our lives, just read it or listen to it. You won't think the same way again.

Greg's rating: 10 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

Book Review: How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie

Using Audible to listen to books has allowed me recently to get through a lot of books that I would never have had time to get through. I'm determined to get through some classics as well. Self-improvement books don't come more classic than Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People so I listened to that too.

I know several people who say that, in the 1990's, attending one of the seminars associated with this book, changed their lives. I can understand how that's possible in some situations.

This is a fairly long book. The biggest hassle I see with the book is just that it's dated. Many of the analogies are more suited to a world where dad went to work, mum stayed home, looked after the children, the house, and cooked.

But the key points are really well made, as long as you're willing to see what he's getting at, and ignore (or mentally update) any of the dated analogies.

I can see why this book is famous although I suspect it's time has now pretty much passed. It's enjoyable though, even though he belabors some of the points.

Greg's rating: 6 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

 

Book Review: Blue Ocean Strategy – V Chan Kim and Renee Maubo

Another fairly famous business book that I've read lately is Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by V Chan Kim and Renee Maubo. Apparently over a million copies of this has been sold.

I really liked the basic premise of this book. It describes how most companies keep looking at what their existing customers want, and often that's in what they call a red ocean ie: where all the sharks are fighting and tearing things apart.

The book talks about techniques you can use to try to escape from the melee in the red ocean and to try to find clear blue ocean. Part of the strategy involves dwelling on people who aren't your current customers. Why don't they deal with you? Can you change that?

Overall I liked the book but it does suffer from having dated a bit now. I nearly burst out laughing when going through the section on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and how it solved a set of problems so nicely, cut the budget enormously, and would be airborne in 2010.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And I found a number of examples like that throughout the book where the authors thought something was either wonderful or would go onto glory, but time has shown the opposite.

However, the basic concepts in the book are still valid; it's an interesting discussion; and I'm sure it will have you reconsidering many aspects of your business if you run one.

Greg's rating: 7 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

 

Book Review: Mistakes were made (but not my me) – Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

I've been listening to a lot of audio books lately and one that caught my eye was Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

One of the mistakes that we all can make (and I've done it so many times myself) is to make a decision, find out it's wrong, but to then hang on to it for way too long.

It was fascinating (and probably a little depressing) how often I could recognize aspects of myself while reading this book.

There were many truly fascinating tales. The ones that most clearly stick in my mind though were about prosecutors who had pushed for a guilty plea in a murder case, later could not accept they were wrong even when the supposed victim turned up alive.

The book had a great discussion on cognitive dissonance.

The part of the book that I didn't love was the depressing section on the tragic stories about psychologists and the misconceived (and even evil) work around repressed childhood memories of sexual abuse. The point was well made but the book seemed to really belabor the point way too far.

Apart from that section which went on too long, I found the book fascinating.

Greg's rating: 7 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

 

Book Review: Introduction To Personal Branding – Mel Carson

Over the last few months, I've also been reading a number of branding-related books. One that caught my eye was Introduction To Personal Branding: Ten Steps Toward A New Professional You by Mel Carson.

Part of the reason I looked into it was that Mel was an evangelist at Microsoft and as most would know, I spend a lot of time dealing with Microsoft in various ways.

It was also interesting as it's a low cost book that Mel has published using CreateSpace and I'd often wondered about using that so I thought I'd check the outcome of that as well. Finally, it's a short book. Listening to it on Audible would probably only take an hour or two.

Mel defines personal branding as the practice of defining a professional purpose, and then being able to explain that to a target audience through digital media and social channels. He also talks about how having the profile in place is important if you want to get the most out of in-person events like conferences.

I did like the way he focused on defining how you see your role, and then honing right in on making sure that all your touch-points really support that. He's keen to see everything else gone. That one's a touchy subject as I often see people complaining that a well-known figure in one area, is posting comments about another area (eg: politics). The defence to that is normally "that I'm a real person and a whole person".

While much of the content that he covers would be familiar to anyone who's been building a brand already, there are always good solid and timely reminders, many of which I've taken to heart myself.

If you are just starting out with building your personal brand, you could do worse than spending an hour or two hearing what Mel has to offer.

Greg's rating: 7 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

 

Book Review: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff – Richard Carlson

I've been going through a number of fairly famous books or ones that have spawned their own industry. One of those was Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and it's all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson.

This one intrigued me as there are now so many follow up versions. There's a "for teens", "for men", "at work", etc. etc. etc. along with ancillary items like workbooks. So I presumed there must have been something to it.

Carlson has some great messages in the book. Clearly it's possible to have your life overcrowded with things that, in the end, don't really matter, and I do like the way he cut through to the essence of things. Althought, I think Greg McKeown's book Essentialism that I reviewed earlier did that better.

His thoughts on listening were nicely put: " Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It's being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond". That's one that it's really easy to mess up on.

This is another key insight: "We tend to believe that if we were somewhere else, on vacation, with another partner, in a different career, a different home, a different circumstance – somehow we would be happier and more content. We wouldn't!"

I particularly liked the way he talked about imagining your own funeral. I've heard that from other writers before but he put it all quite well by adding the urgency of a timeframe: "Imagining yourself at your own funeral allows you to look back at your life while you still have the chance to make some important changes".

I can't imagine that I'd want to get the workbook or any of the other books in the series, but I can see why people do seem to like this one.

Greg's rating: 8 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

Book Review: A Higher Loyalty – James Comey

I don't tend to read all that many books on US politics but I had heard interesting things about A Higher Loyalty – Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey.

I was especially interested to hear this one on Audible, given the author was also the narrator. I really wanted to hear him explain his view on the situation.

Generally, I'd avoid a book like this because I was assuming it would just be a self-apologetic or self-aggrandizing account of recent events. What I found though was very, very different.

I was genuinely surprised by how compelling I found the book to be.

Most of the book wasn't about the current Trump situation, etc. It was about his background, the New York mafia, and a lot of information about earlier investigations in the FBI.

I found the discussion around Martha Stewart particularly interesting. It seems that many times when people are brought in for questioning, that if they had just told the truth, the outcome for them might have been quite minor, but lying in the interviews is where things start to go very, very wrong for them.

I've heard a lot of people who support the current US president maligning Comey but I was left wondering that if they'd read this book (or listened to it), if they'd have either moderated or changed views.

US politics seems irredeemably polarized but regardless of your political leaning, given the background coverage in this book, and the timeliness of its later content, I'd suggest that it's worth your while reading or listening to it, before forming any further opinion on it or him.

What can I say? I found it fascinating and I wasn't expecting to.

Greg's rating: 9 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).

 

Book Review: Hit Refresh – Satya Nadella

When I first heard that Satya Nadella had a book out, I was somewhat surprised as at the time, he had just taken over running Microsoft. Usually you don't see books from CEOs until they've been in the role for quite a while and have become philosophical about things.

But given the impact I could see he would have, I was fascinated to read his book Hit Refresh.

It was actually quite a bit more than I expected. I really enjoyed the tales of his life and how it led up to his current role.

He shared a great deal about his family situation, and you can see that he's really been through some hard times, and you can also see a love of his family shining through.

On any measure, Microsoft is a far superior company today than when we took the reins. I think people forget just how grim many things were looking at the time.

It's really interesting now to see Microsoft being seen as such an innovator, compared to say Apple. The jokes about Apple's biggest contributions lately being about removing headphone sockets off phones are only partially in jest. By comparison, they seem to have lost their mojo.

If you ever wonder if some of these CEOs are worth what they get paid, you only need to compare Microsoft today with Apple to get a idea of the impact that the right one can have.

What can I say? I really enjoyed the book.

Greg's rating: 9 out of 10

Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but whether or not I recommend a book is unrelated to this. One day it might just help cover some of my site costs. (But given the rate, that's not really likely anyway).