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Reading List Updates, end November '10

Just finished:

Think and Grow Rich: A marvelous book, but I was having a hard time finishing it. Then I realized - the last three chapters are pretty much fluff that repeat points already covered. I skimmed the last three chapters... it starts very strong, ends weak, but I'm happy it's finally done.

The Alchemist: What a masterpiece by Paolo Cuehlo. Read it in one day, couldn't put it down. Got me thinking a lot... lots of great quick ways to think, quick heuristics and mantras in there. Really wonderful short little book with some great lessons.

If I Did It: I read OJ Simpson's autobiography on a whim when I saw a copy. It's a weird book. It's about a guy trying to be a decent husband and having his marriage fall apart. Then he kills his wife. Oh, and it's OJ Simpson, and the most famous trial/legal story of the last 20 years. Weird to read the guy's perspective... it's weird in how surreal and normal it is. A famous guy marries a beautiful 18 year old girl but they don't have a really deep or mature connection. She doesn't take well to money and stability, gets unhappy, starts acting kind of crazy in the marriage. OJ acts crazy in response. They divorce. Then he keeps hearing her partying around town and doing drugs, flips out, and kills her. Weird reading it in his own words - I lived in Los Angeles for awhile, and the first part read like a fairly normal L.A. story with a rich, famous guy making a bad choice in a young beautiful woman without much depth or character. Then it gets kind of crazy at the end. It wasn't sad so much as weird. It's sureally normal in parts, and then ends with... well, you know. I wouldn't recommend you go out of your way to read it, but it's interesting for a few hours if you get a chance.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Eliezer Yudkowsky's fanfiction is exceptionally good. If you're a reader of LessWrong at all, you'll love it. If not, you still might like it. He wrote it in "serialized" format where each chapter is a mostly self-contained adventure with plot arc, and then a cohesive whole. It works well, reads well, lots of good insights. He didn't really hit his stride and tone until chapter 15 to 20... if you like Yudkowsky's normal writing, give it until chapter 20. Trust me on this - Eliezer sets up a lot of backstory and forces some humor in the early chapters, and the tone isn't quite smooth... still good, but then wow, it kicks into overdrive around chapter 20 and it's just a page-turning must-read. It's free online at fanfiction.com and you can also find pdf compilations with some googling.

Why You Never Heard “Follow the Manager”

On A Driver Minded Guy Living in a Passenger Minded World

In case you haven't noticed in previous posts, I have a thing against managers. Notice I said managers and not leaders. You never hear people refer to Steve Jobs as a great manager do you? Or that a president was nominated to be the Manager of the Century. The fact is, we do not look up to managers; we look up to leaders.

Managers lead by using a check sheet or to use the more common verbiage of business, a scorecard. They value relationships based on what the team is doing for them and what they are accomplishing. In general, managers are good at one thing, getting a task completed and not a lot more. If you look at their meeting topics, they are usually centered on processes and "past problems". I am not in any way saying meetings should not discuss these items, but rather, team huddles should not be consumed by these measures. Managers are not coaches, but they are great umpires.

Another thing about managers I have noticed is they do not have a lot of foresight outside of their to-do lists. They understand they need to get certain things done and master certain processes, but oftentimes, they do not have any idea why. They see to the end of the task and are "rev'd" up by the completion of the task, not necessarily the overall impact it may have. That's why I love the picture with this post. In my experience, managers are often like ants, just doing what they do, following every other ant in front of them.

Leaders are different. For one, they have a passion emanating from them. They understand the task, but measure it against the impact it will have once completed. Most have check lists, but they involve people and the development of those around them. They can play all aspects of the game from being the coach, a player, or even a cheerleader when needed.

Leaders have foresight and the more successful ones are already at the destination, guiding their teams to meet them there. They also understand the extreme importance of honest, sincere, and direct feedback to their team. Their purpose is to coach to success and not to beat into submission. Umpires like calling out to players letting them know when they are right and when they are wrong, coaches (leaders) enjoy evaluating wrongs to make them right and celebrating the wins.

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