Just finished Einstein: His Life and Universe, written by Walter Isaacson, narrated by Edward Hermann. It was very well written and organized. It feels like you get to see a snippet/glimpse into Einstein’s life. How all the notes, reviews, and public information was combined into one book is amazing.
I want to just share three characteristics that I feel made him tick:
- Humility. Know oneself. Throughout the book, I got the feeling that Einstein (for the most part) tried to do things that were within his ability (physics), and shied away from things that were not (politics).
- Challenge all assumptions. Unconventional thinking, leads to unconventional results (at the same time, conventional thinkings, leads to conventional results). Einstein challenged time and space itself, and rewrote the way we look at the world, the universe.
- Persevere. He could not get a job after graduation, and was a humble patent clerk when he made some of the most important scientific discoveries.
I truly believe that all of us have the ability to bend our own space and time…we just need to harness the little bit of Einstein in all of us.
2011 was an incredible year. I’m so grateful for everything that happened. From spending my New Years traveling in South America, graduating from MIT Sloan, and finding a home in NY/Amazon/Audible.
Going back to my few blog posts of 2011, wanted to share a quick recap.
Top 3 blog posts by page views:
1. Thin and Minimalist wallets
2. (Audio) Book Review: Talent is Overrated
3. Friends of the Amazon Rainforest Shelter
My favorite things from this year:
1. My MBA 2 year overview
2. 50 Days in South America
3. MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference as an organizer
Looking forward to the adventures 2012 brings.
Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, written by Geoff Colvin, and Narrated by David Drummond. This was an inspiring book.
I’ve heard a lot of the same thoughts before, in Gladwell’s Outliers, he talks about the 10,000 hours needed to become an expert. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, our lead Panel in 2011 was Birth to Stardom: Developing the Modern Athlete in 10,000 Hours? But it’s hard not to see the success of others, and attribute those successes to factors that you can’t control.
A few thoughts from the book I wanted to share:
- To be good at something, don’t just practice hard, practice hard in good ways. PERFECT practice makes perfect.
- “One factor, and only one factor, predicted how musically accomplished the students were, and that was how much they practiced.”
- Deliberate practice is NOT fun, BUT that’s where the advantage comes in. If you can do it, and others don’t, that can propel you to success with respect to your peers. Do what others won’t do, to gain the advantage.
- Get FEEDBACK. Having a 3rd person view is always great, even better if backed up with data/metrics.
- “There is absolutely no evidence of a ‘fast track’ for high achievers.”
Not just in sports or music, but I think this can apply to ANY area in your life. Ultimately if you want to be better at something/anything – focus, FAIL (early and often), get feedback, and put in the time.
Rework. Written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir, Narrated by Mike Chamberlain is fantastic. It’s short, to the point, and makes you question how you work – Is it effective, efficient, and most importantly, is it working?
The authors are also the founders of 37 signals, web applications that focuses on productivity and collaboration. They have a lot of experience and are well-regarded.
Even if you’ve heard/learned most of the concepts before, it’s a great reminder (and it’s a short read/listen) to HOW you should be doing things. Highly recommended when ever you need a reminder, or a kick of inspiration.
A reflection. I’ve now been living in NY for 5 months now. Definitely different from the easy-going life in Portland, outdoors filled Seattle, and academic life in Boston. Lots of changes, and lots to adjust to. Work is great, and hopefully I can share some of my favorite audiobooks via this blog so others can check them out as well [disclaimer: I work for Audible.com]
Wanted to share a few thoughts on the experience thus far.
- Lots of friends of MIT and from MIT Sloan [people]
- Lots of great food – especially Korean food next door (not homemade, but I can get 김치 anytime I want to 🙂 [food]
- Diversity of people and culture (favorite part of NYC) [culture]
- People (like in Boston) can be jerks (especially compared to Pacific Northwesterners). Something about everyone being busy, too many people, and life moving so fast here [people]
- So hard to get things done such as finding an apartment, getting groceries, or going out (too expensive) [logistics]
- No (easy) access to outdoors [#painful]
- Learning a ton! About the city, myself, and new technologies
- My commute is 30 mins door-to-door. Perfect amount to either get some thoughts to myself, listen to an audiobook, or get some last minute/urgent work done.
- Friends and family here in NY. What more can you ask for?
Taking a break from all the non-fiction and tech stories, I decided to go back to fiction. I just finished Night Circus, written by Erin Morgenstern, narrated by Jim Dale. It was an excellent story, I don’t want to ruin any of it, but I would highly recommend it (I hear it’s eventually going to come out as a movie).
Parts of it reminded me of the Prestige (2006), mostly because it’s about dueling magicians, but definitely has its own unique story. The story telling style was great – various different perspectives and views. Lots of characters (sometimes hard to keep track of). And a good element of mystery and imagination.
I would recommend this to anyone…one quote to sum it up:
“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it. Do not forget…there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Night Circus chapter 30, part 2, ~ 5:10:00ish
Recently, I’ve been on a Tech story binge. Earlier I read the Facebook Effect, I’m Feeling Lucky, and now this: In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives written by Steven Levy, and narrated by LJ Ganser. It’s interesting learning about the stories of the tech companies that have such a big influence on our culture, but yet wasn’t around 10 years ago. I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned.
The book is a great “inside,” but still 3rd person point of view of Google. It covers its early rise, to the standardization of its culture and current practices, to the challenges that it currently faces. Most of the information may not be new if you follow the tech world closely, but it still summarizes it nicely in one package. My favorite section in the book is the chapter on China. This was incredible and included a lot of information that wasn’t found in the general news. It gave me a better understanding of how difficult it is for a western company, especially one as “fresh” as Google, to establish a presence in China. It seems like an uphill battle with a multitude of factors that make it naturally difficult.
I read this concurrently with I’m Feeling Lucky. It was a perfect companion as it gives an outside and inside view of Google at the same time. The stories really let you appreciate the way that Google works; it’s fresh (and stubborn) approach to problem solving, the courage (and audacity) to tackle the impossible, and undeniable impact it has on the world.
I would love to see more companies be as bold as Google.
I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. This was an excellent read/listen. It was narrated by the author himself, Douglas Edwards. It tells the inside story of how Google grew from 1999 to 2005, from Google early days to its IPO. Even more interesting was the telling of Douglas’ own experience and perspective as one of the non-Techies in the company during its growth.
A few highlights:
- “You make your own cred. If you propose your own initiative you’re much more likely to do it, than if you sit around and wait for someone to say ‘What do you want to do with your life'”
- “Larry never hesitated make short-term sacrifices to win battles down the road” (I think this can be seen even more clearly as the current CEO)
- “The world tolerated bad translations to access Google’s technology, perfecting polish wasn’t as important as the speed of giving people access to it” (I agree so much with this statement)
If you’re interested in technology and/or Google, this gives such a unique point of view into the company during its tremendous growth. Larry/Sergey and the company in general, always thought BIG and thought of interesting/new/unconventional ways to do things – from building their own products to how they ran the company. During that time, it sounded like a really fun ride.
I personally think, there’s a ton of lessons to be gleaned from the book. From not following conventional wisdom, believing in your own vision, taking BIG bets on technology, focusing on hiring the right people (like 20 interviews/person focus), and once hired, giving them a TON of freedom to act on their own accord for the company.
I always thought, if you do conventional things you get conventional results…clearly Google did nothing conventional and look how amazing/world changing it turned out.
The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World. With the Social Network movie, and the rising success of the company, this was an amazing read/listen. Gives you a neat perspective of the growth of the company, and the story behind it. How, in the shadows of the web 1.0 successes (Google, Yahoo, etc..), Facebook came out of a dorm room.
The book gives amazing insight into the history of the company, Zuckerberg’s vision, and importance Facebook has and will have on the world. Some points to share:
- Mark was a really talented person. There are some fantastic ideas, out-of-the-box thinking that made Facebook what it is today.
- At least from what I gleaned from the book, it was really close to being sold to Yahoo…wow, that would’ve changed things eh?
- In High School someone once told me, “Leaders aren’t born, but made.” Throughout this book, you can see how Mark grew from a someone just hacking something together in his dorm room, to someone who is now (according to Forbes) the 9th most powerful person in the world.
This was narrated by the author himself, David Kirkpatrick. And it’s neat how his voice inflections and excitement comes through from his own research/experiences with the company. Just another dimension of listening to it, versus reading it. And even includes a special interview at the end of him and Mark Zuckerberg’s sister.
Last point. If you’re interested in ever building your own company, and/or creating products that eventually change the world, I’d highly highly recommend this book.
Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, The Thrawn Trilogy, Book 1 (20th Anniversary Edition), is so far the best audiobook I’ve listened to yet. Timothy Zahn did a fantastic job with the story line, and Marc Thompson is an INCREDIBLE narrator. He’s so good, that regardless of the title, I think he would just make any story better. The overall production value is through the roof.
A few of my favorite things:
- The story line is directly after Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. Perfect, if you’re like me, and you wanted more out of the original franchise.
- The narration is amazing. It actually feels like you’re listening to the movie. Complete with sound effects, different voices for everyone (including C3P, R2D2, Yoda), as well as sound effect (lasers, explosions, and the whirring of the lightsaber).
- It’s Star Wars!
Audiobooks like this, help me appreciate how differently you can experience a story – book, movie, being told in person, and audiobook. Each has has its own unique characteristics that bring a story to life.
I cannot wait for book 2 (Dark Force Rising) to come to audiobook form. The force is strong in this one.