June 2015 Reading

Making Ideas Happen

We all have ideas, right? Some of them are good, and others merely part of a dream that’s forgotten with the first coffee of the day.

The thing that differentiates successful people from the unsuccessful is not that successful people have ideas, but that they actually do something with their ideas. When you act on your ideas you actually have a chance to succeed — and the more you ship, the more you increase the likelihood of finding that success.

It’s possibly more valuable to have a good framework to prioritize and execute your ideas than it is to come up with truly awesome ideas. Mediocre ideas executed well will trump ideas never executed, or great ideas executed poorly.

Making Ideas Happen is all about executing ideas, and bears many similarities to Getting Things Done.

even if you were to adopt all of the best ideas in this book, making ideas happen will never be easy

If you’re struggling with executing your ideas and GTD didn’t speak to you, then you should read Making Ideas Happen and see if the methods described mesh better with your creative brain.

All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Business

I’m the dad of two lovely little girls and I take care of them regularly. I do hair, paint nails, fix pretty dresses and change diapers. While my wife currently does more of this since she’s now home full-time while I work, there were years when I was the primary caregiver because her work schedule was longer than mine and less flexible.

I still remember a day at church when a lady heard that I’d be home alone on Saturday with my oldest daughter, who was then a toddler. The lady made some comment along the lines of, “Well, let’s just hope she survives the day with daddy.”

Sure the comment was made in jest, but it speaks to the cultural expectation that dad is a bumbling idiot who just hopes to make sure that the children survive while he’s on duty.

All In explores this cultural assumption of the ‘bad dad’ along with the topic of parental leave, and does it from all sides, not just the dad side. While reading the book, which is focused on US laws, I’m super lucky to live in Canada which allows 12 months of parental leave (8 weeks for mom, the remainder split however) to pretty much anyone that would qualify for any employment assistance.

Not only is having awesome parents good for business — as shown in this book — but it’s good for families to have dad and mom in place for the first 6 weeks. This early bonding time increases the chances that families will stay together and that dad will stay involved with his children, even if a marriage breaks up.

While the title of the book indicates the emphasis will be on dad, that’s not quite the case. Much of the book talks about mom, and also covers non-traditional families and how they should be treated by the workplace.

If you’re thinking of becoming a parent or are one, this is a good book to read to challenge your assumptions about how parents should act.

Abaddon’s Gate

This is the 3rd book in the Expanse Series by author James S. A. Corey, featuring James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante as they freelance their way around the galaxy in their salvaged Martian ship of war.

When we left them in Book 2 the alien molecule had sprung to near Uranus and formed a gate. This book is all about what happens as humanity deals with the ring and what’s inside.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the book, finishing it off in about 4 days.

Cibola Burn

This is Book 4 in the Expanse Series, following Abaddon’s Gate.

In Book 3, we figured out the rings — learning they won’t immediately kill humans as they go through them — and now it’s time to start seeing what’s on the other side.

This book joins a group of Belters that have set up on a planet and are essentially squatters. The company that holds the mining rights to the planet comes along, and of course conflict ensues. James Holden is brought in as a mediator, and they figure out that the whole planet is really alien technology.

Ships get trapped, things blow up (like half a planet), we encounter killer slugs and microbes that grow in your eyes and then we watch Holden work to shut down the alien tech that’s making everyone’s life difficult.

Again, I finished this book in a few days and very much enjoyed the time.

The Paradox of Choice

More choices means you’re going to be happier, right? You’re able to choose any of the 100 options that most suits your circumstances and needs.

What could be wrong with that?

The Paradox of Choice explores how the above thoughts really aren’t true. The more choices you have, the less likely you are to actually be happy with the choice you made. In fact, if you have 20 jam options instead of 5, you’d be less likely to even buy jam because you’re overwhelmed.

The biggest takeaway for me is that we can all benefit from standard operating procedures (ones we establish for ourselves) which just take decisions out of our hands in advance. A few of mine are:

  1. I don’t give information out over the phone to people that call me.
  2. I choose the top shirt on the pile.
  3. Every prospect must answer my initial client questions.

With those in place I don’t have to weigh things like the benefits of shirt A over shirt B, I just grab the top one and get dressed. If a prospect refuses to answer my questions, I don’t spend time on them and I let them go. It’s entirely possible I’m passing on a great client, but my SOP is that you must answer my questions, so I’m saved from weighing the individual merits of tracking a client down for answer to my questions.

I really enjoyed this book and enjoyed the research presented about how the myriad of choices we face today are likely making us less happy than people who have gone before us.

Nemesis Games

Here we are at the last (well, currently last) book in the Expanse Series. In this one the regular team of the Rocinante is split up, and during all the space battles they realize how much they rely on each other. Amos relies on Holden for his conscience. Holden needs them all to feel complete….

This one is told from the point of view of each of the main characters as they solve their own piece of the related puzzle. Really the only one not involved in the bigger picture is Amos, who is stuck in the aftermath of a large attack, trying to survive and realizing how much he doesn’t have a conscience.

Again, a great installment that I devoured. Can’t wait for the next one.

The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger is Book 1 of the Dark Tower Series by author Stephen King.

This is actually my second read-through of The Gunslinger and the first thing that struck me — in addition to nostalgia — was how well the overall universe was put together. So many things/creatures/themes we encounter in later books are talked about in the first book.

I totally missed this on my first read, mainly because I wasn’t yet familiar with the world King had built.

The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

That’s the line that we open with, meeting our man in black and our Gunslinger. We figure out it’s something like a western, but there are machines around that are clearly not ‘old’ — well they are, but that’s because we learn that much of the technology to build the things we have today has been lost as the world ‘moves on’.

The biggest striking feature of the book is the clarity with which Stephen King describes all the items we see. You end up getting so drawn into the world it takes you most of the book to realize you don’t even know the Gunslinger’s name.

Much mystery surrounds all the characters we encounter. You probably don’t realize that at first, but as you progress in the series and see many of the people continuing to come back in this world or another, more weight is given to the actions taken when you first meet them.

Overall, this is one of my favourite series to read.

The Drawing of the Three

This is the second book in the Dark Tower Series, and here is where we start the ‘dimension’ hopping. It’s actually a bit weirder than that, since when we jump, we actually jump into the heads of people, through an actual door standing there in a beach.

The part I most enjoy is watching our main character, Roland, deal with being sick after losing two fingers, as a heroin junky (Eddie) goes through withdrawal and thinks about killing Roland.

Second up is the reckoning of Dedda Walker and Odedda Holmes as they become one whole person.

The Waste Lands

You knew I’d go straight to Book 3 of the Dark Tower Series, right?

In The Waste Lands we get to see Roland start to go mad as he battles two sets of competing memories. In one memory, he meets a boy named Jake (in the first book) and then lets him die.

In the second memory, Jake never appeared.

This paradox is a direct result of Roland’s actions in The Drawing of the Three and makes for plenty of tension on both Roland’s world and Jake’s as they deal with the split memories.

We also get a better handle on how the whole world is made up here, and see yet more things that are similar between our world and Roland’s. There does seem to be a bigger hand at the tiller behind everything, but what exactly does it want to do?

That’s it for my June reading list. Stay tuned next month for more.