The AwkEng's Jan 2021 Super Condensed Book Report

Hi all!

Here's my super condensed book report. I have a backlog of titles I've read lately and partly due to COVID, I really miss the lunchtime conversations discussing them. Here's are some of the more recent books I've read, sorted in rough order from most favorite to least favorite. For each, I'll try to summarize my key take aways.


Deep Work - The most important, satisfying, (and career advancing) work we do requires consecutive hours per day of uninterrupted time, a concept that's often at odds with email, smartphones, and social media. Intensity and focus is more important to your productivity as a modern knowledge worker than the total number of hours you put in each day. The rest of the book is about developing that focus.

Personally, this opened my eyes to how destructive email has been for my work day, and has changed how I approach work. I now structure my day with start and stop rituals meant to cleanse my mind. I also started taking a daily walk, which might be the most important 30 minutes I spend where I don't "do" anything, but let my mind wander, and find that all sorts of creative insights come to me.

Life changing book for me, highly recommend.

How to talk so little kids will listen - Children are remarkably communicative and rational, if you have the patience to understand them (and can fight your initial instincts!) Techniques from this book flat out work on my two kids. Recognizing and responding to emotions is the key, and taking the time to understand what they meant, not necessarily what they said. Recognizing emotions is just as important for talking to adults, but oddly enough, it's far easier to me to recognize emotional cues and needs in kids.

This book also has strong parallels to "The One Minute Manager" about managing people, and "Never Split the Difference", a book about hostage negotiation. So yes, your screaming 3 year old is like a miniature terrorist, and the same hostage negotiation techniques are just as effective.

Highly recommend for both parents and managers.

Inside the Tornado - This book is about the often counterintuitive flip flops in a how a company should act to survive rapid growth through the adoption curve. After "Crossing the Chasm", (the name and focus of Moore's other work), there is a period of high growth before entering the mainstream.

During this period, there is a stampede and a land grab as new customers hop on board a new paradigm. These customers are potential customers for life, and doing anything to slow down their acquisition or spook them, especially devoting resources to continued product changes or improvements, is likely a wrong move. This advice to ignore the customer is at odds with any other stage of the product lifecycle.

Totally eye opening and wild, and gets into a lot more nuance than what I've summarized here.

Unlimited Memory - The key to memory is to develop mental structures and systems that the brain is good at, rather than brute force memorization. For example, you can probably picture quite vividly where your refrigerator, stove, sink, cabinets, and drawers are in your kitchen. By using that natural ability to "store" information in a "physical" location, you create additional hooks and connections that make it easier to trigger and access memories. Also includes systems for memorizing sequences of numbers, shopping lists, people's names, and other useful bits of info. 


A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming - By directing your attention before you fall asleep to focus on your dreams, you can become aware of the dreams while you are sleeping and then learn to control them. I haven't been able to control my dreams, but if I focus my attention each night on remembering them, I find that I really do dream every night and can hang on to the memories long enough to keep a dream journal. All I can say is that there's some weird shit in my subconscious.

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit - I've had a few movie ideas and I thought it'd be fun to learn about how to pitch one. Probably not gonna happen any time soon, but reading about Hollywood was fun. In short, move to Hollywood, be ready to work, write all the time, and don't be original, just be good. (The authors readily admit they weren't writing Oscar winners, they were writing blockbusters. For profit.) Also, you can tell how important you are by which studio gate / parking lot you've been directed to.

That's all for now!



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