Books

My Top 5 Books From 2019

Reading has always brought me tremendous joy. It’s an activity in which I get to jump in and out of reality & imagination, sharpening my tools while also trying them out in my day to day life.

In 2018 I set out to read 100 books by 2023. Here’s a list of the top 5 books I read in 2019 that had an enormous impact on my way of thinking.

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1.      Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello

Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who gave many lectures about spirituality over the course of his life. This book is a compilation of the key lessons he gave around the topic of awareness and in these pages lie many “aha-moments”. This is a book to be read once a year to reset your mind.

We are often trapped in ways of thinking without knowing and this book will open your eyes to that. De Mello doesn’t preach any religion in it, rather he uses reason and philosophy to help us understand important mental traps that hold us back in life.

“When you said, ‘I was a success’, you were in error; you were plunged into darkness. You identified yourself with success. The same thing when you said, ‘I am a failure, a lawyer, a businessman’. You know what’s going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you’re going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that’s where your suffering comes from.”

2.      The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

“If we mortals are to uphold our end of the human-computer symbiosis, if we are to retain a role as the creative partners of our machines, we must continue to nurture the wellsprings of our imagination and originality and humanity.”

Similarly to his book “Steve Jobs”, Walter Isaacson left me inspired and speechless about the dynamics of human collaboration and limitless thinking that has led us to our present day.

It’s no easy feat to build a personal computer, or a software, or a encyclopedia 85-times the size of Britannica, or much less a search engine that emulates human-ranking thinking. But these were all contributions from many of the great companies we know today – Apple, Microsoft, Wikipedia and Google.

Despite the endless patent wars we see in the news, purists believe that none of these ideas “belong” to anyone. These were all expansions on a single idea originated 150 years ago by Ada Lovelace. The idea that humans and machines one day would not be put against each other, but rather collaborate to achieve unimagined feats.

3.      Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse

“Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits”

James P. Carse is a professor of history and literature of religion at New York University. In this book Carse eloquently explains all the games hidden in our every day lives.

There are two types of games: finite and infinite games. “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.” From this simple deduction, Carse dissects all the elements that make each game unique and relevant within our lives.

When I first read this book I had 78 highlighted passages… there are way too many golden nuggets hidden in these pages, and very much like Awareness, this is a book that must be read at least once a year.

4.      Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction with this book. It is written in the form of a letter to his son about the symbolism and struggles of being an African American in the United States.

This is an absolute masterpiece that will open your eyes to how racism has shaped the history of America and continues to be a problem today. What I thought I understood was a tremendous understatement to what Coates so brilliantly writes to his son.

“We should seek not a world where the black and white race live in harmony, but a world in which the terms black and white have no real political meaning.”

This is required reading for anyone looking to understand how racism truly manifests itself around us. It is the first step towards true empathy in a world so divided by race, religion and place of birth.

5.      Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

This is one of the most complete books about the evolution of human societies that I’ve ever read. It has also won a Pulitzer Prize, Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California’s Gold Medal.

Diamond does an incredible job explaining how and why certain societies advanced ahead of others by digging deep into their abilities to raise large mammals, grow certain foods, leverage their climate and landmass to migrate and trade with other groups as well as their exposure to animal diseases that helped them develop antibodies against certain viruses and bacteria.

This all-encompassing chronicle shines light into how the geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern societies we see today and answers a lot of questions that you may have never thought of.

Bonus: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley & David Kelley

The brothers Tom Kelley (partner at IDEO) and David Kelley (founder of IDEO and of the Stanford d.school) are two of the most influential masterminds in the design thinking world. In this book they reflect on the power of creativity and how all of us can unleash our creative powers to solve problems around us with the user at the epicenter of it.

Design thinking has become a powerful way of thinking to finding innovative solutions to the hard problems of today and of the future. It all revolves around 2 key elements: empathy and prototyping.

This is a powerful book that will help even the most seasoned creative thinkers to cause long lasting impact on the solutions to the problems they are working on today and on the innovations of tomorrow.

What do you have in your reading list for 2020?

PPA

Production/Production Capability

Stephen R. Covey utilizes an amazing fable to describe the definition of effectiveness.

In short, this is how it goes:

A farmer had a pet goose, and day after day he would pick up the eggs laid out by the goose. One day, however, the pet goose laid out a golden egg. The farmer got really excited, and from that day on the goose would lay out one golden egg per day. The farmer got rich, which lead him to greed and impatience. So one day he decided to kill the goose and get all the golden eggs at once. However, when he opened the goose there were no eggs in there. Now, he had no other way to get more golden eggs and he had just killed the only goose who was able to lay those out.

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The value of Production (golden egg) and Production Capability (goose/chicken).

The moral of the story is how having the capability to produce (pet goose) is more important than what is produced (golden egg).

And there comes the P/PC relationship – P being Production and PC being Production Capability.

Covey describes how there are three kinds of assets – physicalfinancial, and human.

Physical Asset

Let’s assume you purchase a vehicle. For the next years your car runs perfectly well and takes you from point A to point B with no problem. You decide that you won’t take it to the shop to maintain it on a regular basis because you don’t think that it is that important if the vehicle is doing the job. However2 years later the vehicle breaks down and now you have to purchase a new one. Had you only maintained it on a regular basis you would not have had this problem, and now you will have to spend much more money to buy a new one in comparison with the maintenance costs you would otherwise have had.

Keeping a balance between your P – the vehicle – and your PC – maintaining and preserving the vehicle – is essential for extracting the most value out of your physical assets.

Financial Asset

Let’s say you have some money in the bank – your P – and day after day you make money on top of it with the interest you receive – your PC. The more you spend your money, the less interest you will receive. And you will eventually reach a point where there will be no P nor PC if you don’t continually add more money into your account.

Human Asset

This is the most important asset, because it controls the physical and financial assets.

A basketball coach, for example, teaches his players that the only thing that matters is getting the points, and not how correct your fundamentals were in the process of making the basket. In the short term this might bring positive results and even lead the team to win some games against the weaker teams. But once they get deeper into the playoffs they will begin facing better teams which will challenge their ability to score baskets.

If the players do not have their fundamentals properly trained they will not be able to score baskets against a great team, and therefore, leading them to a loss.

The same goes to someone who just joined a gym. You might experience muscle gains in the beginning even if your trainer teaches you poor form, but once you begin lifting heavier weight, if your form isn’t correct, you will hurt yourself. Getting injured leads to time off, and time off leads to muscle loss.

There is the other side of the coin, as well. If your trainer spends all your time focusing on form (lifting lighter weights), and little time on increasing the weight, you will also not experience muscle gain.

Focusing on form is just as important as focusing on adding weight.

Focusing on form is just as important as focusing on adding weight.

With that, it is very important to keep a balance between P – weight – and PC – taking the time to learn proper form.


This is the first principle Stephen R. Covey teaches in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The habits taught throughout the book revolve around this basic principle. From being dependent, to independent, and finally to being interdependent, people need to keep a balance between their P and their PC if they are seeking long term results.

 

PA