Book Review: The Art of Possibility

The book is inspiring, thought-provoking, and packed with strategies and actions that each of us can take to transform our thinking and our lives. The book is built upon 12 practices. I will briefly review them here and then encourage you to dig deeper by reading the book.

1.) It’s All Invented

How we view life and opportunity is determined by our attitude toward circumstances. Therefore, every opportunity is either stifled or embraced. Therefore, we have the responsibility to “invent” our opportunities.

How to Practice “it’s all invented” (page 15)

Ask
What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?

After you have an answer, Ask
What might I now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?

2.) Stepping Into a Universe of Possibility

A possibility is a universe we step into when we step out of the universe of the world of measurement.

“Let us suppose, now, that a universe of possibility stretches beyond the world of measurement to include all worlds: infinite, generative, and abundant. Unimpeded on a daily basis by the concern for survival, free from the generalized assumption of scarcity, a person stands in the great space of possibility in a posture of openness, with an unfettered imagination for what can be.” (page 19)

3.) Giving an A

How would people react, respond and perform if we gave them an A upfront and allowed them to either live up to the A or reject our early assumption? In a world of measurement, we try to make people earn their grade, but in a world of possibility, we allow them to live into an A+.

4.) Being a Contribution

In a world of possibility… “absent are the familiar measurements of progress. Instead, life is revealed as a place to contribute and we as contributors. Not because we have done a measurable amount of good, but because that is the story we tell.” (page 56)

5.) Leading from Any Chair

Not only are we responsible to lead wherever we find ourselves, but as leaders, we are responsible to give others the opportunity to contribute as “silent conductors”. A team is not simply as good as it’s leader, although that is important. A team is as good as it’s silent leaders… those who lead from wherever they find themselves in an organization.

Every leader should ask himself when most frustrated with the performance of his team, “Who am I being that they are not shining?”

6.) Rule Number 6

Lighten up! We are only here for a short time and why should we spend it refusing to laugh at ourselves? In the midst of tight tension, one of the most powerful things you can do is laugh and make others laugh.

7.) The Way Things Are

“…be present to the way things are. Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in (a) resigned way. It doesn’t mean you should drown out your negative feelings or pretend you like what you really can’t stand. It doesn’t mean you should work to achieve some ‘higher plane of existence’ so you can ‘transcend negativity.’ It simply means, being present without resistance: being present to what is happening and present to your reactions, no matter how intense.” (Page 100)

Why fight with ourselves with what is? It’s OK to hurt and be confused. Rest in it. Do what you have to do to change things, but it is not helpful to live in resigned defeat.

8.) Giving Way to Passion

“If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as a possibility?” Soren Kierkegaard quote (page 113)

2 Steps to Giving Way to Passion:
a. Notice where you are holding back, and let go. Release those barriers of self that keep you separate and in control, and let the vital energy of passion surge through you connecting you to all beyond.
b. Participate wholly. Allow yourself to be a channel to shape the stream of passion into a new expression for the world. (page 114)

Zander encourages us to live long lines. Do not be distracted by the cares of the world that lure us from the overall purpose and passion of our lives. As a musician misses the beauty of the long lines of music by trying to perfect every note and harmony, so we miss the purpose of our lives by beginning distracted by the little things that nag at us day to day.

9.) Lighting a Spark

Communicating creatively and going out of our way to get our message across is the key to the full involvement of others in our vision.

“Enrollment is the practice of this chapter. Enrolling is not about cajoling, tricking, bargaining, pressuring, or guilt-tripping someone into doing something your way. Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.” (page 125)

10.) Being the Board

Emotional involvement blinds. Objectivity illuminates.

Zander encourages us to “rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played.” (page 141)

In other words, you are where you are and experience what you experience because of what you’ve done. When we use the tactic of blame we close the door to possibility. When I proclaim that situations are the way they are because someone else reacted, responded, or acted the way they did, I lose my power to “steer the situation in another direction, to learn from it, or to put us in good relationship with each other.” Do not close the door by proclaiming blame, but live in the world of possibility by taking responsibility to find a way in which things change for the good.

Develop the habit of emotionally stepping back and evaluating the game that is being played on the game board of your life… be the board.

11.) Frameworks for Possibility

Paint pictures of hope when you are casting vision. Reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech on the Mall in Washington. King had a dream and he created the framework for the possibility of a better nation. Within the boundaries of that frame, he and others gave their lives to create the broad strokes of a vision. Later the details were added and a beautiful painting of a nation offering dignity and hope to all men and women emerged from the canvas.

Build the frame and paint the broad strokes and allow others to be enrolled in the vision so that together a beautiful work of art is created.

12.) Telling the WE Story

“More often than not history is a record of conflict between the US and THEM. We see this pattern expressed across a broad spectrum: nation to nation, among political parties, between labour and management, and in the most intimate realms of our lives… We have distinguished a new entity that personifies the “togetherness” of you and me and others. This entity, the WE, can be found among any two people, in any community or organization, and it can be thought of, in poetic terms, as a melody running through the people of the earth… The WE appears when, for the moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle, and tell its story.”

In what areas of your life… in what social or organizational context… in which relationships are you telling the WE story?

I hope I’ve given you enough to chew on, but not to much to satisfy your appetite. Read the book! Maybe your paradigm, like mine, will be challenged and tweaked to produce a better you and a better them (or should I say a better us) for those people with which you do life together! You can get your copy from https://amzn.to/3hDzWIf

 

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AWS services explained in one line each

AWS has many services and soon it gets very complicated. There are a lot of AWS services available. And I do mean: a LOT. Currently, there are 163 different services that are available from the Amazon Dashboard, each with their own way of working, difficulties, catches and best practises.

Visit https://adayinthelifeof.nl/2020/05/20/aws.html for easy one liner to understand all AWS services.

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The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

Part business lessons, part personal journey, and part the rise of today’s dominant entertainment empire, this book is endlessly fascinating and consistently engaging. Chapters such as the acquisition of Pixar are written with the sort of nail-biting edge of your seat intensity that would make thrillers envious. Who knew board room meetings and phone calls could be so exciting? I think Bob Iger struck the perfect balance of personal and professional. A genuinely interesting and surprising personal touch was his relationship with Steve Jobs, I had no idea how close the two were. As someone’s who’s followed every move Disney has made for years and been in awe of Bob Iger’s ability to navigate the evolving media landscape and make calculated acquisitions to position Disney at the top, this book was an invaluable inside/behind the scenes look at how so many defining deals went down. His personal journey chronicling his 45 year rise to the most powerful man in entertainment was also a marvel and came with some valuable insights, lessons and exciting “how will he make this happen” moments. I loved the summary of his wisdom at the end. I loved this book and a must read. Get your copy from here.

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Book Review: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

I wanted to read this book for quite some time but just could not find the time. I am happy that finally, I have completed the book. I found some of the advice to be insightful:

* Your company is a product. In fact, it should be your best product.

* Creativity, progress, and impact do not yield to brute force.

* Office hours: subject-matter experts at your company should hold regularly scheduled office hours where they are 100% available for questions, pair coding, etc. This creates a nice balance where the expert can provide guidance to others without their day being constantly broken up by distractions.

* On work-life balance: If it’s easier for work to claim a Sunday than for life to borrow a Thursday, there ain’t no balance.

* Library rules at the office. To be able to have an office that’s productive, follow the rules you do at a library: be quiet; if you need to talk to someone, find a room; don’t distract others unless it’s very important. This creates an office that is more peaceful, less stressful, and better at helping people stay focused and get things done.

* Budget, not estimates. Most software companies come up with a product idea and ask the engineers to estimate how long it’ll take to build. These estimates are notoriously wrong, often by an order of magnitude. Basecamp does the opposite: they set a budget for a project and ask what can be built within that budget. The key idea is to figure out how valuable the feature/product is likely to be, to set a budget that reflects your “appetite” for getting that value, and then doing your best to figure out what can fit within that budget.

* Basecamp organizes most of the company into teams of three (e.g., a designer plus two engineers). Three people are enough to do important work but small enough that communication and planning overhead is minimal. With bigger teams, you almost always need management, and there is way more overhead, so it’s way more expensive, without that much more actually getting done.

* Don’t act immediately on every great idea. Create a culture where you _always_ wait to implement a great new idea. This forces people to sleep on it; very often, a week or two later, you realize it wasn’t as great of an idea as you originally thought. Moreover, this avoids constantly jumping from one new idea to the next, leaving lots of unfinished work in your wake.

* When you say no, you’re saying no to just one thing. But when you say yes, you’re implicitly saying no to millions of other things. Saying no leaves all your options on the table, as you can usually say yes later; but if you say yes right away, you immediately remove most of your other options.

But I also found some of the advice to be questionable at best, or flat out lying/BS at worst:

* They seem to create the impression that offices have no value whatsoever, and that everything should be done remotely / asynchronously. The reality is that it’s a trade-off. Remote-first companies have many benefits, such as no commute, full control over hours, few distractions, and no office costs, but they also have some major drawbacks, such as reduced team bonding, increased barrier to asking questions, far less serendipitous discussions, more complexity in management, more complexity in giving feedback, and so on.

* They make it seem like meetings have no value whatsoever. While many types of meetings are wasteful, I think the idea that almost all meetings are wasteful is self-evidently absurd.

* They claim that they never raised any money from VCs, but that’s misleading at best, as they raised money from Jeff Bezos’ personal investment company (https://signalvnoise.com/archives2/be…). Perhaps it’s not a VC firm, but perhaps they should stop pretending like they never raised a cent.

* They claim to never set goals or do long-term planning as a company, and apparently just make it all up as they go along. Ignoring for a second whether that’s a good thing for a business or not, the reality is that _everyone_ has goals and does long-term planning: at a bare minimum, you have goals and plans in your mind, but beyond that, I find it hard to imagine co-founders working together for 15+ years without having dreamed up all sorts of long-term plans and goals. So when they claim they don’t have goals or plans, all they are really saying is that they don’t publicly verbalize their goals or plans.

Overall, the book is hit or miss. The writing can be funny, but also obnoxious; the list format is efficient, but not enjoyable reading; the advice is sometimes valuable and sometimes absurd. You’re probably better off saving time and reading their blog posts.

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Book Review : Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell is certainly a provocative book, enough so that despite my anger and frustration I finished reading it in the hope it would conclude with a complex and thoughtful analysis of why our differences and history result in so much misunderstanding when strangers interact with each other.

Sadly my expectations were not realized. The real-life examples that he used were not truly examined in-depth and the lack of complexity often left me frustrated. I may just be unable to feel any sympathy for a convicted sex offender like Brock Turner, even if he drank too much, I just don’t see that as an excuse for his behavior. But that was the basis I got from that example, they were both drunk and so there was a misunderstanding when I was waiting for rape culture to be brought up and added into the mix. Maybe the author doesn’t see rape culture as a problem or a factor in this case.

I am sure there are people that will benefit from reading this book, it certainly isn’t bad. If you want to read it click here to get your copy.

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Trillion Dollar Coach

Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg share the leadership tactics of Bill Campbell, by means of interesting personal encounters people have had with Bill over the years. It is how Bill Campbell mentor most successful teams in Fortune 500 companies. He has coached Steve Jobs , Eric Schmidt, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg so name few.

The major points I took away were:
1. Candor + Care – give blunt feedback (and be harsh when necessary). But deliver it an envelope of trust (make sure that the person receiving the feedback knows you have their best interests in mind)
2. Treat teams – not individuals – as the fundamental building blocks of the organisation. Chastise superstars when they let their ego get in the way of doing the right thing for the team
3. Create psychological safety. If people take risks for the organisation’s interests, their managers have got to have their backs.

Awesome book to read and you will learn a lot about how to manage Team and to achieve success. Get your copy now by clicking here.

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Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

A must read for people and teams who cares about their productivity. Very well written and engaging! For those who already know about scrum, this book would be a delight. It elaborates the intention behind the processes followed in Scrum rather than just the technique for the sake. A must read for managers and CEOs!

Key takeaways for me:
1. Great teams are: transcendent (alignment with a higher purpose), cross-functional (have all skills to complete the project), autonomous (influence planning and decision-making process, freedom to decide “how” to deliver). Optimal size 7 (+-2)
2. Iterate fast. Plan => Do => Check => Act. Week or two for each iteration (Sprint). At the end of the iteration have some version of the product/feature that you can give to your customers to play with and interact.
3. Productivity:
Multitasking makes everybody slower. Half-done things create a lot of waste. Avoid to have a lot “in process tasks”. Working too hard/long hours makes you less productive in a long run. Focus is a key (switching cost between projects is very high)
4. Scrum Process:
– don’t plan a lot. Just have a vision (picture where you’re heading)
– create a list of everything that needs to be done on the project. Prioritise it (start with highest value and the lowest effort tasks)
– create a plan to keep your team busy for the next iteration/Sprint (plan it together with team).
– visualize. have a board with: Priorities (Backlog/user stories), to do, doing, done columns.
– work is a Story: think who you’re doing it for, what is it, why the need it.
– estimate tasks (stories) complexity relatively (not absolutely), group decide on that, track team’s velocity and set ambitious goals;
– meet every day for 15 min at the same time to update a) what each member done yesterday and b) going to do today to successfully complete the Sprint, c) are there any obstacles?
– finish each Sprint with demo (involve stakeholders, customers)
– make a Sprint retrospective (what went right, what could have gone better, how to improve the process and make everybody happier during the next Sprint (kaizen))
– transparency in everything

Click here to get your copy now.

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Book Review: Mindhunter

Mindhunter is currently a popular NetFlix series loosely based on the book of the same name. But lets us talk about the book today. Mindhunter is written by John E. Douglas who has hunted some of the most notorious and sadistic criminals of our time. One of the best quotes from the book is “Behavior reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the “artist”, you must study his “art”. The crime must be evaluated in its totality. There is no substitute for experience, and if you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you. And, above all: Why + How = Who.”

Special Agent John Douglas is the man who helped usher in a new age in behavioral science and criminal profiling. With 25 years of experience and having hunted some of the most notorious criminals of our time, Douglas has a unique insight into the minds of serial killers. There’s a lot of murder within these pages. A lot. And no details are spared. Douglas covers a range of different topics related to criminal profiling.

If you’re a true crime buff, Mindhunter is a must-read for you. This is the reference book for the TV show, Mindhunter, brought to television by David Fincher, the director of Seven, Gone Girl, Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The show is excellent too, and this book is a great read for any serious fans of crime novels and detective stories.

You can buy your copy by clicking here.

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Book Review: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Best known for creating CD Baby, the most popular music site for independent artists, founder Derek Sivers chronicles his “accidental” success and failures into this concise and inspiring book on how to create a multi-million dollar company by following your passion. In Anything You Want, Sivers details his journey and the lessons learned along the way of creating CD Baby and building a business close to his heart. His less-scripted approach to business is refreshing and will educate readers to feel empowered to follow their own dreams. Aspiring entrepreneurs and others trying to make their own way will be particularly comforted by Sivers straight talk and transparency -a reminder that anything you want is within your reach.

The key things I learned from this book were:

* Keep things simple. Implement a model and then persistently improve over and over again.

* A reminder about the principle of being a hell yes or no to things – when you say no to things, you create room for the things you are a hell yes to. I’ve learned this to be true in many spaces of my life. To create a client who is a 10, you also need to be effective at repelling anyone who isn’t. To do things you are a HELL YES to, you need to get really clear about your HELL NO.

* “No business plan survives first contact with customers” Steve Blank.

* Necessity is a great teacher

* Everything in your business should be about your customers. Every choice you make, every decision as owner, every task you agenda, every meeting. Focus on that and things will grow. Just thrill them, and they will tell everyone.

* I loved the story he told about quitting a job, feeling bad he was leaving so he trained & hired a replacement before he did, not knowing that that wasn’t standard practice. “Deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do”.

* Never forget that someone else loves doing what you hate, you can make your role anything you want, you just need to remember why you do it – you do it to make you happy!

* Execution is worth more than any idea.

* Have lots of little clients instead of one big one. Definitely something I’m implementing right now in my social enterprise.

* What you are doing is just ONE way of doing things. You want to test & try different ways, and not be stuck to one method.

In business, there are different ways:
– make a plan without any funding
– make your whole business offline
– make a franchise model

In life, there are different ways:
– You could be living in NY obsessed with making lots of money
– You could be a free spirit backpacking around SE Asia
– You could be a monk meditating in isolation in the mountains
– You could be married living your family in a quiet neighbourhood

There is no one way. Things change. Things work for different people at different times. Be open to change. Embrace and roll with it.

* There’s not always a need for a huge vision. You can focus on helping people today. Instead of thinking about “if I had X.. I could do Y”. A trap I notice many people fall into

* Add lots of fun human touches to your company. Everywhere. From the email auto-responder to the copy on your site, to your office layout. It’s OK to be casual & human. Focus on what makes you happy and doing things in a way that makes you happy.

* When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.

* There’s lots of nudges towards keeping things simple, here’s another – a business plan shouldn’t take more than a few hours of work. Hopefully no more than a few minutes, the best plans are simple. A quick glance, and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. Everything else is details.

* Never make promises you can’t deliver on. Under promise & over deliver instead of the other way around.

* Delegate or die. Trust but verify. Delegate but not abdicate

* Once something works, it will feel freeing, not strenuous. Sivers mentions how he spent 12 years doing different things, it felt like it was uphill all the time then suddenly it was like he struck a hit. Instead of trying to create demand, you’re trying to manage the demand. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not persistently doing what is not working. So you should always be trying, tweaking, testing new ideas instead of stubbornly pushing the same one again and again.

For more get your copy today by clicking here.

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Book Review: How Not to Be Wrong

Almost everything that we do these days has some sort of mathematical element to it, from analysis by companies that are looking for patterns, voting and ways of winning the lottery.

Ellenberg does make some reasonable arguments; I particularly liked the explanations on the three-way voting where the favored guy can end up being eliminated purely because of the first past the post method, and the way that groups were able to exploit a badly designed lottery.

And most of the time he does a reasonable job of getting his points across using mathematical explanations and details revealing the hidden maths of everyday life. But the book suffers from a lack of direction at times it and it regularly jumps into very complex explanations, which some will find difficult. There are few gems inside the book which are very interesting to read, but so are a few dull moments. Its a good one time read, which will help you see the world from a different perspective.

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