I wasn’t able to sleep last night, so after doing the final copy edit on Do More Faster 2nd Edition, I started reading J.D. Lasica’s new book Catch and Kill: A high-tech conspiracy thriller. My brain was toast and my head was full of dripping dead virus goo, so I hoped some good mental floss would help pass the time.
I finally crawled into bed at about
Instead of a marathon weekend, this has turned into a book weekend. It’s gloomy outside and I’m still fighting with Nev (Mr. Nasty Evil Virus), so as the cliche goes, Catch and Kill has been just what the doctor ordered.
Lasica does a great job of world-building in the near future, weaving together high-tech and super evil bad guy billionaires, a mysterious fantasy island, efforts to undermine and transform the geopolitical superstructure, and authoritarians who just want more, more, more.
The protagonist, Kaden Baker, is everything one wants in a kick ass 23-year-old female character who saves the world, but almost dies trying. Several times. Oh, and she saves her half-sister (who she didn’t know about) and her dad (who she also didn’t know about), along with a bunch of other people.
There were lots of twists and turns along the way and Lasica keeps the pace up throughout the entire book.
If you are looking for something powerful, creative, provocative, and beautifully done, go look at True Blue by Eliot Peper and team.
In 2017, I wrote a post titled A Clever Short Story About Discrimination about the short story that Eliot had written. It was an idea that David Cohen had. He shared it with Eliot, who then wrote the short story. David then funded a project for Eliot to turn it into an “internet public art project.”
Eliot describes how they made True Blue. It’s a fabulous integration of story, illustration, and design on the web.
Independent of the beauty of the project, the story is a critically important one for today’s society. While a cynic will say “same as it ever was“, consider if eye color (instead of skin color, or gender, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or …) was a key “categorizer” in our society.
He handed out copies of his recent book Do Better Work: Finding Clarity, Camaraderie, and Progress in Work and Life. His talk discussed his journey around writing the book, motivation for doing it, how it is integrated into the mission of Lessonly, and why he decided to self-publish it.
I read the book on the plane home. It’s short but full of great stuff for any CEO. If you are a CEO of a Foundry Group investment, you’ll have a copy from me as part of our “book of the almost every month club” on your desk soon.
The Kindle version looks like it ships today. If you are a CEO, go grab a copy. It will inspire and teach you a few key things that will immediately help with your business.
Several friends have mentioned that I’d love Cal Newport’s writing. I finally got around to reading his most recent book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World and my friends were correct.
Newport is famous for being a millennial, computer scientist, and a
Digital Minimalism is complementary to Jaron Lanier‘s book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, but I found Newport a lot more comfortable and convincing. More importantly, it reinforced a number of changes that I’ve already made in my life over the past few years.
I’ve deleted Facebook, shifted almost all of my interactions on the few social media services that I use (Twitter, LinkedIn) to broadcast only (where I broadcast out things to anyone who cares to follow them). I’ve limited my online writing to my blog, which I’m fine being reposted in other places. My inputs are now what some refer to as Slow Media, where I can read and consider the input, rather than react to endless stimuli.
I’m an introvert in an extrovert’s world. I like to be alone, with Amy, or with a maximum of four people (usually me, Amy, and another couple.) In contrast, I spend a large portion of my work time with groups larger than four people. Figuring out how to manage this duality, while staying mentally healthy, has been a life-long challenge.
Newport’s concept of digital minimalism helps me with all of this. He refers to a distinction that MIT professor Sherry Turkle makes in her 2015 book, Reclaiming Conversation. In her book, Turkle draws a distinction between connection, her word for the low-bandwidth interactions that define our online social lives, and conversation, the much richer, high-bandwidth communication that defines real-world encounters between humans. I care deeply about
Newport has an entire chapter on solitude, nicely titled “Spend Time Alone.” He makes the important distinction between spending time alone with other stimuli (music, podcasts, audible, streaming media) and real solitude. I immediately understood this as well, as I almost always run alone and naked (without headphones). The examples of how Lincoln used solitude was extraordinarily well written and inspiring.
In addition to the framework around digital minimalism, Newport unloads on the reader with numerous tactics. I use some of them but found a few new ones to add to my repertoire.
A big thanks to Ben Casnocha, who was the most recent person to push me over the “you must read Cal Newport’s stuff.” I’ll read Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World soon, after I enjoy some sci-fi mental floss next since the last few books I’ve read were heavy-ish.
I read Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister recently. It was recommended to me by Tami Forman, the CEO of Path Forward and I was immediately cheered on by Amy when I started reading it.
It was extraordinary. Every man I know should read it. I’m now officially a Rebecca Traister fan. I learned a lot, was forced to think about a bunch of uncomfortable stuff, and formed some new ideas about how to address some gender-related issues in our society.
And then I read the Bloomberg article Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost and got mad at some men.
The article starts strong.
“No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.”
It then goes on and references this as “The Pence Effect.”
Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.
I thought the idea of the Pence effect, as stupid as it is, had come and gone. But I apparently am wrong.
“For obvious reasons, few will talk openly about the issue. Privately, though, many of the men interviewed acknowledged they’re channeling Pence, saying how uneasy they are about being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones, fearful of the rumor mill or of, as one put it, the potential liability.”
Then I came upon a quote that was advice for men which seemed fitting and was a solution that I expect Rebecca Traister could be supportive of.
“Just try not to be an asshole.”
If you are living in fear around the #MeToo issue, go read Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Confront your fear. Examine any guilt you have. Get real with yourself about the issue. Change your behavior. And just try not to be an asshole.
Amy and I love to read. Growing up, one of my favorite places in the world was the hammock in our backyard with a book. As an adult, one of my favorite places is our living room, on my couch, with Amy on her couch, and the dogs laying on the floor between us, while we read.
I also love DonorsChoose. Whenever I’ve had a crummy day, I often go online and fund a project or two.
Today, DonorsChoose has a match across the entire site for any donations for books. It’s DonorsChoose Book Match Day. How cool is that?
Amy grew up in Alaska and we have a house there so I just went and funded all the book projects in Alaska. Hopefully, by the time you read this post, there won’t be any left.
If you are a reader, love books, or want to help kids around the US read more, I encourage you to go fund a project (or a few) on DonorsChoose today. Search for the city you live or grew up in and have at it. It feels good and helps the next generation of readers.
I was really tired this weekend (from the week) and didn’t feel like doing anything other than laying on the couch near Amy and reading. She was also tired, as she spent the week in Wellesley at a board meeting and a bunch of other Wellesley related stuff, so even though the Boulder weather was magnificent, we stayed home other than a quick trip to Boulder to get our eyes checked and have sushi with some friends. Oh, and took really long naps both afternoons.
By Sunday night I was tired of reading (but Amy wasn’t) so I went downstairs and watched Finding Traction, the documentary about Nikki Kimball’s monstrous performance on the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont. While I’m limited to running marathons, I find inspiration from watching ultras …
The book list started with me finishing a book I’d started earlier in the week. I read mostly on the Kindle this weekend, but John Doerr’s book came in the mail in physical form so I read it that way.
Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side: Howard Marks (Oaktree) is a brilliant investor (and great writer) so I read everything by him I can get my hands on (and there’s a lot of it going back to 1990.) Not surprisingly, I learned a few key things from this book and it reinforced a bunch of others I already knew.
Power to the Startup People: How To Grow Your Startup Career When You’re Not The Founder: There is an infinite number of books now aimed at startup founders and entrepreneurs, but very few aimed at startup employees. Sarah Brown is a Boulder friend (now living in SF) and this is a really good book. There are lots of Boulder stories and people in it, but Sarah does a great job of covering a lot of ground that is generally useful to anyone considering working in, or already working in a startup. It’s the second “startup employee” book that I think is really good, following Jeff Bussgang’s Entering StartUpLand: An Essential Guide to Finding the Right Job (which is referenced a few times in Sarah’s book.)
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person: In my effort to read more memoirs by women, I enjoyed Shonda Rimes book. I can’t remember who referred it to me, but it was good and added a dimension to my memoir reading that had a lot more X and no Y in it. Amy and I regularly watched both Grey’s Anatomy (at least the first four seasons) and Scandal (again – maybe four seasons) so Shonda Rimes has entertained us a lot. With this book, she helped widen my perspective on a number of things I hadn’t thought much about.
From Like to Love: Inspiring Emotional Commitment from Employees and Customers: Keith Alper is a long-time friend – we were both on the YEO board in the mid-1990s, spent a lot of time with the Kauffman Foundation when Jana Matthews was there, and have continued to connect on numerous things over the years. This book embodies everything I’d expect from Keith, is a good read and had some fun new suggestions in it. Definitely worth reading if you are a CEO and you like the word “love” in a business context. And, if the word “love” in a business context scares you, then this book is also for you.
Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth: John Doerr is well-known as a long-time advocate of OKRs. Today, I hear the word OKR in a lot of contexts where I’m 100% certain the company is implementing them incorrectly. If you are using OKRs, please read this book. And, if you are thinking about OKRs, please read this book.
Ready for Monday? I’m going to start things off with a short run.
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History was awesome. Given that Sears filed for Chapter 11 today, I’ll start with some perspective from 1976.
America is remarkably dynamic. Humans constantly create narratives about things and how they work. Suddenly, popular books are appearing, such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, that challenge the relevance of our narratives.
There is so much to reflect on when reading a book like Fantasyland or Sapiens. Pondering the meaning of life is an endless human pastime.
It’s particularly interesting in the context of the growth and development of a country, which in and of itself is a temporary construct, just like everything else.
I’ve always loved reading fantasy. And, after reading Fantasyland, I realize I’ve been living in it also.
This summer I read the page proof version of Scott Belsky’s new book The Messy Middle. It is excellent and is now out and available. I bought 100 copies and am sending them out to every CEO in our portfolio. If you are a CEO of a fast-growing company, I strongly recommend it.
The letter I sent out to the CEOs in our portfolio (with the book) follows:
Since you are a member of the Foundry Group Book of the Almost Every Month Club (bet you didn’t know that was part of the deal when we invested), enclosed is a copy of The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky.
It’s outstanding. Many of you are either in the messy middle or aspire to be (whether you realize it or not.) And, if you don’t aspire to be in the messy middle, but hope to one day be a large company, you may as well deal with the reality that you’ll enjoy time in the messy middle.
Scott was the founder of Behance, a company funded by USV and a bunch of seed/angel investors, that was acquired by Adobe. Scott then served a tour of duty at Adobe, left to spend some time at Benchmark, but then went back to Adobe and is now Adobe’s Chief Product Officer. He’s also had a great track record of angel investments, so he’s been around a bunch of different blocks multiple times.
Rather than read from start to finish, take a look at the Table of Contents while holding a pen and circle the sub-chapters that are interesting to you. There are a lot of them, they are short, and almost all are highly relevant. But, start with the ones that call out to you as a way to get into the book more deeply.
And, if you find something particularly relevant to you, mention it, with an example (if you are brave enough to name names) and put it up on the CEO list.
Scott – thanks for putting so much energy into this book.
I took last week off the grid for my Q318 vacation. Amy and I were originally going to Alaska to look at polar bears but canceled everything after I got sick and did a staycation in Boulder instead. I got at least 10 hours of sleep each day, did a bunch of self-care things (PT, massage, meditate), ran a few times (to the extent that 14-minute miles can be considered running), and read a half dozen books.
I’m feeling a lot better. I’m off antibiotics, feel well-rested, and have renewed energy as Q4 begins. The vacation was well timed and it was awesome to spend a full week just relaxing and recovering.
For the readers out there in blogland, here are quick summaries of the books I read.
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer: Recommended by Christopher Schroeder, I wouldn’t have ordinarily picked up a book like this. It was awesome and another great read in the memoir category. While I had a view on the Marines, I learned a lot from this book and was engaged from start to finish. I realize all the memoirs I’ve read recently were by men, so I added a few female memoirs to my Kindle to read.
Late to the Ball: A Journey into Tennis and Aging: Another memoir, this time about tennis. Gerry Mazorati started playing later in life and, in his sixties, decided to see how good he could get as a competitive tennis player. His self-reflection, both about tennis and aging, as he pursues this quest, are delicious. I played competitive tennis as a junior (age 10 – 14), stopped for many years after completely burning out, and started playing casually again around age 30. This was a fun nudge in the direction of being more competitive when I play, rather than “just hitting.”
Dietland: When I grabbed some memoirs written by women, I also grabbed some female-centric fiction, which I realized isn’t part of my regular reading diet. I just read the Amazon book summary on Dietland, which follows: “Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. With her job answering fan mail for a teen magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. But when a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots begins following her, Plum falls down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House — an underground community of women who reject society’s rules — and is forced to confront the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a guerilla group begins terrorizing a world that mistreats women, and Plum becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.” It was super provocative and when I finished, I said out loud “three for three so far this week on the reading front …”
Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are: This was the best book of the week and made things “four for four.” Dave Jilk (my first business partner and, at this point, other than my brother, my longest standing friendship) and I are working on a book project currently titled Nietzsche for Entrepreneurs. John Kaag wrote a magnificent mix of a memoir and exploration of Nietzsche while spending a month with his wife and child in Sils Maria where Nietzsche wrote a number of his books. I learned a lot about Nietzsche, how his philosophy evolved and fit together, and enjoyed intellectually wandering around in mountains that I expect I will be visiting in my future.
Lying: by Sam Harris was poignant and relevant. It was short and should be read by everyone. It’s a great argument for why one should never lie. It felt especially relevant last week.
Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies: Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh’s new book showed up in the middle of the week so I tossed it on the top of the infinite pile of physical books. If you are in a fast scaling company, are curious about some details about fast-growing companies that you know, but might not have heard from, or just want a big dose of “here’s how it works in Silicon Valley when it works”, there’s a lot of good stuff in this one. Dear Reid and Chris – please tell your editor that it is “startup”, not “start-up.”
On reflection, I would have benefited from more fiction last week. I’m in the middle of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History which is incredibly awesome, so once I finish it I’ll queue up some more fiction.