Book Review – Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Written by Robert Kiyosaki in 1997, Rich Dad, Poor Dad is widely considered to be one of the foundational personal finance books written, having sold over 30 million copies as of this writing. The theme of the book is meant to be the financial lessons Kiyosaki learned from his two “dads”: his biological father, who believed in more conventional means to achieve success by going to school and climbing the ladder, and the father of his childhood best friend, who believed in working for yourself as early and as often as possible. For the first third of the book, Kiyosaki sticks to this theme, explaining at length the differences in the worldly and financial outlooks the two men held, and how he grew up amongst these viewpoints, ultimately choosing to follow the ideology of his friend’s father over his own, as his friends father was far more financially successful than his own father was. However, for the final two-thirds of the book, Kiyosaki largely abandons this format, and spends the rest of the book discussing the outlook he personally embodies.

This outlook stipulates that there are core differences in financial ideology that the ‘rich’ teach their children, which the ‘poor’ never do. Most of these ideological points (once stripped of the divisiveness of rich vs. poor) are solid advice that will truly help one establish and build their financial position if just starting out. Unfortunately, however, the delivery of these points often have a hollow ring to them. At his core, Kiyosaki is a salesman, and so there is a slick veneer to much of what he writes in order to make his concepts and books more controversial, and therefore more likely to sell (which, to his credit, he readily admits to doing in the book). But if you can get past the shiny coating of the get-rich-quick message, there are some solid and timeless financial principles here:

  • More financial education/literacy is needed for our youth, preferably in school
  • One is not forever relegated to their financial station in life, and can instead always improve their financial IQ through study and a desire to learn (a Growth mentality)
  • Ownership is the key to financial independence. Whether that is ownership of stocks, companies, products, land (Kiyosaki’s definitive favorite), or other assets, owning more assets that earn revenues (dividends, rents, or sales) will start you on the path to building wealth that is self-sustaining
  • In line with ownership, the key is to spend your spare money on building assets (like investing) vs. spending it on frivolities that will quickly disappear from your memory
  • There are two types of income: what he calls Labor Income (your paycheck), and passive/portfolio income (returns from the capital you have invested in assets mentioned above). The goal is to, over time, invest your labor income to steadily grow your capital income, so that eventually you won’t need your labor income anymore for your well being.
  • Mindset is critical: Don’t think “We can’t afford it.” Instead, think “How can we afford it?”
  • Finally, the reason that most people shy away from pursuing Capital income is fear. Giving away your current money for future income is inherently risky. It is far easier to play it safe and just keep living the way most people you probably know do. Learning to overcome these mental hurdles will be the hardest obstacle one will have to overcome, as well as the most time consuming. But it is also the most rewarding once achieved.

If you let the buck stop here, this is a solid starter book for anyone looking to start out on a life of more. But this could just as easily be a very dangerous book, as it’s full of anecdotes from Kiyosaki about making quick, big money for no higher value or purpose than simply the playing of the game (he frequently talks about making tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of days through flipping real estate investments, without enough offsetting warnings that those would be highly unusual results). There is no substance or driving principle to what Kiyosaki achieves or advocates, no value he is adding to the broader community or society, and instead it comes off as if he can’t help his own ego and deep need to convey an inflated sense of self-importance since he is making a lot of money. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be financially free (look at what it has freed up Bill Gates to pursue), but the intentions of your heart matter to how and why you go about earning money. Do you pursue it to eventually do some good in the world? Or do you seek it purely for yourself, for your pride or entertainment – the game?

If not mentally braced for these allures, they can be very misleading, as they sound very sexy upon first glance. But if one approaches the book properly balanced to see past these rabbit holes and understand that in building personal wealth, as in all areas of life, a healthy respect for the long game is needed, Rich Dad Poor Dad is a great starter book on the core financial principles and outlook that can set you up with a solid financial base and desire for ownership that can set anyone on the path to making a meaningful contribution to the world around them.

3/5

A Year in Review – My Favorite Books from 2017

I’m a little late to the game with this post, but I was fortunate enough to read a lot a great books in the back half of 2017 that I wanted to make sure I shared before getting too far into the new year. I know I have benefited greatly over the years from reviewing what others have already done the dirty work of filtering through, and curating what I read and don’t read from the recommendations that are left standing. So it feel it is only my duty to give back and make my contribution to the larger discussion.

Overall, this was a good year of reading for me, though I still haven’t been able to hit a full year where I don’t regret a small number of the books I chose, for various reasons. This year started with a couple of politically oriented books coming out of the Presidential election, and then deviated through a number of value investing and finance books, as this is personally a passion of mine. But I gained the most value out of the back half of the year, where I pivoted to more historically oriented books; less information-driven, and more timeless and principle-driven books. The kind of books that really change how you view aspects of the world, make you think more deeply about values that you hold and embody, or teach you lessons on how to be a better, more impactful person. In essence, these are the books that most contributed to my progression this past year into becoming a better person today than I was 365 days ago. It is also these books which ultimately helped me decide on my reading strategy for 2018, so more to come there. But I digress, onto the list.

In no particular order:

I actually started this book in 2016, as I took the plunge and got married towards the end of that year, but finished it in early 2017, so hopefully no one will hold it against me to count it here. The title of this book is a bit misleading and can sound a bit dark, but inside is actually an extremely insightful look at how to deal with the differences of personalities and perspectives that can crop up during any relationship, not just marriages. The author takes more of a scientific approach to his research and writing, which I appreciate. Very readable without too much superfluous, repetitious messaging. Highly recommend for anyone in a serious relationship, whether your current issues are large or small.

Written by Winston Churchill before WWII, this book is the first in a series of four that cover the entire history of the British Isles, with this first installment covering the time from the Romans up until the start of the Tudors in the 1400s. Due to this the view is very aerial, with broad, sweeping analysis by Churchill on the character of each period of time in between. His ability to speak to the noble causes of life, to stir a desire to reach for the highest values, is unparalleled. A sample quote is below, quite possibly one of my favorite quotes of all time:

“And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honor, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round”

Brilliant

Similar in a way to The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday’s follow-up philosophical handbook is steeped in Stoic lessons that he has gathered over the years of pursuing his own reading agenda and self-education. Extremely beneficial to those early in their careers and still on the rise (though Ryan covers both the rise and fall), Ego is a book bent around the idea of how to recognize and then set aside the pride that often comes with people of ambition in the pursuit of good, meaningful work. A quick read that I found to be most beneficial in small dosages spread out over time as opposed to one steady reading, but regardless, a great addition to one’s mental toolbox.

Similar in a way to Birth of Britain, Sapiens takes a broad look at the themes and ideas that have brought humanity to where it currently resides in the flow of history: what has worked, what hasn’t, and what we can learn from either scenario to continue our progression forwards as a species in an intelligent manner. I absolutely love these Lessons-in-History styled books that draw out the deeper lessons and meaning of history, so if you are a fan as well consider this a must-read.

A slightly dated book, The World is Flat was written over a decade ago on the cusp of the modern era of intense globalization. The first half of the book is largely skippable now, but the second half takes a hard look at how this globalization of businesses will change both local and national economics, particularly in the US, and what will need to change about our systems (politically, economically, educationally) in order to ensure everyone can successfully cope with the changes. Call it an older take on a similar message as Average is Over, one of my favorite books of 2016. Safe to say, much of what Friedman discusses still holds water today, and this book is more relevant than ever.

Midway through 2017 I took a break from listening to Audiobooks during my commutes to listen to a podcast series done by the Washington Post entitled Presidential, where they spent ~45 minutes discussing every POTUS from 1 to 45. This inspired me to make my own way through the more consequential Presidents (sorry Fillmore) that I hadn’t gotten to yet. So up first was Adams, and he didn’t disappoint. Adams was the early bulldog and talent scout of the Republic, and his fingerprints can be seen across a vast swath of its formation, from legislation, to diplomacy and foreign policy, to administration. Much can be drawn from the different personalities and approaches our Founding Fathers took to our country’s first days, but all shared a common sense of deep virtue, a respect for the lessons of history, and a desire to make something inherently good that would stand the test of time. Excited to carry this project forward over the coming years.

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So there you have it, my favorite reads from 2017 that made the largest impact on my development, education, and general understanding of the world. Hopefully some of these were already on your readings lists to get to eventually, and if any were not, I would definitely recommend you add them. As I mentioned before, what you spend your valuable time reading is one of the most important decisions you can make, so hopefully this post and others like it across the web help you get the best return on your investment.

As always, you can find a complete list of all the books I read this past year on Goodreads, and I would love to hear back about books that made other’s Best-of-2017 lists. So here’s to the close of another memorable year, and looking forward to seeing what this next year’s pages will bring.

Cheers,

David

Understanding Globalization – A Book Review of The World Is Flat

Initially written after the tragic events of 9/11, and before the Great Recession of 2008, Thomas Friedman’s economic treatise and The World is Flat (published in 2004) is seen as the blueprint on exploring modern Globalization: what it is, how it has come to be, and how to deal with both the good and the bad that this flattening of the world will bring.

Highly approachable and easy to understand, though slightly repetitive at times, much of this book has well been able to stand the test of time so far despite its age (13 years as of this writing, old for an economic/business book). One note before jumping in, it should be noted that much of the valuable ideas come in the back half of the text. For the modern reader, I wouldn’t be critical of anyone’s choice to gloss over, if not entirely skip, the first third of the book, which is mostly spent defining what Globalization is (rise of the internet, outsourcing work overseas, etc.). However for anyone that is looking to learn more or solidify their understanding of the term and the history of how globalization has unfolded, Friedman gives a solid accounting and starting point.

The broad strokes of Friedman’s definition of Globalization is that there has been a convergence of large groups of previously unconnected people with the rest of the developed world, mostly due to the fall of political borders and the rise of the internet. This has given rise to the empowerment of the individual to set their own fate, as we now have the ability to collaborate with anyone in the world on virtually any project or business idea. The obvious flip side of the coin is that companies have the same abilities, and your job security is no longer just due to the fact that you live in close proximity to the factory or office. Everything is connected, and therefore everything is mobile.

Overall, Friedman sees this as a net positive, as developed countries are able to “free up people and capital to do different, more sophisticated work,” while developing countries are able to give their citizens access to better and more stable jobs that provide the strong income that formed the basis of America’s economic strength in the first place. Much has been written on the merit of this argument, and Friedman spends that first portion of the book going into greater detail that I won’t touch on here.

The second half of the book which I found more interesting is spent on how to successfully execute this vision across social, economic, and political spectrums. The core ideas that Friedman explores is not just how do individuals and companies adjust to this new global economy, but also how do we help ensure equal access to the pie for those that will be left behind? For as we have seen play out over the 13 years since publication, globalization has not dealt out an even hand to all citizens. For the sake of not just political stability, but for humankind, Friedman argues that this is our duty; to understand and address the negative implications of globalization, and to advocate for programs (or create your own) that provide equal access and opportunity to all.

There are a lot of rabbit holes here, but Friedman’s core argument is that to ensure globalism is indeed a positive force for as many people as possible, what is needed is what he calls compassionate flattism, where “the individual worker is going to become more responsible for managing their own career, risks, and economic security, and the job of the government and business is to help workers build the necessary muscles to do that.” The role of business is to provide employees with the opportunity to access classes and trainings to improve current skills and develop new ones, while for government the role is to provide the proper framework which enables individuals to compete on as stable and level a playing field as possible (infrastructure, legal systems, business and permit law). However, Friedman is adamant that none of this should become welfare, and it is still the responsibility of the individual to take advantage of these programs as they see fit. Empowerment is the objective, not blind support. Individuals have to look out for themselves, but they don’t have to do it alone.

If this compassionate view of those who would be left behind, from outsourcing and the like, does not come to fruition, Friedman gives a prescient warning against the eventual political backlash that will unfold from that impacted group, one which we have seen unfold across the developed world over the past year. In what is probably his most strongly worded statement in the entire book, Friedman states: “Some might ask, Why be compassionate at all? Why keep any fat, friction, or barriers? Let me put it as bluntly as I can: If you are not a compassionate flatist- if you are just a let ‘er rip free-market flatist – you are not only cruel, you are a fool. You are courting a political backlash by those who can and will get churned up by this flattening process, and that backlash could become ferocious if we hit any kind of prolonged recession.

For Friedman, the discussion should not be whether to globalize, for our economies are far too entangled already to try and sort them out, though he readily admits it is far from 100% certain that globalization is the economic and cultural future of humanity (there are many things that could derail it, such as terrorism, nationalism, and large-scale war). Instead, the discussion should be how to globalize, so that everyone enjoys a slice of the widening pie. It is up to our imagination, and hope for a better tomorrow, whether globalization will become a force for good or evil. Instead of fear (loosing jobs, spreading terrorism), we must empower people so that our next generation becomes “the generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that imagination every day.

Overall, this book is a great starting point for understanding modern globalization and economics, though it is not without its faults. The book is written largely for the viewpoint of Americans, easily and quite frequently flipping between economic and cultural assessments with hardly any data to back his assertions up, preferring a compelling narrative over hard numbers. It often comes off as one-sided and unbalanced, and he freely admits he is a die-hard globalist. And Friedman is all too willing to throw his political two cents into his arguments, speaking highly critically of then-President Bush, and also devotes a small portion on how people should parent their kids. While I do not doubt the good intentions behind these moments, they come off as a bridge too far that almost ensures the only people who will take this book seriously are liberally-leaning individuals who are probably already in the choir, which is a shame. For this book is more relevant now that it has even been before. As history progresses and the world continues to come together, it is books like this one that help us grapple with our own understanding, and try to truly comprehend how to best do so, for the benefit of as many people as possible.

3.75/5

The Character that Built ‘The House of Morgan’

The House of MorganIn modern times, bankers are seen as greedy and evil men, immune to the proper good of society, the ultimate dollar chasers. But this was not always the case, and at one point in time it was the banker who helped form the moral backbone of the business community. It was their reputation for fair and balanced decision making that made the economy turn, that provided the capital for businesses to consolidate and grow, long before the times of World Banks and online trading markets. A banker was only as good as his word, and none were greater than JP Morgan. One of the few banks that has stood the test of time, the Morgan banks (started by JP’s father, Junius, and continued with JP’s son, Jack) have presided in one fashion or another over the history of modern business. But what is most interesting about this family is not the sheer magnitude of their dominance (JP single-handedly organized the bailout of the entire financial system in the Panic of 1907, a panic that saw the stock-market drop 50%), but how they came to be so dominant in an age of great political, societal, and financial change and uncertainty. At over 800 pages there is a lot to chew on, and the book starts to lag a bit towards the back half as the scope of the narrative broadens with the spawn of modern globalization. But the lessons on seizing opportunities from uncertainty, and on building world-class organizations that last across centuries is far and away worth the price of admission.

Executive Summary: High character of early figures led to strong business relationships and brand. But globalization over the decades eroded the need for relationships as competition sprung up and client’s gained access to more capital. As competition increased, relationships and morals declined, and banking became more commoditized, with short-term perspective. But the rise came from “doing high-class business in a high-class way,” and disciplined control to find low-risk, high-reward opportunities in an age of intense speculation.

Key Concepts:

  1. Success and Longevity through Culture and Morality
    1. “Never, under any circumstances, do an action which could be called into question if known to the world” – JPM
    2. Gentlemen Banker’s Code: “Do high-class business in a high-class way”
      1. No advertising, no price competition. Kept clients as dependents
    3. Also believed in keeping an air of mystic around yourself; self-control and reserve
      1. Junius Morgan (JP’s Father)– Solemn and business-like, always master of his emotions.
      2. Preferred silence, mystery to public. “Everyone should reduce their talk by 2/3rds”
  2. Pierpont (JP) Morgan Characteristics
    1. Had an idealism, a desire to set the moral code of society. Not just greedy like many others of his generation
      1. Believed in the work ethic, duties of the rich; Use their wealth for good, not pleasure
    2. “With his clear-cut sense of right and wrong, he quickly became accustomed to exercising leadership” – Deeply conservative, religious nature
      1. Had trouble delegating authority; and extreme micro-manager
    3. Wanted to add rigidity to a world he saw in flux. Hated disorder
      1. Real vice was “power to take […] a topsy-turvy financial world and turn it right.”
    4. Never mistook business for whole of life; $ was not the point. Loved travel and art
  3. House of Morgan Business Philosophy
    1. Power > money; Preferred a seat on company boards and stock options vs. cash payments when taking over a company
    2. Abhorred stock speculation, investment in young companies
      1. Strategy was to deal only with big, low-risk companies. Blue-chip, ‘Buy and Hold’
    3. JPMorgan and Company engaged almost solely in a wholesale bond and banking business. With glaring exceptions, it refused to water down standards. It recommended conservative investments, such as railroad bonds, but shied away from the tipsters art of plugging stocks”Wouldn’t take any deals on faith – “A man always has two reasons for the things he does: a good one, and the real one
      1. Therefore, not hit hard by Depression as not heavily invested in stocks.
      2. Made them appear high-character to others, especially in times of crisis
  4. The Decline of the House of Morgan: Due in part to loss of character
    1. Lost its etiquette. “Ran by bright, young executives, who seemed curiously devoid of larger political or social concerns in their narrow pursuit of profits”
      1. All accelerator, no brake. Companies started acting on impulse, no strategy
      1. But as clients gained access to their own capital, the need to compete rose.
      2. No longer about relationships; power tilted to client, forcing competition“The elite financiers [had] straddled all aspects of business. They had time to read, to ponder, to enter politics; the grey era of specialization hadn’t dawned”
    2. Led to a shift in desires from financing operations of industry to financing ownership of industry

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Other Notes/Quotes

  • Junius Morgan as a youth got a great offer to buy a partnership stake in a banking house, but stayed level headed. Didn’t leap at the fortune; instead, he reviewed the books and finances first to make sure it was a good thing
  • Jack Morgan (JP’s son): Relaxed manner. Delegated power, reached decisions thru consensus.
    • Through this methodology, Jack presided “over an institution of perhaps even larger power than the one ruled by his willful, rambunctious father”
  • Tom Lamont, Jack’s successor, tried to live a well-rounded, intellectual and artistic life.
    • But fell short of the ideals that he articulated. In trying to please too many people, he lost the habit of truth
  • “There is something about too much prosperity that ruins the fiber of the people. The remedy is for people to stop watching the ticker, and dancing to jazz, and return to the old economics of prosperity based around saving and working” – Tom Lamont
  • In WW2, Lamont thought that Americans were “too self-absorbed by materialism, and too coddled by peace to brace for violence”
  • On another prominent 1950s banker, Dwight Morrow: Always stressed, depressed that he didn’t get what he wanted out of life, but at the same time “he didn’t ask for things”
  • I want people who want to do something, not be someone” – Lou Preston

For Historical Context, A Summary of the Financial Ages:

  • Baronial Age (1850 – 1912) was characterized by immaturity of industry, government. Large-scale, nation-wide corporations were still being established, and so didn’t have the capital available that was needed, hence the need for bankers.
  • Diplomatic Age (1913 – 1948) is characterized by beginnings of globalization, rise of globally oriented finance as foreign governments began to industrialize.
  • Casino Age (1949 – Present) is characterized by matured companies/governments who could pay for their operations or obtain multiple sources of capital through other global financial firms, leading to increased competition. Also, rise of hostile takeovers as markets saturated and profit margins shrank.

 

I hope you find these notes to be useful and thought-provoking. Again, these are just my takeaways from the book and don’t encapsulate the entire message. If you’re interested in delving deeper and reading the book for yourself, and want to support the page, you can grab a copy here.

And if you want even more, here is a list of books within the same topic (19th Century Biographies) that I have found useful:

Happy Reading

3 Big Takeaways from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleThe quintessential development book for social interactions, Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide since its release, and is listed as a one of the Top 25 most influential books of all time by Time Magazine. And while the book does stand the test of time to deliver some solid advice on social interactions, the entire premise of the book can be boiled down into a few points, three to be exact. At just under 300 pages, it is a quick enough read that it would still be worth reading over for yourself, but here is a quick primer on the key takeaways, some of the building blocks for interacting both at work and at home.

 

Executive Summary: The book boils down to two main concepts in line with the title. How to Win Friends = Make people feel important. How to Influence People = Make them want to do what you want them to do out of their own volition. And in all things, be diplomatic with people. The high road will always pay dividends in the end.

Key Concepts:

  1. Be Diplomatic
    1. Don’t criticize (will only upset the other and make them defensive)
    2. Praise often, at every improvement in others
    3. Don’t call direct attention to others mistakes, and lead with your own mistakes before discussing the other’s mistake
      1. Say “I may be wrong, and frequently am, so let’s examine the facts” (not word for word though)
      2. Make their faults seem easy to correct, always encourage – “I make that mistake all the time
    4. Even when you are right, win people gently and tactfully to your way of thinking, don’t try to bowl them over with the force of your correctness
    5. Ask questions instead of giving orders
    6. Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices” – Emerson
  1. Make the Other Person Feel Important
    1. Do this by making them feel appreciated
    2. Remember their name, find out what they like. Ask questions
    3. Nourish other’s self-esteem same as you would nourish their bodies by giving them food
    4. Give titles and authority to people, even if they are really meaningless. Again, makes them feel important, and brings out the nobler character within them
      1. This is something that Napoleon Bonaparte was famous for with his soldiers. Even called them the Grande Armee, as an example.
  2. Influence by Making People Want to Act of Their Own Accord
    1. Give them what they want. Focus on how they will benefit from what you want, and frame the request in that manner
    2. Galileo Quote: “You can’t teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself”
    3. Respect others opinions, don’t directly say they’re wrong.
    4. Admit your wrongs, and if wrong, admit it quickly. Don’t pass the blame on others
    5. Get the other person saying “Yes, Yes”
      1. Socratic method of asking questions to reason their way into your way of thinking
    6. Appeal to their nobler motives
      1. Give the other person a reputation to try to live up to
    7. Sympathize with others ideas, and try to see their point of view
      1. So they don’t feel alone. No one wants to feel alone
    8. Tell a story. Dramatize your idea (Think of Malcolm Gladwell. Great ability to take dull scientific data and weave it into a captivating story that drives home the key points you would otherwise gloss over)

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Other Notes / Quotes

  • When dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic; we are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
    • Win the heart first, then the head
    • Win a man to your cause by first convincing him you are his sincere friend. There is the “honey which catches his heart, the great high road to his reason“.
  • 99% of the time people don’t criticize themselves for anything
  • “Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so”
  • Everything we do springs from two motives (According to Sigmund Freud):
    • 1) Sex urge
    • 2) The desire to be great/important
  • Alfred Adler – “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life, and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring”
  • People don’t want to feel sold. They want to buy. Similar to the main concept of The Little Red Book of Selling
  • At one point in the book there is a story of woman, new at her job, who is not making any friends or acquaintances
    • Finally tells herself “Maria, you can’t expect these women to come to you, you have to go out and meet them”
    • Takeaway is that in a new situation, the onus is on the new person to go out and meet the existing people. Be a self-starter, don’t be dependent on others to feel included
  • Good quote – “Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you want to do, and then, without veering off direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding away, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire … Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual. Thought is supreme
  • Be forceful and assertive whenever you meet someone new to introduce yourself, and then remember their name in the future. Alleviates ice, puts you on friendly terms right away.
  • Unrelated thought from the rest of the book, but a concept that I still found meaningful: Andrew Carnegie was limited in his steel making knowledge. He just knew how to manage, lead, and organize people who knew more than he did.
  • Advocates that if lack of experience, not lack of ability, is reason for failure, then this is ok
  • Overlook people’s faults, even if they are overwhelmingly glaring
    • Instead, focus on even the little things they do right and praise those things.
    • Praise the improvement, and they will take heart in that, gain confidence, and turn other aspects around as well
      • However, this is mostly oriented toward people with little experience, new people. Not pre-established relationships
  • If accurate, good quote: “All men have fears, but the brave put down their fears and go forward, sometimes to death, but always to victory” – King’s Guard in Ancient Greece

 

I hope you find these notes to be useful and thought-provoking. Again, these are just my takeaways from the book and don’t encapsulate the entire message. If you’re interested in delving deeper and reading the book for yourself, and want to support the page, you can grab a copy here.

And if you want even more, here is a list of books within the same topic (social interactions) that I have found useful:

Happy Reading

 

October BoM – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Overview7 Habits

Since its initial release, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, originally published in 1989 by the late Stephen Covey, has gone on to sell over 25 million copies, and is consistently ranked in various Top 25 lists – and for good reason. In this timeless book, Covey lays out a set of principles, or habits, that lead to effective intra- and interpersonal management, what he calls the “Character Ethic.”

I must confess, I actually put the book down after the first 40 pages during my first crack at it, as I was both surprised and disappointed at the book’s subject matter. I went into the book expecting to read about business and management practices, as this is how the book is typically marketed. Instead, the reader gets a tour de force on how to effectively reach your goals through personal independence (Habits 1-3) and relationship development (Habits 4-6).

As I learned first-hand, one must approach this book with an open mind. It can be easy at first glance to dismiss 7 Habits as self-help nonsense. But given deeper consideration, the book serves as a blueprint for how to build the fundamental skills we all need to reach our personal potentials. It has easily become one of my all-time favorites, and will be added to the growing list of books I plan to revisit frequently over the years to come

Key Concepts

There are two key concepts that Covey’s book is based around. The first is that effectiveness cannot be created through a quick fix. Learning new tips and techniques to handle email more efficiently or make more connections will not make you more productive over the long haul. Instead, it is our core values that propel us forward in a sustainable fashion, and therefore we must build proper ‘habits’ to capitalize on these values in our everyday lives. Improper habits can be broken, but not at a surface level; one needs deep, core shifts in perspective to make real change in yourself.

“For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root”

– Henry David Thoreau

The second key concept is that there exists a maturity continuum that dictates much of how we think and act. We all start as dependent individuals, reliant on our parents for physical, mental, and emotional security. But as we age, we begin to shift down the continuum, first moving to independence in these three categories, and finally ending at interdependence on the far right of the continuum. The problem, Covey states, is that many of us do not progress very far on this continuum, instead hovering somewhere between dependence and independence. We develop our own sense of self-worth solely from the opinions of the people we surround ourselves with.

The overarching purpose then of this book of to help move people down this continuum, and in doing so, the book breaks down the seven ‘habits,’ which are really more of life maxims. The first three are internally focused, revolving around building self-mastery to “move a person from dependence to independence.”

  1. Be Proactive – Things are going to happen to you that are out of your control, but it will always be your decision in how you choose to respond: “[Effective people] do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”
  2. Begin with the End in Mind – Imagine you are nearing the end of the line, and are reflecting back on your life. What do you want to be remembered for? These are the core principles that matter most to you, and to live an effective life is to have the courage and independence to align your daily decisions to these principles.
  3. Put First Things First – Living in this manner requires a great deal of long-term thinking and prioritization – balancing the day-to-day of what is in front of you with what you know is most important over the long haul. These are what the author calls Quadrant II activities, things that are important but not necessarily urgent: delegating work, properly preparing for meetings, building relationships. Its basic Pareto Principle stuff – making time for the 20% of your work that will eventually net you 80% of your results.

Reaching this base level of personal independence positions you to then move on to the second half of the book, focusing around effective interpersonal habits –what is today mostly referred to as the concept of Emotional Intelligence. These are the skills needed to build effective and lasting relationships with others, which helps you further your progress down the maturity continuum from independence to interdependence.

  1. Think Win-Win – There is always a best of both worlds scenario. You just have to work to find it. Work with other people to always find a win-win solution, instead of being combative and protective of your own desires
  2. Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood – This Win-Win scenario can only be accomplished when you communicate effectively with others, which happens when you listen first to understand people’s viewpoint. This will build other’s trust in you, which will then make them must more likely to try and understand your point.
  3. Synergize – When we act synergistically, we utilize the above skills to collaborate with others to build far greater things than we ever could alone: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself.”

Finally, you reach the final habit of the book, which stipulates that one ‘rinse and repeat.’ In the same way that your education and learning do not stop when you graduate school, being an effective individual requires constant reflection to make sure you are progressing.

  1. Renewal: Sharpen the Saw – This is the preservation and continuous enhancement of our greatest assets – ourselves. “This is the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life – investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw”

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10 Takeaways

  1. Ignore the pit in your stomach – This is the physical manifestation of emotional dependence on other’s approval: that gnawing feeling you get in your gut when someone disagrees with you. It compels you to cave in and go along with them, against your better judgement, just to appease the momentary situation. You are most effective when you ignore this feeling, an act of emotional independence – having the mental and emotional strength to pursue what you want, even when those around you try hard to dissuade you.
  2. Maturity: Courage vs. Consideration – Having emotional independence gives you the courage you need to do what you want. But too much independence can cause you to ignore and hurt the feelings of those around you. Maturity is the fulcrum point between these two extremes: balancing the desire to consider the needs of others in your decision making process while still maintaining an air of independence.
  3. Write a Personal Constitution – Similar in concept to goal-setting, Covey urges the reader to go one step further. Instead of writing down the things you want to accomplish, write down the person you want to be. When people think or talk about you, what are the traits you want them to identify you with? What are your values and ideals? On a grander scale, what is your reason for being? These answers form your personal constitution, a statement of what you are about and who you want to be, for you to review and adhere to in times of distress.
  4. Focus on the Important, not Urgent – Urgent tasks are the flash fires that come up during your day. While these tasks are no doubt critical, their completion brings very short-term benefits, before more seemingly urgent tasks pop up that again call your immediate attention. This cycle keeps you constantly busy, and prevents you from focusing on your long-term objectives, the things that are truly important. Example: Take time away from completing urgent tasks (email, reports, etc) to instead focus on completing the important task of hiring and training more staff. These staff members can then help handle most of the urgent tasks you were swamped with before, freeing up more of your time to handle the important long-term tasks.
  5. Have an Abundance Mentality –An abundance mentality is the belief that there is an unlimited pie. When someone else you know succeeds, that doesn’t mean that you lose out on a slice of the pie (with the exception of business deals. There is a finite number of customers and clients). When you envy someone’s success, there is a hidden fear that you cannot now succeed yourself as a direct result of their achievement. With an abundance mentality, you know there is plenty more of the pie left, and that you will get yours in time through your own work, freeing yourself to truly congratulate and appreciate the success of those around you.
  6. Security + Guidance = Wisdom -> Power – The formula for personal power: when we no longer depend on others for our sense of self-worth, and we identify our core values and what we are truly about, we gain sense of internal calm and wisdom, the foundation for power. Know what you want, the independent thought to get it, and blend that will with the needs of those around you
  7. The Four Dimensions – The author states that there are four essential dimensions to life that one must constantly balance and work to improve upon: the Physical, the Mental, the Emotional/Social, and lastly the Spiritual. For introverts, the most critical is the Emotional/Social, as the other dimensions can all be enhanced individually. We must continually work to ‘sharpen the saw,’ as Covey puts it, even in areas where we struggle, as without this fourth pillar, no building can stand for long on the remaining three alone.
  8. Varying Paradigm Centers – We all have different paradigm centers, or core values that drive the way we act and perceive the world around us. For some, it is Wealth; for others, it is Title and Status; and yet others are centered on Family or simply Pleasure. What is important is not that we all strive to have the same center, but that we recognize and respect the centers of others. These centers drive our psychology, and by being aware of them, we can better engage and relate with those around us.
  9. Balancing P and PC – To be an effective person, one must master the art of balancing their Production (P) with their Production Capacity (PC). The body cannot run (P) indefinitely without food or sustenance (PC), much the same as one cannot continue to produce at work without learning new skills or investing in new relationships. Eventually you will stagnate and be passed by. Similarly, we cannot be so forward focused that we ignore the present. You must eventually bring your investments and new skills to bear and turn the intangible tangible through production.
  10. Your Place in the World – The world is bigger than any one individual. It is our moral obligation to dedicate ourselves to the improvement of the larger whole, not just the improvement of ourselves, for this is when we do our best work: “As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inexorable as gravity.”

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a foundational text that sets the groundwork upon which any person of ambition should build the rest of their knowledge, habits, and activities. I can’t recommend highly enough, especially if you are young and just starting out, that you prioritize the reading of this book and escalate it to the top of your reading list. But one must come into reading this book with an open mind; the text can at times be either overly convoluted (elaborates on building Emotional Bank Accounts with individuals to build relationships, otherwise known as trust), or overly dramatic (see Habit 6). But by bringing your past experiences to bear through active reading, you can uncover and start developing some of the foundational principles of effective human behavior that can collectively build momentum for yourself toward a life of success.

Additional Reads from the Month:

 

How to Read for Knowledge

Reading AnalyticallyReading of any kind is important work, and a critical element to the development and evolution of the human psyche.

It’s how you expose your mind to new ideas, it captures the human imagination. You can find the entirety of the human experience within the confines of a single library.

But to harness the full potential of these opportunities, one must elevate their level of reading beyond just processing words on a page – you have to read analytically.

How many times have you read a book, and a month later can’t recall a single thing about it? Or you finish a well renowned book, but feel as if nothing sunk in.

Maybe you can remember some concepts, but in nominal value only; you know what the book said, but not what it meant. The ideas haven’t sunk in enough for you to be able to readily apply them to your everyday life without going back and re-reading part of the book.

You gained more information, but you didn’t get any wiser.

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you want to really grow and expand your capacities, and capitalize on the time end effort you are putting into your reading efforts, one must engage in specific styles of reading.

The three levels of reading:

  1. Reading for Entertainment – This is your prototypical novel reading. The intent is not to learn anything new, but simply to enjoy the story or what the author has to say.
  2. Reading for Information – This is what we are typically taught to do in school. You are focused around learning information on a new topic, or maybe getting an in-depth look at a topic you have already been introduced to. You’re learning what you didn’t know before
  3. Reading for Knowledge – This is reading for concepts and ideas. You are going beyond learning some new information, and are instead focused on internalizing what you are reading to alter some part of how you think.

Now each of these styles certainly have their appropriate time and place; I’m not advocating that you never read a mystery novel again.

But we are here in the pursuit of growth, and growth involves evolution. You have to internalize what you are reading to derive the intellect and enlightenment required to expand your capacities.

At the third level of reading, you’re not just reading the words as they are on the page. You are taking them off the page and into your own head; bringing your own personal experience into what you are reading, or maybe the reverse: taking the words you are reading and testing how they might apply to various circumstances that have occurred in your life.

What you read should become a part of how you think.

When you read analytically, this is the desired result: that the topics, ideas, and arguments from various books become ingrained in your head and become a part of your intellect.

You can recall ideas from what you have read instantaneously, and you find yourself bringing these various themes to bear in your everyday life and decision making.

This third style of critical, analytical reading involves several practices that are typically overlooked:

The first is reading slowly, not for speed

Speed reading is most useful for Level 2 reading activities, when you are just trying to gain some level of understanding about a particular concept (just-in-time information).

But that is not our objective here. We are after knowledge, not just information (this is the ‘recall’ ability mentioned before).

We want to fully engage ourselves with what we are reading, wrestling with what the author is saying and what our experiences tell us, with the objective being that the material becomes integrated into our decision-making process.

To do this, you have to take your time with each book to let it soak in. It’s better to read four books a year that change some of your perceptions of the world, than to read one hundred books and remember nothing but the titles, subject matter, and how quickly you finished each one.

This is your education, not a contest.

The second practice is taking detailed notes

Again, this goes beyond note taking on factual information (dates, names, ages), and should be more focused around what you are thinking or taking away from the passages in the book. Mark key passages or quotes, and record the thoughts that come to mind, or connections you begin to make with other books or life experiences.

How you take these notes is largely up to personal preference. Everyone has their own unique twist on a note taking system that works best for them.

Whether it’s highlighting, writing in the margins, flagging pages, or keeping a separate journal to write in, detailed note taking forces you to engage with the author and the words you are reading. You can start wrestling with the book, and correspondingly, the author, and analyze whether you agree/disagree with what you are reading, and therefore how it is impacting your worldview.

 “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you”

– W. Somerset Maugham

This all culminates in a state of active reading – reading for concepts, ideas, and insights, not just for factual information or entertainment. When you read a book on Napoleon Bonaparte, what is important is not when he took the throne as Emperor. No one is going to quiz you on which islands he was exiled to.

What is important is how he revolutionized the military strategies and tactics of his age, and executed on them. How he gained near absolute loyalty from both his troops and the larger French population, despite bringing France back into a monarchical fold on the heels of the Revolution. What lessons in leadership can be gained from his final defeat at Waterloo (one example: his generals had lost their ability to take initiative, after years of Napoleon’s micro-managing and thinking for them).

These are ideas that you can bring into your decision-making models, and alter how you interact with others on a daily basis (ie. limit micro-managing. The short term benefits are far outweighed by the cumulative negative effects that are eventually realized over the long haul).

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When you read analytically, you’re wrestling with the ideas presented to really internalize what is being said. You read slowly and intently to thoroughly process the argument or story, and what your takeaways are.

Only then will what you read become a part of who you are, and shape the way you see the world. The ideas that you read will stick with you long after you have set the book down, and you will come to find that you have in fact grown just a little bit wiser, with each passing page.

 

 

Doing the Unthinkable – Networking as an Introvert

Networking1Networking gets a tough rap from virtually all parties in its own right. But as an introvert, the word ‘networking’ is essentially a deal breaker.

No way I am going to spend my night or weekend in a room with a bunch of strangers, forcing a smile until my face hurts and trying to keep up small talk for hours on end. Shoot me now.

Yet everywhere you look, seemingly every article you read on career and personal success, it talks about networking.

“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

– Anonymous 

“What can networking do for your success? The right contacts and connections can make or break it. If you’re trying to be successful, it’s the difference between mediocre and big”

– Jeffrey Gitomer, Little Red Book of Selling

And to a large degree, this is all true. No one is Superman, and you can’t possibly go on to lead a life of success on the sheer strength of personal effort. You can’t do it alone, you have to rely on other people to some capacity to help you along the way.

Hence, networking.

I’m not going to get into defining what networking is and specific reasons of why you should do it. But read virtually any networking or relationship management book, and they will say the same thing: networking is not about working the room and collecting as many business cards as possible. It’s about building concrete, meaningful relationships.

This, my friends, is excellent news. For as I’ve said before, it is these exact types of relationships that introverts excel at forming.

The strength of introverts lies not in their ability to give public speeches or being the life of the party; very few introverts are ever the popular kids in school. Instead, they are much more adept at forming a small, close-knit group of friends that they rely on for just about everything. They would much prefer having 3 or 4 really close friends, and simply being cordial with the rest.

After all, when your back is against the wall and you really need some help, what would you rather have: a contact list of 50 names, yet no one picks up the phone, or a list of 3 names of which you know at least two will pick up and be there to help you within 20 minutes?

Break Large Events Down into Smaller Groups

This exact same concept can and should be applied to your professional life.

It’s not about having 3,000 connections on LinkedIn. It’s about having the kind of professional relationships where people trust you enough to give you their personal email addresses and phone numbers, so you can reach them in a moment’s notice when you really need some help.

To accomplish this end, you can use the exact same strategies you use in your personal life, whether you realize these are strategies or not.

How did you find your current group of close friends? If you’re an introvert, it most likely was not by attending some party or out at the club. Maybe you attended an event, like a work function, book club, or sports game, and hit it off with one of the attending members when split of into smaller groups.

Or maybe you were invited to hang out through a common friend. The point is that you used your strength in connecting with small groups of people to build lasting relationships, and while it may not seem like it, this is indeed a strategy – one that can be applied to network successfully in your professional life

The key is to maximize your strength in small group settings, interacting with people on a one-on-one basis as much as possible, instead of trying to overcome your anxiety in large group settings. It’s hard enough to go to events like this when you know a couple of people attending, but going to a business conference by yourself? Good luck.

This will require a bit of proactivity on your part, but taking the time to plan out who you want to meet with and how you want to do so is well worth the effort. Use email and technology to its ultimate effectiveness

Next time you attend a large networking event or a industry conference, do your research ahead of time instead of just winging it upon arrival.

You can typically find a registration list of attending companies and speakers, and sometimes even find the entire guest list. Comb through these lists and identify individuals who you would like to get to know or speak with, and email them in advance. Tell them you are attending the event as well, and would love to meet up with them and talk about whatever it is you are interested in. I’ve personally used this to great effect before conferences or local business events in my community, offering to meet people for breakfast/coffee, or simply to talk after one of their presentations.

People get extremely busy once an event starts, as most people come in with the same above-mentioned wing-it strategy. Fill up people’s calendars beforehand, utilizing your research skills to communicate with people in a one-on-one setting. Even if you can’t set up a meeting beforehand, you will be more comfortable at the event knowing that you have established warm leads with the key people you would most like to speak with, and it will help alleviate any stress or awkwardness when you go to approach these people later on.

Another great strategy for networking events is to simply show up early. It allows you to get more comfortable when there are fewer people at the event to speak with and get to know.

This way, as more people gradually arrive, it feels like they are entering your space, and you can introduce yourself to people on more of a one-on-one basis again, as opposed to that terrifying feeling you get in your stomach when you walk into a room of a hundred people you don’t know very well, and all eyes are on you as you walk in the door. Talk about paralyzing. This is when most people make a beeline straight to the restroom or the back of the event, neither of which put you in a position to meet with or talk to anybody new.

Beat this anxiety by connecting with people ahead of time, and utilizing your disposition toward more intimate conversations to not only eliminate (as much as you can) this anxiety, but to make better connections with people you actually want to get to know.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t still hand out lots of business cards if you can. Market yourself as much as you’re comfortable with, but no more. Don’t try to push yourself into low-leverage activities.

Maximize Your Strength in Intimate Settings

These same strategies also apply outside of large networking events to meeting people within your surrounding community, even within your current company.

The end goal is to simply get to know people on more of a personal level in your professional life. That’s all networking is, and as an introvert, this can be readily accomplished by applying your natural strengths; we are better communicators in intimate settings and close environments.

Invite people to lunch, or to get coffee. Hell, even a simple phone call will work (and was my preferred method for a long time). Introverts are naturally great at listening and reading other people. This is a skill that is best utilized in personal settings.

If you identify someone you want to get to know better, or that would provide a great future resource, try and find a way to speak with them on an individualized basis or in a small group setting so you can get to know them better without the anxiety and intimidation that comes with your prototypical networking events.

So next time you find yourself headed to a conference or event, don’t stress out. Just plan ahead. Do your research, identify people you would like to meet, and reach out to them beforehand.

Same goes for general networking within your community or industry.

Use your natural abilities and tendencies to your advantage over, say, a cup of coffee, and you will start to see that networking is really not all that hard. You can get to know the individual across from you on a more personal level, and you will feel more comfortable in opening up and communicating with them, building towards the close relationships that introverts so innately desire.

 

 

The Strengths of Introverts

 

You’re in a meeting with the rest of your team.

Someone starts off with an issue they are having, and how they perceive it should be addressed.

Then the person to your left chimes in with their solution, and how the first speaker’s idea was wrong from the start.

But that gets questioned by a third team member, who jumps in on the conversation before the proceeding idea was even finished.

Back and forth the conversation goes, with most of the members talking over each other to be heard, and you try and take it all in as best as you can – listening to everyone’s opinions, finding the strings of clarity and good ideas in everything that is being said.

Before you know it, the half-hour allotted to the meeting is up, and everyone starts packing their things up to head out. But there’s one problem – you hardly spoke a word the entire meeting.

You listened intensely to what was being said, and have a great handle on what went on in the meeting: what went right, what can be improved, and how to synthesize that information into a direction the group should take next.

But that was never expressed to the team, and you are now perceived as a passive member who they should just delegate tasks to, instead of being seen as a contributing thought leader.

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Introverts often get a bad rap. They’re viewed as passive, nerdy, not communicating well, and even having low confidence and self-esteem. These assumptions are mostly based off of common characteristic traits of quiet people that get distorted through today’s popular lens of extroversion, and are viewed as weaknesses – traits that hold reserved people back, getting in their own way of continued personal growth. 

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Book of the Month, July – Million Dollar Consulting

 

This is a new segment I’m thinking of introducing to the page, simply titled: Book of the Month (BoM). Pretty self-explanatory. I’ve done a couple book reviews in the past, but want to make this more of a consistent piece by quickly going over the best of what I have read over the course of the past month. The objective is to provide insights from each book that can be useful and applicable in your life, not review the actual subject matter or writing style of the books. Its about finding the nuggets of wisdom from the pages, not just general information. So without further ado:

Million Dollar Consulting

OverviewMillion Dollar Consulting

Potentially the most straight-forward title I have seen on a book in a long time, Million Dollar Consulting is a book written precisely on that subject. Written by Alan Weiss, a very successful consultant in his own right, this book details how to create and grow your own successful consulting practice, with an emphasis on a personal practice, not forming a company. It is not the most beautifully written book, and can be very repetitive at times, as if the author anticipated that people would jump from chapter to chapter. But what it lacks in prose, it makes up for in substance. Writing beyond just the consulting industry, the author details out the mentality that is required to become a self-made millionaire, a mindset that is valuable to have whether you actually want a million dollars or not

Key Concepts

As I mentioned, while the book is technically written on the consulting industry, there is a lot of value to be taken away that can be applied to any area of life.

The major concepts in this book are that to have success, you have to have integrity, build relationships, and focus on growth. Form your own personal strategy for what you want in your life, and stick to it, no matter what other opportunities may come your way.

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