The best super power to have

One of the most useful things I learned on my entrepreneurial journey is that, the lead domino in all things entrepreneurial is learning to delegate.

Leadership is hard because the jump into being responsible for other people’s work is hard.

Learning to delegate is like learning to play tennis: you can’t learn it only from books. The only way to play better tennis is to go out to an actual court and start hitting the ball. You can read about the game and prepare in advance as much as you will, but my bet is that regardless of your best effort to prepare, the first time you actually try to play will be 100% different. You can’t see what you can’t see.

Similarly, the first experience with delegating anything meaningful will almost surely cause pain, because there are a zillion things where it can go wrong. You think you carefully explained what you need, until it turns out that it’s lost in translation.

That’s not a reason to give up trying.

And you might say that delegating is stupid right now and there’s nothing you need help with, but in my opinion, you have to delegate everything. Just in case you get really busy.

By the way, if you can’t find anyone who can do your job for what you’re getting paid, it’s time to raise prices. I made the mistake of working for too cheap many times before, and this is a great way to find about the mistake early on.

When I started out I hoarded all work. In my first startup, I’ve done all programming, marketing and all client management myself – until the week where I was trying to survive on 30-minute sleep four days in a row, and forgot a business meeting on the fifth.

The client called me from the place we were supposed to meet, and I didn’t pick up the phone because I was asleep at 2pm in the afternoon. They stopped being my client, and it wasn’t even a bad thing as far as my health was concerned.

I hired my first developer next week, to help me write code. That code was terrible compared to my super high standards, but it was all fine, because I quickly learned to give better feedback and they quickly learned to write better code.

This was a dream come true. Suddenly my job was to find out what to focus on and let others do the fiddly bits.

Fast forward a few years, when I’ve attended two universities and ran two companies at the same time. I studied in one school between Monday and Friday, visited the other one on Saturdays, and been in the office or on client meetings between classes. The trick was to have an assistant whose job was to come up with good reasons for my absence in case a client called, and brief me well for a scheduled callback. Scheduled, carefully, for breaks between classes.

So the only question is then, where would you start learning to delegate?

Start anywhere.

Start with something low risk: get someone to write specs for your app idea. Someone to pick up your phone, or someone to do the research for your homework. Focus only on the one thing you do better than anyone else, and let smarter folks help you whereever they can shine. With so much help available online in 2018, there’s no excuse not to try.

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Reading list in 2017

This year I’ve read 31 books, most of which were awesome. Collecting here the bits to remember them by; the two favourite books on top, then in no particular order:

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

“The First Industrial Revolution devalued muscle work, then the second one devalued routine mental work. […] That would be the third revolution, I guess: machines that devaluate human thinking.” In Player Piano’s world people either work in factories, or be social outcasts.

Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman? by Richard Feynman

The importance of deeply understanding things: “I can’t understand anything in general unless I’m carrying along in my mind a specific example and watching it go. Some people think in the beginning that I’m kind of slow and I don’t understand the problem, because I ask a lot of these “dumb” questions: “Is a cathode plus or minus? Is an an-ion this way, or that way?” But later, when the guy’s in the middle of a bunch of equations, he’ll say something and I’ll say, “Wait a minute! There’s an error! That can’t be right!”
About burning out: “Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing—it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.”

Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

Job opportunities are a jungle gym, not a ladder. Only one criterion matters when picking a job: fast growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more tings to do than there are people to do them. “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”
About work & having children: right before having a child can actually be a great time to take a new job. If she found her new role challenging and rewarding, she’d be more excited to return to it after giving birth. The time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives – not before and certainly not years in advance. If you have a good carrier with children, there’s less of a void when the children leave the house and you can get back to work.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Another awesome novel from Haruki Murakami. This one is quite like reading a bishōjo game, a coming-to-age story set in the 60s’ Tokyo – university times and life’s big questions. Surely not the last time I’ve read this book.

The 100 Dollar Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Highlights were: (1) get to your first sale as fast as possible, and (2) oftentimes it’s not required to jump full-time into a new business, evening hours & weekends is an option. The book is way longer than it should be, but is useful in inspiring to create info products.

The Alchemy of Finance by George Soros

Common sense dictates that a company is eventually worth whatever amount of money that company is capable of making, and the market’s expectations can’t do much beyond influencing today’s price. Soros argues that quite the contrary, market participants’ bias can shape the course of events, can change the future making of a company, which then can feed back to the bias and shape today’s expectation in return. Notice that this two-way connection between perception and the actual course of events interact in a shoelace-fashion. Makes a fun read.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

“Occupy yourself with few things, says the philosopher, if you would be tranquil. But consider if it would be better to say, Do what is necessary, and whatever the reason of a social animal naturally requires, and as it requires. For this brings not only the tranquility that comes from doing well, but also that which comes from doing few things. Since the greatest part of what we say and do is unnecessary, dispensing with such activities affords a man more leisure and less uneasiness. Accordingly on every occasion a man should ask himself, Is this one of the unnecessary things? Now a man should take away not only unnecessary acts, but also unnecessary thoughts so that superfluous acts will not follow after.”

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

Today’s problems are the anxiety of tomorrow and the fear of yesterday. If the issue you need to deal with is something for today, let’s get busy and get it out of the way. If it’s a big problem facing: Look at what’s the worst that can happen? Try to accept it mentally, concentrate on the problem & try to improve on the worst. If it’s something you can’t change, just accept it.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Opinionated and quick to judge, Nassim is hardly the best writer to read. A lot of his statements are simply false, and the only thing I’ve learned from the first half of the book is that the writer thinks highly of himself and puts everyone else down. Two takeaways from the second half of the book are: you don’t have to understand proper mathematics in order to use it successfully as a trader, and, I also liked the idea to be ’flexible’ enough to gain from downsides.

Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Essentially a howto for building ideas that have the potential to go viral. The six principles are (1) keep it simple: strip the idea down to its core (2) find the controversial, surprising, unexpected element of the message (3) being concrete is better than being abstract; other people don’t know what we know. (4) make it more credible (details in #3 also make it more believable) (5) emotional: why is the idea important for others? (6) stories: empower people to use an idea through narrative.

Quiet power by Susan Cain

Gaming all systems. For example, if your teacher’s job is to call out each student to talk in front of the class and you’re an introvert, then make sure to participate early when you can prepare ahead of time. Play for your strengths: know whether you like to be the person who gives ideas, plays devils advocate etc. (and again, prepare for those). Another important take-away from the book as a manager of any team: make sure that every single person has to share their opinion, to give room for introvert voices.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Naples and Rome and dolce vita, creepy manipulation, self-loathing, billionaires moving about. Can’t help to think that it would be super-easy to catch Tom in 2017 with so many traces left behind, but a very enjoyable read nonetheless.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Candid feedback is the most important thing in creative processes. Creatives have to unlink themselves and the idea: the film and not the filmmaker is under the microscope. People shouldn’t be afraid of messing things up, erase all things from the company culture like “whose fault was this”, make it safe for others to be open about problems. Run experiments: short films in the beginning of the feature films are good for trying out directors and techniques. About solving problems: sometimes focusing on a problem one’s close to won’t help. Focus instead on the space around the problem to get closer to a solution.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Have people show up for themselves: inspiration is the only sustainable way to lead people. Our why is the American Dream: American culture values entrepreneurship, independence and self-reliance. French culture values group-reliance and “Joy of Life”. It’s not better or worse, only different. The entrepreneur-type immigrants are drawn to America. It has less to do with the US and more to do with them.

What the dog saw by Malcolm Gladwell

Short stories by Malcolm Gladwell. Nothing specific to remember, but great writing style to learn from.

Dubliners by James Joyce

I was listening to the audiobook version read by Tadhg Hynes, and oh did his voice do justice to the book! Listening to the urban short stories with a nice Irish accent, it’s a time-travel right back to the 1900s Ireland. Dubliners doesn’t get any better than this.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Made me laugh and made me not to take life too seriously for a sec. As always, a twisted, dirty old man drinking booze and going about with women, this time with a postal bag.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Passion mindset: what can the world offer you vs Craftsman mindset: what can you offer to the world? This one thought, many, many times over.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

Holocaust with a psychiatrist’s eye. Who is a going to survive the concentration camp? Only the people who can identify a life’s purpose that’s worth living for. Prisoners got used to everything, but the way they imagined their future affected their longevity greatly.

The Virgin Way by Richard Branson

Short and snappy wins every time: life’s to short, get to the point, will you?! If you do start a company, you might as well start something that you enjoy doing.
About listening: “No one has learned anything from listening themselves speak.”, “Listen more: it makes you sound smarter.”, and “Listening is accompanied by note taking, which also helps to keep from law suits”.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Some ideas can go ’viral’ and become unstoppable – think of the broken windows phenomenon. Children are better off in a good neighbourhood & bad family than the other way around. A list of tightly related short stories in Gladwell-style.

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

Putting tech and trends into global perspective. I took notes like school boy, as an example: “There’s value leaving local hubs and heading to Silicon Valley. But the drain is mitigated by a few factors. First, there is the near-inevitable fact that the large platforms in Silicon Valley will be going public. Their ownership will be much more distributed than those locally owned cab companies, and many of the beneficiaries of those early investors.”.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

Take time to structure the request. The 6 principles are: (1) Reciprocation: people are more willing to comply with requests from those who have provided such things first; (2) commitment: people are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing or recent commitment; (3) authority: in a study, 3 times as many pedestrians were willing to follow a man into traffic against the red light when he was merely dressed as an authority in a business suit and tie; (4) social validation: researcher who went door-to-door collecting for charity and carrying a list of others in the area who had already contributed; (5) scarcity; (6) liking: people prefer to say yes to those they know and like.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Another brilliant one from Haruki Murikami, this one is a bit of a supernatural detective story intertwined with spies from the Cold War, mind-reading and afterlife.

Rework by 37 Signals

Start small, build only what’s absolutely necessary for launch and build everything else later. Don’t worry about nice-to-haves. Sell byproducts. De-commoditise the product by making yourself part of the process (like Zappos where customer service makes the shoes different).

Remote by 37 Signals

Feels like a collection of badly written blog posts. No, instead, feels like a BA homework assignment. Either way, after the first half I got annoyed and only skimmed through. It’s only in this list to make sure I don’t accidentally try to read it again.

The Character of Physical Law by Richard Feynman

Reading this book kind-of-feels-like being in Feynman’s introduction to physics class. Plus a chance to think about basic physics and feel good about oneself for still being able to understand it all.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” And immediately contrasts that with: “We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making. […] But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

“Technology businesses tend to be extremely complex. The underlying technology moves, the competition moves, the market moves, the people move. As a result, like playing three-dimensional chess on Star Trek, there is a always a move.”
Note to self, read this again when hiring for C-level; the only way to have experience running a large organisation is to run one – in absence, no-one can tell whether you’re able to do such things.

Circularity by Ron Aharoni

Limits of formal logic, circular arguments, Cantor theorem etc. Playing around rather than sweaty work, and playing around with math is always fun.

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Trainspotters

One team I’m working with is 100% proper nerds. Imagine a transportation consultancy where people work with massive data models and advise governments, mayor’s offices or public events. To illustrate, one project we’ve worked on is the Champions League’s finals in Cardiff.

Definitely real nerds then. Not completely unlike Big Bang Theory but not exactly the same either. You definitely see more white ironed shirts than Google hoodies, but people are surely very much interested in what they do.

Trainspotters - Frederique comics

There’s a new project coming up, and on the kickoff meeting in the Bankside office I see consultants I haven’t met before. They are just as well: nerds, but you know, I too have studied maths for over 20 years. I can relate.

The meeting goes well, and I’m leaving the room with a friend who’s with the company for a longer time.

“Wait till you know these guys better”, he says. “They are nerds.”

“What do you mean they are nerds? You guys all are!”

“No, they are proper nerds. They are going-train-spotting-together level of nerds. They do actually: go out, watch trains, knowing exactly which service those are.”

Can’t wait for this project to get started!

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What’s next to my bed?

I woke up for someone standing next to my bed. For real.

It’s an Airbnb with two rooms rented out: us in one, another couple in the next. The guy from the next room got confused when returning from a nightly toilet run, took the wrong turn and somehow ended up standing next to me when I was asleep.

If you’ve never had to wake up for a stranger standing next to you and trying to recognise your shape in the dark, well, it doesn’t feel very good.

Those nightmares when aliens gather around your bed while you’re asleep and paralysed, and then all sorts of shit happens.

The all sorts of shit in this case was mostly, someone with an Italian accent saying “Fuck I’m sorry I’m so sorry sorry I’m sorry” and rushing out of the room.

Which is all my girlfriend could remember of the next morning: some weird mumbled Italian swearing.

It might very well have been me.

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Compare it with being dead

I’ve overheard someone comparing washable diapers with the non-reusable ones. One supposed to be environment friendly and the other less so.

In the comparison the washable diapers were almost free from all environmental damage. Which would obviously only be true if you skipped the washing bit of the reuse.

If you haven’t heard of the Penny lick ice cream glasses: in the 1800s London, one happy customer would get their ice cream, lick the glass clean and return it to the vendor, who would refill it and give it to the next customer. Apart from being yuuuck, this is perhaps the best way to spread tuberculosis, which the Penny lick did very well on until it was banned in 1899.

Don’t skip the washing bit when reusing a diaper, it’s super-ill-advised.

However, washing a reusable diaper makes the whole thing very unfriendly to the environment. When you compare the two options, apples-to-apples, you’re only choosing between the lesser of two evils.

This was a cafe chat that I’ve overheard and this is a Friday morning, so clearly we are not expecting scientific evidence. Also, I love when something is environment friendly and I’m on the same side: I too want the reusable stuff to win. But, for a mathematician, it’s nice to have the facts straight.

People don’t cheat when comparing stuff on purpose, and I’m certainly no exception. Humans are generally not good at rational reasoning.

Like now, I want to think that all this cappuccino will disappear if I swim for an hour. Sports are a great way to burn a gazillion calories.

Do you know how many calories would I burn simply standing still instead of swimming? Surprisingly, still quite a lot. Simply living-and-breathing consumes almost the same amount of calories as swimming for the same period, the difference is only some 20%.

Turns out that people mostly compare calorie consumption during sports with: being dead.

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Not news

Both Berlin airports were shut down for 24 hours last Friday. No flights in-or-out of the German capital for a whole day, but I only know this because my girlfriend was lucky enough to be on the last Berlin-London flight before they closed the airport for the strike. The news outlets were pretty silent.

This week then, now for two consecutive days, both airports were shut again on Monday and Tuesday. No flights in-or-out of Berlin, again, for 48 hours.

Shouldn’t it have been covered in the news somewhere? I’ve seen it on Reuters and Twitter, but really, nothing on CNN and BBC.

I mean, this is the Germany capital being cut off the maps for all international and domestic airlines for 3 whole days now, with thousands of flights cancelled, and BBC doesn’t seem to care about it. The German Zeit doesn’t care much either.

Is it only me who’s missing this in the news? Or is this uninteresting and all people care about is random boobs and futballists?

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Where is Bori’s kuki?

Bori is my girlfriend’s newborn niece, now two weeks old.

Kuki is the Hungarian kids’ word for penis.

My girlfriend and I were really eager to visit Bori right after she was born. So eager that, together with rescheduling our lives and flying in from two different countries, we made it on the very weekend Bori and my girlfriend’s sister were released from the hospital.

Bori has an older brother. Berci is 3 now, and knows a fair bit about the world. In a big part because he’s as curious as a young gentleman of 3 could ever get. He wanted to be part of the first bathing experience of his little sister.

We wanted to be part of the first bathing experience of his sister too. Bori and Berci, the mom and dad, my girlfriend and me, all lined up in the hot and steamy bathroom, to watch as this super-cute blob is being washed at home for the first time.

Berci was just next to his sister, watching the events very closely.

He noticed something.

He noticed something missing, to be more precise.

“Mami, where is Bori’s kuki?”, he asked.

I bit my lips while my stomach started to feel funny. This was going to be awesome. Mami was about to respond.

“She doesn’t have one. Bori is a girl, girls have vaginas.”

I was quite satisfied with the answer. Berci wasn’t. After a beat he had another question.

“Alright, but then, where are Bori’s boobs?”

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Doughnut safety

I popped in to Tesco on the way home for some dinner shopping. They seem to put the evil items next to the healthy stuff nowadays? Either way, I went for avocados but doughnuts caught my eye.

This being Tesco, it’s never just a doughnut, they come in packs of four, so this required some planning.

“I’ll eat two in the evening, two in the morning, and otherwise it’s only carrots for dinner and skimmed milk with the morning coffee”, I thought. That sounded fair.

The doughnuts in my backpack misbehaved on the way home. The pink, sugary topping melted and made everything inside my bag, the phones, cables, the laptop case, everything, covered in syrup. It looked the way I imagine a unicorn murder scene. Very, very sad indeed.

It took some time to recover the content of the bag, then the bag itself, and then I looked at the plate of the still semi-perfect looking doughnuts. Maybe I’ll still eat the two pieces set for today, the damage is done anyway.

Doughnuts are awesome.

Once finished, I looked at the other two pieces left on the plate. Without the safety of their box, they will go dry and tasteless by the morning. They will no doubt look terrible. Also, we’ve seen what they are capable of. The safest is to eat them all up.

When it comes to syrupy stuff, I say.
Safety first!

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Attention control

This newly developed addiction for Snapchat messages, Facebook likes, retweets, pokes and what not, it’s nothing new. Attention economy is eating our life for forever now.

Some 15 years ago, when email was the enemy, I implemented a rule to avoid going down the interesting-links-in-emails rabbit hole: I could only open URLs that I listed the day before. The list could be as long as it needed to be, the stupid links from emails could also make the list, but there was no clicking on stuff that I didn’t put on the day before.

The stupid links immediately lost their fake relevance and urgency, so even if they were on the list, the next day I largely ignored those.

Also, this being in 2001, when I ran out of stuff to do on the internet (whoah!), I started inventing new stuff for the next day’s list, like “what does McDonald’s sell in India?”.

(It’s the Maharaja Chicken Sandwich. As expected, beef burgers were not on the menu.)

Without going too much into the details, I’m trying to implement a similar system now, where I try to regain control over my attention. I want to get into the habit to take out an hour in the evening to schedule everything for the next day – on paper, without any screen that might work my Pavlovian reflexes. The goal is to move impulsive action to planned action.

Please ping me if you have anything to add.

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Reading list in 2016

It’s been a pretty good year this, at least as far as my reading list goes. The full list of 34 books I’ve completed in 2016 (the two favourites on top, then in no particular order):

Top#1: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (Adams, Scott)

My favourite book of this year. Plenty great ideas in this one, some of which I’m subconsciously implementing for over 15 years, but works to an incomparable greater effect as a conscious daily practice. One example: if you hunt for deer, you want to improve your chances by going to the forest, learning about how deers behave, and perhaps getting a gun. (Replace deer with whatever you want achieve.)

Top#2 The Elephant Vanishes (Murakami, Haruki)

I’ve found Haruki Murakami by accident when I was looking for contemporary urban short stories on the Interwebs. This was the book that came up first on Amazon, I’ve read the first chapter and I was sold immediately. Excellent read, full-heartedly recommended.

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)

Another collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami. After the Elephant Vanishes I was sucked into his world, and this book gave exactly that: more of the same drug.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Gladwell, Malcolm)

The way Malcolm puts disadvantages and advantages into perspective is brilliant. Goliath might have been a massive fellow, but it would have been useful only in close combat: as soon as David chose slingshot as a weapon and dismissed sword & armour to be more agile, he became the natural favourite. (Translate this to your startup, and you’ll be killing it.)

The Art of the Deal (Trump, Donald J.)

I’ve read it over the spring when no one would have considered a Trump presidency, apart from, perhaps Scott Adams who blogged about Trump’s persuasion skills for a while. The realisation that Trump could become president hit me while reading his book: the way he brought massive projects to life is the exact way you can win anything (and the way I’ve accidentally lead an ad agency to success some ten years ago): by telling appealing stories that people remember.

It’s actually one of my favourite books this year but I wouldn’t tell anyone. Read it as if someone else wrote it.

The Tao of Warren Buffet: Warren Buffett’s Words of Wisdom: Quotations and Interpretations to Help Guide You to Billionaire Wealth Enlightened Business Management (Buffett, Mary)

One of my favourite learnings of this year is from Warren Buffett, although not exactly from this book: write down the 25 goals you want to reach in life. Put them in order: on top the ones you absolutely, must achieve, and the goals you care about less in the bottom. Now circle in the top 5 and cross out the bottom 20: the crossed-out ones are the ones that divert your focus and keep you from reaching the most important goals.
The book offers similarly smart business management insights.

The Magic of Thinking Big (Schwartz, David J.)

It’s a “whether you think you can do it or you think you can’t you’ll be right” self-help book, but the one of the few that passed my well-trained bullshit filter. Recommended for those times when you can’t seem to get up to speed.

Revolution (Brand, Russell)

“When I was poor and I complained about inequality they said I was bitter, now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite.” He’s a great writer, yet this book doesn’t seem to go anywhere. I’d recommend reading Russell’s Guardian posts or watching his stand-up shows instead.

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days (Livingston, Jessica)

A list of interviews with companies that we don’t really look at as startups any longer: Apple, Paypal, Gmail, Trip Advisor and many others. It’s a time-travel to the 2000s (when I too started to work for one of the first Internet companies and created my first startup). Absolutely loved it.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Kleon, Austin)

It’s more a nice gift to creative people than a book, at least in a sense that it can be read during a a short plane ride. I also like the way it’s drawn-and-written, sort of Wait but Why? style.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (Fielding, Helen)

I’ve read the latest Bridget Jones book mostly because my girlfriend was laughing on it so hard. For me it was rather difficult to get in the head of a 50-year old lady dating men in their 30s, but it’s all in all a fun read.

God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment (Adams, Scott)

Upmost fun. In my 25+ years of studying mathematics I’m quite used to playing with abstractions. This book offers exactly that sort of fun.

All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World (Godin, Seth)

Absolutely fantastic. Stop thinking about marketing in a way that worked in the TV-era: we can’t buy eyeballs any more. The only thing that works today is developing the story, one that’s important to others.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Godin, Seth)

Another one from Seth Godin, I’ve read it because the other book of his was so brilliant. This one is great too, but it’s almost the same thing: read whichever comes first.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Godin, Seth)

And one last one I’ve read from Seth Godin this year, about becoming irreplaceable in the new economy. (Quite along the lines of Yakuzuzu’s “what would you do if you didn’t need to work any longer?”) A bit longer than it should be and pretty repetitive, so if you can multitask somewhat, listen to the audiobook version in the background.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Adams, Douglas)

The first time I’ve read the series I was about 16, and I accidentally bumped into the book when I was moving stuff in my old room. I’m 32 now, and it’s not the same experience really, but the Hitchhiker’s Guide is still upmost fun.

Cat’s Cradle (Vonnegut, Kurt)

Starts with a story based on Ede Teller, the weird Hungarian physicist who was one of the inventors of the atom bomb. That part is awesome. Then it becomes weirder and weirder.

Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut, Kurt)

It’s another nice-and-easy Vonnegut novel. Excellent story, I love the style, the fun scenes and jokes, though I don’t remember too many details. Great read to switch off after a long day.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Heath, Chip)

Excellent, hands-on advice with plenty examples in the book. Look for opportunities to change the environment in order to shape your behaviour. (Habits for the win!)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Kiyosaki, Robert T.)

Recommended by many, it’s a great book for people who are not entrepreneurs. I forward the title to my friends who are thinking about becoming investors or seem to have gotten stuck in a rat-race – for already entrepreneur folks it’s just stating the obvious. (Doesn’t do any harm hammering it though.)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Thiel, Peter)

Great and inspiring, but if you read one or two articles from Peter Thiel’s blog, you probably get the same effect. The main point is that the author prefers startups that invent something out of thin air rather than the ones that merely improve on stuff.

Monty Python Live! (Chapman, Graham)

It’s scripts, drawings and stories from and about the Flying Circus series. After reading the book, I started to work on another script with no delay – I guess it’s what you’d call inspiring.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth (Weinberg, Gabriel)

It’s a users manual to startup marketing, listing the 19 marketing channels Gabriel wrote about. Don’t read the book, read the Medium post and actually implement it in real life.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time (Ferrazzi, Keith)

The best takeaway from this book is already explained in the title: meet people, make strong relationships, and do fill your lunchtime, dinners etc. with those meetings. The book hammers this in across a few hundred pages.

Is It Really Too Much To Ask? (World According to Clarkson, #5) (Clarkson, Jeremy)

Collection of stories by Jeremy Clarkson. If you like him in Top Gear / Grand Tour, you’ll like this book.

The World According to Clarkson (World According to Clarkson, #1) (Clarkson, Jeremy)

Same as all other books in this series really; see above.

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World (Kirkpatrick, David)

It’s the story of Facebook. If you only have two hours, just watch the movie. I had one great takeaway from the book I didn’t remember from the film: Zuckerberg kept working on other side projects for quite a long time while developing Facebook.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Holiday, Ryan)

Stoicism repackaged really, so it’s a good gateway drug for friends who haven’t been bitten by it. It inspired me to practice cool-headedness.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Duhigg, Charles)

Most of the stuff we do in a day is controlled by our subconscious, so as soon as we get the habits most things will fall into place. Great book, highly recommended (as well as most interviews with the author).

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (Duhigg, Charles)

The difference between internal and external locus of control, and the fact that this can be changed by simple nudges. (Note to self: re-read this as soon as you become a father.) Also from Charles Duhigg, also very highly recommended.

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life (Roth, Bernard)

The core takeaway was identifying the difference between trying and doing: most barriers only exist in the mind. By saying you’ll try you identify yourself as a “trier”, by saying you’ll do it you automatically enable your “doer” mode.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Bach, Richard)

I’ve read it on Scott Adams’ recommendation for a “weird story”. It was less weird than boring.

Ego Is the Enemy (Holiday, Ryan)

Two super-important things that stuck with me. First, there is a danger in applying career labels: are you a “filmmaker”, “writer”, “investor” just because you’ve done that once? Do you want to do something else at any time?
And second, stay a student for ever and more: “You can’t learn something you think you already know.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Carnegie, Dale)

It’s a psychology book written exactly 80 years ago and it still works: always think about what the other person is thinking about. Motivation only goes as far as you can align others’ goals with yours. Already forwarded to many of my friends.

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