Thoughts on: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport

Could it be that more we focus on finding and following our passions the more discontent we become with our work? Cal Newport makes an argument that you should throw passion aside and get really good first, then passion will follow!

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So what makes for an rewarding career? Room for creativity, Impact and Control are some important factors – and how do you attain that? You GIIIT GUUUUD at something rare and valuable!

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📝 on Deliberate practice: “If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level”.

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📝 on Craftsman mindset: Focuses relentlessly on what value you can offer the world.

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📝 on Passion mindset: Focus on what the world can offer you.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAYS:

Make small bets. In the wake of Tim Farris “The 4-hour work week” tons of people quit their job to become bloggers with passive income streams from internet sites. Lifestyle design is cool and all, but many became disillusioned quickly and realize how hard it is to make money online. Make many small bets when you are transitioning into a new area of work instead of only one really big one.. Ask yourself what are people really willing to pay you for? And prove it. Some things will have to remain just a hobby.

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🔸VERDICT

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This is the perfect book for someone who just starting his/her career. But for the ones of us that have 15-30 years of work experience have probably already learned these things (maybe even the hard way), and have less to gain from this book. If that’s the case, then then study these books and concepts instead:

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📖 “Bhagavad Gita” about freedom from outcome.

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📖 “Mastery” by Robert Greene about being persistent.

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📖 “Outliers“ by Gladwell about deliberate practice.

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3/5

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What are you reading this week? 🤔

Thoughts on: “Endure” by Alex Hutchinson

We have all seen a world record being broken. The athlete crosses the finish line and a new bar has been set. But you have also seen that the athlete is alive and moving. Which means he/she had more to give!

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What sets the limit of human endurance? Is it mental or physical? What is the absolute limit given we found the perfect athlete and perfect condition? These are some of the questions this book tries to answer.

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Some notes:

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📝 Expectations matter! How many tries you know you have to do something impact how you pace yourself. Even if you’re told to do your max for each rep.

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📝 Gabrselassie (marathon champ) sweats up to 3.6 Liters/hour.

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📝 The extraction of mindfulness from it’s Buddhist context began in the 1970’s with Jon Kanbat-Zinn.

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📝 Central governor, Anticipatory regulation, Pacing instinct – it goes by many names – basically, the theory that the brain stops us from running ourselves to death.

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📝 Pain in training leads to a higher threshold for pain. High intensity training heightens your pain tolerance while medium intensity doesn’t.

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📝 Experiment shows that seeing a smiling face, even subliminally, induces a sense of ease.

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⭐️ Takeaway: Nr.1 advice (except training) is to presue motivational self talk training. Cuz it really works! Training is the cake and believing is the icing.

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🔸Verdict:🔸

My second favorite book with a title that starts with “endure”. 😉 Well, that wasn’t a helpful measuring stick. Haha. To be fair, it’s a good book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to people that don’t have a special interest in human performance and endurance. You need a bit of passion to stay focused with all the data being presented. Spoiler: all the conclusions are: “it’s unclear”, “we have to wait for the final data” or “its complicated.” But I rather have that, than oversimplification.

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What’s my favorite book that starts with “endure”? “Endurance” by Lansing! About captain Shackleton’s amazing polar expedition. High stakes endurance! 👌🏻

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3/5

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– Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Thoughts on: ”Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull decided to create the first ever computer animated feature film, it took him 20 years, but with the premiere of “Toy Story” he reached he goal. Now he turned to another challenge; to create a sustainable creative work environment.

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This is not a “The 10 Things to Do to Be a Great Manager”-book, instead it tries to describe the enormous complexity and challenges that comes with creative work.

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With creative products, we usually only see the slick final product. In this case with Pixar; a heartwarming and excellently crafted animated movie. This book gives a peak behind the curtains and you will see that chaos and uncertainty rules even there. It’s a part of the process and it’s how you navigate these situations will determine your success.

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📝 When you become a manager you might not see it, but information that was previously available start to disappear. People think more about what they say when you are around and you might not catch those snarky comments about small problems that you used to.

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📝 Cultivate what in Zen is referred to as “Beginners Mind”; An attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would do.

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📝 During the crunch to get Toy Story 2 ready: An employee forgot to drop his kid of at daycare and went right to work. During the day he suddenly realized the child was still in the car on the broiling parking lot. The child was unconscious, but was saved.

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📝 Inspired by Japanese manufacturing: Everyone was expected to report errors and stop production no matter what position you have.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: Create mental models that sustains you and keep your doubts at bay. “so much work, so little time to do it” is a constant problem in creative productions. “One director tells himself that he has time even when he don’t. Because he knows that from that space, he is actually in a position to solve the problem at hand.”

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This book is essential for people working on larger creative teams in the movies or games.

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “How to Live: or a Life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell

Ah Montaigne! I’m glad I got to know you. You are now officially added to my list of peculiar historical men that fascinate me to no end – alongside Ben Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt.


He wrote 107 essays with simple titles like “of Friendship”, “of Cannibals”, “of Names” and “of Cripples”. He was an observer of the world but most of all he observed and wrote about himself.


📝 He was send out by his parents to be nursed by peasants as an infant in a weird attempt to create a bond with “the commoners” that he would one day need to help.


📝 His parents educational experiment continued; Montaigne was brought up as a native Latin speaker! A tough plan to put in practice since the were almost no native latin speakers around. The rest of the household spoke minimal or no Latin.


📝 “A man… should touch his wife prudently and soberly, lest if he caresses her too lasciviously the pleasure should transport her outside the bound of reason” Montaigne quoted Aristotle. Saying, basically, the conventional notion in those days that being a passionate husband would turn the wife into a nymphomaniac. 😂


📝 Pay attention!

As Montaigne learned, one of the best techniques for paying attention is to write about everything. Just to describe simple things in the world opens your eyes to how marvelous they are.


📝 “Still French was his language of choice”. His essays gives a weird reason for this: French could not be expected to last in the same way as the classical languages (I.e. Latin). This was freeing. If his writing was flawed, there was less pressure on him since the where doomed anyway.


📝 He was a big fan of Hellenistic philosophy; Stoicism and Skepticism in particular. Stoicism encourages wise detachment and skeptics held themselves back on principle. His motto was “What do I know?”.


📝 In “on cripples” Montaigne writes about a rumor that lame women are more enjoyable in bed, and as Aristotle before him, he speculates that it must be that “their vaginas are more muscular because they receive the nourishment of which the legs are deprived.”


It’s a fascinating biography even for the uninitiated! Now I just need to read his actual essays!


4/5

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Thoughts on: “Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp

When I hear the word alcoholic I usually think about the guy sitting on a park bench, too drunk to notice he peed his pants, but even if he did notice, he would be too disconneced from reality to care.

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This memoir we meet Caroline, she is another type of alcoholic; a “high functioning” one. The type that can maintain jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism.

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She was raised in an upper class family and had her first drink at the age of 15. The next 20 years her relationship to drinking slowly turned from flirting into an abusive relationship. Happening so gradually that she almost didn’t notice her fall, but getting out of the addiction was quite the opposite.

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📝 Discomfort + Drink = Comfort

The equation of an alcoholic.

“It turned me into someone I liked”

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📝 “Ads says: “Drinking transforms you” and it does! It melts down the parts of us that hurts or feels distress. I makes room for another self to emerge that is new and improved and less conflicted. And after a while drinking becomes essential for the development of that version. Without the drink you are version A and with it version B and you can’t get from A to B without it.”

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📝 “The paradoxical thing about drinking alone is that it creates and illusion of emotional authenticity, which you can see is false only in retrospect. Liquor seems to be the only thing that allow access to our own feelings.”

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📝 About choices in recovery: “If it’s warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the The alcoholic choice. If it feel dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, then it’s probably the healthy choice.”

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📝 “You stop growing when you start drinking alcoholicly… prevents you from walking through the painful life experienced that take you from point A to point B on the maturity scale.”

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It’s a sad and touching story, that I really recommend. Especially if you, or someone close to you have a sketchy relationship to “ze booze”, because it might help you put a finger on what’s going on.

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4/5

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What are you drinking and reading this weekend?

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Thoughts on: “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson

Life is suffering. How do we deal with that?! We face it, we bare it. Hell is a bottomless pit and even how fucked up and unfair things are, we still can make it even worse. Let’s not do that! What if We get our act together and instead are prepared to face suffering when it comes knocking? That’s the better path. And we all know where we fall short.

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Peterson puts the responibility of all the world and all of it’s suffering on the individual. “If we all lived properly, we will collectively flurish.” If we put ourselves in order, maybe we will do the same to the world?

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📝 Render the people you care about competent – not protected.

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📝 The poor and stressed always die first. “When the aristocracy catches a cold the working class dies in pneumonia.”

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📝 Routine is necessary, the stuff we do everyday needs to be automatized into stable and reliable habits so that they gain reliability and lose complexity.

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📝 Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

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📝 “What you aim at determines what you see”. Choose your aim carefully!

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📝 “Why does it so often seem to be the very people standing so visibly against prejudice who so often feel obligated to denounce humanity itself?”

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📝 “As hard as it is to believe, a patient adult can defeat a two year old.”

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📝 Don’t blame your enemies, capitalism or the leftists. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience! Set your house in perfect order before criticizing the world.

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⭐️ Takeaway:

When I started reading this book we lay next to our son at bedtime until he had fallen asleep. This was not good. Now he goes to sleep alone after his bedtime story. He is now a more competent and independent being. Me and my wife has more time together in the evening. We are a stronger family now. This is good.

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Don’t let the title fool you, this is not a cheap self-help book. Not even close. This comes from a man that has been thinking thoroughly. I might not agree with all his conclusions but the least I can do is to follow Rule 9 and “assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”. Loved it!

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5/5

 

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Thoughts on: “Wanderlust” by Rebecca Solnit

If there is a way to read a book in the “wrong way”, I might actually have done it with this one! I listened to a book about walking while running.

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“A history of walking” is a bit misleading because it feels very superficial as a history book. It more a collection of musings and digressions around the subject of walking in the context of culture and history.

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Walkings influence on philosophizing/writing/thinking, women’s rights to roam freely, the “walking gardens” of leisure class, political marches and the auto-mobilization of public spaces are some of the topics covered. Sound kind of dry and boring but for some reason (and I can’t really put my finger on why), it kept my interest all the way through. ———————

📝 About the car mentality of modern day America: “People seem to have a mental radius on how far they are willing to walk, and it’s shrinking.”

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📝 Flâneur: A stroller. A connoisseur of the the streets.

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📝 Rousseau believed that the original man wandered the forests in solitude, living a simplistic life. This was what we ought to emulate. Most of his philosophy was born during his long walks.

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📝 Walking has been much more accessible to men than women. And this is still the case today. Restrictions and risk of physical abuse has limited women’s access roaming freely. 2/3 of American women are afraid to walk their neighborhood at night.

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📝 Back in the day the treadmill was used to punish prisoners sentenced to hard labor.

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⭐️ Takeaway: I should pay attention to my health. I would love to be able to still wander around during my autumn years without interference from bad knees, back problems or obesity.

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This is definitely not for everyone but if you, like I do, enjoy walking just for the sake of walking it might be worth your time.

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3/5

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Thoughts on: “Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman

Sometimes you need something completely different. This was a palate cleanser book for me.

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Engineers are too logical at times, while people are not. As a game developer, you something hear people complaining: “They are playing it wrong!” when you first let people outside your project group play the game for the first time.

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Are the users really at fault? Maybe we have to accept human behavior the way it is and not the way we want it to be? This is the main point of this book; when people fail to follow the products complex rigid rules, the operator are blamed for not understanding. It should be the other way around and it’s the designers job to make sure that’s the case.

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📝 Conceptual model: An explanation, usually highly simplified, of how something works.

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📝 Root-cause analysis: asking “why?” until the ultimate, fundamental cause of the activity is reached.

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📝 Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols.

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📝 Mapping: the relationship between two sets of thing. I.e lights mapped to switches.

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📝 Learned helplessness: Failing several times by accident and thereby start to doubt ones capabilities.

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📝 Skeuomorphic design: incorporating old, familiar ideas into new technologies even though the no longer play a functional role. I.e implementing “old car” sounds into electrical cars.

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📝 “All artificial things are designed.”

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: It’s not my fault that I can’t turn on my parents oven.

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This books falls very close to being a straight up textbook, but great examples and interesting anecdotes keeps it entertaining all the way. You won’t look at a man-made object the same way again! I learned a lot from this detour into design.

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When was the last time you threw yourself into a book on an unexpected subject? 😀🤔

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “American Kingpin” by Nick Bilton

A failed physicist libertarian created the “Amazon of drugs” on the dark web, banking on the anonymity of Bitcoin and Thor (a web anonymous browser). His name was Ross Ulbricht and the site name was “the Silk Road”.

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He wanted to challenge the government led “war on drugs”, which he saw as a huge failure, and create a safe way to purchase drugs and while doing so, save tens of thousandths of people from prison sentences for minor drug abuse. The goals was to become such a powerful force that governments would understand that legalizing rather than fighting drugs was the solution.

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📝 The first items sold on the page was Ross’s homegrown magic mushrooms.

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📝 It did not take long before vendors started to sell fake passports and money. Lab supplies, forged documents, guns, spyware.

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📝 Then came the next level stuff:

Poisons – cyanide, which kills you in 7 sec was sold with a copy of “The final exit”; An e-book guide to suicide. Soon body parts, like marrow and kidneys, came online.

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📝 Ross and his partner, Variety Jones agreed that selling these things where all good as long as there where where consent between buyer and seller. Except on one point: Heroin.

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📝 Variety Jones had a problem with the Silk Road selling heroin. In prison he had seen what heroin did to people. Prisoners where drug tested randomly – but only Monday – Friday. Pot stayed in your system if you did it during the weekend but Heroin did not… so many took to heroin and nobody smoked pot. Making prisoners take a weeks worth of heroin In a couple of hours just to ride out the withdrawal symptoms for until it was Friday again. Hell!!

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💭 Thought!💭: For me It’s always fun to google the faces of the characters in books like these when you reach the end of the book. They usually look very different from what you expect!

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🔁 Follow up: I need to read about Heroin.

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Anyhow, this is excellent narrative non-fiction of a real world “Breaking Bad”-story. You get to follow the tale of the Silk Road from its inception to its shut down and its one hellauva ride!

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4/5

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Double review: “Good to Great” and “Autobiography of a Yogi”

Good to Great (GtG) lays out the result of a study that was set out to find the universal distinguishing characteristic of companies that went from good to great performance and sustained it for over fifteen years.

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Autobiography of a yogi is the is the life account of Yogananda Paramahansa; the yogi than introduced Kriya Yoga to the western world.

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How do these books have in common? Not much! But let’s do a combo review anyway!

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A reoccurring theme in Yoganandas life what that people materialize out of thin air. This did not happen to the “good to great” companies. On the contrary, a key ingredient for these companies success was to find the right people for the job; following the concept of, “first who, then what”. And “when in doubt, don’t hire”.

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And this is exactly the problem with both these books. GtG states the obvious and Yoganandan’s book is so out there that I have to check from time to time that it’s not a Harry Potter book you’re reading.

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📝 The characteristic “Level 5”-leaders of the GtG companies have a lot in common with Yoganandans guru. Humble, with a stoic resolve and a subdued ego.

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📝 “Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, not you biggest problems”.

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📝 “Continual intellectual study results in vanity and the false satisfaction of an undigested knowledge.” Yoganandans guru about about futility of mere book learning.

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📝 Autobiography of a Yogis Goodreads reviews are some of the most polarizing I have seen so far.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

I need to stop being a completionist when it comes to books. It’s not that these books are bad, I just think there is better ways to spend reading time. It’s okey to throw lesser books aside for better ones. Jump from good to great so to speak. 😎

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2/5

 

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