How you can also read a book per week in 2019

This year is the first year I will finish the year with around 52 books read. I didn’t plan for it, nor was it my goal (30 books was my original goal, though I increased it to 40 halfway the year). Though let me share with you how I managed to reach this reading level, which is like CEO level according to some, or the level that Bill gates does), though I read because I like it, not because I aspire to be somebody else.

1. Read multiple books at the same time

There hasn’t been any moment that I was reading just a single book. I have like four or five books that I am reading at any moment. The main reason I do this is that of number 2 and 3. I use different formats (physical, audio, and ebooks) and where I read.

2. Read different formats

My favorite format is the good old paperback. However, this is not always an option. Either because it is not published as a paperback or because I would like to consume it during cycling. Also, there are ebooks of course, though I am not a big fan of them (or at least I haven’t found a nice way of consuming them). Of course, I could buy yet another dedicated device for it, but for that feels like overkill. A note on audiobooks: I read them on double speed. It is remarkable how easy for the brain it is to process faster audio, though build this up quite gradually I would recommend.

3. Have books always nearby

In my backpack which is like always near to me, I have a book with me. This is like my main book. In my living room, I have another book (currently Poor Charlie’s Almanack which is really more a living room book from a size perspective). In my car, I have a book in case I go somewhere without a backpack, and I want to read, and lastly, on my phone, I got my audiobooks and ebooks.

4. Create reading habits

I have standard moments when I read. When I m traveling, but I don’t have to drive myself I read. When I am cycling, I put on an audiobook and read. When I have some more time in the morning, I pick up a book and read. When I get my son to soccer practice, I read for like the first 45 minutes and watch the rest. Creating moments when you read is a huge advantage and gives you a lot of reading time.

Something that didn’t work for me, but could work for other is to force yourself reading every day a fixed amount (minutes or chapters). I did it during my holidays by reading one chapter per day. Even though I read more, I enjoyed it less. Though it can help you in building a habit, though make sure to commit to it for 3-4 weeks at a minimum.

The reading list

All the books I read you can find here at Goodreads. If you’d like you could also follow me there to get more real-time updates on what I am reading.

Out of the books I have now completed I would recommend most of them, though especially I would recommend:

Thinking in bets

Concise summary: life is not chess it is poker, and you should not confuse poor outcomes with poor decisions. Really good for people who want to understand their decision making a lot better.

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work

If you are leading a group of people, it is mandatory to read this from my perspective. It shows that you don’t have to do all the crazy things (80 hour weeks, endless meetings, busy, sleep deprivation) to be really good at what you do. Of course the precursor of the book: rework, already shared such insights with you.

Algorithms to live by

Everything is an algorithm nowadays, however, what is an algorithm, how does it work and how would it be applied. An excellent book to get started with a better understanding of the new/current world of computer science.

How to fight a hydra

I think the only fable I read this year, but a great short (audio)book that reminders that ambitious challenges are full with ambiguity and uncertainty but that if you are willing to tackle the unknown, you can complete most challenges.

The checklist manifesto

Don’t let your brain do things that a checklist can. That is what my takeaway from this book is. If you weren’t aware: your mind is unreliable, you can not remember every step and a checklist can be based on examples shown in his book, actually save lives. Also, it provides an excellent blueprint for a useful checklist (so like a checklist for checklists ;)).

Man’s search for meaning

Every summary I would write would do a disservice for this superb book. It is the story about and by Viktor E. Frankl during WW2 while staying and surviving the concentration camps. This quote gives you the best indication of what it will be about:

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a pursuit of power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a search for meaning.

For next year I aim at 40 books again. If you have any suggestions, please let me know, always looking for good reading tips.

No Mandate? Don’t bother with social media

Companies have the dillusion that answering complaints on social media is showing they care. It isn’t. Fixing complaints, or preventing them in the first place is a sign you care. Providing answers is just what it is: providing answers.

Though is answering not a nice activity? Well not really, since if this is the sequence:

A: My applicator is broken

B: Yes we know. We are really sorry.

Than you answered. However was it helpful? No clearly not.

This is not to blame to the poor people answering those message on social media. The people who  iniated this “answering machine” is to blame, since people are not looking for answers, they are looking for solutions. And solutions can only be provided when the person confronted with the issue has to mandate to fix it.

A mandate to tweet doesn’t solve anything. If you decide you need to do web care, than “take care”, don’t pretend you care by not taking care.

Robots are not taking your job

The rise of Artificial Intelligence seems to be a scary things for many people. Since the thing that robots / algorithms will take their job. However that is not the case. People have taken the jobs of robots and now need to give them back.

Would you really want to do a job that can be done better by a robot or a by a few lines of code? Or would you rather be a little bit more creative and less repetitive? AI is great in augmenting people at their job and making them better in the work they do, AI doesn’t steal jobs away it just makes them better and more fun.

If only people would stop taking the jobs from the robots away, than we would not have had this discussion in the first place.

The 2019 trends are not important

After the GDPR fiesta of messages in May we reached the end of the year which means that everybody who is dependent on his income advising others how they should do digital is publishing the 2019 trends on digital. Those trends are completely irrelevant.

The reason for these trends is to give people, who are hiring advisors, the feeling that they are moving in the completely wrong direction. Which is ironic since you had hired that advisor before to guide you the way. Another reason is that advisors prefer to have more business from you and need to find another project.

You know how many consultants it take to change a light bulb? Your current budget + 30%. 

So next time somebody comes to you with next year trends and what you need to do, just ask yourself five questions:

  1. What is the budget you have available?
  2. What is the segment you would like to target?
  3. What is your current position in the market?
  4. What are your overall objectives?
  5. Given my previous answers is this really the number 1 should be doing?

Fix your strategy first before you can jump in those trendy tactics for 2019.

And if you really want to know what is happening in 2019, then this set of predictions sums it up for marketing:

What is it that your customer is asking?

If you ever had to collect requirements you might have heard the anecdote that if your customer asks for a drill, you should not ask how big the drill should be or how strong it should be. you should ask why the customer wants to have the hole in the wall.

Yes, that is a good start. But that is only half the story. It is not about the hole in the wall nor is it about the drill. It is about what the customer is doing next. Does he want to hang a painting he just bought. Is it a shelf to put the pictures of his grand children there.

Even with that answer, you only have a very functional view of the customer requirement. What is it about the painting it should hang there, is it something she made, bought, inherited from a loved family member? The pictures of the grandchildren, are those the ones that she sees every weekend or those who live around the world?

Yes, it is about how the result makes the customer feel, not about the outcome itself. Be also curious about the process. There might be a sense of pride involved doing it herself.

If you are not interested in how your customers feel, you’re not providing customer experience. You are just providing a service.

Bad doors and bad design are everywhere.

We need more people who care so deeply about good design.

Don Norman started complaining about doors over 25 years ago. Doors shouldn’t need instructions – the shape of them can guide you through just fine. So why do so many doors need instruction manuals right on the side of them?

When most people complain about something, nothing happens. Don Norman is not most people – he’s a psychologist and cognitive scientist. Don Norman thought about, and wrote about his complaints so incredibly thoroughly that he changed the world.

Tesla Summon – Disrupting the Disruptors

Self driving cars are not enough anymore, or at least that might be the line of thinking within Tesla. Why have car drive you, why not just let a car drive from A to B. Of course this might be less disruptive than it sounds. However you could imagine that it takes the burden of a lot of things. Or as Tesla themselves describe it:

Using Summon, once you arrive home and exit Model S or Model X, you can prompt it to do the rest: open your garage door, enter your garage, park itself, and shut down. In the morning, you wake up, walk out the front door, and summon your car. It will open the garage door and come to greet you. More broadly, Summon also eliminates the burden of having to squeeze in and out of tight parking spots.

Which is brilliant of course. You could also think of a scheduling option that as soon you reach your destination and you let your Tesla to find a charging station and charge itself. Removing that burden as well. Since of course it is a needless burden to charge an intelligent car and it would make the experience a little bit more magical. If it is about saving time, summon is obvious. You could imagine that the concept of a drive-through restaurant changes in a pick up restaurant where the Tesla drives by to pick up the meal, pays by passing through sensors and gets the meal to you in a timely manner.

Disrupting the disruptors

For me this is just common sense, go from self driving with a human to completely autonomous driving to completing tasks that don’t require human assistance. However the really disruptive part would be if Teslas would become part of a smart swarm, imagine you are a Tesla owner and you have a party with 8 of your friends. Now you most likely would either go for ordering multiple (or a big) Uber of Lyft or a similar service, or go by public transport. Imagine if you could summon a backup Tesla to get you from A to B. So you can not only use your own car, you can use available cars in the group of Teslas around you. Of course there needs to be an attractive business model around this for me as a Tesla owner. However if Tesla ownership means that you can always summon and use your Tesla at the moments you need it and offer it to others when you don’t need it (and get something in return) and for others it means that they can use a Tesla even though they don’t have to own one. It might be the thing that disrupts Uber or if Uber handles smartly the one thing that even strengthens its position.

However if you don’t own a Tesla you cannot drive in it, it will drive you from A to B. The benefit from owning one, is that you can pretend you know how to drive and disregard the intelligent capabilities of your car, having the nostalgic feeling of driving a car, just like in the old days.

The unintended consequences of innovations

In the slums of the future, virtual reality junkies satisfy their violent impulses in online entertainment. An expert player discovers that the line between games and reality is starting to fade away.

When technology is an abstraction or becomes more hidden than there can be unintended consequences. It is too easy to say that things as shown in the video below won’t happen. Though think about this: when you are working on a task on Mechanical Turk are you working to help a student with his thesis or working on a task for an oppressive regime, when entering some words to match a difficult to read text in a Captcha are you just matching something to proof you are not a bot or are you translating a book with dubious content? It is sometimes hard to discover what actually happens with your input.

We should strive to make sure these unintended consequences won’t happen. Of course not every technology will end up the be new Skynet, though as every new technology (and old technology as well) has upsides we need be wary of potential downsides as well. For me understanding the potential challenges that a new technology brings helps me to understand the potential upsides a lot better.

The short film below (Uncanny Valley) shows what could be the dark side of Virtual Reality. If the topic of unintended consequences of technology interests you I would also recommend the British television series Black Mirror which is created by Charlie Brooker.

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