Category Archives: Book Review

The Five Books I Brought to Peru

books

My well seasoned traveling friends warned me not to take too many books down to Peru. They said that I’d be too busy exploring and immersing myself in the local culture that I’d never have time to read.

Well, going without good books for a month for me is like cutting out coffee for a month. (It’s not a pretty scene folks)

Here are the five books I brought down to Peru with me. This short list is a combination of audiobooks, kindle and and hard copy versions. ( Tip: audiobooks keep you entertained on long plane/train/bus rides)

1) On the Road by Jack Kerouac

I watched the trailer for the movie that is coming out soon and I was intrigued. This book is a fantastic story about a young man traveling through the United States in the 40s. I finished half the book between leaving the airport and arriving in Lima.

2) The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I’ve talked about this book before. I figured I needed a refresher, so what better way to spend a few free hours each week studying how to unleash my inner creative. Cameron’s classic book is a 12 week course in exploring your inner creative. Packed with useful exercises and thought provoking questions, this book is perfect for a bit of self exploration.

3)The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

I haven’t started this book yet but I was eager to pick it up before leaving because of the reviews. And also because I think Seth Godin is pretty awesome. I’ll add a book review later once I finish reading it.

4) Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

I’ve read plenty of books about how to improve your memory. What I like about Moonwalking with Einstein is the plethora of interesting stories and historical references that Foer makes. Packed full of great tips and ideas, this book was my go to for trying to quickly learn Spanish both before and during my trip.

5) ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

I figured I’d have a bit of free time in between sight seeing and enjoying the local cuisine. What better way to spend my idle hours than a little professional development? I’m about half way through Problogger and I’m dying to implement some of the ideas and tips that this book offers. I’ve learned a lot already and I’m definitely going to be giving the blog a little TLC when I return.

And finally, there is a book 6! Consider it a bonus. Book 6 makes the other 5 books even more useful and interesting.

6) A Moleskine Journal

I’ve written about the effectiveness of journaling many times and I really can’t emphasize how important it is. Especially when your traveling. Each day I’ve captured amazing ideas, thoughts and reflections on my time down here. Taking the time to write while you travel is an essential part of your experience.

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Two Tools To Help Maintain Your New Year’s Resolutions

So, we are now sitting in the fourth week of January and a lot of people have either abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions or never got to them in the first place.

Today, I want to offer up two valuable tools for maintaining those resolutions from two of my favorite entrepreneurs.

(Side note, I just finished reading “The Power Of Habit ” by Charles Duhigg and the best way to keep your New Year’s Resolutions is to make it a habit. Check out the book for more great ideas on developing habits)

Tool 1 – Write down 10 goals each day in a notebook. 

Tip taken from Brian Tracy, Entrepreneur, Sales Trainer and Business Coach

The specific practice is to write down 10 goals each day when you wake up to get you focused on what your life and professional priorities are. Brian recommends using a spiral notebook so that you can write down your goals and refer to them later. Once you write down your 10 goals, don’t look at what you’ve written until the end of 30 days. By not referring to what you wrote down yesterday, you will be forced to come up with new ideas for goals and reinforce the ones that are important to you. At the end of 30 days, you’ll find some really neat patterns and have a much more solid idea of what you are working towards.

Tool 2 – Write down a “When Life Works List”.

Tip taken from Sean Stephenson, Entrepreneur

The “When Life Works List” is a really neat tool. Essentially it is a list of habits and activities that need to happen in order for you to have an awesome day. Compiling this list and hitting 5-6 of them every day will keep you motivated and help you keep those resolutions.

This is an example of what my list looks like:

1) Morning Meditation

2) Eating a healthy breakfast

3) An hour of exercise

4) Reading a great book or article for 20 minutes

5) Having a conversation with friends that keep me accountable for my goals

6) A cup of really good tea

7) Writing a blog post

All of these things help me move towards my goals whether i’m having a good or bad day.

Try out these tools for a month and see how they work for you. I can definitely say they’ve helped me stay motivated and inspired this year.

Book of the week: The start-up of you

The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha is one of those books that a friend referred to me but I never got around to reading. Finally, last month my friend Jacob suggested the book for a business book club I’m part of and I finally got around to tackling it. (Plug: Amazon’s Whispersync saves your spot if you listen to the audiobook and kindle edition so you can get the book done way faster if you use both formats)

The premise of the book revolves around the idea that the key element to career success is to always be in a stage of “Permanent Beta”. For those of you who don’t know, entrepreneurs and start-ups use this term to describe a constant state of learning and pivoting. In essence, choosing a direction but always being open to opportunities, ideas and growth that you may not be able to see today.

But before I get into some of my favorite ideas in the book, I’ll fill you in on some information about one of the authors, Reid Hoffman. Reid started Linkedin back in the early 2000’s and is now the Chairman of the Board. He has been a mentor and investor to many start-ups from Silicon Valley and continues to be a prominent thought leader in entrepreneurship, technology and of course start-ups.

Back to the book.

The start-up of you is broken up into seven chapters, each one dealing with principles and practices that start-ups use that can be applied to developing career success. Below, I’ve listed the seven chapters with my key takeaway from each section.

Chapter 1: All Humans Are Entrepreneurs

  • The old career rules are dead. We have to constantly pivot and find new types of jobs and value to bring to the employers or clients that hire us.

Chapter 2: Develop a Competitive Advantage

  • Like every successful business, you need a competitive advantage that’s going to set you apart from the pack. You need a point of differentiation from everybody else who’s applying for the same job or pitching the same client as you. What’s your competitive advantage?

Chapter 3: Plan To Adapt

  • The world is changing quickly and making plans too far into the future may not be effective. Plan for the future but be ready to change direction or have a backup plan just in case. Figure out what your Plan B and Plan Z. This reminds me of the adage “A failure to plan is a plan to fail”

Chapter 4: It Takes A Network

  • This chapter boils down into the nitty gritty of how to build and maintain an effective network. Reid identifies two distinct groups in your network: 1) Allies 2) Weaker ties and acquaintances  You should know which group to approach for career advice or for new opportunities. Another key point is that relationships are vital to maintainin a healthy and effective network.

Chapter 5: Pursue Breakout Opportunities

  • Reid talks about how George Clooney found his breakout role in the hit TV series “ER”. Think about what your breakout opportunity could be and then do everything you can to get it.

Chapter 6: Take Intelligent Risks

  • Learn how to size up risk appropriately but don’t be afraid to go after a risky opportunity. Exposing yourself to risk regularly helps you acclimatize to when unforseen circumstances hit.

Chapter 7: Who You Know Is What You Know

  • Use your network as a highly sophisticated system of business intelligence. By tapping the right people for information, you may be able to avoid a crisis or gain insight into an opportunity your pursuing.

The book is loaded with lot’s of case studies and examples that can be applied right away either to help you find a new career, expand your network and just simply get you thinking about living your life in permanent beta.

This book is a short read and is available on Amazon or Audible. Also, the companion website offers a plethora of resources and access to start-up of you networks.

Never Eat Alone Book Review

I admit, it took me quite a long time to get around to reading this book. Not for any other reason aside from the fact that I’ve read quite a few books on networking and find that a lot of the same ideas are recycled over and over. I was happily surprised to find that while there were definitely some familiar concepts presented, it also covered some new ideas and practical tips that I hadn’t thought about before.

First off, the author Keith Ferrazzi is a well-known speaker, marketer and networking guru. A graduate of Yale and Harvard, Ferrazzi is a classic example of how hard work and connections can create opportunities that may seem beyond most people. Ferrazzi is also the Owner and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and business consulting firm.

The main theme of “Never Eat Alone” centres on the idea that networking is not just a tool to meet people and make connections but can also be used as a powerful way to achieve your personal and professional goals as well as help others do the same. Ferrazzi uses many examples throughout the book from his own life as well as people within his network to demonstrate the power of a robust and active network.

Here are the six big ideas that I took away from the book:

1) Nobody makes it alone

One of the key ideas that Ferrazzi brings up is that while it may seem that high achievers are independently successful, the truth is that they are the sum of all the people who have helped them along the way. Whether it be trying to get an in on a new job prospect or simply trying to get connected with the right people, a well-established network is the key to making this happen. Ferrazzi has a great quote on this “Success in any field, but especially in business, is about working with people, not against them”. It’s often that we assume that everybody is the competition, but when you begin to see your business contacts as a community of people all looking to achieve their own goals, you can see the value of collaboration.

2) When you help others, others help you

This idea is pretty straightforward. Ferrazzi says “Once you’re committed to reaching out to others and asking for their help at being the best at whatever you do, you’ll realize, as I have, what a powerful way of accomplishing your goal this can be. Just an important, it will lead to a much fuller, richer, life, surrounded by an ever-growing, vibrant network of people you care for and who care for you.”

Ever since my first mentor helped me get my career started, I’ve always asked myself the question “How can I add value to my connections?” By finding ways to use your resources and connections to help others, you inherently create opportunities for yourself.

3) Networking is really about connecting

Many people have the misconception that going to a networking event and collecting a handful of business cards is real networking. Although it’s part of it, networking is really about creating valuable connections with people by taking an interest in their projects and finding ways to add value for them. Ferrazzi emphasizes the importance of not only connecting with people on the professional level but also on the personal level too.

4) Introduce your connections to each other

This is a really good practice that I’m not currently doing myself. My friend Jacob does a great job of this. Every event we go to he is always introducing me to people who may add value for me or who I might be able to add value to. Another practice that Jacob has is that he frequently has dinner parties where he’ll invite a few of his connections over to his house and introduce them to each other. I really like this idea because it creates an opportunity for people to really get to know each other in a comfortable environment. He got this tip straight out of the book.

5) Passion is important, specifically “What do you truly love to do?”

At first, I thought it a bit odd to have a whole chapter dedicated to passion in a book about networking. But after reading this section, I actually found it to be quite obvious. Ferrazzi talks a lot about doing what you’re passionate about because once you figure out what that is, then you can engage other people into helping you pursue what you love. And in turn, you can help them chase after what they love. Also, people who are passionate about what they do are generally more interesting people to talk to.

6) Goals

Ferrazzi talks quite a bit about goals in Chapter 3 of the book. Specifically about the process of setting goals and then figuring out who in your network can help you reach your goals. Ferrazzi talks about how his Dad’s goal for him was to have him receive the best education possible. In order to do this his father approached a well-respected business person who sat on the board of an elite private school. By connecting with this person, his father was able to get him into an excellent educational institution which created the foundation for his career. One of the ideas that resonated with me from the book was that you don’t necessarily need to know exactly who you need to talk to but have a general idea. Then you can enlist somebody from your network to help you connect to this person.

This book was a great reminder about the basics of networking and also creates an excellent framework for developing your own networking strategy. I highly recommend it to people just starting out with networking as well as for the seasoned networking pro.

Never Eat Alone is available through Chapters and Amazon. Ferrazzi also has another book that was published recently called Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success.

Book Review: Blue Ocean Strategy

Years ago when I was sitting in my final marketing strategy class, the book that my professor kept mentioning over and over again was “Blue Ocean Strategy“. This book stuck out in my head not only because it was useful for developing new business models but also because of its relevance regardless of the economic situation that an entrepreneur was facing. Written by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne and published by Harvard Business School Press, this book definitely lives up to its credibility as being an invaluable source of information regarding business strategy.

Although a bit dry at times, Blue Ocean Strategy is a very practical and accessible book for business professionals and entrepreneurs alike. This book is written in case study style which allows the reader to quickly build a reference point for the concepts introduced.

The concept of a “Blue Ocean” is the idea that instead of competing with existing firms in a highly competitive market (Red Ocean), companies can seek out new markets by focusing on Value Innovation. As stated in the book, “Value Innovation is created in the region where a company’s actions favorably affect its cost structure and its value proposition to buyers.” Basically what this means is that the firm is offering more value in terms of innovation or utility at a lower cost.

A few of the notable organizations that are mentioned are:

– Cirque Du Soleil

– Yellowtail Wines

– NetJets

– New York Police Department

– Bloomberg

Each of these firms is shown to have created a Blue Ocean Strategy which has allowed them to launch into new markets and remain uncontested. One really neat feature of the presentation of the book is the “Strategy Canvas”. Each company that is referenced as having a solid Blue Ocean Strategy has their primary three points of differentiation listed out on a scatter chart which represents how they compete effectively against other companies who offer similar products or services.

The Six Principles of Blue Ocean Strategy are broken down into strategy formulation and then execution. These principles are:

Formulation Principles

– Reconstruct market boundaries

– Focus on the big picture, not the numbers

– Reach beyond existing demand

– Get the strategic sequence right

Execution Principles

– Overcome key organizational hurdles

– Build execution into strategy

All in all, there is far too much great information in this book to be covered in a blog post; however, I highly recommend Blue Ocean Strategy for any business professional, entrepreneur or marketer who is looking to direct their organization into the next great blue ocean.