In Book

It is common for us as lay people to have a negative reaction to sales. We are wary of the tales of those fleeced on used car lots. We easily conjure an image of the smarmy salesman in his tweed jacket, upselling us products we don’t really need.

In an age when many have forecasted the death of the salesman, Pink reverses the prophecy, asserting that we are all in sales now. More and more we own our own platforms. We are a part of the network of social reviewers, promoters, or detractors.

Sales, or moving others, extends into many areas of life. We try to teach others concepts and encourage their application. We try to persuade our teams that certain ideas have merit and warrant implementation. We try to encourage our children to walk a path of upright principles in their own lives.

Sales doesn’t have to by a hiss and a byword. By our own actions, in our own selling, we can be the sales people we want and need to be.

How does one invent the personal computer as we see and use it today? Start early in life with a father who has knowledge of and access to computer and electronics parts. Be interested in the cutting edge and being first. Spend years designing and “building” things on paper because you have no money. Don’t be obsessed with money – be more obsessed with having fun. Challenge yourself to iterate and improve your designs. Make friends with people who compliment your abilities. Be willing to do things for the lulz and without compensation. Steve Wozniak has an interesting story and obviously lots of insight on the beginnings of the personal computer and the early history of Apple. His autobiography definitely sounds like the Woz: straight-forward declarations of the great or funny things he’s done, exclamations of his own motivations, and energetic invitations for others to similarly create.

You, Inc. was an enjoyable read. It felt like skimming through the microblog of an Internet author who had collected a bunch of good aphorism and anecdotes on how to present oneself, conduct business or find happiness. My favorite tidbit, which I’ve found in Derek Siver’s decidedly better summary, is this:

“Do what you love. The money may follow and please you. The money may follow but pleases you less than you expected. The money may follow but pleases you only briefly. (Maslow said humans are only capable of temporary satisfaction. Once something satifies us, we move on to our next unsatisfied desire.) The money may not follow, which might disappoint you. But if you’re doing what you love, you will have loved what you’ve been doing. That will satisfy you so deeply that the result must either be called success or recognized as something even more enriching.”

That is a great example of the pithy thoughts that were gathered together in this book. The title could potentially be misleading. It was not droll or narcissistic. ([whew!] well at least there’s that!)

Seth challenges us to think of what we’re afraid of – what keeps us back from doing the work and making the art that we really want to. In the myth of Icarus, we’re shown that obedience to authority and not exceling beyond reasonable limits will lead to our continued existence. Seth asserts this is a deception given to us by the industrialists, a moniker given to that group of people who have built factories and molded replaceable humans, lulling them into an existence of dependency where they don’t fly too high but instead contribute to the industrialists’ own aggrandizement. Seth tries to get us to make art – more art, better art. Art, being defined in a broad sense of what is weird work and especially what we want to gift the world. He argues that in today’s connection economy, this is really the only new path to thriving.

The only common theme in this book is Star Wars. The subjects that are brought in are of a vast variety. There are comparisons made to Star Wars. Cass susses out how Star Wars is commenting on various things in our world (this galaxy). There is a fun amount of Star Wars trivia and history. There are also some of Cass’ favorite subjects, such as constitutional law with only trepid tie-ins to Star Wars. It’s a playful romp. I enjoyed it.

Retirement is not an age that happens to you. It’s a dream that you envision and work toward until you obtain it.

Chris Hogan wants us to realize that retirement’s coming. We don’t have a choice about that. But we do have a choice in how retirement looks to us. He encourages us to define our dream well so that we know what we’re looking for. This book is about 50% inspiration, where Chris is just trying to get us to listen to him and get in gear for retirement.

There are also some good tactical portions to the book as well. He doesn’t get into stock picks or super-specific investing advice. He does lay out some good sections on what to do in every decade of your life. He teachs broad investment categories and insurances.

He has plenty of illustrating stories from people in his family or whom he has counseled that are motivating. He wraps up with a great section on how important investing in the relationships in our lives is. If we don’t have people to enjoy retirement with, all the work won’t pay off like we hope it will.

Many of us seek to do it all or have it all. It will never be enough, and in this pursuit we can see our own effectiveness and happiness diminishing. We get spread too thin, like butter over too much toast. If we can learn to find contentment and focus, we can be present for what matters in our lives. If we can edit out and say no to those things that are good but not our top priority, our lives will start to look more like what we want. We will be in greater control and more purposeful about what we do and the direction we’re going. We can have and do less, but better.

The book is mostly a string of case studies describing different professionals, from the world of business or athletics, who have come to this team of authors and researchers for help on their game. There was something amis in their life that kept them from reaching their full potential. The quest to help these people prioritize their life and their energy often helped. They were able to create rituals for people that helped them recover and renew their energy quickly. With full energy available more quickly more often, they were able to find greater productivity and impact in their chosen fields.

We rob ourselves of joy when we compare ourselves needlessly to others. We will find more contentment as we stop comparing. And yet we find comparison everywhere. We want our kid to learn soccer, then make the team, then go varsity, then the club team – it’s never enough, and we’ve never made it, and it’s exhausting. The same can be seen in the tech industry, as opportunities are many, we flit between great jobs, hoping for something better, bigger, more aggrandizing. We compare likes on our posts, followers on our feed. The never-ending stair-stepper of comparison will not leave us satisfied, but wanting. If we can learn to be genuinely happy for others and grateful for the circumstances we have, greater happiness will be more available to us. But first we need to stop comparing.