Books Review 2020

January 2, 2021 - 11 min read

Most books that I read are through audio or PDFs.

The Snowball (Warren Buffet)

Interesting biography of the legendary investor Warren Buffet. What I found pretty interesting is that he (as many other business-successful people) has started really early (in his childhood), selling things. What you could conclude from that is that you should start early with making/keeping/growing money.

He also mentioned that he patience on finding the right time to invest, while keeping the focus on the value behind the company. That means, a company could have a higher, intrinsic value than what is perceived by the public (value investment).

Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahnemann)

The idea is that humans basically have two different systems, that reflect their mind. System 1 operates automatically, quickly, with no effort and no sense of voluntary control and conclude tasks everyday life requires (like navigating and walking). System 2 requires more effort and attention and conclude tasks that require concentration (like solving complex math problems).

One thing that was really important to keep for me was the confirmation bias and fact of jumping to conclusions. Often, system 1 draws conclusions based on readily available, often misleading and wrong information, to take the decision off of system 2. If we have a believe about something to be true, we should not look for data that supports that, but rather data that contradicts it.

Also interesting was the fact that people tend to overweight recent experiences, means that if you have both positive and negative experiences, you would rather conclude the whole experience to be negative if the most recent event was negative. For example, if the last days of your vacation were bad, you would more likely conclude that the vacation was rather negative, even though you had plenty of positive experiences before.

Psycho-Cybernetics (Maxwell Maltz)

This is considered to be one of the best books in the psychology and self-help category. The author, Maxwell Maltz, professionally a cosmetic surgeon, observed the fact that people had believes about their portrait (like their nose) and after correcting them (via cosmetic surgery) they looked different physically, but they still saw themselves with the "disability". Maxwell brought the fact that people let past experiences define them in a negative way, making them not see who they really are, but who they think they are (self image).

Very important to remember was also that our brain does not distinguish between imagination and reality, so our thoughts influence "trick" us to believe that something is real, even though it is just imagined. You could see this in a positive or negative way, for example by having a clear vision/picture of who we want to be and regularly think/vision that picture.

The author also described the "success mechanism", that works in a way that our conscious mind is less helpful in solving problems, but our creative, unconscious mind much more. You may find a solution to a problem by not thinking about it actively, but by doing rather unrelated tasks. The success mechanism works by intensively thinking about the problem in as much detail as you can, then forget about the problem for some time (even days). The solution then often presents itself, by letting the mind work on it unconsciously.

The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale)

This book is pretty focus on religion and god. It is said that god will help you, heal you, solve problems for you if you believe in it, remove negative feeling, thoughts and have faith. The interesting part for me here was the banish of self-doubt, that often originate from values and experiences of our childhood. Positive thinking will help you achieve your goals. You should practice inner happiness, not worry about eventual negative outcomes and keep a regular routine "praying" of picturing/visioning and imagining of a thing or goal.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (Gustave LeBon)

It gives interesting insights on the psychology of the crowd. The majority of men, especially those in large groups/masses, do not have clear or reasoned ideas on a subject outside their own specialty. People join mass movements to get rid of their responsibility of life and different burdens that they have, leading to a feeling of connectedness and strength.

Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert B. Cialdini)

In 6 principles, it is explained why people say "yes". This is interesting to know, since everyone is either influencing someones else and/or is influenced by someone. The first, reciprocation, is giving back what another person gave us (someone gives you a present - you want to give them one too). The second, commitment and consistency, is that we usually stay fixed on an opinion that we have taken stand on (like to say that we have a specific political standpoint). The third, social proof, is that we do what the people around us is doing, because we assume it to be true (like laughing to a joke in a group, even though you did not understand it). The fourth, liking, relates to agreeing to people that we feel physically attracted, similar to or received compliments from (for example finding out that your neighbor does the same sport as you). The fifth, authority, is simply the fact that we are taught to follow orders from people with higher authority, like police men. The sixth, scarcity, tells that the fear of loss is greater than the desire to gain, so that the more available something is, the less we desire it (for example limited time offers in stores).

How You Decide: The Science of Human Decision Making (Ryan Hamilton)

It is commonly estimated that humans make around 35000 decisions a day. Most of them (approximately 95%) may happen unconsciously. Different parts of the human's brain make different decisions and react and are triggered differently. The emotional part of the brain (limbic system) handles lots of information in an unconscious way, learns by try-and-error and is heavily steered by the hormone dopamine (something has a high reward will likely be repeated in the future, even though it is short time). The logical part of the brain (neo-cortex system) can see things from a different/rational perspective, by controlling emotions and do rational decisions (like in emergencies). However, the logical part cannot deal with as much information as the emotional part.

Blackout (Marc Elsberg)

This is a book that does not fit into my usual selection, but it tells a great story that I can highly recommended. In summary, the energy (power) connections in Europe start to fail. This follows a chain of reactions all over the cities, that cause panic. That was really interesting to see, because it shines light on things that you might only think about when you heard about it. For example: no energy means no water flush, means no water or toilet usage. Sooner or later, this may increase the infection risk, because dirt accumulates.

Range - Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (David Epstein)

This book is almost an anti these to the famous "10000 hours" rule to achieve mastery in a field (as outlined in the book "Mastery" by Robert Greene). The author outlines that generalists, rather than specialists, will be needed more and more in the future. The reason for that is the rapidly changing environments that most field bring with them, requiring a broad set of skills and creativity to solve problems.

Specialization could make you blind to all possibilities of solving a problem. The idea is that you try different things, fail fast, learn and apply. Applying conceptual knowledge from one domain to another or a new one is key here.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (Ben Horowitz)

The main saying of this book is that there is no recipe for situations when things get hard. Throughout the book, there were a number of advices and stories that were told that may help with hard things. There was also the fact of having artificial deadlines to increase productivity, or having less people that are the single point of decision, just to prevent being a task being stuck at one person.

12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos (Jordan B. Peterson)

The author described 12 rules that can help you with you and your life. I'm not going to write them down here, since that is too much. The most important things for me were that you should hang out with people who are where you want to be, support you and are positive. Also, you should reward yourself for doing unpleasant things that you don't want to do. Also, the "stand up straight with your shoulders back" rule can be helpful to remember, to act more dominant which will make you less anxious, more confident and more likely to attract positivity.

The Wisdom of Insecurity - A Message for an Age of Anxiety (Alan Watts)

This book is pretty strong about spirituality and self-help. The author describes that in the modern age, people tend to crave for a feeling of insecurity (even though this does not exist) and so fear things that are not real, causing anxiety. This can be solved by living in the present moment, rather then holding on present experiences or future projects. He brought the example of a person that must undergo a surgery in some weeks and has no pain, but instead of living in the present, he is occupied with thoughts of possibly dying or cancelling the surgery. Other things that the author mentioned were perception of time, self and reality for being the root of all insecurity.

Inner Engineering (Sadhguru)

Inner Engineering goes into the topic of spirituality. Sadhguru, the author, talks deeply about his experience with meditation and yoga. Happiness comes from the inside, not from another person or the outer world. It is told that, when we change something or reached a certain goal, we become happy. But the author describes that this is what prevents us from being happy, since everything happens right now, in this moment and within us. So the search for happiness should happen in ourselves. Also, responding to life events (responseability) is meant in a way to increase freedom by being able to respond to events consciously.

The Anatomy of Loneliness - How to Find Your Way Back to Connection (Teal Swan)

The author describes that every human experiences loneliness to a degree, while separating between one that can be solved by being around other people, and one that cannot. The latter is the genuine loneliness, which can lead to a sense of isolation and separateness to others. It is stated that survival as a human race depends on the capacity to be connected. Loneliness is an epidemic with devastating implications. Three main concepts are key here: Separation, Shame and Fear.

Shame is an instinct (or unconscious) reaction, like the fight-or-flight response that causes us to react, or nowadays overreact to stimuli (like notifications on phones) fully automatically as an evolutionary result. We may withdraw from other people by avoiding them or acting in a not authentic way, making it impossible for them to understand yourself.

Fear is pushing something away from us and separating from it. It may be the result of rejection, disapproval or abandonment. Interesting to know is that we do not fear the unknown, but rather a similar, traumatic situation from the past. Fear is a part of you and can be resolved by resolving past experiences.

The Culture Map - Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business (Erin Meyer)

This is interesting especially for everyone who works in a company with people from different international origins. It shines a light on how different cultures react to situations, like meetings, conversations or reviews. For example, some cultures are more open to direct feedback, or maybe want to say "no" when they rather say "this can be difficult to fit in my schedule".