Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ten Best Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2013

While my non-fiction reading tastes are relatively eclectic, they generally reflect my current attitude and interests at this present time. As I get older, I tend to read books that make me more reflective and introspective. My list below contains books on psychology, history, business, philosophy, and sports. They informed, entertained, and made me think.

The first two books reflect my never-ending pursuit of self-improvement. The older I get, the better I want to think and improve my judgment.

I included the Julian Barnes book because it was so well written and reached within my heart and soul. The author is not much older than me but he describes his life after the death of his beloved wife.  

Regrettably it seems, the older I get, the harder I find it to read what I consider a five-star book. I am always looking for the book with new ideas, perspectives and information. My breadth of interests and topics has narrowed also.

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

No Easy Day: The First Hand Story of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden by Mark Owen

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of the Markets  by Michael J. Sandel

Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live,  Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and  Kenneth Cukier 

Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders Like You into Public Service by Geoff Smart

The System:  The Glory and Scandal of Big-time College Football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

The Unwinding: a Inner History of the New America by George Packer

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

 When we killed or exiled God, we also killed ourselves. Did we noticed that sufficiently at the time? No God, no afterlife, no us. We were right to kill him, of course, this long-standing imaginary friend of ours. And we weren't going to get an afterlife anyway. But we sawed off the branch that we were sitting on. And the view from there, from that height, even if it was only the illusion of the view, wasn't so bad.

After a few months, I began to brave public places and go out to a play, a concert, an opera. But I found that I developed a terror of the foyer. Not of the space itself, but what it contained: cheerful, expectant, normal people looking forward to enjoying themselves. I couldn't bear the noise and the look of placid normality: just more busloads of people indifferent to my wife's dying.

I told one of the few Christians I know that she was seriously ill. He replied that he would pray for her. I didn't object, but shockingly soon found myself informing him, not without bitterness, that his God didn't seem to have been very effective.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think.

Takeaways from the book written by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.

  • Google could project the spread of the winter flu in the United States, not just nationally, but down to specific regions and even states. The company could achieve this by looking at what people were searching for on the Internet.
  • Data has become a raw material of business, a vital economic input, used to create a new form of economic value. In fact, with the right mindset, data can be cleverly reused to become a fountain of innovation and new services.
  • Big data is all about seeing and understanding the relations within and among pieces of information that, until very recently, we struggled to fully grasp.
  • The concept of sampling no longer makes as much sense when we can harness large amounts of data. Hence Google flu trends doesn't rely on a small random sample but instead uses billions of Internet search queries in United States.
  • For a long time, random sampling was a good shortcut. It made analysis of large data problems possible in the pre-digital air. But much as when converting a good digital image or song into a smaller file, information is lost when sampling.
  • Using all available data is feasible in an increasing number of contexts. But it comes at a cost. Increasing the volume opens the door to inexactitude. 
  • Big data, with its emphasis on comprehensive data sets and messiness, helps us get closer to reality that did our dependence on small data and accuracy.
  • Correlations are useful in a small Data-world what in the context of big data they really shine.
  • Today a third of all Amazon sales are said to result from its recommendation and personalization systems. 
  • Following Amazon's  lead, thousands of websites are able to recommend products, content, friends, and groups without knowing why people are likely to be interested in them.
  • To determine how likely people are to take their medication, FICO analyzes a wealth of materials including ones that may seem irrelevant, such as how long people have lived at the same address, if they are married, how long they've been in the same job, and whether they own a car.
  • Target knows what a woman is pregnant without the mother to be explicitly telling it so. Basically, it's method is to harvest data and let the correlations do their work. Targets marketers turned to its analytics division to see if there was a way to discover customers pregnancies through their purchasing patterns. the Target team ultimately uncovered around two dozen products that, used as proxies, enabled the company to calculate a pregnancy prediction score for every customer who paid with a credit card or used their loyalty card or mailed coupons.
  • The shipping company UPS has used predictive analytics since the late 2000s to monitor its fleet of 60,000 vehicles in the United States and know when to perform preventative maintenance.
  • What makes the Decide.com special isn't that the data: the company relies of information it license from E-commerce sites and scrapes off the Web, where it is free for the taking. What makes Decide.com special is the idea: the company has a big data mindset. It spied an opportunity and recognized that certain data could be mined to reveal valuable secrets.
  • MasterCard discovered, among other things, that if people fill up their gas tanks at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, there are quite likely to spend between $35 and $50 in the next hour in a grocery store or restaurant. As a middleman to information flows, MasterCard is in a prime position to collect data and captures you. One can imagine a future when credit card companies forgo their commissions on transactions, processing them for free in return for access to more data, and earn income from highly sophisticated analytics based on it.
  • Statisticians are supplanting scouts in baseball ( Moneyball book by Michael Lewis). The subject matter expert, the substantive specialist, will lose some of their luster compared with the statistician and data analyst, who are unfettered by the old ways of doing things and let the data speak.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Some Takeaways From The Book By Cal Newport;

Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.

Self-determination theory tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs----factors described as the nutriments required to feel intrinsically motivated for your work;

  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important
  • Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people
There are two reasons why I dislike the passion mindset:
  • First, when you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyper aware of what you don't like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness.
  • Second, and more serious,  the deep questions driving the passion mindset "Who am I" and "What do I truly love" are essentially impossible to confirm.
Three traits that define great work: creativity, impact, and control.

Deliberate practice provides the key to excellence in a diverse array fields, among which are chess, medicine, auditing, computer programming, bridge, physics, sports, typing, and music.

It is a lifetime accumulation of deliberate practice that again and again ends up explaining excellence.

To successfully adopt a craftsman mindset, therefore, we have to approach our jobs in the same way as Jordan approaches his guitar playing or Gary Kasparov off his chess training, with a dedication to deliberate practice.

Mike's goal with his spreadsheet is to become more intentional about how his work day unfolds. "The easiest thing to do is to show up to work in the morning and just respond to email the whole day,"

The five habits of a craftsman:

Step One: Decide What Capital Market You're In
Step Two: Identify Your Capital Type
Step Three: Define Good
Step Four: Stretch And Destroy
Step Five: Be Patient---Acquiring capital can take time. For Alex, it took about two years of serious deliberate practice before his first television script was produced.

Deliberate practice is an approach the work where you deliberately stretch your abilities beyond where you're comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance.

Musicians, athletes, and chess players know all about deliberate practice. Knowledge workers, however, do not. For example,  Chris Rock will make somewhere between 40 to 50 unannounced visits to a small New Jersey area comedy club to help him figure out what material works and which doesn't.

Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.

Working right trumps finding the right work.

Don't obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills. Once you build up the career capital that these skills generate, invest it wisely. Use it to acquire control over what you do and how you do it, and to identify and act on a life-changing mission.