The Pumpkin Plan

I picked this up after reading Michalowicz’s other book, Profit First. In Pumpkin Plan, Mike draws on the process for growing a large pumpkin and extends that process to growing a large business. The steps (paraphrased) are:

1. Identify your top clients
2. Weed out all of the other clients
3. Focus all of your effort on nurturing the top clients

I enjoyed the read and came away with a handful of earmarked pages to return to later. A few strategies really stuck with me like taking your top clients out for coffee and the idea that business is not a popularity contest (“Don’t worry about having the most clients. Worry about having the best clients…).

Profit First

This is the first of Michalowicz‘s books that I’ve read, and it was all about turning around your business finances. Being a bit of a money nerd, I was intrigued. In all actuality, it’s a digital edition of the envelop system where you allocate a specific percentage of revenue to different buckets like OPEX (Operating Expenses), TAX (tax liability), and profit (yes, there’s a profit category). More broadly though, he promotes a different way of thinking about your business and entrepreneurship. Businesses should be profitable Day #1.

This was fantastic and applied outside of business:

The solution to debt is this simple: If you want to get out of debt, you must get more enjoyment out of saving your money than you do spending your money (Suze Orman)

I found this distinction between profit and salary really helpful:

The profit distribution is an award to the equity owners (you and anyone who invested in the business with money or sweat) for having the courage and risk tolerance to start the business. Don’t confuse the profit distribution with Owner’s Comp, which is pay for working in the business.

Into the Magic Shop

This book was suggested to me by a friend and dubbed as “life-changing.” They weren’t too far off. Through a personal narrative, Dr. Dotty describes how he learned the tools of visualization, focus, and meditation (although he wouldn’t call it that at the time) as a kid. He details how those tools served him throughout his life and helped him to create the future he wanted (a form of magic). I listened to this one on Audible, and I found myself eager to get back in the car to pick it back up.

The Case Against Sugar

Along with his other book, Why We Get Fat, this book should be required reading for everyone. It provides deep insight into the sugar industry and the powerful corporations behind it that have influenced dietary recommendations for decades. Taubes also provides overwhelming evidence that sugar is the ultimate cause of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. I think everyone in college should be required to attend a course on basics of nutrition, and I would make Taubes’ books part of the curriculum.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

Fantastic read that really challenged me to think deeply around customer experiences and impacts in my personal life. The gist of the book is that there are many opportunities within business and our day-to-day lives where we could elevate a given moment for someone around us. The right type of elevation can take an ordinary moment and make it something to remember. I would highly recommend this for anyone that’s interested in building products or just creating a happier environment for those around them.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

John Wooden is one of the most successful basketball coaches in history winning 10 national championships at UCLA including 8 consecutive. In Wooden, he details principles and lessons he’s learned throughout his 80 years of life.

The book format reminded me of Seth Godin – short chapters that piece together to form an overarching narrative. I came away with quite a few highlights. It’s a quick read, but it won’t hit my all-time best list.

My favorite quote was actually a poem from Ogden Nash

Sometime when you’re feeling important,
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom,
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You’re the best qualified in the room.

Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how it humbles your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water;
Put your hand in it up to the wrist.
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is the measure of how you’ll be missed.

You may splash all you please when you enter;
You can stir up the water galore;
But stop, and you’ll find in a minute,
That it looks quite the same as before.

The moral in this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can.
Be proud of yourself, but remember,
There’s no indispensable man!

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This represents a fairly unique take on a leadership book – told in story form compared to the typical chapter-by-chapter list of lessons. As a result, it was really enjoyable and quick to read. It’s also easy to see how the 5 dysfunctions appears within teams:

1. Lack of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results

One of my favorite quotes:

…the reality remains that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success is not matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather an embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.

A Higher Standard

Book cover of A Higher Standard by Ann Dunwoody

I picked up A Higher Standard by America’s first female four-star general, Ann Dunwoody, after she joined the board at Automattic. The book details her experience leading teams within the military and navigating a career that lasted nearly four decades, ending with leading the global supply chain for the Army. A Higher Standard represented a bit of a departure from typical leadership books. This was less a step-by-step, tactical leadership book and more a collection of personal stories that demonstrate key leadership principles. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I’d highly recommend!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve heard about this book many times before, but I honestly picked it up because it was free to read on Kindle. I just stumbled upon it and figured why not? I’m glad I did. Although I felt like there was a fair amount of fluff, the seven habits were both affirmations of values I already hold dear (personal management tactics, value-driven living) and deep dives into new frameworks I was interested in exploring (see this post).