The Leadership Gap

In The Leadership Gap, author and leadership consultant Lolly Daskal breaks down several archetypes of leaders listing out famous examples of each and then comparing their strengths and weaknesses. The main purpose of the book is to answer this question:

What is the gap between who I am and who I want to be, and do I know what it is I still need to learn?

I most closely identified with “The Knight”: The knight is a loyal protector, champion, and defender with unwavering beliefs.

Forged in Crisis

Forged in Crisis tells the story of historical leaders from Ernest Shackleton to Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass. Throughout it all, Koehn looks at their strengths and challenges in leadership positions pulling out tactics and lessons we can all apply. I found Shackleton’s story to be the most enthralling. I can’t imagine the situation of having all of my men trapped on the ice for that long and still maintaining the mental strength and fortitude necessary to bring them home.

Option B

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant details how to face advertisity and overcome challenges in your life.

The Book in Three Sentences: Sheryl describes the pain she went through with the loss of her spouse and the tactics, tools, and helpful tips that helped her begin to overcome the tragedy. She emphasized the importance of realizing these tragic events aren’t permanent (i.e. you will feel happiness again), personal (i.e. it’s not your fault), or pervasive (i.e. there are good things happening in your life). For helping kids deal with tragedy, Sheryl highlighted four core beliefs that are important to instill in young people: 1) they have some control over their lives; 2) they can learn from failure; 3) they matter as human beings; and 4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.

Bringing Up Bébé

Bringing Up Bébé centers on the differences between French and American parenting styles.

The Book in Three Sentences: While parenting will no doubt be a large part of your life, it shouldn’t encompass your entire life, and parents should feel okay about having adult conversations and nights out. Getting kids to sleep through the night and eat vegetables at a young age aren’t impossible; they just take patience and diligence. Children are far smarter and more rationale than we give them credit for at a very young age.

Tools of Titans

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss aggregates tools and tactics from the most successful individuals in the world.

In Tools of Titans, author Tim Ferriss aggregates tips, tricks, and keys to success from some of the most influential and successful individuals in the world. Much like Tribe of Mentors, the sections are broken out into short interviews from Tim’s podcast. They’re easily digestible and packed with useful information. I’ve had this book for a long time, and I never picked it up until I enjoyed Tribe of Mentors. My favorite quotes and takeaways are below.

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The End of Average

Photo cover of The End of Average by Todd Rose

Rating: 4/5

In The End of Average, author Todd Rose describes the downsides to relying on averages when it comes to humans. In fact, no one is “average.” Everyone has unique skills and abilities. Disregarding those unique talents is a recipe for failure, particularly in leadership. I found the book to be very informative, and I came away with useful material to use in my day-to-day work.

Francis Galton is a key actor in the story of averages according to Rose. Galton popularized the idea that human beings could be compared to an average. For example, if you averaged the height of all humans together, you might get something like an average height of 5’8″. That represented the perfect height of an individual. Galton also believed in the idea that talent and skill were universal meaning if a person was talented at one thing, he was most likely to be talented at other things too.

This idea was carried even further by Edward Thorndike, a Galton disciple that carried these ideas into education eventually resulting in an educational system often referred to as the Gary Plan, an educational system modeled after increased efficiency practices popular in manufacturing. Thus, we see concepts like standardized tests and school divisions based on age. Thorndike was an ardent believer in the concept of slow versus fast learners. Slow learners were destined to fail in almost everything from the very start. Fast learners, on the other hand, were destined to succeed.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

A cover of the book Sapiens - A brief history of humankind

Rating: 5/5

We typically hold the view that we’re the only variation of human that has ever and will ever walk this planet. In Sapiens, author Yuval Noah Harari describes the rise of our species Sapien in relationship to other members of the Homo genus. It’s an absolutely enthralling read, and I highly recommend picking it up. I listened to it on audio, and I was mesmerized the entire time.

Some interesting facts about the rise of Homo Sapiens:

  • Until recently, Homo Sapiens were in the middle of the food chain. We would watch lions take down large game. Then, we would let hyenas pull apart the carcass. Finally, we would come in an eat what was left including the marrow from bones. We rose to the top with the invention of tools like guns.
  • Homo Sapiens took over from Homo neanderthalensis and other species through one of two ways (the debate still continues). The replacement theory states that we either outperformed them (faster at foraging for food, for example), which led to their eventual starvation, or killed them outright in war. The mating hypothesis states that we mated with these other species, and in fact, the current version of Homo sapien is a mixture of the original sapiens plus some DNA from other species.

Tribe of Mentors

Rating: 5/5

In Tribe of Mentors, author Tim Ferriss interviews many wildly successful individuals about how they overcome failures, stay balanced, and deal with setbacks.

Some of the interviews left a bit to be desired, but others (Dr. Peter Attia, Whitney Cummings, Julie Galef, and Tim O’Reilly to name a few) are well worth the price of admission. I ended up with dozens of highlights and new books to read.

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Principles

The cover of the book Principles by Ray Dalio

Rating: 5/5

In Principles, Bridgewater Associates co-founder and CEO lays out his key principles for running a disciplined organization and excelling in areas of life as well. The principles range from how to make decisions to how to handle arguments to hiring and firing individuals within an organization.

I really appreciated hearing more about Dalio’s outlook on running an organization. Some of the methods he mentions in the book sound excessive to me, but they could work well for a specific type of organization. Other elements like aggressive transparency and accountability fit well within my model of how I believe a team should function.

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The Clockwork Universe

Rating: 4/5

In The Clockwork Universe, author Edward Dolnick details the scientific discoveries of Isaac Newton and his contemporaries during the 1600’s and 1700’s including gravity, the inner workings of our solar system, and more. Outside of the actual discoveries, I found the stories about their scientific methods (often brutal, frequently misguided), their beliefs (fervently in religion), and their best practices around sharing ideas (a new concept at the time) to be fascinating.

One such example of their line of thinking: Newton and his contemporaries believed that every new discover was, in fact, not new at all. The Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, and others had discovered them previously, but the discoveries were hidden in cryptic language from the unworthy. The great thinkers like Newton were simply rediscovering these ideas.

Another core concept, Newton was an obsessive thinker often thinking on a problem for days, weeks, and years with little to no social interaction until the problem was solved. This contrasts deeply to our current society where individuals move from one project to the next often leaving multiple piles of work unfinished. When asked how he had come up with the idea of gravitation, Newton replied “By thinking on it continually.”

One last interesting bit, until the Royal Society (a collective group of thinkers that performed experiments in front of one another and shared their discoveries), knowledge was not frequently shared between scientists. In fact, scientists often disguised their findings in code so they couldn’t be understood. The Royal Society was the first group to embody a new approach: “knowledge would advance more quickly if new findings were discussed openly and published for all to read.” (p. 198)