Thursday, November 14, 2013

✔ Book of the week - Remote by 37signals

There is a new book by 37signals and it's called "Remote". After "Rework" (my review here) I was very excited to be reading this book... especially that my company works remotely. I work from home. Everyone else as well. We actually have no office. Anyway, got the audiobook from Audible:

Remote

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Before I dive into the book, let me just say two things.

  • I finished my university degree in 2003 with a thesis on Virtual Enterprise and Teleworking... so the subject matter is known very well to me. Shortly thereafter I started my company with the goal of working remotely all of the time. This way I could travel, live in different parts of Europe and basically follow my wife's career with my laptop (now the iPad :-)).
  • Second thing, I love the 37signals guys. I got to know them through their second (now closed) service called "Backpack" and inspired by what they did I built Nozbe as a way of making a GTD-compatible Backpack.

So there you have it, I have a long history with both the subject matter and the authors. I actually visited them in Chicago to pay my tribute to them and interviewed Jason Fried for the Productive! Magazine. Now, back to the book:

Friday, June 21, 2013

✔ How I wrote the #iPadOnly book with Augusto Pinaud

I just wrote my first book with my friend, Augusto Pinaud. It's called "#iPadOnly - how to only use your iPad to work, play and do everything in between" and it's going to hit virtual bookshelves in a little over a week. This post is a quick summary of how the book came to be, how we both wrote it (living on different continents) and why we had so much fun in the process. Here we go!

How I wrote the #iPadOnly book with Augusto Pinaud

I wrote a few blog posts on #iPadOnly

It all started when I decided to use my iPad as my main computer last April and blogged about it - I liked the process so much that I started blogging more and over the last year wrote ~20 blog posts on the topic. I thought this topic deserved a book. A first post-PC book that will show everyone that yes, you can use only your iPad to work and yes, after a few annoyances that come with a migration, you'll love it as much as I still do.

However, I knew I wouldn't be able to write the book myself. I have a successful company to run and don't have the time to write books, right? Then I saw the series of blog posts from Augusto on the same #iPadOnly topic. After a little thinking (like, 5 minutes) and a little analysis I realized that:

  • Augusto is a full-time writer (he has more expertise than I do, writing books)
  • He is working on his iPad longer than I am and he's also passionate about the whole iPad-only thing
  • He is also a GTD-guy as I am although he's using OmniFocus instead of Nozbe (well, not anymore he isn't :-)
  • We both speak Spanish and English, so we can communicate in either language (and we did, more on that later....)
  • We "met" several times online and we like each other...
  • With a co-author I might find the time to write this book... I think...

Well, after another 5 minutes I fired up an email his way that went like this:

"Hello Augusto, I'm not sure if you already realize this, but we're writing an #iPadOnly book togheter. What do you think?"

And he said yes. We got together on FaceTime and nailed the details and the rest, as they say, is history. Here's how we wrote this book:

Friday, May 3, 2013

✔ The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffmann - (audio)book of the week

Reid Hoffmann is one of the most successful investors in the Silicon Valley, he's the founder of LinkedIn (which is performing really well on Wall Street as a public copany now) and really a guy who knows stuff. Now he's written a book about career building and I think it's worth a read.

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffmann - audiobook of the week

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

With 19M people without jobs in Europe, we're suffering the biggest unemployment crisis in history. Everywhere I go people complain there are no jobs. While I don't want to go into politics, bubbles and crisis theories, the fact of the matter is that it's just a lot harder to get a job now than before. Although it's a very complicated problem and there are many causes of this situation, the book by Reid Hoffmann and this blog post will focus on only one of the problems: young people don't know how to plan their career. Here's Reid's argument:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

✔ Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath - (audio)book of the week

Decisions, decisions, decisions... what I found out over the years: the ability to make quick and good decisions is the key to your success. That's why when I heard about the new book by my favorite authors of Stick and Switch (both reviewed on this blog and both I highly recommend) I decided to listen to this one. It was a good decision. Now I decided to share the consequences of this decision here with you (see what I did there? ;-)

Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath - audiobook of the week

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

According to the authors, there are four villains that negatively impact our decisions: * When we encounter a choice we tend to narrow-frame and focus on the most obvious options, very often failing to explore alternative options and possibilities * Then we start analyzing our options, but because of the confirmation bias we tend to gather self-serving information that confirms our most obvious choice * We finally make a choice but short-term emotion will often tempt us to make the wrong one * And then we live with the consequences of our decision but unfortunately we're overconfident about what the future brings.

It's hard not to argue with the authors' logic there. Now, as with their previous books, the authors came up with an acronym (and a process) to make better decisions - they call it WRAP and here it is:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

✔ Writer's books - Bird by Bird (Anne Larnott) and On Writing Well (William Zinsser) - (audio)books of the week

It's official. I'm writing the #iPadOnly book together with a friend of mine, Augusto Pinaud. It's going to be my first real book so I decided to get myself some good book manuals before diving into writing. And who to ask for advice? Tim Ferriss of the "4-hour workweek" fame mentioned two books that helped him write better... so I got both of them from Audible and started listening:

Books - Bird by Bird - Anne Larnott - and On Writing Well - William Zinsser - audiobooks of the week

Get On writing well: Audible Amazon

Get Bird by Bird: Audible Amazon

I read Sol on Writing which gave me good ideas about what it takes to write a good book, what to focus on and how to write. Of course, knowing the theory doesn't mean I can pull off a great book, we'll just have to wait and see :-)

These two books, "Bird by Bird" and "On Writing Well" inspired me not to worry and "just go with it" and keep writing. They also gave me a few more ideas I'd like to mention here:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

✔ Icarus Deception by Seth Godin - (audio)book of the week

OK, I must admit I'm a big fan of Seth Godin's work. I had a pleasure of interviewing Seth for the issue #10 of the Productive! Magazine and I read several of his books. This is the new one, the one he wrote for a very cool (and successful) Kickstarter campaign. This post is about two concepts that struck me with this book: (1) we all should look at ourselves as artists who (2) want to play an infinite game.

Icarus Deception by Seth Godin - (audio)book of the week

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Seth Godin is a very cool (and controversial) person. Many people think he's the ultimate marketer of his own work and most of all - that he's repeating the same message over several books he's writing. I can't say it's not true... but I also think he's brilliant at what he does... and most of all - his books are very inspirational and give me a very positive "kick in the ..." when I need it. Seth is also on a mission - to make the best of us.

While the "Icarus" reiterates ideas from Seth's past books, it also brought in a few new concepts that caught my attention:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - (audio)book of the week

Several people recommended me this book and finally I gave it a listen and it totally changed the way I think about work right now. It's written by a surgeon who cuts people for a living (saving their lives in the process) and lives and breathes by checklists before and after each surgery. He claims that "checklists" literally save lives. Really?

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - (audio)book of the week

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

A morning in a day of a parent of a 4-year old

I've got a personal story related to this book. The other morning I woke up, did some work, at 8:15 a.m. woke up my baby girl. It was pretty late already. I quickly helped her dress up. We went downstairs, she put on a jacket, it was getting late, we rushed to the garage, I almost forgot her bag, we took off in my car...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - (audio)book of the week

One of the keys to higher productivity and one of the secrets of achieving success is the formation of good habits. Some habits we develop are conscious, other we just do without thinking too much about it. This book by Charles Duhigg explains how they work... and how we can make good habits stick... and maybe even bend the bad ones to change to good ones in the end.

Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

How I started running more consistently last year

I've been trying to run more regularly since 2009 but every time I managed to squeeze a run or even two in a week... I'd not run for another month... It was a constant roller-coaster. I couldn't get consistent with running. I knew the benefits, I knew how I'd feel after a good run... but somehow "I couldn't find time for it"...

Last year was different. I'll report on my running mileage a little later, but suffice to say I've been running at least once a week (usually two times) and from running 6km with a lot of effort, I just ran 12km at a very nice pace. But that's not all. This last year I lost 7kg of body weight while gaining more muscles because I'm now also exercising 2-3 times a week. What happened?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Insanely Simple by Ken Segall - (audio) book of the week

I've always been a big fan of Apple, even before I ever owned an actual product from them. I admired Steve Jobs and was shocked and sad when he died. I read many books about him, like the "iCon", "iWoz" (about Steve Wozniak and his relationship with Jobs)... and of course the official biography that came out after Steve's death. As Steve inspired not only me but also many more folks, the new books by people who knew Steve personally started popping up and I read iLeadership and now the newest one: Insanely Simple and I must say I loved it.

Image

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Simplicity is an all-or-nothing proposition

This is the main clue I took from this book. You can't just "add simplicity" as a feature to what you do, you can't just slap it on and believe it'll solve your problems. You should make simplicity your guiding light in everything that you do - in all the systems in your company, in how it operates, how it makes decisions, how it designs products and how it focuses on the customer above everything else.

  • Steve preferred to over-simplify the Apple web site for the customers rather than using some strange, custom URLs and complicated navigation that would maybe give him more information on the user behavior but would ruin the usability of the site. Just compare the URL to the iPad: apple.com/ipad to the one of the Galaxy Tab: samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxytab
  • Steve preferred to have ad decisions made by a small group of smart people rather than a committee. He would throw somebody out of a meeting if he believed they were not necessary. Just compare to the more the merrier approach taken by most corporations.
  • Steve would prefer to tell you in your face that something "sucked" rather than complicating your relationship and thinking how to say it in a polite way and not to hurt your feelings. Being straightforward was a part of his simplicity DNA.

Ken Segall, the author of this book invented the "iMac" name and stood by it although Steve wanted "MacMan" (even Steve was wrong at times) and he was the co-author of the "Think Different" campaign. He worked with Dell, Microsoft, Intel and others so he knows how they compare to Apple. And while these other companies wanted Apple's simplicity, they couldn't accept it "all the way" and that is what's required to make it work.

How to achieve "insane simplicity"? Here are the 10 concepts from the book:

1. Think "Brutal"

No need to be mean, just avoid partial truths when you interact with people. They'll be more focused and more productive when they don't have to guess what you're thinking. Make the honesty the basis of your communication.

2. Think "Small"

"Small groups of smart people" is where it's at. They deliver better results, proficiency and improved morale. It's also key to include the regular participation final decision-maker, rather than have him signed off the product at the very end (which is a recipe for frustration and mediocrity).

3. Think "Minimal"

If you're trying to communicate more than one thing you're splintering the attention of those you are talking to. If you really need to deliver multiple messages, find a common theme to unite them all. You want people to remember what you say and the more you cram into your communication, the less they'll remember. Remember: "Sea of choices is no choice at all". Minimal is attractive.

4. Think "Motion"

The right timing for a project is as important as the right people so always be wary of the "comfortable timeline". The pressure keeps things moving ahead with purpose. Too much time on the schedule just invites more opinions and complexity. Keep things in motion at all times.

Don't fall in love with the process but with the idea and the outcome instead. Too often companies focus on the processes all too much.

5. Think "Iconic"

Leverage an image to symbolize your idea - a strong and simple icon that captures its essence. Never forget the power of an image to galvanize your audience. There is a difference between finding a great image and "decorating" a PowerPoint presentation. There is too much decorating in the world already and for the most part it's meaningless. Memorable images often communicate more effectively than words and help people identify with your idea.

6. Think "Phrasal"

Words are powerful, but more words are not "more powerful" - they can be just confusing. Dissertations don't necessarily prove smarts. They tend to drive people away. Intelligent words don't make you appear smarter. The key is to express an idea simply and with perfect clarity. Communicate using simple sentences and simple words. Say a great deal by saying little.

This is especially true to product naming. Simple names people can relate to give enormous returns.

7. Think "Casual"

Operating like a smaller, less hierarchical company makes everyone more productive and makes it more likely that you'll become a bigger business later. At least internally, forget choreographed meetings and formalized presentations - you'll get more done when you converse with people rather than present. Think big, but don't act that way.

8. Think "Human"

Look beyond facts and spreadsheets and listen to your heart. Intangibles are every bit as real as the metrics. The simplest way to connect with human beings is to speak with a human voice. Even if you market to specific target groups, don't forget every target is a human being. And human beings respond to simplicity.

9. Think "Sceptic"

Often the negative forces of complexity will inevitably tell you something can't be done when it just requires extra effort. Don't allow discouragement of others compromise on your ideas. Push. Steve Jobs was relentless to push forward. If someone can't provide you with one thing, find another person or company that will. Sometimes a short term cost is worth it for the sake of long-term benefits (see iPhone's trademark not being secured before the iPhone announcement). Rely on the common sense even if it's contrary to an expert's opinion.

10. Think "War"

When your ideas are facing life-and-death, don't be afraid to fight with all the means necessary. Grab the unfair advantage if you must. Your most effective weapon will always be the passion you feel for your idea.

Introduce "Simplicity" step-by-step. Just hit the problems with "the simple stick"

First, ready this book. Second, in your everyday life be more aware of what's happening in your company when you're building new versions of your products, new products, new services, hiring new people, going new directions. KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid! I know I will. At least I'll try.

How do you intend to simplify your life and business?

To inspire you, here's the original "Think Different" campaign by Apple with Steve Jobs' narration:

P.S. Here's another review of this book which is also worth reading if you're still not convinced :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Start with Why by Simon Sinek - (audio) book of the week

I need to get back to writing book reviews on this blog as I keep on reading (audio-reading) more books and can't keep up with my thoughts about them. Need to put it here for both you - my readers and myself... so hopefully more reviews are coming in the next few weeks. Let's start with the latest book I listened to: "Start with Why?" by Simon Sinek.

Image

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Exceeded my expectations - about asking a "different kind of why"

I originally thought this book was about asking more "why" (like the Toyota's "5 whys rule") but it's totally not what the book was about. It was about asking yourself "why" you're doing what you're doing and how to keep and maintain this "why" for the years to come.

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it". says the author.

If people know and align with your WHY, they're yours for the long-haul

The author gives examples of companies like Apple, Harley Davidson and others who enjoy a cult-like following. He says people are drawn to these companies because they believe what the companies believe. As a real Apple geek I must say it's kind of true.

Competing against others vs against yourselves

He says many companies are losing focus when they start focusing on competing against other companies and not looking into their true "why" and competing against themselves and their past accomplishments.

I must admit I always felt it was stupid to watch the competition too closely (especially that I have so many direct competitors) but now I know it for a fact - don't get me wrong, I'm not blind to what my competition is doing but I'm not obsessed about it :-)

Infusing the "Why" in the company

The author mentions companies like Walmart where the original founder was personifying the "why" of Walmart... but the next CEOs weren't and they lost the cause and eventually the business started to decline - that's why it's so important to permeate the company with your why, to make sure it's not just the founder's DNA, it's the company's DNA.

I must say I'm looking forward to seeing Apple perform in the next few years under the helm of Tim Cook who might not be the "product genius" Steve Jobs was, but he (and the entire company) seems to be living the Steve's dream and having his DNA. Let's see. After recent WWDC announcement I must say it looks promising.

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The Golden Circle

The key of the book by Simon Sinek is the rule of "Golden circle" where the Why is in the center and then there is How and then there is What. This basically means that you first have to know "WHY" you want to do something, then think about "how" you can do it in order to arrive at "what" you're going to actually be offering.

The problem is that most companies start with what and work to the why and the author argues that it's not ideal as it might be OK for the short term, but is not sustainable in the long run.

The "how" and "what" are very important as well. They are the key to succeeding when you know your "why" but when you don't, these two can't work long-term.

How Nozbe started with Why

Come to think of it, I started Nozbe because I wanted a better way to organize myself and my projects (WHY) so I decided to do it through a web interface to make sure I can access my data on any computer (HOW) and when I liked my solution, I went ahead and offered it as a product for anyone in the world (WHAT) called Nozbe.

My WHY is to get busy professionals and companies organized every single day. And come to think of it, when I put it this way, I feel inspired myself :-)

That's also the author's point - WHY inspires people. WHAT hardly ever does. WHY inspires your co-workers and your customers. WHAT is just that... a "thing", not a cause.

Totally recommended

Go get this book. It helps you clarify your vision and mission - whether you're working for a company or you're on your own, it helps you realize that it's just better to wake up every day and know why you're about to do what you're going to do. Again, it's the "why" that inspires people, not the "what" or the "how".

What is your why? Do you start with "Why" every single day?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Now Habit by Neil Fiore - overcoming procrastination - audiobook of the week

Yes, I am a GTD/productivity ninja trying to figure out the best ways to get things done... I'm running a magazine about it and a tool that helps me achieve my goals... but I'm also a human being and I have my better and not-so-good moments where I just don't feel like doing anything and I'm... well... yes... procrastinating. And well, I finally found a book that helped my understand why I'm sometimes like this... and how to get back to the grove:
The-now-habit

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Blaming yourself and kicking yourself in the ... (lower back part of a human body) doesn't help

Many books focus on making yourself do things you don't like or just delegating them. Yes, that's great but sometimes you simply CAN'T make yourself do something... and you still need to do it. I'm growing now from a micro-company owner to a small company CEO and there are many things about the job I don't like. The "growth headaches" are just that... headaches. The Now Habit helped me understand the problems I have with putting off certain tasks and how to make myself finally do them... without feeling guilty about all this.

This is our main problem - the feeling of guilt and shame - it stops us from performing at our best, from making things happen. Once we understand these and combat our insecurities we'll just make things happen. You are great and amazing. You are not procrastinating because you're a moron. There is a solution for this glitch. Deal with it :-)

Small rewards pay off in the long run - reward yourself often!

We are just humans... and we like easy rewards - we like the small wins rather than the big victories that will happen in a year or two. We want to be rewarded with a candy now, rather than eat a whole piece of pie tomorrow. That's why it's great to put rewarding tasks and breaks between the chores we need to do. Need to write an article you don't feel like writing? Do it now for 30 minutes and later go watch your favorite episode of "Friends" :-) You'll want to write the article right away.

30-minute sprints - the Pomodoro Technique I love

The book also covers the Pomodoro Technique I use and recommend - to put a clock to 30 minutes and just do the thing! The ticking clock will help you stay focused and rush you to finally do the thing right away... and you'll make sure there is a reward for you soon after.

Power of the un-schedule... meaning to schedule the good stuff only!

What the advice of this book comes down to is the "un-schedule" calendar - the concept to only schedule the fun stuff for the entire week. Exactly, you DON'T schedule work, you schedule everything that is not work - gym, walks, running, movies, fun with family, whatever you like to be doing to make sure you get the quality time above everything else. You keep the schedule handy and make sure you stick to it. And you work in between. This way the calendar is no longer frightening. And you're looking forward to the good stuff. You make sure you're not "swamped with work" as the leisure time is scheduled ABOVE everything else.

Just for kicks I did an "un-schedule" for this week and it feels amazing - I know which time slots I have for work (in between my good stuff) and I'm getting a lot more done (more focused work) and I finally have time for fitness training and other stuff. It really works.

How do you overcome procrastination? Do you also schedule your fun stuff?
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Power of the Positive No by William Ury - book of the week

I'm a very positive guy and that's why I have issues being assertive. I have problems saying NO to people as I don't want to hurt their feelings and eventually I am the guy hurting. That's why I started learning how to be more assertive and I started with this book by William Ury.
Positive-no

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

A three step formula: Yes - No - Yes

The author explains that saying No ultimately boils down to saying Yes... and then saying No to say Yes once again. Here's how it works:

Step 1. Yes

When you want to say No - you want to do that because of your values and your beliefs. You want to firstly say Yes to yourself, to what you believe in and that's why you don't want to agree to what the other person is saying. So you start by saying Yes to your values.

Step 2. No

Deliver the bad news in a positive way. Because you want to stay true to your values, you simply cannot oblige and say yes to the proposal. It's that simple. You don't say No because of your contempt to the other party - you say No because of your inner Yes.

Step 3. Yes

This is they last key. You said Yes to yourself and because of that you had to say No to the request and now you're saying Yes to the relationship here and want to see if there is another, alternative option of reaching a mutual accord. Here you can directly suggest a new positive outcome that may satisfy both parties.

The trap of three A

The idea of Yes-No-Yes helps design a new, positive outcome, that will make sure you don't fall intro a trap of Accommodation (saying yes when you actually mean No), Attack (responding angrily and forcefully) or Avoidance (you simply don't do anything at all). This trap used to be my problem in many cases, usually in family situations.

The power of respect

There is a bonus lesson I learned from this book - the power of respect. If you show the other party you respect them, you can get through a positive No to a very powerful Yes together. This Yes-No-Yes system helps establish respect but you should always reaffirm the other party with your gestures and tone that you respect them. After all, we are all humans and have our story to tell. We all need and deserve respect. When I read this chapter I thought about our politicians and how they don't respect one another - how they show "in your face" that they think the other party is worth nothing. No wonder they can't reach any meaningful resolution nowadays...

Are you assertive? How do you handle saying No? Did you try a Yes-No-Yes formula in your life?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The 10 Top Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class by Keith Cameron Smith - book of the week

I've mentioned this book several times in my blog posts. Out of all Audibile books I bought, this one was one of the first. I don't remember why I was attracted to this book (I think it was its high Audible review score) but I bought it, listened to it (and it's just 2 hours short!) and loved it. While the title may sound a little cocky, make sure to check it out - you'll learn a lot from this book. I've read this book 4 times already and every time I learn something new:
Distinctions

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

The author self-published the book

The cool think about this book is that it's authentic - the author based the 10 distinctions on his own experiences and the ones from his friends. He wanted to spread his message so much that he self-published the book and it became a huge hit through the word of mouth... and then the big publisher bought the rights to it. A success story in itself.

The top distinctions are the mindset changes

When I told my wife about this book, she looked at me and asked me if I thought I was Donald Trump or something... but I explained that it's not the point of this book - the whole clue is to think differently - to change your mindset - only then you can learn something new, become financially independent and live a happy life.

I've already explained in many other blog posts how the mindset change of pursuing what I loved made me happy. Many people don't make the shift and they say they need to work to earn money and only then they can be happy. They can't understand that you can love your work and do what you love for a living. The same mindset changes are shown in this book.

Distinction 7 - Millionaires take risks: Decisions and Consequences - taking calculated risks

In my other blog post I already mentioned one of the distinctions - Millionaires take calculated risks. It's so true and it helped me many times over to make the correct decision. It's only one of the 10 distinctions and it helped me so much.

Over the next weeks I'll be quoting more from this book and I'll be exploring more of the 10 distinctions in depth with real-world examples from my life, so stay tuned. Meanwhile I really recommend you read this book - open your mind and try to embrace these distinctions.

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts & Quotes from Steve Jobs Biography by Isaacson

A few weeks ago I finished reading the famous biography of Steve Jobs - the official one written by Walter Isaacson. Although there is some controversy regarding this book (like that the author did not dig deep enough or did not understand our tech community) but I still think it's worth the read to get some insights as to how Steve worked and lived.
Steve-jobs

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Some gems from the book - a food for thought:

- Steve Jobs had a tendency to see things in a binary way: "A person was either a hero or a bozo, a product was either amazing or shit"

"The same was true of products, ideas, even food: Something was either "the best thing ever", or it was shitty, brain-dead, inedible."

"The finish on a piece of metal, the curve of the head of a screw, the shade of blue on a box, the intuitiveness of a navigation screen - he would declare them to "completely suck" until the moment when he suddenly pronounced them "absolutely perfect"."

- Apple's credo: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"

"Simplicity isn't just a visual style. It's not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep."

- Jonny Ive, Apple's chief designer was a fan of German designer Dieter Rams, who worked for the electronics firm Braun. Rams preached the gospel of "Less but better" (Weniger aber besser)

- Steve ended his presentation on the iPad with a slide "showing the intersection of Liberal Arts Street and Technology Street. And this time he gave one of the clearest expressions of his credo, that true creativity and simplicity come from integrating the whole widget - hardware and software, and for that matter content and covers and salesclerks - rather than allowing things to be open and fragmented.

"The astronomer Johannes Kepler declared that "nature loves simplicity and unity". So did Steve Jobs"

- "One of the Jobs's business rules was to never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself. "If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will," he said. So even though an iPhone might cannibalize sales of the iPod, or an iPad might cannibalize sales of a laptop, that did not deter him.

- On the global world today: "When we're making products, ther is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that's different form one young people elsewhere would want. We're just one world now."

- Steve's advice to Larry Page, new Google CEO, "What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great"

- Steve's ability to focus: "Job's intensity was also evident in his ability to focus. He would set priorities, aim his laser attention on them, and filter out distractions."

- Why he built Apple the way it's now: "My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits were the motivation."

- On Startups: "I hate it when people call themselves "entrepreneurs" when what they're really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on."

Additional thoughts

Apart from the quotes above, here are my additional thoughts on Steve and the book:

When Steve was clearly wrong...

So, Steve was a genius but he wasn't always right. He didn't want to launch iPod mini as he didn't understand why anyone would buy it ($50 bucks cheaper than the iPod and significantly smaller file storage) - but he gave in as his peers pressed on and when it launched, it out-sold the original iPod. He resisted the notion of "apps" on the iPhone. He didn't want people messing with his perfect phone that's why he pushed web-apps so much. He gave in and the App Store is what makes the iPhone, the iPhone. (and iPad, too).

What's interesting about it is that even though he didn't want something to happen, when he gave in, they did it the best way they could. Once he decided "yes" it was an "all-the-way yes". That's why when they shipped apps to the iPhone, it was a complete solution with the App Store, submission process, full SDK, the whole thing. Not some half-assed solution. That's what makes Apple, Apple. And that's what made Steve, Steve.

Steve wasn't a real "Family Man" though...

Steve had a great wife, three kids, plus a daughter from his earlier relationship. But because he was so dedicated to the company and to building the amazing products and he wanted to be on top of everything... he neglected the family quite a lot. After his liver transplant, his family was hoping he'd spend more time with them... but when he got better, he went straight to work. I also heard rumors that even on his last day alive he was still talking to Tim Cook about future Apple products.

While I applaud his passion, I don't think live has to be so binary here - you don't either create great products or you spend time with your family. I think Steve's character didn't allow him to let go. He chose to be working all the time but he didn't have to. He built a great team and could dedicate some time to the ones that loved him so much. Anyway, that is one of the things I will not take from Steve - I love working on Nozbe. But I also love my family. And am not choosing between the two - I'm trying to build my discipline to be able to both work and spend time with my loved ones.

Criticism of the book by John Siracusa

In the Hypercritical podcast episodes "The Wrong Guy" and "The Scorpion and the Frog" John Siracusa raises some of his criticism of the author of the biography and I must admit I agree with many of the points he raised there. Go listen to John and draw your own opinions. Either way, this book is worth the read and although it's pretty thick, I encourage you to do so.

And now the last quote from the end of the book:

"(Steve) admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in the afterlife. "I like to think that something survives after you die," he said. "It's strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness  endures". 

He felt silent for a very long time. "But on the other hand, perhaps it's like an on-off switch", he said. "Click! And you're gone".

Then he paused again and smiled slightly. "Maybe that's why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices".

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - audiobook of the week

This is my third book by Malcolm Gladwell - before this one I read "Outliers" and the "Tipping Point" (not reviewed on my blog yet) and I must say I liked this book less than the Outliers but it still gave me lots to think about. This author knows how to stir my mind.
Blink

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

The book is about making decisions in split-seconds and why too much information can very often be too much for us to make good calls.

Less is More - when you know less you can judge better

We live in the Information Society with too much information around us and one of the most important premises of this book is the fact that very often our judgments are clouded by "too much information". When we "blink" and make decision in fraction of a second, we don't have all this information at our disposal and therefore very often we can make better judgements. We just "feel" this is right and that is wrong... we just know it and we don't need all the information in the world to prove our point. It works very often with me like this.

A great example was a case study when professionals where judging students' characters based on how their dorm room looked. This helped them make their judgements without actually meeting the person live and being confused by this person's behavior in a direct meeting. They were even more accurate as these students' best friends.

Thin-slicing - a new name for "intuition" that is hard to explain

When we "blink" and make a decision quickly we choose what "feels right". It's our intuition, everything that we learned and that our subconscious mind was working on all these years we're living on this planet (I talked about the power of the subconscious mind earlier). After we make this quick decision we very often don't even know why we chose like that. We just know. We can't explain it. We feel our decision but we don't understand it.

The author calls these quick decisions "thin-slicing" - slicing the problem into a thin thingy and making the decision based on our initial reaction without analyzing it too much.

Fighting prejudice when thin-slicing.

There is a problem though. We might decide upon our prejudice. A good example is how we judge people. When we see a well dressed person we believe they are rich and successful... even though a guy standing next to them with old jeans and dirty t-shirt can be a multimillionaire who just got dirty. Our subconscious mind just learns from our peers and even though we may believe there is no difference between human races, what we've learned from other people can influence our decisions subconsciously. 

A good example author gives is of a successful car salesman who never judges people by their looks, age or background. He genuinely assumes everyone who enters his car dealership has the money to buy a car and he wants to help them do it. He uses his thin-slicing skills to find what they feel, what they want from the car, what they care and don't care about in a car. This is a great way of combating prejudice and putting "blinking" to good use.

Learning to thin-slice and observing how I react

This book made me aware of this subconscious part of our brain that helps us "blink" and whenever I "feel" a decision I try to stop and see why and how I got to this or that conclusion. It's amazing to see how we react and to learn a lot more about how our brain works. And train it to thin-slice better. Recently we've been testing some new designs for our Nozbe desktop app and it was interesting to see how very often I knew one design felt right and other felt wrong.

I recommend this book (and I like that Malcolm himself is reading) and would encourage you to trust your intuition even more and remember that sometimes too much information is just that... too much.

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.