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.

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 - 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.

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 - 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, August 24, 2011

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield - book of the week

Two weeks ago I posted about Al's Meeting Manifesto and this week I'll continue with the manifestos from The Domino Project and this time around is a short book by Steven Pressfield about doing the actual work.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Consciously fight the resistance and do the work!

The "Lizard brain", the resistance inside of yourself doesn't want you to do great work. It tells you that you shouldn't try because you might fail… Acknowledge it, fight it and do the work!

Here are some quotes I found refreshing and interesting the haven't been covered before on my blog:

"When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion."

That's it. We have to conquer the fear and only then we'll find the passion that will serve us as additional power to pursue our true calling.

"The problem with friends and family is that they know us as we are. They are invested in maintaining us as we are."

Over the years I found it so true. I've seen it in my friends, colleagues and even closer family. The ones closest to us don't have the same point of view that we have and they strive to keep us at their point of view. Their business is to keep us as they see us and they sincerely believe that's where we should be. They don't see the inner us who wants to be unleashed and be just better and larger than life. We must love our friends and family but think of ourselves in pursuing our dreams and doing our work.

"I like the idea of stubbornness because it’s less lofty than “tenacity” or “perseverance.” We don’t have to be heroes to be stubborn. We can just be pains in the butt."

I used to tell people that perseverance is key. Now I like Steve's stubbornness better. That's what exactly we should be doing. We should be painstakingly moving forward and think of it not as as an act of heroism but as a service to ourselves. We are supposed to be stubborn and keep on keeping on.

"The more you know… the less you know."

When I heard that quote I thought: "Yeah, cool, deep, whatever". Now I know for a fact that it's so true. I'm running my Nozbe business more than four years now and the amount of work it needs just keeps piling up. The more we've achieved, the more work we have and the more there is to achieve. That's why Steve's book so resonated with me.

"Resistance aims to kill"

Resistance wants to kill our passion and our drive to do great work. Seth Godin says it should actually indicate you where you should go. The more resistance you feel towards doing something should mean… that's exactly what you should do.

How do you fight resistance? How do you do your great work? What tricks do you have up your sleeve?
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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, August 17, 2011

The Modern Meeting Standard - book of the week

I actually met Al Pittampalli through this blog as he was chiming in with some really good comments to several of my posts. When later he sent me his new book published through Seth Godin's Domino Project I was eager to read it (even though as you know, I prefer the audio books) on my wife's Kindle. It's a manifesto most business should read… and Al explains why meetings are basically toxic.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Modern Meeting Standard sets a set of new rules for meetings

What basically Al is saying is this - you can't call a meeting until you've made a decision. Making a decision together is an excuse not to decide.

It's all about decision and a way to move things forward

Here are some quotes from Al:

"Meetings need to be less like the endless commercial breaks during a football game, and more like pit stops…"

"Like all human beings, we're terrified of making decisions. In the face of pressing, difficult decisions, we stall. Meetings are a socially acceptable and readily available way of doing so."

"The agenda should clearly state the problem, the alternatives, and the decision."

"In the Modern Meeting, the decision is King. All hail the King."

"What's the posture I should take as I run the meeting? Benevolent dictatorship. The outcome rests on your shoulders, so make the meeting work."

"This is not high school; we strive to be a world-class organization. We can't tolerate your unpreparedness anymore. Unprepared participants are dead weight."

"If no action plan is necessary, neither is a meeting."

Brainstorming is good. Asking for opinion is good, too… but in a limited way.

I only call a meeting if I know what we have to do and I want to get others' feedback on how to move this forward. It always works. When we all work from home it's even easier. We don't Skype all too much, we just call a Skype meeting when we really need to. Otherwise we just work… and my Skype is shut down.

Anyway, I loved the book - it was short and to the point and left we with some cool ideas how to improve my meetings even more in the future.

What I also loved - the size of Al's book / manifesto

Just like I loved Rework by 37signals, I loved this book, too. I spent 2 hours reading it and felt I got some really cool ideas out of it. I actually read it on my iPhone's Kindle app during my last-week's travels. Who said business books need to be 300 pages that you need an entire day to read? I definitely like the new format better. Hope for more manifestos like this in the future :-)

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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, August 5, 2011

Sol Stein on Writing - audiobook of the week

Recently I picked up a book that had nothing to do with Business, Internet… or Productivity… and on the other hand had a lot to do with both: I picked up what's considered the best book on writing… as I want to improve my writing skills:

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

I'm writing three books right now…

Well, I have three book projects opened up and started at this point. All three are non-fiction books that cover startups and internet business… and productivity (of course). I should finish the first book (which I started last - go figure…) quite soon, so stay tuned.

That's why I decided to "read" a book on writing to learn some new skills and listen to the "Master Editor" himself. I wasn't disappointed.

Sol Stein talks more about fiction… but refers to non-fiction a lot

A great discovery for me - what makes a non-fiction book work is the same thing that makes the fiction book stick so well… the structure, "suspense" and other aspects of popular bestsellers can be applied to non-fiction, too. Books on business shouldn't be boring, right?

Many techniques… and I'll have to listen again for sure :-)

Before I finish up my book I'll definitely listen to this one again to make sure I follow Sol's advice on revising, cutting content and moving things around. He's talking heavily on reducing "filler-words", repetitions and many aspects of the book that don't bring new value to the table.

Changing "hats" - reader vs author vs editor dilemma

Sol's constantly challenging authors to actually wear several "hats" when writing their books:

1. Casual book browser - pick up your book and see if it actually interests you when you read the first page
2. Writer - just write - don't stop, just keep on writing and don't edit what you just wrote
3. Editor - print out your book and edit it. Remove stuff, use red pen, be cruel to your book and as objective as can be
4. Reader - read the book and see if it bores you… where you loose focus, where you get distracted…
5. Curator - remove passages that don't add value, choose the best ones, put them in the right order...

Writing a book is no piece of cake… but I'm determined to do it anyway :-)

That's right - I want to improve my writing skills. That's why I'm blogging here anyway. Books are not dead and that's why I'm writing these and I want them to be really good. And short and to the point. Edited masterfully just like Sol Stein has taught me. Good examples of such books in business currently are Rework by 37signals and new "The Modern Meeting Standard" by Al Pittampali (now free on Kindle!). Wish me best of luck and if you're into book writing - go ahead and learn a few things from the master Sol Stein himself.

Do you write? Do you practice writing? What did you discover recently that improved your writing skills?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Decisions and Consequences - taking calculated risks

A book by Keith Cameron Smith: "The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class" has a cocky title but it's a very good (and short) read. I actually read it two times already. It's not about "how to get rich" but how to live a happy life with money being just a tool, not a goal to your happiness. It's been a great food for thought for me each time.
Upon my 2nd read one point stood out significantly:

Millionaires take calculated risks

What does that mean? Well... it basically means millionaires are no gamblers, they don't risk all they have and get lucky... they actually know what they are doing....

... and here's the process of how Millionaires think if they have to make a decision. They ask themselves these three questions:

1) What's the best thing that can happen?
2) What's the worst thing that can happen?
3) What's the most likely thing that will happen?

... and the process goes like this:

If you can live with the consequences of the worst thing and the thing most likely to happen will help you grow, go for it.

That's it. There is no rocket science here - they just need to recognize all three scenarios and decide what to do. Sometimes the best thing happens, sometimes the worst thing happens... but be prepared for all three.

Looking back at my decisions over the last years I can safely say that this formula has helped me make some really good decisions. Some were riskier than others but all were very calculated and most of them fell into the "most likely" or "best thing" section. When there was an opportunity I knew I wouldn't be able to live with in the worst case scenario, I just didn't pursue it... and now after some time I'm happy about not taking the route.

How is your decision-making process?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation - Audiobook of the week

After a recommendation (in Polish) from a friend of mine - TesTeq I decided to read yet another book about Steve Jobs (I already read iCon, inside Steve's Brain and iWoz from his Apple co-founder). I'm a sucker for biographies of very successful people so I read it happily. My friend didn't like the book so much and I agree with him that the author was a little "over the top" about himself but the points he makes about Steve are worth noting:

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

"Cannot be done" doesn't exist.

Steve is like this mob boss. He doesn't listen to the word "No". He asked several times his engineers that the iPhone should have only one button. Every time they said "this can't be done" he asked them again. Well, look at the iPhone now. And there are even rumors that this only "Home" button will be removed in iPhone5. Time will tell.

It relates a lot to my last blog post about pushing people. I think Steve does it really well. He knows how to push his engineers to make great stuff. How to push his designers and his talented Jonny Ive to create even more beautiful products. (I should know, I'm typing this on my beautiful Macbook Air).

 Prototype Cars and tough reality

In the book Steve mentions how he's constantly disappointed by the car manufacturers. They build these beautiful prototypes, these "automobiles of the future"… and years later they manufacture cars that hardly resemble the prototypes they had in mind. I totally share Steve's point here. I'm a fan of the automobile industry and I'm so disappointed every time…

Steve explains: The designers show the prototype to the engineers and they say "it can't be done" and modify the design. Later the engineers show the modified designs to the manufacturing team and they say "it can't be done" and the design is being modified yet again… It's a shame.

What we can learn from Steve

To push ourselves and push people we work with. To dream fantastic products and focus on the details. We are about to ship the new beta version of our Nozbe desktop app and there are still many details to be worked on… and our team can't let them be like this. We love this product and we want it to be as close to perfection as possible. And we want it to be something so much different to what you've seen until now. So we push ourselves and we hope to make this happen. The Steve Jobs way.

By the way, can't wait for the OSX Lion from Apple :-)

And you? What did you learn from Steve? I mean, His Steveness? :-)

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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, July 6, 2011

Outliers - the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell - Audiobook of the week

Through many recommendations I finally bought this book and "read" it (if you know me, you'll know that I never read, I listen to audiobooks). It's a fantastic read by Malcolm Gladwell about a common (mis)conception about Outliers in our society. It opens your mind and especially for a young dad like me, helps shape your kid's future:

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

There are more "outliers" than we think. And there can be even more.

I always felt that it can't be true that there are just a few geniuses out there and there can be more... that many didn't have the same opportunities in life as others... but Malcolm Gladwell gives even stronger and more factual based arguments for this gut feeling of mine.

If we changed small things in schooling system, we'd have more outliers...

Sometimes it's only about some small habits, small changes that will help us stimulate and inspire more children to be better. The common misconception is that we need to "spot" these geniuses early in life and shape them to become even better. Well, it's not that easy, here are some examples:

- Choosing small kids for hockey (and prestigious schools) - when they choose small kids to qualify as top hockey players or top students, they are being chosen by the same age group... and with age of 6, children born in January are significantly more developed than children born in November or December...

- 10,000 hours of training - some studies have shown, that you need 10,000 hours of training to really excel at something... and these kids spotted early get that training that makes them better and widens the gap between those who didn't get a chance early on. The author also quotes The Beatles, Bill Gates and other geniuses that had close to 10,000 hours of training in their fields (playing and programming respectively) before their initial success. 10K hours amounts to 10 years with 20 hours of training per week.

- Resources and time - some people just by sheer luck or status or situation had a chance to be exposed to things hardly anyone else had in their time and thus could develop their skills significantly better than anyone else.

- Generations and timing - Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer (and some other IT gurus) are all born within half a year from each other - they were born in the same time and thus had the same opportunity to cease the computer ear surge in the 80s

- Parents - just having parents who stimulate you, ask you question, challenge you and want more from you helps you become an outlier. Studies have shown that the gap between kids' development widens when they have summer vacations. Some kids just play and don't do anything useful when others go to camps, learn new skills and constantly train their brain.

And there is more! The definition of "outlier" is just not this easy....

What the book has really shown me is that it's a lot more to be an outlier... and it helped me think about upbringing of my daughter and how to shape her to become an outlier - and that almost anyone can become one if the environment around them wants it... I highly recommend this read to see that many geniuses are not born... they are being shaped.

And what do you think?
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making Ideas Happen - Audiobook of the week

My first post this year in my weekly book series is perfect for the New Year - it's about making ideas happen.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

It's all about execution

We all have lots of ideas and we'd love to see most of them come true... but the day is only 24 hours long for everyone and with day jobs and family obligations it's really hard to make our ideas reality. And when we have these ideas, we believe they are worth a lot of money... because they are great ideas... but with only an idea, without a great execution... you will not change the world.

To start executing an idea, you need to get organized first.

That's right. Go sign up for Nozbe and get organized :-)

OK, it's a little more complicated than that. It's about organizing the whole process around executing an idea. About designing good projects and tasks that lead you to the execution and about getting it all done. Scott suggests Action Method, I still prefer the GTD (Getting Things Done) with Nozbe combo... but it's more about organizing yourself so that you can approach the idea with more clarity and focus.

To execute an idea well, you need to recognize you're not alone.

I've started my online business as one-man-shop and I loved it. The problem with guys like me however is that... it's actually not that easy to do everything by oneself. Only when I started recognizing this and hiring great, talented people to help me out, I realized I could get a lot more done. This is where Scott suggests to leverage the power of the community and focus on collaboration. Now that I've grown my Nozbe team a lot more these past few months, I can admit synergies with other people are really great.

To execute with vision and direction, you need to lead it.

It's all about being a leader and stepping up. First you lead yourself when you get organize, later you excite great people around the idea and then you become a leader who empowers them to make great things and convert the idea into something even better. Being a leader is not that easy and very often you have tough decision to face, but if you can ignite enough passion in your team, you'll get the idea done and convert it to something meaningful. You'll make a dent in the universe :-)

I wish you all to Make Great Ideas Happen in 2011!

Hope the idea-making guidelines found in Scott's book will help you achieve great things this year. I also have great plans for 2011 and I'm now doing everything I can to get them done. Good luck!
I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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 8, 2010

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead - audiobook of the week

This week I've got a really cool book I listened to recently and it's about what fascinates us and how to fascinate others.


Get this book on: Audible Amazon

It's all about 7 triggers

Sally (who is reading the book as well) mentions 7 triggers of fascination and these are:
- lust
- mystique
- alarm
- prestige
- power
- vice
- trust

This may be something you know already but the book digs down to discover what are the reasons and roots of these triggers and some are totally different from what we'd assume.

You can mix triggers... but carefully

The thing is, that using communication medium like ads and PR actions... we can choose to use the triggers that we'd believe appeal to our users most. The key is to mix the triggers well and not to over-do or under-do with any of them. If you focus too much on the "trust", your offering may become dull in the eyes of your customers... if you provide reliable service but choose to go too far wtih "mystique", folks may not trust you anymore and might go away.

I never thought about fascination that much before

It's not something marketers think too much. We tend to focus on conversion rates and triggers that help people convert to paying customers... yet we underestimate the power of fascination and how a fascinating bond between the offering and the customer may lead to some great following and faithful advocates. Just think about Apple fanboys like me who can't wait what Steve Jobs has to show them every time.

What do you find fascinating today?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick - audiobook of the week

It's time for this week's book. Last week on my trip to Chicago I read (listened to) the "Facebook Effect" by David Kirkpatrick and I really enjoyed it. After seeing the movie "The Social Network" it was a very good idea to learn more about the Facebook phenomenon through this book.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Cool, but definitely not truthful

I totally agree with Michael Arrington's review of this book where he states that David is so much in love with Facebook that his objectivity is totally questionable and that his Facebook story sounds a lot like an authorized biography rather than a truthful narrative. I agree. But despite that, it's still a great read.

The way great products are made - with passion

Although we can question Mark Zuckenberg's (Facebook Founder) ethics when dealing with several individuals on his way to making Facebook what it is today, but it's hard to question his passion for creating a great social network. Many other networks have tried and failed (Friendster, MySpace, Classmates, etc...) and the author of this book gives good reasons why they haven't succeeded while Facebook has.

Mark's continued passion and drive for creating great user experience for his users to make sharing their stuff (photos, info, thoughts, whatever) as easy as possible proved to be a great business model. He made lots of mistakes (and some very grave, too) on his way, but the goal remained the same.

This book gives great insights of how normal people vs industry experts perceived Facebook and Mark's ideas. How he very often was thinking too much ahead and sometimes deciding he knew better what the users wanted... and all this despite criticism, backlash and name-calling by many. Mark's vision stayed the same.

From a "crazy teenager prodigy" to a "global leader".

Again, I don't approve many of Mark's moves and I question his ethics in many points of his career, yet I admire how this 19-year-old boy changed and grown up to become one of the leaders of today's Internet era. 

He took advantage of great opportunities that has been presented, like the fact that most companies CEOs wanted to talk to him. Despite his team disapproval and his hectic schedule, he always made time to meet with industry leaders and learn from them. This helped him build a network of mentors every business owner would wish to have.

Of course, as Facebook was getting bigger everyone wanted to him and he could've turned them down, but he didn't - he kept on having meetings to learn from the best. He didn't act like he knew everything. And he learned a lot. And it shows.

It's hard to question Facebook's success

Facebook became a de-facto standard for online communication and social life and it's really hard to question that. What is a little scary is the fact that one company will know all about Internet users and will become their data hub. David even writes he believes that being on Facebook will be "automatic" in the future just like "being online" and that Facebook's social graph will set the standard for our entire online communications. Let's see how this develops.

I can't recommend this book enough. Especially if you have hard time understanding the Facebook phenomenon or if you're a startup/business owner and are up for some great inspirational lessons from Mark. Plus the Audio-version is read by the author (which I like) and adds a bonus of author's interview with Mark's sister, currently Facebook's spokesperson and employee.

Are you on Facebook? Friend me and Like me :-)

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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 17, 2010

Eat that frog! Brian Tracy's take on procrastination - audiobook of the week

I keep on listening to these great audiobooks and today I decided to dive into the book I "read" a few months ago - it's Brian Tracy's take on procrastination:

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

It's an excellent motivational book. Brian really knows how to convince you to eat that frog in the morning... meaning - to start off a day with the most important task, even though it might taste like a frog in the beginning.

The importance of big tasks

Brian is not the only one to bring this about. Leo Babauta is highlighting this in his Zen To Done approach (learn more about Leo in Productive Magazine #4) where he talks about three big rocks you need to take on every day.

Why should we eat "that frog"?

Completion, accomplishment, power. These are the most important senses we get from tackling the "big rocks" or eating 'that frog". When you start off a day, you'll be overwhelmed by lots of tasks that come by, lots of fires to put out and lots of people to talk to and deal with... and if you don't watch out, you'll spend the day dealing with these issues as they go... and feel like you haven't accomplished a thing that day.

Discover your frogs for tomorrow... today!

Plan this - decide what needs to be done tomorrow - and plan to do it. Don't overwhelm yourself. Decide on max three frogs. The next day start with the ugliest frog and go from there... or start with the mid-ugly frog, than go to the ugliest one and finish it off with the one that's "more eatable".

How to find these frogs?

Read the book (or listen to Brian via audio) and you'll find the motivation you need to literally eat that frog and have a great and productive day... every day. Good luck.

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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 10, 2010

The Little Big Things by Tom Peters - Audiobook of the week

I haven't read the "Excellence" book by Tom Peters but this one is very very cool. If you want to build a great and excellence-striving company, this one is for you. Let me tell you why.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

"The devil lies in the details"

This age-old saying kept on popping in my head when I was reading (aka "listening to") this book. It's all about the details. The very first example quoted by Tom in his book reminded me about the fact that even in my favorite gas station chain, which almost always delivers great service, when the toilets are dirty, the overall impression is bad.

It's all about the little things

Little things make huge impact. Apple cares about the little things - this is why their packaging is so fantastic and there are so many unboxing videos of Apple's products. Heck, I even made mine, too.

Time to correct these little things as soon as possible.

In September at Nozbe we've introduced a "Feature of the Week" and we've found at least 30 small things in Nozbe we could improve every week to make it a way better app than it is right now. Some of the improvements are fundamental (we're introducing new way of choosing options soon) and some are subtle. But they'll make great difference and the fact of improving at least a tiny bit of user experience is pure fun. And it is good for business, too :-)

Take a look around

Just have a look around your business. Check what can be corrected now to make a lasting impact. You'll be surprised. It's incredible how little things impact our lives. And for an inspiration and practical examples read Tom Peters' book. It's definitely worth it.

Which little things have you improved/changed lately?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reading audiobooks and absorbing content

It's official - I love audiobooks. Back in March this year I was considering listening to audiobooks rather than buying physical or electronic books. I decided to go the audio route... and I "read" more than 20 books in the last 6 months... that's a stunning achievement of almost 4 books per month... that's one book per week!
Audio is a perfect solution for a slow reader

I speak really fast, I move really fast... but I read really slowly. I've never been a great reader anyway. I liked books but I liked other stuff, too, and somehow never had the time for books. But I wanted to read them, I got so many great recommendations for great books and I was frustrated to know I'd never have the time to read those.

"Made to Stick" convinced me to go the audio-route

I bought lots of books off Amazon and they stood there lonely on my shelves collecting dust. I chose "Made to Stick" as a book I wanted to read and took it with me on all my business travels to read it when on the go... and after a year I gave up. My wife would even laugh at me saying: "you're still carrying the same book with you?" When I bought the audio version, I read it in a week.

Audio works great when you move fast and drive a lot

I do move a lot. I like working from coffee-shops, I like driving. I like jogging. Now when I'm on the move I'm "reading" a book. I hardly listen to my music collection on my iPod anymore. I listen to books. And when I do, I feel I can digest the content better as my focus is not on the process of reading. I even read books while skiing :-)

Turbo - reading at twice the speed

To make matters even more interesting, my iPod app on the iPhone gives me an option to listen to stuff 2x speed and in most books I put it on. I'm used to speaking fast, so I have no problem understanding fast, too. And this way I can "digest" the book even faster.

From 1-2 books per year to close to 40

That's right. I used to read one to maximum two books per year. I know, that's sad but it's true. Now I've read more than 20 books in 6 months so it's totally do-able I'll get to 40 per year. Close to one book per week. For someone like me, it's s great achievement.

More book reviews coming to this blog

I'll be sharing more book reviews on this blog with you. They'll be more like book impressions than reviews, as extensive reviews can be read on Amazon, but I'd want to share more how a book inspired me or "touched" me if you dare.

You have no excuse to start reading more!

That's right. Start using Audiobooks and you'll be surprised how you can read more and more books and learn new great content this way. Adelante!

Did you ever try "reading" audiobooks? How did it go?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh - audiobook of the week

Recent buzz about the shoe company called "Zappos" got to me as well. After I heard one of Tony's (Zappos CEO) speeches I decided to take up on his offer and downloaded a free audiobook Tribal Leadership, which I described in detail on this blog last year. When I heard of the new book by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Delivering Happiness, I decided to buy it and listen to it myself.

Get this book on: Audible Amazon

Overall, it's not as great as the Tribal Leadership, but it's a good book as gave me great insights to several things:

1. The Story of Zappos

If you're not familiar with their story, now you will be - it's the integral part of this book and it's great to get to know how they made this online footwear store work.

2. The Story of Tony

You get to know his passions, his ideas and his path to Zappos and beyond. Why he ended up there and how he made it all happen. Even how we founded Linkexchange and sold it to Microsoft which was a great feat anyway.

3. Customer Happiness

Yes, he's showing you all the ways you can go to make your customer happy and believe me, it's all about customer happiness in the end. I know, I'm running an online business myself and I know how crucial it is to make the customer happy. Tony gives great insights of how this can be accomplished and covers them with great examples.

And a bonus - he also explains how to make the employees happy and how to create a company culture that is natural and is motivating for the employees. Everyone must be happy - the external as well as internal customers - I know - I have a small team but we're very happy and we love working together... and we're having a nice company meeting next Tuesday! :-)

I'm all for happiness

As you know, I'm running what others would call a "Lifestyle business" and I love it. I'm happy, my team is happy and my customers seem to be happy, too.

Even Jeff Bezos was very happy with Zappos - so much that he decided to buy them and to make sure Zappos would approve not only $1.2B buyout, he wanted to convince Zappos employees by recording this video - worth 8 minutes of your time - enjoy:

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - 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.