The New York Times has just published its list of best-selling business books for July, 2020. Again this month during pandemic season, Atomic Habits is #1 on the list.
My theory on why this is still #1 is simple: we are all having to work on ourselves, and this means that we need to get rid of bad habits and cultivate good habits – habits that are good for us, and are useful in this new work environment. This book provides genuine help for that quest.
After our August First Friday Book Synopsis, we will have presented 8 of these 10 books at our monthly book event in Dallas. I have presented Atomic Habits, Dare to Lead, The Ride of a Lifetime, Outliers, Extreme Ownership, and (after our August 7 session), The Deficit Myth. And my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented Grit and Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Note: This month’s list includes three books written by women authors.
These eight books provide great insight. I strongly recommend all eight. (I’m sure the other two are good books, but I have not read them…).
Here are the ten best selling business books from the New York Times list for July, 2020. Click over to their site for links to reviews of some of these books.
#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#3 – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
#4 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#5 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
#6 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#7 – Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
#8 – The Buddha and the Badass by Vishen Lakhiani
#9 – Grit by Angela Duckworth
#10 – The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton
I record my synopses, and make them available for purchase. Each synopsis come- with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page. And click here for our newest additions.
Well over 100 people are joining us on our “Remote” First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings. We had participants from all over the country. Please share this word far and wide — all are welcome!
July 3, 2020 – Zoom
Two Book Synopses: The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger andStamped from the Beginning by Ibram X, Kendi.
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, July 3, 7:30 am
The presentation will conclude shortly after 8:30 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux
Click here to join in on Zoom:
We are all set for Friday’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.
If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive. You really will be able to follow along better with physical copies of the handouts in front of you. So, if you have a printer, please print the handouts.
#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can. I am still new to this whole Zoom practice, but I have enabled the “enable join before host” button. So, you can come in, and talk to folks. I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, but will keep myself pretty much muted until I begin the program at 7:30. And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude.
#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:
Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: July 3, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Jul 3, 2020 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Reminder: The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”
But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” thorugh PayPal.
(Note: you can also send money through Zelle, at Randy’s e-mail address).
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Please help spread the word far and wide; help make this a success.
You might want to read this post. It has a printable one-sheet reminder on how to make the most of your remote learning experience.
Remote Learning 101 – Read this before attending your learning session.
THE TITLE STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING comes from a speech that Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis gave on the floor of the US Senate on April 12, 1860.
“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes,” but “by white men for white men,” Davis lectured his colleagues. The bill was based on the false notion of racial equality, he declared. The “inequality of the white and black races” was “stamped from the beginning.”
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning
On Friday, at the First Friday Book Synopsis (on Zoom), along with the excellent business book The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger, I will present my synopsis of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. This book won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Notice the full title: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Recently, I was talking about the racist history in our country, and our state, with a person who attends our First Friday Book Synopsis events. I read him excerpts from the Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, and excerpts from the Texas Ordinance of Secession. Both state, absolutely, that Black people are inferior to white people (thus: white supremacy), and that the proper place for Black people is the place of an enslaved person. He acknowledged that he had never read that speech, or that document.
White supremacy; enslaved Black people. This is the history of our country for a substantial amount of our time as a country. And the ideas behind these realities have lingered for…well, until now.
In other words, there are not two sides of any argument here. There is only one side. Read the founding documents of the Confederacy. Read the speeches and read the actual segregation laws.
And, later, as the decades progressed, it was never separate but equal. It was quite separate, and quite unequal.
This book by Dr. Kendi reveals in full the racist thinking that underlies and informs so much of what has happened throughout our history.
The definition of the word “ignorance” is about the level of knowledge one has. Ignorance is defined as “lack of knowledge.” I am woefully ignorant about so many things; I am ignorant about chemistry, physics, trigonometry, how to put on make up, how to repair an automobile engine, how to actually make a movie, to name just a few areas of my overwhelming ignorance. But – and I think this is an important but – I do not try to tell a physicist how to think about physics. I do not try to tell an automotive mechanic how to fix an engine.
In other words, if you have ignored studying an issue, you may in fact be ignorant about that issue.
In other words, if you claim to be a life-long learner, maybe you could do some of that learning in areas that you have ignored.
In other words, when one is ignorant about a subject, one should be careful about telling others what’s what about that subject. Ignorance results in uninformed conversations.
If you listen to my synopsis on Friday, and if you read this book by Ibrma X. Kendi, and other books dealing with issues of race, you will learn. You will possibly learn that you have been told things that were not true. You may realize that you have even repeated some things that were not true.
This is a time to abandon such ignorance. It is time to learn stuff.
Here is a blog post I wrote after I first presented Dr. Kendi’s book for the Urban Engamen Book Club, sponsored by Citysquare: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi – My Six Lessons and Takeaways.
A note from Randy Mayeux:
I am writing this to help readers understand some conflicting messages on this blog.
Since the beginning of the First Friday Book Synopsis in 1998, I (Randy Mayeux) and Karl Krayer shared the presentations, and we each wrote on this blog.
A few years ago, Karl Krayer suffered a stroke, and has been unable to make synopses presentations at our monthly events, or write on this blog. So, I have assumed full leadership of the First Friday Book Synopsis, have made two book synopses presentations each month at our monthly events. since his departure, and I have continued to write posts on this blog all along.
Karl has recently begun writing posts on this blog again. We certainly welcome him back. But I want to address what appears to be conflicting messages on this blog.
At the top of each post, it always says either “Randy’s blog entries” or “Karl’s blog entries.” This is, of course, to identify the author of a post. And Randy and Karl are the only two writers who post on this blog.
As in any collaboration, people have different opinions; sometimes on controversial issues. In some recent posts from Karl, if one were to read other posts by me, you can see that we have a strong difference of opinion over the issue of Confederate Statues and Monuments, and even over whether or not people can change their minds over issues of racism.
I simply want to point out the obvious; that we have these differences.
I do believe that Confederate Statues should be removed. I do believe that the Confederate Flag should not be displayed. And, I do believe that people can change their minds on issues of race (and, other issues as well). Karl believes the opposite, as he described in his recent posts.
Here’s an interesting note: I went to Abilene Christian University for my undergraduate degree (it was then called Abilene Christian College). A few short years ago, the university issued a widely-distributed apology for their racism throughout much of their history. The leadership of the university did change their minds over issues of racism. And they needed to. Abilene Christian did indeed have some pretty ghastly racist practices and stances in their history.
Yes, I do oppose symbols of racism, and that is what I believe Confederate Statues to be.
Here is a post that represents my thoughts, describing my strong opposition to Confederate Statues and the Confederate Flag: Two Flags, Two Meanings – The American flag and the Confederate flag.
Please note that I will be presenting synopses of books on racial issues over the next few months at the First Friday Book Synopsis; books that might even lead people to change their minds about issues of racism.
Why have this conversation at all on a blog focused primarily on business books and issues? Because this issue touches every corner of business – relationships between employees, between employers and employees, between business and client representatives, and between business and its larger outreach in the community and overall culture. Even within ourselves, we can develop deeper understanding of the issues involved.
In the coming months, as I present one synopsis of a business book and a second synopsis of a book dealing with issues of race at each of our First Friday Book Synopsis sessions, I will be treating these books as I do in all other synopsis presentations. My intent, as always, is to let the author speak through the words of his/her book.
Hopefully, these presentations will help us all come to better informed decisions, and wiser and more inclusive business policies, and yes, even better informed opinions within ourselves.
Issues of racial injustice have become quite a large conversation throughout our society. I felt that I needed to explain my thoughts on the conflicting conversation one is currently reading on this blog.
Karl and I agree on far more than we differ. But, in this moment, I felt that this word of explanation regarding this specific issue might be helpful.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon — We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we’re willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962, Rice University
The problem with the modern world, as Bertrand Russell put it, is that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Each month, I present two book synopses at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. One of the ripple effects of this schedule is that I have to start reading the next month’s books pretty quickly after each month’s event. Thus, I don’t have the luxury of pausing, pondering, reflecting, thinking about the books that I just presented. And this is a shame.
In June, I presented two books worth pondering over. This post is about the excellent book Think Like a Rocket Scientist: : Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol. It is written by a former rocket scientist – he worked on one of the probes to Mars — who then went to law school, and is now a writer and professor.
This is a book that says big problems can be solved. But, to solve them, you have to dream big, and get to work.
In my synopses, I ask: What is the point?
The point of this book is: We have to make major, massive breakthroughs to actually go forward. To do this, we have to learn how to think like a rocket scientist.
And I ask: Why is this book worth our time? My three reasons for this book are:
#1 – This book provides a short, but quite valuable history of key moments in our exploration of space. This is worth knowing.
#2 – This book reveals with vivid detail how we close our minds to genuinely new ideas. We need to combat this tendency.
#3 – This book gives us tangible ways to put thinking-like-a-rocket-scientist into practice. These are valuable exercises, and worthwhile steps to follow.
In my reading, I highlight many, many passages. I include a whole bunch of my highlights in my synopsis handouts; a few pages worth. Here are the best of my highlights from this book; direct excerpts from the book, the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages:
• You won’t be a rocket scientist by the end of this book. But you’ll know how to think like one.
• You’ll learn how our obsession with certainty leads us astray and why all progress takes place in uncertain conditions.
• If you stick to the familiar, you won’t find the unexpected.
• As adults, we fail to outgrow this conditioning. We believe (or pretend to believe) there is one right answer to each question.
• “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
• “Discovery comes not when something goes right,” physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn explains, “but when something is awry, a novelty that runs counter to what was expected.”
• Upheaval precedes progress, and progress generates more upheaval.
• “We didn’t know what we were doing when we landed” on Mars, Squyres admits. “How can you know what you’re doing when no one has done it before?”
• “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something,” Upton Sinclair said, “when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
• You switch from being a cover band that plays someone else’s songs to an artist that does the painstaking work of creating something new.
• “My first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom.”
• “The story of the human race,” psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote in 1933, “is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”
• “Most highly successful people have been really right about the future at least once at a time when people thought they were wrong,” Sam Altman writes. “If not, they would have faced much more competition.”
• When we seclude ourselves from opposing arguments, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt our established patterns of thinking.
• “One mark of a great mind,” Walter Isaacson said, “is the willingness to change it.”
• “One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination,” Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling once observed, “is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.”
• Economist Tyler Cowen wrote a detailed analysis of how, in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis, he “badly underestimated the chance that something systemic had gone wrong in the American economy.” Cowen admitted his remorse: “I regret that I was wrong, and I regret that I was overconfident in my belief that I was right.”
And then, in my synopses, I share a few of the notable points and principles from the book. Here are quite a few from what I shared:
So, what does in means to think like a rocket scientist? Here is the author’s answer:
To think like a rocket scientist is to look at the world through a different lens. Rocket scientists imagine the unimaginable and solve the unsolvable. They transform failures into triumphs and constraints into advantages. They view mishaps as solvable puzzles rather than insurmountable roadblocks. They’re moved not by blind conviction but by self-doubt; their goal is not short-term results but long-term breakthroughs. They know that the rules aren’t set in stone, the default can be altered, and a new path can be forged.
- We need a factor of ten, not a factor of one
- incremental improvement is fine; until it isn’t
- we are wired to settle for incremental improvement
- It all starts with reasoning from first principles
- Aristotle, who defined it as “the first basis from which a thing is known.” — René Descartes described it as systematically doubting everything you can possibly doubt, until you’re left with unquestionable truths.
- There really is an absolute tendency to stick with, and protect, the status quo…
- We really do need to learn some new things…
- When necessary, we must unlearn what we know and start over.
- Richard Branson –
- you can walk into a room; and walk back out again — Richard Branson writes, “You can walk through, see how it feels, and walk back through to the other side if it isn’t working.”
- Steve Martin; and Alinea (Restaurant)
- WHAT’S REMARKABLE ABOUT both Steve Martin and Alinea is that they took a sledgehammer to themselves when they were at the top of their game.
- The Kill the Company Exercise – (“Red Teaming,” in the Military exercises)
- It’s one thing to say “let’s think outside the box.” It’s another to actually step outside the box and examine your company or product from the viewpoint of a competitor seeking to destroy it.
- X kills entire projects; and rewards those (financially, and otherwise) who call for killing the project…
- Keep things simple
- Every time you introduce complexity to a system, you’re giving it one more aspect that can fail.
- “Every decision we’ve made,” Musk says, “has been with consideration to simplicity.…
- the (inexpensive) blanket vs the incubator for newborn babies — The device to provide warmth had to be inexpensive and intuitive so it could be used by an often-illiterate parent in a rural environment without reliable electricity.
- Beginner’s mind
- In Zen Buddhism, this principle is known as shoshin, or beginner’s mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” …encourages its employees to “walk in stupid” every day and approach problems from a beginner’s viewpoint.
- Use the right words…
- not what “would” you do; but what “could” you do? — the “could” group stayed open-minded and generated a broader range of possible approaches.
- Test as you fly…
- When she started competing, Amelia Boone was a lawyer at a major Chicago law firm. On a typical training day, Boone would go for a run in a wetsuit, dunking herself in and out of the icy waters of Lake Michigan, with the frigid winter wind whipping against her face.
- If we applied the test-as-you-fly rule, we would practice our speech in an unfamiliar setting, after downing a few espressos to give us the jitters. We would do mock interviews while wearing an uncomfortable suit, with a stranger ready to throw curveballs at us.
- Aim for progress – bold progress…
- But the world doesn’t work this way. Our default mode is regress—not progress. When left to their own devices, space agencies decline. Writers wither. Actors flare out. Internet millionaires collapse under the weight of their egos.
And I always conclude with this: Here are my seven lessons and takeaways:
#1 – You don’t have to do things the way they have been done. And, maybe…probably…you should not.
#2 – You don’t have to do the things that have been done. You can do something new; aomething that has not been done. This might be a very good thing to do.
#3 – You will have blind spots. Identify them. Be very wary of them.
#4 – You really do need to change your mind about something(s) – work on that.
#5 – You will make mistakes. Learn to learn from them. And when you do, realize that this mistake will not be the last mistake that you make, that you need to learn from.
#6 – Broaden your circle. You need to embrace more divergent thinking.
#7 – You probably need to read more books, and study more issues. Get better at that; get more active at that.
- And a footnote:
- Randy’s message to Tyler Cowen would be; you could be wrong again!
I have read so many books dealing with the challenge of innovation; of leaving the status quo behind, and how very difficult that is to do. This is one of the better books to help you think differently; to help you think like a rocket scientist.
My synopses are available for purchase at the buy synopses tab at the top of this page. Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation. This synopsis will be added soon. Click here for our newest additions.
We’ve let too many moments slip by.
This moment must be captured.
It’s time to have honest conversations
about race in your organization.
Here is a way to get that started.
I write this on Juneteenth, 2020.
We have put off change, a reckoning, for too long. Things have gone unaddressed. We have ignored the reality of racism throughout our culture. People talk of “systemic racism.” Yes, systemic; a good word. Deep, abiding, multi-generational racism.
As we have read the news these least few weeks, we see that one way many, many people are responding is by following the impulse to become better informed. To “educate themselves.” People are reading books — not just one, but quite a few books that seem to be written for this moment.
Don’t you think it would be helpful for your organization to have some honest conversations about race? And don’t you think that these conversations would be more productive if they were informed by the best books that people are reading?
I can help.
I have been presenting comprehensive synopses of books on poverty, social justice, and racism for over fifteen years. I have presented these for CitySquare, each month, at the Urban Engagement Book Club. And I have also presented a few of these synopses for the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.
At our First Friday Book Synopsis, we have always presented two business books each month. For the next few months, it will be one business book, and one book dealing with issues of racism. I will begin with Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi at our July 3 gathering (on Zoom).
Please take a look at this flier. Think about your needs. I think what I offer can help you jump start some of those needed conversations for your leadership team, and others in your organization.
Let me know if I can help.