Stuff I Learned from Books in 2019

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I drastically changed my reading habits in 2019. Because I consumed so many books, I wanted to find a good way to run through what I liked and learned from these books. This year, I thought it would be good to present my thoughts in note form and provide the key takeaways I found in each book.

Hypergrowth: How the Customer-Driven Model is Revolutionizing the Way Businesses Build Products, Teams, & Brands – David Cancel 

  • It’s mostly about building a product team, but there are takeaways that can be applied to any company that wants to be customer driven. 
  • Everyone works in support so they have a direct line to the customer 

Iconic Advantage: Don’t Chase the New, Innovate the Old – Soon Yu, David Birss

  • Great book on branding
  • Too often we try to create new messaging, and branding. Companies should take what has worked in the past and improve on it
  • It’s easier and it gets you to success faster
  • Put the customer first

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. – Brené Brown

  • Sympathize with people, don’t just go into problem-solving mode
  • Empathy is infinite and renewable. The more you give, the more we all have
  • I’ve watched Brené in person. I’ve seen her Netflix special. Read this book

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power: – Shoshana Auboff 

  • Google created a completely new industry and regulation wasn’t ready for it
  • Google (and Facebook, and many others) makes money by watching what you do and then selling that information and access
  • A dense book that I didn’t finish, but it was eye opening

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting up to Speed Faster and Smarter – Michael D. Watkins

  • 5 questions to ask:
  • what are the biggest challenges the organization is facing?
  • why is the org facing these challenges?
  • what are the most promising opportunities for growth?
  • what would need to happen to exploit these opportunities?
  • if you were me, what would you focus on? 
  • I listened to this book when I was getting ready to switch jobs. Then bought the hardcover. Then re-read certain sections when things got rocky at my new job

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson

  • Life is about not knowing, and then doing something anyway
  • This book was recommended to me when I was going through a lot of stress. I wish I had read it then. 
  • It’s all about taking responsibility for what you can own and dropping the rest

Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company – And Revolutionized and Industry – Marc Benioff, Carlye Adler

  • Tactics dictate strategy – execute tactics in enough ways and it becomes a strategy
  • The event is the message – act like it’s a success – the right mix of people is more important than the number of people
  • When a competitor enters your space, it initiates the market

The Hard Things about Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers – Ben Horowitz

  • Netscape damaged Microsoft because people started writing for the Internet, not Microsoft’s platform
  • The best thing about startups: you only experience two emotions: euphoria and terror
  • Startup CEOs should not play the odds – there is an answer. You just have to find it regardless of the odds
  • If you investigate companies that failed, you’ll find that employees knew about the deadly issues far ahead of time
  • In good orgs, people can focus on their work, and it will help the company and themselves 
  • Being too busy to train is equivalent to being too hungry to eat
  • Nearly every company goes through life-threatening events – WIFO – “We’re effed, it’s over” – every company goes through this
  • Focus on the road, not the wall 
  • In times of peace the company can focus on expanding the market and reinforcing the company’s strengths, in wartime the company is fighting threats (competition, market changes, macroeconomic change, etc)
  • Holding people accountable – assume people have good intentions 
  • Promises, results, effort 

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

  • I bought this novel because I heard it was an inspiration for Jonathan Hickman’s House of X story
  • Harry August is reincarnated and lives his life over again with all of the memories from his previous lives
  • The chronology of the book jumps all over the place, yet I was able to keep up
  • It was a fascinating concept that was really well executed

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t – Jim Collins

  • There’s a reason why this book is on everyone’s “must-read” list
  • Research findings on corporate greatness over a long time period
  • You get evolutionary results through an evolutionary process 
  • When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy 
  • Manage the system, not the people 

Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins – Mark W Schaefer

  • Loyalty is more elusive than ever 
  • The huge disconnect between what a company thinks they’re doing and how it’s received by the consumers
  • Today is the slowest day of technological change you’ll ever witness
  • How much to spend on the marketing budget is determined by tweaking what was spent last year
  • People want to feel loved. This is the evolution of loyalty
  • Research shows only 13% of consumers are loyal to a brand
  • The marketing departments of the future will be populated with extraordinary ideas that the customers will love

Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live – James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales

  • The oral history of Saturday Night Live
  • As a long-time fan, this was really interesting (and funny)

This Won’t Scale: 41 Plays from the Drift Marketing Team to Help Your Business Cut Through the Noise, … – Drift

  • Successful companies need a combination of great product, brand, and service 
  • Brand is how you build an audience and cut through the noise
  • This book is a quick read, but full of great takeaways

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups – Daniel Coyle

  • Feelings of trust and closeness can be transferred through shared experiences
  • You can’t be empathic when you’re talking
  • Trust comes down to context
  • Vulnerability precedes trust even though most people are afraid to be vulnerable until there is established trust
  • Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need – Todd Henry

  • I loved this book so much I bought multiple copies to share with people
  • Too much control today robs the future of creative ideas
  • Just because someone has the skills and experience to do a job doesn’t mean they should do that job
  • Without clear direction, everyone down the chain is paralyzed because everything is a last-minute scramble 
  • Expectation escalation can suffocate a team 
  • If you treat your team like a machine, that’s exactly what it will become. It will crank out predictable, uninspired work
  • Create white space for your team – attention and time

Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes – Steve Gorman

  • As a long-time Black Crowes fan, this book was great
  • Learn how the band blew up a chance to write/record with Jimmy Page
  • Like most bands, they broke up over money and ego
  • It’s an entertaining, fun read that walks through years of frustration

The Burnout Generation – Anne Helen Petersen

  • A book aimed at millennials to explain some of the stress they’re feeling

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini

  • Reciprocation
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity 

The Will to Die – Joe Pulizzi

  • The first fiction novel I’ve read in years
  • After reading a few of Pulizzi’s marketing books, I was curious how he’d handle fiction
  • A thriller that keeps you engaged while providing info on multiple industries

The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues – Patrick M. Lencioni

  • This book is interesting in that it’s told in a narrative style
  • The ideal team player is a combination of Hunger, Humble, and Smart (Emotional Intelligence)
  • Culture is what defines a company. Having people that sway too far in any of those three directions will impact everyone 
  • This has led me to really focus on determining “hunger

F#ck Content Marketing: Focus on Content Experiences do Drive Demand, Revenue & Relationships – Randy Frisch

  • (This is the second book on this list with an f-bomb in the title)
  • This book explains why the content experience is more important than just content marketing
  • 70% of content created is never used
  • Redefine the process that creates content to focus on the experience

Conversational Marketing: How the World’s Fastest-Growing Companies Use Chatbots to Generate Leads 24/7/365 – David Cancel, Dave Gerhardt

  • I’m a huge fan of what Drift does
  • I launched a Drift chatbot in early 2019 with great results
  • Chatbots allow customers to interact with a company on the customer’s terms
  • Search and content are crowded spaces – conversations are the next frontier because people want personalized experiences

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