Friday, January 27, 2017

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others DieMade to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I liked this book, so that earns it 3 stars, apparently. The concept of how to make ideas stick strikes me as universally useful, and within my capability. I am a believer of the research surrounding fact-filled, distant communication vs compelling, story-based, emotional communication, so I think that most people could benefit from this book. I say "could" because to me it had a major flaw. I felt that it was written in the very style it was suggesting us NOT to use. At the end it was a checklist of features that should make your idea sticky, but I can't remember, nor can I envision how to apply, that checklist.

What is interesting is that I can see how they tried to avoid the traps they identified. They used many stories themselves, many of which I can recall even though it took me a while to read the book. But those ideas are generally not connected to the ideas they were promoting. I don't know which checklist item I am supposed to attach each story to. Just like a bad class in school, I will need to sit down and study and memorize to get those ideas to "stick", but the whole thesis of the book is that if you structure the message right, that isn't necessary.

Example: Jared and Subway. I like this story (despite Jared's subsequent fall from grace). I remember that it was supposed to promote the idea of identifying sticky stories, but that is it. How do I do that? I don't remember, and the key part of the Jared story, the challenger theme, has nothing to do with THEIR objective: to teach me how to find stories.

Example: Simplicity is an important part of a sticky story, but in the end, their concepts read more like a textbook than a sticky idea. The checklist has more bullet points than I can remember, so when it came time for the information to "stick" I'm overwhelmed by the data (curse of knowledge) and I'm ready to shred the book and never look back.

This is all very familiar, because this is very close to how I felt about their other book, Switch, which is about change. I really preferred Influencer, by another set of authors, to Switch because Influencer introduced similar information, but with a visual model that simplified it for me. I plan on re-reading Influencer again soon, but even without the refresher, I can still visualize the general look and feel of that graphic, and it calls to mind various parts of their book. I feel that this is something the Heath brothers could benefit from, and, well, make their books more sticky.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan

The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, #12)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hallelujah! Finally, in just a short 700 pages Brandon Sanderson packed up the car and got this party back on the road. Several of my takeaways/comments:

-There were times in the previous books that the story seemed to drag, even when things were happening. In this book I finally clued into one of the factors to this: many of the characters had stopped growing. I think there were so many characters and plot lines, that it was impossible to continue to show growth in all of them and move the story along. In this book, as more plot lines and characters get wrapped up, there is more time and space to address real issues, and the characters benefit from that.
-Readers demand justice. Case Study: Elaida. She committed crimes against main characters that were so serious that I didn't think that I would be ok with any punishment doled out. Death seemed too easy. Lets just say that Sanderson gets a gold star for his work on this one. While there is a chance that her situation could take a left turn in the next book, for now I feel that justice has been served.
-I am not OK with the Seanchan becoming accepted, even as administrators. I am OK with cultural differences, but I'm not OK with certain practices in cultures. The omens and hierarchy I'm OK with. The slave culture I am not. Treating people as property is a no go. Dehumanizing women for being able to channel, a characteristic they have no control over, is not acceptable. Sanderson has to fix this. This is one of the few things that might ruin the whole series for me if it isn't addressed.

So I am really excited for the next book, and even more I'm excited to be excited again. This has been a test of will power for the last 4 or 5 books, and the reward so far has been worth it!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first Agatha Christie book, but I have seen several tv shows based on her work, and so was expecting a smart, quick-paced murder mystery that left me in total surprise at the end. And that is exactly what I got.

I like murder mysteries because they are dichotomous by natural. The logic of deductive reasoning combined with the raw, emotional fear of death. The unexpected revelations are just as fascinating as the unexpected events. A tray of drinks dropping, a door slamming, a shot ringing out.

One of the things I love about these books is the classic language. At first you have to pay attention to translate words and phrases into modern American English, but if the book is well written you soon stop noticing the different terms and it all feels natural. Then you stop reading or listening of course, and you find yourself wanting to call people sir or some other proper sort of thing.

If you at all enjoy mysteries, this is a must-read.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Married And Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half by Gary Chapman

Married And Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second HalfMarried And Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half by Gary Chapman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So I was in between audio books, and still very committed to staying on track for my goal of 52 books this year, so I was browsing the "always available" section of my library's online site. I saw the author of Married and Stil Loving It, Dr. Gary Chapman, and recognized him from his bestselling book The Five Love Languages*. That is my all time favorite relationship book, so without even reading the rest of the cover I checked it this one and plugged it in as I started my next run. I was a little surprised to find that this book was about marriage, yes, but about the second half of marriage. I was committed for the next 40 mins, so I gave it a try. It was interesting enough that I finished the book over the next few days.

Yes, the subject was a little beyond my time, but it will still be relevant, eventually. Society talks more about other transitions between phases of life than it does the transition from active family life to the empty-nester phase. To be honest, I hadn't thought that much about it until now, and this book contained a thorough discussion of the topic.

Aging is inevitable, but perhaps there is a reason we don't talk as much about it. There are some distinctly less exciting parts of the experience. It was interesting, but some of the discussion was depressing. If you are wondering about that stage of life, or if it is upon you and you feel unprepared, then this is the book for you. Otherwise, it can wait.

* Thanks to this reference I went to link to my last blog post of the Five Love Languages, and *gasp* I haven't read it in the last decade!  It is now on my to-read list.  I promise I have read it at least 5 times.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman

How to Be a Great BossHow to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was tough for me for several reasons. First, I listened to it, and this is definitely a book you should read in physical form so you can get the full effect of the checklists and the ability to flip back and forth between sections. Second, the first part of the book sets the expectation that there is only one formula for great bosses. That is ridiculous. Many different types of people succeed at management and are great bosses, so the idea there is only one way to do something, or only one profile for success doesn't make sense.

So that was the bad. On the good side, the tools and best practices they recommend seemed like mostly good ideas. There is a lot of value in their suggestions for most managers, as long as they are taken as suggestions and applied in a way that works with your management style. Trying to apply everything in this book as a prescription to be a perfect manager will probably fall flat. Your people will see everything you are doing as fake or disingenuous.

So I'm between 2 and 3 stars on this one, but if you are looking for ideas on how you can improve as a manager, this is a fairly short book that should give you a few good ideas.