My Best of 2011 Book List

Each category is in priority order of my preference. I find it odd that I put Spiritual at the bottom. I think it is because I find this the hardest category to recommend, c’est la vie. Also these are books new to me in 2011.

I was “rocked” by Tim Flannery’s “Here on Earth”. I really like how Eric Ries wrote “The Lean Startup”. It’s much more than a re-hash of this blog. Very worthwhile. Tina Fey’s Bossypants was simply LOL. A great waste of time 🙂 The Heath brothers “Switch” is a very practical book on organizational change. Roger Martin comes out against modern businesses love affair with “Maximizing Shareholder Value in “Fixing the Game”

I read a lot of non-fiction in 2011. I was big on Neuroscience and Education. I really like what Sir Ken Robinson has to say, but I’m still not sure how it will be implemented. Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” is a manifesto defining his model employee for today. We’ve all got a lot of work to do if we want to live up to his definition.

On the spiritual front. I read a lot of books, but I’m finding “The Daily Good Blog” to be a very good source of reading.

Fiction “Entertainment”



Education & Careers



More Interesting 2011 Book Lists

Neurolaw – Neuroscience and the Law

David Eagleman’s Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain is a mind bending experience. It’s gotten a ton of good reviews and most of the write ups focus on the Neuroscience part. This book does a good job on assembling an introduction to modern neuroscience. Very cool stuff. It’s fun, but it not the compelling reason to read this book.

The compelling part of Incognito is when Eagleman starts talking about Neuroscience and the Law. Whoa! I was unprepared for this. I then took a quick look at the inside back jacket. It says that he’s the director of Baylor’s initiative on Neuroscience and the Law. What the !@#$ is that?

Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law addresses how new discoveries in neuroscience should navigate the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation. The project brings together a unique collaboration of neurobiologists, legal scholars, ethicists, medical humanists, and policy makers, with the goal of running experiments that will result in modern, evidence-based policy.

This part is like reading Sci-Fi, but it’s real. Wow!

Holidays and The Art of Happiness

I really enjoyed Howard Cutler’s “The Art of Happiness”. The gist of this book is that US psychiatrist Howard Cutler interviews the Dalai Lama over a period of years. The beauty is that he asks many questions that a regular person would ask. He asks the “newbie” questions that few rarely ask. (ie me ) It makes for a great introduction to the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. I found it to fill in many of the gaps in my model of what the Dalai Lama is about.

Overall the book has 4 simple points ( this is comes from the Cutlers “At Work”)

  • The purpose of life is happiness.
  • Happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events — at least once one’s basic survival needs are met.
  • Happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds, through reshaping our attitudes and outlook.
  • The key to happiness is in our own hands.

The reviews on Amazon are very interesting. There are 238 Five Stars reviews out of a total 413 reviews. The 1 Star Reviews ( 41 of 413 today, about 10% ) are mainly disappointed that this book is written by Howard Cutler and not by the Dalai Lama. The other common disappointment is that this book is an attempt to translate the Dalai Lama’s words for a Western audience.


Linchpin is Fantastic :-)

I found the one star reviews of Seth Godin’s Linchpin very helpful in discussing why I really liked this book. It’s repetitive, it is not linear, it is simple, it is more fun than serious, it is written in choppy blog style, it is often boring, it’s little long, it’s written like a manifesto, it is mostly common sense, and the book spends a lot of time discussing why I resist acting on these common sense points.

I really like that Seth says that being an “Indispensable” person is a choice. There are “attributes/skills” of the “Indispensable” and one needs to practice hard to develop these skills.

“The Resistance” Chapter is the best. It describes why very few people actually become “Indispensable”. Why one’s worst enemy in becoming “Indispensable” is oneself.

Seth revisits his Superpower riff in this book to good effect. Here is an excerpt from page 223

When I tell the superpower story to people, they seem to get it. But when I ask them their superpower, and they pick something that might be a power but it isn’t really super. It’s sort of an average power. …

This concept gets to the heart of the chasm we are facing. You want your pretty safe skill to be enough. Enough to make you valued, enough to make you fairly paid, enough to make your life stable. But it’s not. It not enough because in a very connected, very competitive marketplace, there are plenty of people with your safe skill. The “super” part and the “power” part come not from something you’re born with but from something you choose to do and, more important, from something you choose to give.

Bottom line … If we can’t communicate our super power, then we don’t have one, and we are dispensable 😦

The bibliography provides an indication of the breadth of this book. Why it is so long and thin at the same time. There are artists, sociologists, educators, software programmers, scientists, buddhist nuns, and efficiency experts. It is a very wide range. Here are just a few. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield; The Lonely Crowd, by David Reisman; Weapons of Mass Instruction, by John Taylor Gatto; The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.; Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, by Stephen Jay Gould; Don’t Bit the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions, by Pema Chodron; Getting Things Done, by Dave Allen.

My 5 Star 2011 Playlist

  • 1. The Summer Place / Fountains of Wayne
  • 2. Secretary Song / The Go! Team
  • 3. Is It Done / J Mascis
  • 4. Get It Wrong, Get It Right / Feist
  • 5. Weird Summer / Mike Doughty
  • 6. Real Love / Beach House
  • 7. Pumped Up Kicks / Foster the People
  • 8. Santa Fe / Beirut
  • 9. Shell Games / Bright Eyes
  • 10. Unkind / Sloan
  • 11. Sing / Ben Lee
  • 12. The Long Goodbye / Army Navy
  • 13. The Answer Was You / Sloan
  • 14. Dig A Little Deeper / Peter Bjorn And John
  • 15. Take Me Over / Cut Copy
  • 16. The Dreamer / The Tallest Man On Earth
  • 17. Locked Away / Keith Richards
  • 18. Wonderful (The Way I Feel) / My Morning Jacket
  • 19. Voyager Reprise / Surfer Blood
  • 20. Holdin on to Black Metal / My Morning Jacket
  • 21. Culture of Fear / Thievery Corporation
  • 22. I Want You Back (For Michael With Love) / Sheryl Crow

iTunes playlist

My rules are that I’ve purchased the music in the past 12 months. The music itself can be of any age, but it has to be new to me in the last year. ( I broke this rule with 17. Locked Away Keith Richards. My excuse is Vintage Vinos is within last 12 months. )

More Albums that got a lot of “rotation” were: J Mascis Several Shades of Why, Sheryl Crow 100 Miles From Memphis, Adele 21, Feist Metals, Fountains of Wayne Sky Full of Holes, Go! Team Rolling Blackouts, and Thievery Corp Culture of Fear.

Not Pop Music Isabelle Faust Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin, Paul Hillier A Bridge of Dreams

Burnout Day in BAEN 502

I cover burnout on Day 9. I do this because I’ve been a poster child for executive illness, burnout, or bad luck for the past 11 years. Whatever you want to call it, the fact remains that I got very sick in early 2001 and have not been well since. It has been a life changing experience. It’s personal. Also this personal experience has allowed me to see that every startup I’ve been in has had someone “hit the wall”. This is very real.

My first foray in talking about this was in 2007. I found this topic very hard to let out of the closet, but I was rewarded with many people sharing their experiences with me.

What’s the point? I want everyone to have a positive startup experience. To do that they need to take care of their bodies and minds so that they can endure the startup grind. I want everyone to be aware that a startup environment is hazardous, much more hazardous than your typical job. I want them to be aware that the injury statistics are more like pro sports. Everyone plays hurt. They’ve got to think of themselves a “pro workers” and act accordingly. They need a support network on par with a professional athlete.

The 2011 Experience. Overall I received more engagement with this hour than any other. This presentation gets everyones attention. Very little typing or looking at the laptop screen happens. Everyone laughs when I talk about scheduling dates with their significant other. They also sigh when I mention that this has to be “priority one”, they can’t miss it (period), and it’s got to be booked in their “work calendar”. The comments, and questions, are all over the map. Some take it as “I’ve got to work even harder than I thought”, others take it as “Thanks for telling me that I’ll have a better work/life balance than 100/0, 70/30 sounds ok”.