“Book Crush” – The Spiritual Universe by Alan Lightman

2015 01 16 Accidental Universe  Iain

I loved the “The Accidental Universe” by Alan Lightman. I found it in a list of The Best Science Books of 2014 by Brain Pickings and it is available at my local library.

My favorite essay is “The Spiritual Universe — Does God Exist?”. For some reason this essay made me feel very happy. You can read the first half of this essay here.

In the last essay “The Disembodied Universe” he talks about how science has helped us dig deeper into nature and then talks about how we have become dependent on machines for our experience of nature. Very interesting. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all good. Here are some excerpts from this essay

page 128 Since Foucault, more and more, of what we know about the universe is undetected and undetectable by our bodies. What we see with our eyes, what we hear with our ears, what we feel with our fingertips, is only a sliver of reality. Little by little, using artificial devices, we have uncovered a hidden reality. It is often a reality that violates common sense. Is is often a reality strange to our bodies. It is a reality that forces us to re-examine our most basic concepts of how the world works. And it is a reality that discounts the present moment and our immediate experience of the world.

page 136 It is an irony to me that the same science and technology that have brought us closer to nature by revealing these invisible worlds have also separated us from nature and ourselves. Much of our contact with the world today is not an immediate, direct experience, but is instead mediated by various artificial devices such as televisions, cell phones, iPads, chat rooms, and mind-altering drugs.

page 137 But the psychological change accompanying these technologies is more subtle, and perhaps more important. Consciously and unconsciously, we ahve gradually grown accustomed to experiencing the world through disembodied machines and instruments.

More – Links

There is a lot written about this great book. Here are a few places to explore. /enjoy

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Technology Sales Manifesto – Zero to One – by Peter Thiel

2015 02 10 ZeroToOne
I really enjoyed Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

Right from the beginning he focusses on a startups job being creating new things instead of copying things that work. I was hooked right there. I also like he that recommends hiring people you actually want to work with.

I was not expecting it to be a manifesto on technology sales. It provides good context for techniques discussed in Dan Pinks To Sell Is Human.

I was going to pass on this book, but then it showed up in Andrew Schmitt’s Books in 2014 list. Thanks Andrew.

Random Quotes

  • page 120 We set out to hire people who would actually enjoy working together.
  • page 131 “The Sales Dead Zone = Small Business”
  • page 139 “EVERYBODY SELLS”
  • page 160 The best sales is hidden. There’s nothing wrong with a CEO who can sell, but if he actually looks like a salesman, he’s probably bad at sales and worse at tech.

Reviews

Blake Masters CS183 Essays

What’s Happening with Peter Thiel’s Dropout Club

Reading Review – Best of 2014 – Piketty, Klein, Osterwalder, Pigneur, & Botton

Here is a quick review of my 2014 readings and recommendations. The lists, in each section, are in priority order.

(Note that many of these books are pre-2014. My criteria is that I read the book in 2014.)

Quick —”Best Of The Year”

Thomas Piketty, Capital, and Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, blew my mind. These are mind altering books on Wealth and Climate Change.

Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur’s Value Proposition Design, took entrepreneurship books to “eleven”. Great job guys.

Alain de Botton’s, Art as Therapy, provided me with a new way to view art.

Important Reads

  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty — The most important part of this book is the data on public and private wealth. In my reading there seems to be consensus that the data is the best we have and most of the stir is What to do about this data? There is no question that the data is shocking. The CBC is a good starting place.
      On the “non-political” side of things, this book has tremendous business application, especially for marketers and market sizing exercises. The data presented shows a dramatic change in demographics and projects deeper change. Companies need to actively react to this change, if they haven’t already done so. I would guess that Apple’s deepening move towards luxury goods is informed by these trends. They believe in market share measured in “$ shipped” instead of market share in “units shipped”.
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
    by Naomi Klein — If you want to know what the “Climate Change” movement is “doing and saying” in 2014 then read this. It does not disappoint. It explains the recent #blockadia movement and “First Nations” positions. If you don’t believe in “Climate Change” then you will hate this book. More here … Naomi Klein wins 2014 Hilary Weston Prize | CBC.
      My favorite part is in Chapter 9. Blockadia. It’s the story of Lummi carvers traveling ~1,300km over 16 days to 8+ communities with a 22 foot totem pole strapped to a flatbed truck. They finally permanently planted the pole in North Vancouver. more

Fun — Fiction

  • Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Precious Little Life – Colour Version by Bryan Lee O’Malley — This is a great series. The colour version is a good reason to re-read it.
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothfuss — this is the second book.
  • Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fun — Non-Fiction

  • Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland — There is a positive interview in IEEE Spectrum and an negative interview in the Globe & Mail. In a nutshell engineers will like this book. He knows us well, as shown before in Microserfs and jPod. I was surprised that he only dedicated a couple sentences to EDFAs. To me these “Optical Amplication” devices are pure magic. (thx M. Spooner for the tip)
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield — Fantastic!
  • On Writing Stephen King — Very useful and an entertaining read. ( thx to review by Brain Pickings )
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern By Stephen Greenblatt — Here is review by Brain Pickings (thx T. Lawrence for the tip)

Business — Startups & Innovation

  • Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur — An instant Classic. Get this now.
  • Talking To Humans by Gif Constable — A very useful extension of Gif Constable’s blog posts discussing Customer Discovery Interviews. (thx to @denisewithers for tip)
  • Startup Boards by Brad Feld — an Awesome Resource for Young Startup CEOs ( and those in Training )
  • Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman — This is great Branding Immersion for Engineers. (It’s About People guys. )
  • To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink — This is a great introduction to sales for Scientists & Engineers or those who believe “Sales is the Dark Side”.
  • No Exit: Struggling to Survive a Modern Gold Rush by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
  • Ingenious: A Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig — ( thx to @sgsblank for the tip)

Science

  • Life Out Of Sequence: A Data-Driven History of Bioinformatics Hallam Stevens — I’ve been doing a lot of work with Genomics groups and this book really helped me get up to speed. ( thx @sgsblank. )

Health & Spirituality

  • Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong — Fascinating book. (thx Brainpickings review )
  • So Far From Home by Margaret J. Wheatley — highly recommended. (thx to B. Ross for the tip)
  • Blue Nights by Joan Didion. Not sure if I can call this fun. It is a great read wrt/ parenting.
  • Anatomy Of An Illness by Norman Cousins — If you’re living with a chronic illiness, this old book is still relevant.
  • Jewel Tree Of Tibet by Robert Thurman
  • Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
  • Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  • Lying by Sam Harris

Customer Interviews — “Talking to Humans” by Gif Constable


Talking to Humans by Gif Constable is a great Customer Development Interview primer. It extends on his earlier blog posts and discusses how Customer Development Interviews fit within the Customer Development process. Great Stuff and it is mostly “free”. It is available in .pdf, .epub, and .kindle (small fee).

/enjoy

tip to Denise Withers for introducing me to this book «smile»

More Customer Discovery Interview Readings

Here are useful Customer Interview readings and a video from Seth Godin on “Being Remarkable”.

Just for fun — I’ve included the Ted talk on the history of Botox. It is a “new market” story. Also a video from “Lainey Gossip” that describes customer archetypes in action.

Customer Interview Readings

The Gif Constable readings are the best place to start. If you want more KissMetrics has a great list of readings and resources.

“Be Remarkable” Video by Seth Godin

Seth Godin on being “Remarkable”. Watch Seth’s “Purple Cow” Ted Talk — “How to get your ideas to spread” Fun and informative.

Botox History – New Markets.

Beneath the Surface of Botox: Dr. Jean Carruthers at TEDxVancouver – YouTube

Lainey Gossip – Customer Archetypes

Lainey Gossip there is a connection with creating archetypes.

Startup Boards is an Awesome Resource for Young Startup CEOs ( and those in Training )

Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors: Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani is a very useful book for young entrepreneurs and their advisors. I really like that Feld & Ramsighani spend a lot of time defining the roles and boundaries of the people involved in a board. Most importantly they describe the roles & boundaries as a Startup evolves from two guys in a garage, to early stage Startup, to the Revenue Phase, and the Growth Phase.

Early Companies Need “Customer Development” Advisors

I find that most early entrepreneurs want to meet VCs and finance people and I really like that the authors recommend that finance is more important later on. Yes you need money, but find something to sell first. Focus your advisory time on past CEO’s, Customer Discovery, and Product Development people. Overall the key is that the board is for your companies development, so be organized about what you need from your board and advisors as you evolve.

Board composition Brad Feld

Action For Young Entrepreneurs

One take away is that a Young-CEO-in-Training can begin preparing her personal board of directors right now. Her early mentors will help her make personal career decisions and later when her responsibility grows she will already have had experience reaching out to more formal helpers when she needs it. Asking for feedback and help is “hard”. Learning to develop that skill is important and you should start “right now”. Organize your own personal board now. Be disciplined. Learn how to develop meaningful relationships to improve ones performance and not search for “cheerleaders”.

Lots of Support Available Online

I like that they authors leverage blog posts from prolific bloggers so that readers can dig in after reading the book. There is lots from Fred Wilson, Ben Horowitz, Steve Blank, Mark Suster, Noam Wasserman, and more.

Lawyers

I like how the authors cover, and justify, the role of a lawyer in an early stage startup. In the beginning she’s likely to do little more than keep the minutes, but that involvement will pay dividends later.

Quibbles / Reminders

I really like this book and yet I often have to remind myself that the authors are VCs and that most bloggers on this topic are VCs. This reminder comes about because the authors make a strong recommendation for non-financial experts on ones board and thus I’m looking for more coverage of this “non-VC-voice” that they are recommending. It’s great that they’ve included Steve Blank. A list of other non-financial experts would be great, going beyond that would definitely be beyond the scope of the book. I’m thinking of examples along the lines of problems brought up by Eric Ries’ “lesson’s learned blog” back in 2008 when he was a CTO. The Product Managers Lament, Engineering Managers Lament, and What Does a CTO actually do? are items that early CEOs need to have sorted out.

More

Branding Immersion for Engineers (It’s About People )

What the !@#$ is modern Branding?

Brand Thinking by @debbiemillman is very useful for Engineers. http://ow.ly/sra9u thx @brainpicker

I keep meaning to write up a deeper post on this book. I really like this book because it is a collection of interviews from Brand experts over a wide range of experiences and applications. It has modern guys; like Dan Pink, Seth Godin, and Malcolm Gladwell and business examples from guys at Starbucks, Nike, and Coca Cola.

The key insight for me is that Branding is about “People and Problems they have” —

Page 210. Bill Moggridge. It’s interesting that as so many things change around us, the evolution of technologies, social relationships, and so on simarly change very fast. But that basic principle of human centered design — “start with people” — you can rely on it.

Christmas Reading List For *Fifty Something* Dad’s

Here is a quick review of my 2013 Readings. The lists are in priority order.
These may be good gift ideas for *50 something dads*

/enjoy.

Fun — Fiction

Fun — Non-Fiction

Business — Must Reads

Business — Startups & Innovation

Business — Stories and Attitude

Self Help

Science

Health & Spirituality