12 of My Favorite Reads from August 2015

This is my effort to provide a little signal by curating some of the best/most interesting posts I encountered during the month of August 2015. I recommend identifying and diving into 2-3 that resonate with you. Focus less on the dopamine rush you get from hopping from article to article and more on how you apply the wisdom in these posts to your own life.

Please use the comments section to recommend and share other posts you’ve recently found useful and/or your best posts of late.

The commentary below the link is typically the author’s own words that I’ve extracted as a key takeaway; however, sometimes I add my own commentary and make connections as well.

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[Blog Posts/News Articles]:

Leisure, the Basis of Culture: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of Workaholism – Maria Popova

Today, in our culture of productivity-fetishism, we have succumbed to the tyrannical notion of “work/life balance” and have come to see the very notion of “leisure” not as essential to the human spirit but as self-indulgent luxury reserved for the privileged or deplorable idleness reserved for the lazy.

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed – Shane Parrish

Understanding comes from focusing, chewing, and relentlessly ragging on a problem. It comes with false starts, dead ends, and frustration. Thinking requires time and space. It’s slow. It means saying I don’t know.

In short, thinking is everything the modern workplace is designed to eradicate. We’re expected to have an opinion about everything and yet our time to think is near zero. We hold more opinions than ever but have less understanding.

Fast eats time. One consequence of fast is that we make poor decision after poor decision. Those decisions don’t go away never to be seen again. It’s not like we make a bad decision and we’re done with it. No, the consequences are much worse. Poor decisions eat time. They come back to haunt you. They create issue after issue.

A 3 Part Framework for Great Managers – Rohan Rajiv 

  1. Great managers understand each member of the team. Every member needs to be managed differently. This requires an understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, personalities, working styles and motivation. The first pre-requisite is, thus, empathy.
  2. Great managers learn how to scope work well. The worst managers over-promise to their higher ups/clients and burn their teams by making them work 12+ hour days to achieve unrealistic, unproductive and generally unnecessary results. The ability to scope work is a learned skill. It also requires guts as it necessitates pushing back and saying no to unnecessary work.
  3. Outstanding managers care more about their team’s goals and individual ambitions than their own progress. While characteristics 1 and 2 make good managers great, an outstanding manager is one who simply cares a lot more than the next person.

4 Science-Backed Reasons to Read More (Even If You’re Busy) – David Ly Khim

Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading. You should prioritize time to read because it improves brain connectivity (making your brain more efficient at processing information), improves social perception and empathy, and even helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Make downtime reading time. If you want to read more, promise to yourself that you’re not going to make time for reading but instead say, “I will read.” The just do it.

How to Be Calm Under Pressure – Dr. Travis Bradberry

Mistakes and pressure are inevitable; the secret to getting past them is to stay calm. New research from the Harvard Business School shows that most of us go about staying calm the wrong way. People who welcome the challenge of a crisis—so much so that overcoming the challenge excites them—perform far better than those who try to force themselves to be calm.

If you struggle with putting things into perspective, just ask yourself two simple questions: What’s the worst thing that could happen as a result of this? Will this matter in five years? To help put things in perspective, think about situations that were worse than yours were. Next, you need to recognize that people are less focused on you than you think they are.

Finally, magnify your logic and take action. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Beating yourself up might be a tempting option, but it never accomplishes anything, and it certainly doesn’t make you any calmer. Instead, keep your energy focused on the future and the things you can change.

It’s Time to Kill the Performance Review – Melissa Dahl

No one every gets one’s, two’s or five’s meaning that most employees were considered average to just-above-average, collecting a bunch of threes and fours.

This, as it turns out, is pretty much the way most performance appraisals end up working, according to a new review of the literature on the subject. Most are nothing more than an “administrative ritual,” and they often end up discouraging employees instead of motivating them to perform better, the authors on that new paper write. And this is why, they argue, it is high time for the annual review process to die.

Fortunately, there appears to be a simple alternative. Informal feedback sessions — conversations that take place directly following some disappointment in performance — have been shown to result in an actual improvement in performance.

How One Life Hack From A Self-Made Billionaire Leads To Exceptional Success – Michael Simmons

While the 10,000 hour rule works well in areas with defined rules that don’t change such as sports, music, and games, the rules of business constantly and fundamentally change. Being an expert-generalist allows individuals to quickly adapt to change.

Expert-generalists face far less competition. The more fields you can pull from, the fewer people you’ll find taking the same approach. When it comes to drilling into one domain,the competition is generally fierce. Narrowly specializing also leaves you vulnerable to the ever-more daunting forces of change.

Finally…

Seth Godin is always tremendous. Here’s 3 of his posts that I especially liked this month:

Some people are able to reflect the light that lands on them, to take directions or assets or energy and focus it where it needs to be focused. This is a really valuable skill.

Even more valuable, though, is the person who glows in the dark. Not reflecting energy, but creating it. Not redirecting urgencies but generating them. The glow in the dark colleague is able to restart momentum, even when everyone else is ready to give up. Do you glow in the dark?

And it’s still not enough…

You really have no choice but to do it again. To do your best work again, as impossible and unfair as that seems.

It compounds over time. Best work followed by best work followed by more best work is far more useful and generous than merely doing your best work once and insisting we understand you.

Sooner or later, the ones who told you that this isn’t the way it’s done, the ones who found time to sneer, they will find someone else to hassle.

Sooner or later, your work speaks for itself.

Outlasting the critics feels like it will take a very long time, but you’re more patient than they are.

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[Interesting]:

Which Character Strengths Are Most Predictive of Well-Being? – Scott Barry Kaufman

One of the core tenets of positive psychology is supported: developing your character strengths is predictive of well-being.

Next, I wondered which character strengths stood alone as predictors of well-being after taking into account the other strengths. After all, I noticed that many of these character strengths were related to each other.

Out of all 24 character strengths, the only significant independent positive predictors of well-being were gratitude and love of learning. (Note that love, honesty, hope and humor came very close.)

Study Credits Uber With Decline in California Drunk Driving Deaths – Bryan Goebel

A study from researchers at Philadelphia’s Temple University that suggests the entry of Uber’s low-cost ride service, Uber X, into 14 California counties led to a 3.6 to 5.6 percent decline in drunken driving deaths.

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[Thoughts I’m Chewing On]:

  • Your life worth is not your net worth, but the impact you have on others.
  • Don’t get involved with politics or be negative. Tigers are too busy killing it to be bothered with such things.
  • Creating more boundaries to avoid burnout.

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[Quotes]:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

“My rule: be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.” – Austin Kleon

“A team is not a group of people that works together. A team is a group of people that trusts each other.” – Simon Sinek

“A good will, with their last breath, push you to the top of the mountain, even at their own personal risk.” – James Altucher

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If you made it this far and found this post valuable in any way, please let me know in the comments which of these reads caught your attention. Better yet, why don’t you share something you’ve read recently that you think I’d find interesting.

If you like this post, you might also like my favorite reads from July or this curated list of 125+ of my favorite posts from 2014.

  • As someone focused on creating a marketing and outreach strategy for Stockholm-based startup, I find the Groove blog on http://www.groovehq.com to be incredibly useful.

    Honestly, I can’t pick just one post; that blog does an incredible job of bringing major value with every single post.

    [Reply]

    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    Thanks for sharing, Brandon.

    I’m unfamiliar with Groove. Looking forward to getting acquainted.

    [Reply]