The creation of art needs a unique worldview, focused, analysing, and abstracting all at once. UnfortuRead the full review on excellentbookreviews.com
The creation of art needs a unique worldview, focused, analysing, and abstracting all at once. Unfortunately, this worldview also leads some artist to selling their own canned poop. It would be great to have the visualization and visual communication skills of a painter while keeping a socially acceptable professional behavior, so I was quite thrilled by the title of Think like an Artist, don't Act like one. It was a little let down for me to find out that de Wilt's book is just another collection of wisecracking, bon mots and aphorisms about artists and their work, each one less than half a paperback page long.
Let's have a look at five artists presented in Think like an Artist, don't Act like One, and learn from them.
Think like an Artist, don't Act like One is not the eye opener I wanted it to be. Instead it is a high speed sightseeing tour through art history, with some bias towards European painters. The book's three-minute chapters suffice to give you some food for thought before bed (or on the toilet), but don't expect too much. Think like an Artist, don't Act like One can also make a nice conversation starter that will definitely be noticed on your table or shelf, and will signal your class and intellectuality to everybody. It has a screaming pink cover, after all....more
Economics is modeled on ridiculous assumptions like perfectly rational egotistical actors, or efficienRead the full review on excellentbookreviews.com
Economics is modeled on ridiculous assumptions like perfectly rational egotistical actors, or efficient and fully transparent markets. It exists in an intellectual bubble where even the most relevant developments made in other fields are dismissed as mere "externalities" unworthy of recognition within economic theory. And it simply does not work, because it provides economists with almost no capability to predict the future development of a market or society, to calculate the effect of a new policy, or to prevent the next crisis. Fortunately, economists start to see it the same way. Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth pictures a way towards a modern, sensible economic theory.
Growth may be unsustainable, but still is the only measurement of economic development. So how could a more sensible, sustainable future economy look like? The answer is "like a doughnut". Actually, as I like to nitpick, Iâ€™ll say "like a fuzzy doughnut". Raworth uses rich imagery to visualize her statements (Doughnut Economics has a full chapter on the use of diagrams), and when you imagine the economy on a plane, you have a central core area where too little economic activity does not suffice to support human prosperity, and an outer region where too much economic activity depletes resources and harms the environment. In between is the doughnut-shaped area of sane, safe and just economics.
Is the doughnut a sound economic theory? Probably. I should stress what it is not, though, as some readers may feel the reflex to reject prior to understanding what Raworth is saying. Despite empowering the commons and promoting a distributive design, the Doughnut is not a socialist theory. It welcomes private gains and investments, with an emphasis but not a limitation to private-public partnerships. But Doughnut Economics makes it crystal clear that businesses that operate outside of the doughnut (by overusing resources or producing too little public value) cannot have a future. Is your company within the doughnut? ......more
Read the full review on excellentbookreviews.com ... Whenever someone invokes nature in a business context, it is usually to manipulate emotions and sofRead the full review on excellentbookreviews.com ... Whenever someone invokes nature in a business context, it is usually to manipulate emotions and soften up the audience for a big lie. Something that specifically ticks me off is the recurring notion that nature is beautiful, serene and good. The truth is that nature is wildly interesting, but if we look at it with humanizing eyes, we find the most pure and beautiful virtues next to the most appalling atrocities. Rhesus monkey refuse to hurt a companion for food until they are literally starving. Bottlenose dolphins form gangs to isolate and coerce a female into mating, battering her when she tries to escape. Those gangs might also try to drown newborn dolphin calfs to have a go at the mother later. And that is good, because nature works only because it doesn't care about human sensitivities. ... So if we leave all the faulty metaphors aside, what can we learn from Leading from the Roots? Companies should respect, engage and develop people, communities and the society as a hole, foster diversity and change, and be ready to adapt. Simple, almost commonsense advice that is pretty hard to actually follow when you have a huge burden of legacy policies and processes on your back. The buzzword du jour is generous, which basically means the same as Read the full review on kind or regenerative . Unfortunately, Allen mostly talks about abstract organizations without real-world examples, making Leading from the Roots more of a philosophical treatise than an advisory book.
Early industrial companies were characterized by a strict hierarchy of power and decision-making compeRead the full review on excellentbookreviews.com
Early industrial companies were characterized by a strict hierarchy of power and decision-making competency. Giving employees a say in the company’s strategy would be like having the monkeys run the zoo, an indiscretion voiced by Frank Borman, CEO of Eastern Airlines, from which the book derives its title. The modern company is lean, flat, agile, disruptive, kind, regenerative and decentralized. This creates problems. To be specific, author Thomas Kühn identifies three main dilemmas: The three dilemmas of modern organizations
The identity dilemma refers to organizational subunits gaining increased autarky. But as companies dissolve into independent departments, profit centers and teams, it becomes unclear, what is within and without of the organization. This way, synergy effects of centralization are lost.
Breaking the strict hierarchy of old timey organizations in favor of flat structures clearly improved the quality of life for workers. But it also removed clarity and gave rise to informal communication and decision-making structures. Without a person indisputably in charge, each decision requires involvement of topic experts, division leaders and influencers, and the outcome may depend on individual moods and favoritism. When the Monkeys Run the Zoo calls this the dilemma of politicization.
Complexity in organization is a bad thing, that’s something most would agree on. Yet, in the pursuit of complexity reduction, organizations may unwillingly increase their complexity. The outsourcing of complex work is a way of simplification, but the increased difficulty to oversee externally delivered results, the lowered employee motivation (due to reduced scope of work) and the difficulties of innovations upstream and downstream of the “black box” established by outsourcing create enough new complexity to mitigate the benefits. Another good example is the removal of redundant processes, which reduces complexity but inadvertently also creates fragility, as redundant processes also serve as an emergency option to react to unexpected events. The complexity dilemma is that even from the interaction of simple rules can arise unmanageably complex structures and processes. Cyclic phenomena or outdated references?
Companies have come a long way since the beginning of the industrialization. From the top-heavy hierarchical bureaucratic behemoths of the Taylorist/Fordist age of the early 20th century, modern organizations evolved into the lean and agile profit center structure – of the late 90s? Seriously, reading the book gave me the impression that there is a lack of recent literature citations. I did the data and it turn out that my feeling was completely right... ......more
But maybe I should elaborate on this. There is no shortage in how-to-find-a-job books. Some aim to give well-rounded general career advice, other focus on details like the perfect CV or the perfect job interview. In Germany, the benchmark is set by proliferous author duo Hesse/Schrader who alone have over 90 books for job seekers with their name on it, usually with regularly published revised versions. But Careers for Dummies is different.
Author Marty Nemko asserts that the easiest way into a new job is being the kind of person that employers want to hire. Careers for Dummies gives detailed instructions how to get yourself together, how to enter a field without the necessary qualifications, and how to apply for positions that are not even advertised, by becoming extremely employable.
There are two things I particularly like about the book. It tries to also answer the question most get-a-job books miss, that is “what jobs are there?”. Careers for Dummies has a catalogue of often overlooked jobs, that obviously isn’t complete, but is very helpful to circle certain fields or types of careers you might enjoy. It also encourages taking alternative paths to your preferred job, including self-study to get necessary certifications, or looking for opportunities to sneak in by reapplying your existing trainings. The second thing I particularly like about Careers for Dummies is how hands-on it is.
Disclaimer: I have read the German version of this book, which states that the original was published Read the full review on excellentbookreviews.com
Disclaimer: I have read the German version of this book, which states that the original was published in 1980 as Parkinson: The Law by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. There seem to be different versions around.
In the 1950s, C. Northcote Parkinson published his famous “law”, a half serious and half sarcastic description of the growth of bureaucracy. He found that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, meaning that the amount of work to accomplish depends on the amount of time that can be spent to handle it, not on the complexity of that task. He explained this with human nature to preferably share work with two underlings instead of one equal partner. However, as administrators supposedly feel the need to double-check their employee’s work and have the last say, the work burden is not, in fact, reduced. That way the initial problem of work overload (due to incompetence, laziness or actual overload) is solved, but the solution creates an equal amount of new work.
Parkinson stated that an administration will show a steady growth of app. 5.5% per year, and that the number of yearly hires can be calculated using the following equation:
There are a dozen buzzwords describing the modern, desirable company. It is agile, lean, and nimble, disruptively innovative, robust, resilient, antifragile, sustainable and even kind. So what the hell is a regenerative business supposed to be? In the words of author Carol Sanford
“Regeneration is a process by which people, institutions, and materials evolve the capacity to fulfill their inherent potential in a world that is constantly changing around them. This can only be accomplished by going back to their roots, their origins, or their foundings to discover what is truly singular or essential about them. Bringing this essential core forward in order to express it as new capacity and relevance is another way to describe the activity of regeneration. In other words, regeneration is the means by which enlightened, disruptive innovation happens.”
That’s gibberish. Feel free to introduce fancy concepts like “regeneration”, but please have somewhere in the beginning of your book a chapter that starts with “My idea is about…”, followed by a clear and succinct definition.
After reading the entire book, it seems like a regenerative business is one that develops its people and culture to bring about the highest standards of innovation and customer centricity. Sanford offers a method to design work in a way that complies with these principles.
Managers regard employees no longer as lazy and stubborn beings who need constant supervision and incentivisation, but as a creative, entrepreneurial force, with capabilities to foster and develop. This shift of paradigm does not come naturally to most companies, but is born from necessity: the demographic development begins to favor employees, because there are less and less of them.
Disruption and innovation are words that usually go along with “digitalisation”, often in a context of a company’s future development. There are many reasons why legacy firms struggle with innovation (you can read about them here), but “bad corporate culture” sums up most of them. Modern, seminal companies aspire to actively enable innovation, which requires not only excellent people, but also processes that foster risk-taking and personal accountability.
Following from here, The Regenerative Business throws around a lot of concepts and philosophies, so I tried to graphically arrange everything Sanford talks about.
The title of The Art of Thinking Clearly may provoke some wrong assumptions about the book’s content. It isSee full review at excellentbookreviews.com
The title of The Art of Thinking Clearly may provoke some wrong assumptions about the book’s content. It is NOT a self-help about mental training or concentration techniques. Author Rolf Dobelli collected a lot of logical fallacies - expectations or assumptions people intuitively make that are illogical or unhelpful - with a brief description and some typical examples for each. Originally, these were published as a weekly newspaper column. I read the German version describing 52 of those fallacies with one short chapter dedicated to each one. There is a second part with 52 more chapters which I have not read yet. The English version of The Art of Thinking Clearly condenses the content of both volumes into 99 chapters. With that out of the way, here is the review.
People are bad a thinking. This is not our fault, it’s evolutionary. Bears ate all those cavemen that took too long to reflect on a situation and consider possible actions. We are descendants of people that ran when everybody else ran, agreed to the group consensus, were quick to form an opinion and had a slight tendency to panic. Today, in a world of relative safety, we would greatly benefit from being more thoughtful and analytical. But we inherited brains that prefer a good story to a statistic fact.
When I read The Art of Thinking Clearly for the first time, I recognized most of the fallacies in my own thoughts and behaviors. Falling for these biases is very human, and learning where the pitfalls of irrationality are is the first step to avoid them. These include the outcome bias, the sunk cost fallacy, thesurvivorship bias, the swimmer’s body illusion, the self-serving bias, the tragedy of the commons, and the base-rate neglect.
Bad personal decisions are the leading cause of death, according to a study by Fuqua School researcher RalpSee full review at excellentbookreviews.com
Bad personal decisions are the leading cause of death, according to a study by Fuqua School researcher Ralph Keeney. So why should you learn making better decisions from a professional poker player, of all persons? In Thinking in Bets, author Annie Duke states that life is a lot more like poker than chess. In chess, both players have complete information. Every piece is visible to both players, and every possible next move is apparent.
In poker, players know some of the cards that are in play, but have no information on which cards the opponents hold, or which card will be drawn next. Life is a lot like that, in that you can know yourself but can never be certain about which event will happen next. Making decisions in a poker game is tough, because you only have a part of the available information, and decisions in life are tough for the exact same reason. This paves the way for all sorts of fallacies:
Fallacies to fall for
The easiest trap to fall into is to be too sure about something. Many people know that too much sugar makes children hyperactive, that Albert Einstein failed at maths as a child and that James Watt invented the steam engine. And yet, all those facts are on Wikipedia’s List of common misconceptions, because they are not, in fact, true. How sure are you that you always worked hard, that criminality used to be lower, or that everything was generally better in the past? Probably too sure. ...
Beating the bias
How can we make better decisions, then? Thinking in Bets has some simple but stellar tips for us. By treating every choice as a bet against ourselves. Just by avoiding to hold a yes-or-no opinion and instead being a more realistic 75% sure, we more readily considerate the opinions of others. If I am sure and you oppose, one of us has to be entirely wrong. If I'm 75% sure and you oppose, I can use your ideas to tune my opinion, and afterwards I'm 60% sure, and closer to the truth.
Separating chance and skill in outcomes is tricky, but remember how we judge others much more harshly than ourselves? If something good happens, imagine it happening to someone you don't like, and you can easily assess the portions that were random chance. ......more
Acquired Tastes explores some opportunities to spent large amounts of it. Being a famed author with a generSee full review at excellentbookreviews.com
Acquired Tastes explores some opportunities to spent large amounts of it. Being a famed author with a generous advance, Peter Mayle sets out to indulge in extravagances and vanities to write about them. From Cuban cigars over french truffles to British taylors, Acquired Tastes tells a charming and colorful story detailing the peculiarities of each pleasantry. Good tips how to get the best hotel rooms, too. It’s interesting how little has changed since the early nineties. The rich still wallow in bespoke cloths, luxury food items and posh accommodation. Just add some technological baubles and you have the upstart millenial’s wishlist.
If you want a book on the nicer things of life that is a bit witty, a bit silly, a bit funny and a bit inspirational, Acquired Tastes is for you....more
Maybe you have heard about digitalisation? Apparently, it’s something big. But what is it, what does it do,See full review at excellentbookreviews.com
Maybe you have heard about digitalisation? Apparently, it’s something big. But what is it, what does it do, and how will it affect our lives? And why should you read Digital Darwinism instead of all the other books on the topic?
Digital Darwinism avoids the usual pitfall of either praising or damning new technologies. In fact, author Tom Goodwin makes a point how this is completely irrelevant. Digitalisation is not about better WiFi chips, or better data storage. It’s about people. People that find new ways to interact with technology.
Benefits, not features
Digital Darwinism is a rather provocative book, revealing most ideas we have about digitalisation as misconceptions. Most companies define it as taking their old products and try to internet ‘em up somehow. They would be better off trying to find new and creative ways to fulfill customers’ needs. The emergence of Chief Digital Officers in executive boards actually is a sign that companies don’t fully embrace digitalisation yet. Instead of a transformative force that penetrates all functions and business segments, digitalisation is treated as an attachment, bolted on to the old stuff.
An interesting question Digital Darwinism raises is “How would your business look like, if it was founded today?”. And I agree with Goodwin that everybody saying “pretty much the same” is a. a startup founder or b. didn’t think hard enough. Businesses carry loads of legacy stuff with them – a huge workforce, expensive infrastructure,a huge amount of products or services and proven processes. Companies with a legacy usually excel at incremental improvements, but all their stuff makes changing and adapting harder.
Additionally, legacy companies are very risk-averse. And people in the position to change this have either too much to lose or too little skin in the game to undertake disruptive changes. It is easier to justify a bad decision as “data driven”, than to admit that the data is incomplete and biased. But Goodwin does not just mock how companies fail to digitalize. Digital Darwinism offers a pretty succinct summary on the necessary steps to completely rethink a business.
- Disclaimer: the German version comes as a trilogy, and I only read the first book about macro strategistSee full reveiew at excellentbookreviews.com
- Disclaimer: the German version comes as a trilogy, and I only read the first book about macro strategists, so technically this review only applies to one third of Hedge Fund Market Wizards. -
Trading is easy now. Hundreds of online brokers and trading systems contend for your attention. Each one offers lower transaction fees, more professional analysis tools, better training videos and access to more exotic underlyings than the next. Trading consistently successful, however, is actually pretty hard.
Like its predecessors (Market Wizards, New Market Wizards, and Stock Market Wizards), Hedge Fund Market Wizards, contains a series of interviews with successful traders. Author Jack Schwager, himself a recognized trading expert and fund manager, sat down with some of the top hedge fund managers to discuss their personal background and strategies.
There is a lot more to trading than you would initially think. Some people trade systematically (using an algorithm to decide about trades), some are discretionary (using their intuition). There are trend followers (expecting a momentary trend to continue for some time) and those who expect a trend to revert to the mean. Some analyze fundamental market data, some just look at price charts. And I'm still taking exclusively about traders using a macro strategy, based on global overarching market trends. One key learning of Hedgde Fund Market Wizards is, that trading strategies are something highly personal. A successful strategy will always fit a trader's character. This cannot simply be taught, although many people try to (including Schwager). ......more
The Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing offers brief descriptions of investments, listed by risk caFor the full review, visit excellentbookreviews.com!
The Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing offers brief descriptions of investments, listed by risk category from pretty safe to high risk/reward assets. Discussed are standard investments like stocks, bonds and gold, but also more “wacky” physical assets like whisky, Lego sets and antique violins.
What’s bad about The Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing? While Burn-Callander presents an illustrious variety of investment options, this is a rather slim book. Each investment option gets but a brief portrait, interested investors have to put in a lot of research to actually apply anything. Also, the book puts to much focus on rather obscure physical assets like red wine, Barbie dolls and comic books, that need tons of experience for even slightly accurate evaluations. Also, these kind of assets may be highly sought after by collectors now, but may be worthless in a few years. And even if they do accrue some value, all your profits are theoretical until you actually find someone to sell the thing to. Until then you get nothing and bear the full costs of ownership, like storage and insurance. The risk evaluation for each asset class is all over the place. Why is rental and let real estate two risk categories apart, while stocks, bonds and cash savings get the same classification?
What’s good about The Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing? There are big books written about individual assets and investment strategies that worked in the past, so a small book providing the big picture is actually very useful. Burn-Callander gives a teaser for a wide variety of investments and provides just enough information to nudge her readers towards educating themselves about the bits that sparked their interest. The focus on unusual “passion investments” like red wine, Barbie dolls and comic books illustrates the investment opportunities that surround us, if we learn to recognize them. The author sorts different asset classes by somewhat eccentrically cut risk categories, putting most “vanilla” investments like stocks, bonds and cash savings into the same category of “relatively safe”, highlighting the world of possibilities (risk and reward) beyond.
If you have some money to invest, and want an overview of all your options, I highly recommend The Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing as a starting point. ......more
The Babylonians invented money. Unfortunately, not enough of it. The Richest Man in Babylon tells For the full review, visit excellentbookreviews.com!
The Babylonians invented money. Unfortunately, not enough of it. The Richest Man in Babylon tells the secret how to acquire wealth, no matter what your current situation is. Does that sound too good to be true?
Author George Clason chose to reveal the secret to through a series of unrelated fictional stories of rich and successful Babylonians. In the first story, we learn about the “seven cures for a lean purse”. The second story states the “five laws of gold”, which are basically the same thing. The other stories in The Richest Man in Babylon just hammer home the same points several times more.
In a nutshell: keep ten percent of your income, reduce your expenses, invest profitably and get the advice of people that are experts in whatever investments you consider. Easy enough, almost trivial, but indeed the foundation of a future fortune. It is astonishing that not more people live that way.
One question The Richest Man in Babylon leaves unanswered is how to spot and identify the good investments. Giving money to a brickmaker to purchase jewels ......more
The book that sparked a movement – a cult, really – and is still cited as the number one resource For the full review, visit excellentbookreviews.com!
The book that sparked a movement – a cult, really – and is still cited as the number one resource for learning how to amass wealth. Kiyosaki describes the lessons he learned from young age by his two father figures. His father – the poor Dad – was a teacher, highly educated and holding a well-paid job with the government, who struggled to pay his bills. His friend Mike’s father – the rich Dad – dropped out of school and owned several companies.
So, how do you get rich? Buy assets first, then pay your bills. The rest of the book merely elaborates on this simple principle. But if it is that simple, why aren’t more people rich?
There’s no shortage of how-to books. There are books on how to get rich, how to be successful, how toRead the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
There’s no shortage of how-to books. There are books on how to get rich, how to be successful, how to become famous, how to be happy, how to win friends and influence people. Pink wrote a when-to book instead.
When is a thoroughly researched book on chronobiology, the special effects of beginnings, midpoints and endings, and the stages of timing and synchronisation.
Some people are larks, rise early and are obnoxiously high-spirited throughout the morning, but stumble through the afternoon. Some people are owls who go to bed in the early morning hours to sleep until noon. Should the workplace demand early attendance (it does), you recognize owls by their huge cups of coffee and their inability to talk without grumbling. Pink defines a third category for people who wake up moderately early, into which the majority of people falls. ......more
... Sun Tzu, as a seasoned general, has a pragmatic view of war and combat. Peace is best for everyoneRead the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
... Sun Tzu, as a seasoned general, has a pragmatic view of war and combat. Peace is best for everyone, but if war is inevitable, unnecessary battles have to be avoided. If a battle is inevitable, it should be fought with as few casualties as possible. According to Sun Tzu, to achieve this goal one needs preparation, discipline and execution.
To prepare for war, the wise leader adopts a holistic view of war, and takes into account the terrain, weather and timing, numbers and motivation of troops on both sides, and two dozen additional inputs. The idea is to gather as much data as possible.
Discipline is maintained by respecting the needs of the soldiers, by regarding them with paternal affection, and by fair rewards and punishments. According to Sun Tzu, commanding people into battle needs a strict hierarchy and line of command, where an order goes from the sovereign to commander, from commander to the generals and finally from the generals to the soldiers. My version of The Art of War brings the story of a soldier who, putting his life in great danger, manages to take two enemy generals as prisoners – and is promptly executed for insubordination, because he acted without order.
When all circumstances are in one’s favor, Sun Tzu advises to strike ruthlessly, but sensibly. The trick is to only fight battles you are sure to win. If an opportunity arises, the wise commander attacks with the intend to win as quick as possible with minimum casualties, instead of looking for glory and fame. When circumstances are not in one’s favor, the commander relies on tactical retreats, surprising maneuvers and deceit. ......more
When it comes to books on leadership, Leading with Kindness is about as generic as it gets. Two leadeRead the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
When it comes to books on leadership, Leading with Kindness is about as generic as it gets. Two leadership educators interviewed a bunch of leaders (with a slight bias to banking and investment) and aggregated their leadership experiences. A good, efficient and ”kind” leader sets expectations, sticks to the truth and focuses on mutual gain and growth. Baker and O’Malley then simply define this set of features and behaviors as “kindness”.
The funny thing is, Dale Carnegie wrote pretty much the same in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People - in 1936.
I found Leading with kindness very confusing. Books I read are never short of lists, but this one takes the cake. Baker and O’Malley start simply enough with three traits of kind leadership, that get their own chapter each. Every single chapter, however, meanders off into increasingly nested sub-lists that form sub-chapters, with several additional bullet point lists. And in-between the confusing list-within-list structure, some leaders offer their own three or so steps to leadership success. I had problems to keep track of which list-level the passage I was reading belonged to.
The authors try to adopt an entertaining, positive tone, but only succeed to make Leading with Kindness both riddled with stilted language and dry as bone and at the same time. The following description of a non-kind leader should give you the impression:
“Other leaders pander to their audience’s proclivities and vulnerabilities through seductive claims and promises, nuggets of praise and money, and the pursuit of transcendent causes without themselves ever feeling connected or part of a relationship. These leaders attempt to gain favor and get what they want by delivering diversionary pleasures and ethereal satisfaction in place of a genuine life.”
I'm not sure what diversionary pleasures and ethereal satisfaction are, but I think I want some?
Leading with Kindness uses some of the worst metaphors for leadership I have ever seen. ......more
Becker and Posner curated a collection of their blog posts, each one written by one author with a commentary of the other. I did not check if the book content was directly taken from the author’s blog, or if some updates have been made. They muse on different topics, arranged by overarching themes, and they offer their economic and legal view on affairs.
Applying economic principles to affairs things are not typically appraised by economic value is a neat idea. Bring down any decision to a sum of money that the alternatives will cost or bring in, and everything gets easy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work all the time. Here are some examples from Uncommon Sense where I believe that the authors go awry.
They never think far enough Love is transactional, remember? Becker and Posner would like to take it one step further and define marriage purely as a contractual agreement. An agreement that could be made between more than two parties. They explicitly state that this would include both polygyny (one man with multiple women) and polyandry (one woman with multiple men). And then they go on and write their entire argument exclusively about polygynous marriages, for “historical” reasons. I am very confused by this.
Surely Becker and Posner do not propose to allow multiple partners for men only. That would be ridiculously sexist, for no apparent purpose. But when polygyny and polyandry are simultaneously legalized, we will surely have cross marriages, chain marriages, branching marriages and marriages within marriages (also known as meta marriages). Instead, completely oblivious of all the naughty, sexy implications of their proposal, the authors discuss how women would be pretty ok in a harem. This is not uncommon sense....more
... What can we learn from Homo Deus? In summary, the author presents three clear and distinct trains oRead the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
... What can we learn from Homo Deus? In summary, the author presents three clear and distinct trains of thought: the past and present human agenda, the attempt of a definition of “human”, and the possible implications of technological progress. These overarching themes are interconnected at several points and branching of into side topics, and sometimes the author simply has to many balls in the air, to my taste. Homo Deus lacks stringency, sometimes dropping a topic to follow an aside, only to drop that and continue the first one two chapters later. At no point does this get too confusing to follow, but I often wished that the ideas be presented in a different order. This may be entirely due to my personal taste, though.
More severely, while the author’s reasoning is sound and clear overall, sometimes it breaks apart on a detail level. For example, Harari argues that “the system” fosters the constant “fear of missing out” people have nowadays, because your boss wants you to constantly check your emails. In fact, your boss wants you to stop checking your stupid emails every five damn minutes and finally do the job you’re paid for. Similar contradictions show up in the historical role of religions or recent developments of neuroscience.
I don’t think this dissolves Harari’s theories, but keep in mind that here is an author who states in this very book that creating narratives is probably of humanity’s greatest strength and weakness, then goes on to spin history, philosophical and scientific anthropology, computer science and neurobiology into one giant, consistent human story. At least Homo Deus provides a good narrative, so does it matter when some details don’t fit?
Significant parts of the book are dedicated to disparaging religions, and, no matter how you personally think about the topic, a lot of it is a bit stupid. The dumbest argument I found was that Zeus “obviously” does not hurt when you destroy his temple. Worshipping Zeus may be slightly out of fashion today, but his devout followers would just counter that “obviously” Zeus actually does hurt, too. No matter what your religious preferences are, this part of Homo Deus just does not bring anything new to the table.
Also, most of what is said in the book has been said before. Terry Pratchett coined “Pan narrans”, the storytelling chimpanzee, as a better-fitting name for us than Homo sapiens. The advent of new disruptive technology has been analyzed more than once (here is an example). But still, Homo Deus offers not only a good summary of previous ideas but also a very interesting philosophical perspective.
I try to review only books that were published in english, but I got this one for cheap and did not noSee the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
I try to review only books that were published in english, but I got this one for cheap and did not notice its language constraints until after I read it. So I thought, whatever. If the book had an english title it would be something along “The Art of Being an Egotist”. Enjoy.
The phrase “egotist” is usually understood as an insult. Kirschner tries to put a positive spin on the word, defining it as a person who understands their own needs and capabilities and tries to gain maximum pleasure within this frame. This is an interesting parallel to the latest philosophical fad, modern stoicism. The difference is, that Kirschner does not prescribe a static ideal lifestyle to reach, but instead encourages the reader to evaluate and choose their goals. According to the author, everybody is an egotist anyway, but most people suppress their nature to please others. To the author, an egotist is taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors.
Kirschner wants us to evaluate what we do for ourselves versus what we do for others. Do we pursue the career we want, or the career others want us to have? Do we buy luxury goods because we want them for ourselves, or to impress other people? Do we really enjoy hanging out with friends or do we do it out of pity or guilt or just habit?
According to the book, the key to a happy life is to identify our personal needs, wants and principles, and then do everything to achieve them. This includes accepting all consequences arising from this pursuit. According to Kirschner, egotism by his definition is the only way to live truly independent and self-determined, and thus the only way to achieve happiness. ......more
If someone promised to show you the way to break out of your mediocrity and get rich and successful, wouldSee full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
If someone promised to show you the way to break out of your mediocrity and get rich and successful, would you want to listen to him? What if he wanted to spent some time bragging and belittling you first? Still? Now imagine the actual advice is blindingly obvious and insultingly vague. If you would still feel good about it, this book is for you.
I bought the book for some out-of-the-box financial tips by an exceptional financial leader, as stated on the backside. Disappointingly, only about a third of the pages is actually about that. Brace yourself for never heard-of advice: New cars lose value very quickly. Houses are expensive, maybe renting suits you better. All debt has to be payed off at some point. Spend less than you earn. Start your own business, then you can work exclusively for your own wealth. Great advice, inspiring, maybe a bit superficial and not exactly the radical paradigm-shifting insights we were promised. Ok, so much for the good part of the book… ......more
Many books on success out there summarize as “Look at these successful people! Study their habits andRead the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
Many books on success out there summarize as “Look at these successful people! Study their habits and learn their ways, so you will be successful, too!”. Actually, I have reviewed a prime example here. Barking up the Wrong Tree presents a nice counterpoint and states that imitating the successful does not necessarily make successful. Instead we get a thorough analysis of perceived and real success factors, somewhat hidden beneath anecdotal evidence and academic namedropping.
Did you know that good and bad traits come with the same package? The exact same factors that make people highly creative also deteriorate their moral compass and mental health. In fact, creativity is strongly associated with dishonesty and mental instability. The same factors that allow you to adapt and excel at school stop you from standing out at work. People with top grades from prestigious universities typically don’t change the world. At the top ranks of disruptive businesses you find people with kinked CVs, and a history of mediocre test results. Most schools reward conformity over genius, allowing people with top grades to easily rise to middle management, but rarely above.
Barker speaks of “filtered” and “unfiltered” leaders, that either comfortably adapt into a company’s hierarchy or run their own high risk, high reward business to make it big or fail utterly. Every trait, good or bad, can is an “intensifier”, as they open a way to leverage your vices for success. You’re a very lazy person? That probably makes you pragmatic and diplomatic. Choleric? Channel your anger to fight for a worthy cause. You get the picture.
Psychology can be hard to write about. Unlike many other topics I present here, it is almost a science, anSee full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
Psychology can be hard to write about. Unlike many other topics I present here, it is almost a science, and thus deserves a lot more attention. Also, I don’t know a thing about psychology or psychoanalysis and evaluating such a book gives me a hard time. Freud postulated the threefold mind: the id (containing desires and urges), the ego (the conscious self) and the superego (the unconscious framework of rules and ethics). Transactional analysis is built on a similar but different idea, modeling the human psyche as three ego-states, of which only one is active at a time:
The Parent is filled with values (or non-values) directly adapted as a very small child. This part contains mostly unconscious instructions and ideas from “Fire is dangerous” to “Non-white people are dangerous”. The Parent can cause problems, because it cannot evaluate those ideas and instructs a person to mimic their parents. This is the source of superstition, prejudice and a lot of stupidity, and also the reason why abused children often become abusive parents.
The Child is also formed at a very young age, and is where emotions and spontaneity live. It is a recording of feelings as the Parent is a recording of values, and these recordings can be replayed when triggered by a similar situation. This can be troublesome if negative emotions are brought back without reason. The Child cannot evaluate if circumstances have changed, and vividly re-feeling past failures can easily stop you from trying again now.
The Adult lives in the middle between Parent and Child, and you should strive to be in this state for most of the time, because this is where YOU is happening. While Parent and Child merely contain information you have unconsciously absorbed, the Adult is fully capable of perceiving reality, unfiltered by notions from the outside. It is a computer that evaluates the contents of Parent and Child, compares them to reality and integrates everything into a consistent framework of values and behaviors. The problem is that most people have an underdeveloped Adult and are often dominated by another ego-state. ......more
Apparently, a good portion of current economic theories and models are based on an idealized model of See the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
Apparently, a good portion of current economic theories and models are based on an idealized model of the free market, where consumers and companies have access to complete market information and only make rational decisions. As a scientist, I believe that models should describe reality in a simplified manner. Models can contain a fair amount of idealization (physicists have their pockets full of infinite rods and frictionless springs), but they are only useful if they allow predictions that can be verified in empirically. So let’s get back to the free market and look if everybody is rational and informed. Have you ever bought something you immediately regretted buying? Have you ever bought something and then found it cheaper somewhere else literally five minutes later? I did. How shocking!
Sometimes, new paradigms of economic theory seem banal for normal people: we are paying too much for everything, because companies manipulate our information and desires, a process the authors refer to as “phishing”. Airport food is stupidly expensive, because we feel hungry after a long flight (or a long wait for the flight) and have no time to compare all alternatives. The same psychology made some savvy financial players make up and sell a new type of financial instrument with promises of high profit and totally incomprehensible risks. These instruments were called CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and were pretty popular until ca. 2008, when they suddenly were worthless and the economy started circling the drain. You may have heard of this crisis, it got some news coverage back then. Thankfully, it got sorted out and everything went back to normal soon.
Interestingly, the book contains newer research, showing black people pay more for a car than white people, and women more than men. Unfortunately, most other examples are ancient, detailing the lives of the legendary advertisers of old, of the tobacco industry and earlier financial crises, and no compelling conclusions are drawn. Also, the book falls short of showing solutions. It remains a somewhat repetitive academic overview of some examples of corporate “phishing”, and has not much to offer for most readers. ......more
Have you ever been to an evening event, and during polite conversation somebody suddenly steers the toSee the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
Have you ever been to an evening event, and during polite conversation somebody suddenly steers the topic towards modern technology? And while everybody else is excitedly discussing the implications of the latest fad, you find yourself standing silently in a corner, because for you “Big Data” is your collection of adult movies on your harddrive? Do you need a shortcut to sounding like a technology “have”? This book got you covered.
After steam engines, electricity and the computer revolution, Schwab sees the world in the middle of a new, fourth industrial revolution. While still based on computers, this new phase is characterised by the rapid saturation of society on all levels, and innovative use of technology. The author takes us on a tour through our modern world and highlights almost everything hot and new from the last couple of years, from 3D printing to gene sequencing, from drones to blockchain, from designer organisms to the internet of things. The nicest part is a brief overview of 23 disruptive technological trends with convenient good/bad/controversial bullet point lists, if you have too little time to read the full book. ......more
I used to associate the word “stoic” with absence of emotions and stubbornness. Apparently, I was wrong. A See full review at excellentbookreviews.com
I used to associate the word “stoic” with absence of emotions and stubbornness. Apparently, I was wrong. A bit. Apparently it is all about having principles and concentrating on the things of life one can actually change (the circle of influence). Everything outside of this circle is neither good nor bad, just facts and circumstances, and one can live happily by developing an indifferent attitude towards them.
The daily stoic comes in the format of an almanac, offering a short quotation by a famous greek stoic and an explanatory part offering interpretation and context. The idea is to read and meditate on a stoic teaching of the day everyday, but don’t worry, if you buy the book after January 1st you don’t need to wait a whole year to start. Although each moth has a central topic and three months are grouped around one of the key stoic principles (perception, action, will), the daily witticisms do not need to be read in order. The short format (maximum one page, sometimes only a few lines) is also makes this the ideal bathroom lecture.
So Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca, the most quoted stoics of the book, came from very different places of life. One was a roman emperor, the other a former slave made teacher and the third a rich but later exiled playwright. Yet all three shared a philosophy based on firm internal principles of self-control, justice and prudence, regarding external factors of life as unimportant. In our time of minimalism and reductionism on one side and overabundance of stimuli on the other, stoicism sounds pretty modern, and indeed, the explanatory part often shows parallels to bestselling modern self-help books. The thing is: I think I don’t get stoicism. ......more
First of all, I am a huge Dilbert fan, although I have never read the comics at work, especially not dSee the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
First of all, I am a huge Dilbert fan, although I have never read the comics at work, especially not during that dozy hour right after lunch.
Maybe you have heard of the Peter principle. People get promoted for being competent at their current position, so it is certain that everybody ends in a job they can no longer fill competently. The Dilbert principle is similar, but postulates an earlier reason for executive incompetence: incompetent people are rapidly transferred to positions where normal people do not have to see them every day and where they cannot touch anything dangerous – to management.
Most management books are written by and for managers. There are good reasons for this, for example few non-managers have the required of free time and hubris to write a management book. But this also creates a bias which may be one reason why ridiculous company policies still thrive. The Dilbert Principle offers a different perspective, looking at management actions through the eyes of the office workers affected by them.
Adams brings up diverse topics that determine (and sometimes plague) the daily grind in the cubicles, from consultants to employee motivation programmes. Each chapter gives an brief introduction to the topic at hand, not sparing the sarcasm, followed by a selection of comics mocking the described management strategies. Unfortunately, some comics are shown more than once for different topics. The final part for each chapter is a collection of emails written to Adams by office workers suffering from silly management that may as well be scripts for the Dilbert comic. Sometimes life imitates art. ......more
There is a difference between the way the world is and the way the world should be. And there are reasSee the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
There is a difference between the way the world is and the way the world should be. And there are reasons for this gap. Poverty, corruption and inequality all over the world can be explained by the number of people the country’s leader needs to keep power – the essential selectorate. Leaders will do everything to please their essentials, while simultaneously keep the number of essentials as low as possible. This book is a deeply cynical manifest praising the virtues of selfish, near-sighted politics.
The Dictator’s Handbook starts with a bold premise: there is no functional difference between successful dictators and successful democratic leaders. The optimal strategy for both is to install policies that benefit the people they depend on, and take for themselves what is left. Both types of leaders can exercise the same corruption and reckless focus on personal gain, with the only difference being the number of people they are accountable to, their essential coalition. This point spans the entire book, being repeated ad nauseam.
Democrats have to please the fraction of all voters that is necessary to elect them to power. Depending on the number of parties, faction structure and voting system this can be anything between 5% and 50% of the total population (the fraction of the voting population that needs to elect them to office). An autocrat does not need voters to keep office, but still needs someone to run the military, to collect taxes and to suppress the population. Their essential coalition can be as small as 5 to 50 individuals.
The different size of their essential coalition is the main reason for the welfare gap between democracies and dictatorships: a democratic leader has to tailor their policies to appeal to a significant portion of their country’s total population. Also, as their critical electorate is large and inhomogeneous and they cannot afford to antagonize a subfraction of it, democrats have to try and find the common denominator, the problems that most of their voters have. This leads to policies that make a lot of people better of. ......more
Success is a vague concept, that everybody has their own definition of. Sometimes it means having a loSee the full review at excellentbookreviews.com!
Success is a vague concept, that everybody has their own definition of. Sometimes it means having a lot of money, or being famous, or just being respected by other experts in your field. Tools of Titans is a collection of success stories of different people, focusing on the daily habits they attribute their achievements to. The author suggests you pick and mix the advice you like while ignoring the stuff you think is stupid (which was quite a lot for me). Tools of Titans is divided into three parts, Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, which is a good thing, because these are where people have problems. The assignment of “Titans” to these categories is rather arbitrary, however, as usually many topics are discussed. Let’s have a look at each category on its own:
Healthy Here is the list of additives the author and his guests recommend on a regular basis (probably not exhaustive): gelatin, beet root powder, magnesium, calcium, powdered coconut oil, branched-chain amino acids, butyric acid esters and several other ketones (disgusting stuff), metformin (a diabetes drug), lithium (an antidepressant), and psychedelic drugs like LSD or ibogaine. Feeling healthy already? Then add extended fasting, ketogenic diet (usually a medical treatment for epilepsy) and regular (almost competitive) blood testing to the mix. Human physiology and metabolism are tricky subjects and far from being understood, so I cannot verify many claims presented as “facts”. I am, however, convinced that the combination of fasting, ketosis diet and self-medication with some pretty heavy stuff could kill you. Top it off with weirdly specific workout plans and gymnastic exercises. Apparently, you are not concerned enough about having less than full ankle mobility.
This chapter of Tools of Titans also is the shopping TV of books. Every “Titan” recommends specific brands of food supplements, usually available through their own shop. To make it easier for you, Ferris gives you precise keywords to google for his recommendations, so you do not end up with some cheap off-brand stuff.
This is probably the weakest part of the book, the advice is one part dangerous self-treatment without consulting a doctor, one part exercises you probably won’t do and one part product advertising.
Wealthy Focus on your goals, plans and ideas. Find or create your niche. Get people to help you. That is all you need in order to get rich, although it sounds more credible when said by billionaire tech investors. If you already are a rich tech investor, you will find many good tips on how to choose your next investment. If you are a start-up CEO or any kind of “content creator” you will find a lot of marketing ideas. Let’s face it, most people are employees. I surely am. Guess who can apply the fewest tips and methods presented in the book: exactly.
Wise This is the most interesting section, with the most diverse cast of “Titans”, so we will keep it short and succinct. The advice is simplify, prepare, take your time, have a life. Although more eloquently presented and better visualized.
This is good advice. Life is about taking agency for your actions, so it is good to know what to do and what not to do. Balancing work and freetime, social obligations and personal growth is difficult for most people. Yet, many of the “Titans” in this chapter succeed greatly and share their methods.
In Summary Have something to help you focus, something to unwind, and something to get you in a good mood. The rest is just minutiae. Six hundred pages of it. ......more