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Helpful Votes: 1056




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Ilya Grigorik "igrigorik" RSS Feed (San Francisco, CA, USA)

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Getting Unstuck: Break Free of the Plateau Effect
Getting Unstuck: Break Free of the Plateau Effect
by Bob Sullivan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.28
62 used & new from $3.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Great message, but with unnecessary tangents..., September 27, 2014
What's a plateau? Picture an "S-curve": you start slow at the beginning, then there is a rapid ramp as you learn new skill, and finally you reach the top of the curve where the gains flatten out and voila, you've hit the plateau -- rapid progress, followed by a strenuous slog on the plateau to gain small marginal improvements. The trick, as this book points out, is to identify when you've hit this plateau, and to figure out how you can jump to the next large ramp - e.g. change your strategy, change the problem, or simply "satisfice" with where you are and move on to other projects.

All in all, great message and a good read. That said, the cited examples and stories sprinkled through the book while entertaining, didn't seem all that relevant. I think the message could have been delivered in far fewer pages and with more clarity. Hence the three stars.


The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age
Price: $9.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long-term employment is a thing of the past, but that's not a bad thing., August 31, 2014
A fresh, useful, and practical perspective on how to align the incentives between your employees and your business. The premise is simple, but powerful: long-term employment is a thing of the past, recognize this and state it upfront in your relationship with your employees, and build a model where both you and your employees have aligned incentives. You have to make your employees more marketable for their next job, which may or may not be with your company, and they have to commit to put their best foot forward by taking on larger challenges, leveraging their networks to help the company, and so on. This, in short, is "the alliance".

How do you go about executing this plan? The book offers a number of useful blueprints: employee rotations for newcomers, tailored tours for the higher ranks, and foundational tours for the key stakeholders. For the details on each, plus additional topics such as how to build and maintain an alumni network, you'll have to pick up the book - it's a quick and easy read, and it's definitely worth it. Also, there is a great companion site at theallianceframework.com.


The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Developing a grounded perspective (with Stoicism), August 31, 2014
Positive thinking in and by itself can't cure all your ills, or solve all the worlds problems. To the contrary, simple techniques like negative visualization, recognition that some things are simply out of our control, and celebration of death, amongst many others, can help you create a much more grounded and productive perspective on life. The author does a good job of introducing some of the core ideas of Stoicism to motivate and explain the above techniques, and sets them in a modern context - lots of examples, a few diversions along the way, but overall an easy and approachable read.

For a more in-depth introduction to Stoicism, check out "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" by William Irvine.


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
Price: $8.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Practical Stoicism in a modern context, August 31, 2014
Perhaps one of the best practical introductions to the art and practice of Stoicism. The author provides a great tour of all the great thinkers (Seneca, Epictetus, Gaius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius), their individual contributions and differences, and most importantly, a modern adaptation and translation of those ideas into our everyday life - e.g. how to deal with hardship, old age, lack of control, sense of duty, and much more. The book provides many references, in case you want to dig deeper, and great hands-on examples both from the ancient and modern times. Practical, approachable, and easy to read... and you'll be re-reading it a few times over because it's that good.


The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle introduction to stoicism., August 3, 2014
Short lessons and practical advice for everyday life situations and how to make the best of them, regardless of what stands in your way: "it's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters".

The book serves as a gentle introduction to stoicism and its the key philosophical figures, but does so in a practical way and with many good examples and stories to keep the reader engaged. For the curious, there are also many good references if you want to dig deeper.


Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $12.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The mental tax of scarcity and its implications..., July 6, 2014
Scarcity of time, money, or any resources for that matter forces us to "tunnel" on the problem at hand. This focused attention can help, but it also consumes much of our "mental bandwidth", which means that other things (both trivial and critical) may receive insufficient attention. The trick, and the central question of the book, is to figure out the implications of these competing forces: focus is good, focusing on the wrong things is bad, what forces us to tunnel, and how can tunneling affect our decision making processes.

For example, could it be that the reason some people fail to invest into the future (e.g. savings, retirement, etc.) is better explained by scarcity of mental bandwidth, than lack of financial education? That's not to say it's one or the other, but perhaps forcing these individuals to "learn how to plan, or learn about financial planning" is not the whole story.

An interesting read, even if a little drawn out, with plenty of illustrative stories sprinkled throughout. Perhaps the one area that's lacking is an equal analysis of how to balance the pros and cons created by scarcity.


Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing
Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing
Price: $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Idleness is not laziness, June 28, 2014
Idleness is not laziness. In fact, idleness may be an important and necessary condition for processing and synthesizing information to create new ideas and connections. The key observation and premise of the book is that latest experiments in neuroscience indicate that our brain is, in fact, extremely active when we are "idle", and that the involved regions may play an important role in helping with "creativity". As such, perhaps in our quest to fill our calendars we may have inadvertently blocked ourselves from the creative breakthroughs that we all seek?

The book is based on limited studies (and our overall understanding of this space is poor, to say the least), so the conclusions are to be taken with a grain of salt. Similarly, the used language is imprecise and at times simply wrong (e.g., the many comparisons of linear vs. nonlinear systems), but despite all that, still a thought provoking and very interesting read.


How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)
How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $8.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Practical and actionable advice, June 28, 2014
Practical and actionable advice to get you moving on the path of discovering fulfilling work (paid or otherwise). As the author points out, many of us put up with unsatisfying jobs due to "sunk cost bias," external expectations, and worst of all, our own lack of imagination and willingness to explore the available options. How do you start? You don't have to drop everything and turn your life upside down - in fact, that's probably a bad idea. However, it is important to act and experiment: finding a great job is like dating, there is no formula and you have to find out what works by engaging with it.

You won't find "the answer" here - no book will give you that - but it should give you enough to get you on your way towards exploring the available options.


Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Hard won wisdom on cultivating creativity, June 22, 2014
If your job or aspiration is to manage a team, then I hope this book finds its way to your bookshelf. Ed Catmull provides a fascinating look behind the curtains of Pixar: how they came to be, and in equal parts the mistakes, the successes, and the lessons learned. For example, how do you minimize risk in an organization? Wrong question. The managers job is to make the cost of mistakes as low as possible and make it safe for others to experiment. You can't learn without making mistakes and neither can your organization.

If you're interested in the history of Pixar, you'll love this book. If you're interested in insights that will help you build a stronger and more innovative team, you'll also love this book. Combine the two, and that's why it's a bestseller.


Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel
Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel
Price: $9.45

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wonders of our brain..., June 7, 2014
This is not a book about math, or "genius". Rather, this is a book about synesthesia: a neurological phenomenon where multiple senses are involved when interpreting certain stimuli - e.g. letters or numbers are associated with certain colors, shapes, and so on. In the case of Jason Padgett, he acquires mathematical synesthesia following a traumatic brain injury, which leads him to see geometric shapes everywhere around him.

This is part personal (and an inspiring) story about Jason and his recovery, and part an expose on synesthesia, which as it turns out is not as uncommon as we might think - many go throughout their entire lives without ever discovering the name! If you're interested in learning about synesthesia, or about our brain in general, this is a fascinating read.


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