The art of possibility
I have not read a more inviting opening to a book in my last 39 years on this earth. The books opens with a fantastic exchange between the author and a waiter that’s overheard by a twelve year old girl. “I have a perfect life but I don’t have a knife”. I don’t want to give it away but it’s something I’ve thought about printing out and framing
I was listening to Tim Ferriss interview Seth Godin on his podcast when Seth recommended three books to listen to. I could not find an audio version of “The art of possibility” so I bought the paperback.
It’s a very inspiring book. I am not a fan of books on manifesting your destiny or using language to prime your to certain behaviors but I believe a lot of these books and ideas destroy lives.
This book is very different and it made me change my mind about a lot of things. Here are my takeaways:
- Your mind is screwed up
- Your senses look for cues that help you confirm your biases
- You don’t know that you are doing this so you end up seeing a world the way you want to see it. Broken and unfair or full of possibilities.
- Believing in a universe of possibility is a great way to live your life
- Giving your team and your family an A even before they’ve done anything good is fantastically uplifting. For everyone.
- Reject downward spiral thinking violently. List facts, talk about “where to next” than “how everything is doomed”
- “No” means you have failed to enroll someone into the possibility you see
- The vision for your team or company should not be about “competition” it should be about possibility and should include a view that fundamentally everyone can agree with.
- Vision is much more powerful than goals and objectives since it can guide daily action
- Talk about “what do we want to have happen for us” instead of “What I want to have happen”
I wish I could get an hour with Ben just to be coached. What a gift that would be.
I changed my mind about the power of language to frame your present. I thought that was all woo woo. Not anymore.
I changed my mind about “give and take”. Sometimes just giving is joyous too. All exchanges don’t have to be fair to bring joy to the participants.
Takeaways #1-#3 are also validated by many other books including “All marketers tell stories” by Seth Godin. We are only looking for what’s we want to see. Like the bald men only sees hair when he goes to a party. Or how a fat person only sees thin people at a party. Our senses play a game that we are unaware of. This can set up a disastrous cycle of mistrust in a business setting since you look for signs of deception or political orchestration in meetings instead of shared purpose and positive engagement.
Time to draft the vision for my dad’s business and my team and for the Delhi Shopping tour…
Finally, after months and months of work and about a year since the idea first came about, I’ve been able to finish and publish the two books I wanted to write about Delhi. These are in named under the experience Delhi brand.
I’m using gumroad. They made it really easy to sell these books and also made it easy to make the selling experience look good. Looking forward to the first sale.
Here are the books and podcasts that I’ve read and enjoyed in 2015. Surprisingly, the podcasts were a lot more entertaining.
|Honest truth about dishonesty
|Money: Mastering the game
|4 hour body
|HBR on Teams
||8 – did not end well
|Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman
||7 – bit much to read
I will add reviews for each of these books later.
More fun than the books were the following Podcasts:
The Tim Ferriss Show
- Derek Sivers on The Tim Ferriss podcast
- Navak Ravikant on The Tim Ferriss podcast
- Chris Sacca on The Tim Ferriss podcast
WTF with Marc Maron
- WTF: Neil Strauss
- WTF: Brian Grazer
- WTF: Steve Albini
- WTF: Lorne Michaels
- WTF: Aaron Draplin. Draplin’s a friend
- WTF: Fred Armison
- WTF: Vince Gilligan
- WTF: Jason Bateman
The Fizzle Show – Early podcasts upto Ep20
Serial Season 1
Startup Podcast: Gimlet media
- a16z Podcast: The Year Mobile Began to Truly Dominate Tech
- a16z Podcast: The Tiger and the Dragon — On Tech and Startups in India and China
- a16z Podcast: What Comes After the Smartphone
- a16z Podcast: Wall Street’s Most Hated Man — A Conversation With Overstock.com’s Patrick Byrne
- a16z Podcast: Apple Has Lock on Luxury Smartphones, But Not Business of TV
- a16z Podcast: Messaging As the Interface to Everything
The Food Chain
- Chicken: Too much of a good thing
This American Life
- #560: Abdi and the Golden Ticket
- #504: How I Got Into College
I had a great time reading this book by Dan Pink. I had seen his presentation at the HOW Design conference in Boston this year and had been meaning to buy the book for sometime. Here is an ok summary of the book but I really recommend that you buy the book, especially if you are in product management or a small business owner.
While the early part of the book felt preachy to me because it made assumptions about the readers state of mind. I wish he would have said, “If you agree with the following tenets, skip to chapter x”.
Part 3 is the where the book really shines. The parts where I learnt the most were:
- Limiting choices to increase sales
- Learning the power structure of a meeting by noting down who talks
- Improv classes to improve your listening skills
- Make it personal
- Make it purposeful
All the above items help as product managers need to have crucial conversations with business owners and other teams to get what is best for their product. Additionally, the book is inspiring in general and gets you going if you are having a bad day.
Further, the books insights gel really well with what I learned from a great talk that I Christine Mau (@mauhaus1) gave at the HOW design conference as well. I learned so much from it. I wish I had great help in implementing it in my father’s business of manufacturing measuring instruments. We can really benefit from making it personal and radically changing the packaging.
Any how, going back to Dan Pink. I also discovered that he hosts a monthly interview series with authors of many books that I’ve read and enjoyed. See this.
I read Ben Horowitz’s book on my flight from SFO-LHR and could not put it down. Here is why:
- It was really well edited and uses an optimum amount of words
- Clear and unambiguous writing, sale illness which is great in a business book
- It talks about challenges and various approaches to problem solving instead of providing a panacea
- It has the best description for a product manager role I’ve read ever. The contrasts between good and bad product managers are really well thought out and inspiring.
- Even if this is 15 years old, pharmacy it is still very relevant.
- Of course, order not everything applies and this is written for product managers in startups and not in large companies.
- Ben’s take on analytics is refreshing in this time of “lean” shit. Analytics cannot dictate product vision. Most analytics provide lagging indicators. Product strategy comes from making time for it.
It’s a must read if you are in business or a product manager. I’m adding it to my Product Manager book list.
I’m sharing the books and podcasts that I’ve read and listened to over the last few years on product management, business and life in general that I’ve found useful. Hope you get a chance to read and listen to them.