More Recent Reading

You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham

The creator of the You Need a Budget (YNAB) software, which I began using recently, wrote this book to publish his philosophy of modern budgeting. Both the software and this book do a good job of not making assumptions about what the user/reader want to do with their money, something very different from other personal finance systems. You could even stay in debt and get value from the YNAB way of things.

Playing with FIRE by Scott Rieckens

Read this in one evening. A passionate report on high-earning family starting their financial independence journey. Companion to a new a documentary that’s currently in limited theaters. I loved the book, and while I’m not sure it’ll be my go-to thing to get someone intrigued with FIRE (MMM’s blog is still that for me) it’s definitely good enough for anyone interested to read it. I bet the documentary is great:

Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

The world-building and art in Locke & Key are exemplary. I think I preferred Vol 1’s story, but their both so enjoyable it’s not even worth ranking. Looking forward to finding a copy of Vol. 3.

Recent Reading

Mike Monteiro’s new book, Ruined by Design, is an eye-opening take on ethical dilemmas facing/caused by designers. And by his definition even a typist like me is a designer. I was fortunate enough to get my copy signed when Mike was in town last month but it reads just as well unsigned.

I re-read Deep Work by Cal Newport and found it even more useful this time than I did in 2017.

Both are recommended reading.

Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer

Actually read this book a while ago, but just now getting to the review.

Some very good ideas here, in particular the quick reference material: The Hatrix. If I have one takeaway, its the value of recognizing the differing needs of ‘onstage haters’ and ‘offstage haters.’

Since I’ve worked in WordPress support both privately and publicly, most of the examples were like familiar friends to me. But there’s a lot of value to quickly noting to yourself: is this hater looking for me to solve a problem? Or are they looking for an audience to validate their feelings?

Neither is really wrong. I definitely agree with Seth Godin that if you think it’s broken, it’s broken. But identifying the source of the interaction is important in helping to make that hater feel a sense of resolution.

This book validated a lot of ways we support customers at Automattic. It felt like we’re doing things right (except that, like a lot of companies, we’re still too slow to respond due to overwhelming demand.)

The writing is less solid. If I wasn’t interested in the topic I wouldn’t have finished this. But the ideas are good. So if nothing else, borrow it, skim it, then go back and re-read the pages that seem to impact your company the most.

Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer, part of my 2017 Reading

Amazon | Goodreads | Wikipedia

Deep Work by Cal Newport

On the heels of Cal’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You comes Deep Work. If we agree with Cal that becoming good at rare skills is the way to build career capital – then how do we go about doing that? The answer is focusing on deep work, and mitigating shallow work.

You can read the two books as if they are one. That’s pretty much what I did. There are fewer surprises in Deep Work than So Good, but the ideas are outlined very very wellWe’re on the path of the craftsman, and what makes a craftsman better is deliberate practice. Spending time on the activities that make us more valuable and stretch us to our limits.

Most humans can only work at their maximum mental capacity for about four hours. And you’ll not likely get that until you’ve trained your mind to do it.

Learn how to be bored anytime, so that you can combat distractions easily when the time for focus is needed.

Going deep can take many shapes: the monastic philosophy (refusing anything that would get in the way of deep concentration,)  the bimodal philosophy (going monastic for a stretch then returning to a normal routine,) the rhythmic philosophy (making sessions of deep work habitual, the most practical for many people,) or the journalistic philosophy (mastering context-switching so you can go deep instantly as time allows.)

Ignore inspiration; instead find your philosophy of deep work and with enough time ‘inspired work’ will occur during those efforts.

Make time for focus the same way we like to take time away from distraction. “Going offline” can be so appealing, but has way less value compared to prioritizing time to really make strides on hard problems.

Other tactics:

  • Productive meditation: learn to think on problems while running, walking the dog, or doing dishes.
  • Keep a scoreboard for the deep work you demand of yourself
  • Add a shutdown ritual to the end of your work
  • Schedule every minute of your day, then use it as a guide (not as a rule.)
  • Do the shallow work better too – so that you can do less of it. In particular, write better emails.

Deep Work by Cal Newport, part of my 2017 Reading

Amazon | Goodreads | Wikipedia

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Cal Newport’s rules for career building. I’ve never read a book that seemed more enlightened on the topic.

Your motivation has nothing to do with making your career better. The way you work is everything.

“Follow your passion” is bad advice for becoming happy with your work.

Instead,  get good at working, and you’ll gain passion for the work. There are some jobs where that’s not going to be possible, and Cal provides some ways to identify them. Get out of those jobs and instead find work in a field where you can develop a craft worth developing.

Gain career capital. Do difficult things that most people cannot or will not do, and get good at those things. This career capital makes you valuable. Some industries will require you to become valuable at only one skill: ignore other skills and maximize that one. Other industries will reward more diversity. Identify which approach your market requires, and follow through.

Once you’re working well, and have earned career capital, spend that capital on control. Use that control to make your career fit your life’s mission. Pursue your mission with the craft you’ve painstakingly trained.

This mission, control, and passion comes because you do good work. Not the other way around.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, part of my 2017 Reading

Amazon | Goodreads | Wikipedia

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Another Audible listen by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton. This experience was even amplified by Ber making her way through Star Trek (the original series) on Netflix. So every time I came back from the gym where I listened to Redshirts, she’d be watching Trek and I couldn’t  help but laugh.

Redshirts is to science fiction what Last Action Hero was to Arnold’s movie career. You don’t have to be into Star Trek to enjoy it, but it’s a lot more fun if you’re already in on the joke. Basically: what would happen if all the people that died just for the sake of screentime action realized they were being suckered?

Wil does some amazing voice work in this one. In particular a great little conversation in an alien language. The words-on-a-page version I’m sure is good, but I finished it really happy to have gotten it on audio.

Scalzi won the Hugo award for Best Novel with this book, but I think his Old Man’s War universe is still better overall. He just happens to play some tunes that appeal to all readers in this one. A good read for the science fiction lover or the reader who only occasionally picks up the genre.

Redshirts by John Scalzi, part of my 2017 Reading

Audible | Goodreads | Wikipedia

Books and Other Projects by John Scalzi