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Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer – This book encourages active thinking. It encourages trying to look at problems and interpersonal conflicts from multiple perspectives so as to look for different options for resolutions rather than being locked into one way of doing things simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.  My 4 key takeaways:

  1. Try and see things from multiple perspectives and avoid unhealthy bias.
  2. Process beats outcome, but make sure the process is working well and not just a mindless construct to blindly follow.
  3. Think about and ask “why” a certain thing is done a certain way or “why” someone (or you) reacted a certain way.
  4. Do not get hung up on over-analysis. Make a decision and move forward. There will not always be one correct answer for every problem. Rather than looking for the right decision, make the best decision you can and make the decision right.

Brain Rules by John Medina – This book was recommended to me by a professor of education.  Even as simplified as the science is, it’s pretty heady stuff.  However, if you do any sort of presentations or teaching, there are some good insights on how to improve the way you present.  Here were my 4 key takeaways:

  1. Review a project before starting on it, go to sleep, then start the next day.  Your brain will review the patterns all night while you sleep and help you better tackle the challenge the next day.
  2. When presenting, you’ve got seconds to grab someone’s attention and only 10 minutes to keep it.  At 9 minutes 59 seconds you must do something to restart the clock – something emotional and relevant.
  3. Stories and examples reinforce memory.
  4. Our brains pay special attention to objects in motion, so include video and animation in presentations.

Poke the Box by Seth Godin This book was less than 100 pages, but I found several notations in my journal for the ideas it generated. In summary, the book is about initiating, starting, doings, and then shipping – share the idea. But from there, what is the “idea” – what would I do if I had a TED talk? What could I build? The goal with “work” should be to generate unique learnings and interactions that are worth sharing.

The $100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau The case studies of different micro business owners has been a great aid for me in ideation, reinforcing certain product management and business basics related to pricing, business plans, and examining a market. I highly recommend it.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon –  I “re-discovered” this book, in that it’s one I had bought for my Kindle a long time ago, and read half of, but didn’t come back to for some reason.  This time, I was a different point in my life, so tore through it.  It’s a quick read that is a great guide on how to find your own creative voice through imitating your heroes, and filling the gaps of boredom in the day with inspiration. I’ve already recommended this book to a young friend of mine who is an aspiring artist.  Favorite quote Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Filmmaker John Waters has said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.’

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – The companion to Steal Like an Artist, that is the best book on social media I’ve ever read…and it’s not really about social media.  However, I found the principles in this book about sharing the things you’re working on and sharing how to do the work you do to be the best I’ve read about how to use social media and blogging to promote yourself and your work without employing the social media “hack.” It’s re-energized me by reminding me why I blogged in the first place – to share something interesting or educational with others.