Best Books We Read in 2019

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This was one of our strongest seasons yet. In this post you’re about to learn from the Best Books of 2019, that we reviewed on the podcast between July – December 2019. Click the book image to see the full post, enjoy!

 

Adam Ashton’s favourites:

  • 10. Turning Pro – by Steven Pressfield
  • 9. Getting Past No – by William Ury
  • 8. Eat That Frog! – by Brian Tracy
  • 7. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – by Scott Adams
  • 6. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! – by Dr Seuss
  • 5. Grit – by Angela Duckworth
  • 4. Ego Is The Enemy – by Ryan Holiday
  • 3. Thinking, Fast and Slow – by Daniel Kahneman
  • 2. Unscripted – by MJ DeMarco
  • 1. Meditations – by Marcus Aurelius

Adam Jones’s favourites:

  • 10. Zero to One – by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
  • 9. Ego Is The Enemy – by Ryan Holiday
  • 8. Quiet – by Susan Cain
  • 7. Getting Past No – by William Ury
  • 6. Unscripted – by MJ DeMarco
  • 5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! – by Dr Seuss
  • 4. Homo Deus – by Yuval Noah Harari
  • 3. Collapse – by Jared Diamond
  • 2. Thinking, Fast and Slow – by Daniel Kahneman
  • 1. Antifragile – by Nassim Taleb

Zero to One - Peter Thiel

Jones #10

 The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system.

 – The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine.

 – The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network.

 

If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

 

Of course, it’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to N, improving something that’s already familiar. BUT every time we make something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, and the result is something fresh.

Zero to One is about how to create companies that build new things.

 

It draws on everything Peter has learned as a cofounder of Pay Pal, and an investor in hundreds of startups including Facebook and SpaceX. Whilst there are patterns, there are no formulas for success. The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula cannot exist, because every innovation is unique and new, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to innovate.

Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield

Ashto #10

Pressfield book ‘The War of Art’ told us all about the REAL challenge of creating important work: confront (and beating) the Resistance. In that book, he showed us that the beat way to beat it was by Turning Pro. This follow-up book dives deeper into the difference between and amateur and a professional, and shows us exactly what is required of us if we are to become the best version of ourselves.

“To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.”

Steven Pressfield

Quiet - Susan Caine

Jones #8

The world today seems to value confident, outgoing, bubbly personalities who are comfortable in all social settings and aren’t afraid to speak up. But Cain reveals that those with the loudest voice don’t necessarily have the best ideas. This book is both a call to organisations to foster the power of introverts, as well as an appeal to introverts to best step outside of their comfort zones and play the role required of them.

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Susan Cain

Eat That Frog - Brian Tracy

Ashto #8

There is never enough time to do everything you have to do. You are literally swamped with work and personal responsibilities, endless emails, social media, projects, side projects, stacks of newspapers to read, a pile of books you want to get to ‘some day’ as soon as you get caught up on everything else. But the fact is that you are NEVER going to get caught up. You will never get ‘on top’ of your tasks. You will never get far enough ahead to be able to get to all those emails, books, newspapers, and leisure time activities that you dream of.

 

Forget about trying to solve your time management problems by being more productive. No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplishing the time you have available to you, no matter how much it is.

You can get control of your life only by changing the way you think, work, and deal with the never-ending river of responsibilities that flow over you each day. You can get control of your tasks and actives only to the degree that you can STOP doing some things and START spending more time on the few activities that can really make a difference in your life.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big - Scott Adams

Ashto #7

Scott Adams is the creator of the ‘Dilbert’ cartoon series. Before this world-wide phenomenon though, Adams is happy to admit the looong list of things he tried (and failed at) before eventually achieving success. Each failed attempt gave him a lesson, something he could take with him and apply to the next thing he tried. Even as Dilbert was growing in success, he still worked full time for 10 years, drawing Dilbert at 5am before work.

 

This Best Book of 2019 provides some important ideas and approaches for achieving (eventual) success. In this book you will learn the downside of passion, goals VS systems, managing your attitude and energy, prioritising and making decisions, and ‘skill stacking’. 

 

Getting Past No - William Ury

Jones #7

Daily life is full of negotiations that can drive you crazy.

  • Over breakfast you get into an argument with your spouse about buying a new car, your spouse thinks it’s time but you say “we can’t afford that right now”
  • You arrive at work for a meeting with your boss, you present her with a carefully prepared proposal for a new project, but she interrupts within the first minute and says “we already tried that and it didn’t work.
  • During lunch you try to return a defective toaster you bought last week, but the store person refuses to refund or exchange the toaster because you don’t have the receipt and that’s “Store Policy”

This Best Books of 2019 contender will show you how to “get past no” via a 5 step process:

  • Step 1: Don’t React (Go to the Balcony) 
  • Step 2: Disarm Them (step to their side)
  • Step 3: Change the Game (don’t reject… reframe)
  • Step 4: Build he Golden Bridge (make it easy to say yes)
  • Step 5: Don’t Escalate – Use Power to Educate (make it hard to say no)

Grit - Angela Duckworth

Ashto #5

 

Angela Duckworth studied successful people and found that the mega-successful weren’t the smartest, the fittest or the most talented, but the ones who had the most grit. Grit, this combination of passion and perseverance, turned out to be the strongest indicator and predicator of eventual success.

 

The good news? Even if you score pretty poorly on the Grit Assessment (like we both did), you can grow your Grit. Through interest, purpose, practice and hope, you can actually improve your grit score and learn to achieve more.

“I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”

Angela Duckworth

Oh The Places You'll Go - Dr Seuss

Jones #5

This may look like a kids book compared to the other Best Books of 2019 (and it is) but we’ve dug out some serious life lessons that link up with a whole bunch of other ideas we’ve read in other ‘real’ books. This one is a must-read, it’ll take you less than 10 minutes. 

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself  any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go. OH THE PLACES YOU'LL GO

Dr Seuss

Homo Deus - Yuval Noah Harari

Jones #4

 

For thousands of years the top of our list of concerns were famine, plague and war. While this haven’t been completely solved, we’re pretty close and they have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. 

 

Having secured unprecedented levels of prosperity, health and harmony, and given our past record and current values, YNH predicts that humanity’s next targets are likely to be: Immortality, Happiness and Divinity.

Ego Is The Enemy - Ryan Holiday

Ashto #4

All of us, at every stage of life, are the victims of our own ego. Our ego leads us to strive too far, expect too much, assume that we’re deserving – all before we’ve even done the work. If we achieve success our ego makes us do things that lead us to failure, if we fail our ego crushes our attempts to get up and try again.

 

“It’s always nice to be made to feel special or empowered or inspired. But that’s not the aim of this book”. Instead, Holiday has tried to arrange the passages of the book so that you may end in the same place he did when he was writing it: you think LESS of yourself. He hopes you will be less invested in the story you tell yourself about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to ACCOMPLISH the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve. 

 

The aim of the book is simple: to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline, when we experience success, and cultivate strength when you go through failure. Hopefully the book will help us be humble in our aspirations, gracious in our success, and resilient in our failure.

Collapse - Jarred Diamond

Jones #3

Lurking behind the mystery of ancient ruins is the mystery with the nagging thought: might such a fate eventually befall our own wealthy society? Will tourists someday stare mystified at the New York skyscrapers, much as we stare at the jungle overgrown ruins of Maya cities?

 

Perhaps we can still learn from the past, but only if we think carefully about its lessons. The book has a 5 point framework of possible contributing collapse to societies:

 

1 – Environmental damage

Could be exceptional imprudence of the people and exceptional fragility in aspects of the environment, or both.

 

2 – Climate change

Today we refer to human induced. But in the past it was natural climate change, including the advance and retreat of continental ice sheets during ice ages from about 1400-1800 AD, or the global cooling from the enormous volcanic eruption of Indonesia’s Mt Tambora on 1815

 

3 – Hostile neighbours

Relationships might be intermittently or chronically hostile. A society may be able to hold off its enemies as long as it is strong, only to succumb in a moment of weakness. The proximate cause is the conquest, but the ultimate cause that leads to the collapse is the temporary weakening

 

4 – Decreasing support by friendly neighbours

Either depend on imports of essential trade goods . If your partner comes weak for any reason, then they no longer can supply the essential goods

 

5 – The response of the society

Different societies respond differently to similar problems. Deforestation for example has arose in many cultures – some went down, some developed sustainable management practices

Unscripted - MJ Demarco

Ashto #2

Has life regressed into paying bills and living for a weekend?

You weren’t born to slave 9 – 5, Monday through Friday, paying the bills and then die. When life’s final moment arrives, what will your spirit sing? Regret and remorse? Or peace and happiness?

UNSCRIPTED: is your pen to rewrite a future that’s already been written, don’t wait for life’s twilight to dream about time machines, it exists in the moment. The opportunity to resurrect your dreams and change history awaits. This is the most paradigm shifting from our list of Best Books of 2019. 

 

“you are owned by your shit, which is owned by your debt, which is either owned or profited by a corporation. So you work for a corporation, everything you buy comes from a corporation, everything you watch is produced by a corporation, and the debt you owe is held by a corporation. Ah”

MJ Demarco

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Jones #2

This book is the bible of human behavioural psychology. Author Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize due to his work on Prospect Theory, a big part of this book. The book is so dense we’ll need to cover it over two episodes.

The book describes our thought processes via two systems:

System 1 – which operates automatically and efficiently,

System 2 – which allocates attention to effortful activities.

 

And – that our brain has limited resources making us irrational, and prone to biases such as:

– the law of small numbers

– anchors

– availability

– base rate neglect

– Linda effect

– regression to the mean, and be subject to

 

 Over confidence:

 – Narrative fallacy

 – Hindsight/outcome bias, and

 

Inability to make proper choices:

 – Intuitions vs formulas

 – Planning fallacy

 – Loss aversion

 – Sunk cost fallacy

 

 

Antifragile - Nassim Taleb

Jones #1

This completes Jonesy’s list of our Best Books of 2019. 


Wind extinguishes a candle but energises fire. Likewise with randomness/uncertainty/chaos, you want to be able to use them, not to hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.

Most people think the opposite of fragile is robust, resilient or solid. But the resilient and robust are items that neither break nor improve. The opposite of fragility should be negative fragility – there is not yet a word for it, so Taleb terms it ‘Antifragility’.


The central theme of the book is antifragility, which Nassim defines as:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

Ashto #1

Originally written as a diary almost 2000 years ago, the struggles people faced then are almost identical to the ones we are facing today. This is one of the core books on stoic philosophy.

We recap some of the vital passages of the book and pull out the key themes: differentiating between the things you can control and the things you can’t, responsibility and taking ownership, being indifferent toward things like death and change, and living in the present instead of the past or the future. 

Best Books We Read  in 2019

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