Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg

Well Written

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Charles Duhigg displays his writing acumen in “Smarter, Faster, Better” and that, perhaps, explains my ambivalence toward the book. The book’s title, “Better, Faster, Smarter” sets expectations of being focused on productivity, which it does, but it takes some work to get to the productivity discussions. Duhigg uses two or three antidotes and stories per chapter, tying them together to frame productivity help, which overshadow productivity insights. I found myself wanting to skim the stories to get to the point of the chapter, and the book, which was productivity.


Duhigg used great stories that were written quite well, but I was expecting to learn the “how” of productivity, rather than how pilots prepare for disasters, Saturday Night Live staff created great shows, or how the movie Frozen ended up being a hit. The stories were engaging nonetheless. If you are looking to discover how productivity works (Duhigg’s goal), and like to read interesting antidotes displaying how productivity works in specific contexts, you will probably be happy with the book.

However, if you are wanting to learn more of how productivity works, but don’t have the time, energy, or desire, to read a 400 page book that is, in my opinion, summed up in the appendix, then there are many “summary” books on Amazon that, I assume, provide more focus on productivity. I took four pages of notes in a Moleskine notebook, so I did find quite a bit of value. While I ended up skimming the first part of several chapters, I found, at times, the strong writing pulling me back into the Duhigg’s accounts of productivity at work.

The chapter titles describe the productivity area addressed in the chapter; Motivation, Teams, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, and Absorbing Data. The appendix was especially helpful as Duhigg outlined how he used these productivity methods as he was writing the book.

Still Helpful

Despite myambivalence there was insightful productivity advice amid all the stories. While some of the advice has been outlined elsewhere, I found the connections and combination of productivity methods helpful, such as connecting SMART and stretch goals, team norms, decision making, and the chapter outlining innovation. In retrospect, there was quite a bit of insight throughout, it is unfortunate that those insights get dwarfed by lengthy background accounts. I recommend this book if you want insightful productivity advice and don’t mind the background accounts, or, don’t mind skimming. If you have grown weary of business and productivity books that are mostly stories, you might want to check out one of the many summary options.

I received the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – How to Tie a Tie

For the past thirty years I’ve tied my tie the exact same way. That all changed because of “How to Tie a Tie” by Potter Style. The title basically indicates the subject matter. The book covers fifteen different ways to tie a tie, along with how to tie a bowtie.

The book isn’t just about ties though. The book also includes “bonus” tips about style as well as well as sections on trousers, shirt collar, cuff links, shoes, fashion accessories, and other dressing guides.

There are plenty of graphics throughout the book. The pictures used to illustrate the instructions for tying the different knots were clear and easily followed. The only trouble I had was getting the book to lay flat as I tried to work through the instructions for tying the different knots. The binding seems strong, and I believe it will hold up over time.

Not only is the book a wonderful tool for those who want to try different tie knots, it also guides to all aspects of dressing well.

I received this book free from bloggingforbooks in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Better and Faster

My overall reaction after finishing “Better and Faster” by Jeremy Gutsche is wow. Simply wow.

While I have read business books in the past, I have not read entrepreneurial books. I don’t really have anything to compare this book with, but really, I can’t believe other books of the genre could be any better than this one.

Gutsche’s purpose was to map a “way to overcome the psychological and cultural traps that causes smart people to overlook opportunity.” He does that by providing six patterns to shortcut the way to opportunity. The results are a well written, easily read, and wonderfully structured book that informs and inspires.

Rapid change creates new problems, but it also creates new opportunities. “Better and Faster” is about finding patterns within the rapid change. Gutsche does a stellar job of illustrating six patterns of opportunities, providing evidence through accounts of entrepreneurs success. Gutsche does more as well. He also provides evidence of how companies operated in the past, how they operate now, and how they will have to operate in a culture of change.

I love the way the book was organized. Part one uses the analogy of a farmer and hunter to distinguish between ways companies address change and opportunity. Gutsche points out that the farmer methodology is it isn’t effective in a culture of rapid change. Instead, companies and entrepreneurs need to become hunters, hunting for opportunity by noticing the six patterns.

Part two outlines the six patterns of opportunity, along with their sub-patterns. Gutsche does a good job of using appropriate anecdotes to illustrate each pattern. I’ve grown accustomed to such anecdotes in business books and, from time to time, may even pass over them. Gutsche’s feel a bit different since he seemed to take time to interview the individuals to garner their insights.

Part Three give a framework for using the patterns to find opportunities. The appendix gives two case studies that further illustrate how such a framework works.

After each section Gutsche gives summaries, takeaways and takeways. the last few pages give a full summary using bullet points and diagrams virtually compressing all the key points and concepts.

Gutsce is more than qualified to writing such a book. His work with TrendHunger, I’m sure, helped him to notice these patterns. He writes that his main message is “the only real certainty in life is change.” He has given a road map on how to find opportunity as we travel the changing landscape.

I received this book free from BloggingForBooks in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Quiet by Susan Cain

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Susan Cain’s book on introversion is, in my estimation, an indispensable resource on challenges introverts face in an extroverted world. The book is well researched and written. The five years it Cain took to write is evident. I was surprised by the amount of research Quiet contained, and the extensive research serves as a testimony to a self-avowed introvert.

Cain organized the book around four main sections. Part One, the Extrovert Ideal, covers the cultural propensity toward extroversion. Part Two, Your Biology, Your Self! covers biological factors of introversion. Part Three, Do All Cultures have an Extrovert Ideal, explores other cultures and whether there are cultures that are more introverted. Part Four, How to Love, How To Work, gives guidance on how to live as an introvert in an extrovert’s world.

One of the main points Cain made was that introversion is not something to be cured or fixed. It is a temperament. She points out not only the contribution introverts have made, but how their temperament is essential to society. Introvert’s quiet contributions have literally changed the world. Through many encouraging chapters she helps introverts to embrace their temperament, find their voice, and contribute. The book addresses how extroverted cultures create challenges that Introverts must understand and adapt to if they are going to reach their potential.

The book was comprehensive, covering everything from biological factors to how to succeed in an extroverted world. She also addresses raising a child who may be an introvert. A wonderful take away was her suggestions on public speaking.

The book is well researched, however, I wish the references to the endnotes were in the text. While not having references in the text, does make the book easier to read, it makes further research more difficult. Also, not having references in the text makes it difficult to know which statements had research and which ones didn’t. That is my only critique however.

This is an excellent book and resource for both introverts and extroverts. I recommend this book to those who know they are introverted because it gives suggestions and guidance on how to embrace one’s introversion while living in an extroverted world. I recommend this book to those who work, or live, with introverts, and anyone who has to lead or manage people. Extroverted leaders and managers have much to gain through this book. By understanding more about the introverts, and their potential contributions, both introverts and extroverts will find their world enriched.

Review – The Deeper Path by Kary Oberbrunner

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I received a pre-release electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I just finished Kary Oberbrunner’s book and I’m conflicted. I’m giving the book three stars. Overall the book was a good positive book. There were many helpful points, and thoughts. Following the exercises to create one’s OPUS and Six Pack would be powerful and could serve to clarifies one’s life purpose. However, I did have some reservations as well. I will outline those after I comment on what I found helpful.

Kary’s story is powerful and insightful. Through his story, he points to the reality of pain, the reality of God, and the reality of living past the pain. I found the second section, The How, especially helpful, challenging, and redeeming. As Kary demonstrates, it is possible to embrace one’s pain and find hope, joy, and life. I loved his stress on silence versus noise and how we tend to drown out our pain. Instead of ignoring our pain, Oberbrunner encourages us to embrace it and move through it to healing..
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