Book Review: Rework by Jason Fried

If given a choice between investing in someone who has read ‘Rework’ or has an MBA, I’m investing in ‘Rework’ every time. – Mark Cuban

Rework by Jason Fried is one of the books which Mark Cuban credits his success to. Due to that (along with the great looking book cover) I was very excited to start reading it. I’ll say this is by far the most enjoyable read I’ve ever had, especially considering it’s business related. Every chapter is an insight which is usually covered within 1 – 2 pages. There was really no dull moment throughout the entirety of the book. Nothing is dragged on and just enough context is given to illustrate each insight.

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Build half a product, not a half-assed product

When building a product, don’t focus on trying to give your customers everything all at once. You simply won’t be able to focus on everything and do them well with the limited time, resources, ability, and focus that you have. Prioritize the most important features first and build it well.

Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.

Most things get better when they are shorter or simpler. Great producers cut good scenes to make great movies and great speakers cut out good content to give great speeches. Jason Fried and his team cut this book from 57,000 words to about 27,000 words. Give this book a read and you will understand how less is more.

Do it yourself first

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.

For any tests, if you see “never” or “always” as part of an answer on a multiple choice question, you can usually rule out that answer right away. The same thing applies in this case as there are usually exceptions to the rule. However, what is important is the message behind this quote. If possible, spend the time to understand a given role before you delegate or hire someone to do it. It’s even better if you can spend a day working in that role. This way you will have a good understanding of the role and the challenges that come with it. This can make you a better manager as you will know what to evaluate people on as well as give yourself a more holistic view of your organization.

Own your bad news

When something bad happens, own it and apologize. Don’t try to hide bad news from your customers if they haven’t discovered it yet. In today’s day and age, bad news can only be hidden for so long. There will always be a narrative whether it comes from the press, your competitors, or from you. So own your bad news and apologize, you’ll be better off if you’re the one telling the story.

And just like giving a speech, what draws people’s attention is usually not the mistake, but the reaction to the mistake. People can always tell when an apology is sincere or not, so be honestly concerned about the impact of your bad news and apologize like you will to a real person.

We have probably all heard or seen a variation of “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused” as an apology. I’ll admit that I’ve used a variation of it myself to clients over emails. Besides sounding generic and templated, this specific example is bad for a number of reasons. First, when you apologize take ownership of it, so rather than use “we” use “I” instead. Second, if the client depends on your services then your impact is more than just an inconvenience. And lastly, “this may have caused” implies that there might not be anything wrong at all. Either there is something wrong or there isn’t. And if you find the need to write an apology, that is a good indication that there is something wrong. So own the responsibility and apologize in the right way.

Inspiration is perishable

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

Inspiration doesn’t last forever. So if you are inspired and feel like doing something, do it now. Even if you are inspired to take on a time-consuming project, do the things you can do right now to put that project in action.

This is something that I can really relate to this past year. I was inspired by my ex-girlfriend to start reading more regularly. On the very same day, I researched a list of books that I wanted to read and by the following day, I have put in my order for 8 books. This has since led me to read almost every day for 6 months straight and counting.

One of the very first books I read is Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk which inspired me to start my own blog. I immediately looked into the different options for setting up a personal blog and within a week I’ve set up my own blog on WordPress. I’ve been blogging once every two weeks ever since. If I hadn’t acted on my plans when I was inspired immediately, chances are I’ll not be motivated enough to carry out my plans and will not have learned so much by reading so many great books.

Summary

Rework by Jason Fried is a great read that is applicable to everyone. The insights I share are by no means the most important, just the ones that are more applicable to me. Definitely give it a read if you get the chance, it will be a quick read where you can get ideas or be inspired.

 

I’m currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

2018 Mid-Year Reflection

This is the first year in which I have set resolutions. Due to my coworkers switching departments, I was thrust into more responsibilities. I have learned a lot so far and since we are halfway through the year I’ll reflect on my progress and see what I can further improve on.

On a side note, I started video blogging for the first time. Improving my communication skills has become a priority for me in the recent months. Even though it’s essentially just me speaking into a camera, it’s still a great way for me to improve how I articulate and communicate my thoughts. Like every habit, I’ll start small and aim to do one every month. There will be no editings involved so please bear with me as I improve my communication skills gradually. 😀

Thank you in advance to anyone who watched my first video content. And if you prefer written content, please feel free to skip the video and thank you as well for your time! 🙂

Complete My Vocab Project

My Vocab is an Android vocabulary builder application that I’ve been spending the past few years working on and off. While learning Spanish a few years back, I needed an app to help me record, translate, and review the vocabulary I wanted to learn. At the time I just finished my commerce undergrad degree a few months ago and wanted to learn more about programming. So naturally, I decided to build a vocabulary builder application to help me learn more effectively and I’m glad it has been able to help others as well.

A few weeks ago, I’ve finished developing all the key features that are beneficial for what the app was set out to accomplish. I have addressed all the reported bugs as well as redesigned the screenshots for the app store listing.

I’m glad to say I’ve completed this project! It has been a great journey up to this point and I’ve definitely learned a lot from this experience.

Be Conversational in Spanish

Up until two months ago, I was watching anime in Spanish every day as well as reading Spanish books during my commute. However, since then, I’ve opted for reading personal development books in English instead. Therefore the time I’ve spent on improving Spanish is considerably less than before even though I still watch anime in Spanish every day.

In order to reach my goal, my action item on this front is to find a Spanish meetup for me to have Spanish conversations on a weekly basis.

Read 20 Books

I’ve read 6 books so far. For a few months, I was dedicating 1 hour to read every other day. I was reading at a good pace, but it has slowed down considerably since. In the past month, I have only been reading during my commute. As improving my communication skills and finishing up My Vocab project became a priority, I put less and less emphasis on reading.

One thing about setting goals that I’ve learned is to reflect and readjust your goals periodically. I thought about readjusting my goal to 15 books instead. However, If I can dedicate 30 mins each day for reading as well as getting better at skipping materials that aren’t beneficial, I can still accomplish my 20 books a year goal. We’ll see how I do at the end of the year, but for now, I’m still sticking with 20 books.

Build Personal Brand

After reading Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, I learned the importance of building a personal brand. I have since been posting articles once every 2 weeks on my personal blog as well as Medium. I don’t have any goals in terms of wanting X number of followers since my content is for me to document my learnings and to connect with people. I’m happy with my progress and as long as I keep posting content on a regular basis I’ll consider this goal accomplished.

Start a New Project

This was my fifth and final resolution for the year. It was made due to My Vocab project coming to a close. I wanted to improve my technical skills off of work which is why I wanted a new project to work on.

However, my focus for the year has changed since. I’m going to put a stronger emphasis on improving my communication skills rather than my technical skills. If I were to start a project, it will be because I have a good idea or an opportunity that I’m passionate about. So until then, this resolution has been crossed off my list.

Improve My Verbal Communication Skills

This is the area which I have dedicated the most time for in the past month. Communication skills have always been something that I need and want to work on. And public speaking specifically is an area where I struggle the most. I want to be able to speak in public confidently but more importantly, I want to be able to articulate and communicate my key messages effectively.

I have been taking an online public speaking course by TJ Walker. By recording myself speaking and getting feedback from TJ Walker, I can see the improvements I’ve made. However as helpful as the course has been, it is still an online course. To complement the course, I’ll look for and participate in either a toastmaster club or a public speaking meetup at least once every two weeks. And as mentioned, my video content will be a channel for me to practice as well as share my progress with you.

I’ve made some good progress but there are some action items I need to take in order for me to reach my goals. I’m very excited to see how much progress I can make by the end of the year! Thank you for dropping by and I’ll love to hear your thoughts and feedback. 🙂

 

What I Learned from Steve Ballmer’s Keynote on Leadership

A few weeks ago Index Exchange, where I’m working at as a solutions engineer, held an annual executive summit in Santa Monica. Steve Ballmer was the guest speaker invited who gave a keynote on the principles of leadership.

For those who don’t know, Steve Ballmer was the CEO of Microsoft from 2000 – 2014 and is the owner of the Los Angeles Clipper. As an NBA fan, I would love to get a chance to meet one of the most passionate NBA owners and learn from his experience. I didn’t get to attend but luckily for me, I was able to learn from the recordings and share my takeaways with you!

Ideas Matter

The worst leader of all is the charismatic leader who takes you in the wrong direction

The most important quality of a leader is having the right vision and ideas. What’s the proposition around which you are trying to lead people? Your team won’t buy in if they don’t believe in the direction you are leading them. There are many great ideas, but you need to choose the idea that your organization has the capability to execute on.

Get the Team Right

Talented people are talented people but they got to love where you want to go and collaborate in the right way

Start with ideas first. The team that you will want to put together will be dependent on your ideas. When picking the team, pick great people who believe in your vision and who can work well together.

Passion, Optimism, Persistence

Optimism is a force multiplier

If you don’t have passion, optimism, and persistence, then it’s hard to be in the game for the long term. In the road to accomplish great things, there will always be obstacles along the way. You will need passion to be focused on your goal, optimism to enjoy the journey, and persistence to get through the hard times.

Own the Results

The first step to owning the results is to know what the goal is. Measure your results against the goal. Understand how and why mistakes are made and learn how to prevent it from happening again. Start with yourself, but also hold your team accountable as well. Everyone makes mistakes but enforcing accountability is a must.

Magic of Time

Deciding timeframe for what success looks like and how long you give for ideas to develop is an important part of leadership
Everything has to be in a context of a timeframe that you think is relevant to what your team is working on.

Summary

This is one of the best keynotes I’ve watched. Steve Ballmer is an amazing speaker and all his points are concise and effective. He uses a story to demonstrate each of his key messages, which is something I’m learning to do more of. Unfortunately, the keynote recording is only shared internally, but this video I came across has very similar key messages. I’ll recommend it if you want to learn more about his leadership principles as well as how he communicates on stage.

I’ll love to hear what your thoughts are. 🙂

Book Review: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

It’s been three weeks since I last published a post. I’ve been reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris since then. It’s a 600+ pages book which took me longer to finish than the previous books I’ve read. From now on, I want to put more focus on applying what I’ve learned.

If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy – Jim Rohn

Knowledge itself is valuable but if you don’t apply it, you can’t improve your life for the better. I’ll go over how I applied my learnings from this book and how it has had a positive impact on me.

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Setting Goals

Is that a dream or a goal? A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve – Paul Levesque (Triple H)

Most of us have heard the importance of setting goals. This is the first year which I have set resolutions for the year. It has driven me to put more focus on personal development than I had ever before. However, resolutions are things I want to accomplish for the year and don’t necessarily indicate my goals in life. I had the mindset that if I keep improving myself every day, be patient, and do the right things for me and the people around me, I’ll eventually end up where I want to be. I think this is a good mindset to have and has contributed to why I’m a positive and happy person. This previous mindset of mine will see me make improvements in life, but the improvements I made won’t necessarily lead me to become the person I want to be.

Inspired by the above quote from Paul Levesque, I have a different mindset now. If I don’t put in the work on a consistent basis for a goal of mine, then I won’t be achieving that goal. So first, I detailed the type of person I want to become:

  1. A person who is in a position to help many people
  2. A person who is an expert in his field of interest
  3. A great communicator
  4. A great leader
  5. Spanish speaker
  6. A person who is fit and has an active and healthy lifestyle
  7. The founder of a successful business
  8. A great son
  9. A great brother
  10. A good friend
Once I have this mindset and these goals in mind, I asked myself this question: “what am I currently doing to achieve these goals?”. This is in itself very motivating for me since for example, I wasn’t dedicating any time to become a great communicator and the thought of myself not becoming one led me to action. I did some research immediately and came across an Udemy course by TJ Walker. Since then, I have dedicated at least one hour every other day to improve my communication. I have recorded myself presenting for practice and have gotten feedback from TJ Walker which I have applied to my subsequent practices. I’m still a long way away from being a great communicator but I see the work I’m putting in and the progress I’m making.
Once you have clear goals in mind, putting in the work becomes easier as you will know the reasons behind your sacrifices.
Here are the 3 tips I use to develop habits to achieve my goals:
  1. Put in the work you can sustain on a consistent basis.
    Start out small, if you think you can dedicate two hours per day, start with one hour or even 30 minutes. It’s more important to build up the habit first before you increase your commitment.
  2. Dedicate a block of time just to focus on what you are trying to accomplish.
    One block of time without any distractions. No TV. No phones. No youtube. Put on a timer if you have to which I do. I currently dedicate 1 hour or 2-hour blocks for things I want to accomplish for the day.
  3. Be patient.
    Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. Setbacks are expected and the frustration of not improving is the reason why so many people gave up on their goals. See the big picture, put in the work consistently and you will see the results eventually.

Meditate

I dedicate time every day to improve myself, but procrastination, either going on youtube or catching up on NBA rumors, is taking up too much of my time. I often find myself led by my thoughts or desires. One youtube video usually turns into three or five videos. And by the end of the day, I can’t recall spending much time on what I planned to accomplish for the day.
At least 80% of the people interviewed by Tim Ferris at his podcast have some mindfulness practice.
My reward for meditating is getting 30% to 50% more done in a day with 50% less stress. Why? Because I have done a warmup in recovering from distraction: my morning sit. – Tim Ferriss
Recovering from distraction. This is exactly what I needed. I value the occasional breaks, but I want to be able to recover from distraction so it’s controlled procrastination instead.
You are starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn’t matter so that you can focus better later when it does matter – Tim Ferriss
I started to use the Headspace app every morning for meditation. You don’t need an app to meditate, it just makes the process easier for me as I was never exposed to it. I have since meditated for 23 days in a row and counting and I can already see the following benefits:
  1. I’m more mindful and aware of my thought process.
    By being mindful of my thought process and the distractions resulting from it, I am able to recover from distractions more quickly. Being distracted is often fun and relaxing and there are still times I let random thoughts lead me to procrastinate. However, distractions are taking up less and less time of my day and I’m able to recover from it much more frequently.
  2. I have a better idea how my body is feeling.
    Part of the exercise is to scan your body. The idea is to separate your mind from your body and not let one dictate the other. By clearing my mind and paying attention to my body, I’m more attuned to how my body is feeling. Often times I don’t realize my body is aching in certain areas until my meditation session. I’m more aware of how bad posture is negatively impacting me throughout the day. You might not notice it throughout the day, but if you pay close attention and examine your body, you will realize the damage bad posture is inflicting on you.
  3. I learned how to be more effective when I work.
    It is important to prime your state. Putting yourself in a positive mindset can affect the quality of the work you put out. A coworker and friend of mine asked me last week to meditate for 10 minutes near the end of the day. We have done it for the last two working days and it has helped me recharge and regain my focus for the remainder of each day.

Journaling

If you win the morning you win the day. The idea is similar to priming your state where how you start off the day can impact your actions and mindset for the rest of your day.
This is the 5 morning rituals that Tim Ferris uses:
  1. Make your bed
  2. Meditate or mindfulness practice  (10 – 20 mins)
  3. Do 5 to 10 reps of something
  4. Prepare tea
  5. Morning pages or 5-Minute Journal (5MJ)
I have added #2, #3, #5 to my morning ritual. For each morning, I’ll do the 5-Minute Journal, meditate for 10 minutes, do 25 pushups (increase week by week), and make my bed.
The 5MJ asks you to fill in the following in the morning:
  1. I’m grateful for… 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  2. What would make today great? 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  3. Daily affirmations. I am… 1. ____ 2. ____
and these questions at night:
  1. Amazing this that happened today… 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  2. How could I have made today better? 1. ____ 2. ____
It literally only takes me 5 minutes to do the journal. It is an easy habit to build up and can improve your outlook of the day. I have the habit of praying and saying thanks to what I’m grateful for when I’m in bed every night. I enjoy doing it and it helps me be more appreciative. And doing the 5MJ further expands on it as I’m giving thanks at the end as well as the start of the day now.
Whereas “I’m grateful for…” and “Amazing things that happened today…” impacts my mindset, “What would make today great?” and “How could I have made today better?” impacts my actions throughout the day. It’s amazing how simply stating out “what would make today great” will make you conscious throughout the day on what you want to achieve and prioritize. This has helped me become more productive and often times one of the things I’ll write down is “Dedicate X hours to do _____”.
“How could I have made today better?” on the other hand helps me reflect on the day. I’ll see which of the to-do that I set out for the day is not accomplished and what is the reason behind it. Sometimes I’ll write down things such as “Spend more time with a friend or family” if I feel like I’m too focused on improving myself and not spending enough time for the people I care about.

Workout

When in doubt, train your grip and your core. Strengthening your midsection and your grip will automatically increase your strength in any lift. With the abs, the effect is partly due to greater abdominal pressure and partly to improved stability. With the grip, you are taking advantage of the neurological phenomenon of irradiation – tension ‘radiates’ from the gripping muscles into other muscles – Pavel Tsatsouline
I consider myself as having a healthy lifestyle but I’m not a fitness person. I workout twice a week on the weekend and play basketball once a week but that’s the extent of it. I skimmed over most of the health/fitness section of the book, but the one thing that I took away is to train your grip.
Pavel is a former physical training instructor for Spetsnaz, the Soviet special forces, and is currently a subject matter expert to the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Navy SEALs. I took the advice mainly based on his track record and minimal research online. I don’t understand the full benefit of it but that’s enough information for me to give it a try. I have since gotten myself a set of IronMind’s Captains of Crush Grippers and have built up to doing 3 x 10 reps every day. I find it easier for me to do pull-ups and lifting weights now. I’m aware of how it coincides with me doing pushups every morning. However, I do believe it is helpful and will recommend you to give it a try if training your grip strength isn’t part of your workout routine.

Summary

I’ll say this is by far the most impactful book I’ve read so far. I’ll strongly recommend it to anyone. The book is about the summary of the learnings Tim Ferris has by interviewing the “Titans” of the world. It is broken down into 3 sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. It is unique in a way where people will likely get very different takeaways. Tim Ferris started out by outlining a guide on how to use this book, which basically says to skip the parts which aren’t applicable to you. I’ll most likely revisit this book sometime in the future. If you have a different takeaway, I’ll love to hear about it as well!
The book I’m currently reading is Zero to One by Peter Thiel.