The Rise of Superman

Rise Of SupermanThis book is a documentary on how extreme athletes are exploiting flow to achieve seemingly impossible performances.  In recent decades extreme athletes have improved there performance levels at a rate greater than their predecessor’s performance would have suggested would be possible.

Part of this great improvement was the accidental exploitation of Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow state by the athletes who performed amazing acts while ‘in the zone’ and then went on to work out how to return to ‘the zone’ on a regular basis.  These individuals then went on to dominate in their particular disciplines prompting their peers and competitors to copy their technique.

The rate of improvement is increasing in each generation of athletes, as each new generation exploits the knowledge of the previous generation, new technology and scientific training practices.  So the future seems bright for extreme sports and we can expect many more seemingly impossible activities to become common place.

This is an interesting book but if your looking for a book on how to achieve flow outside of the context of extreme sports, I’d look elsewhere!

Micro Adventures

Micro AdventuresIn his new book Alastair Humphreys a renewed British adventurer explains his concept of micro adventures: adventures for the rest of us.  I found this concept of short, cheap and local adventures e.g. camping out under the stars on the local hill to be a most inspiring idea.  Adventures don’t have to be epic trips to remote places!

While people have been going for micro adventures long before Alastair came up with the term for it, having a term or label for the activity makes it a bit easier to explain to others.  Most of the book is given over to examples adventures that Al and others have been on and is great inspiration for your own trips.

The final chapters of the book discuss common equipment like bivi bags, shelters, stoves and bags.  He also includes some camping recipes that he’s used in his adventures earlier in the book.

This is the first book I’ve bought on paper for a while and I’ve also bought it for my brother who as the father of two small boys so I figured this would be good inspiration!!

Manage your day

Manage Your DayThis book is a collection of essays from many different authors about how they work, their creative process and of course how they manage their days.  Some of my favourite authors have contributed essays: Seth Godin, Todd Henry, Steven Pressfield and Gretchen Rubin

The book is organised into four essay collections: building a sold base, finding focus, taming your tools and sharpening your creative mind.  Plus a final call to action by Steven Pressfield the author of ‘The War of Art’ (which is another book I highly recommend!)

As someone who is interested in getting stuff done and tries with varying degrees of success to be productive professionally and personally I found this collection of essays to be excellent food for thought.  The bite size nature of the essay format means its a good read for people with limited amounts of time to commit to reading.

This is a book I intend to reread periodically and I expect I will take some new idea from it each time!  Its also a great introduction to many of the different authors who have supplied essays for the book.

The First 20 hours

The First Twenty HoursI’m not a teacher but many in my family are educators and listening to them discuss the various theories of learning led me to want to know more. Then recently this book was discussed on the accidental creative podcast so I thought I’d give it a read as I’m about to head off on my first surfing trip.

The book documents the ten principles of rapid skill acquisition and ten principles of effective learning in two chapters. The rest of the book is then taken up with various examples of the author Josh Kaufman attempting to put these principles into practice while learning new skills or activities.

I found the first third of the book which is focused on the principles to be excellent, the rest of the book is learning examples. The examples are interesting but I’d have preferred the author to have written another theoretical chapter going into more depth and cut one of the example chapters.

I think the book did help me focus on the learning process at surf camp but I can’t say for sure how much difference it made.  I suspect it did make a difference in my approach to learning to surf by making me more aware of the learning process and how I should attempt to structure my learning experience.

Great by Choice

Great by ChoiceI read this book on a recommendation by one of  my brothers, the book is an analysis of the 10x companies that have consistently preformed better than average over several decades. The authors have attempted to analyse what makes these companies superior and they also supply a comparison company for each of the 10x companies that failed to achieve the same growth.

One of the core findings of the book was that the 10x companies are disciplined focused on growing a consistent amount each year, this is compared to explorers restraining themselves to only 20 km a day on expeditions instead of doing as much (or as little) as the terrain and weather permits. This discipline prevents over stretching during good times and limits under performance in the hard times.

The 10x companies also tended to run test projects before committing large amounts of resources to new ideas. This helped mitigate against unforeseen problems and bad ideas by preventing over investment from occurring to early.  Operational paranoia was also another 10x trait: keeping sufficient resources stock piled to last through any unexpected rough patches.

So the combination of these three traits are the suggested reason for the ten times performance of the 10x companies.

Read this before our next meeting

Read This Before Our Next MeetingHaving worked in Electronic Arts which is a largish enterprise (about 10’000 people) for the last seven years I have had numerous bad meetings inflicted on me.  So I picked up this book in the hopes of gaining some ideas on how to avoid the most common meeting pitfalls.

In the book the author (Al Pittampalli) sets out a manifesto that he calls ‘the modern meeting standard’, this standard states that meetings are only for supporting a decision that’s already been made.  Information gathering, discussion and decision making should be made prior to the meeting and a meeting should only held if either: conflict needs to be resolved over the decision or coordination needs to be organised.

He also states that meetings should start on time (amen!), stick to their allotted schedule and limit the number of people attending the meeting (no bystanders).  The meeting agenda should be distributed prior to the meeting to allow the participants to prepare, unprepared participants should be removed from the meetings.

The goal is to get rid of informational meetings, endless debates and produce useful action instead.