Business

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism

Summary:

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
 
Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
 
Are you often busy but not productive?
 
Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
 
If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist.
 
The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.  

By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book was very interesting.  I have read things by the Minimalists previously, but that is more geared for life generally whereas this book is a little more focused on the business applications.  Even if you don’t think that you’re going to go towards the full Essentialist approach, I think this is a book that will help anyone hone in a little more towards what they’d really like to pursue, what they can get better about and what’s the most important.

This book was useful because it was not only focused on the theoretical, but also what applications can be immediately used in your life.  I listened to the book, which made for some very thoughtful walks, but I think this is one I need to also get in paperback! This will certainly be one that I’d like to be able to take notes and update my thoughts as I reference the book in the future.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone looking to be more efficient in their work-life and making sure you get the absolutely most out of your time.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Boomerang

Summary:

The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2008 was more than a simple financial phenomenon: it was temptation, offering entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge.

Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks wanted to turn their country into a pinata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish.

Michael Lewis's investigation of bubbles beyond our shores is so brilliantly, sadly hilarious that it leads the American reader to a comfortable complacency: oh, those foolish foreigners. But when he turns a merciless eye on California and Washington, DC, we see that the narrative is a trap baited with humor, and we understand the reckoning that awaits the greatest and greediest of debtor nations.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book was hilarious, insightful and asks a lot of the questions that the average person would about our most recent economic crisis.  It paints a realistic picture of where we are financially, but does not attempt to draw large conclusions.  If I have a complaint, it’s that Lewis describes the situation, but does not try to make any recommendations for the future.

That does not, however, diminish how interesting or revealing the examples are.  I’d highly recommend this one to anyone asking, “How did we end up here?”  The answers will not make you happy, but at least you’ll get a sense of what’s going on.  This was one that I listened to and I’d highly recommend that version!

Warning: Repeated use of profanity.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Folks interested in understanding some of the high-level root causes of the economic crisis internationally.

The Price of Prosperity

The Price of Prosperity

Summary:

America and other developed countries, including Germany, Japan, France, and Great Britain are in desperate straits. The loss of community, a contracting jobs market, immigration fears, rising globalization, and poisonous partisanship—the adverse price of unprecedented prosperity—are pushing these nations to the brink. 

Acclaimed author, economist, hedge fund manager, and presidential advisor Todd G. Buchholz argues that without a sense of common purpose and shared identity, nations can collapse. The signs are everywhere: Reckless financial markets encourage people to gamble with other people’s money. A coddling educational culture removes the stigma of underachievement. Community traditions such as American Legion cookouts and patriotic parades are derided as corny or jingoistic. Newcomers are watched with suspicion and contempt.

As Buchholz makes clear, the United States is not the first country to suffer these fissures. In The Price of Prosperity he examines the fates of previous empires—those that have fallen as well as those extricated from near-collapse and the ruins of war thanks to the vision and efforts of strong leaders. He then identifies what great leaders do to fend off the forces that tear nations apart. 

Is the loss of empire inevitable? No. Can a community spirit be restored in the U.S. and in Europe? The answer is a resounding yes. We cannot retrieve the jobs of our grandparents, but we can embrace uniquely American traditions, while building new foundations for growth and change. Buchholz offers a roadmap to recovery, and calls for a revival of national pride and patriotism to help us come together once again to protect the nation and ensure our future. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

 Please note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review courtesy of TLC Book Tours.

Review:

While having some interesting ideas and keeping the content interesting with modern cultural references, my biggest complaint in this book is that it seems very anecdotal.  The book provides repeated historical examples, but each one has the caveat – “this is not the only factor”.  Though still illustrative and showing a pattern, it would have been nice to see additional statistical analysis of his examples to show more conclusive theses.

That being said, I think this book provides some interesting arguments and certainly had me considering some modern phenomena differently.  After reading this book, I’d be interested in reading other books by Buchholz.  Three stars because I didn’t find the book compelling enough to eagerly look forward to getting back to it, but still a solid read all around.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Folks interested in the premise – what you see is what you get.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Poor Economics

Summary:

Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world's poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics. Work based on these principles, supervised by the Poverty Action Lab, is being carried out in dozens of countries. Drawing on this and their 15 years of research from Chile to India, Kenya to Indonesia, they have identified wholly new aspects of the behavior of poor people, their needs, and the way that aid or financial investment can affect their lives. Their work defies certain presumptions: that microfinance is a cure-all, that schooling equals learning, that poverty at the level of 99 cents a day is just a more extreme version of the experience any of us have when our income falls uncomfortably low.

This important book illuminates how the poor live, and offers all of us an opportunity to think of a world beyond poverty.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book was very interesting in the sense that it presented alternate views to some of the more well-known economic debates about what should be done for the poor.  While there were conclusive findings in many different areas, the book is quick to say that it is not offering “universal solutions” and that trying to do so would likely be unsuccessful.  Unfortunate or not, it will probably take more personally tweaked solutions for many areas of the world to develop to a sustainable scale.

What I found frustrating at the book at times was the assumption that the poor inherently knew the results of the statistical findings.  “Why do the poor do X when clearly it is more beneficial to do Y?”  I believe the phrasing was meant to be illustrative, but at times it came off condescending.  For example: I would not assume to know the results of those kind of investigations unless someone TOLD me about them and then behavior would change.  Regardless of this and a few moments of disorganization, I think the book is extremely good at challenging pre-conceived notions of the poor and what types of activities may be successful in the future.

I would still recommend this book for anyone vaguely interested in the field, but I did find it dry at times (and I wasn’t compelled to keep coming back to it).

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone interested in economics or ways to improve the economics for the globally poor.