Book: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow

Review

A very long and fascinating read about one of the great American industrialists and/or Robber Barons. The book is brilliantly written, putting you at the center of The Gilded Age. Although it’s very long, never once was I bored and many times looked forward to reading and immersing myself into the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Besides Rockefeller and his family, you will read about many other, well known people that shaped the US (and the world) as we know it today: Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, Joseph Pulitzer, Baron Alphonse de Rothschild,  Lelan Stanford, Sigmund Freud, James Joyce,…

A very enjoyable read and something to keep you company for a few weeks, if not months. Besides great storytelling there is also some surprisingly relevant business advice which I’ve compiled below.

Buy on Amazon.com.

Summary

John D. Rockefeller drew strength by simplifying reality and strongly believed that excessive reflection upon unpleasant but unalterable events only weakened one’s resolve in the face of enemies.

“A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”

Searching for oil was wildly unpredictable, whereas refining seemed safe and methodical by comparison. Before too long, he realized that refining was the critical point where he could exert maximum leverage over the industry.

One of Rockefeller’s strengths in bargaining situations was that he figured out what he wanted and what the other party wanted and then crafted mutually advantageous terms.

“Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed.”

On employees: At first, he tested them exhaustively, yet once he trusted them, he bestowed enormous power upon them and didn’t intrude unless something radically misfired.

Part of the Standard Oil gospel was to train your subordinate to do your job.

“Has anyone given you the law of these offices? No? It is this: nobody does anything if he can get anybody else to do it… As soon as you can, get some one whom you can rely on, train him in the work, sit down, cock up your heels, and think out some way for the Standard Oil to make some money.”

He was always careful to couch his decisions as suggestions or questions.

Standard Oil created demand as well as satisfied it, and its obliging agents helped consumers clean lamps and burners to enhance their use.

Book: Start Small, Stay Small, Rob Walling

Review

Great intro into building a small software company. Some really good advice on finding and serving your market.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Order of importance is market, marketing, aesthetic, function. Go into niche markets and create focused products. Target small businesses and consumers. Create complementary products not products across niches. Build an email list. Outsource tasks and automate processes.

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Book: Hooked – How To Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal

Review

A must read. If you build any kind of products, you need to read this book.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Customers are less price-sensitive about products around which they have formed habits. They increase the dependency by storing value in the product. Two factors for habits: frequency and utility. The more users invest time and effort into a service, the more they value it. Identify habitual users, codify the steps they took (“Habit Path”) and modify the product to fit the new insights.

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Book: Better and Faster, Jeremy Gutsche

Review

Great book, reminding us in this day and age, no matter how big or small or how successful your company is, you need to always innovate and “be paranoid”. Recommended.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Look for connections and try to understand the patterns. Be a hunter (insatiability, curiosity, willingness to destroy), not a farmer (complacent with success, repetitive, overly protective). Understand your customer, adapt, and fashion fast solutions. Experiment with new ideas. Target niches.

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How To Hugely Decrease The Amount Of Time You Spend Watching Videos

Ever watched a recorded webinar 2-hours long only to find there was nothing substantial in it? Or, does the presenter talk r–e–a–l–l–y  s–l–o–w–l–y?

You can avoid such things just by speeding up the video.

I usually download all videos and then watch them with 1.5-1.8x playback speed. You can start with 1.1x and then slowly increase speed. After some time you’ll easily listen to (and understand) 1.8x playback speed without issues.

Here’s the tools I use.

YouTube

YouTube allows increasing speed of videos by clicking on the settings button.

youtube

Step 1: Downloading Videos From The Internet

Download Firefox addon DownloadHelper. It will recognize 90%+ of videos and you’ll be able to easily download them to your disk.

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Step 2: Changing Playback Speed

There are probably also other video players that allow for change in playback speed but my default one is VLC Player. It’s free to download on their homepage.

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You can use iOS app Swift or for iTunes Speed-Up (Mac).

This helps enormously and really increases the amount of videos you can watch in an hour.

Book: The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz

Review

Really good book and very fun to read. It reminded me again of the importance of systemizing work and focusing on your best customers. Highly recommended.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Find the top clients (/client type), treat them preferentially, fire all other clients (/client types). Ask the top clients about their frustrations and solve them. Don’t work, build systems for people and things to do the work.

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Book: The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun

Review

Great look at one of the most interesting companies on the web, WordPress. While not everybody is as lucky to be able to focus only on product and leave everything (especially marketing) as a second thought, this book still has some great lessons and ideas, especially on managing employees. Definitely a recommended read.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Hire by trial. All employees participate in support. Scoreboard for the entire company. 5 people in team is best. 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way. Always ask “how will this impact the user?”.

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How I Went From Reading 2 Books Per Year To 20

I’m sure most of us have a bunch of books on our shelf or to-read list but never get to actually read them. I enjoy reading and always wanted to read more but somehow couldn’t get myself to read more than the 2-3 on my summer vacation.

Last year I read a great little productivity trick from Jerry Seinfeld. I tried it for two activities which just wouldn’t move to my daily routine: reading and (short) exercise. I don’t use this technique anymore but it did put both of these activities into my regular, almost-daily routine.

How I Read 1000% More Books Than Before

First of all – reading on a daily basis as recommended by Jerry. No matter if it’s just 15 minutes, I always read at least one chapter per day.

I also read at least two books at a time. This is one of the major lessons – if you get bored of one book just move to another. If you don’t like the book, drop it and start with a new one. There’s no use in reading something that you’re not enjoying.

You might think that you can’t keep track of that many books – and you can’t. That’s why I take notes for each book and gather them in Mac Notes (I use Kindle which allows you to easily highlight text). When I finish the book I also summarize the summary in a “tl;dr” (too long, didn’t read in geekspeak). This is the core of the book in 4-5 sentences.

I also read a non-business beside one or two business books.

Everything I read or want to read I keep track of with the free website Good Reads.

Going Forward

Twenty books per year is not really that much. But if you’re like I was, 10+ additional books can make a BIG difference – it did for me. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Yes! Another blog!

If there’s something missing in this world, it’s blogs. So I decided to merge my two blogs which I wrote in Slovene and create a new one for English audiences.

What will you see here? Mostly productivity tips, book summaries and a lesson or two I learn on my path.

I’ve scheduled a few posts that will be published in the next few days, including tips on reading more, speeding up your learning with videos and two book summaries.