2019 Book List

I saw some Twitter jokes about VC’s writing book lists for the year. Snark aside – I really enjoy book lists. If you have one, tweet me @bwagy

If you haven’t seen it I keep an ongoing updated list of my favourite books too.

This year in reading, I have been purposeful around doing the best format for a book, i.e. this is a good book for audio, so schedule it that way vs one I want to digest via paperback. I also wanted to tend towards reading older books, i.e. not just reading the latest/newest out the gate.

Here are my favorites from this year:

Ritz Escofier, caught this tweeted by Rafat, and really enjoyed it. Read the story of the Ritz Hotel came from its enigmatic founder.

Intelligent Investor, my absolute top read of the year. Nice to read a well written book, it’s oft recommended seldom read. For me, it just helped improve my thinking, particularly around personal vs business affairs.

Conspiracy, the story of the Peter Thiel and Gawker lawsuit. But weaved through with philosophy. A big takeaway from me, was the barriers to entry to ‘test’ the legal system in the US are so high that it isn’t tested enough.

Capitalism without Capital, exploring and breaking apart some of the things we have begun to take for granted, digital businesses, assets, our wealth in bits and bytes.

Miracle at Midway, a balanced view of the build up, the actual action and then post events. A deep dive in to the lens and view of each side of the conflict, told as the events unravel.

Titan [in progress] enjoying this, the biography of John D Rockefeller. I got the paper copy which is meaty, so grab the ebook if you like to read in bed. Reminds me of the Buffett one in a way – but with way more depth in the background.

Arsenal of Democracy, walking through how Ford (and other manufacturers) drove production during WWII. Analogous in so many ways to anyone building something audacious.

Effective Executive, another oft recommended seldom read, this I got on audiobook. A good synposis for any executive, at any stage of their career.

How about light reading? I have (and do) enjoy Clive Cusslers each year, whatever has been released. Explorers Journal is a new find for me and really enjoyable.

This time last year I also enjoyed this audiobook (or audio performance) of the Christmas Eve, Truce of 1914.

If you’re looking for something to read over the break, just buy a few. It’s rare that I have regretted the $10-$20 I’ve spent on a book.

December 6th, 2019

Dopamine Fasting

The NY Times has a piece on this, reducing the stimulation we get from technology.

Of course, it helps to have a trendy term for it, mashing up fasting with dopamine hits. Hence…

This makes me think of my grandad, who retired, just to go fishing. Solitude. Time to think. To not rush. Be in nature.

What are you doing to reduce the negative impacts of technology in your life? Reply or Tweet me any thoughts.

November 19th, 2019

Quarterly reports and Jonah Lomu

As a kid in New Zealand, Lomu was to Rugby as Jordan was to Basketball. Everyone wanted to do a side step, where you run at the other team then sidestep around them. You did not want to be on the opposing team against him.

I’m reviewing quarterly reports right now – and you see the sidestep or in our industry, the pivots. We were full steam ahead at this, then this happened, so we changed. Quickly. AND still got the ball across the line.

What’s most important is the fact that it happened, the team saw the landscape change – adjusted and closed out strong. Game over. Review/reflect/re-energise. Next quarter, next game.

If you haven’t seen any of Lomus play, see this highlight reel from the RugbyWorldCup.

October 18th, 2019

Logging every decision

I’ve found it immensely valuable of recent relying on my notes.

You never know, what in the future, will be important.

Of course you need to trade that off with practicality.

A couple I have found super helpful is, what decisions were made and the WHY. It’s the why that is the thing that likely changes in the future. And it’s the why that gives a decision directionality.

For example

We agreed to price it this way BECAUSE of X.

Vs

We agreed to price it this way.

Yes this is obvious but it’s things that are in plain sight that can be overlooked.

In a way, this is a note, to future Ben. Please keep this up.

😀

September 12th, 2019

Consider yourself notified

Apple watch notifications.

iPhone Notifications.

Desktop notifications.

Tv notifications (?)

Email notifications.

Uber during-ride, in-app notifications.

Waze notifications.

Consumers can consider themselves notified.

It’s about now that brands are refining how they tell stories through this journey. From start to finish. Morning to evening. Home to work.

In some respects it’s frustrating, in others it’s an opportunity to continue the great work you’ve always done. But in personalized smart ways.

And if you’re not smart about it, people will opt out.

But for those that do, you’ll be duly rewarded.

August 13th, 2019

The kids door

In June I had a short trip to Spain and in San Sebastian found such a store with a children’s only door.

(As referenced in The Perfect Client)

It’s not the best photo but you get the idea. Once your child is in, you’re definitely going to follow.

Right here on the entrance it screams, this is for kids, we put them first. For people like that. Come on in.

It’s easy to think this is silly but it connects straight away. It’s that bold leap that we reward.

August 7th, 2019

Bread made from 4,500 year old yeast

This is the neatest thing I’ve seen in a while.

Click through to see the full thread.

August 7th, 2019

Edge cases

Edge cases are the points at which a process stops working. It’s the customer that tries to enter via the exit. Or wants to pay on card when you are cash only. Or someone that adds 20kg to a container that only holds 10kg.

Edge cases are helpful, they help you find the bounds or ranges of your process. Addressing them can further these bounds. Or constrain them. They are tactical real feedback.

How you address that feedback – sets the tone for future edge cases.

And most often the lens is, do we want to increase the addressability of our process? Or is this the limit we want? Both can be right. And both communicate to your customers.

July 26th, 2019

Zero carbon

Loved this, NZ to introduce zero carbon bill.

Target is 2050.

I wonder what I’ll be doing in the years 2050. Hopefully enjoying zero carbon!

What makes New Zealand an ideal test bed is that it is a completely cut off country. It’s discrete. Everything that comes and goes can be identified, tracked. I imagine there is some leakage but a lot lower that say a country in Europe.

It makes a perfect scenario for measuring it.

July 19th, 2019

Time to value, how far can you take it? Amazon knows

Amazon upped the ante reducing two day shipping to one day.

But even so, they are still looking at other ways to get value to the end consumer faster.

And I liked this, I bought a book in the weekend, and they let you give it a read BEFORE it arrives. Not sure how they handled the digital rights on this, maybe it is a book where they have both rights. Or maybe it leverages the free sample. Either way, there is an option for me to get started on a new book.

How deep do you have to be in the customer experience to go, lets do this.

That’s the standard for the rest of us to exceed.

July 17th, 2019

Podcast vs radio and the sense of accomplishment

Growing up, adults listened to radio. I didn’t do (or know of) the books being read aloud for kids, maybe it was a bit before my generation. So radio was background noise, with music and DJs I liked as I grew up. It was just there. All the time. Like a river flowing and you turned the tap on.

But with podcasts, you seek them out, you start, you finish. I’ve listened to that one, right lets listen to another. Or you binge a bunch. Then once they’re done they’re done. There’s a psychological reward for finishing, it’s a sense of accomplishment.

In essence both are the same thing, audio storytelling. In fact much of the top downloaded podcasts are radio shows republished to podcast directories.

They are different in substance but that’s dictated by the medium, radio shows are made for mass appeal whereas podcasts are ok in the niches. The one thing that does separate them is the sense of accomplishment. TV is the same.

Maybe it’s not that people don’t like TV or radio. It’s just that in a world of endless content, people like making progress. OTT and podcasts offer that. A sense of accomplishment.

July 16th, 2019

You should know when you’re hot or not

Another kicker from the Druckenmiller interview I shared in the last post.

(for context he is a fund manager)

Skip to 49:00 minutes to pick this chat up.

They get in to, what do you do, after you’ve had a bad year? The analogy is the same with betting after you’re down.

As an aside, the investment principle: if you’re down 20%, you now need to make 25% on your principle to get back to where you were. Or if you’re down 80% you need to make 500% on your principle to get back to where you were. This is when people tend to get irrational and make bigger and bigger bets. Only to lose.

Druckenmiller goes on..

When you know you’re hot, make bigger bets. When you’re not, make smaller bets to find your groove.

It’s when you make big bets when you’re not hot, that really hurt, and create bigger losses.

A good fund manager should know when they’re hot or they’re not. And calibrate accordingly.

I like this simple approach.

July 9th, 2019

Friends & family

Was listening to this interview with Druckenmiller – and he talks a lot on, how friends and family, create the environment and support to do great things.

Give it a listen in the background, it is excellent. What I tend to do, is open on phone, put AirPods on.

And I couldn’t agree more, we are as strong as our weakest support.

Thanks to Noah for sending it my way.

July 3rd, 2019

What did you do differently the second time around?

I shared some thoughts on Quora, around thinking about the second product.

Like most things, the second time is easier but now the threshold is higher.

Same but different.

Here’s more on the Nudge blog.

And a link to the thing. In short, we see a lot of first timers to content give up because they don’t know where to start. Showing them where others brands are – gives a reference point. And then maybe evoke a little bit of the competitive spirit.

Lets see.

June 25th, 2019

The perfect client

I was on a flight a month ago, thinking about the perfect client. Who are they? What do they do? What do I do, to nudge them to be the perfect client?

I caught Ana Milicevics presentation on how to find the right vendor or kick off vendor partnerships in the right way.

That’s the thing. The right partnership is a combination of the technology and expertise to supercharge your internal value chain.

Seth Godin has another analogy on it, his is, are you pushing a stone uphill to close deals, or rolling it down a hill. Creating those conditions for the perfect client, leads to more rolling than pushing.

As one of those partners, it’s helpful to define what a perfect client is. Once established we can work on creating and maintaining the ideal conditions and environment.

So for me, what is my perfect ideal client?

A clear understanding of how our partnership can drive value.

A clear north star, or goal, that we can work towards.

Something we can both spark or learn from.

Cultural fit.

Have fun but stimulating work.

An appetite to improve, to be the best in their area of the world.

Not all clients will be that, each can bring new and unexpected dynamics but it’d be a spoilt position to start each relationship from.

Give it a think, how would this apply? How can you do an experience audit, to make sure you are creating these conditions or the right environment for it to happen? How can that experience speak to and acknowledge your unique lens, or POV on the world?

This kids store had a ‘kids only’ door, that part of the experience sets the tone, kids are valued here, and in turn so are the parents that share that value. An obvious but subtle nod – that also creates enjoyment. That’s the kind of output from the exercise.

May 29th, 2019

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