Your fiction recommendations

Nick wrote in wondering if I could publish the fiction recommendations I collected during the holiday season thanks to recommendations from those of you who wrote in. Thank you so much for sharing again… and here goes –

Armada by Ernest Cline

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Avogadro Corp by William Hertling

Mr. Pennubra’s 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chamber

The Rosie Project by Don Tillman

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Cixin Liu’s trilogy starting with the Three-Body Problem

The Punch Escrow by Tal M Klein

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Druss the Legend by David Gemmell

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Lamb by Christopher Moore

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Sundiver trilogy by David Brin

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Extinction Point series by Paul Anthony Jones

Blasphemy and Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Daniel Kahneman’s success equations

I began working my way through “The Science of Why” yesterday and was reminded of Daniel Kahneman’s equations for success from “Thinking Fast and Slow” –

Success = talent + luck
Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck

As someone who loves this topic, his equations made me chuckle. I tend to break up talent into a mix of privilege and mindset. But, that aside, it is nice that he omits hard work altogether.

The importance of luck – specifically in being in the right place at the right time – in our extrinsic success can’t be overstated. If you are swimming in an area where the tide is in, you don’t have to paddle.

Knowing when you need a coach

Most of us know a friend who can pick up skills at will. They say they want to learn the guitar today, watch videos on YouTube for the next 3 months, practice, and emerge as a good guitar player. Or, they actually act on their new years resolution and go to the gym.

We know we can summon up the will necessary to do that for something that’s urgently needed at work. But, we’re generally unable to prioritize stuff that’s longer term/important.

My working theory is that this ability to do self-driven skill building is a function of two things – 1) how driven you are by achievement (vs. other motives) and 2) where you lie on the spectrum between obsessive compulsive and attention deficit. That combination results in a place in the skill building spectrum

For most of us, skill building isn’t easy because we either need a peer group or, in most cases, a coach.

All this gets us to the key takeaway – the solution to accelerating our ability to learn and get better is not to kick ourselves for not being able to finish that course or go to the gym. It is to simply understand our preferences and get help from a professional.

PS: For what its worth, I think this is the greatest challenge for online learning. Only 3-6% of folks finish an online course they start. Imagine what we’d enable if we provided the support that many of the others needed.

SpyCloud – dealing with password breaches

Attacks to online security and password breaches are getting larger and more frequent.

While 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) will help prevent an “Account Take Over” following a breach, we’re in a better place to deal with potential problems when we know something happened. For example, “Account Take Over” aside, spammers might target you with emails claiming to be able to access your account because they have a password from a few years ago.

SpyCloud does exactly that. SpyCloud’s free service notifies you of any breach that involves your email address. It is becoming a must-have along with 2FA in our cyber crime defense toolkit.

Reading non-fiction – breadth and depth

It is interesting how often new year resolutions involving non-fiction books focus on breadth (e.g. targeting x books to read per month) and how few, if any at all, focus on depth.

As I’ve come to realize, breadth targets with non-fiction books are the equivalent of vanity metrics. If the goal is learning and growth, there is often more to be gained by picking ONE great book on a topic that matters to us and seeking to simply master the concepts of that book over the course of the year.

That’s because the act of reading alone doesn’t result in learning. It is the synthesis, reflection, and action that follows that results in learning.

In books as in many other things, choosing depth points to wisdom and potential transformation.

The right way to lift weight

As I’ve belatedly been learning in the past week, the right way to lift something heavy is not to bend down to lift it. Instead, it is to do a squat.

The reason to do the squat is because it enables us to keep our back straight and ensures our back muscles are supported by our leg muscles.

If this sounds obvious to you, good for you.

For me, on the other hand, learning this was a reminder that doing something in a certain way for a long time doesn’t make it right. That holds true for habits that seem to come “naturally” as well.

The 3pm rush

The post office near our place closes at 3pm on Saturdays. I’ve been there a few times over the past couple of years.

When I visited last month, I made the mistake of reaching a few minutes before it closed. There were about fifteen of us who all had the same idea. Long wait aside, there was also stress flying around as folks were trying to make sure they were packing their contents in the right cardboard box while attempting to keep their place in line.

I remembered going through a similar experience when I last went to the post office a few months back as well.

So, when I realized I needed to post some letters today, I made sure I reached with twenty minutes to spare and I walked in and out within three minutes. But, as I was getting out, I could see a queue beginning to form.

It is amazing how procrastination is the default setting for so many of us. Today’s experience was a good reminder that consistently keeping it at bay is a high RoI (return-on-investment) habit.