Archives For May 2012

Boomerang

JasonC —  May 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third WorldBoomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what a great book.

This is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Michael Lewis has a nack for finding a topic that is fundamentally interesting, timely, and thought-provoking and then putting together research to bring that topic to light in a way that makes it something you want to talk about.
The writing style is smooth and balanced with a fair amount of humor thrown in to make it a super-fast read.

Brief synopsis: during research for the awesome book The Big Short, Lewis interviewed several money-managers who made big bets against the sub-prime housing market that ended up making them each Billions. One of those interviews was useless for that book because the gentleman had already moved on to the “next thing” that had him excited. What would that be? The sovereign debt crisis. From that starting point, Lewis takes us on a journey of how the world has gotten to our current point. The mass-delusions of Iceland and Ireland are covered in detail. The Greece-Germany axis is covered well and is extremely interesting. The German involvement in the American sub-prime mess comes next. Finally there is some discussion of America’s debt situation, mainly focusing on municipal debt.

My one criticism of the book is that there isn’t enough coverage of the overall sovereign debt and state debt situation in the U.S. Nor is there enough space dedicated to the discussion of what this means to Americans and how we can change it. Essentially, I think Lewis is trying to say, without doing so directly, that the nation’s debt crisis is parallel to the situation in California. Everyone wants services and they aren’t willing to pay for them. And the government has been trying to provide just that. There is some element of mass-delusion in the idea that all of these entitlements are ok. Politicians are doing nothing to change the mindset of the people because they are too concerned about reelection to consider what is genuinely best for the future of our country. Maybe he is trying to inherently draw a parallel between the U.S. and Greece/Ireland.

I will say that despite the strongly political nature of the topic, Lewis has somehow managed to remain completely politically unbiased. In my read, there was no overt or implicit liberal or conservative bias. I suspect liberals might consider even covering the topic to be a conservative action. But if you actually read it, there is no bias. Because there is no narrative on how we should change our policies or direction, Lewis is able to escape this entirely. Personally, I wish he could have added a section describing a country who had come to the brink and then pulled themselves out of it to become financially solvent and prosperous because of it. Perhaps that would have been able to paint a picture of a future direction without entering the politcal-hot-water you would expect from covering it directly. I suppose this would be difficult or impossible using a modern example, though.

This is an extremely timely read. No matter which side of the political fence you sit upon, you will learn something here that will probably alter the way you think about our nation’s (and the world’s) debt situation. Profoundly. If you read Boomerang and don’t want to make some changes in how you prepare for the next 10 years, you’re either doing an excellent job already or have your head in the sand.

Honestly, I think anyone with even a passing concern about world finance and the potential for financial disaster needs to read this book

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Broke : The Plan to Restore our Trust, Truth and TreasureBroke : The Plan to Restore our Trust, Truth and Treasure by Glenn Beck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent visualization of the state of our country’s finances and why you should be concerned about it. While I actually “read” it in the unabridged audible version, I ended up buying the paper version as well because it is absolutely laden with graphs, charts, and pictures that visually illustrate the discussion and are extremely well done.

Make no mistake, this is a Glen Beck book and therefore there is a considerable amount of bias. But just as the leftward bias of many authors shouldn’t keep conservative-minded individuals from reading some of those books (The World is Flat; Hot, Flat, and Crowded), the same should be true for liberal-minded individuals when it comes to reading a book like this.

We, as a country, are long past the point at which we can continue to put our heads in the sand and continue to dole out entitlements without concern for the budget or where the money is coming from.

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A Whole New Mind

JasonC —  May 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureA Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent overview of likely changes coming to our society from a world-view perspective. In generations past, there have been wholesale societal shifts in “direction.” For instance, moving from into the industrial age, there was a shift from a family-based agrarian societal structure. That had profound effects throughout society. People left the rural areas and congregated in cities to find production jobs. Capacity of production was limited by the workers available so the educational system was changed to educate our children to a degree that they would be capable of succeeding in those types of jobs. That required left brain thinking. Over the past 150 years, that has been an extremely successful and productive model for western countries. But in modern times, there is another shift that is currently in full swing: a new renaissance, wherein those jobs & professions that require left-brain thought and training are better handled by computers or low-paid workers in other countries.

If you have been exposed to Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence or Social Intelligence books and Friedman’s The World is Flat (or even Hot, Flat & Crowded), you’ll have something of an idea of how this book reads. The writing style is very similar to Friedman’s, though not as densely packed. There is certainly some conceptual content overlap among all of these books as well. I found them all to be quite interesting. Or maybe “thought-provoking” would be the more appropriate term.

The focus of AWNM is on the new renaissance and how this could affect our future and that of our children. Is the current education system going to serve our children, or will it adequately outfit them to enter a job market in which they have no chance of competing with someone who works for 1/2 or less the wages? What types of skills and perspectives do we need to educate and train our future generations in order to make the next economic leap? There are some specifics and a lot of general ideas to digest. And probably act upon through groundswells of pressure and support on our educational system in order to make the necessary changes to best serve our next generations.

My primary criticism of the book is there isn’t enough specific application discussed. The topics covered are huge and will probably affect our next several generations to such a large degree that not acting on this is foolish. Probably even downright negligent. So what are the “next steps” to take as (a) individuals, (b) local thought-leaders, (c) people on educational boards, (d) people involved in various strata of government or even politics? Speaking of politics, I’m essentially straight-up libertarian, and this book read as having a significantly liberal bias. To me, that felt unnecessary as these topics are really non-partisan. Perhaps it was hard to contain as many current right-brain-dominant individuals find themselves in liberal fields of work. Still, it needs to be noted as the topics should be equally important to conservatives, liberals, or anyone in our country. And for those reading it from outside of the western world, it really gives a good thought-platform on skipping straight past “equality” with the western world to a position of dominance quickly.

Definitely a recommended read. Start up a conversation if you do.



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Flipping The Switch

JasonC —  May 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Flipping the Switch...: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability Using the QBQ!Flipping the Switch…: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability Using the QBQ! by John G. Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty good book overall. Definitely start with the previous book – QBQ, which discusses the fundamental concept of making sure you’re asking the right questions to make forward progress.

Flipping the Switch takes it to the next level, though, discussing Application Principles that add to the QBQ. The application principles are Learning, Ownership, Creativity, Service, and Trust. Each section gives a relatively brief discussion of the principle, how it relates the the QBQ concept, and an entertaining anecdote to visualize the concept in action.

This is a brief book with simple concepts that should still help keep you more focused and productive in your work and personal life. Well worth the read.



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QBQ Review

JasonC —  May 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in LifeQBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading QBQ – The Question Behind the Question, What to Really Ask Yourself to Eliminate Blame, Complaining, and Procrastination by John Miller a few minutes ago.

What a great book!

I purchased it on Amazon 2/22/11 and finished it today 2/27/11 which is probably an all-time record for me as books I buy usually take months, if not years, to percolate to the top of my to-read list. This one, however, I seemed to keep getting prompts about in my other reading, Amazon searches, and of course regular mentions from Dave Ramsey. I’m currently going through Financial Peace University with my wife and am doing some personal enrichment reading in that regard, including currently reading The Millionaire Next Door and listening to Thou Shall Prosper on audiobook. Hopefully that puts things into perspective.

Having read quite a few business-related books in the last few years, what sets QBQ apart?

1. An ultra-sharply clear concept.

2. Broad usage potential, both in professional and personal life.

3. Super-fast readability

This is a 115-page book that reads even faster than that. Most chapters are 1-4 pages long, and not particularly dense pages at that. Each chapter reads as a mini article covering a specific item all of which revolve around the QBQ concept.

What is that concept? It’s simple: getting to questions in our lives that move us toward positive action. As opposed to all those questions most people use daily in their work and personal lives which attempt to avoid responsibility or place blame on others for the problem of the moment. It really is that simple. But because the concept is so clear, the majority of the book gives examples of how we can rephrase our words and thinking to become more effective at problem solving. More effective ourselves. Not by attempting to change others. Not by anything other than realizing that we simply can NOT change others, and asking questions about why others do or don’t do what we want them to do are useless questions.

Too often in this country today people act the victim. “I couldn’t do what I needed to do because that person didn’t do their thing.” “It’s not my fault I burnt my tongue on that coffee, the cup wasn’t clearly enough labeled ‘HOT!’” You get the idea. So much of the genius in this country seems to be spent in figuring out how to avoid personal responsibility. At work. At home. At school. In parenting. For anything. Does anyone think this is a good thing? In any way?

To me, this book is a brief rebellion against that epidemic. It’s something I’ll make sure my kids read. It should be read by everyone in America, in my opinion. It’s a short, easy, fun, enlightening read. Every 6th grader and every high school senior should be required to read it. Twice. Maybe again in college. QBQ is that good a concept.

If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.

-Jason

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Changes coming!

JasonC —  May 12, 2012 — Leave a comment

Needless to say, I’m in the process of updating/changing my website. All of this stems from the need to update to the newest version of WordPress and that necessitated PHP5 instead of PHP4, which was the database I had used previously.  What a pain!