Review: Stephen R. Covey – 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

7 hABits

Great. Another book review among the thousands that already exist for this book. This happens to be one of the top 10 self improvement books of all time, so if you are interested in personal growth, it’s a must. My girlfriend (who happens to be the only person I’ve met that has a higher interest in self improvement than me) has been snagging me to read it for some time, and I finally got around to it. Here’s my take on it.

What type of book is it?

Practical type of self improvement book that is packed with author anecdotes and real world examples.

Who should read it?

I think everybody would benefit from this book. It’s deep, long, contains so much good quality information that it would take a lifetime or more to master it, and several re-reads to understand it.

What’s bad about it?

Well, to be honest, it bored me quite a lot. The second half of the book took a long time to get through. Maybe I didn’t find the information there as useful as the first half, or maybe I just got tired of all the information. I’m not sure, but it just took a massive amount of effort to finish.

What’s good about it?

It’s just so incredibly full of good information, tactics, and lessons to learn. The first half of the book I found much more interesting and useful than the last. Especially the part about time management. That’s pure 100% gold material and should be a mandatory read for everybody.

Final verdict

Definitely a good read, but be warned. This heavy hitter induces reading fatigue like crazy. That was my experience at least. But in the end, I got a lot of good things out of it.

Review: James Allen – As a man thinketh

What type of book is it?

Philosophical type of self improvement book that teaches the reader the power of thinking.

Who should read it?

I would recommend this book to beginners in self improvement, or people who normally don’t read the genre. The concepts of the book are very easy to grasp and it’s a delight to read.

What’s bad about it?

Some of the reasoning seem a bit outdated. Like where the parts where Allen suggests that thinking “impure thoughts” about the opposite sex could lead to a host of negative side effects of your character.

What’s good about it?

It’s short, contains a lot of great wisdom and easy to grasp concepts, and the thing I like the most is that it’s packed with a lot of powerful quotes! Here are my top three favorites:

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefor remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set.

All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and happiness are evolved from within. As he think, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”

How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of character and make bad blood! It’s a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control. How few people we meet in life who are well balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!

Final verdict

A great read! It opens the readers mind to many ideas and instills the command to take ownership of your thoughts and exercise self control. The last four pages are pure gold, and definitely my favorite part of the book. Those last pages are well worth the price of the entire book, and I love how Allen finishes:

In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; he does not sleep, wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Review: Gary Keller – The ONE thing

I recently read a great book by Cal Newport, and following up in the same kind of theme was a book by Gary Keller called ‘The ONE thing’. Worth the read? Let’s find out!

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What type of book is it?

This book falls into that category of self improvement / facts! It teaches the reader how to narrow his or her focus down to the one thing that is absolutely most important in the moment.

Who should read it?

I would recommend this book to any ambitious person who is trying to get ahead in life. Somebody who wants to improve some part of their life be it study, career, sports, faith or what ever. The concepts of the book can be applied to all.

What’s bad about it?

There is a lot to like here. I can’t really think of anything negative, other than when compared to Cal Newport’s book, this one is more general where Newport is very specific on giving instructions on methods to follow.

What’s good about it?

I like how Keller summarizes the big ideas of each chapter. That was the only thing I felt that Newport’s book lacked. Keller is also good at citing research and making personal anecdotes on how the topic relates to his own experience and life. The book is a bit shorter than Newport’s and I found it slightly easier to read.

Final verdict

A great read! It complements Newport’s book really well, since they are on the same topic of focus, eliminating distraction and habits of productivity. I wish that I had started with Keller’s book, because it’s more general and wider. It’s better suited for piquing your interest on the subject, where Newport’s book is a perfect follow up to get really specific and detailed plans on how to actually implement this into your life. I feel like Newport’s book is more scientific and and instructional. It also covers important topics such as the negative impact of mail and social media in much greater detail.

Review: Cal Newport – Deep Work ‘rules for success in a distracted world’

Following my recent read “How to become a straight-A student“, I dove into another book by the same author: Cal Newport.

What type of book is it?

This is a facts/self improvement type of book, which is my favorite kind of books. I never read made up stories, since I consider it to be almost as wasteful of a persons time as watching TV. I prefer to read something that makes me better, teaches me a new skill or improves my life somehow. This book falls into that category!

Who should read it?

Anybody who is interested in developing habits that cultivate a great work ethic, laser sharp focus, improved thinking skills, problem solving, getting more stuff done in less time, and most important of all – limiting the stressful and negative impact that social media and email have on your brain. I would recommend it for workers as well as students in any white collar knowledge-field, but many principles also apply to all types of work. It’s good for advancing a career or improving study habits.

What’s bad about it?

Not much. The only thing I’d like to see is some sort of summary or cheat sheet on how to start implementing it to your own life. There are many rues, and I wish I would have taken notes as I read it because it will take some time to go back and try to summarize it to apply to your own life – but I think it’s definitely worth it.

What’s good about it?

The book is laced with Newport’s own personal anecdotes on how he implemented and tested the methods into his own life over several years. Everything is backed up by references to science, and he is good at drawing interesting parallels to other successful persons who in some way use the methods and how it has benefited them. Typical for a scientist (Newport holds a PhD in computer science from MIT), he examines popular beliefs from both angles and then breaks it down for the reader in very pedagogical way so that anybody can draw the conclusion that his arguments are well thought through. Several times in the book he addresses issues and worries that people might have about using his method. He even cites emails he has gotten from critics, and then breaks down his answer and solution in simple, logical and explaining way to eliminate doubt.

Final verdict

An excellent read! I think it’s a good follow up read after getting through Tim Ferris’s 4 hour work week. After those two books, you have many tools on how to skyrocket productivity, focus on important tasks and improve your career or grades. But! I do recommend you to take notes as you read and outline the most important concepts. Recommended!

Recension: Framgångsrik Aktiehandel – 10 vinnande strategier

Efter att ha lärt mig privatekonomi och handlat långsiktigt med aktier i ett par år, så känner jag att jag har en trygg kunskapsgrund att stå på. Jag har följt varje nummer av Aktiespararen, läst massor av böcker, och sakta men säkert stärkt min egen privatekonomi. Mina privata finansiella spar-system och budgetplanering har hela tiden förbättrats och finjusterats och nu är mitt system i det närmaste perfekt anpassat för min livsstil, samt väldigt enkelt att underhålla.

Vad är nästa stag? Jag känner mig bekväm nog att börja snegla på kortsiktig trading och teknisk analys! Det är ett område jag varit mer och mer intresserad av, men avstått ifrån eftersom jag först ville bygga en säker och stabil ekonomi och få erfarenhet av fundamental analys och långsiktig aktiehandel. Den ekonomiska kyrkogården är överfull av gravstenar från folk som spekulerat i trading utan att veta vad de höll på med – jag ville inte vara en dem som hamnade där pga okunskap. Om jag skulle ge mig på trading så skulle jag göra det i liten skala och börja långsamt – armerad med regler, strategier och statistik.

Framgaangsrik-Aktiehandel-10-vinnande-strategier

Det första steget i att bilda mig en uppfattning om vad teknisk analys är, kom från att läsa boken “Framgångsrik Aktiehandel – 10 vinnande strategier” av Johnny Torssell, Peter Nilsson, Johan Hellström. Boken går igenom vad trading och teknisk analys egentligen är, och vad den inte är. Författarna presenterar strategier i varierande längd, komplexitet och för olika börsscenarion. Jag avslutade sista kapitlet igår över en utsökt måltid spicy sichuan fish fillet soup här på canteen 1, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Det här är min recension av boken!

Jag måste erkänna att jag tidigare hade många fördomar om teknisk analys och trading som boken snabbt botade. En fördom som gjorde mig tveksamt inställd var att TA inte lutar sig mot någon vetenskaplig grund eller metod. Jag minns tex ett möte med Aktiespararna i umeå då en man föreläste om att använda Aktiespararnas program hitta kursvinnare till att tekniskt analysera några aktier. Jag var definitivt inte imponerad – han verkade dra pilar i graferna helt på måfå och hitta på saker ur tomma intet för att förklara hur aktiens prisgraf uppträtt. Det kändes som en mycket amatörmässig gissningslek.

Boken visade emellertid att min uppfattning inte alls stämmer! Snarare motsatsen. Teknisk analys bygger på många år av studier, matematisk statistik, sannolikhetslära, och behavioral finance. Strategierna som presenteras i boken är alla grundade på många års experimenterande och studier. Matematiken bakom strategierna förklaras på ett lättbegripligt sätt och för varje strategi visas statistik på hur den presterat under många år.

Det finns strategier för många olika scenarion, och alla kan modifieras på flera olika sätt enligt författarnas kommentarer. Jag gillar att de även poängterar att man aldrig ska fatta speciellt tycke för en aktie, utan försöka hålla sig så neutral som möjligt och inte blanda in känslor i sina finansiella affärer. Flera av strategierna tilltalade mig och jag tänker börja prova ett par av dem på en gång! För alla som inte kan något om TA men vill lära sig på ett enkelt sätt så rekommenderar jag boken.

Review: Cal Newport – How to become a straight-A student

A while ago i stumbled across this interesting little book by accident (or rather, by the smart design of the amazon AI recommendation engine). The book is small, cheap, and has a ton of good reviews – a no brainer. What ambitious student doesn’t want to become a straight A?

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The book takes a look at studying techniques for non-technical as well as technical courses and brakes down the methods into steps that are easy to understand and implement. Rather than based on research about studying, the book draws it’s advice from in-depth interviews with several hundred straight A students from prestigious colleges and the patterns of success that appear time and time again from questioning them about their study habits and success. This is a fact that Cal Newport isn’t afraid to point out many times through the book, and it makes sense. It’s real world methods and advice from actual students who use it, instead of based on some theory by a mossy professor who hasn’t studied himself for 20 years.

Newport also compares the book to the other current “experts” in the field, which is a hilarious chapter. The most funny part is when Newport compares his guide to the best selling “What smart students know“, by Princeton review co-founder Adam Robinson. Here is a citation:

“Robinson suggests that students approach reading assignments as a twelve step processThat’s right, twelve separate steps. Before you even crack the actual assignment, Robinson suggest that you jot down questions about the importance of the reading, then take notes about what you know about the topic, what it reminds you of, and what you want to learn. He then asks you to, among other things, read the assignment a total of three separate times, write and then re-write your notes, represent the information in picture form, construct “question charts”, and devise mnemonics to help you memorize the concepts. Needless to say, this approach to a simple reading assignment is humorously unrealistic. I even did a little math. For a typical college level liberal arts course, a student might be assigned 200 pages to read each week. In his book, Robinson provides a one-page sample reading and describes twenty-three different questions that students might ask about it. At a rate of twenty-three questions per page, spending thirty seconds on each query, it would take 40 hours (a full time working week) to simply complete one step of the twelve steps on the reading assignment for just one class. Sounds like a great plan!”.

I was laughing so hard I almost cried when I read this, and Newport is dead on accurate that this is an absurdly unrealistic approach. It turns out that his simple method is highly effective and much better.

The book goes through all parts of studying and actually a bit beyond. Planning your day, mistakes to avoid, how to prepare and even write optimal exams, how to handle essays and papers, and of course technical engineering courses. I’ve personally had a very good school year behind me, scoring the highest grade in almost all my courses. I did change my study methods a bit, and I found out through reading Newport’s book that I actually was implementing a few of his advice in some way without even knowing it. Now I have an easy guideline on how to do it even better! I look forward to trying out his method in a structured and planned way.

So, what doesn’t the book cover? Computer science courses. This is a tricky area, because I’ve found the studying techniques to be different from technical engineering courses and non-technical courses. When coding, you can’t really take any shortcuts to get good. You seem to need that screen time to just pound away. I find that many computer science courses aren’t necessarily hard, but the actual assignments take a long time to complete. As it happens, Newport himself is a computer science major with a Ph.D from MIT so I was a bit surprised to not find any material about that in his book. I’ll send him an email and check out his blogg Study Hacks, which is the most popular student advice blogg on the internet.

The book? Highly recommended!

Niccoló Machiavelli – The Prince

prince

So I have a project going to read a lot of the classic works of literature, and this book is definitely one on that list. I spent my December reading it and here is my short review!

What type of book is it?

Originally written in the 16th century, it’s regarded as the worlds first true leadership book. It’s mainly written as a very direct and straight forward instructional manual on how to be a good prince and how a prince should deal with the most important matters that can occur during and before his rule. Much of the advice is transferable to the modern day world of leadership, business, politics and personal strategy.

Who should read it?

Everybody who has aspirations to attain, keep or advance a high political position, business leaders, and other people interested in high jobs or careers. The average man or woman could still find the book interesting but the application to daily life would be quite limited.

What’s bad about it?

I found the grammar very arduous and it was not an easy read. To grasp the subject fully and understand what Machiavelli was truly meaning, it took concentration and effort. He has a way of brilliantly condensing deep meanings and complicated topics down in a few sentences. It’s not a book I found suited for relaxation reading.

What’s good about it?

He often gives historical examples to the advice offered. For a quote-loving person like me, Machiavelli offers a few good ones through out the book:

“Be it known then, that there are two ways of striving for mastery, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second. A prince should, therefore, understand how to use well both the man and the beast.”

“Everyone I know, will admit that it would be most laudable for a prince to be endowed with all of the above qualities that are reckoned good; but since it is impossible for him to possess or constantly practice them all – the condition of human nature not allowing it – he must be discreet enough to know how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would deprive him of his government, and, if possible, be on his guard also against those which might not deprive him of it; though if he can not wholly restrain himself, he may with less scruple indulge in the latter.”

“As to the mental training of which we have spoken, a prince should read histories and in these should note the action of great men, observe how they conducted themselves in their wars and examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so as to avoid the latter and imitate them in the former. And above all, he should, as many  great men of past ages have done, assume for his models those persons who before his time have been renowned and celebrated, whose deeds and achievements he should constantly keep in mind, as it is related that Alexander the great sought to resemble Achilles, Caesar Alexander and Scipio Cyrus.”

Final verdict

A good but strenuous read! It contains a lot of great wisdom if you have the patience to take your time and fully understand the long sentences.

En bluffpilots bekännelse

Thomas Salme lurade hela flygindustrin och flög som kommersiell pilot åt flera europeiska bolag under 13 år – utan giltigt certifikat. Jag har idag läst ut boken och kan rekommendera den! En historia om moral, etik, flygbranschen, kvinnor, rock ‘n roll och att våga gå sin egen väg. Jag kommer ihåg hur det stod på alla löpsedlar när han greps i Amsterdam precis innan han skulle flyga ett plan till turkiet.

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Andreas Cervenka – Vad är pengar?

vad-ar-pengar

Denna lilla bok om världsekonomi är läsvärd för alla som är intresserade av att veta vad som pågår “bakom kulisserna”. Hur det går till när stater trycker pengar, hur banker fifflar, hur räntor & inflation används som instrument för diverse ändamål, hur bubblor uppstår, EU’s penningpolitik etc. Den är skriven av Andreas Cervenka som är ekonomikrönikör i Svenska Dagbladet. Temat i boken är genomgående kritiskt mot det nuvarande monetära systemet och speciellt mot att USA på 70-talet frikopplade dollarn från att vara bunden till guld. Detta har infört fractional reserve banking – ett ekonomiskt mega experiment där stater trycker mer och mer, lånar ut mer och mer och ingen riktigt vet vad som kommer hända.

Många intressanta saker tas upp i boken, som man kanske bör vara medveten om ifall man (som mig) är intresserad av världsekonomi, fastighetsmarknader, finansiella marknader etc. Boken är välskriven och fyndig, med undantaget att författaren lite för ofta drar ironiska och sarkastiska jämförelser som kan bli lite halvtjatigt. Det enda jag egentligen saknar från boken är “det goda slutet” om hur man skulle kunna få ordning på världsekonomin och bygga ett monetärt system med mycket mer stabilitet och mindre bubblor, skulder etc. Något sådant kapitel presenteras aldrig – kanske för att ingen vet hur? Boken är iallafall läsvärd för den som är ekonomiskt intresserad, speciellt för dem som är lite samhällskritiska. Boken är även läsvärd för dem som trivs som fisken i vattnet med dagens världsmässiga penningpolitik och finansiella marknader Var dock beredd att boken kanske grusar din världsbild lite och ger en smått obehaglig kalldusch ifall du lever i villfarelsen om att världsekonomin funkar perfekt. Läs den!

The end of over eating

kessler_end_of_overeatingKänner du dig maktlös inför viss mat? Att frestelsen är så stark att du är chanslös? Äter du mer trots att du är mätt? Det är ingen slump- restaurangkedjor, producenter av godis och andra livsmedel har divisioner med högutbildade forskare och ingenjörer vars jobb är att ta fram mat som är så attraktiv och stimulerande som möjligt. Man behöver inte vara överviktig för att lida av detta problem. I boken går författaren grundligt till botten med vad som händer med maten i samhället, och varför vi utvecklar ett beroende för vissa livsmedel. Vad händer egentligen i hjärnan när vi äter sådan mat? Varför tycks vi inte kunna sluta äta onyttigt, trots att vi kanske vill? Visste du tex att McDonalds har ämnen i osten i sina barnhamburgare, framtagna i ett laboratorium, för att utveckla ett beroende? Det är givetvis för att säkra en livslång trogen kund/intäkt redan som liten – när hjärnan är som mest mottaglig och smaklökarna som känsligast.

Författaren har pratat med otaliga experter. Psykologi, beteendevetare, neurologiska forskare, experter på smak, you name it. Han lämnar ingen sten orörd för att gå till botten med i ämnet. Till sitt förfogande har han också ett par anonyma personer på “insidan”, högt uppsatta chefer som frikostigt berättar om branschen och hur arbetet går till när en ny maträtt eller produkt skall skräddarsys för att bli oemotståndlig och snärja maximalt antal konsumenter.

David A. Kessler har också hittat lösningar. I Slutet av boken finns hjälp och förslag på hur man gör för att bryta mönstret om man fastnat i fällan. Om du känner att du testat alla metoder för att bryta mönster av onyttigt ätande, men allt misslyckats, så kanske du vill ta en titt i denna boken. Rekommenderas! Även om man inte känner att man lider av problemet så är boken nog så intressant och spännande – du kommer se på matproducenter och restaurangkedjor med nya ögon. Ögon som ser vad de egentligen håller på med..

Vill du veta mer innan du läser boken?
Lyssna på Kessler’s föreläsning: