Review: Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values

A highly meditative take on how to conduct oneself in life and in business with others, Kofman’s book, Conscious Business, contains much to discuss and learn. I picked it up in response to reading an article by Matt MacInnis, the CEO of San Francisco tech firm Inkling, where the book is required reading for all employees.

Having just wrapped up my first experience taking an early stage startup from 1 to 20 employees, and wishing to understand more about how leaders may intentionally create business culture where employees can not only create business value but thrive personally and emotionally as well, Conscious Business felt highly relevant.

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Review: The limits of “Grit”

Grit is considered a “must-read” by many in my professional circle. For good reason – it’s an engaging, thought-provoking book. It’s useful and satisfying for its clear explanation of the core concept of grit (which is essentially: passionate perseverance) and its many inspirational stories. It’s also frustrating as hell for the nuance it lacks.

On the surface, this book is about the power of effort, and how deeply, mistakenly, undervalued the power of personal will is in our society. Modern people tend to romanticize and over-value “natural talent” and under-value sustained effort – to the great disadvantage of many.

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Review: Political Fictions

political fictions book coverI experienced a large range of low emotions in the wake of the 2016 presidential election: disbelief, shock, anger, indignation, confusion, revulsion, despair, depression, anxiety.

This book was a necessary choice for this moment at the end of this particular year, in part, because I wanted to settle back in to Didion’s exacting language after enjoying two of her books so much, and because I was seeking some political and historical perspective.

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Review: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

While a bit repetitive and about 100 pages too long, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” holds definite value for people searching for ways to be more effective and at peace with their choices.

“Essentialism” as advocated by McKeown is a personal philosophy of making deliberate decisions about where to spend one’s limited and precious time. It’s a mission statement aimed at reducing psychic clutter, regrettable personal commitments and extra “stuff” that ultimately does not matter in the greater scheme of one’s life.

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Review: The Alliance

This NY Times bestselling book about managing employees in the modern workplace offers one big idea. It’s not hard to understand and the book is filled with examples that are helpful and illuminating in varying degrees. Like most popular business and management books I’ve read, the “big idea” is driven home again and again, the content is a bit repetitive, the language is very easy to skim, and the book itself could have been one really great Harvard Business Review or Atlantic article, but was stretched to create a book instead. Fine, it is what it is. It’s still worth your time.

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Review: Spark

Spark is an incredibly important, exhaustively researched book that will fascinate anyone who is even remotely interested in how our brains work.

Now quite famous and highly regarded, psychiatrist John Ratey presents study after study in service to his thesis: that vigorous physical exercise is not only good for our bodies, it also has the power to improve mood, treat mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, prevent memory loss, improve conditions like ADD, and generally “remodel” our brains for all around better performance.

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Review: Lean Out

Lean Out is a diverse collection of 19 essays of uneven quality but consistent passion. Each piece of writing shares a personal story, experience or perspective of a woman or transperson either in the trenches of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial dream machine, or looking back on it after leaving.

Whatever benefits Sheryl Sandberg extolls in “Lean In” (the clear reference point to which this collection is a response) these essays point out that outsiders are expected to conform in order to succeed…and “outsiders” are anyone who is not a white cis male. This isn’t so much a whiny collection of hand-wringing identity politics as a thoughtful report of real experiences – the reader is invited to draw a lot of their own conclusions.

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Play games

Today, as I sat waiting for my plane to New York to take off, I had a moment of witnessing one of those strange cultural assumptions in action that make no sense to me.

I heard a woman seated in the row behind me tell a young kid, presumably her son, that he could watch two movies on our flight, but she wouldn’t want him to play video games for five hours. To my surprise, the kid readily agreed. Ok, he said, as though it made any kind of sense. Since it wasn’t not my kid, and this didn’t exactly constitute an abuse worthy of an intervention, I kept my mouth shut, but here’s what I would have liked to ask her.

image via qui.
[image via qui.]

Why would you not allow your child to play video games for a few hours during a flight? Can you think of another way to more fully engage the mind? Do you know that games are one of the most effective teaching tools? Do you know that games can help people learn everything from new vocabulary and languages to quick reaction times, decision making and reasoning skills? Do you know that today’s games are incredibly complex and sophisticated, that a few hours of playing a game might help your son level up in Spanish or Econ?

Why would you prefer that your son passively watch idiotic movies for five hours? Current mainstream cartoons and children’s films generally have a low level of sophistication and emotional intelligence. Most mainstream kids films serve only as vehicles for product placement, embedded advertisements, mindless catchphrases, toy tie-ins, and the relentless reinforcing of insulting stereotypes about gender, race, age, class, etc. Would you truly rather subject your kid to five hours of passive brainwashing as opposed to five hours of engaging interactive play? Isn’t the possibility of interactivity and creatively always better than passive viewing?

When people over 40 say the phrase “video games” they tend to call up a set of sinister stereotypes: pointless numbing violence. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of popular video games are full of violence, as well as the endless sexism, product placement and so on that I just accused kids films of peddling. But games at least offer choices, decisions, the activation of the brain.

It always surprises me when I hear people discuss games as inferior to films or books, as though one format of content delivery could be objectively inferior, and that games were that inferior format. To use violence as an example: If a similar level of violence is present in a game or a film, do gentle parents prefer the film because their child is not pulling the theoretical trigger and is therefore less complicit in the violence, less responsible for their consumption of violence? I’d argue that passive consumption is almost always the “inferior format” if such a thing exists.

Play games, kid. Play lots of games.