I’m an achievement addict. And I love books. So no surprise that I read books that will help me achieve my goals [no matter how ridiculous they are].
The four that I’ve read recently are high on my list of must-read. Like read them and you’ll get lit. In a good way. Passionate.
In other words, you’ll get a case of “rage to master.” I explain below.
How We Decide | Lehrer
The better of Jonah Lehrer’s two books [the other one, "Proust Was a Neuroscientist," was a good thought, but a bit of a stretch...I abandoned that book about 40 pages in], How We Decide claims to use the discoveries of neuroscience to help us make better decisions.
That’s up for debate.
However, he does a good job showing that our best decisions are not rational nor emotional, but usually a combination of both, depending on the situation.
For example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables when it comes to buying a house. Picking stocks? Let reason guide you. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain.
Note: Lehrer starts this book with Tom Brady in the pocket during the winning drive of his first Super Bowl. I hate Tom Brady. I hate him because he beat my beloved Rams in that game. I almost didn’t read the book because of that. Glad I was able to mature for the ten minutes to plow through that part.
Outliers | Gladwell
Way more academic AND trigger happy when it comes to chance and never-to-happen-again opportunities [giving you the impression that if you didn't grow up in the same circumstances as Bill Gates, Tiger Woods or Jewish lawyers in Manhattan during the Great Depression, you will never be successful at any thing], but Outliers is an exciting read nonetheless.
A good friend, who was close to 40, recommended the book to me and said, “It gives an old fart like me hope.”
This book is long on the story of success and exquisite bits of trivia [like why most pro hockey players are born in January], but short on application. Don’t look to it for advice. Look to it to wind you up and grit your teeth to master your craft…even if you aren’t Bill Gates, Tiger Woods or Jewish lawyers living in Manhattan during the Great Depression.
Bounce: The Science of Success | Syed
I had a hard time reading this book because of the chronic echoes of Outliers. Actually, I’m surprised Syed didn’t get sued for plagiarism. He’s lifted a lot of the Outliers. Of course he gives credit where credit is due, but if you’ve read Outliers already, you don’t want to read it again, do you?
The three gems that make Bounce: The Science of Success a must read, however, are the Polgar Sisters, the concept of deliberate practice and the art of choking. Let’s discuss each briefly.
- The Polgar sisters are three women who were raised for one express goal: to become chess superstars. Their father was a scientist who managed to find a woman who would agree to his experiment. Of course I’m not going to tell you if he succeeded. You’ll have to read the book.
- Deliberate practice is a form of practice that involves a clear purpose, meaningful feedback and loads of opportunity to make mistakes. This is not the practice you and I grew up, but it gives us hope. [It's like my strange writing advice I offered way back when.]
- Greg Norman’s epic collapse in 1996. John Elway in Super Bowl 1990. Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. Why did these guys choke at the very moment when they least could afford to do it? Syed explains. But not sure it will ever keep me from choking.
Talent Is Overrated | Colvin
There is a reason I put this one last. It marries everything above into one nice, succinct, entertaining read. And if you read only one book, read Talent Is Overrated.
Colvin takes on the mystery of exceptional performance by first tackling the two myths behind it: hard work and innate ability. He exposes them both and then turns the corner to show you how you can adopt the habits of people with high ability in sports, business and the arts.
He elaborates on the “deliberate practice” by showing how popular and historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and Chris Rock used the concept. Really fun reading.
The only let down is he doesn’t promise you you’ll become a piano virtuoso overnight. It takes hours. Months. Years. Which many people aren’t willing to commit. And I think it was from this book that I picked up on the phrase “rage to master.” That’s what Colvin calls the passion to excel.
I like that.
Future Books to Read
Have you read The Talent Code or Mindset: The New Psychology of Success? Are they worth my time? Do you have a copy of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance? Can I borrow it? Better yet, will you buy it for me for Christmas?
Share any books you think are worth reading concerning this topic.