New Top Career Book Recommendation

When I’ve chatted with people in the past about how to plan/manage their careers, I would often to refer to the book What Color is Your Parachute as my go-to recommendation, as it’s packed with great resources (a great friend of mine referred me to its Flower Exercise many years ago).  But recently I’ve been listening to Clayton Christensen’s (who recently passed away) How Will You Measure Your Life? (Harvard Business Review has an article about the book here), and it’s now going to be at the top of the list, along with What Color is Your Parachute as a recommendation for people to invest the time in reading.

Christensen is famous as an Harvard Business School profession who wrote extensively about disruption, and I’ve enjoyed his writings on that topic; but this book is a great read in a very different direction.  This book is focused on asking great questions about how to plan and run your life, with a focus on how to measure ‘success.’

He starts the book talking about how interesting it was to see at school reunions how different people’s lives evolves, and how they prioritizes their time and energy.

He shared some great concepts to be thinking about through your career like:

  • Deliberate vs. Emergent Strategies: The different between having a clear goal and working toward it vs. being open to new opportunities and seeing where they take you
  • Identify Assumptions: Before making a big decision, thinking about ‘What would have to be true for this to success?’, where you invest time in thinking about what assumptions/dependencies are inherent in this thing you’re considering (similar to investing time in a pre-mortem)
  • Resource Allocation: How will you invest your time and energy?  Be careful not to invest it only where short-term feedback/gains show up (such as work) and not invest where it takes a while to see feedback/gains (e.g. relationships with your spouse, children, friends)

I’m only 40% through the book, but it’s already so good I have to share it.

Books, Podcasts, and Conferences related to Designing Great Organizations

Here’s a list of books, podcasts, conferences, frameworks, methodologies, models, and other resources related to designing and building great organizations that I think are worth checking out.

If you have any recommended additions, please email or send me a tweet.

Books, Frameworks, and Standards


Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

The Scrum Guide
  •  Defines Agile Scrum implementation, including relevant ceremonies (meetings), roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Team Member), and information radiators (tools)
  • David Anderson gave a great keynote at the CMMI Capability Counts 2017 conference — Kanban is often over-simplified for people who don’t appreciate the whole concept
  •  The Amazon reviews complain about the Kindle version of this, but I’m guessing they’re using the traditional Kindle — the figures look great on my Kindle Fire
Scaled Agile Frameworksafe-logo.PNG
  • Framework for scaling Agile practices to teams of over 50 people
  • Combines best practices from several other sources (e.g. Lean, DevOps, Scrum, Kanban) along with some good tactical recommendations, such as investing in a 2 day, in-person planning events every quarter for the whole team (Program Increment Planning)
Disciplined Agile (DA) process decision framework


  • Map (analyze) your operation, find the worst bottleneck, resolve it, and repeat
  • Optimize the system, not locally (don’t try to keep each individual machine or person “busy” or productive; instead focus on optimizing the whole system)
  • This is a classic book, written as a fictional story to teach the concepts of the Theory of Constraints
  • Note: A graphic novel version of this was recently released, which sounds interesting
  • Teaches the mindset and concepts of DevOps and why DevOps is so critical to increasing organizational agility
  • Quality Management standard, originally focused for manufacturing organizations, that provide a template on how to define best practices related to ensuring Quality in your organization’s operations, leveraging concepts such as formalized surveys asking your customers how you’re doing
  • Significant overlap with CMMI PPQA, but has some unique practices



Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

Cover Image
  • Fascinating podcast by Reid Hoffman, where he interviews leaders who have scaled their organizations
Software and Process Measurement Podcast (SPaM CAST)


  • Tom Cagley interviews people related to process improvement and lots of related domains



Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

Agile Alliance’s Annual Conference
CMMI Capability Counts Conference

The Kindle’s Best Feature: Seeing all your Highlights on one Website

The Amazon Kindle is great and it’s incredible it was introduced almost 8 years ago.  I realize it can still be a controversial topic for hard-core readers regarding whether paper for e-ink is better, but for anyone who doesn’t own a Kindle or does and doesn’t know about this feature, the best part of a Kindle is being able to see all your highlights from all your books in one place online at:

Some of you may already realize this, but it’s incredible.  The ability to be able to go back and review everything that resonated with you when you read it is incredible.  Sure, if you underline or highlight tangible, real-paper books; you could go through your old books on the shelves — but no one ever does.

Being able to scroll through a feed that shows the books in the order you last read them, and the highlights are incredible — here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 9.55.30 PM

While I don’t use this feature as much as I’d like to, I love the ability to scroll through and see what struck me in a book I was reading recently or years ago.

Book: Education of Millionaires

I recently read Education of Millionaires, which wasn’t about at all what I expected but turned out to be a great read.  It was a mix of:The-Education-of-Millionaires

  • Inspirational stories about people who created great lifestyles, often through startup companies, without impressive academic credentials
  • Identification of key skills to succeed professionally and how to develop them
  • Reasons why college education in American is broken and why it’s not relevant

Like Four Hour Workweek, I found it to be a great book even though I’m not looking to start a company or work 4 hours a week. Ellsberg identifies these skills as the keys to success:

  • Finding great mentors – you can get great mentors, but you have to actually take the action of identifying them and asking them
  • Marketing – great marketing happens when you focus on your client, not you, and how you can help them (not how great you are) — for example, try listing 25 of each of these for a client you’re pursuing:  fears, frustrations, desires, dreams, and nightmares and see how that affects how you communicate with them
  • Sales – learn from people who are great at it, like great copywriters; don’t think sales is beneath you (it’s a key skill, not a separate profession)
  • Investing in yourself
  • Building your personal brand

Some great quotes/concepts from the book:

  • “But what these cultural expectations for dropouts miss is that people can turn around.  Whether you’re a fast-food server or a cubicle jockey in a mindless corporate job [crappy] job fresh out of college, you’re not going to create anything better for yourself unless you make a fundamental shift:  from viewing yourself as a passive follower of paths other people set for you, to actively taking responsibility for creating your own path toward success, however you define it.  Thus, how much education you have doesn’t really matter; what matters is whether you make this fundamental shift in mentality.”
  • “The people who are most successful, they had a problem gnawing at them, and they couldn’t be comfortable unless they did something to solve that problem. … It was about solving a problem” – Sean Parker
  • “Understand that no matter what you’re doing, even if you want to be a ballplayer, a rapper, a movie star — nothing happens until something gets sold. Ever. The reason actors make so much money is because their face sells the movie tickets. It’s not about their ability to act. … The key is … to cause someone to joyfully give you money in exchange for something that they perceive to be of greater value than the money they gave you.” – Frank Kern
  • The skills of success (marketing, sales, leadership) are separate from the skill of your craft (writing, design, engineering, etc.) and you need both to succeed.  Marketing is getting people who didn’t know you to know you.  Sales is getting people to pay you who haven’t paid you before.  Leadership is changing the hearts and minds of people (not manipulation, but effectively leading).
  • The five minute rule:  when you’re having a bad day, you can whine/vent/complain about it for 5 minutes; then focus on what you can control
  • “We don’t get to choose what happens to us. But we do get to choose what it means. And in the choice is a tremendous power.”
  • “If there are other people doing well in your industry, and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with the business you’re in, there’s something wrong with you.”
  • “Most people don’t see that they have options beyond what society tells them to do.  That’s the biggest problem.  They honestly believer that compliance is the shortcut to success. …there are all these people who work in newspapers who think that they can comply their way to success.  It’s insane.” – Seth Godin
  • “There are two decisions you need to come to in order to be free, and to be more effective.  First is that you are not entitled to anything in the world, until you create value for another human being first. Second, you are 100 percent responsible for producing results. No one else.” – Joe Polish
  • The entrepreneurial mind-set (not the employee mind-set) is the key to success, whether you’re a business owner or an employee:  focus on contribution (not entitlement), outcomes (not output), what’s needed (not what’s requested), working yourself out of a job (not working to protect your job), going toward big decisions (not avoiding decisions), seeing your circumstances as temporary (not seeing them as permanent)
  • “I predict that many of the critics of [Education of Millionaires] will incorrectly say I reduce education to mere “vocational training.”  My book, in fact, recommends the opposite of vocational training.  Vocational training prepares you for a specific job — even though many of the jobs people people are now training for may not exist in five or ten years!  The courses in this book prepare you for success in any job, including jobs we can’t even imagine because they don’t exist yet.”
  • Education doesn’t have to be linear anymore, thanks to the hyperlinked Internet of knowledge (concept discussed by Sean Parker)
  • “[Peter] Thiel told me he asks a simple question of people who are seeking employment with him, as well as asking it of the young people applying to his fellowship program.  He says that many young people, raises for years and years through the hoop-jumping and conformism of the formal schooling system, have an incredibly hard time answering it.  So it weeds out most applicants:  ‘Tell me something that you think is true that very few people agree with.'”

Book: Millionaire Mind

A few weeks back, I read most of Millionaire Mind (it’s so freeing to realize that you don’t have to finish books or read them in order — thanks Mark and Bob) and was impressive with a couple of great concepts (Julien Smith summarized the book well as “Those that are wealthy are not those who ACT wealthy. Those that look wealthy are usually in just debt, while the rich tend to act broke.” in his list of hilarious and succinct summaries of 200 books.)

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • “I taught my sons and daughters that money is not their God. You control it…not let it control you.”
  • People who have net worth (not necessarily high incomes, but people who are worth a long instead of people who make a lot and spend a lot) often share characteristics like: they enjoy their work, they don’t buy luxury items (big, fancy, new houses; flashy cars), but they do buy things of value
  • They enjoy their work
  • They spend significant time socializing with friends and maintaining personal and professional relationships well
  • Millionaires see keys to success being things like honesty, discipline, being easy to work with; instead of intelligence, SAT scores, etc.
  • They are very focused on using their time well — minimizing things they aren’t passionate about (e.g. they make shopping lists before they go to the store to avoid wandering) and making time for things they do care about (friends, passions, hobbies, etc.)
  • They don’t blame others for their circumstances of think about or start things without finishing them

The book is full of inspiring stories about people who worked hard and accomplished impressive things, like the part-time, school bus driver who saved his pennies, studied the stock market tirelessly, and retired after sending his 3 children to Ivy League schools with $3M in assets.  It’s a great read as a reminder of how focused our society is on buying shiny, new things instead of spending time with friends and other things we’re passionate about.

(I love Evernote for taking notes of things on things like great quotes/points in books.)