This book describes kaizen – which is the concept of making small steps toward improvement. This process was originally used to build the Japanese economy after WWII, however the author was interested in how it could be used to change personal habits.
The premise is that you focus on the tiniest improvement possible. For instance:
- To begin exercising, walk in place during a one-minute television commercial.
- To stop consuming caffeine, take one less sip of coffee.
- To clean up a messy desk, put away one paper clip.
As you can guess, these actions are a lot more palatable than 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, giving up your daily coffee, or spending the weekend cleaning your office. The idea is that these tiny steps keep you from resisting the activity and build new neural pathways in your brain.
I may be the only person who hasn’t read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, so some of the parallels of this story were lost on me. Public relations maven Stacey Knight and her husband Jamey move from New York City to Los Angeles, where Jamey will serve as CEO to a movie studio. Much of this book is a “fish out of water” tale as Stacey adjusts to West Coast living.
The former movie studio head is a big fan of The Art of War, and the Art of Social War follows the same format. Eventually Stacey gets tired of being bullied by the ex-CEO and uses The Art of War to get revenge. The story line was interesting and quite clever. As I said, I think I would have appreciated it more if I was a bigger fan of The Art of War.
I’ve reviewed John Grisham novels in earlier newsletters. Grisham is one of the few authors whose audio books my husband and I can enjoy together on car trips. The Whistler was our favorite novel to date. It is both a good story and an interesting look into judicial corruption.
The story centers on lawyer Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. It’s a desk job that keeps her busy but isn’t exactly exciting. That is until she’s approached by a disbarred lawyer who has a whistle blowing client. From him, Stacy learns that a judge is taking money from the Coast Mafia and skimming cash from a casino. The plan is for the whistle blower and lawyer to expose the judge and make money from the settlement.
The investigation soon becomes dangerous (I won’t give away the plot), partly due to the fact that the casino is located on Native American land, so is not governed by state law. The plot is interesting as it brings together a corrupt judge, Tribal law, organized crime, the FBI, a whistleblower and a reluctant investigator. My husband and I both enjoyed this book, as (I believe) will John Grisham fans.
I listened to the audio version of this book and couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The book details the author’s one-year quest to become more productive. He identifies the three areas of life he needed to manage – time, attention and energy – and learned how to focus on his most important tasks. Although The Productivity Project is heavily based on research, his experience applying the concepts is both entertaining and informative.
One of the many things I learned from The Productivity Project is that we expect more of our future selves than we do of our current selves. This is why we believe that we can save for retirement, pay off debt or lose weight in the future, even if we can’t do it now.
The author’s experiments included some traditional productivity ideas – such as cutting out stimulants, improving hydration and getting regular exercise. Along the way he also tried more difficult experiments, including eating only soylent (powdered food) and trying to spend a week in isolation. This is a truly excellent and motivating book that would be especially helpful to entrepreneurs.