I’m about a third of the way through this book, which has tons of gems on successful management and personal growth. Here are some of my favorite ideas from what I’ve read so far.

Managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them.

People are talented; they want to do their best work and contribute to the success of the company. Managers should do everything in their power to facilitate this: they should clear roadblocks and address causes for fear without delay. Rather than keeping people from talking to each other, they should actively encourage direct communication between team members. They should willingly hire people that seem smarter than themselves, because,

Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.

In fact,

Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.

Our primary goal in whatever we do must be quality, not efficiency. And we shouldn’t toot our own horn.

Excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.

And remember, just because you have a good idea, or a bad idea,

You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.

Why is this important to remember? Because you will have bad ideas, and your team members (including any subordinates) have a responsibility to be forthright about this. They need to know that when they tell you your idea is terrible, that you won’t blow up at them, or quietly sulk, but simply be happy that you have avoided a bad decision together.

So what sort of people should we surround ourselves with?

Draft into service those around you who exhibit the right mixture of intelligence, insight, and grace. The people you choose must (a) make you think smarter and (b) put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time.


Seek people who are willing to level with you and when you find them, hold them close.


Okay, those flowed together really well. Here are a few other points I appreciated.

You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.

In fact, I’d say taking responsibility demonstrates you can be entrusted with responsibility.

What these forces are that make people do dumb things, they are powerful, they are often invisible, and they lurk even in the best of environments.

Coupled with that,

The good stuff was hiding the bad stuff. When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what’s bugging them, for fear of being labeled complainers. This kind of thing, if left unaddressed could fester and destroy.

Just because things are peachy, or mostly peachy, doesn’t mean we should ignore the bad. We have to be alert to tear it out before it’s overwhelming and the whole thing must be thrown out. Rather than feeling like a complainer, we should be focused on improvement; offering specific solutions can help alleviate the perception of complaining others might have.

Thanks to people like Chris Bowler and Ben Brooks, I’ve come across some articles recently about evil to-do lists and putting everything on your calendar instead. Ben thinks it’s stupid, and Chris wasn’t inclined toward it, but seems to think some of the arguments make sense.

The basic gist of the articles against to-do lists is they leave too much choice and allow too little commitment. Putting everything on your calendar forces you to make time to do it, allows you to see availability, and forces you to say “no” more often. I’m loosely trying it out, and I do like that I am more aware of my calendar and time allotments.

In school, everyone received a paper agenda, and we were trained to use it, to rely on it. A mix of calendar and task list worked well. I don’t feel like it’s so easily implemented in apps, though.

Task and Calendar Apps

I’ve tried both 2Do and Omnifocus when it comes to task apps. They each have things I like, but I didn’t work well with either one. I failed to check or add to them regularly. So what would happen? Most of my important stuff would get done, and the less important—or unimportant!—ones would be left to languish. Meanwhile, Fantastical 2 is the only calendar app I’ll bother using; it’s especially nice on Mac, but I’ll talk about it more soon.

Brass Tacks

Regardless of the method you use, the key is to get things done without delay. Use lists or don’t. Use a calendar or don’t. Use paper, or apps, or don’t. But when it comes to things you need to know, know what they are, when they’re due, and who’s expecting. And know when to say “no” to other things.

You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it is a line.—Kaiping Peng, UC Berkeley


Cultural differences generally cause Westerners and Easterners to perceive the world differently. Westerns see objects where Easterners see context and relationships. This affects education, research, and understanding of motivations.

Points of Interest

I found it especially interesting that in tragic events such as shootings, American causal attribution is focused on personality traits; Asians focus attention on surrounding events and relationships, inclined to see many more facts as possibly relevant than Americans would.

In addition, while American schools teach history in effect-cause pattern (“Here’s what happened, here are 3 reasons”), Japanese schools give an impetus, discuss how the actors involved would’ve felt, analogies to students’ daily experiences, and end with the outcome. Japanese students are considered good historical thinkers when they can empathize with historical figures, whereas Americans are proficient when they can deduce and explain the events leading to an outcome.

In a business sense, Eastern cultures tend to see companies as groups of people working toward a common goal, the individuals having relationships with one another and the organization. In contrast, Westerners view them as systems to efficiently organize work. Perhaps this is why Easterners are more open to arbitration, while Westerners want to sic lawyers on their opponents.

Personal Thoughts

It seems very valuable to see the world in terms of context and relationships, to recognize that many things are outside of one’s singular control, and that success requires interdependence, not independence. The Eastern view of companies seems much more fulfilling and likely to result in the success and contentment of employees.