Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Tapas Revolution

Friday, January 27th, 2017 | Books, Food

Tapas Revolution is a cookbook by Omar Allibhoy. Omar hails from Spain and previously worked at elBulli, which, between 2006 and 2009, was voted the best restaurant in the world four times running. Now he runs a chain of UK-based restaurants by the same name as his cookbook.

Tapas is usually associated with small dishes. However, most of the recipes Omar includes are big meals. Typically, the dishes involve frying a lot of garlic, throwing in some chorizo, and then maybe adding a few more ingredients. We are pretty sure we set a new chorizo-eating record somewhere towards the end of tapas month.

Some of the recipes were a bit lacking on the instructions. A bit of filling in the blanks, and adjusting the quantities to something more sensible. Other dishes were beautifully simple to implement. My favourite recipe in the book is the still lemonade.

Prawns with chorizo, black pudding and fried bread.

Clams with ham.

Chicken paella. I only put half the amount of water in that the recipe indicated. Even then, I was incredulous. “This is never going to work”. But it did; it all came together at the very end.

Creme caramel. The instructions for making the caramel are very unclear, but it turned out edible.

Blackberry cheesecake.

It was a fun book. Most of the recipes were quick to cook. Those that were not, could be left unattended while you did something else. Some of the instructions were frustrating, but there are definitely recipes in here that I will be going back to. If nothing else, it provides simple recipes to cook things like prawns and chorizo in a tasty and uncomplicated way.

Cashvertising

Thursday, January 26th, 2017 | Books

Ca$hvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone is a book on marketing by Drew Eric Whitman.

In the book, Whitman has essentially boiled down the rules from the great marketing writers, the big ad agencies, and his own experience into a set of simple-to-follow rules. There are constant quotes and references to names such as Hopkins, Ogilvy and Cialdini.

Be begins with a short introduction to psychology, goes on to state the basic principles of marketing and then systematically goes through the rules he has laid down. It is accessible, implementable and fun to read.

Ego Is the Enemy

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Books

Ego Is the Enemy is a book by Ryan Holiday. It made for rather uncomfortable reading for me, which means it was important. I wish I had read this book for ten years ago.

Holiday discusses the role that ego has played in important historical figures, the people around him, and in his personal life. The effect is almost always negative. Ego is a destructive force and one of the biggest factors in whether you are successful in your life is whether you can keep it under your control or not.

Even those who seem to use ego, are ultimately laid low by it. Steve Jobs, who many regard as an egomaniac, really did his best work when not driven by his ego. His ego led to him being fired by Apple the first time around. It was only when he put it aside and started working again from the ground up that he built something amazing.

He holds Howard Hughes up as the ultimate cautionary tale of ego getting the better of you. We do not see most of the people who fail because they disappear without a trace. However, Hughes inherited so much money that he could just keep going in his folly. He built the Spruce Goose, it flew once, and then he stored it in a warehouse at a cost of $1,000,000 per year. For 15 years. A period that only ended with Hughes’s death.

You can be successful and have an out-of-control ego. But this is the exception. Take Kayne West for example. He is one of the greatest rappers of all time. But, after all of that, he is in huge personal debt because he keeps trying to launch a fashion label; something he knows nothing about.

Contrast this to those who shun the limelight (as much as you can when you are successful). Angela Merkel in her third term as the Chancellor of Germany. Bill Belichick, who has taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl six times, and won four of them.

Success is built upon:

  • Staying humble
  • Getting out of your own head, and not wasting time thinking how great you are
  • Being willing to put in the work
  • Always learning, and knowing that there is more to learn

It also gave me a new favourite quote, from John Archibald Wheeler.

As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.

When I look back at my own life, ego has been a destructive force. Looking back, I can see plenty of incidents, especially in my charity work, that were clearly driven by ego. More often than not, these situations played out badly for me.

It also matches up with what Dacher Keltner writes in The Power Paradox. When are are successful, the success quickly rises to our heads. We become the authors of our down downfall, because are unable to keep our ego in check.

This book is an essential read and one that I will be coming back to again and again.

Choose Yourself

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 | Books

Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream is a book by James Altucher. In it, he advocates that working in a corporate environment, or indeed working for anyone but yourself, does not work in the Choose Yourself era.

I had not read anything of his before and his style quite different to most writers. It is manic. It reads like he wrote it while on cocaine. He rants about how the system is broken, university is pointless, buying a home is a bad idea and we are all going to be replaced by robots. Some might find it engaging, though personally, I found it a little inaccessible.

Once you get around the style, the underlying content is interesting. It clicks with a lot of the things I have been reading recently. There is stuff in here about self-care, thinking positively and making changes. It seems sensible. He thinks gluten-free is a scam, for example. He talks about oxytocin too, though does not cite any sources.

He gave a talk about this at TEDx.

Here are the top takeaways from the book:

  • Brainstorm 10 ideas per day: the more you brainstorm, the more your ideas muscle will be will be built-up
  • We can choose ourselves: we do not need a book publisher to say yes to us anymore, we can self-publish (same for anything: YouTube has replaced music labels, eBay has replaced chain store buyers)
  • Honest makes you more money: eventually, Bernie Madoff got caught, and it turns out there was no money

Why Restaurants Fail released today

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 | Books, News

My new book, Why Restaurants Fail – And What To Do About It, is now available. Here is the blurb:

Why do most restaurants close within three years? What secrets do the successful chains know, that the independent eateries do not?

The answer has almost nothing to do with how good the food is. In this book you will:

  • Learn the big 10 predictable and avoidable mistakes restaurateurs make
  • Discover the real reasons consumers choose one restaurant over another
  • Find proven strategies for increasing diner satisfaction, and revenue

For restaurant owners and managers, this could be the most important investment you make all year. For everyone else, it will be a fun read.

You will not get bored. At 52 pages, including the appendix and glossary, this books contains only good stuff; no filler. You will love this book. If not, use your retailer’s return policy to obtain a full refund.

It started appearing in stores late yesterday, and should be out everywhere by the end of today. It is available in paperback from Amazon and in eBook format from Amazon and Apple iBooks.

How to Exit Vim released

Sunday, January 15th, 2017 | Books, News

Today is the day: How to Exit Vim is now available to buy.

Vim is a command-line text editor in Linux. It is notoriously difficult to get out of it once you have gone in. So, I have written a book about how to do it. It does not cover anything else: the only stuff in there is about how to quit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Granted, the chapters are not very long. I have broken down each scenario and the correct command to use for each. That means it has nearly as many chapters as it does pages. But who really wants to trawl through 400 pages? When you are stuck in Vim, you want an answer and you want it fast. This book gives you exactly what you need; no fluff.

This is the blurb:

This book does not cover anything except how to exit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the command-line text editor Vim? If so, this book could save you from tearing your hair out. It breaks down each situation you may find yourself in, and the correct exit command to get you to safety.

Without it, you may find yourself losing work, overwriting critical data, getting lost in a sea of tabs, or worst of all, looking stupid in front of the stern-looking system administrator standing behind you.

With it, people will think you are a wizard. Finally, a way to unlock the mysteries of quitting Vim without leaving a trail of destruction behind you.

Sounds awesome, right? But it gets better. Because the best part about it is the value: I’ve priced it really low. It’s £2.99. When people give away books for free, they charge $7 shipping. This is half the price of a free book.

Look, I am not saying that if you know all of these Vim commands, more women will have sex for you. Even though, most of us who work in IT suspect that is true. That may not interest you. You may, for example, be a straight woman. In which case, I am not saying that knowing all these commands will get you a job as a Google engineer. But…

Finally, one last point from me. Take a look at the cover:

That is a cover that says “this book is amazing”. Why? Because the cover is so basic. It is called sated strength. Other books, inferior books, come up with hugely flashy covers because they know that is the only way they are going to sell. A cover like this says “wow, this book is good it does not even need a professionally designed cover”.

It is available now from Amazon and iBooks.

The maze is solvable, by the way. Here is a bonus activity: if you take it into Paint, draw the correct route through it, and send it to me within the next week, I will send you a copy of the book completely free.

Scientific Advertising

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 | Books

Scientific Advertising is an incredible book. Why? Because it is the online marketing bible. Everyone in online marketing is talking about it. This in itself would be a pretty impressive feat for a book. But it gets even more incredible: it was written in 1923.

How is this possible? How does the entire global e-commerce industry run on a book written before computers even existed?

The answer is that technology may change, but human psychology does not. The author, Claude C Hopkins, was writing about how to sell products by direct mail. In the book, he lays down a series of principles that had been proven to work. You could replicate them, and it turns out you can replicate the same strategies in the online age as well.

Here is what David Ogilvy said about it:

“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Best of all, it is now available free to download. For anyone looking to sell anything, this is a must-read.

The Power Paradox

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 | Books

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence is a 2016 book by Dacher Keltner. In it, Keltner redefines the definition of power. Many of us may consider power to be something that the strong take by force, or using machiavellian methods. Keltner says this view is entirely incorrect: power is something that is given to us by the group because we forward the group’s interests.

This makes sense as a natural selection factor. Groups would want to reward those individuals who put the group’s needs before their own. They do this by bestowing power on that individual in the hope that they will continue to do so, and be able to bring greater gains.

Unfortunately, there is a danger. John Dalberg-Acton was correct when he said…

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Gaining power causes us to forget about putting the group first. It causes us to forget about the reason we were given power in the first place. And what is given, can be taken away. Time after time, people come crashing down because they forgot why they were afforded such status in society.

Keltner also discusses the negative effects of not having power. For example, minority communities that face discrimination and are not given an equal standing in society. Even adjusting for all of the disadvantages they may encounter, merely the fact of being powerless reduces their life expectancy by a measurable amount.

The lesson is clear: stay focused on other people. Not only will you improve their lives, but it is in your best interest as well.

The 8 books that changed my world in 2016

Monday, January 9th, 2017 | Books, Thoughts

I read a bunch of brilliant books in 2016. Too many to list here, though you can find them by browsing the Books category of my blog. Really good stuff like The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Zero to One have not made this list. The River Cottage Fish Book reminded me of my love of fish. Amazing fiction like The End of Eternity is missing too. But these books, have changed the way I look at the world.

Predictably Irrational

I kind of knew what this would be about before I opened it. But Dan Ariely provides a series of useful and real-world examples of irrationality in everyday life that you cannot help but see it in your own life. If anything, this book really deserves a second read so I can take it all in, measure my life against it and make improvements.

TED Talks: The Official TEDGuide to Public Speaking

I already consider myself quite a good public speaker and this book covered no new ground for me. However, it did change my opinion on one thing: speed of delivery. At Toastmasters, I am constantly telling people to slow down. When you slow down, your speech is easier to understand, the audience has better comprehension, if forces you to say less and therefore makes the speech more effective. However, Anderson points out that you only need this enhanced comprehension at complicated parts of the speech: the rest of the time people can comprehend words faster than you can say them. So, if you have good enough content, speak a little faster.

The Paradox of Choice

More choice makes people less happy. I see this everywhere in my own life. I need new trainers. Sports Direct’s 4-story mega shop in Leeds city centre has around 1,000 different options. Yet I cannot find the perfect pair. Why? Too much choice! It raises my expectations of finding the perfect pair, which I never do. The same with restaurants: selecting from a huge menu is irritating and tiring. Give people a sensible amount of choice.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

We know from Steven Pinker that parenting only makes up a small part of a child’s nurture-based personality. The rest is external environment. Bryan Caplan points out that this means you do not need to be crazy-obsessive-parent. In fact, if you relax, you will enjoy parenting a lot more and your child will enjoy their childhood at lot more.

The Village Effect

Social connections are the biggest indicator of longevity. Literally, not having a strong social network will kill you. It will take years off your life. Community is worth fighting for because it makes us happier and healthier.

Mindfulness

I completed the entire programme from A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world before moving on to Headspace. I have not stuck with either because I find it really boring. However, it has convinced me that I need to spend more time focusing on enjoying now in whatever form that might be.

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan Haidt’s book is worth reading for the central analogy alone: that we are made up of an elephant and a rider. The intelligent, rational rider can direct the body as much as it wants. But, when the elephant gets spooked, there is very little the rider can do to calm it down.

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes

Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich list of a bunch of ways that we fall victim to our own biases. Chief among them for me was “mental accounting”. There is no such thing as bonus money: a pound is a pound. Every purchase has to be considered in the rational light of day, even if I have just won some money.

New book alert: Why Restaurants Fail

Saturday, January 7th, 2017 | Books, News

I am currently busy working on some follow up books to Technical Anxiety. However, I took some time off over the holidays to write a different book. This one is called Why Restaurants Fail – And What To Do About It. It’s a fun read. Unless you are a restaurant owner, in which case it probably isn’t.

The premise is simple: people start restaurants thinking their excellent food is enough. It’s not. In fact, the food is not even that important. Time and time again we saw our favourite independent restaurants go under because they thought they were in the restaurant business. They’re not: they’re in the money business. And the only way to win is to put aside your ego and your snobbery and learn from the best (typically fast food joints).

This book is an experiment. At just under 11,000 words, it is only 42 pages long. Super-short for a book, But as Sean D’Souza and Michael Hyatt both pointed out, people like short books. Here are the stats Michael Hyatt provided in a webinar last month:

  • 60% of readers finish a book of 100 pages or less
  • 20% of readers finish a book of 200 pages or so
  • More than 200 pages, 3% readers finish

Will customers feel cheated because the book is only 11,000 words long? Or will they actually enjoy the book more? I am interested to find out.

It is also an experiment in applying MVP (minimal viable product) development to books. When Sean D’Souza first published The Brain Audit it was half the length it is now. Similarly, Why Restaurants Fail may grow much longer over time. But right now, I have said everything I want to say, without diluting the content.

With eBooks, I can even push out these updates for free. This is what we have done for all five editions of the Leeds Restaurant Guide. If you bought the first edition as an eBook, you received all of the updated editions free of charge.

I do not have a fixed release date yet, but I expect it to arrive in the next 30 days.