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It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and DHH

The Big Idea: choose to have a calm, profitable, healthy workplace. 

  • Why is work so crazy? Physical and virtual distractions at work. And an unhealthy obsession with growth.
  • Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.
  • How many hours at the office are really spent on work itself?
  • The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production. Fewer distractions and less stress.
  • It’s time to give people the uninterrupted time that great work demands.
  • Basecamp has been profitable every year. Profitability alleviates stress.
  • Where does our money come from? Customers, not venture capital.
  • We don’t have a single employee in the Valley.
  • We put in about 40 hours a week most of the year and just 32 in the summer.
  • On balance we’re calm — by choice, by practice. We’re intentional about it.
  • Protect people’s time and attention.
  • 40 hours of work per week.
  • Ample time off.
  • Meetings are a last resort.
  • Asynchronous communication first, real-time communication only when necessary.
  • Sustainable practices for the long term.
  • Focus on profitability.
  • When you realize the way you work is malleable, you can start molding something new, something better.
  • We didn’t just assume asynchronous communication. We tested out everything and figured it out.
  • We found that paying for people’s vacations was better than cash bonuses.
  • Hustlemania has captured a monopoly on entrepreneurial inspiration.
  • You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day.
  • Improve iteratively and continuously. Fewer explosions and more laying of bricks and applying another layer of paint.
  • Put in a good day’s work, day after day, but no heroics.
  • The business world is obsessed with fighting, winning, dominating, and destroying. But there is another way.
  • Do we have enough customers paying us enough money to cover our costs and generate a profit? Good. Then we’re successful.
  • What matters is that we have a healthy business with sound economics that work for us. Costs under control, profitable sales.
  • We’re serving our customers well, and they’re serving us well. That’s what matters.
  • “Comparison is the death of joy.” —Mark Twain
  • There’s no chasing others at Basecamp, just deep work and keeping customers happy.
  • We don’t do goals.
  • We don’t mind leaving some money on the table and we don’t need to squeeze every drop out of the lemon. Do we want to maximize value through constantly chasing goals? No thanks.
  • We are working on building a long-lasting sustainable business with happy employees.
  • How about something really audacious? No targets, no goals. And if you must have a goal, how about just staying in business? Or serving your customers well? Or being a delightful place to work?
  • Everyone wants to be a disrupter these days. If you stop thinking you must change the world, you lift a tremendous burden of yourself and your team. 9pm. meetings and weekend sprints are not as necessary.
  • “NO PAIN, NO GAIN!” looks good on a poster at the gym, but real life is not like the gym.
  • Most of the time, if you’re uncomfortable with something, it’s because it isn’t right. Listen to your discomfort. It was the discomfort of knowing two people doing the same work at the same level were being paid differently that led us to reform our payment structure.
  • It was discomfort working at companies that had taken large amounts of venture capital that led us to pursue a path of profitable independence.
  • Working 40 hours a week is plenty. During the summer, we even take Fridays off. If you can’t fit everything you want to do within 40 hours per week, you need to get better at prioritizing and focusing, instead of working longer hours .
  • Cut out what’s unnecessary.
  • Protect what’s both most vulnerable and most precious: your employees’ time.
  • Eight people in a room for an hour doesn’t cost one hour, it costs eight hours. Plus the cost of the interruption in concentration.
  • Instead of update meetings, we ask people to write updates daily, when they have a free moment. Others can read them when they have a free moment.
  • 60 minutes isn’t really an hour if it’s broken up into four 15 minute blocks.
  • Productivity is for machines, not for people. We believe in effectiveness .
  • Stop equating work ethic with excessive work hours.
  • Work doesn’t happen at work because of all the interruptions. To facilitate collaboration, we borrowed an idea from academia and have people schedule office hours. People are welcome to stop by and discuss work during office hours.
  • The shared work calendar is one of the most destructive inventions of modern times. Taking someone’s time should not be easy.  Meetings should be a last resort, especially big ones.
  • We don’t require anyone to broadcast their whereabouts or availability at Basecamp. Hours worked and butts in seats don’t matter; only actual work matters. The only way to know if work is getting done is by looking at the actual work. That’s the boss’s job.
  • We don’t require anyone to broadcast their availability and we reject the proliferation of chat tools invading the workplace. Know how to reach someone in an emergency but also recognize there are very few actual emergencies.
  • The expectation of an immediate response is the ember that ignites so many fires at work. Create a culture of eventual response rather than immediate response.
  • Instead depending on chat to stay caught up on work, catch up on what happened today as a single summary email. We also write monthly updates called “Heartbeats.”
  • We do care and we do help. But a family we are not. A family sacrifices everything for each other. We’re people who work together to make a product that we are proud of. You don’t have to pretend to be a family to be courteous. Or kind. Or protective.
  • The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families.
  • A leader sets the example that everyone follows. If you value reasonable hours, plentiful rest, and a healthy lifestyle for yourself, then others will follow. If you, as the boss, want employees to take vacations, you have to take a vacation. Workaholism is a contagious disease.
  • The trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise.” A low trust battery is at the core of many personal disputes at work.
  • What the boss most needs to hear is where they and the organization are falling short. The boss needs to ask: “What can we do even better?” “What’s something nobody dares to talk about?” “Are you afraid of anything at work?” “Is there anything you worked on recently that you wish you could do over?” “What do you think we could have done differently to help Jane succeed?” “What advice would you give before we start on the big website redesign project?”
  • The CEO is usually the last to know how things are really going.
  • There’s no such thing as a casual suggestion when it comes from the owner of the business.
  • On low-hanging fruit: he further away you are from the fruit, the lower it looks. Declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit probably means the person doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
  • In the long run, work is not more important than sleep.
  • At most companies, work-life balance is a sham. If work can claim hours after 5:00pm, then life should be able to claim hours before 5:00pm to regain the balance.
  • CVs might as well be tossed in the garbage. Everyone know they are exaggerations. To work at Basecamp, you have to be good people.
  • To evaluate someone, we put a real project in front of the candidates so that they can show us what they can do.
  • Be wary of senior people from large companies. Trying to teach a small company how to act like a big one rarely does anyone any good. Unlearning can be just as hard as having to pick up entirely new skills.
  • But be patient. Unless you hire someone straight out of an identical role at an identical company, they’re highly unlikely to be instantly up to speed and able to deliver right away.
  • Talent isn’t worth fighting over. Someone who’s a superstar at one company often turns out to be completely ineffectual at another, so a superstar somewhere else is not worth fighting for.
  • Talent at Basecamp rarely comes from traditional war zones like San Francisco or New York. More likely, it’s Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Toronto.
  • We look at people’s actual work, not at their diploma or degree.
  • It takes patience to grow and nurture your own talent.
  • Most people just don’t enjoy haggling, so Basecamp has a fixed salary structure. Everyone in the same role at the same level is paid the same.
  • Once every year we review market rates and issue raises automatically.
  • The goal at Basecamp is to pay everyone at the top 10 percent of the market for their role and level.
  • We get the market rates through a variety of salary survey companies.There’s also no penalty for relocating to a cheaper cost-of-living.
  • We don’t pay traditional bonuses, just a generous salary.
  • There are no stock options at Basecamp because we never intend to sell the company.
  • We’ve vowed to distribute 5 percent of the proceeds to all current employees if we ever sell the company.
  • There is profit-sharing. Basecamp distributes 25 percent of growth in profits to employees in that year.
  • Basecamp isn’t a startup. Basecamp is a stable, sustainable, and profitable company.
  • Happiness and productivity are found in working with a stable crew.
  • Free dinners are a hoax. A free dinner for working late sounds more like a bribes than a benefit.
  • We don’t offer gotcha benefits, only relevant “outside the office” benefits. Benefits: fully paid vacations, 3-day weekends all summer, paid sabbaticals, continuing education allowances, charity matching, CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares, one monthly massage, a monthly fitness allowance.
  • Offices should operates by library rules. The office should be quiet and calm. Conversations should be kept to a whisper.
  • The purpose of a vacation is to get away. We used to offer unlimited vacation, but we eventually noticed that people actually ended up taking less time off.
  • When someone leaves, be honest and clear with everyone about what just happened. At Basecamp, an immediate goodbye announcement is sent out companywide.
  • Following group chat at work is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. It’s completely exhausting. Chat puts conversations on conveyor belts that are perpetually moving away from you. Chat is great for hashing stuff out quickly.
  • The two rules for chat at Basecamp is “Asynchronous most of the time. Real-time only sometimes.” And if it’s important, slow down and take it offline to think.” Important topics need time.
  • A deadline with a flexible scope will result in a healthy, calm project.
  • When we present work, it’s almost always written up first. Then it’s posted to Basecamp, so people can have time to digest and respond, with a written respond on Basecamp. We don’t want first impressions.
  • Friday is the worst day to release anything.
  • Culture isn’t what you intend it to be. Culture is what culture does. What we do repeatedly hardens into habits and that becomes your culture.
  • Right from the beginning of Basecamp, we insisted on a reasonable workweek. We didn’t pull all-nighters to make impossible deadlines. When calm starts early, calm becomes the habit. If you start crazy , it’ll define you .
  • Today we ship a feature when it’s ready rather than waiting until all features are ready.
  • If every decision has to be made by consensus, you’re in for an endless grind. Someone in charge has to make the final call. Instead, get used to saying “I disagree but let’s commit.” Then move forward.
  • Knowing when to embrace Good Enough is what gives you the opportunity to be truly excellent when you need to be. Separate what really matters from what sort of matters from what doesn’t matter at all. Be clear about what demands excellence.
  • When we spend six weeks on a project, we begin prototyping as soon as we can in those first two weeks. As we pass the mid-point, it’s time to focus in and get narrow. New ideas that arrive too late will just have to wait.
  • “Doing nothing” should always be on the table. It’s too easy to fuck up something that’s working well. “What if we did nothing?”
  • Calm requires getting comfortable with “enough.” If it’s never enough, then it’ll always be crazy at work.
  • Every mature industry is drowning in “best practices.” So much of it is bullshit. There are so many reasons to be skeptical of best practices.
  • Unless you’ve actually done the work, you’re in no position to encode it as a best practice.
  • Many best practices are purely folklore. No one knows where they came from, why they started, and why they continue to be followed.
  • All this isn’t to say that best practices are of no value. Some are helpful to get you going, at which point you can abandon them as you need.
  • You can’t develop a calm culture if you’re constantly fretting about what the best practices. Create your practices and your patterns.
  • “Whatever it takes” is the rallying cry for captains of industry and war generals. Reasonable expectations are out the window when we operate according to “whatever it takes.” There certainly will be rare moments when whatever it takes is truly called for .
  • Rather than demand “whatever it takes,” ask , “what will it take?” Then decides if it’s worth it. Discuss strategy, make tradeoffs, make cuts, or come up with a simpler approach.
  • Too much shit to do is the problem if you’re obsessed with productivity hacks.  The only way to get more done is to have less to do. Saying no is the only way to claw back time.
  • “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all .” — Peter Drucker
  • At Basecamp, we’ve become ruthless about eliminating wasteful tasks.
  • Nearly all product work at Basecamp is done by teams of three people. The team is usually two programmers and one designer. We don’t throw more people at problems, we chop problems down to size. Big teams make things worse all the time.
  • Work expands to fill the time available. Work expands to fill the team available. You can do big things with small teams.
  • Rather than jumping on every new idea right away, we make every idea wait a while. First we finish what we started, then we consider what we want to tackle next. New ideas can wait.
  • Learning to say no is a required skill if you want to be calm.
  • We’ll take a risk, but we won’t put the company at risk.
  • When we make big changes to Basecamp, we give it six months and see how it turned out. We’ll tweak it along the way. We’ll be ready to revert if needed. We prefer managed, calculated risk with a safety rope attached.
  • In the summer, we work 4 day, 32 hour weeks.
  • In the autumn, we pay for a weekly community-supported agriculture share for each employee .
  • Until you’re running a profitable business, you’re slowly (or quickly) running out of business. We focus on keeping out our costs in check.
  • Being profitable means having time to think and space to explore. Being profitable means being in control of your own destiny and schedule.
  • When companies are in the red, employees worry about their jobs. When companies talk about burn rates, two things are burning: money and people.
  • Selling to small businesses and selling to enterprises are two very different approaches requiring two very different kinds of people.
  • Learn to launch. Generally, you just have to ship it. Do your best, believe in the work you’ve done, and ship it. After you ship, you can iterate on real insights and real answers from real customers.
  • We’ve never committed to a product road map. Promises in a product road map pile up like debt. Promises are easy and cheap to make, while actual work is hard and expensive.
  • We’ve been ripped off and cloned a hundred times. We’ve learned you have to move on.
  • People don’t hate all change. What customers and employee don’t like is forced change. We still run three completely different versions of Basecamp, so that customers don’t have to change if they don’t want to.
  • Things get harder as you go, not easier. The easiest day is day one of a new company. As you get bigger, you hire people, there is more competition, and there are increased costs.
  • When it comes to complaints, remember that, mostly, everyone wants to be heard and respected.
  • Companies are culturally and structurally encouraged to get bigger and bigger. But the good old days, the founders miss, are when their business was simpler and smaller.
  • We wonder why didn’t they just grow slower and stay closer to the size they enjoyed the most?
  • Our goal is to maintain a sustainable and manageable size. We still grow, but slowly and in control.
  • We chose calmness, so we cut back on products and features, even when times are great. Cutting back when times are great is the luxury of a calm, profitable, and independent company.
  • A successful business is healthy profits, increased benefits for our employees, and an environment where people can do the best work of their careers.
  • Choose to: protect people’s time.
  • Choose to: work reasonable number of hours.
  • Choose to: relieve people from the conveyor belts of information.
  • Choose to: give employees the focus that their best work requires.
  • Choose: contemplation and consideration prior to communication.
  • Choose to: give endless growth a rest.
  • Choose to: give teams control over what can be reasonably accomplished given the time.
  • Choose to: finish what you started before moving on to the next idea.
  • A calm company is a choice

Data Science for Business by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett

The Big Idea: Invest in data and data science teams. Better data + better data scientists = better models = better business decisions = sustainable competitive advantage. 

Chapter 1: Introduction, Data Analytic Thinking

  • Data mining is the extraction of knowledge from data.
  • Data science is a set of principles to guide data mining.
  • Big data means datasets that are too large for traditional data processing systems and require new technologies such as Hadoop, HBase, MongoDB.
  • We are in Big Data 1.0 still. Big Data 2.0 will be the golden era of data science.
  • Building a top-notch data science team is nontrivial but can be a tremendous strategic advantage.
  • Ex: fraud detection, Amazon, Harrah’s casinos.
  • It’s important for managers and executives to understand basic data science principles to get the most from data science projects and teams.
  • Just like chemistry is not about test tubes, data science is not about data engineering or data mining.

Chapter 2: Business Problems and Data Science Solutions

  • There are a few fundamental types of data mining tasks: classification, regression, similarity matching, clustering, association grouping, profiling, link prediction, data reduction, causal modeling.
  • This book will focus on: classification, regression, similar matching, and clustering
  • Ex: churn prediction is a classification problem.
  • Supervised vs unsupervised. Supervised data mining has a specific target. Unsupervised data mining is used to learn and observe patterns in the data but doesn’t have a specific target.
  • It’s important to appropriately evaluate prediction models.
  • Your model is not what the data scientists design, it’s what the engineers build.
  • Data science engineers are software engineers who have expertise in production systems and in data science.
  • Data mining is closer to R&D than to software engineering.
  • Invest in pilot studies and throwaway prototypes.
  • Analytics skills (ability to formulate problems well, to prototype solutions, to make reasonable assumptions) are more important than software engineering skills in a data science team.
  • Useful skills for a business analyst: statistics, SQL, data warehousing, regression analysis, machine learning.
  • There is much overlap, but there is a different because understanding the reason for churn, vs predicting which customers to target to reduce future churn.
  • Ex. Who are the most profitable customers? SQL
  • Ex. Is there really a difference between the profitable customers and the average customers? Statistics and hypothesis testing.
  • Ex. But who really are these profitable customers? Can I characterize them? SQL, statistics, automated pattern finding. Classification.
  • Ex. Will some particular new customer be profitable? How much revenue should I expect this customer to generate? Predictive model. Regression.

Chapter 3: Introduction to Predictive Modeling, From Correlation to Supervised Segmentation

  • Predictive modeling is supervised segmentation. We have some target quantity we would like to predict.
  • A classification tree, or decision tree, is a method to classify data instances.
  • Tree structured models are a very popular data modeling technique and work remarkably well.
  • Tree structured models are also easy for business users to understand.

Chapter 4: Fitting a Model to Data

  • Tuning the parameters so that the model fits the data is parameter learning or parametric modeling.
  • The most common procedure is one you’re already familiar with, linear regression.
  • Logistic regression applies linear models to class probability estimation, and is one of the most useful data mining techniques.
  • Nonlinear support vector machines and neural networks fit parameters based on complex, nonlinear functions.
  • If we increase the complexity, we can fit the data too well, then we are just memorizing the data.

Chapter 5: Overfitting and Its Avoidance

  • Just because a model fits the data very well, doesn’t mean it is better at predicting. It could just be memorizing the data.
  • If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.
  • Fundamental tradeoff between model complexity and overfitting.
  • Always hold out data to test the model.
  • A fitting graph shows the difference between accuracy during training and accuracy during testing.
  • Overfitting is bad because the model picks up spurious correlations that produce incorrect generalizations.
  • A learning curve is a plot of the generalization performance against the amount of training data.

Chapter 6: Similarity, Neighbors, and Clusters

  • Similarity between data instances is described as distance between their feature vectors.
  • Nearest-neighbor methods predict by calculating distance between a new data and neighbors in the training set.
  • Similarity is used as the basis for the most common methods of unsupervised data mining, clustering.
  • Hierarchical clustering can provide insights that instruct further data mining.
  • A cluster centroid can be used as the basis for understanding clusters.

Chapter 7: Decision Analytic Thinking I, What is a Good Model?

  • Accuracy is too simplistic a metric.
  • A confusion matrix differentiates between different types of errors (eg. sensitivity vs specificity)
  • Expected value frameworks are extremely useful in organizing data science thinking and evaluating models.

Chapter 8: Visualizing Model Performance

  • A profit curve is useful for business user to evaluate classifiers.
  • A Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) graph is useful for evaluating models when class priors or costs/benefits are not known.
  • Since ROC curves are not intuitive, a cumulative response curve (or lift curve) is most appropriate for some business users.

Chapter 9: Evidence and Probabilities

  • Bayes rule is used for conditional probabilities which occurs frequently in business problems.
  • Naive Bayes rule is valuable because it is very efficient, practical to use, and can learn on the fly.
  • Naive Bayes rule should be avoided when costs/benefits are uses. Best to use when rankings are more important.
  • Bayes rule are the basis of evidence lifts. Evidence lifts are useful for understanding data like “Facebook Likes as a predictor of High IQ”

Chapter 10: Representting and Mining Text

  • Term frequency (TFIDF) is a simple and useful data mining technique for text.
  • Topic layers can also be used to assist with understanding text.

Chapter 11: Decision Analytic Thinking II, Towards Analytical Engineering

  • Expected value framework is a core approach useful in many data science scenarios.

Chapter 12: Other Data Science Tasks and Techniques

  • Not discussed in depth in this book: co-occurrence grouping, lift and leverage, market basket analysis, profiling, link predictions, social recommendation, data reduction, latent information, bias vs variance, ensemble models, causal explanations

Chapter 13: Data Science and Business Strategy

  • Understanding data science concepts leads to awareness of new opportunities.
  • Understanding the ROI of data science results in increased investment in data and data science teams.
  • Data science is a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • A culture of data science is valuable in building a data science team.
  • A top data scientist is worth many times an average data scientist.
  • Data science is learned by working with top data scientists, either in industry or academia.
  • A top data science manager understands the technical principles, understands the business needs, and manages people and projects well.
  • There is only one reliable predictor of success of a data science research project: prior success.
  • Top data scientists want to work with other top data scientists. Most want more responsibility. Most want to be part of a fast-growing, successful company.
  • Consider funding a PhD student for $50k/year.
  • Consider taking on a data science professor or a top data science consultant as a scientific advisor to guide projects and attract data scientists.
  • An immature data science team has processes that are ad-hoc.
  • A medium-maturity data science team employs well-trained data scientists and managers.
  • A high-maturity data science team focuses on processes as well as projects.

Permaculture by Sepp Holzer

The Big Idea: Learn how nature works. Then work with nature, instead of against it, to practice sustainable agriculture.

Ch 1: Landscape Design

  • Permaculture landscape design is about restoring a partially destroyed natural landscape.
  • Keep water on your land as long as possible.
  • Terraces are an important part of my permaculture system.
  • With the exception of raised beds, there should be no straight lines, corners, or steep slopes.
  • Create microclimates where possible, to increase diversity and maximize use of land.
  • Livestock plays an important role in my permaculture system.
  • When making larger changes, seek professional help to avoid landslides and gully erosion.
  • Mechanical diggers might be used when first creating the system.
  • Burning biomass is a mistake.
  • Loosening subsoil with the excavator helps make the soil productive again.
  • Flat land, at low altitude, with lots of sun is the easiest, but permaculture systems can be developed in many unfavorable lands.
  • Understand soil conditions, water sources, aspect (directionality), and climate.
  • Raised beds are great over heavy soils that are difficult for plants to establish roots in.
  • Good healthy soil is critical for earthworms and micro-organisms that benefit plants.
  • Indicator plants will tell you what the soil conditions are like.
  • Dig deep test trenches in many places to see what the soil layers are.
  • Always experiment with new plants to see what might grow.
  • Pioneer trees can be planted to quickly protect land from erosion.
  • Lay thorny branches to protect germinating seeds from animals and to create a microclimate for growth.
  • In dry areas, you must retain as much water as possible.
  • Terraces prevent erosion, hold moisture, and increase the amount of usable land.
  • Dispersing water for roads by making the middle of the road higher.
  • Use pipes or culverts to divert streams and springs underneath roads.
  • Ditches are good for collecting water and collecting organic material.
  • Develop terraces slowly, over multiple years.
  • After excavating terraces, plant immediately and mulch to encourage fast growth.
  • Green manure or wildflowers can be planted immediately to improve suboptimal soil on a terrace.
  • Cutting grasses in summer and autumn is not necessary.
  • Plant fruit bushes and trees on embankments of terraces.
  • Humus storage ditches can be built the bottom of a slope and a terrace.
  • Raised beds are a staple of Holzer permaculture.
  • Holzer permaculture raised beds are 3-4 feet deep into the ground, 4-6 feet wide, filled with hugelkultur material, then soil to 3 feet high, with steep (45+ degree) sides.
  • Cover raised beds with mulch to prevent drying out.
  • Consider planting bushes on top of raised beds. Vegetables can still be planted under the bush. Bushes can protect vegetables from the sun drying out the soil.
  • Inside the hugelkultur, use wood chips for vegetables that require lots of nutrients. Use bulky material for vegetables that don’t require as many nutrients.
  • Try to retain as much water as possible on your land.
  • Wetlands house snakes and amphibians that help control pests.
  • Large areas of water help to stabilize temperature fluctuations.
  • A pond for fish will be different than an aquatic garden for plants, or for a pond for swimming.
  • Play close attention to topography when building a pond.
  • Rain-filled ponds are for plants. Animals require a constant flow of water.
  • An excavator is used to dig the pond and tamp the base to seal it.
  • Holzer ponds never use a pond liner.

Ch. 2: Alternative Agriculture

  • Fossil fuels have enabled large, unsustainable monoculture farms to replace sustainable, diverse farms.
  • Healthy plants require healthy soil and healthy micro-organisms.
  • Green manure crops help restore soil health.
  • Using flail mowers to cut down green manure is a common mistake.
  • Gardening problems are usually caused by an imbalance which we should fix, instead of treating the symptoms.
  • Many corrections (weeding, chemical fertilizer) that are are possible on a small scale, but not feasible or desirable on a larger scale.
  • It’s better to understand and correct the imbalance instead. Eg. mulch with cardboard, plant Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Old plant varieties generally make the best crops. Avoid hybrid seeds.
  • Store or propagate the seeds of your strongest plants growing in the worst conditions.
  • Try to grow plants in polycultures. Eg. cereals with catch crops. Eg. corn with beans or peas.
  • Breed only old, domestic breeds of livestock.
  • Keep livestock humanely, and in family groups.
  • Pigs loosen the soil and till the terraces.
  • Direct pigs to loosen desired soil by scattering feed.
  • Pigs can clean up fruit orchards, preventing rotting fruit from spreading fungus and mold, without damaging the fruit trees.
  • Pigs can also control snails.
  • Use a rotating paddock system when keeping pigs.
  • Keep wild and domestic cattle in paddocks and let them forage to stay healthy.
  • Birds are great for controlling insect population and helping to propagate plants. Provide them with good forage and habitat.
  • Free range poultry needs good habitat, protection from predators, and good forage plants.
  • Ponds with an island in the middle provide good protection against predators for ducks and geese.
  • Earth shelters can be used to house pigs and as storage cellars.
  • Cellars can also be built out of stone to last forever.

Ch. 3: Fruit Trees

  • Fruit trees provide food for animals and insects.
  • Fruit trees provide wood for homes, fuel, and furniture.
  • Fruit trees provide shade against the sun and also stabilize soil.
  • Plant fruit trees wherever possible.
  • Wild fruit trees can pollinate cultivated fruit trees.
  • You don’t need to prune, fertilize, or use chemical pesticides. Doing this trains them to depend on human care forever.
  • Leave all the branches below the graft intact.
  • Do not use a tree guard, hammer in a stake, or use chemical fertilizer.
  • Cover the base with mulch and stones.
  • Plant green manure around the base.
  • Create microclimates around the tree to give it protection.
  • Branches sink down under the weight of fruit, allowing sunlight to reach in. Do not prune.
  • Pruning also creates wounds and can introduce disease.
  • Side shoots and branches also protect the tree from deer from damaging the trunk.
  • Plant distraction plants such as fruit bushes and willow trees to protect fruit trees.

Ch. 4: Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium.
  • Mushrooms can be cultivated on wood, compost, or straw.
  • It’s easiest to grow mushrooms on wood.
  • Softwoods gives faster yields, if that’s what you want.
  • Use only fresh, healthy wood.
  • Inoculation is easier than growing from spores.
  • The key to mushroom growing is the right combination of sun, moisture, and substrate.
  • Snails will try to eat your mushrooms.
  • You can also cultivate wild mushrooms by inoculating in the wild forest areas.

Ch. 5: Gardens

  • Try to keep gardens closer to the home.
  • Plant vegetables, medicinal, and culinary plants in your garden.
  • Natural medicine is being replaced by more effective modern medicine. However, natural medicine is safer and still effective.
  • A cold frame can extend the growing season.
  • When you weed the garden, place weeds on the ground as cover and mulch.
  • In the spring, you can lightly loosen the soil.
  • There is no need to dig soil over. It is harmful because it disturbs micro-organisms and worms.
  • Watering in the garden should be limited to dry weather. Use lots of mulch to help protect plants from drying out.
  • Adding compost is not required, though it is helpful.
  • Mulching is important. Mulching is basically surface composting and happens in nature. Spread mulch loosely because mulch needs oxygen for decomposition.
  • Natural liquid fertilizer is useful for nutrients and repelling pests.
  • Pest problems are an indication of an imbalance.
  • Monocultures are an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Lack of natural predators is an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Restore natural balance and pests should not be a problem.
  • Non-indigenous pests are an exception and should be controlled more aggressively.
  • Create good habitat for garden helpers like lizards, birds, worms, and predatory insects.
  • Create enough good forage to distract garden critters from your vegetable garden and fruit trees.
  • Encourage lots of earthworms by giving them lots of mulch and stones for good living conditions. Consider breeding earthworms in your garden by burying food compost in your garden.

Ch. 6: Projects

  • Example project in Scotland.
  • Example project in Thailand.

Built From Scratch by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

The Big Idea: Clarify your core values and make sure everyone knows them.

Core Values
1. Excellent customer service
2. Taking care of our people
3. Developing entrepreneurial spirit
4. Respect for all people
5. Building strong relationships
6. Doing the right thing
7. Giving back to our communities
8. Shareholder return

Ch 1: Two Regular Guys

  • Two Guys discount retail was destroyed by overexpansion.
  • Bernie started off as a controller for Handy Dan hardware stores.

Ch 2: Origins

  • There is transactional banking and there is relationship banking.
  • The vision for Home Depot was created in 1976. There were too many small chains, no national companies, and prices are too high.
  • Home Depot would buy directly from manufacturers for increased margins and build immense warehouse stores for higher sales volumes.

Ch 3: The Financier

  • Ross Perot nearly invested $2mm for 70% of Home Depot, which would now be worth $50bn+.
  • Home Depot found seed capital elsewhere.

Ch 4: The Merchant, Act I

  • Merchandising is a core competency for Home Depot.
  • For Home Depot, merchandising is knowing what to buy and how to sell it in the stores.

Ch 5: The First Stores

  • Atlanta was chosen over Boston, Dallas, and LA, because of demographics and economics.
  • Home Depot got the cash it needed for inventory because of its relationships with bankers.
  • The stores were meant to look more like warehouses than showrooms.
  • Some deep discount sales brought customers into the first stores, which led to word of mouth.
  • Home Depot lost money in 1979 but quickly turned it around and made a profit in 1980.
  • Home Depot went public in 1981, which financed expansion into Florida.

Ch 6: The Associates

  • Take good care of the customer.
  • Empower associates to make decisions.
  • Pay people what they are worth.
  • Hire the best people and pay them more than the competitor.
  • Offer stock options or a stock purchase program to let all employees be owners.
  • Do what you can to keep associate turnover low.
  • Take care of associates and they’ll take care of customers.
  • Work hard and also work smart. People need a balanced life.
  • Don’t ask your managers or associates to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  • Sometimes you need to untrain bad habits that associates pick up at other companies.
  • Don’t be afraid to hire senior citizens.
  • Invest time in training and developing people.
  • Home Depot offers apron badges for key accomplishments.

Ch 7: The Customers

  • New executives always spend time in the stores.
  • Associates are expected to walk customers to the product, not just point.
  • How-To Clinics were developed because Home Depot cared about customers and their projects.
  • The Home Depot return policy is flexible because they trust the customer.
  • Associates are expected to be responsible for customer service.

Ch 8: Building the Brand

  • Low prices are just the beginning.
  • Home Depot’s size made national advertising finally cost-effective.
  • Home Depot wanted to become synonymous with home improvement.
  • Home Depot copied the Wal-mart employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
  • Everyday low prices was a better strategy for more consistent sales than occasional sales discounting.
  • Home Depot spent millions on the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and became part of the fabric of America.

Ch 9: The Competition

  • Home Depot is far ahead of Lowe’s.
  • When you copy somebody and don’t really understand what they’re doing, you’re never going to be as good as the original. That’s Lowe’s problem.
  • Home Depot can never beat specialty stores and so they will continue to exist.
  • Core values remain the same but everything else is subject to innovation and disruption.
  • Retailers can’t ever stay the same. Times change and retailers either adapt or die.
  • The focus is always on the customer. Home Depot doesn’t need to beat the competition, they need to win the customer.

Ch 10: Growth

  • Walmart founders always have retained humility, despite their incredible success.
  • Walmart reached $10bn in sales by concentrating on stores, particularly control of merchandise, distribution, finances, and infrastructure.
  • Home Depot gets lower prices by paying invoices immediately instead of net 30.
  • Home Depot makes buying decisions on the local level, instead of centrally.
  • Vendors generally ship inventory directly to stores, instead of to a distribution center. This saves time and money.
  • Secure twice the capital you think you need. It gives you the confidence and financial strength to do what’s best for the long-run.
  • Hire people who are overqualified at first and let them grow with you. Payroll is an investment, not an expense.
  • In the early days, Home Depot managers worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to open new stores.
  • It’s not easy being a public company, but without the IPO, Home Depot would still be a chain of four stores in Atlanta.
  • The board of directors agreed to cap annual growth at 25%, to protect the Home Depot culture from expanding too rapidly.
  • During expansion, Home Depot learned the importance of planning and then learning when to adjust and improvise.
  • The 24-hour Home Depot concept was driven by customers.
  • Home Depot stocks contractor brands for the pros, but they have become popular with the DIY.

Ch 11: The Merchant, Act II

Ch 12: Strategic Partners

  • Bankers and vendor relationships were key, especially since Home Depot did not use distributors.
  • Home Depot works with vendors to improve their products.
  • Eventually, Home Depot developed or bought in-house brands of tools, such as Ridgid.

Ch 13: How We Manage

  • Humility is key. Accept that they are people smarter than you and hire them.
  • What works in Atlanta might necessarily work in Maine.
  • Give your managers firm boundaries at first and then loosen them as they earn your trust.
  • Some things are the same from store to store. Some things are flexible. Some things are completely dependent on the store.
  • Hire people who are overqualified and let them grow with the company.
  • As you scale, keep a close eye on fiscal discipline.
  • Success depends on teamwork.
  • Communication is key. Avoid bureaucracy by keeping lines of communication open.
  • Store walks are great for keeping executives close to the stores.
  • Employee stock ownership program comes with a 7-year vesting period so it had a chance to build value over time.
  • Best Practices program is how good ideas spread from one store to the entire chain.
  • Teach employees core values and you won’t have to micro-manage.
  • Use 360 feedback to develop people.
  • Establish team-building programs to establish trust and improve communication.
  • Never let the cancer of bureaucracy into your organization.
  • Executives serve managers. Managers serve associates. Associates serve customers.
  • The main office in Atlanta is not called “Headquarters.” It’s called “Store Support Center.”

Ch 14: The Communities We Serve

  • Do the right thing and give back to the community.
  • Don’t just encourage stores to do community service, give them a budget for it.

Ch 15: The Future

  • Growth will come from the core business, professional customers, international expansion, specialty stores, convenience stores.
  • Future leaders will be better than the founders.
  • It’s the leader’s job to train people to be better than him.

Ch 16: Legacy

  • It’s important to stay close to the stores and to the associates.
  • The founders still walk around stores and talk to associates.
  • Opportunities are still out there for anybody with the courage to reach out.
  • Starting Home Depot looks easy now, but there was often a lot of pain, a lot of struggle, and many lucky breaks.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

The Big Idea: focus on fundamentals and execution (The Standard of Performance), instead of focusing on the score and on the competition.

Part I: My Standard of Performance

  • Failure is a part of success. Everyone gets knocked down.
  • The Standard of Performance is the set of core values, principles, and ideals that define the organization. Implementing the Standard of Performance is more important than any strategies and tactics you might implement.
  • Bill Walsh wanted the 49ers to be the pinnacle of professionalism in the NFL.
  • Practices were precise and demanding, never sloppy.
  • Continuous improvement was more important than victory.
  • Character, intelligence, work ethic, and fit was more important than raw talent.
  • The leader’s job is to teach and to encourage everyone else to teach.
  • Champions behave like champions before they are champions.
  • If you place a premium on fundamentals and consistent execution, you can perform reliably in big games and in big moments.

Part II: Innovation, Planning, and Common Sense

  • Innovation is often born out of necessity and resourcefulness.
  • Always be quick to share credit (and accept blame.)
  • Contingency planning was one of the 49ers’ secret weapons. Be prepared for anything. Hail Mary’s are not a strategy.
  • Analyze your vulnerabilities and take action to counter or protect them.
  • The truth is hidden in the numbers. Follow key metrics more closely then big milestones or wins/losses.

Part III: Fundamentals of Leadership

  • There are many equally valid leadership styles.
  • The common trait, however, is an indomitable will to succeed.
  • Know when to persevere and know when to quit. It’s a delicate balance that requires distinguishing a good plan from a bad plan.
  • Sweat the small stuff, but only the small stuff that actually matters.
  • Leaders must be both subject matter experts and delegation experts.
  • Leaders teach others and show the entire organization how to teach each other.
  • You don’t need to shout, stomp, and strut to be a good leader. Joe Montana was a quiet but incredibly effective leader.
  • Treat people like people.
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere.
  • Know that humor has its place.
  • Give no VIP treatment.
  • Show interest in your people and their families.
  • Don’t let animosity linger.
  • Praise is more powerful than blame.
  • Discipline is based on pride in the profession and attention to details.
  • Officers must be seen on the front lines during action.
  • Bill Walsh’s praise was sparse but meaningful.
  • Employees thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Don’t mistake activity for achievement. — John Wooden
  • Being a good listener is the key to good communication.
  • Don’t let rank, titles, or status impede open communication.
  • Leadership is about teaching skills, attitudes, and goals to the organization.
  • Persistence is essential because knowledge is rarely imparted on the first attempt. You must drill over and over.

Part IV: Essentials of a Winning Team

  • High expectations of your team are the key to winning.
  • Let your people know they are part of something special.
  • You are only as good as your people, so hire only the best.
  • Traits to look for in hires: skills, energy and enthusiasm, ability to spot talent, ability to communicate, loyalty to others.
  • How to keep people working well together: clear expectations, open communication, flexibility in method (but not core values), alignment with core values.
  • Be aware that success can breed over-confidence and complacency.
  • Place a premium on people who exhibit great desire to push themselves. (Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig)
  • Ego can kill an organization.
  • Never ignore the front-line (guys in the trenches) because they will generally pave the way to success or failure.
  • The most powerful way to maximize someone’s potential is to say, “I believe in you.”
  • There are times to sprint, but success is more like a marathon than a sprint.
  • You can’t teach work ethic or willpower.
  • Don’t waste energy on enemies.
  • Focus on the process, not the prize.
  • Make your own mentors by seeking out experts and asking questions.

Part V: Looking For Lessons in My Mirror

  • Jerry Rice and Joe Montana are in the Hall of Fame because of their focus on fundamentals.
  • The starting point for everything is work ethic.
  • Teach your team how to teach their team. Build an organization of teachers.
  • What goes around comes around. Treat people well.
  • Know how to delegate well.
  • Eliminate bad hires or toxic people quickly and compassionately.
  • The best marketing strategy is to build a good product.
  • Don’t expect quick results. Building a winning organization takes time.

Tribes by Seth Godin

The Big Idea: In today’s world, where geography doesn’t matter, tribes are thriving. Tribes are about connection and caring. Leaders of tribes build connection and caring into the tribe.

  • Human beings need to belong.
  • You can’t have a tribe without a leader, so learn about leadership.
  • Everyone is expected to lead.
  • Geography used to restrict the boundaries of tribes but the internet changed that.
  • Leadership is pulling, not pushing.
  • It’s better to make the rules than to follow them.
  • Leadership is not management. Management is getting things done. Leadership is about creating change and inspiring people.
  • Leaders are not afraid of change.
  • Authority does not equal leadership.
  • Two things to turn a group into a tribe: shared interest, a way to communicate.
  • A leader of a tribe encourages members to communicate with each other.
  • Tribes aren’t about stuff. They are about connections, in the context of a shared interest.
  • A crowd is a tribe without a leader and without communication.
  • An artist needs 1,000 true fans. A corporation needs more than 1,000 but fewer than it thinks. True fans are much more important than average customers.
  • Real leaders give back generously to their tribe and help the tribe grow closer.
  • Change is made by acting first and asking for forgiveness later.
  • The best followers are not blind sheep but vibrant fanatics.
  • One person with a persistent vision can make changes happen.
  • Industries don’t die by surprise. The signals are always there.
  • Life is too short to be unhappy and mediocre.
  • Publish a manifesto, connect with followers, encourage followers to connect with each other.
  • It’s powerful to exclude outsiders.
  • Be willing to be wrong. Being wrong isn’t fatal.
  • The big win for nonprofits is turning donors into patrons and activists. Encourage donors to network and volunteer. And vice versa.
  • Caring is the emotion at the center of the tribe. Members of a tribe care about the tribe and each other.
  • The secret of effective leadership is to first listen deeply.
  • Success and change happen a little at a time. Drip, drip, drip. It takes time.
  • You can’t bring permanent change in from the outside.
  • Real leaders don’t care about who gets the credit. There’s no record about Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi whining about credit.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

The Big Idea: The presence of cognitive biases means we don’t always act rationally. Cialdini outlines six weapons of influence which can be used to influence behavior. Even if you aren’t a salesperson, you are a consumer so it’s good to be aware.

1. Reciprocation

  • We tend to reciprocate a favor, even if it is unsolicited.
  • Start by asking for a large favor and then expect a concession to the real favor you want.
  • Selling down works better than selling up.

2. Commitment and Consistency

  • After making an initial choice, we tend to stand by that choice over time. People usually don’t switch sides after they have committed.
  • In a debate, start with a small area of agreement or concession and build from there. People want to stay consistent.
  • We are more consistent in our commitment if we did it for our own purpose rather than from external reward or pressure.
  • Bribing children doesn’t work.

3. Social Proof

  • People like to follow the crowd (of people like them or people they want to be.)
  • Examples: canned laughter, tip jars, Jonestown, peer learning, bystander effect.

4. Liking

  • People want to please others whom they like.
  • Attractive people are more persuasive.
  • People like others who are similar to them.
  • Compliments and flattery work.
  • Familiarity increases persuasiveness.
  • Establish a connection between your product and an attractive or winning person.

5. Authority

  • We obey authority mindlessly in many cases.
  • Titles, uniforms, and appearances convey authority.

6. Scarcity

  • Losing something is more painful than gaining something.
  • Something that is hard to obtain is more valuable than something that is easier to obtain.
  • People fight fiercely to retain something they worked for.
  • Sometimes it’s better to be censored than publicized. (Eg. Some “secret information” the industry doesn’t want you to know.)
  • Indifference towards a lover becomes passion when a rival appears.
  • Scarcity+rivalry drives up prices in bidding wars. Always mention a rival buyer when selling something.

The Right and Wrong Stuff by Carter Cast

The Big Idea: High potential people stumble in their careers most often because of a lack self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses. Fantastic advice in this book.

  • The five archetypes of high potential people who stumble:
    • Captain Fantastic: high performer but terrible interpersonal skills
    • Solo Flier: high performer when working by himself but doesn’t know how to lead
    • Version 1.0: high performer but resistant to change
    • One-Trick Pony: high performance limited to one skill
    • Whirling Dervish: lots of potential but can’t manage time or projects
  • Many high performers are completely unaware of their weaknesses.
  • The book has specific advice and tools to help address weaknesses that could derail a career.
  • High performers: love learning, have high emotional intelligence, and have lots of perseverance.
  • High performers have a growth mindset (Carol Dweck.)
  • Understand what motivates you and find the right job and organization for you.
  • Five key motivations: achievement, affiliation, power, autonomy, and purpose.
  • No one is going to care as much as you about your own development. Seek knowledge, feedback, and mentoring.

 

To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

The Big Idea: Even if you’re not a “salesman”, you probably have to sell or persuade people all the time. Therefore, learn how to sell.

  • Everyone sells.
  • Physicians sell patients on treatments. Lawyers sell juries on verdicts. Teachers sell students on coursework. Entrepreneurs sell investors on visions. Writers sell producers on scripts. Coaches sell players on plays.
  • Before the internet, sellers had all the information on their product so they were able to deceive and manipulate.
  • Today, buyers have more information and leverage, so the balance has shifted.
  • Instead of Always Be Closing, the new ABC is Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
  • Attunement
    • Show empathy
    • Be humble
    • Mimic strategically
    • Put yourself in their shoes
    • Be ambivert not extrovert
    • Ask others “where are you from?”
  • Buoyancy
    • Instead of stating “I will ___,” ask yourself “how will I ___?”
    • 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is better than infinite positivity.
    • Develop an optimistic explanatory style to deal with rejection: rejections are temporary not permanent, specific not universal, external not personal.
  • Clarity
    • The ability to move people hinges less on problem-solving than on problem-finding.
    • Problem finders tend to be more successful than problem solvers.
    • Problem finding is about asking the right questions and being good at curating information.
    • One of the most essential questions is “compared to what?” Frame your offerings in ways that contrast its alternatives and clarify its virtues.
    • 5 Frames: less frame (paradox of choice), experience frame (experience vs physical), label frame (names matter), blemished frame (include a negative), potential frame (potential is more powerful than actual)
    • “On a scale from 1 to 10…” “How can we move that up?”
    • Books: Influence, Made to Stick, Switch, Mindless Eating, Nudge
    • Ask 5 Whys
  • How to Pitch
    • Don’t present a pitch end-to-end. Start your pitch and invite the others to create it with you.
    • 1. The One Word Pitch. Simplify everything to one word.
    • 2. The Question Pitch. “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”
    • 3. The Rhyming Pitch. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
    • 4. The Subject Line Pitch. Utility first. Curiosity second.
    • 5. The Twitter Pitch.
    • 6. The Pixar Pitch. “Once upon a time…Every day…One day…Because of that…Until finally.”
  • Learn from improvisational theater. Listen closely. Make the other people look good.
  • Service is at the core of sales.
  • To serve, make it personal and make it purposeful. Eg. Radiologist viewing photos, hospital hand-washing to protect others, fundraisers reading stories about alumni who received scholarships.
  • Be grateful. Always act like the other guy is doing you the favor. No matter what.
  • Look at all your signs and ask if they are emotionally intelligent and well-designed.
  • Treat everyone well.

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

The Big Idea: An efficient, eco-friendly homestead takes good planning and years of work to become stable and self-sufficient.

  • Modern, industrial agriculture is incompatible with a rapidly growing population and resource depletion.
  • Well-designed permaculture systems promote biodiversity and restore land back to health.
  • Nut trees are the core of good permaculture.
  • A nut tree is simply more effective and efficient at converting sunlight and rain into value, over the long-term. A nut tree orchard is also a pasture, a game reserve, a shelter for understory berries, and a site for medicinal plants.
  • (See chapter 2 for seventy two permaculture design principles.)
  • Before you begin, do a deep site analysis, observing water, sun, temperature, soil, topography.
  • The purpose of a plan is to avoid huge mistakes so you can know where to experiment.
  • Understanding and shaping water flow and storage is fundamental to your farm.
  • Understand keylines, swales, and ponds.
  • Overgrazing in the 19th and 20th century has destroyed most of America’s rich topsoil.
  • Strategies to rebuild your land’s topsoil:
    • Compost, urine, humanure.
    • Biochar.
    • Fungi.
    • Remineralization.
    • Cover cropping.
    • Tall grass grazing.
    • Subsoil plowing.
    • Keyline agriculture.
    • Deep root perennials.
  • Strategies for growing food:
    • Plant permaculture guilds.
    • Start a forest garden.
    • Emphasize perennial plants.
    • Know which foods should be staples (rice, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts).
    • Until your systems can produce staple foods, vegetable gardening will comprise the bulk of your yield and your work.
    • Among your annual vegetables, emphasize reliability and calorie foods such as potato, winter squash, cabbage, garlic, and carrots.
    • Learn to preserve food via kimchi and sauerkraut.
    • Emphasize crops that also provide medicine or rebuild the soil.
    • Fungi are very underrated.
  • Fuel and shelter advice:
    • Learn how to use wood as your main fuel and heat source.
    • Biochar has been used for thousands of years to amend soil.
    • Passive solar home design uses large, south-facing windows to trap the sunlight and warm the home.
    • Good home design considers sun, water, wind, surrounding landscape, elevation, views, noise, and road access.
    • Solar south is not always the optimal solar orientation. On a west-facing slope, a home has a late solar day.
    • Foundation advice: extend the foundation wall higher, go deeper for frost stability.
    • Roofs should be steel or slate.
    • Normally, go with a cheaper and faster stud wall frame home. A timber frame is prettier, though. You can do a hybrid if you like.
    • Never use spray foam insulation. Use cellulose for ease of use, low toxicity, sustainability, resistance to mice, and reusability.
    • In terms of insulation, a few large windows > lots of small windows.
    • Use daylight or LED for lighting.
    • Consider getting a landline for phone service.
    • A wood stove can serve many functions: space heater, water heater, stove, and oven.
    • Good home design can reduce the need for heating, A/C, and fans.