The Gen Z Effect – by Keldsen & Koulopoulos

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Generation Z is different. Most are using iPads before they can walk, and many will be running businesses before they can drive. I feel more of a generational divide between myself and someone ten years younger than someone three decades older. So what gives? (If kids even use that expression anymore.)

Well, this book sets forth an interesting thesis. The authors, Dan Keldsen and Thomas Koulopoulos, shed some light on Gen Z. They’re two big-time business consultants with a shared interest in the world’s youth, and a desire to understand them.

So first things first – what exactly is Gen Z? Well, according to the authors, defining them by birth date is gonna work. It’s a mindset, not an age.

But, if you must know – Gen Z’ers are general considered to have been born anytime between the late 1990s to the late 2000s. So anyone born between the 1998 release date of Mulan and 2008 release of Wall-E would be a Gen Z-er by the birth date metric.

Keldsen and Koulopoulos would argue, though, that it doesn’t matter what Disney movie came out the year you were born. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about mindset.

The Gen Z mindset transcends age, embracing the constant evolution of technology, social norms, and means of communication. Gen Z’ers aren’t locked into social hierarchies. They see any person as being a source of wisdom, regardless of age or status. PRogressive companies embrace this principle by employing “reverse mentoring” programs. In this arrangement, more season professionals are mentored by younger employees who are more in tune with the latest trends — and hence, can pass on that knowledge.

Gen Z’ers are also quick to embrace new concepts like “life hacking” or “remote work.” It doesn’t matter what age you are – you can adopt a Gen Z mentality by tuning into current trends and more efficient ways of getting work done and tasks accomplished.

This is a great read for a glimpse into what the coming future holds — and how to stay relevant as it unfolds.

Option B – by Cheryl Sandberg and Adam Scott

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Nothing creates a false sense of intimacy with an author quite like listening to an audiobook memoir.

 

At least that was my experience with Cheryl Sandberg’s memoir, Lean In. She shared so many intimate details about her life that I felt a one-sided closeness to her. And so when I saw on the news that her husband had passed away, my heart went out to her as if I knew her.

 

When Option B came out, I knew I had to read it. The book chronicles Sandberg’s experience of grief, informed by the insights of psychologist, Adam Scott, who co-wrote the book.

 

It is beautiful, honest, and reflective.

 

After finding her husband collapsed on a gym floor in Mexico (cause of death was heart failure), Sandberg was not only coping with grief, but also guiding her two children through the process.

 

Forget “leaning in” — at this time, Sandberg said she felt as though she could barely stand up. And she is not alone in this experience. Almost all of us will suffer a gut-wrenching loss similar to hers at some point in our lives.

 

Embracing this realization is a core part of the book. In fact, Sandberg finds solace in spending time with others who have experienced a loss similar to her own. She connects with Elon Musk, whose infant daughter had passed away at two months. Others come forward to support her as well.

 

Sandberg also takes time to explain what others can do to be supportive of someone recovering from the loss of a loved one. She said that some people seemed to be afraid of broaching the subject for fear of making her feel uncomfortable. But, Sandberg elucidates that really, those individuals don’t want to feel uncomfortable themselves. It’s important to acknowledge someone’s loss as they are working through it – not to bury it under the rug.

 

This book isn’t just about grief, however. It’s also about overcoming adversity in general. After several chapters, the book segues into a discussion on how to cope with failure, introducing a few useful tactics.

 

First is the concept of focusing on how you react to a failure. Once a failure is made, it can help to imagine that are being graded on how you react to that failure. Even if you get an “F” on one project, you can still get an “A” on your reaction. Sandberg also discusses the concept of a “failure resume.” On Linked-In, no one mentions the jobs that they got turned down from, or the rejections they experienced. Yet, every successful person has those failures. Registering the fact that everyone has their own failure resume makes me feel more comfortable with the disappointments that I have myself.

 

Sandberg also makes social commentary on the experience of becoming a widow and a single mother. She reflects on how in Lean In, she had a chapter on “Making Your Partner a Real Partner,” which in retrospect, she acknowledges was insensitive to single parents. She shares the statistic that almost 30 percent of families with children have a single parent as the head of the household. Of those single parents, 84 percent are women.

 

Part of why this gendered disparity exists may have to do with double standard that men and women are held to when it comes to dating after becoming a widow or widower. For men, it is much more accepted (and expected) to find another mate. The level of acceptance is not the same for women.

 

Despite this double-standard, Sandberg continues with her life. She seems to find affirmation in the Jewish religion, in which the grieving period for the death of a child or parent is one year, while for a spouse, the period is 30 days. There is emphasis on moving forward, which Sandberg does with grace and poise, while still keeping the memory of her husband alive.

 

This book was insightful, covering many bases. An excellent read.

Playing Big – by Tara Mohr

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Before writing her book, Playing Big, Tara Mohr posed this question to her blog readers:

 

What is the biggest issue, of the four listed below, that you are dealing with right now?

 

  1. Work/ life balance
  2. Stress
  3. Relationships
  4. Playing small

 

The overwhelming response was “playing small.”

 

It’s a pervasive problem. 51% of the population consists of women, but only 4% when it comes to the CEOs of major companies.

 

This is a book about turning that around, and helping women to play big.

 

I read this book on the heels of Cheryl Sanberg’s Lean In. Comparatively, it taps more into your emotional side, and feels more like you’re being coached versus advised.

 

One of my favorite Playing Big concepts was embracing your “inner mentor” over your “inner critic.”

 

I myself sometimes find my internal narrative being overtaken by my inner critic. Mohr encourages readers to give a tangible identity to this inner critic so that its voice (which is usually irrational, persistent, and panicky) can be more easily recognized for what it is.

 

You might think of your inner critic as being an ogre, witch, or just a cranky old curmudgeon. For me, it’s a snake hissing out negative messages. When you’ve identified your inner critic, you can imagine sending it off to a separate physical location when it arises. I visualize the snake slithering out into the woods.

 

Your inner mentor is a wiser version of yourself – an essence that is truest to the best part of you. Mohr provides a guided meditation to help you to connect with this part of yourself. When I find myself in a hard situation, or feel the inner critic seeping in, I try to tap in to my inner mentor.

 

Another part of Mohr’s book that I found very useful was practical advice on how to improve our communication as women. Many women (myself included) take on a pacifying tone in situations where an assertive attitude would be more useful. (I’ve also spoken with male colleagues who find they struggle with this as well, so the dilemma isn’t limited exclusively to the female clan.)

Mohr discusses some of the verbal landmines that take away your authority. This list includes some of the words featured in her book, as well as a few I pulled from on article on TheMuse.

Just

The word “just” minimizes your thoughts and requests. For example, “I just wanted to see if you’d completed that assignment” dilutes the importance of what you are asking. Being more direct and dropping the “just” is better: “Have you completed the assignment?

Actually

Using this word makes it seem like you’re surprised by your own idea. “I actually would like some more information” versus “I’d like some more information please.”

Sorry

Apologizing when it’s not necessary. The word “sorry” should be reserved for when there is something relevant to apologize for, not for mere circumstances. “Sorry, Wednesday doesn’t work, can we do Thursday instead?” Your schedule didn’t do anything wrong; there isn’t a need to offer penance for it.

Does that make sense?

A better alternative is “let me know if you have any follow up questions.”

Hopefully

This word can imply you don’t have control over a situation. “Hopefully we’ll get this resolved by tomorrow,” versus “We’ll get this resolved by tomorrow.”

When used in appropriate settings, some of these words can of course be appropriate. They can help to soften requests when softening is needed, and make your requests more approachable. BUT when the goal is to be assertive and strong, it’s important to watch out for this weak language.

4 Hour Work Week – by Tim Ferriss

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Sarah: Wait, so is this book about working only 4 hours a week? Because I’m a social worker. I have 5 billable hours a day. That’s just not happening.

 

Me: Well, really, the book is based more on this idea that you don’t need a job at all.

 

Sarah: Oh, and support ourselves how?

 

Me: Well, according to the book, you should just create a profitable company. Then, you outsource your role, and get your management tasks down to 4 hours a week.

 

Sarah: That’s great, you should have read that book earlier. Let’s do it right now. Let’s start the next Apple. I know we can do it – we’re English majors!

 

Me: Don’t be so harsh on the liberal arts. But, yeah, I kind of had the same reaction. If it was that easy, we’d all be millionaires with yachts.

 

Sarah: So what’s your verdict on the book? Waste of time?

 

Me: Not a waste of time. There were some good take-aways. I wrote them out for this blog post I’m working on. Wanna read it?

 

Sarah: Sure.

 

Take-Aways From the 4-Hour Work Week

 

 

#1 – Lifestyle Design

 

While achieving a 4-hour workweek sounds a little far-fetched, a more achievable goal is to have more agency over your job and how you do it. That’s what Ferriss dubs lifestyle design.

 

This book got me to dream a little and imagine my own workplace Shangri-la. I would be free – with flexible hours, and unbound to a brick and mortar office.

 

The way to achieve this is to get employment that:

 

  • Enables you to work remotely
  • Focuses more on the results that you generate, versus exactly how you generate them.

 

Of course, your ideal work situation may be different. Perhaps you enjoy going to an office and don’t mind the commute. The key is to figure out what lifestyle you want, and find a job that’s compatible.

 

A 9 to 5 job means that you need to be at work 8 hours a day. But how much of that time do you spend being productive? Catherine Clifford is the Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC. According to this article she wrote for Entrepeneur.com, market research has found that office workers spend just 45% of their time at work completing tasks related to their primary job duties.  (That’s about 3.5 hours for an 8-hour work day.)

 

Let’s say you work 9 to 5 with an hour commute each way. This means that of the 10 hours of your day that you devote to work  – 8 am to 6 pm – you’re doing 3.5 hours of actual work.

 

As for myself, I would rather work from home 9 to 12, take a two-hour break to workout, and then finish the rest of my work 2 to 6. If I’m disciplined (which I am), I would get twice as much done as if I went to a physical location. The difference is I gain an extra hour of sleep and get my workout in before 6 pm hits – leaving me the rest of the evening to enjoy my life.

 

That is my lifestyle design.

 

#2 Do Less

 

Ferriss gives high praise to the 80/20 Principle set forward by Italian economist, Federico Pareto.

 

The premise is that 80% of our results come from 20% of the effort that we put in. And so it is in our best interest to be mindful of the 80% of the effort that isn’t yielding much result.

 

One strategy to accomplish this is “batching”  — working on a bunch of small tasks all at once, in a batch. This can be applied to emails by allowing email messages to accumulate, and then answering them one after other – rather than on an “as received basis.” The exceptions that I allow for are if I notice an email come in from a supervisor, or get a message that is clearly urgent. This system drove up my productivity tremendously.

 

#3 Beware of Boredom and Mindless Work

 

My favorite line from 4 Hour Work Week is “The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.”

 

When we are bored, we often experience a sense of pointlessness, wondering why we exist, what our purpose is. And many people will fill that void or avoid those feelings by working for work’s sake – a phenomenon Ferriss has dubbed “W4W.”

 

Don’t do that.

 

Pause to consider what makes you feel alive.

 

When I wake up, excited for what the day holds, I have a tremendous sense of purpose and direction. Ones that come to mind include graduating from law school, and my first day of work. There’s even unpleasant times that come to mind, which I still look back on as exciting. First up: the bar exam. That was not a fun day, but it was exciting. I was taking a very important test, and even though it was grueling, I completed it with a sense of purpose. It was necessary to become an attorney. Finishing the last few miles of a marathon is similar. It’s painful, and a test of willpower.

 

Being in a state of excitement is being in a state of energy higher than normal. We need excitement to feel engaged in life. Not all stress is bad – there is distress and then there is eustress. Eustress is a moderate level of stress that benefits the person experiencing it. So, don’t shy away from all stress. But do shy away from boredom.

 

Leave-Behinds From the 4-Hour Work Week

 

The book takes something of a testosterone-driven “attack, attack” approach towards carving out a lifestyle design. You’re not just planning for work-life balance. You’re fighting for it.

 

An example is Ferriss’s approach to meetings. He advocates against phone meetings, insisting that if someone asks to set up a phone meeting, your reply should be:

 

  • When are you available?
  • What questions do you need answered?

 

While this strategy can work for some people and cut down on phone meetings, others are apt to become offended at having their inquiry responded to in email – especially when they specifically asked for a phone call.

 

It’s times like these when the pursuit of efficiency can come at the cost of human connection.

 

Call me soft, but I want people to feel like people – not just checks on my to-do list.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – by Mark Manson

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If Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, had been willing to sacrifice the catchiness of the title for something more descriptive of the overarching thesis, he might have gone with How to Give a Fuck About the Right Things. (But again – not as catchy.)

 

Despite what the glossy cover might advertise, the book encourages readers to, in fact, give fucks. But to give fucks about the right things (good values) instead of the wrong things (stupid values).

 

This calls for figuring out what your values are. We all have them. The thing is, some of our values are good, while others are just stupid.

 

What’s a stupid value? Anything that’s shallow and that we have little control over. For example, “being well liked and popular.”

 

The metric for that value is what other people think of you – something (mostly) outside your control.

 

A better value, which we have more control over, is nurturing relationships. That’s something we can directly invest in through our actions and decisions.

 

The fact is, these good and stupid values often come in dichotomous yin/yang pairs. It’s up to use to choose which one we focus on. Being a good friend versus being popular. Being physically fit versus having a bikini body. Doing a good job as a manager versus being a well-liked supervisor.

 

This book encouraged me to shift my thinking. Maybe it will shift yours too.

 

Hustle – by Jesse Warren Tevelow

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For 99 cents on Amazon, this quick read’s the right price.

It’s pithy and punchy. The cover art actually hints at the biggest takeaway from the book: the concept of motivation, momentum, and movement.

It’s a simple premise that completely resonates with me.

Essentially, when we do something — go workout, meet up with friends, complete a project at work — we’re creating some movement in our lives. The feedback that we get from that movement is (usually) positive — and so it motivates us to go out and pursue more of those activities. The cycle of movement and motivation generates momentum.

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By contrast, in an inactive state, we’re not getting any positive feedback that would encourage us go out and get things done in the world. As a result, there’s nothing to motivate us to be active, which pushes the cycle towards something Tevelow calls “negative momentum.” This is a state of being demotivated and inactive.

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It’s normal to feel this way time to time. What matters is how we get ourselves back on track towards the cycle of positive momentum.

In the way that the first few pedals on a bike ride require the most force, the first few actions you take when you’re feeling demotivated and inactive will be the hardest. But it comes with the territory. In the end, you have to get your game face on and do it.

Besides the momentum cycle that Tevelow discusses, there were some other points that I liked.

Tevelow alludes to The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman. The premise of the book is that instead of getting buried by six figure student loans in order to get credentialed with some fancy letters after your name, you could invest that time and money in experiences that would give you a similar background. As someone who’s vaguely flirted with the idea of business school, it was good to read about an alternative to the traditional B-School path.

I also enjoyed learning that Tevelow and I share a similar Amazon hack. We’ll read the free book samples — usually the first chapter. Often, the best information is revealed in the first chapter, with more details surfacing later in the book. If you do end up buying the book though, you shouldn’t feel obligated to finish it if you feel satisfied before reaching the end. A lot of the time we don’t need to read an entire book to get what we need out of it. It’s like going to a buffet. You can eat everything. But you don’t have to.

Last pearl — the value of working quickly. Not a new concept, but I enjoyed getting Tevelow’s take. He sites a few projects that had a very limited time frame to work with, and were very successful. For example, Million Dollar Baby – Best Picture of 2004 – was made in 37 days. When we have a limited time frame to work with, we’re hyper present and make every moment count. The result is frequently a cohesive product that reflects a sharp eye for detail.

 

Tools of Titans – by Tim Ferriss

In three words: light, motivating, interesting

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The reason why Tim Ferriss wrote this book is the same reason I write this blog. His intention was to create something of a “super-notebook” – a compendium of lessons learned from 100+ friends and acquaintances – all of whom are celeb status in their respective fields. Initially, he didn’t even plan to publish it! Though the book weighs in at 687 pages – don’t be too intimidated. It’s written in a conversational tone, with spacious margins and roomy formatting. So it’s not quite as long as the spine’s girth might lead to you to believe.

Given that Ferriss is a dude, about nine in ten of the interviewees are dudes also. So it is a little heavy on the testosterone. Even with the gender imbalance, it was a good read, and fun to observe the things that many of the people seemed to have in common. For example, the Sapiens is cited as a favorite book by a number of the interviewees. I now have it on my reading cue as well. Also, no one had an easy rise to the top. Arnold Schwarzenegger had to get very creative about financing a movie that would show his more comedic side. Amelia Boone (yay a woman!), an obstacle course racing champion, explained that she would train in the rain and cold in order to prepare herself for a worst-case scenario. There are many other anecdotes like these. And the benefit I find is that by reading how others have achieved success, it makes it seem more possible. The recipes are out there – it’s up to us to develop the ingredients – creativity, perseverance, and receptivity.