August 2015 Reading

Predictable Revenue

We all want predictable revenue, right? We want to know that if we get five qualified leads we can turn two of those into paying customers that are worth $XX over time.

We want to have a process to qualify leads for our business and move them down that sales funnel.

If you’re looking to develop that process then this is a decent book to read. I say ‘decent’ because at times the book feels more like a ‘sales’ book for Salesforce.com (which was where this sales process was developed, though the author is no longer employed there).

My favourite points were around how to nurture and qualify leads. It’s important not to just ABC (always be selling) but to ruthlessly qualify the leads that come in. You don’t have five ‘best’ leads — you have five, maybe ten, that you should be working on and the rest are a waste of your time.

I feel that this book is better for larger organizations with a dedicated sales team. Smaller businesses like mine (which is just me) can benefit from the discussion about process, and cutting leads so you only focus on the ‘best’ ones. However, some of the tips will be difficult to implement as a one-man operation, or even a business with only a few team members.

The Mistborn Trilogy

After finishing The Dark Tower series last month I was looking for some new fiction. Brian Krogsgard recommended this series and I’m glad he did.

This series starts out in a world where there is an ‘evil’ emperor who oppresses most of the people. He has the power of allomancy, which means he can burn different metals he’s ingested to gain new powers (like extra strength). Now there are others — the Mistborn — who possess the power of allomancy (Mistings, though, can only burn one metal), but The Lord Emperor is about 1,000 times more powerful than them.

The first book in the trilogy is all about a crew of thieves trying to overthrow this hugely powerful man to free their people. They suffer many setbacks but do eventually accomplish their goal, though it does have many unintended consequences.

The second book is all about trying to put a reasonable government back together in the midst of many kings trying to become the new Emperor. There are also many changes happening to the world. The ash mounts are spewing forth more ash, making the crops harder to grow. The mists are killing people, and very little seems to be getting better.

The people are looking for the Hero of Ages who will take up the power of the Well of Ascension and ‘fix’ everything. The only thing is, no one knows where the well is.

The third book is all about the world going to hell in a hand basket. When the Well of Ascension was finally found, ‘something’ got out and it’s accelerating the ruin of the world. More ash and lava are overtaking the land, and the mist keeps getting thicker, cutting off the sunlight needed to grow crops.

Add armies and rampaging monsters called Koloss, and ‘skin changers’ called Kandra, and it seems the deeper we dig we find The Lord Emperor had an impossible task to do and really planned ahead for a world he loved.

Of course, as in most books, the question is not will the ‘hero’ actually win out over the villain. Of course he will, but in this story the big question is: Who really is the Hero of the Ages?

The deeper you get into the series the more layers you peel back — and you begin to understand the whole makeup of the world and how the evil force (Ruin) has been pushing even the main heroes of the story to do his bidding.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and will certainly come back and read it again.

Crazy for the Storm

This is a story about two survivals. The first and big flashy survival is that of a 12-year-old boy surviving a plane crash on a snow covered mountain. In this survival he fights off the elements and uses the skills his father has taught him — skiing and surfing, and running from Federals to overcome a physical challenge that would have killed many of his peers.

Layered in that survival story is the story of how that same young boy survived his mother’s abusive boyfriend and how he deals with the death of his father in the plane crash that left him alone and battling the elements. While he fights the physical elements, he faces the emotional challenges by again using the skills his father taught him — namely, experiencing joy for the storm. That calm in the waves and the peace it brings him.

I can totally understand that peace every time I’m out on a mountain watching a sunrise, or even when it’s pouring rain/hail/snow and I’m having the time of my life in the terrible weather.

One of the most poignant paragraphs for me comes right at the end of the book:

I had a pretty good idea of how Noah felt hovering over the lip of the gully. Having been in similar situations at nearly the same age, I understood that he just didn’t want to be scared, didn’t want to feel all that tension in his body, no matter what the payoff might be. He wanted to have effortless fun – Crazy for the Storm (emphasis mine)

Really isn’t that what we all want — effortless fun? Maybe if I put it another way, effortless reward, you’ll see more of yourself in it. But this is not a book about effortless fun or effortless reward. It’s a book about a father teaching his son that the greatest reward comes when you’ve put in the greatest effort.

This is a well written book that I very much enjoyed.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet

So, I’ve heard of Felicia Day before. I recognize her as some famous person and I know enough not to confuse her with Emily Blunt. I had a vague idea that she was into video games and had a web video show called The Guild. But before I read this book, that was the extent of my knowledge about Felicia Day.

Now one thing that always strikes me as funny is when a young person writes a memoir. I mean, you’ve got what — like ten years out of your parents’ house to get ‘wise’ and it’s time to write a memoir of your life? Sure, a memoir seems appropriate at age 60, 70, or 80 — but 30? Anyway, getting past that, this book is very quirky. Felicia Day is regularly self-deprecating as she wonders why you’d even read her book. That threw me off a bit since, why on earth would you write a book you figured no sane person should read?

Getting past that, this was an interesting look at how she got in on the ground floor of web video series at YouTube. Now everyone is trying to get some web show that hits it big so they can be famous, but when she did it, the concept was something totally new and she dove in just because she had a story she simply couldn’t not tell.

One of my favourite parts of the book is when she talks openly about dealing with depression. This is a topic that so many avoid and are ashamed of despite the fact that almost every person will go through some sort of depression in their life. Felicia talks about it openly and I could feel the struggle as she described trying to do almost anything — even care for herself. For that reason alone you should read this book.

Vagabonding

Travel is alluring to so many, myself included. Many of us dream of experiencing other cultures and sitting in cafes in exotic places, chatting with a friend for hours, with no attachments. Vagabonding doesn’t quite shatter that dream, but puts it in a more realistic context.

It starts with the idea that your trip truly starts and is truly earned with the work you do up front to make it happen. Those extra hours at the office, the things you don’t purchase so you can save more. All that sacrifice makes the journey better.

After that, Vagabonding talks little about specifics of any particular geographical area and much about the general philosophy required to have a great trip wherever you go.

My only warning to those reading this and dreaming of travelling is that it may make being at work now even harder. You’ll read this and want to travel now, not wait. The book will prepare you and make the call stronger at the same time.

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, Book 1)

At the beginning of the month I finished The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and that led me right into a second book by the same author (based on the recommendations at the end of my Kindle book).

The Way of Kings is another fantasy series with kings, and high princes, and war and slaves and mystical/magic powers. I actually found the book a bit confusing at first as it introduces us to a few soldiers just after a battle and then jumps us to the ‘present’ and an entirely new set of characters. It was only right near the end that I realized the soldiers introduced at the beginning were likely The Heralds spoken of throughout the book.

I found the characters engaging and the struggles real. I couldn’t put the book down at times, much to the chagrin of my children. I highly recommend this for lovers of medieval fantasy books. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Daily Rituals

What are the daily rituals of successful artists or writers or thinkers? I’m always interested in how others work, and how other people accomplish tasks. This book is right up my alley, and if you share the same interest, this is a book for you as well.

Daily Rituals reveals 161 routines of people you’ve likely heard of, like Franz Kafka or Bach. The thing that stuck out to me reading the book is how much leisure many of these creatives factored into their day. Now many of them may not have considered it leisure since they were out wrestling with their creative demons while walking the mountains, but really, so many of them spent copious amounts of time walking, or sitting in the pub drinking a pint, or sitting in a cafe sipping on coffee and observing the people around them.

It seems to me that we can learn something here.

Daily Rituals is very well researched and plain old entertaining, albeit light (as in none) on tips for applying the routines of others to your own life.

Still a recommended quick read in my opinion.

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, Book 2)

In this second installment in the Stormlight Archive we pick up directly where our first book left off. No time skipped, just straight into the former slaves trying to figure out how to be good King’s Guards.

The best part for me was watching Kaladin struggle with his hate of the ‘lighteyes’ (ruling class based on eye colour) as he is supposed to guard them and even sacrifice his life for them. Not just the ones he likes either, since he doesn’t particularly like the king, or think he’s a good king.

This struggle is what really brings the character alive for me, and as he works through it he becomes a better man.

I enjoyed the second installment of this series enough that I was sad when I realized that Book 3 hasn’t been released yet. Otherwise, I would have bought it right away.

That’s it for my August 2015 reading list. Stay tuned next month for my September update.

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