Selected Books on Career & Personal Development 事業與個人發展

 1. Most Likely to Succeed at Work

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Authors: Davidson, W. and Dougherty, J.
Publisher: NY: MJF Books, Fine Communications
Year: 2003
ISBN-13: 978-1-56731-823-4
ISBN-10: 1-56731-823-1

I picked up this book from the deeply discounted bin at a bookstore while taking a break in Portland, OR. It is a very good book on how to take advantage of one's strengths and avoid one's weaknesses in the workplace. The whole book is arranged by the different types of people that we may encounter in high school, including the A student, the class clown, the teacher's pet, the straight arrow (these are in the "top of the class" category), the snob, the complainer, and the cheater, etc. (these are in the "bottom of the class" category). They all reappear in the workplace. For each type, the authors talk about the communication style, the strengths, the weaknesses, and what to do if one's boss is such a type, etc. The information is accurate and the advice is practical. Finally, the authors discuss the skills required for success. Examples include respect for authority and being likable besides being competent, etc.

I think a person can display a blend of more than one type of behavior described in the book. It will be our advantage if we cultivate the correct blend of the "top of the class" material.

This book is easy to read because each chapter is not very long but the substance is to the point.

Written: August 9, 2008

 2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

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Author: Dweck, C.
Publisher: NY: Ballantine Books
Year: 2006
ISBN: 978-0-345-47232-8

This book mainly analyzes two different mindsets: (1) the fixed mindset and (2) the growth mindset. The fixed mindset views the only ingredient for success is one’s natural talent which is fixed. The growth mindset views success as a result of growth, learning, and hard work. As a result, people with the fixed mindset are afraid of challenge and whenever they do something, the purpose is to prove their intelligence. To them, effort means one is not talented enough. On the other end, people with the growth mindset enjoy being challenged and the learning opportunity that comes with challenge. To them, effort is the means to achieve more.

The book then applies the above model in different areas: students in schools, leaders in corporate business, and interpersonal relationships. The ingredients for encouraging children to grow to their full potential include: being fair, being non-judgmental, not using labels, fostering trust, setting high standards, giving them ways and tools to achieve the high standards, and encouraging hard work. The right way to praise a child is praising the effort, instead of praising his/her intelligence.

While I was reading this book, images of how I grew up appeared in my mind. The Chinese culture always emphasizes hard work as the way of going through our education. However, hard work was not necessarily the means for learning and understanding the material when I grew up. It was more the means for memorizing the material only. Memorization does have its place in the whole course of education. I wish my educational culture had also emphasized the appreciation, application, and true internalization of knowledge.

Now, I understand why some people have to prove themselves and compare themselves against others in whatever they do. I could sense that they are very insecure inside. This book tells me that, they have to find every chance to prove themselves because they have the fixed mindset. They do not believe that their potential can be extended through effort and learning. The true danger of having the fixed mindset is that, the world is ever-changing and new challenges never stop coming. After a brief victory, it is very hard for a person with the fixed mindset to overcome setbacks. On the other hand, a person with the growth mindset sees setbacks as the opportunities for learning and advancing.

This book is very useful in helping me understand how people succeed: through learning and effort. It is an in-depth analysis of why people say, “Setbacks are merely signals that I need to keep learning.”

Written: June 24, 2009

 3. Talent Is Overrated

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Author: Colvin, G.
Publisher: NY: The Penguin Group
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59184-224-8

This book explains the source of great performance. The first three chapters discuss that it is not experience, inborn abilities, and general abilities, such as intelligence and memory. From Chapter 4 onwards, it reviews that deliberate practice is the key to great performance. Deliberate practice involves mentally demanding activity designed specifically to improve weaknesses and the use of constant feedback for making improvement. The practice is repeated a lot and it is not much fun usually. Besides hard work, such practice also involves a lot of self-awareness, meta-knowledge about where to improve, and how to organize the relevant knowledge base behind the great performance in one's brain.

The book goes on to apply the above theory in different situations, such as in businesses,team work, innovation, and child development. Finally, it discusses why such great performers are willing to endure such practice. They are intrinsically motivated and they believe that great performance is achievable.

Other reviewers said that, this book is just a repetition of previous research. The author's discussion is based on others' research results. In my opinion, this book is suitable for readers who do not like to read scientific research.

This book is very useful for learning the "how-to" part of working hard to make an improvement in a certain area.

Written: August 30, 2009

 4. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

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Author: Godin, S.
Publisher: NY: The Penguin Group
Year: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59184-316-0

This book is the author's unique way of telling us how to be indispensable in the contemporary workplace: be creative and give your employer and customers 150% effort with your heart. Nowadays, merely following orders and doing just enough will no longer make it. With the present technological development, more and more structured jobs are either taken over by the computer or outsourced. The jobs that remain are more unstructured and they require a lot of creativity. That is why successful workers are "artists." There are no maps to follow because the problems that remain to be solved are mostly novel. They require us to be able to have an accurate insight and problem-solving capabilities beyond following a map. Further, since these jobs are not structured, there is room for us to give our 150% to be creative and to create value that customers and companies really value nowadays. An example that the book gives is, a waiter doing more than just serving food to customers. He/she serves the customers with all his/her heart: attending to detail and going all out to make sure that the customers have a wonderful experience eating there. It is this extra effort (the book calls it a "gift" or the work of the "artist") that sets the artist (the worker) apart.

This book further explains in detail how we can achieve the status of being the indispensable linchpin in the workplace. Conditions include being able to focus to work on our "art," being able to deliver this "art," being able to see the world as it is and to keep the external environment from affecting us (this is the way to keep an objective perspective and to be productive), etc. The book also closes the loop with talking about what to do if things do not work while we are trying to be an artist.

The argument presented by the author is sound and supported with facts (though it is not scientific research). While I was reading it, an interesting thought came to me. If merely fitting in and being average is no longer sufficient nowadays, how about those who do not even give an average performance? As discussed in one of the entries under my Notebook on this site, I have seen people who think that the world owes them a living and people who only do the minimum. What will happen to them in the long run?

This book reminds me of one important thing: we should be unafraid of things that we should not be afraid of. This is one apsect of maturity and one of the pre-requisites of being a linchpin.

Written: February 22, 2010

 5. How to Self-Destruct: Making the Least of What's Left of Your Career

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Author: Seiden, J.
Publisher: Trestle Publishing
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9799431-0-2

This is a funny book telling us negative and positive behaviors (1) every step of the way from being on the first job to being a senior executive, (2) about getting a business education, (3) being ethical, and (4) applied to personal life management.

In every chapter of the book, the bad behaviors to enhance failure are listed and discussed. Then, the opposite behaviors to enhance success are presented, to give a counterbalance. The style of writing is more creative and attention-catching than the usual preaching of positive behaviors alone. The major ideas are still the traditional ones: work hard, keep learning, be responsible, be ethical, do not belittle others, do not claim all the credit, be productive, do not burn bridges, etc.

Unlike many other books about career development, this book also gives advice about personal life management: (1) how to take care of one's own body, soul, and mind, (2) how to get along with friends and family, and (3) how to manage one's finances.

This is a book that is humorous and easy to read. It affirms many existing positive values of managing one's career and one's life.

Written: April 12, 2010

 6. The Cheapskate Next Door

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Author: Yeager, J.
Publisher: NY: Broadway Books
Year: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7679-3132-8

According to the author, this book is a compilation of the ideas from many frugal people in the United States. This book is well-structured. The author first gives a definition to the “cheapskates:” those who happily live below their means. They have a strong sense of self-worth. They are completely confident of who they are and do not need to rely on buying things they do not need or want just to feel good or to impress others. A cheapskate is the opposite of the conspicuous consumer. The cheapskates included in this book are frugal and honest. They do not try to save a buck at the expense of others.

Since a person’s spending habits are closely related to one’s value system, the author sums up the overall value system of these financially responsible people. They include seeing keeping up with the Joneses the least important priority, valuing value and durability when they shop for a particular item, knowing the best things in life are not things (they value experiences more than materialistic “stuff”), loving what one does for a living (they do not need to use shopping for therapeutic purposes), hating wasting, and answering to a higher authority (for example, living below one’s means is a form of positive stewardship and can lead to more time available for serving God). The author also talks about the importance of developing good spending and money management habits: having the patience to avoid instant gratification, planning ahead for big ticket items, and avoiding debt, etc. One of the immediate effects is the fact that, such a life style does not require a change to one’s living standard, with or without a job.

Then, the author goes into different chapters on how to save money in different areas of life: raising “fiscally fit” kids, green living, buying groceries, eating out, traveling, buying insurance, buying automobiles, and using legitimate free offers, etc.

It is true that if one is already living in a frugal manner, one should know many of these techniques already. To me, the new information is all the relevant web sites in each chapter that would be useful for learning more about a certain topic or investigating for good deals, such as textbooks, etc.

I personally do not quite like the word “cheapskate,” though I embrace this life style of being frugal to oneself as much as possible. To me, “being cheap” is equivalent to being stingy to others, which is different from “being frugal in a way that is self-directed.” I am frugal to myself but I am never cheap to others.

The writing style of the author is funny. In addition, there are noteworthy stories and sentences here and there because they are convincing and they probably tell the truth in a direct manner. For example, when a child wondered why she did not have the expensive things that her friends had, her father asked her logically, “Do you want to (1) have those things [and her mother would have to work at a job] and (2) have to go to day care or do you want Mommy to stay home with you?” Of course, that child chose the latter. With a mother that was a 100% career woman, I completely agree with that little girl. The author also quotes his friend, “If kids get everything they want as soon as they want it, I’ll bet they learned it by seeing how their parents live.” I have seen at least one real-world case that is similar. It is a pity that the parents are not aware of this cause-and-effect relationship yet (or at least the part that they can control by setting a good example for their children, amidst social media influence).

As we know, the three resources: time, money, and energy, are tools for us to use wisely for fulfilling our responsibilities as long as we are alive (getting some fun out of the process would not hurt either). May we know the optimal usage of them (such as when to save and when to spend among the three) that is suitable for our own situations in different phases of our lives.

Written: August 1, 2010

 7. 《上流力》系列

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年份: 《上流力》 二零一零年十二月初版
    《上流力 2》 二零一二年一月初版
    《上流力 3》 二零一四年三月初版

國際書號:《上流力》 978-988-19449-9-3
       《上流力 2》 978-988-15504-9-1
       《上流力 3》 978-988-16810-7-2

我大約於兩年多前從一本天窗出版社所出的書中讀到《上流力》的簡介,在好奇心的 驅使下請在香港的朋友幫我買來一本。作者在書中分享自己在事業上奮鬥的經歷, 從而勉勵年輕人如何上進。其中包括要不怕走冤枉路、勤奮盡責等等。我覺得這書 跟我所學過而到今天都一直堅守著的原則很有共鳴。它亦成了我的鼓勵。

《上流力 2》主要是分享如何在現實生活中把自己的圈子擴大、如何去結交更多的 良師益友。所提及的包括如何運用互聯網和智能手機去跟朋友保持聯絡、如何在朋 友中建立口碑、一些社交禮貌等等。內容十分實際。

《上流力 3》主要是搜集了很多香港本土和一些外國名人的成功故事。我覺得重點 是說我們要懂得變通,去適應不時在變的外在環境,從而能生存和成功。它帶給讀 者新的視野。

在這三本書中,作者一直鼓吹我們要有正面的思想,與其經常祗知埋怨政府無能,不 如想想辦法如何在社會中積極向上流,過一個更積極的人生。

作者的文筆生動有趣,十分有香港本土色彩。我認為最令我哈哈大笑的是在《上流力》 其中一篇文章中講到某人不是從少林寺打木人巷畢業出來的,而是「捐狗洞」出來 的。