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The Non-Oprah Business Boys Book Club …

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Do you follow Oprah’s Book List?

She is HUGE in the book club world.

If I wanted to increase my tiny blog readership by millions overnight, I would just kidnap and drug Oprah and have her make a woozy public statement on Twitter or Facebook about how wonderful my blog is.

Then I could buy a Caribbean island and share evening cocktails with Richard Branson and Kate Upton, ” … I just love the saltiness of this Russian beluga caviar, don’t you Sir Richard?“… “Kate, you were fabulous in that Bartender video with Lady Antebellum!

Just FYI … Oprah’s latest book choice is called RUBY by Cynthia Bond. I haven’t read it so I can’t comment.

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I don’t follow Oprah’s list closely, but I do pay attention to another book list of someone I admire.

But first …

I’m an investor. Not a superstar investor  à la Carl Icahn or Warren Buffett or George Soros, but I do alright.

My largest stock market holdings are Apple and Microsoft, with that daffy featherbrained AFLAC duck holding down 3rd spot in the portfolio.

I have a great deal of respect for the thinking of business/investment leaders like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway).

Whether you hate or love business types, they’ve been creative in finding ways to enrich their personal bank accounts while simultaneously helping to create a HUGE group of others who can include themselves in the Millionaire’s Club.

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My own retirement “package” is in no small part thanks to their creative abilities … creation of products that people – myself included – want to buy, and creation of my personal wealth. Every billion iPads you buy means I get an all-expenses paid trip south.

Today though, I’m more interested in talking about how these business boys invest their “spare” time. Reading.

To my advantage over the years, I’ve read a number of investing and business books that Warren Buffett has recommended. Of course I didn’t read or learn enough to avoid losing $25,000 on YBM Magnex, a Canadian company that was actually Russian mob controlled. For real …

If you’re at all interested in stock market investing, you could do far worse than read Buffett’s recommendation of The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

And just lately, I’ve begun looking over the annual reading list of Bill Gates … yup, the God of Microsoft… the Master of Mister Softy… the King of … well, you get my point.

Bill Gates is a consummate nerd, a ruthless, but savvy businessman who is now doing some incredibly amazing stuff in Third World countries as a philanthropist.

And because of his financial resources and connections to other wealthy individuals, he’s having as much or more of an impact on the health and welfare of millions than entire governments, including that of Barack Obama.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, Bill has assimilated the skills of time management. He finds a way to read a book each week, mostly non-fiction, with the occasional fiction novel slipping in from time to time.

I pat myself on the back if I can turn away from the absorbing Netflix dramas House of Cards or Orange is the New Black long enough to read one book per month.

So today, let me introduce you to Bill’s Book Club.

Below are 5 of Gates’ favourite reads from 2014, four of them non-fiction and the fifth a quirky, charming fiction novel:

  1. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty.
  2. How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell.
  3. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil.
  4. Business Adventures, by John Brooks.

And finally, Bill Gates’ fiction choice and the book that I’ve read most recently. It’s called:

5. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.

Rosie and Bill Gates

This is one quirky, sometimes confusing, sometimes hilarious novel because of its nerdy main character Don Tillman.

I don’t watch the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, but I’ve seen enough previews and interviews from the show to gather that Tillman would be a perfect fit if they were ever seeking new cast members.

Everything genetics professor Tillman pursues in life is given a research folder and a name… eg. The Wife Project, The Father Project, and yes, The Rosie Project. 

Professor Don Tillman is unmarried and his social ineptitude has resulted in a track record of bizarre and unsatisfactory dating experiences.

His interpretation of the statistics leads him to conclude he needs a wife, hence The Wife Project, which eventually morphs into The Rosie Project. This is where he decides to vet applicants for his Wife Project with a 16-page (double-sided) questionnaire, in the interests of efficiency. Yup, he really does have potential dates fill out the questionnaire.

Don is wired differently than most of us – he mentally assesses the age and BMI of everyone he meets – but he has integrity, focus, and determination, and it is pretty hard not to feel empathy with him even while laughing at his missteps.

It’s a slightly odd novel that also made me think about what makes relationships work and how we have to keep investing time and energy to make them better.

Don is out to lunch when it comes to subtle social cues. But if you need to secretly collect DNA samples from 117 people at a party (part of The Father Project), there’s nobody in the world who’s going to do a better job.

What Don allowed me to appreciate is that, just because somebody might not be highly literate in the language of emotions doesn’t mean he doesn’t have emotions, deeply felt emotions. He sees the world in terms of logic, but he feels just as deeply about that world as everybody else.

So, if you’re stuck in a nasty first-of-March blizzard, wind howling down your chimney, after the House of Cards episode ends, you can pick up Oprah’s book choice, RUBY.

Or maybe if you want to make your next read a fun “Project”, try a taste of Bill Gates’ choice in THE ROSIE PROJECT.

Invest in a good story.

Rosie Project

 

 

 

 

The 1,000 Hour Rule

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10000 hours

I’m just too ADHD for Malcolm Gladwell’s renowned 10,000 hour rule of mastering something … ANYTHING.

Sure, it worked for the Beatles and for Bill Gates and countless prominent others – but like American Senator Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle during the 1988 vice-presidential debate:

I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy“.

And I am no Paul McCartney or Steve Jobs or Margaret Mead.

These are all extraordinary people who bled buckets of blood and sweat over years and years to pursue and perfect just one special thing.

Songwriting. The Personal Computer. Anthropology.

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They focused their entire beings on their passion with unbounded dedication. It’s bloody admirable and I celebrate their accomplishments. It’s like they won gold medals in the Life Olympics.

But for this Man on the Fringe, anything I do for more than an hour or two at a time becomes a burden … yes, a job. Even my laboratory job that I enjoy becomes a job after 4 hours at my desk, so I’m packing it in in two weeks and indulging my ADHD side.

I accept and sometimes even celebrate that I’ll never be a master of anything.  Huh, you say? Why?

I know Mr. Miyagi would be disappointed in me… wax on, wax off… oh, go catch flies with chopsticks Mr. Miyagi!

I’m resolving to be a mini-master using the 1,000 hour rule.

Yup. 1,000 hours.

One thousand hours is no small feat.

Concentrated effort that is expended for that time frame will take you or me to a level well above the norm – whether its playing violin, sinking golf putts, or painting landscapes. It just won’t make us Anne Sophie Mutter, or Tiger Woods, or Salvador Dali.

Let’s put 1,000 hours into context ’cause it’s pretty meaningless when I just put it out there as a number.

A personal example: I’ve been writing this blog once each week (more or less) for a little more than 2 years now.

On average, I guesstimate that I spend 5-6 hours perched wiggling and squirming in front of my keyboard for each post. It’s not easy to avoid the lure of porn for such long periods. Modern man wasn’t made this way …

Putting all of my grade-school math skills into play tells me that 52 weeks x 2 years x an average of 5.5 hours… equals…

572 hours

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This means it’s going to take me about 182 weeks of writing these posts to reach 1,000 hrs of writing. That’s three and a half years of consistent week-in week-out blog writing at a pace of 5 and a half hours a week.

That’s a time frame I can live with. I hope – and feel confident – that my writing skills will continually improve at this pace AND it lets me do a bunch of other things I love to do all at the same time.

Take those same numbers and plug them into whatever your great interest or passion is: piano, knitting, dumpster diving, baton twirling, soap making, archery, Russian lessons, disco dancing … the list is endless but the point remains the same.

You can become really good at a number of things in just a few years with some reasonable focus and effort.

No SuperHuman skills necessary.

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See… anyone can do it …

If I was trying to achieve the 10,000 hour level of accomplishment, I would need to multiply my daily efforts by 2 to 10 times in order to meet the MASTER level within 4-25 years.

This is why I could never be a great entrepreneur. The passion and focus needed is not a part of my internal makeup … it just isn’t.

There’s something beautiful about doing something for the first time.

If I tried to dedicate 10,000 hours to merely one area of interest, I’d be sailing away at the end of my years with many fewer life firsts – and there are so many first adventures I don’t want to miss.

So … Paul, John, George and Ringo’s troubles are all far away with their “Yesterday”‘s fame. Bill Gates can feel relaxed sitting by his fireplace knowing I will never replace his “Windows”.

Dear Mr. Gladwell:

I’m only 1/10th the person that you write about in your excellent book (Outliers) but I’m content knowing that I can live a great life without being GREAT.

There will be no gold medal for this guy but I’ll stand on the podium all the same – silver medallion swinging in the breeze from my neck – with a smile just as big as if I was the winner.

That is, if I can fit the medal presentation in between German language class and creating a fantastic Chicken Kiev a la Julia Child .

Sincerely,

Man On The Fringe

Dilbert 10000 hr rule