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Interview with Josh Kaufman and First Review

Josh Kaufman, creator of the Personal MBA, interviewed me recently. You will find the interview on the Personal MBA site. In particular I described my time as an entrepreneur, how I discovered the Personal MBA, how the idea came to me for my crazy challenge, and I give some advice to people who might be motivated to embark on a similar adventure 😉 . In terms of news, anyone who uses Twitter can now follow me to it – I am not thinking of using it a lot for the moment, but maybe that’s coming.



A week without books – Implementing GTD and thinking

As i wrote in my previous article about 10 pearls of wisdom, I have decided not to read a book this week so that I can focus on implementing the GTD method. This method is, in fact, very promising and I think that I can save a lot of time in the long term, but it also quite demanding to set up. I will write an article for you later telling you how I did it.

Does this mean I have given up on the idea of reading 52 books in 52 weeks? Yes and No. In the last 7 weeks I have read 8 books, including Personal Development for Smart People. Therefore even if I skip a week I am still in the game.

Well OK, Steve Pavlina’s book is not part of my Personal MBA challenge, so I am cheating a little 😉 . The GTD method is supposed to save me time, therefore I am not giving up the idea of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. But just as important as the project or the books themselves, is what I will get out of them in my personal and professional life. Now, one of the major pitfalls of my project, which I have been conscious of from the outset, is that the pace I have imposed on myself is preventing me from fully putting into practice what I am learning. I chose to impose one book a week on myself because that seemed to have more benefits than drawbacks.

I envisaged this project also as an experience and not as a set of fixed rules, it is therefore possible that I will modify elements of it for purposes of making it more effective and efficient. For example, I have thought about the idea of switching off so that “one week I read a book and write a summary, then the next week I put it into practice and write an article about it, then continuing on.” But I hesitate to do that. What do you think? Do you think that would take something away from the spirit of the project? Or would I get more benefit from it? What would I lose in the end? I am just at the beginning, so should I keep it up for a while longer before asking myself that question? What do you think?

The Unwritten Laws of Business


The unwritten laws of Business - Couverture 

One Sentence Summary: To succeed in your career, you must understand and apply many unwritten rules with respect to the work, the chain of command, colleagues, project management, the organizational structure, what managers expect from their subordinates, character, personality, and personal development; sometimes these laws seem obvious but even so, those presented in this book are regularly forgotten.

By W.J. King, with revisions and additions by James G. Skakoon, 100 pages, published in 1944 (first edition under the name The Unwritten Laws of Enginnering), and in 2001 (current revised edition).

Summary and Book Report:

This little book (size-wise) is the epitomy of a universal short and concise text that has outlasted generations and specializations. First published in 1944 under the name The Unwritten Laws of Enginnering, was republished under the same title in 2001 after some touching up.

It’s story becomes fascinating after that: William H. Swanson, CEO of the huge American defense corporation, Raytheon (73,000 employees) released a book in 2005 entitled Swanson’s Unwritten rules of Management, which the New York Times showed to be a plagiarism of the 1944 classic. Before this revelation, the book was very successful, attracting positive reactions from leaders such as Warren Buffet (American billionaire and richest man in the world – ah yes! he has dethroned Bill Gates 🙂 ) or Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric).

William Swanson acknowledged this and apologized. Suddenly, public attention was turned towards the original work, very intelligently renamed by its editor under its current title, which represents the universal appeal of its contents very well.

Even though it was conceived by an engineer for engineers, the 63 recommended rules go beyond this sector and apply to anyone who ends up working in a team, whether you are at the very bottom or the very top of the ladder. Some may seem obvious, but according to the author, they are all without exception often forgotten within organizations, from small businesses to multinational corporations.

Here are the 63 rules, summarized for the most post – I have not listed the ones that are pretty self-explanatory:


The Creative Habit – Learn it and use it for life


The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life

One Sentence Summary:

Creativity is learned, nourished and maintained; for inspiration to flow through us and spring forth from the mind, you must prepare, have rituals that invoke it, to know our creative DNA – what we are made for, use our memory and connect disparate things with each other, organize work documents so that we always know where to find them, know how to scratch the surface of things to extract the essential, use the accidents and incidents that that appear in our life, have an idea-base which serves as a backbone for our creation, use our talents wisely, recognize roadblocks and the moments that overtake us, know how to fail, and pace ourselves over the long term – to the very end.

By Twyla Tharp, 243 pages, published in 2003.

Summary and Book Report:

First of all, this book is nice. Not only from the point of view of pure aesthetic, like 45 Effective Ways to Recruit Wisely, but because of all the books I have read for my Personal MBA Challenge this is the one that best that combines form and substance, using one to reinforce the other. Being an amateur writer (of science fiction), I am especially aware of this: why are today’s books content to put sad black letters on a white background, while modern technology allows creativity? It is time that writers understand that their expression space is not confined to words alone, but also to the way in which they are represented. 

The Creative Habit brilliantly manages to break out of this centuries old canvas by using a sober and original framework to highlight key elements of its content. This is done by putting some words in color, or using a larger character that stands out from the rest of the sentence, free placement on the page, or at the bottom of the page, shaded gray, or strategically placed drawings to illustrate the work. This book is therefore a joy to read and it is much easier to glean the important parts from it – it is almost enough to read the big red words. A book which makes excellent use of highlighting – almost reaching utter perfection – is The October Man Sequence, but only the initiated know about it.

Extrait de The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life

The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life

Great examples of highlighting in the book

Extrait de The October Man Sequence

But the beauty of The October Man Sequence remains unsurpassed. It is a work of art unto itself.

Twyla Tharp is an American dancer and choreographer, born in 1941. She has created numerous ballets and musical comedies, most of which have been successful, and some of which have been seen on Broadway. She directed the opera sequences in the film Amadeus and she has been the recipient of many prizes in her career, which began in 1965. On Youtube there are numerous extracts of her work, and I invite you especially to watch this clip of Movin’ Out – a musical comedy based on the songs of rock star Billy Joel – to give you an idea of her work.

For many people, the beginning, symbolized by finding oneself in an empty room, is something deep, mysterious and terrifying. It’s opening up your word processing software and finding yourself faced with a blank page. It’s picking up your brush and contemplating the immaculate virgin canvas. It’s taking your chisel and moving towards your block of stone in the rough. It’s being in front of the piano, fingers poised over the keys – to create rather than to play.

White space is perhaps humbling. Some people cannot handle it, and choose to avoid it. For Twyla Tharp, facing it is her job. She finds in a white, empty room a mix of challenge and trepidation, as well as peace and promise. Filling this empty room comprises her identity. She has become its roof.

However creativity is not limited to artists. It is important for business men who are looking for new ways to sell, for engineers who are trying to solve a problem, for parents who want their children to see the world in a new light.

We can have a gift and be especially talented to create in a particular area, but whether we are gifted or not, there is no creativity without apprenticeship, without preparation and daily routines which become second nature.

To be creative, you must know how to prepare yourself to be creative.

That’s the object of this book.

Twyla Tharp therefore shares with us the fruits of her 35 years of experience to help us develop, maintain and nourish our creativity, whatever it is. Every chapter, except the first one – is augmented with exercises, to help us practice the concepts that she has just outlined.


Lead the Field


Lead the field - Earl Nightingale

One-Sentence Summary : To succeed in life you can’t just count on luck and circumstances; you must find hidden nuggets inside yourself rather than trapsing around the world in vain looking for them, have goals and desires and define them clearly, have an attitude that sets you up for success and love yourself, use your brain as a resource for reflection every day, understand that our rewards in life always correspond to the services we deliver, learn without ceasing and continue to grow, develop your vocabulary and mastery of language, leave the flock to act on your own, understand your value and the value of several tens of millions of euros, clearly define the amount of money you want to earn, economize or invest and save for your retirement, have a personal library that is rich and relevant, do your best every day and, one by one, accomplish the tasks that will lead you to be successful in your goals, specialize in something; then you will be in the top 5% of humanity who find themselves at the top of the success pyramid — whatever that is.

By Earl Nightingale, 102 pages, published in 2007 (book) and in 1986 (audio cassette)

Summary and Book Report:

I am not going to write a biography – even a short one – for all the authors in my PMBA challenge, but Earl Nightingale seems to be a rather interesting personality, and atypical enough to warrant an exception:

Earl Nightingale is a famous orator in the United States, and an example of what self education can do for someone who starts out with plenty of things going against him. Born in 1921, raised by his mother who was left alone with his two brothers, he grew up in a poor Los Angeles suburb in the middle of the depression. Wishing to understand why some people are poor and miserable and others are not, and not finding anyone in his acquaintance who could answer, he began his quest for answers and knowledge in the local library, which would lead him particularly to a study of philosophy, psychology and the great religions for decades. After the war, during which he survived, with 12 marines, an attack on the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (1103 dead out of 1511 crew members), he worked in radio and created one of the first audio books, The Strangest Secret, which is a best seller and sold more than a million copies. He went on to found, with Lloyd Conant, the Nightingale-Conant Corporation, the first company to offer audio cassettes about personal development. He died in 1989.

Lead the field is a collection of advice about personal development, originally only offered in audio format. Fortunately, a book offering an exact transcription was recently published, which allowed me to read it and to offer you a review of it today – it is a lot harder for me to understand spoken English than written, and while audio books have undeniable advantages, such as being able to do other things while you read them, and use the time in transit or traveling for self improvement, I much prefer a good book when it comes to soaking up knowledge, reflecting and taking notes. I love to write post-it notes which I stick on the paragraphs that speak to me – difficult to do that with an audio CD.

In this book, which is enthusiastic and brimming with energy, Earl Nightingale insists on the fact that success in life is not due to luck and circumstances, but to principles based on good sense and habits that are easy to acquire on the condition that you practice them every day. I will paint you a panoramic, chapter by chapter:


45 effective ways for Hiring Smart


How to predict winners & losers in the incredibly expensive people-reading game

45 effective ways for Hiring Smart - How to predict winners & losers in the incredibly expensive people-reading game   

One Sentence Summary: Making a hiring error can be very expensive – around two and a half times the salary of the person hired if you catch the error six months later – and the success of a company depends on the quality of people in it; this book recommends 45 methods, tricks and stratagems for hiring as efficiently as possible.

By Dr Pierre Mornell, 240 pages, published in 2001.

Summary and Book Report:

First of all, this book looks good. Really. It is printed on really nice glossy paper, on big, comfortable pages with large text, and sprinkled with enlightening illustrations that support the text effectively :

  Stategies after the inteview

Strategies after the interview

This book is a long way down my crazy PMBA project list – in 38th place actually – but I just won a big contract with a client and I needed to hire a new employee. So I seized this opportunity to combine two useful efforts by reading this book a little earlier than anticipated and applying the knowledge to this situation. No doubt I will “jump around” in the list again from time to time according to my personal needs or those of my business.

Dr Pierre Mornell, a Training Psychiatrist, shares with us his 15 years of experience as a recruitment consultant in the form of 45 methods divided into 5 sections. According to him, numerous companies are not sufficiently prepared for recruiting and do not dedicate enough resource to it. Further, the top ten American teaching institutions for business affairs do not provide any training on evaluation, selection and recruitment of personnel to key positions: “MBA students are offered exactly the opposite […] How to interview successfully in order to get the most coveted jobs.” His 45 strategies are not strict rules, but rather ways of improving the recruitment process, of reducing uncertainty, and getting the time on your side that is necessary to go through the legal process. Here is a summary of each of them, chapter by chapter. I have highlighted the ones that I think are most relevant to my small business.


Strengths Finder 2.0 : Now, discover your Strengths


Strenghts Finder 2.0 - Now, discover yours strenghts


One Sentence Summary : Our society does not put enough emphasis on our strengths, yet knowing and developing them is extremely important for our success and our happiness; Strengths Finder 2.0 lets you discover precisely what they are and work on them to help you become a better you.

by Tom Rath, 175 pages, published in 2007.

Summary and Book Report :

This book is not like other books. First, you are probably only going to read a little bit of it. Then, because it lets you take a psychology test on line that is going to figure out your five predominant strengths from 34 possible strengths, and give you 10 actions for each of these strengths to allow you to exercise it and develop it to its full potential.

To stand out by polishing yours strenghts  

The author, a Director of the Gallup Poll company, begins by presenting his vision for personal development: for him, it’s better to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Yet our society in general puts the emphasis on what it takes to overcome our weaknesses, which according to him, is an enormous waste of time and energy.


10 Days to Faster Reading + Free BONUS speed reading test


10 days to Faster reading

One Sentence Summary: Reading fast is a professional and personal asset, it is possible to improve your reading speed significantly by using various techniques and methods, like the use of guides (cards, fingers, pens…) or skimming, scanning and skipping … and plenty of others.

by Abby Marks Beale, 200 pages, published in 2001.

Summary and Book Report:

The first book of my personal challenge! It’s the first one on the PMBA list because it will supposedly increase our reading speed significantly. I am already a good reader with an average of 400 words per minute and a retention rate of almost 90%.

The author ranks readers in the following way:

Words per minute Reader Type
100-200 slow reader
200-300 average reader
300-400 good reader
400-500 excellent reader

But do you know your reading speed? I can offer you a way to measure it: click on the "start" button below, and read the rest of this article at your normal reading speed. When you are done, click the "stop" button at the end of the article.