Newley.com

Newley Purnell's Home on the Web since 2001

Book Notes — ‘Never Eat Alone,’ by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Never eat alone

Never Eat Alone…and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
By Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0385346654
Amazon link
Rating: 6/10

Brief recap: A popular book about the power of networking. I didn’t find it revelatory, but appreciate the central theme, which is common sense: that you should help friends just to help them, not because you expect something in return. In other words, as the author writes, networking can be a huge advantage – but don’t keep score.

My notes:

  • Ferrazzi relates his story of growing up in the U.S. in a lower-middle class family, outside of elite circles. One he became friends with influential people, however, he discovered that they helped him in school and work, and that – of course – it’s much better to be on the inside than on the outside looking in.
  • Anyone who’s read books about the power of networking is probably familiar with most of the notions mentioned here. These include: the importance of building relationships with business contacts over the long term; the importance of being kind to assistants and other gatekeepers; why it’s key to follow up after you meet new contacts in order to stay in touch; how to make the most of meeting people at conferences; how to make small talk; etc.

  • My main takeaway from the book, though, was that it reinforced the the importance of trust in building career capital via the relationships you make, over time. As Ferrazzi writes:

My point is this: Relationships are solidified by trust. Institutions are built on it. You gain trust not by asking what people can do for you, to paraphrase an earlier Kennedy, but what you can do for others. In other words, the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.

Business cycles ebb and flow; your friends and trusted associates remain.

Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Deep work

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
By Cal Newport
Published: 2016
ISBN: 1455586692
Amazon link
Rating: 9/10

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

My notes:

  • What is deep work? It’s the core stuff we are trained to do, for which we’ve developed deep expertise – the crux of what makes us experts in our field.

    Or, as Newport writes:

    Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

    What isn’t deep work – or, as he calls it, “shallow work”? Newport says it’s activities that a recent college graduate could learn how to do relatively quickly.

    So, if you’re a consultant, let’s say, you must devote yourself entirely to your most important work, like producing deliverables for clients or bosses. Eschew all but the most critical email, needless meetings, social media and other distractions – even though it may seem like this stuff is important to your job.

  • Social media is largely a waste of time, and should avoided, Newport says. But our culture is so techno-centric – we are living in Neil Postman’s “technolopy”, he writes – that this is difficult:

Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological. Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. Deep work is exiled in favor of more distracting high-tech behaviors, like the professional use of social media, not because the former is empirically inferior to the latter. Indeed, if we had hard metrics relating the impact of these behaviors on the bottom line, our current technopoly would likely crumble…

  • After laying out, in the first half of the book, why deep work is important, Newport goes out to provide some tips for building more deep work into one’s life. A few that I liked, and have since implemented:
    • Keep a scorecard: log not only how many hours per day you’re able to spend on deep work, but track with a paper and pen, and post in a conspicuous place, details on when you’ve reached important milestones, such as completing important projects.
    • Train yourself to embrace boredom in order to build focus: Newport notes that a key requirement of deep work is the ability to concentrate deeply for long stretches of time, and that means resisting the temptation to surf the web or check in on social media when boredom strikes.

    • Ponder your work when walking. In a notable passage, Newport says he often takes long walks to and from his office, devoting the time to thinking about problems that are vexing him at work, searching for solutions.

    • That said, guard your downtime: Though Newport is a successful academic, publishing regularly, he argues that because he consistently focuses on deep work, he doesn’t have to work marathon hours. This is crucial because focusing is more mentally demanding than shallow work, and the brain needs time to relax. Newport even describes how he mentally prepares to leave his office every day, saying out loud to himself that he is finishing his work and shutting off his computer, serving as a reminder that it’s time to tune out a bit.

  • Newport earlier authored another interesting book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”

    The premise of that work: Follow your passion is terrible advice. True work satisfaction often comes only after a good deal of time, once we’ve developed expertise. So pick something you’re good at, that you like, and that society values. Then develop a craftsman’s mindset, honing your skills over time. Also worth checking out.

Book Notes — ‘Den of Thieves,’ by James B. Stewart

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Den of thieves

Den of Thieves
By James B. Stewart
Published: 1991
ISBN: 067179227X
Amazon link
Rating: 10/10

Brief recap: An absolute classic. Pulitzer-prize winning Jim Stewart tells, though in-depth reporting and riveting storytelling, the story of the insider trading scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1980s.

My notes:

  • Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Dennis Levine, Martin Seigel – you’ve heard their names in connection with insider trading, and may remember some specifics of their deeds.

    In this book, Stewart – with whom I was lucky enough to study at journalism school – lays out in incredible detail what motivated them to break the law, precisely how they did it, and how they were caught.

    The book clearly communicates what a powerful factor greed can be, and how the characters in the story acted with brazen disregard for the law. Also, even people who are familiar with Wall Street excess might be surprised with just how much money the industry’s titans made (and make) – yachts, helicopters, lavish estates, it’s all here.

  • The book remains relevant even today. As Stewart writes in a new introduction in 2010, after the global financial crisis:

When I finished writing Den of Thieves, in 1991, I ended with a question: Can it happen again?

Nearly twenty years later, we know the answer: it did happen again. Which begs the same question: are we destined to repeat history yet again?

I believe the answer lies in these pages, since this is ultimately a story not about insider trading or hostile takeovers but about human nature. In the most recent financial crisis, the setting has changed to subprime mortgages, asset-back securities, and exotic derivatives. Yet again, the power of vast sums of money to overpower everything in their path – laws, regulations, ethics, even common sense – has been on ample display. And once again, in the face of public outrage, there have been calls for reform.

  • Although “Den of Thieves” contains descriptions of complex matters like financial instruments and elaborate financing arrangements (not to mention a huge cast of characters), it is still a page turner – even at over 500 pages long.
  • Stewart reconstructs, in vivid scenes, how everything unfolded, putting the reader in the middle of the action. (For more on how Stewart tells stories, see his excellent 1998 book “Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction.”)

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Cameron Caught Humming; NYC Library Superintendents; Singaporean Banana Commerce; Epic Hockey Hair

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore

I shared this on Twitter and Facebook, as well, but wanted to preserve it for posterity on my blog. As I wrote:

Spotted recently at a 7-Eleven here in the city-state: bananas, in individual plastic bags, bearing the words “single and available.”

The sunglasses.

The plastic bag, despite — as a colleague pointed out on Twitter — the fact that bananas are naturally individually wrapped.

The “tip” at the bottom about when best to consume bananas according to ripeness.

It’s all too much.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) “David Cameron is caught humming a jaunty little tune after announcing his resignation as UK prime minister.”

Must-see video. Remarkable. The phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” comes to mind.

2) New York libraries once hosted live-in superintendents – meaning they and their families grew up in the facilities:

In the early to mid twentieth century, the majority of the city’s libraries had live-in superintendents. Like the superintendents who still live in many of the city’s residential buildings, these caretakers both worked and lived in the buildings for which they were responsible. This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours.

The post contains some interesting images.

3) “20 of the Best iPhone Photos of 2016.”

There are some gorgeous photos here. My favorite is the fourth from the top. You’ll know it when you see their faces. (Via Patrick N.)

4) Chinese Lottery Winners Collect Prizes Dressed as Cartoon Characters to Protect Their Identity

Simply amazing. And practical! Who wants all those friends and family members hassling your for dough after you’ve struck it rich?

5) “2016 Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team.”

Incredible video. I cannot believe teenagers wear their hair in such styles in modern America. (Thanks, Miles!)

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Short Film: Guy Who Built Enormous Model Train Set

Some Kind Of Quest from Andrew Wilcox on Vimeo.

Embedded above is “Some Kind of Quest,” a short documentary about Bruce Zaccagnino and Northlandz, a 52,000-square-foot model train setup he created in New Jersey over a period of four years.

Dedication, pure and simple.

Related video: the Belgian gentleman who is really into marbles.

What Will Happen to U.K. Trade, Post-Brexit?

As James Surowiecki writes in this week’s issue of the The New Yorker, Leave campaigners hope they can jettison Europen Union provisions they don’t like, such as free movement of labor, but maintain access to the EU for trade.

Surowiecki thinks they’ve got a tough road to hoe when it comes to working out new trade trade pacts with their much larger former partner:

As Hollande’s comments suggest, the negotiations over a new trade deal won’t be about economics alone. They’ll also be about politics. European leaders, in deciding how they should treat the U.K., will be thinking, in part, about Brexit’s effect on the stability of the E.U. itself, which they very much want to preserve. Studies show that international institutions work best, and are most effective, when members feel that leaving has a high cost. So, even if driving a hard bargain with the U.K. does some damage to the E.U.’s economy, that may be a price worth paying, in order to show Euroskeptics everywhere that leaving has consequences. “You’re willing to do things for family members simply because they’re family,” Véron told me. “But when you’re no longer in the family you’re out.” In choosing Brexit, British voters decided that ideological considerations trumped economic ones. They can hardly complain if Europe makes the same choice.

Watch this space.

Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore

IMG 0342

Spotted recently at a 7-Eleven here in the city-state: bananas, in individual plastic bags, bearing the words “single and available.”

The sunglasses.

The plastic bag, despite — as a colleague pointed out on Twitter — the fact that bananas are naturally individually wrapped.

The “tip” at the bottom about when best to consume bananas according to ripeness.

It’s all too much.

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Grab v. Uber; Why England Lose; Illiberalism on the Rise; Amazonian Book Nerds; Awesome Fireworks Packaging

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly* newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

*Okay, make that mostly weekly! I have been traveling and generally busy in recent weeks, and thus have missed sending these missives out on occasion. But I shall endeavor to do better.

What I wrote in The Wall Street Journal

Uber Rival Grab Gains Ground in Southeast Asia – a look at how Singapore-based Grab, an Uber competitor operating in six Southeast Asian countries, is doing in its battle with the U.S. behemoth. The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

Click through for a graphic and photos. There’s also a video online here; you may recognize the narrator’s voice.

Indian Internet Startups Face Money Crunch – The story begins:

Investors’ enthusiasm for Indian startups continues to wane.

Private-equity and venture-capital funds raised by Internet companies in the world’s second-most-populous country fell 56% to $528 million in the three months ended June 30.

That is a sharp drop from the $1.19 billion raised in the previous quarter and $1.3 billion a year earlier, according to a research report from Jefferies India.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose – I posted this item a few hours before they kicked off against Iceland…and promptly lost. From the post:

Here’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that the England national team aren’t more successful than they are.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

They’re actually not a global footballing power.

(Between the loss and Brexit, “This has been the worst week to be English since the Second World War,” as one Briton told The WSJ.)

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Speaking of which, Englishman John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, reflects on Brexit:

The great sweep of economic history is a series of “rises” and “falls”—from the fall of Rome to the rise of China. The intriguing episodes that spark the “what ifs” of history come lower down—when a medium-size power suddenly reverses an inevitable-seeming trajectory. That’s what Britain did under Margaret Thatcher and her successors: a crumbling country unexpectedly overturning years of genteel decline to become Europe’s most cosmopolitan liberal entrepôt. My fear is this revival ended on June 23, 2016.

2) Meanwhile, Sohrab Ahmari’s recent “Illiberalism: The Worldwide Crisis” – written, as it happens, before Brexit even occurred – is worth a read. It begins:

According to the bland conventional wisdom, Americans frustrated by the failure of the establishment to address issues like immigration and economic inequality have turned to an unlikely pair of political outsiders, a New York developer-turned-reality-TV-star and a Vermont socialist, to set things right. This account is true as far as it goes, but it is also hopelessly parochial and inadequate to the scope of the changes afoot. Trumpism (and Bernie Sanders-ism) are but the American symptoms of a global phenomenon: the astonishing rise of illiberal movements of the far right and far left.

3) Amazon is said to be run by super-smart analytic types who live and die by spreadsheets. But here’s a look at a decidedly right-brained group within the tech titan: the Amazon Book Reviewers team.

4) “The History of Urbanization, 3700 BC – 2000 AD” is a video charting, in just over three minutes, the rise of global cities through the millennia. Very cool.

5) This amazing collection of photos of Fourth of July fireworks packaging makes me miss America so much.

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Newley.com | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

By Me Monday: How Singapore’s Grab is Battling Uber Here in Southeast Asia

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

The region’s ride-hailing market is forecast to grow more than five times to $13.1 billion by 2025 from $2.5 billion last year, according to a recent report on Southeast Asia’s internet economy conducted by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Singapore state-investment firm Temasek Holdings.

There’s also a video, embedded at the top of the post, in the story, and online here. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

I last wrote about Grab — previously known as GrabTaxi — when they teamed up with fellow ride-sharing firms Lyft and Ola, and when they raised new funds last year.

Page 1 of 326

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: