Book & Product Reviews

Crime and Punishment

crime and punishment

I just finished listening to the audio book Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This part of the my own personal discovery of Russian novelists. I have been reading The Gulag Achipelago by Solzhenitsyn, enjoying it very much so I thought I would check out one of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s famous novels. Written in installments in 1886 the book centers around a central character Rodion Raskolnikov sometimes just referred to as Raskolnikov in the book. Raskolnikov is a student living in Saint Petersburg, who falls upon hard times and commits a capital crime. I won’t spoil it for you by going into a lot of details, but let’s just say it is pretty unexpected.

I just wanted to state that I don’t write book reviews that summarize the story line, which would frankly just ruin it for you should you decide to read or listen to the book. My purpose for writing these reviews is more about offering up an opinion of whether the book is worth reading and how it made me feel.

If you have ever read anything from Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn you have a pretty good idea of what Russia was like late 1800’s through mid 1900’s. This book provides a wonderful depiction of the plight of the people during that time period and the pathetic living conditions the Russian people experienced. This book is not one of those uplifting novels that I normally write about; instead it is all pretty morbid. If I could sum up the book in a couple of sentences it would be something like this:

An in-depth character study of what desperate people are willing to do to each other. Secondly the price one pays for their indiscretions in terms of guilt and self loathing. 

Recommendation:

Fyodor Dostoevsky is a talented writer and I would read other books that he has written, but I kind of like this kind of morbid stuff. This is a very long book, with the audio book being over 21 hours, so be prepared to invest some serious time reading or listening to this book. There are chapters that kind of drag on and on, so you need to be willing to deal with that as the author delves deeper into the characters and their relationship to each other. I’m a bit torn about recommending this unless you have read something like the Gulag Archipelago and enjoyed it. The author is a fascinating character and you will see portions of his own life reflected in his writing.

A little bit about Dostoevsky from Wikipedia:

Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy tales and legends, and through books by Russian and foreign authors. His mother died in 1837 when he was 15, and around the same time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. After graduating, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, translating books to earn extra money. In the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, which gained him entry into St. Petersburg’s literary circles. Arrested in 1849 for belonging to a literary group that discussed banned books critical of “Tsarist Russia”, he was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted at the last moment. He spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, followed by six years of compulsory military service in exile. In the following years, Dostoevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and later A Writer’s Diary, a collection of his writings. He began to travel around western Europe and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship. For a time, he had to beg for money, but he eventually became one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian writers.

Namaste

 

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Book & Product Reviews

Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

I just finished the book Extreme Ownership written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. This book was written by two Navy Seals who led forces in the city of Ramadi, Iraq. While much of this book is about missions that occurred in Ramadi, the true purpose is to outline the leadership lessons learned during the war with the insurgency. Each chapter reviews a different leadership principle and the authors take turns providing examples on how this leadership principle applies to business.

I’m not going to go into each of the leadership principles covered in this book, but one that comes up over and over in the book is the idea of taking extreme ownership of everything, leaving  your ego at the door, and taking responsibility for all outcomes.

What I liked:

  • The stories about the Navy Seals operations are compelling and help to illustrate a particular leadership principle.
  • The authors are knowledgeable and apply these principles learned on the battle field to situations in business.
  • I actually listened to the audio book and the narration by Jocko and Leif was very good, although the recordings by Jocko had some kind of click in them, which was a bit annoying.
  • Several really great principles are outlined throughout the book and they are explained in great detail, providing why the principle is important.
  • The way the leadership principles are delivered makes a big impact, after all these two guys were Navy Seals commanders.

What I didn’t like:

  • Most of the leadership principles in the book are not really anything new. Although this can be true of a lot of books and it didn’t really detract from the message.

Overall:

I really enjoyed the book and while some of the principles are well known, the way they are delivered and woven together helps to reinforce them for the reader. The authors do a great job of using leadership principles learned in the military and providing examples of how they can be used in a business setting. The authors are now consultants and have a lot of experience helping companies implement the leadership principles outlined in this book. I will read or listen to this book again, it is very inspiring.

Namaste

 

 

Book & Product Reviews

Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl 2

This happens to be a review of an audio book that I have listened to a couple times. Man’s Search for Meaning was written by Viktor E. Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) first published in 1946. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. As I have mentioned in the past my book reviews tend to focus more on what you can learn from the book than some blow by blow account of the work. This book is broken up into two parts with the first part being Viktor Frankl’s experience at the German concentration camp Auschwitz and the second part being an overview of his psychotherapy method Logotherapy.

Auschwitz1

(picture of the entrance into Auschwitz)

Auschwitz was probably the most notorious of the Nazi Germany concentration camps where thousands of people were either killed in gas chambers, shot, or starved to death. Viktor Frankl starts out Man’s Search for Meaning with his account of Auschwitz from the day he arrived to the day it was liberated by the Soviet army in 1945. Prior to the Soviets actually stepping foot in Auschwitz the SS guards marched some 60,000 prisoners to the city of Wodzislaw in the western part of Upper Silesia. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered.

viktor-frankl-quote

In this book Viktor Frankl spends most of his time in the first section on his observations of the guards and prisoners; much of this is difficult to read or as in my case listen to. As you read or listen to this book you will be struck by what an incredible human being Viktor Frankl was. Clearly there was something special about him aside from his education and training or maybe because of it, he was able to survive in this situation with such an outstanding perspective on life. If there is a positive aspect to adversity it is that it reveals the true character of a person, and in Viktor Frankl’s case it reveals courage, compassion, love, hope, and intelligence. There are some great lessons in this book that you the reader can take away from it, making it a must read.

LOGOTHERAPY

The second part of this book is devoted to Logotherapy, which was developed a psychotherapy methodology. I found this part of the book less compelling than the first section, but interesting enough for me to study it further.  Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans (Wikipedia).

Should you read or listen to this book? I found this book to be very inspiring for several reasons. First and foremost the book provides many insights into the character of man, from the dark inhumanity of the guards in the concentration camp to the contrast of spirit, love, and humanity of the prisoners. I think Viktor Frankl makes a great case for how meaning and having a why in your life can overcome almost any situation. This book is a real gem and highly recommended. While you will be shocked by the inhumanity, you will also be inspired by the greatness that exists in humanity.

Namaste

 

 

 

Book & Product Reviews

Find Your WHY

find your why2

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.”
– Mark Twain

FIND YOUR WHY was written by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker. This is an interesting book and if you have ever watched any of Simon Sinek’s YouTube videos you will know that he often discusses the importance of understanding your why. This book starts with explaining the power of knowing your why and how it is a motivating force for both the individual and organizations.

The rest of this book is devoted to ways that you as a person can define your why, or if you prefer how your team can determine their why. This is really a workbook in many ways, with exercises to help you articulate what your why is. The idea is that you create one sentence that includes a contribution and an impact. The format would look something like this:

To        Contribution     so that    Impact     .

Seems simple, yet it is a fairly difficult thing to do. You are not creating a goal, although goals might come from understanding your why. Instead you are defining a purpose or a reason for your life. It might be a bit lofty or grandiose, but that’s fine. It is your life and you need to determine why you are here in this world and what you are here to contribute. Knowing your why will help you chart a course for moving forward and it lets the rest of the world know why you do what you do.

Here is an example of what I came up with for myself:

To share with people ways to improve their lives, so that they can create a life filled with meaning and contribution.

It’s still a work in progress, so don’t judge to harshly. Unless you can already articulate your own why then I would recommend you give this book a read. I read the first three chapters in a couple of hours and started crafting my own why that same day. There are also some additional chapters and one in particular that is on finding your Hows. I won’t spoil it for you, but this book is highly recommended especially if  you’re struggling to find some meaning in our life.

While I have focused on how finding your why is important for the individual, this book also provides how you can help your team find their why and how to implement why in organizations. Simon Sinek talks a lot about when an organization knows their why they can build trust with employees and customers. See the TED talk below to get a taste of what of what Simon Sinek has to say about why.

I hope you find your “Why” and once you do; that it provides the reason to pursue your dreams and comforts you during challenging times.

Namaste

 

 

 

Book & Product Reviews

Unfu*k Yourself

unfuck yourself

Although this book has a pretty funny title, don’t let that fool you. I have listened to the audio version of Unfu*k Yourself at least 3 times now and it is incredible. The author Gary Bishop narrates the audio version and does an outstanding job. Whenever possible for me it makes sense for the author to be the narrator, albeit there are a few exceptions. Having read probably a hundred or more self-improvement books over the past decade I would rate this in the top 5. The introduction is great and it is followed up with 7 guiding principles to unfu*k yourself, and then there is a summary at the end that is nothing short of awesome.

Here is a brief summary of the 7 guiding principles:

  1. I am willing or I am unwilling. Self talk is a big issue. Change yours to I am instead of I will. Use the power of I am willing or I am unwilling to do something. Write a few of the key things in your life that you are willing to do, and those that you are not willing to do.
  2. I am wired to win. You might not realize it but you are winning all the time. Your brain is wired to win. You are not a loser and you will win in the future. You might consider upping the stakes a bit, providing new challenges, but be assured you are a winner.
  3. I got this! You have succeeded over and over in your life, but you have no appreciation for it. You have a track record of success so next time a challenge comes up you have to say “I got this”.
  4. I embrace uncertainty. Let’s face it nothing is certain in life, other than you will die someday. Stop trying to plan everything out so that things will happen as you think they should. Instead of fearing what might happen, begin to embrace that life is uncertain. Remember the greatest rewards come when you leave your comfort zone and begin to embrace things that you consider risky.
  5. I am not my thoughts, I am what I do. Your brain will create all kinds of crazy thoughts. It will tell you this is too risky, this is too difficult, or I will never succeed. This is bullshit! Do what you need to do to move towards your goals. Don’t listen to the negative shit you are thinking. You are not the stupid shit you are thinking, instead you are what you actually do.
  6. I am relentless. Gary Bishop uses Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example of how being relentless is sometimes all you have. The power of being relentless can never be underestimated. You can’t see around corners, you can’t plan your way to success, but you can be relentless.
  7. I expect nothing; I accept everything. This is my personal favorite as it is a powerful way of thinking about life. Stop expecting other people to be a certain way or things to turn out in a way that meets your expectations. You have no control over the way other people will respond to you, so stop expecting them to act a certain way. Accept what happens and guess what you begin to live in the moment.

This book is a refreshing break from all the other self-help books that I’ve read. The author Gary Bishop provides an unfiltered way towards breaking away from those bad habits that have been holding you back from having the life you could deserve. One of the most important points the author makes in this book is that people who have a fulfilling life have a bias for action and don’t make excuses. They eliminate those things in their life that are holding them back and replace them with things that contribute to the life they want.

Namaste

 

 

 

Book & Product Reviews

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet book image

I few months ago I read a book The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain who at the time this book was written taught at Colorado State University. Let me first state that this is an interesting book that makes the case for following a diet that our ancestors did prior to the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago.

The premise of the book is that prior to the agricultural revolution homo sapiens were hunter gatherers and as such ate what was available in nature. Dr. Cordain makes a good case of why the hunter gatherer diet is superior to diets that contain lots of processed food or byproducts of agriculture. A paleo diet consists of foods that include:

  • Meat based protein – chicken breasts, fish and shell fish, lean beef, game meat
    • Note there is nothing processed such as lunch meat or any other bizarre concoction that we have come up with that passes as meat today.
  • Fruits – all fruits
  • Vegetables – except starchy ones like potatoes and legumes
  • Fat – mostly from nuts and seeds, and some oils like olive and fish

Things to avoid:

  • Dairy Foods – butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream, milk
  • Cereal Grains – things like barley, corn, rice, and wheat
  • Starchy Vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • Manufactured Meats – salami, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham to name a few
  • Sugar – all soft drinks, candy, deserts, and bottled fruit juice

There is a lot more detail in the book, but you get the idea, which is to stick to natural foods and stay away from anything that has been processed. I tried this diet for a few weeks and even to this day I still practice eating about 80% of my diet as Paleo.

Pros:

There is a lot of evidence that this diet is very healthy and you will actually feel better once you embrace it. One other major side effect is that you can easily lose weight especially if you combine it with intermittent fasting. One other great thing about this diet is you can eat as much as you like. With so much of it coming from fruits and vegetables you are getting lots of fiber and vitamins that are missing from many other diets, and the quality protein you are consuming leaves you satiated.

Cons:

The Paleo diet is so focused on natural food sources that you may find it too restrictive especially when you are eating out. It is easy to follow at home, but let’s say you want to go to your favorite Mexican or Chinese restaurant; you will find that the tortillas and rice are a big no no. Remember no bread or grains, arg!

Summary:

You can become a fat burning machine on this diet and feel great while doing it. The Paleo diet simplifies grocery shopping, which is kind of nice. While you might find this diet somewhat difficult to adhere to when eating out, it is still more liberal than the choices a vegan has in the same situation. Ultimately the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. I really enjoyed the first half of this book and the second half seemed a bit repetitive, but overall is was well worth reading.

Namaste

Uncategorized

It begins here

I tend to read inspirational books that focus on developing your mind. Many of the books I review on this site will be focused on personal development. I don’t do typical book reviews for a couple of reasons. First you can get that information anywhere and I don’t think there is a lot of value going into excruciating detail about a book. 

My book reviews focus on what this book taught me and my opinion of the value of the information conveyed. Hopefully this will get you excited about reading or listening to a book and understand what you might gain from reading or listening to it. Yes I said reading and listening. I review both written books and audio books. I’m a Audible.com subscriber and avid purchaser or books both written and in audio form.

More than anything else I want to share those books that really inspire me with you. I would love your take on the books reviewed here, so don’t be shy and feel free to comment.

I also have another blog that is focused on personal development, health, and philosophy. Visit JosephSacco.com

Namaste

baldwin