Welcome to the Communication and Metrics Edition of Book Club, where we will talk about a couple of books that Tanya read recently, and what she thinks about them. She only covers the books she likes and thinks her readers may find helpful.
All of the books listed are available in audiobook; her preferred reading format.
This book might seem wildly off-topic for a software security nerd, but I’ve always struggled with understanding other’s motivations, and why they made the decisions they make. This book explains that (according to the author) that there are 3 types of people; takers, givers and matchers. I am quite clearly a ‘giver’, and have often found myself confused as to why the other two types act the way they do; this book explained it all to me. This has proven really helpful to me, especially in regards to social media and having followers (for instance; Why does this person want to help me with this so much? Oh, they are a matcher, and I’ve helped them, and they want to ‘pay me back’, got it. Cool!). If you have trouble understanding why others act the way they do, and it is of interest to you, this book may be for you.
When I worked at Microsoft my boss suggested this book and I just loved it. I’m obsessed with metrics, measuring stuff and constantly improving, and that is the main focus of this book, so it’s not a surprise that I ate it up. I find often that places track ‘vanity metrics’ (metrics that don’t really matter or are not overly meaningful), and this book helped me figure out which metrics are more or less important. Example: it was my job to try to get people to engage more with some of our documents helping people use our products securely (ahem, maybe I’m the one who wrote them), and we were measuring how many people clicked on the links at first. Someone on my team had 5,000 clicks and I only had 300–500 each month. Then we decided to track how long the person stayed on the page after they clicked; my clicks averaged 1.5 minutes, while my colleague’s average was 2–3 seconds (meaning almost none of the 5,000 people were reading the page). The next thing I would have liked to track (with a quick survey) was if the article I wrote solved their problem, and if not, why not? Then I would have been able to improve the content, and perhaps if we could also have measured if we had less support calls on that specific topic that would have been even better. But do you see how the original metric of ‘# of clicks’ turned out to not be very valuable? This book helped me understand how to measure what actually matters.
Book 3: Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
This book summarizes several other books on neuroscience/decision making/motivation (more or less), and is also helpful in understanding people’s motivations, wants and needs. The entire book is mixed with funny commentary, similar to Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”, which makes it extra fun to read. I had already read several of the books that were summarized, and I agreed with the author’s interpretations, although I tend to like to get really deep into some topics so I might have decided to read some of the full-length books after if I had not read them already. If you want a whirl-wind summary of a whole bunch of books in one fun read, this is a great book for you.
Book 4: Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values
This book shook me. At first I thought “this hippy stuff is not for me”, but it had been very strongly recommended by several people that I respect, so I decided I would listen to the whole thing, even if I didn’t like it. I steadily became enamoured. Marshall’s way of listening, hearing, understanding and empathizing woke me up to other’s feelings and needs in a way I didn’t know that I could. The reading was also timely; I had a fight with someone close to me (I almost never fight with people in my life), and I was able to hear her needs, rather than her words. She was clearly hurt, and had been a long time, but hadn’t known how to tell me. Instead of responding with hurtful words after her stinging comments I asked her to tell me more (as per the book!); she told me it is difficult to stand in my shadow. I learned that she felt we were in competition when I had never thought of our relationship that way. I was able to ignore the barbs she threw, and just listen to her needs and feelings, and it gave me a whole new perspective. I feel, thanks to this book, I am a much, much better communicator and listener. Thanks Marshall!
This book is a strategy of how to be successful, at anything, by taking the attitude of “how can I help? what can I do to improve this?” rather than “what can I get? How can I benefit” to everything in your career. Although I felt the advice in it was obvious, I realized that this is likely the reason I’ve always been successful; do the thing that is right for my organization or client, not what makes me look the best/makes me the most money/is the most fun/is convenient. If you are having trouble with getting ahead, if you feel constantly unrecognized or unable to think past “what’s in it for me”, this book may be helpful for you. I have a feeling though that people who like this book are ones who already think this way, and thus won’t need the book, but you tell me. If you read it, or any of the books I’ve listed, I’d love feedback.
Book 6: Thinking Statistically
If you like math you will love this book. It was SO GOOD. I know I should say more, but basically if you love math just buy it and you’ll understand. If not, you’ll hate it; it’s a book about math. And no, the author won’t make you do complex math in your head.