The book that has had the most practical impact on my life was The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health, by John Durant. This is a thoughtful analysis and explication of the “paleo” or “ancestral health” school of thought. The fundamental idea is that our bodies and minds were designed to function in a world very different than our modern desk-bound sphere, and that you’ll be much healthier and happier if you adjust your world to match your body’s needs. This makes intuitive sense; the book articulates the logic and provides some of the data supporting this philosophy. I shared the book with my family and some coworkers, and it’s made a material impact on how we eat and function. (I converted her to using a standing desk!)
The book is surprising philosemitic. Durant goes into depth into the Jewish dietary laws as a form of hygiene in a world where disease was rampant. He also discusses the story of the Garden of Eden as a parable for the world’s shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a farming lifestyle. I definitely never thought of that before, but it makes a lot of sense.
Durant does mention that some of our ancestors practiced cannibalism. However, Durant fortunately points out that modern humans are typically full of chemicals and antibiotics and therefore it’s not advisable to eat them. Unless they read and follow the paleo philosophy. So if you get eaten by another paleo person after reading this book, consider yourself warned.
David Rose, the “godfather” of angel investing in NY, has a new book: Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money & Having Fun Investing in Startups. He walks through the basics of angel investing in growth companies. The book has a lot of insight into this process, based on David’s very lengthy experience in this realm. Although “Gust” is in the title, it’s not at all a user’s guide to Gust (a global funding platform for early-stage companies), but a generic set of best practices around angel investing. If you’re a newbie to the world of angel investing, the book is a helpful overview.
Another book I liked is I Hear You: Repair Communication Breakdowns, Negotiate Successfully, and Build Consensus . . . in Three Simple Steps, by former neighbor Donny Ebenstein . This is a practical book full of actionable advice on how to handle difficult situations with your spouse or colleagues. He has some really interesting stories from his consulting work of people with a wide range of communications challenges; I definitely recognized incidents from my professional and personal life in them.
One of his major themes is that it’s virtually impossible to change other people; you need to focus on changing yourself first. “An idealistic young man came to seek the advice of a great sage. “I want to change the world,” he said. “I want to make it a better place. Where exactly should I concentrate my efforts?” The sage smiled. “You remind a little of myself when I was young,” he said. “At first, I wanted to change the world, but I discovered that I could not. Then I decided I would at least change my community, but I discovered that I could not. Then I decided that perhaps I could at least change my family, but that too was beyond my ability. Finally, I realized I should at least try to change myself, and that has been a lifetime struggle.”
Most of the disputes that I mediate are among (my) children, but they are very similar to the disputes I see on a larger scale in business. Children (people) do not set expectations clearly; they lose their temper and do stupid stuff; they are not honest about their limitations; they do not accept, let alone seek out, feedback. So I have to navigate around that.
I also liked The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh. This is a followup to Reid & Ben’s also worthwhile The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. The Alliance is about managing people, taking lessons from what is (currently) the world’s most competitive labor market, the US high-tech sector. The Startup is about managing your own personal career, again taking lessons from the industry that the authors know best.