Crushing It!

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk

In his 2009 international bestseller Crush It, Gary insisted that a vibrant personal brand was crucial to entrepreneurial success, In Crushing It!, Gary explains why that’s even more true today, offering his unique perspective on what has changed and what principles remain timeless. He also shares stories from other entrepreneurs who have grown wealthier—and not just financially—than they ever imagined possible by following Crush It principles. The secret to their success (and Gary’s) has everything to do with their understanding of the social media platforms, and their willingness to do whatever it took to make these tools work to their utmost potential. That’s what Crushing It! teaches readers to do.

In this lively, practical, and inspiring book, Gary dissects every current major social media platform so that anyone, from a plumber to a professional ice skater, will know exactly how to amplify his or her personal brand on each. He offers both theoretical and tactical advice on how to become the biggest thing on old standbys like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat; podcast platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud, iHeartRadio, and iTunes; and other emerging platforms such as Musical.ly. For those with more experience, Crushing It! illuminates some little-known nuances and provides innovative tips and clever tweaks proven to enhance more common tried-and-true strategies.

Crushing It! is a state-of-the-art guide to building your own path to professional and financial success, but it’s not about getting rich. It’s a blueprint to living life on your own terms.

I REALLY enjoyed this book! I haven’t read much this year so it’s maybe less significant when I say this is my favorite book I’ve read this year, but I’ll say it anyway: this is my favorite book I’ve read this year.

If you’re a business owner, content creator, influencer, or desire to be any of those things, I think Crushing It! is absolutely required reading for 2018.

I didn’t read Crush It! until September of 2016…basically seven years after it came out. While I liked Crush It!, it did feel dated at that point in time. I suspect how I feel reading Crushing It! now is how some people felt who read Crush It! soon after it came out.

The first half of Crushing It! reads like a motivational, personal development/business book. I highlighted so many great nuggets in this section. It’s like listening to one of Gary’s podcast episodes except that it’s laser focused because someone took an editing pen and applied a tight structure to it. The second half drills down into specific platforms and gives ideas on how you can use them and where those platforms are going. So if you want to know how to kill it on Instagram, Gary’s got advice for you. Want to be a podcaster? That’s in here, too.

Crushing It! also includes many case studies of people who were able to put into practice the things Gary wrote about in Crush It! and have been able to really dominate with their brands and companies. One of the things I think that’s really important in the personal development and business space, whether it’s a book, blog, video, or podcast, is to give examples of real people who are doing the things you’re teaching about. It’s easy to assume one person’s success is a fluke, but once you start giving examples of others who have had success, it’s hard to argue it away as, “Well, you’re Gary Vaynerchuk. That would never work for me”.

Aside from this book being pure Gary Vaynerchuk (meaning if you don’t like Gary, don’t read this book), the thing I found most significant about Crushing It! is that whenever I stopped reading, I felt really inspired and motivated. One of the things that most excites me about with my new business (Minute Marketing) is the chance to experiment and try new things to create better and more impactful content. And that’s true not only for Minute Marketing, but for my clients and even this blog! I had some great thoughts while reading this book about both of my brands and I’m looking forward to getting back to being creative and playing around with content.

I wanted to share one quote I really liked from the book with you:

“When you really own it, and you put yourself out there and be you, your vibe is going to attract your tribe, and you’re going to be able to make change in this world.”

So here’s my commitment to you: to be really authentic and unapologetically myself. To be less strategic and more focused on putting out the best of the best. To crushing it in all spaces and places.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.”

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.

I really, really enjoyed this book! Which is not something I often say after reading a biography. Most biographies feel like work even if you’ve chosen to read the book for pleasure. They all seem to invariably contain sections that can only be described as just “a slog”. Not so with Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk.

Musk is obviously an interesting person with an interesting life. But so was Steve Jobs and others on the biography shelf – you don’t write a biography about an average person after all. What elevates Elon Musk above the rest, though, is Vance’s writing. Vance is a supremely talented writer, spinning together complex sentences that are both highly readable and devastatingly exact. Even if you don’t actually read this book, just pick it up and read a few pages to see this mastery in action. I am an official Ashlee Vance fan.

Another thing I enjoyed about this biography, besides the writing, was that Vance wasn’t afraid to deviate from the timeline. Most biographies run in a straight line from birth to death (or wherever the subject was in their life at the time of writing). Vance did go chronologically up to a point. But after he detailed Musk’s “darkest hour” in business in 2008, where he nearly lost Tesla and SpaceX, Vance devoted a hefty chapter each to Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City/the unifying principles that connect Musk’s businesses. This was a really good way to lay out the remainder of the book and actually made it really easy to then follow the development of those three businesses into what we see today.

On the subject of what this book was actually about, I emerged with a new respect for Musk. I’ve admired his work but didn’t know that much about the person behind the companies. Even when I did a little research into the Tesla Car earlier this year for one of my Writing Project Wednesdays (they’ll be back, I promise!), I only scratched the surface of who Musk was. What I admire the most about Musk is that he didn’t just build phenomenal, world-changing businesses….he managed to build phenomenal, world-changing businesses that fit into and serve his overall vision for his life’s while also being interconnected with each other. Absolutely amazing.

This biography was published in 2015. Since then, Musk’s star power hasn’t dulled any. If anything, he enjoyed a little boost from another high-profile relationship with an actress, Amber Heard. I’m looking forward to seeing what Musk does next…and hopefully, I’ll one day have a Model S of my own!

The Lost City of the Monkey God

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world’s densest jungle.

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn’t until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.

I remember that I was at work in 2015 when I first saw the story of Douglas Preston’s trip into the jungle of Honduras to find a real lost city come up on Facebook. I just remember being in awe that there are still lost cities left to find and that somehow one of my favorite authors got to go along on the journey to find one. To me, that was complete author goals: to not only be a best-selling novelist, but to also have the opportunity to go on such an incredible journey. Of course, now having read The Lost City of the Monkey God, I am 100% certain I would be bitten by a fer de lance within 0.5 seconds of walking into the jungle, but that’s not going to stop me from romanticizing the idea of being an author/adventurer.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have been two of my favorite authors for a long time now. I think I must have been 14 or 15 when I read Relic, the first book in the Special Agent Pendergast series. Since then I’ve read nearly all of their other books, including their individual works. It’s actually surprising to me that I waited long enough to buy this book that it’s now come out in paperback. But it worked out well because it was on the bestseller shelf at the airport in Las Vegas when I needed to buy a book.

For those of you who are avid fiction readers, rest assured this is one of those works on non-fiction that proves to be as interesting and engaging as a work of fiction. Preston’s storyteller’s gift is on full display in The Lost City of the Monkey God as he tells the story of The White City in five parts: quest, discovery, exploration, aftermath, and my favorite section of the whole book, connecting past to future.

On its surface, this book is about the discovery and exploration of one of the few untouched places remaining on Earth. Preston and a team of scientists journey into the Honduran rainforest to find a city that has been lost from time for over five hundred years. But, as all good storytellers know, finding the lost city is only part of the story. The more interesting part of the story is determining why the city was abandoned at all and left to the march of time.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that that line of reasoning has profound and chilling impacts for our modern society. Especially as, at the time I’m writing this blog post, the President seems more interested in fighting with professional athletes over Twitter than helping the people in the US territory of Puerto Rico.

I have not read read either of these, but I suspect if you enjoyed either of Jared Diamond’s books, Guns, Germs, and Steel or Collapse, you will enjoy The Lost City of the Monkey God. Both were referenced in the book and as both have long been on my TBR list, I can safely say this book will appeal to Diamond fans.

And I would be remiss if I closed this review without mentioning the “horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease” that Preston and others on the trip contracted in the jungle. While not as frightening as the way ebola is depicted in The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, the diseased that Preston et al picked up is almost more terrifying because it’s another example of how looking to the past can have frightening implications for our future.

 

Captivate

(Post originally appeared on my other site, www.MinMarketing.com)

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People by Vanessa Van Edwards

As a human behavior hacker, Vanessa Van Edwards created a research lab to study the hidden forces that drive us. And she’s cracked the code. In Captivate, she shares shortcuts, systems, and secrets for taking charge of your interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on how to captivate anyone–and a completely new approach to building connections.

Just like knowing the formulas to use in a chemistry lab, or the right programming language to build an app, Captivate provides simple ways to solve people problems. You’ll learn, for example…

– How to work a room: Every party, networking event, and social situation has a predictable map. Discover the sweet spot for making the most connections.
– How to read faces: It’s easier than you think to speed-read facial expressions and use them to predict people’s emotions.
– How to talk to anyone: Every conversation can be memorable–once you learn how certain words generate the pleasure hormone dopamine in listeners.

When you understand the laws of human behavior, your influence, impact, and income will increase significantly. What’s more, you will improve your interpersonal intelligence, make a killer first impression, and build rapport quickly and authentically in any situation–negotiations, interviews, parties, and pitches. You’ll never interact the same way again.

I first came across Vanessa Van Edwards via a Self-Made Man podcast interview she did with Mike Dillard. If you’re curious, you can listen to that podcast here. I was immediately taken both by Vanessa’s easy storytelling style and the captivating information she was relaying. I purchased Captivate the moment I finished the podcast.

I was not disappointed in reading this book. Captivate is an engaging and interactive read. Not only does Vanessa relate what she’s learned in an easy-to-digest (and apply!) way, she also encourages you to take quizzes and other actions to enrich your reading experience.

During the course of the book, you will learn 14 powerful ways to hack human behavior. The book is divided into three sections, meaning that no matter what your profession or personal social challenge, you’re sure to get something of value from the book. Whether you’re the type of person who has to meet a lot of new people or someone who’s trying to enrich their existing relationships, Captivate is a must read.

I can already see that this is a book that will stay on my shelf and that I’ll revisit time and again. There’s so much good stuff, it would be impossible to really get everything out of the book on a first read. I think an appropriate way to start applying the knowledge of Captivate in your own life is to pick one behavior hack at a time to focus on learning and internalizing. Each chapter features a “Challenges” section with ideas for putting each behavior hack into action. I am looking forward to trying these in my own life!

You Are a Badass

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

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This is one book that you definitely have to be opened to receiving. I’ve been introduced to the idea of The Law of Attraction before, so this was nothing new to me. But I did find her candidness and enthusiasm for the subject refreshing. I enjoyed reading her own stories and experiences she put into this book. In some ways, it almost felt like reading a memoir more than a personal development book.

I have never read The Secret. But if you are looking for an introduction to The Law of Attraction, this is a great place to start. This book introduces and explains the subject and explains how to put it into practice without feeling too preachy or too woo-woo crazy.

I think this is a great book that everyone should read. There’s sure to be a nugget in here that will resonate with you and motivate you to get in touch with your inner badass!

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.
 
Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.
 
An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.
 
What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.
 
They succeeded by transforming habits.
 
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
 
Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.
 
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.
 
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

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I really love books like these, where the authors have managed to dig up a series of fascinating stories that they utilize to illustrate their points. It really elevates what could be a dull read into something captivating.

The Power of Habit is divided into three parts: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Organizations, and The Habits of Society. But it really feels like the book is divided into two parts. The first four chapters illustrate how habits work in the brain and how they can be changed or altered (or not). The last five chapters are really a further study of habits with a focus on practical applications.

The most powerful section of the book though is the appendix. It’s in the appendix that the author takes times to illustrate the how of changing or creating habits – in eleven pages. Luckily The Power of Habit isn’t very long or I suspect many a reader would be frustrated that they picked up a book to figure out how to transform their habits and had to wade all the way through to the end to get an answer.

But The Power of Habit is more than an instructive book. It’s a persuasive book that argues that though we may be “creature of habit” we alone have the power to change our habits and our destinies. Which brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from East of Eden:

But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.

And that, truly, is the core of what The Power of Habit is about. When you understand your habits, you have the freedom to control them.

Summer at Tiffany

Summer of Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Do you remember the best summer of your life?

New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor–a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller’s–and the envy of all their friends.

Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland’s honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Cafe society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

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I first heard about this book when I went to the SDSU Writer’s Conference in January. Marjorie Hart was one of the speakers, talking about how her book was discovered at the conference. She read a little section from the book and I couldn’t wait to pick it up and read the rest. I was excited when my bookclub chose Summer at Tiffany for our April read.

This was a lovely little memoir, a window into a different era. It really does seem like it was a simpler time, full of innocence and magic. This isn’t meant to be a deep, instructive memoir like The Glass Castle.

I enjoyed that the book came with a section of Marjorie and Marty’s pictures and illustrations of New York. I also found myself googling the famous people they met and learning their stories as well. Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Wallis Simpson…names I knew, but stories I knew precious little about. And the history they witnessed! Marjorie and Marty arrive in New York at the tail end of World War II…what a time to be alive!

This is an easy read that was over much too soon! It’s sweet, it’s fun, and it would make an awesome beach or summer afternoon read!