The Smartest Places on Earth (2016)

For the last few decades jobs have shifted overseas to places where labor is cheaper. The book, The Smartest Places on Earth, provides evidence that the future of employment lies in collaborative efforts between universities, government agencies, and for-profit businesses.

The synergy generated in emerging hotspots–such as Raleigh-Durham, N.C.–is moving employment and profits from a production focus to one where ideas and innovation win.

The authors argue “robots, 3D printing, and the Industrial Internet” will be the driving mechanisms that transform old rustbelt communities (such as Akron, Ohio) to brainbelts. The sharing of information among the collaborative parties (universities, government agencies, businesses, nonprofits) is enabling the development of emerging technologies and never-dreamed-of products.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.

Deep Work (2016)

I am reading Cal Newport’s new book Deep Work and gaining practical insights into maximizing my efforts as a “knowledge worker” — the term he uses for disciplines such as public accounting.

His main point: We are too distracted to reach our full potential.

Then he offers four rules (disciplines) to move people like you and me (CPAs) to a place where we think more clearly and produce better results.

I love a quote Newport provides from famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” This happens when we are fully focused on one goal or one pursuit.

As CPAs, we are constantly bombarded with emails, tweets, phone calls, and myriad other interruptions. The result is we are never fully engaged in any one activity and our production declines. In addition, our creativity suffers. (When is the last time you had a fresh new idea?)

Warning: You may not like all his suggestions–one being that we limit our social media consumption. But if we are to be focused and productive, changes–at least for me–must happen.

 

The One Thing

Like the book Essentialism, The One Thing reminds me again that focusing on too many projects, ideas, etc. only leads to decreasing productivity and less success. Why do these types of books appeal to me so much? Because I try to do too many different things–all at the same time.  Focusing on one thing allows us to dial down our stress and to achieve greater results in less time. Great read!

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Do you have a habit you can’t break? Or maybe you want to create a habit–like jogging–but you can’t seem to make it happen (and stick).

Here are a few habits accountants have:

  • We don’t take breaks, resulting in unclear thinking or a lack of focus.
  • We consume too much caffeine, making us edgy.
  • We cut people off in mid-sentence, not allowing the other person to finish.
  • We have messy desks, again leading to a lack of focus.
  • We don’t exercise.
  • We have meetings without written agendas.
  • We make too many promises.
  • We wait to take all our CPE in the last month of the year.
  • We don’t say thank you enough.

Duhigg’s book allowed me to better understand why I do what I do. Yes, I have some of the aforementioned habits. (I guess that’s why I found it so easy to create the list?) The book provides practical–some say “actionable”–information.

Here’s a short summary of the key points I noted in the book (my interpretations):

  1. We develop habits, sometimes on purpose and sometimes unknowingly.
  2. Habits involve a cue, an action and a reward.
  3. Habits create neurological associations (sometimes addictions).
  4. Changing a habit requires belief (faith, often in God).
  5. Changing a habit requires one to determine what the cues are; there is so much noise (activity) around us that we often don’t realize what the cue is. Write down potential cues and then alter your routines to ferret out the cue.
    Know thy self. Slow down long enough to recognize your cues.
  6. Habits (the cue, action and reward sequence) can’t be eradicated. The neurological patterns are too strong. But routines can be changed so that one action is replaced by another action.
  7. Start with small wins and build on them.
  8. In terms of selling, people don’t like unfamiliar things. Sandwich the new between the familiar to enhance acceptability.
  9. Organizations have habits built on cues, actions and rewards. Hospitals have for decades advised subordinates to keep quite about mistakes, leading to more mistakes. Opaqueness allows poor habits to live. Peer pressure, whether from within or without a business, will drive the organization to better quality.
  10. Habits allow us to perform with excellence while under pressure. The quarterback that throws a great pass in the last seconds of a game has developed habits that allow the pass to occur naturally.

A Whack on the Side of the Head (Creative Think)

Linear thinkers, like CPAs, sometimes struggle with creativity.

When I need a kick in the seat of the pants, I reach for my dog-eared copy of A Whack on the Side of the Head. The book is zany and funny. Mr. Von Oech gives you practical ways to jolt your thinking, providing you with a different perspective.

So if you need help in creating a speech, solving a problem, or dislodging a long-standing improper process (what he calls a sacred cow), I recommend this book. I promise you will see life differently and you will be laughing all the way.

Brain Rules (Pear Press, 2014)

How does your brain work and what can you do to perform at a higher level as a CPA?

Courtesy of istockphoto.com

Courtesy of istockphoto.com

John Medina has written an easy-to-understand book, explaining how you can use your noggin more effectively.

When I purchased the book, I was looking for answers to a few questions such as:

  • How can I be more creative?
  • How much sleep do I need?
  • How does exercise affect my thinking?
  • Why does stress diminish my ability to think clearly? And what can I do about it?
  • What can I do to learn new information quickly and (still) retain it?
  • How can I teach new information so that my students will absorb what I’m teaching?

I’m happy to say that most of these questions were answered.

Of particular interest to me was what Mr. Medina had to say about teaching and learning; for example:

  • The brain cannot multitask (something I’ve believed for some time)
  • It’s better for a trainer to provide context before details (a teacher should tell her audience where she is going before she goes there)–yields a “40% improvement in understanding”
  • Experts are so familiar with their topic that they forget what it’s like to be a novice (and consequently leave out necessary details)
  • Learners should avoid cramming; it’s better to absorb a complex topic over time
  • Repeat to remember (what we learn is often forgotten unless it is repeated over time)

You will enjoy this book. This time It is Brain Science–but you will fully understand it, just like debits and credits.

Double Entry (Norton, 2011)

If you are an accountant that loves history (like me), get this book (click the link above). You will enjoy the ride.

I have always been told that double entry accounting came from Luca Pacioli when he published Particularis de computis et scripturis (Particulars of Reckoning and Writings) in 1494. Not so. While much credit should be attributed to Pacioli, he did not create double entry accounting: he captured it (after watching the practices of his fellow merchants). Double Entry reveals that double entry accounting was created through an evolution and confluence of thought from several cultures including Arab traders and Venetian merchants.

So get out your green eyeshades and enjoy.