A good friend once told me that I seem to have everything in balance: the work thing, the play thing, the head thing, the heart thing. As a self-critical person, this was of course very shocking news to me.. “oh really? how could you think that about me?! I have ways to go!!”
Years have passed since I heard that about myself, but that simple compliment has stuck with me as a philosophy of life and shaped me as a person.
In this post, I would like to introduce you to more of these ideas that have shaped me as a person. Fundamental ideas like maintaining balance in life come in many forms (a simple conversation, mentorship, blog posts, youtube channels, etc) but the most persistent ones come in books for me. I am by no means a bookworm, but the books that I do keep around form a reference knowledge base for me. They help me navigate unfamiliar scenarios in my life and chip away at the challenges that I face.
- Mindset: the New Psychology of Success tells us that there are two mindsets: the static mindset and the growth mindset. People with the static mindset never reach their full potential because they avoid challenges and give up when a little extra effort is required. People with the growth mindset see themselves as capable of learning from their failure, practice as a path to mastery, and they see criticism as an opportunity to become better persons.
- There is a long, thorny road between starting out in a field/hobby/relationship and achieving mastery. Recognize what’s on the other side of your dip, then decide for yourself whether you want to trust the process and stick it out, or look for an alternative: The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
- Trust is the foundation of many of our relationships. Learn how to build it, nurture it, and restore it when you lose it in this great book that I ran into in an airport: Principled: 10 leadership practices for building trust
- When times are tough, I turn to Man’s Search for Meaning. There is no grandiose meaning to life but the premise of the book is to identify a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.
- In order to grow to a certain level, we will always need to ask people who have been there already, learn from their mistakes, and repeat their process. Who that person is for you is for you to figure out. But once you do know who it is, you must read everything you can about them. Though, some successful people are nice to tell us about their life. I liked Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger and Principles: Life and Work
Running software projects and teams
- If you want to sharpen your project management skills, my number one recommendation is the book Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management. It has practical advice and examples, gives a high-level overview of the whole process, and has a great table of contents that can be easily skimmed and referenced. A must-have on my shelf.
- Early in my transition to the leadership position, I read Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. It helped me change my mindset from looking at software projects as technical problems and more of an organizational problem.
- “Care personally but challenge directly”. This important idea for running a high-output team is explained in the book Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
Growing others and organizations
- Mentoring someone for the first time? Read The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
- Want to understand “what a director does”, “what’s middle management like”, and other high level management ideas? Read The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change
- If you ever wanted to understand re-organizations in a company, this book is worth a read: Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow
Personal finance planning
How much did you spend on groceries last year? Can you afford a car? What should you do with your extra income? The following are the major sources that I used to understand my personal finances, in order of “worth your time”.
- The Personal Income Spending Flowchart
- The Wealthy Barber Returns
- Ben Felix’s Common Sense Investing Youtube Channel
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing
- Graham Stephan’s Youtube Channel
Personal growth and mental health
Some other important books that have kept me sane through the years :)
- Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person
- The Gender of Desire: Essays on Male Sexuality
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life
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