015-2019 The discomfort zone

Book: The [dis] comfort zone (how to get what you want by living fearlessly)

Author: Farrah Storr

What kind of approach would you like a book to follow when it teaches you about personal development? Maybe the one where they just tell you what you should change, and then which corresponding changes should come about? Or, perhaps the one where the author tells the reader about how they experienced the changes themselves, along with all the struggles, hurdles and bumps along the way?

If you’re looking for the latter, I believe this book is one for you.

It’s written in a conversational tone, just like when you were to sit right opposite each other. The message the author wishes to transfer is very clear and understandable from the way the book is written, and pulls from real-life experiences. It doesn’t go as deep as philosophy, where we might lose the thread along the way. I felt like I was with the author and writing down their story.

The author introduces their own method, called the BMD method, which stands for ‘Brief Moments of Discomfort’. We all have them, and sometimes multiple times a day. Yet, we try and get comfortable again, and thus try to avoid to confront those moments by any means possible.

This is where the author brings in her personal experience (as well as those from other people) who have been faced with these BMD, yet didn’t shy away, but rather approached them as challenges. Also, the reaction to them (ie. seeing them as a challenge, panicking, over-reacting, etc.) is what ultimately determines how we approach new challenges in our lives. The author decided to confront them as a challenge, and thus went through new experiences that made her life better.

So the grand message the author wishes to transmit is that we shouldn’t shy back from these BMDs, because some of them have something great on the other side for us.

Rating:

Loved the writing style, the easy examples she used to explain her message, and the simple steps one in general needs to follow to also apply this to one’s own life. I think it deserves a top 4.8/5

Have fun with!

014-2019 The Seven daughters of Eve

Book: The Seven daughters of Eve (the astonishing story that reveals how each of us can trace our genetic ancestors)

Author: Bryan Sykes

Now, if there is one book that I would highly recommend for anyone to read that wants to learn just a little about genealogy, then this one would be the first I would point them to.

I don’t know very much of the science behind DNA, or the anatomy of the human being, but the story that is told in this book about how the author discovered that we all (or at least many of us, if not all of us) are somewhere linked to each other, is mind-blowingly well-written. He starts the book off to explain a little of the structure of the mitochondrial DNA specifically, how he made some DNA links in the Polynesian areas, and then how that lead him to Europe to try and test his theory there as well.

Remember the phrase ‘it’s not about the destination, but more about the journey’, that strongly holds true for how everything he encountered brought him to conclude that through the mitochondrial DNA we can trace our ancestry far back in time.

I did say he starts off to explain a little about the structure of the DNA, but he also brings in the history of people before him that thought we can determine if we’re related, when we have the same blood group. However, later this was replaced with categorizing us all into a population tree. But then, this was broken and replaced with the evolutionary tree, because the population tree made the generalization that all within the same population had somewhat similar genes (if I interpreted that correctly). But with the evolutionary tree, that assumption was challenged to state that everyone in the population is not the same but also unique.

After giving some great detail about what genealogy is, and the steps to prove it to be legit, he goes on to challenge one of the all-time accepted theories at the time, that our hunter-gatherer ancestry was wiped-out by the agricultural revolutionists. Now, to explain where and when who lived, let’s picture it as follows:

A) Old Stone Age (palaeolithic). This was the earliest times when they started using stones as tools. But this is also split further into the Lower, Middle and Upper phase, where the upper phase is closest to the mesolithic age.

B) Middle Stone Age (mesolithic). This is around the beginnings of the agriculture, where stone tools were a little more sophisticated than in the Upper Palaeolithic phase.

C) New Stone Age (neolithic). This can also be called the ‘age of farming’ because the tools were much more advanced for farming purposes. This is where the Agricultural Revolution took a strong hold of our ancestors’ lives to change the modern world of living.

From the above depiction, our hunter-gatherers lived in-between, but the old theory suggested that when they were wiped-out the modern life started more around Middle Stone Age and New Stone Age, and only the agriculturalists survived. However, with his DNA to support, he proved that our ancestors from the Old Stone Age weren’t overthrown, but adapted into this lifestyle as well.

Of course, in the science community, no new theory is accepted with its first introduction. The theory was strongly and viciously challenged, because the new theory didn’t just go against a small part of our history, it went against a theory that had been held as true for many generations. However, Bryan Sykes and his team prevailed, and confirmed their theory to be true.

So you see, the book doesn’t just add some small value, but remarkable insight to the history of humanity, which is of great significance to our lives.

Rating:

Without a doubt, this book proved to be an immense entertainer, and gives the perfect story line of how we came to understand and accept DNA to be a measure of our ancestry. It definitely tops the rating of 6/5.

I hope this will become one book for your reading list. You won’t be disappointed!

013-2019 ‘Das Internet muss weg’

Book: Das Internet muss weg

Author: Schlecky Silberstein

Now I will apologize in advance because the title and the content is in German, but if the English version is out there, all the better.

On my holiday visit to family in Germany I did myself a favour and did some browsing for some interesting reading in the book shops. I think I visited a total of seven stores, and only bought one book (after visiting that shop three times). However, never really having read one whole book that criticizes the internet (but merely smaller chunks), this book, I felt, was the insight that ultimately led me to delete my facebook account.

Among the great benefits that all social media does offer, the cost is ultimately not worth it, unless used cautiously. Becoming addicted and maybe even depressed are some of the side-effects that are amongst their greatest levels nowadays for young social media users. As the book describes, the millennials and younger generations are the most addicted to the internet.

The intentions, I strongly believe, of the internet, were good, but some of the side-effects that came with it are one of the greatest problems that we are facing today. We have become ever-more connected, and can share all our ideas and thoughts freely. But, as great as it is to be able to share everything, we also forget that it can nip us in the bud in future. Some people haven’t acted with care and now they are facing the consequences.

What the book points out is that firms try all means to draw our attention to their websites, and then collect data from our actions on their site (ie. how do we respond to a question, based on giving my personal data (gender, race, political stance, religion, age, place you live, etc.)). They can get statistics, and sell those to other firms who will in turn develop products/services/mechanisms to draw our attention to them.

Also, because more people can have access to the Internet, they can create a ‘news portal’ and with all these new ones around, we can become confused which provides fake news and which provides true news. And when fake news spreads, then havoc could follow.

All these things are not healthy for us, but they come with the Internet, and we become vulnerable to it.

The book doesn’t intend to give a bad reputation to anyone specifically, or to a company, but it does wish to point out what are some of the side-effects that have come around to invade our modern lives with the ever-more utilization and involvement of the internet in our daily lives.

Rating:

I know this may be a short review, but it is clear that the book collects some significant facts to show the devastating effects that the internet can have on our lives, if not managed properly. For this, I want to rate it as a 4.5/5, mainly because I feel the book could have given some more examples on the different side-effects. However, the book gives a strong message that shouldn’t be overlooked by my personal rating.

Do yourself the favour, and get some more insight. If not to avoid the internet, then at least to become more careful how you use it!

012-2019 One Up on Wall Street

Book: One Up on Wall Street (How to use what you already know to make money in the Market)

Author: Peter Lynch with John Rothchild

Here’s another one of my Wall Street favourites, and we haven’t even yet come to the Intelligent Investor. Now, Warren Buffet is definitely one of most well known people that made his fortune in the stock market, however, there are many others who have also done splendidly in the market. And that is who the book is about.

Now, I just want to bring to your attention that this was in fact the first book I read on investing in the stock market. My journey with the market only began around April 2018, when I signed up with an online investment portal. There, you have the full control to invest as much as you like through their portal on the stock exchange. In my case, this would be to the JSE. Not knowing a lot about the stock market myself, but being in the finance profession (not investing on behalf of other people’s funds, you can calm down, but rather something else where I do get exposed to how the finance of a company works) I felt it was time for a change. I signed up, deposited funds into the online portal’s bank, and got credited for the same amount of funds.

I signed up, but now the question was; wherein and how much?

A lot of us would maybe feel also a little uncertain at the beginning, which is normal, but that’s when i decided to read up a little about the different companies, and then make a decision based on that……. Some weeks pass, and I ask my friend (who is an investment enthusiast) for some advice, and he gave me a few book titles to have a look at. One of them was the one i’m supposed to be reviewing, but not being successful in that so far. 🙂

Anyway, I read the book, got more context (which I will elaborate more on below) and I feel somewhat more at ease and supportive of the investments i choose.

I’m sorry it took so long, but here we go.

What I immediately enjoyed from the start of the book is that he tells you to stop listening to professionals! Okay, so now, I’m facing a small dilemma. He is a professional, and he just told me not to listen to them, so should I stop reading? No, carry on with the book, he’s trying to teach you a different lesson. He wants to make it clear straight away that everyday people can be successful on the stock market. It doesn’t require special qualifications to be good at the stock market, because, quite frankly, the stock market can be quite unpredictable. It does follow the demands and reactions of us humans, but if you were asked to forecast how the price of a stock will look in a year, month, or week, you can only but speculate.

Even though you don’t need a specific qualification to succeed on the stock market, it does require you to think for yourself. That is the key to it. You do your homework (research the company and industry), observe where the country and world is now as at this point, and then make an estimated best guess whether this or that company has a prospect of growing its value, from which you want to benefit.

Peter gives us some of his tips on the strategy he uses to classify each company into a different class (ie. slow growers, stalwarts, fast growers, cyclicals, turn-arounds and asset plays), which is important for you for your specific portfolio you wish to grow. He also notes the importance behind the company’s story and nature of business ( 1)company name sounds dull or ridiculous, 2)the company does something dull, 3)the company does something ridiculous, 4)it’s a spin-off, 5) the big boys don’t own it, and don’t follow it, 6) the rumors around it, 7)there’s something depressing about it, 8)it’s a no-growth industry, 9)it’s got a nice niche, 10)people have to keep buying their products, 11)it’s a user of technology, 12)the insiders are buyers, 13)the company is buying back shares) which give all the same thing: context.

In this world it is crucial not to fall for the whispers that go through the market, but rather do some cold hard research yourself and determine for yourself what you see in this company. Simply because we are talking here about YOUR MONEY!!!!

Another tool he explains to the reader is the use of some of all the available ratios out there, specifically for the stock market. Now, for those that don’t know what a ratio is, the simplest I can think of is ‘the average mark for the math paper that was written a few weeks ago is …%, which is worse than the average mark from last year’s group; thus, the performance has dropped year-on-year’. To get to the avg %, we had to use the numerator and denominator of two data sets, and their relation gave us the average mark for that year. When we compared it to the prior year, we analysed the performance over two years…… In the same way we use ratios in the business environment to determine the company’s current financial position (its stability) as well as its performance (profits/earnings).

Now, all of this may be a mouthful when it comes to making a simple decision of TO BUY or NOT TO BUY. It may be a laborious task to do all that work just to determine whether to buy or not. Well, that is what your broker is supposed to do on your behalf. Getting as well-informed as possible, and then make the best choice from all the presented alternatives. Some of them deal with millions of our hard-earned currency, so you will definitely be more comfortable if someone does it properly, especially if it is your money (we’re all greedy when it comes to our money, so we want the best for it).

You can make a choice, either 1) you invest on your own, 2) only a broker invests for you, or 3) you and your broker invest both (which i hope is your choice as well). It’s safer if a broker also does some investing for you (specifically so you can retire with your mind at ease that you will be covered financially) because he’s in that profession for the long-haul, and wants to earn his commission, so he wants to make you money. But for yourself, as a hobby, take some funds and also try and do some investing yourself. Research and think about the market, and sharpen your gut.

I hope I’ve spiced you up (even if just a little) on how you will approach your next stock, because I definitely enjoy trying to read and guesstimate the market.

Rating:

It has a somewhat conversational tone to it that it teaches you (as a mentor would) to make yourself aware that the stock market is not an unbreachable barrier, only attainable by select people. It teaches you the valuable lesson of patience and sticking to your guns and not following the crowd. it gives you some guidelines you can use and apply for yourself in building up a portfolio, and how important it is for you to take ownership. Definitely should be on any first-time investor’s to-read list, as well as anyone else that has been in it already for a while as a refresher. I give it my 4.9/5

Happy reading, (and maybe also investing) !

011-2019 Why Wall Street Matters

Book Title: Why Wall Street Matters

Author: William D. Cohan

At some point in everyone of our lives we would have heard the name ‘Wall Street’. If you only know it by name, but not what it is or what happens there, then let’s quickly fill you in. It’s a place in the United States of America where people buy stocks/shares in entity’s that have become public entities, or where people can put their money into a bank as savings, and the bank then loans those funds to others that wish to build a business, or expand its operations.

To give some interesting history about how the stock exchange arose, let’s go a little back in history.

Far back in our history, when kings ruled countries, kings (who in today’s equivalent served the same function as government) collected taxes to fund the basic services to keep the kingdom running effectively. Services included protection (soldiers), water from wells (water), infrastructure (streets in the kingdom, as well as walls) and food (from farmers that sometimes rented the lands around the kingdom), and many other activities. However, all funds collected from taxes didn’t solely fund those activities. They were also used to fund expeditions and wars.

The king was one source to collect funds in order to do something new. The other source was wealthy merchants who engaged in trade with other cities in order to trade goods between people in different cities. Because those goods were only obtainable from the merchant and not by a producer in the city, the merchant could charge high fees for his time and effort to bring them to the city via shipping and caravans.

Therefore, the main application of their funds was to keep the kingdom a good place to live in, and also to fund their businesses.

However, as you may have read, this was only accessible to the wealthy at the time. And they mostly only did business with those they trusted, or risked their funds with those they knew.

Then came a concept in the Netherlands around the early 17th Century (according to https://beursgeskidenis.nl ) where some of the middle class members could collect some of their funds, and then all those funds would be used collectively to fund an expedition or ship trade. When the expedition or ship returned, the goods they returned belonged solely to all those members who had contributed their funds to send the ship on its way. Thus, a new way of funding was born to let the middle class and poor to participate in a trade game that had previously been only open to the wealthy few individuals.

Different to the exchanges back then to the stock exchange today, they mainly got their returns when a ship returned, whereas today, we get our returns whenever we get some dividends, or when we sell our shares.

However, it is not just in a stock exchange that we give our funds to. We also give our funds to banks as savings, and then the bank loans those funds to other individuals/business to fund something else, in return for interest over the amount lent.

The stock exchange and banks fulfill the same purpose if you think about it carefully: accumulate funds from many individuals, and give those funds to another party. However, with a stock exchange you take the risk yourself to invest in the person, whereas through the bank, the bank performs analysis and risk assessment to determine whether it is feasible to loan the funds, and ensure that a return is highly likely to be generated from the business or not.

I think a got a little excited when I started writing about stock exchanges and the banks, that I lost the thread on what the book is about. Sorry for that.

Coming back to earth, and into the book, the book perfectly explains the function of the banks, as well as what disasters we have faced in the past (Mississippi bubble, Great Depression) that has brought about the establishment and function of the Central Bank in a country.

As exciting it is to earn money from an investment in a stock exchange, or interest on savings not actively utilized by many people, it does hold some risks, and events in our past have shown us the down side of these ventures. Thus, to try and ensure that something as drastic as The Great Depression doesn’t happen again, or that it won’t be as hard on the economy, the governments have put in stronger measures (Central Banks, and Stock Exchange regulators) to ensure that there is a little less risk involved.

The book brings this great into perspective to the reader.

Therefore, for anyone that has a few hours (or days, not judging) to read up on how the financial world works, or evolved, this is a good addition to your finance books.

Rating:

The book is a great teacher to everyone on what happens not just on Wall Street, but also in their own country’s financial system. It brings in history into the equation to fully understand how the financial system originated (specifically the stock exchange), and also its downfalls, and our regulatory measures to improve the stability of the financial system. My rating puts it at a strong 4.8/5

Enjoy it!!!!

010-2019 Leadership and self-deception

Book Title: Leadership and self-deception (getting out of the box)

Author: The Arbinger Institute

Another great addition to my book collection (yes, I’m building one, and suggest you should too 🙂 ) is this great book right here. One of the biggest trends we see in business these days is that we are moving away from closed-door offices, and more towards open office plans. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, it basically refers to removing the walls between us in the offices.

I myself have worked in different business environments to see that the private sector businesses have already implemented this to a large extent, whereas in the public sector it remains relatively the same as the old way, ie. close-door policy. With this I’m in no way saying that it is a bad thing, I just think that in the private sector they tend to try and incorporate whatever they believe can improve the business and make the personnel more efficient,

Coming back to the book, you will have seen that the book’s author is the Arbinger Institute. If you don’t know who they are, or what they do, the quick solution to that question (which I read up on their website just now) is that want to provide training to shift the ‘self-focus of an inward mind-set to an outward mindset’. Basically, give training so that you work more effectively with other people and less by yourself. For more, you can read up on the following website: https://arbinger.com . Otherwise, you can just type in ‘Arbinger Institute’ into Google and you should find it there, for those that don’t like clicking links (guilty as well).

The book is relatively small, being about 170 pager. So it shouldn’t take you as long as some other 290 – 450 pagers that seem to take forever (especially if you lose interest in the topic somewhere in the beginning).

The writing style is one thing that is brilliant about the book, because it doesn’t try and give you the theory about the book only and some quick pieces of examples. Rather, it gives you the plot of an executive having a meeting/interview/discussion with one of its senior managers. Therefore, as you read every chapter of the book, it follows the progress of the meeting/interview/discussion of the parties.

Also, it teaches the methodology very slowly and clearly. Therefore, it makes sure that the reader properly follows the thread of the theory that they wish to convey to you.

To give a brief overview how I understood the theory, we encounter a scenario, we can act in one of two ways (act upon it, or not act upon it) and when we chose not to act upon it we have self-betrayed ourselves (because we feel that we rather should have acted upon it, so we start feeling guilty), but then, to escape this, we look for reasons that justify our in-action to be a valid choice (by seeing ourselves as being the victims and everyone else as the guilty party), and thus shifting our guilt away. At this point you have gone into the box.

Now, you may not completely understand the full message from my brief paragraph, but if it were simple to explain the book could have been much much shorter.

So, the book properly explains how we encounter these types of situations (in both the professional and personal aspects of our lives) and then shows us how we can get out of the box.

You don’t need to take my word for it, but, after reading the book, I started to think a minute longer for any situation I encounter, before I take action. I am now, more than ever, aware of when I get into the box, and how I can get out of it as well.

For anyone that is looking for a book that can assist with personal development, I would highly recommend this book to you.

Rating:

For the value that it gives to the reader, as well as the writing style the author uses to teach the theory to the reader, on my scale it definitely deserves a 6/5.

Happy reading !!!!!!

009-2019 Mythos

Title: Mythos – The Greek myths retold

Author: Stephen Fry

While it is still fresh in mind I believe this to be the best moment to tell you a little of a book I managed to finish this afternoon.

As you can see above, the book I’m referring to is ‘Mythos’. My fascination with the Greek history (or mythology rather) started when I first saw the movie of Troy. How Achilles, son of a mortal king and a sea nymph was to become a hero in the overthrow of the city of Troy. After the movie I carried on with my life, as one does, and then a few years later I came across a book called ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller, which tells the story of one offspring of Helios. Once I finished that off I saw that she had written another book as well before this book ‘The Song of Achilles’. I added this to my collection, and that ultimately was the hook that led me to want to know more of the Greek Mythology.

What the book offers isn’t just one story line of one character (as with Circe or Song of Achilles, which were both terrific books as well), but rather the story of creation.

Everything started off from ‘chaos’ and became to what is known to us today (if it is Greek mythology that you believe in). In a way it has a big-bang element to it, where at first there was nothing, and then suddenly, slowly, some things came to being, from which came more and more and more.

As noted, it all started with ‘chaos’, then came the first and second order of beings, know also later as titans, then the gods. The gods then had a huge war with the titans (those that didn’t side with the gods), and they became the new rulers. Or first rulers, because at first the titans (before Kronos) only lived together, with not really one ruling party over all, but merely all ruling over their own domains.

However, I have already said too much, and you should rather read this up yourself.

Jumping ahead, the book teaches us how the 12 rulers of Olympus came about, how some of the gods and titans spent some of their lives, and also their interactions with different humans in different ages.

What I wish to emphasize is that the book is full of lessons, as much as it tells a story. I enjoyed the stories/myths very much, but also have gained by learning some wisdom from the mistakes that some have made in the book. Yes, even the perfect gods in the book were not without their flaws, and so you can walk away with some great insight.

Even if you simply just want to read another entertaining book, this will definitely fulfill that purpose. And, you who knows, maybe you will want to know even more after you turned the last page.

Rating:

The book gives a solid introduction from the very beginning of how everything came to be. It gives us insight as to why certain animals, plants and other things have the name attached to them. It is very entertaining, and gives also some great lessons to some of the characters’ lives. The book is well written, and won’t lose the reader in any chapter, because it doesn’t jump around too much from one story to another, but rather starts with the foundation, and progresses as the events happened. The book deserves a strong 5/5 for what it offers the reader.