Category Archives: book

Book notes: The 5 patterns of extraordinary careers

Title The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers
Authors James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith

Citrin and Smith draw upon extensive experience in executive
recruiting (and we’re talking CEO searches for _big_ companies here!)
to describe the career patterns for high-level executives. Not really
my career path, but people who are interested in rising to the top
through a mix of potential-based promotions (up) and experience-based
promotions (generally sideways) will do well to read this book.

Check out for a self-test,
a useful job survival guide, and other goodies.

Raided the bookstore

Good to great and the social sectors: Why business thinking is not the answer
Jim Collins

It’s a slim monograph and fairly expensive for its weight (or lack
thereof – not that I buy books based on weight! <laugh>) ;) ,
but the main points are neatly summarized in four pages at the end,
and its insights are backed by good stories.

A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future
Daniel H. Pink

Title is a bit fluffy, but the book contains surprisingly practical
advice aimed at helping people develop their senses of design, story,
symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

Small giants: companies that choose to be great instead of big
Bo Burlingham

Bought it because I felt a strong urge to recommend it to a
California-based entrepreneur who’s been trying to think of how to
help the Philippines get the entrepreneurial spirit when IPOs and
other tech-startup exit strategies are almost non-existent in the
local market.

Love is the Killer App
Tim Sanders

A friend of mine insisted that I read this book some time ago, and I
find myself now infected with the urge to pass it on to others. See earlier blog entry. =)

I skimmed a number of other books, too.

I know, I know, I should just get all my books off Amazon instead of
buying them at Chapters, but I haven’t gotten a Canada-based credit
card yet and I can’t pay for it out of my budget when I use my
Philippine-based Visa. And then of course there’s the way I like
flipping through books… I suppose I could browse at Chapters and buy
off Amazon, but sometimes there’s no real price difference, and
economy shipping takes a while.

Maybe I could use it as a delayed gift for myself, though. Something
to look forward to. =) Besides, I still need hardcover copies of some
of my absolute favorites…

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Random Japanese sentence: 問題は誰が猫に鈴をつけるかだ。 The question is who will bell the cat.

I heart the Toronto Public Library

I can’t believe it took me a year to get around to making the most of
the Toronto Public Library. I grew up in a country without a good
public library system and thus had no idea just how cool one could be.
Fortunately, two of my friends are avid fans of the TPL. (Hi
Dan Howard! Hi Quinn Fung!)
Quinn’s always telling me about some book or other that’s available for pick-up, and Dan told me about the trick of reserving one gazillion books.

Today I gave the web-based library catalogue a spin, and promptly requested dozens and dozens of books. I knew they’d take some time to be delivered to the branch nearest me, but I headed to the College and Spadina branch anyway as it was just a few blocks away from my residence and I wanted to raid the stacks for interesting Wednesday night reading.

It was a good thing I took my wheeled grocery bag, as I ended up
checking out far too many books. I winnowed the list down from the
stack of books I’d pulled off the shelves for browsing, but was still
sorely tempted to push the library limit of 50 (50!) books checked out
at any given time.

I’ve already finished one: Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever, by Judy Sheindlin (of Judge Judy fame). The main thing I took away from that book is that guys aren’t built to be nurturing, and there’s nothing wrong with nurturing myself. I knew that. =) Also, the book had interesting anecdotes from the life of a no-nonsense judge. Not a bad read.

I heart the Toronto Public Library. It’s pretty up to date – lots of 2006 titles, yay! – and the web-based reservation system totally rocks. Sweet!

UPDATE: See also Bookmarklet for the Toronto Public Library

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Book: The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One

Worth reading! The Renaissance Soul gives down-to-earth advice for
people who thrive on variety and challenges in a number of deep and
rich interests. The book helps people identify their passions
(plural!) and follow them without feeling overwhelmed by choice. It’s
also clear, well-written, and full of concrete stories. I like it!


A number of people have told me that they admire the way I know what
I’m doing. My grade school teachers were completely unsurprised by my
choice of a college major. My love for technology can be traced to
childhood, and on the surface it can seem like I’m one of those people
who know what they want to do and how to do it.

However, my teachers and friends have also always known that I can
have a hard time focusing. In university, I switched from mobile
computing to wearable computing to personal information management to
education. I take up hobbies and let them go at some point.

The best thing I took away from the book is the idea of a focal point
sampler. Identify four things you’re passionate about. Figure out if
you’re the kind of person who pursues things sequentially or who
prefers to enrich life by blending things together. Make it happen.
Key point: you’re not stuck to these four choices forever; you can
change your mind and try different flavors next time. It’s like
sampling flavors in an ice cream shop…

I think my sister Kathy should read this book, too. =) Good book.
Thumbs up!



55 The people who are most secure are not those who pick one career and stick with it. They are the people who follow their passion—or passions. [Quote preceded by clear, concrete example.]
55 Only by staying in tune with your passions will you acquire the glowing references and kindred-spirit networking contacts that will pull you through times of change, whether that change is imposed from without or within.
66 [Describes terrific exercises for figuring out which values are important to you overall and which ones are important right now.]
70 Five from fifty exercise. Choose the five values most important to you at this moment.
76 Throw your own birthday party. Write toasts for yourself from different perspectives.
81 Mine-Theirs exercise. Three columns: activity, justification, does this reflect my values of theirs?
98 Focal points: a sampler of interests, not just one primary interest. Four seems to be a good number.
106 Jobs. [J-O-B: get/make a job that includes some of your focal points. Think of it as a stepping stone.]
114 You must always answer any ritual questions about what you do in terms of one or more of your focal points, not your job.
133 [Story of Tracy Kidder, who’s totally awesome.]
154 [Brainstorming extravaganza. Invite a dozen or so friends/colleagues/whoever over.]
158 [Resource party. Kinda like a silent auction. Hand out index cards with numbers written on them, and arrange people in a circle. Person 1 asks a question. Anyone who can help raises their number, and the person writes down their numbers for later conversation. (Don’t take other people’s time with the details!). Go a few rounds, then take a break for conversation.]
162 [Guidelines for volunteering: create your own volunteer position by bartering your services for what they can provide, make contact with the right person (someone who can make things happen for you and doesn’t mind sharing opportunities).]
165 [Four-frame approach: big picture, why you selected this situation, what you would like to gain, what you can give in return]
168 Mentorship has traditionally been a less formal affair open to everyone. [You can find mentors everywhere.]
211 Price, Reality, Integrity, Specificity, Measurability – PRISM test for focal points
218 [Take a look at the list of possible intentions / qualities. Pick two that are crucial to your focal point, but personally difficult for you. I intend to be ___ enough in the way that I ____ to make the most of this focal point.]
221 [Set intention markers – milestones – which show you how you follow through with those milestones.]
233 [Schedule in focal point blocks and then work on whichever focal point is appropriate for the moment. You can color-code your schedule according to the focal point in order to see if you’ve been balancing things well.]
244 [Multitask in one direction. Don’t do other things during focal point time, but mix focal stuff into other activities.]
246 Fresh ideas for your daily TODO list
256 [Have three candidates for asking for help with different things, prioritize and load-balance]

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The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One

Book: Lifeskills: 8 Simple Ways to Build Stronger Relationships, Communicate More Clearly, Improve Your Health

The book goes into interesting detail about the neurological changes
that happen when people get lots of tender loving care. =) Quite
interesting reading.

My parents raised me with lots of affection and positive thoughts.
Perhaps that’s also the reason why people find me calm during many
stressful situations, and I recover from disappointments quickly.
Here’s the technical explanation:

  • A loving action triggers serotonin production in the hippocampus.
  • Serotonin stimulates a specific type of receptor on other hippocampal cells.
  • Receptor activation results in the formation of cyclic-AMP and PKA,
    which prompts the production of receptors for cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Extra cortisol receptors migrate to the surface of the hippocampus.

During times of stress, the adrenal gland produces cortisol, which
causes adrenaline effects to last longer, mobilizes fat for energy,
and shuts down the immune system. However, the additional cortisol
receptors tell the hypothalamus to calm the fight-or-flight response.
While the stressful stimulus is there, this signal is overridden.
However, when the stressor is removed, the extra cortisol receptors
make it easier for someone to calm down.

More notes later. In the meantime, thanks, Mama and Papa!

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Tag team networking

I dropped into the University of Toronto Career Resource Library for a few minutes before my annual health checkup. Seeing one of my to-read books on the shelf, I picked it up and skimmed through it. It’s great having these resources close by!

Darcy Rezac’s “Work The Pond: Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life” is an engaging book that focuses on a “what-can-I-do-for-you” attitude. It’s a good read, and one that I’d recommend to others next to Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone”, Leil Lowndes’ “How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships,” and Tim Sanders’ “Love is the Killer App.”

I particularly like Chapter 5: Travel in Pairs. “Work the Pond” has the best tips on pair networking that I’ve read so far. Your tag-teammate doesn’t have to be your spouse, or even a close friend. A business associate whom you would like to get to know better can make a terrific tag-teammate. if you both decide to help each other out. It’s a powerful technique, and one that I’d like to help with more!

Here’s an excerpt from p75:

  • Tag-teammates introduce you to people they know you might be interested in meeting. Their network is working for you.
  • Tag-teammates help you when you forget a person’s name.
  • Tag-teammates keep an eye out for each other. If one is trapped in a conversation or left high and dry, the other can come to their aid.
  • Tag-teammates can sing your praises much better than you can. It’s hard for you to launch into a story about yourself.

The chapter is full of practical tips, such as sitting two seats apart – that way, each of you will get to know two people but you will be close enough to build on each other’s stories or rescue each other from the “cone of silence” that sometimes happens when people to either side of someone engage in separate conversations.

The book is well worth getting just for that chapter alone. Here’s the quick summary:

  • When the invitation says guests, bring someone. You’ll have more fun. Remember to RSVP for them as well.
  • Fill them in on the rules of being a tag-teammate.
  • If your teammate doesn’t introduce you to someone immediately, use the Step-Forward Rescue. Stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Now you’ve helped your teammate.
  • Don’t be afraid to sing the praises of your teammates. If they do great volunteer work or have won awards, it’s better if you tell others about it.
  • If your teammate doesn’t have a business card, encourage him or her to get a personal card and develop a tribal introduction.
  • Act as a host for your teammate.
  • Use your teammate’s name in conversation; everyone benefits from being reminded of names.
  • Your tag-teammate doesn’t have to be a spouse. Use an event as an opportunity to get to know a business associate better.
  • Keep an eye on each other and come to the rescue, if one is trapped or left alone.
  • Give your teammate a heads-up on the people you will be meeting.
  • If you are a member of a tag-team, you have a responsibility to do your bit.
  • Show your kids how to network; if you can, bring them as your teammate.
  • If you are the organizer of an event, think about the value of inviting couples. Now two people will tell your story.

Get the book and grab a networking buddy. I’d be happy to help at any of the networking events I go to, and I’d love to attend even more!