Category Archives: visual-book-notes

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Visual book notes: Mastery (Robert Greene)

Mastery (by Robert Greene) is a book about discovering your calling, creating your own apprenticeship, and building mastery. It lists different strategies you can take, although the strategy names are often esoteric – you’ll need to read the stories in order to figure out what they mean. (Sometimes it feels like cleverness for its own sake.) Anyway, if you do make it through the book, here’s a one-page summary to help you remember parts of it.

2014-04-16 Book - Mastery - Robert Greene

2014-04-16 Book – Mastery – Robert Greene

There are other books on this topic that I like a little more. Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You is more approachable. Still, Mastery was a decent reminder of the value of apprenticeship, and the stories were interesting. I particularly liked the anecdote about Michael Faraday (as in Faraday’s law and Faraday cages), who apparently used sketchnotes to network with Humphry Davy. Faraday took copious, well-organized notes of Davy’s lectures, and gave them to him as a gift. That started a mentoring relationship, and Faraday became Davy’s lab assistant and amanuensis. Some interesting details can be found at http://www.scienceshorts.com/mfarada.htm and http://www.academia.edu/442248/Faradays_Notebooks_the_Active_Organization_of_Creative_Science . I think that picking up yet another historical role model for awesome note-taking made reading Mastery worth it for me. =)

Visual book review: Conscious Millionaire: Grow your business by making a difference (JV Crum III)

I don’t sketchnote every book I read or receive, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to think about a book even if I don’t agree with everything in it.

2014-03-26 Book - Conscious Millionaire - JV Crum III

2014-03-26 Book – Conscious Millionaire – JV Crum III

This sketch (like practically everything else on my blog) is available under the Creative Commons Attribution License, so feel free to download, share, remix or reuse it. =)

From the title (“Conscious” and “Millionaire,” oh dear), to the name-dropping of quantum physics as a way of justifying a “Law of Attraction,” to the membership site that will be $97/month ($9.97/month if you sign up early), this book clearly belongs to a genre of books I tend to avoid. Those kinds of books are great for a lot of people who need inspiration and push. I’m happy for them. Me, I prefer my business advice delivered with a different approach. But I agree with many things in this book, and I’m looking forward to going through the reflection exercises in depth.

I like how Conscious Millionaire focuses on building a business for profit and purpose. I’ve been thinking about this because of my experiment with semi-retirement. People want to pay me for things like sketchnotes, book notes, visual coaching, consulting, programming, writing, sharing, illustration… It would be easy to say yes, but that often distracts me from the things I want to explore. One way I compromise is through buying back all the time that I spend earning. My experiments with delegation are paying off. In many cases, these systems let me do more than I could do on my own. And in the rest of my discretionary time, I really like this casual, minimal-commitment, flow-based life. I work on whatever I want to whenever I want to, and I still get stuff done.

My expenses are covered by savings and investments, and I live generally unambitious sort of life. Or a differently-ambitious one, at least–I wanted freedom, so I got it. I actively avoid the hedonic treadmill of consumption. I’m not particularly interested in business for the sake of earning more. I am, however, interested in building systems for leverage so that I can make the world a little better. I think of building businesses as taking the kinds of results that people want from me and packaging the processes so that other people can benefit: customers, team members, other stakeholders, and so on. That would be worth spending time on.

So that’s what I’m getting out of this book: thinking about building businesses like those would be like, visualizing larger scales, and moving towards those visions with conscious, focused actions.

Before I dig into those reflections, there’s a section in here about people who don’t charge enough for their services. I want to explore that a little further.

Unfortunately, some amazingly talented and good-hearted people erroneously think they should not charge when they use their passion, purpose, and strengths to help others. … It results from thinking or believing that it is wrong to charge money whenever your actions express your purpose.

I have no qualms about charging high rates for my consulting. For everything else–especially things that can scale up over years, like books–I like using a free/pay-what-you-want strategy. It always pleasantly boggles me when people happily pay $15 for something they could get for free. Don’t worry, it’s all part of my evil plan. Mwahahaha. It means ideas spread and tribes grow. I figure that if people like all the free awesomeness, we can harness that good karma for something. In the meantime, I’m learning a lot from people in the process of sharing, and I love the feeling of interacting based on abundance instead of transactions.

Besides, the bottleneck for my scaling up isn’t time, or even money. If I earned a hundred times as much from online publishing, or scaled up my consulting to have a higher rate or more hours, what would change? I would probably delegate more so that I could help more people create opportunities for themselves. I can already do that with what I have. So I think the real bottleneck is understanding: learning more about what people need, learning more about what I want to share. You can’t throw money at that bottleneck. You can only get through by paying attention.

And that, I guess, is why Conscious Millionare might be worth reading. It’s peppered with lots of reflection topics and practical advice. If the community and the coaching takes off, that might be worthwhile as a way to compare notes with other people. Like all self-help books, you gotta get out and push. The one-page summary I put together (see the top of this post) might be handy for remembering key points, but you’ll get even further if you do the work. I’m looking forward to starting with those three-year visualizations, and then we’ll see where this goes from there. If you pick this up, tell me what you think too.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author, who is an actual millionaire from things that are not books about how to become a millionaire. He started with a trucking company, so that’s a point in his favour.

Visual book review: How to make a complete map of every thought you think (Lion Kimbro)

I’m curious about how to take more effective notes, so I’ve been researching different systems. I came across Lion Kimbro’s experiment with mapping out his thoughts years ago. I finally sat down and condensed the free 131-page e-book on How to Make a Complete map of Every Thought You Think (2003) into this one-page summary. You can click on it for a larger version and print it out if you want.

How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think

Feel free to print, share, or modify this image! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

The book describes a system for taking quick notes and integrating them into subject-based sections in a larger binder, with some notes on managing your archive. It also gives tips on splitting large subjects and mapping out the connections between topics.

I’ve been using some of the book’s ideas on colour and icons, indicating TODOs with green boxes and structure with blue ink. Maps are handy too, although I tend to use computers so that I can link and rearrange easily. Both visual thinking and technology have come a long way since 2003, when Lion Kimbro wrote this book. With Evernote and the Fujitsu ScanSnap, I can scan my sketches and file them along with my blog posts and other notes. I back up my data so that I’m less worried about losing my archive, and I also keep my paper notes by date. I’ve started using Freeplane to build my global subject map, which I’ll cover in a future blog post. There are still some tech gaps, but things are pretty cool.

Want to learn more? See my sketches about learning or note-taking, or my blog posts about learning. Tell me what you think or what you’re curious about!

Visual book review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast (Josh Kaufman)

The idea of learning a new skill can be overwhelming. If you break the skill down into specific things you can learn, it becomes much more manageable. Tim Ferris used this to hack cooking (video) by dissociating it from shopping for groceries or cleaning up. Josh Kaufman’s new book The First 20 Hours fleshes out how to rapidly learn, illustrating it with stories, examples, and practical tips for a wide range of skills. A key insight? You don’t have to be amazing, just good enough to enjoy the skill, and 20 hours is enough to get you there if you learn effectively. (Even if it turns out to be more complex than that, stick with it anyway, and then see where you are at 20 hours.) Click on the one-page summary below to view or download a larger version. 20130705 Visual Book Review - The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything... Fast - Josh Kaufman Feel free to share this visual book review! (Creative Commons Attribution – I’d love it if you link back to this site and tell me about it. =) ) It should print out fine on letter-sized paper, too. The book is both practical and entertaining, especially if you’ve been curious about some of the areas he covers in his chapters. =) While the advice is common sense, the application of the advice makes it interesting – and the stories might nudge you into taking similar steps towards the skill you’d like to develop the most. Besides, the book has stick figures in the chapter on yoga and shell commands and a Ruby tutorial in the chapter on programming. Not that many books can pull that off, although if you’re the type who reads things like travel books for just one chapter, you might grumble about paying for all the other chapters you’re not interested in. 20 hours isn’t going to make you an expert in something, but it might get you farther than you think. Intrigued by the ideas? You can check your local library to see if they have a copy, or buy your own: The First 20 Hours (affiliate link). What I’m going to do with this book One of the benefits of this experiment with semi-retirement is that I have the time and space to explore what I’d like to learn. Not all of it at once, but I can certainly make decent headway on a few skills I want to improve. I rarely start from scratch, so it’s not that I’m really spending my first 20 hours on something – new interests are usually offshoots of something that I already do well or enjoy, because unfair advantages lead to other unfair advantages. I like programming, writing, going through flashcards… I even get along with accounting.

    The biggest new thing that I don’t yet intrinsically enjoy is strength training, which (as the name indicates) is probably more about

training

    – my body has to adapt to it, and that takes time.

So, let’s pick another skill. Something that I haven’t dived deeply into, but that I’m curious about. Some candidates:

  • Creating animated videos (and not cheesy fake-written ones, either)
  • Programming speech recognition macros (NatLink)
  • Visualizing data with D3.js or other visualization libraries

Of the three, I think visualizing data with D3.js will be the most fun for me. I can break that down this way:

  • Manipulate the data into a form that’s easy to work with in D3.js
  • Create typical graphs
  • Create custom graphs
  • Add interactivity
  • Use D3.js for non-graph applications
  • Integrate the visualizations into web apps or blog posts

In terms of barriers, it’s really just about sitting down with some data and the documentation. I’ve worked with D3 before. I just have to practise enough to grok it. The most important skill to master first, I think, is creating typical graphs. If I get that into my brain, I can imagine custom graphs and other applications from there. So learning this skill might involve doing “programming kata”: take an existing data set and visualize it in different ways using common chart types. It’s also useful to look at how other people are breaking down skills and learning them. Duncan Mortimer (who I think is the same as the Duncan Mortimer behind this WriteOrDie mode for Emacs?) wants to write blog posts better. He came up with this list of skills that he wants to work on in terms of blogging:

  • Choosing a topic
    • Brainstorming
    • Asking yourself questions
    • Topics that choose themselves — blogging what you’re learning or as you’re learning
  • Drafting the post
    • Structure
    • Avoiding editing while writing
    • Writing quickly
  • Editing the post
    • Textual tics
    • Restructuring
  • Publishing the post
    • Scheduling posts for future publication
    • Uploading to the hosting service
    • Adding categories and tags; making it ‘discoverable’

I’m also interested in writing more effectively. For me, the key things I’m working on are:

  • Outlining: Planning the structure before I start writing. Doesn’t work for all the posts, but I might be able to use it to speed things up. Practice: Flesh out my sharing outline (hah, you can even send patches or make suggestions through the issues queue) as a separate activity from writing. (See how I’m doing so far in terms of time.)
  • Illustration: Coming up with a hand-drawn image to illustrate my blog posts nudges me to think about the key point or idea in the post, and it’s good practice for sketchnoting too. Practice: It’s like adding an item to my blogging checklist to quickly sketch an image if I can.

Anyway, here’s the book again if you’re curious. Disclosure: I’ll get a small commission if you buy anything from Amazon using the links in this post, but you could also see if your local library has the book. (I got this one from the Toronto Public Library!) Check out first20hours.com for more info. Like this? Check out my other visual book reviews!

For another visual take on this (pretty colours!), check out Cynthia Morris’ summary. Enjoy!

Visual book review: Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future (Terry Pearce)

20130628 Visual Book Review - Leading Out Loud - Terry Pearce

If you’re a corporate leader trying to transform your organizational culture, Leading Out Loud would be a good book to read in order to plan how to align your personal values and your organization’s values with a communication plan that resonates with people. Even if you aren’t, it might be a good read if you often sketch out a vision of the future and work on getting other people involved.

Want to read the book for yourself?

Let’s see if it works on the small scale. What would my Personal Leadership Communication Guide look like? I’m not leading anyone through an organizational change, but it might be worth going through the steps anyway.

I. Establishing Competence and Building Trustworthiness

Clarity of Purpose: I care about remembering and sharing what we learn. The problem is that we waste time by forgetting. We waste opportunities by hoarding what we know or being self-conscious about what we can teach. Think of all the time you spend rediscovering solutions to problems you’ve already solved. Think of when you stop and wonder, “Where did the time go?” with nothing to show for it. We learn so much, but it disappears. If we can get better at learning and sharing, imagine how much more we’d be able to do. I want to learn more about learning and sharing so that I can not only share my life, but also inspire and help other people share theirs.

Credentials and vulnerabilities: I’m not an expert. At 29 years old, I can’t even claim to have learned very much. I get things wrong. I make mistakes. I forget.

But it turns out that you don’t have to be an expert, and sharing probably even works better if you aren’t. I’ve been sharing my learning notes for more than ten years. I’ve been learning about drawing and screencasting as ways to share more effectively. I’ve even been working on learning how to interview people so that more people can share their lessons learned through me.

Empathy: I wouldn’t be this comfortable with learning and sharing in public without the amazing support of people who have taught me and encouraged me throughout the years. When I wrote about an obscure topic and heard, years later, from someone who used one of my tips to solve a problem, that appreciation spurred me to write more. When I made a mistake in my server configuration and sent hundreds of e-mails in a short span of time, people forgave me, and that forgiveness helped me be less afraid to experiment. I learn from comments, conversations, questions, role models, and inspirations. There’s so much out there, and that’s a real gift.

I know what it’s like to worry about whether you’re going to waste someone else’s time or mess up someone else’s work. Sometimes that keeps me from writing or publishing, but I’m getting better at going ahead anyway. More often, I struggle with not feeling that I understand something well enough to write about it – and then I remind myself that “showing my work” helps other people learn from or even correct it.

There’s a lot I need to learn about sharing more effectively. Writing with a plan. Cutting out excess. Making things clear. Drawing, editing video, and so on. I need questions and answers and feedback. I think it will be a good adventure.

Commonality: We’re all learning, and we all have more to learn.

Willingness to be known: Why does this matter to me personally? I was a child when I realized that life is too short to spend figuring everything out on my own. I devoured books – voracious enough that my grade school principal said I wasn’t a bookworm, but a booksnake.

I started finding the gaps that I couldn’t learn from the books I read. I started learning things on my own and from other people – and, too often, forgetting. I share because I don’t trust my brain, and because I’m curious about what I can learn from people if I help them leapfrog me. I don’t want writing to be limited to authors or drawing limited to artists. I want people to feel comfortable using whatever they want to capture and perhaps share what they learn.

II. Shared context

Blogging made it easier for people to share their thoughts, but still, surprisingly few people do it. New technologies make it easier for people to draw, but people tell themselves that they can’t doodle. I wonder what’s next, what could encourage people to share more, what could help me share better.

I don’t have a burning platform; it isn’t a timely issue. Except, perhaps, that life is short, and I forget, and things unshared are conversations that don’t happen. So yes, I have a very selfish reason for sharing. =)

III. Declaring and Describing the Future

Here’s the future I imagine: an awesome life. A life filled with doing and learning and sharing, saving other people time or inspiring other possibilities. It’s a small vision, an individual one. The bigger vision is to help other people live their own awesome lives. =) Better than a foggy life, yes?

What does that future look like and feel like? I imagine I’d follow my curiosity, dipping into my outline or list of ideas for more inspiration. I’d read, try things out, talk to people, write, draw, share. We’ll ask questions together, dig into things deeper, explore more. It’ll be useful and fun.

But it has to be more than that. It would be good for me to learn how to order my thoughts and write books, so that I can help people who are new to a field instead of just people who are in the middle of it. It would be good to learn how to make the most of whatever new tools are developed. It would be good to get better at encouraging other people to share.

IV. Committing to Action

Here are some steps I need to take:

  • Practise writing with objectives, outlines, and plans.
  • Practise illustrating ideas – mine and other people’s.
  • Practise talking to people and sharing what I learn from them.
  • Practise experimenting and breaking out of my comfort zone.
  • Dig into workshops and virtual meetups as a way to help other people learn and share.

If you want to help out, comments, questions, and suggestions welcome!

Want to read the book for yourself?

Like this? Check out my other visual book reviews!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review. Also, if you buy the book through the Amazon link above, I get a small commission. (Check your local library if they have it, if you have a library near you!)

Visual Book Review: Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers (Chuck Wall)

Chuck Wall’s book Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers (Bibliomotion, 2013) is all about listening to the customer, with plenty of examples from established companies. While the tips may seem obvious (of course it makes sense to listen!), the chapters, examples, and advice make it easier to focus on each aspect of listening to customers so that you can shape your business around them.

Click on the image to view or download a larger version of my visual book summary/review.

20130618 Visual Book Review - Customer CEO - How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers

Feel free to share this visual book review! (Creative Commons Attribution – I’d love it if you link back to this site and tell me about it. =) ) It should print out fine on letter-sized paper, too.

For more information or a free chapter, see Customer CEO Consulting (their blog has lots of examples).

Intrigued by the ideas? You can check your local library to see if they have a copy, or buy your own copy below (hardcover / Kindle).

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review, and I’ll get a small commission if you buy anything from Amazon using the link above.

Check out my other visual book reviews!