Ideas Worth Spreading: Keys to a Compelling Call to Action

Speaker:  Nancy Duarte

Title: The Secret Structure of Great Talks

Subject:  Storytelling

Rating: 7/10

Keys to a compelling Call to Action:

  • The listener is the hero.
  • Begin with what is.
  • Transition to what could be.
  • Alternate back and forth between What Is, and What Could Be.
  • Need a Call to Action.

Duarte wrote a blog post for Harvard Business Review on this same subject.

Reading Notes: The Willpower Instinct

Author:  Kelly McGonigal

Format: Audible

Subject:  Willpower

Rating: 7/10


McGonigal points outs that there are three distinct types of willpower:  I Want Power, I Will Power, and I Won’t Power.  When most of us think of willpower, we are actually thinking of “I Won’t Power.”  We are exercising “I Won’t Power” when we try to resist instant gratification such as eating a cookie, or binge-watching a favorite show.  “I Will Power” comes into play when we sacrifice comfort in the present moment, in order to achieve a larger payoff in the future.  We exercise this power when we save for retirement, or invest 4 years in college in order to have our dream career.  Lastly, we have “I Want Power.”

McGonigal gives several tips for developing and maintaining self control, and cites multiple studies that support the sometimes counter intuitive findings.  I plan to add a kindle electronic copy of this book to my library, and I may have a few future post about my experience with the willpower exercises in the book.

Side Note:

I can’t quite remember how this book wound up on my reading list.  I do know that the I find the topic of willpower to be interesting.  But I’d expect the key selling point was actually a TED Talk that I watched a few years ago;  The speaker was none-other, but the authors twin sister Jane McGonigal.


What I liked Most About the Book:

Key Takeaways:

  • Willpower is like a muscle, it becomes exhausted over time.
  • Willpower is like a muscle, it can be trained.
  • The simplest way to improve willpower is to meditate which increases the blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex.
  • Start Meditating with 10 minutes a day and work toward 20 minutes.
  • “Pause and Plan Response” when dealing with internal conflict.  This redirects energy from your body (Fight or Flight) to the brain.
  • The excitement of anticipating a reward is almost always greater than the excitement from actually receiving the award
  • Dopamine’s primary function is to drive us to seek happiness, not to actually make us happy.
  • Self-Criticism drains the willpower, leads to low motivation and loss of self-control.
  • We overestimate our future selves ability to address the willpower issues we face today.
  • We don’t control our impulses, we only control our reactions.
  • Do most important task first.
  • Avoid decision-making fatigue; try to make decisions as quickly as possible.
  • Sleep is critical to recharging your willpower.

Best Methods for Dealing with Stress:

  • exercising/playing a sport
  • praying/religious service
  • reading/listening to music
  • spending time with family and friends
  • Meditation/Yoga
  • Spending time on a creative hobby

Reading Notes: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

Author:  Robert B. Reich

Format: Audible

Subject:  Capitalism

Rating: 7/10


Economics to be a pretty captivating subject, so long as it doesn’t get too deep into theory.  I also enjoy listening to ideas that are somewhat counter to my own.   Its an exceptionally effective way to broaden one’s views.  Reich’s writing is based on the idea that we spend most of our time debating the wrong question:  Free Market versus Government.  He argues that (rightly so,) that the Free Market cannot exist without the government, and that the real question is how should the laws that govern the free market be determined.

Reich focuses a lot of his attention on laws governing bankruptcy, property,  and contracts have changed over time.  He highlights those changes as specifically helping corporations and the wealthy while weakening the every day citizen.  Reich truly believes that capitalism can exist in a manner that is much more beneficial to the masses. His final call to action is that Americans don’t have to accept things the way they are.

What I liked Most About the Book:  It served as an excellent reminder that the free market is fundamentally a human construct.

Memorable Quotes:

  • The idea of a free market separate and distinct from government has functioned as a useful cover for those who do not want the market mechanism fully exposed. They have had the most influence over it and would rather keep it that way. The mythology is useful precisely because it hides their power.
  • Government doesn’t intrude on the free market. It creates the market.
  • The free market does not exist in the wilds beyond the reach of civilization. Competition in the wild is a contest for survival in which the largest and strongest typically win. Civilization, by contrast, is defined by rules; rules create markets, and governments generate the rules.
  • Economic historian Karl Polanyi recognized, those who argue for less government are really arguing for a different government—often one that favors them or their patrons
  • Moreover, people who believe the game is rigged are easy prey for political demagogues with fast tongues and dumb ideas.

Reading Notes: Men Are Waffles, Women Are Spaghetti

Authors:  Pam Farrel / Bill Farrel

Format: Audible

Subject:  Relationships

Rating: 5/10


One morning last fall, I was having a casual conversation with a coworker about a remodeling project my wife and I were planning.  “I drive my poor wife crazy,” I said.  We will be discussing the project and next thing I know she is rambling off a seemingly never-ending list of ideas, questions, and concerns.  My response, “Whoa, one thing at a time!”  That is when my coworker laughed, and jokingly told me that I was a waffle.   She told me about a book she had read with her husband as part of their small group at church.  I was immediately intrigued.  In fact, I downloaded the book and began listening to it that day on my way to lunch.

The title of the book aptly defines its thesis that men process thoughts and emotions very differently than women.  Men tend to compartmentalize thoughts and emotions and subsequently deal with them one at a time.   The author relates these compartments to the individual squares you see on a waffle.  On the other hand, women tend to approach thoughts an emotions as part of a grand picture where everything is interconnected with everything else.  Hence the term spaghetti.  When you combine the two concepts, you wind up with spaghetti and waffles.

What I liked Most About the Book:  The title says it all.  Having a better understanding of how men and women process thoughts and emotions differently pays some hefty dividends.  The concept helps me communicate better with my wife, friends, and coworkers.

What I liked Least About the Book:  The author took an exceptional lesson and stretched it way to far.  This book could have easily been about a quarter of the length.  After the author teach the title-lesson, they spend the rest of the book desperately trying to project other aspects of their individual personalities and marriage onto the audience.

Memorable Quotes:

  • A man will strategically organize his life in boxes and then spend most of his time in the boxes he can succeed in.
  •  The bottom line with men is: they feel best about themselves when they are solving problems. Therefore, they spend most of their time doing what they are best at while they attempt to ignore the things which cause them to feel deficient.

Reading Notes: Secret Powers of Negotiating

Negotiation: discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

Author:  Roger Dawson

Format: Kindle

Subject:  Negotiations

Rating: 8/10


Negotiating is a big part business and everyday life, so I was eager to dive into the details of this book.  Dawson didn’t disappoint me in the least; this is a well written book.   The author intermixes a variety of negotiating tactics with real-life examples.  The chapters and tactics build upon one another in an easily understood manner.  Furthermore, the book does an excellent job of mapping out the negotiation process from beginning to ending.  Dawson also covers strategies for dealing with impasses, stalemates, mediation, and arbitration.

After reading this book, I truly believe that I am an above average negotiator.  As a matter of fact, I have also already used several of these tactics during negotiations in both my personal and professional life.  Lastly, I am completely confident that this book has already paid for itself many times over since I read it last fall.

What I liked Most About the Book:  I gained a ton of insight about the topic of negotiating, and it was an easy read.

Knowledge Nuggets:

  • Be Prepared to Walk Away
  • Never Offer to Split the Difference
  • Always ask for more than you expect to get.
  • Be a Reluctant Buyer or Seller
  • Flinch at Proposals
  • Refer to a Higher Authority
  • Use Bracketing