2017 Reading List: Skiing, Politics and Healthcare

2017 began with a week in the backcountry of British Columbia earning my turns and appreciating the simplicity of a ski skin track, good conversation and warm food.

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Although I knew that my family and I would be moving to Washington, D.C. later in the year, my head was filled with ideas on Ski Towns and the Ski Industry.  I spent some time bouncing around the updated Venture Deals book by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, a fantastic read and good book for the office bookshelf.  I also really enjoyed reading Ski, Inc by Chris Diamond and gave a few copies to friends.  Ski industry history is full of stories about the intersection of business, the love of skiing and environmentalism.

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As the year continued on, like many people, I was still trying to get my head around the election.  I had seen the Trump/Pence signs in a few places in Ohio, but never in Colorado or anywhere else I had traveled (mostly cities and CO ski towns).  I loved reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance because it made me think hard about the thought-bubbles and divides we have in our country.  Of all the books I read this year, I recommended or referenced this one the most in casual conversation.

June in Colorado means it’s Bluegrass Festival time, so I picked up a few “beach reads”. Shattered: Inside Hilary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Giant of the Senate by Al Franken were both easy, lighthearted reads that I  enjoyed while listening to music in the sunshine of Telluride.
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As my family packed up our house and headed to Washington, D.C. for our year-long adventure, I wanted to understand more about Washington.  I have never worked with or around Think Tanks or Lobbyists and grew interested in understanding on a deeper level how these firms play into politics and policy decisions.  The Fifth Estate by James McGann took me a bit to get through, more like a project I was tackling versus a hangout on the couch read.  I took notes, built twitter lists and went down serious research rabbit holes while reading this one.

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One of the best parts of working at the United States Digital Service is spending time in the Executive Office Building, learning from the White House staff and working hard to build software within the walls of an Agency, which for me is HHS.  The USDS has a Chief of Staff and I’ve always been interested in this role which led me to The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple.  Each chapter describes a different Chief of Staff or Presidency so it’s easy to pickup and put down.   I learned a lot about Cheney, the hub-n-spoke model some Presidents like Carter used and a few other players and key moments in history.  It was fun reading about Denis McDonough and healthcare.gov as it was the genesis for the USDS.

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As many Product Managers working in healthcare do, I am always reading at least one healthcare policy book.  Ezekiel Emanuel was deeply involved in the ACA work and his other healthcare books are also excellent. Prescription for the Future: The Twelve Transformational Practices of Highly Effective Medical Organizations by Ezekiel Emanuel is full of examples, ideas and charts to help you understand innovations of healthcare policy such as ACOs.

In the fall, I enjoyed books that tugged at the heart strings.  One of the cool things about D.C is the access to authors and book signings thanks to independent bookstores like Politics & Prose.  I had a chance to listen to and meet Mitch Album, Ted Koppel, Chris Matthews, Al Franken, Atul Gawande and others this year.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanith is a shorter read that makes you appreciate each day that you live life as a healthy person.   My wife and I read this one together and it prompted thoughtful discussions about life and cancer.

Promise Me Dad by Joe Biden had me in tears a few times.  Like many Americans, I love Joe Biden and enjoyed reading about his day-to-day at the White House and stories of time spent comforting families.

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My year ended with Bobby Kennedy, a Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews.  I’m a Hardball fan and have grown to really like Chris Matthews over the past year.  I didn’t know very much about Bobby Kennedy and loved this book.  I would read a chapter and then watch a black and white YouTube video of a speech the chapter referenced such as Bobby delivering the Ripple of Hope speech in South Africa.   I learned a ton about American history and had some fascinating conversations with family members that remember Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and other moments of his time in politics like it was yesterday.  I highly recommend this one.

Reading lists are a fun way to reflect on the year that was.  I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.  I just picked up my first fiction read in a few years, maybe that’s a sign that I need a mental escape to begin the year 😉

Review of Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld

Looking at my book shelf organized with business books, seeing my iPad filled with iBook samples and seeing the New York Times Sunday edition laying around would make you think I’m a big reader.  In fact, I’m a fraud.  I’m the person that likes to start lots of books, read for a few minutes at a time and hardly ever finishes a book.  I pre-ordered Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld and read it from start to finish the day it arrived.

Do More Faster is divided into 7 Themes: Idea and Vision, People, Execution, Product, Fundraising, Legal and Structure and Work-Life Balance.  Within each Theme are several 1-3 page stories written by Entrepreneurs, VCs and other interesting people in the software, internet, product development, startup realm.  It’s a great format for the hyper caffeinated, ADHD, check twitter while your reading type of personality.

This book was fun for me to read because many contributors are familiar faces I either work with in some capacity or have seen around the flourishing Boulder/Denver tech community.

Chapters that blew me away and taught me something brand new:

  • To 83(b) or not to 83(b), There is No Question – Matt Galligan
  • Usage is like Oxygen for Ideas – Matt Mullenweg
  • Karma Matters – Warren Katz
  • Don’t Plan, Prototype – Greg Reinacker

Chapters that reinforced some of my favorite work related topics:

  • Don’t Suck at E-mail – David Cohen
  • Get Out from behind Your Computer – Seth Levine
  • Be Specific – Brad Feld
  • Get Feedback Early – Nate Abbott and Natty Zola

If you want motivation for anything you are doing I highly recommend Do More Faster.

Review of Valley Boy by Tom Perkins

 

I finished reading Valley Boy by Tom Perkins a few months ago, the first book I read on my Kindle.  Valley Boy is an autobiography filled with interesting stories about tech history, fancy cars, extreme wealth, famous people and sailing.  Perkins is one of those unique guys that was incredibly smart and worked his ass off to achieve elite status in the tech and venture world however, his passions seem to lay elsewhere in pursuits such as sailing and writing.  I love stories about people that are wildly rich and powerful but still get childishly excited about meeting one of their favorite authors.   

Score: A

Business Advice from Walden

This excerpt from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden offers great advice on Business: 

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood.  “Do you wish to buy any baskets?” he asked.  “No, we do not want any,” was the reply.  “What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do you mean to starve us?”  Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off — that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed — he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do.  Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them.  He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy.  I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one’s while to buy it.

Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.  The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind.  Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

I read this book via DailyLit, a service that delivers a few paragraphs a day to your Inbox.  I highly recommend trying this out.