Review: “Principles: Life and Work”

Book Review
Book: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 8 of 10
Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio is one of the 100 richest men in the world, according to Forbes magazine. In Principles: Life and Work, Dalio shares the principles that have led to his success. Told with raw honesty and enlightening examples, Principles is a fascinating look at how Dalio has created the largest and most successful hedge fund in the world. You need only read the first few pages of Principles to discover the uniqueness of Dalio’s approach; he encourages readers to doubt everything, suggesting that radical open-mindedness is the best way to learn. He has built a culture of radical truth and transparency at Bridgewater that has created an “idea meritocracy” where the best ideas emerge after relentless debate between equals. Although the book is somewhat repetitive, I greatly enjoyed Dalio’s forthright personality and insights into how to become a more successful person, leader, and employee. You should definitely check out Principles.

Takeaways from the Book

The Power of Principles

  • “Without principles we would be forced to react to all the things life throws at us individually, as if we were experiencing each of them for the first time.”
  • “All successful people operate by principles that help them be successful, though what they choose to be successful at varies enormously, so their principles vary.”
  • “To be principled means to consistently operate with principles that can be clearly explained.”
  • “Using principles is a way of both simplifying and improving your decision making. While it might seem obvious to you by now, it’s worth repeating that realizing that almost all ‘cases at hand’ are just ‘another one of those,’ identifying which ‘one of those’ it is, and then applying well-thought-out principles for dealing with it. This will allow you to massively reduce the number of decisions you have to make (I estimate by a factor of something like 100,000) and will lead you to make much better ones. The key to doing this well is to:
    1. Slow down your thinking so you can note the criteria you are using to make your decision.
    2. Write the criteria down as a principle.
    3. Think about those criteria when you have an outcome to assess, and refine them before the next ‘one of those’ comes along.”

Learning Humility

  • “The most painful lesson that was repeatedly hammered home is that you can never be sure of anything: There are always risks out there that can hurt you badly, even in the seemingly safest bets, so it’s always best to assume you’re missing something.”
  • “Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible path and recognize that your ability to deal well with ‘not knowing’ is more important than whatever it is you do know.”
  • “In retrospect, my crash was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it gave me the humility I needed to balance my aggressiveness. I learned a great fear of being wrong that shifted my mind-set from thinking ‘I’m right’ to asking myself ‘How do I know I’m right?’ And I saw clearly that the best way to answer this questions is by finding other independent thinkers who are on the same mission as me and who see things differently from me. By engaging them in thoughtful disagreement, I’d be able to understand their reasoning and have them stress-test mine. That way, we can all raise our probability of being right.”

Thoughtful Disagreement

  • “As you will see, we are simply a group of people who are striving be excellent at what we do and who recognize that we don’t know much relative to what we need to know. We believe that thoughtful, unemotional disagreement by independent thinkers can be converted in believability-weighted decision making that is smarter and more effective than the sum of its parts.”
  • “In other words, I just want to be right–I don’t care if the right answer comes from me. So I learned to be radically open-minded to allow others to point out what I might be missing. I saw that the only way I could succeed would be to:
    1. Seek out the smartest people who disagreed with me so I could try to understand their reasoning.
    2. Know when not to have an opinion.
    3. Develop, test, and systemize timeless and universal principles.
    4. Balance risks in ways that keep the big upside while reducing the downside.”
  • “I urge you to be curious enough to want to understand how the people who see things differently from you came to see them that way.”
  • “To be effective you must not let your need to be right be more important than your need to find out what’s true.”
  • “In thoughtful disagreement, your goal is not to convince the other party that you are right–it is to find out which view is true and decide what to do about it. In thoughtful disagreement, both parties are motivated by the genuine fear of missing important perspectives.”
  • “Remind yourself that it’s never harmful to at least hear an opposing point of view.”
  • “Being effective at thoughtful disagreement requires one to be open-minded (seeing things through the other’s eyes) and assertive (communicating clearly how things look through your eyes) and to flexibly process this information to create learning and adaptation.”
  • “Making suggestions and questioning are not the same as criticizing, so don’t treat them as if they are.”

Radical Truth

  • “To me a meaningful relationship is one that’s open and honest in a way that lets people be straight with each other. I never valued more traditional, antiseptic relationships where people put on a facade of politeness and don’t say what they really think…I spoke frankly, and I expected those around me to speak frankly…When I thought someone did something stupid, I said so and I expected them to tell me when I did something stupid. Each of us would be better for it. To me, that was what strong and productive relationships looked like. Operating any other way would be unproductive and unethical.”
  • “I learned that the more caring we gave each other, the tougher we could be on each other, and the tougher we were on each other, the better we performed and the more rewards there were for us to share.”


  • “I have come to realize that bad times coupled with good reflections provide some of the best lessons, and not just about business but also about relationships.”
  • “Self-reflection is the quality that most differentiates those who evolve quickly from those who don’t. Remember: Pain + Reflection = Progress.”
  • “Create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes and unacceptable not to learn from them.”
  • “It seems to me that if you look back on yourself a year ago and aren’t shocked by how stupid you were, you haven’t learned much.”
  • “Reflect and remind yourself that an accurate criticism is the most valuable feedback you can receive.”

Harnessing Pain to Drive Positive Change

  • “I came to understand that my encounters were tests of my character and creativity…In gaining this perspective, I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature’s reminder that there is something important for me to learn. Encountering pains and figuring out the lessons they were trying to give me became sort of a game to me.”
  • “In time, I realized that the satisfaction of success doesn’t come from achieving your goals, but from struggling well.”
  • “Regularly use pain as your guide toward quality reflection. Mental pain often comes from being too attached to an ida when a person or an event comes along to challenge it. This is especially true when what is being pointed out to you involves a weakness on your part.”

Embrace Reality and Deal with It

  • “Truth–or, more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality–is the essential foundation for any good outcome. Most people fight seeing what’s true when it’s not what they want it to be. That’s bad, because it is more important to understand and deal with the bad stuff since the good stuff will take care of itself.”
  • “You shouldn’t be upset if you find out that you’re bad at something–you should be happy that you found out, because knowing that and dealing with it will improve your chances of getting what you want. If you are disappointed because you can’t be the best person to do everything yourself, you are terribly naive.”
  • Ultimately, embracing reality comes down to five decisions:
    1. Don’t confuse what you wish were true with what is really true.
    2. Don’t worry about looking good–worry instead about achieving your goals.
    3. Don’t overweight first-order consequences relative to second- and third-order ones.
    4. Don’t let pain stand in the way of progress.
    5. Don’t blame bad outcomes on anyone but yourself.

Dalio’s 5 Step Process

  1. Have clear goals.
  2. Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of your achieving those goals.
  3. Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes.
  4. Design plans that will get you around them.
  5. Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results.

Other Thoughts

  • “Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.”
  • “Remember that great expectations create great capabilities. If you limit your goals to what you know you can achieve, you are setting the bar way too low.”
  • Idea Meritocracy = Radical Truth + Radical Transparency + Believability-Weighted Decision Making
  • “In the end, accuracy and kindness are the same thing. What might seem kind but isn’t accurate is harmful to the person and often to others in the organization as well.”
  • “Avoid the anonymous ‘we’ and ‘they,’ because they mask personal responsibility. Things don’t just happen by themselves–they happen because specific people did or didn’t do specific things. Don’t undermine personal accountability with vagueness…Someone created the procedure that went wrong or made the faulty decision. Glossing over that can only slow progress toward improvement.”

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Other notable books by the author:

Ray Dalio’s TED Talk – “How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win”

Review: “The Everything Store”

Book Review
Book: The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Amazon is arguably the most fascinating company in the world. In The Everything Store, journalist Brad Stone pulls back the curtain to reveal interesting details about the company’s founding and the customer obsession of its founder. You’ll learn what drives CEO Jeff Bezos and how he came to lead the largest online retailer–a company on track to be the world’s first trillion dollar enterprise. I love business profiles of top leaders and companies, and this is one of the best out there. I highly recommend this book.

Takeaways from the Book

Amazon’s Culture

  • “If you want the truth about what makes us different, it’s this: We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it’s safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements.” -Jeff Bezos
  • “We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” -Jeff Bezos
  • “[Bezos] gave Blue Origin (his space exploration company) a coat of arms and a Latin motto, Gradatim Ferociter, which translates to ‘Step by Step, Ferociously.’ The phrase accurately captures Amazon’s guiding philosophy as well. Steady progress toward seemingly impossible goals will win the day. Setbacks are temporary. Naysayers are best ignored.”
  • “Your job is to kill your own business. I want you to proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.” -Jeff Bezos, to Steve Kessel when he put Kessel in charge of Amazon’s digital-media business.
    • “He believed that if Amazon didn’t lead the world into the age of digital reading, then Apple or Google would.”
    • “You are basically already late,” Bezos told Kessel.
  • “Amazon, Bezos said, was the unstore…Being an unstore meant, in Bezos’s view, that Amazon was not bound by the traditional rules of retail. It had limitless shelf space and personalized itself for every customer. It allowed negative reviews in addition to positive ones, and it places used products directly next to new ones so that customers could make informed choices. In Bezos’s eyes, Amazon offered both everyday low prices and great customer service. It was Walmart and Nordstrom’s. Being an unstore also meant that Amazon had to concern itself only with what was best for the customer.”
  • “Amazon’s culture is notoriously confrontational, and it begins with Bezos, who believes that truth springs forth when ideas and perspectives are banged against each other, sometimes violently.”
  • Amazon has 14 leadership principles. Watch the video below to learn more about those principles.

Amazon’s Hiring Practices

  • “Bezos felt that hiring only the best and brightest was key to Amazon’s success. For years he interviewed all potential hires himself and asked them for their SAT scores. ‘Every time we hire someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool is always improving,’ he said.”
  • “If the potential employees made the mistake of talking about wanting a harmonious balances between work and home life, Bezos rejected them.”
  • “Bar raisers at Amazon–the program still exists today–are designated employees who have proven themselves to be intuitive recruiters of talent…At least one anointed bar raiser would participate in every interview process and would have the power to veto a candidate who did not meet the goal of raising the company’s overall hiring bar. Even the hiring manager was unable to override a bar raiser’s veto.”

Characteristics of Jeff Bezos

  • Continuous Learner: “He went to school on everybody. I don’t think there was anybody Jeff knew that he didn’t walk away from with whatever lessons he could.” -Halsey Minor
  • Hard-Working: “Bezos seemed to love the idea of the nonstop workday; he kept a rolled-up sleeping bag in his office and some egg-crate foam on his windowsill in case he needed to bunk down for the night.”
  • Calm and Confident: “Through it all (failed acquisitions, multi-million dollar losses, failed investments in other companies), Bezos never showed anxiety or appeared to worry about the wild swings in public sentiment.” “I have never seen anyone so calm in the eye of a storm. Ice water runs through his veins.” -Mark Britto
  • Customer-Obsessed: “There are two kinds of retailers: there are those folks who work to figure how to charge more, and there are companies that work to figure how to charge less, and we are going to be the second, full-stop.” -Jeff Bezos
  • Technically-Minded: “Bezos had dreams of becoming an inventor like Thomas Edison, so his mother patiently shuttled him back and forth and back again to a local Radio Shack to buy parts for a succession of gadgets: homemade robots, hovercrafts, a solar-powered cooker, and devices to keep his siblings out of his room.”
  • Competitive: “Bezos’s high-school friends say he was ridiculously competitive. He collected awards for best science student at his school for three years and best math student for two, and he won a statewide science fair for an entry concerning the effects of a zero-gravity environment on the housefly. At some point, he announced to his classmates his intention to become the valedictorian of his 680-student class, and he crammed his schedule with honors courses to bolster his rank. ‘The race [for the rest of the students] then became to be number two,’ says Josh Weinstein. ‘Jeff decided he wanted it and he worked harder than anybody else.’”
  • Brilliant: “He had this unbelievable ability to be incredibly intelligent about things he had nothing to do with, and he was totally ruthless about communicating it.” -Bruce Jones, former Amazon VP
  • Clear and Consistent: “Jeff is very clear and simple about his goals, and the way he articulates them makes it easy for others, because it’s consistent.” -Danny Hillis, friend of Bezos

Bezos’s Vision

  • “There is so much stuff that has yet to be invented. There’s so much new that’s going to happen. People don’t have any idea yet how impactful the Internet is going to be that this is still Day 1 in such a big way.” -Jeff Bezos
  • “We still powered through (various e-reader setbacks) because Jeff is not deterred by short-term setbacks.” -Jeff Wilke, regarding Jeff Bezos
  • “You have to start somewhere. You climb the top of the first tiny hill and from there you see the next hill.” -Jeff Bezos

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
The Amazon Way by John Rossman
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

Other notable books by the author:
The Upstarts
Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports

Review: “Work Rules!”

Book Review
Book: Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Work Rules! should be used as a bible for recruiters, HR managers, and executives. I realized just how good this book was when I recommended it to our company recruiter and he told me that he had already read it twice and begun incorporating the book’s principles into our hiring process. Author Laszlo Bock offers a rich background of HR experience from his work at Google, and even shares the results of several groundbreaking projects and studies from Google’s People Operations team.

Takeaways from the Book


  • “Leaders who build the right kind of environments will be magnets for the most talented people on the planet.”
  • “Managers serve the team.” -Eric Schmidt
  • “We’ve found that trusting people to do the right thing generally results in them doing the right thing.”
  • “As Larry (Page) often says: If your goals are ambitious and crazy enough, even failure will be a pretty good achievement.”

Think Like an Owner

  • “All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful.”
  • “It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.”
  • “Whatever you’re doing, it matters to someone. And it should matter to you. As a manager, your job is to help your people find that meaning.”
  • “The man who does not get a certain satisfaction out of his day’s work is losing the best part of his pay.” -Henry Ford


Hiring and Interviews

  • “Our single greatest constraint on growth has always, always been our ability to find great people.”
  • “We wanted to hire ‘smart generalists’ rather than experts. [Other] firms were mystified that we’d prefer hiring someone who was clever and curious over someone who actually knew what he was doing.”
  • “There have been volumes written about how ‘the first five minutes’ of an interview are what really matter, describing how interviewers make initial assessments and spend the rest of the interview working to confirm those assessments…Psychologists call this confirmation bias, ‘the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.’”
  • “There’s no correlation between fluid intelligence (which is predictive of job performance) and insight problems like brainteasers.”
  • “Typical, unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired. Unstructured interviews have an r-squared of 0.14, meaning that they explain only 14 percent of an employee’s performance…The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent)…The second-best predictors of performance are tests of general cognitive ability (26 percent).”
  • “We do our interviewing based on really testing your skills. Like, write some code, explain this thing, right? Not look at your resume, but really see what you can do.”
  • “Before you start recruiting, decide what attributes you want and define as a group what great looks like. A good rule of thumb is to hire only people who are better than you. Do not compromise. Ever.”
  • “If you’re hiring people who are better than yourself, most other people issues tend to sort themselves out.”
  • “At Google, we front-load our people investment. This means the majority of our time and money spent on people is invested in attracting, assessing, and cultivating new hires. We spend more than twice as much on recruiting, as a percentage of our people budget, as an average company.”
  • “We want the people who will perform their best here, not the ones who will perform their best elsewhere.”

Ikea Job Interview

Work Culture

  • “In most organizations, you join and then have to prove yourself. At Google, there’s such faith in the quality of the hiring process that people join and on their first day are trusted and full members of their teams.”
  • “We look across our portfolio of talent and ensure we have the right balance of generalists and experts.”
  • “Our operating assumption is that anything we’re doing, we can do better.”
  • “If you want a nonhierarchical environment, you need visible reminders of your values. Otherwise, your human nature inevitably reasserts itself. Symbols and stories matter.”
  • “Innovation thrives on creativity and experimentation, but it also requires thoughtful pruning.”

Google’s “Project Oxygen”

  • “Teams working for the best managers also performed better and had lower turnover. In fact, manager quality was the single best predictor of whether employees would stay or leave, supporting the adage that people don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers.”
  • The 8 Project Oxygen attributes shared by top managers: (1) Be a good coach. (2) Empower the team and do not micromanage. (3) Express interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being. (4) Be very productive/results-oriented. (5) Be a good communicator—listen and share information. (6) Help the team with career development. (7) Have a clear vision/strategy for the team. (8) Have important technical skills that help advise the team.
  • “Unexpectedly, we found that technical expertise was actually the least important of the eight behaviors across great managers. Make no mistake, it is essential. An engineering manager who can’t code is not going to be able to lead a team at Google. But of the behaviors that differentiated the very best, technical input made the smallest difference to teams.”


  • “Have the people who are best at each attribute train everyone else. We ask our Great Manager Award recipients to train others as a condition of winning the award.”
  • “I promise you that in your organization there are people who are expert on every facet of what you do, or at least expert enough that they can teach others.”
  • “Individual performance scales linearly, while teaching scales geometrically.”
  • “Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform.” -Andy Grove
  • “Engage in deliberate practice: Break lessons down into small, digestible pieces with clear feedback and do them again and again.”


  • 4 principles: (1) Pay unfairly. (2) Celebrate accomplishment, not compensation. (3) Make it easy to spread the love. (4) Reward thoughtful failure.
  • “Pay unfairly. Your best people are better than you think, and worth more than you pay them.”
  • “In a misguided attempt to be ‘fair,’ most companies design compensation systems that encourage the best performers and those with the most potential to quit…Why would a company design a system that makes the best and highest-potential people quit? Because they have a misconception of what is fair and lack the courage to be honest with their people.”

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Other notable books by the author:

Review: “Fix It”

Book Review
Book: Fix It by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, Craig Hickman, Tracy Skousen, and Marcus Nicolls

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 8 of 10
I was honored to receive an advance copy of Fix It, which comes out on May 31st. When I cracked open the book, I was a bit skeptical about the “choose your own adventure” format employed by the authors, but the format worked really well. Fix It provides practical, actionable ideas that I’ve already begun to use in leading my team at work. The book is definitely more pragmatic and useful than many other leadership and management resources, as every concept is fleshed out in immediate “solutions” that other corporate leaders and executives have employed in their companies. Although some of the recommended solutions were a bit “soft” or seemingly unrelated to the specific topics in which they were mentioned, I definitely learned a lot from this book and would rate it as one of the better business books I’ve read all year.

Takeaways from the Book

“Getting accountability right makes all the difference in the world and is the key to unlocking individual talent and potential.” -Ginger Graham

The authors’ definition of accountability: “Accountability is a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving Key Results: See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.”

The 16 Accountability Traits
SEE IT: Acknowledging reality and seeing things as they really are
1) Obtaining the perspectives of others*
2) Communicating openly and candidly*
3) Asking for and offering feedback*
4) Hearing and saying the hard things to see reality

OWN IT: Connecting past efforts with what we are going to do to achieve what we want
5) Being personally invested
6) Learning from both successes and failures
7) Ensuring my work is aligned with key results
8) Acting on the feedback I (we) receive*

SOLVE IT: Tackling real problems and removing true obstacles on your road to results
9) Constantly asking “What else can I (we) do?”
10) Collaborating across functional boundaries
11) Creatively dealing with obstacles
12) Taking the necessary risks*

DO IT: Taking accountability to make things happen and get things done
13) Doing the things I (we) say I (we) will do
14) Staying “above the line” by not blaming others
15) Tracking progress with proactive and transparent reporting
16) Building an environment of trust*

*In the interest of brevity, I have only summarized ideas from six of the accountability traits rather than all sixteen. The summarized traits are identified with asterisks in the list above.*

Obtaining the Perspectives of Others

  • “We all operate on limited information based on where we stand relative to the challenges we face. As a result, we rarely see the whole picture, relying instead on just our own bias and restricted point of view.”
  • “If you’re too busy to walk the hallways or plant floor to chat with your people, too busy to let people know you want to know, then you’re doing something wrong.”
  • “A certain degree of humility is critical to getting accountability right. Humility is a deep, authentic acknowledgment that we can’t do it alone, that we should be mindful of the perspectives others bring, and that we can be better and do more with input from others…Humility is on the list of the most essential leadership attributes because it strengthens one’s ability to learn. To be humble means to be teachable…Humility promotes a very personal and real recognition that the experiences and opinions of others matter, and that they can make a difference in your success.


Communicating Openly and Candidly

  • “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms…Candor is the key to collaborating effectively.” -Ed Catmull
  • “You don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or policy are being hashed out. Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and…hold them close.” -Ed Catmull
  • “Our advice: let go of the false belief that not being open and candid is ever an option. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What would I say if this were my own company, if it were my own money, my own reputation, my own legacy at stake?’”
  • “Being open and candid is always better than letting truth languish in the shadows.”
  • “Bad news never ages well.” -Alan Taylor

Asking for and Offering Feedback

  • “Feedback is oxygen. It’s lifeblood. We can’t grow and develop without it.”
  • “For more than two decades, working with thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people at every organizational level, we have found one reliable rule: You probably won’t get feedback unless you ask for it.
  • “You will distinguish yourself in a very positive way if you become good at offering and asking for feedback.”
  • “Feedback done properly is one of the highest forms of mutual respect one can express in a professional setting.”

Michael Scott Head on Hands

Acting on the Feedback I (We) Receive

  • When your people suggest ideas you disagree with, you should not shut them down. Instead, respond with, “Thank you for sharing that with me.” You can (and should) close the loop later by saying, “You know, I had time to think about your idea, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you…”
  • “Your first reaction should be one of gratitude.” -Jason Schubert
  • “Acting on any feedback you receive will create the experience for others that you really do want feedback, and that you will consume it in a way that makes taking the risk to offer it worthwhile.”
  • “It’s important to realize what a gift feedback is and treat it like that. I never, ever blow anyone up for telling me truly bad news. I try to categorize bad news and good news as ‘just news,’ and never, ever shoot the messenger. This attitude keeps the feedback channels open and the information flowing.” -Brad Lee

Taking the Necessary Risks

  • “We have found that every breakthrough requires a ‘break with’ something. A break from the way you’ve always done things, from familiar patterns and systems, in order to try something untried, untested, or unproven.”
  • “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” -Einstein
  • “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” -Thomas Edison
  • “Success is simply about working hard and delivering results and staying uncomfortable.” -Hugh Ekberg
  • “Intentionally look for opportunities and make choices that will take you outside your comfort zone. And do this every day.” -Hugh Ekberg

Building an Environment of Trust

  • “Trust is the outcome of getting accountability right, and becoming an accountable person.”
  • “Yes, results are certainly important, but you should be more proud when folks who worked for you go on to succeed beyond you. That’s your badge of honor.” -Mark McNeil
  • “Accountable people can be counted on to do what they say, to not blame others, and to listen carefully to their colleagues, all essential ingredients to building trust.”
  • “One sure way to foster greater trust in people is to help them see that you as a leader are doing everything possible to make them better, build them up, and promote them.”
  • “To elevate others, you want to try to constantly eliminate your own job by teaching it to subordinates, so you don’t have to do today what you did yesterday.” -Hugh Ekberg
  • “When people believe you care, trust is automatic.”
  • “When you guide and don’t tell, people may fail a bit more, but they will also grow more, learn more, have more ownership, and bring more results to the company table.” -Jim Arnold

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Other notable books by the authors:
The Oz Principle by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman
Change the Culture, Change the Game by Roger Connors and Tom Smith
How Did That Happen? by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Review: “Creativity, Inc.”

Book Review
Book: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Creativity, Inc. is packed with tips for how to breed innovation and employee autonomy in any company. Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, pulls back the covers to reveal how Disney and Pixar foster a healthy culture of creativity by trusting their people to solve problems. This book is required reading for any leader looking to empower his or her people to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

Takeaways from the Book


  • “We start from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute.  We accept that, without meaning to, our company is stifling that talent in myriad unseen ways.  Finally, we try to identify those impediments and fix them.”
  • “Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”
  • “We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions.”
  • “I look for ways to institutionalize (candor) by putting mechanisms in place that explicitly say it is valuable…Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with one another.”
  • “What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?”
  • “When looking to hire people, give their potential to grow more weight than their current skill level.  What they will be capable of tomorrow is more important than what they can do today.”

Pixar Characters


  • “To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.”
  • “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
  • “To be wrong as fast as you can is to sign up for aggressive, rapid learning.”
  • “Better to have train wrecks with miniature trains than with real ones.” -Joe Ranft
  • “Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear.”
  • “There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.”
  • “It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks.  It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”
  • “Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others.  Show early and show often.  It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.  And that’s as it should be.”

First Step to Failure

Awesome ideas from Andrew Stanton, director and producer at Pixar

  • “(Stanton) is known around Pixar for repeating the phrases ‘fail early and fail fast’ and ‘be wrong as fast as you can.’  He thinks of failure like learning to ride a bike; it isn’t conceivable that you would learn to do this without making mistakes—without toppling over a few times.  ‘Get a bike that’s as low to the ground as you can find, put on elbow and knee pads so you’re not afraid of falling, and go,’ he says.”
  • “If you apply this mindset to everything new you attempt, you can begin to subvert the negative connotation associated with making mistakes.  Says Andrew: ‘You wouldn’t say to somebody who is first learning to play the guitar, “You better think really hard about where to put your fingers on the guitar neck before you strum, because you only get to strum once, and that’s it.  And if you get that wrong, we’re going to move on.”  That’s no way to learn, is it?’”
  • “There’s a difference between criticism and constructive criticism.  With the latter, you’re constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing.  You’re building as you’re breaking down, making new pieces to work with out of the stuff you’ve just ripped apart.  That’s an art form in itself.”
  • “Include people in your problems, not just your solutions.”

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Other notable books by the author:

Review: “All In”

Book Review
Book: All In by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 7 of 10
All In is a great primer for how to create an amazing culture in your company. Although the book doesn’t offer many fresh insights on organizational culture, it is full of great reminders for how to keep your team engaged and aligned to company values. As I read All In, I evaluated my company against the leadership traits and practices described in the book. I would advise you to do the same. All our companies would be better if we could practice what Gostick and Elton preach.

Takeaways from the Book

Sell the Story, Not the Product

  • “Good companies will tell you what they do and how they do it; great companies focus on why they do what they do for their customers.”
  • “As counterintuitive as it may sound to some, the thing that sets you apart from your peers is rarely what you sell or how you package or promote it. You all look pretty similar to us consumers. No, unless you’ve just invented the iPod of your industry, it’s likely that your competitors offer, more or less, the same things you do at about the same prices. The secret of moving a business forward is in getting your working population to differentiate you.”
  • “Keep your mission simple and aspirational, and your values to a manageable list—three is ideal, with five as a maximum.”

 Look for Disconfirming Feedback

  • “Most organizations are oblivious to what customers find attractive about rivals. The best leaders encourage vigilance for disruptive solutions or trends that might harm or benefit their firm.”
  • “A culture of customer focus provides channels for employees to report upward issues they see on the front lines, rewards them when they spot something important, encourages them to find challenges invigorating, and empowers people at all levels to respond to those challenges with alacrity and creativity.”
  • “There’s something exhilarating about facing the facts head-on, something that helps people feel like they are being brought into the inner circle.”

Big Leap

Importance of Agility and Innovation

  • “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” -Steve Jobs
  • “The most agile companies aren’t afraid to allow different, interesting organizational structures to exist, reflecting the diversity of the tasks it has to perform to meet customer requirements. And in these firms, people and assets are redeployed and reconfigured rapidly when the market shifts.”
  • “In customer-focused firms, leadership puts more responsibility in the hands of key employees who are asked to push the entire organization forward. They are given permission to disrupt and innovate with the customer in mind.”

 Aspects of a Fantastic Culture

  • “You as the manager are the core influencer of the kind of culture at play in your team, division, or whole company.”
  • “Tell it like it is. Great managers leave the ‘pillows’ at home, the tendency most of us have to soften the blow (and thereby dilute clarity). They have hard conversations with employees and even clients, thus building honest long-term relationships. A singular characteristic of these great leaders is their ability to keep their emotions in check during these discussions while focusing team members on positive outcomes.”
  • “Managers must create a WIIFM, or ‘what’s in it for me,’ for each person. We would be hard pressed to name a successful executive we’ve encountered in our travels ho hadn’t put considerable thought into delivering value to his or her customers. The trouble is, very few leaders spend much time answering what’s-in-it-for-me questions for their employees—the people who serve those customers with either energy and smiles or grudging reluctance.”
  • “Allowing employees to insert their style and creativity into an assignment without unnecessary censorship demonstrates trust in employees’ abilities. And the experience of taking the lead builds competency, a sense of ownership, and trust in you as a leader. Look, we know it’s hard to hold back criticism, and a manager wants to always be right, but a good rule of thumb is, ‘It it’s 70 percent as good as you would have done it, then leave it alone.’”
  • “Following our first instinct to do the right thing, even ignoring any personal consequences, will nearly always create respect from those around us.”
  • “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” -Peter Drucker

Culture Strategy

Importance of Recognition and Feedback

  • “Top-down and peer-to-peer recognition fulfill separate human needs. The first enhances a sense of job security, of well-being, and that there are opportunities for development. The latter emphasizes that you have friends at work, that you are accepted, and that others have your back.”
  • “The following formula can help leaders recognize employees or help peers thank each other: Do it now, do it often, be specific, be sincere.”
  • “Cultures that treat everyone the same, no matter their personal contribution, are demoralizing for high achievers.”

 Strong Guiding Principles Used by a VP at American Express

  • “We communicate openly, honestly, and candidly.”
  • “We seek solutions and not blame.”
  • “We try to involve people in decisions that affect them.”

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Other notable books by the authors:
The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
The Orange Revolution by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton