Life Is Short, Don’t Wait To Dance

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance is a nonfiction work by Valorie Kondos Field about her life, beliefs and coaching philosophy. This book covers her history as a coach, how she ended up as a member of the UCLA hall of fame and brought the best out of her athletes.

This book is worth the read. Even if you read this whole post, I won’t do it justice.

Valorie is special. She led a team of female gymnasts to a national title without ever being a gymnast. Coaching something you’ve mastered is one thing, coaching something you’ve never done is a whole level up. Valorie talks about how she got into the field and how she learned how to be a better coach. How she realized that skills she needed to teach her athletes weren’t quips, but were the same life skills she had used to be successful in her life.

If you want a taste Valorie before committing to reading this book, I would recommend her appearance on The Finding Master Podcast at Valorie Kondos Field, UCLA Gymnastics Head Coach | Finding Mastery.

Here are some of the key concepts I took away from the book:

  • Choose Happy – You can choose to be a happy person or a sad person. Instead of looking at all the faults, choose to be happy.
  • Act “As If” – Acting as if you are a healthy person can lead you to be a healthy person. Sometimes stepping into the role before you actually are the role will help you get there.
  • Gratitude – This one is huge for me. Everyone I know has been talking about gratitude recently. I’ve started a 10 things a day list and am pretty happy with how far I’ve come in reframing my life here.
  • Personal days – This is a concept that I have at work but have never thought about in athletics. Respecting the athlete to have personal practice days where they need their time. I believe Coach Val gives athletes 3 days per year, but the athlete can ask for the day or the coach can suggest an athlete takes the days and there are no consequences for missing it.

Just to wrap this review up. Reading this book was very inspirational to me as an athlete, coach and human. I would recommend this book. I’m not sure if it will be the first book I’d recommend to everyone, but Miss Val has lead a very inspirational life and I enjoyed getting to know more about her experiences, coaching beliefs, and funny stories.

Review: The Cult of The Amateur

I started reading The Cult of the Amateur at the suggestion of a close friend. The main context of this book is that we as members of internet are somehow degrading the quality of external creative works like Music, News, and Movies. The author puts forth some interesting points, but mostly I disagree with his conclusions.

His major argument is that free and cheap media will win out over the expensive expert media. I disagree. People will pay for quality. People would pay for better news if better news were available for a reasonable price.

The web can actually do the converse of what the author is suggesting. The web could force us to improve our quality. The web could force retailers to have to create an experience that merits the expense of a few extra dollars. Perhaps I’m overly idealistic about human nature, but my belief is there are still things people spend money on even when they are tight on cash. Creating a significantly better experience or product will warrant money.

The problem is that retailers used to drive the price. You could walk into a store and pay a price the retailers deem is appriopriate for a given item, even if it is a %150 mark up on something. In the old economy retailers decided the cost on everything. In the new model, consumers can see through inflated costs by using tools like Amazon and Google.

This doesn’t mean consumers won’t spend. Look at the iPhone (yes, I’m an Apple fan, take this with a grain of salt). It is just a cell phone. You can get cell phones for free with plans from most providers, but the iPhone has flourished with its $400 price tag (yes, there are cheaper models, but for a time there wasn’t, and the iPhone was still doing well then). Granted this isn’t traditional media, and the argument in this book is about media, not necessarily products, but there is a connection between the economy of media products and the general economy.

What it comes down to is that our economy is evolving. What used to be of high value was information distribution. Information used to be hard to get so you had pay people (newspapers) to find it and bring it to you. Now that bringing it to you is easy, just go online. The service isn’t worth what it used to be. Is there still a market for information? Yes, of course there is. What is really valuable is well written, thought-out reporting. The information and validation of the information is still valuable, but the distribution is not.

In order to combat this, newspapers have started distributing online. The model that most news sites are using is ad revenue based. Newspapers get paid based on how many ads they can show you on the same page as your news. For this reason, newspapers have been changing the format of journalism. In high school, when I was trained to report, it was all about the lead paragraph. The lead paragraph in a newspaper article would cover all the details of the story in brief, the who, what, where, when, and why. The remainder of the article would delve into more detail and get all the information out.

Todays articles are different. They try and stretch the information out of many pages. The benefit of this approach is that you get more ad space as you expand pages. By keeping people reading to try to get the meat of the article, you get them to click through your pages, thus creating more opportunity for ad revenue. What you end up with, though, is news that is hard to read and not catering to what consumers really need, and therefore isn’t valuable.

Some newspapers have realized this and they are weather the storm better than others. A Graphic History of Newspaper Circulation, shows how some newspapers are still creating relevant content are having a healthy distribution. The Wall street journal is a leading the pack. The WSJ is selling online subscriptions just as they sell their paid subscriptions. Because their revenue is partially subscription based, the articles tend not to use pagination for more ad space. There are still adds on the page, but they are clearly separated from content, and allow the articles to be read easier.

The author, Keen, comes to similar conclusions towards the end of his book. He mentions how consumers will be in charge of driving the price of products in the future. We as consumers do have a responsibility to set pricing. What he misses is that the responsibility isn’t not just on the consumers to pay, but on the retailers to continue to make products that are valuable.

While I don’t agree with the author throughout most of the book, it did get me thinking. If you have an interest in art, music, video, or blogging, this book may be wroth you time. On the Tubbs scale, I’d give it about a 4/10.

Books: Smart & Gets Things Done

This is a very interesting book by Joel Spolsky, titled Smart & Gets Things Done. It has a lot of good information about how to hire the right people for a technical company.

Really this book is a collection of references and combination of thoughts. It refers to Peopleware, a book which I have started but never really finished. He also references various other postings he has made on his site.

The key tenents of this book, as I see them:

  • Treat your employees well and you will have to do less hiring
  • Find the good programmers as early as possible, as the available programmers are almost never on the market
  • Various tips on sorting resumes
  • Ensure that all candidates write code

Nothing in this book was overly confusing or different, but it was an interesting read. If you are new to recruiting, reading this book may help, but if you are a veteran most of the stuff in this book will be just a review. Still a fun and interesting review with good little stories. I’d give it at 7/10.

Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks

Picture of the Nexus BookThis book is definitely my favorite read on the subject of complex network analysis. Having had several projects that involve the study of complex networks, the topic was not new to me. I have read parts of Linked, by Albert Lazlo Barabasi, and Six Degrees, by Duncan Watts. Both are interesting books, but Linked takes a turn towards the highly mathematical and I had some issues following. Six Degrees didn’t do a good job of keeping my attention either. Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks broke the mold. It was a good read, contained my interest throughout the book and I left feeling like I learned a few things. Worth the read, pick up, enjoy it.

Rating: 7/10
Will post rating scale soon