As an executive in the corporate world I am like many of you. I work crazy long hours, travel extensively (50k miles flown so far this year…and it’s only March) and have minimal time to spend on things I like: friends, family, leisure and hobbies. This portion of the blog is meant to be things I like and recommend and is intended to be far-ranging to include everything from little gizmos that I have found make my life easier, to interesting books on a variety of topics, to one-off crazy things I like that may (or may not) be of interest to you.
Disclaimer: This is meant to only be a guide to things I like and find useful and think may be of interest of value to the Corporate Wise Man community.
Seven years ago, I was one of the very first to “cut the cord” from cable and stream all my content. I also buy 90% of, well, everything at Amazon. For me, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. Between Amazon Video, the ability to add premium channels like HBO for minimal cost, free 2-day shipping, Amazon Music (like Spotify, but free for Prime members), convenient movie rentals, and much more, Amazon Prime is an excellent use of $99. (Note: Amazon Prime is not nearly as good of a deal in Canada due to content restrictions (no monthly subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, etc), lack of selection and reviews, minimal 2-day shipping options, etc.)
Amazon Prime: See above for full details.
Netflix: Similar reasons to Amazon Prime, above. Netflix packs a tremendous amount of content into the monthly subscription. Better yet, for those of us with 4k TVs (I have a 75” Vizio…) there is no better choice than Netflix for 4k content.
Wiz Gear Car Air Vent Cell Phone Holder:
When you travel as much as I do, you will use car phone navigation a lot. For convenience and safety, you will want a safe, portable and convenient cell phone holder. I have multiple Wiz Gear cell phone holders as they are small, affordable and work really well. Basically you put a small metal plate on your cell phone (or hide it inside your cell phone case like I do), put this small magnet in the vent on your rental car and you are good to go. BONUS: Why pay $2-4k on an integrated navigation system in your car when you can pay $6 for a Wiz Gear instead? That’s what I do, and it works great!
I travel 90% of the time and I love to read. However, it is not feasible for the constant traveler to drag heavy, bulky books wherever you go. Plus, Kindles saves trees. Do yourself a favor and get a Paperwhite…you won’t regret it.
Before I entered the corporate world I was a D.Phil (Europe’s version of a PhD) candidate in English Literature at an elite university in the UK. Hence, I have a passion for reading. Full Disclosure: I DO NOT like “business books” like Blue Ocean Strategy, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, etc. as I find they tend to be overly simplistic, are poorly written, suffer from survivorship bias (they are all backward looking than predictive) and are not applicable in the real world. Thus, I will not be recommending any pure business books.
I have an entire post here focused on the only 3 investment books you need to read. For simplicity’s sake, I have re-listed the books here.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
Saving for Retirement (Without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery) by Gail MarksJarvis
The Millionaire Mind by Thomas J Stanley
Not Business Business Books:
These are books that are not about business per se, but have great insights that will make you a better leader.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig. I have a soft spot for Robert Persig as he is from my home state of Minnesota. Zen and the Art is, at its core, a deep dive into the concept of quality told in an arresting narrative and intertwined with the complexities of family and mental illness.
Stoner by John Williams. At once a story of loss and disappointment, Stoner explores what it means to live a modern life with all the stresses that come along with it: marriage issues, work rivals, etc.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow. Everyone thinks Rockefeller got rich because of oil (which, I guess, is ostensibly true…) but his real contribution is that he invented the concept of the corporation. Yes, its long and boring in parts, but the underlying story makes it a “must read” for any serious corporate warriors.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. A gripping story of leadership under incredible pressure and Lincoln’s genius for turning enemies into allies.
The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes. Think the economy is tough today? Then you know nothing. Great insights into the causes and after effects of the Great Depression. Also addresses the role of government in the corporate world.
Books I Like – Classics:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It is often said that War and Peace is the book everyone talks about but nobody has ever read. Yes, it is very long and, yes, it is not an easy read, but some books actually deserve their status as monumental works of art. This is one of them. Stick with it…it starts out slow but is incredible once you get traction. Plus, think of how much it will impress people when they learn you actually read War and Peace!
Books I like – Contemporary:
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Think your life is stressful? Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece is 208 pages spent to describe just one day in a soviet prison camp. At once a testament to the horrors of soviet Russia and the incredible perseverance of the human spirit, One Day in the Life will put the stress you deal with in the corporate world into perspective.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Have you every had a difficult boss? Trying being the lawyer to Henry VIII where you are forced to fulfill his every need (if you don’t you can find yourself without a head…) and failure to do so can lead to revolution. The sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall, Book 2), is also excellent.
Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot. As someone who has worked in the IoT (Internet of Things) space at multiple large, global companies, I can tell you with 100% certainty that voice is the future of automation. The ability to get movie times, set timers and alarms, get weather forecasts and do many, many other things with your voice is not only very cool, it’s very convenient. Better yet, the Echo/Dot is a future proof platform with new features being added at a rapid clip. Many companies and technologies are fighting to be the “hub” of your smart home and there is no question Echo/Dot has a large head start.