Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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Ben Horowitz

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING – Requires Open Mind, March 16, 2014

I generally read all the reviews before writing my own, in part to see if anyone has already covered the ground the way I like to, with a summary evaluative review. There are only two reviews before mine that I consider world-class, please do read them if you have the time. I refer to the reviews by Mercenary Trader and Scott S. Bell, I salute both of them for providing substance useful to all.

This is not a comprehensive book in that it is a very personal perspective, brings together many specific snapshots, but never addresses “root” in relation to how the team went from great idea to source code to buzz to market share. As I read the book I thought often about a book I read in the 1980′s, still a classic, Tracey Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine.

I would say this book is an absolutly priceless gem for the “hard knocks” at the CEO level perspective, and should be combined with any of several alternatives on start-ups such as Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website, and, forthcoming, Peter Thiel of PayPal’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

I’ve built two companies, both failures in that I never made the leap from one man with an obession to a movement (OSS.Net, Inc. and Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3) and what I did not see in this book, or any other book I have found, is the roadmap for getting from a big idea to big marketshare. That book remains to be written, and it could be that it should be written by Marc Andressen and a team. Jim Clark’s Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft is a fine but dated (1999) start but we need something now tailored to the Internet of Things (what everyone else is thinking about) and free individual access to and ability to leverage all information in all languages all the time (what I have been thinking about since 1986 — visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn more). I am also reminded of Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story.

All this by way of saying that you have no business reading or buying this book if you are expecting a holistic 360 degree soup to nuts outline of how to zero to Mach 2. The greatest value of this book for me was in learning that it is possible to keep flying when you lose power and both wings fall off at the same time.

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Mar 16

Worth a Look: SINGAPORE Central to Great Convergence

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The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Policymakers all over the world must change their preconceptions and accept that we live in one world. National interests must be balanced with global interests. Power must be shared. The U.S. and Europe must cede some power. China and India, Africa and the Islamic world must be integrated. Mahbubani urges that only through these actions can we create a world that converges benignly. This timely book explains how to move forward and confront many pressing global challenges.

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Political genius is never without controversy, or without mystery. This is what makes it so interesting and so rare. Is Lee Kuan Yew the feral, authoritarian figure that Western critics claim? Or a stoic pioneer in new approaches to developing a nation—uncorrupt, modern, almost scientific?American journalist Tom Plate first interviewed the founder of modern Singapore in 1996 in a continuing back-and-forth with LKY that led to the summer of 2009, when the former prime minister agreed to sit down for two days of unprecedentedly informal but intense conversations that led to this special book. This new edition includes fascinating excerpts from prior interviews, as well as the author’s assessment of the man who goes down in history as the world’s longest-serving prime minister—and as one of the most unforgettable political figures of modern times.

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Feb 5

Review (DVD): Frank Lloyd Wright

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Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star — Utterly Brilliant Man, Mind, and Treatment, October 24, 2013

WARNING: This DVD has two parts, and if you are inattentive, you can get to the end of Part I (the 1920′s and Frank Lloyd Wright’s low point) and forget that there is a Part II (the rest of his life, with his greatest accomplishments during his 70′s).

PBS has really out-done itself with this production. The detail, the mosaic of interviews and the integration of glorious music and spectacular photography make this one of the best DVDs I have ever enjoyed.

This is not just a DVD about a man; it is a DVD about a philosophy of life, about the integration of humanity, nature, work, and artifact – from a single house that is a spiritual temple to heaven on earth, and across the board re-invention of how man relates to everything.

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Oct 25

Review: Lethal Incompetence

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Jeff Bordin

5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, Credible, Legitimate, and Damning of All Who Betray the Public Trust, August 24, 2013

I have this book in front of me, and will be doing a detailed review over the next week or so. I have already gone through it quickly, and concluded that it offers the single best compilation or literature review of all of the psychological and social reasons why military “leaders” end up being treasonous gerbils, combined with the deepest direct field research I know of to buttress the author’s speculative hypotheses and proven conclusions.

I swung by here to check what others have said, and am quite disappointed by the shallow ignorance of the only review present. Here are a couple of quotes that capture my philosophy and hence my valuation of this book:

When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it. Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York)

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell

This book is a tad hyper-critical (of Dick Cheney for example — certainly a traitor but by no means stupid) and too close in format to the original thesis, or it would be a six star book. If I were Czar, every person responsible for the public interest would receive the wisdom and ethical instruction in this book, in one form or another, to include comic book form if necessary.

My detailed review will be posted within the week. I could not let the first review stand uncontested.

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Aug 24

Review: Swarmwise – The Tactical Manual to Changing the World

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Rickard Falkvinge

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Authentic World-Changing Book , July 20, 2013
EDIT of 19 AUG 2013: Finish book, adding my new remarks at the top, dropping the preliminary review to the end.EDIT OF 13 AUG 2013: I have a 17 hour aviation trip coming up Friday-Saturday, will try to get the detailed review posted sometime in the days after I reach my destination. I regard this book as one of a half dozen essentials for hybrid public governance in the 21st Century — for participatory panarchy in which the public achieves consensus using collective intelligence methods that leverage ethical evidence-based decision-support that is transparent, truthful, and that produces TRUST as the “glue” for holistic ecologically and socially sound decision-making.

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My last comment first: this book ends beautifully, and I am personally deeply inspired. Rickard Falkvinge has been and will continue to be a change agent, and this book is a form of persistent, ubiquitous sharing of insight that could help accelerate and broaden the emergent public bottom up demands for clarity, diversity, integrity, and sustainability.

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Jul 20

Review (Guest): The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

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Moises Naim

4.0 out of 5 stars What kind of power, for whom, and for what?, May 31, 2013

By Tom Atlee (Eugene, OR USA) – See all my reviews

Moises Naim’s new book THE END OF POWER should properly be called “The Decay of Power”. His thesis is that while it is becoming easier to get power, it is also becoming harder to use it to control others and harder to keep it once you have it.

Naim suggests that globalization, economic growth, a growing global middle class, the spread of democracy, and rapidly expanding telecommunications technologies have changed our world. Together these developments have created a fluid and unpredictable environment which has unsettled the traditional dominions of power.

Three revolutions, he says, “make it more difficult to set up and defend the barriers to power that keep rivals at bay.” He details these revolutions as follows:
* “the More revolution, which is characterized by increases in everything from the number of countries to population size, standards of living, literacy rates, and quantity of products on the market”;
* “the Mobility revolution, which has set people, goods, money, ideas, and values moving at hitherto unimagined rates toward every corner of the planet”; and
* “the Mentality revolution, which reflects the major changes in mindsets, expectations, and aspirations that have accompanied these shifts.”

In other words, says Naim, there is too much going on, too much moving around, too many changing demands and perspectives – and at any time someone new can show up and effectively challenge or undermine your power. In addition, “when people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.” Among other things, such people value transparency, human rights, and fairness to women and minorities – and they share a sense that “things do not need to be as they have always been – that there is always…a better way” and that they need not “take any distribution of power for granted.”

All this is happening at the very time when large hierarchical institutions are losing their “economies of scale” and becoming increasingly difficult to manage, while smaller, more flexible organizations and networks are proving increasingly successful.

Naim provides compelling evidence that power is decaying in all these ways in all fields – from business, governance, geopolitics, and military affairs to religion, philanthropy, labor, and journalism.

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May 31

Review (Guest): Lessons Not Learned – The U.S. Navy’s Status Quo Culture

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Roger Thompson

5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Shocking December 11, 2010

By moreconcernedthanbefore

First off, let me preface this my saying that my knowledge of the American military was practically nil before reading this book so I found it all the more engaging and eye-opening especially because the American Navy is generally thought of as the best in the world, I know that was the impression I was under until I read Lessons Not Learned. The American Navy is the largest sea power in the world and the most expensive and depictions of it in movies all lead us to believe that we can rest easy knowing that there would never be any chance of the Americans losing in a conflict against any other nation in the world. Unfortunately, that simply seems to not be the case, Lessons Not Learned points out a number of flaws in many, if not all, aspects of the American Navy. More frustratingly, it seems that many of these flaws could actually be fixed but are not. The system of hierarchy and promotion, along with a stubborn way of thinking and far too much pride not only limits the capabilities of the Navy but also puts those nations that rely or expect support and candidacy from it in danger.

The system of hierarchy in the Navy and the promotion system enforces and ensures that the officers put in charge are ones that care more for their careers than for the candidacy and for the state of the American Navy. The Navy itself encourages an “up or out” system which ensures that only officers who are willing to regurgitate prepared statistics, facts and speeches are ever able to ascend in rank. This is particularly disconcerting because we are taught, shown, and the military takes every opportunity to depict a strict and rigid code of conduct and honor. Yet, in the very institution itself, an officer cannot hope to achieve a rank or status if he was to actually adhere to that code and image the American Navy works so hard to sell. Knowing this, is it really any wonder that the Navy is as poorly trained and prepared for war at sea as is illustrated in the book? Most officers of any distinguishing rank have already been lying, falsifying, and putting all of their effort into convincing the world at large that the American Navy is the best in the world instead of actually endeavoring to make it so.

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May 29

Review: Ending the Male Leadership Myth – How Women Can Save Us from Destroying Ourselves

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cover male mythFernando Pargas

5.0 out of 5 stars STUNNINGLY Intelligent, Timely, A Study in Ethics, Business, & Governance, April 20, 2013

I received this book as a gift because I have been telling people for over a decade that the 21st Century is going to be the Century of women, whose compassion, intuition, and smaller egos make them so much superior to men in an age that will be vastly more complex and nuanced than the Industrial Era with its willful ignorance of the true cost of everything including the true cost of colonialism, unilateral militarism, and predatory capitalism.

First, for context, a few of the books that have caused me to appreciate this one and recommend it without reservation, the bottom line being that muscle (and blind heavy metal militaries) are out, brains and heart and “non-zero” are in.

Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition
THE DAWN OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
Improper behavior
The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny

First off, the author’s background is relevant: business professor and corporate time with Time-Warner. This is a serious guy that has done hard time in both the academic and corporate media worlds–he is inteimately familiar with the pretensions and limitations of men, and with the cavalier manner in which we have treated women. I like to point out to people that it used to be legal to abuse women and people of color, and to deprive both groups of voice and vote. This is also an author with a very broad international perspective, who teaches for the United Nations and understands the challenges and the requirements for stabilization & reconstruction.

I am quite taken with the author’s discussion of “tribalism” and how modern tribalism combined with media manipulation make us all both stupid and dangerous. As one who has studied the origin of the state (including matriarchs as the first leaders, because lines of inheritance from women were absolutely known) and also the preconditions of revolution (concentration of wealth and huge disparities of income being number one), I see the author’s introduction as long overdue common sense. I have been charting what I call “information pathologies,” my reflections on this are easy to find online, they boil down generally to men being able to get away with insanely criminal corruption because of secrecy and the willingness of men to assume that they are entitled to deprive others for their own advantage.

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Apr 20

Review: The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party

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cover pink swastikaScott Lively and Kevin Abrams

5.0 out of 5 stars Please Appreciate the Difference — Much Misunderstanding Here, March 8, 2013

I notice the stark conflict between 30+ 5 star reviews and 30+ 1 star reviews.

I humbly offer a clarifying comment based on my broad reading.

There are two kinds of gays and lesbians that I know of:

The “good” kind are those associated with the normal gay and lesbian liberation movement who strive to make gay and lesbian an open, loving, accepting and accepted way of life that is biologically rooted and culturally stable — not seen as a threat by anyone, appreciated the way one appreciates a genius or an artist or someone with a special gift. To the best of my knowledge, this larger movement does NOT reject God, and just as we separate church and state, we should separate biology and theology.

The “bad” kind are those associated with the Nazi Brown Shirts who wanted to make their form of “manly” gay, including pedophilia and sadism against other men, women, children, and animals, what Mrs. Kay Griggs calls the “existentialists” that arose out of a mix of Nazi and French sadists who believe they are above the law, that murder is a form of precision war, and that only those that accept the macho gay cult should be fully trusted and promoted. The really scary part about this group is that they demand that their condition stay in the closet, unknown to others, and this cult appears to have infected the highest ranks of the US Marine Corps, the US Army, the Joint Special Operations Group, the NATO Gladio special channel rooted in Italy (the Vatican Church and very young Italian orphans have played a very special role in the Naples, Milan, and other Mediterranean all male party houses frequented by these people, and in the NY-NJ-CT crime and cloth circuit with Yale’s Skull and Bones and Princetons Cap and Gown secret societies as the axis of evil in America.

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Mar 8

Berto Jongman: Recommended Book — Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

Rate Your Leadship Skills for the Future – Free Self-Assessment

•    Grounded in the most recent ten-year forecast by the prestigious Institute for the Future
•    Identifies the new skills needed to thrive in the next decade
•    Provides tools, examples, and advice to help develop your expertise in each of the ten future skills

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Some leadership skills are enduring.  But to be successful in the future, leaders also need an emerging set of skills uniquely suited to dealing with the challenges of the threshold decade we are entering.  Today’s businesses and organizations are operating in a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  Though they already seemed stressed to the breaking point, Johansen reminds us that we are also more connected than ever before in our history, but we must fully realize the benefits of that connectivity. In the next decade, leaders will not just see the future—they will make it!  But they will not be able to do it alone.

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Bob Johansen was president and CEO of the Institute for the Future from 1996 to 2004 and is now the IFTF Distinguished Fellow, as well as serving on its board. Bob has worked for more than 30 years as a forecaster, exploring the human side of new technologies. He has a deep interest in the future of religion and its impact on business, society, and individuals. Bob works mainly with senior corporate executives across a wide range of industries. Bob is a frequent keynote speaker. He has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses. He is the author of six books, including Upsizing the Individual in the Downsized Organization with novelist Rob Swigart, a guide for organizations undergoing technological change and reengineering, and GlobalWork with Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, a guide to managing global, cross-cultural teams. A social scientist with an interdisciplinary background, Bob holds a BS degree from the University of Illinois, where he also played varsity basketball, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Bob also has a divinity school degree from what is now called Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, where he studied comparative religions.

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Jan 25