Rob Fitzpatrick

I made a big step and cold-called over a dozen businesses this year. I was (and am) trying to find out which of my company's services they might need.

Now Mr. Fitzpatrick is telling me that large parts of these conversations were in vein and even misleading. He is talking about the parts of conversations where we make each other feel good ― you know, those friendly chit-chat moments. Instead of validating my ideas and services, my conversation partners were giving me meaningless "fluffy" compliments ― just like my mom would when I tell her about an idea of mine (hence the "Mom Test"):

You're great, tell me more later!

Well, he has a point. What's important is to learn from potential customers. Be casual, but inquire past the fluffy compliments and the meaningless complaints about problems they would never actually pay for to get resolved. A meeting is a success if and only if you either learned something valuable from them, or if you got a clear commitment or advancement. These conversations are also not random, they are a tool for keeping all eyes on what matters most: In a startup, all founders need to be involved in this learning. The three big questions need to be constantly addressed.

Learning from customers is the pure focus of this little book. I like that Fitzpatrick stresses how one should not put off building and measuring (the other two steps in the lean cycle), either. Get to it, come ever closer.

The book has really good examples of conversations, most of them sounding nice at first, but being mostly a waste of time. I can see why everyone in the entrpreneurial scene recommends it. I do, too.

# lastedited 16 Dec 2020
Martin Suter

Krimi im Kunstsammlermilieu und Love Story. Gut geschrieben. Einen Twist habe ich vorhergesehen und mir dann selbst auf die Schulter geklopft, aber Suter hatte noch einen anderen parat, auf den letzten paar Seiten. Interessanter Hauptcharakter, ein gut situierter Kunstexperte und Lebemann, der sich von seiner anerzogenen Passivität kurieren will ― und das ist natürlich gutes Krimifutter, wenn eine neue Frau in sein Leben tritt und ein paar zwielichtige Figuren ihn übervorteilen wollen.

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Octopus intelligence, specifically. And the evolution of intelligent nervous systems in general.

Between these two angles lies the fact that Octopus intelligence developed on such a different path, it surely is much like studying Alien intelligence!

I studied Philosophy of Mind during my bachelor program, and I did find it fascinating. I used to think that I'd never dive into these topics again ― that I could only do it in my university years, when I had the time and capacity that only a university student has for such "dry" topics.

Peter Godfrey-Smith convinced me otherwise.

In this book, he combines three major disciplines very nicely:

  1. Philosophy of Mind:
    • What is conscious subjective thought?
    • What is intelligence?
    • What is the role of our inner monologue in both subjective experience and intelligence?
  2. Marine Biology:
    • How does Octopus intelligence work, when they have half their neurons in their arms?
    • How do they create movie-like coloured displays on their skin, and why, if they don't seem to be able to see in colour?
    • Why do Octopus only live between two and four years, given their high complexity?
  3. Theory of Evolution:
    • How did inner nervous activity in organisms evolve in the oceans, hundreds of millions of years ago?
    • Did language evolve from an inner feedback loop for control signals?
    • How often has higher intelligence been created during evolution independently?
    • How crucial is social life for intelligence, seeing the octopus don't seem to have too much of it?

There are stories from diving expeditions to a magical Octopus place off the coast of Australia mixed in between all of these deep pondering, making the book quite captivating.

What is also captivating is that during the research for this book, Godfrey-Smith could follow the latest advancements in Octopus research. For instance, the Octopus genome was sequenced in 2015, which back-dated the evolution of intelligence in Octopus and Cuttlefish (it happened independently even within their evolutionary branch!). Also, theories about the ability of the Octopus skin to produce colours were advanced just a few years ago.

This is science journalism at its finest.

Gerd Gigerenzer

Was ist Risikokompetenz?

  • Die Wettervorhersage deuten können (Was heisst X% Regenwahrscheinlichkeit eigentlich?)
  • Defensives Entscheiden erkennen und meiden.
  • Heuristiken (Faustregeln) für die Entscheidungsfindung schätzen lernen.
  • Verstehen, was Testresultate (z.B. ein positiver HIV-Befund oder Down-Syndrom Früherkennung) wirklich bedeuten.
  • Wahrscheinlicheiten (z.B. für den Sinn von Krebsvoruntersuchungen) in natürliche Häufigkeiten (x von 100) umwandeln, und auch visuelle Darstellungen benutzen ― probate Mittel, um sie zu durchdringen.
  • Wissen, dass auch Experten mit Doktortiteln Wahrscheinlichkeiten nicht verstehen.

Das ist sehr nützliches Wissen!

Ich denke, das Buch hätte kürzer sein können, aber Gigerenzer hat auch noch andere, weniger nützliche (aber dennoch unterhaltsame) Dinge über Banker, Ärzte und Liebende zu sagen. Und er hat noch ein Kapitel für seinen Wunsch, Riskiokompetenz als Schulfach einzuführen.

# lastedited 22 Aug 2021
Bill Bryson

Got this as an unexpected gift from Jan. Thanks!

How has our home developed to be what it is today? Bill Bryson packs many interesting stories into one book.

When he says "home", he means all rooms but also the garden. The garden will also have stories about parks, because those preceded what we today like about gardens. Furniture is in homes, too. And sleeping and dying happens there. All of this changed over time, so Bryson can talk about it.

It reads really well sometimes, it depends if you're into the current tidbit. I have the feeling Bryson had a lot of interesting stories lying around from research into his previous books which fit no other theme. And I'm fine with it. A good book to read.

Antonio Skarmeta

Ein älterer berühmter Roman, mit erfolgreicher Verfilmung. Gute Urlaubslektüre.

Eine Hauptfigur ist der berühmte chilenische Dichter Pablo Neruda, der in einem Fischerdorf voller Analphabeten seiner Arbeit nachgeht, bevor er von Allende als Diplomat nach Paris gesandt wird. Es geht viel um Liebe, aber auch viel um Politik. Interessanter Mix.

Interessant ist die Lektüre vielleicht auch in einem moderneren Kontext, wo Nerudas skrupelloses Verhältnis zu Frauen neu diskutiert wird.

Anna Wimschneider

Es ist tatsächlich sehr lehrreich, in diesen Erinnerungen zu lesen, wie wenig erstrebenswert es ist, sich zurückzuwünschen in die "gute alte Zeit". Auf dem Lande war das Leben für die meisten Menschen kein Zuckerschlecken.

Selbst bei so interessanten Bräuchen wie dem gemeinschaftlichen Dreschen der örtlichen Felder gibt Wimschneider den entscheidenden extra Hinweis: Nur wer komplett im Dorf integriert ist, ist dabei im Dreschprogramm. Und das kann schon mal drei Generationen dauern.

Das Leben war vor allem Arbeit. Für persönliche Lebenswegentscheidungen kkein Platz. Auch nicht für liebevolle Zeit mit Kleinkindern.

Wimschneider ist sehr stolz, dass sie auch immer ihr Los akzeptiert hat, ohne zu murren. Die Liebe ihres Mannes und ihrer Kinder, der wirtschafliche Erfolg und der Neid der anderen geben ihr Recht. Das klingt mir etwas einfach aber so sind halt die Autobiographien ...

John Strelecky

A little story written by a life coach. Say you sat down in a strange cafe, where the menu read:

Why are you here?

Do you fear death?

Are you fulfilled?

Then the waitress and the chef basically chat with you about these questions. Well, mostly the first one. It can be quite thought-provoking at some points, if you are ready to search for some more focus in what you do during each day. It mostly cricles around the question if you should start asking yourself what you purpose for existing (PFE) is (because once you do, it's hard to go back!).

While you'll find that many people report this book helped them instigate a major change in their lives, I believe this book can also be dangerous. Strelecky has some underlying hypotheses here:

  • Everybody can find their PFE.
  • As a consequence, if they can't, it's their own fault for not searching well.
  • Advertising makes us sick and unhappy, but if your PFE is doing advertising, you should go for it.
  • Saving money for your future from work you don't particularly enjoy is a sucker's path.

These hypotheses are ridiculous. Next to books like Herbstmilch, but also given just any general insight into how different live stories come to be (think of sicknesses, family support, poverty and so on), it does seem to be a good idea to treat this book with caution when reading. It could make you feel worse and send you down a path that actually leads away from the happiness which is possible for you.

Other people are more harsh in their opinion :)

# lastedited 16 Aug 2020
Andreas Tjernshaugen

Der Klappentext ist etwas reisserisch ("Vielweiberei! Sie essen Fledermaushirn!"). Der Inhalt aber ist leicht erzählt und sehr lehrreich.

Was macht das Leben der Kohl- und Blaumeisen aus, wenn man ein ganzes Jahr betrachtet? Balz (Gesang!), Nestbau, Paarung, Aufzucht. Essen finden und Überleben.

Was unterscheidet Meisen von anderen Vögeln? Was erzählt uns die Meisenforschung über das Leben, und wie geht sie vor? Wovon stammen eigentlich Meisen ab (Dinosaurier)? Wie reagieren Vögel auf den Klimawandel?

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