Insights from (audio) books

To and from work I spend quite some time in my car and I always saw this commuting as wasted time. Until I discovered audiobooks. The first audiobook I listened to, was “Dune” from Frank Herbert, narrated by Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton and Simon Vance. And I loved it. Audiobooks were starting to get a regular part of my day from then on. And because a lot of books in the area of management, self-help and psychology are available as audio books now, I am usually aware of the latest developments in that field.

Of course Oracle related books aren’t available as audio book and you can imagine why not. I once followed a computer based training where the narrator read SQL statements out aloud. And nothing sucks like having to listen to someone droning on a command like “alter database add datafile ‘/u01/app/oracle/oradata/data/thingy01.dbf’ resize 128M;”. (I once had plans to create an audio book about Oracle performance myself. There is much to say about performance tuning without having to utter commands very often. Maybe I’ll pick up that idea again some time. Who knows?).

There are IT-related audio books however. There is a book on Big Data (“Big Data, A Revolution That Will Transform The Way We Live, Work and Think”). Big Data is an interesting development. I haven’t listen to this audio book yet, but you might want to check out Big Data as a new topic in general. It isn’t just a hype. Another one in this area, is about algorithms (“Automate This: How Algorithms Became To Rule Our World“). And don’t forget “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t” by Nate Silver. Another business intelligence/Big Data-related book.

On hacking I certainly can recommend “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker” by Kevin Mitnick. It is more than a book about hacking: it’s a thriller. It’s the kind of book I stay in the car on the parking lot for, just to know what is going to happen.

And I’d almost forget “In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives“, which gives you insight about what Google is doing. Although I actually learned more about Google, especially the early days, from “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59“. Man, working at a startup in Silicon Valley apparently leaves very little time for sleep. I almost started yawning involuntarily, and not because the book isn’t interesting enough.

There are a couple of books I want to mention for giving me new insights. These are in the management/psychology/productivity/self-help area.

Manage your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind” has many authors, who all of them bring their greatest insights to the table when talking creativity and productivity. Authors like Seth Godin, Stephen Pressfield (author of “To The Work”), Scott Belsky and many others basically summarize for you their greatest ideas. Which is great if you are short on time and never have the time to read all their books. For me, who does have the time to listen to a lot of their books, I already knew a lot of the material.

The brothers Dan and Chip Heath have impressed me before with their insights. “Made To Stick” was about how to get your message effectively across in such a way your audience remembers it. Definately useful when creating security awareness. Then, four years later, they again wrote a great book about how to change when change is hard (like making the change to improved security perhaps?). That book was “Switch“. And now they have come up with “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work“. I have physical copies of these, because all three books are pretty good. It’s worthwhile to read them after listening.

In the new book, the Heath brothers certainly have come up with some interesting insights and tricks to get yourself more decisive. Like when your department can’t stop doing unproductive things, you can ask yourselves “what would our successors do?”. Chances are you immediately know what to stop doing and what to continue doing. They also place emphasis on widening your options. When you’re trying to decide with a “either .. or” question, chances are, you’ve narrowing yourself to much. So they give you a couple of ideas to widen your options.

I also liked the “premortem analysis” and the “pre-parade”. When doing a premortem analysis you are imagining that your project failed and you ask “what killed it?”. From that .. er.. pre-hindsight you can zoom in on what to look out for and take the necessary steps. The pre-parade is the opposite of the premortem analysis. In this case you imagine your project was a success beyond belief. Which brings it’s own problems. Can you scale up?

Another interesting author in this field is Daniel H. Pink. To be honest: I was recently relistening “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The World” from 2005 and I noticed that several organisations Pink makes an example of, are actually not doing so well nowadays. Still, this is not to say that his new book “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others” can be completely ignored. I certainly believe even IT guys like me can benefit from learing to sell (like, there it is again, selling the idea of better security). And To Sell Is Human learns acting like a second hand car salesman isn’t actually going to help you all that much. The book does put that whole sales thing in perspecive for geeks like me.

Not trying to sell anything here, but I have an Audible.com subscription, which allows me to buy an audio book for a credit (which is $15 dollars) each month. That and the discounts they’re often having, satisfies most of my audio book needs. You can buy audio books in Apple iTunes format as well as for Windows Media Player, but it’s both DRM encoded. In the past that meant I had to carry a stack of 10 or more CD’s with me for just 8 hours of audio books. Think of having to replenish that library in your car regularely. Annoying! Nowadays I have Audials Tunebyte installed, which allows me to convert those audio books to MP3, which means I no longer have to lug around stacks of CD’s.

Nowadays it’s seldom a dull or wasted moment in my car, even when the traffic comes to a standstill (although I’d rather not).

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About Marcel-Jan Krijgsman

Ever since I started working with Oracle, I had an interest in Oracle database performance tuning. This led, eventually, to a four day training I made and gave for customers of Transfer Solutions. Since 2012 I work for Rabobank Nederland. A few years ago I also became interested in Oracle database security. All technology aside, it is my experience that security usually plays out on a political level. I'm a Oracle certified professional for the 8i, 9i, 10g and 11g databases and Oracle Database 11g Performance Tuning Certified Expert.
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