The best books I read in 2018

Our financial health today is not just a reflection of our last expense, our current weight is not the consequence of our last meal, and our knowledge is not the result of the last article we read.

Our net worth is the result of a series of decisions we have made, the size of our waist reflects the commonly favored nutritional options, as well as our intellectual development is an image of the habits we have exercised.

These important spheres of our life can achieve considerable improvements by relying on small repetitive conscious decisions that evolve into habits. Following the search to be better every day and continuing with the habit of reading throughout 2018 I would like to share with you several lessons, and a few titles that caught my fancy.

The ability to negotiate is a basic tool for success, and today is part of the programs of the most prestigious business schools internationally. In his book, “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It” Chris Voss shares his experience as the FBI’s Lead Negotiator for international kidnap cases. The author shares how he managed to develop this talent, a conceptual framework, and almost unbelievable stories. In the same way, he contrasts the differences between his methodology and the doctrinal concepts that many people use.

I believe that the ability to sell is a desirable skill in the arsenal of any executive or entrepreneur. Everybody is always selling, be it a product, a service, or an idea. It is important to be able to understand at each moment who the buyer is, how he makes decisions, what moves him. A couple of books that delve into this interesting subject are: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini and “To Sell is Human” by Daniel H. Pink. In the first one, a classic of consumer psychology, Dr. Cialdini puts on his overalls to learn the tactics of the most successful vendors and analyze why they work. In the second, Pink tells us about the role of the seller today, shares its theoretical framework and the new “ABC” to achieve a sale.

Every day we face countless decisions, many of them we take automatically, others not so much. How we make decisions has been a phenomenon addressed from various disciplines, psychology, neurology, statistics, etc. In “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”, Professor Robert M. Sapolsky, leads us to a study of human behavior from its biological, psychological, and social nature, seeking to synthesize the extensive study of this matter. For her part, Annie Duke in Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Do not Have All the Facts, tells us first-hand how a World Series of Poker champion improves her decision-making process, and focuses on improving the same, avoiding to fall into the pragmatism of judging only the results.

Trading Bases: A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball (Not Necessarily in That Order) by Joe Peta was one of the most entertaining readings. A financier develops a system based on statistical data of baseball players to optimize the returns on his bets. As proof of conviction, he bankrolls his betting system with the marketing budget that his publisher had assigned to promote his book.

“It’s like Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball, Liar’s poker, and Homegame”, meet Michael Mauboussin’s “The Success Equation” and Ed Thorpe’s “A Man For All Markets” with a dash of Taleb’s wit”

With a strong focus on using data for the best management of companies, John Doerr introduces us to the world of the OKRs (Results Key Objectives). In Measure What Matters he shares the recipe that managed to cement the success of companies like Intel and Google, including testimonials and a host of anecdotes that support the effectiveness of this system.

The Big Picture: On The Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself, a book rich in content leads us to delve into transcendental and philosophical issues, from the vision of an eloquent doctor in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Presenting axiomatic concepts such as entropy, the arrow of time, consciousness, the author shows prowess by mingling them while inviting the reader to think at all times.

Finally, The Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900 by Stephen R. Brown, synthesizes three centuries of Europe’s global expansion. It approaches colonialism from a mercantile perspective, making a biographical account of these entrepreneurs, conquerors and statesmen.

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