I have continued my quest to read 40 books in 2019, finishing 35 to date.  Below are my top ten reads as well as three for which, imho, your time could be better spent elsewhere.  My most enjoyable reads make me think, question previous beliefs or lines of reasoning, and/or expand important subject matters, either personal or professional.  Both lists are simply in the order that the books were read.

My Top 10 Reads of 2019:

3 Reads of 2019 I would skip:

  • Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  • Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand
  • Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports, by David Meltzer

 

#40booksin2019  #ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

 

How often do you use Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?  In our house, we converse with Alexa multiple times a day for music and speaking to Alexa has become quite natural.  We do not yet utilize Alexa in other day to day applications yes, but it feels like, over time voice will become the natural interface for many applications.  The Graphical User Interface is the way everyone has interacted with computers for the last forty years and still likely controls 99% of the market versus only a minimal amount for the Voice User Interface.  However, it seems pretty obvious that VUI share will grow at the expense of GUI in the near, as well as further out, future.  Often the best way to learn is by doing, therefore in my quest for continuous learning, I set out to create an Alexa Skill (app).

My first Alexa skill is What Occurred First, a simple, challenging app testing your knowledge of history, in a fun, slightly addictive manner.  Alexa asks questions such as, What Occurred First, Aaron Burr fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel or The Louisiana Purchased was signed?  The US Constitution was written in Philadelphia or The French Revolution?  What Occurred First, the Pony Express began or the New York Times was founded?  The answers may surprise you.  How many can you get correct in a row?

I enjoyed creating the game and would love to hear comments.  To check out What Occurred First, go to Amazon, and type in ‘What Occurred First Alexa’, click ‘Enable’, then ask “Alexa open What Occurred First” or use the following link: https://amzn.to/2JcO635  then click ‘Enable’ and ask “Alexa open What Occurred First”.

#alexaskill  #history  #americanhistory  #continuouslearning

What Occurred First?

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel is a the most important and informative book I have read in 2019.  It analyzes the confluence of Cloud Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, as well as, the current increasing speed of technological change.  Each of these areas is having a tremendous impact on every aspect of business today, as well as tomorrow, and in combination they are radically re-defining virtually every aspect of every business.  52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 are no longer there (including acquisitions).  Digital Transformation is a vital read, although with the enormous amount of information the book contains, it can seem encyclopedic at times.

Thomas Siebel compares Jay Gould’ s theory of punctuated equilibrium to the current technological environment.  Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium states that rather than a straight gradual progression declared in Darwin’s theory, evolution is not continuous and instead remains in relative equilibrium for long stretches followed by sporadic moments of sudden and massive changes.  These massive changes cause radical disruptions until a new stability (i.e. punctuated equilibrium) is found.  Seibel hypothesizes that the confluence of cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are in the process of a massive, radically disruptive period for business.

Cloud computing has eliminated many of the monetary aspects of launching a business, and its economic efficiencies have allowed established companies to redirect IT infrastructure budgets towards other aspects thereby increasing overall growth.  Big data along with Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are transforming processes across industries from predictive maintenance to new product development and sophisticated, in-depth understanding of customers.  Predictive maintenance is allowing companies to reduce problems before they occur, rather than rely on less efficient pre-determined maintenance schedules.  With real-time information from the edge, that can be processed in the cloud utilizing artificial intelligence, the possibilities are endless.

#40booksin2019  #ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I recently finished reading my 30th book of 2019, with the goal of completing forty by the year’s end. My favorite book of the past few months is Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman, which contains lots of nuggets of information written in numerous short snippets.  Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann, Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel, are all worthwhile reads.  Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk as well as Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn, are rah-rah, inspirational entrepreneurial reads.  Both are enjoyable, quick reads with the inspirational, ‘You can run through a brick wall’ approach.

I would skip Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson.  Chick-fil-A’s continually growth is beyond impressive and I’m a big fan of their food.  Chick-fil-A’s message of the business performing as a ‘higher calling’ to G-d is potentially inspirational, but the author presents a biased, white-washed view by ignoring the chains past and current controversies.  Covert Cows simply lacks any meat by specifically failing to address any of the same-sex and anti-gay issues associated with the chain through the remarks and beliefs of its family ownership, as well as, the charitable donations made by the company.

Most recent reads:

  • Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  • Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson
  • Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman
  • Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel
  • Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn
  • Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, by Leil Lowndes
  • Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement  #40booksin2019

The lease on my wife’s car was expiring in three days.  She drove a 2015 Nissan Murano SV which we liked, but was also 16,300 miles over the lease mileage allotment.  We had three choices: 1) Buy out the 2015 for about $19k, but according to Kelly Blue Book, the car was only worth about $13k.  2) Return the car in three days, pay $2650 for the excess miles, then lease or buy another car.  3) Roll the excess mileage into a new Nissan lease.  Since we both like the Murano, we opted for the latter.  First, I went to the dealership that leased us the current car to determine our base cost.  Their offer was $401 per month, $1,000 down, for a 12K/year 3-year lease of a 2019 Murano S. The 2019 S has virtually all the options that are in the 2015 SV, except power seats.  The saleswoman offered $399 per month, then asked what it would take for us to lease the 2019 S.  I stated $350 per month, knowing that we might not be able to get all the way there, but also knowing there was a lot of room in her initial offer.  She said that she could not get to $350, and offered the 2019 S for $389.  I thanked her and left.  Worst case, I would comeback two-days later for the $389.

The next morning (8/30), I called several dealers and sent the following note to dealers thru their websites:

Hi there.  I would like to lease a 2019 Nissan Murano S for $360 per month, 15K miles/year, with $1000 down, with the previous mileage rolled into this lease.  I would like to sign the lease either 8/31 or 9/1.  I currently have a Nissan Murano SV with the lease expiring on 9/1.  Current car info below:

Current Car:  2015 Nissan Murano SV.
VIN:5N1AZ2xxxxxxxxxxx
42 month expires 9/1/19. (Never late on a payment; credit score 750)
Total Allowable miles: 42,000
Current miles: 58,282
Overage (.15+CT tax): $2600

Last month, unrelatedly, while renting a car, I noticed there was a 30% difference in the base rate of identical cars from the same rental car companies located about 45 minutes north of here.  Therefore, I hypothesized that we might see significant lease savings if expanded our dealer search, which I limited to about 60 miles.

Each Nissan dealer I called asked me to schedule an appointment to come in, to which I replied, I knew exact what I wanted and preferred to do everything over the phone. Most stated that they could not discuss it over the phone but then either preceded to continue the discussion over the phone, or have a salesperson call me back.  I was amazed at the range of prices.  Nissan City in Port Chester, who advertises heavily on TV stated that rolling over the mileage of the previous lease, and leasing a 2019 S with only $1,000 down would cost $500/month (Looks like high margins are necessary to pay for that TV advertising).  A relatively close CT dealer stated that they could only get to $400 per month on a 2019 S. I then started to get responses to my website inquiries.  If the dealer asked me to set up an in-person appointment, I simply restated the above note, ending with ‘I will come in if you can please confirm that the above terms are acceptable’.

Next I received a response to a web inquiry from a dealership about 60 miles away, Crowley Nissan, that hit my offer of a 2019 S for $350/month with 12K miles or $360/month with 15K.  I called the salesperson, Steve, to confirm everything was included, and set up an appointment to see the car the following day.  I told him I would need a quick test drive, to see how easily the manual seats maneuvered, and if satisfied would sign the new lease on the spot. A little while later, I received a call back from a different dealer about 45 miles away, Paul at County Line Nissan, also matching the requested offer; however I told him that I had already given my word accepting an offer.  He followed up with a polite text stating that he could save me a few more bucks a month and asking if I would change my mind?  I thanked him, texted that I was going to keep my word, but also mentioned that he would be the first person I call if I ran into any issues the following day.  At this point I felt comfortable that I would be able to rollover the excess miles from the current lease and pick up a 2019 Murano S with 15k miles for $360/month and $1,000 down.

The next day I drove an hour to Crowley Nissan to meet Steve to test drive the 2019 S.  The car drove fine, but the manual seats bothered me. Our current car is driven by my wife 99% of the time, but since we have a newborn and the new Murano will be the baby car, it will be driven by both of us.  I asked Steve what he could do for an SV rather than an S, but he said the SV would be $400/month with 12K miles or $410/month with $15K.  I quickly sent a short text to Paul, asking “what’s the beast deal I can get with an SV”.  About ten minutes later, he offered to match the same price as the S for the SV whose MSRP was $38k (vs $34k on the S).  Steve was surprised by the offer, said that he could not do that deal, and to accept it if they are matching the price without any additional extra charges.  I shot Paul a text questioning if it includes “all taxes and other stuff” which Paul quickly confirmed.  I replied, it sounds good, and I will be there in thirty minutes.  About 15 minutes into the trip, Steve called saying that he found a workaround to be able to match the $360/month, 15K miles for a black 2019 Murano SV, but as I had now given my word, I drove the remaining 10 minutes to County Line.  At this point I felt confident that we would be able to lease an SV with 15K miles for $360 per month, already a significant improvement from the base expectation including saving $1000 with 3K additional annual miles on a better car.

When I met Paul, sure enough he had a 2019 SV in Pearl White, and there were no additional costs. The car was beautiful with a metallic White exterior and cream interior, however as I looked at the bright, pristine interior, I could only imagine all the dirt and colorful artwork our newborn would showcase throughout the interior.

 

 

 

I told Paul, I loved the car, but the interior (of a new car with only 10 miles) which already naturally started to show some dirt did not make sense with a baby.  Paul understood and went to see what he could do.  I reconfirmed that I wanted to drive home the new car today, and knew we had the black 2019 SV as a back-up at the previous dealer.  I was pleasantly surprised when he located a perfect 2019 SV Magnetic Black exterior, black interior which included the Premium Package (an additional $3.5k MSRP) of a power panoramic sunroof, 360-degree view monitoring around the vehicle in one image, Bose stereo and heated front seats.  All very cool features, but I stated that wanted to keep near the prior price.   County Line offered the SV with the premium package for $367 per month (including rolling in the excess miles from the prior lease), 15K miles, $1,000 down which I gladly accepted (there was no need to fight for the last couple of dollars).

In under 48 hours, through research, various dealer inquires and negotiations, we went from an initial base deal of $399 per month with 12K miles for a 2019 Murano S (MSRP $34,600) to saving over $1,000, increasing the annual mileage by 3K, upgrading the model and including the premium package in a 2019 Murano SV (MSRP $41,700).

A few recommendations:

  1. Research the market to determine which vehicle and options you prefer.
  2. Understand your current lease to know the true cost of each option.
  3. Once you have determined which car you want to lease/buy, obtain a base price that establishes your worst-case scenario.
  4. Create a short write-up that includes all your current lease info as well as the specific terms you are seeking. The write-up should be very direct and demonstrate that you want to close a deal quickly.
  5. Send the note directly to dealers through their website contact links.
  6. Call dealers directly. Do not be afraid to expand your search as the one-time slightly further drive can be worthwhile to receive a significantly better deal (Future car services can still be done at your local dealer).
  7. Do not go into dealerships until after they have agreed to terms that are acceptable to you, but confirm that you want to close a deal quick and will go to the dealership if they agree to your terms.
  8. Have your lease end on the 1st of a month, as the ability to close a deal at the end of a month helps dealer’s current monthly numbers.

 

#AutoLease #CarLease #Negotiating #Saved1000onmycarlease #Carleasing #Autoleasing #NissanMurano

May and June featured seven books bring the 2019 total to twenty-two.  My favorite of the bunch was Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich.  It’s a fast, fun read focusing on the Winklevoss twins and some wild west aspects of Bitcoin as it continually marches from the chaotic towards inching its way into the mainstream.  In their ‘second act’ the Winklevoss twins receive a positive depiction, in stark contrast to their unflattering portrayal in the movie The Social Network, which was based on Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires:  The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and BetrayalBitcoin Billionaires is written at the same pace of Bringing Down the House, Busting Vegas, Rigged and Ugly Americans(all enjoyable reads by the same author).

May & June Readings:

  1. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson
  2. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade, by Joseph Sugarman
  3. Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich
  4. Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, by Brian Kurtz
  5. How To Hire People Who Give A Sh*T: The Golden Rules, by Erika Weinstein
  6. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life, by Rory Sutherland
  7. The Tangled Mind: Unraveling the Origin of Human Nature, by Nick Kolenda

There were thought provoking aspects to each book.  Triggers, written by Joseph Sugarman twenty years ago focuses on old style direct response, with many lessons still applicable today. Overdeliver discusses details of direct response that are often overlooked in the short-term oriented focus of some of today’s marketing.

Alchemy pushes you to question aggregate information (economists, big data etc).  Aggregately macro analysis is math based, but this does not necessarily hold in individual or smaller samples.  In math 1×10=10×1, however, in reality 10 people may be fooled once each, but it is unlikely to fool the same person 10 times.  Big data is fantastic, but you also need to question whether the data is depicting a false positive, versus actionable information.  It is important to potentially question the big data headline by examining the underlying data and how it was obtained.

The Tangled Mind is also an interesting read, although I would have preferred to dive deeper into a small number of areas, rather than continually stating results without digging deeper into the reasoning (beyond simply siting appropriate research).  The way data is presented and requested has a significant impact on the results received.  Researchers asked people to distribute financial aid to families and presented two different categorizations of income: survey 1 a) $15k or less, b) $15k-$30k, c) $30k-$45k, d) $46k-$60k, e) $60k-$75k; f) $75k+; survey 2 a) $75k or less, b) $75k-$85k, c) $85k-$100k, d) $100k-$120k, e) $120k-$145k, f) $145k or more. According to most economic theories, the results of both surveys should be the same, since participants are offered the same overall economic range on both surveys, but presentation can make a significant different.  In survey 1, participants allocated 96% of the money to families $75k or lower; however, in survey 2, only 48% was allocated to $75k or lower (due to the manner the options were depicted).  Thought provoking books are always worth reading, especially when they cause you to examine unexpected areas.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement #Readings

April featured two books from marketing/strategy/business genres, as well as two books outside those arenas.  From the business side, Loonshots and Turning The Flywheel are worthwhile reads.  Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall presents several thought-provoking ideas. One concerns phase transition –  when water is above 32 it is purely liquid, at 32 degrees it may have pockets of liquid and pockets of ice, while a few degrees below 32 it is solid ice.  Loonshots relates phase transition to group behavior and how group think changes depending on size and dynamics.  Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t is a short companion book to Jim Collin’s Good To Great discussing the steps of building and maintaining a flywheel in which each step continually builds on the prior aspects to create continuous momentum for exponential long-term success.

From outside the business arena, two were more personal booksMensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman depicts how someone develops his personal perspectives.  It is brave to openly write about one’s life, and Mensch Marks is a very open look at his life, as well as man’s quest for continual improvement.  Rabbi Hammerman performed the wedding ceremony of my wife and I in Jerusalem in 2012, so his perspectives have additional personal meanings.  Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster, is an economist’s discussion of events from birth to the first few years of a baby’s life and an analysis of the data compiled from studies examining these various events.  As a numbers nerd, I take comfort in knowing the data associated with events and can theoretically utilize that information when making future decisions.  Some of the info was scary to learn, but it is better to be armed with the data to be able to make more informed decisions during potentially stressful times.

For coursework, April featured the re-watching of several sections of the Digital Marketing Program, by The Wharton School in collaboration with edX, which I originally completed in March.  In addition, Growth Hacking Foundations by Brad Batesole is a short worthwhile viewing.

Books:

  1. Mensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman
  2. Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall
  3. Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t, by Jim Collins
  4. Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster

Courses:

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Growth Hacking Foundations

It is hard to believe that 1/3 of 2019 has already past, but the pace to top 40 books for the year continues.  Let’s see what May brings.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

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