Monday, February 22, 2010

Shaking Up The System: Two Books Recommendations

In the coming days, I am going to post a few entries based on these two books, but I wanted to start talking about them here, and give those who would be interested a head start on getting the books a chance to do so.

“Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?” By Seth Godin

Seth makes the point that the “take care of you” bargain, that of going to school, following the rules, showing up to work, and being reliable will result in a high paying, low risk job that they will have for decades, and that company will take care of you, is gone. It’s a new world of competition that literally spans the entire world. If you are average, you are a commodity, another replaceable cog that likely will be replaced. What’s a person to do? Seth argues that we need to stop being cogs, and become “linchpins”, those people that every organization needs to survive. Are you a linchpin? If not, how do you become one? Seth lays out the case that we need to break away from the cookie cutter mentality of the past, where we take on a new way of thinking, a new way of seeing how we work, and a new way of interacting with our peers, colleagues, and customers. The key idea is that we need to stop thinking of ourselves as average, and consider ourselves unique and valuable contributors to the marketplace. If we feel we aren’t anything special, there’s plenty in this book to show you what to do, and a lot of consideration as to how to do it (note: there is no exact template or “how-to” steps in this book; this is a book to help you discover the internal traits that you need to enhance or overcome to make the big decisions to move from “cog” to linchpin”, how you choose to do that is as unique as every reader would be.

“Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar” by James Marcus Bach

The sub-line of this book gives a good idea of what you are getting here; “How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success”. James Bch and I share a number of things. First is our choice of career; James and I have decided to make software testing the cornerstone of our careers. James and I also share another trait; neither of us were big fans of school when we were younger, nor did we do very well when we were there. James actually dropped out of school in the middle of high school, and never went back. He states that his 8th grade diploma is the highest “certification” he has. Yet James is known today as one of the foremost experts in the world of software testing, and author or co-author of several books on the topic of software testing. How does one go from being a high school dropout to one of the best known experts on software testing? James shows his method in this book. Some will be put off by the authors disdain for the way that schools are structured today, and may find his message dangerous. James makes no bones about the fact that he felt that traditional school was a waste of his time, and if those who find that stance distasteful and would dismiss the book for that stance, will miss a lot of great ideas and great methods for honing a desire to be a lifelong learner. James makes a key distinction with this book; he’s not saying chuck school because education is not important, nor is he saying you can become brilliant without any effort. In fact, he makes the opposite assertion; you may work way harder to educate yourself than you ever will in school. What he does show is that, like the buccaneers of yore, there’s a way that we can learn what we want to, in the ways that are most effective for us, and set aside the methods that are not. I’m going to definitely go into this book in more detail in future posts, but suffice it to say that I have found many valuable ideas in this book to read, ponder and consider.

If you decide to get these books, please feel free to comment on them and offer suggestions for other titles to consider for review and discussion.

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