Booking the Time to Read in 2022

Welcome to episode 161 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we review our book goals from 2021 and set some book goals for 2022.

Original Recording Date: 02-12-2022

Topics – 2021 Year in Review, Making Reading more Deliberate, Hidden Gems, Goals for 2022, Final Summary

  • We don’t have a guest this week. We’re focusing on 2022 book goals and some review of our 2021 goals.
    • You can hear our full list of 2021 book goals in Episode 108.

2:08 – 2021 Year in Review


  • John experienced complete failure to read any of the 2021 books!
  • And a lot of the ideas for books were great. As a result there will be lots of repeats.
  • The only things removed are the Python, computational thinking, and data science reads.
  • What John actually read:
    • Deep Work by Cal Newport, which changed a bunch about how John works
    • See Episode 141 through Episode 147 for our 7-part series on deep work.
      • Nick read this one once and then again to prepare for the deep work series of shows. It’s even better the second time through.
    • How to Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens, which also changed a bunch about how John works
      • This book speaks to Zettlekasten and developing a personal knowledge graph. Think of it like a card catalog system.
      • See also Episode 156 and Episode 157 with Josh Duffney for an overview of the smart notes methodology and how Josh put it to use in his work.
    • How to Take Smart Notes in Obsidian by Josh Duffney
      • This is a short read and is focused on getting up and running using Obsidian as a tool for smart notes. See Josh Duffney episode references above for more details on the book (and a special discount link for listeners).
    • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
      • This was not influential in my work, but I did keep seeing clips from the movie come up as YouTube recommendations. Instead of watching the movie again I listened to the audiobook.
      • A fun trivia fact – John referenced Moneyball in two episodes: Episode 90 and Episode 93.
      • There’s some work application in regard to the use of analytics for business to be had from reading the book.
    • There were two series John listened to in 2021 (fiction for personal enjoyment):
      • Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” series. Fiction. John learned nothing but was entertained.
        • Amazon recently commissioned a series based on the first book. John feels it was pretty faithful to the book and is an interesting exploration of the United States through the eyes of someone who is American but has never lived in the US. If you don’t mind the violence it is worth the read.
      • Martha Wells’s “The Murderbot Diaries” – Science Fiction; entertainment
        • John re-listened to it because another book in the series had come out.
      • John is happy to talk to anyone about these last two books in more detail if interested.

12:27 – Making Reading more Deliberate

  • John wants to make reading a more deliberate task in 2022.
    • Visual Goals – Print out the list and place it strategically where it is visible
    • Dedicated Time – setting aside an hour at night for getting ready for bed then winding down the night , highlighting and taking notes as he can so they can be digested at a later time
    • Defined chunks – clustering the books with things he hopes to get out of them
    • Commitment – John purchased his #1 and #2 reads and has them ready along with what he hopes to get out of them. That’s the first chunk.

14:05 – Nick

  • Nick read a few of the 2021 book goals but eventually wandered away from the list (trashed it completely).
  • He continues to follow a stream of consciousness approach to focus on what seems most interesting and relevant at the time (many have come from podcast guests).
  • Sometimes Nick will open up Audible and decide to go with something completely different than what is on his wish list.
    • Note: Nick reads 99% of his books in audio format.
  • At one point Nick started suffering from information overload. It was from too much self-help nonfiction he thinks. This is the point where he went back to biographies.
    • Nick feels like with biographies there is less pressure to apply what you learn. You can take what you want from the biographies because a lot of it is learning about someone’s life, their story, etc. Nick finds it allows making interesting connections / comparisons to other situations.
  • The books Nick wanted to read and actually did are…
    • A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis by Pete Sampras
      • Sampras had this idea of raising his game while playing within himself in addition to leading a relatively low key life for a tennis superstar.
    • Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
      • It was interesting to hear about Iger’s growth from newsroom to CEO of Disney and the stories of being there through acquisitions like Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. He also had interesting thoughts on best practices for firing someone.
    • George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones
      • It was interesting to hear about how movie pitches are done, how treatments for scripts work, and more of the details of how Star Wars came to be.
    • A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by John Wooden and Don Yeager
      • This was the only paperback book Nick read in 2021.
      • In the book, Wooden shares 6 mentors in his life and their impact on his coaching and life philosophies followed by sharing stories of 6 people he has mentored and how their lives have been affected by him.

19:00 – Hidden Gems

  • Some of the best books Nick stumbled upon are…
    • Invention: A Life by James Dyson
      • Nick had no clue how close we came to not having Dyson as a company. James studied furniture design as a young man. The book even talks about how Dyson made an electric car at one point. This one is also narrated by James Dyson if you listen to the Audible version!
    • The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney
      • Hank Haney narrates the audio version of this book. He talks about the pressures of coaching an elite performer like Tiger Woods and how close someone like Tiger lets you get on a personal level.
    • Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel by Bob Batchelor
      • Nick didn’t know that Stan Lee created Spider Man and many other popular Marvel characters. Marvel is another company that didn’t come to fruition during its journey from infancy.
    • The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt
      • This was written by a neuroscientist in terms that normal humans can understand. This should be required reading for parents and teachers. The risk analysis part of the brain for teenagers isn’t fully developed. Keep telling your kids about other teenagers who made poor choices and the consequences of those actions, and keep an open dialogue with your teens.
    • So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
      • Newport talks about the idea of career capital, encouraging readers to go deep in a specific area until they reach the edge of that field. In that area they will find an opportunity to move into the adjacent possible (easy to move into another field that is closely related).
    • The Practice by Seth Godin
      • This was a Josh Duffney recommendation from some e-mails he and Nick exchanged. This one is about shipping creative work and will make you want to write. Nick read it twice and really wanted to write for 20 minutes per day after reading it (but hasn’t been able to do that consistently).
    • The Master: The Brilliant Career of Roger Federer by Christopher Clarey
      • Roger Federer has long been one of Nick’s favorite tennis players. It was interesting to hear how Federer dealt with the fame and what it was like being married to a former tennis star. Nick was inspired to write this post after reading the book.
    • Deep Work by Cal Newport (read it twice)
  • For a full list of what Nick read in 2021 and his top ten reads of the year, check out this blog post.

22:30 – Goals for 2022



  • After adding the Zettelkasten smart-notes process, John would like to re-read some books and extract their lessons in a more permanent way.
    • Fun fact: John used the smart notes methodology to take notes that became our show outlines for the deep work series of episodes.
  • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
    • John wants to be more clear about the uncertainty that exists in his decision making and hopefully make better decisions as a result.
    • On a daily basis, John tries to assess how certain he is about something.
  • Your Brain at Work by David Rock
    • The book is about optimizing how one works based on how the brain works, how much energy certain things take, what time of the day you have more energy, etc. It’s a good compliment to some of what we read in Deep Work.
  • The Talent Code by Dan Coyle
    • John needs to remember more than “deep practice, expert coaching, and ignition.” But he doesn’t.
  • The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
    • The book presents the idea of visual thinking and explaining complex problems by drawing simple diagrams. John wants to develop this visual language of explanation as a skill.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
    • This is a non-fiction discussion of how geography led the faster or slower advancement of societies around the world and is one of his favorite all-time books.
    • Listen to the example John gives from the book about the ease of being able to get a package of food in specific countries and a little about the why.
    • John would love to have others read along and discuss the book.

30:31 – Extending the Lessons

  • The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
    • This is another book by Dan Coyle on skill acquisition that seems more tactical in nature.
    • This is the first book in John’s "chunk" that he plans to read and blog about. Tweet at John to ask about his progress.
  • Blah Blah Blah by Dan Roam
    • The book is about the idea of Vivid Thinking.
      • “Through Vivid Thinking, we can make the most complicated subjects suddenly crystal clear. Whether trying to understand a Harvard Business School class, or what went down in the Conan versus Leno battle for late-night TV, or what Einstein thought about relativity, Vivid Thinking provides a way to clarify anything.”
    • This is also part of John’s first chunk of reading. He’d like to be able to understand and explain complex ideas better, specifically interested in how Vivid Thinking differs from his previous Visual Thinking.
  • Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson.
    • Ericsson wrote the research paper that most of the non-fiction discussion of the 10,000 hours of practice rule came from as mentioned in other books we’ve read (The Talent Code, Outliers, Talent is Overrated, Deep Work, etc.).
  • Staff Engineer: Leadership Beyond the Management Track by Will Larson
    • We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s about leading without being a people manager.
    • Nick read this one as well as another book Will Larson wrote called An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management which is primarily about people leadership in software development (lessons widely applicable to other areas).
    • Nick remembers a recommended reading section inside Staff Engineer as suggested by the people Will Larson interviewed when writing the book.
  • Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond
    • This book contains case studies on how 6 countries survived recent upheavals and whether we can apply those lessons to ourselves. John has yet to read this one.
  • Don Jones mentioned in episode 137 that he writes fiction as a hobby. John is adding Power Wave Prime Wave Accounting #1 to his list.
    • Fun fact – there is also a book 2 in the series now.

36:50 – 2021 Books John Wants to Read

38:17 – Nick

  • Nick will continue to target biographies and memoirs (we remember stories better anyway) but is open to others in the nonfiction genre.
    • Maybe it’s structured chaos or unstructured chaos (not sure).
  • Interesting ideas for 2022
  • Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
    • This looked well-reviewed on Audible, and with all the talks we’ve had about focus and distraction, Nick feels this would be a great read based on his desire to excel as an individual contributor.
  • Peak Mind by Amishi P. Jha
    • This is about the science of attention and how it affects your memory. The author speaks to the idea of mindfulness and its ability to improve your memory and your mind.
  • The idea of combining the reading with the smart notes approach is fascinating and perhaps may lead to more blogs, hopefully leading to remembering the books better and capturing some of those cross domain lessons from biographies.
    • Nick feels like this will lead to at least making more literature notes.

48:11 – Final Summary

  • Can we hit our goals this time?
    • John is not going to hold himself accountable to read every single book in the list. He does want to make sure he reads some, which will be a great improvement.
    • Nick likes the fact that John has a structured reading routine and time. Nick reads a little here and there, while stretching, doing laundry, while taking a walk, etc. He will then take a few minutes to capture thoughts.
  • We would love to hear interesting book recommendations from listeners!
    • What have you found interesting?
    • What strategies do you use for remembering more of what you read?

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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