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Books of the Month: The War of Art, Delivering Happiness, and More…

Books of the Month: The War of Art, Delivering Happiness, and More…

“Can you recommend a book for…?”

After being asked this question hundreds of times, I decided to start putting together a list of what I read in the last month, what I thought about each book, and which I liked best and why.

So, if you’re looking for something good to read, you might find these posts helpful. And if this is up your alley, get on my email list and I’ll send you a notification each month of when the next installment goes live.

Alright then, onto the goodies… Here’s what I read last month and what I thought of each:



This book was like a mediocre quickie.

It was easy, it was fun-ish, and it was done. And I went on with my life.

I liked some of what Snow had to say but, all in all, felt the book was more for entertainment than application. More about anecdotes than substance.

I did glean a few insights worth keeping but found most of the material trite and simplistic.

I got the impression that Snow didn’t have much to actually say and so tried to lean on rhetoric instead. And it just wasn’t enough.

I wouldn’t recommend this book.

 3 Ideas I Liked From Smartcuts

  • Conventional thinking leads talented and driven people to believe that if they simply work hard, luck will eventually strike. That’s like saying if a surfer treads water in the same spot for long enough, a wave will come; it certainly happens to some people, once in a while, but it’s not the most effective strategy for success. Paradoxically, it’s actually a lazier move. There’s a reason some people practice things for twenty years and never become experts; a golfer can put in 30,000 hours of practice and not improve his game if he’s gripping his clubs wrong the whole time. A business can work five times harder and longer than its neighbors and still lose to rivals that read the market better. Just like a pro surfer never wins by staying in one spot. “I think that being able to pick and read good waves is almost more important than surfing well,” Moore tells me. “If you don’t have a good or better platform to perform on than your opponent, you are going to lose.” Her secret, and Sonny’s (and Google’s and 3M’s and General Motors’), isn’t practice— though that certainly helps. It’s going to the beach to watch the waves and getting into the water to experiment. And if you’re in the sweet spot when that superwave does come, Sonny says, “It’s pure energy.”
  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, studied and stole moves from master retailers fabulously well. He openly admitted it. “Most everything I’ve done, I’ve copied from someone else,” he said.
  • The research showed that experts— people who were masters at a trade—vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments. “You did well” is less helpful in improving your bowling game than “You turned your wrist too much.” Crucially, experts tended to be able to turn off the part of their egos that took legitimate feedback personally when it came to their craft, and they were confident enough to parse helpful feedback from incorrect feedback. Meanwhile novices psyched themselves out. They needed encouragement and feared failure.

Delivering Happiness


This is a book every entrepreneur and executive/leader should read.

It’s the memoirs of Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com, and it shows how he went from a lazy, money-grubbing party boy to a selfless, passionate, and purpose-driven leader of one of the most successful e-commerce websites in the world.

Tony’s self-effacing and airy style make him instantly likable, and if you’re striving to build a business or career, I think you’ll find his story both instructional and inspirational.

I particularly liked the second half of the book, where Tony shares his philosophies on team and business building, which revolve around cultivating meaningful relationships, serving a purpose greater than yourself, and, well, delivering happiness to others.

If you like to read about how good people can win by doing good, then you’ll like Delivering Happiness.

3 Ideas I Liked From Delivering Happiness

  • But when you’re trying to build a sustainable brand and create customer loyalty, sometimes saving money is not the point. The return you get from passionate people vouching for your company and culture, and the word of mouth that generates, is going to be intangible at the beginning. But over time, as it did for Zappos, the investment will pay off manyfold.
  • Our philosophy at Zappos is to WOW with service and experience, not with anything that relates directly to monetary compensation (for example, we don’t offer blanket discounts or promotions to customers).
  • As a guiding principle in life for anything I do, I try to ask myself, What would happen if everyone in the world acted in the same way? What would the world look like? What would the net effect be on the overall happiness in the world?

Got Your Attention?



This was one of those books that should have been a long-form article or essay instead.

That said, it was a decent, easy-to-read primer on how to make your products, marketing, and yourself more interesting and persuasive.

It’s no Influence or Breakthrough Advertising, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, it’s more like a modernized version of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

If you’re a well-read marketer, you’ll probably find the book forgettable. If you’re new to the field, you’ll probably like it.

 3 Ideas I Liked From Got Your Attention?

  • From now on, your goal is to get people’s eyebrows up in the first minute of your interactions. It’s a sure sign you’ve created curiosity (i.e., they want to know more) and it’s an indication you’ve won their favorable attention.
  • Is your idea or organization not getting the support, traction, or revenue it deserves? Maybe people see it as nothing special. If they consider it a commodity, they have no compelling reason to pay attention to it. Unless you’re perceived as different, you’ll always struggle for attention.
  • “The mark of a pro is the ability to turn around a bad day.”

“You figure out the key part of your game and figure out a ritual around it. If the key to your game is getting your first serve in, you repeat ‘first serve in’ and give that all your attention. It gives you something to focus on instead of mentally being all over the map.”

Rituals are the secret to automatically focusing your attention on what you do want versus what you don’t want.

Book of the Month

The War of Art

The War of Art

This is a book that I regularly recommend to anyone that will listen, and it’s one I’ve read several times. For me, it’s up there with Mastery and Flow.

Contrary to the title, it’s not just for artists. It’s for anyone that wants to make a good life for themselves and their families.

As you can see from the takeaways below, it’s a paean to persistence and industry, and Pressfield doesn’t pull punches or mince words.

Don’t just wander through life from pillar to post. Find something that matters to you and pursue it passionately.

Don’t whine about how much hard work it takes to succeed. Learn to love the work and despise failure and you’re more than halfway there.

Don’t let your feelings dictate your actions. What you want is rarely what you need.

Don’t wait for inspiration. That’s how amateurs stay amateurs.

The bottom line is if you want to be more effective in life, read this book.

5 Ideas I Liked From The War of Art

  • Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product.
  • Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.
  • Remember what we said about fear, love, and Resistance. The more you love your art/ calling/ enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it. The payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro). The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude. It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.
  • In terms of Resistance, Maugham was saying, “I despise Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work.” Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Have any book recommendations or anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Tomas Valkama

    Delivering happiness was a great read. As an entrepreneur the message, particulary about who to WOW people, really struck a chord with me and it is something we also have implemented. I agree that the more interesting part of the book was the second half as the first half was focused more on the history and storytelling.

    Another recent book that hit the spot was Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. A bit prude at some points but the underlying method to sell, pitch a deal or idea was very attracting to me. Based on neuroscience and don´t we all like science here 🙂

    • Yeah I enjoyed DH.

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out. 🙂

  • Eric Whitesell

    This is the first list I’ve seen so I’m not sure if you recommended it before but How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the most beneficial reads for just how to be a human being👍

  • Dave

    I’ve read some of these books — and I 100% agree with Smartcuts.

    Your honesty about the book here is refreshing. No sugar coating should be done if it’s not a GREAT book! Good job man.

    • Thanks Dave and yup I’m going to just tell it like it is every month. Some stuff is good. Some not so much but not bad enough to quit, haha.

  • Ivailo

    Mike, thank you for what you are doing! It’s very helpful and inspirational, but more important is that you love it! Wish you all the best, luck and health. Best regards from Bulgaria!

  • dave

    I was deciding on what book or books to read from this months selection until i seen “For me, it’s up there with Mastery and Flow.” So i have bought both of them haha!

  • Andrew

    I read Art of Wart cover to cover last night based on this recommendation and wow did I enjoy it. Very grateful for your positive review. Lots of undeniable truth in this little book; I expect to re-read it with some regularity since I have really allowed ‘Resistance’ to have it’s way with me.

    • Nice! Glad you liked it!

      My pleasure for the review.

      Time to fight Resistance. 🙂

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