Mind maps

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I've always thought of myself as being a reader. Growing up I loved to lose myself in book and explore the ideas that the author created in the pages. However during my time at university 🎓 I fell out the habit of reading books for fun. I felt that any time I was reading it needed to be related to software engineering and continued this after university when reading had to be related specifically to iOS development. When I did try to read non-technical books I felt a guilt about it that quickly had me returning to technical reading.

This mindset was of course unintentional and went unnoticed for many years. It wasn't until early 2017 when I picked a copy of Difficult Conversations off a bookshelf that I re-discovered how important reading more widely than just your profession is. Reading a book on any topic is almost never wasted time and the books that I've been reading while not directly related to development have, I believe, made me a better developer - whether that's having a better understanding how to convey an idea or handling disagreement in a more constructive manner or even how to use pacing in my writing to create a sense of excitement to entice the reader to keep going. My increased exposure to reading outside of directly technical books, has proven to be a mini-revolution for me 🚀.

However I noticed that when I was reading books, the insights and knowledge that I gained would stick with me for only a short period. Within weeks only the main points would still be there and within months even those often faded to only an idea or two. After years - pfft forget it. I felt that this was a waste 💩. I knew from my school days that in order to reinforce my learning that I should write about it but I'm busy and I don't really want to write an essay about each book I read. When searching for a strategy to ensure that my reading wasn't wasted but that wasn't too time-intensive I discovered Mind Maps. A mind map is a quick visual representation of (in this case) a book's main ideas. Each mind map should be highly personal to the creator of that mind map and as such may not make a lot of sense to our people - that's fine, it's your learning and is meant to jog your memory 🏃. I find mind mapping to be a perfect approach between reinforcing my learning and allowing me to move onto the next idea without significant delay.

Despite mind maps being highly personal in nature I've decided to share them with you below, incase you can gain some value from them.

Difficult Conversations

We've all been in conversations that we would rather avoid. Having to tell someone that you don't agree with something they have done can be an incredibly difficult and fraught thing to do. Those conversations if not handled correctly can be incredibly destructive. Difficult Conversations is part self-help, part practical guide. The first ~200 pages are about knowing yourself and questioning your own reasons for wanting to have that conversation (or for wanting to avoid it). The rest of the book covers strategies for having that conversation - the strategies are varied and detailed, with believable examples to learn from.

Difficult Conversations helped me to understand that often it's not that difficult people are arseholes or bad-guys but rather that everyone finds themselves in shitty situations from time to time and that most people are just trying to do their best. Of course their best, may have a negative impact on you but that impact is often unintentional.

Most importantly it details that feeling upset about a situation is perfectly normal and that we shouldn't ignore our emotions but equally we can be driven purely by them.

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Factfulness

A look at how our perception of the world is often distorted because of basic human instincts and how we can challenge those instincts to get a better view of how things really are. All backed up by data and kept moving by insightful and entertaining stories.

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Deep Work

A set of tips and techniques at how to get more from the time that we spend working and studying. It explores the different types of work that exist and how different systems work for different people. My main take-away was that in order to get the most from any form of work you must remove all distractions when you are working and set tight time limits for that work - once the time limit has been passed you should stop so that you burn out.

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

An in-depth look at how humanity came to dominate the plant and what the future could hold for us in both spirituality and technology. Really thought provoking stuff and set in the very near future so extremely relevant. You can actually see some of the ideas coming to pass with the new health features on the Apple Watch series 4.

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Legacy

A look at how the All Blacks engineered their culture to turn them into the most successful international rugby team ever and how those social engineering points can be applied to ourselves and our own teams. While some of the 15 chapters felt like repeats of earlier chapters I found this book to be an enjoyable read with tips that I was able to put into practice.

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The Negotiation Book

If you don't ask, you don't get. This book is a look at how to get what you want from a situation by understanding the different factors at play. An actual page turner.

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How to write better essays

Many techniques on how to structure your writing. Really useful.

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Change Management

Change happens, we can either help get the wheels turning and then steer it or be trampled under those wheels. This book offers simple techniques on how to conduct change and common issues often derail the change. Most points in the book boil down to: communicating well and being honest.

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Mind Mapping

A detailed (but brief) look at what mind mapping is - including practical steps on how to get the most from our mind maps.

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Getting Gamers

Each game is different with it's own set of rules, objectives and culture. Some of games have cultures that are toxic and some delightful. This book looks at how that culture is created and how by manipulating different aspects of a game, the culture of surrounding a game can be shaped. More a psychology book than anything else and one that just happened to use gaming as background. I was able to take away a number of insights in this book that I applied to the team I was leading at that time. Highly recommend reading this book to anyone interested in either gaming or building a company/team culture. Delightful.

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Art History

Florence is amazing, everywhere you look you can see unbelievable art. Sadly most it was wasted on me as I had no idea what was important and what wasn't. So returning from Florence, I decided to change that with this book. Very insightful.

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Leadership

No one wants to be a bad leader but we have all meet bad leaders - why is that?. Often people are placed into positions of leadership without any guidance because they were good at being a follower. I've had the good fortune of leading two different iOS development teams at two different companies and it's fair to say that I made my own share of mistakes (and dare I say a few successes in there), I found this book to be insightful about what leadership means and how to be an effective leader without the book itself being a tomb. Useful reading.

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13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do

A self-help guide to using mental techniques to handle the challenges that everyday life can throw at all of us. This was very much an impulse purchase and I only dipped into a few chapters but the chapters that appealed to me provided to be highly insightful.

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Zero To Hero

No denying that Paypal is a massive success and in this book we hear Peter Thiel's view on business. Some the points fly in the face ideas that we think are for the better of society like how a business should strive towards becoming a monopoly and how who you know is often more important than your ideas.

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