We encourage everyone at JVM to read, listen and learn as much as humanly possible b/c (1) it helps our team with their personal and professional growth; (2) it helps our clients, as better informed people provide better service; and (3) it helps JVM, as we hugely benefit from when our team members grow personally and professionally.
We recently formalized our “Book and Podcast Club” incentive program, and we thought we’d share our program on our blog, with our full list of 36 books and 3 podcast series. We welcome comments, criticisms and suggestions.
(We should note also that the book summaries were written quickly for internal JVM use, so they are not particularly eloquent or suited for people outside of JVM.)
JVM Book and Podcast Club
JVM pays each team member $100 every time they read one of the below books or listen to ten episodes from one of the below podcast series. Team members earn a “Super Bonus” of an additional $4,000 if they read and/or listen to all of the books and podcasts on the list.
Rules: Team members must type a one-page summary of the book or a one-paragraph summary of each of the ten podcasts. Bonus points if team members point out anything they learned that applies to JVM in any way, and discuss anything they learned with their teammates.
1. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
Summary: We are all in sales nowadays. Selling has changed since the dawn of the internet age. The idea is not to manipulate or to withhold info (like selling was in the 1970s) but to share as much info as possible and to provide as much service as possible. This book changed JVM’s entire approach to business and helped confirm the effectiveness of our “no loan officer” model.
2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Summary: People do not buy “What” you do; they buy “Why” you do it. People make decisions based on emotions, not b/c of reason. It is a business’ “Why” that drives those emotions. JVM is a very “Why” driven company. Know your own “Why,” and know your business’ “Why.” If your “Why” is just making money, you usually make less. Don’t confuse your “Why,” “How” and “What.” Apple’s “Why” is shaking up the status quo; Apple’s “How” is making beautifully designed products. Apple’s “What” is just making computers, tablets and phones.
3. Man’s Search for Meaning
Summary: Everyone should read this short and excellent book. The author is a WWII concentration camp survivor who endured horrible deprivations that he recounts in vivid detail. He discusses what makes some people survive the horrors of the camps and why some give up. Survivors often found meaning in goals or projects they wanted to complete, or in thinking about loved ones they wanted to return to. He also discussed surrendering to the present (acceptance) and not thinking about the future (concepts that repeat in many self-help books). Reading this book also reminds you to never feel bad about your circumstances again.
4. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Summary: This is a book by a famous writer (Legend of Baggar Vance and many others). He makes the case that “Resistance” is the enemy of productivity and creativity. Resistance is procrastination or finding unnecessary things to do that get in the way of priorities. He says that we need discipline, scheduling and time-blocking in order to create. It is not about simply waiting for “inspiration,” it is about perspiration.
5. Ego Is the Enemy
Summary: The author is very successful writer, marketer and stoic who makes the case that our egos hold us back from living much fuller lives. Be a perpetual student, knowing that there is always more to learn. Failure is part of a rich life – be ready for it and learn to roll with it. Talent is not the most important aspect of success – self-awareness and humility are. Take time to reflect on all outcomes – good and bad. Ideas alone are not enough – we need to act and work hard.
6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
Summary: Famous business management book by Jim Collins with much to make fun of b/c it touts Fannie Mae and Circuit City, among other failed firms. BUT – the sections about Level 5 Leadership, culture, missions and having the “right people on the bus” are invaluable. Collins’ books are great to read no matter what b/c enormous amounts of research go into the books and into the conclusions he draws.
7. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
Summary: Another classic by the “Good to Great” author. You don’t need one great idea to start a great company. You need the freedom to embrace lots of ideas. Great companies have a Core Ideology that survives in all times (Apple – think different; Walmart – low prices; Amazon – innovation and eliminating friction). Visionary companies are like a cult – everybody is part of it. JVM embraces much of what this book is about. And again – Collins does an enormous amount of research.
8. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level
Summary: A Stanford PhD Psychologist is the author. We all have “Upper Limits” (from our childhoods) that hold us back from achieving our best life. Recognize and overcome them, and achieve much more.
Examples: (1.) Feeling fundamentally flawed; (2). Don’t want to abandon or be disloyal to roots; (3.) More success brings a bigger burden; and (4.) Don’t want to outshine friends, family, etc.
Find your Zones (Incompetence, Competence, Excellent, and Genius). Need to find and work in Genius Zone for fulfilled/happy life.
9. The Five Dysfunctions of Team: A Leadership Fable
Summary: Extremely talented teams often perform poorly b/c they do not confront these dysfunctions. Less talented teams often soar b/c they avoid these dysfunctions.
1. Absence of Trust; team members need to be able to show weaknesses, be vulnerable,etc; (2) Fear of Conflict; team members need to be free to disagree; (3) Lack of Commitment; all team members need buy-in; (4) Avoidance of Accountability; team members need to hold each other accountable to commitments/tasks; and (5) Inattention to Results; team members need to focus on the results of the team as a whole.
10. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
Summary: This book turned around and saved JVM. A business wholly dependent on the founder is not really a business. A business must systematize so it can run without the founder. The Title “E-Myth” comes from the often disastrous assumption that someone who is a very good “technician” (chef, loan officer, Realtor, etc.) will also be a good business owner. But a good business owner also needs to be a good “manager” (focused on detail and actual management) and “entrepreneur” (head-in-the-clouds thinking about what could be and how things can be better). The biggest takeaway was the need to systematize every aspect of the business so the owner can be free to work “on the business” and not “in the business.” JVM is the only company where all Loan Officer duties have been systematized, and it is why we thrive.
11. The Innovators Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
Summary: Innovators disrupt markets and become successful with new technologies or systems but then they end up getting disrupted themselves b/c they focus only on their existing technology/customers/systems (what made them successful in the first place). They fail to spot new innovations. This is a great lesson for JVM, as our “no loan officer” system makes us successful, but we need to be ready to launch entirely new approaches to the business. Steve Jobs loved this book.
12. The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
Summary: We love this book b/c it is not another rosy success book. It is all about the hell leaders have to go through when businesses are not doing well. B/c everyone at JVM helps to manage JVM, it is a great read for everyone. CEOs need to be the first one to illuminate problems or crises, to avoid distrust and to get help from the right people. Two types of CEOs: Strategic (ready to pivot company, move to opportunities) and Practical (implement, get stuff done). Good leaders need both qualities. He also talks about Peacetime CEOs and Wartime CEOs (for the really hard times). I was a very weak “wartime leader” but have since learned much.
13. 10% Happier
Summary: Awesome, funny, short, easy to read book about the effectiveness of meditation. Heejin and I were skeptics for years and made much fun of the entire movement until we read this book and another by Sam Harris (no relation) called “Waking Up.” Meditation works, although I am still happy to make fun of it. Please read this book.
14. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
Summary: Classic book by the true expert on leadership (John Maxwell).
Main takeaway: ANYONE can be a leader; leadership is a learned, not an inherited, trait. A few other notes: Need to stand on solid ground of honesty and good judgment. Respect has to be earned (not commanded). Leaders need to love to win.
15. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Summary: Another classic by Seth Godin. To be successful in today’s world, you can’t simply follow instructions at your job; no matter what your position is, you need to be extraordinary and make yourself indispensable. (1.) Pour your heart, soul and energy into everything you do; (2.) Don’t let fear slow you down ever – take chances, take charge, act, do, try new things; and (3.) Give, give, give and don’t expect anything for it. JVM has an excellent example of a Linchpin at our Front Desk in Darcy Musso.
16. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Summary: The author contrasts “Fixed Mindsets” with “Growth Mindsets”. Fixed mindset people think talent is inherited. Growth Mindset people think talent is cultivated by hard work. This book is an excellent reminder that we need to take chances b/c mistakes and failure do not define us; that it is never too late to change and get better; that companies need to remember that employees can improve in all aspects with hard work (companies need to allow and encourage employees to make mistakes so they can grow).
17. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Summary: Another Seth Godin masterpiece. Simply offering a great product or service and marketing the heck out of it no longer cuts it b/c we live in a post-advertising world (with so much noise that ads don’t work); you need to be truly remarkable to really succeed today (to be a “purple cow”). (1.) We live in a post-advertising age where word of mouth (social media is word of mouth) is more important than advertising; (2.) Not taking risks is riskier than taking risks; and (3.) Focus on the early adopters of your unique offering.
18. Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
Summary: Another touchy-feely success parable. But – it stresses some basic “laws” of success that far too many people don’t comprehend. The Five “Laws” include:
1. The Law of Value — Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
2. The Law of Compensation — Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
3. The Law of Influence — Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
4. The Law of Authenticity — The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
5. The Law of Receptivity — The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.
Note: This book is very short, and an easy way to make $100.
19. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
Summary: Another great contribution from former Wharton Professor, Adam Grant. He illuminates three types of people: (1) Takers – always focused on getting more than they give; (2) Matchers – focused on quid pro quo; and (3) Givers – focus on others and give without keeping score. He discusses how “Givers” invariably end up more successful in the long run. He also points out how destructive relationships with takers can be, and how to spot them, e.g. they use the pronoun “I” instead of “we” a lot; they self-promote too much; they impress superiors and ignore subordinates; etc.
20. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
Summary: Another book that Heejin and I consider a “must read” by Ryan Holiday. Bad things are going to happen, and major obstacles will always block our progress. Accepting this fact, and learning how to deal with these obstacles is what makes people successful. That is the point of the title. We need obstacles so we can learn how to deal with them. There are a few things to keep in mind when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We must try: To be objective; To control emotions and keep an even keel; To choose to see the good in a situation; To steady our nerves; To ignore what disturbs or limits others; To place things in perspective; To revert to the present moment; To focus on what can be controlled. There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”—Andy Grove (similar to Antifragile – see below).
21. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Summary:An excellent book by a very young author. A totally different approach to happiness and a full life than many self-help books recommend. It is about accepting who you are, letting go and enjoying life more. We care waaayy too much about things that don’t matter. The key is to only care about things that do matter. Don’t worry about having negative feelings (anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, etc.); realize they are necessary and part of life. Accept being different. Don’t pursue happiness, and realize that happiness comes from solving problems. Again – accept that bad things are good in the end (see above book).
Shitty Values: Pleasure, material success, being right, staying positive.
Good Values: Honesty, vulnerability, innovativeness, curiosity, charity, standing up for self or others.
22. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
Summary: This book did wonders for me personally with respect to all of my relationships, and I wished I had read it much sooner. The key is to know the primary languages of others and to realize they are not going to aligned with yours. The 5 Languages are: (1) Words Of Affirmation; (2) Quality Time; (3) Receiving Gifts; (4) Acts of Service; and (5) Physical Touch.
23. Catch 22
Summary: Classic, wonderful, clever novel. Several people said we needed to include novels in this list, and this is one I absolutely loved when I read it 30 years ago. So, when my son recommended it too, I included it. It is set in WWII, and fun, funny, witty and wonderful. The book also beautifully illuminates how bureaucracies become dysfunctional and end up serving only the bureaucrats within them. It is comical and scary b/c all organizations experience that to some extent as they expand.
24. East of Eden
Summary: This is a classic Steinbeck Novel, set mostly in California’s Salinas Valley (making it that much more fun to read). It is a Cain and Abel allegory, and a classic good vs evil story. Several people recommended this book for the list, not knowing that others recommended it.
25. I Claudius
Summary:This novel is set in ancient Rome and combines history and intrigue all-in-one. One of the best books I’ve ever read – I couldn’t put it down.You will be much smarter and happier after you read it.
26. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
Summary: My son recommended this book by Nassim Taleb and I was not going to include it b/c it is so abstract. But then I realized that the mortgage and real estate industries are the most fragile of all – supply shocks, rate spikes, stock market corrections, etc, wipe out entire swaths of our industries. Fragile organizations are easily destroyed or damaged. Antifragile organizations grow stronger with shock or stress – much like the human body improves from working out. JVM needs an antifragile mindset – so we spot new opportunities, re-trench and re-train at an extremely high speed when the inevitable “shocks” hit our industry again. JVM is uniquely able to do this b/c we are so training-oriented and b/c of the type of people we hire. Our competitors cannot change. A “shock” could be our biggest opportunity.
27. The One Minute Manager
Summary: This is a must for JVM b/c we all are self-managing, and everyone is forced to help manage and train new team members when they come on board. Here are the requirements for One Minute Managers: (1) providing 3 goals for every team member; (2) providing one minute praising when things are done well; and (3) providing one minute corrections when things are done incorrectly or if they could be done better.
28. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Summary:A classic short parable about two little mice and two little people who find what they think is an endless supply of cheese. The mice know it can disappear at any time and are always ready to find more cheese, if necessary. The two people are convinced it will never move and get fat and happy, and then starve to death when it does get moved b/c they are so unprepared. Much of the mortgage industry was and is just like those two people. Our cheese will get moved.
29. Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity
Summary: This book by Charles Duhigg is great for JVM team members b/c all of you are budding managers – who need to focus on enhancing productivity. Ray Dalio bought this book for every employee at Bridgewater Capital. A few key ideas: (1.) To be motivated, people/employees must know they have control or autonomy; (2.) Teams are more productive when they have empathy – when they can see and hear others’ perspectives – friendship does not help productivity; (3.) Stretch goals combined with visualization foster motivation; (4.) Stretch goals combined with shorter term smart goals foster productivity; (5.) Need to shake up teams or introduce new things to old way to spark innovation and improvements; and (6.) Students need to engage (explain or employ) knowledge to truly learn it.
30. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Summary:This book is invaluable for young people especially b/c it provides insight into the power of habits and how to establish them. It is near the top of many booklists. I love it personally b/c I use so many techniques to avoid wearing out my brain (habits eliminate need for decisions) and to enhance productivity. Here are your 3 must-takeaways: (1) Habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, reward; (2) You can change your habits by substituting just one part of the loop, the routine; and (3) Willpower is the most important habit, and you can strengthen it over time with 3 things.
To change a habit, change the routine. To enhance willpower: (1) Do things that require a lot of discipline; (2) Plan for/expect worst case scenarios; and (3) Preserve your autonomy – you have less willpower if someone else is telling you to do it.
31. In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules
Summary:Wonderfully inspirational book. Small burger shop that opened in 1948 but expanded slowly and steadily by clinging steadfastly to basic principles: Cleanliness; Doing one thing extremely well; Paying employees above market; Systematizing everything; Highest quality no matter what the cost; Extreme service. They expanded with almost no advertising, and simply relied on the quality of their product alone. JVM needs to scale like In-N-Out did… We are wimps until we do. We will get steamrolled if we don’t.
32. The Everything Store – Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon
Summary: This book was written in 2013 but remains relevant and spot-on today. It is an excellent example of the lengths somebody like Bezos will go through to dominate a category, a market or a business overall. They negotiate ruthlessly, they cut costs at all costs, they drive their employees without regard for anything, they take enormous risks and fail often (and don’t care b/c they have so much cheap capital), they exploit technology in the most aggressive and extreme ways, they hire the very best talent, and they will stop at nothing. They also focus relentlessly on the customer and eliminating friction (Prime). Readers will also see how important it is to have access to capital for expansion, and Bezos has unlimited, very cheap capital b/c his stock does so well. This book is scary and inspiring – even though we will never emulate their culture.
33. Sam Walton: Made in America
Summary:This book inspired hundreds upon hundreds of successful entrepreneurs. Gary Keller, for example, of KW recommends it on his “must read” list. The reviews on Amazon are all “Five Stars.” People LOVE this book. A few takeaways: (1) Great artists steal (copy others); (2) Always put the customer first (something Bezos stole from Walmart); and (3) Share your financial success with employees. “There is something to learn on every page,” according to one reviewer. I love it b/c it reminds me that JVM needs to scale 😊 (we are wimps until we do).
34. How to Win Friends and Influence People
Summary:Classic, timeless, self-help masterpiece by Dale Carnegie. A favorite of Warren Buffet’s to this day. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain; Give honest and sincere appreciation; Be genuinely interested in other people; Smile; Be a good listener; Make the other person feel important; Avoid arguments; Admit being wrong; Ask questions instead of giving orders; Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to; etc.
35. Scrum – The Art of Doing Twice the Work In Half the Time
Summary: The author illuminates a far more efficient way for teams to manage work and especially projects. Teams move together as a unit (like in Rugby) and projects are not managed in top down, Gantt Chart (step by step over time) manner. Projects are attacked via “sprints” and constant team check-ins. The book also has a lot of excellent team-building and management tips in general.
36. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t
Summary:As the title suggests, the book illuminates what companies need to do to scale something great into something large, lasting and impacting. It is about focusing on the necessary factors and strategies that will allow a company to scale: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. It is a great business education, and it is all stuff JVM needs to embrace to successfully scale.
37. Getting Things Done – Short Summary $25.00 Bonus
Summary: The actual book called “Getting Things Done” is “the bible” for stress-free productivity, which helps you set up a system of lists, reminders and weekly reviews, in order to free your mind from having to remember tasks and to-dos and instead let it work at full focus on the task at hand. Top 3 lessons: (1) Use a “collection bucket” to store things outside your mind and stay focused; (2) Create a “next actions” list for all your projects to avoid thinking in the moment; and (3) Do a weekly review of everything. BUT – we decided that the book is too long, so we are recommending the summary. Read and understand it, and get $25.
38. PODCAST: Masters of Scale
Excellent podcast by billionaire, Reid Hoffman of PayPal, LinkedIn, Greylock fame. This is purely “paying it forward.” It is a free MBA as well, and fun to listen to. It is a gift from Mr. Hoffman.
39. PODCAST: Open for Business
This podcast is another gift and a complete business education.
40. PODCAST: How I Built This
Most inspiring podcast in existence, and it is interesting. It is nothing but interviews with founders of major business empires. It is amazing to hear what they ALL went through, and to see how they all never gave up, no matter what obstacle got in their way.
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