Review: Donald Miller – Building a StoryBrand (S)

Building a StoryBrand
Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Donald Miller

“Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses… Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media. Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.”

I listened to this book as an audio book. It seemed to take quite a while to get into it. For a book on building a story and getting you hooked into it, it really didn’t at all! It took a bit over an hour before it started picking up. Lucky for it, I was in the car on a long trip so I kept listening to it. The rest of the book was pretty good. There were a few slow points but overall it was really great.

It’s good to take a step back and look at your business and the story you are in with your clients. It helps define roles, where you are the guide and your clients are the heros. It does annoy me though when authors quote their website and market themselves within the book, which he does. This also goes against his own advice, of not making the reader the hero and flogging himself.

Looking beyond this though, the author does have some good points that you can take away and use for your business. It’s nice and short and didn’t drag on too much either. I recommend it to anyone who deals with customers/clients or is in business. 4 stars.

Review: Dan Pronk – The Combat Doctor

The Combat Doctor
Dan Pronk

“Dr Dan Pronk served on over 100 combat missions in Afghanistan as a frontline special forces combat doctor, where the casualties he treated were his fellow SAS soldiers and commandos, local civilians and even the enemy. The thrill of adventure and the challenges of battlefield medicine brought out the very best in Dan; he discovered a sense of purpose in pushing his medical skills and courage to the limits. But there was a cost. The Combat Doctor is an extraordinary story of resilience and growth, and a tribute to the doctors and medics working behind the scenes in conflict around the world.”

How can someone so bright, be so dumb? If you are smart enough to get into medical school, surely you are smart enough to realise that military retaliation isn’t actually a bright idea most of the time. I understand the incredible and exciting challenge that you need to undertake to get into the special forces, but at the same time uh, isn’t creating long term medical problems like a bung knee a problem? It seems like a bit of a boys’ club, and that was always going to put my back up.

I find it extraordinary and rather depressing that millions of dollars are pumped into the military. If we are looking at the number of lives saved by an intervention, surely something like the medical problems described in Frontline Midwife would be a better use of funding. The more I think about it, the more upset I feel.

Oh dear. I saw that Hamish Blake had read and given a review and I was seriously worried about the book from then onwards. I guess I was hoping that this would have juicy details on how combat medicine actually works in terms of common injuries or treatments. What I got was a fresh face on the deaths that have occurred in the Australian military in quite recent history. It’s pointless! We live in Australia, I’m pretty sure that noone wants to invade here. The worst threat we’ve had are fires that needed the Navy to evacuate people.

I wouldn’t recommend this as reading. However, if someone else is super keen on the military and you want them to read SOMETHING then perhaps this is a good pick. It’s not badly written, it’s quite a good read, I guess I just disagree with the need for it.

Pan Macmillan | 30 August 2022 | AU$36.99 | paperback

Review: M. Buckingham – First, Break All The Rules

First, Break All The Rules
What the world’s greatest managers do differently
M. Buckingham

“The greatest managers in the world seem to have little in common. They differ in sex, age, and race. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. They do not believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help people overcome their weaknesses. They consistently disregard the golden rule. And, yes, they even play favorites. This amazing book explains why.”

I picked up this book from the opp shop. It clearly came out quite a while ago but it is a good solid book on being the best manager. Unfortunately I read it over a long period of time, putting it down and picking it up again so it’s hard to review. It’s one of those books that need this though. You need to read a small section and then go away and think about it. I even found myself thinking about it while reading and required pausing a lot. The only issue with this is I need to read it again before I even finished reading it as I don’t remember the start already!

What I do remember is that it had a lot of good practice tips and tricks. The part I most enjoyed was on hiring “for talent”, you can teach skills and knowledge, but hire for their talent. This is something I have always resonated with when hiring staff. This book gives very practical examples and questions to ask in interviews and what answers you should be looking for. I loved the focusing on your strengths section as well.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a manager, leader, or in a hiring team member’s role. I definitely need to re-read it. 5 stars.

Review: Sarah Steel – Do As I Say

Do As I Say
Sarah Steel

“At the heart of being human is the desire to belong. It can make us unspeakably vulnerable to the manipulations of others. Cult leaders prey on this desire, but so do many unscrupulous operators hiding in plain sight. In Do As I Say, Steel tells the human tale behind the sensationalism. Sharing deeply personal stories, gathered over years of interviews with survivors, and some shocking tales about the world’s most famous cults, she sheds light on the high cost of unchecked coercive behaviours to individuals and communities at large.”

This non-fiction book was exceptional. I found myself both amused and appalled at the same time for what cults get away with, and what people think while they are in them. It really resonated with me that noone thinks that they are joining a cult! In fact, I could easily see several people I know joining one. It’s terrifying to me that some people are dumb or delusional enough to think that a dead person can rise again tomorrow (not just Christ, but also assasinated US presidents!).

It’s weird to think of some of the cults in the book as ‘cults’. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons for example, I had always thought of them as religions – granted, very time-intensive and all-encompassing religions, but not cults. What is shown in this book though is that almost any group that begins to treat others as outsiders (even shunning them) and has a charasmatic leader could be considered a cult.

I read this book at the same time as I was due to give my students a leadership workshop. I found myself drawing on parts of the story, and some of the famous cult leaders within it (Apple fan, anyone?) while teaching. Cults generally have leaders, and even though most (all?) cults are ‘bad’ we can definitely learn something from the leaders. They tend to be charismatic, and often the group doesn’t start as a cult but then moves that way.

I admit that at some points it seemed as if the author was pushing her own political agenda just little bit too obviously. It was nice however to have a book totally aimed at Australians rather than a USA audience. I’m keeping this beautiful bright red book on my shelf, and recommend it as reading to anyone who has a friend or family member in a cult or who has an interest in leadership.

Pan Macmillan | 28 June 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Jimmy Soni – The Founders (S)

The Founders
The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
Jimmy Soni

“Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired. … The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.”

I’m a little mixed on this review. There were some good parts and some bad. The book takes you through the whole journey of PayPal. I found it rather slow at the start. It gave the back stories for the main characters but I felt this could have been condensed a lot. The author wanted all of the PayPal employees to have their experience and share their story. At times I felt this wasn’t relevant and whole pages could have been cut out. In saying that, there were some funny parts and parts that you just had to keep reading to know more.

It picked up as it went. The book definitely went into a lot of detail. I felt that it could have ended differently, but it’s not like you can change what actually happened! Regardless, it still ended abruptly after four years had passed from the founding. It would have been nice to hear a bit more in the later years and what it looks like now.

If you are after a business book on the story of any startup in actual detail, this book nails that and is the book for you. The only downside is it drags on at times. 3.5 stars

Allen & Unwin | 1 March 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Seth Godin – Purple Cow (S)

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Seth Godin

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last? … In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for marketers who want to help create products that are worth marketing in the first place.”

I can’t believe it has such good reviews and ratings on GoodReads! Honestly, it’s not that bad of a book – my issue with it is that it was written 20 years ago (first published in 2003). As such, it’s very outdated. The companies and examples it uses are very outdated and not relevant anymore. A lot of the companies I think must be in America only and are therefore not relatable to other people in the rest of the world. The style that it’s written in is also very Americanised.

There are some good things. The author has a short but sweet point, and sticks to this same topic throughout which is great. I hate it when an author is trying to say too much and everything gets lost in the end. It’s a nice quick short book and everything is related. It’s not really in chapters, just all mini case studies and topics about the same thing. I just felt a bit lost at some points and not interested and not wanting to keep reading.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it didn’t live up to expectations. I also expected the updated version to be a little more updated, but it was pretty much the same with some extra bonus bits at the end. A quick read, but I don’t feel like I came away from this book with anything new. Nonetheless, it’s still a good point to be reminded of, to be a Purple Cow! 2 stars.

Review: Dinesh Palipana – Stronger

Stronger
Dinesh Palipana

“A puddle of water on a highway changed Dinesh Palipana’s life forever. Halfway through medical school, Dinesh was involved in a catastrophic car accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. After his accident, his strength and determination saw him return to complete medical school – now with quadriplegia. Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, and the second person with quadriplegia to graduate medical school in Australia.”

I didn’t really expect to enjoy this book, but Dr Palipana brings a hint of humour into everything. You’d think reading a book about someone who lost almost all his physical abilities would be quite depressing. Instead, this book is a tribute to the author’s resiliance and persistance. To some extent, it also exposes some of the negative aspects of living across different countries and having family that you aren’t sure how to work with.

This was quite easy reading, despite being a potentially tough subject. I finished it off in two sittings, and didn’t really need a brain-break in between. I wasn’t rushed to finish it, but I did want to know the ending. I still don’t know how he manages to get enough sleep!

The fact that the Australian medical system can change even a little to prepare an excellent Dr is amazing, and I hope to see more evidence from the author creating change from his experiences. I meet many doctors in my work, and I know that they are scarily smart! But, as Dr. Palipana says, it’s less about smarts, and more about the emotional connection that you can form with patients. Being a doctor isn’t about being ‘able-bodied’, being a doctor is a vocation and needs someone with compassion. Let’s hope for more of that in the future.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Lindsey Stirling – The Only Pirate at the Party

The Only Pirate at the Party
Lindsey Stirling

“Electronic and dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her unconventional journey in an inspiring memoir filled with the energy, persistence, and humor that have helped her successfully pursue a passion outside the box.”

I had wanted this book for a long time! Finally, I remember that eBay exists and that I should be able to pick up a second-hand copy for a lot less than what it was on Amazon. It appeared on my doorstep faster than I expected and I abandoned my other reading to dive in.

I knew nothing about Lindsey’s background and it was a delight to go into this book with no preconceived ideas on what ‘should be’ covered. Thus I enjoyed it with a lighthearted joy and found myself laughing and quoting parts out-loud at times. It will likely be read by another family member, then passed onto the teenage Lindsey fan I know.

I was so devastated when I found out that Gavi died of a heart attack before the book being published. Gavi is/was such an important figure and support in Lindsey’s personal and professional life. I checked the wikipedia page for them both, but didn’t really discover very much new.

Obviously this memoir is quite old now, and I hope for an updated one at some point from Lindsey! Not however, if it’s going to delay her release of further music. 2020 was the year I was finally going to see her in concert – but the tour has been indefinitely postponed. Sad face 🙁

An enjoyable and uplifting memoir for anyone who loves Lindsey Stirling. If you don’t know who Lindsey is, go listen on YouTube right now!

Review: Deborah Cadbury – The School that Escaped the Nazis

The School that Escaped the Nazis
Deborah Cadbury

“The extraordinary true story of a courageous school principal who saw the dangers of Nazi Germany and took drastic steps to save those in harm’s way. In 1933, the same year Hitler came to power, schoolteacher Anna Essinger saved her small, progressive school from Nazi Germany. Anna had read Mein Kampf and knew the terrible danger that Hitler’s hate-fueled ideologies posed to her pupils, so she hatched a courageous and daring plan: to smuggle her school to the safety of England.”

This book is again a tribute to all of the children and their families murdered during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. I found myself again horrified at the sheer number of children murdered in the Holocaust. This book flips between the school as it is established in Britain, and then into its students’ origins as well. There are some children who survived largely in the ‘wild’ of Germany, and we also see their perspective.

This is not nearly as confronting as Always Remember your Name, thankfully. It’s an interesting read, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in alternative schooling perspectives as well as those who would like to further broaden their understanding of the traumas visited on children during the wars.

It is becoming more and more obvious and acknowledged in society today that children often suffer from trauma that has repercussions throughout their lifetimes – and which may never be resolved. It is the same for the adults who managed to survive and that may never be able to recover. This can also be seen in the novel The Little Wartime Library, which briefly narrates what one of the incarcerated adults looked like after the freeing of POWs.

Reading this book was heavy going at times and it took me a number of sittings to digest it. I’m normally not interested in history, but I’m not sure that can be said of me any more! I have read quite a few books about the Holocaust now, including Always Remember Your Name, The Dressmakers of Auschwitz and The Keeper of Miracles. I have yet another waiting on my bedside table for me to read.

Hachette | 10 May 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Ben Bravery – The Patient Doctor

The Patient Doctor
Ben Bravery

“At the age of twenty-eight, with his Beijing-based science communications business doing well and a new relationship blossoming, Ben Bravery woke from a colonoscopy to be told he had stage 3 colorectal cancer…. Now, driven by his experience on both sides of the healthcare system, this patient-turned-doctor gives a no-holes-barred account of how he overcame the trauma of his illness to study medicine and shares what he believes student doctors, doctors, patients and their families need to do to ensure that the medical system puts the patient at the very heart of healthcare every day.”

Hmm, this was an interesting book, but not an outstanding one. While it was interesting to see the way that Ben-as-a-patient affected Ben-as-a-medical-student, it wasn’t anything particularly new to me. I also already had some pretty in-depth knowledge about how broken the medical system is in Australia.

The medical training provided to doctors in Australia is good in some ways (covers a lot of important information, very physiology/anatomy based) but bad in others. It seems to pay lip service to making compassionate great communicators out of doctors. As Ben exposes again in his book, there’s just so much crammed in and an idea that providing patient-centred care will take longer in a workplace where doctors are already overwhelmed.

It was fascinating to me that I saw the changing hospital/specialist centre size from both a patient (this book) and a nurse (A Caring Life) perspective. I also find it of interest because we usually assume that larger medical clinics will be better specialised to help people, even if this isn’t necessarily accurate. I felt that Ben’s attitude and understanding of his condition (and the humour he had to offer) was impacted by doctors the most. Now I’ll be waiting for a fully-fledged doctor’s thoughts on the system at the time!

I’d love to see a memoir or non-fiction from a higher up hospital administrator who is responsible for some of the funding and why student doctors / specialists / surgeons / every medical professional in the system are so overworked. I’m all for making sure doctors aren’t unemployed, but being underemployer or overworked is not good enough.

I am grateful that I live in Australia and healthcare is free. That’s reason enough that I might just be happiest with whoever I see in a hospital. What Ben advocates and encourages through his book is for patients and their families to feel confident speaking up for themselves. That’s something easier said than done, but I think it could be done.

I’d recommend this for readers interested in what it looks like to be a complicated cancer patient and the beginning trials of medical school. There’s some humour to keep it light, even if overall I think the book is a picture of the complicated nature of healthcare in Australia.

Hachette | 29 June 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback