This is the Too Many Trees newsletter, where I share what I’ve been writing and reading in the realm of leadership and personal development. My executive coaching practice is centered around the idea that we are more effective in moving towards our goals when we become more conscious and intentional in focusing our time and attention, and learn how our unconscious patterns are holding us back. If you know somebody that could benefit from my perspective, please forward this to them or let them know they can set up a free intro chat with me.

My current anti-library

January 21, 2024
Nassim Nicholas Taleb once coined this term: "the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library."

I've been feeling a bit guilty recently as I buy around 10 Kindle books a month, often because they target me with sales, and I am definitely not reading most of them (somebody once quipped that it's a pity that buying a book does not also buy you the time to read it). In fact, instead of reading these new books, I've been escaping into fiction worlds, re-reading new favorites like the Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novik or the Villains' Code series by Drew Hayes.

But I find some comfort in the idea that it's okay to buy books that lie unread. Sometimes I will pick up a book that has been lying around for years and realize it's exactly what I need to read at that time. If nothing else, buying the book sends a message to the author that I valued their work enough to spend money on it (as you might imagine, I believe this even more now that I'm a published author).

As a glimpse into my interests (and because I couldn't think of a hook for my newsletter this morning), I share with you my last month of book purchases aka my current anti-library (n.b. I am using my Amazon affiliate link below, and will get a tiny commission if you purchase one of these books):
"Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does the thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

We live for such miracles.”

The idea that I can have a thought, hit some keys on a laptop sitting on my couch here in California, translating those thoughts into digital bits which are then transmitted into your inbox, where you read them and get a sense of what I was thinking? It definitely feels like a miracle, as Liu observes. My 2024 intention is moments of connection, and I hope you feel a connection with me in this moment.

What books have you bought but haven't read? Maybe I'll post a thread on LinkedIn so we can all share.
And now for the normal personal development content…

Book-related content:
  • I appeared in a LinkedIn live event with Shyvee Shi as part of her Product Management Learning Series; you can view the recording here and read Shyvee's summary of the takeaways here.
  • I joined Matt Heinz on his Sales Pipeline Radio show, and you can watch the recording here or get the audio here or on your favorite podcast app.
  • I updated my speaking page to list my current talks available for corporate speaking gigs. If you know somebody planning an offsite that is looking for a speaker, please consider sending them my way.
  • Please write a review if you want to support my ideas reaching a wider audience, especially if you bought the book, because Verified Reviews matter to the algorithm. Even if you have only read the introduction chapter, you have the gist of the book and can share something to encourage others to check it out.
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience, and archive here.
  • Create moments of connection is my intention for 2024. When I reflected on what is holding back my coaching business, I realized the limiting factor was how many people knew me. I want to create connection with more people by putting more of myself out there. This is something I can track on a day-to-day basis to keep me moving in a direction that will help my business and make myself feel better.
  • As an example of how moments of connection can help my business, I was honored that Angie Callen of Career Benders, Inc. included me in her top 10 coach recommendations for 2024 after I appeared on her podcast. I recommend reading her full article to get Angie's personal description of each coach, including coaches that focus on mid-career resume writing, interviewing, career change, and job search strategy. This is my new go-to list for career coach recommendations, as I trust Angie's judgment.
  • Hard work is not enough. I am still unlearning the pernicious belief that effort translates into results. Nobody cares about my effort except me. What other people want are results that help them. How I get those results is irrelevant. Focus on delivering the outputs.
  • Doing the work is not enough. People are not paying attention to you. They don't know what you're doing, and honestly, they don't care because they are just trying to get through their own pile of responsibilities. Make it easy for them to celebrate you and talk about your value by summarizing what you've done into a few bullet points.
Links I wanted to share that relate to de-capitalization, the idea that we can value areas of life other than increasing our financial assets.
  • This essay from Boss Barista to stop expanding in 2024. I can't remember where I saw this recommended but it resonated with me, and made me question my desire to expand my business in 2024: "We are often expected to do more as time passes: to meet more ambitious goals at work, to make more money, to push our workouts, to delve deeper into our hobbies. The point is that we should never just be satisfied with where we’ve landed. We should always be aiming for something more. But what if we stopped growing? What would happen if we were forced to look around and assess where we stood instead of reflexively taking a step towards more? My hunch is that we might like where we’re planted."
  • How the Immigrant Scarcity Mindset Holds Us Back, by Dave Lu. This essay resonated deeply with me due to my Korean mom upbringing. "As much as we’d like to blame the bamboo ceiling for holding Asians back in their careers, we have to take responsibility for limiting our own aspirations and not advocating ourselves. In some ways, we have no one else to blame when others take advantage of us." Advocating for myself feels deeply uncomfortable to me; just today, somebody asked me how they could support me as I publicize my book, and I completely froze without an answer before realizing later I could have asked them to keep me in mind for speaking opportunities.
  • The connection to de-capitalization comes in his story of how Crazy Rich Asians became a hit, fueling a new wave of movies centered on the Asian experience, in part because of a dinner where Silicon Valley immigrant business leaders agreed to "buy out theaters on opening weekend with their own money, to ensure huge box office numbers". It was not a financial investment, but "Not all return on investment (ROI) is measured in dollars and cents."
  • What They Don't Tell You About Having Kids And A Career, by Deb Liu, CEO of Ancestry. "Having children has been the greatest joy of my life. But it's not always easy, and it's hard to say a lot of the things that I discuss here." Some of what she shares: "Motherhood will most likely slow down your career", "The world is not set up for two working parents", "No one can do this without support", "The world will judge you no matter what", "We need to destigmatize getting help". Until we recognize these realities, we can't design remedies to counteract them, and we will only do that if we learn to value families more than finances.
  • Kierkegaard's Three Ways to Live More Fully, by David Brooks in the Atlantic. According to Kierkegaard, most people start and end in the "aesthetic" consumerist stage of life, where they focus on their own enjoyment. He suggests that we can move beyond that stage to an "ethical" stage, where we "shift from treating life as an act of consumption to becoming part of a process that creates deeper experiences". Beyond that, he suggests a "religious" stage, which I would describe as purpose driven, where "you associate your life with a transcendent cause or purpose". Capitalism encourages us to stay in the first stage, amplifying our anxieties to encourage us to buy products and experiences and discouraging us from thinking we are "enough" to aspire to creation or purpose. But as I share in the book, we can choose our own aspirations beyond consumption and pleasure.
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!
Back on the slopes, now at Diamond Peak
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