Books That Change Lives

Do you like to read?

I’ve always loved to read. It’s the possibility of finding new ideas. Ideas are the building blocks I play with.

When I read books I want new ideas.

Ideas that change my thinking. Ideas reimagined. Or ideas refuted.

I love to read, but now it’s something I don’t always find the time to do.

When I realised some of my friends read a lot it gave me an idea. Let’s start a regular book club slot on the podcast. We kicked off discussing books that had the most impact on us.

Here’s some of the ideas we discussed from books.

On the panel were:

Eduardo dos Santos Silva

Neil Harrison

Saurabh Debnath



Rob: [00:00:00] I thought it would be interesting to go from the perspective of what books have most influenced you.

Rob: And I thought about this and I was like, I don’t know what books. I couldn’t say. I take from a book and then I mostly forget about the book. But I’ll say a couple of books for me Outliers was a great one.

Rob: I really liked Malcolm Gladwell style. He changed my thinking in that. I think David Hawkins Power versus Force I’ve loved that contrast between power and force and just the graphic of the book of this is power. This is force I’ve just finished listening to Rebel Ideas by Matthew Saeed.

Rob: I liked black box thinking as well. So maybe if we go round some of the books that have influenced you most. 

Eduardo: And that’s such a profound question, Rob, because I had been reading pretty much my entire life, maybe except three, four years in which my kids were born.

Eduardo: If you have twins, you probably understand what I’m talking about. There was no time to anything other than they can get all them and [00:01:00] working. But other than that, I had been reading my entire life. I remember two books that made a very profound impact in my life. One is the magic mountain by Thomas Mann.

Eduardo: Which I came to read again in parts in German recently, and it’s such a fantastic, beautiful experience. It teaches a very important lesson of how we use our time. 

Eduardo: The name of the book was the magic mountain and it’s a tale of a person that got sick and gets institutionalized in the hospital here in Switzerland by accident.

Eduardo: And he spends quite some time in that place and it’s such a profound lesson about how we use our time and what time means in that book. I don’t want to blow it. If you didn’t read the book by telling the end, but when it gets to that it’s really impactful. There are a couple of books also by Franz Kafka that I love.

Eduardo: One of them, which is called The Castle. It’s not most [00:02:00] famous book, actually, but it tells so many stories together. The stories around bureaucracy, the stories about relationships, stories about how life can change completely and drastically for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Eduardo: And again, that is something very special about how the book ends that it’s tied to the life of the author. Hence, that is especially important. profound. It hits really hard in the heart and makes you rethink what is valuable in life. What we are doing here in this planet? These are books that really impressed me probably the most as I was a young kid.

Eduardo: Recently, I was reading War and Peace, Rob, so if you want to believe that and it also made a very strong impression on myself because of the historical content not only because of the romance that is part of the story, as well as a book that I got from a friend as soon as I got here [00:03:00] in Switzerland that I didn’t know about called 1984.

Eduardo: And this one, it also refresh my memory with regards to what are the important things in life and it doesn’t end well, does it? So very powerful books that I would add then thinking fast and slow into it, 

Saurabh: Daniel 

Eduardo: Kahneman. Yeah. Just because of how powerful it is in terms of open up my mind to how I think and how I think what I can change about that and what is not going to change about that.

Eduardo: So brilliant books. And I will stop now because otherwise I could speak for the last, the next 50 minutes. 

Saurabh: So again, very difficult to choose. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, that’s one book it had a very profound impact on me, especially it was at the beginning of my journey of self awareness and all.

Saurabh: So it had a very profound impact on me. That’s one Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is another book that, that it’s so complete, it’s just one concept and it completes a lot of things. [00:04:00] Yeah. It’s another book that I really love. And, profound impact is mostly the spiritual books.

Saurabh: I would say like Bhagavad Gita and a lot of Buddhist books, poetic wisdom. Like today I posted about the Four Agreements. It’s another book that had a very profound impact on me. So there are a number of books, Seven Habits, Stephen Covey, it’s very simple and it’s again, profound, very deep and it covers so much.

Saurabh: So I like such kind of works, which are like written by masters, like super masters who have done a lot in their lives and then they share their experiences. In story format, then there are number of books. These are the four or five books that really have influenced me a lot. 

Rob: I love all of them. I haven’t, it’s been on my list to read the Bhagavad Gita. It’s one I keep meaning to read, but I’d forgotten about man’s search for meaning. 

Neil: Yeah, there’s some there’s some great books in that list, isn’t there?

Neil: I came quite late to reading, to be honest, and in my early career, I was reading books for escapism more than anything else. So a lot of crime and spy books and things like that were just easy reading [00:05:00] ways to escape the real world. About 10 years ago, though, I started to really get fascinated by Business books.

Neil: One of the things I found that were most influential for me in reading these books was things that you’ve learned through your career, that somebody has a way of describing that just makes total sense. So I could never have put these things together in my own mind, but then when you read these books, you say, ah, yeah this makes so much sense to me.

Neil: Reinventing Organizations by Frederick Laloux. Yes. That for me it encapsulated an organization that I would just love to work in. Many of the things in that are brought out. what I think organizations need to be in terms of being adaptable and just changing the way organizations work.

Neil: It was, for me, a fantastic insight and way of describing it. There’s quite an old book, The Fifth Discipline, I think came out in the 90s. 

Saurabh: Peter 

Neil: Senge, I was very late to reading that, in fact, it was probably only about three years ago or something. Again, another [00:06:00] book that sort of set out, rather depressingly, how organizations really ought to be thinking about working.

Neil: I say depressing because In 1990, we had a lot of these answers in such a great way of framing it. But you don’t see that often in, in the real world today. Still lots of relevant things in that. One book that brought to life things for me that I hadn’t previously experienced in a way that I, that made sense in someone else’s words was actually how emotions are made

Neil: by Lisa Feldman Barrett. So this is touching on a bit like Kahneman’s thinking fast and slow, neuroscience based but described, I think, for me, the way, a way in which to think about how the brain is working. That resonated for me in terms of the uniqueness that, of all of us, if everyone can be unique, I don’t know.

Neil: But that sort of sense that, actually in many, in many business books that talk about, five steps or end steps, that how they [00:07:00] categorize people in such a way that we all, it’s almost like everyone. like sheep will follow this process. And of course that book for me just really brought home how how it in my mind is misplaced, misguided that, that is.

Neil: So three books there. I’m conscious that they’re all quite businessy. And one of the books that I, fascinated me the most as, when I, as a youngster was Shogun James Clavel, which is on Disney Plus as a series, I’ve not watched it, but, what I loved about that was this sort of sense of the growing story, that you get a sense of the sort of hierarchical structures and the cultural difference, differences and learning in that.

Neil: And again I just love the storytelling in that.

Rob: I like that you brought up Lisa. How emotions are made. Lisa Barrett. Yeah. That’s the book I listened to just before Rebel Ideas. I really like that. Basically she’s taken triune brain theory and basically disproved that.

Rob: The triune brain theory, like you have a reptilian brain, the limbic brain and a cortex. 

Neil: [00:08:00] Yes. 

Rob: Basically saying that emotions, where people are looking for emotions as a place in the brain, it’s more that they’re constructed from meaning. We look at concepts, context, wasn’t it?

Rob: That they’re constructed. We construct concepts and contexts together. She basically says that we can’t look at emotions without looking at the story of how they’re constructed. 

Neil: It carried for me a similar sort of theme around this thing I have around labeling, when you look at things like discipline, you think about mind models and that sort of thing.

Neil: And again, it’s this concept of labeling. And what LFB describes is effectively the way characterize it. Rob, it’d be interesting to see if you see the same. But in effect, three things are having a real impact on how the brain is interpreting your situation you’re in.

Neil: And one is, your previous experiences, of course. So those previous experiences, you’re drawing on to, to predict, What is going to happen next? 

Neil: And then you’ve got your interoception. [00:09:00] So what is your body telling you? If your heart’s beating fast that’s going to tell your brain one thing, or you’re hungry.

Neil: That’s another one. And what your body is signaling is And then what’s in the environment, so what your senses are experiencing what might you see or feel or whatever or hear. And those three things come together, create an instant reaction and emotion before you can think rationally or logically about something.

Neil: When you think about it in that sense, I think these three things coming together have got to be unique to every individual. So when we turn and we label those emotions, so if you sense fear. Fear for one person is different from fear for another person, yet we just call it fear and we all just assume that’s in my world we talk about change management the change management curve or the Kubler Ross change curve or grief curve.

Neil: I’m sure you’re familiar with that, but this is a really good example of where we label these emotions that people are going through. And of course, if you think about it in neuroscience terms, how [00:10:00] that just can’t be the case in the real world, so I have a particular aversion to the change curve.

Eduardo: I love a lot of things that you said, Neil. It connects again with the concept from Daniel Kahneman on thinking fast and slow, right? How we deal with situations tends to be first the reaction, not the action and reflection is actually additional effort that we need to put in consciously if we want to take a different outcome.

Eduardo: And especially how different people are unique in the sense that these three elements will be completely different from one person or the other. We go back to 500 years ago, 2000 years ago, and you had the Romans and some of them would actually join the army and wanted to be the lead soldiers and face death with that crazy courage and take it all.

Eduardo: And others would just shy away from that and never ever think about the possibility of being in the war. And in the end, the context is the same. Even the [00:11:00] rewards that are offered. Yeah. 

Saurabh: Yeah. 

Saurabh: Another thing in this is not only the context and experiences, but a lot of it is also hereditary.

Saurabh: So what we are getting through our DNA. It was also a big part of it. So you were mentioning Rob, right? That the three parts, like the three limbs of a brain in a way, like the work of Paul Gilbert, it tells you the reptilian part of the brain and all those things. So it says that the reptilian part is deeply connected to our hereditary, our DNA strands.

Saurabh: So I wonder whether this book also covers that.

Rob: It basically rejects the idea of the triumvirate, and it says that we, they’re not separate and there isn’t. I really enjoyed this book because in psychology and sociology, I really like the social constructionist view, the view that we construct our social experience, we construct our experience.

Rob: But I’ve also like the triune brain as in, okay, reptilian, because it’s nice and simple. Because we understand that fear stops us thinking. I think as I [00:12:00] remember, she diametrically opposes her idea to the limbic to the triune brain theory.

Rob: But for me, I think the triune brain theory might not be exact. It’s what they call a compassionate concession. It’s not actually true, but it’s helpful to think of it like that. If you’re a beginner and you’re coming in it’s a good frame to work from.

Rob: Neil might remember more accurately than me. 

Neil: Yeah, I think that’s exactly it, Rob. For me, it was, I think if when you describe the physical brain as three separate parts, there’s a sense around evolution. 

Neil: Evolution happening in different stages and so on. Actually, I think what she’s arguing or her research demonstrates is that it’s not quite that simple, whilst it might be useful, it’s not that simple in terms of the biology, if you like.

Neil: I quite like a simple metaphor. Because what I’ve learned through reading about neuroscience is that it’s extremely complicated. And so actually, it’s best just to [00:13:00] stay away from how it actually works, because it is really difficult, for me at least, to grasp. I’ve been reading about for maybe six or seven years now.

Neil: The book that springs to mind that I quite liked in metaphor terms is The Chimp Paradox. That was one of the first books that got me into into neuroscience and it did portray that as a metaphor for how the brain works as opposed to the physical functions of the brain and I think again, a similar sort of thing with the triune brain.

Neil: I think if we view it as a metaphor, it can work. It’s just technically not three brains. 

Saurabh: Last two years I’ve been really interested in Carl Jung’s work. And he talks a lot about this, how those emotions come up within us. A lot of it comes from, right from the works of even Sigmund Freud, he talks about the interpretation and dreams.

Saurabh: And Karl Jung also continues with that, but how we have two worlds. And the effect of one of the worlds, like our sleep [00:14:00] world, our dream world affects our real world as well. So that’s a very interesting connection that makes. And he says that, we are living kind of two lives.

Saurabh: One is in a sleep state, the life of our dreams, and the other, our real life. In which we try to create the dreams that we have seen. We try to create that in real lives. So that’s very interesting theory from the neuroscience point of view, I’ve recently been studying certain books, which also, Sort of point towards that, but there has been no, proper connection being made.

Saurabh: A lot of our thinking comes from the archetypes that have been passed through generations for thousands of years. Certain archetypes have been passed through in our gene pool. So those archetypes keep on playing. And, as it said, history repeats itself. It’s something like that, that we keep on repeating those patterns that have happened for thousands of years.

Saurabh: That’s a very interesting point.

Eduardo: It’s a very good point that you bring. I read a book that it’s related to neuroscience, but that’s [00:15:00] not the focus is called the inflamed mind by Edward and it’s rather a more medical book if you want to take it from that perspective that talks about depression.

Eduardo: And in the book, he can articulate extremely well how depression is something that he can observe and document to research as an effect of having inflammation in the body, which means that how we are thinking, how you’re reacting, how you’re experiencing life can be in the end, much of a function of how some proteins are working in our body.

Eduardo: Nothing else. So you have the perspective of DNA of heritage of who we are biologically. You have the context of how the human mind has evolved and how it processes emotions, context and prepares us for certain situations. And you have life happening around us that is also providing certain stimuli that we don’t even see or [00:16:00] notice.

Eduardo: His point in the book is that through several experiences, personal experiences, and then through research he started observing these patterns where depressed patients were coming from. Other diseases that generated inflammation and the most obvious response from doctors was it’s obvious that you’re depressed, they are sick.

Eduardo: But then they started researching a little bit deeper and realized that the patients were actually depressed before they got to know that they were sick. And then you cannot do this. correlation anymore that this is only a state of mind. 

Neil: Yeah. 

Eduardo: Then it’s actually a manifestation of something in your body.

Eduardo: And what I’m trying to get with that is that when you start crossing all these books together, you realize that is, Not yet. One single answer. 

Neil: Yeah that’s an interesting point. And I think it’s important to think about the whole, mind and body. And, if you go back to the point about Lisa Feldman Barrett’s [00:17:00] interoception, the body is actually also sending signals.

Neil: And of course, excessive stress, affects your physical health as well as your mental health, doesn’t it? 

Neil: We tend not to think about these things necessarily as being connected. In fact, in many workplaces, we try and remove that kind of emotional dimension and just focus on the logical.

Neil: Actually Thinking Fast and Slow does a good job at this, doesn’t it? Just recognizing that emotions are always at play in our decision making, it’s never logical, even if you think it is, really. 

Rob: There’s a lot of research on we think of our head and our heart, but it’s also the gut as well.

Rob: From a background where I was fitness, nutrition, and then it was therapy, psychology and what I noticed in each field would describe it in its own way. So nutritionists would talk about a nutritional deficiency. And whereas psychology would talk about it being a, a state of mind or attitude or something like that.

Rob: I’m always aware that you can slice and dice it in different ways. One of the [00:18:00] points that really stood out to me in Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book is when she talked about she was on a date. She accepted this date. She’d been busy in the lab and she hadn’t been out much.

Rob: This guy, she wasn’t really attracted to him, but she thought she’d go out. So they went for lunch or a coffee or something. And she had all these funny feelings and her stomach was fluttering and her heart rate was up and she went away and she go, Oh I’m, I must be attracted to him.

Rob: I’m feeling something and we feel a connection and she went home and she was sick for a day or two. 

Rob: It was the start of feeling unwell, but she says because of the biological response she’d connected that must be arousal and an attraction to this guy.

Rob: And she uses that throughout the book as an example, which is interesting because there’s research on what makes someone attractive. So if you go on a fairground ride with someone or you experience some high stress event, people tend to feel a level of arousal and they attribute that [00:19:00] arousal to the person they’re with.

Rob: When you look at how people get into relationships, We create this story like for my whole thing on relationships is the whole fairy tale model. This is the one and this is, it was meant to be all this stuff. But actually it’s about this was the person who was just down the door from me in the college dorm.

Rob: This was the person I was around an exciting time. This was the person I kept bumping into that I had the chance to develop a relationship. So I really like the way that she ties all that in. To give a different example. 

Neil: She also talks about parole. I forget the statistics, but parole boards.

Neil: So in prisons where people are coming up for parole, if there’s stats to show significantly more people who refuse parole, if it happens before lunch than after lunch and the the interpretation of that is that obviously before lunch the stomach’s rumbling you don’t feel quite right. And they say, I don’t really trust this person.

Neil: So you’ve got this sort of pre lunch and post [00:20:00] lunch interoception happening to affect the decisions. And I’ve always made sure after, any interview or major meeting I’ve done after lunch. So I don’t suffer from the pre lunch person on the other end, feeling there’s something not quite right here because they’re hungry.

Eduardo: This is such an interesting thought for you, because let me challenge you and make this a little bit more fun. 

Neil: Yeah. 

Eduardo: Why after lunch, instead of doing all of them before lunch, 

Neil: Yes. Yes. 

Eduardo: So you see, we just decide in the end for a bias, but it’s still a bias either this or that one we don’t, we are not capable of removing them.

Neil: That’s a really good point, actually. And I think for me, it’s about being conscious that it’s a thing, isn’t it? So you can start to then question your judgment. I think it’s that thing around speed, your emotional response happening quicker than your rational or cognitive.

Neil: So having awareness and [00:21:00] building in a time delay. So maybe have it before lunch, but make a decision after lunch or something like that. 

Eduardo: So interesting, right? Yeah. I think it was you, Rob, that said you, you liked Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. That is a book Talking to Strangers, by the same author, if you have read that.

Eduardo: And it tells so many of these stories, like the one that Neil was just describing it. And these are such powerful stories because they are so sensitive.

Neil: Rob, that’s I’ve got that book. I’ve not read it yet, but what interests me about that is this thing again about we, the, there’s something in, in the books that I’m attracted to around, Just thinking much more widely and then questioning your own thoughts and interpretations and I think outliers, I bought it because I was witnessing in a previous time, somebody that I thought had very radical thoughts, but really interesting thoughts that was being marginalized and sidelined at work, because they didn’t [00:22:00] conform.

Neil: They didn’t fit the culture fit. And and I’ve and actually when you got to understand this person and really get below the surface, you could see these ideas were amazing, but they just weren’t fitting with other others worldview. And I bought outliers because I decided to think that there’s something in that, I think.

Rob: What were your takeaways? What Malcolm Gladwell does is he’s a brilliant storyteller and he can popularize concepts. And basically I think it was Anders Erikson’s research and 10, 000 hour theory. But for me the reason it stood out was because this is what you naturally think, and he just upended everything.

Rob: And so I think most of it is you’ve probably picked it up through other people and a diluted basis. 

Rob: The standout for me was. success or genius doesn’t happen because of the person. And he says, actually what it takes is about 10, 000 hours of dedicated practice.

Rob: And. It also he breaks through like [00:23:00] Steve Jobs, Bill Gates Larry Ellison, is it, the billionaires who came with the computer boom, how they were born at a certain time, they had access to computers like Bill Gates, his mom got school to have access.

Rob: He had access to a mainframe when almost no one else did. So he spent his formative years programming. When he came out, he was ready and able, and no one had written a, or there weren’t many operating systems, he was able to write the operating system, license it, and just basically live off that work for the rest of Microsoft’s or his career. 

Rob: A lot of it is about luck. He talks about hockey players and I think also footballers, how they are mostly born at the same time. And it’s because in a school year, the people who were born like September are bigger than the people who were born in June or July.

Rob: And because they’re bigger, at a younger age, it has an advantage in sport. So when they pick the best [00:24:00] Kids they then select the bigger ones then get trained and trained, they get more access, they get more experience, they get more training. A few years later, there’s such a huge difference between them.

Rob: So that is an advantage being the older in within your year group. And then he talks, I think it’s him. He talks about Russian tennis players there was a lot of Russian tennis players , but they’re all come from the same school where they had the same access to practicing.

Rob: And for example, the Beatles, because he dissects the idea that, everyone says, Mozart was a genius. He was three years old and he was, he said, All of his work was rubbish until he was in the late twenties. He started at three, but it was all rubbish. But because he’d practice practice, by the time he got to mid late twenties, he was at genius level. 

Rob: And he talks about the Beatles they had worked in some German strip club. And they were working like eight hour shifts of performing night after night so that by the time they came out with their hits, they’d [00:25:00] already put in 10 years worth of work compared to most bands.

Rob: Outliers was a great first book and then Owen Coyle, is it Owen Coyle’s Talent Code? The Talent Code I can’t remember the name or Daniel Coyne or something like that, but he talks about how the importance of the right kind of practice, it’s not blind practice, but it’s practice where you work until It falls down and you fail and you work and work until you get past that and what the practice does is it creates the neural connections and it lays down the myelin sheath that encodes that so it becomes hardwired into the body.

Rob: So I think that works as a great follow on to that process. I’m not sure. I’ve probably missed a lot. I was just going to say, I think I’ve missed a lot. Saurabh and Eduardo might pick up other parts of it. 

Eduardo: Yeah. I think what happens with outliers is that it’s a book that you can read for yourself or self improvement, but you can also read it for thinking and improving systems.

Eduardo: I gave you an example and I [00:26:00] would be very curious about your hobbies guys because I don’t know you that well. 

Eduardo: I know Rob likes football a lot here in Switzerland they changed the system and this year they change it even again. It’s a multi year program for the kids and I know because my son is playing where When they are little up to 10 or so they are actually playing two years All together and then from there three years all together And what happens is that you get a chance to be the youngest and the oldest and the trainers can see your development through that journey Instead of only looking at you exactly to the point that he made in the book through one year lens, when eventually it can be that you’re just the youngest all the time.

Eduardo: And that makes a huge difference in terms of the development of the players and how they are getting to the higher levels, because it plays on confidence. It plays on strength and it plays on the ability to commit, to be disciplined, More [00:27:00] development.

Saurabh: To elaborate on what Rob said that like this gets covered beautifully in the book of Mastery by Robert Greene where he really talks about how, talent develops. So even he gave the example of Mozart, just the way you mentioned Rob, that for a long time, he was not.

Saurabh: It was deliberate practice. The word deliberate is so important in deliberate practice. So it’s just not practicing. It has to be deliberate. The level of intensity needs to go higher and higher, and there needs to be proper guidance. So without it the practice is of no use. And he also gives example of Spellbees, like in Spellbees, he saw that, the importance of grit.

Saurabh: Angela Duckworth’s work again, that how gritty a person is in those situations where most of the people give up, how they still can go ahead in, pursuing that. And that’s something that mindset only not all the people have. So yes, deliberate practice at one end, 10, 000 hours and all, but at the same time, those traits of not giving up and always rising up to [00:28:00] the challenge, whenever the challenge level increases, They keep on rising on to the challenge and, keep on improving.

Saurabh: So that’s based on, Robert Greene’s work, what he says is we define talent. We should define talent in that sense, that the ability of a person to not give up at a point of time and keep on improving, go to the next level, go to the next level, go to the next level.

Saurabh: That is what talent is. Apart from, the deliberate practice and guidance. So these three ingredients together make a person or, a master in any field. So it’s a very beautiful book. And from the previous discussion that we were having two books that I feel, influenced me a lot.

Saurabh: That was one was again, Robert Greene’s laws of human nature, which talks about the psychology of it all that we were talking just previously. The art of thinking clearly. Rolf Bel. So these are two books which help you, get rid of those preconceived notions and see things in the right perspective.

Saurabh: So these two books again really influenced me a lot in the way we think and what are the preconceived notions that we have? [00:29:00] How can we. Be more self aware of the biases that we have that also gets covered in Thinking Fast and Slow. And similarly, the book Influence, Robert Cardini also speaks about what influences us.

Saurabh: So yeah, these are books like, which really help you see the things the way they are. And that’s such an important skill in today’s world. It’s very important skill. 

Rob: The the art of thinking clearly is one I’ve come across, I’ve never read it, but a couple of people have mentioned it and it’s yeah, it’s amazing, interesting, amazing, 

Saurabh: and it’s amazing, very easy to,

Rob: One I’ll have to put on my list. 

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