My 2012 Reading List

to believe I surpassed my 2010 record but it looks like I read 53 books last
year!  I noticed this year that I’m much heavier on the fiction side
than the self-improvement side of recent years.  And of that, I devoured
all the Michael Connelly material I could find, boy I really love his
work.  I guess I chalk this up to having a very busy work year so maybe I
wanted more fiction-reading down time to rest my brain a little.

highlighted some of my favorites again this year so I hope it helps you
find something you may not have read before.  I’d love to know if you
have read something that moved or inspired you as I’m always looking for
great material.


Steve Jobs — Walter Isaacson

Success Mastery Academy — Brian Tracy

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption — Laura Hillenbrand

Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President — Eli Saslow

The Day That Turns Your Life Around: Discover the incredible difference one day can make! — Jim Rohn

The Last Train From Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back — Charles Pellegrino

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You — John C Maxwell




Too Big To Fail — Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big To Fail"Too Big To Fail" is by far the best retelling of all the events surrounding the financial crisis. 

I’ve read Meltdown, Fools Gold, House of Cards, The Quants, The Big Short, and even Paulson’s “On The Brink” which is a wonderful documentary of these events but still limited to his singular perspective. 

Sorkin goes way beyond anything I could image by taking us inside all the conversations at the Treasury, the Fed, and the highest levels of the banks and investment banks at the center of this disaster.  The extent of his research must have been enormous.

I could feel the panic, the shock-and-awe, and determination not to mention the patriotism of so many people as they struggled to understand what was happening and triage a solution that would hold the system together. 

This is truly a well-written story.

My takeaways:

– There are countless heroes who had to work for weeks on 3-4 hours sleep per day and make gut-wrenching decisions that affected the entire world financial system.

– Just like in any industry you or I work in, there are idiots everywhere and in this case most of them were creating and trading risk and financial products they had no intelligence to understand.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.48.22 PMDick Fuld is an idiot for refusing an acquisition offer months before Lehman’s implosion and instead choosing to ride the hopes of a better deal right to the end, like the captain of the Titanic.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.46.06 PMVikram Pandit is another idiot purely based on his behavior and lack of understanding of Citi’s tenuous situation and his inexplicably lowball offer of $1 for Wachovia.  I’m glad Wells Fargo jumped in to prove Pandit’s incompetence.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.44.59 PMJamie Dimon is Mr-Cool in what must have been the hot-seat of a lifetime.  His sharp grasp of all the dynamics, foresight at what was coming and how JP Morgan needed to be positioned, and pure wit makes him my hero.  If I had any money to manage, he would get all of it.

– It is critical to anyone’s personal success to surround yourself with a small group of brilliant and trusted people.  Clearly that element is present with all the leaders of the “winning companies” who persevered and prospered through this challenge.

Screen shot 2011-09-29 at 10.43.56 PM Thank you Mr. Sorkin for the tireless research and bringing the facts of this unbelievable event to light.  This work will serve many generations to come.


Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

Where was I when this story was all over the news?!  I don’t even remember this — maybe I was just caught up in my own world of events or maybe I was just tired of hearing about war stories that were overcrowding every piece of media.  This "Where Men Win Glory" is a very touching story, as of course we have come to expect from Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, etc) about Pat Tillman and his local Almaden family.

My first impression is how enraged I am at our own military and news media.  Friendly fire is a way of life during wartime, that’s understood.  But covering up the truth for political gains and spinning a story in favor of someone’s agenda at the expense of the family who deserves the truth is frustrating beyond belief.

Another conclusion for me is that I will no longer trust our own news media.  I have for the most part believed that with so many journalists, newspapers, magazines, tv programs, etc, that finding the truth for ANY given situation is just a matter of who gets there first.  With that many people on the job, nothing can hide.  After reading this book, you realize that the news media merely reprints whatever press release and spoonfed-story they are given without even trying to find out the hidden agenda behind the ones creating the story.

But the most impactful part of this book is Pat Tillman himself.  Pat was a person of great character.  We could all learn a great deal from Pat in how to live better lives, learn from everyone around us, challenge our own beliefs, and make each day part of our own personal journey of growing into the best person we can possibly become.  For me, his story is not about war or politics, it is about self-enlightenment and I am a better person for knowing him.


My 2010 Reading List

While talking with several people over the holidays I mentioned that I have read 48 books over 2010 and they give me a kind of stunned reaction.  So I decided to enumerate the exact list just to be sure.  How can I read so many books in one year?  Audiobooks!  Since I’m driving around a lot previewing properties and meeting clients, I have turned my car into what Zig Ziglar calls “Automobile University”. 

I have now become so obsessed that I have an Audiobook playing on my iPhone wherever I am — exercising and walking, while cooking dinner, waiting in line at Target, whatever.  Ok, so maybe not all of them are “books” per se, there are some like the Success Mastery Academy from Brian Tracy which is a live series seminar on 16 CDs, but you get the idea.  I’ll post a few words on some of the most memorable books shortly.

Challenge yourself in 2011 — how many books can you read?  You will be amazed at what you can learn.



On The Brink — Henry Paulson’s Recount of the Financial Crisis

On The Brink is Treasury Secretary Henry
Paulson’s autobiographical recount of the financial crisis that rocked our entire system in late 2008.

Hank does a remarkable job
bringing us into his conversations and the decisions made during the furious
pace of the financial meltdown. 
Interestingly enough, I got the feeling that he neither looked for nor
placed blame for the crisis on any individual or institution.  I enjoyed the narrative and insight Hank
provided by taking us through each of the challenges as institutions and
systems globally began to breakdown as a result of the housing and related
financial market collapse.

My takeaways:

– Our political system is
broken.  Nobody knows how to work
together to prevent any disasters from happening.  The politicians only know how to jump into the crisis and
offer suggestions well after the damage has been done.  It is true for this financial meltdown,
the Madoff case, the BP oil spill, and hundreds of other disasters.

– Most non-elected
individuals (Treasury Secretary) who are asked to serve this country by an elected
official (President) seem to be driven by a deep commitment to do what is right
and to serve the community.

Overall, I am impressed by
the dedication of the entire staff at Treasury for their sleepless nights and
unrewarded efforts made to keep our system together.  Thank you.  If
you read the Wall Street Journal or watched the news every day as these events
unfolded real-time, you would really enjoy this book!


No One Would Listen — The Madoff Story

I recently finished the wistleblower story from Harry Markopolis, the guy who notified the SEC and investors for a decade that Bernie Madoff was a fraud.

One word describes my feeling after finishing this book — shameful.  Although this story needed to be told
and Harry Markopolis gives us remarkable insight into the 10 years he tried to
bring down Bernie Madoff, it will not bring comfort to the many who lost their
life savings to this madman.

My takeaways:

Do not rely on
government organizations to protect you from liars and schemers

Always trust
your “little voice” when something is too good to be true

There are
people out there who believe in doing the right thing without being compensated

Never ever
have more than 20% of your portfolio in any one investment mechanism

I hope this lesson lives
on for generations to come and I hope that sweeping changes in our regulatory
system come from this embarrassing 10-year mistake.  I’m sure we will hear a Bernie side of the story sometime
soon but I cannot see any excuse for his actions.


Andre Agassi’s “Open” — a Must Read

You don’t need to be a
tennis fan or even an Agassi fan to enjoy this book, but it helps if you
are.  In fact, I’m not only a
tennis fan, I’m just a few years older than Agassi so I feel even more
connected to him since he is “my generation” and the story he tells is one that
I watched unfold.

I’ve often wondered about
the inside story of professional tennis; or about the childhood stars that
quickly come to the front of their profession while still in their teens.  I appreciate how Agassi remembers each
point so intensely, describes the emotion, takes you inside his head like we
are right there on the court at match time.  He even takes us inside his opponent’s head!

I enjoyed hearing Agassi’s
struggles and some of the choices he has made.  This is more a story about coming of age and growing into the
wisdom of maturity.  Go read it!

My takeaways:

Children who
are forced into a certain path of sports or profession will most likely despise
that path

The right
people you need to help you succeed will find you, and when you think you have
found one, ask for help

Believe in
yourself because you can do it no matter what

yourself to become better than you were yesterday

brings respect, for yourself and for others

Find your Big
Why, connect it to your job or what you do and you will find yourself

Find something
impactful to leave for the next generation, it is the reason for our existence

Thank you Andre, for
sharing and opening your story.  We
saw it from afar.  Now we relived
it again, with you.


The Forgotten Man

I’ve just finished a book recommended to me — The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.  With all the talk about the current recession, I have heard many people drawing comparisons to the Great Depression so I wanted to find out more about it to get a solid perspective.  Author Amity Shlaes compiled enormous amounts of research and delivers an intensely detailed month-by-month depiction of the events, personalities, politics, and economics from 1928 to 1940.  Here are some of my thoughts.

When the book starts out with a story of a 13 year-old boy who kills himself so that he could save more food for other members in his family, you know that any comparisons of our current recession to the Great Depression is wholly unjustified and disrespectful.  I didn’t know how close the US came to converting to Communism or Socialism during the early years of the Depression, but it makes sense when you think about it.  Since the country was thrown into a huge tailspin and desperation was everywhere, it seems that was the best time to reconsider if capitalism really does work and see if there is a better alternative.

The author makes a good case for why the early moments of the Depression became deeper and worsened due to the government trying to “fix” things.  With this point, I do feel we are seeing similarities between what the Depression administration did and what the current administration is doing now.  Of course some level of stimulus is needed to keep markets from stopping entirely, but capital markets work best when they are allowed to reach their equilibrium naturally.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The research and attention to detail is amazing, so much so that each of the characters draws into their place in history, thank you Amity Shlaes.  I find it hard to compare what we are going through today to those who lived through the Great Depression and I’m very thankful that we won’t have that experience.


Getting Organized

Reginaleeds Once in a while, Sabrina and I have our “date night”
at the nearest bookstore.  We treat it like a chance to walk around and
discover something new, then we sit down at the coffee shop and talk
about what we found.  This time, an interesting title caught my eye so
I began reading a few chapters — One Year To An Organized Work Life by
Regina Leeds.

As our business grows, I’ve been struggling to stay
as organized as I want.  I’ve come to believe that personal and
business organization is a key component to succeeding at the highest
levels.  The reason I liked this book so much is that it takes a
step-by-step weekly approach so that I can systematize things into
habits.  It is kind of like giving out assignments instead of saying go
do it this way.

So, this weekend I began a new journey that is
expected to last ONE full year as I have committed to the process of One
Year To An Organized Work Life.  As I enter this “get organized”
journey, my expectation is how this is more of a “habits and routines”
issue for me than some kind of cleanliness problem.  I know where
everything is and I can put my fingers on anything I need very quickly,
but, I need a better system for handling the massive amount of email,
statics, clients, contracts, disclosures, reports, etc that it takes to
run a thriving real estate enterprise. 

I have great expectations for
this book and it’s results! And I will keep you posted.


The rich get richer, Why?

Have you heard the expression “It takes money to make money”?

I’m not inviting a philosophical debate on the merits or dangers found in the pursuit of wealth.  The basic fact is that we all survive on money and we have each been raised in a household environment with a certain viewpoint towards money.  If the subject of being or becoming rich is an uncomfortable one for you then I suggest some excellent reading on the subject found in Jack Canfield writings that may offer a healing perspective.

Sabrina and I are always looking for growth — personal, professional, financial, and all other areas of our lives.  We also like meeting and talking with experienced and successful people who have achieved great things in areas where we want to improve.  I had one such conversation with a mentor from our Keller Williams office a few days ago.  Her opportunities to work with high net-worth clients over the decades have taught her some invaluable lessons and her comment is still ringing in my ears:

“Why is it that most people want to buy when everyone else is buying (multiple offers on homes that often aren’t even very desirable) and don’t want to buy when everyone else is waiting (like now – bigger inventory of many properties staying on the market for a longer period of time)?  Clients with large amounts of money (or investors), most of whom stopped buying property in 2005 when they recognized the price-to-value ratio stopped making sense, are beginning to get back into the market now.  They see the next 2 years as the best time to acquire more property!”

Here are some of suggestions:

1) Meet with accomplished people as much as possible, treat them to lunch or a coffee, ask questions, and listen to everything they say.  Devour books and articles on subjects in which you are looking to improve yourself.  Find an accountability partner to help articulate your goals and commit to working together to focus on and support each other in the pursuit of these goals.

2) Work on being counter-culture.  In a world where we are under daily attack by advertisements of all kinds to spend money, you need to be saving.  When you see other people selling out of a good stock, or commodity, or property and driving prices lower, you need to be a buyer.  Of course you need to continue to make sure the fundamentals make sense and usually consulting with professionals in their field is the best way to validate your intentions. 

3) Have a long-term view.  I’m going to write another posting on this point because I have so much to share from people I’m currently working with that it would be too lengthy to write here.  Real estate is not meant to be something you watch the value of daily or weekly like many stock traders do with their investments.  Forget about trying to “time the market” looking for a bottom – this leads to analysis paralysis.  Buying a property should be viewed as a long-term hold for leveraged growth over time.

People with money make more money by being different than everyone else.  Read The Millionaire Mind by Dr Thomas Stanley to understand more about how they think.  It’s fascinating.  They are not different people; they just know how to think differently than average people.