March 24, 2015

Book Review: Better and Faster

Filed under: Book Review,SXSW,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I experienced Jeremy Gutsche at SXSW this year. I say experienced because he was a performer and I was pleased to have been on the first row of this performance. I walked straight from his session to the SXSW bookstore to purchase his Better and Faster book. I read it cover-to-cover in one day.

Rather than espousing theory and principles for building businesses from ideas, Gutsche provides real examples that are not the overused Apple, Google and Facebook stories of success. Those brands are included, of course. But there are more stories about individuals with a solution to a problem that grew into a business than there are big brands that everyday people can’t identify with as a real opportunity.

The theme throughout the book is that change will happen and spotting trends on the horizon will keep you or your business relevant. The book provides charts, diagrams and steps for identifying business opportunity. I was inspired and making notes as I went along. And Gutsche’s Trend Hunter website is going to be a new regular read for me.

March 23, 2015

Book Review: #GIRLBOSS

Filed under: Book Review,Business,Startup & Entrepreneurship — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I started and finished #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso in one sitting on a Saturday morning. Sophia is not only a great storyteller, but has a fascinating story to tell. She is honest, doesn’t try to be something she is not and her writing style makes her feel more like a friend than a CEO of a company she built by herself.

I am not a Nasty Girl customer, but will certainly be shopping there for my next purchases if for no other reason than I want to support a company that I like. The style is pretty awesome, too. At 36 years old, I’m just not always confident I can pull off some of those looks!

Though Sophia didn’t start out with aspirations to be a public figure and role model, she has embraced those roles for entrepreneurs of all types. She literally started selling clothes on eBay because she had a knack for finding vintage pieces and needed to make a rent payment every month. Startup stories like this are the best ones, in my opinion. It seems that the startup community is now too focused on technology, having a quick growth (and exit) plan, and quick frankly, too full of young, arrogant guys. Sophia bucks all these trends, plus many other “requirements” to start a new business, which is what makes her an inspiration.

At the core of the advice she gives throughout the book, the consistent message is work hard. This is so refreshing coming from someone who falls squarely into the “millennial” generation that thinks they should be given rewards rather than earning and seemingly eschews hard work and starting at the bottom to gradually make a way to the top, only if it is deserved.

This book was practical, but entertaining. It was proof that starting with nothing but hunger, a passion, and a willingness to work your ass off can lead to success.

January 2, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2014

Filed under: Book Review,Girl Gets Geeky,Personal — Emily Reeves @ 2:28 pm

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I read 61 books in 2014. For comparison, in 2013 I read 90 books and in 2012 I read 60 books. But it seems that the books I read in 2014 were longer than books I have read in the past years; the graph below represents number of pages read each year:

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Though I didn’t beat last year or come close to my goal of 120 books, 61 books in a year is a respectable number. I didn’t make great choices in my books this year, so finding the standouts was fairly easy. For some reason, I read too many dystopian future books (seven of the 61 were set in the future). Here are my favorites in each of three categories:

Top Business Books

  1. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmul
  2. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  3. Show and Tell by Dan Roam
  4. It’s Complicated by danah boyd

Top Other Non-Fiction Books

  1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  2. Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink

Top Fiction Books

  1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. The Vacationers by Emma Staub
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Children Act by Ian McEwan

July 26, 2014

Book Review: Show Your Work

Filed under: Book Review — Emily Reeves @ 2:50 pm

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I can’t remember how I was first introduced to Austin Kleon’s work, but I’ve been following him ever since. Books, keynotes, Twitter, enewsletter and his blog all feed my hunger for his words of wisdom. I picked up this copy of Show Your Work at SXSW this year, but just now picked it up from my nightstand to read it. And I read it all in one sitting this afternoon.

In the book, he addresses the question of “getting discovered.” It is about so much more than that though. It is about the creative process and the work that goes into the end product. The value of the work that goes into the product is just as important as the delivered work, according to Kleon. Especially for building an engaged audience who feels apart of  the work that you are creating.

I loved this book and recommend it to anyone needing creative inspiration.

Book Review: Creativity, Inc.

Filed under: Book Review — Emily Reeves @ 11:12 am

After reading this review of Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull,  from my boss, I was excited to get my own copy and delve into its stories and insights. The opening of the book immediately connected with me as Catmull explained his career path and the challenges he faced moving from a role of directly being a film-maker to more generally being creative culture leader. In his words, “As I turned my attention from solving technical problems to engaging with the philosophy of sound management, I was excited once again — and sure that our second act could be as exhilarating as our first.”

With my pen in hand, ready to underline and take notes, I excitedly plowed through the 300-page book. I feel like I marked up well over half the book — it was that good and relevant. This is a book for company leaders seeking advice from an experienced manager on how to engage creative teams, yet keep them disciplined and interested. I was able to draw many parallels to the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, as a modern-day bible for creative leadership and taking a business to the next level by “getting the right people on the bus.”

My favorite takeaways and associated quotes:

Team matters.
“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.”

The story matters.
“For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.”

Passion matters.
“It was unthinkable that we not do our best.”

Mistakes matter.
“The silver linking of a major meltdown is that it gives managers a chance to send clear signals to employees about the company’s values, which inform the role each individual is expected to play.”

Honesty matters.
“…without the critical ingredient that is candor, there can be no trust. And without trust, creative collaboration is not possible.”

People matter.
“The responsibility for finding and fixing problems should be assigned to every employee, from the most senior manager to the lowliest person on the production line.”

I highly recommend this book to leaders in creative companies and those just generally interested in the “behind-the-scenes” business and insider stories of Pixar Animation.

December 31, 2013

My Favorite Books of 2013

Filed under: Book Review,Girl Gets Geeky,Personal — Emily Reeves @ 10:25 am

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In 2012, I read 60 books and set my 2013 goal at 75. In 2013, I read 89 books (and I just might finish one more today to make it an even 90). I am not going to lie: I am pretty proud of myself for this accomplishment and will likely brag about it for the next 12 months.

As with last year, I am sharing my top five reads in each of three categories. The links are to my reviews on Goodreads.

Business books (or, what I consider books that I can apply to my business):

  1. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pullizi
  2. Get Lucky by Thor Muller
  3. Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian
  4. A/B Testing by Dan Siroker
  5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Other non-fiction books:

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain
  2. How To Be Interesting by Jessica Hagy
  3. Die Empty by Todd Henry
  4. Haiti: A Shattered Nation by Elizabeth Abbott
  5. The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything Fast by Josh Kaufman

Fiction books:

  1. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  3. The Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  5. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

For 2014, my goal is 120 books. Ten books a month: I don’t know if I can do it, but I will have fun trying. If you follow me over on Goodreads, you can keep up with the books as I read them.

December 9, 2013

Book Review: Epic Content Marketing

Filed under: Book Review,Digital Strategy,Marketing — Emily Reeves @ 6:37 pm

Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less, by Joe Pulizzi is a comprehensive guide to content marketing. Pulizzi covers an overview of content marketing, why businesses should be doing it and how — very specifically — to use it. This was a great book that I am going to recommend to any online marketer. And it is one that I am sure I will reference several times in the near future.

For a business book, this is a dense read at 300 pages, however, Pulizzi has broken the book into process and parts, making it easy to digest and understand.  On the first page of the book, Pulizzi powerfully states:

“Advertising is not dead, but content marketing is the driver that leading companies now use to capture the hearts and minds of their customers.”

While content marketing has been around for a long time, the term “content marketing” just started to trend with in the last 12 months. What exactly is content marketing and what is the difference between it and “content?”

“What makes content marketing different from simple content is that content marking must do something for the business. It must inform, engage, or amuse with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Do your customers really want content from you?

“Eighty percent of buyers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus ad advertisement. Seventy percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, and 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions.”

“Millennials, now between the ages of 19 to 34, actually expect brands to develop content for them, with 80 percent wanting to be directly entertained through content marketing.”

Throughout the book, Pulizzi provides example after example of brands that have had success with content marketing and exactly how they have done it. And the examples include big brands with big budgets and small companies with few employees.

The bottom line is that brands are now publishers. They have to be in order to pull in audiences and build relationships with them to influence their buying behaviors. This book provides that introduction and steps to becoming a content marketer. I highly recommend this book.

November 9, 2013

Book Review: Smarter Than You Think

Filed under: Book Review — Emily Reeves @ 5:13 pm

This book is the antithesis to The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brainsby Nicolas Carr. In The Shallows (link to my review of the book), Carr tells us how the internet is ruining our brains. In Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the BetterClive Thompson tells us how it is making us smarter and more powerful. Thompson covers the tools we use to aid and memorialize our memories, how more people are writing and writing for an audience, collaborative problem solving, inspiring creativity, making education accessible, knowing your friends better and social and civic activeness. In short, technology makes a broader world available to us and it can make us and the world a better place when put to good use.

My favorite highlights from the book:

“Our brains are remarkably bad at remembering details. They’re great at getting the gist of something, but they consistently muff the specifics.”

“The explosion of online writing has a second aspect that is even more important than the first, though: it’s almost always done for an audience…Audiences clarify the mind even more.”

“When you can resolve multiples and connect people with similar obsessions, the opposite happens. People who are talking and writing and working on the same thing often find one another, trade ideas and collaborate.”

“…knowledge has always been created via conversation, argument, and consensus.”

“We are social creatures, so we think socially.”

“It is no accident that the ‘maker’ movement, a worldwide collection of nerds trying to learn and teach everyday mechanical and electronic know-how, has arisen in the age of easy video documentation. If you want to know how to build something, seeing it happen is crucial.”

“…memory for facts is quite specific to our obsessions…”

“…we forget things in a predictable pattern: More than half our facts are gone in an hour, about two thirds are gone within a day, and within a month we’re down to about 20 percent.”

“To be really smart, though, an online group needs to obey one final rule–and a rather counterintuitive one. The members can’t have too much contact with one another. To work best, the members of a collective group ought to be able to think and work independently.”

“By following…friends’ updates, … [you can begin] to sense the rhythms of their lives.”

“Each little update–each individual bit of social information–is, on its own, pretty insignificant, even mundane. But taken together over time, the snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ inner lives, like dots forming into a pointillist painting.”

“But ambient awareness is all about slowly amassing an enormous, detailed contest. Follow someone’s ambient signals for a day and it seems like trivia. In a week it seems like a short story. In six months, a novel.”

“To make social change begin to snowball, we need to make our thoughts visible. When members of society think public and keep in ambient contact with one another, it creates a new environment–where we’re increasingly aware of what changes might be possible.

This was a fascinating read, but a heavy read. I definitely recommend this to those interested in digital trends and future predictions.