The Front Line?

Around a month ago I was blown away by the logic and sense in this facebook post from a member of medical staff here in Malaysia:

Facebook Post – Dr Michelle Au
(Click on the link above to open the facebook page either in a new tab or a new window)

At that time we were adjusting to being locked down at home under the Movement Control Order. As more and more countries locked down certain language started to be used more and more often. One phrase was to talk about medical and essential workers being on ‘the front line’ in the battle/ war (I’m going to talk about that in a separate post!).

Dr Au’s point is a very simple but poweerful one – one that might have brought about a bit more self-discipline from some if acknowledged. In short she said it’s not her but us who are the front line. If we put ourselves in the way of this virus by not observing sensible isolation and distancing, then more of us will catch the illness. Some may be lucky, asymptomatic and unaffected, but others may suffer very severely. Incidentally, as an asthmatic with COPD I’ve had pneumonia a number of times. I know well what it feels like to struggle for each breath, for the breath that’s going in to your lungs to be inadequate and then for your lungs to fail to extract adequate oxygen from it. There’s a sense of drowning inside your own body – a slow, inexorable suffocation.

From Dr Au’s perspective the medical professionals are not on the front line, but they are, in fact, the last line of defence – when all else has failed, when in the worst of situations your own body has been assaulted by this virus or some other condition and cannot solve the situation, but must be put in to their hands for them to fight and battle to save you. Their roles in battling to save people’s lives as the last line of defence are harrowing, mentally challenging and ultimately physically dangerous for them (and their family members) . We have very sadly, seen many of them pay the ultimate price as they are faced with impossible conundrums and challenges to decide who may survive and who may die. Beyond them, there are no more defences. They are not the front line – we are – we serve our role by complying with the scientifically determined rules on distancing, isolating ourselves and taking every necessary step to keep ourselves safe.

There are some other people who, during this virus crisis are also described as being ‘on the front line’ – essentially being all those deemed to be employed in essential services who are therefore continuing to travel to work whilst the vast majority of populations live in lockdown, quarantined in their homes. Going beyond doctors, nurses and other medical staff there are the police and military, those involved in refuse collection and other municipal services, all those engaged in logistical services to get essential food and materials to where they need to be.

Ecommerce warehouse

There’s an issue that’s been troubling me more and more as the weeks of lockdown have gone on. There are quite a number of companies that send me emails encouraging me to buy their products. The fact that they have continued to send these indicates that at least some of their customers are buying. However, it’s quite possible this particular customer might never buy from them ever again.

In addition, i’ve seen news reports from both US and UK concerning both big and small online retailers where warehouse and packing staff have contracted the covid-19 virus (and even passed it to family members). Alongside, I’ve seen various people, celebrities or otherwise parading their new purchases acquired through ecommerce websites. It seems, for some, the consumerist – “I shop, therefore I am,” ideology doesn’t give way just because of a pesky virus.

Does your desire for a new barbecue, some fancy home dumbells or the latest ring light so that you look beautifiul on screen when you zoom conference justify the potential risk or even death for the hard working, under-paid warehouse and sorting staff or the delivery personnel? Is this really what they should be risking their lives for? I’m sorry, but to me it’s not acceptable. There are countries (I’m aware of India for sure) that have mandated that ecommerce companies may only take orders for and arrange deliveries of essential products. I’m also aware that when India imposed that rule the world’s biggest ecommerce company tried to argue with them! Shame on them, I say.

I’ve also seen in recent weeks two prominent writers who were due to publish new books. Despite the virus and all its implications they went ahead with their campaigns to persuade maximum numbers of people to buy their books (in hardback form) with various incentives etc. These are writers who consider themselves great thinkers about the lives of men. They’ve probably both lost my respect and my readership for ever. All because they couldn’t see beyond their own personal desires to make the New York Times bestseller lists with their books.

They had other options;

  1. Delay the launches of the books – it would have been legitimate to tell their readers that they were doing this for responsible reasons,
  2. To take the orders for the books, with an understanding that the hard copy books would only be despatched later when it’s safer, but in the short term providing ebook electronci copies of the book for their loyal readers who want to buy now.

There are people doing critical jobs to whom we owe enormous gratitude. These people are risking their lives to keep the vital functions of cities working, to maintain law and order and ensure the logistic channels for ESSENTIAL goods, such as food. They should not be joined by those who are forced to work to pander to people’s wants (rather than needs).

If the shoppaholic who isn’t faced with crippling fear of job and income loss feels the need to indulge in wilful spending I’m sure there are plenty of organisations in their areas doing vital work to feed the hungry, make protective clothing for medical staff and face masks for those doing essential work who would have been very glad of their support.

When so many are doing phenomenal selfless things for the good of all, it is saddening that greed and thoughtlessness can still stand outin its insensitivity.

My Best Reads – 2019 – Part 2

1. This is Marketing, Seth Godin


I’m not sure how many years it has been now that Seth Godin has written a daily blog which is sent by email to thousands of people worldwide. Some are just a few lines, some much longer explorations on an idea. I’ve been reading them for a few years and when suitably inspired have shared a few on this blog.

The book is one of the best and most up to date that I’ve read in a long time on the subject of marketing, from the perspective of all the ways we seek to influence people to make particular decisions.

2. Vernon Subutex One, Virginie Despentes


This is the first in a three part novel series. I had probably not read something that had such a gut-thumping impact in quite a few years. Translated from French it goes deep in to modern society, French politics and the world we live in today.

I also read the second in the trilogy, but it didn’t quite hit with the same impact. The third and final part is, I believe, available in the French, but yet to be released in English translation.

3. Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan


I’ve long believed that McEwan is one of the most powerful British writers today. It made the Man Booker Shortlist for 2019 with good reason. A powerful exploration of a near future when Artificial Intelligence has reached the point of a human standard robot that can be purchased and taken in to one’s home.

The interplay and disruption of ethics and life perspectives for all who interact with the robot is fascinating.

4. Hagseed, Margaret Attwood


Maybe I’m just a contrarian! 🙂

In the year when so much attention of the media and readers was on one of Margaret Attwood’s other works, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ However, as much as I loved that novel and many of her others, the one that really got my attention in 2019 was one maybe a little less known.

It’s a witty modern reworking of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and the central character of Felix is brilliantly portrayed.

5. When, Dan Pink


Dan Pink is one of those writers I find takes scientific research in the social sciences, makes it accessible and shares it in ways that can enable us all to live smarter lives. As a repeat reader of some of his earlier books, this was one i was waiting for when it came out.

‘When’ didn’t disappoint. It provides fascinating evidence on why, as humans, we’re not necessarily good at getting the timing of things right, but also contains some very practical steps we can take to improve our ability to get the timing of things better.

6. Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut


In the first half of my book list I mentioned that Murakami was one of two writers I ‘discovered’ late in 2019. Vonnegut was undoubtedly the other. My choice for this list was a toss up between ‘Cat’s Cradle’ and ‘Slaughterhouse 5’. Both were incredibly satisfying reads.

‘Cat’s Cradle’ was published in the year i was born. A near future science fiction novel, it explores the relationship between people and technology that was so starkly presented with the invention (and use) of the nuclear bomb. Today, we have many parallels as people are faced with moral and ethical dilemmas about whether to use new technologies like AI, advanced robotics etc. for good or for bad.

7. The Future of the Mind, Michio Kaku


I’ve never fully understood why, but as a boy and at school I never really managed to fall in love with Science enough to pursue the science subjects for study.  This was strange, because in my youngest years I spent hours looking at things through a microscope, used to make simple circuits with an electrical kit and took things apart to see how they worked (though they were never the same again!). I can’t help thinking that if people like Michio Kaku and Neil DeGras Tyson had been around things might have been very different.

I recently heard a comment that is so true – when you go in to bookshops today, the science fiction section is so much smaller than it used to be when i was a kid. In fact, today, most of what you find there could be more classified as fantasy. This is because at an ever faster pace, science has turned all the things that were once science fiction in to science reality.

Space was once considered to be the final frontier for man’s knowledge and learning. Today, it’s the human mind. We’re still an awfully long way from cracking our understanding of its workings, but we’ve come a long way in the last 20 years. This book takes that scientific learning and makes it accessible, whilst exploring possible answers on the parts we still don’t know. It also explores the fascinating ways in which this new knowledge is already starting to change the way we interface with the human mind and conjecture on where this learning could take us in the future.

So, that completes my best reads lists for 2019. There were some other books that ran close to making the list. Now nearly 2 months in to 2020 I can promise that if it carries on like this, then this year’s list will be brilliant.

I had a sobering thought the other day. In the rest of my life, if I’m lucky I may have time to read 1,000 more books. On that basis, it’s going to make sense to be quite discerning about which new books i choose to read, especially as I want to make sure that there’s a good amount of that time available to reread the books that have brought me most joy and satisfaction in my life.

Happy reading !!

Books, Books, Books

Books Books

It’s an established fact that I’m something of a bookworm (and therefore love a good book list. What better to share at this time of year when we get the chance to recharge our batteries a bit, and also to begin to reflect on the year (and this time, decade) gone by and what we want to achieve, be, have and do in the coming year.

So, I’ve got not just one but two book lists from Fast Company. The first list is books that top CEO’s have on their wish list at the end of 2019, while the second list is of books that top company Heads go back to time after time to find new inspiration:

Fast Company – CEOs on the Books on Their Wish Lists 2019

Fast Company – 10 Books that CEOs Keep Rereading

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to put together my own list of the books that had the biggest impact on me in 2019. So, watch out for that.

More Books To Read


We’re not even 20% in to the new century yet, but apparently it’s not too soon for some people to sit down and brainstorm out a list of the best 100 books of the century.

Regular readers of this blog know what a bookworm I am, so I’m still a sucker for a list like this. So, here is a list that suggests the best books so far this century:

The Guardian – 100 Best Books of the Twenty First Century

There are some excellent choices on the list and some that have now piqued my interest. I have some issues with some writers who are not included.  These include Irvine Welsh, Iain Banks, Hariki Murakami. Also, when one considers the biggest selling genres of books outside fiction there’s very little representation from the Self-Help or Management/ leadership/ Economics/ Business categories and not many biographies.

I have plenty of favourites on the list; Terry Pratchett, Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Haddon, Neil Gaiman, Ali Smith, Yuval Noah Harari, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and the book given number one – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell.

Still, a worthwhile list with something for everyone – and it’ll soon be Christmas !!

Even More Great Reading

Reading a book

It seems that good reading lists are a bit like Number 11 buses – none come for ages, then they come three in a row. I shared a really good list a couple of days ago and here are two more. Needless to say, these have simply added to my ‘to be bought’ list that was already quite long enough, and motivated me to push on reading what I’ve already got lined up a bit faster!

Inc – 25 of the Most Inspiring Books Everyone Should Read

McKInsey – What Executives Are Reading in 2019

And for anyone who looks at these lists and says, “I don’t have time to read,” they had better never utter the words that they expect children to grow up to be lifelong learners (especially my fellow educators).

Enjoy 🙂


Book List

Adam Grant Books

Those who know me well (or have set foot in my home) know that i always surround myself with books. When electronic books and things like podcasts came along I thought I would probably slow down the number of books i bought and read. However, what’s happened is that I simply increased my consumption!

On my various bookcases I have one shelf on which i keep all the new books that are waiting to be read. Every time I pass it I’m taunted to read faster so as to satisfy my anticipation to get in to those books. When the contents of that shelf start to get a bit light, that’s my permission to buy some more. Already, there’s a list of around 17 books on an online book sale website ‘parked’ as my shopping list.

And then , ……………….. Adam Grant puts out the following note on books that are coming soon. He’s privileged as a known and very prominent writer to receive advance pre-publication copies of lots of books (I even wonder when he last bought a book!)

This list contains at least three books that I knew were due out and was already looking forward to, but also a whole load more that look very interesting and some of which will undoubtedly find their way on to my ‘to buy’ list.

LinkedIn Article – Adam Grant – New Fall Books on Behavioral Science, Leadership and Life

So, Mark, read faster because there’s a load more books coming in soon!

Books For Success

I’m always receptive for good lists of books, especially when like this list, I’ve only read two of the recommended books already – and they are both good ones and among my favourites.

Success – 13 Must-Read Books on Success and Being Successful

Incidentally, the ones I’ve already read are the ones by Adam Grant and Tim Ferriss.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Reading List

All regular readers of this blog know what a bookworm I am.

So, a big ‘Thank You’ to Mark Zuckerberg for adding some great books to my ‘to be read’ list.

Here’s his list of 23 books;

Business Insider – Mark Zuckerberg’s Favourite Books

Leaders are Readers

I truly believe that in an ever faster changing world, the readers are destined to be the winners. Further, I think it’s vitally important to reinforce that the real knowledge we need to access doesn’t come through popular daily mass media; newspapers, magazines etc. or from TV.

So, as educators I believe we really need to be doing all in our power to ensure that children develop reading books as a natural pattern of their regular daily actions. For this, they need to develop great reading habits and the earlier they start these the better the chances that they will maintain those habits in their adult life. Sadly, a bit too often for comfort I hear parents who put the onus on schools to devel the reading habit in their children, or who bemoan the fact that the child isn’t a stronger reader, but who admit that they don’t read on a regular basis themselves. The excuse, nvariably, is @I don’t have the time.”

So, I was interested to come across this article looking at adult reading habits, triggered by recent pronouncements from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (who’s certainly way busier than you or me!) It makes clear – this is a habit we can build in to our adult lives if we just acknowledge its importance and put in the effort. However, I don’t think we should underestimate how challenging it would be for anyone who doesn’t naturally have the habit.

Here’s the article:
Fast Company – Why You Should Read 50 Books This Year

Which is why I am really keen to see more students in schools developing the habit early. part of this, I believe, is to encourage them to read for pleasure as much as for learning. Fiction opens up the mind in different ways to non fiction that tends to expand one’s knowledge. Books in the home are a valuable investment. We now know, or at least suspect according to recent research I’ve highlighted in other articles, that sleep patterns get disturbed by watching screens in the last hour before bed. So, what better alternative than to get your child to switch off the TV/ iPad/ computer an hour before bed and pick up a book?

When your child has been reading, it’s great for their thinking and language development to ask questions about the reading, how it made them feel, the messages nderlying the story etc. It also brings a sense of togetherness and bonding.

I have long had a habit that at any particular time I have two books I’m reading simultaneously – one fiction and one non fiction. Right now I’m reading “A strangeness in my mind”, the latest novel from Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk – a deep and thoughtful read. The non fiction is “Creative Schools” by educator, Sir Ken Robinson – I’ll maybe write more on that when I finish it.

Happy Reading !!!!


The MBA as a qualification is in serious trouble. The best ones cost a fortune to obtain whilst the weaker ones really aren’t worth the cost of the print on the certificate. I’m always interested in good book/ reading lists, so was very happy when I came across this one – a list of alternative books to read over a year that will give you everything an MBA could give, at a fraction of the cost.

The Hustle – Read These Books Instead of an MBA

Three of the books on the list I’ve already read (though one such a long time ago it’s due a re-read). Two others were already on my ‘to be read soon’ list, so now a few more get added.

I think, though the article doesn’t say it specifically, the value compared to doing an MBA from reading these books won’t come from just simply a passive skimmed read. I think it needs to be a far more engaged, active process, probably involving making notes after each chapter – especially where the ideas generated can be linked to direct experiences professionally.

We all get a bit of free time around this time of year – a good idea to spend at least a bit of it reading to enrich our minds.

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