You Can Be Funny & Make People Laugh

I just finished reading You Can Be Funny & Make People Laugh (Gregory Peart, 2019, 241 pages), and I really enjoyed it!

The topic of humor is somewhat close to my heart. Although I’m definitely not a funny person, and I didn’t spend much time studying humor either. This book, however, is one of my attempts to get more information about it, since I from times to times reflect on the rules behind jokes and funny stories and behaviors.

Well, this book added certainly lots of material to that library of funny stuff in my brain. And it makes it in a very lightweight way. Not repeating itself too much, but progressing nicely over a number of techniques that can be harnessed to create funny stories, comments and playful interaction.

The playfulness aspect is quite central to the book, since it focuses a lot on how different techniques open space to others to chip in with even funnier comments and continuations to things previously said. I like that line of thinking!

In short, things as contrasts, exaggeration, meta commentaries, hypotheticals, references, etc. are some of the main weapons one can use to create funny comments and stories. The book has a multitude of examples that illustrates a large number of situations and how they can play out to be on the funnier side of the spectrum.

I think the book does a great job in helping going beyond the seriousness that many of us have around us almost all the time. I’m the first to admit that I typically take things seriously and literally. And that is typically not funny at all. Although I love playful situations, and can show my childish humor in private situations, I hope this book can help creating a bridge to allow more playfulness on more serious parts of my life too.


Chip War: The Quest to Dominate the World’s Most Critical Technology

I finished recently Chip War: The Quest to Dominate the World’s Most Critical Technology (Chris Miller, 2022), and I can’t speak highly enough of the experience.

To start with, this book has lots of the ingredients that I personally find fascinating: history, technology, and geopolitics. And it delivers it masterfully on all of these fields.

In terms of history, the span of years since the start of the semiconductor technology until now has coincided with some profound changes in the world. On the 1960’s, when it all started, the US was the tech powerhouse fighting to catch up on its space program, the only field in which it lagged behind the Soviet Union. Since then, the soviet fall and the raise of Japan (or perhaps its resurgence) shocked the world, and semiconductors played a central role in the Japanese ascension to economic power. Alongside comes the intricacies of events in Europe, China, and a few other central places in Asia. Mainly Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, which all were drastically transformed in the last 70 years.

The book is a great source of information regarding multiple aspects of the chip technology. And what a technology it is! Moore’s law and the multiplication of transistors to the billions on a single chip are relatively well known. What the book also discuss in details is the lithography technology, for example, which is mind-blowing in itself. The related wireless communication revolution that followed with the advancements of chip, and the raise of the GPU’s from graphic to modern advanced Machine Learning model training are just but a few more examples of great technologies whose origin and developments the book describe in detail.

Finally, the geopolitics part is extremely relevant. It not only explains some of the decisions that were taken along the years and which resulted in the distribution of factories, suppliers, and countries that today control the R&D and manufacturing of virtually all chips. But it also projects its weight on the future of Taiwan, contested by China, and home to the most advanced chip fabs in the world.

All these ingredients are incredibly well served by the book. And it gives a glimpse on why and how the United States, the Netherlands, South-Korea and Taiwan are the main countries controlling the choke points of what is probably the most critical tech piece of our modern world. The developments in China on the coming years will also be determinant to the future of not only of Taiwan and China themselves, but also to the rest of us who probably couldn’t live without these incredible chips on almost all electronics we critically depend on.


The Five Temptations of a CEO

I recently concluded reading The Five Temptations of a CEO (Patrick Lencioni, 1998, 134 pages). This is a concise but insightful book.

It’s not difficult to understand why this book is a bestseller, and therefore why it popped up when I searched for books with good content about what real leadership should look like. This book and the others that followed, by Pat Lencioni, contains lots of great insights on the people side and integrity principles that can make an organization work.

In short, the principles, when seeing on the opposite direction as of how they are originally presented in the book are like follows. The first is all about trust. Which requires openness and the ability to show weaknesses that can be compensated by colleagues. The temptation here is try and hide any personal vulnerabilities.

When trust is in place, a good leader must promote ideological conflict, as the book puts. If people feel safe, they will express freely, and conflicting ideas and passionate discussions will emerge. Which is great! Good ideas and better decisions will come out of it. Except if the person in charge falls for the temptation of seeking harmony.

With good ideas, coming from everyone involved, the next step is to seek clarity as of what to do. The temptation is to wait until the “right” decision can be taken, when finally all relevant information is in place. Pointless to say that this almost never is the case. So, seeking clarity should win over the temptation of being right.

Because when there is clarity, there is the possibility of setting clear expectations to the executive team, so that the CEO does not feel bad when holding team members accountable for not delivering. The temptation in case is the wish to be liked by people, which can result in CEO’s either not holding subordinates accountable (which undermines the team), or taking the drastic measure of removing someone when the person in case did not have a fair chance to deliver on the expectations, which were never clearly communicated.

When people are accountable for the expectations that are clearly defined (or otherwise adjusted in case they were flawed), then typically results will come. And results are the most important thing for a company. The final temptation is for a CEO to put status or his position in the first place. Even above the company results. A person who easily succumbs to this temptation, however, should actually never become a CEO.