Interview with Josh Kaufman and First Review

Josh Kaufman, creator of the Personal MBA, interviewed me recently. You will find the interview on the Personal MBA site. In particular I described my time as an entrepreneur, how I discovered the Personal MBA, how the idea came to me for my crazy challenge, and I give some advice to people who might be motivated to embark on a similar adventure 😉 . In terms of news, anyone who uses Twitter can now follow me to it – I am not thinking of using it a lot for the moment, but maybe that’s coming.


Anyway, the beginning of the year is appropriate for an initial review of the project. I began my crazy challenge on the 1st of October 2008 (week 40) with the ambition of reading one book a week for 52 weeks. How many books did I read during those first fifteen weeks?

  1. 10 Days to Faster Reading (+ a Free BONUS speed reading test)
  2. Strengths Finder 2.0 : Now, discover your Strengths
  3. 45 effective ways for Hiring Smart
  4. Lead the Field
  5. Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
  6. The Creative Habit – Learn it and use it for life
  7. The Unwritten Laws of Business
  8. The Path of Least Resistance – Learn to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life
  9. The Effective Executive
  10. Cut To The Chase
  11. Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload
  12. The Simplicity Survival Handbook

Note for my English blog readers: I write my articles and my resumes in French, and publish them on the French blog, then I send them to Mary of DeansResource who translates them. There is usually a one week lag between the French blog and the English blog.

So, twelve. Actually thirteen if you count Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina, but that one is not part of my challenge, I read it for my personal enjoyment and because I was hired to write a column in exchange for receiving a free advanced copy.

Twelve then. In fifteen weeks, which leaves three weeks without reading a new book:

  • The week in which I voluntarily paused in order to start implementing GTD. The temporary result is related in my article about GTD, Implementation – 1.
  • The week in which I wrote part two of The Path of Least Resistance summary, a difficult book for which the summary took the equivalent of 19 A4 pages (8 ½x 11) which took 10 hours to write.
  • The week I wrote the second part of the summary of The Simplicity Survival Handbook, a long and intense book for which the summary took the equivalent of 26 A4 pages and required 8 hours for me to write. I was also held up slightly due to the time that it took for me to prepare my first audio podcast (in French), of Lead The Field.

Difficulties and how I see my challenge

Briefly, the initial pace is rather difficult to maintain because of 1) the time needed to implement the things I am learning, which sometimes seem so important that I prefer to take a break rather than suffer the frustration of not being able to implement these new things that I am learning and 2) the time needed to draft useful summaries which bring something to you, fellow reader, which I had absolutely not anticipated at the outset – some of the books are difficult or long to summarize.

But that’s not very important because:

Should I continue at this pace or should I set myself a more reasonable pace – like one book every two weeks?

I asked myself recently about the main problem with my project, the lack of time to fully apply what I am learning, and I wondered if I shouldn’t change to a pace where “read one week, apply it the second, then start over.” All the readers who gave me their opinion told me that they think it’s an excellent solution – if not the best. I replied that I would take until the beginning of this year to think about it 🙂

I have thought about it. I am going to keep up this pace, because it’s a challenge and I want to rise to it, even if I know it will be difficult to accomplish all 52 books in one year. But I think I can do more than 40. I am doing this because:

  • I find my challenge exhilarating.
  • I have found my rhythm – which is definitely hectic between my company, my crazy challenge, my blogs and my personal activities I have hardly a minute left over for myself.
  • I learn so much from reading all these books, and all of them, without exception, have tips or ideas which can be applied immediately without any trouble – like the fact of immediately doing anything that takes less than two minutes, taken from GTD, or like asking yourself whenever you are doing something “Why am I doing this? Is it necessary?” Taken from The Effective Executive.

But it is possible for me to assign myself some weeks without a book so that I can have more time to implement what I have learned. In particular I am thinking of taking a break after I finish each category (at the moment I am on the Productivity & Effectiveness category) to review what I have learned and breathe a little 🙂

How Is My Business Doing?

I recently did a financial review for the last six month period of 2008, and the results were excellent – about 35% more than the business figures with regard to the same period last year. I have hired a new employee. Everything is going well therefore, and I have not been affected at all by the crisis – I am also writing an article about on the topic.

How Is My Life Going?

Overall, rather well, I am certainly on a hectic schedule, I have taken in several improv theater sessions, my better half has rallied somewhat 😉 and I usually work until about 11, five days a week, but it’s not really work because:

“Do work that you love and you will never work in your life” – Confucius

I’m keeping up with the pace of it all at the moment. And my better half is very understanding and supports me, a big thank you to her 🙂

How is the blog going?

Since I launched the French blog there have been 5,814 visitors, a significant amount of whom (40%) are loyal, my thanks to you 🙂

As of a few days ago I have over 200 RSS subscribers, and it seems that my articles and critiques are generally appreciated, as my first podcast has been. I am delighted to be bringing you something modest that can help you learn by yourself and improve yourself.

What’s more my earnings on Adsense and Amazon since the launch are more than €200, which helps to offset the price of the books, thank you very much to those readers who are loyal to me by buying the books on Amazon that they are interested in 🙂

The English blog brings in a little less and costs a lot (around $1,000 for the first three months) in spite of the immense goodwill of Mary, the translator, who is struggling to keep costs as low as possible, and her great work. I therefore wonder about its future.

What about … You?

A review is also a time to question things and improve the things that can be improved, so go for it! Are there any things you would like to see, things that can be improved, do you have any ideas, comments, criticisms to make? The comment form is waiting with outstretched arms 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Interview with Josh Kaufman and First Review

  1. I just wanted to write a quick note of encouragement in regards to your 52-week challenge. It is indeed an ambitious schedule, but it’s doable. 12 books in 15 weeks is certainly a nice start. The important thing is that you absorb the material and put it into application – regardless of schedule. It seems you’re absolutely doing that so far.

    I just started the PMBA conquest myself and have found it to be a rewarding experience so far. Good news about your schedule – the 37signals book is a quick read, you can probably knock that one out in a day or two. That should help you catch up.

    Good luck.

  2. Hello William, thanks for your comment, but you know, reading is definitively not the most challenging part of the project, writing the summaries and applying what I learn ARE the challenging part of the project.

    I think that if I only commit myself to just READ, I can read all the books of the Personal MBA. But if I do that a lot of the knowledge will pass in one ear and out the other.

    Writing summaries is a great way to fully understand and retain the concepts of the books, and of course this understanding and retaining help a lot for applying on the field. But it is demanding. Often, I take more time to write the summary than to read the book. But I think that it’s easily the equivalence of 3 reading of the book 😉 .

    Of course you don’t have to write summaries as long as mine, but I recommend a minimum of a few bullets points per chapter.

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