The 4 books I read this summer vacation


This year, on our annual holiday, we travelled to Provence, France. I packed 4 physical books with me in one suitcase. We did quite a bit of cycling on electric bicycles in the hilly villages around Ménerbes, the scenery was stunning; with patchy wifi and very little distractions, books became my main refuge, after conversation of course.

As much as I try to read everyday, it is so much easier on holiday when one can devote 1-2 hours a day uninterrupted to a good book. I also planned to go running daily. I hate running so I don’t know why I even planned that.

Here are the four and oh, I only read non-fiction:

  1. Red Notice : How I Became Putin's No. 1 Enemy

This book gave me sleepless nights on holiday, I got really involved with it. I highly, highly recommend reading it - it's well written even if you aren’t all that interested in finance.It is not for the faint hearted, especially the chapter about Sergei Magnitsky, his lawyer being harmed in a Russian prison. What I loved about the author is that he’s moved on from investing in Eastern European & Russian equities (and he was very talented at that) to lobbying for human rights, in a big way. In my excitement, I tweeted about this book and then because Bill Browder liked the actual post, I got a lot more attention on Twitter than I usually get.

  1. Family Constellations Revealed: Hellinger's Family and other Constellations Revealed

A friend shared attending a money constellations workshop and greatly benefiting from it. I have experienced family constellation work before but never delved deeply into it. Hearing about the money impact, I rushed to buy everything I could on the topic. I really enjoyed the book -interesting stories, great insights and leads to the understanding that there is a lot we don’t know that is “hidden” stuff and so useful to uncover.

  1. The Elements of Investing, Updated Edition: Easy Lessons for Every Investor

I tried reading this and just couldn’t get into it. It may be that I have become that jaded investment adviser that has read too many books on this topic. Or that I just needed a break from investment speak on holiday. I will try again especially as I spent £18 on it.

  1. The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King

A book about a banana trader. I learnt so much about the yellow fruit and the facts were written in such a fascinating style that I couldn’t get enough of it. An engrossing tale of the life of Sam Zemurray, the ‘banana king’ who found a gap in the market and began selling this fruit to areas of the United States that had never seen them before. A well told story, worth reading.

I am always looking for book suggestions. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any.

What Marshall Rosenberg (creator of NVC) taught Miki Kashtan about money

We organised an event in London titled ' Liberation in Three Chapters: Personal and Collective Practices for Embracing a Collaborative Future' with Miki Kashtan, an International trainer for Nonviolent Communication. The first section of the day focused on money, which is a system we use to allocate resources. We covered the below material (if it sounds ambitious for 2 hours, it was and it was so rich in terms of content & practical takeaways- no pun intended with rich) which was all filmed and released on YouTube, covering the below subjects:

  • From Exchange and Accumulation to a Flow of Giving and Receiving

  • Gift and exchange paradigms.

  • Money and interdependence.

  • Ownership and stewardship.

  • Putting needs at the center.

  • Inequality and language.

  • A world beyond coercion.

  • Four practices for a more liberated relationship with money.

Here it is. Hope you find it useful.

This is the first of a series of three talks that Miki Kashtan gave in August 2018 at 42 ACRES (London) in the framework of a work shop called "Social Change Series - Liberation in Three Chapters: Personal and Collective Practices for Embracing a Collaborative Future".

Money Workshop transformations - Positive changes

One of the most gratifying parts of offering spaces to explore one's relationship with money, towards the closing of a workshop, for me, is seeing the glow and palpable relief on participant's faces and the sense of expansion and new possibilities felt after having shifted some money stories. There is nothing like hearing real life feedback after - this is the icing on the cake! After a recent money workshop specifically facilitated for childless women, organised by me and facilitated by Tim Malnick, here is some feedback about positive changes since the workshop that we received from Ali, published in its entirety with her permission below:

"At the workshop, you asked us to let you know of any changes we'd seen since the money workshop and I've had a few so wanted to let you know...I'm less tight/ anxious at work - still could do with more loosing I'm sure but the tight control/ anxiety about needing money has lessened considerably which is great. I no longer feel I need to hold on so tight which makes it much easier.

I've negotiated 1 day off every fortnight so I have long weekends every other week - ok not a huge massive change (for now) but it's a good first step and my inner manipulator helped me to find the right path through negotiations which was enjoyable!

We bought a camper-van for £15k - it doesn't make economic sense to own one and friends told me I didn't need one and my husband questioned if we'd use it but I felt really definitely it was something I really wanted for freedom and fun as we rented one in NZ and enjoyed it so much. I'm deeply excited about adventures and our first trip in 2 weeks to Devon coast is my first long weekend from work!

The shadow work we did also made me realise that as well as money, babies are magical beings that people can project their hopes and fears onto. They can't talk back either (to begin with) and not having children I realised I was partly guilty of this also. So the workshop also helped me realise that having children (however wonderful) are not the only paths to purpose, meaning, fun, connection, belonging, legacy, nurture etc. And I can create that in a different way too. Again I'm not perfect but great step in a positive direction.

Thanks again for the great workshop,


Money lessons from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (creator of Nike).

"What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much it becomes essentially the same thing." - Phil Knight

Reading business memoir books can take a bit of work and I don’t mean the fun kind of work; with certain books, I have to give myself motivational speeches by page 15  and encourage myself to plod along. Do you know that feeling? Not this book. Not only a fun read, it also helped me connect with the author as a human being, flaws and all. A deep honesty shone through in the stories & anecdotes about Phil Knight’s own shortcomings, his mistakes, management style, accidental great decisions, business highs and a sometimes flawed relationship with his children - which was truly refreshing. It all started with a $50 loan from his father; today we all recognise the Nike swoosh- the whole story is such a gripping, fascinating & hilarious read.

Some of my favourite lines from the book, which speak to his relationship with money, work and business are below with my thoughts:

On business:

“It seems wrong to call it ‘business’. It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher – and none of us wavered in the belief that ‘stakes’ didn’t mean ‘money’. For some, I realize, business is the all-out-pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970’s, I did, too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me.”

It is striking how in touch Phil Knight is with his mission, vision and a ‘higher aim’ which included meaning, contribution and efficiency - needs that all humans share. Business can be life-alienating rather than life-enriching, with a focus merely on the bottom line, profits or ‘what’s in it for me?’. It can also be alive, full of meaning, play with a laser sharp focus on delivering value and improving the quality of life of the customers (or clients) you work with. Having empathy for what is important to a customer is so important in business & also doing business for more than just ‘money’.

On money:

“When it came rolling in, the money affected us all. Not much, and not for long, because none of us was ever driven by money. But that's the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.

I bought a Porsche. I tried to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, and wound up in a lawsuit with Donald Sterling. I wore sunglasses everywhere, indoors and out. There’s a photo of mine in a ten-gallon gray cowboy hat - I don’t know where or when or why. I had to get it all out of my system. Even Penny wasn’t immune. Overcompensating for the insecurity of her childhood, she walked around with thousands of dollars in her purse. She bought hundreds of staples, like rolls of toilet paper, at a time. It wasn’t long before we were back to normal. Now, to the extent that she and I ever think about money, we focus our efforts on a few specific causes. We give away $100 million each year, and when we’re gone we’ll give away most of what’s left.”

From my other blogs, you may notice that I spend quite a lot of time wondering about the unconscious drivers around our relationship with money. Some of us need to act out behaviours several times before we get to the bottom of it - and our childhood’s have a lot to do with our relationship with money too. As Phil refers to it ‘get it all out of my system’. Glad to note that his wife Penny and he did explore what they truly wants to do with money and they are now philanthropists.

An inspirational read, highly recommend!

Oh, and like me if you wonder what ‘Shoedog’ means, it is an industry slang name given to a veteran of the footwear industry. Someone who has dedicated their life to selling shoes is sometimes referred to as “an old shoedog”.

Further reading:

Shoe Dog - Gates Notes

Lessons from a 30 day Digital Declutter inspired by Cal Newport

The first time I used a smart phone was in 2012. I missed my train stop to work because I was distracted, a phone with bright colours and internet was new and fun to me. I didn’t register the distraction as a major problem then.

Technology offers us all a gazillion ways to interact with the world. Companies are profitable from our ability get distracted; the more time we spend on these sites, the better for their advertising revenue. Our amazing, functional ‘dumb’ phones which allowed us to communicate with the world just fine via phone calls and text are now destructive, attention guzzling, shiny things that can distract us 24/7. If the first thing you reach for when you wake up is your phone, you could say you are addicted.

When I saw an opportunity to participate in an experiment in January, 2018 run by Professor Cal Newport, whose book Deep Work I loved, I jumped at the opportunity and quickly recruited my husband in the process, he was a Twitter fan.

Cal’s emails gave clear instructions about how to do this and I followed the guidelines as much as I could. I felt like he was the calmest, detached cheerleader from afar, encouraging in his emails with logic and leading by example. In my imagination, he constantly reminded me to ‘preserve your concentration’ and ‘Don’t fall for the addiction designs’ and ‘ close those multiple browsers-they fragment your attention’, which was very helpful.

The three parts of his experiment guidelines were:

Part 1: Take a Break from Optional Technologies (No online news, social media and restricted texting of family/friends).

Part 2: Identify What Really Matters ( goals and values that are important; figure out what you really want to be doing with your time).

Part 3: Reintroduce Technology (intentionally get back to using technologies, based on the values that are really important).

The first three days were difficult. I deleted Whatsapp from my phone; I missed the chatter of my sisters and hearing news from them on my ‘Sisters group’. I don’t have any notifications from social media on my phone anyway but I deleted Instagram, blocked the Twitter and Facebook websites (Restrictions under settings) in case I got tempted. I also installed an app called Moment which allowed me to see how often I used my phone, how many phone pick ups a day and which app’s I used the most. I was a little shocked to see that texting and calling was the function least used. My grandmother who passed away in 2003 would never understand how we use phones today.

I also installed Focus Mode, an app on Chrome, that allows you to easily block distracting websites. I highly recommend doing this and noticing your triggers for distraction — mine are boredom, anxiety or wanting stimulation. Mindless browsing is so easy to do and I have learned to just stay with the boredom or replaced browsing with another habit like drinking water or looking out of the window and breathing for a few seconds.I did have a little FOMO (Fear of missing out) on social updates on Facebook but this quickly wore off by day 4.

During the experiment I felt calmer, less anxious and more spacious. Life had slowed down, inside my head anyway. Engaging on social media leads to you having many voices in your head, other streams of thought…and while this can be fun, it drains your own thinking ability, distracts you from what is important to accomplish in your day.

Since I couldn’t distract myself on social media, I began doing more fun things offline — I hung out more with friends and looked forward to this, I signed up for singing lessons, attended more Yoga classes, tried out new recipes and started studying for an exam I had been putting off for ages. My husband and I found it hard to switch all devices off 2 hours before bed-time and yet, this helped us sleep better and we try to stick to this rule.

I remember a time in my life when I was 15 years old. I was determined to do well that year in school and woke up at 4 am religiously for a whole year to study in the morning! I have no idea how I did this and am still in admiration of my strength to do this. I built my life around it including sleeping at 8 pm & drinking enough water that I had to wake up, even if I didn’t feel like it. I studied really hard, I was so focused that I even found myself getting irritated when I had chatty friends studying with me, who interrupted my schedule. That was deep work.  It was the first time in high school that I remember topping my class too with 84%. I imagine you can remember times in your life when you did commit yourself to deep work too.

Oh, and my husband hasn’t been back on Twitter since.

What I learned from the experiment was:

  • I can switch off notifications, switch to grey scale mode on my smart phone, keep my phone in another room, delete app’s from my phone, go off WiFi occasionally, close extra browsers and go offline on email when I want to do deep work. I can channel my inner 15 year old, for whom this was easy.

  • Giving in to my desires is too easy. I am responsible for how I regulate my behaviour and choose to make firm agreements with myself and make it easy for myself with step one. I don’t want to be Pavlov’s dog programmed, conditioned & addicted to the dopamine hits of notifications.

  • Our attention is a limited resource to use wisely. I want to carve out time for deep work (non-negotiable time in 4 hour blocks with no distractions) in my weekly calendar. I am inspired to intentionally work more like Cal Newport.

Further Resources: