What I did on my winter vacation.

This has got to be one of my most relaxing vacations ever. Amy and Ivan were away, and Vancouver has had the most snow I can ever recall us getting. These events combined to keep me at home and forced me to relax (I’m good at several things, but not so much at relaxing). I have greatly enjoyed (and needed) this downtime.

I’ve written a two-part blog post on monitoring your brand health, which I’ll publish next week, so stay tuned. After this, as work picks up again, my blog will become quieter (you can stop clapping now). In the meantime, I thought I’d pass along some of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched on my time off.

I started the vacation by zipping through Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (who wrote The Tipping Point and Blink).

Outliers is a great continuation of this trilogy of sorts. Gladwell examines what makes an exceptional person or event so extraordinary. He examines the success of Bill Gates and The Beatles, and why Chinese people are good at math. I love his books because he makes me see the world in a slightly new way. He illuminates things that I kind of already knew but had never put words to. The book is a joy to read.

Next up is Sway by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. Ori Brafman’s last book, which he co-wrote with Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider, is one of my favourites from the last few years. It demonstrates the power of leaderless organizations and decentralized models. Fascinating stuff.

Sway is about what influences our decisions subconsciously. How psychological factors influence us to make irrational decisions. Reading this and Outliers back to back is interesting, and I recommend it because they go together so well. The problem is, to be honest, I can’t remember which anecdotes were in each one. One thing the Brafman brothers do so well in this book is look at things like plane crashes. Why would pilots with a ton of experience make a series of bad decisions that would end up causing a plane crash. They look at power structures in some cultures which would prevent a co-pilot from challenging the pilot on board his plane.

I love books like this, and these two don’t disappoint.

I am just starting Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott, who, along Anthony D. Williams wrote the amazing Wikinomics. I like what I’ve read so far. It is all about the differences between previous digital immigrant generations and the current Net Generation, and how they respond to work, culture, politics, entertainment, and the like.

I also saw a handful of films, including Helvetica, a documentary on the 50th anniversary of the ubiquitous font. As you can imagine, it’s a tad dull at times, but it holds together nicely, and is well worth the time spent.

I also watched some good throwaway films like Iron Man and Burn After Reading, both enjoyable.

I made it to the theatres to see Slumdog Millionaire, which was extraordinary. Such a fantastic idea for a movie, that a bunch of random questions asked on a national gameshow like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire can string together all the key moments of a person’s life, all those moments that combine together to make you who you are. It is that rare film that is both extremely entertaining and meaningful.

So, it’s been a good vacation.

Have a great 2009. It’ll be a challenging year for sure, but I feel very optimistic about it.

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