Book Review: Loneliness. Human Nature And The Need For Social Connection

On June 25th 2010, Softbank’s Chairman & CEO Masayoshi Son has presented SoftBank’s Next 30-Year Vision. He tried to build the corporate vision working backwards from the answer on the question: “What would be the saddest thing in a human life?”. And the answer was: “Loneliness”.

Over the next 30 years and beyond that, technologies will change, new businesses will rise and fall, astonishing achievements in AI will surprise us. But the fundamental human desire to love, to be loved and to be needed are not going to change. As long as our species inhabit the Earth, the need for companionship and social connection will be around.

I recommend you to read Softbank’s vision here, as it truly thinks big. I don’t know any other company who even tried to outline something similar to it. 13 years passed after the publication and many things predicted by Masayoshi-san became a reality.

I have started to think about a concept of loneliness after I watched this video from Kurzgesagt. Our societies around the globe are on the path towards more isolation and lack of social connections. Coming back to Japan again, there is an appointed Minister of Loneliness from 2021. And Japan today is the projection of Europe 20-30 years from now.

Why loneliness is a very sad thing for humans and how does it affect us? The book Loneliness gives a detailed answer on this question. The first part explains how loneliness impacts physical and mental health, it shares details from different researches to demonstrate impact of loneliness on executive control, ability to self-regulate and etc.

The second and third parts of the book shows how social cooperation works in the nature and Homo Sapiens societies and why it is extremely beneficial for both society and individual to be cooperative and collaborative. It proves one more time that we are truly social animals.

The book has a lot of explanations of various experiments and research in social studies and behavioral psychology. I highly recommend the book to anybody how interested in learning more how to deal with loneliness. Overall, 5 out of 5 book.

AWS Summit Stockholm

AWS Stockholm Summit 2023

On May 11th, for the second time I was standing at AWS Support booth at the AWS Stockholm Summit. The day was full of interactions with dozens of customers, partners and other Amazonians.

This year my team and myself were talking with AWS customers about three main themes – resiliency while staying cost optimized, security and incident monitoring.

The goal for the next year – be one of the breakout session speakers at the event!

The Promises of Giants

Book Review: The Promises of Giants by John Amaechi Obe

I don’t remember exactly when I became interested in leadership and what makes good leaders. The more I reflect about these topics, the more I come to the conclusion that leadership is about commitments and investments into others. It is not about taking but about giving. And about other million things. So, get lost is easy in the leadership, hence, we need some common guidelines that we can use as foundation.

The author of The Promises of Giants has so inspiring life story that it can be used by Netflix to produce an excellent 10 episodes TV show. Even more inspiring how focused he is to the success of others. “The Promises” outline a list of commitments that a person should take to create a foundation to be a great leader. And I believe that such format of promises, instead of rules or recommendation makes a lot of sense.

Very often leadership is seen as a “command and control”, old power style. But innovation, diversity and inclusion cannot be created by an order. They can be only nurtured by contributions of many. So, a promise to yourself will do better and more kind.

The book consists of 14 chapters and every chapter covers one promise – timely feedback, vigilance towards biases, commitment to success, responsibility for the culture and etc. Some of the promises resonated with me more than others. For example, the whole concept of seeing yourself as a giant who can accidentally harm others was an eye opener. It made me start to observe my behavior more vigilantly because I could be “a giant” to somebody without even knowing that.

Another chapter that was a good insight for me was a “I Promise to Be Present, and Not Only When i Need You”. I want to give others the best of me and have a high quality interactions during a short time we are together. But I need to commit to such approach. The method “Preparation, Orientation, Behavior” I will start practice in my interactions with others.

I highly recommend the book to everybody, 5 out of 5.

Emotional First Aid

Book Review: Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch

Emotional Intelligence or EQ is an essential skill for a people manager. Probably, leaders of the past did not pay much attention how they manage own emotions and emotions of others. But the leaders of the future have to have this skill to be true leaders.

As a people manager, you do not deal with constant flow of win wires and success stories. People experience failure, feel guilt and suffer from imposter syndrome. And you have to deal with this too. I have started to think, how I can be better to help others to “heal” and overcome “emotional damage”?

A good leader don’t have to be a mental health professional, but they should know simple methods of emotional first aid. This is how I came across the book Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch. Every book’s chapter covers one of the common causes of psychological “cuts” – rejection, loneliness, guilt, rumination and etc.

The book covers these emotional wounds in the format of analysis of root causes and suggested treatments. The treatments are made in the format of self reflection exercises, mindfulness methods and etc. In the end of every chapter there is an assessment how to understand if the one needs professional mental health support.

I cannot say that the book provided to me great insights. Most of the suggested treatments are pretty simplistic in their nature. But it was useful to learn the structured approach and gain some additional knowledge about research in psychology and therapy.

Overall, the book will be useful who is not familiar with the emotional intelligence or who want to structure their knowledge about mindfulness. 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Concentration

Book Review: Concentration by Kam Knight

It is necessary to work not 12 hours a day, but with you head.

Steve Jobs

Let’s imagine that you are in control of your calendar, you are proficient in the skill of time management and you manage distractions around well. There is still a finite amount of time you can concentrate and stay focused on a task. Also, there is a finite amount of hours in a day. So, the only option is to improve your concentration skills and do it for a longer periods of time. And it is not easy.

The issue here is not that we are lacking concentration, but with a subject where we apply it. When we pay attention to something, we make a conscious (or unconscious) decision to be aware of that something, while tuning out everything else. And it is easier to pay attention to a social media content than on writing an essay.

So, how do I divert my attention and awareness to a task and keep it for a long period of time? This was the main question I tried to answer and came across the book Concentration by Kam Knight. While there is no quick fix for this issue, I have learnt some new interesting techniques.

The book starts with explaining the concept of awareness and defines what have impact on one’s concentration. Verbal thoughts, visual images and physical feelings. The largest part of the book is a collection of concentration training exercises. It includes exercises for both mind and body.

It was really surprising for me to discover that major part of the techniques have a lot in common with meditation and mindfulness. The book talks about visualization, calming the one’s internal dialogue, retrieval and etc. All these things are well known instruments that are a foundation for every meditation practitioner.

But, like in a good video game, these techniques are easy to learn but hard to master. Constant conscious effort is required to implement concentration training in daily routine and push the limits every day day by a millimeter. I have selected several tools that I will try to adopt and test if I will see an improvement.

Overall, it is a great book, even if it is a compilation of well known practices. I highly recommend it for everyone who is interested to improve their concentration skills. 5 out of 5.

Sales Kick Offs in a Post-Pandemic World

Sales Kick Offs in a Post-Pandemic World

Every year, January and February is the time when companies organize Sales Kick Off (SKO) events. The name of such event may varies but the idea is always the same. Bring together people from different regions and different functions and deliver key messages of the year to them. Typically, it is 2-3 days packed with PowerPoints during a day and socializing during a night.

Two years of limited travels and COVID pandemic forced to make those events fully virtual. And it does look like that many companies are going to continue with hybrid format for SKOs. First of all, when you saved all this travel budget during the last couple of years, it is very uncomfortable to start spending the money again.

So, how can we make SKOs in a post-pandemic world more efficient? Below are my some ideas and examples from successful and that much events.

Pre-recording of keynote sessions

Keynote sessions are designed in a way where information flows only in one direction. Hence, the key messages for the year may not be live streamed. They can be pre-recorded and then streamed in different timezones. Ideally, every keynote session should come with a transcript distributed to an audience before or after the session.

Watching parties

If some sessions should be live streamed it makes sense to organize watching parties with pizzas and drink. Especially, it works well for EMEA region people for whom US-West or US-East based events are outside of business hours. It is also simply more fun.

Top priorities 30 seconds pitches

Every team or organization has 30 seconds to present their top priorities for the year. In my experience, this does not work well. It is difficult to maintain timing and people will not be able to remember anything anyway. Online collaboration board, like Miro, where everybody can add their pitches would work better.

TED Talk-sized demos and presentations

For a fully virtual event, reduce demo and presentations length to 15-20 minutes maximum. Increase number of demos and presentations instead. Limited attention span is real. So, if you want the audience not only just listen through but actually pay attention, then SKO sessions should be short. Another advantage is that there is a higher probability that people will watch a short content after it is published.


Let the audience acquire virtual coins for an every video they watched or a quiz they passed. Make companies swag purchasable for these SKO virtual coins. Any element of a game will make a virtual event easier to consume and help people to keep concentrated.

Capstone project for regional teams

Create an assignment that every regional team of sales reps should deliver in the end of SKO. For example, produce an essay about how they understood the strategy or how they are going to implement new ways of working introduce during the Sales Kick Off. If you need to produce some output, then you will pay more attention.

So, these are my thoughts what can be improved for virtual SKOs. Post in the comment section your ideas!

Nudge: The Final Edition

Nudge: The Final Edition by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Humans decision making process was always fascinating me. Why do we choose what we choose? How much rationality and how much emotions are involved in this process? Behavioral economics is a science that tries to answer on these questions and Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in Economics Science for his research in this area.

The authors of “Nudge” have taken the next step and tried to apply the same scientific findings to build more efficient decision making mechanisms. They called it “choice architecture”.

Humans are extremely biased and are not following the most rational behavior as economic theories suggest. I.e. in many circumstances our immediate choices are not aligned with our own long term goals. Hence, people have to be “nudged” into a proper direction.

This create an ethical dilemma – how much of a “nudge” should be allowed and/or built into “choice architecture” not to be considered as exploitation? The authors introduce methodology they call “paternalistic libertarianism”. In short, it means to build decision making mechanism in a such way to protect freedom of choice. But help people to make the most efficient decision at the same time.

The book provides a number of examples from different areas of our modern society – pension system, organ donation, money savings and etc. The authors analyze biases that may impact humans behavior and propose recommendations for “choice architects” how to improve the system.

The most interesting example from my perspective is the analysis of Swedish pension system and how people behavior has changed over the last 20 years after original pension reform. The story proves one more time that “nudge” is required. Otherwise, people just fail to take an action on time.

Overall, the book provides good overview of how to incorporate nudges and shares interesting examples of actual implementations. But, many things in the book are outdated and too well known today. My recommendation is to read Thinking Fast and Slow instead.

Check out my other book reviews!

2023 Reading List

Let’s summarize how 2022 looked from reading perspective.

Thanks to GoodReads I have some data – I was able to finish 15 books with 5198 pages in total. I think it is a pretty good result.

For 2023 I have selected books below and tried to cover following themes:

  • Public Speaking skills improvement
  • People management and leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Historical non-fiction

Leadership and new skills

  1. Concentration: Maintain Laser Sharp Focus and Attention
  2. The Promises of Giants
  3. The Art of Public Speaking: The Original Tool for Improving Public Oration
  4. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
  5. Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
  6. Advanced Grammar in Use with Answers
  7. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts
  8. First Break All The Rules
  9. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams
  10. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
  11. The 48 Laws of Power
  12. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection


  1. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
  2. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty
  3. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914