Introducing PrimoBooks

As I’ve shared before, I love to read. This means I’m constantly on the hunt to figure out what to read next. Life is short and it’s just not feasible to read every half decent book out there. I prefer to invest my time with the books that have influenced people at the top of their game. So I’m always curating book recommendations from successful individuals — soaking up guidance from podcast interviews, articles, or passing conversation. 

I was frustrated by my scattershot approach and couldn’t shake the thought, “there just has to be a better way”. And once again, the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” was proven true.

I’m excited to announce the launch of PrimoBooks — a website to discover incredible books recommended by the world’s smartest and most interesting people. PrimoBooks aggregates, organizes, and surfaces the favorite books from a wide range of successful people. From Rick Rubin to Ellen DeGeneres. From Angela Merkel to Daymond John

You can also narrow your search and browse by book genre to find the top books in different categories. From biographies to technology. From business to science fiction

A big thanks to Brody Bunsa for sourcing and organizing all the initial data. Over time, we’ll continue to add new books and corresponding recommenders to make the site even more powerful. 

I hope you enjoy PrimoBooks and would love to hear your feedback!

Happy Reading,

P.S. The single book recommended by the most people? The current leader: The Brothers Karamazov

Thoughts on Rejection

I couldn’t close the deal. After spending two months establishing a relationship, digging into the nitty-gritty requirements, refining a proposal, and heck, even getting access to their internal systems — the prospect decided to move forward in a different direction. Man, did it sting. 

My first instinct was to follow the prevailing advice for dealing with rejection. I should “move onto to the next one” and “get back on the horse”.

And accordingly, I dusted myself off, lifted one foot into the saddle stirrup and was ready to jump back onto the proverbial horse  — when I paused. If I move on too quickly, I won’t learn from my mistakes. Why did I lose the deal? What can I change to improve my chances next time? If I don’t take the time to ponder on why I failed, how will I ever achieve success? 

So I pulled that foot back out of the saddle and took some time to think about how I got into this position. But after about a week of self-reflection, a feeling of gloom overtook me.  All the attention on my failure started to chip away at my confidence and I fell into a mini-spiral. Why am I so dumb? I can’t believe I worded the proposal like that. I’m never going to find another client. And just like that, I was in a rut. 

If I won’t improve by moving on too quickly from failure yet risk the spiral of doom with too much self-reflection, how can I learn from my mistakes?

Like most good advice I think the middle ground is key. When dealing with failure, it’s useful to contemplate how I got there in the first place — but it’s equally important my brain doesn’t spend too much time in that space. To achieve that balance, I’ve started to:

  • Write down a list of what I can do better next time. The physical act of writing helps pull it out of my brain and solidifies the education. 
  • Hold a personal retrospective/post-mortem with a trusted friend. It’s common to conduct retro meetings at work — so why not leverage them on a personal level? I find the conversational recap of challenges and lessons learned priceless. The second set of eyes and ears on the situation also helps suss out undiscovered ways I can improve without letting my self-esteem fly over the guardrails. 

Definitely get back on the horse. But only after intelligently and sensibly figuring out why you were thrown off in the first place.

Hidden Brands

Hidden Brands
Photo by Nik Shuliahin

Brands are extremely powerful. Little else can evoke equivalent feelings of belonging, by connecting us with others, or separation, by differentiating us from the masses. 

Those Nike kicks. That Gucci bag. The newest iPhone.

Brands make the statement, “Hey! I have this thing…and it’s really exclusive, or expensive, and associates me with a certain group of people. And you should like me more because I have it.”

I’ve always found this disheartening. How can someone rely on the brands they own to define how they feel about themselves? And why should we care so much about the stuff everyone else has?

These questions were swirling around my head as I snuggled comfortably against my long-held belief, “I’m really glad I don’t play that game”.

The problem is, I most definitely do. My self-evaluation of my relationship with brands has been off the mark. How was this denial able to hide unchallenged for so long? 

I think it’s because my brands aren’t the quintessential pair of shoes, bag, or electronic — they’re hidden just out of sight. It’s because my city is my brand. 

I lean on where I live to boost my self-esteem and equally expect others to hold me in a higher regard. Here’s a typical way I’ve leveraged my city as a brand, illustrated by an encounter while traveling in Mexico City:

“Hey new person I just met, nice to meet you, I’m Dan”

“Hi Dan, nice to meet you too. Where do you live?”

“I live in Brooklyn”

Note: I did not say “New York”, “New York City”, or even “The United States”. I simply replied Brooklyn, and casually assumed that:

a) they know exactly where Brooklyn is, and 

b) they think Brooklyn is a cool place, and thus I must be cool for living in such a place. 

what I imagined this new person thought after learning I live in Brooklyn:

💭 “Oh, wow this guy lives Brooklyn. I heard that’s a cool place with incredible food and bars. I think my cousin went to a rave in an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn last year. The Brooklyn Bridge! And wasn’t Biggie Smalls from Brooklyn? Jay-Z for sure is from Brooklyn” 💭

Initially, this realization left me feeling even more pessimistic than when I was living in denial! Are we completely defenseless against the power of brands? But after taking some time to lick my wounds and reflect, I’ve found the simple awareness of my dependency has allowed me to be more deliberate in my relationship with where I live. Yes, I’m still proud, but I’ve started to uncouple this pride from having such a strong impact on my identity. 

Another upside of this newfound knowledge is my murky brand vision has begun to clear, allowing me to uncover others hidden in plain sight:

  • Our favorite sports teams
  • Where we work
  • Where we went to school
  • Where we go on vacation
  • The pictures we choose to post on online

At first glance, these facets of our lives appear vastly different than the logos on our car or shirt — but they serve the same purpose — to associate ourselves with a specific group to elevate our image. And I’ve found that recognition can help reduce their power.

What are your hidden brands?