Libro 34 + 35/52 :: Choose Yourself by James Altucher + The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg.

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James Altucher holds a prestigious, albeit temporary, honor. His blog, The Altucher Confidential, is my favorite new blog. It’s consistently insightful, funny, (often) contrarian and above all else – authentic.


Click on this link HERE and read a few of his posts.

You’ll enjoy it.


James Altucher (pronounced ALL-tuh-chur) is a serial entrepreneur. His bio states he’s started and run more than 20 companies and sold several for large exits. He’s also a Fund Savant, having run VC funds, hedge funds, and angel funds.


On the surface, Altucher’s book Choose Yourself appears to be yet another book on how to start your own business in the New Economy – the Free Agent Nation version where we all quit our corporate gigs and pursue our true passions while working in underpants or at Starbucks (or both… if you are very creative).


Dan Pink published Free Agent Nation in 2002.

Seth Godin has been talking about this for years; notable & brief was Brainwashed.

Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup recently broke it all down also.



Yet with Altucher, I doubted this would be the case.

This guy is different.


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Altucher is direct and candid and a bit awkward and purely authentic.


And because Choose Yourself was $0.00 on Kindle for Amazon Primers, I dove in. Just a few days later I was done. It was a quick read. For the first time in my reading life, I immediately started back at page 1.


Choose Yourself went too fast.


It was like watching the movie Taken with Liam Neeson and his “very particular set of skills.” It’s so emotional and engaging, the time flies by.



Whereas other “You too should be an entrepreneur!” books focus on the steps involved (find your passion… create a Minimum Viable Product…), Altucher opens up the kimono and talks about the emotional side of Choosing Yourself. The fear, nausea, insomnia and everything else.


And he’s spot on – so much of what looks like success in hindsight stems from the ability to persist when times get tough. Persistence isn’t an option when you can’t get off the floor, as Altucher describes it.


He should know.


He’s made millions, then lost it.

Made more millions, lost that too.

Got married, got divorced.

Battled depression.

Started the process all over again.


How he’s able to share all this in a believable, extremely readable way is his genius.


Bottom Line: Sign up for James Altucher’s blog. If you dig what you see, buy this book. More importantly, if you have friends in the business world battling depression or suffering from a lack of confidence, buy this book for them. It could change their entire outlook on life.


To read an example of Altucher’s advice in practice, read this.





Libro 35/52 :: The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg.


While James Altucher’s book is based on choosing yourself, The Halo Effect is based on choosing stories over reports and rationalizations over facts.


The Halo Effect describes our tendency to allow delusions – errors of logic and flawed judgements – to lead us to poor decisions. One aspect of a person or situation casts a “halo” over all other evidence, leading to a less-than-optimal decision.


It’s why tall people get paid more than short people.

It’s how Warren G. Harding became president.

It’s how Isiah Thomas keeps getting hired to do anything.




Much of the popular business stories we buy & read – from Jim Collins to Tom Peters to Business Week magazine – is fundamentally unsound because it’s built on Outcome Biases.


The outcome is known. The authors then work backwards through interviews and company financials to determine how it happened. Jim Collins talks about his team of 20 working for 6 years to gather mountains of evidence for Good to Great.


Rosenzweig calls BS.

Collins is still gathering evidence to support a question he already knows the answer to.


He knows the outcome.

The company has a halo.


Collins then becomes little more than a modern day Aesop.

He’s spinning corporate fables to sell books.


The Halo Effect summarily calls Jim Collins to the table… and then kicks him in the crotch repeatedly with examples of the Halo Effect.


Tom Peters and In Search of Excellence… punched in the face courtesy of the Halo Effect.


Business Week and Fortune magazine journalists… soap shiv to the gut on their way to the Halo Effect penitentiary.


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The author details how the vast majority of excellent companies profiled in Good to Great, Built to Last and In Search of Excellence have ultimately proven much less than excellent in the long run.




Regression to the mean.

The tendency for average returns.

The Halo Effect. 


The reality is that “we have no satisfactory theory of leadership that is independent of performance.” Chew on that for a while and it’s tough to disagree with.


Unfortunately for the book’s usefulness, Rosenzweig spends most his effort refuting others. He teaches the reader to identify the Halo Effect in action, but offers no real advice on managing better once the Halo Effect is identified.


Remarkable in its contradiction, The Halo Effect closes with a few cases where the Halo Effect was in full effect. Rosenzweig dumps praise on Robert Rubin (Secretary of Treasury, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup), Andy Grove (Intel) and the mouse-maker Logitech.


How the author fell into the trap he spent so much time elucidating is odd.


Especially regarding Robert Rubin, who appeared to be clueless to the point of negligent as he guided Citigroup into the toilet in 2007 (while he was pulling in $125M for his effort).  Rubin regressed to the mean… and then some.


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The concept of the Halo Effect is one we should all recognize and mentally prepare for. However, The Halo Effect illuminates the truth but misses the point: Running a successful business is tough and luck plays a huge role. Managers read Good to Great and In Search of Excellence not because they believe it’s the surefire playbook to glory, but because business is is tough and luck plays a huge role.


Readers will take a good idea wherever they can find it. We are looking for tips to help us understand our world better. Whether it’s Aesop or Jim Collins – stories help us do that. And both Aesop and Collins will have a longer shelf life than The Halo Effect.


Bottom Line: We need more people poking holes in business trends of the day. The Halo Effect does this and more. It has some absolute gems in it – the kind that ought to make it required reading on college campuses and MBA programs. But at 256 pages, it’s 100 pages too long and ultimately makes the same mistakes it implores the reader to avoid.



Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle ( He’s trying to read 52 books this year.

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LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

21. Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

22. Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

23. Makers by Chris Anderson

24. Tales from Q School by John Feinstein

25. The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

26. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

27. Drive by Dan Pink

28. Enough by John Bogle

29. Contagious by Jonah Berger

30. Lexicon by Max Barry

31. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

32. A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis

33. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton

34. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

35. The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

Categories: Libro 52 Challenge

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6 replies


  1. Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. « the red angle
  2. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  3. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  4. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  5. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  6. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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