Book Review Personal reflections

Learning Curve 2021: Some of the most helpful books, articles, podcasts, videos I came across

2021 was the year we were supposed to recover from the pandemic-ridden 2020, and I think the world generally did that. To my greatest delight people used the word ‘unprecedented’ less and for me, it was my first full year working as a Journalist–I spoke about that here.

As I have done in the past four years (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), I put together a list of some of the most helpful content I came across during the year. I hope you find a thing or two that’s helpful. This list is a stripped-down version of a monthly newsletter on the highlights of my months and the most helpful/interesting things I come across every month. 

Keeping this list helps me reflect on what I came across during the year how it helped me, whilst also making it easier for me to revisit it when I need to.


? Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

This is a book I’d read over and over again ❤️️

Why is getting your heart’s deepest desire so often a disaster?

“Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol.”

+ The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

? Jane McGonigal: The Psychology of Gaming [The Knowledge Project Ep. #101]

I’ve always said I want to be a parent that has time to play games with his kids. Well this podcast reminded on why playing games are important and what they do for us.

? Critical Mass: Everyone listens to Walter Mossberg.

A long read on one of the most influential tech journalists.

A week after Eric Schmidt became the C.E.O. of Google, six years ago, he went to see Mossberg. “He had just written an article about Google,” Schmidt says. “I wanted to get his insights. He was very gracious in saying, ‘This is what works. This is what doesn’t.’ He’s seen everything.” Schmidt says of him, as one might of a wine writer, “He has a good nose.”


? Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World – Jane McGonigal

“What if we decided to use everything we know about game design to fix what’s wrong with reality? What if we started to live our real lives like gamers, lead our real businesses and communities like game designers, and think about solving real-world problems like computer and video game theorists?”

In January, I listened to a podcast by Jane McGonigal that made me reconsider the impact of Games. I followed it up with reading her book and it’s even more enlightening. I’m excited about implementing some of the stuff I’ve learnt so far.

If you’re struggling to read a book, this tweet could help.

? Making Sense of the Ravi Zacharias Scandal

I’m still gutted about Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct scandal. This video is a well-balanced commentary on it.

? Best Story Wins

Morgan Housel is one of my favorite writers because he understands how the world works.

“Morgan Freeman can narrate a grocery list and bring people to tears, while an inarticulate scientist might cure disease and go unnoticed. How many great ideas have already been discovered but could grow 100x or more if someone just explained them better?”


? Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine – Max Lucado

Read this again for the 3rd time and enjoyed it.

“Grace is God as a heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”

? Tyra Banks: Personal brand powe‪r‬ – Masters of Scale

Tyra Bank’s story shows that she has quite a range. She started as a supermodel, moved on to running fashion shows and being a business mogul. Just last year she started an Ice-cream business.

+ Matt Ridley: Infinite Innovation [The Knowledge Project Ep. #107]

? Apple’s Jony Ive Full Conversation with Graydon Carter | Vanity Fair

Why is it that when we have a bad experience with a product, we assume it is us, but a bad experience with food, we blame the food?!

Apple’s former chief of Design Jony Ive rarely does interviews. In this 2014 interview, he talks about his proudest moments, what Steve Jobs taught him about focus and how people interact with technology.

+Jony Ive, J.J. Abrams, and Brian Grazer on Inventing Worlds in a Changing One – FULL CONVERSATION

? The Art of Fiction No. 119 – Maya Angelou

Interviewer: If you had to endow a writer with the most necessary pieces of equipment…what would these be?

Maya Angelou: Ears. Ears. To hear the language. But there’s no one piece of equipment that is most necessary. Courage, first.

Interviewer: You mentioned courage . . .

Maya Angelou: . . .the most important of all the virtues. Without that virtue you can’t practice any other virtue with consistency.

+Simplicity & Anxiety


? 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos — Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is a brilliant book, although I think some chapters could have been shorter.

“You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.”

+Personal MBA — Josh Kaufman: An audacious attempt to deliver an MBA via a book.

? The Real Reason You Procrastinate — Adam Grant

You procrastinate because you’re lazy, right? Wrong. The truth is more complex — and far more interesting.

+ Josh Kaufman: Maximizing Our Locus of Control [The Knowledge Project Ep. #106]: Listening to this led me to read the Personal MBA.

? Bank accounts blocked, phone bugged, Rinu #EndSARS activist speaks about her life and aspirations

The longest piece I’ve written in a long time but I loved the outcome!

?The Big Lessons of the Last Year

A question that always arises after a terrible event is why haven’t we learned our lesson?

+Our Brain Typically Overlooks This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy: People often limit their creativity by continually adding new features to a design rather than removing existing ones.


? The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness – Morgan Housel

Morgan Housel is one of my favorite writers. I love the way he infuses storytelling into explaining financial concepts.

“In what other industry does someone with no college degree, no training, no background, no formal experience, and no connections massively outperform someone with the best education, the best training, and the best connections?”

This line struck a chord. Personal finance is not so much about training and degrees. It’s more personal than finance.

?The Lineage of Grace Series – Francine Rivers

Unveiled: The Biblical Story of Tamar & Unashamed: The Biblical Story of Rahab

I’ve read two out of the five books in Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace book series. It’s a beautiful narrative of the biblical story of women in the lineage of Jesus. What I like about this is that she focuses on their story and is able to point out other possibilities and contexts that you won’t have noticed reading the stories in the bible alone. I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three.

Tamar’s story left me feeling sad and confused. Why did she have to go through all that? Rahab’s story made me feel the opposite. She was handpicked and rescued from destruction.

? When Greed Goes Too Far – The Worldcom Fraud

A short documentary on how a promising company collapsed. A helpful reminder that in Accounting there are only so many ways to commit fraud.

? How (not) to miss a deadline – Seth Godin

Earning the reputation as someone (a freelancer, a marketer, a company, a leader) who doesn’t miss a deadline is valuable. And it doesn’t happen simply because you avoid sleeping and work like a dog.

+ Sunk costs, creativity and your Practice

? How Film Anatomie is creating low-cost equipment for the African film industry: I enjoyed writing this.

+ Crazy New Ideas


? The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career – Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

I think the first time I read this book was in 2013 or 2015. Since then, I’ve re-read it multiple times. It’s an evergreen guide on how to be proactive about your career and navigate your career decisions.

“Great opportunities almost never fit your schedule” is still one of my favorite quotes from the book.

? Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters – Tim Keller

In January, when I read this book for the first time, I commented that it is a book I’d read over and over again. Well, it didn’t take too long before I came back

“What many people call “psychological problems” are simple issues of idolatry. Perfectionism, workaholism, chronic indecisiveness, the need to control the lives of others—all of these stem from making good things into idols that then drive us into the ground as we try to appease them. Idols dominate our lives.”

? Jordan, Russell, Kareem, even the King of Pop — the astonishing mentors who shaped Kobe Bryant

A beautiful piece on the people who influenced Kobe Bryant.

“Your curiosity is your greatest gift. Use it to expand your scope. Ordinary people won’t understand your insatiable thirst for excellence. They won’t bother to keep striving because it’s too onerous, too difficult.”

?Tech in Africa

It’s most likely too long for most people but it’s an exhaustive piece on the state of technology in Africa.

+ The failed promise of Kenya’s smart city

? How to Consume Information

If there are guidelines on how to consume food for our bodies, what about for our minds?

I wrote this last year and I still find it helpful.


? Good with Words: Writing and Editing

“People don’t choose between things, they choose between descriptions of things.

—Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics”

I initially wanted to take the course but when I found out there was a book, I opted for it. I’ve read through it once and it’s good but I need to revisit occasionally to practice key concepts mentioned.

? How to Become a Tyrant

I enjoyed watching this Netflix show!

How To Become A Tyrant is a six-part docu-series that takes a witty approach to the history of tyrants in the 20th and 21st centuries. The episodes basically break down how to gain power and — even more important — keep it, by giving the examples of the six most famous dictators of the past hundred years.

? How to Be More Productive

I binged watched a lot of HBR videos, the conclusion of this particular is that productivity is personal.

+ ? Five Levels of Pricing Success: Recently started listening to Blaire Enns (if you know you know).

? The Billionaire Gucci master and the scam that’s bigger than Ransome

I enjoyed reading this. The folks at Bloomberg calmed down and did the work of digging into the story of Hushpupi.

? The 25 Micro-Habits of High-Impact Managers

First round review does an amazing job consolidating lots of wisdom on building successful companies.

“The signs that you have a great manager are the actions you don’t think about until later.”

+ How to Become Insanely Well-Connected

“The best way to be highly influential is to be human to everyone you meet.”


? The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

I’m back to reading books on leadership, these two were recommended by Know your Team and they’ve been helpful.

The CEO Next Door looks at data from thousands of CEOs, it shares the 4 behaviors that make for a successful CEO. For me, it’s less about being a successful CEO and more about being more effective. It’s useful to be reminded of these behaviours and the fact that they’re only four makes it easy to reference.

On the other hand, Power explains why people who aren’t very smart or hard working seem to get so far.

+ Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t

? King of Boys: The return of the King

In 2018, I remember being in a cinema hall where people stood up to clap (not sure whether I joined) after watching KOB 1. It was the first time I saw people really appreciate a movie, talk less of a Nigerian movie. This follow-up limited series was dope.

+ ’76: An old classic Nigerian movie about a husband who is accused of taking part in an attempted military coup. It’s based on a true-life story.

+ The Creative Brain: This documentary takes you on a journey with neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman, to meet accomplished professionals from across the creative spectrum, unravel the creative process, and encourage all of us to be more creative.

? Meet Regina Honu, a Ghanaian software developer teaching thousands of girls to code

“The male ego is very interesting, if we’re all working on a problem and I arrive at the solution first, I can’t announce it because it’ll come off as a show-off. I had to learn to bring everyone to my way of thinking and then have us arrive at the solution together.”

This is definitely my favorite article I wrote in August. It’s longer than usual but it’s rare to find someone who is willing to share different aspects of their lives, even their love life. I enjoyed and learnt a lot from Regina’s story.

? How to Work Hard

“Working hard is not just a dial you turn up to 11. It’s a complicated, dynamic system that has to be tuned just right at each point.”

Another one of Paul Graham’s essays that does justice to the topic addressed.

? How To Write A Powerful First Sentence

Josh Spector does a great job by starting this article with a powerful first sentence.

? Why We’re All Capable of Damaging Others

To be a loving person is to wrestle with an always profoundly improbable idea: that however modest our position in society might be, however much we may have been maltreated in the past, however mesmerised we are by the deplorable behaviour of powerful individuals, however shy and frail we are, we are constantly capable of causing other people significant hurt.


? Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink

I decided to read this book after watching this interview. I’ve known Jocko for a long time and the main thesis behind extreme ownership is that you really just have to take responsibility for your actions. It’s a simple concept but often difficult to implement.

“Relax. Look around. Make a call.”

? Squid Game

Yes, I hopped on the bandwagon, watched and enjoyed it. Squid game is most likely the first Korean movie I’ve seen. I know there are many takes about the show but the only thing that stuck in my head was that irrespective of where you are in the world if you make remarkable stuff (which I think the show is) people will use/consume it.

? A Scorsese in Lagos: The Making of Nigeria’s Film Industry

“According to legend, the first Nollywood movie was made by a small-time electronics trader named Kenneth Nnebue, who, stuck with a large shipment of blank videotapes, decided to unload them by making a movie about a man who sells his soul for wealth.”

? What to do about the envy we’re all quietly dying inside from inside

“We don’t envy everyone, we do so only when we think their advantages are within our reach. So when almost everything feels like it could be ours (but a lot never can be), the opportunities for envy grow dangerously large.”

? From hawking dry fish to coding at Bloomberg: the story of a Nigerian first class graduate

Rejection is not final. How Kemi went from selling fufu and dried fish on a university campus to almost working with Google, Amazon, Twitter and Palantir, and finally landing a software engineering role at the world’s biggest financial data and news company, Bloomberg.

November 2021

? The Seven Mountain Prophecy: Unveiling the Coming Elijah Revolution – Johnny Enlow

This is one of the few books that’s been referred to so much that it felt like I’d read it—but in this case I never got to read it. A good read and a reminder that there’s no work that’s secular as a Christian.

? Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life – Luke Burgis

“Each of us spends every moment of our life, from the moment we’re born to the moment we die, wanting something. We even want in our sleep. Yet few people ever take the time to understand how they come to want things in the first place.”

This book made me start asking two questions: where are my desires from and how am I influencing other people’s desires?

? Cashless: China’s Digital Currency Revolution – Richard Turin

I started reading this because I was writing an article on Nigeria’s new digital currency. I’m only halfway through but I already feel like an expert on Digital currencies and the transition of China’s financial system.

? Soldiers of Fortune: A History of Nigeria (1983-1993) – Max Siollun

I innocently picked up a copy of this book during a visit to a friend and I was hooked. Every now and then I turn to a history nerd. As Cassava republic described it, this book is a fast-paced, thrilling yet objective analysis of the major events of the Buhari and Babangida eras. It reveals the true story behind past controversies such as the annulment of the June 12 election, the execution of Mamman Vatsa, the foiled kidnapping of Umaru Dikko, the Orkar coups and the assassination of Dele Giwa.

? Adele, Reborn: The British Icon Gets Candid About Divorce, Body Image, Romance & Her “Self-Redemption” Record

“It was because of my anxiety…It was never about losing weight, it was always about becoming strong and giving myself as much time every day without my phone. I got quite addicted to it. I work out two or three times a day.”

Found out that Adele lost so much weight because she was working out to distract herself from her anxiety.

? Beware of chasing prestige: What opportunities can’t I see because they’re not prestigious enough?.

+ On Glamour: Things are constantly gaining or losing glamour

? Adam Neumann’s First Public Interview Since Leaving WeWork

Ever heard of the WeWork scandal? Adam Neumann was at the helm of it. He’s a smooth talker who knows how to explain himself out of any situation. In this interview, I like that he admitted his wrongs and more importantly I hope he’s truly better for it.

? The Founder: The story of McDonald’s

+ ? Overcomer: A Christian movie I enjoyed watching

?Twitter Threads: What caused all the supply chain bottlenecks? Modern finance with its obsession with “Return on Equity.”

+ How to Win (without talent or luck)


? Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work – Tim Keller

“Idols of comfort and pleasure can make it impossible for a person to work as hard as is necessary to have a faithful and fruitful career. Idols of power and approval, on the other hand, can lead us to overwork or to be ruthless and unbalanced in our work practices.”

?️ How To Be Successful – Sam Altman

A classic I read every few months.

“It’s useful to focus on adding another zero to whatever you define as your success metric—money, status, impact on the world, or whatever. I am willing to take as much time as needed between projects to find my next thing. But I always want it to be a project that, if successful, will make the rest of my career look like a footnote.”

? 15:17 to Paris

Three American friends travelling through Europe try to save the lives of the passengers by averting a terrorist attack on board the Thalys train.

Life is driven by tail events, one act of bravery altered their lives positively forever.


?The Full Story of MrBeast

Whether or not you haven’t seen the Netflix show, Squid Game, you should check out this adaption by Mr. Beast, a YouTuber.

From this conversation, it’s clear that nobody is more obsessed about YouTube content creation like Mr Beast.

? #BLACKBOXINTERVIEW Feat. Basket Mouth | Part 1

There are fewer things more refreshing than listening to the story behind one of Africa’s greatest comedians.

? How to Punch Above Your Weight with Sonal Chokshi of a16z

Interesting conversation on media and telling better stories.

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