This is a book review of Soft Skills by John Sonmez:
If you are in IT and do anything for professional development, chances are you’ve heard of John Sonmez. He’s a pretty remarkable person. His main site is www.simpleprogrammer.com. He’s probably most well-known for having close to a gajillion courses up on Pluralsight.
He regularly has interesting blog posts and youtube videos – and generally has smart things to say. However, the primary interest to me is how productive this guy is. He seems to have mastered a couple of key parts of life. He retired at the age of 33, has a bunch of investment properties, produced several dozen Pluralsight courses in the course of a year or two, and he wrote this book – in addition to maintaining his blog, podcast, and other side projects. How does he do it?
(maybe they should do an episode on his productivity?!)
Well, he’s written many blog posts and created many videos on the topic of his productivity, but this book is it. It’s the mother lode. It seems to be the brain dump of how he has achieved success in many/most(?) facets of life?
Even though this is targeted at software developers – almost anyone who wants to be productive and/or successful in life would get a huge benefit from a majority of this book.
Below are the main sections of the book, with my comments:
Section 1 – Career
In this section, he talks about dealing with people, figuring out your goals, being picky when you chose your employer, and he covers the different ways that you might work. That is, as an employee of a company, freelancing, and becoming an entrepreneur. He talks too about treating your career as a business – you are selling your services to your employer. So, this section is mostly about adding some rigor to how you you view your career, and where you want to go.
Section 2 – Marketing Yourself
This section explains the concept that why it’s pretty-much mandatory that if you want to see any significant success in your career, you need to market yourself and you MUST maintain a blog. He covers the different ways to market yourself with: a blog, speaking at user group meetings, doing training sessions, writing books and articles, etc.
Section 3 – Learning
This section goes into detail, his 10-step process of “how to learn anything, quickly”. This reminds me of that guy Tim Ferriss who “hacks” things to figure out the most efficient way to do things. In this case, the author figured out that when we learn a new concept or technology, we waste FAR too much time on things that don’t help. So, he’s narrowed it down to where you can learn anything very quickly using the 10 steps. He also covers at length that in order to truly learn something, you have to teach it – which I totally agree with!
Section 4 – Productivity
This is chock full of fantastic ideas. The author breaks down the different techniques he uses to plan his quarter-year, then week, and day using a Kanban board. He covers the Pomodoro Technique and his “quota system”, and has some smart insights on multi-tasking for task-switching. Most-upsetting in here though, is that he exposes the truth about how much time we “waste” watching TV, and how that is likely the single biggest way we can get back a dozen or more hours out of week to be productive, or to properly relax. He also attacks tough concepts like correcting habits, forming good habits, and breaking down big goals into consumable bites.
Section 5 – Financial
If you were successful with the first 4 sections, you will need some sort of plan on how to manage your money. How do you invest or save? How do you manage debt? He goes into great detail here on everything from negotiating your salary, to the stock market, to real estate investing. He also explains, in-detail, how he managed to retire at the age of 33. Tons of great information.
Section 6 – Fitness
This section too, is talking about success of the whole-developer. What good is your productivity and financial success if you keel over from a heart attack or have any sort of avoidable illnesses which limit you? This section covers in detail, a lot of great info on how to get into better physical shape – regardless of your current state.
Section 7 – Spirit
This section covers a topic that needs to be discussed more: where the mind goes, the body follows. It all starts in your mind. Your body is just the physical machine that does the work. Any success you have in your career, financially, health-wise all needs to start in your brain. In fact, he includes this quote:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” –Mahatma Gandhi
So this section is really about getting your mind right.
Where to get this book?
As of this writing, the book is currently sold-out on Amazon, but there should be more coming. You can get the book from Amazon (as a hard-copy) or from the publisher (as a hard-copy, or in e-book format).
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Soft-Skills-software-developers-manual/dp/1617292397
- Manning Press: http://www.manning.com/sonmez/
I wanted to write this as more of a book review rather than just mentioning it in passing, primarily because I will use this as a reference. This book is so jam-packed full of good ideas, wisdom, and inspiration that it really needs further study, by me. I’ve read it completely one time, but I need to go through again at least one more time and take notes.
For anyone that asks me about professional development, this will now be my primary source. I’ll tell them to buy this book. This is now mandatory reading for anyone interested in professional development, in my opinion.
In the book, John mentioned that there are those that “fight mediocrity”. Many don’t. Many are fine with doing 9-5 work, and barely keeping up with technology. They have minimal advancement at work, no job security (or income security), and just live out their lives. That will not get you to retirement, and will not make for an easy life.
For those that want more though, but just don’t know how to do it – this is the book. This is the book for one-man’s successful approach to being productive, consistently – and being successful at many things in life, consistently.
If you are interested in being productive or successful in life, just go buy the book. Read it once cover-to-cover. Then read it again and take notes.