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Damien Mulley, Owner of Mulley Communications, on the Importance of Reading Both Fact & Fiction

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Damien Mulley is the owner of Mulley Communications, an Irish company specialized in digital marketing and communications.

Damien guides his life after the “teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” proverb. He does training courses and strategy consultancy in Online Communications, teaching companies how to communicate, both internal and external. This includes digital marketing, online PR, social media, business blogging, and overall online strategies for events, new products or online businesses.

He also runs events and awards shows on digital, social and eCommerce, that set the standards in Ireland.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and dig into our book-talk, you’ll find out more about:

  • the books that will make you a better communicator,
  • what books show the logical steps on how to deal with obstacles and hard decisions,
  • whose words made Damien put his company on hold and do a full-time health course,
  • why you should avoid most business books and instead go after fiction, fact, stories,
  • details of his book notes taking system.
  • Estimated reading time for this interview is 10 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

    What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

    Business Book: The Hard Things about Hard Things. The first half could easily be made into a movie or TV series. The second half is just blog posts and is boring but I guess padding was needed. The first half is the story of how Opsware was sold and you get the backstory and the backstory of the backstory and it’s gripping and full on honest which is very different to most of the books from millionaire business people that retcon their success. There’s an anecdote in there on how to keep the company going they needed to keep one guy in a client company happy. So it ended up with them buying a company for $10M in order to get him their software for free. Ballsy move nobody else would think of. And it saved them for a while. So that they were able to continue and eventually sell for over 1.4billion.

    Science Fiction: Neuromancer – William Gibson. The coiner of “cyber space”, the guy that created a virtual world full of hackers called “the Matrix” in 1984. A seminal book for me. I read it as a teen and it turned computers into a thing rockstars used. Possibly encouraged me to do things with computers you are not meant to do. A catalyst, a rabbit hole.

    Non-fiction: Being Mortal – Atul Gawande. Part biography, part call to arms on the future of our health and those of our loved ones. It makes you think about how you can make your later life a lot better and healthier. Very logical steps too on how to deal with very hard decisions. From a business perspective and a personal perspective it makes you a better communicator.

    Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

    The story of Tangram in Hard Things about Hard Things where they get their fixer to figure out who the decision-maker is in the client company that’s about to fire them. And it’s not the CFO or the CEO but a pissed off middle-manager. It got me looking at the idea of who can influence decisions in organisations and to look differently. Later on I was working on a campaign for military recruitment and went through a lot of research papers and it turns out the mother in a family has very strong influence on a young person joining the marines or army. So advertise to mothers on Facebook, create information to alleviate their worries and you’re much nearer to a conversion.

    What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

    Being Mortal. I went off and did a palliative care course after reading that book. I didn’t find it good enough so started looking at more in-depth courses. I did an Applied Psychology course too. And read a lot around it. So I’ve put my company on hold and gone off to do a full-time health course after which my communications company will turn into a healthcare company. Or that is the current plan.

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    What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

    Avoid most business books. Read fiction. Read fact. Read books that have stories on how people dealt with obstacles. Autobiographies from business people are generally a miss as it’s more an ego thing. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. If after 20 pages you don’t like the book, stop. There are millions of other books you can read in your limited time on Earth. Read books that appeal to your personality. I like trouble making so fact or fiction where people break the rules or route around a system, I like.

    The thing with books is that they’re just ingredients to something more substantive. A diet of broccoli only is bland and boring. Even bacon. Those that live their lives from writings of one book or one volume sounds a bit like a religion. A very limited one.

    I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

    I read fiction at bedtime as it transports me into another world and winds me down. Google Scholar is a top daily site for me. I always search for research papers when reading books or articles online. Properly checked research papers can give you great insight. And show you where the books came from or were influenced by. Online articles daily. I read fiction and non fiction books, in paper format. I’ve never liked ebooks. For 2018 I’ve joined a local library to get books from there.

    How do you make time for reading?

    How does a person not make time for reading! I seem to sacrifice sleep. I don’t play computer games and I don’t have a TV, that gives me a lot more time too.

    Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

    Lots and lots of notes. My system: I have a few Google Docs open for notes. I also have notes on my phone that I email to myself and they go into Google Drive. I have Chrome on my phone where I have articles open and that is synced with my home office computer. I use Google Chrome connected to Google Print to “print” a PDF copy of a website or article I’m reading into Google Drive. If I’m reading a paper book (which I prefer) I’ll take photos of the page I’m reading. I use an online OCR website to convert it to text and save it to Google Drive or I’ll go and find an electronic copy of the book and again Google Print some pages to Google Drive. With this I can use Google search to find things really easily.

    How do you choose what books to read next?

    I have a wishlist on one of the book sites. I add to that weekly I suppose. I have far far too many purchased books near me. I like Umberto Eco’s idea of the anti-library – a collection of books you have not read that depending on your mood you have lots of categories to look at on a whim.

    Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

    Not really unless it fits in with an area I’m looking at. Where I do this though is I will hit up my network on a few books I’m considering purchasing (not reading) and based on that will not buy them or will and add them to my giant pile of books.

    Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

    Wool. Science fiction. I’m expecting to not be able to tell what happens next as I like surprises.
    Children and Television. Fact. The story of how Sesame Street was created and the amazing planning and research involved in it.

    Links where you can follow Damien Mulley or find out more about his projects:

  • Mulley Communications
  • Damien Mulley @ Twitter | LinkedIn

  • All books mentioned by Damien Mulley in this interview:

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