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Daylon Soh, Product, Growth & Design Architect, Gives Insightful Advice on Choosing Your Books to Read

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Daylon Soh is a growth, design, and e-commerce architect. He helps build technology ventures, communities and products around people, with a deep care about the impact on our world.

The diversity of Daylon’s knowledge and activities is impressive. Thanks to 10 years-experience mix in digital marketing, digital product design and digital product management, Daylon has contributed to the growth of a wide array of companies, from smaller startups and up to fortune 100 companies. This combination of experience has led him to currently work as a global eCommerce architect for one of the world’s largest gaming hardware manufacturing company – Razer.

Since 2012, Daylon has also been organizing Singapore Creative Mornings. Together with 2 more organizers, they’ve gathered more than 20 volunteers and created a free morning breakfast lecture series designed for creative communities. Thanks to their passion, talent and commitment, this event is now being held in more than 180 cities from all over the world.

He founded 2 startups: an eCommerce flash sale website and digital agency network of freelance creatives. Even more, he is also an award-winning photographer. Thanks to his past experience in working with film, photography and design and his passion for long-form journalism, Daylon is now a great storyteller as well.

His love for books made him want to read constantly and he figured that the best way to do that, is to create his own book club, which has been up and running since 2015.

These are just of the amazing things that Daylon Soh has shared with the world. We’re super thrilled that he decided to have this book-talk with us.

If Daylon’s resume has impressed you as well, check out the interview below to see which books helped him become the person he is today!

Estimated reading time for this interview is 8 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.

Every book I’ve read have taught me something so it’s challenging to choose favourites. The first business book I read that perhaps inspired me to read more was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The non-business book that has connected to my being most deeply would be poems in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

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

There were multiple occasions that books I read helped me but what left a deeper impression was when a friend mentioned how a book I recommended changed his life. The book was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and that revelation was special because I realised a single idea has the power to change a person’s trajectory. From that book, he started looking out for omens in his life and being more sensitive about the opportunities around him. He is now transitioning from being a corporate employee to an entrepreneur.

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

Ayn Rand‘s writings and the philosophy of Objectivism helped me understand the rules of winning in a society driven by Capitalism. Self-help classics like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends and Influence People teach principles I still apply today at work. Books didn’t change my career path, people whom I knew and interacted with did.

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

Read books on subjects that you’re interested in. Read books that challenge you and elevate your thinking. If you absolutely need a recommendation, read How to Read a Book by Moritimer J. Adler. Adler shares this idea of Syntopical Reading which will help you learn about a subject with depth.

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

I’m definitely an auditory learner. I read about 3 to 4 non-fiction books a month via audio books. I haven’t been successful in catching up with my periodicals like Wired and Harvard Business Review magazine.

How do you make time for reading?

I use my commuting and waiting time as opportunities to listen to audio books.

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

I realised I retained information I listened to well. What I try to do to commit the information to memory is to share what I learnt with others.

As you said, “torrent of information,” we often forget to ask ourselves how is this relevant and why are we reading it? We might be able to manage information better if we understood that there’s a pecking order to the source of information: who writes it, how was it researched and is it true?

How do you choose what books to read next?

I concurrently read a philosophical or spiritual book as it’s lighter and a business book. If I crave for stories, I read biographies or narrative journalism. A lot of what I read is also related to the work I do, I enjoy reading about mental models as the effect is more meta level and transferable vs a book focused on technical skills that is domain specific.

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

Yes. If I read a biography by a business titan or prime mover and he/she recommends a particular title, I would read it next. For example, I found out about Sam Walton’s biography from Jeff Bezos quotes in The Everything Store by Brad Stone. They’re both great books to read if you’re in eCommerce or Retail, answering your earlier question.

You run several side projects. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed or stressed? Do you have any routines or habits that help you cope with periods when you feel “stretched”?

I’ll swim, take walks in nature or go for a Japanese onsen bath. I do think a daily practice of mindfulness is useful such as mindful breathing in a park for 10 minutes daily in the morning.

What are some of the biggest challenges of people working in modern environments? I’m asking this because on your website you mention how important it is nowadays for teams to be able to focus.

The hardest problems have always been people problems because humans are unpredictable by nature. All the more it’s paramount for us to understand that there’s another human being on the other side of the screen. Technology is not a replacement for human connection and a handshake and I realised many organisations have become incredibly siloed today to the extent of being counterproductive.

Since 2015, you’ve been running a monthly non-fiction book club with friends. I’m curious to find out more about it. How did your life look like back when you started it? What were your reasons for starting it, what expectations did you have in mind? Were there any unexpected outcomes?

I enjoy reading and mostly read non-fiction books. I wanted to stay disciplined then about reading 1 book a month by committing to share it with friends. However, no one believed in the idea and quick surveys indicated only a minority of my friends read. I started it with a few friends then and we have been growing by word of mouth. I’ve now exceeded what I committed to and have made new friends who are avid readers.

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

I’m reading The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson. I’m hoping it’ll help me understand containerisation as a mental model to be applied to business problems, hopefully for work.

Links where you can follow Daylon Soh or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by Daylon in our interview:

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