22 Books I Read in 2016

As 2016 comes to an end, I am taking stock of all that I’ve read and learned this year.  It really does seem like last December was just around the corner as I was planning on what books I would read this year.  Not everything I actually got to, but I am really proud of how much I did actually get to read.

Below are a list of books, in a rough order of when I read them.  I’ve marked a asterisk (*) symbol beside the books that were my favorite reads of the year and I will carry lessons that I learned from them for the rest of my life, and that I would recommend others to read.  Also the title of the book may have a link to my book notes that I’ve posted on my blog if you are interested in knowing more.

Mindset by Carol Dweck *

Mindset is based on a thesis that people, in different forms and areas of their life, approach life with a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset.  This book has been extremely popular and has been blowing up all over within the business field, education, parenting, and I would imagine sports as well. Many influencers recommend it, including being on Bill Gates’ reading list.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday *

This book’s central tenet is that “The impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way, is the way”, a quote from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  This book was my introduction into the school of philosophy called Stoicism.  This philosophy also has been blowing up all over, particularly in the start up world as well as making rounds throughout the NFL.  I just about highlighted a passage from every single chapter.  Stoicism isn’t a boring philosophy, they were interested in pragmatic and practical strategies in living a good life.  If you’ve started to hear about Stoicism or have read about how this ancient philosophy relates to modern life, I would highly recommend this book.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl *

An absolute classic of a book that has stood the test of time, and is recommended on so many people’s recommended book list.  Man searches for meaning, but perhaps it is in fact that life is asking man what meaning to give to one’s life.  A good place to start when asking yourself what you want out of life, or what you want to do with the life you’ve been given.

Frankl was a psychologist that lived through the horrors of concentration camps, losing his entire family, and came out with a sense of purpose in his life, by writing this book.  He observed that those who were most likely to live through life in concentration camps, were ones that had assigned meaning or purpose to their life. Whether it was writing a book, completing their work, or living for a loved one.

Also it goes into great description of what it was like to live in a concentration camp.  Definitely an eye opener. I was touched so much and it grew a yearning inside of me to learn more about WW2, that I arranged a trip to Berlin, Germany in 2017.

No art is original, all art is stolen. Many artists have been influenced by Michael Jackson, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton.  Every great artist has been influenced by the past, and build on what was created, but give their own uniqueness to it.  So there is no need to feel like you are copying someone else’s art.  You should be copying someone else’s art, it is the only path to original art.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

You can’t find your voice unless you use it. Artists don’t develop in a vacuum, they are developed with other artists.  Share your work, so you leave a trail for people to find you.  If you ever wanted to have an online presence of a body of work, I recommend getting this book.  Only takes an hour or so to read.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

I’m glad that I took the chance to re-read this classic book.  Nice to read some children’s fiction every once in awhile.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh was the coach of the 49ers, that was the first coach to take a last place team and turn it around to a championship team within 2 years, and create a dynasty and changed the way the game was played with his West Coast Offence.  His central theme is his standard of performance, how he expected his entire organization to take their job seriously and do everything with excellence.  I did not enjoy this book very much, however I must admit that their are lots of hard lessons that I may be trying to avoid.

Tartine by Chad Robertson


This book is the bible on home sourdough bread baking.  I never got around to creating my own sourdough starter (however I attempted once and failed), but I grew a huge appreciation for bread and how it’s made. The book is filled with bread recipes as well as what to do with the bread.  It goes through a history of bread through the ages and it’s origins, and is wonderfully written.  I salivate now thinking about the stories of Chad’s time in France as he learned to bake bread all day, and ate raclettes, bread, and local rose every night.  An excellent read.
If you are interested in baking your own bread, a very easy access point is Jim Lahey’s video for a no knead recipe.

The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish

 
I liked what my friend said recently as he was also embarking on learning to create his own pizza, it’s a life skill that you can use for the rest of your life.  I’ve probably made 20-30 pizzas this year after reading this book.  It’s a highly accessible place to learn how to make your own pizza dough and learn about the different styles of pizza around the world. Worth it to know the difference between a traditional Neapolitan pizza vs an American pizza (and even the differences between a NY slice, West Coast, New-Haven, Chicago, St.Louis).  I could go on …

Linchpin by Seth Godin *

 
The workplace is changing at an unprecedented pace.  What we learned from our parents and teachers no longer apply.  If you’ve ever been worried about your future job security, I would recommend reading this.  In a world where organizations are applying rules and standards to their employees, and when services are being automated, what the world will hunger for is true authenticity and human touch.  That is something that will always be in demand, and a skill that will always be rare in the workplace.

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

 
There is a certain template that most of us live.  Work ~50 weeks of the year, and take the rest travelling, dashing between 2-4 cities per year.  But what if this template was flipped on it’s head.  What does it mean to travel well? Is travel very expensive?  If you want to become a better traveller, of start forming your philosophies on travel, this could be a place to start.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

We are in the age of distraction, and a skill that is becoming more rare, while becoming more essential to the knowledge worker, is the skill of deep focus and doing deep work.  The type of work that can’t be automated or systemized, that requires creativity and thought and deep problem solving, requires the ability to work deeply.  Cal Newport shares why this is such a problem, why it’s so necessary, and strategies to deploy in your own work life.  I should mention, Cal Newport is a full time professor, with a kid, publishes research papers, runs a blog, and has time to write books.  If you want to see in detail how productive people work, you may consider listening to this guy.

Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis

Arguably, some of the hardest times I’ve laughed this year (not just in reading, but in general), has come from reading this book.  If you are a parent or interested in parenting life, this book has a ton of funny stories that I am sure are very relatable.  You may know Michael Lewis as the author of such books turned movies as The Big Short, Moneyball, and The Blind Side.  Michael is a fantastic writer, and this is the first book I’ve read from him.

Deskbound by Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza

We live in a sitting world.  It’s a bit scary to consider that it’s possible to not do any significant walking, say, more than a few minutes from the parking lot to the office everyday.  Or to consider that many people’s most significant movement is only once or twice a week to the grocery store.  Our bodies have not been able to catch up in evolution to deal with all the sitting that we do. Sitting can wreak havoc on our bodies, by putting us in unnatural positions, shortening the length of muscles and tendons, reducing blood flow, dropping our metabolism, and slowly reducing functionality of our muscles.  Sitting and position is a skill that is completely lost in our age because of the sedentary lives that we live.  Over a lifetime, all this bad positioning can lead to heart disease, injuries, loss of productivity, and suboptimal overall performance.  I certainly don’t want to be held back in my 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s, because I did not maintain the one opportunity at a healthy body that I got in this life.  Learn proper sitting, standing, and walking positions, and overall maintenance of your body.

Microadventures by Alistair Humphreys

In our world of internet, highways, netflix, and offices, our culture has lost a sense of adventure.  Often we dream about a time when we can just quit our job, hit the road, and follow wherever the journey takes us, a great adventure.  However that is impractical, or not necessarily something we want to do for those with a career, family, or any number of reasons that hold us back from a great adventure.  Humphreys challenges the reader with practical ways to get away and take on “microadventures” that can be done on a weeknight, or over a weekend.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi *

A beautifully written memoir, that is arguably one of the best books of the year across all genres.  If you want to read something that will touch you, read it.  If you want to read something that is well written, read it.  If you ponder the meaning of life, read it.  I thirst for another book written as well and is as touching as this. Also an easy read, ~3 hours.

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Like most popular young adult series, this was highly addictive.  I think I read the whole series in 4-5 weeks.

Customer Success by Mehta, Steinman, Murphy

 
In this age of subscription based businesses, often the revenues of a subscription does not cover the cost of acquisition even after several years.  What this requires is a new paradigm so that a customer continues to renew or upgrade in order to become profitable.  Long term retention, reducing cancellations, upsells, adding value, and making the customer successful are necessary to compete in the world of SaaS these days.  If you work in the SaaS or start-up space, particularly the first 3 chapters were written very well explaining the state of SaaS companies now.  The 10 Laws of Customer Success weren’t written quite as well. I believe that this space is still quite immature and needs time to mature to really define what it is and isn’t.

The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Amy Schroeder *

This is the first biography I’ve read since I was very little, and I am so glad that I picked it up.  Warren Buffett has always been a hero of mine, and lives a really interesting life.  His behavior and approach to both life and business has a lot of teachings to learn from.  Another book that I have tons of earmarks and highlights on.

As an aside, biographies are awesome!  I went in expecting to get some lessons, but I quickly found that I could get to know who Buffet is, and actually look up to him as a hero and mentor.  I am definitely going to look out for more biographies to read from now on.

Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss

To anyone who is a listener of his podcast, I would say this is a must-purchase.  Anyone who doesn’t listen to his podcast, I can’t see it as having near the same value.  The book is written as notes and excerpts from his podcasts, and highlight 5-10% of each interview.  It has been great for me as I’ve listened to 30+ of his podcasts.  However, regardless, I pretty much read, watch, and listen to every thing single thing that Tim Ferriss produces.

There are a few additional books that I read this year that were not interesting, or I have chosen not to share.  However, I am proud to say that I read 25 or so books this year.  Considering I was expecting to only read 6-8, I am really proud of myself, and realize that I have to set the bar much higher!

However, more than anything, it is not the quantity of books that one reads, but the lessons that one learns from them.  I can say that I certainly am not the same at the beginning of 2017, then I was at the beginning of 2016, and my life is richer because of the books I’ve read.

Giving Money as Part of a Rich Life

Over the 12 months I have been giving thought towards lifestyle optimization, and how charity and donation are a vital part of a meaningful and purposeful life.  I was introduced to the giving movement of Effective Altruism, which is a philosophy in giving to the charities that are most effective at making impact in the world.  This concept immediately captured my attention, as it would seem to be the most productive way towards building a better world.  Charities that fit in this category at the time of this writing fall into categories such as giving malaria nets, mass deworming medication for parasites, access to clean water, and other such causes.

In my journey of giving this past year, I’ve found four things that I’ve experimented with and experienced, some to greater success than others, that are new and quite profound in my life.  It’s my joy to share these with the world and I hope you gain something out of it!

Giving Builds a Meaningful Career

I’ve read lots around “waking up with a purpose”, or “tap dancing to work”, and “do what you love” as mantras and philosophies around choosing work and a career that you love and is meaningful.  However I have not found this to be very practical advice, for a variety of reasons. So maybe rather than looking towards yourself for the source of enjoyable work, you can look at others.

Rather than looking at loving work, maybe we can look at it from a perspective of meaningful work.  In fact, it seems as though parents don’t love the job of parenting, but it is deeply meaningful.  Perhaps the prospect of going to a far away land with the chance of dying from gunshots or mines doesn’t sound pleasant to you or I, but thousands of people enlist in the army to fight for their country.

I’ve been able to begin to transform my mind to see it as meaningful work.  Not because of the work itself, but because of the output that I gain.  You see, I am reasonably skilled in business, I have good commercial ideas and I have the ability to execute which the market rewards me financially for.  I also think that I am only in the beginnings of my career earnings potential.  So as I put in the practice of giving to charities as a certain percentage of my income, let’s use the number 5%, then as I grow in my income, the more I am able to give and impact people.  So I know that it is the direct fruits of my labor as I go to work, that I am making an impact in someone else’s life.

It actually starts going in the direction of thought, that it is actually my moral obligation to do well, to stay motivated, to do good work, gain and improve my skills, in order to attain a larger pay cheque, in order that I can support my brothers and sisters around the world.

I Write Victories on the Wall

I have a chalkboard that hangs on the wall in the kitchen, and can be seen as soon as I walk into my home, as well as from the living room.  It says “X,XXX PPL AFFECTED”, where X,XXX is the number of people that my giving has affected.  I calculate this using thelifeyoucansave.org impact calculator, which follows the effective altruism movement and has a selection of organizations that generally fall into the movement.

What the sign does is that it gives me a reminder, everyday, whenever I need it.  When I start my day in the kitchen getting ready for work, I immediately know why my work makes a difference.  I begin to connect my ambitions and financial goals with knowing that my work affects the world, affects people’s livelihood, and that I have the ability to save a life with the decision to work hard and do good work.

I Recognize I am the 1%

Now, not to take away from the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I realize that I am part of the 1% in the world. With hard work, I am at a level of income that I can live comfortably, where I can eat everyday, know that I have a roof over my head at night, know that I have a steady stream of income, and that if anything were to happen I have the experience and know how to create income if my current source runs out.

Knowing that I am the 1% allows me to get the focus on what I don’t have, and focus on being thankful for what I do have.  Obviously in this day in age, it’s so easy to get caught up on feeling like trash about your own life, particularly when seeing some of your old friends’ or classmates’ Instagram profiles.  But even as I live in my basement suite, drive my 2003 CR-V, and wear clothes that I would have laughed at while I was in university, I know that I am unbelievably rich already.

I Make the Decision Once

Success is having a set of good habits.  In the same way that I just make one decision to decide how much to save for long term goals, medium term goals, and short term finances, I make one decision to decide how much money to give.  I make automated monthly contributions to a charity that I have selected that aligns with what I want to give to, and I know makes a huge impact because it is vetted by organizations such as givewell.org. Without consistently giving, none of what I said above will matter or make a difference.  You need to continually give, remind yourself of the difference you are making, remind yourself that you are already rich, and chase the number on your wall and grow it bigger.

Rounding into the new year, maybe it’s a good idea to consider giving a portion of your income to charitable organizations.  If you don’t know which one to give to, check out the effective altruism movement at sites such as  givingwhatwecan.org or givewell.org.  Or if you’re Canadian, make sure to give through charityscience.com to get a canadian tax receipt. In fact, consistent giving through effective altruism, you will most definitely save a human life through your giving.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin – To be a linchpin, is to bring your artistry to your job, to lead others, connect people, to expend emotional labor, to have a super power. 

A day’s wage for a day’s work is a shitty way to spend 80,000 hours of your life. Is that what life has boiled down to?  Just an exchange of the marketplace, companies offering employees money to do some tasks, while employees try to get away with working as little as possible, expending as little energy as possible, for their employer?

There can be more though.  Everyday, in any situation, you have the opportunity to do something remarkable, have job satisfaction, have life satisfaction.  You can choose to be an example, to lead others, connect with people, bring life and humanity to a corporation or marketplace of transactions, be recognized as an artist, make work an adventure, get wrapped up in what you do because you are so dedicated.  You can be a linchpin.  But first, why is it so hard?

How did we end up here?

How did the american dream become “working a stable 9-5, doing safe work, living in a home in he suburbs having to commute 30-60 minutes a day to and from work and daycare, driving a Benz, BBQ’s on weekends and the odd trip here and there”?  How did we get to a place where working for a large public company or recognized name become the defacto of our university graduates?

The Old Model

The old industry of work was about sticking in, following instructions, coloring inside the lines, being told what to say, working without autonomy.  Do what you’re told to do and be rewarded for it.  The more widgets you produce, the more you are rewarded for work. The more effort you put in, the more you are paid.  The old industry still exists.

However the old model is going away.  Effort and physical talent aren’t the required inputs that the economy wants anymore.  If what people are looking for is standardized and predictable, the corporate machine employs robots to do the work.  They own the means of production, and they don’t need you, cause you get tired, you make mistakes, you get sick, you want weekends, and a 3 week vacation.

What We Learned in School

Keep your pencils sharp, write straight along the blue lined paper, learn cursive writing, learn just enough about a subject to attain a grade, and then move on to the next subject. Learn to read and memorize facts, regurgitate them in a limited time under high pressure situations.  Study together, but test alone.  Do homework. Be a generalist, don’t fail.  Don’t risk embarrassing yourself, buy things to fit in, fit into the crowd.

The Resistance

The resistance is what makes you uncomfortable.  It can be quite a good compass for what you are doing too.  The closer you get to being uncomfortable, and the further you push yourself into places that you are uncomfortable, the lizard brain fights even harder, using any tactic.  Lies, flawed logic.  But that’s when you know you are close.  The short cut to mediocre is to be comfortable.  The long way, the only way to significance, is to be uncomfortable.

The lizard brain is the primitive unevolved part of your brain.  It’s concern is safety, socially, economically, as well as physically.  One of the blessings about living in this age now is that we don’t have to be afraid of a sabretooth tiger looking to chew our neck.  The only thing we have to brave is putting ourselves out there, getting over our fears, staring at the blank screen, canvas, or whatever medium, and creating something remarkable.

What your “tribe” or “community” wants, and what the “market” wants, are completely opposite.  What the tribe wants is for people to fit in, that’s how tribes are formed.  When people are alike in values or interests or something else, it forms a loose connection.  When someone falls outside of the defined lines of norms within a tribe, they are neglected, pushed out, they make everyone inside the lines uncomfortable.  But to be remarkable, by definition you cannot be ordinary.  That is when you will hit resistance.  In order to get different results, you have to have a different process.  That process will make others feel uncomfortable.  What the market wants though, is not what is ordinary.  They don’t pay, or watch, or wait in line, or follow what’s just ordinary.  We crave our products, our services, our entertainment, and our experiences, all to be remarkable.  The social resistance must be overcome.

I do not want to spend a lot of time here, and perhaps it’s worthy of a separate conversation.  This is not instructions to be different for the sake of being different.  Don’t garner haters because it won’t cause you to be remarkable.  It is just a symptom of being remarkable.  Being a linchpin doesn’t mean being a lone wolf, or not having close friends.  In fact, it is the complete opposite, as I’ll cover shortly.

Making art in a cubicle

You might object and say “I am not an artist”.  Bullshit.   It is not a paintbrush, a stage, or a camera that makes someone an artist.  Artists are everywhere, you encounter them as baristas, analysts, service workers, and coaches.  It isn’t the piece of work that is created that makes it art.  It is putting a part of yourself in what is created, or the service provided, that makes it art.

I had a memorable experience at a Italian restaurant, where my wife and I sat at the bar in front of the raw station.  This station was where the food was already prepped but just needed to be plated, and where drinks were served. No kitchen experience necessary.  Our “bartender” had an Italian heritage, and explained to us all about the food and the differences in how his grandmother made it to how the restaurant made it.  He explained all the work, the 14 hour days him and the kitchen staff put in to the food that we were eating.  When I asked him about some of the food he was cutting, he would put small samples on a plate and let us taste it.  He told us that he’s not actually a trained cook, but that really he is an actor.

That server, Peter Ciuffa, entertained us for 2.5 hours at his station, not because he was told to do so, or cause he wanted recognition, or wanted a review of his service in an obscure blog, or for a big tip. He entertained us, because that was his art, his salumi station was his stage, we were his audience, and his story was his script.  It was art, because a 20% tip could not possible repay him for the memorable experience.  

What if I don’t know what my passion is?

“In a pre-Internet world, where Amazon.com couldn’t have existed, would Jeff Bezos be a nonpassionate lump?  If Spike Lee hadn’t found a camera, would he be sitting around, accepting the status quo?
Passion isn’t project-specific.  It’s people-specific.  Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate.
Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss.  Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate.  People with passion look for ways to make things happen.
The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.”

There is no map

How can you do it?  There aren’t specific instructions, gosh I wish there were.  But being a linchpin, doing art, getting past the resistance, connecting with people, there aren’t a set of instructions, which is what makes it so valuable.  No one can tell you how to unlock your potential.  You have to be the navigator, without a map.

But hey, no one really knows what they’re doing.  Consider what Bre Pettis has to say about doing the work:

Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
Laugh at perfection.  It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
People without dirty hands are wrong.  Doing something makes you right.
Failure counts as done.  So do mistakes.

Leading others

That’s where linchpins come in.  They understand that there is no map, but the work still needs to get done.  Just because there is no map, linchpins know it’s not an excuse for waiting for the instructions.  So linchpins soldier on, they’re the ones that jump in on the front lines, and jump headfirst into the trenches.  They move forward regardless if anyone follows.  That is the exact reason, that people follow.  Cause you don’t need instructions to move forward.  The circumstances are the same between linchpins and others, there is no map or instructions.  The only difference is linchpins will map it out, and charter the unknown.

The culture of art, gifts, and connections

A gift, inherently, is something that you do not pay back.  Gifts between friends or family on holidays or occasions are rarely real gifts.  There is an expectation.  I’ll buy you a gift, if you buy me a gift.  That’s why when we get older, gifts get phased out of our social circles, they become dry and boring.  My family dreads the secret Santa family exchange of presents because there are so many rules around it.  You are required to buy something.  You cannot go over the $ limit. If you go over, you are cheating and making everyone feel guilty. If you go under, you are cheap and are not thoughtful.

Real gifts are the thoughtful ones.  When I surprise my wife or my friend with something, just cause I was thinking of them, and thought they would like it.  When your parents bought you gifts as a child, they did it for the joy of giving to you, for the priceless face you make when you open it.  There is no possible way you could’ve repaid your parents for that, and that’s what made it a gift.  The joy however is not only for the gift receiver, but the gift giver as well.

Real art is a gift to someone.  You get the opportunity to make a connection and change someone.  The more people you change, the more effective your art is.   Through your gift, connections are made between you and the receiver, as well as between the receivers.

Giving a smile, connecting with people, being generous, these are things that we do for free all our lives, but when it comes to work many of us feel that we aren’t paid for that.  This creates a tension where we aren’t able to do what brings us joy into our work.  Bring your gift to work, so that you can receive that joy more, be yourself more, be more human.

Being a Human

This is what it boils down to, being a remarkable human being.  Life was not meant to be lived with a map.  Life wasn’t meant to just follow instructions only.  It’s about connecting people, leading others, giving gifts, and giving yourself and being yourself as a gift to the world.  When we follow everyone else’s rules, guidelines, paths, we’re only doing what can be done.  But be someone different, giving something different, because only you can give your unique art.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Feeling overwhelmed, pressured, rushed, my client had demanded that the task be completed straight away, while jabbing comments about it maybe being a mistake they chose my company for their services.  The task was complex and quite unorthodox to be dealt with so quickly.  That’s when I was reminded that this situation in front of me, was my obstacle.  I was at the beginning, I had no choice but get to the end, and this dataset to be created was preventing me from passing.  I began to break each of the tasks into smaller pieces, looking at them without the narrative of being “complex”, rather breaking them smaller and smaller until they were simple.  Just a bit after 5pm, I sent the e-mail to the client that I had completed the task.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

Ryan Holiday takes the ancient wisdom of Stoicism to write the book The Obstacle is the Way, a practical philosophy to approaching life.  As you may guess from the title of the book, it is about turning what the world sees as obstacles, as the path that you should take.  The example mentioned above is just one of the many times I have referenced to this very draft of this article to get perspective of my difficult situations.

The strategies and philosophy Ryan shares with us can have massive consequences in your life.  For every single one of us, life is gonna throw us shit.  No one has it honky dory — no matter what your Instagram feed looks like.  You have heard it many times, those who are at the top always talk about the obstacles and failures they had to overcome to get there.  The key is that they overcame them.

“That thing you dread or secret thing you don’t want to happen, what if it wasn’t so bad?  What if inside it or embedded in it is or inherent in it was certain benefits.  Benefits only for you.  What would you do?  Probably what most people do, nothing.”

The book is broken into three parts, 1) Perception, 2) Action, 3) Will.

“Objective judgment, now at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events.
That’s all you need.
—MARCUS AURELIUS”

Perception

In this first section, we learn that there is the obstacle and then there is how we think about it, they are separate. Our perceptions create our reality, it is not what happens that affects us, but the narrative and the context that is around what happens that does.  Often the obstacle does not really exist, but merely our thoughts and feelings that we bring to the situation that creates the obstacle.  How much does hate, fear, anxiety, paralyze us? What we must realize is that “Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.”

What we need to do is steady our nerve, stay in control of your emotions.  Yes the obstacles and feelings are overwhelming, so it is with Kobe Bryant when the clock is running down and he’s got to make a shot over two defenders.  But when you are able to steady your nerve, “then nothing really did “happen”—our perception [makes] sure [it’s] nothing of consequence.”

“The observing eye sees events, clear of distractions, exaggerations, and misperceptions. The perceiving eye sees “insurmountable obstacles” or “major setbacks” or even just “issues.” It brings its own issues to the fight. The former is helpful, the latter is not.” — Miyamoto Musashi

We need to recognize what happens as what they actually are.  There are many ways to look at a situation productively, often some tactics are better than others.

Is it in your control?  Can you even do anything about it?  If not, then carry on.  Should what you’re going through be a surprise?  Is the world out to get you, or is it a natural resistance that would face anyone on your journey?  If it is, face it bravely as if the obstacle has been fated to your path.   Is it possible to defeat this obstacle for someone else?  If yes, then why not you?

On the other side of it, you will be rewarded with lessons learned, a stronger will, and confidence from experience. This holds one of the most important keys to your perception, where it’s not about what you see as the obstacle, but what you stand to gain on the other side of the obstacle. Obstacles are opportunities for you to grow, to achieve, to better yourself.

“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.”

Action

In this section, we learn that not any action will do.  Controlled, well thought out, calm, creative action is the necessary types to conquer what stands in the way.  Often rather than fighting with a strategy, we relentlessly start swinging for the ropes.  This is what separates the Hollyfields from the backyard brawlers.

“Action is commonplace, right action is not. As a discipline, it’s not any kind of action that will do, but directed action.”

The perfect time for action is now.  Are the circumstances desirable?  They never are, for any of us.  People have gotten over way more than you and I, come from behind and had way bigger obstacles.  Racial discrimination, sickness, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy.  Yet they didn’t waste time in waiting for the perfect opportunity to come up, those don’t exist.  The perfect opportunities come to those who put in the work.  So just start, every accomplishment has the first step in common — the first step.

When you got the ball rolling, you’ve got to keep at it, cause The Dip and The Resistance are coming for you.  But a dogged determination is what is going to get you through it. Be persistent. Repeat the process, keep trying, test new theories, poke different spots and attack different angles.  Sometimes there won’t be much of a strategy behind it, except doing it one at a time.  Sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

“Edison, was not the only one at the time trying to invent a light bulb.  However Edison was the only one who was willing to test six thousand different types of filaments until he found the right one.”

While you are trying, practicing, applying, moving, executing, always gather feedback.  Remember, creativity and strategy are necessary.  We are not just trying the same method over and over and hoping for a different outcome.  We will try, see what happens, and then form a new hypothesis and try something different.  The strategy will come, and it will change, and evolve.  Tech startups have the concept of the MVP, minimum viable product.  They put out their product with minimal features, push it to a group of small customers and then listen and observe.  They can quickly push out new features and see how the customers react.  This allows them to iterate, remain flexible, and be agile.

Now that you have calmed your nerves, controlled your emotions, and can see the obstacle objectively, you will be able to see the situation for what it is.  Most obstacles you will come across, will only have a handful of variables to act against. Strategize your countermoves.

“Remember the first time you saw a complicated algebra equation? It was a jumble of symbols and unknowns. But then you stopped, took a deep breath, and broke it down. You isolated the variables, solved for them, and all that was left was the answer.”

After all is said and done, you have to be prepared that your actions come up empty.  You can think clearly, have dogged determination and execute, but sometimes it won’t be enough.  Perception and action is within your control, the rest of the world is not.  This is not failure, you are still able to turn the obstacle into an advantage.

“… simply by using it as an opportunity to practice some other virtue or skill—even if it is just learning to accept that bad things happen, or practicing humility.  It’s an infinitely elastic formula: In every situation, that which blocks our path actually presents a new path with a new part of us.”

Will

The will is what’s left after perception and action.  External circumstances will influence my perceptions and my actions, but the will is the foundation which stands, or falls.  You choose the strength of your foundation, by choosing to build it up.  The will is forged by overcoming obstacles, and making conscious choices to be work it, no one is born with it.

A three step process for dealing with each obstacle and situation and strengthening your will is to i) Think Negatively, ii) Art of Acquiescence, and iii) Amor Fati.

“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation.” — Seneca

To think negatively is to anticipate the worst situations that could come.  You should not be caught off guard when life hands you shit.  Things will always go wrong, but if this comes as a surprise each and every time you are going to be set up for failure.  Set yourself up for success, by premeditating on potential obstacles.   For your current situation, be an optimist.  But when it comes to the future, be a pessimist, so that you are prepared for the worst of circumstances, so you are prepared with strategies in place to deal with them.

Accept whatever circumstances, and whatever troubles may come.  In whatever situation, no matter how bad it might get, these are all external circumstances.  Do not complain about it being hard for you, or talk about the way that it should be or should’ve happened.  You need to clear your mind, by accepting it.  Leave the negative thoughts behind, and focus on what you actually need to do.

After you’ve anticipated the obstacles and aren’t surprised by them, and have accepted them, the next level is to love it.  If an obstacle arises, it was meant to be there for you.  It may just be good that you have accepted it, but to love it is to fully embrace it and respect the obstacle for what it is, and what’s on the other side of it.  We have to love it because we know what the outcome will be on the other side of it.  We have to love it because it is the only path to greatness.

Start it over

After preparing your perceptions, executing effective actions, and exercising your will, just get ready to do it all over again.

“One does not overcome an obstacle to enter the land of no obstacles.”

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

This is a fantastic small read and it really helped solidify some of the floating ideas I had in my head that never really connected.  I originally had added Show Your Work to my reading list but then also came across this one that seemed really interesting, and was also a NYT best seller.

Austin Kleon is a writer and artist living in Austin, Texas.  He writes an excellent blog.  All around seems like a really cool dude.

This book encourages me to invite influences into my life.  What inspires me and makes me come alive, the heroes that I read about, learn from them, imitate them, and copy them.  Thus when I copy them, I make it my own, and have spun it as a new version.  I suffered from great imposter syndrome before, not believing that any of my ideas were mine, just ones that I’ve stolen from others.  Before I felt guilty, now I wear it proud.  I steal material, and share it as my own.

Stealing …

All artists start off from stealing.  Who do you know who’s done something significant that did not draw inspiration from someone else?  When I started playing guitar, did I start by writing my own music?  Of course not.  You start by practicing and playing your favourite musicians.  All artists have a muse, inspiration, are a part of a community, study the greats in their field.  I’m so encouraged by this cause now I can shamelessly say who my heroes are and take what they’ve laid before me and make it mine.

On the Myth of “Finding Yourself”

You don’t need to start after you “find your voice”.  What a myth!  Why do we feel like we need to make it on our own.  There is no such thing as “original”, all art is a riff off of another art, any worthy art anyways. It is in the process of your artistry, that you begin to find yourself.  So riff, steal, transform, and as you follow the path, you inevitably find yourself, your sweet spot, and can honour those who went before you by pointing towards them for your source of inspiration.

Mentors and Influences

Much has been said about having mentors in your life. I’ve had very few of these relationships, feeling like I’m left behind and that I was doomed for failure because I had no one showing me the way.  However, mentors are freely available.  They leave their words to you in their books, in their music, in their art. I’ve realized, I don’t not have mentors, I’m being mentored by a team of world class people, that I got to draft on my team.  There’s no salary cap for this sport!

Hobbies

It also affirmed that hobbies and side projects are not just for fun, but generate real value.  Hobbies is what you give time to, but nourishes your soul, and in the process you are creating, practicing, working your craft.  It’s the work that you wished you could do all day everyday, but don’t get to because of responsibilities, regular job, etc.  But that is perfectly OK.  When you do things for money, joy is stolen, motivation gets fuzzy, deadlines begin to loom and put pressure.  Not so with hobbies, you aren’t doing it for the financial gain of others, you do it for the pure satisfaction of yourself, and your audience.  You don’t want the pressure of “if I screw this up, I won’t be able to pay the bills.”  You want to do what you enjoy, free of external motivations, just an expression of what’s inside.

“If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. — Wilson Mizner

  • What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere.  All creative work builds on what came before.  Nothing is completely original.
  • “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” – Andre Gide
  • You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see.  You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.  You are the sum of your influences
  • The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice.  You can learn whatever you want from them.  They left their lesson plans in their work.
  • It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.  You’re ready.  Start making stuff.
  • In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes.
  • “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” — Jessica Hische
  • “Avoiding work is the best way to focus my mind.” — Maira Kalman
  • A hobby is something creative that’s just for you. You don’t try to make money or famous off it, you just do it because it makes you happy.  A hobby is something that gives but doesn’t take.  No pressure, no plans.  It’s regenerative.  It’s like church.
  • Do good work and share it with people.
  • People love it when you give your secrets away

8 Methods For Burning Through Your Infinite Reading List

This is part 2 on reading lists.  Check here for part 1.

Ever since I’ve grown an appreciation and love for non-fiction books, I always found myself telling people “Oh man my reading list is so long, I keep adding books faster than I can read them.”.  It’s a real problem people!  #thestruggleisreal.

I’ve searched far and wide for reading strategies in order to consume the input quicker and more, and I’ve come up with some strategies that I’d like to share.  Note that most of the books I consume revolve around the topics of personal development, business, and psychology, so they relate best to this style of book, rather than say Fiction or History.

  1. Watch the TED Talk — many times the author has done a TED talk, or some sort of Keynote and covers the basic concepts of the book.
  2. Read their blog posts — I have found that in recent years, it’s becoming very popular for almost all authors, as part of their promotions, to write blog posts or articles on popular outlets or to guest post on popular blogs.  Because it’s promotional, it usually covers a few points, if not all the main points of the book
  3. Search for a Podcast the author is a guest on  – same as reading their articles/blogs, this has been a popular recent method of promoting their book and they normally cover it
  4. Google the summary – there are plenty of people like me, who like to write book reviews of what we’re reading.  They normally give good feedback, practical ways they’ve benefited, and favourite quotes.
  5. Blinkist –  In my quest to conquer more books, I figured if I was able to just get even some small ideas from a book summary, it would be better than never knowing those small ideas ever (or simply studying them at a later point).  I opted for the Premium version so that I could capture my highlights straight into Evernote, which is where I keep all my book notes anyways. ~$49-$79 annual subscription
  6. Speed read – this technique I used particularly in school going through dry textbooks.  I used the methods from 10 Days to Reading Faster as well as quick speed reading hacks from Tim Ferriss.  I value learning this skill early on as I’ve been able to implement some of the principles into my everyday life and is now second nature.  One skill from the book that I use to this day is to preview the book before starting and getting a feel of where the important bits are and non-important.  Then as I read through, I am able to quickly scan/skip the parts that don’t add value, and read in detail the parts that do.
  7. Audiobook – These are great for when you are commuting, particularly driving.  Driving is a pretty subconscious activity for most of the commute, so you are able to engage in the book quite well.  This is how I read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh and I listened to part of Good to Great by Jim Collins as well.
  8. Audio-Hardcopy Hybrid – I haven’t tried this yet but I think I am going to give it a shot soon, I came across the method here.  Basically, listen to the audiobook at 2x speed (the basic app has this function already), and read along at the same time.  Comprehension and engagement increases as you are reading and listening at the same time, as well as it forces you to stay on pace.  2x seems a little fast for me so I may try 1.5x or some variant like that.

The first 5 methods I’ve listed are all ways of previewing the book.  They will either help you decide whether the full book is even worth reading, or help you understand the main points without having to read them.  This is how I have learned concepts from Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain after reading a blog post and a 10 point summary that was inside her book.  Lewis Howes – The School of Greatness is also another one, where I listened to a number of his podcasts and interviews and it seems he goes through a number of the same themes once consuming his other material.  The great thing about this was that I could essential receive his material without having to actually read, by lets say, listening to podcasts or reading the blog posts in places where I wouldn’t normally be reading, during a break at work, waiting for my wife in the change room, waiting at the dentist office, etc.

Hopefully through solving my own pain point, you can benefit.  Happy reading, listening, and/or tossing the book off your reading list!

Got anything you want to share or add?  Anything you want to talk about?  Would love if you reached out to me!  marcusscwong@gmail.com.  I won’t use your e-mail for any purposes, promise!

Mindset by Carol Dweck Reading Notes

I’m very excited to share these reading notes.  This may be one of the most important books I’ve ever read.  It has completely impacted the way I view the world and how I approach many aspects of my life.  If I had to share one book with the world to recommend to read, I have to say this would affect the most amount of people, as there isn’t an area of your life that this would not affect.  Happy reading!  If you like it, make sure to grab yourself a copy!

Chapter 2 – The Mindsets

  • Children with the fixed mindset want to make sure they succeed.  Smart people should always succeed.  But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves.  It’s about becoming smarter.

“I think intelligence is something you have to work for … it isn’t just given to you … Most kids, if they’re not sure of an answer, will not raise their hand to answer the question.  But what I usually do is raise my hand, because if I’m wrong, them my mistake will be corrected.  Or I will raise my hand and say, ‘How would this be solved?’ or ‘I don’t get this. Can you help me?’ Just by doing that I’m increasing my intelligence.” — Child

  • For those with growth mindset, for them it’s not about immediate perfection.  It’s about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making a progress.
  • “Becoming is better than being.”  The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming.  They have to already be.
  • People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower.
  • This is part of the fixed mindset: effort is for those who don’t have the ability. People with the fixed mindset tells us, “if you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.”
  • People with the growth mindset, believe something very different: even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements.
  • “what’s so heroic, they would say, about having a gift?”
  • The idea of trying and still failing — of leaving yourself without excuses — is the worst fear within the fixed mindset
  • In the growth mindset, it’s almost inconceivable to want something badly, to think you have a chance to achieve it, and then do nothing about it.
  • You can look back and say, “I could have been …,” polishing your unused endowments like trophies.  Or you can look back and say, “I gave my all for the things I valued.” Think about what you want to look back and say.  Then choose your mindset.

Chapter 2 Action Steps: 

  • Ppl are all born with a love of learning, but the fixed mindset can undo it.  Think of a time when you were doing something and you hit a bump, how did you feel?  Next time this happens, don’t fold yourself.  It’s the fixed mindset.  Put yourself in a growth mindset.  Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn.
  • When you are challenged, how do you feel?  Do you fold and give up, or try harder?  Next time you are challenged, don’t give up, try and imagine all the new connections from learning that you will get effort.  Learn to love the process.

Chapter 3 – The Truth about Ability and Accomplishments

  • In a high school in LA, a teacher went into one of the lowest performing math classes, and taught them university level calculus.  He didn’t ask, “Are these students able to do it?”, he asked, “How can I teach these students to be able to do it?”.  The class ended up ranking amongst the top in the country, falling behind two other classes that were from Math and Science schools.  Only a hundred Mexican Americans got college credits for the work they did in High School, most of that class of Mexican Americans were able to attain that.
  • Many people with the fixed mindset believe that someone’s early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future.
  • Parents often (80% actually) feel as though praising children for their abilities is very important for building confidence and self esteem.  However in a study, they found that praising for student’s abilities on an IQ test found that they were more likely to reject taking another more challenging test.  When they praised the students for their effort, 90% of them chose to accept the more challenging test afterwards.  For the ability kids, they were given more challenging questions and showed that they had less enjoyment in them, since their abilities were now being challenged.  The effort kids however enjoyed the challenging questions the most.  After the difficult questions, easier questions were given again, however even though the questions were easy, the ability children performed lower than they did in the first place.  Their morale was shot so hard by the challenging questions they were thrown off.  Whereas the effort children performed even better afterwards.
    • A very interesting part of the study was afterwards, the students were given a chance to write to other random kids (strangers) and tell them about the test they had taken, and they were given a spot to write their score down.  40% of the ability kids lied on their score.
      • Simply by telling these ordinary children that they were smart, they made them into liars

Chapter 3 – Action Steps

  • Think about your hero.   Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort?  Now go find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment – and admire them more
  • Think of times other people outdid you and you just assumed they were smarter or more talented.  Now consider the idea that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder, and worked their way through obstacles.  You can do that, too, if you want.
  • Are there situations where you get stpuid- where you disengage your intelligence?  Next time you’re in one of those situations, get yourself into a growth mindset — think about learning and improvement, not judgment — and hook it back up

Chapter 4 – Mindset of a Champion

  • Michael Jordan — the coach (UNC) was taken aback by his willingness to work harder than anyone else.  Once, after the team lost the last game of the season, Jordan went and practiced his shot for hours.  Former Bulls assistant coach John Bach called him “a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.”
  • Bruce Jenner, 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, says, “If I wasn’t dyslexic, I probably wouldn’t have won the Games.  If I had been a better reader, then that would have come easily, sports would have come easily … and I never would have realized that the way you get ahead in life is hard work.”
  • In a study … those with fixed mindset were the people who believed that:
    “You have a certain level of ability in sports and you cannot really do much to change that level.”
    “To be good at sports you need to be naturally gifted.”

    • In Contrast, the people with the growth mindset agreed that:
      • How good you are at sports will always improve if you work harder at it.
      • To be successful in sports, you need to learn techniques and skills and practice them regularly

“After every game or practice, if you walk off the field knowing that you gave everything you had, you will always be a winner” – Mia Hamm

  • Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating.  They’re informative.  They’re a wake-up call.
    • Only once did MJ try to coast, it was the year after he returned to the bulls after baseball.  The bulls were eliminated in the play-offs.  “You can’t leave and think you can come back and dominate this game.  I will be physically and mentally prepared from now on.”  The Bulls won the NBA title the next three years.
  • People with the growth mindset in sports took charge of the processes that bring success — and than maintain it.
    • How come Jordan’s skill didn’t seem to decline with age?  He did lose some stamina and agility with age, but to compensate, he worked even harder on conditioning and on his moves, like the turn around jump shot and his celebrated fallaway jumper.  He came into the league as a slam-dunker and he left as the most complete player ever to grace the game
  • Somebodies are not determined by whether they won or lost.  Somebodies are people who go for it with all they have.

Chapter 4 – Action Steps

  • Sometimes being exceptionally endowed is a curse.  These athletes may stay in a fixed mindset and not cope well with adversity.  Is there a sport that came easily to you until you hit a wall?  Try on the growth mindset and go for it again.
  • “Character” is an important concept in sports world, and it comes out of a growth mindset.  Think about times you’ve needed to reach deep down inside in difficult sports matches.  Think about the growth-mindset champions from this chapter and how they do it.  What could you do next time to make sure you’re in a growth mindset in the pinch?
  • Athletes with a growth mindset find success in learning and improving, not just winning.  The more you can do this, the more rewarding sports will be for you — and for those who play them with you!

Chapter 5 – Business – Mindset and Leadership

  • They’re not constantly trying to prove they’re better than others.  For example, they don’t highlight the pecking order with themselves at the top, they don’t claim credit for other people’s contributions, and they don’t undermine others to feel powerful.
    • Instead they are constantly trying to improve.  They surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future.  And because of this, they can move forward with confidence that’s grounded in the facts, not build on fantasies about their talent.
  • Abusive actions represent the bosses’ desire to enhance their own feelings of power, competence, and value at the subordinate’s expense.
  • If the wrong kinds of praise lead kids down the path of entitlement, dependence, and fragility, maybe the right kinds of praise can lead them down the path of hard work and greater hardiness.
    • Instead of just giving employees an award for the smartest idea or praise for a brilliant performance, they would get praise for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling and learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback or for being open to and acting on criticism.
  • Fixed mindset managers simply look for existing talent – they judge employees as competent or incompetent at the start and that’s that.  They do little development coaching and employees
    • Managers with a growth mindset think it’s nice to have talent, but that’s just the starting point.  These managers are more committed to their employees’ development and to their own.  They give a great deal more developmental coaching, they notice improvement in employees’ performance, and they welcome critique from their employees.
  • The growth mindset can be taught to managers
    • The workshop takes managers and teaches about the possibilities that open up once you have a growth mindset, and how success and mindset can change and are not static abilities of a few.
      • The workshop then takes managers and ask a) they consider why it’s important to understand that people can develop their abilities, b) they think of areas in which they once had low ability but now perform well, c) they write to a struggling protege about how his or her abilities can be developed, and d) they recall times they have seen people learn to do things they never though these people could do.

Chapter 6: Relationships

  • When we see great marriage relationship, we don’t say these people are brilliant relationship makers.  We say they’re fine people.  Or they have chemistry.  However as a society, this shows that we don’t understand relationship skills
  • So far, having a fixed mindset has meant believing your personal traits are fixed, but in a relationship two more variables are added, the partner, and the relationship itself.  You can believe that your qualities are fixed, your partners qualities are fixed, and/or the relationship’s qualities are fixed.
    • The growth mindset says all these things can be developed.  All are capable of growth and change.
  • In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility.  Like it was meant to be.  This is similar to those with a fixed mindset that believe abilities and talent should just come naturally.
    • Fixed mindset believe “We are like one.  My partner should know what I think, feel, and need and I should know what my partner thinks feels and needs.”   This is obviously impossible  without communication and working on communicating.
    • Those with fixed mindsets feel threatened and hostile after even a minor discrepancy, since their insecurities about themselves are amplified
  • A no-effort relationship is a doomed relationship, not a great one. It takes work to communicate accurately and it takes work to expose and resolve conflicting hopes and beliefs.  It doesn’t mean there is no “they lived happily ever after,” but it’s more like “they worked happily ever after”.
  • The situation doesn’t get better in a fixed mindset relationship because when someone screws up, it is about who they are, not about their actions, and they believe that their partner is not capable of change.
  • Helping partners, within the relationship, to reach their own goals and fulfill their own potential.  This is the growth mindset in action.
  • The idea of “the lower you are, the better I feel” is the mentality that intrudes friendships
    • These friendships can sneak in.  They can be wonderful people, charming, fun, brilliant, but after being with them you often feel diminished.  It is often these people that try to build themselves up by establishing superiority and your inferiority.  You could be a vehicle, or a casualty of confirming their worth
  • The often touted “you know who your friends are in the bad times” may be a bit misleading, as that in itself is a self fulfilling prophecy of the possibility of those people feeling better about themselves when around you.  No, what may actually be a much better question is, “who can you turn to when good things happen?  When you find a wonderful partner, a great job offer, when your child does well, who is truly happy to hear it and celebrate YOU for it?”

Chapter 7 – Parents Teachers Coaches

  • Every word and action can be communication — to a child, student, or athlete, about how to think about themselves.  A fixed mindset message says “you have permanent traits and I’m judging them”, while growth mindset messages say “you are a developing person and I’m interesting in your development”
  • Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance
  • parents often think that they can give the gift of confidence to their children by praising their brains and abilities.  This is ever clear when watching the modern western style of parenting.  When in fact, when you praise their brains, you harm them as they hit challenges and snags in development, because when they find it difficult, judgment is brought on themselves that they are not in fact that smart.
    • The best thing a parent can do is teach a child to love challenges, to learn, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort.  Children will therefore not require man’s praise to love themselves, but they can build and repair their own confidence at any time
  • The type of praise we should stay away from is the one’s that praise intelligence or talent, rather than the work that they put in
  • an example of good praise after a failed test would be “it must be terrible feeling to feel everyone is evaluating you and you can’t show what you know.  We want you to know we are interested just in your learning and know that you were learning new things and we’re proud that you kept learning”
    • “Elizabet, I know how you feel.  It’s disappointing to have your hopes up and perform your best but not win. But you know you haven’t really earned it yet.  There are many other girls who have been practicing for a lot longer and have worked a lot harder.  If this is something you really want, you have to work for it.  If you want to just do gymnastics for fun, that is completely fine too!  But if you want to excel in it, you will have to put in the work.”
    • Here you can see he taught her how to learn from failure, how to succeed going forward, and did not give her a phoney boost of confidence.  He empathized with her, which is extremely important as well
  • Parents often think that discipline (punishment) is a form of teaching.  However what it teaches children is that when they disobey, they’ll be judged.  They need to be taught how to think through issues and come to ethical, mature decisions on their own.  Discipline and punishment is the lazy way of parenting.  Talking and discussing through issues is the work you have to put in to be a good teacher
  • Great teachers believe in the growth and development of intellect and talent and are fascinated with the process

“If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything.  Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.”

  • When teachers are judging students, students rebel by sabotaging the teacher by not trying.  When students understand that school is for them, and for their learning and growing, they won’t want to sabotage school because they know it’s for themselves

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better.  By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better” — John Wooden

  • He didn’t ask for mistake free games, or demand only wins.   He asked for full preparation and full effort.  Winning and losing is the wrong focus and wrong questions of the outcome.  The correct question is “did I put in my best effort?”.  If so, “You may be outscored but you will never lose”.

Action Steps:

  • Listen to what you say to your kids, and what messages they are sending.  Are they growth mindset messages? or fixed?  Are you judging them as permanent traits, or as developing and learning?
  • Do you praise them for their abilities, or for the effort and practice?
  • When you set goals for your child, they should not be fixed goals, but “expanding and learning and working” type goals

Chapter 8 – Changing Mindsets

  • People with growth mindsets are constantly monitoring what’s happening and have an internal dialogue of “how can I learn from this?  How can I improve?  How can I help someone with this?”, rather than a internal dialogue of judgement of yourself or others
  • in Growth Mindset workshops, students are taught that:
    • Most people don’t really know much about intelligence.  Most people think of intelligence as a fixed trait, either you’re dumb, average, or smart.  However new research shows that your brain is actually a muscle, and the more you work it, the more strong it becomes.  So when you learn and practice, you are making your brain stronger and making it grow.
    • When you learn new things, tiny connections begin to multiply and grow.  Things you found very hard before seem to become easy, because your brain is stronger and smarter.
  • Having a growth mindset plan will help tremendously.  Is there something you want to learn?  How will you do it, where, when?  Growth mindset people, when feeling frustrated or hit a snag in learning, even if depressed, will double down on their efforts to get past it.  This is where a growth mindset plan is useful.
  • There’s an important section that was too difficult to record in notes on how to change your child’s mindsets.  Basically it’s a set of examples on how to emphasize learning, learning from mistakes, in every area whether in activities, school, or even soft skills.

Notes on my reading notes: These notes are a selection of quotes or personal notes that I take on the book/article.  They are not meant to give a comprehensive overview of everything covered in the book.  Only what I find interesting and pertains to be helpful for my own benefit is recorded.

How To Choose Your Reading List This Year (and every other one)

Gearing up for the next year, I was contemplating about what are the books (non-fiction) I want to read. Judging by my last read, it took me about 2 months to get through. Which seemed like a realistic pace when taking into account life and other priorities.  That means at a satisfying rate, I can read approximately 6 books in 2016.

When I read The Tail End article, I realized that though in my mind I have an infinite time to go through the reading list that I have, I only have around 350 books to read in my lifetime. It makes me realize I want to stop wasting time reading books that add no value to my life. What a waste of perfectly good reading and learning time!

Then from a perspective of what would be the most important books that I can read in my late 20s that will have a long term and large impact on my life, there is a greater epiphany of the importance of prioritization on my reading list.

When choosing your books, try and ask yourself these yes/no questions:

  1. Will it greatly improve my life?
  2. Will the book impact a large part of my life?
  3. Does it focus on a glaring weakness that I practice everyday?
  4. Does my learning and sharing with those around me impact many other’s lives?

We all have the habit of adding books to our reading list, almost taking a matter of pride in the size of the pile. However, maybe it is a weak indicator.  Maybe it just shows little control of oneself or a lack of focus on priorities.  When you boil down your reading list to “I have a limited amount of books I’ll ever read, is this worth it?”, books can begin to be easily tossed aside.

I can realistically only choose 6, maybe 8 if I’m lucky this coming year. Here is what I am preparing to read in 2016 in no particular order:

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William Irvine
The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
7 Principles of Making Marriage Work – Dr. John Gottman
Show Your Work – Austin Kleon
Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried and DHH
Rework – Jason Fried and DHH (re-reading and taking notes)
The Diamond Age – Neil Stephenson

I know there is 8 here, but 3 of them are actually really short books that can be consumed casually without really needing to set aside time, so I know when I’m lying in bed or at a boring party, I’ll probably flip through a few pages of them per week.  Also the last one is my first venture in fiction in a really long time, so it’s a bit of a substitute for less TV this year.

Look out for my book notes soon!  In my next post, I’ll cover how to “read” the books that you have some interest in, but don’t make it into this more important reading list.

Leave a comment on what you think?  Am I on point?

Discipline Equals Freedom

Discipline equals freedom — Jocko Willink from episode of the Tim Ferriss Podcast.

Discipline in how you treat your body (exercise and food) leads to more freedom.

  • from physical exhaustion
  • pain as a result of sedentary lifestyle (back/neck pain)
  • walk long periods of time
  • try interesting new activities
  • prolong your “able” life to try new experiences
  • from doctors
  • from health problems

Discipline in your relationships (friendships or romantic) leads to more freedom.

  • increased closeness
  • increased trust
  • increased support
  • increased belonging
  • increased understanding
  • increased romance
  • increased love
  • decreased disputes

Discipline in your career leads to more freedom.

  • to pick jobs you enjoy
  • to have greater salary potential
  • to take riskier career moves
  • to have greater freedom to take sabbaticals
  • to negotiate perks and benefits
  • to make autonomous decisions for the business

Discipline in your personal finances leads to more freedom.

  • No debt = no stress
  • More options when you want to take a break or retire
  • Make financial mistakes
  • Buy things that you wouldn’t otherwise
  • Experience (ie. travel) where money is required

Discipline in businesses leads to more freedom.

  • disciplined approaches lead to creativity
  • more empowerment across the organization
  • alignment amongst all members
  • “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness” — Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

Discipline in training your dog …

  • greater sense of connection
  • more trust
  • freedom to roam around
  • freedom to go to public places
  • freedom of a leash entirely
  • freedom to play more
  • freedom to interact with others more

As you can see, freedom can impact any and every area of your life.  This is because discipline is practice, which leads to experience, which leads to skills and expertise.  The greater skills you have in any area, the more options it opens up to do more meaningful and greater things.  For anyone who is successful at anything, discipline is always a prerequisite.  Whether an athlete, business person, spouse, writer, or artist, they all put in the time and have disciplined habits and approaches that allow them to pursue more.

From Rags to Riches with “Big Data”

Whom is the One that sits at the Throne that qualifies when just “data” becomes “Big Data”?  Seems like, around every corner is a new “Big Data expert”, even when no one agrees what Big Data actually is.

As fun as it is to sit down with a glass of bourbon and contemplate with fellow data geeks on the equivocal topic, I myself just sit down and start powering through whatever amount of data is being thrown at me.  I’ve worked with data sets that vary in size, from 1GB, up to what is currently 11+ GB of data within my current project.  Regardless of size or complexity or nature of the data, I spin up my new faithful, Keboola Connection, and let it take my limited skill set and process it all to create something meaningful.

It really is a rags to riches story.  I by no means have any qualifications as a data scientist as I’m sure Statistics and Comp Sci majors and PhD’s would unanimously agree.  By which I would argue that I do the same thing, just much less glamourously.  The rags part of the story: here is me, business major, and would have flunked my Access course had it not been for my partner who did the entire class project for me.  I’ve hacked together some SQL knowledge through means of Google search, and begin to play with my client data.  The riches part of the story, is the insights and added value that I’ve created using the raw data.  The “transformation” if you will, is Keboola Connection.  Now, I won’t give you a BS spiel that it is some tool that you shove in data and it spits data dollars.  But when building transformations to get meaningful insights, it makes it a heck of a lot easier when it comes with the tools and raw power to do the job.

Above is a screenshot of the current project I’m working on, totalling about 30M rows of raw data (the rest is meaningful output).  Below is a screenshot of a run of the full chain of transformations I’m running, in 15 minutes.  Let me express again, I have no Comp Sci background.  The queries here are largely inefficient, and I probably have added about 50% additional steps from what I’ve actually needed to.  But the value for efficiency begins to dwindle when we are talking about a difference of just minutes while processing 30M rows.  Who cares?  It only needs to be updated once per day!

So when someone says “I crunch Big Data”, where does Big begin?  After a certain processing time threshold?  Or when there is a large data set?  Well KBC handles both exceptionally well.  The saying, “Work smarter not harder” occurs when you pick the right tools for the right job.

I’ll probably keep running this project in Redshift as it seems to suffice.  But maybe once the project grows 20x in size, I’ll consider upgrading to Snowflake, and go grab a glass of bourbon to contemplate Big Data with fellow Keboola geeks, while the Data Scientists are stuck waiting for their data to finish processing.