Archives for category: Books

My Dearest Friends and Fucks,

I accidentally wrote a book of poems. I sat down one day writing ideas for businesses. Then ideas for business names. Then ideas for stories. Then a story. Then a poem-story. It’s good to write ideas. It makes my head hurt because I tear my idea-muscle. It’s a good sore. Not like a Snooki lip-sore but like a “The Situation” tummy sore. A tear that builds back bigger and badder. But what an odd turn to take – poetry?.

I wrote my first poem. Then my cousin Brook filmed me saying it.

That was number one. Bad but not the worst. I took a road trip and what better thing to do in the middle of a desert than write a poem? So I wrote one and became an addict of word-vomiting. I kept doing it. Without realizing it I wrote a few hundred of these little word-pukes. They sat in a journal stinking in their own stink.

Read the rest of this entry »

“For the New Intellectual” is one of the most impactful essays I have ever read.  Ayn’s (yes, we are on first name basis) ability to highlight the importance of rational thought, creativity, and ideas is amazing.  The essay is 58 pages and the rest of the book contains excerpts from each of her novels.  My notes, which are in order of which they were taken from the book, follow.  Keep in mind these are notes, and Rand is much more eloquent and thorough than I am.  This is going to be a long post, I highly recommend you go skim the whole thing and find at least one idea to think about or challenge.

I hope after you reading this you will see that Rand was not a heartless bitch.  Also, I hope you see that Objectivism is a philosophy is one which supports the love of life.  Having a rational sense of self interest is the most important thing you can do in life.

[A couple things. First, the numbers represent what page the note was taken from.  Second, I’m not a fan of the names “Attila” and “witchdoctor” because it makes them sound ridiculous and separate from our own experience.  But to stay consistent with Ms.  Rand I’m sticking with her names.  Also, I left the John Galt speech for another post… because it’s fucking huge.]

The stud of the world, Ms Rand

For the New Intellectual

7 From Atlas Shrugged, “The tragic joke of human history is that on any of the altars men erected, it was always man whom they immolated and the animal whom they enshrined. It was always the animal’s attributes, not man’s that humanity worshiped…”  It bugs me when people say things like, “must be nice to be a dog, don’t got to worry bout nothin.”

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I just listened to a 45 minute talk by Seth Godin.  It’s the April installment of his Linchpin talks.  Anyway, it’s well worth a listen.  Below are my notes from the talk.  They aren’t complete and are very raw.

-700 years ago, nobody was ‘unemployed’. Some areas of the world
today don’t know what ‘unemployed’ is.
-Gin was one of the key elements of the Industrial Revolution, people were drunk all day. B/C “jobs” were alien.

-reverse correlation between the amount of ‘stuff’ in a populatio and how happy it is

-debt creates more debt, fear of losing things

-school teaches compliance, and that’s the only thing you use in the ‘real world’

-america is in shit not because of a lack of compliance, but because lack of entrepreneurship Read the rest of this entry »

I read ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals in thee sittings, which is extremely fast for me.  A lot of the book is common sense, but the kind that isn’t so common.  A lot of the book tests assumptions made by corporations.  An example is that profitability is more important than growth.  One of my favorite people, Tim Ferriss, featured them on his blog recently and provided some great excerpts.

These are my notes from the book:

19 – Don’t put too much emphasis on making plans.  You will uncover tons of information while working on your project that will alter your plans.  [Seth Godin, who endorses this book, said in Linchpin that you should have a total blueprint before beginning a project to reduce thrashing.  I think the point here is that when new information comes up that alters the plan, don’t feel bad about straying from the path.]

20 – Plan for the week, not the year. Circumstances are much easier to predict tomorrow than they are in a month.

23 – Profitability is the goal, not growth.

36 – “Scratch your own itch.” Or, solve your own problems.  This is a great way to come up with ideas.  Also, when you are solving your own problems then you know how well you are doing.

38 – Actions are the only things that matter – ideas and plans without actions are useless.

43 – “A strong stand attracts super fans.” If you (or your product) don’t have a strong belief in something then you are screwed.  If you aren’t pissing anyone off then it is unlikely that you are creating strong connections with those that would be your best fans.

56 – Start a business not a startup. The goal is profit.  Know how you will become profitable from the start.

72 – Make the most basic element of your product the best it can be. Read the rest of this entry »

I finished Linchpin by Seth Godin last week.  I wasn’t blown away and my life hasn’t changed.  It essentially was further confirmation that more and more companies care about what you can do more than the degree you hold.  Resumes are pretty much bullshit.  The new resume is your blog or portfolio (going along with his idea that we all must become artists.)

He makes the point that because things are so cheap now, ideas are worth more than they have ever been.  In this way, we must all be ‘artists’.  His idea of an artist is anyone who figures out something new.  A new way to do an activity or to create something that didn’t exist before.

Most of the ideas in the book can be found at his blog.

These are my notes from the book:

  • “There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you what to do.”
  • The Law of the Mechanical Turk: Any project broken into small, predictable parts can be achieved for free.  [He emphasizes crowdsourcing in Wikipedia.]
  • Attendance based compensation is over.  Jobs are quickly disappearing that anyone can do and pay well.
  • A good question to ask: “If my organization wanted to replace me with someone better, what would the look for?”
  • Management tip: Push decisions as far down the ladder as possible.
  • Nobody sets out to be a typical person.  Indoctrination sets in later…
  • School should only teach two things: 1.  How to solve interesting problems and 2. How to lead.
  • You don’t have to be always right, just always moving.
  • The more value you create in your job, the less time you have to spend on it.  [Genius only comes in short bursts.  Geniuses are only genius a very small portion of the time.  Most of their time is spent doing what most people could do.]
  • “Expertise gives you enough insight to reinvent what everyone assumes is the truth.”
  • Emotional labor is very important.  It’s work you do to manage your feelings.  [ie don’t be a dick at work]
  • Linchpins solve unseen problems and connect people that don’t know they need to be connected.
  • Linchpins assume duties that cannot be assigned or measured. [This is why they’re missed when they’re gone.]
  • Never seek out critics. It’s like pleasing the heckler in the back while the rest of your audience wait.
  • Leverage emotional labor (charm) to help with your skill/craft.
  • Seek achievements that have no limit.  Innovative solutions to new problems never get old.
  • Linchpins don’t need a formal resume.
  • Emotional Labor is doing important work, even when it’s not easy.  [ie working on a report instead of banging out mindless homework]
  • ‘Artists’ don’t think FAR out of the box, just enough to be innovative and acceptable/salable.
  • The purpose of starting is to finish.  Shipping is the goal.
  • Thrashing= apparently productive brainstorming/tweaking to a project as it develops. If you thrash in late stages of a product you will never ship.  So always thrash early, before the project is underway.
  • Don’t just be productive with other people’s task lists.  [If you get tons of emails done at work and tons of homework done you still haven’t done shit towards your aspirations.]
  • Having a backup plan makes us more likely to fall back on it.
  • Lots of bad ideas leads to good ideas.
  • We often don’t allow ourselves to be our best.
  • Fear is involved in any conflict.
  • “Sprinting” is a good way to keep inner dialog out.  [Give yourself shorter timelines than you could possibly finish in.]
  • Building a platform to launch from makes launching much easier. This means build an audience.  This could be through a blog, online videos, twitter, whatever.
  • Have a due date and a blueprint before you start work on a project.
  • Don’t set up a judge and jury for your work.  Set your own definition of success.
  • Deliver a product that can never be adequately paid for. A musical performance or a movie or a product that changes your life for the better can not be paid for in full.  The goal is to make something like that…
  • Humans are difficult to change, try to embrace their uniqueness.
  • You can fit in or stand out – not both.
  • Bring passion to what you do, don’t try to ‘find’ it. People spend their whole life searching for their ‘passion’ when they should have just gotten excited about what they were doing their whole lives.
  • Five key personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, emotional stability.
  • Sincerity is very important in changing minds (placebo effect).
  • In the customers’ eyes you need to be the best.

A great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on page 208:

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined.  If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his frieds and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls.  He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not “studying a profession,” for he does not postpone his life, but lives already.  He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

In Pages 127+128 Godin provides some examples of  “resistances”.

  • Don’t ship on time.  LAte is the first step to never.
  • Provrastinate, claiming that you need to be perfect.
  • Ship early, sending out defective ideas, hoping they will be rejected.
  • Suffer anxiety about what to wear to an event.
  • Excuses involving lack of money.
  • Excessive networking with the goal of having everyone like and support you.
  • Engage in deliberate provocotive behavior designed to ostracize you so you’ll have no standing in the community.
  • Demonstrate lack of desire to obtain a new skill.
  • Spend hours on obsessive data collection.
  • Be snarky.
  • Start committees instead of taking action.
  • Joining committees instead of leading
  • Ship deliberately average work that will fit in and be ignored.
  • Don’t ask question. OR Ask too many questions.
  • Start a never-ending search for the next big thing, abandoning yesterday’s things as old.
  • Be boring.
  • Focus on revenge instead of doing new work.
  • Slow down as the deadline for completion approaches.
  • Wait until tomorrow.
  • Manufacture anxiety about people stealing your ideas.
  • Believe it’s about gifts and talents, not skill.  And announce you have neither.

Godin actually took this from Bre Pettis’ blog.  It’s a manifesto of “done”:

  1. There are three states of being.  Not knowing, action, and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. 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.
  5. Banish procrastination.  If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection.  It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong.  Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  • Done is the engine of more.
  • These are my notes (I stick at the back of my book) for the Four Hour Work Week.  I am going to put together a couple more thought out posts later, but for now this is just a regurgitation of stuff I already wrote.  The number represents the page number (from new expanded edition).

    10.  “Reality is negotiable.”  Or, all rules are meant to be bent/broken.

    20.  Focus on experiences, not on accumulating for the sake of accumulating.

    22. The value of money is multiplied by your control over what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom.

    25.  “Once you decide to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.”

    26.  Differentiate between self imposed rules and official rules.  Official rules  need to be followed, self imposed rules need to be discarded.

    30.  “Sports evolve when sacred cow are killed, when assumptions are tested.”

    33.  Focus on being productive, not busy.

    -Ask for forgiveness, not permission.  Unless somebody could be truly devastated.

    34.  Emphasize strengths, don’t focus on bringing weaknesses up to ‘decent’.

    -Too much of any good thing becomes a bad thing.

    35.  Don’t use money as a scapegoat for not feeling fulfilled.

    36. Absolute income is NOT the same as relative income. Break down to $/Hour.

    40. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.

    42.  Think about worst case scenarios when making life changing decision– they aren’t usually that bad.

    43.  Fear can be disguised as as optimism when no action is taken.  Don’t rationalize a sub-par situation.

    44.  “Luxury is being fearless of discomfort.”

    49.  Never overestimate a challenge, it reduces the chance of action.

    50.  Doing the unrealistic is better/easier than the realistic.  Everyone is trying to do the realistic.

    51.  Chase excitement.  Don’t ask “what makes me happy?” but instead ask “what makes me excited?”  Happiness=excitement.

    52.  Always define alternative activities to replace workload.  It’s harder to free up time when you don’t have anything to do with that time.

    56.  Failing better and perseverance are better than the scatter shot approach.

    63.  Learn to make quick decisions– for yourself and others.

    65.  Elimination is goal.  Simplicity.

    70.  “Doing an unimportant thing well does not make it important.”

    -Time to complete a project is NOT proportional to it’s importance.

    -WHAT you do is much more important than how you do it.

    71.  Ask yourself (1) Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems/unhappiness? and (2) Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?

    72.  Remember to never work just to work.

    75.  Being busy is usually just a form of laziness.

    -Lack of time=Lack of priorities.

    76.  We tend to fill the time allotted- we can do much more in less time.  Set short deadlines to increase focus.

    77.  Parkinson’s Law– the more time allotted for something the harder/more complex you believe it to be.

    78.  Never let the unimportant become important by (1) identifying the few critical tasks that contribute most and (2) creating extremely short and clear deadlines.

    79.  Ask three times a day at scheduled intervals “Am I being productive or just active?”

    86.  Information requires attention.  Read only what you need to- you don’t need news you can’t act on.

    92.  When reading, ask “Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important?”

    95.  (In School) Go to teacher after first graded assignment (not scantron) if you don’t get an A with 3 hours of questions.

    97.  Check email at noon and 4 PM, never first/last thing. First thing screws up your schedule and last will keep you up at night.

    -Finish your most critical item for the day before 11 AM.

    101.  “Don’t suffer fools or you’ll become one.”

    102.  Always use “if/then” in emails to minimize back and forth.

    103.  Limit meetings to 30 min.

    105.  “Just this once” is a good way to establish a permanent behavior.  Don’t fall for it.

    107.  Use batching for small tasks (like email).  Let them build up and get them all done at once.  This prevents you from having to switch attention too often.

    -It can take up to 45 minutes to resume a major task.

    -To find hourly income cut three zeros off annual income and half the number. ($50,000 annually is ~ $25 an hour.)

    117.  Us P.O. box to batch mail.

    130.  Never automate/outsource something you can eliminate.

    140.  When using virtual assistants (VA’s), make a unique login for them to use on any site.

    142.  When hiring VA’s, demand excellent English and say they will be required  to make phone calls (even if they won’t).

    -With VA’s, be VERY precise in instructions.  Set MAX 72 hour deadline on tasks.  Send ONE item/assignment/task at a time.

    150. Principles must be understood in order to implement or create methods.

    MUSES

    154.  Muse rules of thumb: $500 max to test.  Must be able to automate in 4 weeks.  1 day per week management.

    156. High pricing positions you as a premium product.

    157.  Exclusivity deals are good because (1) you don’t want resellers competing to sell your product (it will drive down prices) and (2)you can negotiate better profit margins.

    -Find market/define customers, THEN develop product for them.

    -Try to be the first or best in category.  First is preferable- create your own category.  To do this niche down- tailor to very specific crowd.

    162.  For muse, 8-10X markup and price of $50-250 is preferable.

    163.  Before you make muse,  determine per-unit cost for 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 units.

    -Reselling is great option for back end products (‘third party’ like iPod covers) B/C there is no advertising needed to get customers.

    165.  Licensor usually gets 3-10% of wholesale price (usually 40% of retail).

    168.  For info products, you can obtain content by (1)creating it yourself by paraphrasing and combining topics from books and (2) repurpose content in the public domain (government documents and material predating copyright laws) and (3) license content or compensate an expert.

    182.  Always test viability before you take product to market.

    -Differentiate product by having more credibility, better guarantee, better selection, free/faster shipping.

    185.  Be very specific with keywords for PPC to keep costs down.

    186.  (PPC) Turn off “only serve best ad” feature.  Use minimum of $50 limit per day.

    207.  (Muse up)  At first answer calls yourself to build FAQ.  This FAQ is used to train phone operators later.

    -(PPC) Make sure ads are specific and targeted.  We don’t want unqualified traffic.

    210.  (Muse) Eliminate decision making by (1) have as few products/purchase options as possible and (2) offer one fast shipping method.

    213.  Use guarantee as selling point. Have a better than money back guarantee, but limit it to 30, 60, or 90 days.

    243. Determine the time requirement and cost of a project before going into it.

    *Most decisions are simple, emotions make them difficult.

    END MUSE

    292.  Litmus test for whether to answer big questions: (1) is each term singularly definable? (2) Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?  [ex: the questions “What is the meaning of life?” fails both, so we shouldn’t bother with it.]

    291.  Seek out “peak experiences” or to be “in the zone.”  It is these times in which we are excited/happy.

    294.  Have a goal for what you want to accomplish in each country you go to.  Usually a language and some kind of sport.  One mental one physical activity.

    297.  Never ask “what SHOULD I do with my life?”  Pursue something that seems fun and rewarding.

    303. Do detailed 80/20 analysis of personal and work life every month.

    306.  Enjoy life, don’t worry about the destination.

    313.  Be focused on work or something else, never in between.

    *Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.

    314.  Don’t accept large favors from strangers.  You don’t want that debt.

    – You don’t have to recoup losses the same way you lost them.

    *Don’t try to impress people you don’t like.

    315.  “It doesn’t matter how many people get it.  What matters is how many people do.”

    -You’re never as bad or as good as they say you are.  People exaggerate.

    -Eat high protein breakfast within 30 min of waking up, then go for walk/jog.

    316.  When overwhelmed ask, “Breakdown or breakthrough?”

    -A mindset of scarcity is due to disdain for things easily attained.

    320.  The more options you consider, the more buyers’ remorse you will have.  The more options you consider, then less fulfilled you will be with your purchase.

    321.  Attention is necessary for enjoyment as well as productivity.

    -Set rules to automate decisions.  Set time limits (20 min).

    322. Don’t provoke deliberation before action is possible.

    323.  Don’t strive for variation when it’s unnecessary.  Results driven activities should be routine (diet.)  Enjoyment driven activities should be varied (recreation.)

    Regret is past-tense decision making.


    Tina Seelig, director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, put together a list of things she wish she knew when she was going to college for her son- who was going to college.  The book is a mix of practical advice on how to be more creative, how to create more ‘luck’, and just good life advice in general.  Below are some of my favorite points:

    • Problem solving should be used daily.  Problems are opportunities.  The more practice we get at problem solving the better we get.  The amount of problems we solve correlates directly with the amount of opportunities we are able to solve.
    • There is a tiny switch between doing something and doing nothing. Seelig demonstrates this with Do Bands.  These are just rubber bands that are a reminder to do something, after you complete your objective you can record it on the Do Bands website.  Just having a band on your arm can be the difference between acting and not.
    • One way to find opportunities is to take an item and list all your assumptions about it, then write all the opposites.  This is how Cirque de Soleil was created- expensive tickets, one act, small tent, no animals, etc.
    • Big objectives can often be obtain easier than mid-size goals.  This is because they are less specific (more ways to win) and are given more resources.
    • Rules= the lowest common denominator.
    • It’s better to know the few things that are really against the rules.  Don’t ask for the things you CAN do.
    • Opportunities aren’t offered up to you.
    • Growth mindsets are shown to be most successful in and out of organizations.  Constantly try to learn more.
    • Problems are everywhere and are easy to uncover.  Seelig uses the example of your wallet- everyone has complaints about their wallets.
    • The amount of successes you have is directly correlated with the number of failures you experience.
    • There are five types of risk: physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual.
    • Passion is not enough to make a successful career at something- you also need talent and you need to know how the world values that talent.
    • Ultimate goal: no line between work and play.
    • A better outlook makes ‘luck’.  You need to be observant, open-minded, friendly, optimistic.  The more extreme you take these the better your luck.
    • Always act like you’re in a foreign country.  Be acutely aware of your surroundings.  Meet people everywhere you go, take interest in all people and things.
    • Turn school/work projects into bigger opportunity.  A director used to use school projects to meet other famous/successful people in film business.  Always went beyond what was needed to make the A.
    • When making difficult decision ask “how do I want to tell this story later?”
    • When negotiating, both parties usually have parallel goals.  It’s not always about competition.  Find winwin.
    • Rule of 3- focus on three core objectives at once.  Do not stretch farther than that or you will suck at them.  Idea is that you can do whatever you want, just not at the same time.
    • “Never miss opportunity to be excellent”
    • Life is not a dress rehearsal, there is not a second chance.  Always go beyond what is expected.
    • Trying is a cop-out (ie NOT doing).  Doing means 100% commitment.
    • Your emotional state determines your perspective on things around you.  Be mindful of it.
    • Don’t define yourself by your current situation.

    Most important points: Creativity can be learned.  Luck is made.  You only live once, so kick ass all the time.

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