The Alchemist x Paulo Coelho

I come back and re-read this book each year, finding something new in every pass. Here are my highlights.


Advice is often not autobiography. Advice is handed out as one desires their outcomes to be. Few can walk in another man’s shoes.

“When someone sees the same people every day, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

Do we possess free-will?

“…at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

Fake it ‘til you make it?

“If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work toward getting it.”

Do you see the world in the way it truly exists, or the way in which you convince yourself you want to see it?

 “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”

When the shopkeeper is brought to the attention of a life of riches and aspirations, he undergoes a painful realization: ignorance is bliss, and awareness to one’s underperformance can spark demotivation towards potential. A paradoxical occurrence where self-awareness sheds light on how far we are from our true potential.

“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don’t want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons. I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I’m going to feel worse that I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don’t want to do so.”

Where I struggle is believing I am so far behind my aspirations I will never be able to achieve them.

“People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.”

Then, once I step back and realize we all had to start somewhere, I gain the motivation to begin navigating my uncharted path.

“We make a lot of detours, but we’re always heading for the same destination.”

Reading allows for the exploration into a previously unknown environment without physically being present. Connecting the dots vicariously through each authors experience and understanding.

“It’s only those who are persistent, and willing to study things deeply, who achieve the Master Work.”

Is living in the moment practicing self-awareness, present-ness, or ignorance? When we don’t engage the mind with thoughts of the past or anticipations of the future,  we are truly able to focus on the moment in time.

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.”

Jealousy Then, once I step back and realize we all had to start somewhere, I gain the motivation to begin navigating my uncharted path.

Haters – negativity without realism.

 “When you possess great treasures within you, and you try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”

“If a person is living out his personal legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure”

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Moonwalking With Einstein x Joshua Foer

Joshua Foer writes a fascinating tale about how far one can stretch the ability for our minds to remember – and just how useful is such an advanced memory.

Highlights:

The distribution of memory capabilities in the human brain is not disperse. While an individual may be better than another at memorizing names or the location of their car keys, their ultimate memory capabilities are not far off.

We all have the capability of mutating our brain – within limits –  readapting new sensory inputs to process information differently.

Memories are a reminder of our own existence. Living in the moment requires working memory of the moment. Can an experience that is forgotten be said to ever have existed? An ultimately pointless nuance to the question, “if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”

“If memory is our means of preserving that which we consider most valuable, it is also painfully linked to our own transience.”

Phonological Loop – the little voice we hear inside our head when we talk to ourselves.

We don’t remember isolated facts, we remember things in context. At the same time, our unconscious mind can remember events and details we do not actively remember in context.

“Expertise is vast amounts of knowledge, pattern-based retrieval, and planning mechanisms acquired over many years of experience in the associated domain” –Anders Ericsson

Having a great memory – remembering failures, receiving feedback, and implementing new techniques – is one of the primary separator between experts and amateurs.

The more bizarre, lewd, or funny an experience, the better the mind will remember. If you spend your days sitting in a cubicle working expense reports, days will blend together into an unrecognizable week, month, or year.

As discussed in depth in Blink x Malcolm Galdwell, our unconscious remembering is known as priming

The brain has an easier time remembering funny conversations, bizarre experiences, and risqué depictions. This may be a reason the day-to-day operations of a cubicle worker can blend together so seamlessly while a sports player can accurately recite plays from years back.

In terms of remembering, the words themselves are nearly useless. Our brain filters out the word and interprets the idea, action, or feeling. Words are the avenue to delivering meaning.

Ever wonder why you can recite a song nearly word-for-word that you haven’t heard in years? The brain remembers words and rhythms that are easily repeated, structured, and rhyme.

Until the last few centuries, a books primary tool was used for memory aid. Many of the classics were first told orally; a books purpose was to document stories for easy recitation.

How you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend.

“Either walk with our glory and rise to the top with us, or step aside. For when we get to the top, we will reach back and raise you up with us.”

Mind Mapping – drawing lines off main points to subsidiary points, which branch out further to tertiary points, and so on. Ideas are distilled into as few words as possible and whenever possible are illustrated with images.

Facts by themselves do not lead to understanding.

“The more tightly and new piece of info can be embedded into the web of information we already know, the more likely it is to be remembered. People who have more associations to hand their memories on are more likely to remember new things., which in turn means they will know more, and be able to learn more. The more we remember, the better we are at processing the world. And the better we are at processing the world, the more we can remember about it.”

“For all the memory stunts I could no perform, I was still stuck with the same old shoddy memory that misplaced car keys and cars. Even while I had greatly expanded my powers of recall for the kinds of structured information that could be crammed into a memory palace, most of the things I wanted to remember in my everyday life were not facts or figures or poems or playing cards or binary digits.”

Information that cannot be neatly structured and placed in a memory palace will continue to prove difficult to recall regardless of how advance your image recollection is.

Remembering is a mindfulness practice

“I’m convinced that remembering more is only the most obvious benefit of the many months I spent training my memory. What I had really trained my brain to do, as much as to memorize, was to be more mindful, and to pay attention to the world around me. Remembering can only happene if you decide to take notice.”

“How to perceive the world and how we act in it are products of how and what we remember. We’re all just a bundle of habits shaped by our memories. And to the extent that we control our lives, we do so by gradually altering those habits, which is to say the networks of our memory.”

 

A Collection of Quotes

“You live and you learn.”

“The secret to health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

 

“I think there’s an obligation to prepare for the opportunity you’re given, to compete for what you’ve been given, and to maximize your potential; that’s what life’s about, maximizing what you’ve been given.” -Mike Babcock

 

“Don’t start fires; unless you have the gasoline to keep it going or the water to put it out.”

“In the end, you judge a man by how he influenced the world.  You judge him by the seeds he left behind.  And you judge the seeds, by the harvest.” -Kenny Powers

 

“If you don’t mind then it don’t matter” -Navy SEALs

 

“It pays to be a winner” – Navy SEALs

 

“There are two mistakes a person can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” -Siddhartha Gautama

 

“If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right” -Kenny Rogers

 

“The world is what you think of it. So think of it differently and your life will change.” -Paul Arden

 

“If you only knew, what the future holds. After a hurricane, comes a rainbow” -Katy Perry

 

“If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.” -Colonel David Hackworth

 

“I do not say the philosopher can always keep the same pace. But he can always travel the same path” -Seneca

 

“Day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, every things different”

 

“If you live each day like it’s you’re last, some day you will most certainly be right”

 

“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for”

 

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” -Albert Einstein

 

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking then to think your way into a new way of acting” -Millard Fuller

 

“First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

 

“It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced so often and so undeservedly succeed when the informed and the experienced fail. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” -Mark Twain

 

“Everything is impossible until somebody does it.”

 

“Success it getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” -Dale Carnegie

Favorite Books Read in 2017

Another year, another stack of books — or something like that…

For 2017, I did some envelope math: I started over 70 books, finished roughly 50, re-read less than 5, and placed about 15 on the shelf designated for good reads.

I compiled a list of my favorite books I read in 2017. Only one fiction book made the list (Ishmael – not pictured – thanks for the reco Mo!).

If you have any recommendations to start 2018, do share.

On to the books!

2017 books

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

I’ve been re-reading this book for the past 5 years and experience something new each time. I’m fascinated as to how a man can turn such a grim future into a life full of meaning.


When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

The book I have gifted most this year. It’s one of the few I couldn’t put down, finishing in a few short sittings. As Frankl’s idealogy stemed from his own gruesome experience,  Paul, nearly complete with neurosurgery residency and being diagnosed with cancer, becomes the subject of his own moral questioning: given that all organisms die, what gives a life worth living?


Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Taleb

Taleb, a natural contrarian, explains how luck – and randomness – are far more impactful than we assume. The premise is easy to pick apart using anecdotal information as to why certain observations aren’t true for you, and that’s exactly his point. Human’s attribute skill far more than luck to success and failure, but as history shows, randomness causes the majority of outcomes for the majority of people i.e. few outcomes are the direct cause of an individuals input, rather they are the result of a collective input in which one has minimal control and the result is often un-calculable.


The Lessons of History – Will & Ariel Durant

A very short read on a selection of major events in history. Don’t expect to be blown away, but this single book could replace a History 101 class. It sheds much of the detail in the events, and reads as if someone had to chronicle World War II in 500 words.


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams

Written before he became famous for his Trump prediction, Scott Adams accounts his life and how building a talent stack through failing repeadetly set himself up for a lifetime of success. His ideas are clear, concise and to the point. This book changed how I view my interests. It’s a book about achieving success for anyone not born with natural talent or still interested in too many things (me).


The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck – Mark Manson

We live in a world of outrage — from being mad at who uses the bathroom, to protesting a free-speech* activist on a college campus. It’s nearly impossible to not be consumed by the constant arguments. In TSAONGAF, Mark Manson doesn’t advocate passiveness, he explains how if you want to be happier, healthier, and more successful, start prioritizing what you care about and ignore the rest. I don’t often debate with others — I already do that with myself enough — and this book helped reassure my stance on when to provoke feedback. Selfishness, in what Adam Smith advocated for in The Wealth of Nations, is an ideal way to live. By caring about what we care about — dedicating our time and energy — we can help ourselves and help others. Don’t get caught up trying to persuade society to live with your priorities, instead, focus on yourself.


Sapiens – Yuval Harari

My absolute favorite book of 2017 (and top 5 all time). What is possibly the greatest explanation of our existence: life as we know it is the result of stories we tell eachother. Leaving philosophy and religion for another time, Harari explains how Homo sapiens evolved to be the dominant species on earth.

I can not recommend this book enough, it will go down in history as one of the all-time greats.


Saban – Monte Burke

The most detailed account on the life of Nick Saban, one of the most beloved and controversial coaches in college football. I particularly enjoyed learning about The Process, Saban’s approach to leadership, coaching, and life. Books about expert performers always fascinate me. From the outside, viewers don’t see what goes into their success, we don’t see the non-stop grind, or the hundreds of individuals who contribute behind the shadows, what the audience see’s is the high-light reel, which couldn’t be further from reality.

Saban – Monte Burke

Saban – Monte Burke

Stack the cards in your favor.

In the NFL, the best teams are punished for winning (late draft position). Saban’s strength is recruiting and he learned after leaving the Dolphins job, NCAAFB is where he was set up best to succeed.

Find enjoyment in the process. Nothing is ever perfect.

Saban’s father wasn’t about the result, he was about perfect execution.

“Saban was intent on trying to please his father to truly strive for the impossible perfection that was demanded. Saban adapted his own behavior. He learned to derive pleasure and satisfaction in the very act of doing. Put another way, Saban, at a very young age, learned to embrace and love the process of doing.”

“Silence is better than bullshit.”

Make decisions based on achieving a goal.

He doesn’t get weakened by sentimentality or emotional things. He’s not worried about what you feel about his decisions, he doesn’t care who likes it. He makes every decision based on winning football games.”

In sports, there is a timeframe for celebration and mourning.

The twenty-four-hour rule: players coaches and staff – a team – was given twenty-four hours to celebrate a win or mourn a loss, no matter its significance, then had to move on.

High achieving leaders are often difficult to deal with.

His players wouldn’t disagree – he knows football. They differ in succeeding themselves if they are willing to put up with all the bullshit. If a player won’t buy-in, he won’t succeed. It is Saban’s way or no way. No one is treated special.

All players who played with him won’t disagree that he knows his stuff. But they say the diff between one of them succeeding with him is if they can put up with all his bullshit and buy in. or does the bullshit prevent them from doing anything. It was Saban’s way or no other way. He didn’t treat anyone special

“Do your job.” – Bill Belichick

Trust The Process

The Process is built around the idea that motivation itself is highly overrated, lasting for about two plays. Plays are to be broken out into minute pieces, putting players in the position to perform small tasks without anxiety.

Michael Phelps coach implores a similar process for preparation, preparing Phelps for any scenario that may occur during competition.

Going for his 10th gold medal of his career – making him the winningest Olympian of all time – his goggles filled up with water as he dove in to compete in the 200-meter butterfly. “I dove in and they filled up with water, and it got worse and worse during the race. From the 150-meter wall to the finish, I couldn’t see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning.”

The greatest Olympian swimmer was prepared for this situation.

When ideas are broken down into their most fundamental forms, they are easily digestible and understood. Elon Musk invokes a First Principles philosophy to understand new concepts so quickly.

Back to the Nick Saban Process

Developed alongside Lionel Rosen, a professor of Psychiatry at Michigan state.

Rosen notes, “Motivation itself generally lasts about two plays- it’s highly overrated,” and “the most destructive phenomenon in sports is relief. Its typically followed by a decrease in performance”

Process thinking is done by breaking things into smaller pieces that can be handled without anxiety. It provides a way of functioning without being overwhelmed by the bigger picture. A way to momentarily stray from confusion.

“Each player would focus on his individual responsibility. Rosen emphasized that the average play in the football game lasted about seven seconds. The players would concentrate only on winning those seconds, take a rest between plays, then do it all over again. There would be no focus at all on the scoreboard or on the end result.”

“The squeakiest wheels always get the most grease.”

To perform at Saban’s level, he must always be on edge.

An intern for nick, “The thing you figure out about Nick real early is that it’s fourth-and-one every second of every minute of every hour of every day.”

Relief Syndrome

When something good happens it’s harder to stay focused, to pay attention to detail. You tend to want to take a break, or expect that ‘I did well once, so I should take it easy now’.

Lying can be necessary to protect individuals from backlash.

When leaving the Dolphins job, he couldn’t publicly say he was going until it was official. He would lose his locker room if he declared himself a dead-fish walking. If lying or denying is to keep something in line, it can be worth it.

“The circumstances changed and I made a different decision. That’s not lying.”

Be confident in the decisions because you can’t accurately predict the outcome.

“When you make a coaching decision, you can be decisive because, while you don’t control the outcome, you do control the processes that go into the outcome, the preparation of the team and the staff. Career decisions are different. There are a lot of unknowns that are out of your control, and you don’t really know how things will change and how different they will be.” – Will Muschamp

“We cannot depend on the successes of the past to help us be successful in the future.”

Advice on sleeping around-

“Ultimately, you never want to sleep with anybody who has less to lose than you do. So, ultimately, if I’m every going to sleep around on Miss Terry, it’s going to be with Hillary Fucking Rodham Clinton.”

This can be applied to many areas of life. Don’t out leverage yourself. Don’t get too involved with someone who has less to lose than you do. Those people can, and often will, drag you down.

Develop a routine.

“He still eats two Little Debbies every morning as he drinks coffee and flips on the Weather Channel to see if the team will be practicing indoors or out. For lunch, he has the same iceberg lettuce salad topped with turkey slices. Every Thursday evening during the season, he wolfs down a dinner of meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, and green beans. He is a regular attendee at a Catholic church in Tuscaloosa.”

There is a similar pressure to always be winning as there is to always be losing.

There is a lot less pressure to rebuilding than there is to sustain a winning culture. At Alabama, a two-loss season is deemed a failure.

High levels of success are the result of hard work… and given the right opportunity.

He took pride in the fact that no one could outwork him. Routinely starting his days at 5AM and ending at 11PM. His staff was expected to match his schedule – during his first year at LSU, the staff worked forty-eight weekends.

But what is misunderstood about the 10,000-Hour Rule is that expert performance in any skill cannot be achieved without ample opportunities and help.

Like any celebrity, they are often viewed as achieving their success single-handedly. Saban is not shy to credit his entire team. From a young age, his father taught him how to watch film and would spend hours each day teaching him how to dissect plays. His most popularized idea, The Process, was developed in collaboration with a professor from Michigan State. Saban is extremely successful. He is and outlier, and he got there with a lot of hard work and a lot of help.

The Effective Executive – Peter F. Drucker

The Effective Executive – Peter F. Drucker

Management books typically focus on managing other individuals (that’s what the majority of managers do – not lead, manage), the subject of The Effective Executive is on managing oneself for overall effectiveness.

Executives are knowledge workers, not task rabbits.

Effectiveness can be learned.

Effectiveness largely depends on one’s ability to be effective in a specific organization – culture and fit matters, a lot.

Intelligence, creativity and knowledge are essential to the executive, but only effectiveness can convert them into results.

Action over ideas.

Manual or administrative work only needs efficiency; the ability to do the right things rather than the ability to get the right things done.

During the Industrial Era, the major problem of organizations was efficiency of manual workers. Managers were employed to tell these workers what to do.

The idea of a traditional manager is nearly obsolete if an organization hires competent individuals to perform the work they are given.

Managers are stuck in ‘managing’ knowledge workers, which is a flawed system. Managers want strategic workers, but continue to manage them like efficiency-centered robots.

“What seems to be wanted is universal genius, and the universal genius has always been in scarce supply. The experience of the human race indicates strongly that the only person in abundant supply is the universal incompetent.”

Habits of the mind that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:

  1. Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little time they have
  2. Focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work.
  3. Build on strengths – their own strengths and those of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates. And on strengths in the situation. They do not build on weaknesses. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.
  4. Concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. Set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first – and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.

The plans always remain on paper, always remain good intentions. They seldom turn into achievement.

To be effective, the executive needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks.

G: if you say you don’t have time and don’t want to give up something else to make that time then you don’t really want to do the new thing. Time is simply prioritizing. Spending too much time on one task or having not enough time to perform a task means prioritization is not aligned.

Learn to say “no” if an activity contributes nothing to one’s own organization, to oneself, or to the organization for which it is to be performed.

Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.

Because information has to be handled and transmitted by people, it is always distorted by communications; that is, by opinion, impression, comment, judgment, bias, and so on.

To focus on contribution is to focus on effectiveness.

Human excellence can only be achieved in one area, or at the most in very few.

By themselves, character and integrity do not accomplish anything. But their absence faults everything else.

All one can measure is performance. And all one should measure is performance.

Staffing the opportunities instead of the problems not only creates the most effective organization, it also creates enthusiasm and dedication.

In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems.

Today is always the result of actions and decisions taken yesterday. Yesterday’s actions and decisions, no matter how courageous or wise they may have been, inevitably become today’s problems, crises, and stupidities.

Effective executives do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on the important ones. They try to think through what is strategic and generic, rather than “solve problems”

Unless a decisions has been “degenerated into work” it is not a decision; it is at best a good intention

Miracles are a problem, not in that they do not happen, in that we cannot rely on them.

The trouble with miracles is not, after all, that they happen rarely; it is that one cannot rely on them.

A decision will not become effective unless the action commitments have been built into the decision from the start. No decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility. Until then, they are only good intentions.

Reality never stands still very long.

One builds one’s feedback around direct exposure to reality

If a decision is made and no action is to be taken, reality will be that no decision has been made.

A decisions is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong. It is at best a choice between “almost right” and “probably wrong” – but much more often a choice between two courses of action neither of which is probably more nearly right than the other.

Executives who make effective decisions know that one does not start with facts. One starts with opinions. These are, of course, nothing but untested hypotheses and, as such, worthless unless tested against reality.

The first rule of decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is a disagreement.

G: person who disagrees with you is not dumb they just see a different reality than you.

The executive must first be concerned with understanding before he can even think about who is right or wrong. G: lots of people won’t change opinion even when exposed to reality.

No matter how high his emotions run, no matter how certain he is that the other side is completely wrong and has no case at all, the executive who wants to make the right decisions forces himself to see opposition as his means to think through the alternatives. He uses conflict of opinion as his tool to make sure all major aspects of an important matter are looked at carefully.

There is one final question the effective decision-maker asks: “Is a decision really necessary?” One alternative is always the alternative of doing nothing.

Organization requires hierarchy.

 

 

The Inner Game of Tennis – W. Timothy Gallwey

The Inner Game of Tennis – W. Timothy Gallwey

Conventional wisdom is (slightly) wrong.

“You won’t be successful unless you try hard.”

Top performers actually try less hard when competing (in-the-zone).

When competing, we are playing two game: an outer game against our opponent, and an inner game against ourselves.

The inner game is played with Self 1, the teller, and Self 2, the do-er.

Performing at the highest level requires letting Self 2 operate unconsciously of Self 1.

The role of Self 1 is to learn and process, while Self 2 operates on these inputs.

Choking occurs when the mind allows Self 1 to perform actions. Think: when letting your golf stroke flow via muscle memory versus telling your arms and legs what to do.

Performing with emotions can be detrimental. Emotions are not bad, per se, but if they are the driver during the performance, you are likely to fail.

Emotions are evaluations added to the event in the mind, based off individual reactions – why some players in a game seem stoic or non-emotional.

Having Judgement is the act of assigning a positive or negative value to an event. For Self 2 to perform without assistance of Self 1, it must not be in relation to +/- event.

Letting go of judgement is acknowledging errors while also seeing events as a result and not adding to them. Judgement leads to emotion, which can lead to overreaction.

No one is ever surprised at seeing something they already know.

Even if you know what is wrong it is hard to fix because doing and knowing are performed by a different Self.

A child’s process in learning to walk is never hindered by the idea that she is uncoordinated. A child does not think she is uncoordinated, she simply tries to walk. She has no memory of not being able to walk.

The actions of Self 2 are based on information it has stored in its memory of past actions of itself or of the observed actions of others.

Professional sports are a winner’s game.

A winner is always competing against the best, trying to win at every moment. Once you become competent, it is easy to play a defensive style and win against an inferior opponent. To beat 99.9% of opponents, you must only need to be competent at the game.

As Gladwell noted in Outliers, the top 0.01% have amassed far over 10,000 hours and have a team (coaches, therapists, parents, peers) working in their favor.

Case: to be successful in any given field – recreational tennis – all one needs to do is become competent. A defensive player waits for his opponent to make an error, wearing him down by responding reactively.

A couch (acting as Self 1) gives permission to Self 2 to operate without heavy analysis.

The Inner Game Way of Learning:

  1. observe existing behavior nonjudgmentally (Self 1 input)
  2. picture desired outcome (Self 1 transferring to Self 2)
  3. let it happen (Self 2 performing)
  4. nonjudgmental, calm observation of the results leading to continuing observation and learning

To deepen concentration, focus on what is not easily perceived. In tennis, focus on the seams of the ball spinning rather than the ball-to-racket connection.

Focused concentration is focusing on what is happening in-the-now. During the moment, say a tennis match, the mind should be trained on the moment. The mind has great capabilities of wondering and projecting what will happen. Win the play is an example of focusing on the now. Projecting what will happen later is invaluable in the moment. Stopping the opponent right now is how high-performers win.

From Phil Jackson in Sacred Hoops, “Basketball is a complex dance that requires shifting from one object to another at lightning speed. To excel, you need to act with a clear mind and be totally focused on what everyone on the floor is doing. The secret is not thinking. That doesn’t mean being stupid; it means quieting the endless jabbering of thoughts so that your body can do instinctively what it’s been trained to do without the mind getting in the way. All of us have flashes of oneness… when we’re completely immersed in the moment, inseparable from what we’re doing.”

A loser is not concerned with proving himself. They are concerned with winning. Losers often imagine their “respect gained” for beating a superior opponent. This mindset seldom produces winners – the need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt.

Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached.

The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself. Similarly, planning a vacation and the excitement and build-up to the trip is often more rewarding than the trip vacation.

Never discredit an opponent, for they are fighting the same internal and external battle you are.

Bill Belichick preaches for his players to “do their job” rather than focusing on the opponent. He never discredits an opponent. Doing so would be allowing the Self 1 to assign an ego to the work performed by Self 2. Over time the performance of Self 2 will atrophy if it believes Self 1, in that it is better than all others, and doesn’t have to try as hard.

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

Habits are formed by chunking = The process in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine.

The brain is constantly looking for shortcuts to save energy, effort, and process less information. When a habit is formed, the brain partially shuts off allowing for more energy to be used elsewhere.

Process of Habits:

  1. Cue – trigger that tells brain to go into automatic mode
  2. Routine – physical, mental, or emotional act
  3. Reward – brain determines if feedback loop is worth remembering

Habit loops are important to not overwork our brain. Performing tasks unconsciously is essential to preserving energy – think: driving a car (unconscious competence).

Habits are ideal for non-creative, administrative work.

Habit examples driven from marketing:

Claude C. Hopkins added mint flavor to toothpaste to trick brain into thinking teeth were being cleaned when taste buds noticed fresh taste. Mint taste doesn’t do anything to clean teeth.

Shampoo has no need to foam – foam is added to give the perception shampoo is working.

Habits are unable to be truly extinguished. To change a habit, the old cue must be present and an old or similar reward must result, but a new routine needs to take place.

Golden Rule to Changing Habits: identify and keep cue and reward, but shift the routine that takes place in between. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.

Cultures are built out of keystone habits – habits that over time transform everything.

Keeping habits = little willpower. Changing habits = significant willpower.

Habits are more likely to change when significant events occur. Event is a trigger of crisis (can be +/-), so willpower is bypassed and action will take place regardless of habit.

Crisis/habit ex: Target wants new mother customers because first time baby providers are in state of crisis, and purchasing items at Target consistently will provide a crisis solving habit.

Peer pressure is a social habit that encourages people to conform to group expectations.

For a movement to grow, it must become self-propelling; providing new habits to individuals that help them pre-decide what to think on their own (if a habit is triggered, they aren’t actually thinking for themselves). THINK: habit of always rooting for team, politician, ect… regardless of their performance, but based on their ‘story’ or emotional connection (habit) even if the facts aren’t true.

Habits in summary:

Become aware. Identify cue. Change routine. Implement same/similar reward. Believe in change. Framework for original habit exists, in/out have been modified.

“The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit.”

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

I consider every book by Malcolm Gladwell to be a must-read, and this may be my favorite. There are three ideas behind Blink: (1) to convince you that decisions made very quickly can be as accurate as decisions made cautiously and deliberately (2) to find out when we should be wary of our quick instincts (3) to convince you that our snap judgements and first impressions can be educated and controlled.

Thin-slicing is a term used in psychology and philosophy to describe the ability to find patterns in events based only on “thin slices,” or narrow windows, of experience. The term means making very quick inferences about the state, characteristics or details of an individual or situation with minimal amounts of information. Brief judgments based on thin-slicing are similar to those judgments based on much more information. Judgments based on thin-slicing can be as accurate, or even more accurate, than judgments based on much more information.

Thin-slicing has to be done in context. It is possible to quickly diagnose the health of a marriage. But you can’t just watch a couple playing ping-pong. You have to observe them while they are discussing something of relevance to their relationship

Split-second decisions can be as valuable as long, calculated ones

A person watching a silent two second clip of a teacher they have never met will reach conclusions about how good they are very similar to those of a student who sat in the teacher’s class for an entire semester. That’s the power of our adaptive unconscious.

More information is not the answer

We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation.

The task of making sense of ourselves and our behavior requires that we acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis

A person’s private life is a much more accurate depiction of who they are than their public life

This sounds obvious but we don’t often judge someone by their private life. Be it because we don’t have access or we forget the above heuristic, stopping by a co-workers house and glancing around for five minutes will give you a better idea about how they will act in the long run compared to working with them for a whole year. A 30 minute interview that touches on nothing personal will prove far less than investigating an individual’s house when it relates to long-term actions.

Our world isn’t set up to act on thin-sliced decisions

Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way.

Gladwell thinks this is a mistake…

If we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that sometimes we’re better off that way

We make decisions based on how we were primed

There’s much controversy on the ‘Dress for Success’ approach, but Gladwell shares that an individual who is primed for failure (e.g. viewing clips of individuals failing) will make snap judgements that are inaccurate far more than an individual primed for success (e.g. viewing individuals achieve their goals).

We are too quick to come up with explanations, and too quick to deny that which is unexplainable

Some things are better left unexplained; especially if there is no rational, factual, realistic, or narrative explanation for it. It is better to accept and move on, don’t try to decipher a coincidence.

We make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us.

This is a built in heuristic our mind uses to link similar idea, situations and events to similar ones who have already seen.

Our first impressions are generated by our experiences and our environment.

Which means that we can change our first impressions – we can alter the way we thinslice – by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions

Improvising is…

Making very sophisticated decisions on the spur of the moment, without the benefit of any kind of script or plot

Making decisions under fast moving, high-stress conditions using rapid cognition is a function of training, rules and rehearsal.

Flow is achieved by constantly performing in the moment.

When you start becoming reflective about the process, it undermines your ability. In The Inner Game of Tennis, we learn that flow will be lost when we let Self 1 dictate what Self 2 should be unconsciously controlling.

Decisions should often be made with the littles amount of information.

This is not to say a small amount of information should be analyzed before the decision. Rather, when making a decision, the information should already be processed and making decisions is no longer a what-if analysis. Conventional economic wisdom states the more choices consumers have the more likely they are to buy, because it is easier to find a product that fits the consumer better. We have found this to be a negative correlation, and one detrimental outcome is decision fatigue.

If you get caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data.

It is a complicated process to find what people want.

The New Coke case study shows while consumers may make one decision in a vacuum, that is, without relation to other choices, that decision may be the exact opposite of what they want given other decisions. New Coke tasted great to consumers who forgot the taste of original Coke, and other soft drinks.

When we become an expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex.

An unintended consequence is that only experts become accountable for more complex

Tunnel vision is a byproduct of extreme stress.

Extreme visual clarity, diminished sound, and the sense that time is slowing down, is how the human body reacts to extreme stress. Our mind, faced with a life-threatening situation, drastically limits the range and amount of information that we have to deal with.

Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Taleb

Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The most important learning from this book: Nobody accepts randomness in their own success, only their failure … and the majority of outcomes are completely random. People overvalue their knowledge and underestimate the probability of their being wrong or lucky. Taleb does not mean success is only a product of luck, he simply displays how luck and randomness have a far greater impact than anyone takes into account.

That which came with the help of luck could be taken away by luck

That things that come with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness.

Working hard will generally result in drowning in randomness.

We need to work smart first, because randomness is impossible to completely eliminate. Anything can happen – and it often does given enough time – where one can be out of a job or lose all their money because of an unforeseen event, i.e. the Black Swan.

Behavioral scientists believe people become leaders not from the skills they possess, but from the superficial impression they make on others through physical signals: i.e. Charisma.

When choosing a profession, we should consider the average performance of those who enter it.

Warren Buffett has an explanation for why he is not worried about competing against HFT or activist investors, “They are playing a different game.” Similarly, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, believes deciding what table you sit at is the most important business decision one can make.

The idea of taking into account both the observed and unobserved possible outcomes sounds like lunacy. For most people, probability is about what may happen in the future, not events in the observed past; an event that has already taken place has 100% probability, i.e. certainty.

Performance is to be judged by the costs of the alternative, not of the results.

Producing a positive outcome is not a 100% causality of the inputted decisions. A desired outcome is not guaranteed. When it is achieved, judgement should be on what else could have happened, for the unknown is the present worst-case scenario. These are called ‘alternative histories.’

Denigration example:

Gamblers, investors, and decision-makers feel that the sorts of things that happen to others would not necessarily happen to them.

Scientific degrees (specializing in general) is impossible with a desire to specialize.

Without specialty, thorough understanding is unachievable.

MBAs are trained to simplify matters a couple steps beyond their requirement.

What sounds intelligent in a conversation or a meeting, or particularly, in the media, is suspicious.

Any reading of the history of science would show that almost all the smart things that have been proven by science appeared like lunacies at the time they were first discovered

We fail to learn that our emotional reactions to past experiences were short lived.

We benchmark present experiences off our past ones, irrationally thinking the past was more/less impactful than the present currently is. EX: thinking a purchase will provide long-lasting, possibly permanent happiness, or that a setback will cause prolonged distress, even when a previous setback only resulted in a hiccup.

Hindsight bias: Past events will always look less random then they are.

When you look at the past, the past will always be deterministic, since only one single observation took place

People often think that it will surely be the next batch of news that will really make a difference to their understanding of things.

A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in the light of the information until that point.

Those who are very good at predicting the past will think of themselves as good at predicting the future.

Mathematically, progress means that some new information is better than past information, not that the average of new information will supplant past information, which means that it is optimal for someone, when in doubt, to systematically reject the new idea, information, or method.

A positive result does not even out a negative result.

It is estimated the negative effect of an average loss is 2.5x that of a positive one.

Wealth does not count so much into one’s well-being as the route one uses to get it.

Turing test: a computer is said to be intelligent if it can — on average — fool a human into mistaking it for another human. The road from $16M to $1M is not as pleasant as the one from 0 to $1M

The frequency or probability of a loss – in and by itself – is irrelevant.

A loss needs to be judged in connection with the magnitude of the outcome. EX: If there is a 1% chance of surgery failing resulting in death, it should not be judged simply as 1%, but with the magnitude of the outcome, a 1% chance of dying, which carries far more weight than a 1/100 outcome.

Skewness must be considered as well … the small chance of an unexpected event.

The majority of economics and financial guru’s on TV are entertainers, nothing more.

There are certain individuals who are repeatedly in the news citing a “major correction in the stock market” – only to declare their knowledge when an event happens, and ignore their previous remarks when the event fails to occur.

It is not how likely an event is to happen that matters, it is how much is made when it happens that should be the consideration. How frequent the profit is irrelevant; it is the magnitude of the outcome that counts

We do not learn much from shallow, recent history. History teaches us that the things that have never happened before will likely occur sometime in the future.

We read too much into recent history, making statements like, “This has never happened before.” While true, not much has happened in relation to revolution-cycles (agricultural, industrial, technological), that could happen. Taleb notes, the housing market crash never happened before, which is exactly the point, we do not learn from recent history, but we can learn from ancient history, since the housing market has never crashed before there is a high probability it will crash sometime in the future…

Rare events are always unexpected, otherwise they would not occur.

As humans, we act according to our knowledge, which integrates past data with current events and future speculation.

The Black Swan: No amount of observation of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.

Pascal’s Wager: The optimal strategy for humans is to believe in the existence of God. For if God exists, then the believer would be rewarded. If he does not exist, the believer would have nothing to lose.

Present performance almost always guarantees the perception of future performance.

I [Taleb] do not deny that if someone performed better that the crowd in the past, there is a presumption of his ability to do better in the future. But the presumption might be weak, very weak, to the point of being useless in decision making. Why? Because it all depends on two factors: the randomness content of his profession and the number of moneys in operation

Survivorship Bias: We see only winners and get a distorted view of the odds, the fact that luck is most frequently the reason for extreme success, the biological handicap of our inability to understand probability.

We fall for this because we are trained to take advantage of the information that is lying in front of our eyes, ignoring the information that we do not see.

Emotions are overrated.

We do not use our rational brain outside of the classroom and outside of political decisions. Good, enlightened advice does not stick with us for a long time. Self-help books are largely ineffective. To learn, we must work with our human nature, not try to change it. Thinking positive is not a solution.

Optimism is said to be predictive of success. Predictive? Is can also be predictive of failure. Optimistic people certainly take more risks as they are overconfident, about the odds; those who win show up among the rich and famous, others fail and disappear from the analyses, sadly

Adverse Selection Example: Judging an [investment] that comes to you requires more stringent standards than judging an investment you seek. Why would anybody advertise if they didn’t happen to outperform the market? There is a high probability of the investment coming to you if it success is caused entirely by randomness.

Taleb does not know what makes one lucky or unlucky.

“I am unable to answer the question of who’s lucky or unlucky. People frequently misrepresent my opinion. I never said that every rich man is an idiot and every successful person unlucky, only that in absence of much additional information it is preferable to reserve one’s judgement. It is safer.”

Chaos Theory: Concerns itself primarily with functions in which a small input can lead to a disproportionate response.

Anchoring: Comparing to a given difference.

Wealth itself does not really make one happy, but positive changes in wealth may, especially if they come as steady increases.

Availability Heuristic: The practice of estimating the frequency of an event according to the ease with which instances of the event can be recalled.

Representation Heuristic Example: Gauging the probability that a person belongs to a particular social group by assessing how similar the persons’ characteristics are to the ‘typical’ group member’s.

Simulation Heuristic: The ease of mentally undoing an event – playing the alternative scenario.

Affect Heuristic: What emotions are elicited by events determine their probability in your mind.

Two systems of reasoning that activities in the mind fall into:

System 1: effortless, automatic, associative, rapid, parallel process, opaque, emotional, concrete, specific, social, and personalized

We do not think when making choices, instead we use heuristics.

System 2: effortful, controlled, deductive, slow, serial, self-aware, neutral, abstract, sets, asocial, and depersonalized

We make serious probabilistic mistakes in today’s world, whatever the true reason.

Wittgenstein’s Ruler: Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

Taleb: “One of the most irritating conversations I’ve had is with people who lecture me on how I should behave. Most of us know pretty well how we should behave. It is the execution that is the problem, not the absence of knowledge.” As Derek Sivers says, “If information was the answer then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.

As a skeptic, nothing can be accepted with certainty.

Conclusions through various probabilities should be formed and used as a guide to conduct. Everyday should be viewed as a clean state.

Attribution Bias: A cognitive bias that refers to the systematic errors made when people evaluate or try to find reasons for their own and others’ behaviors. People constantly make attributions regarding the cause of their own and others’ behaviors; however, attributions do not always accurately reflect reality.

There is substantial discrepancy between the objective record of people’s success in prediction tasks and the sincere belief of these people about the quality of their performance. The attribution bias has another effect: it gives people the illusion of being better at what they do, which explains the findings that 80 – 90% of people think they are above the average (and the median) in many things.

No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word.

Try not to blame others for your outcomes even when they were part of the reason. Do not exhibit self-pity. And do not complain. It is all random…

Note: some of these blocks are directly lifted from the book. I do not claim ownership for all that is written.