At the end of the original film, Rebel ships fly along the Death Star trench in an attempt to blow up the space station. Look at the photo of the Death Star at the top of this post: can you point to the trench that Luke and the Rebels flew down to fire upon the exhaust port that would ultimately destroy the space station?
Nearly everybody points at the equatorial trench of the Death Star. I asked dozens of die-hard fans, including many co-workers at Industrial Light & Magic, and nearly every single person pointed to the equatorial trench. If you asked me, I would also have said the equatorial trench.
I have a rule that has helped me a lot in life, particularly in my education: If there is a book I am interested in, I buy it. Regardless of the cost. Regardless of whether I have a stack of other things to read. Regardless of whether I have any sort of certainty about whether it’s any good. If I want it, I buy it. And when I buy it, I don’t care how much I spent on it or how rare it might be. I treat it just like every other book (which means marking up and writing in it).
In 2015, I read my first book since high school. Although, I had regularly listened to audiobooks, I had not read a book cover to cover in over a decade. I made it a point that I would use my post-lunch laziness to read.
The year began with me completing my first pass through the Harry Potter series; a stunning fact to most people my age.
My final count for 2016 is as follows:
Reading total: 15
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Out of the Rough: Inside the Ropes with the World’s Greatest Golfers
- The Obstacle is the Way
- Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
- Ego is the Enemy
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
- Shoe Dog
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion Dollar Deals
- Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
- Turning Pro
Listening total: 8
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity
- Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives
- Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life
When I got an Amazon Kindle earlier in the year, I began keeping track of highlights and vocabulary that I was unfamiliar with and archiving my markups upon completion of a book. Below I will share some of my favorites highlights from this year’s reading.
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
The human mind “first believes, then evaluates,” as one psychologist put it. To that I’d add, “as long as it doesn’t get distracted first.”
Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet
“Say, SEAL,” I say. “What would you do if there was an intruder in the house?” Slowly SEAL turns and looks at me. He holds me with an even, unemotional stare. Then he turns back to the TV without answering my question.
“No, really,” I say. “What would you do?” He shakes his head slowly. “I think you know what I’d do,” he says to the TV. “Tell me.” “I would protect the primary.” “What’s the primary?” “That’s the million-dollar question,” he says. “What is your primary, Jesse? What would hurt you the most to lose? This big-screen TV? Those gold record awards you own? Jewelry? Cash? What do you hold most dear?” “No,” I say. “None of that.” “Well?” he asks. “My wife and my son.” “Exactly, Jesse,” he says. “They’re your primary, and as long as I’m in this house they’re my primary too. You asked me what I would do. I would protect my primary at any cost. And unfortunately for you, you’re my third option.”
“SEAL, I have a problem,” I say to him. “I didn’t bring any extra underwear.” “So what?” “I can’t run without underwear.” “Nah, bro, you can’t run without legs. It’s on.”
“Money is fun to make, fun to spend, and fun to give away. That sums it all up.”
“Hey, SEAL, what do you think about when you run?” “Finishing.”
“Man, we start, and then, motherfucker, we finish.”
Ego is the Enemy
The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility— that’s ego. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.
Research shows that while goal visualization is important, after a certain point our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress. The same goes for verbalization. Even talking aloud to ourselves while we work through difficult problems has been shown to significantly decrease insight and breakthroughs. After spending so much time thinking, explaining, and talking about a task, we start to feel that we’ve gotten closer to achieving it. Or worse, when things get tough, we feel we can toss the whole project aside because we’ve given it our best try, although of course we haven’t.
There is no excuse for not getting your education, and because the information we have before us is so vast, there is no excuse for ever ending that process either.
Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance. You need to be able to spot this in others and in yourself, because while the origins of passion may be earnest and good, its effects are comical and then monstrous.
The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see?
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
I once asked a car-crash victim what it had felt like to be in a smashup. She said her eeriest memory was how one second the car was her friend, working for her, its contours designed to fit her body perfectly, everything smooth and sleek and luxurious, and then a blink of an eye later it had become a jagged weapon of torture— like she was inside an iron maiden. Her friend had become her worst enemy.
There were glimpses of a summer day through the windows, and as a corrections officer let us in, she said that tensions were high because warm days are when a person really feels incarcerated.
But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons.
And then Adidas threatened to sue. Adidas already had a new shoe named the “Azteca Gold,” a track spike they were planning to introduce at the same Olympics. No one had ever heard of it, but that didn’t stop Adidas from kicking up a fuss.
Aggravated, I drove up the mountain to Bowerman’s house to talk it all over. We sat on the wide porch, looking down at the river. It sparkled that day like a silver shoelace. He took off his ball cap, put it on again, rubbed his face. “Who was that guy who kicked the shit out of the Aztecs?” he asked. “Cortez,” I said. He grunted. “Okay. Let’s call it the Cortez.”
He had a superb talent for underplaying the bad, and underplaying the good, for simply being in the moment.
The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.
The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of.
When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning. It turns into a practice.
The Obstacle is the Way
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
Remember, a castle can be an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded.
See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must. What blocked the path now is a path. What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.
The Greatest Salesman in the World
I highlighted this entire book. Buy it.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Discipline equals freedom.
The real shame of my audiobook listening is the lack of ability to highlight. I hope to find a decent way to solve this problem soon.
If you have an interest in what I am looking forward to reading in 2017, you can follow along on Goodreads.
I’m not going to go all Miss Manners on your ass and get into the social intricacies and delicate situations that surround thank-you note writing, as I was taught that a solid thank-you note will transcend all complicated situations—and I have seen no evidence to the contrary.
There is a six-point formula to the proper thank-you: Learn it, know it, memorize it, and it will never fail you.
Suspicious emails: unclaimed insurance bonds, diamond-encrusted safe deposit boxes, close friends marooned in a foreign country. They pop up in our inboxes, and standard procedure is to delete on sight. But what happens when you reply? Follow along as writer and comedian James Veitch narrates a hilarious, months-long exchange with a spammer who offered to cut him in on a hot deal.
And as a follow up, “The agony of trying to unsubscribe”.
There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted.
“And, to be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day: Identify and destroy small-return bullshit; shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful; make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing; avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (especially where it may touch money); demand personal focus on making good things; put a handful of real people near the center of everything. All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better.” – Merlin Mann
If you fly, you’ve almost certainly found yourself packed into a Boeing 737. This workhorse of commercial aviation accounts for one of every three commercial flights, and there are around 2,000 of them in the air at any given time.
Every one of those planes rolled out of Boeing’s Renton Production Facility, where workers build a 737 in just nine days. The factory, near Seattle, pump them out at the rate of 42 per month, and Boeing claims the 1.1-million-square-foot facility is most efficient airplane factory in the world.
Boeing faces fierce competition from arch rival Airbus. The 737 is the best-selling jet ever, with more than 9,000 delivered since its introduction in 1967, but the Airbus A320 is no slouch. The company has delivered about 6,700 of them since the airliner entered service in 1984.
To escape the long arm of American justice, the man responsible for the largest national security breach in U.S. history retained a Canadian lawyer in Hong Kong who hatched a plan that included a visit to the UN sub-office where the North Carolina native applied for refugee status to avoid extradition to the U.S.
Fearing the media would surround and follow Snowden — making it easier for the Hong Kong authorities to arrest the one-time Central Intelligence Agency analyst on behalf of the U.S. — his lawyers made him virtually disappear for two weeks from June 10 to June 23, 2013, before he emerged on an Aeroflot airplane bound for Moscow, where he remains stranded today in self-imposed exile.
Nearly every American above a certain age remembers precisely where they were on September 11, 2001. But for a tiny handful of people, those memories touch American presidential history. Shortly after the attacks began, the most powerful man in the world, who had been informed of the World Trade Center explosions in a Florida classroom, was escorted to a runway and sent to the safest place his handlers could think of: the open sky. the open sky.
It’s the kind of job where you can’t just wear 10 different hats, you have to make the hats yourself. So you’re juggling constant projects and design work and construction work and repair work. You show up in the morning and you have to make sure that the whole theme park is safe—all the LEGO models are intact, there’s nothing broken, nothing’s going to fall down. And from there we’ll start to work on any repairs that they need done, or we’ll work on designing new models using computer software or using pencil and paper, or just building it from bricks.
Toward the end of the day we’ll start building those models, and the design process is really either up to us or up to other LEGO Master Model Builders at other LEGOLAND parks. We share designs all the time, we’ll share construction and things like that. So it’s different depending on every single project, and every single project has a story behind it.
The beauty of nature is sometimes found in the profound ‘intelligence’ it exudes. Perennials, which includes trees, must protect itself in order to get through the harsh, freezing temperatures of winter. If trees did not shed their leaves, their soft vegetation would certainly freeze during winter time, damaging and no doubt killing the tree.
In order to cope with the gruling winter temperatures, trees slowly close off the veins that carry water and nutrients to and from the leaves with a layer of new cells that form at the base of the leaf stem, protecting the limbs and body of the tree. Once the process of new cell creation is complete, water and nutrients no longer flow to and fro from the leaf – this enable the leaf to die and weaken at the stem, eventually falling gracefully to the ground.
What would Olympic races look like if they took place near you?
The few things I have that have passed a half-century or more come in two categories. Either keepsakes like photos of my ancestors or my father’s Army medals. Or tools. Virtually all of them hand tools, because there is nothing wrong with a century-old hammer or screwdriver. (And if they haven’t broken yet, they’re not likely to.) But I do have one curiosity. An old electric hair clipper.
This isn’t just jingoistic chirping about the enemy. In some cases, it’s Americans critiquing Americans, or Europeans burying Europeans: “It started with slightly dodgy mechanics,” said one, “and it has developed into a full-blown mental problem.” Another player’s weakness is highlighted: “Over a bunker to a tight flag is his worst nightmare. It’s not pretty.” And this: “He’s well capable of giving up. … If he’s not in the mood, he’s just not in the mood.”
Before he fought in the galactic battles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Adam Driver was a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian — and Arts in the Armed Forces, his nonprofit that brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Followed by a spirited performance of Marco Ramirez’s “I am not Batman” by Jesse J. Perez and Matt Johnson.