No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.
At the Ryder Cup every little detail becomes an obsession, from the pleats in the golfers’ pants to how the pin positions favor the collective ball flights of the home team. No minutia is insignificant … unless you’re Dustin Johnson and his brother-caddie, Austin, golf’s most laconic characters. During last year’s event at Hazeltine, Dustin faced a sloping mid-length putt that plainly had two or three feet of right-to-left break. After conferring with his brother, he started his ball a yard left of the hole, missing the putt by at least six feet. Had the tension short-circuited his stroke or perhaps clouded his vision, even though this was just a practice round? In his soft South Carolina drawl, Dustin offered his caddie a different explanation: “Awwwww, man, I had the [green-reading] book upside down.”
The ingredient based explanation for supercell thunderstorms cites moisture, wind shear, instability and lift as the reasons for their formation. I prefer to focus on the big picture. Supercell thunderstorms are a manifestation of nature’s attempt to correct an extreme imbalance. The ever ongoing effort to reach equilibrium, or viscosity, is what drives all of our weather, and the force with which the atmosphere tries to correct this imbalance is proportional to the gradient. In other words, the more extreme the imbalance, the more extreme the storm.
A study by SeatGeek — in collaboration with ESPN — does just that: it combines seat locations with where home run balls land to determine where fans should sit if they want to catch a home run ball. To determine if a home run was “catchable,” SeatGeek overlaid data from ESPN’s Home Run Tracker with their custom seating charts to figure out an approximate location of where each ball landed. Stadiums that have spots where fans are not sitting weren’t included in the catchable total. SeatGeak, which sells tickets to sports and entertainment venues, then created a measure to determine what sections will give you the best chances of catching a ball for the lowest average ticket price.
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”.