Bits from Books – 2016

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.

Books

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 Decisnce, 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
  • 11/22/63
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  • In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives
  • Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life

Bits

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.”

Holiday, Ryan (2012-07-19). Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator (p. 183). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.”

Itzler, Jesse (2015-11-03). Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet (p. 223). Center Street. Kindle Edition.

“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.”

Itzler, Jesse (2015-11-03). Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet (p. 33). Center Street. Kindle Edition.

“Money is fun to make, fun to spend, and fun to give away. That sums it all up.”

Itzler, Jesse (2015-11-03). Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet (p. 163). Center Street. Kindle Edition.

“Hey, SEAL, what do you think about when you run?” “Finishing.”

“Man, we start, and then, motherfucker, we finish.”

Itzler, Jesse (2015-11-03). Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet (p. 102). Center Street. Kindle Edition.

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.

Holiday, Ryan (2016-06-14). Ego Is the Enemy (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Holiday, Ryan (2016-06-14). Ego Is the Enemy (p. 27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Holiday, Ryan (2016-06-14). Ego Is the Enemy (p. 42). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Holiday, Ryan (2016-06-14). Ego Is the Enemy (p. 48). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see?

Holiday, Ryan (2016-06-14). Ego Is the Enemy (p. 77). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Ronson, Jon (2015-03-31). So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (p. 70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Ronson, Jon (2015-03-31). So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (p. 255). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Shoe Dog

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.

Knight, Phil (2016-04-26). Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Kindle Locations 1349-1350). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

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.”

Knight, Phil (2016-04-26). Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Kindle Locations 1587-1591). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

He had a superb talent for underplaying the bad, and underplaying the good, for simply being in the moment.

Knight, Phil (2016-04-26). Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Kindle Locations 3310-3311). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Turning Pro

The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.

Pressfield, Steven (2012-05-30). Turning Pro (p. 20). Black Irish Books. Kindle Edition.

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.

Pressfield, Steven (2012-05-30). Turning Pro (p. 53). Black Irish Books. Kindle Edition.

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.

Pressfield, Steven (2012-05-30). Turning Pro (p. 106). Black Irish Books. Kindle Edition.

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

Holiday, Ryan (2014-05-01). The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Kindle Locations 223-226). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Remember, a castle can be an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded.

Holiday, Ryan (2014-05-01). The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Kindle Locations 1374-1375). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Holiday, Ryan (2014-05-01). The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Kindle Locations 2115-2118). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Salesman in the World

I highlighted this entire book. Read it

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Discipline equals freedom.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (2015-10-20). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. St. Martin’s Press.

Onward

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].

Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work

Pressfield, Steven

MY LIFE AS AN AMATEUR

Ambition, I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.

HABITS

The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.

ART AND ADDICTION

The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a “life,” a “character,” a “personality.” The artist and the professional, on the other hand, have turned a corner in their minds. They have succeeded in stepping back from themselves. They have grown so bored with themselves and so sick of their petty bullshit that they can manipulate those elements the way a HazMat technician handles weapons-grade plutonium.

PULLING THE PIN, PART TWO

You and I, who are artists and entrepreneurs, live a life that’s closer to natural, if you ask me. We migrate, too. We follow the Muse instead of the sun. When one crop is picked, we hit the road and move on to the next. It’s not a bad life. It’s lonely. It’s tough. It ain’t for everyone. But, like the life of a migrant on the road, it has its compensations.

THE DEFINITION OF BORING

Something that’s boring goes nowhere. It travels in a circle. It never arrives at its destination.

ADDICTED TO FAILURE

There’s a glamour to failure that has been mined for centuries by starving poets, romantic suicides, and other self-defined doomed souls. This glamour inverts failure and turns it into “success.”

ADDICTED TO SEX

“I don’t see what all the fuss about sex is,” said the comedian. “It’s only friction.”

MY YEAR OF TURNING PRO

I read all the stuff that you’re supposed to read in college but never do, or if you do, you’re not paying attention. I read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Turgenev. I read Cervantes and Flaubert and Stendhal and Knut Hamsun, and I read every American except Faulkner.

A DEFINITION OF THE AMATEUR

The amateur is young and dumb. He’s innocent, he’s good-hearted, he’s well-intentioned. The amateur is brave. He’s inventive and resourceful. He’s willing to take a chance. Like Luke Skywalker, the amateur harbors noble aspirations. He has dreams. He seeks liberation and enlightenment. And he’s willing, he hopes, to pay the price. The amateur is not evil or crazy. He’s not deluded. He’s not demented. The amateur is trying to learn. The amateur is you and me. What exactly is an amateur? How does an amateur view himself and the world? What qualities characterize the amateur?

THE AMATEUR IS TERRIFIED

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.

THE AMATEUR LIVES BY THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS

Though the amateur’s identity is seated in his own ego, that ego is so weak that it cannot define itself based on its own self-evaluation. The amateur allows his worth and identity to be defined by others. The amateur craves third-party validation. The amateur is tyrannized by his imagined conception of what is expected of him. He is imprisoned by what he believes he ought to think, how he ought to look, what he ought to do, and who he ought to be.

THE AMATEUR SEEKS PERMISSION

The amateur believes that, before she can act, she must receive permission from some Omnipotent Other —a lover or spouse, a parent, a boss, a figure of authority.

HOW YOUR DAY CHANGES WHEN YOU TURN PRO

We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim.

A PROFESSIONAL IS COURAGEOUS

The linebacker and the Army Ranger go into action as part of a team. But the artist and the entrepreneur enter combat alone. I take my hat off to every man or woman who does this.

THE PROFESSIONAL DOES NOT GIVE HIS POWER AWAY TO OTHERS

When we make someone into an icon, we give away our power. We say to ourselves (unconsciously), “This person possesses a quality I wish I possessed. Therefore I will worship this person in the hope that that quality will wear off on me, or I will acquire that quality by virtue of my proximity to this mentor/ sensei/ lover/ teacher/ hero.”

The amateur is an acolyte, a groupie. The professional may seek instruction or wisdom from one who is further along in mastery than he, but he does so without surrendering his self-sovereignty.

A MARINE GETS TWO SALARIES

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 PROFESSIONAL TRUSTS THE MYSTERY

She asks her students to imagine a small white box. Imagine a lid on this box. Now lift the lid. What do you find inside? Sometimes students say a diamond. Sometimes a frog. Sometimes a pomegranate. The trick is, there is always something inside the box.

TAKE WHAT THE DEFENSE GIVES YOU

Two key tenets for days when Resistance is really strong: 1. Take what you can get and stay patient. The defense may crack late in the game. 2. Play for tomorrow. Our role on tough-nut days is to maintain our composure and keep chipping away. We’re pros. We’re not amateurs. We have patience. We can handle adversity. Tomorrow the defense will give us more, and tomorrow we’ll take it. There’s a third tenet that underlies the first two: 3. We’re in this for the long haul. Our work is a practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing.

A MODEL OF THE UNIVERSE

“There is a second self inside you —an inner, shadow Self. This self doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t love you. It has its own agenda, and it will kill you. It will kill you like cancer. It will kill you to achieve its agenda, which is to prevent you from actualizing your Self, from becoming who you really are. This shadow self is called, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara, Steve, is what you would call Resistance.”

WHO IS ALL THIS FOR?

I will gladly shell out $24.95 or $9.99 or 99 cents on iTunes to read or see or listen to the 24-karat treasure that you have refined from your pain and your vision and your imagination. I need it. We all do. We’re struggling here in the trenches. That beauty, that wisdom, those thrills and chills, even that mindless escape on a rainy October afternoon —I want it. Put me down for it. The hero wanders. The hero suffers. The hero returns. You are that hero.

Vocabulary

  • Monomania – exaggerated or obsessive enthusiasm for or preoccupation with one thing.
  • Surfeit – an excessive amount of something
  • Gnostics – relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.
  • Dint – an impression or hollow in a surface
  • Proffer – hold out (something) to someone for acceptance; offer
  • Anathema – something or someone that one vehemently dislikes
  • Neophyte – a person who is new to a subject, skill, or belief

How to Write a Thank You Note →

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.