Bits from Books – 2017

Below I have included a list of the books I have read or listened to throughout 2017. Highlighting important passages as I read has lead to the ability to reflect and contemplate long after finishing these books and I do so periodically throughout the year. Here I have compiled those passages that stood out even further that I felt worthwhile to share.

My favorites for the year:

  • The Dictator’s Handbook
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  • Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Books

My final count for 2017 is as follows:

Reading total: 26

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  • Common Sense
  • The Stranger
  • The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
  • 7 Secrets of Eternal Wealth
  • Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
  • The 1997 Masters: My Story
  • The Warrior Ethos
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World
  • Billy Boy
  • “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character
  • 8 Weeks to SEALFIT: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to Unconventional Training for Physical and Mental Toughness
  • If This is a Man and The Truce
  • Siddhartha
  • The War of Art
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
  • Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur
  • The Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge: A Fundamental Guide To Training For Strength And Power
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  • Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy
  • Night
  • The Internet of Money
  • Stone Soup
  • Artemis

Listening total: 7

  • The Dictator’s Handbook
  • 1776
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
  • American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road
  • American Assassin: A Thriller
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.

Bits

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Manson, Mark

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.

In other words, negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, it’s because you’re supposed to do something.

The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all.

Remember, emotions are just feedback.

This is why people are often so afraid of success—for the exact same reason they’re afraid of failure: it threatens who they believe themselves to be.

I have both some good news and some bad news for you: there is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating. There’s a kind of self-absorption that comes with fear based on an irrational certainty. When you assume that your plane is the one that’s going to crash, or that your project idea is the stupid one everyone is going to laugh at, or that you’re the one everyone is going to choose to mock or ignore, you’re implicitly telling yourself, “I’m the exception; I’m unlike everybody else; I’m different and special.” This is narcissism, pure and simple. You feel as though your problems deserve to be treated differently, that your problems have some unique math to them that doesn’t obey the laws of the physical universe. My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator. The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible. This often means giving up some grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world. This means giving up the supply of emotional highs that you’ve been sustaining yourself on for years. Like a junkie giving up the needle, you’re going to go through withdrawal when you start giving these things up. But you’ll come out the other side so much better.

If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have.

Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen. When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Relish it. Savor it. Welcome it with open arms. Then act despite it.

Our culture today confuses great attention and great success, assuming them to be the same thing. But they are not.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Keller, Gary; Papasan, Jay

Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

Because extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric. You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing. Over time it adds up, and the geometric potential of success is unleashed.

When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.

So when you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing is people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives. This makes them seem “disciplined” when actually they’re not. No one is.

Achievement and abundance show up because they’re the natural outcomes of doing the right things with no limits attached.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.

Pick a direction, start marching down that path, and see how you like it. Time brings clarity and if you find you don’t like it, you can always change your mind. It’s your life.

One evening an elder Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us. One is Fear. It carries anxiety, concern, uncertainty, hesitancy, indecision and inaction. The other is Faith. It brings calm, conviction, confidence, enthusiasm, decisiveness, excitement and action.” The grandson thought about it for a moment and then meekly asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

7 Secrets of Eternal Wealth

Joffrey MD, Buck

Only invest in things that can be explained with a quick diagram on the back of an envelope. If you don’t understand it or you don’t believe it, don’t invest in it.

The Warrior Ethos

Pressfield, Steven

The ancients resisted innovation in warfare because they feared it would rob the struggle of honor. King Agis was shown a new catapult, which could shoot a killing dart 200 yards. When he saw this, he wept. “Alas,” he said. “Valor is no more.”

Alexander’s party was trying to get through the busy street, but the yogis had their spot and they wouldn’t move. One of Alexander’s zealous young lieutenants took it upon himself to chase the holy men out of the king’s path. When one of the wise men resisted, the officer started verbally abusing him. Just then, Alexander came up. The lieutenant pointed to Alexander and said to the yogi, “This man has conquered the world! What have you accomplished?” The yogi looked up calmly and replied, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.” At this, Alexander laughed with approval. He admired the naked wise men. “Could I be any man in the world other than myself,” he said, “I would be this man here.”

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character

Feynman, Richard P.; Ralph Leighton

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

If This is a Man and The Truce

Levi, Primo

Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization for both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite. Our ever-insufficient knowledge of the future opposes it: and this is called, in the one instance, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of the following day. The certainty of death opposes it: for it places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief. The inevitable material cares oppose it: for as they poison every lasting happiness, they equally assiduously distract us from our misfortunes and make our consciousness of them intermittent and hence supportable.

And one must take into account a definite cushioning effect exercising both by the law, and by the moral sense which constitutes a self-imposed law; for a country is considered the more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its law hinder a weak man from becoming too weak or a powerful one too powerful.

The War of Art

Pressfield, Steven

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Kleon, Austin

Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.

Instead, chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go. Once you build your tree, it’s time to start your own branch.

It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book that book leads you to.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

McKeown, Greg

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.

Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.

What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?

The Tao of Warren Buffett, Mary Buffett and David Clark explain: “Warren decided early in his career it would be impossible for him to make hundreds of right investment decisions, so he decided that he would invest only in the businesses that he was absolutely sure of, and then bet heavily on them. He owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments. Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.” In short, he makes big bets on the essential few investment opportunities and says no to the many merely good ones.

To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.

If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.

In an interview about his book The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg said “in the last 15 years, as we’ve learned how habits work and how they can be changed, scientists have explained that every habit is made up of a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine—the behavior itself—which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular habit is worth remembering for the future.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Junger, Sebastian

What catastrophes seem to do—sometimes in the span of a few minutes—is turn back the clock on ten thousand years of social evolution. Self-interest gets subsumed into group interest because there is no survival outside group survival, and that creates a social bond that many people sorely miss.

Such public meaning is probably not generated by the kinds of formulaic phrases, such as “Thank you for your service,” that many Americans now feel compelled to offer soldiers and vets. Neither is it generated by honoring vets at sporting events, allowing them to board planes first, or giving them minor discounts at stores. If anything, these token acts only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian populations by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.

The public is often accused of being disconnected from its military, but frankly it’s disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction—all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most.

One way to determine what is missing in day-to-day American life may be to examine what behaviors spontaneously arise when that life is disrupted.

Onward

If you have an interest in what I am looking forward to reading in 2018, you can follow along on Goodreads.