Book Art Of Learning Delivers

I thoroughly The Art of Learning, particularly the first half that explores the cerebral journey found in learning/discovering/troubleshooting. The backstory to this book is author Josh Waitzkin was thrown into fame as a child prodigy chess player. The book/movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is written by his dad (I just recently watched and also highly recommend). Around age 20 the author grew disenchanted with chess (likely due to the huge popularity of the movie) and made the abnormal shift from chess to martial arts. The book describes this journey, how there are similarities, and his approach to learning and mental tenacity.

Three points stuck out:

  • It’s wrong to tell children “it’s just a game,” when they’re experiencing a loss. This is typical behavior for parents with competitive kids that don’t perform well during big events. If it didn’t matter, then why did they train so much and travel far for something that doesn’t matter? Children know this and it’s disingenuous to tell them their efforts were meaningless. At the time of this writing, Jim Carrey has been making waves saying how “life doesn’t matter.” This is an incomplete statement as it’s not saying who/what is experiencing the matter. Life may not matter TO YOU or TO THE UNIVERSE. But certain things trigger pain and joy– thus some things do matter to people regardless of the significance to others (BTW, I semi agree with Mr. Carrey’s message besides this flaw, maybe I’ll chat about that some other time).
  • Sometimes the subconscious sees something before the conscious mind does. I’ve experienced this when looking at a coding, or logic problem at work. Sometimes there will be a small flicker that you can’t explain, but you get a hunch that there’s something there that should be continued to explore. I’ve had this sensation on many occasions and have grown to listen very carefully to my body whenever I “feel” like there might be a solution hiding right in front of me that I havent’ seen yet.
  • The book details an experiment between two types of learners — Entity and Incremental learners. It explores how some children who believe they are smart by innate ability (entity) are less resilient to problem-solving after they are stumped than incremental learners. The study consists of giving kids a problem beyond their capability to solve, so they all fail. Afterwards, they are tested on a problem within their skillset and, predictably, the incremental learners did better. This study was referenced in the book The Fighter’s Mind which inspired me in to read The Art of Learning. This illustrates the biggest conflict I feel as a parent — forcing your kids to struggle/suffer is the one of the most effective ways to make them resilient, confident and able to live a healthy life. At the same time… what parent wants to allow their kid to suffer?

Regardless, a good read.

Good Kids Book: “How Much Is 20 Trillion” err excuse me “A Million”

As the US National Debt zooms passed the $20 trillion milestone this month, I thought it would be a good to recommend a book that I enjoyed when I was little, How Much Is A Million? This is a great book for little kids to illustrate how big some numbers are. Frankly, it’s a good book for grownups to read too.

Quick… without cheating, take a guess at how big these figures are:

  • How far would 1 billion US sized dollar extend if they were lined up like a road?
  • How long is 20 trillion seconds?

Answers are at the end, but suffice to say these big numbers are hard for grownups to fathom, and little kids don’t do much better.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton tried to backtrack on her claim of being under sniper fire by saying. “I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.”  

Ignoring my favorable or unfavorable opinion of the former first lady, this really bugged me. Here she is talking about misstatements, and then says something, from a numbers perspective, that is completely absurd! Taken literally, this would mean that she speaks more 23 words per second all day long. Even if you don’t know exactly how many seconds there are in a day (86,400), I would hope that you know there’s less than a million!! And the fact that she said millionS. Somebody get her this book!!!


Answers to the questions…

1 billion dollar bills would stretch around the world — 4 times (97 thousand miles).

20 trillion seconds is a really really long time… 634 thousand years.

Tony Robbins Book On Awaking Giant

I breezed through Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins while driving for an hour. It was interesting to read this after just finishing The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck . Quite a different approach to life of, “YOU CAN BE GREAT AT ANYTHING!” vs. “You are who you are, just accept it and pick your battles carefully….”

I did think Robbins was on point about attaching pain or pleasure to experiences. Other than that, I was mostly neutral on the book. Not negative, just kind of thought “meh, I guess” while reading. I returned it to Audible.

I Am A Believer in Not Giving A Fuck!

“Even if you get run over by clown car and get pissed on by a school bus full of children, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and how to respond to it.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is a best seller for a reason. I finished this in a single day while waiting around at the Nashville Airport. Author Mark Manson delivers fantastic insight on the journey called life in a refreshingly inelegant method. I’ve read quite a few “life” books the past few months (see other posts) and I’m guessing Manson has read most of them also  He did a great job of cherry-picking a lot of great philosophies and succinctly piecing them together in a comprehensive and entertaining book.

I recognized material from philosophers ranging from Alan Watts to Budah, and ideas from books such as Man’s Search For Meaning to The Charisma Myth. The author discloses that he read 50 non-fiction books in 50 weeks before writing this, so he has a strong wealth of information to pull from. He’s also well traveled and offers some different cultural weaknesses that modern America may be dealing with.

One of the newer insights this book offered me was challenging people to think how they want to suffer in life, as opposed to how they want to be happy in life. This is pretty ingenious if you think about it because no matter what you do, there will always be conflict. Like the famous song, “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” each path you take will lead to problems. The question is, which struggles do you wish to endure? Do you want your life purpose to be a parent or a business person? Both have problems. Interestingly, he mentioned to keep this in mind when picking a spouse because, “this is the person you’re going to have a lot of fights with.” That’s quite pragmatic.

A couple other less serious elements about the book I liked…

The Wire was mentioned twice!

The author admitted to taking LSD.

He highlights the lunacy of the characters in Romeo And Juliet (I love doing this also).

He trashes political correctness.

He points out how colleges try to suppress speech and coddle students too much.

He recommends playing life like a card game. I’ve always felt that a good analogy. You can’t control the hands you get, but you can control how you play them.

Anyway, I obviously recommend this book to anyone looking for a good modern “life philosophy” book. It’s entertaining, not too long, and full of a wide variety of good advice.


I, Woz A Terrific Read Showing The True Genius At Apple

I, Woz is the best book I’ve read thus far in 2017. I ripped through this 9 hour, 12-minute audio book in two days. Steve Wozniak’s autobiagraphy, especially the beginning, shows the internal thinking of a truly gifted mind and all the joy and curiosity it entails. I’m guessing that Wozniak really did write most of it, as the language definitely possesses his signature “stream-of-consciousness thinking”, prankster humor, and unmodest declarations of how awesome his work was, without really seeming arrogant. “Hey, it was the best, nobody had ever done anything of what I did…!”

A week earlier I finished reading Elon Musk Inventing the Future, and compared it to the Steve Jobs Biography. The Jobs biography gave clear examples of how brilliant Wozniak was, but uafter reading this, I consider Wozniak to be, the most admirable man to come out of Silicon Valley.

Hearing Wozniak talk about Steve Jobs just made me dislike Jobs even more than I already did (which is saying something). That man was bipolar, manipulative, inconsistent, narcissistic and not even that technically smart. Wozniak doesn’t even try to make him out as a bad guy, but he can’t exclude a couple key points that show a dark side of the former head of Apple.

Wozniak was smarter than pretty much everyone, and yet incredibly kind too. He threw concerts and gave away money to friends just because he felt the deserved it. One painful point was hearing how he gave up a bunch of shares of Apple to some dirt cheap rate to UK hedge fund guy he’d never met because he said he would months before. Wozniak felt he had to honor his unconditional promise even though the guy undoubtedly would have disappeared if the stock had plunged in value.

Yet the biggest value for me was just hearing Wozniak’s life motto. In so many words, he gives the advice that many successful people deliver. Do what you love, have passion, and really dig deep to understand something when you find that passion.

He made one point that hit pretty deep with me. Wozniak feels lucky that he was at the forefront of the PC age as his skillset was just right for that period of history. He also provides other illustrations of people living in the right place in history such as Ford at the start of the automobile. Then he went on to say that if you ever feel like you’re at the beginning of a technological revolution, that you feel you can contribute to — go for it.

I swear I felt he wrote that specifically for me to read this exact week (I know he didn’t, but it felt like it).

I am far from a Wozniak, but I do possess some technical skills. For years I’ve been fascinated with Ethereum and blockchain technology in general. I have been ranting to any poor soul who will listen how this technology truly could be the biggest technical game-changer since the internet. Ironically this week, Ethereum crossed the $50/share threashold — more than 80 times its inital value when it went live. While I don’t push it as an investment, this is quite frustrating that I didn’t dive deeper into it than I did. If I would done the braver thing of put my professional life on hold, took up a role in a startup as a developer — I likely would have felt more fullfillment and amazingly would probably be wealthier.

To be fair, I feel grateful to have regular work which I don’t think isn’t terrible. In fact, I think it is reasonably fulfilling! Yet it’s not something I’m really that passionate about. I work for a big corporation (which Wozniak also advises against!), and this blurb of the book about being at the forefront of a major technology got me thinking if I need to make a switch. The blockchain technology is still in its infancy stages so there’s still plenty of time to be a part of the inital movement.

Something to think about. If my employer reads this, I’m just kidding ha ha. Just trying to be prankster like Wozniak… ha ha…!

Elon Musk Book Inventing The Future Challenges Jobs And His Biography For Silicon Valley Greatest

I was not that familiar with Elon Musk before reading Inventing The Future, a biography up through his life in 2013. I knew a little about Tesla and Space X, so I started the book with a clear mind. Not very far into reading, author Ashlee Vance starts making comparisons to Steve Jobs. This was particularly interesting to me as I was a huge fan of Walter Isaac‘s biography of Biography of Steve Jobs. I personally am of the opinion that Steve Jobs’ wasn’t as admirable of a legend that many make him out to be, which Isaac’s unbiased account offered compelling evidence to support.

As a result, reading this book on Musk morphed into a comparison of four people for me. The objectivity of writing styles between authors Vance vs. Isaac, along with who was the more admirable Silicon Valley tycoon of Jobs and Musk.

Ultimately I felt that Vance’s writing was slightly too favorably biased towards Musk because it contained a tad too much unsolicited commentary about what great things Musk had accomplished. At the same time, this may not be fair because I think that Musk definitely is an incredibly more admirable individual than Steve Jobs was, and thus there are far more favorable things to say about him.

If one accepts all the evidence that author Vance offers, then Musk is an incredibly inspiring story of a man who has willed his way to success through sweat, pain, and relentless drive.

Unlike Jobs, Musk was an extremely talented technical resource. He was widely recognized as a proficient coder with a strong aptitude to problem-solve.

Unlike Jobs, Musk has always had a compelling case of a firm vision for every effort he has attacked. “Our objective is to go to Mars,” or some amazing yet very clear directive. Jobs’ visions were quite scattered and maddening to his team who had to pivot based on whatever juice Jobs had scoffed down for breakfast.

Unlike Jobs, Musk has endured some true suffering in life. Before Elon came to North America with almost nothing including a place to stay, he experienced a difficult childhood filled with bullying and emotional abuse. As an adult has endured tremendous setbacks of nearly being broke, having a child die, divorce and several other painful experiences. To anyone who thinks their life is tough and they can’t persevere, Musk offers an inspiring case of success.

Unlike Jobs who founded products that were destined to hit the market within 5 to 10 years in some form of another, Musk created two, maybe three product markets that it’s conceivable we may not have seen for 50 years or more. A private space company was simply unheard of and there hasn’t been much success in the battery and solar industry besides Tesla and Solar City.

Overall I did enjoy this book. As mentioned, I would have liked to get a little more balanced commentary on some of the pro’s and con’s of Musk’s life. The author tries to do so by interviewing some disgruntled employees but their voices seem less common than those offering tremendous praise.

Lastly, Elon Musk is a Burning Man enthusiast, so he’s clearly way cooler and more admirable than Steve Jobs.


Man’s Search For Meaning Review

I had heard quite a highly favorable reviews of the book Man’s Search For Meaning, by Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. The book was a short, but inspiring read about each person finding their purpose to live. Founder of logotherapy, the author essentially says that a man must fulfill his deepest purpose, to find meaning life and the will to live on. There were lots of good quotes from various philosophers. One that stuck with me was Niche’s, “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.

One quote that wasn’t in the book, but has always stuck with me and seemed to encompass a lot of what this book was about was from the movie Flight of the Phoenix which says, “I think a man only needs one thing in life. He just needs someone to love. If you can’t give him that, then give him something to hope for. And if you can’t give him that, just give him something to do.”

The book challenges the reader to reverse the common question, “what is the meaning of life?” to instead ask, “what is my meaning for life?” It points out that even in suffering their is meaning, as he illustrates with his concentration camp experiences.

While I’ve never experienced anything like a concentration camp, when life has kicked me in the ass in the past (as it does everyone), I think it might have been good book to have. Presently I live in a town I’m not that fond of and every day I wish I could move to dozens of other cities. However, I’m here for the benefit of my kids — they like it and it works for their situation. While I don’t think my life comes anywhere near the definition of “suffering,” it is nice to know that my frustrations on my location are going towards a greater purpose.

I’d encourage any man or woman who is trying to find a why in their life to read this, or anyone who just wants to read a popular book that likely will come up sometime at a cocktail party. This book has been around forever, and for good reason.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Details How to Raise Pioneers, Not Princesses

I had mixed opinions on Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. As a father with a daughter, and growing up without sister, this book had a vast amount of insightful information. I think all dads subconsciously know there’s a lot to protect your daughter from, and I’m pretty sure this book covered all of them.

Almost to a fault, author Meg Meeker overwhelmed the reader with a variety of risks facing girls today. So much so, that it become hard to understand what to focus on. In short, the book advocates to be that stereotypical dad who cleans his shotgun when boys come over, and gets all in his daughter’s business. The risks presented with regards to STD’s, eating disorders, depression and a slew of other issues offer a compelling case to be that dad.

At the same time, a good portion of this book was stories of parenting, and I got the feeling the author was cherry-picking the most egregious examples to drive home points.

I could also tell there was a not so-subtle Judeo-Christian agenda, which was confirmed in the later chapters when the author encourages everyone to practice some form or Christianity or Judaism. She justifies this with statistics illustrating church attending families raise less at-risk kids, but I might question the cause and effect nature of these statistics (i.e. does Church make daughter’s strong, or does the family that spends time together on Sundays seeking deep meaning in life make strong daughters?).

At one point I became pretty annoyed with this agenda during an example where the author details some high school girls going out partying in Mexico, and “shamefully”, one of the girls danced and drank with an older man who was married! Nevermind she didn’t know he was married, or why that’s objectionable behavior to dance with someone.

At the same time, there was a lot of good advice and it was refreshing hearing a book, performed well by Coleen Marlo, that idolized the role of a father. Here are a couple key points I logged:

  • There are two types of girls: Princesses and Pioneers. We ultimately want our daughters to be pioneers so that when things get rough, they dig into their own soul to solve problems and don’t look for someone to save them. Sons too for that matter!
  • We also don’t want their happiness attached to their appearance, which they’ll already be subconscious of. Thus comments that continually say, “you’re so pretty” may incorrectly give the message that our approval of them is stapled to their looks. I call my daughter “pretty girl” a lot, so I guess I need to cool off on that.
  • Have firm rules on what’s okay and not okay. My Pretty Girl Pioneer is pretty strong willed so there will be battles to come. And…
  • The fights will come! When they do, remember women like to test men’s resolve by throwing them off balance. Daughters will do the same. This was also discussed extensively in The Way of the Superior Man where women want to see if men really are committed to fulfilling their deepest purpose in life. So while she may slam the door at you grounding her, her respect for you holding to your guns improves.
  • Don’t spoil your kids with two much stuff. I personally need to work on this. My son is all about toys and “stuff”.
  • Have her back, and don’t throw the, “You should have known better” comment out when things go bad for her. You never want her to regret calling you in times of despair.
  • Be present. This one was tough to read about since I’m on the road a lot, but spending time is key. It doesn’t always matter what you’re doing, or even if it’s that much fun. Just being around, talking and listening helps her.

Anyway, as I said, I felt the majority of this book was worthwhile, but definitely found myself at odds with about a third of it. It’s probably a book every father with daughters should read just to arm yourself with events to come.

Malcom Gladwell’s Blink a Questionable But Interesting Read

Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is filled with interesting and well researched stories. These alone made the book worth reading. However, the overall message was a little more difficult for me to accept. I didn’t reject it, but I didn’t buy into it as enthusiastically as the author aimed. Yet once I accepted that I was not totally going to agree with everything the book offered, I found it enjoyable as it has interesting stories and thought-provoking ideas.

Gladwell attempts to add strong merit to “thin sliced” decisions. Translated to laymen terms, the author intends to add tremendous credibility to people’s gut instinct. He provides numerous examples where people’s instincts successfully outperformed well-researched analysis. I had mixed opinions on his examples. His suggestion that too much information during war didn’t sit right with me, but I did think his market analysis with Pepsi and chairs was spot on.

Yet about halfway through the book he flipped the script talking about how incredible amount of data overflow frin people’s faces is critical to “mind reading.” This flies against the message of the first half of the book that told people not to read too much data, but trust your gut instinct.

Again, once I stopped taking it too seriously, I thought this book was interesting and thought-provoking.

Since this is one of several mental books I’ve been reading lately (The Whole Brain Child, The King Within and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters) I did buy into tapping into your subconscious for answers, and conducted a small experiment on myself. Granted this wasn’t very scientific, but I had a friend ask me a bunch of questions, some important, some not so important. I tried to essentially be “mindless” and give answers that just popped into my head, while trying to maintain eye contact and be present, essentially numbing my right brain (emphasis on not scientific). This was also kind of inspired by this youtube video on split brains.

This took place in October and when I listened to my answers more recently in January I was surprised with the results. It wasn’t conclusively prophetic, but I did nail a copy answers that proved to be true. I asked myself a couple deeper personal questions, so my answers wouldn’t mean anything to readers, but my subconscious did predicted that Donald Trump would be president. My “full brain” would have bet 10:1 odds that he would not have been elected, so that surprised me.

Anyway, in conclusion, the book is interesting, but not life altering. Give it a read if you’re looking for something thought provoking or if you want to talk smrt with people at parties.