Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What are your commitments?

The best way to know what you are committed to is to look at the results in your life.  If you are successful, have a good savings, have strong and profitable investments, good health then your commitments are being demonstrated by your results.  If the opposites are true, if you have little or no savings, if your body hurts and you are looking for a good diet or you are always looking for shortcuts to the other side of the tracks then it is obvious to everyone that wants to see that you are committed to comfort and immediate gratification.  We feel that we are obscuring our true selves from others but the reality is that we are transparent.  The results in our lives show the world what our commitments are.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Book Recommendations

End of year book roundup

I love to read.  I am convinced that there is so much knowledge out there and I want to know what others are thinking and how they are implementing.  I have many interests and I love to learn.  So far this year I have read 55 books and I have 5 books that I am currently reading along with probably another 10 in my Kindle and Audible libraries that I have not started.  I am always looking for the next great book and I am consistently getting both good and bad recommendations for books from friends and others.  It is important to mention at this time that I do a lot of research to read great books.  I have read many great books this year so it is a little difficult coming up with a top three list in fiction and non fiction.  With that in mind, I thought that I might be able to help you by giving my recommendations after a year of reading.  I recognize that many people do not read as much as I do so I have included my highest recommendations.  I will also give you my absolute must avoid book from my reading list of 2014.  Let's get started. 

Fiction

Three non fiction books really impressed me this year.  The Casual Vacancy is the third best fiction book that I read.  This book was written by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter's real mother.  Barry Fairbrother, a well loved high school teacher and town council member, drops dead from a heart attack and we are exposed to all the effects that his sudden loss has on the people in his town.   The author introduced such varied characters and helped me become so familiar with them that even through all their flaws, I liked every one of them.  I judge good writing by its ability to make me feel emotion and Ms. Rowling can certainly do that.  I recommend The Casual Vacancy but it is not my favorite fiction book of the year.  

The Girl with all the Gifts came in second place.  This is a very different type of horror book.  This concept of the zombie apocalypse has been tried before but this story was so well done that I recommend it for everyone.  There are a lot of great surprise turns in the story that if I say too much you may not want to read it.  Tension mounts as humans try to survive as the dominant species with help from the enemy until the final reveal that kept me up for hours.  Scary.  

The best fiction book of the year that I read was The Martian.  The research required to write this book must have been immense.  It is so believable that I felt like I was reading a true story.  The setting for the story could be the next couple of years.  Mark Watney is accidentally left on Mars by himself and no one knows that he is still alive.  Now what?  Mark has to figure out how to survive on Mars for a whole year until the next scheduled visit from Earth.  Great story!!  Read it!
 

Non Fiction

There is a tie for third place in the non fiction category.  I recommend both books.  I think the reason for the tie is because I had heard so much about both books before I read them that I felt like I knew what to expect.  Both books are life changing but in very different ways as you will be able to tell when I tell you the titles.  Open your mind, and if you are interested in leveling up your life take what you can from both books and incorporate their lessons into your life.  Tied for third place this year are Man's Search for Meaning and Wheat Belly.  Man's Search for Meaning is an historical account of Viktor Frankl's experiences in World War II Germany as a Jew. Wheat Belly is a research-based book on the effects of wheat and the many products created using wheat and how it affects our bodies.


In second place this year is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.  This is a well researched book by historians and educators that have access to the existing historical artifacts and literature.  I was greatly impressed by the incredible accomplishments of Genghis Khan and his sons.  Just by truly understanding who Genghis Khan was and his influence in modern society make this book worth reading.  However, that is not what has me referencing this book on an almost daily basis.  When I pay attention to world events I am repeatedly reminded of the fall of the Mongol empire.  Whether we learn from history or not, I am convinced after reading this book that we are doomed to repeat it.  

The absolute best non fiction book of the year was Zero to One by Peter Thiel.  This book was head and shoulders above all the other non fiction books I read.  Mr. Thiel is one of the most successful entrepeneurs of the internet age.  He is one of the founders of PayPal and a member of the group known as the PayPal Mafia.  Several very successful young leaders that are responsible for multiple billion dollar companies.  In his book he purports to give advice to young aspiring business builders but his words will have impact on everyone.  Peter Thiel takes on competition, capitalism and monopolies and sheds new light while exposing us to new perspectives that can only be gleaned from years of daily work in the business world.  You will definitely think differently after reading this book.  

Favorite Book of the Year

There is one book that I read four times this year.  A Short Stay in Hell is my all time favorite book of the year.  It is a short fictional account of what happens to a young man that dies of cancer.  Even though he was a pious and dedicated family man with no obvious character flaws he finds himself in an unexpected afterlife..  I am getting older and contemplating my mortality and this book gave me a new way of thinking about eternity.  I am frightened and more convinced that I must never die.  I doubt you will take what I did from this book but I like it and recommend it. 

Worst Book of the Year

The absolute worst book of the year is The Maze Runner.  When I heard that Maze Runner was being made into a movie, I started crying.  This book is terrible!  An exhaustive exercise in frustration and stupidity.  I weep for the future when I think that Americans will consider this entertainment.  In the movie "Idiocracy" we see how far entertainment devolves when we are shown an audience watching a bare butt on screen for two hours.  That is what I think of when I think of The Maze Runner in theaters.  

As I said at the beginning of this post, I read many many good books this year.  I almost feel bad having to pick just a few from the very impressive list of books.  You can see them all on my Goodreads account and read my reviews.  If you do like them, please connect with me on Goodreads.  I would love to hear your recommendations.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Haters gonna hate

But the real problem with haters is that they confirm your paranoid delusion that everyone out there secretly hates you.

Thankfully, that's not actually true. So the first noble truth is that most people don't even care that you're alive. Embrace this, my friends, for it is true freedom. The world is vast and you are small, and therefore you may do as you wish and cast your thoughts of those who dislike it to the side.



You may be in a tough place right now where you feel lonely or like a loser. No worries, we've all been there. But it's time for you to realize how common these things are, and that they're experienced by even the most successful and happiest people in the world. Those people get past them, and you will too.

Great thoughts from Julien Smith

Friday, January 3, 2014

I don't always have a short attention span but when I do . .

There is so much information available to us these days.  Last year I set goals to learn to play the piano, learn Japanese, learn a martial art, flip houses, read a bunch of books and so many other things.  I was able and willing to set these goals all the while working and committing to be better and better at my job because there is so much free information.  The internet has made so many subjects available and transparent.  Just today I read an article that Harvard had made their online software coding classes free.  My first thought was, "I want to learn to code from Harvard!"

However, there is a cost.  Free information is not free.  The cost is our attention.  I am an avid reader, I read about 40 blogs, I read 45 books last year and I read the news, Wikipedia, links from my Facebook and Twitter feeds, book reviews, product reviews and just about anything else I can get my hands on.  The effect that this distraction has on me is that I have a very short attention span.  I am constantly looking for something else to read and learn.  That resulted in goals that were not accomplished.  I learned a little bit of this and a little bit of that but not a whole lot of any one thing.  I essentially poked all of my goals with a stick.  Not a productive way to go through the day.
Today I am making a new commitment.  I will only have 3 major goals this year.  One business goal, one personal goal and one health goal.  I will be more committed to process and systems and use my attention and focus to make sure that I take the daily steps that are required to accomplish each of my goals.  This is the way that I will increase my attention span and strengthen my ability to focus.

How has the internet and unlimited free information affected you?  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How many people? Dunbar's number

Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary anthropologist.  He has famously suggested that there is a limited amount of people with whom we can maintain meaningful relationships.  Dunbar's number is right around 150.  He arrived at this conclusion after over 15 years of surveying successful group sizes throughout history, from primates to Roman platoons to successful Fortune 500 companies.   Recently I have heard it suggested that some of those spots can be held by celebrities or politicians.  For example, if you watch Oprah on a daily basis then Oprah may be taking up one of the valuable and limited spots in your top 150.  This creates many questions in my mind that I want to share.

Who is in my 150?
Are they there by my choice or are they there by default?
Who do I add in order to improve my group?
Who do I drop in order to improve my 150?

Being conscious of who is in our 150 is is vital.  Environment is stronger than will.  Studies have shown that people with obese friends quickly gain weight and will eventually become obese.  

Be careful who you allow to take up the few spots you have available.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

I lied

Moral dilemma of the day.  I received a call from an agent that I know works with investors, early this morning.  He invited me to breakfast. This was out of the blue and very unexpected. First thought I had was that he was recruiting for the next best multilevel marketing program to hit the World.  Guaranteed to make me a millionaire faster than all the others.  So,  I asked "is this Amway?" He said no way this was a meeting about learning how to work with investments.  Well since we are out of bacon at home I decided that I would accept his invitation.  I arrived late to the breakfast meeting and asked about the real estate meeting.  The hostess hiccuped and pointed me to a meeting room that had large banners with the words Dream Vacations in 12 inch letters.  I l looked through the window in the wall and spotted the agent that invited me.   I knew right away that I had been misled. 

Here is where my moral dilemma comes in.  I told the agent that I had just learned of a real estate emergency and I had to leave immediately.   Since then I have tried to rationalize that it is OK for me to lie to him since he lied to me.  It's not working.

This is where your I ask for your input.  Do I call him and tell him I lied? I don't anticipate an ongoing relationship with this guy.  I don't feel good about not addressing this.  But how do you tell someone that you lied because they lied? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So much Drama


The ancient definition of “passion” was “anguish” or “suffering” – which comes from passive reaction to external events.  *Stoics endeavored to transcend passion through apatheia, or peace of mind (literally, “without passion”) to attain eupatheia, which are feelings that result from evolving our reactions.

Are there situations that spark negative emotions in you?  Most of my Facebook friends post often about how situations make them feel (insert negative emotion here).  If you look again at the first sentence - their anguish and suffering come from a passive reaction (victim) to external events. When I read this I recognize that there are many times that I let my mind take me to negative places.  Today, in simple situations I have worked on seeing difficult situations and choosing a neutral mindset.

Another Stoic tenet is that nothing is good or bad and the only thing we control is our perception.  The Stoic idea is that every situation is an opportunity.  I am sure that it will take work but I can see how controlling my perceptions, seeing everything as an opportunity and not good or bad and not allowing myself to being victimized will make me a better man.

*Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.