The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

The Big Idea: focus on fundamental principles and foundational movements until they are unconscious.

  • Tao Te Ching is a life changer.
  • I’ve been keeping journals of my chess study since I was twelve.
  • Eventually, the foundation is so deeply internalized that it’s no longer conscious.
  • The boating life has also been a wonderful training ground for performance psychology.
  • Carol Dweck says that winners have a growth mindset, vs a fixed mindset.
  • The risk of a process-first mentality is no importance placed on the outcome at all.
  • A man wants to walk across the land, but the earth is covered with thorns.  He has two options – one is to pave his road, to tame all of nature into compliance. The other is to make sandals.
  • Become at peace with noise and distraction.
  • Beginners who memorize moves lose their composure under adversity.
  • Leave numbers to numbers. Learn the fundamentals and then strive to make them unconscious.
  • Learn to meditate.  Study Qigong.
  • Have a beginner’s mind and be willing to invest in loss.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
  • Learn the micro to understand the macro.
  • Common beginner mistake: taking on too much at once.
  • It can take months or years to perfect the right straight punch.
  • Depth beats breadth.
  • Embrace adversity (injury, loss) as an opportunity for improvement.
  • The Grandmaster looks at less, not more. He is aware of more, but focused on less.
  • With training and experience, you will learn to anticipate your opponent’s moves.
  • Interval training (sprint + recovery) is a critical building block to peak performance.
  • Create a trigger that will put you in a state of high performance.  (Music, food, warmups)
  • Instead of trying to block out emotions in the heat of battle, just be comfortable with them.
  • Record and watch yourself on video.

Step 23: Landing Your Plane On The Great Wall

The Big Idea: Problems are going to confront you.  Be prepared by expecting them, putting them into perspective, developing the fortitude to overcome, and learning how to innovate past them.

  • To succeed, you must learn how to bypass the obstacles of life.
  • Life will deal tremendous blows to you.  This is the reality.
  • Statistically, something bad will happen to you and you will have to overcome it.
  • Psychologically, things are not nearly as traumatic if you expect them.
  • You must develop the force of will (backbone) to overcome major obstacles.
  • How do you learn to put problems into perspective?
  • Travel around the world to understand first-world vs third-world problems.
  • Read more history (Will Durant) and focus less on the last 24 hours.
  • Reading more history puts your life in perspective.
  • Read about Louis Zamperini (movie Unbroken).
  • Jeff Bezos: you must innovate your way out of problems.
  • Einstein: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
  • There are always many ways around problems, so keep on innovating until you overcome.
  • Another core strategy is to break down big problems into smaller problems.
  • Lastly, learn to start loving the wall, because there will always be another wall.

Tai Lopez is an entrepreneur, investor, and blogger who runs an awesome online book club. 67 Steps is a lecture series teaching how to be successful in health, wealth, love, and happiness.  

SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman

The Big Idea: if you head out to the wilderness, tell someone exactly where you are going. Take a wilderness survival course to learn how to survive for a few days until you are found.

  • The average person requires 0.5 liters of water a day.
  • Three fires are an internationally recognized distress signal.  SOS is also widely recognized.
  • Carry matches and learn how to build a fire.
  • Learn how to forage for edible plants and mushrooms and how to avoid poisonous ones.
  • Learn how to identify and use a few key medicinal plants.
  • Take a wilderness survival class and a wilderness first aid class.

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Big Idea: Productivity can be learned.

Chapter 1: Motivation

  • To feel motivated, people must feel like they are in control.
  • Leadership is learned.
  • Don’t praise people for intelligence; praise them for effort.
  • A bias towards action keeps people motivated.
  • Start with why; why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Examples: Marine boot camp, renegade nursing home patients.

Chapter 2: Teams

  • Group norms (culture) matter more than anything.
  • People need to feel safe to make and report mistakes, to experiment.
  • Friends working together works because they feel safe.
  • Teams need to believe their work is important.
  • Teams need to believe their work is personally meaningful.
  • Teams need clear goals and defined roles.
  • Team members need to know they can depend on one another.
  • Teams need psychological safety.
  • Examples: Google People Analytics, hospitals, Saturday Night Live.

Chapter 3: Focus

  • Cognitive tunneling is when brains are forced to transition abruptly from relaxed automation to panicked attention.
  • People who remain calm and show good judgment in stressful situations tend to create mental models and engage in constant forecasting.  They visualize scenarios.
  • Productive people engage in fewer projects, challenge themselves constantly, and love to forecast future scenarios.
  • Try to anticipate what’s next through scenario planning (Southwest Airlines book).
  • Examples: Air France flight 447

Chapter 4: Goal Setting

  • Having SMART goals will help you to continuously improve.
  • However, only having audacious, inspirational stretch goals will lead to the big leaps forward. Stretch goals force you to challenge assumptions and try completely new approaches.
  • Examples: Yom Kippur War, Toyota high-speed rail.

Chapter 5: Managing Others

  • It’s the culture that makes Toyota successful.
  • “Star-based” startups had the most home runs but also the most failures.  “Culture-based” startups had the highest probability of survival and success.
  • Lean management requires handing decision-making control to the front line worker. This requires a culture of trust.
  • Example: Frank Janssen kidnapping, Toyota Production System.

Chapter 6: Decision Making

  • Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.
  • Study statistics for better decision-making.
  • Examples: poker professional Annie Duke.

Chapter 7: Innovation

  • Most innovation is a new application of an old idea.
  • “Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs
  • Mild disturbances to a team or situation can yield innovation.
  • Sometimes, stress and pressure can yield innovation.
  • Examples: Disney’s Frozen, Westside Story.

Chapter 8: Absorbing Data

  • Too much data results in information blindness and the inability to make good decisions.
  • Data is vital, but people must also be trained in the ability to use the data.
  • Being forced to do think critically about the data (take careful notes, teach it to someone, apply it) is much more important than having access to the data.
  • Examples: Data in Cincinnati public schools, typed notes vs hand-written notes.

Aquaponic Gardening by Sylvia Bernstein

The Big Idea: Aquaponic gardening is a symbiotic, permaculture-friendly version of gardening in which fish supply nutrients to plants, which then remove all fish waste from the water.

  • Aquaculture dates back to 5th century B.C. China
  • Benefits of aquaponics: completely organic, cheaper than hydroponics, minimal maintenance, minimal fertilizer, lots of vegetable production, fewer diseases, no weeding, no watering, growing fish is a bonus
  • In warm weather states, you can have an aquaponics system outdoors year-round.  Just watch out for insects.
  • The “basic flood and drain” setup is good for beginners. In this system, gravity carries water from the grow bed to the fish tank and a pump carries it back.
  • Use a 1:1 grow bed volume to fish tank volume for the basic flood and drain setup.
  • More advanced setups: CHOP, CHOP2, Barrel-ponics
  • Stock your tank with 0.1-0.2 lb of fish per gallon of tank water.
  • Place your fish tank in the shade if you put it outdoors.  Also partially cover it to help prevent debris and algae growth.
  • IBC totes are ideal for aquaponics systems. You can also use a bathtub for a vintage look.
  • For your grow media, use gravel or expanded clay (Hydroton). Grow media is the replacement for soil, and houses beneficial worms and bacteria.
  • Use only dechlorinated water.  Protect your water from changes in temperature, pH, oxygen levels.
  • Fish that work well: tilapia, goldfish, catfish, koi, shrimp.
  • Choose a fish depending on your needs and climate.
  • Supplement commercial fish feed with duckweed, worms, black soldier fly larvae.
  • All plants (except those requiring acidic or basic soil) grow well in aquaponics systems.
  • Nitrosomonas and Nitrospria bacteria convert fish waste into nitrites and nitrates, which are less harmfell to fish and nourish the plants.
  • Worms digest solid waste and dead root matter into valuable vermicompost tea for the plants.
  • Cycle the system with half of your fish to get your system started.
  • Check system levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates regularly.
  • Check pH. temperature, and check for insects regularly.

Step 22: The Seven-Fold Path To The Obvious Signs

The Big Idea: Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.

  • Set the right goals and cut out anything that is not moving you towards your goals.
  • Don’t delude yourself.  Embrace the truth when you’re asking yourself if you’re moving towards your goals.
  • Jeff Bezos is one of the best in the world at seeking and embracing the truth, especially through experimentation.
  • The seven steps towards moving towards your goals
    • 1. Ask question. (set a goal)
    • 2. Research answer. (find some approaches)
    • 3. Make a hypothesis. (try one approach)
    • 4. Test it.
    • 5. Observe.
    • 6. Evaluate observation.
    • 7. Ask smart people to review your progress. (don’t quit; just try a different approach)
  • People are more likely to be consistent than to experiment to find the best approach.
  • Don’t be stuck by the need to be consistent with your first approach.  Consistency and commitment are very common cognitive biases.
  • Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.

Tai Lopez is an entrepreneur, investor, and blogger who runs an awesome online book club. 67 Steps is a lecture series teaching how to be successful in health, wealth, love, and happiness.  I’m a big fan.

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox

The Big Idea: identify the bottleneck.  Relieve the bottleneck.  Repeat.

  • The Goal is one of Jeff Bezos’ three required books for his senior team. (Also, Effective Executive and Innovator’s Dilemma)
  • Cost accounting conventions lead businesses to focus on the wrong things.
  • The goal of a business is to make money. Therefore, every operational metric should link back to profit.
  • There are only three operational metrics that matter: 1) throughput, 2) inventory, 3) operational expense.
  • Throughput is money generated when products go out the door.
  • Inventory is money locked up in work in process until products go out the door.
  • Operational expense is money required to generate throughput.
  • Of these, throughput is by far the most important.
  • The most important objective is to increase throughput.
  • How do you increase throughput?  Identify the bottleneck (ignore everything else), relieve the bottleneck, repeat.

Step 21: Mastering The Four P.A.S.E. Energies & Casanova’s Chameleon

The Big Idea: Understand your strengths. Work on your weaknesses. Learn to identify the strengths of other people. Speak in the language of other people’s strengths.

  • When you’re a worker, technical skills determine your success.
  • When you’re a leader, social skills determine your success.
  • Understand your core strength (P, A, S, E).
  • Understand your weakness (P, A, S, E).
  • P=practical: likes to plan ahead, likes numbers, conservative, diligent, doesn’t like uncertainty, patient, focus on planning with these people
  • A=action: likes action, starts but doesn’t always finishes, smart, easily distracted, concentrate on action with these people
  • S=social: doesn’t like plans, doesn’t like conflict, easygoing, likes being around people, sometimes flaky, keep it light and fun with these people
  • E=emotional: sensitive, intuitive, good at reading people, easily offended, sometimes driven by fear, connect emotionally to these people
  • Exercise a weakness to make it a strength.
  • Learn to quickly assess people in terms of their strength (and language).
  • When working with others, speak in *their* language.
  • Casanova was a social chameleon.
  • Casanova would know others’ strengths and connect with them on their strengths.
  • The ideal leader is able to shift from PASE strength to PASE strength, depending on the situation.
  • Note: emphasizing one strength will often bring out that strength in other people.

Tai Lopez is an entrepreneur, investor, and blogger who runs an awesome online book club. 67 Steps is a lecture series teaching how to be successful in health, wealth, love, and happiness.  I’m a big fan.

Step 20: Richard Branson’s Hurricane & The Imaginary World Of Kanye West

The Big Idea: If you were independently wealthy, what kind of life would you create? Work backward from there to engineer your ideal life.

  • An entrepreneur creates the world in his own image.
  • Richard Branson created Virgin Airlines because a hurricane stranded him on an island.
  • There are three types of people: people who watch things happen, people who make things happen, and people who wonder what happened.
  • Book recommendation: Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson
  • If you were independently wealthy, what would you do?
  • What do you love? If you love reading? Create a book club.
  • Even if you are not an entrepreneur, think like an entrepreneur and act like an entrepreneur.
  • Imagine your ideal world in these four areas: health, wealth, love, and happiness
  • You can have anything you want but not *everything*.  So be clear about what you want and work diligently towards it.

Tai Lopez is an entrepreneur, investor, and blogger who runs an awesome online book club. 67 Steps is a lecture series teaching how to be successful in health, wealth, love, and happiness.  I’m a big fan.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Last year, I planted my first ever square root, raised bed vegetable garden with my girlfriend and had no idea what I was doing.  This year, I’ll read up on it first.  Brilliant, right?

The Big Idea: Square foot, raised bed gardening will give you more vegetables with much less work, money, and space. For the home gardener, smaller is better. 

Why square foot gardens?

  • Makes your work easier since there is less soil and less garden to take care of
  • Makes water faster since there’s less garden to water
  • Makes weeding easier since there’s less garden to weed
  • Creates living mulch which helps create healthier soil and keep weeds away
  • Is more pleasant to look at, which makes you more like to spend time caring for your garden
  • Makes vegetable garden more practical for urbanites, since you can have a productive garden almost anywhere
  • Makes protective plants from the weather or pests with a cage or box possible since the garden is smaller
  • Gives the soil the right texture since you will never be walking on the soil.

How do you get started?

  • Build or buy a box with sides about 12″ high.
  • Place the box in an area with lots of sunshine.
  • Fill the box with good soil and compost.
  • Divide the box into 12″ x 12″ squares.
  • Each 12″ x 12″ square should get one type of vegetable.
  • Decide what you want to grow (look this up in a reference book or web site.)
  • Some vegetables (peppers) require the entire 12″ x 12″ square.  Other vegetables (carrots) can fit 16 to a 12″ x 12″ square.
  • Keep tall-growing plants on the north side of your garden.
  • Support your tall-growing, vining plants like tomatoes and cucumbers with stakes, cages, or trellises.
  • Look up which month to plant which vegetables.  (The average growing season is May to September.)
  • Water with a bucket of warm water and a cup.  Daily, when they are just starting, then weekly, or more, if you live in a hot climate.
  • Weed your garden once a week.
  • Remove pests by hand if you can, or use natural pest deterrents.
  • Fertilize as needed.
  • Harvest when ready (look this up in a reference book or web site.)