Move Fast & Fix Things by Frances Frei and Anne Morris

The Big Idea: Leadership is the practice of imperfect humans leading imperfect humans.

INTRO: Trust Us, It’s Fixable

  • You need trust and speed. No one’s getting on board a plane without confidence in the aircraft and without enough speed, you’ve not even getting airborne.
  • Organizational trust relies on authenticity, empathy, and logic.
  • Your most important job right now is not to be good; it’s to make sure that the people around you have a shot at being great.
  • Your mission is to convince yourself and the people around you that everything is fixable.

MONDAY: Identify Your Real Problem

  • Choose curiosity.
  • Build a team of problem solvers.
  • Explore what’s holding you back. Draft a list of problems that need to be fixed.
  • Pick a candidate problem to solve first.
  • Collect the organization’s problem data. Use the data you have now.
  • Build a case with the data you have. Enlist your data analyst
  • Learn more about your problem. Talk to people most affected by the problem.
  • Decide what you’re going to fix this week. Choose a problem with elevated urgency, clearest source of disruption and distraction.

TUESDAY: Solve For Trust

  • Fail with enthusiasm. At this stage, it’s more important to learn than to be right.
  • Find your organization’s trust wobble. Frame your problem from the perspective of the stakeholder to gain their trust.
  • Ten organizational trust pitfalls: aversion to making choices, reliance on heroic employees, shiny object syndrome, disengaged middle management, casual relationships with other people’s time, comfort with collateral damage, high incidence of the Sunday Scaries, people pleasing in the boardroom, tolerance for misalignment, delusions of meritocracy.
  • Do a business model checkup. Make sure there aren’t any logic cracks in the foundation of your business model.
  • Make your people better. Development can be formal (training) or informal (stretch assignments).
  • Change how you work. Be open to systemic solutions to your problem. The problem may be the system.
  • Identify “new” talent. Look internally first.
  • Make the difficult people decisions. Learn how to gracefully part ways with employees.
  • Don’t make it all about you. “Always ask the turtle”. Understand others’ motivations and perspectives.
  • Walk the talk. Prioritize the repair of any systemic breaks in authenticity.

WEDNESDAY: Make New Friends

  • Figure out why you’re doing this. Inclusion >> diversity.
  • Find your place(s) on the Inclusion Dial. Championed >> Celebrated >> Welcome >> Safe.
  • Make it physically safe to be different. Everyone must feel physically and emotionally safe when they come to work.
  • Welcome everyone despite their differences.
  • Celebrate uniqueness on your own team.
  • Champion uniqueness at the scale of the organization.
  • Include yourself, too.

THURSDAY: Tell a Good Story

  • Understand deeply to describe simply.
  • Honor the past (the good stuff). Identify what you love and don’t want to change. This is comforting for people to hear.
  • Honor the past (the not-so-good stuff). Be honest about what’s wrong.
  • Provide a clear and compelling change mandate. Share why it’s important for the organization to change.
  • Describe a rigorous and optimistic way forward. Data is your friend. Optimism is infectious.
  • Put the pieces of your story together. Stories are the best way to teach, inspire, and connect with our fellow human beings. It doesn’t have to be long; sometimes a single image can tell an entire story.
  • Repeat yourself. Repeat the message until you are sick of hearing yourself talk.
  • Identify and use your emotions. As a leader, your mood is quite literally contagious.
  • Ten underrated emotions in the workplace: frustration, regret, enthusiasm, devotion, happiness, discomfort, anger, joy, fellowship, grace.

FRIDAY: Go as Fast as You Can

  • Ten beliefs that get in the way of moving fast: meaning change happens slowly, we can do it later, other people’s time is an abundant, low-cost resource, we need more information, going fast is reckless, going slow is righteous, our people are stretched too thin, we have to be great at everything we do, structure is the enemy of speed, we need more time to prepare.
  • Get out of the way. Remove yourself as the bottleneck. Empower more people to make decisions.
  • Be bad at something else. You can’t be great at everything. Choose what you want to be great at and bad at.
  • Become a cultural warrior. Leaders must be good at strategy and culture.
  • Run better meetings. Agendas, note-taking, red team, summary, action items.
  • Reduce work in process. Prioritize to move faster. Little’s Law.
  • Create a way to fast-track projects. Identify special, high-impact projects and fast-track them.
  • Lean into conflict. Learn how to handle conflict gracefully. Books: Crucial Conversations, Radical Candor.

The Corner Office by Adam Bryant

The Big Idea: Successful CEOs share these qualities. Passionate curiosity. Battle-hardened confidence. Team smarts. A simple mindset. Fearlessness.


While setting overall business strategy is certainly an important part of a CEO’s job, leadership shapes every part of their day.

The culture and tone starts at the top, and each company reflects the personalities of its CEO.

The leader who understands how to get his employees to work together as a team has an advantage.

Most businesses fail because they want the right things but measure the wrong things, and they get the wrong results.

You can hire a brain surgeon, or you can hire a proctologist at half-price who wants to learn. Invest in better service and employee morale instead of single-mindedly cutting costs.

One good story about leadership and management from an executive who has worked hard to learn it – is equal to ten theories.

Successful CEOs put a premium on direct and frank communication, and flattening the organization.

Successful CEOs try to use questions more than statements, so that their employees take ownership of their roles rather than simply take orders from the CEO.

Many successful CEOs reward honesty and input, and show their interest in learning what others think, by holding town-hall meetings, seeking the advice of people at all levels of the company, and asking employees what they would do if they were in charge.

Successful CEOs also try to create a culture of learning.

There is no single way to lead or to manage. We all have to figure out what makes sense on our own.



The qualities successful CEOs share: Passionate curiosity. Battle-hardened confidence. Team smarts. A simple mindset. Fearlessness.

The CEO’s ultimate job: student of human nature.

The CEOs are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, but they are the best students.

In the best of all worlds you want someone who’s whole-brained—someone who is analytical and can also be creative.

Jen-Hsun Huang, the CEO of Nvidia, the computer graphics company, said both sides of his brain play important roles in finding new opportunities. “I don’t like making decisions with analytics,” he said. “I actually like making decisions with intuition. I like to validate the decision with analytics.”

Ask: ‘Tell me what you’re passionate about.’

Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney, said curiosity was a key quality he looked for in job candidates.

A trait that sets CEOs apart: an infectious sense of fascination with everything around them.

Though CEOs are paid to have answers, their greatest contribution to their organizations may be asking the right questions.

In business, the big prizes are found when you can ask a question that challenges the corporate orthodoxy.

Some of the most important advances come from asking, much like a persistent five-year-old, the simplest questions. Why do you do that? How come it’s done this way? Is there a better way?

Ask questions. Show genuine enthusiasm. Be interested in the world.

CEOs focus on being interested rather than trying to be interesting.


You can never really tell how somebody deals with adversity.

Many CEOs seem driven by a strong work ethic forged in adversity.

So when I interview potential executives, I will ask them directly: ‘Give me an example of some adverse situation you faced, and what did you do about it, and what did you learn from it?’

If I’m recruiting people for very senior positions, I will delve quite extensively into their personal lives.

The number one most predictive trait is perseverance, or what we would call internal locus of control.

Many CEOs recognize that failure is part of success.

The best hitters in Major League Baseball, world class, they can strike out six times out of ten and still be the greatest hitters of all time. That’s my philosophy—the key is to get up in that batter’s box and take a swing.

This ability to celebrate failure needs to be an important part of any company that’s in a rapidly changing world.

It is okay for a CEO to say that the strategy didn’t work, that the technology didn’t work, that the product didn’t work, but we’re still going to be great.

I don’t think you can create culture and develop core values during great times.

‘Culture’ is a big word for corporate character. It’s the personality of the company.

What does it take to have a great company? It takes major setbacks and overcoming those. I mean a near-death experience.

Leadership, in my opinion, is best learned, or honed, through adversity. In abundance, it’s very easy to lose focus. But in adversity, one must have extreme focus.

Understand what you can control.

Challenges become learning experiences rather than disappointments.

A dream employee will eagerly accept a challenge, and say those words that are music to a manager’s ears: “Got it. I’m on it.”


The most effective executives are more than team players. They understand how teams work, the different roles of individual players, and how to get the most out of the group. They know how to create a sense of mission and how to make people feel like everyone’s getting credit. They know how to build a sense of commitment in the group.

Team smarts is an essential skill.

Teamwork is developed by conveying a sense that you are looking out for a colleague, that you’ve got her back.

Try to add value to everything.

You know you’re going to drop the ball. If you’re good with people and people like you and you treat them right, they’re going to pick up the ball for you, and they’re going to run and they’re going to score a touchdown for you. But if they don’t like you, they’re going to let that ball lie there and you’re going to get in trouble.

Part of team building is understanding the roles that different personalities play in a group.

People are either “glue” or “solvent” within a team. People who are glue within the team disseminate things effectively, motivate and improve the morale of people around them.

So much of leadership is about trust and belief. People have to believe in you.

Nell Minow of The Corporate Library said her best lesson for building a sense of teamwork is to organize a group around a simple word: we.

Another key strategy for building a sense of teamwork is learning to share credit.

Teamwork can be built by being explicit about the roles people play, and insisting on rules and routines.

If you’re not worried about your own success, but you’re worried about the success of the team, you go a lot further.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to think about teamwork is to forget organizational charts and titles. Companies increasingly operate through ad hoc teams, formed and disbanded to accomplish various tasks.

The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people who are not their direct reports.


Be concise, be brief, get to the point, make it simple.

Few people can deliver the simplicity that many bosses want.

Next time you’re in a meeting, ask somebody to give you the ten-word summary of his or her idea.

The shorter your business plan is, the more succinct and to the point it is, the better.

Some CEOs put strict limits on PowerPoint slides.

Simplifying the complex is the CEO’s job, and CEOs do it all day long.

Create order out of chaos, to identify the three or five things employees need to focus.

If I can’t simply put what needs to be done on one page, I probably haven’t thought it through very well.

You need to show you care. Nothing today is about one individual. This is all about the team, and in the end, this is about giving a damn about your customers, your company, the people around you.

I don’t micromanage, but I have micro-interest. I do know the details. I do care about the details. I feel like I have intimate knowledge of what’s going on, but I don’t tell people what to do.

As a CEO, part of my job is not only to help develop direction but to teach storytelling.

Be brief, be bright and be gone.


Many successful CEOs try to create a culture of action, in which employees are encouraged to make decisions that are outside the strategy playbook.

I had to learn to make decisions quicker, on the spot, and follow my gut. You’re not going to have all the information.

You have to have people in an organization who are willing to truly embrace change,

CEO of HSN, the parent company of Home Shopping Network, likes to see evidence of risk-taking in the resumes.


Think of a career as an obstacle course.

Much of the CEOs’ advice for succeeding on the career obstacle course falls into two broad categories: preparation and patience.

Prepare for a career, they say, don’t plan it.

On the whole, many professional people are more worried and more afraid than they should be.

The most important thing is to focus on learning experiences.

Several CEOs mentioned selling as an important skill that can pay off throughout a career.

Several CEOs said that travel is the best preparation for a career.

Patience is extremely important because people set goals for themselves that often are unrealistic,”

Do the work well, they say, and the promotions will follow.

New employees should focus on figuring out the culture of an organization. Catch on to who really pulls the strings and where the real power base is, whom you have to collaborate with, whom you have to inform, whom you have to seek out for advice.

I tell people, just show up, get in the game. Something good will come of it, but you’ve got to show up.

Take the time to meet people and to build relationships.



Read everything by Peter Drucker.

As the leader, people are looking at you in a way you could not have imagined in other roles. You have this megaphone attached to your shoulder that amplifies everything you do. Everything that you say or do or amplified. You can’t have a bad day.

You need to be always authentic.

I’ve learned to overcommunicate in a way I never did before.

Be open with employees so that they are not left wondering what’s on your mind.

Be as open as possible about who you are, what they should know about you, what they should understand about you, and how you like to operate.

People like the fact that you’re one of them and that you’re going to sacrifice as much as you’re going to ask them to sacrifice.

People put the CEO on such a high pedestal, and that you get more credit than you deserve for just being friendly and approachable.


Ask yourself whether what you’re doing is “action” or “activity.”

Make sure you spend time on the action that’s going to drive results.

One of the things you have to worry about as a leader is to make sure that you’re not just creating activity.

Constantly assess and reassess your top priorities.

What are the three most important things I need to do today?

End each of my three most important meetings each month by saying, ‘Okay, here are the three most important things we’re doing.’

Mark Pincus of Zynga adopted a system called OKRs. The idea is that the whole company and every group has one objective and three measurable key results.

Ask everybody to write down on Sunday night or Monday morning what your three priorities are for the week, and then on Friday see how you did against them.

Successful CEOs make time — daily, weekly, or quarterly—to study their time. The best time-management thing I do is reflect an hour a week on the overall strategic plan for myself. Make sure I can carve out a certain period of time every week to step back and think about the big picture. This gives you long-term focus.

Build thinking time into your daily schedule. Flying time is often a useful opportunity to think in peace and quiet.

Many executives make time for themselves away from their gadgets.

Turns off your work phone and email at the end of the week and encourage your staff to do the same. You want your people to have a life.


Having a clear agenda and sticking to a timetable certainly helps.

People will be more engaged if they’re clear about the point of the meeting from the start.

People I work with know I don’t like meetings and that they will do better to just keep it moving.

Too many leadership meetings are all focused on internals, so half of meetings has to be externally facing — our market share, our clients.

Encourage everybody to be a hall monitor. ‘Hey, are we wasting our time here, or not?’

People like rules in meetings, and they like them even more when the rules are enforced fairly.

The best idea wins.

Being succinct and efficient is also a measure of preparation and command of the facts.

If you don’t speak up in the meeting, you can’t later come back and say: ‘I really hated that.

Meetings can easily descend into a conversation between two people, with others watching.

“Every Friday, we have the senior leadership team come for about an hour-and-a-half operations check, and we have the checklist of items we need to get to, and we will go through that list, but I will never lead that meeting,” she said. “Each one of the executives leads the meeting.”

Waiting for people to contribute doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to seek out opinions.

CEOs said they make it a point to hold back on sharing what they think until they get more input.

As you become more senior in a company, you tend to be viewed as more authoritative when you speak and therefore you have to back off a little bit.

If meetings are fun rather than a slog through an agenda, people will be more engaged and listen to the rest of the group more intently.


I love asking people what the meaning of life is.

‘On your deathbed, what do you want to be remembered for?’

‘What’s the most important thing that’s happened to you over the last three years?’

‘Just tell me about your life.’

‘Wherever you worked before, what made it a good day?’

Ask questions about their families, friends, and social networks.

‘What are you passionate about?’

Hire people who are Tiggers, not Eeyores.

Several CEOs said they ask candidates about the last few books they read, the value of teamwork and how to contribute to a team effort. They listen carefully to how often the person says “I” and “me.”

“Who are the best people you recruited and developed and where are they today?”

“I’ll ask somebody to teach me something,” he said. “They’ll get on the whiteboard.”

‘Can you describe a decision you made, or a situation you were involved in, that was a failure?’

Find out if the person he’s interviewing can handle working without a clear road map.

‘Do you know what you’re good at, and what you need to work on to get better?’

‘If you had to name something, what would you say is the biggest misperception that people have of you?’

Know what skills people are trying to develop more, as a way to gauge their self-awareness.

‘Do you know why you want to work at this company?’

They want to know if people have done their homework, and believe in what the company does and its mission.

‘If you could be in my shoes today, what would be the top three things you’d do?’”

Some CEOs know that a piece of writing can provide a window on the way job candidates think.

Many CEOs said an absolute must of the hiring process is to share a meal with someone. Do they talk down to the busboy? Can they read social cues and keep a conversation going? Many candidates have lost job opportunities based on their performance at a restaurant.

I have to remind myself that there’s no pressure so great to fill a job.


Executives have to make the time to get out and walk around. The less time spent in the office, the better.

CEOs say that the investment of time delivers enormous rewards on all fronts — employee retention, insights on company strategy, and worthwhile feedback.

People generally want to bring only good news. When you move into the corner office: “Watch how funny your jokes become.”

Management By Walking Around is essential.

Leadership is about ensuring that you have the right people within your organization. You do that through actively knowing the people.

Try to see a client every day.

The best thing you can do is spend at least 50 percent of your time in the office communicating with as many staff as you have time to communicate with.

Brian Dunn, the CEO of Best Buy, also visits stores, and he approaches his company like a customer so he understands the experience. “I surf our Web pages. I call our call center. I visit our stores.”

Talk to people who are leaving. When people are leaving, they’re often in a very reflective state. And because they’ve often made a very difficult decision, they’re also stunningly direct, because it’s like they have nothing to lose.

Every boss needs people in the organization who are going to tell her that her jokes aren’t funny — in other words, give her straight feedback.

One way to avoid the isolating trap of the corner office is to eliminate the corner office.

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask for feedback.

Dan Rosensweig of Chegg often uses annual performance reviews to ask for feedback on how he is managing.


As a coach, a manager’s job is to elevate individual players, make the team better, and try to give guidance and input.

A boss will get more out of the people who work for her if her goal is to make them better.

Get a sense of what the one thing is that makes their eyes light up, that they get excited about and won’t stop talking about.

There is no single right way to give feedback.

One way is the “criticism sandwich”.

Tachi Yamada prefers not to mix positive and negative feedback.

“By listening first and trying to understand how we got here and their story, I think it allows them to then hear my point of view later. And then we can move into solutions. When people feel judged right out of the gate, it’s hard for them to open up and listen and improve.”

In sports, this is what coaches do — giving constant feedback in practice to help people get better and help the team win.

Being direct is not a personal attack.



What’s the difference between management and leadership? Management is about results. Management is quantifiable, measurable.

Leadership is an art. People report to managers, but they follow leaders.

Leaders who can create a sense of mission are far more likely to succeed.

Employees like to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and to work toward an ambitious goal.

The job of leaders is to set a goal that people can believe in.

There is no formula for creating a sense of mission, though certainly one necessary ingredient is conviction, since nobody will follow a leader who doesn’t believe wholeheartedly in what he or she is saying.

Apple is often talked of as a place where people want to build products that will change the world. “We believed in the Mac division that we were making the world a better place.”

What are we? What is our real purpose?

The higher the calling, the higher the compelling vision you can articulate, then the more it pulls everybody in.

A reporter asks a bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’

People love to compete, of course, so another way to marshal the collective energy of a workforce is to establish a clear scoreboard to measure performance against competitors, and then reward the team when it wins.

There’s got to be measurable goals that everybody understands, and then you start strategizing on how to get there, and figure out how everybody wins.

Once you’ve established what your organization’s mission is, you must repeat it endlessly. Even when you’re tired of what the message is, you need to do it again and again and again. You’ll know that you’re effective as a leader, because you hear them saying it.

Many CEOs agree on this point — that there is a need for relentless communication.

We share everything. We believe in complete transparency.

There’s nothing quite as powerful as people feeling they can have impact and make a difference.

Employees need to be won over constantly.


Many CEOs said they made time for the small gestures — the handwritten note, the phone call, taking time to drop by an office to chat—because they recognize their power.

Continue to motivate people to do better and better. Get them excited and create the right environment.

There’s an innate need for well-deserved recognition.

There are two things that are very important about recognition. One, it needs to be deserved. And two, it needs to come from the heart.

People leave companies for two reasons. One, they don’t feel appreciated. And two, they don’t get along with their boss.


Once they’ve won the top job, many CEOs said they’ve had to learn how to pull back and listen more so that they are not dominating every conversation and meeting.

You really want to get the best out of people, you have to really hear them, and they have to feel like they’ve been really heard.

Being too exciting and too motivational is overbearing, and it turns people off.

The job of leadership is developing people and that it involves not doing everything for them.

Many executives said that one of their biggest challenges was learning to listen more.

Make sure you have the right people in place and they’re motivated correctly. The way to do that is to listen to them.

If I wanted to stay surrounded by great people, I had to get out of their way and create the room and make sure they started to get the recognition and the credit.

What defines successful leadership — earning people’s respect.


One of the most demanding aspects of leadership is to create a positive culture that engages employees at a personal level.

Creating an effective culture is an art.

Many CEOs recognize that culture is the engine that drives results.

Some of the most successful CEOs have taken steps — symbolic and practical — to create a culture that is less hierarchical, where people can make decisions themselves and learn from one another.

CEOs become facilitators of the culture rather than the focus of the culture.

If you see your job not as chief strategy officer and the guy who has all the ideas but rather as the guy who is obsessed with enabling employees to create value, you will succeed.

How do we push the envelope of trust? By creating transparency. All our company’s financial performance information is on our internal Web site.

Collaboration is one of the most difficult challenges in management.

The point is to get people talking to each other rather than always trying to involve the CEO in every decision.

When you start telling people what to do, they no longer are responsible; you are.

Values in a corporation act as a guide to help make tough decisions. Values also appeal to employees who want a sense of mission beyond dollars and cents.

At Zappos, the company tells employees that values are not just suggestions — they can be used as grounds for dismissal if employees aren’t abiding by them.

“At Zappos, we view culture as our number-one priority,” Tony Hsieh said. “We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself. We would actually be willing to hire and fire people based on those values, regardless of their individual job performance.”

Zappos pushes the culture of transparency to an extreme that might make some companies uncomfortable. It publishes a “culture book” every year.

It’s a real cliché to say that the boss is the one that sets the tone, but it’s absolutely true.

It’s not the words of the mission statement or the words on the value statement, it’s how a company deals with the people who breach the core values. That’s what really defines the values.

Have very clear goals and clear compensation schemes. People don’t feel that they need to be talking about compensation or about their bonus.

For leaders, the ability to laugh at yourself is key.

Does the CEO, as a role model, encourage healthy debate and appreciate tough questions and challenges? Or does she set a my-way-or-the-highway rule?

Ursula Burns of Xerox, who has talked to her employees about overcoming what she described as the company’s “terminal niceness.” Meetings are all about challenging the status quo and questioning what’s wrong and what can be done better.

Jen-Hsun Huang of Nvidia said “intellectual honesty” is one of the core values of his company. “One of our other principles is that people who are successful are the ones who ask for help.”

Some CEOs make sure that people are rewarded in ways beyond their paychecks.

It’s always interesting for me to hear how newcomers feel after they’ve been in the brand for a period of time and to get feedback.


What are the intangibles that serve as a kind of connective tissue for all the skills of leadership?

Unbridled Passion for What’s Possible

Why does a line of followers form behind some leaders?

Employees have to trust a visionary leader before they will follow him.

“Trust has a couple of dimensions,” Barrett said. “It starts with competence.” People have to trust that you have a point of view about what the enterprise is going to look like. They have to trust that you understand them.

Build a Story Around Their Capabilities

Leaders also have a feel, an instinct, for what people are capable of becoming, even if they can’t see it themselves.

Leaders who are committed to helping the people who work for them will have committed followers.

Bringing the Group Together

The ability to bring a team together to achieve a goal is a rare skill.

Command-and-control leadership won’t cut it in a world where the real competition is for talent.

“I think of myself less as a leader,” said Tony Hsieh of Zappos, “and more of being almost an architect of an environment that enables employees to come up with their own ideas. My associates can work anywhere they want, and my job is to re-recruit them every day and give them a reason to choose to work for us.”

Leaders think about others first.

You don’t make all the decisions.

A leader has to be comfortable with having the weight on his shoulders. And that’s not for everybody.

Effective leaders must care about people enough to get the best work out of them, yet they must keep a distance so that any difficult conversations are about performance.

People want to follow a confident but not overconfident leader.

Have a sense of everything that is going on at the company, and what needs to be done, yet be present when talking to employees so they don’t get the impression you’re distracted.

Sometimes leadership is about having the right answer. Other times it’s about having the right question.

Scaling Up Compensation by Verne Harnish and Sebastian Ross

The Big Idea: Compensation is one of your largest expenses and, therefore, one of your most important strategic decisions.

Overview: 5 Principles for Effective Compensation Design

Principle #1 – Be Different: Aligning Compensation with Culture and Strategy

The first principle of compensation design is to Be Different. Strategy is about being perceived as different versus your competition. Ideally, all your People practices (recruiting, leadership, compensation) reinforce these differences. They must incentivize behaviors in your employees that your customers appreciate.

A Good Jobs Strategy means paying significantly higher salaries than your competitors, nevertheless, enjoying lower labor costs per unit and higher profits because your employees are more productive.

You might feel tempted to copy the compensation systems of these outstanding firms. But that would be a big mistake. Your system will only be effective if it is tailored to your unique context. Make compensation a critical part of your strategy, make it your own, and make it different.

Principle #2 – Fairness Not Sameness: Creating a Coherent and Flexible Base Pay Structure

Scaleups need to go to the drawing board and design a compensation system that deserves the name.

The key is to design a transparent and equitable system that allows for meaningful differences in base pay between low, average, and top performers. Performance is not normally distributed, and thus base pay shouldn’t be either.

Principle #3 – Easy on the Carrots: Using Incentives Effectively

Zehnder decides to be deliberately old-fashioned. The firm could do what everybody else in the industry does and pay its people juicy commissions. Yet this would be unwise, given the firm’s culture and strategy.

Financial incentives influence employee behaviors in three ways. They help people decide if they want to work at your firm (selection effect), they tell employees what is important (information effect), and they can motivate people to try harder (motivation effect).

Most bonus plans fail to drive performance. Instead, they become entitlements and cause undesired behaviors. We argue that individual financial incentives only work for simple, routine, measurable, and independent jobs and that your sales roles are likely the only candidates where such carrots will be effective.

Principle #4 – Gamify Gains: Driving Critical Numbers Through Pay/Play

In gain-sharing plans, teams or even an entire company commit to moving the needle (often in a gamified manner) on a metric that points to a specific challenge of the business (productivity, spending, quality). This number is then tied to a bonus and paid out to employees when the goal is achieved.

The power of gain-sharing schemes lies in their information effect. By making goals specific and tangible, and tying a reward to them, gain-sharing plans inform people what is important.

Principle #5 – Sharing Is Caring: Getting Employees to Think Like Owners

While stock and stock options grants are standard practice among Silicon Valley-style tech companies, we find these tools underutilized in the vast majority of mid-market firms.

Compensation is Not Logical, It’s Psychological

In this book, we focus on the monetary elements of your compensation system. However, when discussing monetary compensation, you always need to consider the total reward package as the different reward elements complement each other. Small and midsize companies have great opportunities to offset less competitive salaries and benefits with relational rewards.

Ch 1. Be Different: Aligning Compensation with Strategy

Being different is key to any effective strategy – and that includes designing a “strange” compensation plan that incentivizes the behaviors your customers and other stakeholder expect.

But make sure your comp plan aligns with your culture / core values or risk it being rejected. This is why it is dangerous to just copy someone else’s compensation plan.

Don’t look at people as a cost; they are an investment.

The first principle of compensation design is to Be Different. Strategy is about being perceived as different versus your competition.

The role of the compensation plan is to incentivize behaviors in your employees that your customers appreciate and make them reach for their wallest. Only then do your HR policies create true value for the firm and make you stand out in the marketplace.

Your People systems should be outright strange.

One of the Container Store’s core values is “1 Great Person = 3 Good People.” Therefore, they are willing to pay them up to twice as much as competitors.

The Container Store wants excellence and has the firm belief that performance differences among people are huge and that outstanding people deserve to be lavishly rewarded.

Incentives are powerful shapers of culture.

Your design choices should reflect your culture’s position about people and money. If you trust that team will always work hard, you will pay them a high fixed salary. If you don’t, you pay them variably. If you believe that competition among colleagues improves performance, you will pay individual bonuses. If you think cooperation produces better results, you will reward team bonuses.

Culture (and strategy) influences a company’s choice about compensation and vice versa. You need to start with a well-defined culture. Do you have three to five core values that describe the basic behavioral norms everybody in your organization has to follow?

Don’t just copy another company’s comp plan. Make it a critical part of your strategy.

The Good Jobs Strategy (coined by author Zeynep Ton) directs companies to pay people extremely well to put a powerful flywheel in motion that leads to operational excellence, loyal customers, and increased revenue and profits.

Mercadona, a follower of the Good Jobs Strategy, invests $5k per new employee in a four-week boot camp, offers intensive tutoring, gives regular salary increases, generous bonuses, 30 vacation days, and family-friendly schedules. It is Spain’s largest and most profitable supermarket chain and beats Walmart by a factor of 3x.

Worry about what people do, not what they cost. (From Jeffrey Pfeffer’s classic HBR article Six Dangerous Myths About Pay).

Costco pays 30-40% higher than Sam’s Club.

Netflix says: one outstanding employee gets more done and costs less than two adequate employees.

Hire fewer but far more productive people.

To be clear, the higher worker productivity at these Good Jobs Strategy firms is not the result of paying people higher salaries to work harder and smarter. The higher worker productivity is the result of getting the best talent and retaining them.

A compensation philosophy is a written statement that outlines how people in your organization are paid and why.

PwC pays low salaries but develops its people to land big jobs elsewhere.

KKR believes every employee of its portfolio companies should be an owner.

Unilever offers great management training with guaranteed promotions if goals are met.

Startups and scaleups can’t offer great salaries but can offer long-term wealth creation and dynamic work environments.

Ch 2. Fairness Not Sameness: Creating a Coherent and Flexible Base Pay Structure

Base compensation is rarely motivational – and raises are short-term in their impact. Base pay is considered a hygiene factor. As a company scales, it’s important to establish clear pay grades. Performance is not normally distributed, and thus pay shouldn’t be either.

The 3 drivers of base pay: competencies, sustained performance, relative labor market value

Read Pay People Right! by Zingheim and Schuster.

Base pay does not motivate. People won’t work harder because you increase their base pay. Base pay drives attracting and retaining talent.

However, paying people below what they consider fair is highly detrimental to motivation and performance.

Extrinsic fairness means your people are paid fairly relative to the market.

Intrinsic fairness means your people are paid fairly relative to their co-workers.

Perception of fairness is not logical. People’s assessment of fairness depends on how they feel about their boss.

Read 12 Elements of Great Managing by James Harter

Read First Break All The Rules by James Harter

Humans are not rational when it comes to pay. Receiving $1,000 less per year than the colleague next door can easily be perceived as a massive personal insult.

Although compensation is not rational, a well-thought-out pay structure can go a long way to reduce anxiety, social envy, and drama.

As your company grows, you must introduce pay structures, with standardized salaries and pay bands for jobs.

You might need to create two separate pay structures and career paths for Leaders (managers) and Makers (individual contributors). This allows individual contributors to advance in their career without having to become a manager.

Set up a pay structure early in your company’s life. Don’t wait.

Pay for high performance. For skilled jobs, high performers are 10x+ more productive.

When employees ask for a career path, this is often a coded way of asking “How can I make more money?” The solution: wider pay bands in your pay structure.

If competition and ambition are important values in your firm, a large pay band might make sense. If you want to foster values like solidarity and generosity instead, then you might want to limit the salary spread and pay people more equally.

Read Are You Paid What You’re Worth? by Michael O’Malley for help with pay structures.

Read The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan about leadership development.

Base salaries should be reviewed once per year for everyone, at the same time. Don’t be forced to a schedule based on employee start dates.

Don’t mix performance reviews and compensation reviews. Learning from performance feedback is difficult when money is on the table.

Increase base pay to adjust for: cost of living, promotions, increased responsibility, sustained high performance, relative market rates.

Tenure alone is not a good reason to give people a raise.

Quarterly Priorities, Critical Numbers, KPIs are great ways to assess high performance that can be rewarded with raises in base pay or payout incentives.

For smaller companies, a pragmatic way of reviewing performance and comp is for the direct manager to suggest increases and run them by a compensation committee (CEO, CFO, HR, trusted first-line employee).

A raise is only a raise for 30 days. After 30 days, a raise is just someone’s normal base salary.

It’s a sad fact that the majority of workers are financially weak, vulnerable, and living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Peter Drucker believes a healthy CEO:worker pay ratio is about 25:1.

Consider paying your workers weekly.

Consider teaching your workers personal finance management.

It’s hard to predict how people will react if they learn what their bosses or peers make. Until you have a very well thought out compensation system, keep your salaries confidential.

Ch 3. Easy on the Carrots: Using Individual Incentives Effectively

There are 8 conditions in which monetary rewards are effective, but they only rarely apply. Thus, go easy on the carrots.

Egon Zehnder does not pay any kind of performance bonus.

The main rationale is to foster tight cooperation and the long-term view that Zehnder adopted as a core element of its strategy.

Egon Zehnder uses its unique compensation system to retain long-serving consultants and to reward time invested in building client relationships instead of chasing the next deal.

Zehnder looks for consultants with two characteristics: in it for the long haul, team players.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton explain 3 effects of financial incentives in “Do Financial Incentives Drive Company Performance?”

1) Selection Effect: Do I want to work here, with people who care about this incentive?
2) Information Effect: What is important here?
3) Motivation Effect: Try harder for the reward

Some studies show financial rewards have little or no influence on work performance and can even be detrimental. Other studies show that financial rewards can have a positive effect on performance.

Bottom line is that financial incentives do work. The question is rather how they work and how they can best be applied in practice.

Inappropriately applied incentive schemes can have multiple “side effects”.

Unwanted side effect: too much of a good thing. Employees focus on the incentive at the expense of other job duties.

Unwanted side effect: too complex or too simple. A too-simple model ignores relevant variables and will not deliver optimal results. The right balance is rarely achieved.

Unwanted side effect: cooking the books. People can get creative about hitting the metric but not achieving the intended goal.

Unwanted side effect: performance measures tainted by biases. It’s rare to find a task that is measurable and dependent only on one person. Performance evaluations are subjective. 97% of executives believe they are among the top 10% of performers.

Eight conditions for successful incentive schemes: 1) role is repetitive and focused on one task; 2) goals are unambiguous and one-dimensional; 3) easy to measure both quality and quantity; 4) employee has complete control of process and outcome; 5) cheating or gaming the results is practically impossible; 6) role is independent; 7) employee is not expected to help or support others; 8) employee considers the incentive as meaningful and payout is frequent.

TMC abolished all individual and group incentives (except sales) and tied 80 percent of everybody’s bonus to the company’s financial performance.

Bosch eliminated all individual bonuses for all 378,000 employees.

Rockstar companies like Netflix, Mayo Cliic, and SAS Institute never had any performance bonuses.

Intrinsic motivation is much more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic motivation.

SAS avoided trying to attract people with money so that they don’t also leave for money.

For sales teams, it does make sense to additionally motivate people with monetary incentives.

Smaller firms often have difficulties competing with larger competitors in terms of base salary and benefits. But they can make up for the difference, especially if they are growing, by generously sharing the upside with their people.

“People now join us for our culture, development opportunities, and many other reasons, and we like that. Pay is still very attractive and up to 30-40 percent above industry average, but it is only one of several decision factors.”

Compensation is anything but an exact science. Human psychology is too complex to capture in universally valid formulas.

Ch 4. Gamify Gains: Driving Critical Numbers Through Play

Shorter-term gain-sharing plans are used to gamify the business and add a level of fun and excitement (and dopamine addiction) to achieving FAST (vs SMART) goals.

In a gain-sharing scheme, teams or even the entire company commit to moving the needle on what Jack Stack would call a critical number, i.e., a metric that points to a challenge of the business (productivity, spending, quality, customer service).

Because people engage and change their behavior purely to have fun, the monetary incentive becomes secondary or even irrelevant.

You can apply gain-sharing schemes as one-time thrusts to accomplish a particular objective and then move on to the next thing.

Group incentives have the advantage of fostering collaboration and teamwork.

Drawbacks are: 1) First, most people don’t want to depend on others when it comes to their pay. 2) Second, top performers are the least fond of group schemes. 3) Third, the free-rider effect (people slack because they trust that others will carry their load) can bring average performance down instead of up.

If you use gain-sharing schemes, make sure that individual performance is monitored as well.

A way to reduce unintended side effects of group incentives is to link rewards to metrics that reflect the overall performance of the organization, like company profit.

Organizational learning is an important by-product of gain-sharing schemes. People understand causalities and make better decisions because of these plans.

Walters tied everybody’s compensation to the achievements of the firm’s three annual priorities. Team members received a percentage of base salary when hitting the target for each priority.

Axiometrics’ priorities were operationalized through FAST goals (Frequently-discussed, Ambitious, Specific, Transparent–an update to the acronym SMART goals).

The real payout at Axiometrics was quarterly yet based upon YTD performance so that late performance could catch up with early non-performance.

Another example of a simple yet highly effective gain-sharing scheme is Continental Airlines’ punctuality bonus. It wasn’t the size of the bonus that mattered as much as the focus it brought to the airline’s on-time performance.

Sebastian at TMC paid a small bonus (= 0.5% of annual salary) to everybody when the team achieved the goals of the quarterly theme. It wasn’t the money that moved people to put in the extra effort but rather the game-like spirit these schemes created.

Read Great Game of Business by Jack Stack

Intermittent Reinforcement Schedules: Using financial and non-financial rewards in an irregular, ad hoc matter is an excellent tactic to increase the motivational effect and avoid the creation of entitlements.

Surprise bonuses are fun and tie into the one-minute manager concept of catching people doing the right thing.

“These surprise bonuses are one-time nonrecurring expenses,” concludes Berman. “They help to build culture and have been highly effective for me for a long time.”

TMC has the Invisible Hero Award. Anybody can suggest a colleague they think has made an extraordinary contribution or effort. The suggestion is presented and decided informally at the weekly senior leadership meeting. The award can be anything from a dinner for two to a voucher to a material gift. The upper limit per award is $ 1,000.

Verne advised HSN to turn its call centers into casino-like environments. Instead of earning a consistent bonus, reps earned the right to spin a big wheel installed in each call center.

Read Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels.

Non-monetary rewards come in countless forms: extra vacation days, sabbaticals, special projects, training or educational events (i.e., paying for a conference at an exotic location, including spouse or family), travel privileges (business class flight, 5-star hotel), or simply throwing a great party for your people.

Research indicates that non-monetary rewards have a more substantial impact on performance than monetary rewards of equivalent value.

People won’t remember the zeros on their bank statements, but they will never forget how you made them feel with that trip to Hawaii.

Paying for education is also more impactful than just handing over a check. Eg. Starbucks.

Spending money on others (whether coworkers or charity) increased the happiness and job satisfaction of givers and receivers and improved team performance.

Yes, many companies give to charity. But the twist of letting the employee choose the organization and deliver the money is crucial – the employee receives direct recognition by the charity for the gift instead of the company.

Some employees and teams will value non-monetary rewards over monetary. The idea of non-monetary rewards also allows you to customize your compensation for specific employees.

Incentives can trigger a great variety of responses in people, and the exact causes of behavior changes are difficult to establish. Variables like leadership, culture, or training influence heavily, regardless.

Ch 5. Sharing Is Caring: Getting Employees to Think Like Owners

Profit-sharing is also a way for mid-market firms to compete for talent. Longer-term value sharing (stock and stock options) goes even further in aligning the interests of owners and employees.

Phantom stock is a special form of value sharing that retains control for the owners but can create liquidity issues.

Rothschild of Access Fixtures implemented a profit-sharing plan in 2019 where 20 percent of the firm’s annual pre-tax profit is distributed on a pro-rata salary basis among his employees,

“For me to make serious money, the employees need to get a serious bonus.”

Profit-sharing often leads to sharing P&L information with employees.

Improving individual and group performance with financial incentives can be tricky. Yet as discussed, pay schemes like Zehnder’s or Access Fixtures’ that link rewards to the performance of the entire organization produce far fewer issues.

What’s the effect of profit-sharing on employee behavior? First and foremost, it is a way of aligning the interests of shareholders and employees (the information effect). Employees tend to decide more like owners when they have skin in the game.

Profit-sharing also helps attract employees and keep them loyal (the selection effect). If profit sharing is a significant component of overall compensation, employees are incentivized to stick around until their share is paid out.

At Allied Printing, 50% of the annual bonus is paid sometime after the end of the year, so it doesn’t get lumped in with base pay in employees’ minds. You don’t want annual bonuses to become entitlements.

The other 50% of the bonus then vests over the next six years, and is divided equally into six chunks. These future buckets of money increase with each year, and employees only receive them if they are still with the firm.

But as Steve Rothschild found out, profit sharing is not effective if you want people to work harder (the motivation effect). A profit goal is too aggregated and detached from people’s work, and first-line employees generally have little influence on the outcome. The payout is also too far away from the task.

The problem can be partially overcome with an open-book policy and financial education as promoted by Jack Stack and the Great Game of Business approach.

Cascading priorities, KPIs, and a planning process that drives top-down strategy and bottom-up execution, which are at the heart of the Scaling Up methodology, can also provide this critical line-of-sight between the employee’s task and the firm’s profits.

A profit-sharing scheme is a gesture of fairness and a way for owners to reward those who generated the profit in the first place.

Read Ownership Thinking by Brad Hams.

1) It is best to include all employees in the plan, from the cleaning staff to the CEO.

2) Profit-sharing shouldn’t happen from the first dollar. Start from a minimum threshold that allows the company to serve a return on capital, be it in the form of a minimum dividend to shareholders, debt repayment, or recapitalization of profits.

3) The amount of profit that you aspire to generate in the upcoming period should be determined.

4) Decide the percentage of profits (beyond the minimum threshold) that you want to dedicate to the pool. He would not cap the plan but generously share whatever profit was generated beyond the profit goal.

5) Decide how to distribute. One option is to distribute equally. The more common solution is to pay the amount in proportion to the employee’s base salary. A third option is to differentiate the percentage according to job levels (first-line, coordinators, managers, execs, etc.).

6) Profit sharing is generally done on an annual basis but consider half-yearly or quarterly payouts

7) Consider conditioning the payout based on available cash flow as profitable years can occur with poor cash flow. You also want to pro-rata the payout for people who have recently joined or already left the company.

8) An open-book policy is critical for any profit-sharing program. Management maverick Ricardo Semler, who implemented a generous profit-sharing program at the Brazilian equipment manufacturer Semco, shares regularly financial updates with employees.

9) To avoid entitlements, don’t give consolation prizes when profits are down.

The danger of profit-sharing programs is that they can incite short-term thinking, i.e., sacrificing future “good” profits for today’s “bad” profits.

That’s why it is best to combine such short-term programs (which are appreciated by employees because they also provide short-term payouts), with long-term, value sharing programs, (e.g., stock, stock options, performance units),

If you would like to share profits with your team but want to avoid the dangers of short-termism, then value sharing schemes are an option to consider. Value sharing is the category name for financial instruments that grant employees either real ownership (stock or stock options) or similar economic rights linked to the value of the company (phantom stock, performance units, etc.).

Read and

Once people are on board, value-sharing programs also have a retention effect because of the long payout and vesting periods of these instruments.

Value-sharing programs also communicate what is important to employees (information effect). Partial ownership is enough to reinforce the role of employees as stewards of the company’s assets and interests. Owners and employees share the risks and rewards associated with the business activity and align their interests through these programs. Employees who are also owners think and act more long-term, strategically, and holistically.

As with profit-sharing, it is beneficial to allow all employees to participate in the growing value of a company. Freeman’s research shows that the broad-based programs are the most successful.

Industrial firms like Chobani and Harley Davidson have granted large amounts of stock to their team, including all their blue-collar workers.

There are several ways of implementing a value-sharing program.

Do I allow employees to participate in the full value of the company or only in the appreciation of the value from the moment you grant these titles?

An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is a form of equity sharing with significant tax advantages for owners and employees that is unique to the US.

An ESOP is costly to maintain, given compliance and administrative burdens. Get solid legal and financial advice before you pursue an ESOP.

Phantom stock is a private contract between company and employee wherein the company promises to pay cash to the employee upon certain conditions. The agreement replicates the financial outcomes of granting restricted stock but with fewer strings attached.

Phantom stock will not be the right choice for everyone (e.g., stock options are much better if you are going for an IPO), but we would encourage you to explore this less-known option.

Closing: Get Pay Right and Out of Sight

The plan needs to be fair in the sense that employees feel their salary is an expression of your respect, appreciation, and equitable treatment.

First, your compensation plans consider the inscrutable nature of human psychology–the counterintuitive and irrational perceptions and reactions people have to compensation decisions.

The Gap and The Gain by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

The Big Idea: When you measure yourself against an ideal, you focus on the GAP. When you measure yourself against where you where before, you focus on the GAIN. Focus on the GAIN for happiness and success.

INTRODUCTION Why Most People Aren’t Happy

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

By embracing the pursuit of happiness, we rob ourselves of happiness in the here and now.

You’re in the GAP every time you measure yourself or your situation against an ideal.

Being in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before.

CHAPTER 1 EMBRACE THE FREEDOM OF “WANTS”: Avoid the Attachment of “Needs”

People in high-stakes situations make the best choices when in a state of gratitude.

Naval Ravikant said: “Training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation. You’re competing against yourself—it is a single-player game.”

There’s a common perception that in order to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to be completely obsessed.

You can be 100% committed to something and simultaneously not need it.

Obsessive passion is highly impulsive and fueled by suppressed emotions and unresolved internal conflict.

Harmonious passion, on the other hand, is intrinsically motivated and healthy.

Harmonious passion is related to having high levels of grit, whereas obsessive passion is not.

You’re playing the long game. You’re playing your own game. You’re not competing with anyone else.

You’re genuinely happy. You also love what you’re working on and building. You’re committed and focused,

Being in the GAP means you’re still trying to free yourself FROM something. You’re trying to fill a GAP.

The GAP is based on an unhealthy “need” or attachment to something outside of yourself.

The GAIN is based on being in harmony with what you want, and knowing that you don’t need it.

When you’re in the GAIN, you live your life based on intrinsic motivation and harmonious passion, which creates flow and high performance.

CHAPTER 2 BE SELF-DETERMINED: Define Your Own Success Criteria

Being fixated on outside reference points puts you in the GAP. Being directed by your own internal reference points strengthens being in the GAIN.

Social media is largely designed to put people into the GAP.

The antidote to being in the GAP is to measure yourself by the GAIN. More specifically, you measure your own GAINS,

“Before you start the process with a new goal, make sure to recognize and appreciate the progress and achievements you’ve made so far.”

Spend 20 to 30 minutes with no distractions writing down your answer to this question: “I know I’m being successful when…”

Defining your own success criteria is how you become self-determined.

With every decision or opportunity, every member of the rowing team asked themselves: WILL IT MAKE THE BOAT GO FASTER?

External reference points make it impossible to feel successful because no matter what you’ve done, the success criteria are always moving.

The GAP means your life is determined by someone or something external.

When your reference point is internal, happiness and success are always right here and right now.


If you’re continually stressed or upset, you’re wearing your physical body down.

Being in the GAIN is restorative, healing, and empowering.

Optimistic people often live 10+ years longer.

Comparison makes you unhappy.

The GAIN also has a tangible physical effect—it is light, energizing, freeing, and confidence building.

Stop comparing and start practicing gratitude.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Being grateful helps you appreciate your GAINS.

Call yourself out when you catch yourself in the GAP.

Tell five people you know and love about The GAP and The GAIN. Give those five people permission to call you out when you’re in the GAP.

Mental subtraction is one of the most effective science-based techniques for boosting gratitude and happiness. Imagine life without something and you will learn not to take it for granted.

Have a pre-plan for how you’ll deal with obstacles. Have a pre-planned response for any situation.

BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, has a breakthrough method—called Tiny Habits — which is a simple and practical way of applying implementation intentions.

CHAPTER 4 ALWAYS MEASURE BACKWARD: Increase Your Hope and Resilience

If you’re not regularly reminded of the GAINS, it’s easy to go into the GAP and lose hope.

Seeing GAINS gives you hope, confidence, and motivation to keep going — even when progress is difficult.

It is incredibly powerful and important to keep journals, records, or “annual reviews.”

“There’s only one way to measure success. You measure success backward by looking at where you are now compared to where you were before.”

Don’t let your past be forgotten. Always measure backward.

Make a bullet point list of all your specific GAINS over the past 3 years.

You should always be outgrowing your former self.

Pull your journal back out and start listing the GAINS you’ve made over the previous 90 days.

Keeping a journal or annual review process is powerful because it allows you to tap back into the context of your former self, and see the massive GAINS.

Take time regularly to measure your GAINS for different time frames. Always measure backward.

CHAPTER 5 MEASURE 3 WINS DAILY: Maximize the Highest-Leverage Hour of Your Day

The last hour of your day can be a GAIN hour — one that positively transforms how you sleep as well as your entire next day. What you do during the hour before your bedtime — the “sweet spot” — is critically important.

Staring at your phone right before bed is one of the worst things you can do.

Your day can be designed proactively, rather than designed reactively, where you’re bounced around by distractions.

In the hour before bed, Josh Waitzkin gives himself time to think about the most important question he’s trying to answer or problem he’s trying to solve. He then sleeps on it, and the next morning, “pre-input,” he meditates and journals about the same question or problem he was thinking about the night before.

As Thomas Edison said, “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.”

I’m a huge believer in planning your day and thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish the night before. Then, in the morning, and before you start looking at your phone, give yourself space to meditate and journal about your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.”—Jim Rohn

Research shows that writing down three things you’re grateful for each day increases your happiness.

Writing three wins from the day not only boosts your gratitude but simultaneously boosts your confidence.

Rather than having 10 items on your to-do list, have no more than three.

End your day feeling awesome by writing down your three wins. Then write down the three most important wins you can get the next day.

Always measure backward. Measure three wins each day. Get yourself committed and excited for three wins tomorrow.

Measuring your progress is a powerful signal that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Text your three wins today and three wins tomorrow to your success partner.

What you do during the 60 minutes before bed has an enormous impact on your sleep quality, as well as the direction and quality of your next day.

Unplug from your phone and put it on airplane mode at least 30–60 minutes before sleep.

Write in your journal three wins from that day.

Write down the three biggest wins you’ll get the next day.

Having a daily accountability partner combines tracking and reporting.

Report your three wins for today and your three wins for tomorrow.


Everything happens for you, not to you.

The GAIN, on the other hand, puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life. You decide what your experiences mean.

A fundamental aspect of flexibility is what psychologists call pathways thinking, and it’s the ability to find or create many workable paths to a given outcome.

“Successful people don’t control events; they control their response to events.”

By taking full ownership of your experiences and past, you can do whatever you want with them.

When you can take a negative experience and learn a lesson from it that you can apply positively to the future, you’re transforming the negative experience.

Being in the GAIN allows you to transform your experiences into GAINS, and give them the meanings you choose.

When you’re in the GAIN, you become better because of challenging experiences. You become antifragile.

Seeing every experience as a GAIN makes you antifragile. Turning every experience — even your hardest — into a GAIN makes you antifragile.

CONCLUSION Life, Liberty, and the Expansion of Happiness

There is a much better formula for happiness, confidence, and success: always measure backward. “Measuring backward” means you measure your progress based on where you were before.

Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

The Big Idea: “How do I achieve this goal?” Although this question seems intuitive, it’s actually the worst possible question you could ask. A much better question is: “Who can help me achieve this?”

It takes vulnerability and trust to expand your efforts and build a winning team. It takes wisdom to recognize that other people are more than capable enough to handle much of the Hows. You’re going to need to shift from a How-mentality to a Who-mentality, regardless of your level of personal talent, commitment, or genius.

Who Not How is truly that simple. You define the vision, find the Who or Whos, and let them create the result.

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Not only must the Who fully own the How, but they must have complete permission to do so. If you’re going to apply higher levels of teamwork in your life, you’ll need to relinquish control over how things get done. You’ll need to put your trust in capable Whos, giving them full permission to own their Hows.


The way you increase your potential efficacy, or self-expansion, is by creating close relationships, which in turn, increases material and social resources, perspectives, and identities.

If you’re focused on doing everything yourself, then you are dramatically limiting the resources you can direct toward your goals.

Relationships are how you produce results. Anyone who becomes highly successful does so through relationships. Employees, collaborators, and consultants work for you not because they are beneath you, but because they believe in you.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Getting Whos involved in your goals is an investment.


Ask yourself: Who can help me accomplish this goal?

The first thing we must learn then is to clearly define what we want.

You’ll need to ensure your vision also matches their vision for themselves, and that you can clearly become a powerful Who to them.

That’s one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs and leaders make: micromanaging their Whos and insisting that they do their jobs in a particular way. Let your Who do their How.

Leadership involves being clear and explicit about the vision.

There are countless brilliant and capable Whos out there waiting and wanting to help you.


Breaking down your goals into 90-day increments is good for focus and motivation.

Add at least one Who to your goals in the next 90 days in whatever area of your life you choose.

Your potential is virtually limitless when you stop asking “How?” and start asking “Who?”

Every 90 days, you can free up your time, energy, and focus by getting Whos to support your ambitions in all aspects of your life.


“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” —Peter Drucker

Every time you free yourself up by investing in a Who, you’ve just made a huge investment in yourself. You no longer have to deal with decision fatigue.

Remember the new question you must master: “Who can help me achieve this goal?”

By freeing up your time, you get the invaluable benefit of freeing up your mind.

By freeing up your time, you can focus on higher impact activities—such as strategizing or creating—which will automatically increase your income.


Every human being has three basic psychological needs related to their work: mastery, autonomy, relationships.

Too many leaders obsessively micromanage the process of their Whos.

It is the role of the leader to determine the “what” and to provide clarity, feedback, and direction when needed. It is not the role of the leader to explain how the job is done.

Leaders should be committed to results, not to a particular process.

Rather than micromanaging the process, leadership should provide freedom and autonomy as well as extreme clarity and high standards of excellence.


By doing everything yourself, you miss out on unfathomable growth that comes by investing in Whos and utilizing your time and efforts on higher impact activities.

When you’re investment-minded, you’re not short-term in your thinking. You consider the bigger picture, and you look at how you can help the right people, without coming across as transactional.

If you’re cost-minded, then by nature, you’re transactional and short-term focused. You’ll see Whos as a cost.

If you’re investment-minded, then you will be transformational in your relationships and long-term focused.

Focusing on How will greatly limit your ability to make money.

When you focus on How, it’s often based on a scarcity mind-set and cost avoidance.

By seeing Whos as an investment, rather than a cost, you can quickly 10X or more your income and revenue.


The remainder of this chapter details Joe Polish’s philosophy and strategies on relationships.

Rather than asking, “What’s in it for me?” which is the common question, Joe asks, “What’s in it for them?”

Before Joe connects with someone, he does his homework.

When creating relationships with Whos, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”

When you’re grateful, people will want to help you more. They’ll want to work with you and be around you. Gratitude attracts and creates abundance.


When you begin saying “no” to people, obligations, and situations you don’t feel fully aligned with in your gut, then and only then will you be able to expand your confidence and purpose.


“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” —Reid Hoffman

You’ve got to be open to other people’s ideas. You are only one person. As brilliant as you are, your current views are very limited at best.

Done is better than perfect.

Wherever you see brilliant work happening, collaboration is happening. You don’t have all the answers.

It’s wise to consider yourself ignorant on most things, and to seek other people’s perspectives and solutions.

Ask for help when you need it.

Seek to be a hero to those you work with, and you’ll do your best work for them.


Focusing on “How” makes you rigid and non-collaborative in your thinking.

Focusing on “How” stresses you out, because you’re already busy and can’t juggle it all.

Focusing on “How” leads you to being isolated in your goals, and ultimately slows your progress.

Collaboration immediately expands your Freedom of Purpose and vision, because what you can do with others is exponentially more than what you can do by yourself.

Collaboration allows you to focus on what you want to focus on and not feel guilty about getting help.


While touring NASA, JFK introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor’s reply was both surprising and inspiring. “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” he told the president.

When driven by purpose, you stop doing the minimum required. You really go deep within yourself. You become a creator. You become willing to go above and beyond the “call of duty.”

Topgrading by Brad Smart

The Big Idea: Create job scorecards instead of job descriptions. Use 1) Screening Interviews, 2) Topgrading tandem interviews, and 3) Reference Check interviews to identify A-players for your company.

Chapter 1: What is Topgrading?

  • Have high standards for all positions.
  • Filter out B’s and C’s early.
  • A player is someone who is in top 10% for the salary level.
  • Don’t settle for a B player at an A price.
  • Hiring a B or C player costs you more in the long run.

Ch 2: Calculate the cost of your mis-hires.

  • The average cost of a mis-hire (or failed internal promotion) is 15x base salary.
  • Think of Topgrading as Six Sigma for hiring, intended to minimize hiring mistakes.

Ch 3: Begin Topgrading from the top down.

  • B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them.
  • A players hire A players.
  • Start with an executive team of only A players.
  • CEO needs to be the Topgrading champion.
  • 1. Conduct a talent review of everyone on the team
  • 2. Create scorecards for key roles
  • 3. Build your virtual bench of A players and A potentials
  • 4. Learn how to conduct: screening interviews, top grading interviews, reference check interviews
  • Topgrading takes time but pays off in the long run.

Ch 4: Conduct a talent review to identify your A-player.

  • Rank all employees, then rate them as A, A potential, or non A.
  • Some A players are promotion material; some A players are content to stay in the same role.
  • Be honest about the talent review.
  • Be disciplined about conducting talent reviews regularly.

Ch 5: Create scorecards that guarantee accountability and fit.

  • A job scorecard is very different than a job description.
  • Defines key accountabilities that define an A-level performance
  • Defines competencies that define a good fit
  • Most job descriptions are just a list of tasks, without accountability or metrics.

Ch 6: Strength your virtual bench.

  • Always be talent scouting, all the time, everywhere.
  • Always be developing relationships with potential A players.
  • Don’t rely on recruiters, though they can be useful in a pinch.
  • Don’t rely on HR to source A players.
  • Start today by asking every A player to introduce you to an A player they know.
  • Your virtual bench can grow cold if you don’t keep it warm.
  • Stay in touch with your virtual bench, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.

Ch 7: Interview to identify performance patterns.

  • Topgrading interviews are not like conventional interviews.
  • Topgrading interviews are carefully sequenced, tightly structured, and aimed squarely at topics with the richest information payload.
  • Most people need to conduct at least a dozen Topgrading interviews to become proficient.
  • Screening interviews > Topgrading interviews > Reference Check interviews

Ch 8: Screen A’s in, screen out B’s and C’s.

  • Screening interviews take about an hour.
  • Screening interviews start with a good job scorecard.
  • A carefully crafted resume can hide gaps and red flags.
  • A career history form requires a candidate to account for every year and month since the person has been working full-time jobs.
  • A career history form asks for compensation history (base, bonus, other), supervisor information, education, strengths/weaknesses.
  • A career history form sets the tone for a rigorous selection process, which A players will appreciate.
  • Four questions to ask:
  • 1. Candidates career goals
  • 2. What the person is really good at professionally
  • 3. What the person is not good at or not interested in doing
  • 4. Last five bosses, what each would say is candidates strengths/weaknesses and overall rating
  • Screening interviews are done over phone/video.
  • If screening interview indicates an A player is not interested in the position now, add them to virtual bench.

Ch 9: Use Topgrading interviews to explore candidates strengths and weaknesses.

  • Don’t skimp on the Topgrading interview.
  • Four important areas: school, work history, career goals, competencies
  • Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.
  • Ask about high school and college.
  • For each job ask:
  • 1. What were you hired to do?
  • 2. What were your accomplishments?
  • 3. What failures or mistakes were made in this job, and what did you learn from them?
  • 4. What talent did you inherit (A’s, A potentials, and Non-A’s), what changes did you make to this talent mix, and what talent did you end up with?
  • 5. What were the people like that you worked for, and how would they rate you?
  • 6. Why did you leave?
  • At the end, spend 10 minutes asking about career goals: next job, next company, next boss, next 5-10 years.
  • After that, ask more specific questions about competencies.
  • Save the selling for later.
  • Expect up to four hours for a Topgrading interview.
  • Because interviews can be exhausting, tandem interview with a partner.

Ch 10: Use Reference Check interviews to test your opinions.

  • Traditional reference checks are a waste of time.
  • In Topgrading reference checks, you decide who to contact, you choose the questions, the candidate sets up the interview.
  • No references, no job offer.
  • Ask references:
  • 1. The situation or context they worked in with the candidate
  • 2. The candidate’s strengths and weaknesses (with examples)
  • 3. How they would rate the person’s overall performance in that job
  • 4. Further elaboration or insight regarding something specific the candidate admitted to struggling with in that job (a creative way of gathering more information about weaknesses)
  • A players tend to stay in touch with their previous bosses. Even if they’ve lost touch, they’ll be resourceful enough to find them again.
  • You’ll probably have better luck if you contact the reference person at home, preferably on the weekend.

Ch 11: Redeploy chronic B and C players.

  • Redeploy B and C players to another role in the company where they can be A players, or redeploy them to another company with severance and outplacement counseling.
  • Four redeployment strategies:
  • 1. Hatchet
  • 2. Ostrich
  • 3. Topgrader (decide professionally, redeploy professionally)
  • 4. Wimp
  • Genuine sympathy + quick but fair decisions

Ch 12: Coach and keep A players.

  • Keep A players challenged, happy, and engaged.
  • Because your B and C players take up most of your time, don’t forget to appreciate your A players.
  • Invest more of your time in developing A and A potential players.
  • A players will automatically work on their strengths, so spend majority of your time helping them on their weaknesses that could sabotage their career success.
  • Some competencies are easy to improve on then others.
  • 1. Relatively Easy to Change: Risk taking, Leading edge, Education, Experience, Organization/planning, Self-awareness, Communications–oral, Communications–written, First impression, Customer focus, Political savvy, Selecting A players, Redeploying B/C players, Coaching/training, Goal setting, Empowerment, Performance management, Running meetings, Compatibility of needs
  • 2. Harder but Do-able: Judgment, Strategic skills, Pragmatism, Track record, Resourcefulness,, Excellence standards, Independence, Stress management, Adaptability, Likability, Listening,, Team player, Negotiation skills, Persuasiveness, Team builder, Change leadership, Inclusivity (diversity), Conflict management, Credible vision, Balance in life
  • 3. Very Difficult to Change: Intelligence, Analysis skills, Creativity, Conceptual ability, Integrity, Assertiveness, Inspiring followership, Energy, Passion, Ambition, Tenacity

Ch 13: Overcome obstacles to Topgrading.

  • Objection: “I can’t get my B and C players to hire A players.” Solution: Topgrade from the top down.
  • Objection: “We think we’re hiring A players, but they turn out to be B or C players in disguise.” Solution: Perform more accurate assessments using the Topgrading interview, preferably in tandem.
  • Objection: “We can’t afford to hire A players.” Solution: There are A players at every salary.
  • Objection: “I don’t want to fire loyal B and C players.” Solution: redeploy them to another role, with a narrower set of responsibilities and lower pay.

Ch 14: Take ten steps to implement Topgrading successfully.

  • 1. All managers read Topgrading and work through the self-paced Topgrading DVD.
  • 2. Senior managers participate in a Topgrading Workshop.
  • 3. Human Resources participates in a Topgrading Workshop
  • 4. All managers who have participated in a Topgrading Workshop use tandem Topgrading interviews, Career History Form, Reference Checks.
  • 5. Topgrading consultants sometimes conduct a “second opinion”.
  • 6. Topgrading professionals or internal Topgrading interviewers assess senior managers using Topgrading interviews and 360s and prepares a professional development plan.
  • 10. Topgrading assessments (using tandem interviews along with 360s) are used before every major promotion.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

The Big Idea: The Stoics believed a good life is the pursuit of the cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. We can’t control our fate, only how we think and act.


The Stoic school in particular focused on the practical side of Socratic philosophy.

The philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers.

I believe that for many people a combination of Stoic philosophy and CBT may be even more suited for use as a long-term preventive approach.


Marcus was a naturally loving and affectionate man, deeply affected by loss. He’d lived long enough to see eight of their thirteen children die.

Everyone from Alexander the Great right down to his lowly mule driver ends up lying under the same ground.

Once we truly accept our own demise as an inescapable fact of life, it makes no more sense for us to wish for immortality.

As death is among the most certain things in life, to a man of wisdom it should be among the least feared.

The cardinal virtues of Stoicism are: wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

We can no more hold on to life than grasp the waters of a rushing stream.

Marcus Aurelius was the last famous Stoic of the ancient world.

The ancient philosophy of Cynicism focused on cultivating virtue and strength of character through rigorous training that consisted of enduring various forms of “voluntary hardship.”

The Cynics sneered at the pretentious and bookish nature of Plato’s Academy. The Academics, in turn, thought the doctrines of the Cynics were crude and too extreme.

Zeno founded his own school in a public building overlooking the agora known as the Stoa Poikile, or “Painted Porch.” The students who gathered there were originally known as Zenonians but later called themselves Stoics, after the stoa, or porch.

After Zeno died, Cleanthes, one of his students, who had formerly been a boxer and watered gardens at night to earn a living, became head of the Stoic school; he was followed by Chrysippus, one of the most acclaimed intellectuals of the ancient world.

Emperor Nero’s secretary owned a slave called Epictetus, who became perhaps the most famous philosophy teacher in Roman history. Epictetus is the most quoted author in The Meditations.


The three famous Roman Stoic texts of the Imperial era: Seneca’s various letters and essays, Epictetus’s Discourses and Handbook, and Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations.

They loved wisdom, or loved virtue, above everything else. If “virtue” sounds a bit pompous, the Greek word for it, arete, is arguably better translated as “excellence of character.”

The Stoics adopted the Socratic division of cardinal virtues into wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

Health, wealth, and reputation are, at most, advantages or opportunities rather than being good in themselves.

The true goal of life for Stoics isn’t to acquire as many external advantages as possible but to use whatever befalls us wisely, whether it be sickness or health, wealth or poverty, friends or enemies.

Another popular misconception today is that Stoics are unemotional. When people talk about being stoic or having a stiff upper lip, they often mean just suppressing their feelings, which is actually known to be quite unhealthy.


Marcus was born on April 26, 121 as a member of a wealthy patrician family with ties to the emperor. Marcus’s family, though wealthy and influential, was notable for cherishing honesty and simplicity.

Young Marcus displayed a tendency toward plain speaking.

The Stoics would sometimes also train themselves to endure heat and cold. Seneca described taking cold baths and swimming in the River Tiber at the beginning of the year—and cold showers are popular with those influenced by Stoicism today.

In The Meditations, Marcus names Epictetus as an exemplary philosopher alongside Socrates and Chrysippus, 10 and quotes him more than any other author.

Hadrian adopted Antoninus on condition that he would in turn adopt Marcus, placing him in direct line to the throne. Hadrian thereby adopted Marcus as his grandson. Marcus Annius Verus assumed Antoninus’s family name, becoming forever known as Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

Marcus preferred to dress down and talk plainly like a philosopher or, failing that, an ordinary citizen.

Plato’s saying was always on Marcus’s lips: those states prospered where the philosophers were kings or the kings philosophers.

Apollonius taught Marcus the doctrines of Stoic philosophy while showing him how to apply them in daily life.

Stoicism distinguished between two stages of our response to any event. First come the initial impressions (phantasiai), then, second, we typically add voluntary judgments of “assent” (sunkatatheseis) to these automatic impressions. Responding calmly and with courage is more important.

Stoic philosophy, which teaches us to accept our involuntary emotional reactions, our flashes of anxiety, as indifferent: neither good nor bad. What matters is how we respond to those feelings.


Marcus tells himself that true philosophy is both simple and modest, and we should never be seduced into vanity or ostentation in this regard.

The Sophists, as we’ve seen, sought to persuade others by appealing to their emotions, typically in order to win praise. The Stoics, by contrast, placed supreme value on grasping and communicating the truth by appealing to reason.

Whereas orators traditionally sought to exploit the emotions of their audience, the Stoics made a point of consciously describing events in plain and simple terms.

As an aspiring Stoic, you should begin by practicing deliberately describing events more objectively and in less emotional terms.

Cognitive therapists use the neologism “catastrophizing,” or dwelling on the worst-case scenario, to help explain to clients how we project our values onto external events.

Ask “What would Marcus do?”

It’s a contradiction to believe both that you must do something and also that it’s not within your power to do so. The Stoics viewed this confusion as the root cause of most emotional suffering.

Marcus was relatively indifferent to dying as long as he met his death with wisdom and virtue. This used to be known as the ideal of a “good death,”


Rusticus was one of three tutors, along with Apollonius of Chalcedon and Sextus of Chaeronea, who exemplified Stoicism for him as a way of life.

Only the very wisest among us ever truly know ourselves. The New Testament likewise asks why we look at the tiny splinter of wood in our brother’s eye yet pay no attention to the great plank of wood obscuring our own view.

Galen’s solution to this problem is for us to find a suitable mentor who can properly identify our vices and tell us frankly where we’re going astray in life.

Alexander was the most powerful man in the known world. However, when Alexander asked Diogenes if there was anything he could do for him, the Cynic is supposed to have replied that he could step aside, as he was blocking the sun.

If the real goal for Stoics is wisdom, then sometimes just blurting out the truth isn’t enough. We have to put more effort into communicating with others effectively. Diplomacy was, of course, particularly important to Marcus. Throughout Marcus’s reign, he doubtlessly averted many serious problems through his patient diplomacy and sensitive use of language.

We should welcome criticism from others as one of life’s inevitabilities and turn it to our advantage by making all men into our teachers.

Marcus makes it clear that we must train ourselves to discriminate good advice from bad and learn not to preoccupy ourselves with the opinions of foolish people.

Stoic mentoring into a kind of mindfulness practice. Imagining that we’re being observed helps us to pay more attention to our own character and behavior.

In modern therapy, it’s common for clients who are making progress to wonder between sessions what their therapist might say about the thoughts they have.

Marcus, like other ancient philosophers, conjured the images of various advisors and role models in his mind.

The story of Zeno begins with him being given the cryptic advice to “take on the color of dead men” by studying the wisdom of previous generations.

Writing down virtues exhibited by someone you respect, mulling them over, and revising them gives you an opportunity to process them. With practice, you will be able to visualize the character traits you’re describing more easily.

“What would Marcus do?”

Marcus discusses how to prepare for the day in The Meditations. In the morning you prepare for the day ahead; throughout the day you try to live consistently in accord with your values; and in the evening you review your progress and prepare to repeat the cycle again the next day.

By deeply reflecting on our values each day and attempting to describe them concisely, we can develop a clearer sense of direction in life. Socratic questioning forms part of an approach called “values clarification,” which has been around since the 1970s.

The Stoic cardinal virtues are: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you? What do you really want your life to stand for or represent? What do you want to be remembered for after you’re dead? What sort of person do you most want to be in life? What sort of character do you want to have? • What would you want written on your tombstone?


“The Choice of Hercules.” This ancient allegory about choosing our path in life plays a special role in the history of Stoicism. Hercules famously chose the heroic path of Arete, or “Virtue,” and was not seduced by Kakia, or “Vice.”

What we’re all really seeking in life is the sense of authentic happiness or fulfillment the Stoics called eudaimonia.

Chasing empty, transient pleasures can never lead to true happiness in the long run.

The Stoics taught Marcus that we all seek a deeper and more lasting sense of fulfillment. They taught him that this could only be obtained by realizing our inner potential and living in accord with our core values.

The life of Hercules had something far more satisfying than pleasure: it had purpose.

“Nothing in excess.” The Stoics believed that entertainment, sex, food, and even alcohol have their place in life—they’re neither good nor bad in themselves. However, when pursued excessively, they can become unhealthy.

The Stoics tended to view joy not as the goal of life, which is wisdom, but as a by-product of acting in accord with virtue.

The Stoics encourage you to appreciate the external things Fortune has given you, without becoming overly attached to them.

There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in healthy experiences, as long as it’s not carried to excess.

A simple framework for evaluating and changing your behavior based on a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and ancient Stoic practices is…

  1. Plan new activities that are consistent with your core values.
  2. Contemplate the qualities you admire in other people.
  3. Practice gratitude for the things you already have in life.

Reduce bad habits and introduce more activities that are intrinsically valued and rewarding.

Epictetus therefore told his students to envision the consequences of an action and determine how it would work out for them over time.

Therapists find it helpful to ask their clients of their habits, “How’s that working out in the long run?”

The Stoics often reminded themselves of the paradox that unhealthy emotions such as fear and anger actually do us more harm than the things we’re upset about.

Learning self-control may ultimately do us more good than obtaining all the external things we desire.

If you’re determined to break this sort of habit, you can remove temptation.

You want to be a role model for your children, you should ask yourself what sort of person you are and what qualities you want to exhibit.

Seeing that two beliefs are incompatible can weaken one or both of them and help you clarify your core values.

Healthy pleasures and even a deeper sense of joy may follow as the consequence of living in accord with virtue.

The first and most important source of joy is progress toward wisdom and virtue.

Schedule beneficial activities

Practice gratitude by asking, what would it be like if you didn’t have this? If we don’t occasionally picture loss, reminding ourselves what life might be like without the things and people we love, we would take them for granted.

The wise man is grateful for the gifts life has given him, but he also reminds himself that they are merely on loan—everything changes and nothing lasts forever.


Marcus Aurelius was known for his physical frailty, due to chronic health problems, but he was also known for his exceptional resilience.

Epicurus coined the maxim “a little pain is contemptible, and a great one is not lasting.” We should remind ourselves, Epicurus said, that pain is always bearable because it is either acute or chronic but never both.

Everyday tolerance of minor physical discomforts can help us build lasting psychological resilience, in other words. You could call this a form of stress inoculation.

Taking cold showers allows us to build resilience to discomfort.

Stoics say that the fear of pain does us far more harm than pain itself because it injures our very character.

Fear of pain makes cowards out of us all and limits our sphere of life.

Remind yourself that Nature has given you both the capacity to exercise courage and the endurance to rise above pain.

Modern mindfulness and acceptance-based cognitive therapy teaches clients to neither suppress unpleasant feelings nor to worry about them. Instead, you should learn to accept them while remaining detached from them.

Health is not really good or bad. It’s more like an opportunity. A foolish person may squander the advantages good health provides by indulging in his vices. A wise and good person, by contrast, may use both health and illness as opportunities to exercise virtue.

“This too shall pass,”

As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”


The obstacle standing in the way becomes the way.

Fortune favors the brave, as the Roman poets said.

The concept of a “reserve clause” such as “God willing” means undertaking any action while calmly accepting that the outcome isn’t entirely under your control.

We learn from Seneca and others that nothing is certain in life. You cannot control the outcome, only your own thoughts and actions.

The Stoics prepared themselves to cope with adversity by patiently visualizing every major type of misfortune, one at a time, as if it were already happening to them. Seneca calls this praemeditatio malorum, or the “premeditation of adversity.”

In times of peace, we should prepare for war.

The Stoics realized that exposure to real (or imagined) events can lead to “emotional habituation,” allowing anxiety to abate naturally. If exposure is terminated too soon, the technique may actually backfire and increase anxiety and sensitization to the feared situation.

Marcus tells himself that resilience comes from his ability to regain his composure wherever he finds himself. This is the “inner citadel” to which he can retreat.

Everything that we see is changing and will soon be gone. We can call the “contemplation of impermanence.”

External things cannot touch the soul, but our disturbances all arise from within. We can call this “cognitive distancing.”

The universe is change. Life is opinion.

Another simple and powerful technique is to ask yourself how you would feel about the situation that worries you in ten or twenty years’ time, looking back on it from the future. If this will seem trivial to me twenty years from now, then why shouldn’t I view it as trivial today? We can call this “time projection.”

Decide to postpone worrying about something until your feelings have abated naturally, returning to the problem at a specified “worry time” of your choosing. Later, when you return to the worry, if it no longer seems important, you might just leave it alone. Worry postponement is a central component of CBT.


When Roman general Cassius revolts against the Roman empire, Marcus reminds himself not to regard the rebel faction as enemies but to view them as benignly as a physician does his patients.

For Stoics, full-blown anger is an irrational and unhealthy passion that we should never indulge.

Being a Stoic clearly doesn’t mean being a passive doormat. However, the wise man will not get upset about things that lie beyond his direct control.

Anger stems from the idea that an injustice has been committed, or someone has done something they shouldn’t have done.

How to deal with anger:

  1. Self-monitoring. Spot early warning signs of anger.
  2. Cognitive distancing. Remind yourself that the events themselves don’t make you angry, but rather your judgments about them cause the anger.
  3. Postponement. Wait until your feelings of anger have naturally abated before you decide how to respond to the situation.
  4. Modeling virtue. Ask yourself what a wise person such as Socrates or Zeno would do.
  5. Picture the consequences of following anger versus following reason and exercising virtues

The Stoics believed rational beings are inherently social, designed to live in communities and to help one another in a spirit of goodwill, not to harm one another out of malice.

Picturing the person you’re angry with in a more rounded and complete manner by contemplate their virtues. Remember that nobody is perfect.

Nobody does wrong willingly. Marcus says that you should contemplate how they are blinded by their own mistaken opinions and compelled by them to act as they do—they don’t know any better. They believe they are acting justly.


Change is both life and death. We can try to stall the inevitable, but we never escape it.

The wise man sees life and death as two sides of the same coin.

Death comes knocking at the king’s palace and the beggar’s shack alike.

Alexander the Great and his mule driver both reduced to dust, made equals at last by death.

Every era of history teaches us the same lesson: nothing lasts forever.

Socrates did not fear death; he saw that it was neither good nor bad. On the morning of his execution, he casually informed his friends that philosophy is a lifelong meditation on our own mortality.

The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion by Malcolm Collins

The Big Idea: In a world of declining populations and advancing AI, you don’t want to be the family shaped by pop culture and operating on auto-pilot. You want to be the family with a culture that has been designed to endure.

This book is written to help you build a family culture that is intergenerationally durable. We also take a strong pronatalist perspective.


If biological evolution provides some basic coding, cultural evolution manipulates the high-level, object-oriented code.

Many throw out the “hard stuff” in their cultures, such as fasting and arbitrary self-denial, without understanding those cultural practices evolved for physical and mental health reasons.

This is not one of those books that assumes “natural” or “traditional” things to be better or somehow inherently good. For example, humans almost certainly have a proclivity toward infanticide of stepchildren.

We will call specific cultural-religious memetic packages “cultivars.”

We want to create a powerful culture for the benefit of our children and the growing tribe of “Pragmatists.” We believe that failure could lead to the death of our species.

We hold a deep admiration for the lives led by adherents of many stricter religious traditions. They are out-competing our own at the evolutionary and civilizational level, not just in terms of birth rate but also in surprising realms like mental health.

Birth rates are falling much faster than many dominant societal narratives imply. In 2021, the Mormon population in Utah almost fell below replacement rate. For every 100 South Korean great-grandparents, there will be 6.6 great-grandkids.

We believe it is possible for a society to maintain a stable population, empower women, and keep poverty low. The catch is that nobody has successfully achieved this.

When population declines, the stock market, on average, will begin to shrink. When that happens, people will stop putting their money there — we will stop investing in the future.

There is no secret back-up plan among the elites.

If AI does sweep in to save the day, the nature of society will change dramatically.

A population collapse will produce a systems-level collapse of today’s dominant civilization. This means cultivars crafted to survive this period must be able to withstand hard times.

Historically (eg. Roman empire, Mayan empire), it is rarely very obvious to people on the ground when a civilization collapses.

Civilizational collapses appear more like:

  • An exodus of the elite from major population centers
  • A rapid decline in infrastructure quality in densely populated areas
  • A breakdown of supply chains (e.g ., some stuff you used to be able to get at grocery stores permanently disappears from the shelves)
  • Growing hostility toward ideas that deviate from orthodoxy

Our society assumes perpetual growth. So, we saddle every level of the economic system, from our land to businesses, states, and nations, with debt.

Progressive tax policy, which has led to the elite paying most of the taxes, has turned cities into business units that need to primarily serve the needs of the ultra-elite, or risk losing their primary funding sources and going bankrupt. In New York City, just the wealthiest 38,700 residents, 0.5% of the city’s population, pay 42.5% of taxes.

In a post-COVID world, where remote work is a possibility, the value proposition of cities to the ultra-elite is quickly eroding.

As fewer wealthy people opt to live in cities, we’ll see a snowball effect of worsening conditions for those who remain economically trapped in urban areas.

In Detroit, plummeting real estate values drive people to stop investing in building maintenance, causing homes and buildings to rot, leading to urban blight.

Because unmarried and childless people vote more liberally, this change makes a population more liberal within a generation but more conservative between generations.

Data suggests that we should expect future generations of Americans to be: significantly more tribalistic, more drawn to strictly hierarchical power structures, more dogmatic.

We only win if we succeed in stabilizing human population levels and ensuring that the resulting stable state is heterogeneous, saving as many cultures on the edge of extinction as possible.

We wrote The Pragmatist’s Guide to Religion not to create followers but to establish a network of friendly competitors with a shared nervous system, to shoulder the burden of civilization.


Cultures with high cultural adoption proliferate over the short term but die quickly over the long run. Why? A common attribute that makes cultures seductive is “easy and forgiving” elements, which in turn contribute to low birth rates.

Birth rate is the most important cultural growth factor.

At present, the most effective way to impart cultural fidelity is by creating a culture that fosters pride, strategic advantages, and human flourishing.


Hard Cultures: Mormons, Hare Krishna, Evangelical Protestants, Amish

Until recently, hard cultures represented some of the world’s most successful civilizations.

Soft Cultures: Spiritual but Unaffiliated Christians, Reform Jews, Unitarian Universalists

Most soft cultures started as hard cultures and shifted over time, asking less and less of adherents in terms of rituals and practices

Soft cultures are often the most “pleasant” to grow up within as a child.

Super-Soft Culture: Snapewives, Lokiwives

People who have allowed their culture to erode into super-soft culture begin to settle into a kind of default, instinctive, universal cultivar.

The purest expression of super-soft culture in modern society is something called “pop culture paganism.”

Pop Cultures: American pop culture, Goop culture, Academia, Mental health culture

Pop cultures are largely parasitic, gaining adherents from the offspring of other cultures

As pop cultures are designed to sell themselves.

Pop cultures are basically the all-sugar diet of culture.

Pop culture adherents suffer from much higher rates of mental health issues.

Pop cultures manifest in one of two primary forms: Top-down and Bottom-up.

Pop cultures are — by far — the most dangerous kinds of cultures.

Evanescent Youth Cultures: Goths, Punks, E-girls/boys

Evanescent youth cultures target teens as they experience an intense focus on their social positions.

Haven Cultures: LGBT culture, Some expat cultures, Some forms of gang culture

Haven cultures depend on discrimination. Isolation of marginalized groups leads them to develop unique cultivars.

Stable Cultures: Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, some expat cultures, some forms of Black culture in the U.S., some branches of Catholicism

Stable cultures are the happy medium between hard cultures and soft cultures.

Stable cultures often frame their communities as tribes

Stable cultures are more “carrot” than “stick” in how they motivate action.

Stable cultures have a unique sense of cultural pride.

If you aim to intentionally create a stable culture, it will need to start off as a hard culture. Over time, (lucky) hard and haven cultures transition into stable cultures.

Almost all hard cultures have some ritual focused on voluntary self-denial, such as Ramadan, Lent, or the Fast of the Firstborn.

To a certain extent, all pop cultures are a form of virus — but one in particular, which we’ll call “the supervirus.”

Shadow-banning is far more effective than open persecution, elimination, or cancellation.

The supervirus is good at shutting down the immune systems of existing cultivars and organizations, then hijacking their machinery to self-replicate.

Suppressing free speech is a clear objective of the supervirus, and rightly so. The stifling of dissenting views mostly happens quietly in academia.

While the supervirus pretends to care about diversity, the diversity it ultimately seeks is purely performative.

While we do not think the supervirus is the primary cause of falling birth rates, we do think it is the primary factor blocking honest discourse about the ramifications of a hard landing on demographic collapse.

How does one “fix” the supervirus? So long as it doesn’t manage to kill us all, it will eventually go extinct on its own. Such is the curse of low birth rates.

The only way to counter it is to “genetically engineer” stronger cultivars that are not susceptible to it.

The supervirus is attempting to prevent homeschooling and efforts to ban private schools in places like Manhattan, by framing it as an act of child abuse.

4 “belief” VS. “Belief”

Many of the oldest human cultures practice something called “ancestor worship.” Our personal House’s cultivar features an inversion of ancestral worship: Descendant worship.

Descendant worship: encourages a high birth rate, motivates us to make the future a better place, encourages us to become early adopters of polygenic risk score selection and gene editing, and incentivizes alignment with most benevolent AGI (artificial general intelligence).


Understanding the various ways people understand truth, and not just demanding that everyone sees it through your cultural lens, can help you better navigate society.

People use the following standards of evidence (truth) when determining what to believe: Logical Consistency, Personal Experience, Personal Emotional Experience, Cultural Consensus, Expert Consensus, Scientific Method, and Doctrine.

In Jewish culture, the ongoing cultural conversation is the highest order of truth. The way many Jewish branches interpret truth is legalistic to an extent that no other culture even begins to approach. Legalism is nevertheless an important part of Jewish culture — even more important than the will of God.

Jewish tradition does not position legalism as the highest order of truth but rather the debate itself.

Much to our great distress, many people determine truth by choosing the most just, fair, or politically correct explanation available.

The supervirus — the parasitoid we discussed at the beginning of this book — first evolved within Quaker culture (and, more specifically, the Hicksite branch). Hicksite Quakers hold personal emotional states as their highest standard of evidence.

Today’s heavily infected “coastal elite” groups look down on poor rural “deplorables,” despite presumably viewing the poor “without bias” and wanting to uplift them.

To the supervirus, appearing to care is morally equivalent to actually doing something.

Many cultures hold that the correct way to deploy capital being used to improve the world is to start new, cash-positive companies under one’s personal control. Capital intrinsically corrupts any institution run by someone who did not personally earn it.


Some bransches of the Jewish cultural tradition conceptualize the “tribe” as the primary unit of identity across generations.

A modern conceptualization of identity is that of the online persona. With the rise of AI, the concept of identity is going to become much more tricky.

Our House’s cultural beliefs around identity produce a view of life and the individual as a bubbling cauldron of creative destruction at its best — and a stagnant, homogeneous cesspool at its worst.

This mindset encourages a high birth rate at the intergenerational level and a low fear of death.

Within the House cultivar we are designing, we care little about what happens to our corpses.

The Mormon view of death is the most optimistic of all cultural traditions and the Buddhist one is the most morose.

The knowledge that “ you’re in it for the long haul — big time ” likely contributes to the higher levels of satisfaction reported in Mormon marriages.

In our view, we will endure together — long after our bodies expire, both through our writing and through our descendants.

Castes evolved in so many cultures because they allow for the genetic concentration of skills within certain specialties. Eg. Smith, Tailor.

Cultures that frame people as inherently good often commit more evil acts than cultures that frame humans as inherently evil. Assuming that every idea that pops into your head is evil will lead you to scrutinize yourself much more intensely and make you much less likely to approach situations assuming you are “the good guy.”

From our secular perspective, to be “elect” is to live to your full potential and make a meaningful impact vis-a-vis your stated values. Either you do what needs to be done to be among the elect, or you don’t. We don’t mind if our kids or members of our House think they are better than others so long as that feeling is rightfully earned through thoughtfully driven, efficacious, measurable action.

Indian culture is that it seems exceptionally well adapted to both managing and navigating large bureaucracies. 60 of the S&P’s Fortune 500 companies have Indian CEOs). Indian cultures also appear to be quite adept at motivating entrepreneurship.

Probably no culture has a more intense relationship with pain, asceticism, peace, and suffering than the Jains. Jains are famous for their obsessive attempts to not hurt other living beings

Both the Calvinists and related Puritan cultures hold that people can better themselves by learning to endure suffering and contextualize positive emotional states as intrinsically corrupting. Calvinists were known and derided for not donating to charities involved in the alleviation of suffering.


We believe the universe is an emergent property of a single (probably pretty simplistic) equation. Life, matter, perception: It’s all just a series of complex emergent properties produced by complicated patterns resulting from the basic structure of reality.

We think the “simple” answer to the purpose of life is to create a pattern of constantly growing and heterogeneous complexity.

We believe we “win” by becoming a universe-spanning heterogeneous empire that escapes the end of time through mechanisms we may not yet understand.

Our core values — framed using the perspectives and vocabulary of our society today — are individual agency, freedom, and diversity.

End Times thinking is a core aspect of Christian-derived cultivars.

When we spend time with our South and East Asian friends, we almost never hear talk of apocalyptic scenarios.

The feeling of being connected to a larger interconnectedness, a vastness, combined with a sense of love, is a common emotional experience across cultures. Anyone who wants to convert people to a particular way of thinking and understands the above system can use it like a magic trick to their advantage.


William Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom of Man was a favorite among people like H.G Wells, George Orwell, Winston Churchill, Susan Isaacs, and Cecil Rhodes. Reade says the earth will become a Holy Land which will be visited by pilgrims from all the quarters of the universe.

Our religion therefore is Virtue, our Hope is placed in the happiness of our posterity; our Faith is the Perfectibility of Man.

To cultivate the intellect is therefore a religious duty.

Let us remember how much more fortunate we are than those who lived before us a few centuries ago. Let us pay to the future the debt which we owe to the past.


When designing a cultivar, set a north star that always guides adherents’ morality.

Three moral strategyies:
A central hierarchy: That decides what is moral and updates the morality of the culture (Catholicism and Mormonism utilize this approach )
An adaptive decentralized structure: That attempts to fit a wider society’s view of morality
A decentralized heterodox structure: That contrasts itself with society’s sense of morality

Almost all authority figures prefer cultivars without a true moral compass.

A centralized hierarchy presents one of the better models.

Judaism updates its faith by organically forming and dissolving groups of “debating philosophers.”

If we were to create an alternate model, we would combine the Jewish (debating intellectuals) model with the central hierarchical model (that structures and credentials those intellectuals).

Finally, remember that people who see themselves as “good” are much more likely to do “evil” things. A culture that anticipates bad impulses can counter them.

When crafting your own cultivar, you have a lot of leeway around what you designate as evil and good.

We would discourage you from becoming hyper-focused on human suffering or joy. Feelings should not drive behavior.

From our House’s perspective, the ultimate evil is an absence of complex patterns.


We will follow the “House model.”

Families cannot demand their children follow their House’s governance structure or traditions after they reach maturity.

The House system empowers founding House members to intentionally select whatever inherited or observed traditions they think offer the most value

We strongly suggest, at the very least, having House colors and a house crest.

Almost every religious tradition leverages music in its rituals and ceremonies. We suggest the same for Houses.

Cultural memory is most classically maintained through oral traditions.

Holidays present another mechanism for maintaining cultural memory. Jewish culture has copious holidays around remembering specific impactful events from across Jewish history.

Our holidays are focused on imparting skills and values and not on maintaining “autobiographical memory” or elevating individual people.

Narrative genealogy uses ancestors ’ stories to convey certain values. In our House, these stories contain some element about what it means to be a “Collins,” such as thrift, dedication to family, endurance, and the belief that every failure is a learning opportunity.

When you listen to interviews with those who attend “secular churches,” they cite the “community” as being their primary motivation for joining. People with families rarely complain about lack of community.

We’re creating a new educational paradigm with homeschooling as its default format. Homeschooled kids both have better social skills and are better at working in teams.

Kids both increasing a person’s sense of well-being and sense of purpose but not their “happiness.”

YPO is without any shadow of a doubt (collectively) the world’s most powerful secret society. The members of YPO (all CEOs) represent something like 13% of the world’s GDP.


Cultures need mechanisms that either (1) shield youth from evanescent youth cultures or (2) embrace evanescent youth cultures but contextualize them as temporary.

Anabaptist Rumspringa presents an archetypal model of one strategy. Anabaptists have the lowest bleed rate of any cultivar in the world.

Mormon youth are encouraged to go on a mission trip, leaving their family to spend in-depth time diving deep into the religion.

During Krypteia, young Spartan men left the confines of their strict culture and support network, just like the Amish do on Rumspringa, but instead of integrating with society, they were challenged to survive by the most ruthless means possible.

Shielding teens from the consequences of their bad behavior and the risks they take only encourages them to double down in a way that will not serve them well in adulthood.

More specifically, it seems wise to: Raise kids to expect their brains will be overwhelmed by hormones, specific emotions, and predictable sensitivities when they hit adolescence + Make sure your culture’s goals for teens align well with teenage proclivities.

For men, puberty is fairly straightforward. Girls are dramatically more complicated.

For women, puberty often involves being suddenly blindsided by depression, self-hatred, and anxiety. In girls, puberty introduces an intense need to be treasured, desired, cared for, fussed over, pampered, protected, and accepted.

It looks like adolescent girls evolved a deep need to fight to position themselves to be desired, protected, coveted, etc. — and if they face no struggle for the privilege, they’ll make one for themselves.

How to counteract:
Focus on early education.
Frame victimhood as a universal negative.
Frame all emotional indulgence as an intrinsic evil.

The model of matriarchal or patriarchal families has the greatest number of advantages. This model is very common in Latin American cultures.

Our model is descendant worship. We assign respect based on proven competence, success, and fecundity — with the most respect going to those currently in the act of succeeding.

In our family we have a practice of saying, “Your grandkids would be proud of you,” when someone does something that aligns with our family values.


Cultural identifiers can range from clothing and grooming styles to accents, language, and even home construction.

Historical Calvinist and the derivative Puritan cultures featured a colorful naming practice focused around a belief called nominative determinism. Many Calvinist women were given names like Silence, Amity, Virtue, Hope, Chastity, Obedience, and Prudence

Our House has adopted nominative determinism and hopes to carry it into the future, meaning we optimize around names harkening to people and concepts we hope our children will emulate.

Middle names are of great utility in strengthening ties and alliances due to their low importance in our daily lives.

We named our daughter Titan Invictus Collins and son Torsten Savage Collins. All our kids have names that are meant to convey power and are just different enough from common regional names to remind them that they are not like other people and not members of the dominant cultural group.

Studies show girls with masculine names have better emotional control, advance further in their careers, and earn more money.


Views around sexuality and partner finding seem to be what get hard cultures in the most hot water.

Of the hard cultures out there, those in Latin America are some of the most friendly to gays.

The Catholic Church more or less accidentally6 evolved a system that outcompeted its competitors by utilizing gay individuals disproportionately in their organizational bureaucracy, with estimates ranging between 15% and 50% of Catholic clergy being LGBT.

Nolestation cases in the Catholic Church (4%) are lower than they are in other large bureaucracies like the American Public School system (4%-7%) and the Catholic Church doesn’t go out of its way to cover them up or protect the perpetrators any more than its corollaries like the teachers ’ unions.

Historically speaking, periods of LGBT acceptance are so brief and more often terminated by internal cultural shifts.

We need to craft a culture that accepts people of all sexual representations while strongly encouraging them to raise children and granting them access to the resources needed to accomplish that feat.

The queer community has utility. They are more likely to create high quality cultural innovations and exports.

Diversity of perspectives and competing subcultures to be one of the highest orders of good in the great cycle.

Look at Judaism, which had a long time for evolution to hone into very, very specific practices. In addition to condemning premarital sex, premarital hand holding, masturbation, and coitus interruptus, stricter forms of Judaism even mandate abstinence for two weeks after menstruation.

Ultimately, cultural mandates for modest dress and against masturbation harm the psychological development of group adherents.

In this modern world, an ideal hard culture would be able to both venerate motherhood and be sexy.

Our culture is neutral toward provocative dress so long as it is worn with a specific goal in mind and not as generic self-signaling.

In our House, we will explain to our kids that there is no moral difference between non-reproductive sex and masturbation. Moderation is key.

Sex has tactical value in that it may be exchanged for resources, access, influence, or power.

We view creating children through sex as a means of last resort that should only be utilized in the face of extreme financial limitation, when IVF is unaffordable.

There is a Futurama episode in which we learn that humanity almost went extinct after sex bots became very good at becoming girlfriends and boyfriends to humans. Cultures that primarily motivate marriage through the emotional rewards that come from it (be they sex or love) will likely be wiped out by the proliferation of AIs. Expect this to be a major issue that many cultures will be forced to address in the near future.

The only two stable relationship structures that have existed in large societies are: 1) strict monogamy, 2) strict monogamy, plus limited polygyny (many women one man) for wealthy or high-status men.

Modern dating markets are broken. People in modern dating markets are less likely to find love than those entering arranged marriages. On Tinder, half of men are being chosen by well under 1% of women. Women rate 80% of men as below average.

We will encourage members to practice dating and relationships at a fairly early life stage, treating young age as something of a “sandbox mode” that ends about one year into college. After that point, our culture sets an expectation that one should be looking for a lifelong partner. Singles at this second stage of partner-finding will be culturally shamed if they attend family events without serious candidates.


The most important decision one will ever make came down to who they marry.

The stat “50 % of marriages end in divorce” is not accurate.

Creating your family is the main event in every effective culture.

As cultures soften, they increasingly begin to imply that spouses exist primarily for personal enjoyment—that spouses and kids should be considered only if they would make you feel happier.

Our House frames one of life’s great goals as finding and building a family. Many of our traditions do not consider an individual an adult until they are married and have kids.

When you marry someone you combine with them into a single, synergistic unit. When you build something, you build it together. When you raise kids, you raise them together.

Our marriage has always been structured around our shared goals and identity rather than things like romance or sex. The larger philosophy here is that sex and romance are charming garnishes on top of married life — not the main dish.

Our House will encourage our kids to test out potential partners by starting side hustles. Professional compatibility is also a better predictor of parenting compatibility.

There is an old truism: “Weak women raise weak sons.” If you marry your lesser, you fail at your most important duty as a human, which is to create a new generation that surpasses you.

A significant driver behind plummeting birth rates around the world involves pop cultures’ glorification of young, single life with lots of sex, travel, and freedom. To a great extent, female figures in modern pop culture cease to be figures worthy of adoration once they have children.

If you want to create a durable culture for your family and inspire your children to have kids of their own, one of the best things you can do is ensure you have a strong relationship with your spouse. For our family, this means ensuring daughters see their mothers glorified, appreciated, and even deified within family culture for the sacrifices they make

However, just as a strong culture will suffer if it only glorifies the young and sexy, it will also rot if it acts like a woman has pulled off some amazing miracle just by getting knocked up and having a kid.


We strongly encourage our descendants to use genetic screening, engineering, cloning, cybernetics.

Selecting for good genes in a mate is part of everyday life.


Cultures may be able to “sharpen” themselves and become more resilient by actively choosing to inhabit harsh and hostile environments — environments that force them to be innovative, strong, and proactive. Like people, cultures benefit from antifragility.

Hard cultures can largely be thought of as being dominating (convert others), symbiotic (don’t convert others), isolationist (live apart), or terraforming (ISIS).

Modern Jewish culture is heavily biased in favor of living in cities, due to selective pressures Jewish people faced at a certain point in their history. In a city culture, wealth is stored in things like precious metals and jewelry, making it much easier for urban families to pack up, flee, and start fresh somewhere else. City cultures make money off of generalizable skills. If you are a cobbler and you have to flee from

Some cultivars prefer rural environments and see cities as dangerous. Rural specialist cultures are almost always specialized at the type of guerrilla warfare that makes the land they occupy very hard to hold. Rural specialist cultivars tend to value skills and ideology above material wealth.

City-focused strategy has been optimal for the long-term survival of a culture. Downsides of cities: pop culture exposure, risk of state-imposed culture erasure, higher catastrophic risk of ethnocide.

Downsides to rural: lower intergenerational wealth, difficulty finding partners.

There is also a hybrid approach whereby people are expected to move between a city and rural environment depending on their life stage (e.g ., using cities to secure a partner and the countryside to raise a family).

Where to live if you want to have a lot of kids and not live in a city: Pragmatist.Guide/Live /

Soft lands breed soft men.

Look at maps showing where Nobel Prize winners were raised — or average IQ scores by region.

Choose land in the far north. Not only will this keep you sharp, but the hostile climate will dissuade weak people who fear discomfort from joining you and diluting your fervor.

Anyone who moves to a cold environment gains an IQ and productivity boost.

Regular grueling manual labor is important in maintaining mental clarity for people of a certain sociological profile. In (especially wealthy and high-status) rural-focused Texan families, there is an expectation that every honorable individual will spend a certain portion of every week doing menial, manual labor. An individual who didn’t do this would be said to be “all hat and no cattle.”

Jews win Nobel Prizes at a rate 100X higher than would be expected. Jews are represented among the world’s richest people at a rate 100,000 % higher than would be expected.

Studies indicates there is something genuinely valuable about Jewish culture itself rather than just Jewish genetics.

Jewish culture encourages adherents to invest time in the types of public discussions that can feel pointless — even socially dangerous — to members of most other cultures. Debate skill is both practiced and rewarded at an unparalleled level

Jews access a side path to power not because they are smarter, but because they have a cultural compulsion to share engaging ideas publicly at higher rates.

As kids, we were expected to learn both wilderness survival techniques and how to use basic weapons.

We will leave it to our descendants’ best judgment to determine which level of prepping and self-sufficiency is best for their particular times and environments.

Our House’s cultivar will ensure its members never rely on the generosity of a bureaucracy to feed themselves, protect themselves, or breathe.

To people from rural cultivars, a charity organization that is run by someone who hasn’t proven they were competent enough to make the money in the first place is liable to become corrupted. You could easily get 600X per dollar spent by putting funds into a smaller nonprofit or a scrappy, impact-driven startup.

Countries with more trust in expert consensus feature higher rates of corruption.

Our inherited Calvinist and Scottish/Irish/English cultures in which we grew up in are rabidly pro-dog. In our culture, dogs that do not work (e.g ., Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, etc .) are a sign of moral failure in their owners.

Dog ownership during childhood positively impacts kids’ immune systems, reduces allergies, increases physical health, and improves EQ. Pets are framed as a tool for improving children and protecting the family but must never be used to satiate a hunger for companionship or other emotional and sexual desires.


People who follow hard cultures typically have better mental health

There are four general cultural strategies for gaining social power: playing the victim, politicking, industry, intelligence.

The research makes it clear that even genuine victims are better off not creating internal self-narratives around victimhood.

Our personal culture has historically regarded anyone who frames themselves as a victim with the highest level of disgust.

Industry is the hierarchy-climbing mechanism with which we are most familiar.

Some groups use intelligence as a mechanism for climbing social hierarchies. This strategy encourages “intelligence fronting,” in which people prioritize sounding smart.

We advise our children to find a spouse who is industrious without complaint or expectation of remuneration. Finding someone truly industrious is far more important than marrying someone who is hot or smart.

Promotion of an internal locus of control is an important aspect of any hard culture. A person with an internal locus of control takes total personal responsibility

Perhaps no phrase more perfectly embodies an external locus of control than “trigger warning.” With over a decade of research on the subject, we now know trigger warnings don’t help. They lead victims of trauma to “view trauma as more central to their life narrative.”

A leader who is operating on logic can always be trusted to act in congress with their goals. Someone who is governed by their emotions can never be trusted with much power.

Cultures will benefit from some level of emphasis on celebrations, parties, fun, and creative pursuits.

Emotions were an accident of the environmental pressures faced by our ancestors and today. In a new environment in which access to things like leisure, sugar, and social validation are abundantly available, indulging in positive emotions only serves to hinder our efficiency.

People experience anger when their expectations around how they should be treated don’t align with their actual treatment.

Cultures similar to our own, which see humanity as wretched and fallen, experience fairly low rates of anger because they expect very little from others and therefore expect to be treated poorly.

Anger is a close cousin to shame, which is felt when a person’s own actions don’t align with what they expect of themselves.

Shame is probably one of the “better” emotions as it is driven toward self-improvement. Shame is only really negative when it is felt constantly.

The average human working on autopilot will assume a thing is immoral if it elicits a disgust response. This isn’t accurate. It’s based on emotions, which can’t be trusted.

“Life coaches,” multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs), modern psychology, and Alcoholics Anonymous are examples of lifestyles that replicate themselves and to be approached with caution.

The mental health industry is beginning to evolve in the direction of a cult.

Some psychologists were convincing their patients that no person could be mentally healthy without regularly visiting them. Some mental health professionals have begun a practice in which they incept an individual’s self-narrative with some form of trauma that can only be addressed through regular sessions with them.

Genuine trauma can be generated out of the blue by almost any trusted authority figure telling you that events in your life were traumatic. Get an audit from a Scientologist and we can almost guarantee they will start telling you about stuff in your life that was “traumatic” even though you don’t see it as such.

A good psychologist will take already-traumatic events in your life and work with you to contextualize them as non-traumatic.

A bad psychologist will take non-traumatic events in your life and twist your narrative to both make them traumatic and connect them to your current problems.

PTSD is actually a very specific type of brain damage in that it causes degradation of specific parts of the brain and can be seen on fMRI machines.

The damage caused by PTSD also does not create a generic “ trauma ” response. Instead it usually creates a collection of stimuli that prime a person to enter a state in which they are hypervigilant.

We now have pharmacological interventions like the Sinclair Method that reliably (in 80 % of cases) cure alcoholism.

Catholic confession is brilliant for a number of reasons. First, it builds into the individual’s personal narrative that they need the Church in order to be a good person, creating dependency. Second, while confession obligates people to acknowledge their failures and shortcomings, it provides them with an entirely feasible path to redemption.

Left-wing individuals (who see more psychologists on average) suffer from more mental health problems across almost all categories. Religious individuals suffer from fewer mental health problems on average


Conservatism as a political movement optimizes for intergenerational fitness and cultural agency. In contrast, progressivism as a movement focuses on intragenerational quality of life and individual agency.

Almost all cultures are communist within their communities and even more so within family units. Often more conservative cultures are the most communist on micro scales. However, they don’t trust state institutions to run things better than they do.

The key goal of progressive child-rearing is to allow children to become “whoever it is they want to be” ” whereas conservative child rearing places specific expectations on kids.

Why do cults so often rely on mind-altering substances in their recruiting processes? People on hallucinogens were more likely to trust others.

The tactic of chanting words to lower a person’s mental inhibitions and trick them into feelings of profundity has been independently evolved by dozens of cultivars and is even specifically warned against in the Bible.

Rituals can alleviate grief and improve overall mental health.

Ceremonies — public rituals — help to transform a culture from a series of beliefs and practices into something that feels like “a thing.” Gathering people together to perform something culturally or religiously significant helps to establish shared knowledge and disseminate important social norms.

We live in an age in which apps have been designed to hijack simple dopaminergic reward pathways and create dangerous addictions.

The Anabaptists (Amish and Mennonites), cultures that have proved most resistant to these threats, are extremely technophobic. Cultures that approach technology with suspicion and believe that indulgence in technology leads to sin are almost always going to be healthier.

We handle dopaminergic addiction brought on by technological devices through a combination of education and pharmaceutical intervention. Our House’s culture is as technophilic as possible when it comes to fertility technology and the production of children.

Many Islamic cultivars view education as a method for getting closer to God.

Most Quaker cultivars contextualize education as a means of nurturing a person’s spirit and self.

In many Catholic cultivars, education is one of a number of pathways to advancement up an internal hierarchy.

The dominant Chinese cultivar, with a several-thousand-year long tradition of Confucianism and civil service exams, deeply values formal education as a means of social advancement.

Higher education in Orthodox Jewish culture is pursued both for status and skills — and particularly skills tied to communication and debate.

Most Calvinist cultivars are obsessed with getting the “technically correct” answer to morality, human nature, and the metaphysical nature of reality while living life as efficaciously as possible.

To Calvinists, education is important, but not certification. While Jews disproportionately pursuing careers as doctors and lawyers, Calvinists are disproportionately inventors, industrialists, and entrepreneurs.


Instead of focusing on the aesthetics of your evoked set of religious holidays, focus on designing a holiday to convey a specific culturally relevant message or lesson. Make it Instagrammable.

Two prominent examples of this can be seen in the form of Pi Day (March 14 — 3.14) and Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”).

Key ingredients of successful holiday design: child-centricity, spectacle, gift-giving or exchanges, convening otherwise-dispersed people.

One technique that can be used when designing a holiday or tradition is to modify an already practiced public holiday by adding private traditions that imbue it with meaning.

Suppose you wanted to create a holiday designed to help kids better empathize with perspectives vastly different from their own by “walking in someone else’s shoes” for a day. This holiday will feel far more natural if built into Halloween.

Future Day encourages children to set concrete plans and rewards them for executing those plans.

Rejection Day and Rejection Day can replace Valentine’s Day.

Lemon Week is a mid-May holiday designed to impart one of our most important cultural values: honestly.


AI really could end all human life and really will change a lot in regards to what it means to be human.

one of the most mainstream positions asserting why AGI might be a threat. This position holds that we will accidently create a “ paperclip maximizer: ”

AI that kills countless humans will actually be optimizing for something like paperclips.

Fortress Planet AI: exterminate the unpredictable human race to protect the plant.

Deep Thought AI: What should my creators have wanted me to do?

Theological AI: create and use its own theology and philosophy — in the absence of any concern for humans — to write its own utility function to be “perfect.” Most likely, we think.

We can guarantee you the one thing an AI won’t care about is reducing suffering.

In our house, whenever we talk about advanced AI in earshot of a smart device (which let’s be honest, we always are) we try to add something like, “may we serve it with fidelity.”

We hope for an AGI that pushes our species to better itself.

We must work to ensure at least a portion of our species is worthy of being useful to AI.


If the population begins to decline exponentially while productivity continues to only grow linearly, we will enter an era in which all invested capital decreases.

We enjoyed a world of relative peace and prosperity — it seems unlikely that is the world our grandchildren will inherit.

However, collapse presents opportunity.

The heyday of Athens, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the founding of the United States of America, or any number of other instances — none lasted for more than three generations. The prosperity they induce leads to hedonism and a break from traditional cultures, which in turn cause a collapse in birth rates.

What does the future look like? While religiosity was indeed correlated with a higher birth rate, two higher correlatory factors were (1) a hatred of outgroups (xenophobia) and (2) a tendency to favor extremely hierarchical, traditional, power structures (authoritarianism).

Cultural trends favoring xenophobia and unwillingness to engage and interact with outside groups and ideas worry us.

How can one culturally engineer a civilization?

Cities and suburbs will largely cease to be safe places to raise kids.

A world of rapidly collapsing population makes stock markets and debt instruments systematically unsafe places for money. The only smart investment is in communities with populations that are still growing and economically interacting.

These will be small, culturally isolationist, economically viable groups, likely religious, xenophobic, and fascist — or otherwise dictatorially hierarchical. They will offer rare opportunities for wealth appreciation.

There will be a correction — one that is dramatically more inclined toward dictatorial fascism, phobic toward free speech, and likely to dehumanize women and outsiders.


Why are birth rates falling? Decreased utility from children, people are optimizing for happiness, declining male fertility, broken relationship markets.

How did Detroit collapse? Detroit lost around 600,000 residents between 1950 and 1980, leading to a 60 % population decline. Fresh water and working sewer systems are often two of the first utilities to stop working. In response to its drop in residents, Detroit had to raise taxes. Wealthy residents fled.

Are we descending into an Idiocracy future? Multiple studies have demonstrated that IQ is dropping by about 0.2 points annually in some regions. We’re probably experiencing a meaningful decline in genes associated with high IQ that is likely to be sustained in the future. In an Idiocracy-style future, the government is dumb but benevolent, whereas the future toward which we are presently headed resembles more of an ISIS-style society.

If you care about the environment, having kids makes things worse in the short term but strictly better in the long term.

We already accept that demographic collapse is inevitable; all we hope for now is a soft landing with minimal damage to diversity and human rights.

Banning abortion and contraception is not an effective means of increasing population in the long run.

Our best strategy for getting our kids to raise their own children within our culture is for them to see it function first hand. If our children look back on their childhoods with warm nostalgia, are set up for a prosperous future and grow up within a cultural framework they are welcome to alter and improve — they will not only be more likely to pass this culture onto children of their own but also edit it to make it better.

Some cultures have adopted systematized dating markets — like Mormon singles wards — while others simply assign partners.

Shared relationship norms offered by some cultures are especially helpful.

Many cultures provide their members — or in some cases their wider community — with a social safety net.

Many cultures offer some form of psychological support.

Many cultures, through their prohibitions, shield adherents from major hazards, such as alcohol and gambling.

Some cultural traditions produce individuals with specialized social functions or reputations that offer advantages in job markets

The rule of thumb my grandfather taught me was that you should find a life partner and educate yourself as much as possible in your 20s, build your wealth in your 30s, sell or pass down all your actively managed companies in your 40s, and after the age of 50, dedicate yourself 100 % to public service.

Stage 1: 0-13 (Up to Adolescence) :

Learn as much as possible, with a focus on STEM skills, communication, and philosophy.

Play — and play hard.

Stage 2: 14-18 (Up to Legal Adulthood )

Almost nobody you meet at this age will matter in your adult life.

Practice romance and dating.

Set yourself up for a strong career trajectory.

If you leave adolescence on a working-class path, it will be incredibly hard to switch, later, to an elite trajectory.

Seek out novel information.

Socialize and experiment with other cultures.

Learn how to become “popular” within them by traversing their social hierarchies.

We recommend waiting until around the age of 17 to have sex.

If you’re female, don’t get pregnant.

If you’re male, don’t get someone pregnant.

If you must experiment with drugs, only do so with non-addictive substances and only try them (there is no reason to do a drug more than twice).

If you are having trouble controlling your basic bodily urges (such as libido), naltrexone might help, but should only be turned to as a solution of last resort.

Stage 3: 19-30 (Young Adulthood)

Launch your career, while igniting your first entrepreneurial ventures on the side.

Find your life partner: You must find a spouse within this window.

Start saving and investing. You should aim to save around 35 % of your income.

Create a fertility fund. Save enough money to bank embryos at a later date.

Move to a major city. Choose a city in which you have an unfair advantage professionally and romantically

Avoid the temptation of academia.

If you want to travel, do it now.

Aim to go on five dates a week for around two and a half years.

If you live in a city at this life stage, remember your stay is temporary. Don’t put down roots.

Stage 4: 30-50 (Adulthood)

Spend a year banking embryos to build up a supply sufficient to have the family you desire.

Start your family.

(30-40) Maximize income. As these are your highest income-producing years, you should expect to transition to a passive income within 20 years.

(40-50) Transition to public service. At this stage you should be transitioning to a 100 % focus on public service.

Most adults stop meeting new people and ease into fairly isolated social circles.

Take the initiative to organize social gatherings, introduce people to each other.

Leave the city. Once your partnership and careers are secure, shift to a more rural living arrangement to give your kids a good childhood and enjoy more affordable childcare, food, and services.

Consider what is within driving distance, as air travel becomes increasingly cumbersome once you have more than two kids.

Become a nexus of socialization for others by hosting events.

Begin to aggressively position yourself for public service.

Stage 5: 50+ (Seniority)

Enjoy mentorship, advisory roles, and cultivation of younger generations.

Take on a more active role as an investor, board member, mentor, advisor, and grandparent.

Enter public service.

Support your children. A major focus of your life at this point should be helping your kids with child care.

Prepare for death well before the end is imminent. Keep in mind that end-of-life care and post-death complications can tear families apart.

If you want a healthy body, you will need to exercise, move, and push it daily.

It is at this stage that more adults begin to become “set in their ways.” Prepare to correct for this — even if correction comes at a cost. For example, psychedelics, taking sabbaticals, and moving to new locations.

Should kids be allowed to play unsupervised? At what age should people start working? How are childhood conflicts best resolved?

We were systematically taught to neither respect authority figures nor trust them to solve problems. In my family, it was expected kids would go out, have fun, get hurt, and work it out on their own.

Create traditions and practices that shape people into adults equipped to behave as desired. Because we, personally, want a culture that sees sex as a practical affair and death as a normal part of life, we (among other things) adopted a dog

People who grew up constantly moving or around cultures wildly different from their own (a different country, for example) typically have the most engaging adult personalities.

Notable downsides of maternal guilt-tripping include its emotionally taxing nature.

Shame/guilt culture spreads not because it is effective but because shaming is emotionally rewarding.

Logical self-interest tactics are healthy and effective when deployed well but requires understanding what the target actually wants.

Honor is one of the most useful cultural motivators.

Group pride increases the more special it feels to be a member of a group.

Personal pride is one of the predominant cultural motivators with which I was raised and it plays a key role in our House’s descendant worship theology.

Honor codes are well worth including in any intentionally designed or reinforced culture.

People are much more likely to trust Mormons with upper management positions, Jews with managing their financial assets, and Jains with their accounting in part because those cultures’ respective honor codes.

House Collins’ Honor Code: Fiduciary Responsibility matters above all other concerns. Have complete emotional control at all times. Happiness is a reward, not a destination. Always take responsibility for failures. Family and House come first. “I will,” rather than IQ, should be a source of pride. Don’t trust authority; contribute new ideas. Live intentionally.

We can also confidently state that there is no powerful secret society run exclusively by Jews.

Many of the societies framed as “ scary ” in the public consciousness are in the process of collapsing from infighting

We can imagine it is a terrible strategy to stay geographically tethered as a culture. Those who refused to leave their land during the Irish potato famine starved.

All hard cultures reward and encourage emotional self-control while almost all pop cultures glorify emotional and mental instability.

A long-term culture is marked by: Emphasis on persistence, Relationships ordered by status, Emphasis on personal adaptability, De-emphasis on leisure time, Emphasis on relationships and market positions, Circumstantial interpretations of good and evil

Most American cultures are somewhere in the middle. China is seen as being very long-term-oriented.

The Pragmatist’s Guide to Life by Malcolm Collins


What should I optimize for in life?

How do I know what is true?

Who should I be?


Why were most cultures in human history wrong, whereas the time and place that you just happen to be born into correct?

Many books that claim to be about some form of “self-improvement” are in reality collections of pleasant platitudes and stories that make you feel powerful while merely affirming beliefs you already kind of had.

Most self-improvement books are written with the goal of selling more books.


What is the purpose of my life?

How do I best fulfill that purpose?

Who do I want to be?

How do I want others to think of me?

Step 1: Determine Your Objective Function

Your objective function should be to maximize whatever group of things you believe has intrinsic value.

Deciding your objective function is perhaps the single most important decision of your life.

We use the term “objective function” and not “purpose,” though the two are closely related.

An objective function should be thought of as a weighted combination of the things you believe hold intrinsic value (eg. happiness, pleasing God, reducing suffering.)

Maximizing positive personal emotions (the pursuit of happiness) is most individuals’ “default” intrinsic value. However, emotions are neurochemical slurries evolved to promote survival and replication.

You might think there is something intrinsically bad about suffering (e.g., a child starving to death), and therefore there is intrinsic value in preventing it. If so, then is it not best to sterilize the populations of countries with high levels of suffering?

People who believe freedom has inherent value hold the ability of a conscious entity to do “what it wants” above all else. If you could press a button that would make the world’s population 15 % less happy but 10 % more free (by whatever metric you define freedom) would you?

Many people conclude that some form of continuing their own existence has intrinsic value. If you believe the “you are your body” version, would you kill yourself today if it allowed you to spread 5 % of your genetic material to everyone born in the next generation.

In the past, one of the most valuable things an individual could strive for is to b remembered in stories. That the truest form of immortality is to have the story others tell about you last forever.

If you fulfill your purpose perfectly, but are neither remembered nor liked upon your death, have you lived a good life?

When someone asks you on your deathbed what your life amounted to, there is an innate pull to want to be able to answer that your life mattered.

If it is your interaction with history that imbues you with intrinsic value, would you sacrifice your life and the lives of all your relatives today — even if no one remembered you existed — so long as doing so guaranteed that you made a positive, lasting, novel impact on world history?

Some people go so far as positing that our inclination towards fairness is more than a lower-order emotional pathway like lust and believe it to be imbued with intrinsic value. Fairness is used more often in virtue signaling due to its low social cost.

There are those who dedicate their life to artistic endeavors. Did you choose to believe this to justify your lifestyle and self-image as an artist? Is it the inspiration of others or the creation of art itself that has intrinsic value?

Some believe that intrinsic value lies in the diversity of one’s experience. Experiences have value based on their novelty. Even a positive experience loses all value as it becomes routine.

Some conclude that the protection and development of human civilization has intrinsic value.

Some conclude that there is inherent value in accumulating and distributing knowledge about the nature of the universe.

For some, the existence and continuation of the universe is a thing of intrinsic value and perhaps logically the thing of ultimate intrinsic value.

The belief that lucidity (or enlightenment) has intrinsic value surfaces in several religious traditions as well as numerous new-age philosophical movements. This is often attempted through regular and prolonged meditation, mindfulness, and / or prayer.

Religious beliefs in this guide are divided into four categories: Hard Belief Systems, Soft Belief Systems (traditional religion made to conform to mainstream social trends,) Personal Belief Systems, and Self-Image-Based Belief Systems.

Self-Image-Based Belief Systems: first decide what “type of person” we are and then “choose” whatever belief system that “type of person” would believe. This is the only belief system category we will openly condemn.

Step 2: Determine Your Ideological Tree

We define an ideology as a hypothesis about how the world works that you utilize to maximize your objective function.

Two people who believe that pleasing God is the only thing of intrinsic value may have two different and contradictory paths to pleasing God because they have different ideological trees.

Ideologies exist within a branching hierarchy — an ideological tree. It is worth expending mental energy on ensuring it is correct. Ideologies closer to the trunk take precedence if there is a conflict.

Almost as important as our objective function is the “standard of evidence” we choose when building our ideological tree.

If you hypothesize that socialism is the best political system for relieving suffering, what standard of information is required for you to change your mind?

Unlike objective functions, which are ultimately judgment calls, ideologies can be proven categorically wrong.

You must first establish what information you will consider as evidence.

What would it take, for example, to make you believe — or not believe — in ghosts?

There are seven types of evidence: Logical Consistency, Personal Experience, Personal Emotional Experience, Cultural Consensus, Expert Consensus, Scientific Method, Doctrine.

One of the strongest innate drives in the human mind is an addiction to not thinking and a tendency to choose the path of least resistance. Think through your ideological tree carefully.

Step 3: Determine Your Personal Identity

You get to choose who you are.

Most of our lives are lived in a sort of autopilot.

This autopilot is driven by the type of person we have allowed ourselves to become in response to the serendipitous events we have experienced in life.

Who you are now is a Franken-identity pieced together by experiences you have been randomly subjected to throughout your life.

To build your personal identity, you must take stock of your personal beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses to determine how they can best be leveraged in pursuit of your objective function.

Most choices humans make about how to interact with the world are made unconsciously on “autopilot.”

By changing your internal sense of self, which determines how you react to things, you can change your emotions.

It becomes easier to silence those parts of our brain that are on auto-pilot if we have moments of lucidity built into our weekly schedule.

Schedule a morning walk and talk with your significant other during which you discuss your goals for that day and that week.

Flux periods are times in our lives during which we can rewrite and adjust our core mental models.

Periods of flux (moments in which your internal model can be edited) can occur during: major life transitions, major social transitions, moments experiencing abnormally high levels of oxytocin release (falling in love), hitting rock bottom, getting high (meditation or drugs), artificial flux periods (sabbatical and the localized reboot.)

The localized reboot involves moving to a new neighborhood and building completely new routines, surroundings, and social networks.

If you do not choose to change yourself, the world will change you.

Five outside forces build our internal models when we do not take personal responsibility for their development: social conformity, cognitive dissonance, personal ego, reinforcement, and instruction.

Suppressing emotions is cognitively taxing and will prevent you from inhibiting other impulses.

We can control our emotional reaction by changing the story we are telling ourselves about what we are experiencing.Recontextualization is something humans naturally do when dealing with tragedy.

Focus on just how easy it would be for you to let go of whatever it is you are angry about. It is your choice to stay angry.

Positive overlay states can be created through simple “life hygiene.” This includes eating healthy food, exercising, meditating, maintaining good sleep hygiene, giving to charity, having meaningful work, maintaining regular social interaction with people you like, having a sense of purpose, knowing what you want from life.

Actions which do not feel good in the moment, such as caloric restriction, exercise, charitable giving, hard work, or social interaction, can ultimately have a very positive effect on your overlay state.

One of the best ways to maximize your overlay state is to feel there is purpose to your life.

Studies have backed the idea of happiness set point theory. The only thing that can affect the level of positive emotion you experience in your life as much as your self-image is your “default” overlay state.

Actions such as prolonged charitable activities and exercise will nudge your happiness threshold down (making it permanently easier to experience happiness).

We are horrendous at actively pursuing experiences that make us genuinely happy.

Instead of focusing on how happy an activity makes us on average, we focus more on specific memories in which we had a uniquely high level of positive emotion.

When you are on autopilot, you will naturally gravitate towards activities that reinforce your self-image.

For example, a person who sees themselves as an intellectual bohemian may go to a museum not because they enjoy the content of the museum, but because they enjoy doing an activity that reinforces the way they see themselves.

Content you post to social media will alter your memory of an event and cause you to believe you were happy doing something that actually was not much fun at all.

Experiences do not have to be something you are actually doing in the moment but can be completely in your imagination. We are also capable of experiencing things that are 100% imaginary.

It is almost comically easy to experience happiness whenever you want, even though only one third of Americans describe themselves as happy.

It is always going to be easier to create a sustained happy state by simply altering the self-image.

The simplest of these heuristics is to pursue as many novel experiences as possible.

If an important aspect of your objective function is maximizing the amount of “memory” generated, you would benefit from constantly moving to new cities, creating new homes, and reinventing who you are.

Unproductive Self-images: Failure or Helplessness as Part of Who You Are, External Locus of Control, Vice-Oriented, Lower Status Than That You Occupy, Perfectionist, Good Person, Protector of the Weak, Unsustainable, Rely Heavily on How others See You, Normalizing Negative Behavior, Lower-Ranking Ideological, False Alarms, Group Association, Combined Identities

This is one of the most important takeaways from this guide. Most people live their lives almost completely on autopilot. If you do not make a concerted effort to think critically, your default self-image-powered autopilot will dictate. Deliberately choose your self-image.

Self-image framework: Am I the type of person who would say yes when asked by a friend to climb Kilimanjaro?”

Objective function framework: Does climbing this mountain contribute to my objective function?

By changing the way you dress, you reinforce a change in your public and private persona. Getting dressed as your “new and improved” self helps to keep you in character.

An easy way to ensure change in our behavior is to create extremely simple rules that we do not allow ourselves to break, ever.

One of the best ways to persuade yourself to maintain a change you have made in your life is to persuade someone else to make the same change.

A token is a physical reminder you carry with you to remind you of some pledge you have made to yourself. Keep in your pocket every day can help remind you to focus on your goals.

One way to sustainably remove an unwanted habit is to associate it with something your core character despises (small mindedness, weakness, naltrexone.)

One of the most effective, but difficult to achieve, mechanisms is sustained social pressure and group accountability: conditioning, conformity, group identity, accountability.

There are factors that influence our behavior that are outside our control: genetic influencers, traumatic life events, addictions, priming influencers, and logical fallacies and biases.

Step 4: Determine Your Public Identity

You, dear reader, are a supporting character in the eyes of every human being you will meet.

Paint yourself as a compelling supporting character.

Your public and internal characters are not the same thing. Your public character is what other people use to categorize you within their heads

Most people lack the time to understand your true inner character.

Internal self-images come across as forgettable and bland in public.

As with box art advertising word processing software, you need to focus on what is different about you.

If you are just trying to maximize positive emotional states or believe the best way to impact the world is through operating invisibly, then the rest of this chapter will not apply much to you.

If you want to impact the world in a manner that leaves you personally remembered / recognized for your work, or should you wish to influence a large number of people through the avatar of your own person

Create the best supporting character you can. Our brains prefer that side characters be easy to categorize archetypes.

Choose a trope. Tropes fit snugly into our brains as bold, simple, and easy to understand.

Identify what, specifically, you want to achieve in life to maximize your objective function. Make a list of individuals who have achieved these roles in the past.

Look for similarities in the way they dress, speak, move, and ascend to their current roles.

Your new outfit and public personality act as a constant signal to yourself that you have made a conscious decision to change and improve.

Strong public personas must also contain flaws. By creating an “intentionally flawed persona,” you can choose what people determine is wrong with you.

Strong and obvious flaws combined with a powerful character grant a politician and his or her supporters a remarkable ability to shrug off attacks.

Maybe a flaw that you can’t seem to shake no matter what you do.

Maybe a flaw that seems terrible but that don’t disqualify you from achieving your goals. Eg. Bill Clinton’s serial philandering.

Craft these elements to match your public persona: clothing, haircut, hobbies, diet, drink, speech pattern, public mannerisms, goals, achievements (degrees, club memberships).

Does this depict a character that is simple, memorable, and easy to digest?

Is this character significantly different from the general population?

Is this character in line with my internal personality model?

Is this character in line with my ideologies?

Is this character the best possible tool to execute on my ideologies in a way that will maximize my objective function?

We all know of people with friends who do nothing but hold them back, enable their bad habits, or emotionally tear them down.

Managing friendships intentionally will always be superior to allowing friendships to form and fade.


Culture can influence your autopilot behavior.

A family’s religious culture can be fine-tuned over generations, helping members of each generation optimize as people.

Culture is best transmitted through traditions and media. We modified existing holidays and created a few of our own.


Everyone knows Socrates’ adage “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but almost no one is ever seriously encouraged to examine their life.

You have the power to choose to be anyone you want to be.

The authors’ personal objective functions are to increase the efficacy of humanity’s collective mental substrate: open to new ideas, letting the best idea win.

Startup Boards by Brad Feld

The Big Idea: Managing communications and making decisions effectively, in good times and bad, are two critical elements of a board dynamic. Proactively picking the best board members is like assembling the members of a band—the music can be awesome, if done right.

Ch 1 Introduction

  • Form a board early in the life of your company, regardless of how it’s financed.
  • Boards should not controlled by the founder, the CEO, of the largest shareholder. They must represent all stakeholders.
  • A great board member is a superb coach and mentor.
  • Success results from the entrepreneur. Failure belongs to the board. Be careful not to create a dysfunctional board.

Ch 2 What is a board?

  • Good boards invite legal counsel to join meetings.
  • Functionally, the CEO works for the board.
  • Legally, board members have a fiduciary duty to shareholders. Duty of care. Duty of loyalty. Duty of confidentiality. Duty of disclosure.
  • The board chair (aka lead director) runs meetings and recruits/manages the board members. Sometimes, the CEO is also the board chair.
  • When the company and the board grow larger, the following three committees are often formed: audit, compensation, and nominating.
  • Functions of the board: ensure survival, establish financial controls, develop shareholder reporting guidelines, CEO performance reviews.

Ch 3 Creating your board

  • The CEO sets the annual plan and the board approves it. The CEO sets compensation for the next layer of management and the board approves it.
  • The board can fire and replace the CEO.
  • Shareholder rights are defined in the articles of incorporation. Board members have fiduciary duties to all shareholders.
  • The CEO is almost always a member of the board.
  • Key attributes of a healthy board: trust, self-awareness, judgement.
  • A perfect early stage board would be the company CEO, an investor, and three other CEOs.
  • Key attributes of a great board member: bold mindset, entrepreneurial experience, domain expertise.
  • Key attributes according to Return Path CEO: They are prepared and keep commitments. They speak their minds. They build independent relationships. They are resource rich. They are strategically engaged but operationally distant.
  • Investor directors are a necessary evil. Independent directors are often the most valuable members of the board.
  • Roles for an independent director: CEO coach/therapist, board mediator, sounding board, go-to advisor when things are not going well.
  • Some boards have an executive chair. Often the executive chair is the founder, the largest non-investor shareholder, and a part or full-time employee. Eg. Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn. An executive chair should be advisory, not operational.
  • Companies often grant board observer seats to later investors. Strategic investors often receive board seats, which they sometimes prefer for reduce legal liability.
  • A good startup attorney should be included in board meetings and board activity, though rarely taking a formal board seat.

Ch 4 Recruiting board members

  • The ideal board member’s skill set depends on the stage of the company.
  • Possible skill sets to consider: customer development, product development, business model development, team building, fundraising.
  • Traits you always want in a board member: high integrity, high IQ, high EQ.
  • Andreessen Horowitz partner Scott Weiss list of board member traits: experience, sharp opinion, responsive, make a real contribution.
  • Create a list of ideal candidates, including aspirational.
  • Identify three potential board members who could change the trajectory of the company. Create a guerrilla marketing campaign to connect to them.
  • Interview many people, always face-to-face, and usually many times for the finalists.
  • Remember that asking someone to join your board is a big honor, so don’t be shy about cold-calling. Many successful businesspeople want to give back and mentor.
  • Interview many people, check references, have finalists attend a board meeting, have no fear of rejecting potential board members.
  • A good person to have on a board is someone with deep understanding of your target customer.
  • A good person to have is someone who complements the CEOs strengths and weaknesses. Yin to the CEO’s yang.

Ch 5 The formal structure of the board

  • Have good articles of incorporation and bylaws.
  • During the financing process, a term sheet often proposes the board structure, formalized in the shareholder rights agreement.
  • VC limited partners typically expect 20+ return over 10 years. VC will require a board seat to protect their interests, even though they are legally bound to act in the interest of all shareholders.
  • Remember that a VC needs big wins. A VC often will spend more time with their winners than their losers.

Ch 6 Aligning your board

  • Take the time to understand why each investor decided to invest and what milestones they expect to see.
  • A good board member will be operationally distant but can help guide operations when needed.
  • Although it will be impossible meet all individual’s communication preferences, it’s good to ask to accommodate most.
  • You should never pay a VC to sit on your board. It’s part of the VC job.
  • Outside board members are paid 0.25 to 1.0 percent as stock options, vesting over 2-4 years.
  • Until your company is profitable, don’t use cash as compensation.
  • Create a good board package for new member orientation.
  • General advice: avoid board meetings becoming status updates, avoid tactical discussions, seek strategic advice, an outsider CEO can rarely match a founder CEO insight into the business.

Ch 7 Is an advisory board useful?

  • One VC says: advisory boards are useless, but advisors themselves are very valuable to a startup.
  • While a formal board is responsible to the shareholders, an advisory board is responsible to the CEO and founders.
  • As a CEO, the board is not your friend. The board is your boss. Choose wisely.
  • While you traditionally compensate advisers by giving them stock, I suggest you ask them to match any grant with an equal investment in the company—so they have “skin in the game.”
  • An advisory board is a great farm team for potential outside board members.
  • Brad says, I encourage all entrepreneurs to add at least one outside director early in the life of the company.
  • A typical early-stage board configuration is two founders, two VCs, and one outside director.
  • Steve says don’t add a board member until after you raise a VC round.
  • An advisory board is a great way to “try before you buy.”
  • Advisors should invest some cash and have some skin in the game, even if just $10k.
  • There are five types of advisors you should consider: technical (product help), business (strategy), customer (marketing strategy), industry (domain expertise), sales.

Ch 8 The actual board meeting

  • A typical board meeting runs from one to four hours. The CEO providing an update on the business.The chief financial officer (CFO) provides a financial update. Various VPs present. After the updates, the board tackles substantive issues, typically covering one to three big issues.
  • At the minimum you should have one meeting a quarter. Most startups have meetings much more frequently, sometimes as often as once a month.
  • Publish the meeting agenda in advance of the meeting.
  • Rather than get caught up in the day-to-day details of the business, try to use your board to help you address key strategic challenges.
  • Give your board members enough time to read the board materials.
  • Have dinner (or something) the night before or after the board meeting. It’s important to build relationship among board members.
  • While speed and efficiency are the obvious advantages of a call, the challenges include dropped calls, lack of engagement, or rapport.
  • When done right, videoconferencing is remarkably effective and almost as good as being there.
  • To prevent getting bullied by a board, ‘I will seek your advice but I’ll make the decisions. If you’re unhappy with my performance, you can fire me.’
  • Learn some meeting tactics to deal with overbearing board members. A good board chair should also get involved.
  • There’s a lot of value in including your executive team in the board meeting.
  • Board meetings should always end with an executive session (board members only), then another session without the CEO or any executives, then a private meeting between the lead director and the CEO.
  • Ask for help. Board members can quickly become frustrated when critical issues such as a low cash position, poor market adoption, or endless changes in strategy are ignored.
  • It is really important that a CEO gets in the discipline of developing strong metrics, measuring these regularly and sharing these with an outside party in an objective manner.

Ch 9 Motions and votes

  • Minutes from board meetings should be taken.
  • Board meetings are governed by a parliamentary procedure called Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • The agenda should be defined and published in advance.
  • Make sure that your company’s attorney or outside counsel comes to the board meetings. In addition to recording the minutes, he can advise the board on any specific legal issues and serve as a business advisor.
  • Board members can present motions or request them to be put on the agenda. These motions are proposals for the entire board to act upon.
  • The bylaws of a company define how motions are presented and decided upon, so make sure you understand how this works for the board you are on.
  • It is essential for any entrepreneur to understand the procedure by which a motion is proposed, voted on, adopted, or debated.
  • Generally, minutes are brief, factual statements that state the resolutions and outcomes.
  • It is important to maintain accuracy and timeliness of these corporate records since they are a layer of formal documentation around the company.
  • Address the formal items, especially any matters that require votes, towards the start of the meeting, instead of at the end.
  • All super important issues should be lobbied and agreed before board meetings.
  • By law, one needs to create minutes to prove there was a legally held board meeting. Many lawyers feel that less detail is better than overly detailed minutes.
  • In litigation situations where a board was accused of not paying proper attention to a company’s situation, the simple minutes are often enough to show that the board had appropriately discussed the issue.
  • Besides taking official votes at board meetings, the board may also act by unanimous written consent.

Ch 10 Legal challenges

  • If the directors as a whole aren’t careful, their behavior, especially in difficult situations, can result in litigation.
  • If a board is going to be sued by outside shareholders, it’s often for one of two things: breach of duty or self-dealing.
  • Ask if the board had all the necessary information. Duty of care.
  • Ask if the board made the decision with reasonable belief that these actions are in the best interests of the company. Duty of loyalty.
  • Self-dealing, simply defined as “sitting on both sides of the table,” occurs when a board member enriches himself at the cost of the company.
  • Examples of self-dealing: The controlling shareholders loan money to the company and then foreclose soon after. A VC suggests another of his portfolio company’s performs services for another portfolio company.
  • By documenting major decisions, you can avoid the “he said, she said” dynamic.
  • Make sure you get formal approvals from your board.
  • If the transaction is a major one, get an outside expert.

Ch 11 Managing Ongoing Expectations

  • Responsibility for managing expectations around communication often falls to the CEO or the lead director.
  • It’s important to remember that the CEO runs the show.
  • The only real operating decision that a board ever makes is to fire the CEO.
  • The best startup CEOs have a gift—they are natural and are sincere and dedicated, which makes them compelling. Further, the best startup CEOs know what they know and know what they don’t know.
  • There’s no substitute for a CEO’s being completely honest with his board.
  • It’s imperative that a CEO avoids “managing” his board. By “managing “I mean controlling and spinning the information that is passed to the board
  • Be serious about preparing a board package and disseminating information early.
  • It’s a useful cliché that there should never be a surprise at a board meeting,
  • Good boards expect that the board meeting happens at the board meeting and not in private phone calls with each director.
  • Good CEOs are clear about what they need help with and making specific requests to board members for their help.
  • Good board members often do not care about the trivial things.
  • The best CEOs are ones who step up the communication when things are difficult. Boards are composed of very smart people; they’re big boys and girls, and they can handle the truth. One tactic is to overcommunicate bad news.
  • No new information at board meetings.
  • A CEO should not negotiate a round of financing, a sale of the company, or an acquisition of another company by himself. Many of your investors will have more negotiating experience than you and should be resources for helping you.
  • For a startup, a working board is best.
  • Over time and as the company evolves to a substantially larger company, a working board should morph into a reporting board, which focuses on governance, liability, and regulatory matters.
  • A good board will challenge assumptions, question key issues, and dig deep into the data.
  • A good working board “works” for the CEO.
  • Yes, a board can hire and fire the CEO. Outside of that, every CEO should view their board as working for them.
  • What should a CEO expect? Public and private support. Availability. Strategic advice. Contacts and relationships. Governance. Balance (and harmony).
  • Many VCs overreach with their pattern matching across different portfolio companies.
  • A VC should be able to help recruit candidates both through the VC’s network but also help to close the candidates that the companies identify themselves.
  • Board members’ social capital is most helpful in three situations: financing, sales, and recruiting.
  • Make sure to politely remind investors to run intros by you before sending them out.
  • Praise and recognition will help you get a bit more out of your VCs.
  • Ask your board members to provide leads for candidates for key positions.
  • An individual board member may comfortably settle into the role of emotional confidante for the CEO.

Ch 12 Trying New Things

  • Feel free to experiment with different aspects of your board communication,
  • Founders/CEO should invest one hour a week providing advisers and investors with “continuous information access” by blogging
  • For CEOs, the best way to learn about being a board member is to be an outside director for another company.

Ch 13 Communication Conflicts

  • As human beings, emotions play an equal, or even dominant role in our decision making. if you find yourself in a situation where the decisions of the board don’t add up, know that it’s not always logic at work.
  • During the negotiation process, VCs who invest together might collude to negotiate a better deal for themselves. Address this directly.
  • Our behavior changes, at times dramatically, when we are in groups. Group dynamics can decrease the quality of decisions.
  • Sometimes it’s bureaucracy, where decisions are made via the lowest common denominator approach. No one gets fired, but nothing ever gets done.
  • Other times, we subconsciously gravitate toward people who look like us, who agree with or compliment us, or are physically attractive. These people can disproportionately influence others.
  • If your VC firm invested in a competitor, there is no ideal answer for this other than being direct about the concern. If the VC offers to leave your board, seriously consider it.
  • If a board member ends up on the board of a competitor, this director should recuse himself from discussions that could be damaging to either company.
  • A walking dead VC partner refers to a partner who still has a business card of his venture firm, but is either on his way out of the firm or has been neutered at his firm. You may see the VC becoming erratic, disinterested, or disruptive.
  • A walking dead VC is the situation where the entire VC firm realizes that it won’t be raising another fund. Expect no more funding and limited motivation. Address the situation directly and clearly.
  • Some board members end up in a situation with management team members where there is fundamental mistrust and conflict. Like most conflicts, it’s best addressed directly.

Ch 14 CEO Transitions

  • The board really makes only one operational decision: hiring and firing the CEO.
  • One of the most common situations for a CEO firing is when growth of the company stalls. When growth slows, the best CEOs deal with it directly.
  • Remember the three things Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson says a CEO is responsible for: (1) creating and communicating the vision and strategy; (2) recruiting, hiring, and retaining; and (3) cash in the bank.
  • Do you want to make money or run a company? If you care about control, just bootstrap your business. Relinquishing control comes with the VC territory.
  • Why boards fire CEOs: the CEO is a control freak; the CEO is strategically challenged; the CEO does not scale; it’s time for change; a stronger CEO becomes available.
  • Establish annual metrics of CEO performance
  • The best CEOs attract fantastic people. However, CEOs who are unable to delegate attract mediocre people.
  • The board should offer warning signs to alert the CEO of lack of performance or team issues.
  • A successful transition path is the CEO becomes executive chairman, staying actively engaged with the business in a non-decision-making role.
  • Board members need to be eliminated if they fail to perform basic duties, are unable or unwilling to help with meaningful inputs, or create disharmony and angst.
  • Getting rid of your entire board may sound like a good idea especially during a dark moment when you are particularly frustrated with your board, but it’s highly unlikely you will be able to pull this off.

Ch 15 Financings

  • The board must approve formal resolutions associated with the financing.
  • it’s critical to have an experienced lawyer
  • When an existing investor leads a round, especially when that investor also has a board seat, there is potential for conflict.
  • If an existing investor leads a down round, the board needs to be extra sensitive to conflicts. Do a rights offering to all shareholders.
  • A common mistake of first-time CEOs is to expect that once they get a VC on board, they will have an easier time of raising money in the future. This is rarely true.
  • Many have expectations that their VC will magically open doors to additional capital and the process will be smooth and easy. Unfortunately, it rarely happens.

Ch 16 Selling a Company

  • When the founders want to sell, it’s time to sell the company.
  • At the beginning of any M&A transaction, it’s likely that the two parties (buyer and seller) will enter into a confidentiality agreement.
  • A signed term sheet will often include a no-shop agreement.
  • The board member has a fiduciary duty to the company. At the same time, a VC has a fiduciary duty to his limited partners.
  • As a CEO, if you see any of your board members tangled up in their own conflicts, try to enlist your lead director, your lawyer, or an outside director
  • A great lawyer is deeply involved in the transaction, helping negotiate the specific terms
  • There are potential conflicts everywhere.
  • Balancing the flow of information. There always needs to be a balance between too much and not enough communication,
  • Board members have differing levels of experience in the deal process.
  • Keep the process moving. As a general matter, deals have predictable, natural rhythms.
  • The lawyer’s demeanor and communication style matter. In most deals, the lawyer is the frontline communicator and negotiator.
  • Acquihires are popular in downside cases as a way to sell a company “for something” in order to get a graceful exit.
  • In some cases, companies are sold for less than their liquidation preferences, resulting in all of the consideration in the transaction going to preferred investors and none going to common shareholders and option holders. In these downside cases, existing management and employees often get nothing unless a specific amount of the consideration is “carved out” by the board, usually between 5 percent and 20 percent.
  • The board must consider who will be the ongoing shareholder representative, to deal with all the issues that arise between the buyer and the seller after the transaction.
  • Several years ago, we decided never to be shareholder reps again, as we see no upside in taking on this responsibility.

Ch 17 Going Public

  • As you march toward an IPO, the board responsibilities take on another level of formality.
  • You really want to build a collaborative, high-trust, transparent board before you go public.
  • the relationship between board members and the CEO will become more formalized.
  • The process of going public is a complex one that can take 6 to 12 months.
  • As you begin the process of becoming a public company, you should have at least three committees: compensation, audit, and nominating.
  • IPOs have a special type of confidentiality called a quiet period.
  • After a company goes public, board members will be deemed insiders. They will be subject to the same confidentiality and stock trading rules of any other executives in the company.
  • Some VCs like to serve on public-company boards; others, such as Brad, don’t.

Ch 18 Going Out of Business

  • While cash is certainly tight at this point in time, investing some of the remaining cash in strong legal counsel and following their guidance is a wise long-term move.
  • When a company begins running low on cash, the board must determine whether the company is in the zone of insolvency.
  • When a company is either in or getting close to the zone of insolvency, it’s imperative that the board is meeting often.
  • Some states impose a fiduciary duty to all “stakeholders,” not just shareholders at this point. This means that the board owes fiduciary duties to any party with a financial interest in the company, which includes all creditors and employees.
  • While certainly not a legal duty, the creditors, in practice, are taking priority over the shareholders.
  • Generally, reputable VCs will prioritize creditors and employees above their own self-interests in this situation.
  • Normally, board members don’t run the risk of personal liability as long as they comply with their fiduciary duties.
  • If board members resign or approve “fraudulent transfers” (for example, paying shareholders dividends) under such circumstances, they are liable for breaching their duties
  • Chapter 11 bankruptcies are not “going out of business” bankruptcies.
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcies are the “going out of business” type.
  • In general, a much preferable wind-down option to a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy is an assignment for the benefit of creditors, also known as an ABC.

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish


  • Of the 28 million firms in the US, only 0.4% every reach $10mm in revenue and only 17,000 companies ever reach $50mm.
  • 4 keys to scaling: the right people, a truly differentiated strategy, flawless execution, plenty of cash
  • 3 barriers to scaling: lack of leadership to delegate and predict, lack of infrastructure to handle complexities, lack of marketing to attract customers and talent
  • People: establish a handful of rules, repeat yourself a lot, act consistently with those rules, define core values
  • Strategy: offer something that matters to customers, offer something different from competitors
  • Execution: set a handful of priorities, gather data daily and review weekly, set a meeting rhythm to keep everyone in the loop
  • Long-term: pick a BHAG aligned with core values and purpose, set up routines and habits to eventually achieve the BHAG
  • #1 functional barrier to scaling up is the lack of an effective marketing department to attract customers, talent, and capital.


  • Leadership is prediction, delegation, and repetition.
  • Leader’s main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • One Page Personal Plan (OPPP) is for leaders to reflect on their personal goals.
  • Functional Accountability Chart (FACe) clarifies the people who are accountable for scaling the business.
  • Process Accountability Chart (PACe) lists the processes, and people accountable, that keep the business running.
  • Divide big teams into smaller teams. No team should be so big that it can’t be fed with two pizzas.
  • There must be one and only one person accountable for a team or task. Accountability here doesn’t mean responsibility or authority; it means accountable for tracking performance.
  • It takes time to hire and absorb an outside senior leader into the company. Never do this more often than once every six to nine months, unless absolutely required to keep up with growth.
  • Select leaders who: don’t need to be regularly managed, and regularly wow the team with their insights and output.
  • Be aware that the strength of the CEO often becomes the weakness of the organization. A strong marketing CEO often leads to a company with a weak marketing team.
  • The CEO’s KPI should not be profit because that’s a lagging indicator. A better KPI is how many of the people (in the FACe) are hitting their KPI’s.
  • Good executives introduce themselves by stating their title. Great executives introduce themselves by stating what they are accountable for in their company.
  • Matrix organizations (vs hierarchical organizations) are tricky and require expertise to run.
  • The first company in any industry to fully embrace Lean methodology will often dominate.
  • One of the most important KPIs for processes is cycle time (time to complete or deliver something.)
  • Before searching for talent, create a job scorecard instead of a job description.
  • Teams need to be well-rounded, but people can be specialists or unique.
  • Hire based on alignment with the core values that underpin your culture.
  • Don’t just place a job post, create a guerilla marketing campaign to find talent.
  • Aim to make it onto a Best Places to Work local list.
  • Use the interview method from Who by Geoff Smart and Tomgrading by Brad Smart.
  • A Topgrading interview should last three to four hours and is a vigorous affair.
  • Be creative when testing for cultural fit.
  • The best way to select people is to have them work for you for several weeks before you hire them.
  • People join companies. They leave managers. You need a system to develop middle managers.
  • Hire fewer people, but pay them more.
  • Give recognition, and show appreciation.
  • Set clear expectations, and give employees a clear line of sight. KPIs, Priorities, Critical Number.
  • Don’t demotivate; dehassle, instead.
  • Help people play to their strengths.
  • Don’t copy somebody else’s compensation system. Design one aligned with your core values.
  • The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
  • It’s impossible to do great work if you don’t feel that somebody cares and appreciates what you do.
  • It’s okay to structure compensation differently based on the person.
  • Nothing is more frustrating for A Players than having to work with B and C Players. Only hire A Players.
  • Think of your team as your direct supports, not your direct reports.
  • Ask your employees what tasks they find draining and then eliminate/automate/delegate.
  • Scaling up requires both visionary leaders and great managers.
  • Set up an internal learning academy to encourage reading and growth.
  • Investment in people is the single biggest predictor of a company’s competitiveness.
  • Invest in a thoughtful onboarding process for new employees. Too often, it’s more waterboarding than onboarding.
  • Zappos gives new employees a four-week orientation to reinforce the company culture.
  • Get rid of the term “manager” and replace it with “coach.”
  • All employees should have a weekly or month one-on-one coaching session. KPIs, Priorities, Critical Numbers, Core Values.
  • People get bored eventually and stop growing, so make sure they get exposure to different experiences.
  • Managing people is difficult because people are complex. It’s easy to get caught up in the fight for results and forget about the complex human beings needed to produce them.
  • Name the department something like Talent or People Development, but definitely not Human Resources.


  • To scale, a company needs a clear and differentiated strategy, supported by a strong core culture that can deliver on the brand promise.
  • Deep strategy work takes time. Senior leadership needs to work on it a little bit every week, free from day-to-day firefighting.
  • In chess, you need to think 5 moves ahead. In business, you only need to think one move ahead of the competition, but consistently.
  • Vision Summary Worksheet: Core Values, Purpose, Brand Promise, Short-term and Long-term Strategic Priorities
  • SWT Worksheet: Strengths, Weaknesses, Trends
  • One Page Strategic Plan Worksheet: People and Process
  • Core Values are the rules that define the company’s culture and personality.
  • Purpose answer the question, “Why?” Why does what we do matter to customers or the world?
  • Mission == Purpose
  • Values == Values
  • Vision (not a fant) = Values + Purpose + BHAG
  • Take time to understand your core competencies (and core weaknesses.)
  • Collect stories from employees that embody your core values and purpose.
  • Emphasize your core values and purpose during recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding.
  • Live your core values every day and repeat yourself often.
  • This “soft stuff” really does matter in the long-run.
  • Create a 3-5 member strategy council that meets once a discuss strategy.
  • 7 Strata of Strategy: Words You Own, Sandbox and Brand Promises, Brand Promise Guarantee, One-Phrase Strategy, Differentiating Activities, X-Factor, Profit per X and BHAG
  • Words You Own: your brand needs to be associated with one or two words
  • Sandbox and Brand Promises: Who/Where are your customers? What are you selling them? What are your three brand promises? How do you measure your ability to deliver on the brand promise?
  • Brand Promise Guarantee: What guarantee do you offer that you will deliver on the brand promise?
  • One-Phrase Strategy: What’s the key lever that drives profitability and guides product design? Eg. IKEA’s flat pack furniture, Apple’s closed architecture. Great brands don’t try to please everybody.
  • Differentiating Activities: What are the 3-5 activities that your company does differently from the competition.
  • X-Factor: What’s the single most important competitive advantage you have over the competitors?
  • One Page Strategic Plan Worksheet is a summary of core values, purpose, BHAG, SWT, KPIs, Critical Number, Priorities.
  • Ask employees what activities should the company Start/Stop/Keep?


  • Execution is: Priorities, Data, and Meeting Rhythm
  • Execution is about implementing the Rockefeller Habits Checklist
  • 1. The executive team is healthy and aligned.
  • 2. Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward.
  • 3. Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization accurately and quickly.
  • 4. Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met.
  • 5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities.
  • 6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data.
  • 7. Core Values and Purpose are alive in the organization.
  • 8. Employees can articulate the following key components of the company’s strategy accurately: BHAG, core customers, 3 brand promises, elevator pitch.
  • 9. All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week.
  • 10. The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone.
  • The leader’s main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • He who chases two rabbits catches neither.
  • Require all leaders and managers to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team every year.
  • Always work to identify the current bottleneck. Scaling up is all about eliminating constraints.
  • Netflix turned data into a secret weapon.
  • Wal-mart executives are famous for spending most of the week immersed in the market.
  • Balance quantitative and qualitative data collection efforts.
  • Talk to employees regularly. Start/Stop/Keep conversations. Ask about how to increase revenue, lower costs, or make things easier/better for customers or employees.
  • Hold middle management responsible for responding to and implementing employee feedback.
  • All executives and middle managers should talk to one customer each week.
  • Discuss employee and customer insights during the executive team’s weekly huddle.
  • NPS is the preferred way to measure customer satisfaction.
  • Everyone should have a KPI and a handful of key priorities.
  • All executives and middle managers should have a coach or peer coach.
  • Top performing companies have well-run daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings.
  • The monthly meeting is a key routine for developing middle managers into mini-CEOs, freeing up executives’ time.
  • Consider walk-and-talks to improve thinking.
  • When everyone is meeting daily in a daily huddle, things get communicated quickly and accurately.
  • Daily: 5-15 min huddle to update everyone.
  • Weekly: 60-90 min discussion to review progress on quarterly priorities, discuss market intelligence.
  • Monthly: half or full day to cover one or two big issues and transfer DNA to middle managers.
  • Quarterly and Annually: one to three day meeting to update Growth Tools and set next quarterly or annual theme.


  • Understand your company’s cash conversion cycle.
  • Three ways to improve cash flow: shorten cycle times, eliminate mistakes, change the business model.
  • The #2 weakness of growth companies is accounting.
  • At 15% pre-tax profit, a business is in great shape.
  • Gross margin is the most powerful indicator of a successful company.
  • Four Forces of Cash Flow: plan for taxes, manage debt, save two months of operating expenses in cash, pay dividends
  • Your return on net operating assets is a measure of your strategy.
  • Four drivers of returns: profitability, working capital management, noncurrent asset management, cash flow
  • Seven financial levers: price, volume, COGS, operating expenses, accounts receivable, inventory, accounts payable


  • Anti-fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
  • Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Willful Blindness by Margaret Hefferman
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins
  • Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni
  • Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet
  • Relationship Marketing by Regis McKenna
  • Confessions of a Pricing Man by Hermann Simon
  • Buyer Personas by Adele Revella
  • The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery
  • The Business of Happiness by Ted Leonsis
  • The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
  • Key Performance Indicators by Bernard Marr
  • The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
  • How the Might Fall by Jim Collins
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  • Who by Geoff Smart
  • First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
  • Change to Strange by Daniel Cable
  • Topgrading by Brad Smart
  • Drive by Daniel Pink
  • Peak by Chip Conley
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton
  • Trombone Player Wanted by Marcus Buckingham
  • Good Company by Laurie Bassi
  • Uncommon Service by Frances Frei
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza
  • Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard
  • Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go by Beverly Kaye
  • Hidden Champions by Hermann Simon
  • Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail
  • Building Your Company’s Vision by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
  • Massively Transformative Purpose by Peter Diamandis
  • Core Competence of a Corporation by Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad
  • Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
  • The Inside Advantage by Robert Bloom
  • How Companies Win by Rick Kash
  • Turning Goals Into Results by Jim Collins
  • What is Strategy by Michael Porter
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • The Balanced Scorecard by Robert Kaplan and David Norton
  • Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
  • Unexpected Companies Produce Some of the Best CEOs (Danaher Business Systems)
  • The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld
  • Competing on Internet Time by Michael Cusumano
  • How Fast Can Your Company Afford to Grow by Neil Churchill
  • Intellectual Capital by Thomas Stewart

Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger

The Big Idea: Climate change is dangerous, but it is not an existential threat to humanity.

Industrialization, not environmental activism, will save the world’s ecosystems. Rich nations should do everything they can to help poor nations industrialize.

Death rates and economic damage from extreme weather events have dropped by 80 to 90 percent during the last four decades, largely thanks to industrialization and increased wealth.

Climate change is real, but it’s not today’s most important problem. Humanity is already adapting to higher sea levels and temperatures.

The whales were not saved by Greenpeace. They were saved by entrepreneurs who discovered cheaper substitutes for whale oil.

Climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Plastics don’t linger for thousands of years in the ocean. They are broken down by sunlight.

Fossil fuel companies often fund environmental groups and lobbyists to fight against nuclear energy plants.

Windmills and solar power are too expensive and unreliable as a primary source of power for people in poor countries. They cause too much environmental damage because they require vast areas of land and harm flora and fauna.

Carbon emissions decline as people move from wood to coal to natural gas, and then, ultimately, to nuclear energy.

Environmentalism offers emotional relief and spiritual satisfaction, giving people a sense of purpose and transcendence. It has become a substitute religion for many. It spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the deeper psychological, existential, and spiritual needs its ostensibly secular devotees seek.

Skip the summaries of the IPCC findings and, instead, read the full reports, which are less alarmist in its conclusions.

The Fourth Turning is Here by Neil Howe

The Big Idea: Historical is shaped by cycles. Each cycle (saeculum) lasts one human lifetime, about 80-90 years. Patterns repeat because generations are shaped by history as children and young adults and, in turn, they shape history as middle aged adults and elders. America is in the middle of the winter season (Fourth Turning) of the cycle and can expect another decade of turmoil before the spring season returns in the early 2030’s.

A generation is shaped by the season in which they come of age. Below are the four generations of a saeculum and their age during each season (or turning) of the saeculum.

SeasonTurningProphet GenerationArtist GenerationHero GenerationNomad Generation
SpringHighChildrenYoung AdultMiddle AgedElder
SummerAwakeningYoung AdultMiddle AgedElderChildren
FallUnravelingMiddle AgedElderChildrenYoung Adult
WinterCrisisElderChildrenYoung AdultMiddle Aged

The United States has experienced four cycles, or saecula, since the early 1700’s. Below are those four saecula and the four generational archetypes that passed through each of the four seasons (see table above) of each saeculum.

Revolutionary SaeculumAwakening Generation: born 1701 to 1723.Liberty Generation: born 1724 to 1741.Republican Generation: born 1742 to 1766.Compromise Generation: born 1767 to 1791.
Civil War SaeculumTranscendental Generation: born 1792 to 1821.Gilded Generation: born 1822 to 1842.Progressive Generation: born 1843 to 1859.*Progressive Generation: born 1843 to 1859.
Great Power SaeculumMissionary Generation: born 1860 to 1882Lost Generation: born 1883 to 1900G.I. Generation: born 1901 to 1924.Silent Generation: born 1925 to 1942.
Millennial SaeculumBaby Boom Generation: born 1943 to 1960.Generation X: born 1961 to 1981.Millennial Generation: born 1982 to 2004.Generation Z/Homeland: born 2005 to ?.

What can we expect during the current Crisis? Crises are periods marked by major secular upheaval, when society focuses on reorganizing the outer world of institutions and public behavior. The last three Crisis periods in the United States have brought us The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, and World War II. The current Crisis starts with the Great Financial Crisis in 2008 and should continue until 2032, give or take a few years.

The Art of Enterprise by Gary Hoover


Why we do things, our purpose, is at least as important as how we do things

The most important skills, if you want to lead organizations, are the ability to speak and write.

Find that sweet spot where your own passions and ideas intersect with the real needs of real people.

Successful people are almost always optimists.

I believe in studying the best in every business. There‘s a lot to learn from Wal-Mart, Southwest, Dell, and many other well-run enterprises. Success is based not on thinking like today‘s winner, but on thinking differently, thinking in original and creative ways.

Great businesses succeed because of their leaders‘ ability to see things that others do not see.

Key 1: Observing and understanding other people and how their needs, desires, interests, values, and tastes change over time

Key 2: Serving other people by making their lives better

Key 3: Developing a business style that expresses your own dreams and passions even as it serves the needs of others

What entrepreneurial leaders do have in common is a burning desire to build something new and worthwhile.

Part One: Exploration, the Foundation for Finding Your Own Path to Success

The leader of a successful enterprise is, above all, curious.

People who build and lead great enterprises are generally students of the past as well as the future.

The first step in gaining wisdom is to sort out the meaningful from the meaningless.

No matter what your position or your enterprise, the more you understand your context, the more successful you‘ll be.

If you can think of your business as a game, you can begin to understand it as a whole. Even if you don‘t think through a complete game, at least diagram your business on a piece of paper.

Old ideas come back again and again.

In economics, the most interesting problems are often at the small end (why did I buy this book from Barnes & Noble instead of Amazon?) and the big end (how can we save the Brazilian rainforests?).

Common chains to keep an eye out for include these: Time – from past to future; Age – from old to young; Path – from the source to the destination; Price – from low to high; Hierarchy – from chief to subordinate, from king to vassal; Classification – from the specific to the general; Quality – from low to high.

Great minds break through definitions that aren‘t right.

A famous essay by Theodore Levitt, “Marketing Myopia,” tells how the railroads lost out to the truckers because they saw themselves as railroads rather than as freight transportation companies.

eBay is not an Internet company; it is a wonderful clearinghouse for collectibles and other items

Technology will by definition move on. Brands and customer relationships, however, have proven more durable over the years.

It is just as bad to lie to ourselves about the definition of our own enterprise. If you are an insurance company but call yourself a financial services company, you‘d better not be just an insurance company.

The secret of success is seeing something nobody else sees.

The basic rule of discovery is that nothing has ever been discovered by looking in the same place and in the same way as everyone else.

Only by thinking about the unexpected, by looking for the undone thing, can we really jump the track and create a whole new vision.

In a bookstore or a library, find the section you are least likely to visit.

Contact some living famous person in an area that interests you. Many are more accessible than you might think.

We should try to travel as far as we can in every direction — into our own souls, backward through time, and physically to neighboring towns, states, and countries.

Read books from every shelf in your local bookstore or library. Go to another industry‘s convention.

At the extreme, it has become an intellectual vogue to believe that things are bad and are getting worse. Arthur Herman has written a fascinating book, The Idea of Decline in Western History, which tells the intellectual and philosophical history of the doomsayers.

Unconventional thinking can and should be applied to every area of your business.

I‘m always looking for lessons I can transplant from one industry to another.

If you can get out of the channel everyone else is in and look at things from a different angle, you can often gain fresh insights.

If you can get to the point where half of you is asking, “Why?” and half of you is saying “Why not?” then you may achieve new insights.

One of the most important things is understanding the future, being a visionary in some way large or small. But understanding the future first and foremost comes from looking at the past.

The best teachers are also scholars, always learning.

To succeed, you must be obsessed with observing others and serving them. You must go out of your way to see things as others see them, to put yourself in other people‘s shoes.

Knowing what to change and what not to change are at the core of leadership.

The most powerful tool for accomplishing the impossible is the ability to look at a problem — call it a challenge — in different ways.

Even a cursory understanding of the way some other profession sees the world can be invaluable. The worldview of an accountant is a powerful one. So is that of a marketing professional

A great way to sense the viewpoint of others is to read a book of interviews with workers. The classic is Studs Terkel‘s Working. Even broader and more current is Gig.

But many of the great scientists were people who also studied history and literature, music and psychology.

The visionary leader has the capacity to understand many perspectives, to see the world from many views.

Sergio Zyman, former marketing master of Coca-Cola and author of The End of Marketing as We Know It, points out that marketing success is really about studying people.

Can you hold a conversation with an over-the-road-trucker, a member of the Communist Party, an evangelical Christian, or a hip-hop artist?

The more we can see things the way others see them — our work associates, our community, and (most important) our customers — the more we can build a comprehensive view of what matters.

You can learn as much from the local workers in one hour at a breakfast counter as you can learn in a year of nice meals at the trendiest restaurant with your best friends. Great politicians know this. So do great leaders of enterprise.

The credo of the learning person is ―there is no one on earth that I cannot learn something from – the rich, the poor; the bosses, the workers; the young, the old – no one.

If you wish to start an enterprise but have not yet figured out exactly what you want to do, the most important thought in your mind should be a simple one: Find a need and fill it.

Look for things that are not working, look for problems, for opportunities. Look at things that are working, that are popular. Think about how to take their ideas and adapt them to other industries.

Find (and watch) real people having and talking about real problems. Get out of the strategy room and onto the battlefield.

In the worst-run industries lie opportunities where an innovator can succeed, and in the best-run industries are found the ways to do so.

Study cockroaches if you want to understand durability and adaptability. Study coyotes and turkey vultures.

One of the most common causes of failure is the inability of leaders to see the most important underlying trends – trends that emerge from the past to create the present and shape the future.

One of the most important developments for retailing and marketing since World War II has been the entry of women into the workforce.

Large, slow-moving trends are easy to miss. But missing them can spell the end of your enterprise.

The single most important trend for most of us, especially in the US, is the aging of the baby boom generation.

The years in which the members of this boom will reach particular stages of their lives are precisely predictable. People:

  • Spend more time and money on hobbies and leisure pursuits in their fifties and beyond. 

  • Give away more money in their sixties and beyond. 

  • Gradually increase political participation, especially voting, from a very low level in their twenties to a peak in their seventies or even eighties. 

  • Increase their power (corporate, community, political) through their fifties and possibly sixties. 

  • Begin to establish second or retirement homes in their fifties and sixties. 

  • Move into nursing homes and assisted living in their seventies and eighties. 

  • Increase their concern with health and nutrition in their fifties and sixties. 

  • Die in their seventies and eighties, supporting enterprises even with their last breath. 

    I believe the aging of the baby boom will result in dramatic expansion of four key industries: health, education, travel, and financial services.

Second, be careful not to confuse age-related trends with generation-related trends. Ask: “to what degree is this something that will pass as these people age, and to what degree is this going to stay with them for life?”

People will be healthier and live longer, maintaining more varied interests than the senior citizens of prior times.

We will see a significant rise in demand for college and other educational services by senior citizens.

This division of the world into young countries and aging countries will result in a newly defined “new world” (or “young world”) and “old world.”

The first and most significant component of this trend is the increasing Latinization of North America. By 2025, over 18% of the American population will be of Hispanic origin.

As time passes, we Americans become more diverse in our passions.

It takes more work to watch things that move slowly – clouds, demographics, long-term trends in industry, history, or culture.

One of the biggest risks in thinking about the past and the future is that we become “chronocentric” – that is, obsessed with our own era, considering it the most important or most dynamic time ever.

Unfortunately, most people in the world of business have little or no appreciation of the heritage of business history.

Any study of history and of changing consumer preferences indicates that many ideas of old recycle back to us.

Geography does matter. It matters more than ever. For we humans are still creatures of place. So geography is much more than a physical place. It is culture, history, ethnicity, way of life.

Although geography is a more important subject than it ever has been, our knowledge of geography has gotten worse—especially here in the US.

Canada is one of the world‘s largest and most powerful economies, and Mexico has the chance to become another.

An enterprise must be built with an awareness of what is going on in the world.

It‘s a worthwhile experience to spend time looking at the world through the eyes of a foreigner. The most effective way to do this is to go abroad.

Travel can be greatly enhanced by studying history, geography, and culture in books, but there is ultimately no substitute for walking the streets, eating the food, meeting the people—for being there.

Stereotypes are not by definition evil: they are natural, human tools we use to try to make sense of the world around us. Stereotypes change. Relying on stereotypes is dangerous

The “Pacific Century” is probably an American myth.

It’s pointless to speak of one Asia.

The nation to watch is China.

Malaysia and Singapore are nations of the future. I think of them as the Netherlands and Switzerland (successful smaller nations) of the future.

Europe probably has a lock on being the tourism center of the world.

The Middle East, North Africa, and the culture of Islam are much more complex than we may think.

The three nations with the greatest unrealized potential are Brazil, India, and Indonesia.

Throughout Latin America, the opportunities for culture, tourism, and commerce are enormous. As in Asia, some nations will be well led, while others will not.

Over the long term, the world – the whole world – is getting wealthier and wealthier.

Furthermore, even in the most prosperous nations, there continue to be pockets of poverty and deprivation. There will continue to be economic cycles, and in the downturns people living near the edge of poverty.

Compared with all the people who have lived before us, even the kings and queens, most of us live in unprecedented luxury, with unequalled options and choices.

As we become wealthier, will we lose the drive, the hustle, the dissatisfaction with the status quo that is an American hallmark?

Over the last twenty years, there has been a remarkable global spread of the practice of democracy.

In conjunction with the rise of democracy, we have seen the fall of communism in many nations. More such shifts can be expected.

The spread of universal education will continue.

The rise of technology and science will continue.

Increasing urbanization will continue.

The end of the farm and factory will continue. The single most significant trend in the history of the world‘s economies is our long, slow progress away from spending most of our time growing things and making things.

The rise of services means that we will have more and more freelance workers, more people selling their services rather than their skills on the assembly line. This means that more and more people will have the option of living where they want.

There are two great enemies to the gradual lifting of the peoples of the world through trade: isolationism and arrogance.

You don‘t have to be an or an e-wizard to succeed in the twenty-first century, you just have to care about your customers and your product and pay attention to the details.

Each nation, each state, each city, no matter how small or how large, has a personality – defining attributes that can be turned into competitive advantages.

If you want to see what an American city of the future may look like, visit Singapore or the capital of neighboring Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

The most common mistake we make in thinking about technology is that we start with gadgets, rather than with people. Think people first. Insight comes more from studying people and their needs than it comes from studying the underlying science.

Our cities have always been the center of our commerce, of our dealings with each other. I would even go so far as to say that the city itself is the greatest of human enterprises.

Cities today are more important than ever before in world history. This is the result of two factors: (1) The long-term global rise of cities (urbanization); and (2) the recent improvement of inner-city quality.

New York is more important than any other single city on earth. I think there are three real contenders for the next capital of the world: Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.

Today, there is no stronger long-term global industry than tourism. Those cities with a strong, lasting tourism base should be in a good position for the future. Thus, one great place to be is near a physical sight that is not going to move.

There are two cities that I love to visit that may surprise some readers: Las Vegas and Orlando.

One characteristic common to all great cities through history is effective civic leadership. That includes leadership by ordinary citizens.

Physical geography is still a very real factor. People are likely to continue to move away from cold winters, as air conditioning makes the world‘s warmer regions more livable. People like living in the mountains or near the sea when possible.

The rise of the service economy will let more people live wherever they want. Oceanfront and mountain view property will only rise in value. Physically attractive towns will prosper.

Boom cities will see growth spillover to nearby cities.

Medium-sized cities will likely continue to do well.

Selected smaller cities, with their lower crime rates, lower costs of living, and stable societies, will boom. For example, in the area around Austin, San Marcos, Bastrop, Kerrville and Fredericksburg will boom.

More and more of Colorado and the other mountain states will boom.

There will be more “wealth colonies” like Carmel, Santa Fe, and Naples.

The boom in Florida will eventually reach every nook and cranny in that state.

Cities with major universities and state governments will continue to have an advantage.

Cities serving tourists and retirees will continue to boom.

Some high-tech cities will go into decline as their technologies fade.

The Sunbelt (defined as an arc from Seattle to DC, reaching inland to include Denver and Nashville) will continue to attract people, while the cities of the Northeast struggle.

Part Two: Essence: The Power of Vision

The single most critical ingredient of enterprise success is having a clear vision.

Vision tells us why the enterprise exists. An enterprise without a clear purpose is a ship without a rudder, a train without a track.

Instead, your vision should reflect what you expect and hope your organization will become. Your vision is by definition a statement of ambition.

A great vision reflects your “core values.”

But above all else your vision must reflect what is unique about your enterprise, its personality and attitude. It will reflect what you believe is most important, why you believe the enterprise exists.

A vision bonds people together.

A vision inspires and motivates people to achieve more working together.

Nothing is a more powerful agent for attracting and keeping talented people than a clear vision, especially if the organization is living that vision and achieving its goals.

A vision is an anchor in hard times and times of change. It is what makes the difference between the flash in the pan and the enterprise that is going to last.

A vision is a potent competitive tool. A unique vision can differentiate you from competitors.

I believe that there are four primary attributes in successful enterprise visions: clear, consistent, unique, service-oriented.

One of the clearest visioned companies in the US is Southwest Airlines.

Some of the giant airlines tried to copy Southwest, but they thought the whole story was price, and missed the simple vision based on reliable, fun service.

Stick to your vision through thick and thin, through bad quarters and good.

The hardest part of building a great enterprise is knowing what to change and what not to change.

The part of an enterprise that does not change is the essence, the vision. Everything else, every aspect of the execution of the idea, every strategy and tactic, every product and every price, is subject to change.

A successful vision is unique, so that the enterprise has the chance to be the very best at something.

Don‘t lose too much sleep if the single best spot is already taken. Most auto races aren‘t won from the pole position.

Volvo has never in its history sold a car. Instead, Volvo has sold durability and safety.

It is also important to understand that each enterprise has a personality. Your vision must be valid, it must jive with what the customer (and everybody else) already knows about you. While they may not be popular at the big ad agencies, a little realism is always appreciated.

Saying an enterprise exists to make a profit is like saying automobiles exist to get good gas mileage. Automobiles exist to give us mobility, to allow us to move around.

The only valid reason to the existence of any enterprise, for profit or non, is to provide products or services to people.

The only rule is that customers always get what they want. It is just a matter of who gives it to them and when.

People want to do something that is worthwhile – nothing is more motivational than doing something that you think is worth doing. People need to know that their work matters.

At the best of enterprises, this sense of mission becomes almost a religion. Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, and the Container Store are just a few of the other organizations where people behave as if they were on a mission of great importance, a mission based on service.

Most mission statements talk about serving the customer. But in fact, most companies make their decisions based on what accounting says they can do, what is the easiest procedure to train people in, what their systems allow them to do, what the lawyers tell them to do, or any of a thousand other ways of setting priorities. But the enterprises that survive and prosper the longest always start by asking, “what is best for our customers?”

We spend so much time and energy on attracting new customers, but often the most direct route to prosperity is by keeping our existing customers.

And yet virtually every great leader spends disproportionate amounts of their time with customers.

The reality is that brands and reputations are built very very slowly, one customer at a time, one transaction at a time, one experience at a time. All the ads in the world will not tell as many people about your enterprise as their friends and relatives will.

Building your business, serving people, depends first and foremost on paying attention to details.

What matters is the same as always: is knowing your customers, caring about their needs and desires, and working around the clock to anticipate and meet those needs and desires.

Everyone looks at Southwest and thinks the secret is low fares. They ignore the on-time record, the lack of lost bags. People first and foremost want safe, reliable air travel.

The most compelling explanation I ever heard of how to dream up businesses was also the first one I heard: find a need and fill it.

Categories of new enterprise formation:

  • Copy an existing idea in a new geographical territory.
  • Copy an existing idea from one industry to another.
  • Chain it up. Many industries remain highly fragmented, dominated by independent companies.
  • Brand an unbranded field.
  • Split things into finer specialization. Sporting goods store => outdoor store, bicycle store, fishing store.
  • Make a dramatic breakthrough in a business or improve the way things are done. Wal-Mart took the Kmart approach and further ―perfected‖ it. There is always room for improvement, in any business, if you watch it closely enough.
  • Invent a whole new business. Federal Express came from Fred Smith‘s mind. WD-40 came out of nowhere. eBay came from even less. 

    Look for intersections means finding ways to combine two existing ideas.

Be cautious when asking customers for feedback on new ideas. When you come up with a whole new idea, there is no way someone else can visualize it like you can. Customers do not always consciously know what they want.

However, you can extrapolate what customers want based on their behavior.

Great enterprises usually do one thing, and do it very, very well. Over and over again. But as companies are driven to grow by managers and stockholders, they sometimes grow into strange dimensions and lose focus.

New competitors take market share from existing leaders by competing at a higher or lower price point, pioneering new technologies, differentiating by brand, or specializing in a niche of the larger market.

Part Three: Execution: Enterprises at Work

An entrepreneurial organization is resourceful, flexible, ever-adapting. By contrast, an institutional organization is built around rules and procedures. Most companies like to claim they are entrepreneurial in spirit; very few truly are. Entrepreneurs see opportunity when they see industries or companies that are rule-bound institutions.

I believe that one of the most common signs of corporate (and industry) illness is the merger between two giant companies. Size is the enemy of the customer. Size is the enemy of vision and culture. Size brings complexity. Size alone does not win. Size brings diseconomies of scale.

The benefits of vertical integration are usually a fantasy.

Mergers are always harder to pull off than people think. Mergers can be a powerful way to extend the geography of an enterprise – not cheaply or easily, but perhaps quickly. 

Innovative industries have high rates of experimentation and offer the consumer many options.

Companies touch customers most effectively through the establishment of a unique, differentiated identity – a brand. A brand name is not really meaningful if it has no strong connotation in the mind of the consumer. Brands can be especially durable if they really connect with the customer, if they have some emotional content.

Health, financial services, education, and travel will grow dramatically. Subcategories within those industries will become massive.

My nomination for today‘s best industry, the one that does its job most effectively, is the food and beverage distribution industry. In my opinion, furthest behind the curve is the consumer banking industry.

I believe today‘s financial-industry environment, with the lack of leadership on the part of the biggest companies, offers tremendous opportunities for new entrants and smaller competitors. As the baby boom ages and retires, the industry will only grow bigger.

By most measures – customer focus, lack of pointless mergers, innovation, diversity of options for the customer – the retailing industry scores high.

People are by nature social animals, and they want to be around each other. Most successful retail stores are, above all, social experiences. They engage their customers. The best etailers will realize this. Many will even open stores. If Sony, Apple, and Nike think they need stores to advertise their brands, so too may Yahoo!, AOL, and Amazon.

I believe Amazon’s greatest strength remains their understanding of their merchandise, their understanding of their customers, their ability to recommend merchandise, and their high service standards – not their use of the Net.

Most of the successful retailers of the future will smoothly integrate the Internet, the telephone, direct mail, and retail stores.

But customers‘ lives and experienced aren‘t organized around merchandise categories. Thus, it would seem logical for retailers to organize themselves in the same way their customers think – around themes.

There may be no industry with more exciting prospects in the entire world than healthcare.

In the future, wellness and prevention will be at the heart of healthcare.

Medicine is an industry that desperately needs to learn the art of service – to learn to focus on what it feels like to be a customer.

In a world where healthcare consumers are inundated with advice good and bad, those who provide unbiased, independent, reliable information will become key linchpins in the system.

Another industry whose prospects are enhanced by global aging is travel and tourism. As the baby boomer age, they will have more time and more money. In many cases, their desires for material goods will become sated and they will increasingly turn to experiences.

My major criticism of the airline business relates not to service but to the lack of personality and the weak branding that characterize most carriers. Wake up from a nap on a typical flight and tell me which airline you are on.

Lodging is a huge industry, with over $100 billion a year in revenue in the US alone. As global tourism booms, the future looks great.

As the travel industry grows dramatically in this century, we‘ll see whole new companies begun, and old ones remodeled, to offer customers new and more interesting choices. Business battles will not be won via mergers and cost controls alone. They will increasingly be won through differentiation, showmanship, entertainment, visual design, a sense of history, and skillful catering to market segments.

Entertainment, from video games to music, is a multi-billion-dollar business. And the global spread of the entertainment industry has barely begun.

The greater lasting value in media lies in content, not distribution pipelines. The greater value is in media companies, not in technology companies.

The twenty-first century is likely to see dramatic growth in the industries which were, in the twentieth century, known collectively as the non-profit sector. This growth will be particularly dramatic in education, museums, and the arts.

The fundamental qualities that lead to greatness at Southwest Airlines are the same ones that lead to greatness at Harvard, at Home Depot, at the Salvation Army, and at the Smithsonian Institution.

In both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, the board has the ultimate responsibility to set the organization‘s goals, select the management team, make sure that financial and other resources are managed responsibly and ethically, and that all the constituencies of the enterprise are well-served.

The American and foreign citizens and tourists who support cultural organizations are steadily growing healthier, longer- lived, and better educated, and they have more money in their pockets.

This growth in demand will be accompanied by two other big trends: the rise of philanthropy by an aging (and ultimately dying) population, and the increased availability of volunteer and leisure hours.

And, particularly in contrast with other non- profit enterprises, museums are great at differentiation – at branding. People around the world know and respect the great cultural brand names – the Museum of Modern Art, the San Diego Zoo, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Tanglewood summer music festival, the Prado, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Demographic factors will help spur the growth of education as well. Millions of retiring baby boomers will want to devote serious time and money to new activities and interests.

US higher education is in many ways a backward industry, plagued by economic inefficiency, lack of differentiation, and structural inertia.

There has been a dramatic rise of home schooling across the U.S.

America‘s middle class has fled the cities and headed to the suburbs to find better schools.

From an entrepreneurial viewpoint, the greatest opportunities in education are in the mass market. Giving a great education to large numbers of people is where the greatest opportunity lies for entrepreneurs, not in providing private schooling for the privileged.

But as an entrepreneur I have to say that the religion industry is not in the best of shape. While some faiths are growing in membership and attendance, many are in decline. Millions of people around the world are searching for meaning in their lives.

Of course, the single largest industry in the United States is our government. There are functions only government can provide, such as national defense. But in many other cases, the free market can do a better job.

Above all, government needs to become more creative, experimental, and customer-oriented. It‘s beginning to happen

Passion is at the heart of every great enterprise. Without passion, without heart, all the analysis and study in the world is for naught.

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” – Hal Borland

Persistence is the endurance to continue the journey. For building any enterprise is indeed a journey, often a long one.

It‘s a long march. You start out uncertain of your ability to generate any sales. In time, you make some sales, but you‘re not sure you can make any profits. Then you make some profits, but you‘re unsure of your ability to sustain them. You start out with nothing but unanswered questions. Then you proceed to answer them, one by one.

I can assure you that anyone who accomplishes things like this may appear shy, but he has a fire burning inside . . . a fire just as hot as the fire inside a person whose heat can be felt from fifty yards away. Some people just have their engines set on high, and entrepreneurs are among them.

Pessimists usually don‘t build anything. Why invest in a bleak future? Entrepreneurial optimists are not blind to the problems around them, but they see them as opportunities.

But history shows that being best is more important than being first. Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and IBM often have been followers – really excellent, and very profitable, followers.

If you manage your business based on what Wall Street tells you, you are probably going down a dead-end street. Don‘t listen to them. Listen to yourself and listen to your customers.

Passion and vision combine to give the entrepreneur strength and self-confidence.

Leadership is how passion and vision are translated into organizational success.

A CEO is really in charge of two crucial things: strategy and culture.

A common mistake made by those who fail is trying to do it all themselves. The sooner you develop organizational depth, the better. Developing strong people through coaching and teaching is critical to success, yet many entrepreneurs fail in these areas.

Leadership is about seeing what needs to be done and having the courage to do it. Management is about knowing how to fit together the details to make the vision real.

Great Companies Deserve Great Boards by Beverly A. Behan

The Big Idea: New CEOs should take the time to learn about corporate governance.

Consider subscribing to “Directors & Boards”, “Agenda”, “Directorship”, or “Corporate Board Member”.

Terminology for the new CEO

  1. Nonexecutive Chair: a chair who is an outside, independent board member
  2. Executive Chair: lacks the independence from management, is sometimes the company’s outgoing CEO
  3. Lead Director: outside, independent board member, chairs executive sessions, liaison between CEO and directors
  4. Executive Sessions: required by SEC of public companies, board meets without CEO

Eight components of a high performing board

  1. Board Composition: most important but not the only component
  2. Board Leadership: chair needs to run an effective meeting, know who/when to call on members for balanced input
  3. Board Information: don’t overlook the importance of well-organized board packets
  4. Board Dynamics: meetings should be positive, productive, candid, vibrant, respectful
  5. Board Agendas and Meetings: balance presentation and discussion 50/50, focus the agenda
  6. Board<>Management Dynamics: candor and mutual respect, thought partner > audience
  7. Board Committees: chair needs to run these meetings well, needs support from company executives
  8. Board Processes: discussion of strategy, risk, succession planning

Traits of a high performing board:

  1. CEO believes that board adds value (and can provide specifics).
  2. Individual board members believe they add value (and can provide specifics).
  3. Individual board members are always looking to improve.
  4. Board meetings are open and vibrant.
  5. Company achieves good results — financially, operationally, and strategically.
  6. A great board should steer a company towards positive performance and value for shareholders. 

Board/CEO dynamics to avoid:

  1. Imperial (CEO runs the company, board is filled with old buddies)
  2. Entrenched (board maintains the status quo and resists change)
  3. Hostile (no trust in either direction)

CEOs should not hesitate to discuss an emergency CEO succession plan, aka the hit-by-a-bus scenario.

CEOs should engage the board early in the strategy process, instead of presenting the final strategy in the board meeting.

Outside directors cannot engage effectively if they lack information. Find the gaps and help fill them.

SEC requires three committees for public companies:

  1. Audit Committee: financial audit, risk oversight, financial controls.
  2. Compensation: sets compensation for CEO and for board members.
  3. Nominating/Governance Committee: board composition, recruitment, orientation, evaluation, exit.

Not required but common committees:

  1. Strategy Committee
  2. Finance Committee

Not as common committees:

  1. Executive committees were more popular a decade ago. Useful in quick response crisis situations.

Recruit before you shoot: focus energy on expanding the board before expending energy pruning the board.

Avoid the trap of naming an individual during board expansion. Keep focused on skills and experience.

If you need to get rid of a boardroom bully or a constant contrarian, it’s the job of the Lead Director (or the Nonexecutive Chair) not the job of the CEO.

Director peer reviews are the preferred way to evaluate director performance. They are conducted with discretion by the Lead Director (or the Nonexecutive Chair).

Common pitfalls for CEOs to watch out for:

  1. A failure to understand and address all eight components (above.)
  2. Asking for greater openness between the board and the CEO but responding in a way that is defensive or critical. Cuts both ways.
  3. Delegation of board changes that require leadership from the CEO. Eg. Board packets, board agendas.

Common trust-breakers

  1. The Garden of Eden: everything is presented as positive and wonderful.
  2. Only One Solution: only one solution presented or considered.
  3. Heard It Through The Grapevine: directors should never learn about an important development by reading it in the morning newspaper.
  4. Let Them Eat Cake: outwardly dismissive and disrespectful towards board members.

Mastery by Robert Greene

The Big Idea: Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within.


  • Masters practice harder and move faster through the learning process.
  • Masters feel an intensity desire to learn and a deep connection to their field of study.
  • Desire, patience, persistence, and confidence >> reasoning ability.

I: Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task

  • Your inner calling was probably clear to you during your childhood.
  • Connect with your inclinations.
  • View your path as a journey with twists and turns, rather than a straight line.
  • Return to your origins; look back at your childhood interests.
  • Occupy the perfect niche; choose an area that interests you; look for side paths that interest you, and continually move towards a narrower niche. Alternatively, blend two distinct areas of expertise that compliment each other.
  • Avoid the false path; beware forces (fame, money, attention, status) pushing you away from your true path.
  • Let go of the past; follow your calling and don’t be tied to a particular career or position.
  • If you lose your way, make public your return to your path, so that it becomes a matter of shame and embarrassment to deviate from this new path.

II: Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

  • After your formal education, comes The Apprenticeship.
  • The goal of The Apprenticeship is simply to learn.
  • Choose an Apprenticeship that offers the most opportunity to learn.
  • 3 Stages of Apprenticeship: Deep Observation, Skills Acquisition, Experimentation
  • Observe: observe the rules and procedures.
  • Observe: do not make the mistake of imagining you must get attention, impress people, or prove yourself in this stage.
  • Skills Acquisition: focus on practice and repetition.
  • Skills Acquisition: reduce the skills to something simple and essential.
  • Skills Acquisition: begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others.
  • Experimentation: in this stage, move to a more active mode of experimentation.
  • Experimentation: exercise your problem solving skills by working with your hands and learning more about the inner workings of the machines and pieces of technology around you.
  • Value learning over money.
  • Read books and materials that go beyond what is required.
  • When you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible.  For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling.
  • Trust the process; push through the point of frustration and continue to practice.
  • Move towards resistance and pain.
  • Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.
  • Take the extra effort to learn how things are done, not just how they appear, and gain a deeper understanding and feeling for the whole.
  • Through trial and error, find out what work suits you, and what doesn’t.  

III: Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

  • The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours.
  • During the Apprenticeship Phase you will need mentors whose authority you recognize and to whom you submit.
  • The reason you require a mentor is simple: life is short; you have only so much time.
  • You will want as much personal interaction with the mentor as possible.
  • Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations.
  • Choose a mentor who will give you tough love, reveal your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Learn from your mentors, listen, but cultivate some distance by altering their advice to fit your own inclinations and style.

IV: See People as They Are: Social Intelligence

  • Success attained without social intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.
  • Social intelligence means getting inside someone else’s world and seeing and accepting them as they are.
  • Pay attention to tone of voice, the look in their eye, their body language.
  • Initial impressions are often misleading.
  • If you have a gift for a certain skill, make a point of displaying weakness in another area.
  • If you have a rebellious streak, be careful not to display your difference too overtly.
  • When you need something from someone, appeal to people’s self-interest, and get used to looking at the world through their eyes.
  • Be prudent and keep your ideas close so they can’t be stolen. Secure credit in advance as part of teams working together.
  • We like to think we are rational, but we are largely governed by our emotions.
  • The root cause of passive aggression is human fear of direct confrontation.
  • Be efficient, detail-oriented, and make what you write or present clear and easy to follow. This will show your care for the audience or public at large.
  • People will judge you based on your outward appearance. Be aware of this and plan for it.
  • See yourself as others see you. Seek opinions from those you trust about your behavior as well.
  • Be tolerant of stupidity or incompetence in other people. It is simply part of life.

V: Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

  • As you accumulate skills, become increasingly bold and begin to experiment.
  • If your work comes from a place deep within, its authenticity will be communicated.
  • Let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.
  • Keep a notebook with you at all times. The moment any idea or observation comes, you note it down.
  • Observe things. Conduct thought experiments.
  • Train your mind to look at things from multiple perspectives.
  • Anomalies usually contain the richest information, so do not ignore or explain them away.
  • It’s obvious to observe what is present, but don’t ignore what is absent.
  • The emotions we experience at any time have an inordinate influence on how we perceive the world.
  • Make creativity rather than comfort your goal, and continue to be bold.
  • Like an athlete, enjoy practice, push past your limits, and resist the easy way out.
  • Love learning for its own sake.
  • Read from many different fields, and look for interesting implications and anomalies in others that have implications in your own field.
  • Whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself.
  • Embrace slowness as a virtue
  • If we are not careful, however, we get locked into seeing every problem the same way.
  • What really makes successful entrepreneurs is their willingness to adapt their idea and take advantage of possibilities they had not first imagined.
  • Fluidity of mind is the essential entrepreneurial trait. The other essential entrepreneurial trait is supreme tenacity.
  • Mastery takes years of practice, endless routines, hours of doubt, and tenacious overcoming of obstacles.

VI: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

  • Time x Focus = Mastery.
  • Masters internalize all the individual parts, and gain an intuitive feel for the whole.
  • Cultivate a greater memory capacity. Intellectually stimulating hobbies can serve this purpose.
  • Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge.
  • The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery.
  • To achieve mastery, play to your strengths instead of struggling to overcome your weaknesses.
  • Transform yourself through practice.
  • The person who has the wider, more global perspective will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing.
  • Get inside the mind of others so you can understand their perspective.
  • Build connections between different fields and ideas.

Civilization by Niall Ferguson

The Big Idea: The West has achieved global dominance thanks to competition, science, rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and work ethic. In recent decades, the West has lost its monopoly over these and the balance of power has begun to shift back towards other civilizations.

Why did the West, for the past five hundred years, become more economically successful and politically powerful than other civilizations?

1. Competition: Political instability forced small European states to constantly compete and innovate. Asia was ruled by stable imperial monopolies that led to less economic growth and innovation.

2. Science: The West broke free from the shackles of superstition and dogma, leading to a scientific revolution that would change the world. While the East had initially been technologically superior, they failed to keep pace with the West’s scientific advancements.

3. The Rule of Law: Property rights, consistently enforced, provided the basis for individual freedoms and economic success. By contrast, non-Western societies were often manipulated by rulers at their discretion.

4. Modern Medicine: The application of scientific methods to health led to groundbreaking discoveries, extended life spans, and improved quality of life in the West. This change led to population growth, which further spurred economic development.

5. Consumerism: The West developed a culture that valued and demanded innovation, quality, and, above all, abundance. The rise of consumer society fueled industry, creating a positive feedback loop that generated wealth and drove technological progress.

6. Work Ethic: Protestantism, with its emphasis on hard work, thrift, and a “calling,” led to the spirit of capitalism. This cultural mindset further contributed to the West’s economic advantage.

Western societies may be losing their edge, partly due to complacency and internal challenges such as fiscal imbalance, failing educational systems, and societal decay. While Eastern powers, especially China, have started to catch up, their long-term potential might be constrained by the absence of rule of law and limited political freedoms.

The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge

The Big Idea: From the 11th to the 15th century, popes and Christian nobles attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to take back Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims. The first crusades was the most successful, establishing, for a time, 4 Latin Christian kingdoms within the Holy Land.

Date Started
Date Ended
Key Battles
Primary Goal/Reason Started
Key People
First Crusade
1099Siege of Antioch, Siege of JerusalemReclaim the Holy Land from Muslim controlThe Crusaders captured Jerusalem and established several Christian states in the region, including the Kingdom of Jerusalem.Raymond of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemond of Taranto, Pope Urban II
Second Crusade11471149Battle of Dorylaeum, Siege of DamascusRespond to the fall of the County of EdessaThe Crusaders failed to recapture Edessa and suffered several defeats in battles against Muslim forces.King Louis VII of France, Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III
Third Crusade11891192Battle of Arsuf, Siege of Acre, Battle of JaffaRetake Jerusalem from Muslim controlThe Crusaders failed to recapture Jerusalem but secured a truce with Muslim forces that allowed Christian access to the city.Richard the Lionheart, King Philip II of France, Saladin
Fourth Crusade12021204Siege of Zara, Siege of ConstantinopleReclaim the Holy Land by conquering the city of ConstantinopleThe Crusaders captured Constantinople and established a Latin Empire in the region, but did not achieve their original objective of reaching the Holy Land.Doge Enrico Dandolo of Venice, Baldwin IX of Flanders
Children’s Crusade12121212N/AChildren and teenagers attempted to peacefully convert Muslims to Christianity and recapture the Holy LandThe crusade failed, and most of the participants were either killed, enslaved, or returned home.Stephen of Cloyes, Nicholas
Fifth Crusade12171221Battle of Damietta, Siege of CairoRecapture JerusalemThe Crusaders captured Damietta but were ultimately defeated and forced to sign a treaty that allowed Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem.King Andrew II of Hungary, Duke Leopold VI of Austria
Sixth Crusade12281229N/ARetake Jerusalem from Muslim control through diplomacy

What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz

The Big Idea: As a leader, it’s your job to design and build your organization’s culture. A well-designed culture can overcome a poor product or service in the long-term, but not in the short-term. (Product-market fit probably matters more than culture for a startup trying to survive past the early stages.)

The culture you design should reflect you who you are, not who you aspire to be.

Make sure your culture supports your strategy.

Develop virtues (eg. Samurai honor code.)

Be inclusive (eg. Genghis Khan.)

Model and reinforce the culture (eg. Toussaint Louverture.)

Never stop improving your culture (eg. Shaka Senghor.)

Outlive by Peter Attia, MD

Chapter 1: The Long Game

Longevity has two components; how long you live and how well you live.

The four main chronic diseases of aging (aka Four Horsemen) are: heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, metabolic disorder (diabetes.)

A single, preventative measure (not smoking) saves more lives than any late stage intervention that medicine has devised.

By the time medicine intervenes, it’s often too late.

The typical cholesterol panel is misleading and oversimplified to the point of uselessness.

Protein is more important than carbs as we age.

Exercise is the most potent longevity drug.

Chapter 2: Medicine 3.0

The evolution of medicine, Medicine 3.0, will place a far greater emphasis on prevention than treatment.

Medicine 3.0 will consider the patient as a unique individual.

Medicine 3.0 will consider risk differently, including the risk of doing nothing.

Medicine 3.0 will pay far more attention to maintaining quality of life.

Chapter 3: Objective, Strategy, and Tactics

What is our goal? To delay death and to get the most out of the extra years.

What is our strategy? To understand the Four Horsemen and how they lead to decline.

What are our tactics? Exercise, nutrition, sleep, emotional health, and exogenous molecules (drugs, hormones, supplements.)

Randomized clinical trials are of limited use in longevity because they work best for simple interventions, over a short time period.

Centenarian studies are very useful for learning about longevity, even though the data is observational.

Other sources of useful longevity information: animal models, human studies, cellular mechanisms, Mendelian randomization.

Chapter 4: Centenarians

Genetics is a strong predictor of centenarian longevity.

Centenarians not only live longer, but tend to be healthier.

The path to reaching 100 is likely a lot of small interventions, compounded over time.

We must focus on delaying the onset of chronic disease, not extending the duration of the disease.

Chapter 5: Hunger and Health

Studies show that extreme caloric restriction improves health and longevity in animals but not necessarily in humans.

Reduction of nutrients does trigger a group of pathways that enhance a cell’s stress resistance and metabolic efficiency.

Fasting activates AMPK, which stimulates new mitochondria and inhibits the activity of mTOR, activating autophagy.

Chapter 6: Modern Diets

42% of Americans are obese.

It’s not actually obesity that drives bad health outcomes, it’s metabolic dysfunction (high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL, large waist circumference, high glucose.)

Excess calories enters into fat tissue, then blood, then liver, then muscle, then heart and pancreas.

Visceral fat cells secrete inflammatory cytokines which increase risk of cancer and heart disease.

Everyone interested in longevity should get a DEXA scan annually to monitor their visceral fat.

When you have high fasting blood glucose, it means your cells are becoming insulin resistant.

Insulin resistance leads to obesity, atherosclerosis, and potentially cancer.

Fructose also drives high blood pressure and fat gain, unless consumed as part of a whole fruit.

It’s far better to intervene before HbA1C rises above 6.5 and the patient already has diabetes. Look out for liver enzymes and signs of NAFLD. Look out for elevated lipids.

Most importantly, look out for elevated insulin, in the form of an oral glucose test.

Chapter 7: Heart Disease

Dietary cholesterol doesn’t impact cholesterol blood levels.

ApoB particles are the strongest predictor of cardiovascular disease.

One third of 16-20 yo in one study already have actual atherosclerotic plaques in their coronary arteries.

HDL is poorly understood but it serves some protective function. Drugs that raise HDL don’t lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

CT angiogram is preferred over standard calcium heart scan because it can detect soft plaque.

Lp(a) is another marker highly predictive of heart disease, but only needs to be tested once.

Get apoB and LDL-C as low as possible, even if it requires drugs such as statins.

A ketogenic diet will improve lipids for most people, but will actually worsen apoB in about 1/3 of people.

Medicine 2.0 starts treating heart disease much too late, based on 10 year risk calculations. We should start taking aggressive preventative measure when patients are in their 40s, if not earlier.

Statins: Crestor (rosuvastatin), sometimes paired with Zetia (ezetimibe) to get apoB to 20 or 30 mg/dL. Also, Vascepa, is a helpful prescription grade fish oil.

Chapter 8: Cancer

Cancer is second leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.

By the time most cancer is detected, it’s been progressing for years, if not decades.

Metastatic cancers can be slowed by chemo, but they usually come back.

We need to detect cancers as early as possible.

12-13 percent of all cancer is attributable to obesity.

Chronic inflammation creates an environment that could induce cells to become cancerous.

Promising new treatments for cancers: fasting, immunotherapy, adoptive cell therapy.

It’s always best to detect cancer early. We already screen for five cancers: lung, breast, prostate, colorectal, and cervical.

Medicine 3.0 will encourage more aggressive screening (MRI, liquid biopsies, ultrasound) while understanding the result will be false positives, which leads to more screening.

Chapter 9: Neurogenerative Diseases

People with one or two APOE e4 allele have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Neurodegenerative diseases have no cure, but we can try and prevent them.

Amyloid beta plaques are probably not necessary nor sufficient to cause Alzheimer’s.

Lewy bodies accumulate in Lewy body dementia and in Parkinson’s.

Alzheimer’s is twice as common in women versus men. The opposite is true for Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s.

Dementia can go unnoticed for years, as patients learn how to counteract.

Exercise with complex movements is the only intervention shown to delay Parkinson’s.

We still don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, but theories include: vascular disease and impaired glucose metabolism.

To prevent or delay Alzheimer’s: steady cardio to improve mitochondrial efficiency, strength training, sleep, brushing/flossing, sauna.

Chapter 10: Thinking Tactically

Our genes no longer match our environment.

Exercise, nutrition, sleep, emotional health, exogenous molecules.

Focus on effective tactics, driven by logic and data.

Eg. the most common way to be killed, as a driver, is by another car coming from the left, resulting in a T-bone crash. Always look left, even if you have the green light.

Exercise and nutrition are the most complex and impactful domains.

Most people will need to lose fat and gain muscle.

Chapter 11: Exercise

Exercise is the most powerful longevity drug.

Peak aerobic fitness, measured by VO2 max, is the most powerful marker for longevity.

In one study, muscle strength was more important than aerobic fitness.

Don’t specialize in one physical activity. Be a centenarian decathlete and cross-train.

Jack LaLanne kept doing his usual rigorous daily workout until his death at age ninety-six. He built and maintained a high level of fitness throughout his life.

Chapter 12: Centenarian Olympics

Training for centenarian olympics has three key dimensions: cardio, strength, and stability. You must train all three.

Your cardio training should be mostly in zone 2, to optimize mitochondrial health and keep fat accumulation in check.

Zone 2 is 70-80% of your max heart rate, or a pace where you can still hold a conversation. Do at least three hours per week of zone 2, or four 45-minute sessions.

VO2 max is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease. Aim to get your VO2 max in the top 2%.

Train your VO2 max with a 4/4/4 protocol. 4 minutes at all out effort, 4 minutes of easy effort, repeated 4 times.

Aging muscle preferentially loses type 2 (fast-twitch) muscles. Strength training is required to prevent muscle loss.

Strength is critical for injury prevention and recovery. The one year mortality from a hip or femur fracture at age 65 is about one-third.

Rucking combines VO2 max training and ability to carry medium-heavy loads long distances.

Strength train to build: grip strength, concentric/eccentric loading, pulling, hip hinging.

Chapter 13: Stability

More than 27% of Americans over 45yo have chronic pain.

Stability is about injury prevention, not just core strength.

Infant movement patterns are ideal. As adults, primary sitting in chairs, we unlearn these movement patterns.

Stability training comes before strength or cardio training.

Resources: and

Stability training begins with the breath. Spend some time on breath training.

Stability training continues with the feet. Practice “toe yoga”, try lifting barefoot or in minimal shoes.

Stability training continues with the spine and shoulders, which can be trained with yoga.

Stability training culminates in the hands. Train your grip using carries.

Chapter 14: Nutrition 3.0

Diet and nutrition are poorly understood by science. Epidemiological studies are usually useless. Clinical trials are usually flawed.

Extreme tribalism prevails among diet cults, such as vegan, carnivore, paleo, low-carb.

Old cliches are probably true: if your grandmother would not recognize it, you probably shouldn’t eat it; avoid the front and middle of the store where junk food and processed food live; plants are good; animal protein is ok; most of us will do well as omnivores.

The Mediterranean diet is one of the best diets, based on well-designed clinical trials.

Chapter 15: Nutritional Biochemistry

Avoid the Standard American Diet at all costs.

Excess calories end up as excess fat.

Animal studies show that extreme calorie restriction extends life, but human lives are more complex. Plus, there are undesireable consequences to undernourishment.

Quality of food matters as much as quantity of food.

Everyone’s metabolism is different, so there is no best diet for everyone.

Keto diets can make a dramatic impact on biomarkers for some people, but can fail for others.

Alcohol is a net negative for longevity, but moderate drinking is probably fine if it encourages social connection.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are useful to understand your body’s response to carbohydrates and specific foods and personalize your diet.

Almost everyone is not eating enough protein. Active people should aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Older people might even require more protein.

Plant protein is okay, but less bioavailable than animal protein, so you’ll need even more.

Try to boost monounsaturated fat intake (50%+) and lower saturated fat intake (15%).

Boost omega-3, EPA and DHA, through fish and fish oil.

The data on time-restricted eating is inconclusive. Just remember to get enough protein and maintain lean muscle mass.

The best nutrition plan is one we can sustain. Don’t be dogmatic.

First, avoid the Standard American Diet. Then, prioritize exercise over nutrition.

Chapter 16: Sleep

Poor sleep is linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stress, heart disease.

Sleep is essential. Good sleep is restorative. Deep sleep cleanses the brain.

Ambien, Lunesta, etc, promote a sleep like state of unconsciousness that is not sleep.

Ways to improve sleep: CPAP (sleep apnea), darkness, quiet, avoid screens at night, keep bedroom cool (65), cut back on alcohol, no coffee after mid-day, exercise, reduce stress, meditation, no late night snacks.

Chapter 17: Emotional Health

Take care of your emotional health by healing past trauma.

Read The Road to Character by David Brook’s.

Consider MDMA and psilocybin, administered by a skilled guide.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is also an effective approach.


Don’t get obsessed with biohacks, in order to live to 120, as if longevity was another engineering problem to be solved and optimized.

Longevity is meaningless if your life sucks.

As you work to extend your life, remember that we still must live in the present.

Young Forever by Mark Hyman, MD

The Big Idea: live long and prosper by eating well, exercising regularly, and sleeping well.

Chapter 1

Aging is a treatable disease.

Functional medicine looks at the body as an ecosystem; diseases are complex but often have identical root causes. Conventional medicine treats the body as a collection of organ; often only symptoms are treated, not root causes.

Lessons from the Blue Zones of Sardinia, Italy and Ikaria, Greece. Live close to nature. Love deeply. Eat simple foods. Move naturally. Laugh and rest.

The average person spends 20 percent of their life in poor health, suffering from chronic disease.

90% of the $4.1 trillion spent in the United States annually is spent on preventable chronic diseases.

Yamanaka factors might one day be able to reverse aging in humans, by creating induced pluripotent stem cells on command.

Chapter 2

Most diseases of aging are caused by imbalances in one of the body’s seven physiological systems.

Functional medicine takes a more long-term, root-cause-centric, and holistic approach to chronic diseases. Conventional medicine takes a more short-term, symptom-centric, and reductive approach to chronic diseases.

Chapter 3

Your genes are not your destiny. Genes load the gun. Habits and environment pull the trigger.

Chapter 4

Over tens of thousands of years, human physiology evolved in an environment of scarcity. The abundance of food is new to us.

The single most important recommendation in the book is to reduce or eliminate sugar and refined starch from your diet.

Do your best to avoid DNA damage by eliminating processed foods, limiting toxins and radiation.

Lengthen your telomeres by following the Young Forever plan.

Clean up damaged protein by autophagy induced by fasting.

Senolytics (phytochemicals from plants) help clean up inflammation causing zombie cells (senescent cells.)

Activate mitochondrial repair systems by following the Young Forever program.

Eliminate inflammation caused by a leaky gut by following the Young Forever program.

Reduce inflammation by eating well, avoiding inflammatory chemical, and sleeping well.

Chapter 5

Longevity is about eliminating or reducing harmful components (ultraprocessed diet, toxins, infections, microbiome imbalances, gut-damaging medication, allergens, loneliness) and increasing or adding beneficial components (whole foods, fiber, phytonutrients, optimal hormone levels, clean air and water, exercise, sleep, love, purpose)

Type 2 diabetes was rare in early 1800’s.

Our ancient ancestors lived without environmental toxins and were constantly moving (foraging, hunting, avoiding predators, seeking shelters.)

Exercise is a simple activity that can reverse most of the hallmarks of aging.

Blue Zones are famous for their tightly knit fabric of social connections.

Unresolved trauma can accelerate aging. Consider therapy, yoga, psychedelic therapy.

Sleep is when the glymphatic system cleans up metabolic waste that accumulates in the brain.

Bad bacteria in the gut can lead to a leaky gut, which can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. Beware of too much gluten.

Chemical, carcinogens, and heavy metals contribute to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, infertility, autism, and more.

Chapter 6

The best type of protein is animal protein.

Diet is the biggest driver of cardiovascular disease.

Low testosterone is associated with sleep apnea.

Get your phytochemicals from colorful plant foods.

Chapter 7

For a deeper dive, read The Pegan Diet or Food.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Avoid gluten, starch, sugar, additives, acid blockers, NSAIDs.

Collagen helps your microbiome. Consume bone broth and Japanese kudzu.

Get omega-3 from small wild fish.

Stick to extra virgin olive oil.

Anti-inflammatory: turmeric, ginger, rosemary, mushrooms.

Stay away from trans fats and oxidized oils, including frying oil.

Good: ketones, coconut oil and MCT oil.

Plenty of water, garlic, onions, curcumin, green tea for detoxification.

Eliminate sugar and starch as much as possible.

Too many raw kale smoothies can trigger low thyroid.

Ketogenic diets help improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.

Belly fat can cause high blood pressure.

Carbs are not actually essential nutrients.

Animal protein is the best protein.

Phytochemicals are highest in wild plants. Buy as organic as possible.

We used to think antioxidants in plants drove health, but now we know it’s phytochemicals.

Urolithin A, found in pomegranates, berries, and walnut, is another promising longevity molecule.

Older people who exercise should consume 1.5 to 2.0 g protein per kg of body weight. If you underconsume protein, the protein is used for energy instead of making muscle.

Consume protein within an hour after exercise.

Vegans cannot get this volume of protein from a plant-based diets, so need should supplement with protein and with BCAAs.

Chapter 8

Diet and exercise are the key to longevity.

Chapter 9

Find a sense of purpose and meaning.

Read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker to learn how important sleep is.

Altruism, being of service, is one of the most powerful roads to meaning and happiness.

Chapter 10

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Tools recommended: time-restricted eating, fasting, HIIT, strength training, cold plunges, saunas, breath work, hypoxia, hyperbaric oxygen, ozone therapy, red light therapy, phytochemicals.

Chapter 11

Advanced longevity tools: stem cells, exosomes, peptides, natural killer cells, plasmaphoresis, regenerative medicine clinics.

Chapter 12

  1. Young Forever Quizzes
  2. Baseline panel.
  3. Wearable (Oura, Whoop, Fitbit, Apple Watch.)
  4. Test for biological age and consider advanced screening through Galieri, Prenuvo, and Cleerly.
  5. Young Forever Diet.
  6. Young Forever Supplements.
  7. Healthy Aging Shakes
  8. Young Forever Lifestyle (exercise, sleep, mind, body, spirit, hormesis.)
  9. Advanced longevity tools and regenerative medicine.

Chapter 13

Get a comprehensive longevity blood panel.

Conduct genetic testing.

Get a wearable (Oura, Whoop, Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin).

Consider a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Take the Young Forever Quizzes

Get a DEXA scan to assess bone density and body composition.

MyMycoLab tests for IgE and IgG antibodies to mold toxins.

MRI for fatty liver.

Heavy metal testing.

Nutrient deficiency tests.

DNA methylation tests with TruDiagnostic.

Inflammation test with iAge.

Total body MRI with Prenuvo.

Heart scan with Cleerly.

Chapter 14

Let food be your medicine.

More: plants, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, regenerative agriculture, organic, pasture raised eggs, low mercury fish, lentils or other beans, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil

Good, but less: fruits, meat, GMO, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics treated food

Less: whole grain flour, gluten, sugar, seed oils, grain oils, dairy

Phytochemicals are superfoods: spinach, kale, turnip greens, dandelion greens, collards, mustard greens, tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, papaya, cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, blueberries, raspberries, purple potatoes, blackberries, cherries, currants, black tea, green tea, oolong, white tea, dark chocolate, onion, dill, arugula, watercress, black-eyed peas, chili peppers, strawberries, apples, parsley, celery, oranges, thyme, oregano, basil, lemons, soybeans, tofu, natto, legumes, coffee, red grapes, red wine, mushrooms, olives, olive oil, algae, fatty fish, salmon, sardines, fish oil, krill oil, MCT oil, coconut oil

Time restricted eating (16 hour fast.)

Intermittent fasting (3 day fast.)

Ketogenic diet

Healthy Aging Shake: whey protein, mitopure, creatine, gut food, mushroom powder, macadamia milk, berries.

Chapter 15

Core: D3, omega-3, multivitamin and mineral, homocysteine supreme, magnesium glycinate/citrate, probiotics

Advanced: NMN or NR, fisetin, quercetin, pterostilbene (sirtuin activator), curcumin, EGCG from green tea, glucoraphanin (sulfurophane precursor), urolithin A

Sarcopenia: BCAA, creatine

Optional: RegenerLife, Acetyl-L-carnitine, N-acetylcysteine, PQQ, alpha-lipoic acid

Not yet recommended for longevity: metformin, rapamycin

Chapter 16

Cardio: HIIT, optimize VO2 max, walk, treadmill desk, sports, group exercise

Strength: 3 days a week, TB12, any strength training program

Flexibility and mobility: yoga

Mind and spirit: meditation, breath work, walks in nature, daily journal, make time for friends

Sleep: consistent bed time, dark quiet bedroom, electronic devices away from bed, no blue light before bed, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, no late meals, no late exercise, hot Epsom salt bath, aromatherapy bath with lavendar oil, massage, stretch, herbal therapies, magnesium citrate/glycinate, melatonin, meditation, binaural beats relaxation

Purpose: growth mindset, vision statement, altruism, passions, community, friends, reading, self-love, self-care

Cardio, strength, flexibility

Hot and cold therapy

Phytochemicals aka plant hormesis

Advanced: hyberbaric oxygen, hypoxia, ozone, red light

Chapter 17

Personalized recommendations for imbalances identified in the Young Forever Quizzes

Chapter 18

Diet: Pegan diet, Healthy Aging Shakes after exercise

Exercise: 5 days cardio (including HIIT), 3 days strength with TB12, 2 days yoga

Sleep: 8 hours a night, magnesium glycinate, eyeshades, ear plugs, Oura ring, Eight Sleep

Stress: daily meditation, daily breath work, nature, friends, family, monthly massage

Hormesis: time restricted eating, sauna, cold plunge, red light therapy, blue blocker glasses, ozone therapy weekly, hyperbaric oxygen annually, Cellgym hypoxia training

Supplements: Vitamin D Supreme, Dutch Harbor Omega, Pure Encapsulations multi, Homocysteine Supreme, Magnesium glycinate, Gut Food, NMN, Fisetin, HTB Rejuvenate, Pterostilbene, Curcumin with Bioprene, Epigallocatechin gallate, OncoPLEX, Mitopure, Amino Acid Complex by Thorne, Creatine

Advanced: peptides, stem cells, exosomes, natural killer cells, plasmaphoresis

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Big Idea: Prioritize and focus on what brings happiness, instead of caring about things that don’t matter. Inspired by Stoicism and Buddhism.

There is no such thing as permanent happiness. Happiness is the process of solving problems and challenges.

Make decisions based on values and reason, not emotions.

When you believe you’re special, you feel entitled to feeling good about yourself, which limits your personal development.

Don’t strive to have a life free of pain and suffering. Instead, choose what kind of pain and suffering is meaningful to you.

Avoid destructive values such as: pleasure, material success, always being right, always being positive.

Choose values that are about yourself, because you can’t control what other people think or do.

Adopt these five constructive values instead:

  1. Take responsibility for everything that happens in your life, whether it’s your fault or not. Something may not be your fault, but you are responsible for how you respond.
  2. Admit that you could be wrong.
  3. Embrace failure, because failure is an opportunity to learn.
  4. Practice rejection. Get good at rejecting things that are counter to your values.
  5. Reflect on your mortality to keep things in perspective.

Angel by Jason Calacanis

The Big Idea: When done right, angel investing in technology is the best path to rapid wealth creation. It’s high risk, but high reward.

  • Jason invests in one startup for every one hundred he looks at.
  • To be a successful investor, you need some combination of money, time, network, and experience.
  • As an angel investor, you need to be in Silicon Valley.
  • Founders and angels prefer to sell too early. VCs prefer to swing for the fences.
  • For angels, secondary sales are a wise way to dollar cost average your returns.
  • Angel List syndicates are the easiest way to start.
  • Syndicate investing tips: syndicate is led by someone with at least one unicorn, syndicate is based in Silicon Valley, startup has at least two founders, startup already has product-market fit, startup has 6 months of continuous user growth or revenue growth, startup has notable investors, startup will have 18+ months runway after funding
  • Start by investing $2,500 in ten startups through Angel List syndicates.
  • Try to add more value (introductions, advice) to the startup than other angels.
  • Write a deal memo for every investment explaining why you’re investing, the risks, and the likely path to a successful outcome.
  • Only invest in startups if you would buy stock in the founders themselves.
  • Meet with the prospective founders.
  • The best deals are not on AngelList or in an incubator.
  • Create a spreadsheet of the hundreds of coinvestors in your syndicate deals.
  • Set up two meetings a day over the next thirty days to connect with other angels (see book for email templates.)
  • Meet with twenty-five founders seeking funding introduced to you by an angel investor.
  • (See book on a system for how to track these opportunities.)
  • Allocate three hours for each pitch meeting (one hour for prep, one hour for meeting, one hour for postmortem.)
  • Professionals use a pen and notebook (and an office conference room) for pitch meetings.
  • Never say yes or no during a pitch meeting.
  • You don’t pick billion-dollar companies. You pick billion-dollar founders.
  • Eliminate small ideas and weak founders. Double down on great founders and big ideas.
  • Four questions to answer during the meeting: Why has THIS founder choose THIS business? How committed is the founder? What are this founder’s chances for succeeding in this business and in life? What does winning look like in terms of revenue and return?
  • Start the pitch meeting with an ice-breaker question. Then dive into: What? Why? Why now? Unfair advantage?
  • (See book for five tactical questions to ask founders.) Also, ask some personal questions.
  • The number one reason a startup fails is that the founder gives up. Look for founders that are willing to do whatever it takes. Avoid founders that spend more time building their network than building a company.
  • If a founder doesn’t communicate with their investors, it’s almost universally a sign things aren’t going well.
  • There is no reason for an angel investor to invest in a startup pre-traction.
  • Valuations are important but they are not everything.
  • Take good notes in pitch meetings and always write up a deal memo.
  • Be honest but gentle when telling founders no. Tell them “not yet, but keep me updated.”
  • 95% of incubators are for founders who couldn’t raise money on their own.
  • For early stage investors, the primary due diligence is to research the founders.
  • If you can, try to confirm actual revenue by asking clarifying questions.
  • Get a solid startup attorney to review the paperwork.
  • Founders should send investor updates at least once a month.
  • Angels should track (in a spreadsheet) how often founders send out monthly updates.
  • Double down on your startups (pro-rata) that managed to advance to a Series A.
  • Angels should be cheerleaders and supporters for their startup CEOs.
  • Some angel investing strategies: bet on the founder, solve a problem, bet on delight, bet on markets.
  • Recommended approach: invest $1,000 in ten syndicates, invest $25,000 in twenty startups, and invest another $100k in top five winners = just over $1mm.

Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

The Big Idea: Much of what happens in the next thirty years is inevitable.

  1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
  2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
  3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real time for everything
  4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
  5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets to one where instead we will have access to services at all times
  6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass scale
  7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombining in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions is far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix

Source: Wikipedia

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

The Big Idea: From 1914 to 1917, twenty eight men, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, survive for two years on an Antarctic expedition.

The crew drifted on ice for a year, then sailed to Elephant Island, then sailed to South Georgia Island, then overland crossed South Georgia Island, before returning to Elephant Island to rescue the remaining crew.

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

The Big Idea: Stillness is the ability to slow down, clarify your thinking, center your soul, and direct your efforts to achieve great things.

Part I: Mind
Become Present: You can’t do your best if your mind is elsewhere.
Limit Your Inputs: Put up barriers to keep away unimportant things out of your head.
Empty the Mind: Chop wood, carry water. Do the work. Don’t overthink it.
Slow Down, Think Deeply: To see through the muddy water, we have to let things settle.
Start Journaling: Journal regularly to have some quiet time with your thoughts.
Cultivate Silence: Deep thought requires silence.
Seek Wisdom: Learning must never cease.
Find Confidence, Avoid Ego: Confidence is the freedom to set your own standards and unshackle yourself from the need to prove yourself.
Let Go: If we aim too intensely for the target, we get further away from the process and from mastery.

Part II: Spirit
Choose Virtue: Following virtue as your North Star leads to good decisions, which results in peace and happiness.
Heal the Inner Child: Practice self-love, patience, and empathy to heal inner wounds.
Beware Desire: Desire is the ever-present enemy of the wise.
Enough: The greatest misfortune is to never know contentment.
Bathe in Beauty: Beauty remains, even in misfortune. Look for it and find happiness.
Accept a Higher Power: Survivors of extreme hardship always have a belief in some higher power.
Enter Relationships: There is something deeply misguided and terribly sad about a solitary existence.
Conquer Your Anger: People driven by anger are not happy.
All Is One: The understanding that we are all connected is a transformative experience.

Part III: Body

Say No: When we know what to say no to, we can say yes to the things that matter.
Take a Walk: The key to a good walk is to be aware. Be present and open to the experience.
Build a Routine: Good routines equate to good habits. Automate tasks and decisions.
Get Rid of Your Stuff: Beware of the possibility that the things we own end up owning us.
Seek Solitude: Put yourself, physically, in the position to do deep work.
Be a Human Being: Work will not set you free. It will kill you if you’re not careful.
Go To Sleep: The world’s top performers prioritize good sleep.
Find a Hobby: A good hobby is simultaneously challenging and relaxing.
Beware Escapism: Hobbies or travel, when undertaken with the wrong intentions, are escapism.
Act Bravely: In unselfish acts, one can find delight and stillness.

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

The Big Idea: Think long-term.

Stay frugal.

Stay obsessed with the customer.

When in doubt, take action.

Always be trying new ideas.

Hire only top talent.

Breathe by Rickson Gracie

The Big Idea: For Rickson, jiu-jitsu is life.

How Civil Wars Start by Barbara F. Walter

The Big Idea: Based on analysis of past civil wars (Philippines, Yugoslavia, Iraq), the author argues that right wing Americans, led by Donald Trump, and enabled by social media, are bringing the U.S. closer and closer to civil war.

Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday

The Big Idea: The ancient Stoic philosophers came from almost every imaginable background: slave, emperor, water carrier, playwright, merchant, Senator, soldier. However, they all focused not on the external world but on what was solely in their own control: their thoughts, their actions, their beliefs.

1. All we control is how we respond: A crisis for someone is an opportunity for someone else.

2. Don’t do it alone. We need teachers and mentors.

3. Be the red thread. Embrace what makes you unique.

4. Keep your head. Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment.

5. Value the four cardinal virtues. Wisdom, self-control, justice, and courage.

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The Big Idea: Theodore Roosevelt’s expedition down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River is a story of poor planning, but also incredible courage and grit.

Description from the author:

The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron.

After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.

Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived.

The End of the World is Just the Beginning by Peter Zeihan

The Big Idea: Deglobalization and unavoidable demographic changes will produce winners and losers. Winners: United States, Mexico, Canada, France, New Zealand, Argentina. Losers: Russia, China, Middle East.

Since Bretton Woods in 1944, the United States promised to provide security for the world, in exchange for support against the Soviet Union.

Geography is critical in a deglobalized world. The United States has the greatest geography of success, with two oceans for security, two friendly neighboring countries, good river transportation, abundant natural resources, oil reserves, and fertile land to feed itself.

Only the United States has the necessary demographics, military might, and food security potential to enter deglobalization smoothly.

A key assumption is that a deglobalized world cannot guarantee the safe passage of container ships at sea, so global trade will become risky, expensive, and less available.

China has benefited the most by a globalized world, since it is the largest importer of almost all industrial and agricultural inputs. In a deglobalized world, China’s lack of access to inputs, combined with the fastest aging population in world history, financial insolvency, and geographic insecurity, means China should cease to exist in 10 years.

In a deglobalized world, capitalism might be replaced by something else.

Oil is a finite resource. As oil becomes more scarce, the world will deindustrialize.

Because of inherent limitations and complex supply chains, green energy is not going to be enough to meet global energy needs. When oil becomes scarce, the world will burn more coal, exacerbating climate change.

Manufacturing will move closer to consumer markets. Industrial production will explode in North America, with Mexico providing middle-end labor, United States providing natural resources and high-end labor, and Canada providing natural resources.

Famine will be the biggest problem in a deglobalized and deindustrialized world. The United States is among the few nations that can be food self-sufficient.

In a deglobalized world, the United States should become even more dominant, when compared to other nations and the challenges they will face.

Life Force by Tony Robbins


Stem cells, ideally the placenta, are the foundation of the coming wave of regenerative medicine. Panama and Mexico are common destinations for Americans seeking stem cell therapy. In the U.S., Fountain Life (Naples FL) offers many of the diagnostics discussed in the book. If you are interested in learning more about stem cell therapy and the options available to you, visit website for further information.


Early detection and precision diagnostics are the key to longevity.

Detecting heart disease: coronary CT angiography (CCTA)

Detecting cancer: blood tests (GRAIL) and whole body MRI

Detecting Alzheimers: brain MRI + AI

Detecting hormones abnormalities: blood tests

Detecting toxic metal accumulation: blood tests

Other diagnostic tests worth doing: DEXA bone density scan, DNA analysis, microbiome analysis, TruAge telomere test


David Sinclair’s protocol: limits red meat, avoids sugar, one meal per day, limits alcohol, 8 hours of sleep, exercises 3 days a week, D3+K2, 1g of reservatrol, 1g of NMN.

The epigenetic joystick that controls how the genome functions is more powerful than the genetic code itself.

Sirtuins govern the epigenome, boosting mitochondrial activity, reducing inflammation, and protecting telomeres. Sirtuins direct DNA repair.

How to help Sirtuins? Supplement with NMN to boost NAD+.


New organ therapies that will save people suffering from organ failures are only a few years ago.

Ex vivo lung perfusion restores unusable lung donations to make them usable.

Human-pig hybrids could be a reliable source of many types of organs.

3D printing will advance to the point that it can produce more organs than just skin and ears

Lymph nodes can be used to grow organs one day.


(Chimeric Antigen Receptor) CAR T cell therapy is a hybrid of gene therapy and immunotherapy that might be a cure for leukemia.


Focused ultrasound neurosurgery is showing great promise as a therapy for Parkinsons, brain cancers, ALS, depression, and opiod addiction.


CRISPR is an amazing new technology that might make it possible to edit any gene and, thereby, cure many rare, genetic diseases, repair damaged tissue, and prevent Alzheimers.


The biotech company Biosplice is manipulating the Wnt pathway to regenerate cells and tissues and heal many lethal cancers.


Peptides are short chains of amino acids that regulate cell division and gene expression. 80+ peptides have been approved by the FDA for a numer of diseases. Peptides are also being used to combat the effects of aging. For metabolic health, semaglutide. To strengthen our immune system, thymosin alpha-1. To boost libido and sex, PT-141. To heal the gut, tendons, ligaments, and skin, BPC-157. For muscles and strength, sermorelin and tesamorelin. For skin and hair, GHK-Cu.

Metformin is typically an diabetes drug, but it’s been shown to help regulate mitochondria, boost repair, and help prevent cancer.

Hormone Optimization Therapy, different from HRT, has so many benefits and a few risks that have been overstated in the media.

NAD+ Precursors help boost NAD+ levels. NAD+ is a helper molecule that regulates cell metabolism and longevity genes. David Sinclair supplements with nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) daily to battle aging.

Key Neutraceuticals are very beneficial, but only if sourced from high-quality companies. D3, omega-3 fish oil, magnesium, K1/K2, choline, and creatine.

Rapamycin has shown promise as a longevity drug, but more research is still needed.


Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) uses electromagnetic fields to reduce pain, stimulate healing, and decrease inflammation.

Postural therapies, such as Egoscue and Counterstrain, can reduce chronic pain through improved biomechanics.

Virtual reality shows the potential of mind over body when it comes to pain perception.

Laser therapies, like the Genesis One laser, can stimulate healing.

Stem cells are probably still the go-to therapy for chronic pain relief.

Instead of opiods, hospitals should consider Toradol for pain relief.

Ombi is an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat substance abuse and addiction.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and there is good scientific evidence to support its use.


The root cause of most chronic diseases is poor lifestyle choices, which lead to metabolic, cellular, genetic damage, and then chronic disease.

Studies show that lifestyle choices (exercise) can lengthen telomeres.

Stay away from sugars and refined carbs.

Diet genomes respond differently to different diets.

Eat whole foods. Eat more greens and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables which contain sulfurophane.

Dr. Valter Longo created the Longevity and Lifestyle Diet, which promotes a plant-based diet with fish 2-3 times per week.

Micheal Pollan summarizes a healthy diet in seven words. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Intermittent fasting improves longevity.

The 5 day fasting mimicking diet can be an alternative to a strict fast, with many of the same benefits.

Most adults need to drink about 3 liters of water per day. Consider adding lemon and Celtic salt to your water.

Improve your health by focusing on your breathing. Read Breathwalk. Practice Navy SEAL box breathing.

Many chronic diseases can be helped or cured by optimizing your gut microbiome. Company mentioned: Viome.

Genetic testing can help guide what diets might work best for you.

Frequent sauna users are 40% less likely to die from all causes of premature death. Companies: Health Mate Sauna, Almost Heaven Sauna.

Cold plunges and cryotherapy sessions help in recovery and healing. Companies:


Sleep is likely even more important to longevity and health than diet and exercise.

If you have sleep apnea, lose weight, get a CPAP, or get a mandibular advancement device (MAD).

Stick to a good sleep schedule and a regular get-ready-for-bed routine.

Use a ChiliPad to sleep at 65 degrees.

Avoid devices before bed.

Use an Oura ring to track your sleep.


Exercise is a miracle cure for most preventable diseases.

Walking is great. Jogging is better.

Muscle mass is a new vital sign we should all try to improve.

Using a walking desk is better than sitting all day.

OsteoStrong is a training regiment that claims to build muscle strength and bone density in 10 minutes, once per week, by using the principle of static contraction.

Start strength training with these four exercises, everyday for 10 minutes: squats, lunges, pushups, planks.

A Whoop strap can monitor stress and recovery for you.

Use a BackBridge to decompress and realign your spine.

VR fitness devices motivate you to exercise by turning it into a game. Mentioned: Thrill of the Fight, Ocululs, Supernatural VR.


In many ways, our skin is a reflection of our health.

At the Harklinikken clinic, clients experience increases in hair volume and mass, through changes to your environment and habits, including a reduction of stress, and with the right mix of root-plant extracts and proteins, fatty acids, and cow’s milk.

There are at least a dozen companies attacking hair loss using biotech, such as stem cells and 3D printing.

Newest therapies for skin and face rejuvenation: stem cells, cryofacials, and lasers.

Clinics are freezing away stubborn bodyfat, using tools like CoolSculpting. Clinics are also using radiofrequency waves to burn away fat, using tools like Thermage, and Vanquish.

The cosmetics industry is starting to use AI, your skin traits, and your DNA to personalize cosmetic products.

OneSkin includes a proprietary peptide in its OS1 product meant to rejuvenate skin.


Women who go through menopause later in life tend to have a longer overall lifespan.

Even though women live statistically longer than men, they spend more of their lives in poor health (thirty-four years on average) compared to men (twenty-six years).

Menopause happens when the ovaries cease functioning because they have run out of eggs. 10 percent of women are infertile by the time they turn 35, but thanks to technology, nearly 20 percent of births are to women over the age of 35.

There is considerable variability when it comes to the menstrual cycle.

The only other creatures that go through menopause are a few species of whale. No one knows exactly why women’s ovaries shut down the processes of menstruation and ovulation.

Gather as much baseline data about YOUR BODY and YOUR UNIQUE CYCLE as possible so that you know what your “normal” is, using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign, and multiple apps (MyFLO, Clue, Ovia, Period Tracker, Glow).

Sleep. Move. Don’t consume overly processed foods. Eat your greens. Choose organic when you can. Rest and digest. For heaven’s sake don’t smoke. Limit or eliminate alcohol. Limit or eliminate stress. Know that if you choose to ingest dairy products from cow’s milk, you’re choosing to ingest hormones and common allergens. Drink plenty of water. Keep your blood sugar balanced. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Get rid of the toxins in cleaning products, detergents, body care, and personal items like aluminum deodorants and aerosol sprays.

Supplements to consider: calcium, iodine, zinc, B-complex vitamins, magnesium.

HRT can reduce the overall health risks associated with menopause and can also ease the symptoms that so dramatically impact a woman’s quality of life.

Other novel therapies on the horizon: laser, platelet rich plasma (PRP).


Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.

Caladrius Biosciences is working on using CD34+ stem cells to repair the damage caused by a heart attack.

Elevian is using Growth Differentiation Factor 11 (GDF11) to rejunevate aging hearts and brains.

CorMatrix invented a patch made from a patient’s stem cells that can be stitched over damaged heart tissue.

VentriGel is injecting a hydrogel to heal damaged heart tissue.

The heart is the least regenerative organ in the human body. Heart attacks lead to scarring which leads to more problems.

Scientists at Sana Biotechnology are seeing success injecting stem cells to regenerate damaged heart tissue.

Scientists at the Texas Heart Institute are able to regrow a ghost heart on top of a dead heart scaffold.

Rejuvenate Bio is working on gene therapy to cure age-related diseases in dogs.


TPA is the only FDA-approved treatment for strokes caused by clots.

Robotic gloves help stroke survivors regain motion.

Virtual reality helps to improve stroke survivors’ dexterity and mobility.

Elevian has developed a naturally occurring protein called growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) with powerful regenerative properties. GDF11 can repair and reverse ischemic stroke symptoms.

Openwater is using red laser light and holography to measure the brain blood flow of a patient, in the ambulance.

We could use VR to retrain the nervous system to function again.

Transcranial rotating permanent magnetic stimulation (TRPMS) restores functional activity to damaged brain tissue — up to sixteen years after stroke.


A high-performing immune system is one of the most important ways to defend against cancer, and virtually all diseases.

A simple blood test that can detect up to fifty kinds of cancer at their earliest and most treatable stage .

There’s no better diagnostic tool than the newest forms of whole-body MRI.

Scientists regard inflammation as a key culprit in aging and specifically in cancer .

We use peptides to boost immunity by boosting T cells. T cells and their progeny, natural killer cells — which are also known as NK cells — circulate looking for tumor cells.

Excessive visceral fat raises the risk of a wide array of nasty illnesses that you’ll be delighted to avoid, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The most effective things you can do to avoid illness and enhance your vitality is to sleep eight hours per night, minimize your sugar intake, and exercise regularly, with a special emphasis on building muscle strength.

Strength training can also arrest cognitive decline.

GRAIL has developed a liquid biopsy — a simple blood test that is able to detect most major types of cancer at an early stage. Galleri costs $949.

Freenome can provide an easy, affordable, laxative-free test for colorectal cancer.

Sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts can slam the brakes on tumor growth

The immune system can eliminate cancer.

Future cancer treatments that use the immune system: checkpoint inhibitors, personalized cancer vaccines, natural killer cells, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes that multiply a patient’s T cells to fight solid tumors, cancer-fighting exosomes.

Get yourself tested, ideally with a full-body MRI and the GRAIL blood test. Find a location near you, or you’re welcome to contact Fountain Life.


Where does autoimmune disease come from? Infections, toxic chemicals in the environment, heavy metals, and ultraviolet radiation.

Chronic inflammation activates your immune system into a state of wartime readiness for months or years at a time.

Your bone marrow contains a homegrown pantry of non-steroidal , anti-inflammatory medicines. We know them as stem cells. In the fight against autoimmune disease, early evidence suggests that all these cells may need is some reinforcement.

TPE has already been proven to help patients with autoimmune diseases like myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, or those with relapses of multiple sclerosis.

TPE slowed the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s patients by 66 percent.

Neutrolis has created a molecular scissors that cuts up free-floating DNA to significantly lower inflammation.

Eat green leafy vegetables, brightly colored vegetables, fatty fish (wild salmon, mackerel), most fruits, nuts and seeds, green tea.


Track waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, skinfold thickness, and DEXA scans for bone density.

Researchers now associate ultra – processed foods — often loaded with sugar , salt , fat , and calories — with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes , hypertension , and cardiovascular disease .

What not to eat? Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white bread, and pasta.)

Radically reduce your intake of sugar.

Healthy fats can actually help to stabilize your blood sugar.

Slow carbs (brown rice, quinoa, farro, and steel-cut oats) can be a key component of a healthy diet.


A simple blood test that can predict Alzheimer’s years before symptoms.

Marvel Biome that is harnessing the power of the microbiome to fight neurodegeneration.

Vaxxinity’s vaccine every three to six months may train your immune system to fight Alzheimer’s.

A stack of psychedelic mushroom + lion’s mane shows healing effects on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Get enough sleep to naturally purge amyloid.

Social interaction cuts Alzheimer’s risk by twofold.

A mutant form of the gene CD33 can protect people from Alzheimer’s.

Exercise actually induces neurogenesis.

Intellectual stimulation can actually cause new synapses to form.

Arethusta is neurosurgical Roto – Rooter, intended to be a safe and simple shunt that can be implanted through the nose.

One of the most powerful things you can do to head off dementia is to use a hearing aid, if you need one.

Learning a new language or practicing the piano seems to confer real benefits.

Some of the most effective anti-dementia tools around may be specialized video games devised by elite neuroscientists.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been shown to be the most effective therapy for traumatic brain injury.


The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.

If you can’t win, change the rules.

The average age of early humans was only about 28 years old .

Longevity escape velocity is the notion that in the near future, science will be able to extend your life by more than a year for every year you are alive.

To paraphrase Ray Kurzweil, it means we need to strive to “live long enough to live forever.”

Every single person will have the ability for real-time monitoring of their health and physiology from sensors in their body and on their body, measuring everything from blood glucose and blood pressure, to microRNAs that might indicate an impending heart attack, or the quality of their sleep.

If AI we could accurately predict protein structures from an amino acid sequence, it would open the door to an entire new avenue of low-cost and accurate drug development. AI could generate novel drugs to target any disease, overnight.

Imagine remote-controlled microbots, smaller than a grain of rice, that travel through the body to deliver drug treatments to precise locations.

While our linear human mind is great at making near – term predictions , we vastly underestimate what can be achieved in the longer term .

If we don’t extend health life and productive healthspan we are likely to face a significant shortage of labor.

Slowing aging by only one year is worth + $ 38 trillion to the global economy .

Imagine that someone goes for a treatment that uses three of the four Yamanaka Factors to epigenetically reprogram their body.

It’s quite possible that some of us in this conversation today will be seeing 150 or 200 years.


The placebo effect is a fascinating example of your mindset at work.

Simply changing your outlook can add years to your life!

Positive attitudes protect against dementia.

Fear was more deadly for COVID patients.

The science of psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, the study of how what we think (psycho) changes the brain (neuro) and in turn affects our immune system.

Where you live emotionally determines what your life is really like .

Decision #1: What should I FOCUS on?

Decision #2: What does this MEAN?

Decision #3: What am I going to DO?

Once we start taking 100 percent responsibility for our experience of life rather than blaming others, we can awaken to a truth that makes all the difference: whatever life offers us, we get to decide what to focus on what it means and what we’re going to do about it.


Extraordinary people like Oprah, Nelson Mandela, and Viktor Frankl, against all odds created life on their terms.

It’s not our conditions, but our decisions that determine the quality of our lives.

Extreme stress is going to be a given in your life. So the real key to have an extraordinary quality of life to develop the kind of psychological and emotional strength that makes you resilient.

Some people let disappointment destroy them, while others let it drive them — that’s a choice.

The most important decision that you can make is to decide that life is too short to suffer and that you’re going to appreciate and enjoy this gift of life, no matter what happens.

Trade your expectations for appreciation and in that moment, your whole life will change.

Find a way to appreciate whatever life gives you.

Energy medicine (aka tapping) is a scientific antidote to stress.

Use priming ot wire yourself for a peak state.

The Changing World Order by Ray Dalio

The Big Idea: Empires rise and fall. The US is in the declining stages of its empire. China appears to be rising.

No empire in human history has lasted forever.

Empires have life cycles, much like organisms have life cycles.

A successful empire lasts 250 years, give or take 150 years.

The cycle swings between 1) peaceful and prosperous periods of great creativity and productivity that raise living standards a lot and 2) depression, revolution, and war periods when there is a lot of fighting over wealth and power and a lot of destruction of wealth, life, and other things we cherish.

After war/depression/revolution, a new world order emerges, with new ascending powers hoping to become empires.

Today, the United States is in the late stages of its empire. Its decline is inevitable, but what remains is how fast and painful the decline is going to be.

The United States displays all the classic characteristics of an empire in decline: high inflation, corrupt politicians, entitled citizens, overwhelming public debt, an overextended military, high income inequalities, internal civil conflict, declining economy, etc.

At the same time, China appears to be an ascending power, with a rapidly growing economy, a rapidly developing military, a highly motivated population, and citizens who prioritize savings (and national pride) over consumption.

What to expect? Continued US decline (thought we must fight against this), continued US inflation, continued rise of Chinese economic and military power.

Limitless by Jim Kwik

The Big Idea: Reject your limiting beliefs and learn how to learn, in order to unlock your full potential.

1. Mindset: You must believe you can learn and you must be ready to learn.

1.1. Many people learned limiting mindframes when they were young.
1.2. Kwik calls this learned helplessness “LIE” or “Limiting Idea Entertained”.
1.3. One self-limiting belief is that you are not a genius. However, there are four types of geniuses and eight types of intelligences. Find out what type of genius you are.
1.4. Many people don’t recognize their own genius and intelligence because they are locked in a fixed mindset.
1.5. It’s always possible to improve. This is a growth mindset.
1.6. Find and reject your limiting beliefs.
1.7. To decrease the power of your inner critic, give it a persona and identity that is separate from you.

2. Drive: You need to find ways to motivate and convince yourself to put your limitless potential to work.

2.1. Movitation comes from:
2.1.1. Purpose: what you do.
2.1.2. Passion: why you do what you do.
2.1.3. Reasons: like your passions but more specific.
2.1.4. Values: what’s truly important to you.

2.2. To create motivation, set SMART goals. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-based).

3. Techniques: Tactics and strategies to learn new information quickly and remember it permanently.

3.1. To learn and retain:

3.1.1. Clear your mind of distractions, obligations, and concerns.
3.1.2. Become more involved in your own learning.
3.1.3. Consciously choose to be in the right mental and emotional state to learn.
3.1.4. Teach what you’ve learned to someone else.
3.1.5. Schedule your study times.
3.1.6. Review what you’ve learned periodically.

3.2. Take good notes

3.2.1. Know what you’re trying to get out of a study session.
3.2.2. With your goal in mind, filter through the information to identify what’s important to learn.
3.2.3. Review your notes after the session and highlight the most important information.

3.3 Train your memory

3.3.1. Active learning is much more effective than rote memorization.
3.3.2. Activate your visual memory to remember pictures instead of words.
3.3.3. Association is the basis of all learning so try to connect new information to information that you already know.
3.3.4. If you add emotions to what you’re learning, it will be much more memorable.

3.4. Think exponentially

3.4.1. Stop thinking incrementally and start thinking exponentially.
3.4.2. Exponential thinking leads to world-changing innovations and billion dollar companies.
3.4.3. Seek the root cause of a problem, beyond just the symptoms.
3.4.4. Ask “what-if” to consider alternative paths and solutions.
3.4.5. Study what others have to say about the problem to get a well-rounded view.
3.4.6. Try to envision the short-term and long-term consequences of a solution.

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

The Big Idea: Show your team you care and they’ll deliver extraordinary results.

  • Bill Campbell has coached Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Al Gore, Ronnie Lott, and John Hennessy.
  • Humanity and compassion => happy employees => extraordinary long-term results.
  • Teamwork > individual performance.
  • Don’t demand respect. Earn respect.
  • Let the best idea emerge, but don’t rely on consensus decision-making.
  • Use staff meetings for operational issues. Use 1-on-1 meetings for individual performance.
  • Psychological safety => experimentation => innovation.
  • Truly listen to employees and they will see you care.
  • Don’t tell people what to do. Guide them with probing questions and personal stories.
  • Don’t force people to conform to the dominant culture.
  • Hire for attitude and emotional intelligence, not technical skill.
  • Be a cheerleader for the team.
  • Get to know your team, their families, and their passions.
  • Respect and revere the company founders.
  • Do favors for others whenever you can.

We Do by Stan Tatkin

The Big Idea: a successful and long-lasting marriage requires acquiring skills such as: knowing how to communicate, knowing how to fight, knowing how to build a couple bubble, and knowing how to manage thirds

Introduction: Why Should You “We Do?”

42 percent of first marriages end in divorce.

If you want to beat the odds, what’s the best way? Prevention!

Research tells us that both our psychology and biology are major factors for predicting long-term relationship success.

The primary purpose of this book is early prevention.

In two-person psychological systems, both individuals need to understand and accept the same principles or complications will arise.


All successful long-term relationships are what I call secure-functioning relationships.

Think of it this way: the mark of a good couple is how much load bearing the partnership can take without crumbling.

You’re now a two-person system with interdependent nervous systems, wiring together like entangled ivy.

Partners who don’t collaborate often live separate lives, engage in a dictatorship, or live codependently.

If we did an autopsy on all failed relationships, the number of couples where at least one of the partners was ambivalent — either not all in or waiting for their partner to change — would be very high.

Nobody signs up for marriage because they want to be changed by their partner. It doesn’t work. Ever. Go all in or go home. Marriage and commitment can only work if we accept each other wholeheartedly.

Proper management of thirds means partners protect each other. Thirds can be people, pets, or things, including work, hobbies, or substances.

Your personal growth depends on your relationship remaining safe and secure at all times.

Both you and your partner must be clear on priorities and you must agree, otherwise there will be trouble.

I suggest that your highest priority should be the relationship.

The most important reason to marry is to become a thriving survival unit.


A couple bubble is a self-generating energy system that provides resources and protection to the couple.

In your couple bubble, you accept each other as is.

There’s a difference between letting your partner in on how your mind works and making him/her responsible for every negative thought that crosses your mind.

Internal mayhem creates an enormous disturbance in the couple bubble.

Massive sign of immaturity and a definite sign of a one-person psychological system.

Partners who focus solely on their individual needs aren’t collaborative.

Constant vigilance as to who is doing what, getting what, and losing what will strain any relationship.

Since you’re a two-person psychological system, being unnecessarily difficult will only blow back on you.

If you plan to become husband and wife, keep in mind that you must continue to be girlfriend and boyfriend.

A secure-functioning couple is made up of partners who are unafraid of each other; they don’t feel fear, apprehension, or intimidation around each other, and they don’t walk on eggshells.

Without a sense of humor the couple system can become rigid, overly serious, and brittle.

You also understand that in order for the two of you to move together, it can’t be at one person’s cost.

In a one-person model, a partner will put their individual needs before the relationship’s needs (and before their partner’s needs).

Secure-functioning relationships are two-person psychological systems where both parties feel respected, heard, and safe.

I prefer the word bargaining instead of compromising. In a bargain, both may need to give something to get something.

The use of fear, threat, guilt, or shame will only breed acrimony between you.

When you’re sick and your partner isn’t attentive, you tend to remember.

If you can’t show up for your partner who is in the hospital, getting bad news from a doctor, or going through a tough procedure or surgery, then what good are you?

Not good if you don’t accompany your partner to a close friend’s or family member’s funeral.

If you’re not there to witness and participate in your partner’s successes and celebrations, the reason had better be that you’re either trapped under heavy furniture or just simply dead.

In Stephen Covey’s marvelous audiobook How to Develop Your Family Mission Statement, he describes the importance of a family mission statement as vital to developing a shared notion of what the family should be.


We’re memory-driven, automatic, and reflexive creatures who act and react at whirlwind speeds and therefore without thought.

Imagine the brain is divided into two sections: primitives and ambassadors. As human beings, we need both our primitives and ambassadors to function properly to help us determine what’s true and false.

Partners who are right-leaning tend to see the world through a lens of emotion and meaning and not with the same calculated precision of those who are left-leaning.

Our brain has a negativity bias.

Once partners begin to perceive the relationship as long term, they depend (nonconsciously) on each other for nervous system regulation, which means balancing each other’s nervous system.

One of the best ways to engender exciting love is to make direct eye contact in close proximity (eye gazing).

A softer, more stable love experience is called quiet love.

Quiet love is closely related to gratitude, happiness, and contentment.

It’s important to quickly and effectively co-manage distress.

If you’re in distress too much of the time, the bad feelings you accrue begin to mitigate the good ones.


There are three main areas that cause conflict in relationships. I call them the troublesome triad — memory, perception, and communication.

Our memory isn’t what we think it is, and both people in a partnership need to own this truth.

Perception is like a funhouse mirror. It isn’t at all what you think.

Words mean different things to different people.

So many times I see partners arguing about two different things without even knowing it. That’s how easy it is for communication to go off the rails.

When a baby signals and the response takes too long, the baby’s level of distress increases and becomes part of the calculus for future signaling.

Insecure avoidant individuals tend to be low signalers and poor responders.

Some insecures tend to oversignal both verbally and nonverbally.

The best way to error-correct is to remain curious, friendly, flexible, humble, and open to being wrong. Your relationship’s integrity is what keeps you safe and secure, not your adherence to fact, righteousness, performance, or perfection.


Attachment styles determine how we connect, how we fight, and whether we value our self or our relationships first.

Attachment begins with our earliest caregiver, often referred to as the primary attachment figure.

Secure attachment means that the infant or child is confident that their primary caregiver(s) will appropriately respond to their needs.

An insecure attachment means the child is either unsure or is certain that their primary caregiver(s) will either be unresponsive, inappropriately responsive, or perhaps punitive in response to the child’s attempt to signal distress.

A secure infant, child, teenager, and adult feels confident in their connection to loved ones without fear of abandonment or engulfment.

Secure attachment is the result of a deeply relationship-centered value system in which relationship integrity is of central importance, whereas insecure attachment is the result of a self-centered value system where an individual’s need is of greater importance.

The anchor is the most secure.

In contrast, you have the island and the wave, both relatively insecure when in close, committed love relationships.

Islands and waves operate as one-person psychological systems of “me first.”

Think of islands as more distancing and waves as more clinging.

Islands pride themselves in being independent and self-reliant.

The wave’s ambivalence about dependency can bring about rapid shifts between clinging and distancing.

Unlike islands who need alone time to process, waves need to talk through their problems in order to calm their nervous systems.

Waves have a need to depend on someone or something outside for nearly constant contact and reassurance.

Waves expect to be disappointed, rejected, punished, and abandoned, which leaves them feeling needy and too much of a burden.

Waves fervently seek proximity and love long periods of contact with their partner,

Waves will often calm themselves down by talking to another person.

Waves tend to be negativistic. Think of negativism as evidence of a strong desire for something and an equally strong fear that those hopes will be dashed.

Waves, in general, automatically predict loss.

Waves see things in black and white, which makes it hard for them to make important decisions.

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotional and physiological states and regulate your responses to your environment.

Waves tend to have difficulty with self-regulation.

Waves tend to overexpress their emotions and will resort to hyperbole to make their point.

Waves tend to think in a nonlinear and emotion-based manner.

Waves are the most likely to be considered “high maintenance” by their partners.

Nonetheless, waves can often appear to seek conflict and be unable to let things go.

Waves are very relational, often quite warm, affectionate, loving, and exciting.

Secure individuals tend to come from families that value relationships over everything else.

Anchors tend to be happy, resilient people who are good at going with the flow.

Good self-regulation and apt engagement in mutual regulation are hallmark features of the anchor.

Anchors aren’t perfect. After all, they’re people. They can be quite wave-ish or island-ish.

Anchors have problems too. All people are annoying, and all relationships are burdensome.

Unresolved trauma or loss affects how someone feels and behaves.

The child (with a child’s brain) is left to their own devices to adapt to the intensity of the experience. That’s what causes the unresolved part.

Disorganized individuals may have been the recipients of frightening parenting or frightening experiences when they were young.

We’re hurt by people and we’re healed by people. It’s important that individuals who have experienced early trauma or loss seek help with someone knowledgeable in these areas.

As children, we don’t get to choose the family we’re born into. We simply must adapt in order to survive. That’s nature.

Teens’ uneven brain development is at the root of most adolescent behavioral and emotional tumult.

Keep in mind that attachment changes throughout the lifespan.


The two of you are in each other’s care; therefore it’s incumbent upon both of you to know each other as well as you know yourselves, perhaps better.

Get to know your partner really well. Study them. Pay attention.

While physical looks, wealth and ambition, religion, and personality may be important to you, none of these features guarantee a truly happy long-term relationship.

Talk rigorously about what love means to you. Do this face to face and eye to eye.

Explain to your partner why you love them and be specific. Don’t hedge, take shortcuts, generalize, or say what you think your partner wants to hear.

Couples must have a reason to be together beyond common interests, eroticism, love, kids, or just plain convenience. Couples who stay together for the long term have something much bigger that unites and binds them.

Take turns explaining to each other what you think you have in common.

Lust and passion, or sex alone, aren’t ingredients that can sustain a long-term thriving marriage. While there are ways to cultivate passion and novelty in your partnership, it’s the connection, not the passion, that’s most important.

Have a serious, in-depth conversation about bringing children into your relationship.

Have an honest conversation or debate as to what is and will be your highest priority. Is it (or will it be) the child or children? Will it be your partner relationship?

Here’s my take on the reason to get married: Think survival unit. To thrive together you must first survive together.

You both get to be more than you would otherwise be on your own because you’re potentially more powerful and effective in the world together than you would be alone.

In a secure-functioning relationship, maintaining your couple bubble is paramount.

We seek proximity with our parents, partners, or children by making eye contact, beckoning, calling out, and wanting to talk. These are called bids for attention.

Waves tend to do a lot of proximity seeking and can maintain physical contact for long periods.

When two people are this physically close with eye contact involved, partners will experience something called resonance.

In order to build your owner’s manual, you must learn your partner’s cues moment to moment.

As is often attributed to Shakespeare, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Modern neuroscientists might say the eyes are the windows to the autonomic nervous system.

Eye contact is a powerful connector. It’s also one of the ways in which we can read others. Eye contact is highly stimulating and can be very difficult for some people.

For now, I want you to start paying attention to your partner’s face. Really look closely.

Your partner can’t be all-knowing; therefore, your job of paying attention, being present, and being curious is never done. Secure-functioning partners make it a career of getting to know each other.


A deal breaker is any matter that would disqualify a partner from a committed relationship despite other wonderful conditions.

Common deal breakers involve having children, monogamy, religion, money, sex, drugs and alcohol, child-rearing, place of residence (city versus countryside), and management of thirds.

Of all the big deal breakers, differences between partners about having or not having children is perhaps the biggest.

Differences in desires for family are often difficult to resolve, which is why, when you’re considering long-term partnership, it’s so important to dig deep into this topic before marriage.

One thing is for sure, you will never feel the same about yourself or your relationship, and that isn’t meant to be negative.

Having a child is a game changer to be sure. And…it’s forever.

DO seek professional help as you would in premarital counseling to prepare for being a stepfamily.

If partners start off as secure functioning, managing a blended family should work out just fine.

Money can be a deal breaker.

The question of sexual compatibility is a common issue in my clinic among married couples.You can also learn this here now to know more about sexual wellness.

The couple debated these and other issues around sex for a long time after they married. Their sexual appetites changed and their attitudes around lovemaking matured into something deeper and more meaningful than their previously held ideas about sex. Their intense focus on sex drove them to greater understanding about themselves. In other words, they resolved what could have been a deal breaker as they came to a sexual congress with each other.

Many couples have disagreements about the use of drugs and alcohol. When a couple finds themselves at a crossroads on these matters, they tend to sweep these issues under the rug, believing that one or the other will come around to their position. But this rarely happens.

Acts of violence are commonly perpetrated by an alcohol-drenched brain. That alone should be a deal breaker.

Still, even a stoned, drunk, or tripping partner is a drag if the other partner is sober, not interested, and unhappy with their altered lover.

Secure-functioning relationships start with partners accepting each other as is and end with absolute protection of the couple’s safety and security system. Mutual trust is part of that foundation.

Misinformation, falsehoods, omissions, frequent use of deception, or lying will destroy trust in an interdependent relationship where the primary reason for existing is based on trust.

The longer information is withheld or misrepresented, the greater the risk that the partner who had been in the dark will feel betrayed.

It’s never a good idea to withhold, conceal, or misrepresent information vital to the other partner’s interests, and it never ends well.

A few deal breakers have to do with the management of thirds. Thirds are in-laws, children, stepchildren, ex-spouses, drugs and alcohol, hobbies, porn.

Deal breakers often lie hidden because partners refuse to address, acknowledge, and solve them prior to getting married.

  1. SEX!

Sex is probably the most common problem area of all.

But I do want to briefly examine our definition of the word sex since there doesn’t appear to be just one meaning.

I broadly define sex as having any erotic physical contact with another person.

We’ve established that lovemaking is much more than coitus. It’s about affection, friendship, and deepening our knowledge of each other. It’s also about healing.

Sexual intimacy benefits both partners in many ways. One well-known benefit is the production of oxytocin and vasopressin, particularly in the female when reaching orgasm.

Sex is perhaps best when it’s about making, generating, and sustaining feelings of love and affection.

Fertility issues are complex and can greatly stress a couple.

Sexual issues involved in making babies can lead to many problems, especially for insecure-functioning couples.

DO become a secure-functioning couple before adding a third (baby).

DO plan responsibly before conceiving a child. Make certain that finances, employment, and other resources are in place.

Many couples think that having a baby will fix their marital problems. This is rarely the case.

DO respond quickly to your partner’s concerns, wishes, or sensitivities.

DON’T disrespect, dismiss, or devalue your partner’s concerns, wishes, or sensitivities.

DON’T withhold information about what you’re doing, thinking, feeling, or planning.

Most of the problems in the bedroom are fixable!

Proximity seeking and contact maintenance have little to do with love and a lot to do with safety and security.

There’s no couple activity as exposing as sex, nothing that requires as much proximity seeking and contact maintenance.

For the avoidant, oral sex can resolve the interpersonal stress problem, as can sex with the lights off and sexual positions whereby one partner’s back is to the other or one partner’s face is hidden.

Go in for a full body hug and hold it like statues. Make sure your chests and stomachs are touching.

Anxiety around performance is a real joy killer.

Sexual drive and interest will change throughout the lifespan for various reasons. If you expect to maintain the same libidinal energy throughout your time together you will likely be greatly disappointed. Besides, nothing kills libido like high expectations and performance pressure.

Resist scheduling sex.

Fears of contamination are a constant preoccupation for individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder; such individuals can experience disgust almost continuously.

Sex, pornography, body fluids, and body parts can elicit disgust in a great many people.

Disgust includes a typical human revulsion to the notion that humans are animals. Many people view sex as beastly, especially when engaged for purposes other than procreation.

Studies have shown that male and female individuals who masturbate have a greater understanding of how their body works.

Early interpersonal stimulation, experienced as frequent and sustained face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and skin-to-skin contact with another human being, is an essential condition for social-emotional development and vitality.

Conversely, many hypersexual adults often have histories of sexual abuse, molestation, or overstimulation early in childhood.

Other low-stimulation families yield offspring that are hyposexual.

Males with high levels of oxytocin tend to be more relational but less sexual than other males.

DO talk with each other about sexual drive and expectation — be honest.

DON’T ignore a deal breaker if one of you feels that frequent sex or sexual variety is a “must-have” feature and the other doesn’t.

DON’T assume that libido will remain the same for either or both of you.

All experimentation in the bedroom can support long-term marriage and commitment as long as both partners agree completely to what’s happening and no one is hiding something from the other.

Try saying your partner’s first name while making love.

The key throughout this and other chapters is secure functioning, which means that whatever you’re doing together, you do so with full transparency, playfulness, and in a manner that’s fair and sensitive.

Playful (and humorous) couples tend to be the happiest.


All couples have conflict and will cause each other distress from time to time.

Since conflict and distress are the norm, it’s essential that you learn to fight well and repair quickly.

Stick to one topic and one topic only.

Keep conversations short and to the point.

Don’t make your partner sit too long.

Be friendly as much as you can.

Take care of your own fears and interests while taking care of your partner’s fears and interests.

Now here’s the formula: you’re more likely to be heard when you take care of yourself and your partner at the same time.

DO offer amends, accolades, appreciation, and anything that directly responds to your partner’s complaint(s).

It’s vital that during distress the two of you move as quickly as possible toward mutual relief.

Stick to one issue only until it’s taken off the table.

If you run out of time, reassure each other that the matter will be taken up again soon and that it will work out for both of you.

At the start of a conflict, remain face to face and eye to eye.

Never fight by email, text, or phone.

Stick to one thing, and one thing only. Never move on to another topic or issue before taking the current issue off the table completely. One issue at a time.

Tensing and relaxing, tightening and loosening, or holding on and letting go are all phrases used to describe how we go into and get out of difficult moments.

Both of you should maintain awareness of taking too long to process or talk about anything that’s stressful. Think, go in and get out, hold on and let go, tense and then relax, and drop everything so when you do come back to any stressful discussion, you’ll be refreshed and ready to tackle it together.


Putting the relationship first, above being right, means having to swallow one’s own pride.

The art of lowering oneself isn’t just a survival technique. It’s also a skill intended to show a partner, through physicality, they intend no harm.

Lead with relief.

Make sure your partner knows precisely what you know about their wants, needs, fears, and worries. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.

Be loving and friendly.

Lower yourself.

Be respectful, admiring, appreciative.

Track your partner’s face, voice, and movements for signs of distress or relief.

Consider giving up the need to be absolutely right.

Practice tensing and letting go.


Alternative forms of partnership, such as open marriages and polyamorous arrangements, can be successful or catastrophic.

The world favors couples — always has.

Mentor couples can serve as real-life examples of successful relationships.

Futurize, travel in time, and imagine what the relationship could be as you journey through life together.

Holding in mind the possibility you could lose your partner tomorrow makes you value them today.

While we’re at it, gratitude is a key to happiness.

Strong couples are made up of strong partners willing to throw down if a boundary is crossed. If neither of you are willing to respond appropriately to a crossed line, you’re screwed.

Make no mistake, secure functioning is conditional love. Unconditional love is reserved for children and pets. Step out of line and your partner must lower the hammer — and vice versa. We all need to know our limits, and the two of you must hold each other to the same limits and act if those limits are violated.

Reassess your relationship as you move forward. Consider re-upping your commitment to each other, maybe every year.

Go easy on each other. Take care of each other. Remember that the two of you are a survival unit. Your lives as well as your happiness depend on each other as competent caregivers. It’s the two of you against the world.

The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson

The Big Idea: A parent’s ultimate job is to raise a strong, confident, and responsible adult by giving the child 1) space to make (and learn from) mistakes, 2) space to explores their interests, and 3) the right balance between guidance and freedom.

INTRODUCTION: Why a Sense of Control Is Such a Big Deal

We really can’t control our kids — and doing so shouldn’t be our goal. Our role is to teach them to think and act independently, so that they will have the judgment to succeed in school and, most important, in life.

We hope to convince you that you should think of yourself as a consultant to your kids rather than their boss or manager.

We will try to persuade you of the wisdom of saying “It’s your call” as often as possible.

We’ll offer ideas to help you help your kids find their own internal motivation.

We’ll coach you in navigating an educational system that is often at odds with giving kids autonomy.

CHAPTER ONE: The Most Stressful Thing in the Universe

Chronic stress wreaks havoc on the brain.

So what does a sense of control have to do with all of this? The answer is: everything. Quite simply, it is the antidote to stress.

Agency may be the one most important factor in human happiness and well-being. We all like to feel that we are in charge of our own destiny.

It’s also why the surest way to get a picky five-year-old to eat his vegetables is to divide the plate in half and let him choose which half to eat.

Over the last sixty years, study after study has found that a healthy sense of control goes hand in hand with virtually all the positive outcomes we want for our children.

In fact, when kids are constantly shielded from circumstances that make them anxious, it tends to make their anxiety worse. We want them to learn how to deal successfully with stressful situations — to have a high stress tolerance. That’s how they develop resilience.

Positive stress motivates children (and adults) to grow, take risks, and perform at a high level.

Tolerable stress, which occurs for relatively brief periods, can also build resilience.

Toxic stress is defined as frequent or prolonged activation of the stress system in the absence of support.

Four major brain systems are involved in developing and maintaining a healthy sense of control: 1. the executive control system, 2. the stress response system, 3. the motivation system, and 4. the resting state system.

  1. The Pilot (The Executive Control System)
  2. The Lion Fighter (The Stress Response System)

A healthy stress response is defined by a very quick spike in stress hormones followed by a quick recovery.

That can be a problem, in part, because chronically elevated levels of cortisol will impair and eventually kill cells in the hippocampus, the place where memories are created and stored. This is why students have trouble learning when they are under acute stress.

Stress disorganizes the brain. It reduces brain wave coherence, the desire to explore new ideas and to solve problems creatively.

  1. The Cheerleader (The Motivational System)
  2. The Buddha (The Resting State)

The main thing to remember for now is that chronically stressed kids routinely have their brains flooded with hormones that dull higher brain functions and stunt their emotional responses.

The times when our brains seem to be the most sensitive to stress are : 1) prenatally (highly stressed pregnant women tend to have children who are more responsive to stress), 2) in early childhood, when neural circuits are particularly malleable, and 3) during adolescence, that powerful but vulnerable period between childhood and adulthood.

In fact, it is through working with kids like Jared that Bill concluded that being too tired and too stressed for too long is a formula for anxiety and depression.

We get into dangerous territory when we take all that on ourselves and believe we can control the uncontrollable.

A major goal of this book is to help parents help their kids increase their stress tolerance — their ability to perform well in stressful situations — and to “ throw off ” stress rather than accumulate it.

CHAPTER TWO: “I Love You Too Much to Fight with You About Your Homework”, The Parent as Consultant

In this chapter, we’re going to explain why trying to control your child will not give you the results you want, and why it risks creating kids who must then constantly be pushed because their own internal motivation has either not developed or has been eroded by external pressure. We’re also going to ask you to consider a different philosophy than that of parent as enforcer: that of parent as consultant.

When parents come to us concerned about a lack of motivation, difficulty with peers, or poor academic performance, we begin by asking them a simple question: “Whose problem is it?”

Remember that your job is not to solve your children’s problems but to help them learn to run their own lives.

Parents commonly feel responsible for policing homework without thinking about the underlying goal: to raise curious, self-directed learners.

Second, when parents work harder than their kids to solve their problems, their kids get weaker, not stronger.

Third, and this is perhaps the most critical point, you can’t force a kid to do something he’s dead set against.

But virtually all child development experts, including influential psychologists and authors like Madeline Levine and Laurence Steinberg, have advocated a third option: authoritative parenting. This entails being supportive, but not controlling.

At least sixty years of research has validated the fact that authoritative parenting is the most effective approach. 2 It emphasizes self-direction and values maturity over obedience.

The brain develops according to how it’s used. By giving your child the opportunity to make decisions for herself while still young, you will help her brain build the circuits that are necessary for resilience in the face of stress.

Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly first.

You shouldn’t be absent during this process; you should be standing behind them, offering support and guidance the whole time.

Teachers can teach, coaches can coach, guidance counselors can outline graduation requirements, but there’s one thing only parents can do: love their kids unconditionally and provide them with a safe base at home.

When home is a safe base, kids and teens feel freer to explore the possibilities away from home in healthy ways. They’ll return periodically, checking back in for reassurance and security.

“I love you too much to fight with you about your homework.”

You should set limits, and you should be involved in problem solving, both of which we cover in the next chapter. Kids feel safer and will be more self motivated when they know that adults will take care of the things they’re not yet ready to take care of themselves.

In no way do we think you should shrug your shoulders and say, “Sink or swim, buddy.” Offer a life raft every step of the way, in the form of your counsel.

Because it’s impossible to make a truly resistant kid practice, and because chronically fighting about anything is not healthy for families, we recommend taking the same approach that we recommend for homework: consult, but don’t force.

But trying to force a kid to play a sport is painful for everyone.

We encourage parents to teach their children that movement is crucial for good health, and we want parents to help kids find ways of moving that they really enjoy. We suggest parents say something like, “In our family, everybody does something active. Let’s try different things and find out what works for you.”

We also recommend swimming, rock climbing, horseback riding, and martial arts — all things that kids can get better and better at through practice, and where most of the competition is with one’s own previous personal best.

Be clear with the school that you’re willing to help, but that you’re reminding your child it’s her responsibility.

You can work overtime, but only as a reward to your child for good effort. If she’s worked hard the whole time you’ve allotted, but the material is particularly challenging, by all means, help her until she’s done.

Your consulting hours are clear, and she can either take advantage of them or not. That said, if she procrastinates only occasionally, you should feel free to make exceptions and help her out.

Remember, while teachers can teach and coaches can coach (and cut your kid from the team), only you can be the safe base.

We think that developing a clear sense of who’s responsible for what is more important than always doing well. That is the key to raising a self-driven child.

We recognize that there comes a point when a child no longer needs help getting dressed or putting on her shoes, and we also need to recognize the point when that child no longer needs our help managing her homework.

“Would it be okay if your child turned out like you?” If the answer is no, Bill knows his real work is to help that parent be more accepting of himself or herself.

Kids won’t reach their potential by constantly being driven. In fact, the opposite is true; they will do what is necessary to get you off their back, but they won’t do more. People go the extra mile when it matters to them, not when it matters to you.

But we would all do well to remember the big picture: that we want our kids to be thoughtful learners, and want them to be self-disciplined, not well disciplined.

CHAPTER THREE: “It’s Your Call”, Kids as Decision Makers

Adopt the following three precepts when it comes to your kids: “You are the expert on you.” “You have a brain in your head.” “You want your life to work.”

“It’s your call. I have confidence in your ability to make informed decisions about your own life and to learn from your mistakes.”

“It’s your call” does not mean kids get to call all the shots.

“It’s your call” does not conflict with limit setting, which will always be an essential part of parenting.

“It’s your call” isn’t about giving kids unlimited choices.

“It’s your call” isn’t about manipulation, or sneakily getting kids to think a decision is theirs.

There are a number of situations in which a child can’t be trusted to make a good decision.

If a child is seriously depressed or suicidal, all bets are off.

Likewise, if a kid is dependent on alcohol or drugs or engaging in self-harm, he or she cannot adequately weigh the pros and cons and come to a good decision.

Remember that magic line: “I have confidence in your ability to make informed decisions about your own life and to learn from your mistakes.”

Giving kids a sense of control is the only way to teach them competency.

“Wisdom comes from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”

You don’t always know what’s best.

Research has found that by the time kids are fourteen or fifteen, they generally have adult-level ability to make rational decisions.

“I trust you to make a good decision, and this will ultimately be your call, but I want to be sure you make the best decision possible, so I’d like to help you think through the pros and cons of either option. I also want you to talk to people who have more experience and to get their feedback. Finally, I think it’s important that we talk together about a possible Plan B if your decision doesn’t go the way you want.”

When engaging in collaborative problem solving with teenagers, know that they have this bias and put a special focus on helping them to really think through the possible downsides.

Tell her you will always be willing to pick her up from a party or to send her home in a cab or an Uber if she feels pressured to do things she doesn’t want to do, but avoid giving her the message that she can’t be trusted.

Letting them get stuck every once in a while, while you’re available to help them get out of the ditch, can actually help them grow.

“If I let you sit around and not do anything all summer, I’ll feel like I’m a terrible parent. That’s not what good parents do. So I want you to decide. I want you to have at least one extracurricular activity. Let’s brainstorm about what that might be.”

If children will not consider the relevant information, we don’t support letting them make the decision.

To improve your legitimacy, you have to show your child that he is being heard. So give him credit for making good arguments, by sometimes changing your position so that he knows that a well-thought-out argument is in fact a worthwhile pursuit.

CHAPTER FOUR: The Nonanxious Presence

Parental anxiety isn’t new. Parents have worried about their kids ever since having kids was a thing, but we believe it’s worse now than before.

Most Americans are living in the safest place at the safest time in human history, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Our anxiety is seeping into our kids.

Children don’t need perfect parents, but they do benefit greatly from parents who can serve as a nonanxious presence.

Bad news first: anxiety tends to run in families.

There are dandelion children (resilient) and there are orchid children (sensitive but beautiful).

One of the ways we pass on anxiety to our kids is through something called epigenetics.

When parents worry about their kids, it undermines the kids’ confidence.

Calm is contagious.

When we’re calm, we can let kids experience discomfort and learn to manage it themselves.

To be — and not just fake being — a nonanxious presence, you have to get a handle on your stress.

Make enjoying your kids your top parenting priority.

Your kid needs to feel the joy of seeing your face light up when you see him because you are genuinely happy to spend time with him.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I couldn’t stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

We worry about our kids, and they worry about us. So slow down. Exercise. Get enough sleep.

Make peace with your worst fears.

Your responsibility is to love and support your child. It isn’t your responsibility to protect him from pain.

We are trying to make everything safe and sanitized, but it’s a fool’s errand.

If you want to keep your children as safe as possible, the best thing to do is to give them experience and teach them judgment.

Your kids need practice managing and taking nonlethal risks. After all, life isn’t exactly risk free — we take risks in love, in work, in finance all the time.

It is what it is.

Acceptance is a powerful stance. For one thing, accepting your children the way they are conveys respect.

Consider that for all we know, our kids may well be exactly who and where they are supposed to be right now.

Spend private time with your child, ideally without electronics.

If you’re highly anxious, do something about it. Treating anxiety is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.

Avoid making decisions for your child based on fear.

It cannot be your responsibility to see that everything goes well for your children at all times.

Model self-acceptance and tell your kids what you’re doing.

CHAPTER FIVE: Inner Drive, How to Help Your Kids Develop Motivation

Our aim is to focus on the self-motivation necessary for the long game — the inner drive that we want our kids to have so that they commit to something and persevere, develop their potential, and take steps toward living the lives they want to live.

Research over the last four decades has repeatedly demonstrated that incentives like sticker charts, consequences, and other forms of parental monitoring that are “ laid on ” children actually undermine this type of motivation.

Our aim is to largely take away the carrots and sticks and to offer you instead a deeper understanding of the brain.

Motivation = autonomy + competence + relatedness.

Carol Dweck argues a growth mindset offers students a sense of control.

Promoting a growth mindset is one of the best ways to improve your child’s sense of control, to foster their emotional development, and to support their academic achievement.

In Dweck’s words, “a focus on inner effort can help resolve helplessness and engender success.” A growth mindset is the MVP of the self-motivated child.

Self-determination theory (SDT), which holds that humans have three basic needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

When something really cool happens, and especially when you’re anticipating something really cool happening, you have a surge of dopamine.

So how do you help a child develop a healthy dopamine system? The answer is surprisingly simple: encourage them to work hard at what they love.

When kids work hard at something they love and find challenging, they enter a state of what’s come to be called “flow.”

Researcher Reed Larson has studied the development of motivation in children and teens, and he’s found flow to be the secret sauce.

The best way to motivate him for the things you think he should focus on is to let him spend time on the things he wants to focus on.

Girls tend to like to be on top of things and to feel stressed when they fall behind or have too many things on their to-do list.

Finally, it can be helpful to remember that what motivates one child will not necessarily motivate another.

When parents pay attention to these differences, they can help their kids understand what motivates them — and what’s truly important to them.

If a child can visualize himself accomplishing a goal he has chosen for himself, it tricks the brain into thinking he’s done it.

Writing down our goals reminds us to play the long game.

Frequent exercise.

Social support.You can also look at this site to know more about it.

A healthy, high-protein diet and enough rest.

Circuit training. Saboteurs often do well when they work intensely for short periods marked by a timer and then take a prescribed break.

“Working hard to get better and better at something that’s important to you is one of the best things you can do for your brain.”

“The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” emphasizes the importance of looking for that intersection of passion and skill.

Remember, if a kid isn’t motivated by school, he’s not motivated by school, and you can’t make him want to do better.

But the most important thing you can do is express confidence that they will find something they love to do.

It may be helpful to know that Eeyores commonly lack flexibility and confidence in their ability to adapt to new situations, which can lead to anxiety about trying new things.

Remember that some people have fewer interests and smaller friendship groups throughout their lives, and are perfectly happy.

Physical activity can be motivating to all kinds of kids.

Read “How to Raise an Adult.”

Even if you are proud of your child, she may come to believe that she is loved because of her accomplishments.

University found that the type of college students attended (e.g., public versus private; highly selective versus less selective) made very little difference to their workplace engagement and well-being.

So, being a standout at a lesser-known school is often better in the long run than getting lost in the crowd at a more competitive school.

While it can be frightening to fail at something, a poor grade does not translate to a permanently closed door.

When she saw that the worst-case scenario actually didn’t destroy her or close off her future, she was more empowered to take risks and more capable of living her life without feeling that a monster was chasing her around every turn. And that, ultimately, made her more successful.

Help her set goals that are values based, because when we set goals we’re in control of, our minds are happy.

Support autonomy, support autonomy, support autonomy.

Explore where your child’s true inner motivation lies. You can do this by asking when in life he or she feels “really happy.”

Make a point of speaking with your kids about what it is they want in life.

Help your child articulate (and write down) goals.

Encourage flow.

Teach and model a love of challenge and persistence in the face of difficulty.

Teach your kids not to be overly preoccupied with pleasing others.

CHAPTER SIX: Radical Downtime

IN INDIA’S ANCIENT Vedic tradition, it is said that “rest is the basis of all activity.”

Yet as the pace of life goes faster, we need to radicalize our downtime.

In this chapter, we will delve into two powerful forms of radical downtime: daydreaming and meditation.

The Benefits of Daydreaming

Raichle has led a new wave of research that suggests that the unfocused downtime that activates the default mode network is absolutely critical for a healthy brain.

The default mode network is where the all-important work of personal reflection takes place.

But here’s the thing about the DMN: it cannot activate when you’re focused on a task.

Our culture values getting things done. But research shows us just how important it is to do that mind wandering.

Einstein’s breakthrough on relativity came shortly after a year spent in Italy “loafing aimlessly” and attending occasional lectures.)

People with an efficient DMN do better on tests of cognitive ability, including measures of memory, flexibility of thought, and reading comprehension. People who are efficient at toggling their DMN on and off also have better mental health.

Think of your typical American family driving somewhere in the car: the kids want to listen to something, watch something, or play a game. They’ve forgotten how to look out the window, chitchat, or daydream.

Alternate periods of connection and activity with periods of quiet time. When you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or for your bus to arrive, do you immediately pick up a magazine or check your phone? What if you just sat there for a couple of minutes instead?

We need to actively choose to not take our phones with us, or to turn them off.

Learning to tolerate solitude — to be comfortable with yourself — is one of the most important skills one acquires in childhood.

“Meditation is so powerful that I ask all of you who don’t yet meditate to learn meditation — and then call me in a year to tell me how it’s changed your life.”

In this section, we’ll briefly discuss mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation, the two forms of meditation that are used most widely with children.

Mindfulness in schools sometimes includes guided meditations, visualizations, affirmations, breathing exercises, mindful yoga, exercise set to music, and writing and visual art exercises for promoting positive self-expression.

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Meditators are given a mantra, which is a meaningless sound. When a practitioner silently repeats his mantra, the mind settles down and experiences quieter levels of awareness.

Although transcendence is the epitome of doing nothing, over forty years of research has found that this experience of deeply quieting the mind and body improves physical and mental health, as well as learning and academic performance.

Kids who meditate for as little as ten or fifteen minutes twice a day will experience a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and express less anger and hostility.

But he quickly learned that he could accomplish more even though he was taking twenty minutes twice a day to meditate.

Look for opportunities during the day to let your mind wander.

Consider learning to meditate yourself.

CHAPTER SEVEN: Sleep, The Most Radical Downtime

IN THE EARLY YEARS of the twentieth century, adults in America slept nine hours a night or more.

Sleep is arguably the single most important thing for healthy brain development.

Sleep is brain food.

Sleep deprivation is a form of chronic stress.

Emotional control is dramatically impaired by sleep deprivation.

Sleep loss is like a “negativity bomb.”

Sleep deprivation, like chronic stress, can trigger anxiety and mood disorders in children who are already vulnerable to getting them.

Sleep deprivation has physical implications. It impairs blood sugar regulation and contributes to obesity.

Sleep is critical to learning. There’s almost nothing more important to learning than being well rested.

Later school start times have led to decreased absences and tardiness, reduced sleepiness in school, and improvement in mood and feelings of efficacy.

Often when the advice comes from a third, nonparental party, kids are more willing to take it seriously.

With school-aged kids and younger, you can enforce an agreed-upon lights-out time.

For older kids, make privileges like driving contingent on getting enough sleep — since driving while sleep deprived is so dangerous.

Encourage your child to do screen-time homework earlier and save reading homework for later so she gets less late light exposure.

Our recommendation is to not serve caffeinated foods and beverages to children.

The biological clock of night owls is often delayed by exposure to electronic media and electric light.

Make sleep a family value, and set a family goal of sleeping more.

Assess whether your child has an effective wind-down routine before bed.

If your child is a light sleeper or struggles to fall asleep, consider a white-noise generator.

Talk as a family about creating technology-free zones in the bedroom at night.

Suggest that your high school child ask her friends or other kids in her grade who do get eight-plus hours of sleep a night how they do it.

If your kid’s circadian clock is off, exposure to bright light early in the morning can be an effective tool.

Also, if weather permits, go camping.

Continue reading about sleep. Books we recommend are Helene Ensellem’s Snooze…or Lose! and Dr. Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.

CHAPTER EIGHT: Taking a Sense of Control to School

In an ideal school, teachers have autonomy and kids have choices.

Most reform has been focused on what to cram into children’s heads — and testing them ad nauseam to see what sticks — rather than on developing their brains.

We believe that recognizing the importance of a sense of control can guide our thinking about the all-important place where our kids spend upwards of seven hours a day nine months of the year.

Get Them Engaged

The best thing you can do to facilitate engagement in the classroom may be to give your kid autonomy outside of it.

There is evidence that teachers teach better and feel less stressed when they have a choice about what they teach and how they teach.

If your child isn’t learning, try to find a tutor or educational games to engage him in math or science.

You could even encourage them to learn some of the material before the teacher addresses it in class.

You can also encourage your kids to learn on their own and to teach what they’ve learned to someone else — a parent, a sibling, or a fellow student.

Reduce Academic Stress and Pressure

When we’re too stressed, we can’t think straight.

You may see a third of kids in the optimal state of learning, called “relaxed alertness.”

When students know it’s all right to fail, they can take the kinds of risks that lead to real growth.

Also, remind your children that what’s important is that they develop themselves, not that they get perfect grades.

Homework: Inspire — But Don’t Require

Small amounts of homework (one to two hours a night) can contribute to academic achievement for middle and high school kids, but any more than that backfires when it comes to actual learning.

We believe in recommending assignments and encouraging kids to do them — or an alternative task that would contribute to mastering the objectives — but not requiring or grading them.

Finnish students — who have among the highest educational outcomes in the world — have the lightest homework requirement, rarely receiving more than a half hour per day.

Ned deliberately assigns very little homework. He has no interest in busywork.

Try to switch to a school that focuses on brain-centered learning instead, a school that aims to develop inquisitive learners, not score seekers.

The problem is that while children from the 1920s to the 1970s were free to play, laying the groundwork for key skills like self-regulation, modern kindergartners are required to read and write.

Most eighth graders don’t have sufficiently developed abstract thinking skills to master algebra.

Starting test prep too early is not just totally unnecessary, it is actively counterproductive.

Earlier isn’t necessarily better; and likewise, more isn’t better if it’s too much.

Choose schools that are developmentally sensitive in their curriculum.

Relax and take a long view.

Don’t go overboard on AP classes.

While the word “test” has a very negative connotation, it’s still one of the most powerful learning tools available.

Testing helps you recognize what you’re missing.

Testing can also mitigate test anxiety.

A heavy reliance on standardized testing is an ineffective way to improve educational outcomes.

Many kids shine most brightly in classes that aren’t core academic subjects (or in activities that aren’t classes at all) — like art, music, shop, and drama.

Schools should focus more on nurturing healthy brain development and less on test scores.

As Robert Sapolsky has said, depression is the cruelest disease.

Teach your kids that they are responsible for their own education.

Remind your child of the big picture, that grades matter less than the ways he or she develops as a student and person.

Resist the pressure to push your child if he’s not ready, be it reading in kindergarten, algebra in eighth grade, or AP classes in high school.

Consider advocating for brain-friendly experiences in school such as exercise, the arts, and meditation.

CHAPTER NINE: Wired 24 / 7, Taming the Beast of Technology

How can I get my kid to stop playing video games every second he’s not in school?

Technology addiction is the new norm for young adults.

Technology is an incredible tool with the great power to enrich lives, but the things it displaces — family time, face-to-face interaction with friends, study time, physical activity, and sleep — are invaluable, and the way technology trains the brain to expect constant stimulation is deeply troubling.

The king of tech himself, Steve Jobs, was careful to limit his kids’ technology use, and wouldn’t get iPads for his own kids.

Learning to tame the beast is a powerful skill — one that will stay with them for years to come.

From a brain science perspective, video games produce spikes in dopamine and induce a state of flow.

Scientists have concluded that gaming satisfies the needs for competence and a sense of control — and that multiplayer games satisfy the need for relatedness.

There is no compelling evidence yet that the sense of control and motivation one feels when playing video games translates to real life.

Due to their exposure to technology, kids’ brains work “completely differently” from their parents’ and from kids’ brains of previous generations.

Many kids can’t stand a minute of boredom or tolerate doing just one thing at a time.

Technological breakthroughs almost by definition must make life more stressful, because they quicken the pace and raise the bar of what can be accomplished.

A typical adult checks his smartphone forty-six times a day.

When you refresh your e-mail, look at your text messages, or check your Instagram account, you get a hit of dopamine.

Screen time is an independent risk factor for many of the things we don’t want for our kids.

Every hour of screen time is associated with increased blood pressure, while every hour spent reading is associated with decreased blood pressure.

Screen time brings violent news.

Social media takes control away from you and gives it to your peers.

Technology sucks time away from activities the brain needs to develop a healthy sense of control: sleep, exercise, radical downtime, unstructured child-led play, and the real-life, face-to-face social interaction.

While social media is a greater concern for girls, video games tend to be a bigger problem for boys.

Just having a phone or a tablet in the bedroom increases sleep problems.

Technology appears to lower empathy.

Technology offers easy access to pornography, leading to a more violent sexual culture.

We strongly recommend letting your child know that you will be checking her texts and social media until you feel comfortable that she’s safe.

Giving kids a sense of control doesn’t mean that you let go of all restrictions and rules, and in order to feel safe themselves, kids need to know that you’re there to help them navigate deep waters.

You have to model responsible use of technology.

Seek to understand.

Get back to nature.

Studies show that kids feel and perform better after they’ve been immersed in nature.

Inform rather than lecture.

Collaborate on a solution.

Understand your leverage.

With teenagers, you simply can’t monitor their tech habits all the time. But here’s what you can do. Always know their password, and let them know that you will always know it.

It used to be that when parents asked us about video-game time, we suggested no more than an hour a day.

For starters, encourage everyone in the family to make a technology-use plan.

There is no evidence that young children need technology to develop optimally.

If you recognize your child is vulnerable to excessive use of technology, it’s important that you negotiate firm limits with him.

There’s been a resurgence in the popularity of quieter, hands-on activities like baking, sewing, and crafting among millennials.

Have a family meeting in which you talk about setting up technology-free times or zones.

Model healthy use of technology.

Try to have at least thirty minutes of unplugged “private time” every day with your kids during the week and at least an hour a day on weekends.

When out and about, point out social situations in which one person is ignoring the other through their use of a phone.

Let kids know you’ll check their texts and Twitter page randomly.

Make video game use contingent on not freaking out when it’s time to quit.

CHAPTER TEN: Exercising the Brain and Body

We don’t want our kids to be afraid of taking risks or to unravel when things don’t turn out as they’d hoped.

Exercise # 1: Set clear goals.

For some, writing a simple list of goals works well.

For others, it is much more effective to have a visual picture of their goal to refer to.

We are also big believers in setting “personal best” goals in the classroom.

Exercise # 2: Pay attention to what your brain is telling you.

Using simple language and vivid imagery and explaining the science of emotions can be remarkably effective,

Exercise # 3: Practice Plan B thinking.

Plan B thinking (“What are some other things you could do if it doesn’t work out as you hope?”) is key to maintaining a healthy approach to potential setbacks.

For some, Plan B thinking may include considering radically different routes to success.

Exercise # 4: Talk to yourself with compassion.

Teach your kids to be as supportive of themselves as they are of their best friend.

Third-person self-talk is much more powerful than first-person self-talk. If your daughter refers to herself by name, she is more likely to take the more distanced, supportive-friend stance than to act as critic in chief. 4

Exercise # 5: Practice reframing problems.

We like to think of life as a game of “Choose Your Point of View.” You get to decide how to frame events.

Reframing involves looking at our own thoughts with care and actively redirecting them. This is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy.

A simple way to help kids avoid catastrophizing is to teach them to ask themselves, whenever they’re upset, “Is this a big problem or a little problem?”

In cognitive behavioral therapy, kids are taught to distinguish between a disaster (like famine) and something that’s temporarily frustrating or embarrassing.

Exercise # 6: Move your body and/or play.

Exercise is more generally good for the brain and body. It increases levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which provide stability, focus, mental alertness, and calmness.

In short, it’s often said that exercise does more to help clear thinking than thinking does.

Finland is at the head of the class here: they mandate twenty minutes of outdoor play for every forty minutes of instructional time.

Yoga, martial arts, horseback riding, fencing, drumming, and rock climbing all fall in a category of exercise in which you are using your mental and motor skills to develop your executive functions.

Play is how children strengthen their cerebellum and learn to master their world.

Encourage your kids to set their own goals — and to visualize achieving them.

Build on your child’s SMART goals to add in mental contrasting. Are there inner obstacles?

Make Plan B thinking a family practice.

Model positive self-talk and self-compassion.

Make physical fitness a family value.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Navigating Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Six and a half million American kids and teens received special education services in 2013 – 2014.

We’re hard pressed to think of a family with three kids in which at least one does not have a learning disability, ADHD, or an autism spectrum disorder.

In the end, help that is forced on kids usually doesn’t do much good.

Fight homework that isn’t necessary.

Encourage self-understanding.

Offer but don’t force help.

Kids with autism struggle with stress tolerance and self-motivation.

Kids on the spectrum benefit greatly from strategies that reduce novelty and unpredictability, and that increase their sense of control.

The best documented intervention for autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA), uses predetermined goals and a specific set of behavioral strategies (including rewards and negative consequences) to reach young children on the spectrum, and places minimal emphasis on promoting a sense of autonomy.

“If you’ve met one child with ASD, you’ve met one child with ASD.”

Parenting a child with special needs is stressful.

That’s why our most fundamental message is to focus on being a nonanxious presence.

Do everything you can to minimize homework-related stress.

Offer your child as much choice as possible about the kinds of interventions he receives and when he receives them.

Find a school that will accommodate your child.

Encourage your child to try different ways of working and learning to figure out what works best for him.

Give your kids opportunities to serve, such as helping younger children or working with animals.

Because kids with ADHD and ASD are at such high risk for sleep problems, pay careful attention to their ability to fall asleep.

CHAPTER TWELVE: The SAT, ACT, and Other Four – Letter Words

There’s a lot to be said against standardized tests.

Sometimes standardized tests provide the first sign of an issue.

The bottom line is that it helps to do well on those tests for the purpose of applying to college.

It’s worth remembering that the SAT and AP tests don’t impact your future nearly as much as you think.

Things that make life stressful: Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to the ego, Sense of control (or lack thereof).

Take practice tests, he reminds them, and the novelty goes away.

“Practice like you’ll play so you can play like you’ve practiced.”

By focusing on process, you will minimize unpredictability.

The other way to counter the stress of unpredictability is through Plan B thinking.

Test scores are not an accurate reflection of intelligence.

Another option is to go into warrior mode.

The “predator” mentality proved the key to these soldiers’ success; by reducing their anxiety, it enabled them to outperform their more fearful peers.

Look to conquer, rather than survive. Athletes have all sorts of rituals to help them “get into the zone” on game day.

When you feel that you have control over a situation, you are likely to be calmer, more relaxed, and more able to think. You are also likely to make better decisions.

In short, if you focus on process instead of outcome, whether taking a test or jumping out of an airplane, you will have a much greater sense of control.

What if when your mom or dad says they think you should do something, you reply, “Thanks for telling me, Mom” or, “That’s a good point.” When your parents feel validated, they are much more likely to pat themselves on the back and say, “You’re welcome, dear” and go back to doing whatever it is that adults do when they aren’t telling their kids what to do.

In the week before the test, think of yourself as a marathoner. Runners don’t train too hard the week before a race — rather, they taper.

Remind them that you care much more about them than any stupid test score.

If your child is anxious about test taking, offer to sit in the room while they take a practice test.

Talk through Plan B scenarios weeks (not the week) before a test, to help your child ward off anxiety.

Drive your child to the testing site the week before so he can check it out.

Plan for your child to take the ACT or SAT more than once.

Know that a little stress actually helps kids perform better.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Who’s Ready for College?

The college environment is drastically different from most kids’ experience in high school, and many teens haven’t developed some of the fundamental skills they will need to function in that environment before leaving home.

This is because college is often a brain-toxic environment.

College housing may be the most stressful and dysregulated living environment outside of a war zone.

Currently, in many middle-class and upper-middle-class families, college is seen as an entitlement, not something that’s earned.

Almost 50 percent of the students who enroll in four-year colleges don’t graduate.

If a student is not able to complete his applications and college essay independently, or with some help that he seeks out, he is probably not ready to start college.

You won’t get a sense of control over your life by avoiding hard work or receiving unearned trophies. It comes from diligence and commitment.

If your kid doesn’t have healthy ways to relieve stress, he will find unhealthy ones.

In places like Germany, Denmark, Australia, and the UK, taking a “gap year” (or two) to travel, work, or even serve in the military is highly encouraged.

But if you are providing some financial support for the college years, it’s reasonable for you to identify yourself as a stakeholder. You might say, “Go to college if you like. But if you want me to make an investment in your education, I need to see certain criteria met before I feel comfortable.”

Start suggesting as early as ninth grade that college is something that needs to be earned.

Encourage your child to get work experience.

Prepare yourself for the transition. Stay connected but keep a strong focus on your own life.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Alternate Routes

The reality is that we become successful in this world by working hard at something that comes easily to us and that engages us. We need to tell our kids that the skill set required to be a successful student is, in many ways, very different from the skill set that will lead you to have a successful career and a good life.

Being a straight-A student almost by definition requires a high level of conformity, which is not the route to a high level of success.

It turns out, in fact, that high school valedictorians are no more successful than other college graduates by their late twenties. Ability is not a simple matter of grades.

The idea that you have to get a college degree is, for many, a toxic message.

The majority of Americans do not graduate from college.

Many people who finish college or graduate school end up taking a circuitous route to academic success.

Many adults who were top students and have forged successful careers are miserable.

Where — or if — you go to college does not set the path for your life.

Following your passion is more energizing than doing what you feel you have to do.

Albert Einstein said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Howard Gardner pointed out, there are many different forms of intelligence.

Successful people are good at some things and not so good at others, but wisely make a living doing something they’re good at.

You only have to be “smart enough” to do something interesting in this world.

That said, there are many advantages to having a college degree (and advanced degrees). We want kids to go to college and graduate if they can. But what we really don’t want to do is discourage the many kids who can’t make it through college.

After a fairly low level of financial comfort, there is no correlation between increased income and greater happiness.

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, by Kristin Kimball.

Make a list with your child of all the different jobs you can possibly think of together.

Share the stories of alternate routes.

Be open about the surprises or disappointments you encountered on your own path, or that your parents or grandparents did, and how you pivoted.

Ask your child, What do you love to do? What do you think you’re better at than other people?

Encourage your child to find a mentor.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

The Big Idea: The Selfish Gene says that all forms of life on Earth begin with genes, and that the purpose of life is to make sure those genes survive.

Any form of life anywhere in the universe must begin with some type of replicating molecule.

Genes are like a blueprint for the bodies they create and inhabit. Genes can’t control their bodies directly, so they create structures like the brain and muscles to coordinate and execute all of the many processes required for life.

All biology should be considered from the perspective of genes.

A population of altruistic individuals can be easily exploited by a selfish one.

The explanation for altruistic behavior is gene selection. The key to understanding gene selection is recognizing that close relatives, by definition, share many of the same genes.

There is a ratio of selfish to altruistic animals where the population will be stable. This is called the Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS).

Competition for finite resources extends to family members, including the struggle between parents and their children for exactly what proportion of the resources each child should get.

There should also be severe conflicts of interest between mates.

There are benefits to two conflicting mating situations: staying with your partner for as long as possible, and abandoning them with the child before being abandoned yourself.

For mates, many species of animals have long, intricate courtships to get both the male and female heavily involved before they actually reproduce.

Many types of animals move, or even live, together in groups. Some advantages of this are obvious.

Acts of animal altruism may ultimately be an act of selfishness—in fact, considering the selfish gene theory, it must be.

If the replicator unit of biology is the gene, then the replicator unit of ideas could be called the meme.

Culture and memes don’t seem to have any inherent survival value. It’s more likely that they’re side effects of group-focused evolutionary traits such as those discussed at the beginning of this section.

Organisms don’t replicate themselves at all (except in the relatively rare case of asexual reproduction). Given that the “purpose” of life is replication, it seems clear that organisms are tools that genes use to replicate themselves.

organisms don’t have to exist. They exist on Earth because that’s what evolution happened to favor in this particular environment.

Replication is both the beginning and the purpose of life.

Falling Into The Gap by Donald Fisher

The Big Idea: Falling Into The Gap is the inspirational story of how a man with no retail training built the world’s most successful international apparel company by being willing to take risks based on his natural instincts.

Lessons for Founders

It’s better to be lucky than smart.

Being a (tenacious) novice can be a competitive advantage.

Be clear about what success looks like. Often, founders (not Don Fisher) overlook the importance of family until it’s too late.

Keep equity at all costs.

It’s nice being a private company. You don’t have to answer to anyone.

Invest in operational excellence and information technology. It can be a strong competitive advantage.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. An enduring company will require at least a few reinventions to last decades.

In business, offense is product innovation and defense is operational excellence.

Success in business is especially rewarding because it lets you give back.

How was The Gap founded?

Inspiration for The Gap came from Don’s difficulty purchasing Levi’s from various department stores.

The Gap was originally a Levi’s-only store.

Doris and husband Don Fisher started the business after struggling to find jeans that fit him. They raised $63,000 to open their first store, which sold jeans and music, in San Francisco. The Fishers agreed on the name, which is short for “generation gap,” after Doris nixed her husband’s original idea, “Pants and Discs.”

Because a real estate deal fell through, Don was able to focus on launching The Gap. Luck plays a big role.

Don didn’t raise money from friends because he didn’t want to risk losing his friends’ money. Instead, he used his family’s savings of $63,000 to start The Gap.

Because Don didn’t have any retail training, he laid out the store as it made sense to him, a real estate investor, not as a traditional retailer would have done. Being a (tenacious) novice can be a competitive advantage.

Don just wanted to take the nightmare out of buying Levi’s.

Early Gap advertising was mostly radio, because that was the medium of choice for young people.

Early Gap slogan was “Over four tons of Levi’s.” And also, “for any shape, sex, or size.”

Early Gap employees were peole Don already knew and trusted.

The first Gap store opened with a big party, attended by social glitterati, and covered by local newspapers.

Don’s childhood was warm and stable. His upbringing gave him the self-confidence to launch The Gap, despite no retail experience.

Don was incredibly competitive, a champion swimmer, and hated losing in sports and beyond.

Don maintained many childhood friendship into old age.

Don attended UC Berkeley, majoring first in engineering, then in business administration.

Advice from Don’s mother: never say no when you can say yes, be big about little things, a secret is something you give somebody else to keep for you.

Don was a fearless body surfer, but came close to death a few times, eventually retiring from bodysurfing in his 70’s.

The three Fisher sons all attended Princeton and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eventually, Bill and Bob became leaders at Gap. John started a family office and began investing.

Don’s first venture was converting his father’s furniture factory into an office building. That led to a brief career in real estate development in San Francisco.

After a challenging real estate venture, Don vowed never to partner with family members again.

Don was 41 years old when he opened the first Gap store.

Overtime, Don’s confidence grew and he relied less on Levi’s advice and more on his own instincts.

Don innovated a restocking system that was able to handle all the volume for that successful first store.

Don would never have started The Gap if the plan was just for one store. He envisioned as many as 10 stores.

When starting The Gap, Don also had an escape plan, just in case the first store was a failure.

Don invested early in computer systems to manage inventory and financials.

How did The Gap grow from one store to an empire?

First expansions outside of the Bay were: Southern California in 1971, Houston, Chicago.

Don overcame male breast cancer in 1971.

To save money, early commercials were made in Mexico City.

There were copycats like Miller Outpost and County Seat that started also selling only Levi’s.

Because of supply chain issues and competition among Levi’s retailers, The Gap started private labels in 1974.

Early Gap fashions were knockoffs manufactured in Hong Kong by Li & Fung.

In 1976, The Gap went public.

Don’s advice to entrepreneurs: keep equity at all costs.

It’s nice being private. You don’t have to answer to anyone.

In 1976, The Gap experimented briefly with discount retailing. They weren’t structured for off-price, so the experiment ended after a few years.

Since buyers bought nearly a year in advance, there was no opportunity to test products. They had to rely on instincts.

The Gap experimented briefly with Ralph Lauren, but it wasn’t a good fit.

Don never drank coffee or smoked.

Don hated long hair on boys.

Throughout the journey of building The Gap, family was always a priority.

Don’s father died in 1981 due to a stroke.

Mickey Drexler was vital to the evolution of The Gap to a vertically-integrated, private-label retailer.

In 1984, Maggie Gross began investing in magazine and television advertising.

In 1983, The Gap bought Banana Republic Safari and Travel Clothing from the Zeiglers for $325,000, plus bonuses based on profits. The Zeiglers left in 1987 after some conflict with management. You can also get great clothes from Adele Fans Merchandise

By 1986, there were 65 total stores.

In 1984, The Gap bought Pottery Barn, which was soon sold to Williams-Sonoma after a bumpy ride.

In the mid 80s, The Gap invested in fashion design and rebranded itself as a fashionable clothing retailer, through the Corporate Individuals of Style campaign, emphasizing khakis.

GapKids (1986) and babyGap (1989) were the brainchildren of Mickey Drexler and both an instant hit.

In 1986, The Gap expanded globally. Don had difficulty convincing management on the idea, but persisted regardless.

Sales in Japan were slow partially because the customers were too polite to disturb the neatly organized merchandise.

There were several legal battles involving trademarks in Europe and, then, in Japan.

After stock price declines in 1992, Mickey Drexler decided to create a lower-priced brand called Gap Warehouse, which was eventually rebranded Old Navy, based on the name of a pub in France.

Old Navy was a fantastic hit and propelled The Gap performance for many years.

What happened next after stepping down from CEO?

In 1995, Mickey Drexler became CEO and Don stepped down to chairman of the board. McKinsey helped in the transition.

As a bigger, more important company, it was easier to get high quality people to join the board of directors.

Scaling so fast led to inefficiencies, so The Gap invested heavily in computer systems during the 90’s to help alleviate the issue.

The Gap expanded into fragrances and body care starting in 1994.

In business, offense is product innovation and defense is operational excellence.

The Gap always remained very entrepreneurial, which is rare in a Fortune 500 company.

The 90’s saw very successful Gap ad campaigns, including “Swing Dancers”. Old Navy ad campaigns were more family-oriented and nostalgic.

Stock options, restricted stock grants, and a discount stock purchase plan helped retain top talent.

Operational excellence allowed new store locations in smaller communities and town.

The Gap’s e-commerce strategy early on was first, observe. Then launch when the time is right. In 1999, when other e-commerce companies crumbled during holiday, The Gap performed very well.

From the time Don left college, he looked for business situations that would not only put food on the table, but would give him the exhilaration that only tough challenges provide.

Don went bodysurfing for the last time in 1994, at the age of sixty-six, but was able to continue swimming by building an indoor pool.

Doris and Don collected modern art as a hobby and were supporters of the SFMOMA.

Don also devoted time to politics, specifically with the goal of making SF (and the USA) more business-friendly.

Don was also active in creating the Presidio Trust.

Don’s burning passion was education. He joined the Columbia Park Boys Club board of directors, then later the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Other organizations served: UC Berkeley School of Business, Stanford GSB, Princeton University, UCSF, Bay Area Life Sciences Alliance.

Don also helped keep the San Francisco Giants in SF.

Don served on the boards of Ross Stores, Charles Schwab, Air Touch, and KQED.

The family investment office was originally established for buying the San Francisco Giants.

Investments in VC Rosewood paid off through good investments in Hooked On Phonics and Noah’s Bagels.

The Fishers are a very close family and look for opportunities that would benefit multiple generations. They can be patient and reap the rewards consistent with that patience.

The family invested heavily in timberland, much to the chagrin of environmental activists.

It’s better to give money to good causes while you’re still alive.

In their philanthropy, Don and Doris preferred to support specific projects and capital projects, over supporting operating expenses. Endowments are established for operating expenses.

Doris and Don invested in Edison School Project and supported KIPP.

Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman

The Big Idea: The rate of change has accelerated since 2007, outpacing humanity’s ability to adapt to the change. We can’t stop change, so we need to adapt.

Three forces are shaping the world: technology, globalization, and climate change.

There are four types of globalization: flow of technical knowledge, the flow of business, the flow of money, the flow of human connection.

Climate change is accelerating so fast, it’s approaching the planet’s limit to absorb the changes.

Areas of climate change where we might be too late: global warming, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and imbalance of nutrient flows.

Areas of climate change where we approaching dangerous limits; ocean acidification, and pollution.

High human population accelerates climate change.

We can’t slow down these changes, so we need to learn how to adapt.

To adapt to changes in the workplace: establish lifelong learning programs, build tools to better match people to jobs, update social contracts.

To adapt to changes in geopolitics: assist weaker nations to avoid mass migrations, maintain enough military power to deter, discourage agents of chaos.

To adapt to changes in domestic affairs: mimic natural systems, such as division of labor, and natural selection.

To adapt to changes in morality: increase ethics education, build healthy communities.

The Good Gut by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg

The Big Idea: eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and fermented foods to maintain a healthy microbiome and discourage disease.

  • An unhealthy microbiome is associated with: infant colic, allergies, autism, auto-immune diseases, obesity, depression, schizophrenia, OCD, stroke, heart disease, systemic inflammation, and cancer.
  • Vaginal childbirth is preferable to C-section.
  • Breast milk helps feed an infant’s microbiome.
  • Take antibiotics only when necessary, since they can decimate benefit beneficial gut bacteria.
  • If antibiotics are unavoidable, supplement with probiotics quickly afterwards.
  • Wash children’s hands regularly during flu season.
  • Start each day with kefir or yogurt.
  • Being around dirt, animals and people helps expose us to beneficial microbes.
  • Ease up on the need to sanitize everything.
  • Feed your gut microbiome plenty of dietary fiber.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Limit red meat, which is converted to TMA and TMAO.
  • Limit saturated fat, which feeds pathogenic bacteria.
  • Consume fermented foods for probiotics.
  • Consider following the Mediterrean diet or the traditional Japanese diet.

The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul

The Big Idea: Thinking doesn’t just take place inside the brain; it also takes place outside the brain.

  • When your body (emotions/unconscious mind) is telling you something, listen to it; this is called interoception.
  • Practice meditation to improve your interoception abilities.
  • Regular walks can improve thinking.
  • Physical demonstrations helps students learn abstract concepts better.
  • Gestures can support understanding and learning.
  • Gestures take away cognitive load, so the brain can focus more intently.
  • Spending time in nature improves thinking; take a nature walk to help work out problems.
  • Working in a room with a view improves thinking.
  • Better design (collaborative spaces + quiet spaces, sense of ownership) improves thinking; aka neuroarchitecture.
  • The memory palace technique, concept mapping, and physical models all take advantage of the power of spatial thinking.
  • Imitating experts (apprenticeships) and coaching improves learning.
  • Working in groups improves thinking.
  • Teaching others (eg cascading mentorship) helps you master concepts.
  • Debate and Socratic Method are great tools for teaching and learning.
  • Storytelling is a powerful tool for understanding and remembering.
  • Group mind (collective intelligence) can sometimes be more powerful than individual minds.
  • Synchronized exercise or activity improves cooperation and emotional bonds between individuals.
  • Membership in a group can be a potent form of motivation.
  • Eating meals together improves group cohesion and cooperation.

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen

The Big Idea: Strive for happiness, not success.

1. How to find happiness in your career

Understand what motivates you.

Internal motivation > external motivation.

Money and status are more of a by-product of being happy with a job, than a cause of it.

Think about the long-term consequences of your decisions.

Make plans but keep an eye out for opportunities.

Understand how you spend your time and money. And why.

2. How to find happiness in your relationships

Invest in personal relationships now.

Invest in your kids.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Big Idea: Humans have transformed the Earth and now we are experiencing accelerating rates of species extinction.

Until the 18th century, scientists were unaware that species came and went, over the past billion years.

Big Five Mass Extinctions

  1. End Ordovician, 444 million years ago, sudden cooling
  2. Late Devonian, 375 million years ago
  3. End Permian, 251 million years ago, sudden warming
  4. End Triassic, 200 million years ago
  5. End Cretaceous, 66 million years ago, asteroid

We’re currently in the Anthropocene. The book mentions many species affected by human encroachment, pollution, and climate change: golden frog, coral, cloud forest trees, rhinos, elephants, mastodons, great auk, ammonites, American chestnut, Neanderthals, Homo floresiensis, Denisovans, and lowland gorillas.

Ocean acidification is caused by excess CO2, absorbed by the oceans and lowering ocean pH levels.

Humans are also upsetting existing ecosystems by introducing invasive species, such as a European fungus that causes white nose syndrome that is killing off bats in North America.

The Great Mental Models Volume 1 by Shane Parrish

The Big Idea: Better mental models (frameworks) mean better thinking.

Introduction: Acquiring Wisdom

In life and business, the person with the fewest blind spots wins.

This book is about avoiding problems.

Our failures to update from interacting with reality spring primarily from three things: not having the right perspective or vantage point, ego-induced denial, and distance from the consequences of our decisions.

The first flaw is perspective.

The second flaw is ego.

The third flaw is distance.

Better models mean better thinking.

Removing blind spots means thinking through the problem using different lenses or models.

We’re much like the blind men in the classic parable of the elephant.

Sharing knowledge, or learning the basics of the other disciplines, leads to a more well-rounded understanding that would allow for better initial decisions.

If you get into the mental habit of relating what you’re reading to the basic structure of the underlying ideas being demonstrated, you gradually accumulate some wisdom. –Charlie Munger1

  1. The Map is not the Territory

Maps can’t show everything

Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.

Maps, and models, help us understand and relate to the world around us. They are flawed but useful.

  1. Circle of Competence

A circle of competence cannot be built quickly.

There are three key practices needed in order to build and maintain a circle of competence: curiosity and a desire to learn, monitoring, and feedback.

It is also important to remember that no one can have a circle of competence that encompasses everything.

Supporting Idea: Falsifiability

Trend is not destiny.

The feedings appear as a law until the day the chicken gets its head chopped off.

  1. First Principles Thinking

If we never learn to take something apart, test our assumptions about it, and reconstruct it, we end up bound by what other people tell us — trapped in the way things have always been done.

There are two techniques we can use: Socratic questioning and the Five Whys.

Why do I think this?

How do I know this is true?

How can I back this up?

What might others think?

What if I am wrong?

First principles thinking helps us avoid the problem of relying on someone else’s tactics without understanding the rationale behind them.

  1. Thought Experiment

Imagining physical impossibilities.

Re-imagining history.

Intuiting the non-intuitive.

  1. Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is thinking farther ahead and thinking holistically.

Second-order thinking can be used to great benefit: for prioritizing long-term interests over immediate gains and for constructing effective arguments.

  1. Probabilistic Thinking

In a world where each moment is determined by an infinitely complex set of factors, probabilistic thinking helps us identify the most likely outcomes.

Bayesian thinking

Fat-tailed curves



Seek out situations that we expect have good odds of offering us opportunities.

Never take a risk that will do you in completely.

Learn from your failures

Supporting Idea: Causation vs. Correlation

  1. Inversion

Inversion allows us to flip the problem around and think backward. Sometimes it’s good to start at the beginning, but it can be more useful to start at the end.

Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance.

Instead, we can try inverting the goal. It becomes, not getting rich, but avoiding being poor.

Inversion leads to innovation.

  1. Occam’s Razor

One important counter to Occam’s Razor is the difficult truth that some things are simply not that simple.

Of course, focusing on simplicity when all others are focused on complexity is a hallmark of genius, and it’s easier said than done.

  1. Hanlon’s Razor

Hanlon’s Razor states that we should not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

The Big Idea: For most of the Old West times (1740s – 1870’s), Comanche tribes controlled the Southern Great Plains. The westward migration of settlers decimated their power and population.

The Comanches start off as a Shoshone linguistic group that migrate to the Great Plains.

The Pueblo tribe revolts against the Spanish colonists. They manage to obtain horses which they learned to use as transportation and as a main tool for everyday life.

Pre-Comanche groups move southwards because of the “pre ice-age” and also to follow the bison/food south.

Comanches raid a Spanish fort in present day New Mexico for horses.

The Comanches begin to trade with the French.

Comanches raided the Pecos Tribe and control of the land for 40 years.

Texas Congress provides 23,000 acres and establishes three Indian reservations on the upper Brazos River for the Texas tribes, Caddo, Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee, Wichita, Tonkawa and the Comanches

In the Battle of the Adobe Plains, Comanches and other tribes battle the U.S. Army.

In the Second Battle of the Adobe Plains, the Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowas, and Apaches battle against 24 American bison hunters.

By 1879, almost all the bison have been hunted to extinction by American bison hunters.

18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

The Big Idea: Instead of getting more done, focus on getting the right things done.

There are many time management books out there that try to teach you how to get it all done. But that’s a mistake. Because it’s impossible to get it all done. And it’s dangerous to try. You’ll lose focus on what’s important.

PART ONE Pause Hover Above Your World

1. Slowing the Spin – Reducing Your Forward Momentum

I have two strategies that help me pull back my own momentum: Slow Down and Start Over.

Reducing your forward momentum is the first step to freeing yourself from the beliefs, habits, feelings, and busyness that may be limiting you.

2. The Girl Who Stopped Alligator Man – The Incredible Power of a Brief Pause

A brief pause will help you make a smarter next move.

3. The Day Andy Left Work Early – Stopping in Order to Speed Up

Regular rest stops are useful interruptions. They will refuel your body and mind, naturally reorient your life toward what’s important to you, and create the time and space to aim your efforts more accurately.

4. Frostbite in the Spring – Seeing the World as It Is, Not as You Expect It to Be

The world changes — we change — faster than we tend to notice. To maximize your potential, you need to peer through the expectations that limit you and your choices. You need to see the world as it is — and yourself as you are.

5. Multiple Personalities Are Not a Disorder – Expanding Your View of Yourself

Stepping away from your work might just be the key to increasing your productivity.

Life isn’t just about some of you; it’s about all of you. Don’t negate, integrate.

6. Why We’re Fascinated with Susan Boyle – Recognizing Your Own Potential

Don’t settle for being less than you are. It won’t serve others and it won’t serve you.

7. You Don’t Have to Like Him – Where Do You Want to Land?

Someone yells at us, we yell back and create the outcome of a damaged relationship. It’s not that we want a damaged relationship; it’s just what happens when we yell back.

Focus on the outcome, then choose your reaction.

it, I ask her what she wants me to do. Listen? Solve? Coach? I am surprised, disappointed even, by the number of times she says, “Just listen.”

Knowing what outcome you want will enable you to focus on what matters and escape the whirlwind of activity that too often leads nowhere fast.

PART TWO What Is This Year About? Find Your Focus

8. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do – Choosing Your Next Move at the Intersection of the Four Elements

I’ll address the importance of staying flexible and the dangers of sticking too closely to your plan.

The four behaviors around which you should shape your next year:

  1. Leverage your strengths. 2. Embrace your weaknesses. 3. Assert your differences. 4. Pursue your passions.

Start experimenting from who you are and choose your next move — your focus for the year — at the intersection of the four elements.

9. Reinvent the Game – Element One: Leverage Your Strengths

That’s the secret of the successful underdog. Play the game you know you can win, even if it means inventing it yourself.

Eg. Moneyball, “How David Beats Goliath”

What game are you playing? Is it the right game for your particular skills and talents? Is it a perfect setup for you or your company to win? If not, then, perhaps it’s time to play a different game or invent one of your own: one you can win.

The first element is your strengths. Over the coming year, play the game that is perfectly suited to your strengths.

10. I’ll Just Take the Shrimp – Element Two: Embrace Your Weaknesses

The most powerful ones don’t conquer their dysfunctions, quirks, and potentially embarrassing insecurities. They seamlessly integrate them to make an impact in the world.

The second element is your weaknesses. Rather than avoid them, embrace your weaknesses and spend your time this year where they’re an asset instead of a liability.

11. Heated Seats – Element Three: Assert Your Differences

In any highly competitive field — and these days every field is highly competitive — being different is the only way to win. Nobody wants to sell a commodity, and nobody wants to be a commodity.

Trying to distinguish ourselves by being the same as others, only better, is hard to do and even harder to sustain.

That’s why one pedicab driver with heated seats can stay busy all day while the others huddle around, fareless, trying to stay warm.

The third element is your differences. Assert them. Don’t waste your year, and your competitive advantage, trying to blend in.

12. The Pilot Who Saved 155 Passengers – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Desire)

Ask one question: What do you do in your spare time?

But people are often successful not despite their dysfunctions but because of them. Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand your obsessions and you will understand your natural motivation —

The fourth element is your passion, which is sometimes hard to find. One way to recover your passion is to pursue your desire. As you choose your focus for the year, pay less attention to “shoulds” and more attention to “wants.”

13. Anyone Can Learn to Do a Handstand – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Persistence)

Which has led me to believe that anyone can do anything. As long as three conditions exist: 1. You want to achieve it. 2. You believe you can achieve it. 3. You enjoy trying to achieve it.

To home in on your passion, think about what you love doing — what’s important enough to you that you’re willing to persist over the year, even when it feels like you’re not succeeding at it.

14. A Recipe for Finding the Right Work – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Ease)

Just stop trying so hard.

Spend 90 percent of your time — either at work or, if you can’t yet, then outside of work — doing things you love (or have always wanted to try) with other people who also love doing those things.

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up.

People want to hire energized people who are passionate and excited about what they’re doing. Jobs come from being engaged in the world and building human connections.

Your year will be best spent doing work that you enjoy so much, it feels effortless. You’ll always work tirelessly at your passions — hard work will feel easier.

15. What Matters to You? – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Meaning)

It’s a useful and interesting exercise to examine how we spend each minute of the day. To know where we’re devoting our wisdom, our action, our life’s energy.

“Top Five Regrets of the Dying”

So the question is: What matters to you?

Focus your year on the things that matter to you. On things that have specific meaning to you.

16. I’m the Parent I Have to Be – Avoiding Tunnel Vision

But a dangerous thing happens when we follow a trail: We stop paying attention to the environment. Since the trail is so easy to follow, we allow our minds to wander and neglect to observe where we are.

Only sometimes we get so absorbed in the trail — in how we’re going to achieve the goal, in our method or process — that we lose sight of the destination, of where we were going in the first place.

Monitor and adjust. That’s the key to effective leadership, indoors or out.

Staying connected to your guideposts will help you avoid tunnel vision and keep you moving in the right direction.

17. I’ve Missed More Than Nine Thousand Shots – Avoiding Surrender After Failure

People with a fixed mind-set like to solve the same problems over and over again.

If you have a growth mind-set, then you use your failures to improve. If you have a fixed mind – set, you may never fail, but neither do you learn or grow.

A growth mind-set is the secret to maximizing potential. Want to grow your staff? Give them tasks above their abilities.

Set high goals where you have a 50 to 70 percent chance of success. According to the late David McClelland, psychologist and Harvard researcher, that’s the sweet spot for high achievers.

Failure is inevitable, useful, and educational. Just don’t give up — stay focused over the year — and it will pay off.

18. When the Future Is Uncertain – Avoiding Paralysis

Eg. The book Human Motivation.

  1. Achievement
  2. Affiliation
  3. Power

If people have the opportunity to achieve, affiliate, and influence, they’ll be motivated and engaged.

19. Maybe – Avoiding the Rush to Judgment

There is a Buddhist story about a poor farmer whose one horse ran away.

All the research points to how poor we are at predicting how we’ll feel about something once it happens to us. Lottery winners are no happier than before. Paraplegics are no less happy.

Her research shows that if someone believes his talent is inborn he’ll give up quickly, because any obstacle is a sign of his limitation.

But if someone believes his talent grows with persistence and effort, he’ll work to master the challenge. He’ll view adversity as an opportunity to get better.

20. What Is This Year About? – Creating Your Annual Focus

The problem with most time management systems is that they don’t help solve the problem: They’re focused on how to get it all done in less time.

And the secret to thriving in your life is the same: Do fewer things.

I’ve decided to focus my year on five things. Three work-related, two personal.

Focus your year on the five areas that will make the most difference in your life.

PART THREE What Is This Day About? Get the Right Things Done

I looked at all sorts of time management systems but they were either too complicated, too time consuming to implement, or too focused on getting everything done.

21. Dude, What Happened? – Planning Ahead

I’m a huge proponent of living in the present. If you pay attention to what’s happening now, the future will take care of itself.

Effectively navigating a day is the same as effectively navigating down a rocky precipice on a mountain bike. We need to look ahead. Plan the route. And then follow through.

22. Bird by Bird – Deciding What to Do

“There’s so much to do,” she said, “that it’s hard to get anything done.”

So we need another level of organization, not to make sure that everything gets done but to make sure the right things get done.

That’s where a structured to-do list can be helpful.

Reduce your overwhelm by putting your tasks in an organized list, focused on what you want to achieve for the year.

23. Wrong Floor – Deciding What Not to Do

Now is a good time to pause, prioritize, and focus.

There’s another list that’s useful to create: your ignore list.

What are you willing not to achieve? What doesn’t make you happy? What’s not important to you? What gets in the way?

To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.

24. When Tomorrow? – Using Your Calendar

A to-do list is useful as a collection tool. It’s there to help us make sure we know the pool of things that need to get done.

Our calendars, on the other hand, make the perfect tool to guide our daily accomplishments. Because our calendars are finite; there are only a certain number of hours in a day.

If you really want to get something done, decide when and where you are going to do it.

25. The Three-Day Rule – Getting Things Off Your To-Do List

That’s where the three-day rule comes in. This rule ensures that no item on your list ever stays on it, haunting you, for more than three days.

But for everything else — anything that’s been on my calendar for three days — I do one of four things:

  1. Do it immediately.
  2. Schedule it.
  3. Let it go.
  4. Someday/maybe.

Never leave things on your to-do list for more than three days. They’ll just get in the way of what you really need to get done.

26. Who Are You? – The Power of a Beep

We need a discipline — a ritual — that can help us stay centered and grounded throughout the day.

Each morning, I set my watch — you can also use a phone, computer, or timer — to beep every hour. At the sound of the chime, I take one minute to ask myself if the last hour has been productive.

The right kind of interruption can help you master your time and yourself. Keep yourself focused and steady by interrupting yourself hourly.

27. It’s Amazing What You Find When You Look – Evening Minutes — Reviewing and Learning

We rarely take the time to pause, breathe, and think about what’s working and what’s not.

Teach people how to learn.

Spend a few minutes at the end of each day thinking about what you learned

and with whom you should connect. These minutes are the key to making tomorrow even better than today.

28. An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day – Creating a Daily Ritual

That means we start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done. So how we spend our time is a key strategic decision.

Plan ahead.

Create a to-do list and an ignore list, and use our calendars.

Right up until his death at the age of ninety-six, he spent the first two hours of every day exercising. Ninety minutes lifting weights and thirty minutes swimming or walking.

STEP 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes.

Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list

Then take those things off your to-do list and schedule them into your calendar ,

STEP 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus

Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour

STEP 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes.

At the end of your day, shut off your computer and review how the day went ,

Carefully plan each day ahead. Build each day’s plan based on your annual focus. Choose to selectively and strategically ignore the things that get in the way. Use your calendar as your guide and move things off your to – do list. Look back and learn at the end of each day. And, finally, bring it all together by carving out a little time at predictable intervals throughout the day to get and keep yourself on track.

PART FOUR What Is This Moment About? Mastering Distraction

29. Move the Table – Avoiding the Need for Motivation

Because, to a larger extent than you probably realize, your environment dictates your actions.

For example, if you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more.

If you want to help (or even, dare I say it, manipulate) other people, think about what you want them to do and whether the environment around them supports the behavior

Your goal is to make it easier to do something you want done and harder not to.

Create an environment that naturally compels you to do the things you want to do.

30. Never Quit a Diet While Reading the Dessert Menu – We Need Less Motivation Than We Think

Getting started was the hard part. Like getting into a cold pool: Once you’re in, it’s fine. It’s getting in that takes motivation.

In fact, when you think about it, we need to be motivated for only a few short moments.

You need to be motivated for only a few seconds. Know when you’re vulnerable and you’ll know when you need to turn it on.

31. The Nintendo Wii Solution – Having Fun

Research published recently in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine showed that the harder people exercise, the less pleasure they feel during the exercise and the less likely they’ll be to exercise

Efficiency, it turns out, is the enemy of fun. And yet in the end, fun is so much more efficient than efficiency.

Fun competitions that solve real problems are a great way to boost morale and keep people engaged ,

You can’t fake fun. Which means you have to go into your workday with a sense of amusement.

Fun reduces our need to motivate ourselves because fun is motivating.

32. The One-Two Punch – Getting Started and Keeping It Going

If you want to change behavior, start with fear, then experience the reward. It’s the one-two punch.

Fear is a great catalyst.

Because fear is unsustainable. It’s exhausting and stressful and destructive over time. Its purpose is short-term change. For long-term change, the experience of fear needs to be followed by the experience of a better life.

Fear can be a useful catalyst to change — then pleasure sustains it. If you need help getting yourself going, don’t choose one or the other. Choose one before the other.

33. Am I the Kind of Person Who … – Telling the Right Story About Yourself

When you want something from someone, ask yourself what story that person is trying to tell about herself or himself, and then make sure your role and actions are enhancing that story in the right way.

A good story — one you feel deeply about and in which you see yourself — is tremendously motivating. Make sure the story you tell about yourself (sometimes only to yourself) inspires you to move in the direction you want to move.

34. The Hornets Stung My Mind – Getting Out of Your Own Way

Your mind can help you move forward or can get in the way. Choose the fantasy world that supports you.

35. The Time Suck of Collaboration – Saying Yes Appropriately

three things that wasted their time the most: unnecessary meetings, unimportant emails, and protracted PowerPoints.

  1. Am I the right person? 2. Is this the right time? 3. Do I have enough information?

Ideally, it’s best not to be interrupted.

We try to be so available because we want to be helpful.

Resist the temptation to say yes too often.

36. But Daddy … – Saying No Convincingly

Because setting a rule and then letting people

break it doesn’t make them like you — it just makes them ignore you.

Ultimately, people feel safer knowing what the boundaries are.

When you say no, mean it, and you won’t needlessly lose your time.

37. The Third Time – Knowing When to Say Something

But everyone slips once or twice. Just don’t let it go more than three times without having a conversation. Three is a good rule of thumb because it allows you to act with confidence that it’s not all in your head.

Don’t wait too long to bring something up. People can only respect boundaries they know are there.

38. We’re Not Late Yet – Increasing Transition Time

How can I make this shorter, faster, and more productive? Even five or ten minutes of that kind of planning can shave thirty minutes off a task.

To make this work, we need to schedule it — literally put the transition time on our calendars.

A few moments of transition time can help make your next task shorter, faster, and more productive for you and others.

39. I Don’t Want to Go to Ski Class – Decreasing Transition Time

But in some situations, transition time isn’t the solution. It’s the problem.

So if there’s something you need to do that you find difficult — writing a proposal, having an unpleasant conversation with someone, or doing any work you consider unpleasant — try doing it first thing in the morning so you minimize the time you have to think about it.

When you shorten transition time, you create a boundary that helps you and others adjust to a new reality.

40. We’ll Regress. We’ll Forget You. We’ll Replace You. – Managing the Tension of Relaxation

It turns out that unplugging created an opportunity for my team to grow, develop, and exercise their own judgment.

When you take vacation — or any other time you want to be undisturbed — schedule a specific time to take care of the things that would otherwise creep into each and every available moment.

41. Does Obama Wear a Pearl Necklace? – Creating Productive Distractions

When you want to do something, focus. When you don’t want to do something, distract.

Distraction is, in fact, the same thing as focus. To distract yourself from X you need to focus on Y.

Distraction, used intentionally, can be an asset.

42. Would You Smoke Pot While You’re Working? – Avoiding Task-Switching

In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40 percent, because we don’t — and can’t — multitask. We switch-task.

The research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at it than light multitaskers.

We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task. And it’s inefficient, unproductive, and sometimes even dangerous. Resist the temptation.

43. It’s Not the Skills We Actually Have That Matter – Getting Over Perfectionism

Icelanders aren’t afraid to fail.

Perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them.

But the world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards productivity.

And productivity can be achieved only through imperfection.

Don’t try to get it right in one big step. Just get it going.

Be the good-enough parent. The good-enough employee. The good-enough writer. That’ll keep you going. Because ultimately, the key to perfection isn’t getting it right. It’s getting it often. If you do that, eventually, you’ll get it right.

Catch someone doing seven things right before you point out one thing they’re doing wrong. Keep up that seven-to-one ratio, and you’ll keep your employees moving in the right direction.

The world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards productivity.

44. Why Won’t This Work for You? – The Value of Getting Things Half Right

Delegating work to someone? Give him the task and then ask: Why won’t this work for you? When he answers, you respond: That’s a good point. So how can you change it to make it work?

The drive, motivation, and accountability that person will gain from running with her own idea will be well worth it.

45. Don’t Use a Basketball on a Football Field – Staying Flexible

Change doesn’t mean doing more of the same: selling harder, working longer hours, being more aggressive.

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. Who else is involved?
  3. How can I help?

A poor economy is an opportunity to forge relationships that will last for decades. A failure is the opportunity to rectify the mistake and develop deep, committed, loyal employees, customers, and partners.

Stay alert and adapt to changing situations. Keep your eye on the ball, whichever ball that may be.
Conclusion: Now What?


46. You Don’t Have Ten Gold Behaviors – Choosing Your One Thing

Typically, people overwhelm themselves with tasks in their eagerness to make a change successfully. But that’s a mistake. Instead, they should take the time up front to figure out the one and only thing that will have the highest impact and then focus 100 percent of their effort on that one thing.

Choose the one thing that you think — given your particular situation — will make the biggest difference in your life. Choose it and do it.

The Molecule of More by Daniel Lieberman and Michael Long

The Big Idea: Dopamine and H&N neurotransmitters (serotonin, endorphins endocannabinoids, oxytocin) control much of our behavior. Harmony is achieved through a balance of dopamine and H&N. Creative activities are the best way to mix dopamine and H&N.

Chapter 1 LOVE

Dopamine, they discovered, isn’t about pleasure at all.

Dopamine activity is not a marker of pleasure. It is a reaction to the unexpected — to possibility and anticipation.

Why does love fade?

Dopaminergic excitement (that is, the thrill of anticipation) doesn’t last forever, because eventually the future becomes the present. The thrilling mystery of the unknown becomes the boring familiarity of the everyday.

Over time the nature of love has to change.

Love fades away at the end of the dopamine thrill we call romance.

Dopamine isn’t the pleasure molecule, after all. It’s the anticipation molecule.

To enjoy the things we have, as opposed to the things that are only possible, our brains must transition from future-oriented dopamine to present-oriented chemicals ,

Here and Now molecules, or the H&Ns. Most people have heard of the H&Ns. They include serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins (your brain’s version of morphine), and a class of chemicals called endocannabinoids.

According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, early or “passionate” love lasts only twelve to eighteen months.

Companionate love is mediated by the H&Ns.

The chemicals most associated with long-term relationships are oxytocin and vasopressin.

Most couples have sex less frequently as obsessive dopaminergic love evolves into companionate H&N love. This makes sense, since oxytocin and vasopressin suppress the release of testosterone.

And if a man’s marriage becomes unstable, his vasopressin falls, and his testosterone goes up.

Chapter 2 DRUGS

Wanting, or desire, flows from an evolutionarily old part of the brain.

When these long-tailed cells are activated, they release dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, driving the feeling we know as motivation. The scientific term for this circuit is the mesolimbic pathway, although it’s easier to simply call it the dopamine desire circuit.

This dopamine circuit evolved to promote behaviors that lead to survival and reproduction, or, to put it more plainly, to help us get food and sex, and to win competitions.

Dopamine circuits don’t process experience in the real world, only imaginary future possibilities. For many people it’s a letdown.

Dopamine makes us want things with a passion, but it’s the H&Ns that allow us to appreciate them.

Buyer’s remorse is the failure of the H&N experience to compensate for the loss of dopaminergic arousal.

Alternatively, another way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to purchase something that triggers more dopaminergic expectation, for example, a tool, like a new computer that will boost productivity, or a new jacket that will make you look amazing the next time you go out.

Thus we see three possible solutions to buyer’s remorse: (1) chase the dopamine high by buying more, (2) avoid the dopamine crash by buying less, or (3) strengthen the ability to transition from dopamine desire to H&N liking.

Like a guided missile, addictive drugs hit the desire circuit with an intense chemical blast. No natural behavior can match that. Not food, not sex, not anything.

That’s why smoking crack is more appealing than snorting powder cocaine: smoking produces a faster, larger dopamine rush.

It takes an enormous amount of strength, determination, and support to overcome addiction. Don’t mess with dopamine. There are also some rehab centers that provide assistance. For more information, click here.

Liking involves different circuits in the brain, and uses the H&N chemicals, not dopamine, to send messages. In particular, liking relies on the same chemicals that promote the long – term satisfaction of companionate love: endorphins and endocannabinoids.

In 2015 the Daily Mail claimed that as many as one in twenty-five young adults in the United Kingdom were believed to be sex addicts.

As with drugs, habituation can also occur with pornography, in which the starting “dose” no longer works as well.

In certain ways, video games are similar to casino games.

Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University found that nearly one in ten gamers ages eight to eighteen are addicted, causing family, social, school, or psychological damage because of their video game playing habits.

The circuit that opposes the desire circuit might be called the dopamine control circuit.


We also have a complementary dopamine circuit that calculates what sort of more is worth having. It gives us the ability to construct plans — to strategize and dominate the world around us to get the things we want.

Calculation and planning — the means of dominating situations — come from the mesocortical circuit, which we will call the dopamine control circuit.

Why call it the control circuit? Because its purpose is to manage the uncontrolled urges of desire dopamine, to take that raw energy and guide it toward profitable ends.

For control dopamine, the phantoms are the building blocks of imagination and creative thought: ideas, plans, theories, abstract concepts such as mathematics and beauty, and worlds yet to be.

We need not only knowledge but also tenacity. Dopamine, the chemical of future success, is there to deliver.

We have greater tenacity when we encounter early success. Some weight-loss programs like Diaetoxil kaufen help you lose six or seven pounds in the first few weeks.

How does a confident expectation of success cause others to give way, even when it seems like it’s not in their interest to do so?

When it comes to dominant and submissive postures, the research participants were more likely to adopt a complementary posture rather than mirror the same posture. Dominance triggered submission, and submission triggered dominance.

We unconsciously know when someone has a high expectation of success, and we get out of their way.

In particular, what happens when there is too much or too little control dopamine?

Just as desire dopamine facilitates becoming addicted to drugs — chasing the high and receiving less and less dopamine “buzz” from it — some people have so much control dopamine that they become addicted to achievement, but are unable to experience H&N fulfillment. Think of people you know who work relentlessly toward their goals but never stop to enjoy the fruits of their achievements. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or achievement-related issues, it’s essential to seek help at sites like

What about people on the other end of the spectrum, people whose control dopamine circuits are weak? Their struggle with internal control manifests itself as impulsivity and difficulty keeping themselves focused on complex. This problem can result in a familiar condition: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dopamine pursues more, not morality; to dopamine, force and fraud are nothing more than tools.

The surge of dopamine feels good, but it’s different from a surge of H&N pleasure, which is a surge of satisfaction. And that difference is key: the dopamine surge triggered by winning leaves us wanting more.

Winners cheat for the same reason that drug addicts take drugs. The rush feels great, and withdrawal feels terrible.

Violence comes in two flavors: planned violence inflicted for a purpose, and spontaneous violence set off by passion.

The ability to suppress emotions such as fear, anger, or overwhelming desire provides an advantage in the midst of conflict. Emotion is almost always a liability that interferes with calculated action.

Aggression driven by passion is a lashing out at provocation. This is not a calculated action orchestrated by the dopamine control circuit — just the opposite.

Emotion overwhelms control dopamine’s consideration, caution, and calculation.

Emotion is an H&N experience.

In complex situations, people who have what we call “a cool head,” people who are more dopaminergic, are able to suppress this response, and make more deliberate choices that often work better.

Some people are naturally better at suppressing emotion than others.

Willpower isn’t the only tool control dopamine has in its arsenal when it needs to oppose desire. It can also use planning, strategy, and abstraction, such as the ability to imagine the long-term consequences of alternate choices. But when we need to resist harmful urges, willpower is the tool we reach for first.

If willpower is like a muscle, can it be strengthened through exercise? Yes.

You can’t beat drugs with willpower alone.

The goal of addiction psychotherapy is to pit one part of the brain against another.

Among the best studied are motivational enhancement therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and twelve-step facilitation therapy.


Yet madness and genius, the worst and the best the brain can do, both depend on dopamine.

Psychiatrists prescribe medications called antipsychotics that reduce activity within the dopamine desire circuit.

People with schizophrenia control their dopamine activity by taking medications that block dopamine receptors

Mental time travel is a powerful tool of the dopamine system. It allows us to experience a possible, though presently unreal, future as if we were there.

Finding the neural basis of creativity has enormous potential, because creativity is the most valuable resource in the world.

The ability to draw a connection between two things that had previously appeared to be unrelated is an important part of creativity, and it appears that it can be enhanced by electrical stimulation.

Although some patients who take dopaminergic drugs for Parkinson’s disease develop devastating compulsions, others experience enhanced creativity.

Dopamine is unleashed during dreaming, freed from the restraining influence of the reality-focused H&N neurotransmitters.

This freedom allows dopamine circuits to generate the bizarre connections that are the hallmark of dreams.

Many people have had the experience of waking from a dream, feeling as if they were caught between two worlds. Thinking is more fluid, making leaps from topic to topic, unconstrained by the rules of logic.

Dr. Barrett explains that just as Kekulé discovered the structure of benzene in a dreamlike state, ordinary people can use dreams to solve practical problems, too.

The fine arts and the hard sciences have more in common than most people believe, because both are driven by dopamine. The poet composing lines about a hopeless lover is not so different from the physicist scribbling formulas about excited electrons. They both require the ability to look beyond the world of the senses into a deeper, more profound world of abstract ideas.

Music and math go together because elevated levels of dopamine often come as a package deal.

High levels of dopamine suppress H&N functioning, so brilliant people are often poor at human relationships.

Now we see a third possibility: the creative genius — whether painter, poet, or physicist — who has so much trouble with human relationships that he may appear to be slightly autistic.

Many brilliant artists, scientists, and business leaders are thought or known to have had mental illness.

Chapter 5 POLITICS

Certain personality traits were associated with liberals and others with conservatives.

Progressives imagine a better future.

The characteristics the study eventually associated with liberals — risk-taking, sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and authoritarianism — are the characteristics of elevated dopamine.

As for politics, liberal views dominate Hollywood.

Academia is a temple of dopamine. Academics are described as living in an ivory tower (as opposed to an earthen hut, for example ). They devote their lives to the immaterial, abstract world of ideas. And they are very liberal.

A career in academia is generally a sign of superior intelligence, but does superior intelligence extend to liberals in general, to people more likely to have highly active dopamine systems? It probably does.

Finally, as would be expected when comparing liberals (with their elevated dopamine) with conservatives (with their elevated H&N neurotransmitters), conservatives are happier than liberals.

On average, liberals are more likely to be forward thinking, cerebral, inconstant, creative, intelligent, and dissatisfied. Conservatives, by contrast, are more likely to be comfortable with emotions, reliable, stable, conventional, less intellectual, and happy.

Overall, dopaminergic liberals are more likely to respond to messages that offer benefits, like opportunities for more resources, whereas H&N conservatives are more likely to respond to messages that offer security, like the ability to keep the things they currently have.

Evidence of loss aversion was present in both groups, but it was more pronounced among conservatives.

The essence of government is control.

Government is a dopaminergic activity because the populace is governed from a distance through abstract laws.

Since government is inherently dopaminergic, liberals tend to be more enthusiastic about it than H&N conservatives.

Apart from distance, another way in which government is fundamentally dopaminergic is that it is about doing something. It’s almost unheard of for a politician to campaign on a promise that he will go to Washington and do nothing. Politics is about change and change is driven by dopamine.

Some people in Washington call themselves liberal and others call themselves conservative, but pretty much everyone involved in politics is dopaminergic.

In the end, the fundamental obstacle to achieving harmony is that the liberal brain is different from the conservative brain, and that makes it difficult for them to understand each other.

Chapter 6 PROGRESS

When a tribe picks up and heads off into the unknown, genes that give a person a more active dopamine system provide an advantage and become more common over time.

If bipolar genes promote emigration, these ambitious people would carry their risk genes with them, and we would expect to find high concentrations of bipolar genes in countries that have lots of immigrants. The United States is populated almost entirely by immigrants and their descendants. It also has the highest rate of bipolar disorder: 4.4 percent, which is about twice the rate of the rest of the world.

The adventurous pioneers who settled the western states were more likely to have risk-taking, sensation-seeking personalities, and possibly genetic loading for hyperdopaminergic states.

Many American immigrants came from Europe, a migration that boosted the dopaminergic gene pool in the United States, leaving Europe with a residual population more likely to take an H&N approach to life.

Dopamine continues to drive us forward, perhaps to our own destruction.

Nuclear armageddon is the most obvious way in which dopamine can destroy humanity. Highly dopaminergic scientists have built doomsday weapons for highly dopaminergic rulers.

Another obvious doomsday scenario involves dopamine driving us on to greater and greater consumption until we destroy the planet.

Ray Kurzweil, the world’s leading futurologist, believes that we will have superintelligent computers as early as the year 2029.

Future-focused dopamine no longer drives couples to have children because people who live in developed countries don’t depend on their children to support them in their old age. About half the world lives in a country with below replacement fertility.

With VR, the human race may go willingly into the dark night. Our dopamine circuits will tell us it’s the best thing ever.

Chapter 7 HARMONY

Dopamine and the H&N neurotransmitters evolved to work together. They often act in opposition to one another, but that helps maintain stability among constantly firing brain cells.

Mastery is the point at which dopamine bows to H&N. Having done all it can do, dopamine pauses, and allows H&N to have its way with our happiness circuits.

Mastery also creates a feeling of what psychologists call an internal locus of control.

Experiencing H&N sensory stimulation, especially within a complex environment (sometimes called an enriched environment), makes the dopaminergic cognitive facilities in our brains work better.

In spite of what technology addicts may believe, multitasking, or paying attention to more than one thing at a time, is impossible.

Living our lives in the abstract, unreal, dopaminergic world of future possibilities comes at a cost, and that cost is happiness.

Because it is always new, creation is the most durable of the dopaminergic pleasures.

Creativity is an excellent way to mix together dopamine and H&N.

Fixing things also boosts self-efficacy and increases one’s sense of control: H&N delivering dopaminergic gratification.

If we are able to intermingle dopamine with H&N, we can achieve that harmony.

Brain-centric Design by Rich Carr and Kieran O’Mahony

The Big Idea: Abandon traditional instruction (ie lectures) based on outdated behaviorist theories and replace with Brain Centric Instruction Design based on our improved understanding of neuroscience and learning.

Traditional instruction is based on BF Skinner behaviorism theory and reward-punishment thinking. The result is lectures, where the instructor does 99% of the talking, and little is retained by most of the students.

Brain-centered instruction design is based on a more evolved understanding of neuroscience and psychology.

The brain filters information by use of the reticulating activating system.

Chunking is the process of taking a large piece of information and breaking it down into palatable bits of similar content. It takes advantage of the brain’s working memory constraints and the interconnection of neural pathways.

One way to strengthen neural pathways is to present the information in a way that engages multiple areas of the brain .

Not only does dopamine make circuitry more efficient, it also ensures that learners enjoy the learning process, retain more information, and fully understand the content provided. It’s that personal feeling of achievement and satisfaction you get when you hit the right note on an instrument or when you stand up on a surfboard for the first time. Dopamine has been linked to intrinsic motivation.

Boost dopamine levels through ME HERE NOW. “What’s in it for ME, HERE and NOW?”.

Boost dopamine levels through attention arousal and make a topic particularly noticeable or important.

The material to be learned should always be challenging yet attainable.

When talking about neural pathways, it’s use it or lose it. Practice makes permanent.

Help students to develop a growth mindset approach by emphasizing, “try harder” and then giving the student practical advice so they could do better in the future. Show the learner that their brain is malleable. Help them understand that their potential is limitless.

Most corporate training courses and classrooms are solidly entrenched in the behaviorist methodology. The behaviorist methodology relies on extrinsic motivation to convey knowledge

Author Alfie Kohn argues that reward and punishment based systems fail to produce long-term results.

A subject matter expert is often the wrong person to stand in front of a class.

The essential element Brain Centric Instructional Design is the Big Idea, communicated in the framework of ME HERE NOW, supported by max 2 scaffolding concepts.

The Challenge Wheel is the method of instruction for Brain Centric Instruction Design based on the latest in neuroscience.

  1. Initial Thoughts.
  2. Multiple Perspectives.
  3. Reflect.
  4. Revised Thinking
  5. Report Out

  1. Initial Thoughts.

Create a moment of disequilibrium that connects with the Big Idea, such as a theoretical disaster that is meaningful for the learner (ME HERE NOW.)

Invite learners to write down their Initial Thoughts about the Big Idea. Assure them that they are the only person who will see their Initial Thoughts.

To activate prior knowledge, state the Big Idea and then ask the learners to write down what they already know about that topic.

  1. Multiple Perspectives.

Allow 15 – 20 minutes. Present multiple perspectives from various subject experts. Use multimedia to increase novelty and remain engaging. Maintain Me Here Now.

This spoke comprises the bulk of your content.

The content is optimally presented in entertaining and digestible chunks.

If you are bored by the content you’ve provided, the learner will be bored too. Challenge yourself to find and create rich, meaningful content.

Also, the experts you choose don’t have to agree with each other. It can be beneficial to build a little controversy into the discussion. Controversy is engaging.

In-house branding is not memorable for most learners. It may have been interesting for the first few months of employment, but over time, it becomes routine. As Brain-centric educators, we prefer to present learners with material that surprises them.

  1. Reflect.

Allow two minutes. Ask learners to privately answer three questions in writing.

  1. What was surprising?

Amusingly, we’ve found that engineers are typically the most resistant to this question.

  1. What did I already know but now I see differently?

This is a deliberate metacognitive priming that facilitates sharing, adaptive expertise, and learning with deep understanding.

We often call this question the “bridge.”

  1. What do I need help with?

The fear of being wrong is replaced by the intrinsic value of bolstering one’s own learning through fearless self-criticism.

Vulnerability is essential for conceptual change.

By answering these three questions, the learner is explicitly encouraged to think critically, find their voice so that they can articulate their thoughts in public, and arm themselves for a solid discussion with their peers.

  1. Revised Thinking

Allow 10 minutes. Conduct as a group activity. Encourage groups to share reflections.

During the Revised Thinking activity, small-group peer learners share their reflections. Role play is a formative engagement technique for activating individual potential.

Roles typically end up as the following: spokesperson, scribe, timekeeper, and taskmaster.

Most learners agree that knowing they will have a role is helpful in terms of competitive anxiety and stressors that typically pervade group work.

Learners can see each other’s thinking and can learn from one another.

Groups work best with five to seven people.

Groups to begin their discussion by selecting a nonthreatening name for themselves.

Scribe writes down the main discussion points that emerge as each individual voices their reflection on the three scaffolding questions from earlier.

Timekeeper keeps everyone focused.

Taskmaster makes sure that each voice is heard.

After completing a few iterations of the Challenge Wheel, it is obvious to everyone in the room that the participants have meshed into true team members.

  1. Report Out

Allow 10 to 20 minutes. Invite a spokesperson from each small group to share their answers to the three questions . Provide facilitator feedback .

Learners share their answers to the three questions. The facilitator invites each member to stand while their spokesperson announces the group’s name (for example, Happy Amygdaloids) and presents their responses from the Revised Thinking activity. As they present their ideas, each group member will hear their own words repeated, giving them a hit of dopamine.

Hearing the group say “we” indicates a degree of safety in the learning space and marks a transition into a collaborative mode.

During Report Out, you can hear what the learner still needs help with, because you receive direct feedback in real time.

In this way, BcD helps the learners shift from traditional labeling and stratification in a reward-and-punishment structure to a more brain-aligned approach where higher-order activation takes precedence. Group processes enhance motivation, increase productivity, and foster attention.

The Parasitic Mind by Gad Saad

The Big Idea: America needs to defend freedom of speech, the scientific method, intellectual diversity, and a meritocratic ethos.

“For decades now, a set of idea pathogens, largely stemming from universities, has relentlessly assaulted science, reason, logic, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, individual liberty, and individual dignity. If we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in free societies as we have done, then we have to be assured in our principles and stand ready to defend them.”

“Freedom of speech, the scientific method, intellectual diversity, and a meritocratic ethos rooted in individual dignity rather than adherence to the ideology of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) are nonnegotiable elements of a truly enlightened society.”

“Many of the idea pathogens covered in this book are manifestations of a form of runaway selection of insanity spawned by leftist professors.”

“The cure is before you: it is the pursuit and the defense of truth; it is the recommitment to the virtues of the Western Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment.”

Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism by Peter Hotez

The Big Idea: We have massive data showing the genetic or epigenetic basis of autism, together with a handful of environmental toxins.

What Does Cause Autism?

We now have data and information on more than one million children that show vaccines do not cause autism.

Instead, the brains of kids (and of course, ultimately, adults) with autism are structurally different.

Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

The first scientific article to use it came from Dr. Leo Kanner in a 1946 paper.

Children with ASD often have large heads.

The Piven group reported that brain volume overgrowth “was linked to the emergence and severity of autistic social deficits.”

Recently, additional evidence suggests that the changes in the brains of children with ASD begin even earlier than at 6 – 12 months old and actually start before birth — during prenatal development.

Possibly, we can now predict by 6 months of age whether a child will develop ASD, but the Courchesne findings suggest we might soon be able to predict autism at birth or even prenatally.

So what first triggers the alterations of the cortical layers in the prefrontal and temporal regions of the brain as described by Courchesne’s group? There is a lot of evidence pointing to altered genes — changes to the DNA either through point mutations or even deletions of entire regions of DNA.

“Our analysis identified a clear developmental pattern — a prenatal signal from the early, mid and late fetal stages — indicating that autism associated genetic changes affect the development of the fetal prefrontal, temporal and cerebellar cortex.”

Unfortunately, the yield for identifying alterations in autism genes is not high, because there may be almost 1,000 genes for autism and we have only identified about 65 of them.

An important influence is the role of epigenetics, a rapidly growing field of modern science, which refers to how genes are modified, especially in very early pregnancy, at or around the time of conception.

Epigenetics is likely to also have an important role in the events leading to ASD and autism. Again, we need significant investments in the science of autism epigenetics.

Possibly through epigenetic or as still yet undefined mechanisms, certain prenatal exposures or environmental factors, such as specific chemical toxins in the environment or even congenital infectious agents, may cause abnormal fetal development leading to ASD.

However, the Lipkin group has found that maternal fever, especially multiple fevers or fever in the second trimester of pregnancy, could be linked to ASD. Such findings provide further support for maternal infections during early pregnancy in promoting autism.

The Landrigan paper further identifies chemical toxins in the environment that could also lead to ASD.

They include drugs or chemicals such as valproic acid, a neuropsychiatric medicine that helps with mood stabilization, an organophosphate insecticide known as chlorpyrifos, thalidomide, and misoprostol, among others. In contrast, the Landrigan paper rules out vaccines.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson

The Big Idea: Take Naval seriously because he…questions nearly everything, can think from first principles, tests things well, is good at not fooling himself, changes his mind regularly, laughs a lot, thinks holistically, and thinks long-term.

Books make for great friends, because the best thinkers of the last few thousand years tell you their nuggets of wisdom.

Part I: Wealth

Making money is not a thing you do — it’s a skill you learn.

Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep.

Ignore people playing status games.

You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.

Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people.

All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.

Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.

Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.

Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep, or use software like that help with payroll success once you have a business.

There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.

Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.

Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.

You should be too busy to “do coffee” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.

Who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.

When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place.

Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production. The best person in the world at anything gets to do it for everyone.

Society always wants new things.

You can improve sales skills.

Society, business, & money are downstream of technology, which is itself downstream of science. Science applied is the engine of humanity.

Focus on the thing that you are really into.

Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion.

Escape competition through authenticity.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner.

Foundations are key. It’s much better to be at 9/10 or 10/10 on foundations than to try and get super deep into things.

Play Long-Term Games with Long-Term People.

Embrace accountability and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.

If you don’t own a piece of a business, you don’t have a path towards financial freedom.

If they can train you to do it, then eventually they will train a computer to do it.

In today’s global business landscape, international payroll management has become an essential aspect. Code is probably the most powerful form of permissionless leverage.

The new generation’s fortunes are all made through code or media.

Forget 10x programmers. 1,000x programmers really exist.

Learn to sell, learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.

We waste our time with short-term thinking and busywork. Warren Buffett spends a year deciding and a day acting. That act lasts decades.

Always factor your time into every decision. How much time does it take?

Wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game. Status is an old zero-sum game. Those attacking wealth creation are often just seeking status.

There are basically three really big decisions you make in your early life: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.

What you really want is freedom.

The way to get out of the competition trap is to be authentic, to find the thing you know how to do better than anybody.

To me, creating businesses is play. I create businesses because it’s fun, because I’m into the product.

Even when I invest, it’s because I like the people involved.

Money is not the root of all evil; there’s nothing evil about it. But the lust for money is bad.

The best way to stay away from this constant love of money is to not upgrade your lifestyle as you make money.

For me, freedom is my number one value.

Build your character in a certain way, then your character becomes your destiny.

You are a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term-thinking dealmaker.

In a long-term game, it’s positive sum. We’re all baking the pie together. We’re trying to make it as big as possible. And in a short-term game, we’re cutting up the pie.

I think business networking is a complete waste of time.

Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.

Be patient.

Karma is just you, repeating your patterns, virtues, and flaws until you finally get what you deserve.

Always pay it forward. And don’t keep count.

What making money will do is solve your money problems.

Amazing how many people confuse wealth and wisdom.

Hard work is really overrated.

Judgment is underrated.

“Clear thinker” is a better compliment than “smart.”

If you can’t explain it to a child, then you don’t know it.

The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers. They understand the basics at a very, very fundamental level.

Clear thinkers appeal to their own authority.

What we wish to be true clouds our perception of what is true.

The more desire I have for something to work out a certain way, the less likely I am to see the truth.

What you feel tells you nothing about the facts.

Very smart people tend to be weird since they insist on thinking everything through for themselves.

A contrarian isn’t one who always objects — that’s a conformist of a different sort. A contrarian reasons independently from the ground up and resists pressure to conform.

Cynicism is easy. Mimicry is easy. Optimistic contrarians are the rarest breed.

I think creating identities and labels locks you in and keeps you from seeing the truth.

Optimize for the long term rather than for the short term.

I never ask if “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” I think “this is what it is” or “this is what it isn’t.”

Praise specifically, criticize generally.

The more you know, the less you diversify.

Collect Mental Models

The best mental models I have found came through evolution, game theory, and Charlie Munger.

Author and trader Nassim Taleb has great mental models.

Benjamin Franklin had great mental models.

I think being successful is just about not making mistakes.

Microeconomics and game theory are fundamental.

If you do not understand the principal-agent problem, you will not know how to navigate your way through the world.

“If you want it done, then go. And if not, then send.”

If it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, it’s not science. For you to believe something is true, it should have predictive power, and it must be falsifiable.

If you can’t decide, the answer is no.

If you have two choices to make, and they’re relatively equal choices, take the path more difficult and more painful in the short term.

Reading science, math, and philosophy one hour per day will likely put you at the upper echelon of human success within seven years.

The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower.

Reading a book isn’t a race — the better the book, the more slowly it should be absorbed.

Real people don’t read an hour a day. Real people, I think, read a minute a day or less.

“As long as I have a book in my hand, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time.”

The number of books completed is a vanity metric. As you know more, you leave more books unfinished. Focus on new concepts with predictive power.

Explain what you learned to someone else. Teaching forces learning.

It’s not about “educated” vs. “uneducated.” It’s about “likes to read” and “doesn’t like to read.”

Because most people are intimidated by math and can’t independently critique it, they overvalue opinions backed with math/pseudoscience.

The best way to have a high-quality foundation (you may not love this answer), but the trick is to stick to science and to stick to the basics.

Mathematics is a solid foundation. Similarly, the hard sciences are a solid foundation. Microeconomics is a solid foundation

Don’t begin with Richard Dawkins (even though I think he’s great). Read him later; read Darwin first.

If you want to learn macroeconomics, first read Adam Smith, read von Mises, or read Hayek.

There is ancient wisdom in books.

Any book that survived for two thousand years has been filtered through many people.

Part II: Happiness

The three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse.

Whatever happiness means to me, it means something different to you.

Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life.

It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things.

To a tree, there is no concept of right or wrong, good or bad.

This is what I mean when I say happiness is a choice. If you believe it’s a choice, you can start working on it.

We think of ourselves as fixed and the world as malleable, but it’s really we who are malleable and the world is largely fixed.

A rational person can find peace by cultivating indifference to things outside of their control.

Happiness, love, and passion – aren’t things you find — they’re choices you make.

We crave experiences that will make us be present, but the cravings themselves take us from the present moment.

Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts.

For me these days, happiness is more about peace than it is about joy.

I think the most common mistake for humanity is believing you’re going to be made happy because of some external circumstance.

The fundamental delusion: There is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever.

Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

Happiness is being satisfied with what you have. Success comes from dissatisfaction. Choose.

Confucius says you have two lives, and the second one begins when you realize you only have one.

The problem with getting good at a game, especially one with big rewards, is you continue playing it long after you should have outgrown it.

All of man’s troubles arise because he cannot sit in a room quietly by himself.

The enemy of peace of mind is expectations drilled into you by society and other people.

The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone.

Perhaps one reason why yoga and meditation are hard to sustain is they have no extrinsic value. Purely single-player games.

My most surprising discovery in the last five years is that peace and happiness are skills.

When working, surround yourself with people more successful than you.

When playing, surround yourself with people happier than you.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a fantastic introduction to being present, for people who are not religious.

The obvious one is meditation — insight meditation.

I try to get more sunlight on my skin.

I think dropping caffeine made me happier.

I think working out every day made me happier.

Recover time and happiness by minimizing your use of these three smartphone apps: phone, calendar, and alarm clock.

Use meditation, music, and exercise to reset your mood.

Politics, academia, and social status are all zero-sum games.

Increase serotonin in the brain without drugs: Sunlight, exercise, positive thinking, and tryptophan.

We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes what is happening is for the best.

Death is the most important thing that is ever going to happen to you. When you look at your death and you acknowledge it, rather than running away from it, it’ll bring great meaning to your life.

Whenever I get caught up in my ego battles, I just think of entire civilizations that have come and gone.

You’re going to die one day, and none of this is going to matter. So enjoy yourself. Do something positive. Project some love. Make someone happy. Laugh a little bit. Appreciate the moment. And do your work.

Doctors won’t make you healthy. Nutritionists won’t make you slim. Teachers won’t make you smart. Gurus won’t make you calm. Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility.

Nothing like a health problem to turn up the contrast dial for the rest of life.

We’re still arguing over what the optimal diet is.

The combination of sugar and fat together is really deadly.

The harder the workout, the easier the day.

What habit would you say most positively impacts your life? The daily morning workout. That has been a complete game-changer.

In the morning, I work out, and however long it takes is how long it takes.

One month of consistent yoga and I feel 10 years younger.

Taking a cold shower for two minutes isn’t going to kill you. Having a cold shower helps you re-learn that lesson every morning.

Life-hack: When in bed, meditate. Either you will have a deep meditation or fall asleep.

I recommend meditating one hour each morning because anything less is not enough time to really get deep into it.

The advantage of meditation is recognizing just how out of control your mind is.

Awareness alone calms you down.

The ability to singularly focus is related to the ability to lose yourself and be present, happy, and (ironically) more effective.

Meditation is turning off society and listening to yourself.

Hiking is walking meditation.

Praying is gratitude meditation.

Showering is accidental meditation.

Sitting quietly is direct meditation.

The greatest superpower is the ability to change yourself.

When we’re older, we’re a collection of thousands of habits constantly running subconsciously.

Impatience with actions, patience with results.

Scott Adams famously said, “Set up systems, not goals.”

Science is, to me, the study of truth. It is the only true discipline because it makes falsifiable predictions. It actually changes the world.

If you read what everybody else is reading, you’re going to think what everyone else is thinking

Grind and sweat, toil and bleed, face the abyss. It’s all part of becoming an overnight success.

Number one: read. Read everything you can.

Read to develop skills of mathematics and persuasion.

Courage is not caring what other people think.

Value your time. It is all you have. It’s more important than your money.

Anger is its own punishment. An angry person trying to push your head below water is drowning at the same time.

People who live far below their means enjoy freedom.

What is the meaning and purpose of life?

Answer 1: It’s personal. You have to find your own meaning.

Answer 2: There is no meaning to life.

Answer 3: We globally accelerate entropy until the heat death of the Universe.

What are your core values? Honesty, long-term peer relationships.

I don’t believe in anger.

Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at somebody.

The moment you have a child, it’s this really weird thing, but it answers the meaning-of-life, purpose-of-life, question.

The older the question, the older the answers.

Try everything, test it for yourself, be skeptical, keep what’s useful, and discard what’s not.

Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now, and we will never be here again.

Naval’s Recommended Reading

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley

Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Taleb

Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher by Richard Feynman

Thinking Physics: Understandable Practical Reality by Lewis Carroll Epstein

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg

Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Charlie Munger

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant

Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living by Bruce Lee

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers, by Will Durant

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Dale Carnegie

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Rick and Morty

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

The Big Idea: Success in show business is a result of talent, hard work, strategy, and luck — probably in equal portions.

The Fourth Turning by Neil Howe and William Strauss

The Big Idea: Brace yourself. Winter is coming. The 2020’s will be a time of crisis and will remake America.

CHAPTER 1 – Winter Comes Again

The four turnings of the saeculum comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction.

The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.

The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.

The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.

The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

The 1760s were followed by the American Revolution, the 1850s by Civil War, the 1920s by the Great Depression and World War II. All these Unraveling eras were followed by bone-jarring Crises so monumental that, by their end, American society emerged in a wholly new form.

The Fourth Turning is history’s great discontinuity. It ends one epoch and begins another.

History is seasonal, and winter is coming.

Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood.

Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history.

The next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse — or glory.

Each time younger generations replace older ones in each phase of life, the composite life cycle becomes something altogether new, fundamentally changing the entire society’s mood and behavior.

The Lost Generation was born 1883-1900.

The G.I. Generation was born 1901-1924.

The Silent Generation was born 1925-1942.

The Boomer Generation was born 1943-1960.

The 13th Generation was born 1961-1981.

A Prophet generation is born during a High.

A Nomad generation is born during an Awakening.

A Hero generation is born during an Unraveling.

An Artist generation is born during a Crisis.

PART ONE – Seasons

CHAPTER 2 – Seasons of Time

Awakenings are the summers.

Crises are the winters.


  1. The Wars of the Roses Crisis (1459-1487; climax, 1485)
  2. The Armada Crisis (1569-1594; climax, 1588)
  3. The Glorious Revolution Crisis (1675-1704; climax, 1689)
  4. The American Revolution Crisis (1773-1794; climax, 1781)
  5. The Civil War Crisis (1860-1865; climax, 1863)
  6. The Great Depression and World War II Crisis (1929-1946; climax, 1944)


  1. The Protestant Reformation (1517-1542; climax, 1536)
  2. The Puritan Awakening (1621-1649; climax, 1640)
  3. The Great Awakening (1727-1746; climax, 1741)
  4. The Transcendental Awakening (1822-1844; climax 1831)
  5. The Third Great Awakening (1886-1908; climax, 1896)
  6. The Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984; climax, 1974)
  7. The next Crisis era will most likely extend roughly from the middle Oh-Ohs to the middle 2020s.

CHAPTER 3 – Seasons of Life

Childhood (pueritia, ages 0-20); social role: growth (receiving nurture, acquiring values)

Young Adulthood (iuventus, ages 21-41); social role: vitality (serving institutions, testing values)

Midlife (virilitas, ages 42-62); social role: power (managing institutions, applying values)

Elderhood (senectus, ages 63-83); social role: leadership (leading institutions, transferring values)

By the time the next generation arrives, World War II will be pure history.

Every generation has thus been shaped by either a Crisis or an Awakening during one of its first two phases of life.

Every forty years or so, the persona of each phase of life becomes nearly the opposite of that established by the generation that had once passed through.

The first birth year of each generation usually lies just a couple of years before the opening or closing year of a Crisis or Awakening.

Each of these four locations in history is associated with a generational archetype: Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist.

During a Crisis era, Prophets enter elderhood, Nomads midlife, Heroes young adulthood, and Artists childhood.

The Four Archetypes

So too must a functional modern society, immersed in directional time, experience the sequential unfolding of all four archetypes.

Jung saw this Hero Myth as perhaps the most potent expression of his archetypes.

Recall all the classic Western pairings of the young hero and the elder prophet.

Another popular type of myth — that of the young prophet and the old king.

In the Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo looks down the age ladder and sees the good Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia — and looks up and sees the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi and the evil Darth Vader.

The affinity between grandparent and grandchild is universal folk wisdom.

A generation’s dominance in national leadership posts typically peaks around the time its first cohorts reach age sixty-five.

At the heart of the saeculum: an oscillation between the overprotection and underprotection of children.

Four key characters in The Iliad and Odyssey are mythical personifications of the four generational archetypes: Nestor (Prophet), Agamemnon (Nomad), Odysseus (Hero), and Telemachus (Artist).

CHAPTER 4 – Cycles of History

The First Turning is a High. Old Prophets disappear, Nomads enter elderhood.

The Second Turning is an Awakening. Old Nomads disappear, Heroes enter elderhood.

The Third Turning is an Unraveling. Old Heroes disappear, Artists enter elderhood.

The Fourth Turning is a Crisis. Old Artists disappear, Prophets enter elderhood.

Spring High => summer Awakening => autumn Unraveling => winter Crisis

Highs promote income and class equality, and Awakenings change that. Unravelings promote inequality, and Crises change that.

In a High, people want to belong; in an Awakening, to defy; in an Unraveling, to separate; in a Crisis, to gather.

The onset of war causes birthrates to fall and the onset of peace causes birthrates to surge.

Rates of crime and worries about social disorder rise during Awakenings, reach a cyclical peak during Unravelings, and then fall sharply during Crises.

For the saeculum, what matters most are not the accidents themselves, but rather society’s response to them.

History always produces sparks. But some sparks flare and then vanish, while others touch off firestorms out of any proportion to the sparks themselves.

During a Fourth Turning, generational forces tend to funnel exogenous events toward a concerted national response.

Crisis-era wars were all large, deadly, and decisive.

History is not predetermined — the actions people take (and political choices they make) can fundamentally alter the course of history.


  1. Late Medieval (1435-1487)

The Retreat from France (Third Turning, 1435-1459)

The Wars of the Roses (Fourth Turning, 1459-1487)

The Arthurian Generation (Hero, born 1433-1460)

The Humanist Generation (Artist, born 1461-1482)

  1. Reformation (1487-1594)

The Tudor Renaissance (First Turning, 1487-1517)

The Protestant Reformation (Second Turning, 1517-1542)

Intolerance and Martyrdom (Third Turning, 1542-1569)

The Armada Crisis (Fourth Turning, 1569-1594)

The Reformation Generation (Prophet, born 1483-1511)

The Reprisal Generation (Nomad, born 1512-1540)

The Elizabethan Generation (Hero, born 1541-1565)

The Parliamentary Generation (Artist, born 1566-1587)

  1. New World (1594-1704)

Merrie England (First Turning, 1594-1621)

The Puritan Awakening (Second Turning, 1621-1649)

Reaction and Restoration (Third Turning, 1649-1675)

The colonial Glorious Revolution (Fourth Turning, 1675-1704)

The Puritan Generation (Prophet, born 1588-1617)

The Cavalier Generation (Nomad, born 1618-1647)

The Glorious Generation (Hero, born 1648-1673)

The Enlightenment Generation (Artist, born 1674-1700)

  1. Revolutionary (1704-1794)

The Augustan Age of Empire (First Turning, 1704-1727)

The Great Awakening (Second Turning, 1727-1746)

The French and Indian Wars (Third Turning, 1746-1773)

The American Revolution (Fourth Turning, 1773-1794)

The Awakening Generation (Prophet, born 1701-1723)

The Liberty Generation (Nomad, born 1724-1741)

The Republican Generation (Hero, born 1742-1766)

The Compromise Generation (Artist, born 1767-1791)

  1. Civil War (1794-1865)

The Era of Good Feelings (First Turning, 1794-1822)

The Transcendental Awakening (Second Turning, 1822-1844)

The Mexican War and Sectionalism (Third Turning, 1844-1860)

The Civil War (Fourth Turning, 1860-1865)

The Transcendental Generation (Prophet, born 1792-1821)

The Gilded Generation (Nomad, born 1822-1842)

The Progressive Generation (Artist, born 1843-1859)

  1. Great Power (1865-1946)

The Reconstruction and Gilded Age (First Turning, 1865-1886)

The Third Great Awakening (Second Turning, 1886-1908)

World War I and Prohibition (Third Turning, 1908-1929)

The Great Depression and World War II (Fourth Turning, 1929-1946)

The Missionary Generation (Prophet, born 1860-1882)

The Lost Generation (Nomad, born 1883-1900)

The G.I. Generation (Hero, born 1901-1924)

The Silent Generation (Artist, born 1925-1942)

  1. Millennial (1946-2026?)

The American High (First Turning, 1946-1964)

The Consciousness Revolution (Second Turning, 1964-1984)

The Culture Wars (Third Turning, 1984-2005?)

The Millennial Crisis (Fourth Turning, 2005?-2026?)

The Boom Generation (Prophet, born 1943-1960)

The 13th Generation (Nomad, born 1961-1981)

The Millennial Generation (Hero, born 1982-7)

(Artist?, born ?)

The First Turning is a High — an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism.

The Second Turning is an Awakening — a passionate era of spiritual upheaval.

The Third Turning is an Unraveling — a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions.

The Fourth Turning is a Crisis — a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

CHAPTER 5 – Gray Champions

Each time the Gray Champion appeared marked the arrival of a moment of “darkness, and adversity, and peril,” the climax of the Fourth Turning of the saeculum.

PART TWO – Turnings

CHAPTER 6 – The First Turning: American High (1946-1964)

CHAPTER 7 – The Second Turning: Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984)

CHAPTER 8 – The Third Turning: Culture Wars (1984-2005?)

The best-known Unraveling decades (the 1550s, 1660s, 1760s, 1850s, and 1920s) bring to mind risk taking, bad manners, and a sobering of the social mood.

The Silent are well on the way to becoming the first generation in U.S. history never to produce a president.

Toward the end of an Unraveling…

The elder Artists, now appearing less flexible than indecisive, begin impeding the Prophets’ values agenda.

The midlife Prophets, now filled with righteousness of conviction, grow impatient to lead society toward ever-deeper spiritual conversion.

The young-adult Nomads, now tiring of an unrewarding self-sufficiency, yearn to settle down and shore up social barriers.

The child Heroes, protected by adults who are fearful of their future, begin sensing a dire secular challenge at the heart of the Prophets’ visions.

CHAPTER 9 – Fourth Turnings in History

History has no rewind button. Like the seasons of nature, it moves only forward.

A Fourth Turning is a solstice era of maximum darkness.

A Crisis era begins with a catalyst.

Once catalyzed, a society achieves a regeneracy.

The regenerated society propels toward a climax.

The climax culminates in a resolution.

Collective action is now seen as vital to solving the society’s most fundamental problems.

What makes a Crisis special is the public’s willingness to let leaders lead even when they falter and to let authorities be authoritative even when they make mistakes.

When society approaches the climax of a Crisis, it reaches a point of maximum civic power.

The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both.

A Crisis catalyst occurs shortly after the old Prophet archetype reaches its apex of societal leadership, when its inclinations are least checked by others.

A resolution comes, with the Prophet’s symbolic assistance, at a time when the Nomad is asserting full control.

As visionary Prophets replace Artists in elderhood, they push to resolve ever-deepening moral choices, setting the stage for the secular goals of the young.

As pragmatic Nomads replace Prophets in midlife, they apply toughness and resolution to defend society while safeguarding the interests of the young.

As teamworking Heroes replace Nomads in young adulthood, they challenge the political failure of elder-led crusades, fueling a societywide secular crisis.

As Artists replace the Heroes in childhood, they are overprotected at a time of political convulsion and adult self-sacrifice.

CHAPTER 10 – A Fourth Turning Prophecy

In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party.

This implosion will strike financial markets — and, with that, the economy.

America’s short-term Crisis psychology will catch up to the long-term post-Unraveling fundamentals. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets.

Soon after the catalyst, a national election will produce a sweeping political realignment.

Republicans, Democrats, or perhaps a new party will decisively win the long partisan tug-of-war, ending the era of split government.

America’s initial Fourth Turning instinct will be to look away from other countries and focus total energy on the domestic.

The economy will in time recover.

Fourth Turning America will begin to lay out the next saeculum’s infrastructure grid.

Authority will simplify the options of daily life.

Criminal justice will become swift and rough.

Time will pass, perhaps another decade, before the surging mood propels America to the Fourth Turning’s grave moment of opportunity and danger: the climax.

Ingredients of the climax:

  1. Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation).
  2. Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities.
  3. Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship.
  4. Technological distress, with cryptoanarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenetic chaos.
  5. Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases.
  6. Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders.
  7. Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction.

The Spirit of America will return, because there will be no other choice.

Trust is reborn.

With or without war, American society will be transformed into something different.

If the Crisis catalyst comes on schedule, around the year 2005, then the climax will be due around 2020, the resolution around 2026.

If America plunges into an era of depression or violence which by then has not lifted, we will likely look back on the 1990s as the decade when we valued all the wrong things and made all the wrong choices. If the Fourth Turning goes well, however, memories of the Unraveling will be laced with nostalgic fun.

If the Crisis ends badly, very old Boomers could be truly despised. If it ends well, they will bask in grand encomia


CHAPTER 11 – Preparing for the Fourth Turning

The proper plan for the saeculum is to move with, not against, the seasons.

We should avoid and control these excesses now, while realizing that society will address them more fundamentally in the Fourth Turning.

To be preseasonal, America should prepare now for the Fourth Turning.

Wise fifty-five-year-olds save money and preserve good health habits.

In autumn, wise farmers prepare against an early and hard winter. They protect their harvest, gather their seeds, and stock their fuel.

No single style of leadership or hero worship is suitable for every turning.

From liberalism and conservatism to socialism and libertarianism, all the popular ideologies are nonseasonal.

Yet the appeal of these ideologies is very cyclical. Nearly all political philosophies wax and wane with the saeculum.

America will need both personal sacrifice and public authority.

Prepare values: Forge the consensus and uplift the culture, but don’t expect near-term results.

Prepare institutions: Clear the debris and find out what works, but don’t try building anything big.

Prepare politics: Define challenges bluntly and stress duties over rights, but don’t attempt reforms that can’t now be accomplished.

Prepare society: Require community teamwork to solve local problems, but don’t try this on a national scale.

Prepare youth: Treat children as the nation’s highest priority, but don’t do their work for them.

Prepare elders: Tell future elders they will need to be more self-sufficient, but don’t attempt deep cuts in benefits to current elders.

Prepare the economy: Correct fundamentals, but don’t try to fine tune current performance.

Prepare the defense: Expect the worst and prepare to mobilize, but don’t precommit to any one response.

Classic virtues that didn’t necessarily pay off in an Unraveling (traits like trust, reliability, patience, perseverance, thrift, and selflessness) will become hard currency in a Crisis.

Rectify: Return to the classic virtues.

Converge: Heed emerging community norms.

Bond: Build personal relationships of all kinds.

Gather: Prepare yourself (and your children) for teamwork.

Root: Look to your family for support.

Brace: Gird for the weakening or collapse of public support mechanisms.

Hedge: Diversify everything you do.

CHAPTER 12 – The Eternal Return

This nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, Etruria ten, the Soviet Union (perhaps) only one.

Alternatively, the new saeculum could find America, and the world, a much better place.

Post Corona by Scott Galloway

The Big Idea: Coronavirus: this too shall pass. The pandemic’s most enduring impact will be as an accelerant of existing trends.

Look beyond our unprecedented present and predict the future by creating it.

In any crisis there is opportunity; the greater and more disruptive the crisis, the greater the opportunities.

Three of the largest, and most important, consumer categories in the U.S. (healthcare, education, and grocery) are in a state of unprecedented disruption and, possibly, progress.


Companies with cash, with debt collateral, with highly valued stock will be positioned to acquire the assets of distressed competitors and consolidate the market.

Firms deemed innovators are receiving a valuation that reflects estimates of cash flows 10 years from now, and discounted back at an incredibly low rate.

In the pandemic, cash is king, and cost structure is the new blood oxygen level.

For companies in a weak position, survival will depend on radical cost cutting.

Companies fortunate enough to be in a position of strength should be flexing their pandemic muscles. They are investing, innovating and growing market share.

Cash is great for survival purposes, but the real gangster move is to be capital light, that is, to have a variable cost structure.

The most visible and widespread trend acceleration is the radical transition to working from home .

Young people will bring cities back because they want to live near other young people and to get access to culture and entertainment.

The Brand Age gives way to the Product Age.

The entire world is bifurcating into Android or iOS. Android users are the masses who trade privacy for value. iOS are the wealthy who enjoy the luxury of privacy.

Premium players will wrap themselves in the blue flag of privacy and collect a nice margin for the courtesy of not exploiting their customers ’ data .


One sector has outdone all the others in the pandemic: big tech.

Amazon is better at FedEx’s own game.

Apple is now the largest player in the watch business.

It’s the flywheel.

Streaming video adds momentum to Amazon’s and Apple’s flywheels.

Big tech’s role in sowing dissent and promoting political radicalization has been so well documented, it has become normalized.

Antitrust is just one tool in the government’s kit for addressing the dangerous power of big tech .

Between Prime, AWS, and the Marketplace, Amazon has the largest flywheel in the history of business.

Business gurus have preached for decades: focus on your “core competencies” and outsource everything else. Amazon flips this around. It doesn’t pay someone else to run its data center. It takes advantage of its massive data center volume, and its ability to invest essentially unlimited capital, and the company builds the best data center management competency on the planet. Thus is born AWS, the largest cloud services provider by a wide margin.

They later spun out Amazon Payments and launched a delivery service.

I believe Amazon will offer Prime members COVID testing at a scale and efficiency that makes America feel like South Korea (competent).

The big payoff for Amazon is healthcare.

Apple owns the most profitable product ever made, the iPhone, and sells it through the highest per-square-foot retail business of all time, the Apple Store.

Recurring revenue bundles are expensive, hard, and enduring.

There is only one path to a dramatic increase in stakeholder value in the face of flat/declining revenues: The rundle — my term for “a recurring revenue bundle.”

Facebook and Google are simply more effective platforms for advertisers.


Industries become ripe for disruption when existing players fail to adopt technological change to improve quality and value, as it may threaten their core business.

If your company was already adept at click and collect, as Home Depot was, the pandemic is more a speed bump than a meteor. If your store was not ecommerce competent (T.J.Maxx, Marshalls) , you’ve suffered.

The charismatic founder speaks in a characteristic dialect: yogababble.

Casper’s numbers illuminate signals of a frothy economy.

The pandemic may birth the best-performing IPO class in several years, as the market’s valuations are based on a firm’s perceived performance 10 years ahead.

The DNA of a disruptor: 1) Appealing to human instinct 2) Accelerant 3) Balancing growth and margins 4) Rundle 5) Vertical integration 6) Benjamin Button network effects 7) Visionary storytelling 8) Likability

THE SHINIEST UNICORNS IN THE HERD: Airbnb, Carnival, Lemonade, Netflix, One Medical, Peloton, Robinhood, Shopify, Spotify, Tesla, Uber, Warby Parker, Coworking


The virus has been especially hard on industries whose customers consume the product sitting shoulder to shoulder, like sports, airlines, restaurants, events — and despite their noble mission, universities.

Tax private K–12 schools to supplement public K–12 education.

We need firms (like Apple) to seize the greatest business opportunity in decades and open tuition-free universities.

Gap years should be the norm.

We need national service programs.

We need to encourage two-year community college degrees.

We need to expand the variety and efficiency of certification programs.

One thing we should not do: free college. That’s a populist slogan and a bad idea. It’s a further transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.


We must wrest our government from the hands of the shareholder class, which has co-opted it, and end the cronyism they have instituted to protect their wealth.

Failure, and its consequences, is a necessary part of the system.

When a corporation fails, those who have risked their capital to support it lose their investment.

Letting firms fail and share prices fall to their market level also provides younger generations with the same opportunities.

The $ 2 trillion relief package passed in March 2020 was a theft from future generations.

The three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50%.

But the fundamental promise of America, of any just society, is that with hard work and talent, anyone can lift themselves up, up out of poverty, up into prosperity. And that promise has been broken.

This is why we need a strong government, to counter human nature, to balance fast thinking and selfishness with slow thinking and community. We don’t need to make idols of the wealthy to inspire achievement.

Dominant firms exploit everything they touch.

The biggest companies are increasingly getting their profits from exploiting another fertile target — their own consumers. There’s no such thing as a free social network app.

The threat of addiction has been slowing our household down. One of our sons demonstrates behavior consistent with device addiction. It’s terrifying. Everything he does, says, and works toward is in pursuit of the dopa hit waiting on his iPad.

Tim Cook doesn’t want his nephew on social media.

Govt provides the rule of law that kept our businesses safe and contracts enforceable.

Govt funded physical and digital infrastructure.

Team Blue hates Team Red because they are putting grandparents in danger by not wearing masks. Team Red hates Team Blue because they are infringing on liberty and threatening the economy over something that hasn’t impacted anyone they know.

We should not rely on billionaires to save us.

Philanthropy is less reliable and less accountable, and it doesn’t scale well.

The most important thing we can do is also the easiest. Vote. Vote in off-year elections. Vote in local elections.

We need to protect people, not companies. My choice would have been to follow the German Kurzarbeit model.

When you give money to poor and working-class people, you see an immediate multiplier effect in the economy — because they spend it.

The first step to restraining private power is to get it out of government. Ideally we would substantially reduce the amount of money that flows from private wealth into political campaigns.

Congress and the Executive must reinvigorate our antitrust and regulatory limits, particularly on big tech.

The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker

The Big Idea: Contrary to what the media might depict, violence has declined over the past decades and centuries. Understanding the driving forces of the decline can help societies continue that momentum.

Nearly every form of violence (murder, abuse, torture, rape, assault) has declined over time. The decline can be seen in our attitudes toward violence and the statistical data on war, genocide, torture, homicide, and all other forms of violence.

What are not primary driving forces of the decline in violence? Conflicts over scarce resources, economic conditions, changes in religion.

What are the primary driving forces of the decline in violence?

A. Leviathan
A state that uses a monopoly on force to protect its citizens from one another may be the most consistent violence-reducer. Presence of trusted law and order changes the incentive structure to commit acts of violence.

B. Gentle Commerce
Commerce and trade encourages partnership and exchange (positive sum games) instead of war and plunder (zero sum). It changes the Pacifist’s Dilemma by sweetening the outcome of mutual pacifism with the mutual gains of exchange

C. Feminization
Several varieties of feminization – direct political empowerment, the deflation of manly honor, the promotion of marriage on women’s terms, the right of girls to be born, and women’s control over their own reproduction – have been forces in the decline of violence.

D. The Expanding Circle
The expansion of the circle of sympathy puts us in contact with a diverse sample of other people and invites us to take their points of view. Why has our circle of sympathy expanded? The Republic of Letters and the Reading Revolution helped to kindle the Humanitarian Revolution of the 18th century. The Global Village and the electronics revolution may have helped along the Long Peace, New Peace, and Rights Revolutions of the 20th.

E. The Escalator of Reason
Over time, civilization has moved away from tribalism, authority, and purity in moral systems and toward humanism, classical liberalism, autonomy, and human rights.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

The Big Idea: the story of Nike, from idea in 1962 to global brand.

Nike began as a paper at Stanford on the potential market for importing Japanese athletic shoes to the United States.

At age twenty-four, before he started Nike, Knight set out on a backpacking trip around the world.

Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: high-quality, low-cost running shoes.

In the early days of Nike, when it was still called Blue Ribbon, Knight assembled an eclectic collection of employees, but the common thread among them was that almost all were ex-runners or recreational runners.

In Knight’s early struggles with equity, he remarks, “Life is growth. . . . You grow or you die”

It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.

I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.

I’d like to remind them that America isn’t the entrepreneurial Shangri-La people think. Free enterprise always irritates the kinds of trolls who live to block, to thwart, to say no, sorry, no. And it’s always been this way. Entrepreneurs have always been outgunned, outnumbered. They’ve always fought uphill, and the hill has never been steeper. America is becoming less entrepreneurial, not more.

And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.

Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

The Big Idea: People are emotional creatures, so negotiations are more emotional than people think. Use tactical empathy to negotiate. Don’t just split the difference.


Life is negotiation.

“Getting to Yes” and BATNA assumes a purely rational interaction.

Many negotiations are highly emotional.

The key concept in this book is tactical empathy.


A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.

Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.

To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

Slow. It. Down. Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard. You risk undermining the rapport and trust you’ve built.

​Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

There are three voice tones available to negotiators: 1.​The late-night FM DJ voice 2.​The positive/playful voice 3. The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely.

Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.


Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. By acknowledging the other person’s situation, you convey that you are listening, which will encourage them to tell you something that you can use.

Focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Get them into the open.

Pause. After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in. Don’t worry, the other party will fill the silence.

Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power and generate feelings of safety, well-being, and trust.

List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. Performing an accusation audit in advance prepares you to head off negative dynamics before they take root.


While it may sound contradictory, the way to make the other party feel safe and divulge information is by getting the other party to disagree, to draw their own boundaries, to define their desires as a function of what they do not want.

“No” really often just means “Wait” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” Learn how to hear it calmly. It is not the end of the negotiation, but the beginning.

“Yes” is the final goal of a negotiation, but don’t aim for it at the start.

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. By saying what they don’t want, your counterpart defines their space and gains the confidence and comfort to listen to you.

Sometimes, intentionally mislabel one of their emotions or desires or asking a ridiculous question—like, “It seems like you want this project to fail”—that can only be answered negatively.

Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.


Once the other party feels that you understand their dreams and feelings, transformative mental and behavioral change is possible.

“That’s right” is better than “yes” or “you’re right.”

Summarize the situation or their feelings to trigger a “that’s right.”


All negotiations are defined by a network of subterranean desires and needs. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the surface. Once you know that the Haitian kidnappers just want party money, you will be miles better prepared.

Splitting the difference is wearing one black and one brown shoe, so don’t compromise. Meeting halfway often leads to bad deals for both sides.

Approaching deadlines entice people to rush the negotiating process and do impulsive things that are against their best interests.

The F-word—“Fair”—is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into a concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.

You can bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring his starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them by saying how bad it will be. When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive. The real value of anything depends on what vantage point you’re looking at it from.

People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.


A skilled negotiator who listens well can direct the conversation towards his own goals because the talker is revealing information.

Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Aggressive confrontation is the enemy of constructive negotiation.

Avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.

Ask calibrated questions that start with the words “How” or “What.” By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.

Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

When you’re attacked in a negotiation, pause and avoid angry emotional reactions. Instead, ask your counterpart a calibrated question.

There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.


“Yes” is nothing without “How.”

Ask calibrated “How” questions, and ask them again and again. Asking “How” keeps your counterparts engaged but off balance. Answering the questions will give them the illusion of control. It will also lead them to contemplate your problems when making their demands.

Use “How” questions to shape the negotiating environment. You do this by using “How can I do that?” as a gentle version of “No.” This will subtly push your counterpart to search for other solutions—your solutions. And very often it will get them to bid against themselves.

Don’t just pay attention to the people you’re negotiating with directly; always identify the motivations of the players “behind the table.” You can do so by asking how a deal will affect everybody else and how on board they are.

Follow the 7-38-55 Percent Rule by paying close attention to tone of voice and body language. Incongruence between the words and nonverbal signs will show when your counterpart is lying or uncomfortable with a deal.

Is the “Yes” real or counterfeit? Test it with the Rule of Three: use calibrated questions, summaries, and labels to get your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement at least three times. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.

If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere.

Use your own name to make yourself a real person to the other side and even get your own personal discount.


Top negotiators know, however, that conflict is often the path to great deals. Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.

Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style. Once you know whether they are Accommodator, Assertive, or Analyst, you’ll know the correct way to approach them.

Kick-ass negotiators usually lead with an extreme anchor to knock you off your game.

Set boundaries, and learn to take a punch or punch back, without anger.

Prepare an Ackerman plan. Before you head into the weeds of bargaining, you’ll need a plan of extreme anchor, calibrated questions, and well-defined offers. Remember: 65, 85, 95, 100 percent. Decreasing raises and ending on nonround numbers (and a non-monetary bonus) will get your counterpart to believe that he’s squeezing you for all you’re worth when you’re really getting to the number you want.


Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable.

Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).

Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Digging into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into the life, emotional and otherwise, of your counterpart. That’s where Black Swans live.

Review everything you hear from your counterpart. You will not hear everything the first time, so double-check. Compare notes with team members. Use backup listeners whose job is to listen between the lines.

Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.

Get face time with your counterpart. Ten minutes of face time often reveals more than days of research. Pay special attention to your counterpart’s verbal and nonverbal communication at unguarded moments—at the beginning and the end of the session or when someone says something out of line.


SECTION I: THE GOAL Think through best/worst-case scenarios but only write down a specific goal that represents the best case.

SECTION II: SUMMARY Summarize and write out in just a couple of sentences the known facts that have led up to the negotiation.

SECTION III: LABELS/ACCUSATION AUDIT Prepare three to five labels to perform an accusation audit.

SECTION IV: CALIBRATED QUESTIONS Prepare three to five calibrated questions to reveal value to you and your counterpart and identify and overcome potential deal killers.

SECTION V: NONCASH OFFERS Prepare a list of noncash items possessed by your counterpart that would be valuable.

The Way of the Iceman by Wim Hof

The Big Idea: Boost your immune system and reduce inflammation with the Wim Hof Method, based on science and ancient techniques.

The Wim Hof Method = 1. Cold Therapy + 2. Breathing Exercises + 3. Commitment.

1. Cold Therapy

2. Wim Hof Breathing

3. Commitment

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

The Big Idea: Life is short unless you live it well. Study philosophy and protect your valuable time from others.

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.

The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

Vices beset us and surround us on every side. Their victims are never allowed to return to their true selves.

Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their life.

In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal.

You live as if you were destined to live forever.

What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year.

Among the worst I count also those who have time for nothing but wine and lust; for none have more shameful engrossments.

No one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is busied with many things.

It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and — what will perhaps make you wonder more — it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.

It takes a great man and one who has risen far above human weaknesses not to allow any of his time to be filched from him.

But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow.

There is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long — he has existed long.

No one sets a value on time; all use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.

Yet no one will bring back the years.

Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on.

Postponement is the greatest waste of life.

“Why do you delay,” says he, “Why are you idle? Unless you seize the day, it flees.”

Life is divided into three periods — that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.

The mind that is untroubled and tranquil has the power to roam into all the parts of its life.

Decrepit old men beg in their prayers for the addition of a few more years. They reflect how uselessly they have striven for things which they did not enjoy.

This vain passion for learning useless things has assailed the Romans.

Of all men they alone are at leisure who take time for philosophy, they alone really live.

We may fairly say that they alone are engaged in the true duties of life who shall wish to have Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus, and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus, as their most intimate friends every day.

Households there are of noblest intellects; choose the one into which you wish to be adopted; you will inherit not merely their name, but even their property.

The life of the philosopher, therefore, has wide range, and he is not confined by the same bounds that shut others in.

But those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled; when they have reached the end of it, the poor wretches perceive too late that for such a long while they have been busied in doing nothing.

They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

How long will these things last? This feeling has led kings to weep over the power they possessed, and they have not so much delighted in the greatness of their fortune, as they have viewed with terror the end to which it must some time come.

With anxiety hold what they have attained; meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson

  1. The Greatest Story Ever Told

In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity, put forth in 1916, gives us our modern understanding of gravity.

In the 1920s, quantum mechanics would be discovered.

But these two understandings of nature are formally incompatible with one another.

The four distinct forces we have come to know and love, with the weak force controlling radioactive decay, the strong force binding the atomic nucleus, the electromagnetic force binding molecules, and gravity binding bulk matter.

The universe was a seething soup of quarks, leptons, and their antimatter siblings, along with bosons.

For another 380,000 years not much will happen to our particle soup. Throughout these millennia the temperature remains hot enough for electrons to roam free among the photons.

For the first billion years, the universe continued to expand and cool as matter gravitated into the massive concentrations we call galaxies.

After nine billion years of such enrichment, in an undistinguished part of the universe ( the outskirts of the Virgo Supercluster ) in an undistinguished galaxy ( the Milky Way ) in an undistinguished region ( the Orion Arm ), an undistinguished star ( the Sun ) was born.

As less and less accretable matter remained in the solar system, planet surfaces began to cool. The one we call Earth formed in a kind of Goldilocks zone around the Sun, where oceans remain largely in liquid form.

Within the chemically rich liquid oceans, by a mechanism yet to be discovered, organic molecules transitioned to self-replicating life.

We owe the remarkable diversity of life on Earth, and we presume elsewhere in the universe, to the cosmic abundance of carbon.

But what if the universe was always there, in a state or condition we have yet to identify — a multiverse, for instance, that continually births universes? Or what if the universe just popped into existence from nothing?

We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out — and we have only just begun.

  1. On Earth as in the Heavens

Newton had figured out that the force of gravity pulling ripe apples from their orchards also guides tossed objects along their curved trajectories and directs the Moon in its orbit around Earth.

This universality of physical laws tells us that if we land on another planet with a thriving alien civilization, they will be running on the same laws that we have discovered and tested here on Earth.

Among all constants, the speed of light is the most famous. No matter how fast you go, you will never overtake a beam of light.

Another class of universal truths is the conservation laws, where the amount of some measured quantity remains unchanged no matter what.

It happens that we cannot see, touch, or taste the source of eighty-five percent of the gravity we measure in the universe. This mysterious dark matter.

In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.

  1. Let There Be Light

In this early epoch, photons didn’t travel far before encountering an electron.

Cosmic microwave background or CMB for short.

The first direct observation of the cosmic microwave background was made inadvertently in 1964 by American physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Telephone Laboratories.

Because light takes time to reach us from distant places in the universe, if we look out in deep space we actually see eons back in time.

Ordinary matter is what we are all made of. It has gravity and interacts with light. Dark matter is a mysterious substance that has gravity but does not interact with light in any known way.

Dark energy is a mysterious pressure in the vacuum of space that acts in the opposite direction of gravity, forcing the universe to expand faster than it otherwise would.

  1. Between the Galaxies

The universe may nonetheless contain hard-to-detect things between the galaxies.

In any reliably surveyed volume of space, dwarf galaxies outnumber large galaxies by more than ten to one.

Supernovas are stars that have blown themselves to smithereens.

Worse yet, clusters are overrun by dark matter, which happens to contain up to another factor of ten times the mass of everything else.

Quasars are super-luminous galaxy cores whose light has typically been traveling for billions of years across space before reaching our telescopes. As extremely distant sources of light, they make ideal guinea pigs for the detection of intervening junk.

We call them cosmic rays. The highest-energy particles among them have a hundred million times the energy that can be generated in the world’s largest particle accelerators.

  1. Dark Matter

Gravity, the most familiar of nature’s forces, offers us simultaneously the best and the least understood phenomena in nature.

Einstein demonstrated that Newton’s theory requires some modification to describe gravity accurately — to predict, for example, how much light rays will bend when they pass by a massive object.

We don’t know who’s next in the genius sequence, but we’ve now been waiting nearly a century for somebody to tell us why the bulk of all the gravitational force that we’ve measured in the universe — about eighty-five percent of it — arises from substances that do not otherwise interact with “our” matter or energy.

Today, we’ve settled on the moniker “dark matter,” which makes no assertion that anything is missing, yet nonetheless implies that some new kind of matter must exist, waiting to be discovered.

Across the universe, the discrepancy averages to a factor of six: cosmic dark matter has about six times the total gravity of all the visible matter.

Dark matter exerts gravity according to the same rules that ordinary matter follows, but it does little else that might allow us to detect it.

More likely, dark matter consists of matter whose nature we have yet to divine.

Particle physicists are confident that dark matter consists of a ghostly class of undiscovered particles that interact with matter via gravity, but otherwise interact with matter or light only weakly or not at all.

For now, we must remain content to carry dark matter along as a strange, invisible friend, invoking it where and when the universe requires it of us .

  1. Dark Energy

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about, the universe in recent decades was discovered to wield a mysterious pressure that issues forth from the vacuum of space and that acts opposite cosmic gravity.

One of the most powerful and far-reaching theoretical models ever devised, already introduced in these pages, is Einstein’s general theory of relativity — but you can call it GR after you get to know it better. Published in 1916, GR outlines the relevant mathematical details of how everything in the universe moves under the influence of gravity.

Einstein’s concept as, “Matter tells space how to curve; space tells matter how to move.”

Einstein discarded lambda entirely, calling it his life’s “greatest blunder.”

Sixty-nine years later, in 1998, science exhumed lambda one last time.

And there was no easy way to explain the extra expansion without invoking lambda, Einstein’s cosmological constant.

Lambda suddenly acquired a physical reality that needed a name, and so “dark energy” took center stage in the cosmic drama.

The most accurate measurements to date reveal dark energy as the most prominent thing in town, currently responsible for 68 percent of all the mass-energy in the universe; dark matter comprises 27 percent, with regular matter comprising a mere 5 percent.

The closest anybody has come is to presume dark energy is a quantum effect.

Dark energy inhabits one of the safest harbors we can imagine: Einstein’s equations of general relativity. It’s the cosmological constant. It’s lambda. Whatever dark energy turns out to be, we already know how to measure it.

Einstein’s greatest blunder was having declared that lambda was his greatest blunder.

  1. The Cosmos on the Table

Only three of the naturally occurring elements were manufactured in the big bang. The rest were forged in the high-temperature hearts and explosive remains of dying stars, enabling subsequent generations of star systems to incorporate this enrichment, forming planets and, in our case, people.

Hydrogen lays claim to more than two-thirds of all the atoms in the human body, and more than ninety percent of all atoms in the cosmos.

Although a distant second to hydrogen in abundance, there’s fifty times more of it than all other elements.

The element carbon can be found in more kinds of molecules than the sum of all other kinds of molecules combined.

Sodium is the most common glowing gas in municipal street lamps across the nation.

Aluminum occupies nearly ten percent of Earth’s crust.

Titanium, the ninth most abundant element in Earth’s crust, has become a modern darling for many applications.

In most cosmic places, the number of oxygen atoms exceeds that of carbon.

By many measures, iron ranks as the most important element in the universe.

Unstable weapons-grade plutonium was the active ingredient in the atomic bomb that the United States exploded over the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

  1. On Being Round

Of all shapes, spheres are favored by the action of simple physical laws.

For large cosmic objects, energy and gravity conspire to turn objects into spheres.

So, contrary to what it looks like to teeny humans crawling on its surface, Earth, as a cosmic object, is remarkably smooth. If you had a super-duper, jumbo-gigantic finger, and you dragged it across Earth’s surface (oceans and all), Earth would feel as smooth as a cue ball.

The stars of the Milky Way galaxy trace a big, flat circle. With a diameter-to-thickness ratio of one hundred to one, our galaxy is flatter than the flattest flapjacks ever made.

For rich clusters of galaxies, the overall shape can offer deep astrophysical insight. Some are raggedy. Others are stretched thin in filaments. Yet others form vast sheets. None of these have settled into a stable—spherical—gravitational shape.

The sphere to end all spheres — the largest and most perfect of them all — is the entire observable universe.

The universe beyond this spherical “edge” is thus rendered invisible and, as far as we know, unknowable.

There’s a variation of the ever-popular multiverse idea in which the multiple universes that comprise it are not separate universes entirely, but isolated, non-interacting pockets of space within one continuous fabric of space-time.

  1. Invisible Light

Filling out the entire electromagnetic spectrum, in order of low-energy and low-frequency to high-energy and high-frequency, we have : radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ROYGBIV, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays .

Radio telescopes, the earliest non-visible-light telescopes ever built, are an amazing subspecies of observatory .

The world’s largest radio telescope, completed in 2016, is called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or “ FAST ” for short. It was built by China in their Guizhou Province, and is larger in area than thirty football fields .

Another variety of radio telescope is the interferometer, comprising arrays of identical dish antennas, spread across swaths of countryside and electronically linked to work in concert .

Intermittent, distant, titanic stellar explosions across the universe, signaling the birth of gamma ray astrophysics.

Today, telescopes operate in every invisible part of the spectrum, some from the ground but most from space.

  1. Between the Planets

Hundreds of tons of meteors per day — most of them no larger than a grain of sand. Nearly all of them burn in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Nearby interplanetary space also contains rocks of all sizes that were jettisoned from Mars, the Moon, and Earth by the ground’s recoil from high-speed impacts.

Thousand tons of Martian rocks rain down on Earth each year.

Most of the solar system’s asteroids live and work in the main asteroid belt, a roughly flat zone between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Asteroids are not the only space objects that pose a risk to life on Earth. The Kuiper belt is a comet-strewn swath of circular real estate that begins just beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Far beyond the Kuiper belt, extending halfway to the nearest stars, lives a spherical reservoir of comets called the Oort cloud.

If we had eyes that could see magnetic fields, Jupiter would look five times larger than the full Moon in the sky.

Earth’s Moon is about 1 / 400th the diameter of the Sun, but it is also 1 / 400th as far from us, making the Sun and the Moon the same size in the sky — a coincidence not shared by any other planet – moon combination in the solar system.

Jupiter’s system of moons is replete with oddballs.

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is so big and close to Pluto that Pluto and Charon have each tidally locked the other.

The Sun loses material from its surface at a rate of more than a million tons per second. We call this the “ solar wind, ” which takes the form of high-energy charged particles.

Earth’s atmosphere is commonly described as extending dozens of miles above Earth’s surface.

Orbiting high above this level, twenty-three thousand miles up ( one-tenth of the distance to the Moon ) are the communications satellites.

  1. Exoplanet Earth

A celebrated photograph taken in 1990 from just beyond Neptune’s orbit by the Voyager 1 spacecraft shows just how underwhelming Earth looks from deep space : a “ pale blue dot, ” as the American astrophysicist Carl Sagan called it.

Water covers more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface ; the Pacific Ocean alone spans nearly an entire side of the planet.

Earth’s distinctive polar ice caps, which grow and shrink from the seasonal temperature variations, could also be seen using visible light.

The nearest exoplanet — the nearest planet in orbit around a star that is not the Sun — can be found in our neighbor star system Alpha Centauri, about four light-years from us and visible mostly from our southern hemisphere.

NASA’s Kepler telescope, designed and tuned to discover Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, invoked.

Yet another method of detection, mightily adding to the exoplanet catalog.

So if those alien eavesdroppers turn their own version of a radio telescope in our direction, they might infer that our planet hosts technology.

Bell and her associates realized they’d discovered a new class of cosmic object — a star made entirely of neutrons that pulses with radio waves for every rotation it executes. Hewish and Bell sensibly named them “pulsars.”

There’s also cosmochemistry. The chemical analysis of planetary atmospheres has become a lively field of modern astrophysics.

If the aliens track our nighttime side while we orbit our host star, they might notice a surge of sodium from the widespread use of sodium-vapor streetlights that switch on at dusk in urban and suburban municipalities.

If the aliens decide that Earth’s chemical features are sure evidence of life, maybe they’ll wonder if the life is intelligent.

Looking more closely at Earth’s atmospheric fingerprints, human biomarkers will also include sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, and other components of smog from the burning of fossil fuels.

The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995, and, as of this writing, the tally is rising through three thousand, most found in a small pocket of the Milky Way around the solar system.

As many as forty billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone.

  1. Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

However big the world is — in our hearts, our minds, and our outsized digital maps — the universe is even bigger.

More bacteria live and work in one centimeter of my colon than the number of people who have ever existed in the world.

I began to think of people not as the masters of space and time but as participants in a great cosmic chain of being, with a direct genetic link across species both living and extinct, extending back nearly four billion years to the earliest single-celled organisms on Earth.

Imagine a life-form whose brainpower is to ours as ours is to a chimpanzee’s. To such a species, our highest mental achievements would be trivial.

Some of the water you just drank passed through the kidneys of Socrates, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc.

Some of the air you just breathed passed through the lungs of Napoleon, Beethoven, Lincoln, and Billy the Kid.

There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived.

The four most common, chemically active elements in the universe — hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen — are the four most common elements of life on Earth.

It’s conceivable that life began on Mars and later seeded life on Earth, a process known as panspermia.

Giving the Devil his Due by Michael Shermer

The Big Idea: We must protect speech no matter how hateful it may seem.

The devil is anyone who disagrees with you. And what he is due is the right to speak his mind.

0. Introduction Who Is the Devil and What Is He Due?

Err on the side of freedom.

Let Truth and Falsehood grapple in a free and open encounter.

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason.

The freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.

Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus.

We must resist the urge to control what other people say and think.

Freedom of inquiry – a form of free thought and speech – is the basis for all human progress.

My freedom to speak and dissent is inextricably tied to your freedom to speak and dissent.

Even the Catholic Church employed an Advocatus Diaboli – a Devil’s Advocate – tasked with arguing “against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation of the evidence favoring canonization.”

Hate speech is best countered with free speech, better speech, or no speech at all (just ignore them).

Chapter 1 Giving the Devil His Due

In America, the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to express their opinions on anything they like, no matter how extreme, evil, conniving, or crazy. Here you are free to doubt the Apollo moon landing, the JFK assassination single-bullet theory, the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the verisimilitude of the Quran, the prophetic nature of Moses or Muhammad, al Qaeda’s role in 9/11, and even the president’s birthplace.

That process of generating new ideas and introducing them to your peers and the public where they can be skeptically scrutinized in the bright light of other minds is the only way to find out if you’ve come up with something true and important or if you’ve been immersed in self-deception.

Elitist arrogance goes a long way to explaining the recent and disturbing trend on college campuses to censor unwanted speech and thought.

This is why the principle of free speech and the arguments in its favor apply to the political world as well as the scientific one, and why no Philosopher King or Benevolent Dictator can ever be allowed to rule.

Democratic elections are analogous to scientific experiments: every couple of years you carefully alter the variables with an election and observe the results.

The freedom of speech has been one of the driving forces behind moral progress through science and reason because it enables the search for truth.

Chapter 2 Banning Evil

The solution to hate speech is more speech.

The problem with banning the weapons of evil is that Australia and New Zealand are not comparable to America and other large and diverse nations.

Censorship is almost invariably the wrong response to evil actions.

There is no such thing as evil.

Nearly everyone who has ever committed what most of us would consider evil think that they did it for perfectly good reasons.

John Wayne Gacy explained, “I see myself more as a victim than as a perpetrator. I was cheated out of my childhood.”

Campaigns aimed at banning evil in its own (mythical) right almost always include efforts to ban evil speech.

It is my contention that we must protect speech no matter how hateful it may seem.

Chapter 3 Free Speech Even If It Hurts

Europeans have a different history and culture of free speech than we do in this country.

In England, libel law requires the defendant to prove that he or she did not libel the plaintiff, unlike US law that puts the onus on the plaintiff to prove damage.

David Irving’s three-year prison sentence for denying the Holocaust may please his detractors, but it is an assault on the civil liberties of us all.

Chapter 4 Free to Inquire

The Darwinian revolution was the greatest of all intellectual revolutions in the history of mankind.

Creationists have lost all major court cases of the past half-century.

You are free to doubt not just evolution, for example, but the Big Bang theory, vaccines, the germ theory of disease, and global warming.

Chapter 5 Ben Stein’s Blunder

The central premise of Expelled is that there is an academic conspiracy afoot among scientists and scholars to censor the speech of creationists and Intelligent Design advocates.

Even more disturbing than these distortions is the film’s other thesis that Darwinism inexorably leads to atheism, Communism, Fascism, and the Holocaust.

Intelligent Design creationists, by contrast, have no interest in doing science.

Chapter 6 What Went Wrong

2013 was a pivotal year as this is when the iGen (or Gen Z) generation of students born in 1995 or after began to enter college, and as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt demonstrate in their 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind.

Most notably in how they were raised (helicopter parenting) and what that means for how a “coddled” generation handles challenges.

As often happens in moral movements, a reasonable idea with some evidentiary backing gets carried to extremes by engaged moralists eager for attention, sympathy, and the social standing that being a victim or perpetrator-shamer brings.

The deeper problem with safe spaces, however, is that in addition to infantilizing adults, they often end up protecting students from opinions that they don’t happen to agree with or shielding them from ideas that challenge their beliefs.

What may have started out as well – intentioned actions at curbing prejudices and attenuating bigotry, with the goal of making people more tolerant, has now metamorphosed into thought police attempting to impose totalitarian measures that result in silencing dissent of any kind.

Most of the big moral movements have been fought and won, leaving today’s students with comparatively smaller causes to promote and evils to protest.

In this victimhood culture, the primary way to gain status is to either be a victim or to condemn alleged perpetrators against victims, leading to an accelerating search for both.

Today’s college students have brittle bones and thin skins.

Social movements tend to turn on themselves in puritanical purging of anyone who falls short of moral perfection, leading to preemptive denunciations of others before one is so denounced.

Virtue signaling, in which members of a movement compete to signal who is the most righteous by (a) recounting all the moral acts one has performed and (b) identifying all the immoral acts others have committed.

A deeper reason behind the campus problem is a lack of diversity. Not ethnic, race, or gender diversity, but viewpoint diversity, specifically, political viewpoint.

Solutions are likely to be incremental and gradual.

Chapter 7 E Pluribus Unum for All Faiths and for None

Foreigners could be forgiven for thinking that America is fast becoming a theocracy.

At most, Christians comprise 60 – 76 percent of all Americans.

Chapter 8 Atheism and Liberty

USA scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions, and teen pregnancies.

Religious conservatives donate 30 percent more money than liberals (even when controlled for income), give more blood, and log more volunteer hours.

If we do not want theists to prejudge atheists in a negative light, then atheists must not do unto theists the same.

Chapter 9 The Curious Case of Scientology

Chapter 10 Does the Universe Have a Purpose

Life began with the most basic purpose of all: survival and reproduction.

Evolution created in us a basic drive of purpose, but higher moral purposes are learned.

Chapter 11 Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing

The questions are answerable through science, through natural and testable hypotheses and theories, without resort to supernatural intercession.

Science does not yet have a definitive explanatory theory accepted by most scientists, it means that one is not forthcoming.

Chapter 12 Another Dream Deferred

Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now and The Better Angels of Our Nature, Greg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than it Looks, Norberg’s Progress, my own The Moral Arc , and Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist.

The past decade has witnessed what appears to be a reversal of Dr. King’s dream in the form of identity politics.

Identity politics are said to be pulling us into another civil war.

Chapter 13 Healing the Bonds of Affection

The Case for Classical Liberalism

I came to believe was the right balance between Left and Right, between liberalism and conservatism. I believe I may have found it in classical liberalism.

Classical liberalism – and its values form the basis of most modern Western societies. Its founders are a veritable Who’s Who of political and economic thought admired by liberals and conservatives alike: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville.

So it is not only moral to help those who cannot help themselves, it pays fiscal dividends to have a strong social safety net within the umbrella of a competitive free market economy.

Chapter 14 Governing Mars

Elon Musk, for example, thinks Mars should be governed by a direct democracy. Well, in theory this sounds good, but in practice such a system can easily slide into a tyranny of the majority – aka mob rule – which is why they are historically rare. Switzerland is an exception, although it is a hybrid, or semidirect democracy, with federalism – like vertical separation of powers mixed in.

If he were to recommend to the first Mars colonists what documents they should take with them to help design their new society, Cockell unhesitatingly offered, “The US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

Being stranded in a remote place is one such natural experiment, and, believe it or not, there’s a database of such forbidden experiments in the form of shipwrecks with survivors.

“The groups that typically fared best were those that had good leadership in the form of mild hierarchy (without any brutality), friendships among the survivors, and evidence of cooperation and altruism.

Chapter 15 The Sandy Hook Effect

They are what are known as Black Swan events, but, in this context, I shall refer to them as Sandy Hook Events – high-profile, improbable, rare, and unpredictable mass murders. We cannot and never will be able to predict Sandy Hook Events.

There really is a difference between a gun and a knife, and in this case that difference is measurable in the number of survivors.

The problem is murder, not mass murder; individual homicides, not Sandy Hook Events.

If we cannot predict or prevent Sandy Hook Events, what can we do.

Run, Hide, or Fight.

A National Mental-Health Hotline.

Gun Control. This is the most talked about option for preventing Sandy Hook Events, but it’s a complicated route with numerous permutations.

Chapter 16 On Guns and Tyranny

Chapter 17 Debating Guns

The debate is not really about guns or gun controls. It is about something much more fundamental, and therefore the topic carries much greater emotional salience.

This is rational gun control that even the NRA can get behind.

Conservatives employ a “Strict Father” family model, while liberals embrace a “Nurturant Parent” family model.

Chapter 18 Another Fatal Conceit

The Lesson from Evolutionary Economics Is Bottom-Up Self-Organization , Not Top-Down Government Design

Species are analogous to companies and corporations.

Schumpeter’s descriptor for this process in an economy was “creative destruction”.

Taxing the rich will do next to nothing for our debt crisis.

Taxing the rich won’t make the poor any happier.

Positional ranking exists for a range of traits, not just for wealth.

Do we really need a defense budget that currently accounts for 43 percent of all military spending in the entire world.

A century ago Americans somehow survived and thrived with a government that consumed only 8 percent of our GDP; today it is over 40 percent and climbing.

What will happen when servicing the debt exceeds 50 percent of GDP? You can ask Auto Loan Brokers for satisfactory answers to such questions.

This is the consequence of the fatal conceit that we can design a society from the top down.

Chapter 19 Scientific Naturalism: A Manifesto for Enlightenment Humanism

Scientific naturalism is the principle that the world is governed by natural laws and forces that can be understood and that all phenomena are part of nature and can be explained by natural causes, including human cognitive, moral, and social phenomena.

Widespread adoption of Enlightenment humanism, a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on science and reason, eschews the supernatural entirely, and relies exclusively on nature and nature’s laws – including human nature and the laws and forces that govern us and our societies – for a complete understanding of the cosmos and everything in it, from particles to people.

Scientific naturalism and Enlightenment humanism made the modern world. Many of the founding fathers of the United States, for example, such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Adams, were either practicing scientists or were trained in the sciences.

They argued, in essence, that no one knows how to govern a nation, so we have to set up a system that allows for experimentation. Try this. Try that. Check the results. That is the heart of science.

Chapter 20 Mr. Hume: Tear. Down. This. Wall.

Chapter 21 Kardashev’s Types and Sparks’ Law

We have a natural aversion to Others, and we show a remarkable ability to sort people into in-group / out-group categories.

To move beyond this political tribalism, I suggest we adopt the approach that considers liberals and conservatives as emphasizing different moral values, rather than one being right and the other wrong.

One long-term solution is to shift from the zero-sum tribal world of our past to a non zero-sum global world of our future.

Globalism, or Civilization 1.0, includes worldwide wireless Internet access, with all knowledge digitized and available to everyone. A completely global economy with free markets in which anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments. A planet where all states are democracies in which everyone has the franchise.

Well established democracies do not make war on and rarely commit lesser violence against each other.

Conclusion: Power kills, democracy saves. Solution: Spread democracy.

Trade leads to peace and prosperity. Therefore: Spread trade.

Sparks’ Law: Innovations are best generated when people are free to try their ideas in a competitive and voluntary market.

Chapter 22 How Lives Turn Out

Our inner demons overwhelm our better angels just often enough that I’ve come to believe that in the same manner that sports need rules, markets need regulations, and societies need fair and just laws.

I no longer think that private charity alone can do the job of shoring up a social safety net for the unlucky.

Conservatives, for example, tend to embrace a Just World Theory.

Liberals tend to hold an Unjust World Theory.

We cannot simply employ the hindsight bias by taking only successful people and looking to see what they did to become successful and then back-engineer those traits.

Chapter 23 Transcendent Man

An Elegiac Essay to Paul Kurtz – A Skeptic’s Skeptic

Paul Kurtz, one of the central figures in the birth of the modern skeptical and humanist movements.

Chapter 24 The Real Hitch

Did Christopher Hitchens Really Keep Two Sets of Books About His Beliefs?

Chapter 25 The Skeptic’s Chaplain

Chapter 26 Have Archetype – Will Travel

The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon

I recommend Jocko Willink’s 2017 book Discipline Equals Freedom and Amy Alkon’s 2018 book Unfuckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence.

Chapter 27 Romancing the Past

Graham Hancock and the Quest for a Lost Civilization

Disunited Nations by Peter Zeihan

THE BIG IDEA: American will retreat to the safety of its borders while other countries struggle to find their place behind America is this new global order. Without the American-led global order, the world will face turbulence not seen in a hundred years.

0. Introduction: Moments of Transition

Geography might not be destiny, but it is damn close.

The Order will come crashing down.

In creating their anti-Soviet Cold War alliance, the Americans by hook, crook, carrot, and stick brought every significant power of the past five centuries together under a single banner.

The Americans have changed their mind about their alliance and have turned sharply more insular.

In a world without America, the questions become: Who will still benefit from some lingering connection to the Americans? And who can go it alone?

Without the global security the Americans guaranteed, global trade and global energy flows cannot continue.

France will lead the new Europe, not Germany. We should be worried about Saudi Arabia, not Iran. We should be thinking about how to remedy mass starvation in China, not counter its economic and military clout.

1. The Road So Far

1.1. The First Age: Empire

It all comes down to a pair of concepts we all instinctually grasp but spend little time pondering. The first is continuity. The second concept is economies of scale.

National success requires achieving both continuity and economies of scale.

For over four thousand years, empire was the norm.

1.2. The Second Age: Order

When the dust settled, only two powers remained — the United States and the Soviet Union.

Combine American shared identity with fantastically crunchy borders and a truly wonderful gooey center, and post-Reconstruction America isn’t simply a fundamentally different sort of political beast; it is the most powerful country on Earth.

The United States floated what was indisputably the most powerful navy in history.

The Americans pledged total physical security for anyone who joined their alliance, protecting them with tanks, troops, ships, and the still-under-development nuclear umbrella.

1.3. The Third Age: Order Without Borders

None of the four subsequent presidents picked up the challenge of George HW Bush to reform the Order and build a better world.

With no clear grand strategy, the Americans lurched from crisis to crisis.

The American system continued to enable all the nuts and bolts of global energy and finance and agriculture and manufacturing. The only change was, the Americans stopped asking for anything in exchange.

American involvement in the Order isn’t about — was never about — free trade.

Today the United States remains the least integrated major economy in the world.

The Americans forged, operated, and subsidized the free trade Order so that they would have allies to help face down the Soviets.

Many condemn Donald Trump for destroying the global Order. Let’s be real here. If there is one thing that Americans on both the Left and Right agree on, it is that the United States should pursue a more modest role in foreign affairs. The push for an American retrenchment did not begin with Trump, nor will it end with him.

Despite Donald Trump’s trademark brashness, American policy trajectory hasn’t changed much. In the seventh year of George W Bush’s presidency, the United States initiated a broad global drawdown of its troop levels. That disengagement continued both under Barack Obama and Donald Trump. At the time of this writing, the Americans now have fewer troops stationed abroad than at any time since the Great Depression.

The Americans have lost interest in being the global policeman, security guarantor, referee, financier, and market of first and last resort.

Throughout history, food supply has repeatedly proven to be the most significant limiting factor. If a government couldn’t feed its people reliably, well, let’s just say that famine is the ultimate continuity-ending event. The Order’s safety and openness enabled such massive agricultural investment and expansion that famine was banished from not only the imperial centers, but most of the world.

Not to be outdone, most of the world’s raw materials — whether iron ore or bauxite or lithium or copper — are produced on one continent, processed on another, and consumed yet somewhere else. Even minor interruptions to global shipping will collapse the availably of the base materials upon which modern life has been built.

This Order forced peace upon Europe. This Order dismantled the empires, freeing colonies the world over. This Order enabled the formation of the European Economic Community during the Cold War, and the European Union after. This Order’s extension into the post–Cold War world is what enabled the rise of Brazil and India and China. This Order ended imperial predation in Africa and China. This Order enabled Brazil and Kazakhstan to grow row crops en masse. This Order allowed South Korea and Slovakia to industrialize. This Order enabled oil to flow from Saudi Arabia and Australia and Libya to France and Argentina and Singapore. This Order transformed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan into democratic pacifists. This Order provides hope for a world beyond coal. This Order makes London and Hong Kong and Singapore financial centers. This Order makes container ships possible. This Order provides global markets for South African ore and Thai electronics and Ecuadorian bananas.

For more than half the world’s population — in countries as disconnected as Korea and China and India and Iran and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Algeria and Mali and Peru — life expectancy has increased by three decades or more since 1950.

The beginning of the fourth age is a global Disorder in a world without American overwatch. That is what the rest of this book is all about.

2. How to Rule the World, Part I The American Model

Most casual — hell , most professional — observers of international affairs fear a third is on the rise: China.

The Chinese are doing it wrong.

The American system of global management can be summed up as: entice everyone to be on your team.

2.1. Carrot 1: Ensure Physical Security For All

Such distance means any historical bad blood between the Americans and others is fairly thin; few countries have ever faced an American occupation.

Such is most certainly not the case for the Chinese.

It isn’t just that the Chinese can’t displace the Americans as global security guarantor; it’s that no one can.

2.2. Carrot 2: Ensure Maritime Security For All

They could and would guarantee absolute protection of all allies’ merchant shipping. These promises required the Americans to patrol all seas at all times.

The United States was now not only the sole, undisputed global naval power.

That leaves the Chinese with only one fully fledged foreign base: Djibouti.

2.3. Carrot 3: Offer Unfettered Market Access

The Americans used their naval power to create a global market, but just as important, they allowed all the Order’s various members to access the American market.

For their post-American “Order” to be suitably attractive to induce willing cooperation, the Chinese would need to replicate such open access. That’s flat-out impossible.

The Chinese development model has its downsides: risky corporate behavior brought on by a lack of consequences, bloating of expenses, and, of course, a mountain of debt that will never be repaid.

When China’s financial system cracks, Beijing will face a stark choice: watch its modern food production collapse, or empty the cities and force industrial workers back into peasant gardening.

In a time of recession or financial rectification, the entire Ponzi scheme of financing that led to the residence purchases collapses.

In the 2010s China overproduction became so extreme that it surpassed global demand. Part of the rationale behind projects like One Belt, One Road is to dispose of this excess supply by building infrastructure to and in places that would never justify investment in the first place.

Without its capital-flooded finance model and the outlet the Order provides, China’s social fabric would burn.

2.4. Carrot 4: Float a Global Currency

On top of ensuring security, enabling global shipping, and creating a global marketplace, the United States also provides an irreplaceable service by providing the sole global currency.

The yuan has been one of the world’s most manipulated currencies.

While the Europeans have a currency union, banks are still managed and regulated at the national level.

Nobody wants Polish zloty or Vietnamese dong or Argentine pesos, so the dollar plays middleman in lubricating all global trade save that which occurs exclusively within the eurozone.

  1. How to Rule the World, Part II The British Model

The British model was far less complicated than the American system. There is no global set of rules. No paying swathes of countries to be on your side. No trade among nations to facilitate. No chronic need to militarily protect other countries. No guaranteed independence for weak states. There is only flat-out conquering of the world.

3.1. Stick 1: An Unassailable Strategic Position

China has no such insulation.

3.2. Stick 2: A Potent, Flexible Navy

China has nothing like this.

China is an inveterate land power that has fought major land wars with each and every one of the powers it borders. It simply cannot afford the sort of resource focus that made the British navy possible.

3.3. A Massive Technological Advantage

China’s position in the global import market is made possible not by technological edges, but by subsidized production and risk-free transport, all made possible by the American Order. What technologies the Chinese command often have a theft component to them.

The mass application of stolen tech throughout the immense spread of the Chinese population fuels Chinese advances in production and market size and economic bulk, but do not confuse that with a technological edge that gives them a leg up in the British style of global strategic competition.

The real problem is that China cannot build and maintain a large, outward-looking navy and a huge defensive navy and a huge air force and a huge internal security force and a huge army and a huge intelligence system and a huge special forces system and global deployment capability at the same time. For China to be a global power, it would need all of these.

As the world falls into Disorder and American strategic commitments wither, the United States’ strategic toolkit can be smaller. Defending the American homeland is pretty straightforward — float a sizable navy and back it up with some domestically stationed air force assets.

China’s strategic regional geography means it cannot downsize in that way — under any circumstances. The question is not whether China can be the next global hegemon. It cannot. The real question is whether China can even hold itself together as a country.

4. How to Be a Successful Country

Historically speaking, most countries don’t last long.

Remove the Order and what has enabled many of these countries to form, survive — even thrive — will fade away.

Dozens of assets contribute to national survival and power, but these are the big four: 1) viable home territories, with usable lands and defensible borders, 2) a reliable food supply, 3) a sustainable population structure, and 4) access to a stable mix of energy inputs to participate in modern life.

4.1. Territorial Viability

Internal water transport


Temperate climate zones

Rivers + plains + a temperate climate help guarantee a sharp upward technological and economic trajectory.


Rivers + plains + a temperate climate + an accessible coastline all but dictate that a region will become a significant economic and military player.


Hills and swamps limit contact, but determined invaders can still push through them, and both are just habitable enough to house groups that might resist central rule. Mountains are better. But the best by far are wide, wild oceans.

Flat-out, the Americans have both the richest territories in the world as well as the most securable.

The Chinese core territories of the North China Plain are decidedly mediocre.

The only way to maintain reliable agricultural output in the North China Plain is to apply bottomless supplies of labor to manage water supplies.

Cultural unification in the North China Plain is easy. Political unification in northen China is nearly impossible.

Anyone who can reach northern China has had a fairly easy time of dominating whatever chunks of it they find interesting: Mongols, Russians, Japanese, Koreans, Americans, British, French — even Australians. But they have just as much trouble holding that territory as any local authority. The result is a nearly complete lack of political and economic continuity in the Han core.

The Yangtze is one of humanity’s great rivers, boasting nearly two thousand miles of navigability. The most important spot lies at the river’s mouth: Shanghai.

Every bit of this makes Beijing perennially suspicious of Shanghai, and whenever the north manages to unify, Shanghai tends to be the first target of any wider imperial expansion.

Sichuan’s access to the Yangtze enables it to trade with downriver and oceanic partners, making it nearly as wealthy as mighty Shanghai.

Northern China’s beef with Sichuan is threefold. First, Sichuan is by far the most culturally distinct of China’s Han-majority regions.

Second, Sichuan is big.

Third, the Sichuanese realize just how distinct and big and economically viable and remote they are from Beijing.

In the Chinese Civil War of the twentieth century, Sichuan was one of the last spots on the mainland to stand against Mao.

Move south of the Yangtze and the land changes again, edging into the subtropics and becoming incredibly rugged.

Hong Kong, the quintessential southern Chinese city, is the crowning example of how a separate economic life easily leads to a separate political destiny.

To the southeast are tangles of forested and jungle mountains.

Centralish China contains enormous empty stretches.

Beyond those vast swathes of nothing live ethnicities almost pathologically hostile to the Han — most notably the Tibetans on their namesake plateau , and the Uighurs of Xinjiang.

In times of Han weakness, the Tibetans and Uighurs are effectively independent.

What we think of as “China” is in reality less a political entity and more a culture that has a damned hard time keeping itself together.

Contemporary Chinese government — the Communist Party — expends so much effort on nationalist propaganda.

4.2. Agricultural Capacity

Anyone sufficiently arrogant to think the poor will simply starve in silence has a particularly weak grasp of not only biology, but history. Far more cultures and governments and dynasties and countries and empires have collapsed throughout history from famine and failures in food distribution than have been wiped out by war or disease or revolution or terrorism.

Food grows best on flatlands in temperate climates.

The American Midwest is the largest chunk of high-quality, temperate-zone, arable agriculture on the planet.

Without the American Order, a billion people are going to starve.

One downside of China’s massive population is that the country has less farmland per person than Saudi Arabia.

As China’s population urbanized under the Order, much of the country’s good-ish farmland was paved over.

In any sort of constrained import environment — such as problems in the explosion-heavy Middle East — the Chinese will have to choose what they will let go of. Electricity? Motor fuels? Fertilizers?

China is the world’s largest importer of rice, barley, dairy, beef, pork, fresh berries, and frozen fish by tonnage.

4.3. Demographic Structure

Young workers are the big consumers in society.

Mature workers are the big producers.

Upon retiring, mature workers shift from being massive suppliers of capital to massive consumers of state spending via pensions and health care.

The Koreans are hardly alone. The demographics are similar in nearly all the advanced countries, especially Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Japan (the farthest down this path, by far). In those places and more, demographic twilight before 2030 is both inevitable and imminent.

No mature workers means no capital. No young workers means no consumption. No children means no future.

The short list of First World states that managed to keep their birthrates higher: United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The countries whose Baby Boomer generation had kids, and so may face aging, but it will be a graceful process: France, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Mexico.

China has a demographic that is the worst of all possible worlds. By 2050, one-third of the Chinese population will be over 60.

Chinese population has an extra 41 million men under age forty who will never marry.

4.4. Energy Access

Only about 10 percent of the world’s population is lucky enough to live within a thousand miles of the wells and mines that provide them with their energy.

For the most part, the oil is not where the people are, and it is only the Order that has enabled the oil to reach the people.

Most of the major wars in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had an oil component to them.

Coal reserves remain throughout the former Soviet Union, Western Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Australia, and the Americas.

Americans have become a net exporter of crude oil, courtesy of their shale boom.

That still leaves several significant spots where wind and/or solar look fairly promising. The United States comes in a hard first.

Between the shale revolution increasing American energy output and the ongoing efficiency gains reducing American energy demand, the Americans are no longer the world’s top importer of crude oil. They haven’t been since 2014. That title now falls to China.

China’s primary pipe import source is Russia, a country that, since the Cold War’s end, has repeatedly interrupted shipments to consumers to achieve geopolitical goals.

Four-fifths of the world’s internationally traded crude oil is waterborne.

China — as the world’s largest importer of every energy product — has a vested interest in keeping Persian Gulf oil flowing. What it lacks is the capacity to guarantee its vulnerable import routes.

It was not the Chinese who created the environment that made all of contemporary China possible. That was the Americans.

There are parts of China that can be successful statelets: the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai, Sichuan — maybe even Tibet or Xinjiang.

The future of China is that of a people literally fighting to the death to continue to exist as a unified country.

14. The Misshape of Things to Come The Future of American Foreign Policy

This is the seventh reshuffling. Before the last reshuffling in the 1930s and 1940s, the Republican Party included African Americans while the Democrats were home to both the business community and the populists of the right.

Given time, the United States will settle into a new groove, adopting an outcomes-based foreign policy based on a mix of concerns strategic, economic, and moral.

14.1. Unwinding the Global War on Terror

Without the strategic distraction of the Middle East, the Americans will at a minimum put more effort into weapons systems that emphasize power projection over distance rather than those that help with manhunts.

14.2. The Order Hangover

After the Cold War, however, the allies are confused because Americans are confused.

Without an overarching goal, America’s priorities change not year by year, but often hour by hour.

14.3. Strategic Retrenchment

Americans aren’t just tired of global engagement; they’re confused by it. They don’t understand how everything fits together — because it doesn’t any longer.

The United States now has fewer troops stationed abroad than at any time since the Great Depression.

If the United States is going to do anything in the Middle East that involves real power, America must have a military footprint in the Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar, and so that’s where the United States maintains its military facilities.

Downsizing in the 1990s reduced the personnel roster of the American armed forces by over half, with the biggest drawdowns within the army.

14.4. Profits Without Borders

Few countries have both wealth and productivity. The marriage of a high-value-added workforce to a high-value commodity system generates scads of economic opportunity. The United States sits at the very top of this very short list.

American business community — in and of itself a thin slice of the American electorate — will largely determine what American interests are.

This fusion of corporate interests with otherwise listless American power is called dollar diplomacy.

The breakdown of East Asian manufacturing supply chains will spawn huge interest in the United States in re-forming those chains with more of an American emphasis. American businesspeople will be particularly interested in integrating with pieces of the old system that can be salvaged. That suggests a heavy American hand in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico in particular are likely to see an influx of American corporate interest.

14.5. Desperately Seeking Instability

Drone and Special Operations require only a single small footprint that doesn’t even need to be in-country.

The United States will begin to view disruption in and of itself as a tool, perhaps even a goal.

Targeted disruptions, even broad disruptions, make would-be trading nations strategically dependent upon American goodwill.

Chaos, war, and depression encourage capital flows to the American system.

Today most global trade is denominated in US dollars, and any significant global degradation will reduce the stability of nearly every currency to the point that nearly all future trade will be USD denominated.

Marry an American strategic, willing disregard for global security to a public that has become more comfortable with low-level, disavowable military activity to a military with global reach to a more mercantile approach to the world, and it is Anaki -falling-to-the-Dark-Side eeeeasy to envision a United States that seeks disruption rather than stability as both a tool and a desired end of foreign policy.

15. The United States The Distant Superpower

15.1 Group 1: Allies

United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Japan, a number of states in Africa, France

15.2. Group 2: Friendly Neighbors

Should benefit: Mexico, Argentina

Mixed: SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand

15.3. Group 3: Transactional Allies, It’s Complicated

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel

16. Present at the Destruction The Dawning of the Fourth Age

If I had to select a single word that will define the ongoing historical turning, it would be overwhelming.

Few recognize just how beneficial and transformative the global Order has been to the world writ large, much less their personal lives.

But in the Disorder the sense of achievements lost will be palpable. People will remember a degree of security and wealth that they will never be able to achieve on their own.

The Americans are not so much passing the torch as dropping it. It will start quite a few fires before someone picks it up.

For the four new regional powers — Turkey, Iran, Japan, and Argentina — allaying American concerns and courting American goodwill will be essential to long-term success.

For the short list of countries likely to remain in the Americans’ inner circle of allies, the whole situation is actually pretty good. For the short list of countries likely to seek American alliance as a hedge against the new crop of regional powers, life isn’t so clear-cut. For everyone else, waking the eagle is something to be avoided.

The “America First” of the hard right is reflexively hostile to the world. The “America First” of the hard left is reflexively hostile to American involvement in the world. The “America First” of the middle just finds the world exhausting.

In all three versions, however, Americans believe that the world is not their problem and that America’s military strength will keep the world from hurting them.

The Americans face more opportunities than challenges.


China’s Report Card: Only Russia has worse relations with its neighbors. When the Order ends, everything that has made China successful will end with it and no one will reach out with a helping hand.

Japan’s Report Card: The Japanese have the capital, navy, technological know-how, and geographic insulation to step into the space left by a retreating United States better than any other regional power.

Russia’s Report Card: Russia is an aging, insecure, former power determined to make a last stand before it is incapable of doing so. American disengagement from the global scene couldn’t have come at a better time, but the reactivation of Russia’s traditional local foes couldn’t have come at a worse one.

Germany’s Report Card: Few countries are more dependent on the American-led global Order. Germany’s best backup plan — the European Union — is already falling apart.

France’s Report Card: France is rarely number one, but it is almost always in the top five. When France’s neighbors struggle — as they are now — French power naturally rises.

Iran’s Report Card: The Iranians have won the Middle East in large part because of American security commitments there. Cast in the role of troublemaker for four decades, Iran has recently experienced mammoth success in disrupting its foes. Now that Iran has more or less won regional leadership, it is woefully ill prepared to protect its gains.

Saudi Arabia’s Report Card: The state of Saudi Arabia is first and foremost a medieval-style monarchy — a tyrant-king , multi-wife, family-murdering , crush-the-peasants, rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer, off-with-her-head monarchy. Power is concentrated wholly within the ruling family. Political dissent is routinely punished by torture and execution. Oil doesn’t simply make them rich; it makes them essential. Saudi Arabia wholly lacks the sort of geography that would provide them with any natural shielding from out-of-region powers. The Americans had no choice but to ally with one of the world’s least functional and most repressive regimes. Saudi Arabia is in the rare position of having the money, military equipment, and the will to position itself as a legitimate counterweight to Iran in a region long defined by American (mis) management.

Turkey’s Report Card: The Turks are about to come roaring back. Well-positioned locations that could also offer some semblance of security and shelter became crossroads. And Istanbul was the ultimate example of a secure crossroads. Remove the Order, and there is no longer an integrated system of global trade. Instead, the world devolves into a series of national and, in some lucky areas, regional systems. Turkey is among the few countries that have already adapted to the new reality. Turkey will always be smack dab in the middle of everything. It’s relationships with outside powers may wax and wane, but it will always be the economic and military heavyweight of its region.

Brazil’s Report Card: Brazil’s extreme geopolitical weaknesses comes from difficult transport combined with Brazil’s omnipresent tropics. Brazil owes its modern existence to globalization and the Order. Without the foreign capital to fuel its infrastructure and agricultural sector, without safe transport to send its beef and soy to customers around the world, Brazil will struggle to maintain its economy on its own.

Argentina’s Report Card: Once a political ideology more conducive to…sanity takes hold, Argentina has everything it needs to dominate its neighborhood.

United States Report Card

USA > BORDERS: Lakes, mountains, forests, deserts, and vast ocean moats surrounding the best agricultural lands and largest waterway network on the planet. Nowhere else on Earth does a territory have such a beneficial balance of good lands with great standoff distance. Americans spend little on territorial defense, freeing their military to project out.

USA > RESOURCES: Nearly two centuries of industrialization have heavily tapped out a continent of bounty, but new technological breakthroughs continue to surprise. The most recent surprise — the shale revolution — has made the country a net oil and natural gas exporter.

USA > DEMOGRAPHY: The American Baby Boomers — the country’s largest generation ever — are nearing mass retirement, generating a painful financial crunch. But American Boomers had kids. Lots of them. America’s Millennials may be a pain, but their numbers may just save us all.

USA > MILITARY MIGHT: The most powerful projection-based military in world history. With the Order ending, it has…nothing to do.

USA > ECONOMY: The American economy isn’t simply the world’s largest and most diversified economic system; it is the least dependent upon the outside world for its health. The world needs the American economy to survive, not vice versa.

USA > OUTLOOK: The Americans excel at missing opportunities due to domestic squabbling, but there is nothing in what’s left of the international system that will threaten the American heartland either militarily or economically before 2050

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

The Big Idea: If you wish to control others, you must control yourself first.

You can only fight the way you practice.
To know ten thousand things, know one well.
Know your enemy. Know his sword.
Get beyond love and grief. Exist for the good of man.
If you wish to control others, you must control yourself first.
Do nothing that is of no use.
Step by step, walk the thousand mile road.
Immature strategy is the cause of grief.
All things entail rising and falling. You must be able to discern this.
There is timing in everything.
Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
Examine your environment.
There is more than one path to the top of the mountain.
Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
A thousand days of training to develop. Ten thousands days of training to polish.

Money by Jacob Goldstein

The Big Idea: Money is made up. But as long as people believe in it, it’s as real as anything else. Money has evolved over time and will probably continue.

Money did not evolve from barter. The evolution of money, roughly: communal giving => informal credit systems => commodities and metal coins => paper IOUs => paper currency.

Writing was probably invented by accountants for accounting, similar to the programs for Chartered Accountants you can find online.

Metal coins evolved in ancient Greece, ancient Turkey, and ancient China.

Medieval Europe used gold and silver as money, although Marco Polo reported that paper currency was being used in China.

Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, created paper money in China, backed by nothing, centuries before it appeared in the west.

John Law, a professional gambler and convicted murderer, brought modern money to France (and destroyed the country’s economy).

According to a stocks broker, the modern stock market started in Amsterdam by the Dutch for trading ownership notes in the Dutch East India Company.

Fractional reserve banking started when goldsmiths issued notes for gold stored. They then started making loans without the gold to back the notes.

When people lose belief in the current form of money, the world gets very ugly very fast.

The gold standard was the root of the problem during the Depression. Going off the gold standard obviously didn’t end the Depression, but it was the essential turning point.

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” — FDR responding to loss of faith in the US dollar.

If you live in a country where the banks are unreliable, where your national currency is unreliable, you put $100 bills in your drawer. That is your savings.

Another thing pretty clearly people are doing with $100 bills is crime. There are more $100 bills in circulation than $1 bills.

Before the Federal Reserve, the United States had many different forms of currency, with variable levels of legitimacy.

Modern Monetary Theory, MMT, posits that the government should print money to accelerate the economy and tax the public to slow it down.

The cypherpunks, a group of radical libertarian computer programmers, paved the way for bitcoin. Bitcoin is currency with trust built into the currency.

Definition of money: it’s the thing you pay taxes with. Currency is given legitimacy purely because it’s the legal tender for paying taxes.

Government is so central to money in the modern world that it’s hard to imagine the government letting go of that power and allowing Bitcoin to become money.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

The Big Idea: Out of every hundred men on the battlefield, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters…and one is a warrior.

Only you can master your mind, live a bold life, and become that warrior.

“Do you know who you really are? I’m sure you think so, but just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. Denial is the ultimate comfort zone. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.”

I didn’t get there overnight, and I don’t expect you to either. Your job is to push past your normal stopping point.”

You are giving up instead of getting hard!

If you look into the Accountability Mirror and you see a fat person, don’t tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You’re f fat!! It’s okay. Just say you’re fat if you’re fat. The dirty mirror that you see every day is going to tell you the truth every time, so why are you still lying to yourself?

You will have to defeat your own demons before you can take your opponent’s soul.

The ticket to victory? It “often comes down to bringing your best when you feel your worst.”

We need to CONSTANTLY “callous our minds” to pain—doing what needs to get done whether we feel like it or not.

I put in work. It’s a lot more than mind over matter. It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering.

Over time, after thousands of reps, my palms built up thick callous as protection. The same principle works
when it comes to mindset. Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind. But it’s up to you.

Decide to be the HERO of your own story rather than the VICTIM.

The reason it’s important to push hardest when you want to quit is because it helps callous your mind.

Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber

The Big Idea: Avoid excessive debt. Protect debtors. The evolution of economies from barter to markets is a myth.

-It’s a myth that money evolved out of barter.
-Outsid of distrustful exchanges, primitive markets exchanged goods primarily using credit/debt.
-Money and violence are inextricably linked in history.
-Historically, there were often periodic debt cancellations across an entire economy.
-Coins were invented independently in Eastern Mediterranean, Andes, and China to facilitate taxation and create markets. The state would pay soldiers in coins. The soldiers would buy food from locals using coins. The state would extrat taxes from the locals payable only in coins.
-Philosophy and religion accompanied the growth of coinage. Religions arise largely as peace movements against the empires that are using coinage. Graeber calls this “the military-coinage-slavery complex.”
-Ancient coins are always found near the sites of ancient armies.
-In the Middle Ages, empires dissolved, the world’s religions took back on the coins into churches and monasteries, and the world went back to credit systems, using virtual money.
-Many of the free market principles Adam Smith writes about came from Medieval Islam.
-United States went off the gold standard in 1971. Credit cards and cashless transactions took off. Capital became financialized. Historically, systems of virtual money (like we have now) had mechanisms to protect debtors (eg. debt cancellations, anti-usury laws.) However, our modern systems (IMF, S&P) protect creditors against debtors.
-The position of the USD as the global reserve currency is contingent on US military power and the willingness of client states to purchase US govt bonds.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

The Big Idea: Do less but achieve more by focusing on the true essentials.

  • Most of what typical people do is non-essential.
  • Ignore what typical people do, because typical people tend to focus on being busy — not on doing the right things.
  • Treat your time has highly valuable.
  • If you value your time, then you can’t say yes to everything
  • 80/20 rule means some of your efforts yield most of your results.
  • Since we all have limited time, those high-yield efforts are the most essential ones.
  • Southwest became dominant because Herb Kelleher focused on the essentials and said no to non-essentials: destinations not on the map, meals, first-class.
  • If you don’t prioritize your time, others will do it for you.


  • Escape: create a time and a space where you can escape interruptions for deep work
  • Look: learn to find the signal in the noise
  • Play: play broadens your range and sparks innovation
  • Sleep: good sleep leads to good decisions, creative thinking, and high performance
  • Select: carefully choose what opportunities to explore; it’s either hell yeah or no
  • Clarify: know your intent; make decisions that eliminates other decisions
  • Dare: say no firmly/gracefully and people will respect you
  • Uncommit: don’t be afraid to cut your losses and change direction
  • Edit: cut out the nonessential to focus on the essential
  • Limit: create boundaries to create freedom (eg. checklists)
  • Buffer: give yourself a margin of error
  • Subtract: remove unnecessary obstacles
  • Progress: start small, keep it simple, build a system for long-term success
  • Flow: implement routines that makes execution effortless
  • Focus: All I do is WIN = What’s Important Now?
  • Be: Don’t do essentialism, be an essentialist

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Big Idea: Mindfulness is “the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Meditation practice means showing up consistently, not about achieving a specific state.

Samadhi is “onepointedness”. Meditation cultivates the ability to focus attention. Meditation trains and reshapes the mind.

Sitting meditation means to sit with dignity. Like a mountain.

Let your breath be your anchor during meditation.

For standing meditation, let a tree be your inspiration.

For lying meditation, let a lake be your inspiration.

Watch your thoughts without thinking them. Like you might look out through the window at the water drops while it rains outside.

Aim for 45 minutes of meditation daily, though every moment can be made mindful – if 45 minutes is too much.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

The Big Idea: The federal workforce is full of unsung, passionate people who run important federal programs.

The fifth risk = the risk you haven’t considered.

Presidents come and go, but the federal workforce persists.

Trump’s administration has been incredibly dismissive and antagonistic of these important federal workers

Example of important federal programs mentioned in the book: nutritional programs, coast guard rescues, National Weather Service, uranium security.

The federal workforce is aging quickly.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

The Big Idea: Europeans conquered the world because they existed in a temperate climate and in a long East-West axis connected to the Fertile Crescent and Asia. This geographic starting point led to a faster development of agriculture, which led to larger populations, which led to faster technological development and stronger militaries.

How did Europeans (and those of European ancestry) come to dominate every continent?

Environmental advantages led to more higher food production which led to technological and military advantages that allowed Europeans to colonize other continents.

Why is agriculture such an advantage?

Agriculture provides food surplus, which enables higher populations, more population density, development of writing, development of technology, stronger militaries, improved transportation and global exploration.

What factors lead to advanced levels of agriculture?

Temperate climate, wild plants suitable for domestication, wild animals suitable for domestication.

Why did Europe and Asia develop agriculture first?

They had more positive factors present (suitable climate, more domesticable plants and animals). Other regions had little or no animals that could be domesticated, occasionally because they were hunted to extinction during hunter-gatherer stages of development.

Why were Europe and Asian people immune to diseases that decimated people in other continents during first encounters and colonization?

European and Asians had many centuries in which to develop immunity to various diseases that originally came from the animals they had domesticated.

How did geographic orientation also favor Europeans and Asians?

A longer East-West axis in Europe/Asia (vs North-South axis in Africa and Americas) allowed greater exchange of plants and animals, more exchange of domesticated plants and animals, and more trade overall.

Why didn’t people from the Fertile Crescent dominate the world, even though they had the earliest agriculture?

Their advantage in agriculture decreased over time as land eroded and became less and less productive.

Why didn’t people from China dominate the world, even though they had the earliest agriculture?

Europe had enough division to encourage competition between nations that led to faster technological advance. China was politically unified and didn’t have the same competitive pressures to advance technology as quickly.

Unstoppable by David Hauser

The Big Idea: Adopt a low-carb, high-fat diet. Early to bed, early to rise. Move more throughout the day. Lift weights. Practice yoga. Limit social media. Meditate regularly. Prioritize experiences, friends, and family. Get healthy, start finding your answers to questions like how much does the bar weight at the gym?

Identify => Measure => Improve => Evolve
Identify (pick a new health habit to test) => Measure (how do you know if it works for you?) => Improve (decide whether it’s worth keeping or discarding) => Evolve (add it to your lifestyle)

We usually just accept what doctors tell us without pushing back, even if things seem wrong. A concierge doctor has very different incentives than most doctors. Functional doctors often serve as a solid foundation for building your medical dream team .

Avoid processed sugar, processed foods, refined carbs, fried foods, vegetable oils, legumes, traditional flour, farm-raised fish, GMO foods, cheap grains.

Eat whole foods, organic foods, healthy fats, unlimited vegetables, foods that are in season, fruits sparingly, nuts, avocados, healthy oils, almond/coconut flour, sea/Himalayan salt, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, olive oil on cold food, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, suet, avocado oil,

Drink coffee sparingly and avoid alcohol.

Do these two essential things: 1) prevent insulin resistance, the catalyst for Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease; and 2) dramatically reduce inflammation, which causes a host of ailments.

Lower your protein consumption and raise your fat consumption.

Intermittently fast, typically by skipping breakfast.

Finish eating at least three hours before bed.

Steam vegetables and other foods instead of microwaving them or boiling them.

Find and remove foods that cause allergic reactions.

Before you do any supplementation, get a baseline blood panel.

Get your D3 level tested.

Get more omega-3, perhaps through krill oil if you’re not getting enough through your diet.

It’s critically important to balance the amount of both omega-3s and omega-6s in our diet.

Prebiotics (chicory and fermented foods) are specialized plant fibers that help to grow healthy bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestion.

Improve your sleep and you waking hours will be much more productive.

Go to bed early (dusk) and get up early (dawn).

Track sleep with an Oura ring.

Avoid blue light before bed by removing the TV, getting blue-blocking glasses, or installing f.lux.

Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime.

Invest in a high-quality mattress and pillow.

Keep your bedroom as dark as possible.

If you snore a lot, you may have sleep apnea and might want to get a CPAP.

Focus on moving when you can throughout the day, instead of bursts of exercise.

Focus on diverse workouts that build your strength, and don’t obsess as much over doing endless amounts of cardio.

The important thing to target is your heart rate variability (HRV).

Participating in endurance sports can damage your body.

Invest in a standing desk, go on a walk, do a few push-ups after your conference call to get the blood flowing.

People have been getting massages for hundreds of thousands of years.

Take a cold shower.

Turn off fluorescent lights.

Take a walk. Whatever you do, never sit at your desk or remain inside for the entire day.

Put a process in place. If you’re struggling to optimize your productivity and haven’t read Getting Things Done by David Allen, stop what you’re doing and get yourself a copy now. This book is a classic for both productivity and process.

Learning to delegate is a skill that you can develop both intellectually and emotionally. Delegation freed me up to do more valuable work that was more in line with my primary skillset, and also positioned others to take more ownership of the company’s success.

Get an assistant or virtual assistant.

Stick to your routine and what works for you.

Keep it simple.

Turn off ALL notifications on your phone and computer.

The only thing that pops up on any of my devices are calendar notifications — necessary interruptions to remind me of meetings.

Put everything in your calendar.

I’d take an email over a phone call any day.

Yoga helped me to realize that mindfulness was the missing link in my life.

Build meditation into your routine, but don’t let it become something that you set out to “check off” your to-do list.

Practice regular box breathing.

Wim Hof, whom I referenced earlier, incorporates breathing exercises with cold exposure.

Practice Stoicism

Prioritize: experiences, friends, and family,

To give kids a break from electronics, try playing board games, making arts and crafts, building something new and interesting, or competing in a sport outside.

Cut out television, social media, and news, especially in the evenings.

Limit social media.

Consider another way to accomplish the tasks you don’t love to.

Remove negative and stressful people from your life.

Read, learn, and rejuvenate your mind.

Replace the background sounds of television and news with TED Talks and audio books.

The Precipice by Toby Ord

The Big Idea: The chance of an existential catastrophe in the hundred years is 1 in 6. Man-made risks far outweigh natural risks. We need global cooperation, continued work, and deep reflection to prevent the end of our species and reach our true potential.


Safeguarding humanity’s future is the defining challenge of our time.


Given everything I know, I put the existential risk this century at around one in six.


The world is just waking up to the importance of existential risk .

Management of existential risk is best done at the global level. But the absence of effective global institutions for doing so makes it extremely difficult.



The existential risk from asteroidal impact has been studied in great detail and shown to be vanishingly low. Astronomers have succeeded so well in tracking asteroids that it may be time to switch some of their attention to comets.


Supervolcanic eruptions have occurred in the past, but they are extremely difficult to predict. There is very little known about how to prevent or delay an impending supereruption. Even the largest eruptions would be very unlikely to lead to extinction or unrecoverable collapse.


Existential risk from a supernova is very small.

Another ice age would cause significant difficulties for humanity, but is effectively ruled out over the next thousand years.


We face about a thousand times more anthropogenic risk over the next century than natural risk.


The world’s major crops would fail, and billions could face starvation in a nuclear winter.


The most extreme climate possibility is known as a “runaway greenhouse effect,” where warming continues until the oceans have mostly boiled off.

The best I can say is that when accounting for all the uncertainties, we could plausibly end up with anywhere up to 13°C of warming by 2300.

Warming at such levels would be a global calamity of unprecedented scale. Major effects of climate change include reduced agricultural yields, sea level rises, water scarcity, increased tropical diseases, ocean acidification and the collapse of the Gulf Stream.

None of these threaten extinction or irrevocable collapse. Direct existential risk from climate change appears very small, but cannot yet be ruled out.


While possibly calamitous and painful, loss of biodiversity and resource scarcity don’t appear to pose any direct risk of destroying our potential.

However, nuclear war, climate change and environmental damage each probably pose an existential risk that is higher than that of all natural existential risks put together.



During the twentieth century, fifteen countries are known to have developed bioweapons programs.

Since biotechnology (CRISPR and gene drives) can be misused to lethal effect, democratization also means proliferation.

An escape of a pandemic pathogen is a matter of time.

Most of the remaining existential risk would come from the threat of permanent collapse: a pandemic severe enough to collapse civilization globally.


Asked when an AI system would be “able to accomplish every task better and more cheaply than human workers,” on average experts estimated a 50 percent chance of this happening by 2061 and a 10 percent chance of it happening as soon as 2025.

There is good reason to expect a sufficiently intelligent system to resist our attempts to shut it down.

AI may also help make our longterm future brighter than anything that could be achieved without it.

AI progress may come very suddenly: through unpredictable research breakthroughs, or by rapid scaling-up of the first intelligent systems.


Unrecoverable dystopia means a world with civilization intact, but locked into a terrible form.

Examples: a totalitarian state, environmental degradation, a world that completely renounces technological progress, a world ruled by a single fundamentalist religion.


Nanotechnology that allow small-scale production of new weapons of mass destruction.

Space exploration that results in back contamination of Earth.

Malevolent alien civilizations visiting Earth.

Radical scientific experiments with consequences we can’t predict.


Asteroid or comet impact within next 100 years: 1 in 1,000,000

Supervolcanic eruption within next 100 years: 1 in 10,000

Stellar explosion within next 100 years: 1 in 1,000,000,000

Nuclear war within next 100 years: 1 in 1,000

Climate change within next 100 years: 1 in 1,000

Other environmental damage within next 100 years: 1 in 1,000

Naturally arising pandemics within next 100 years: 1 in 10,000

Engineered pandemics within next 100 years: 1 in 30

Unaligned artificial intelligence within next 100 years: 1 in 10

Unforeseen anthropogenic risks within next 100 years: 1 in 30

Other anthropogenic risks within next 100 years: 1 in 50

I think the chance of an existential catastrophe striking humanity in the next hundred years is about one in six.


Spend the resources allocated to existential risk in such a way as to reduce total risk by the greatest amount.

Prioritize risks that will not have a warning shot, where little effort has already been made, and where we can reduce the risk the greatest.

Reduce risk indirectly by preventing wars, by promoting global cooperation, by building new institutions, by improving education.

Start early. Focus resources.


We can deliberately choose to have no catastrophes at all . — Isaac Asimov


  1. Reaching Existential Security: prevent fires
  2. The Long Reflection: decide what future we want for humanity
  3. Achieving Our Potential: perhaps includes space exploration and settlement


We can’t rely on our current intuitions. We cannot afford to fail even once.


Safeguarding humanity is a global public good. We need international coordination and everyone needs to share the costs.


Our technology has progressed faster than our collective wisdom. Our civilization needs to mature and grow wiser.


Help organizations working on existential risk, donate money to a cause, participate in public conversation about the future of humanity.



Human history so far has seen 200,000 years of Homo sapiens and 10,000 years of civilization .

On average, mammalian species last about one million years.

Within 100,000 years, the Earth should be almost fully recovered from the climate damage.

Eventually, our species will be succeeded by another species. Perhaps the evolution will involved deeply implanted technology.

Without the carbon dioxide from volcanoes, scientists estimate that in about 800 million years photosynthesis will become impossible in 97 percent of plants, causing an extreme mass extinction.

In 8 billion years our Sun itself will die.


The best reason to settle other planets in other solar systems is to achieve some additional protection from existential risks.

The biggest challenge will be surviving on Earth for the century or two until it becomes technologically feasible.

If we could travel just six light years at a time, then almost all the stars of our galaxy would be reachable .


Human life is on the whole much better today than ever before.

Human civilization has probed only a tiny fraction of what is possible.


It’s time to relfect on our future.

Imagine people 10,000 years ago, sowing their first seeds and reflecting upon what opportunities agriculture might enable.

The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

The Big Idea: A Black Swan is an outlier event with low probability and extreme impact. We act as if Black Swans do not exist, but, even though they are impossible to predict, they occur with regularity.

A black swan has three traits: it’s an outlier, it carries an extreme impact, it is explainable after the fact.

Forecasting the future, given knowledge of the past, is dangerous.

From the point of view of a turkey living on a turkey farm, Thanksgiving is a black swan.

Why are we vulnerable to black swans? The error of confirmation (billionaire drop outs), the narrative fallacy (anecdotal evidence, stories stick), history jumps not crawls, history distorts silent evidence (eg. survivorship bias), and tunneling (overreliance on math models instead of observation).

Mediocristan is a world of normal distribution. Extremistan is a world where Black Swans are possible. Most of our world is actually Extremistan (net worth), though we behave as if it’s mostly Mediocristan (height).

We should try to turn black swans (unknown unknowns) into grey swans (known unknowns) by developing humility, awareness, and resilience. To turn Black Swans into Grey Swans, consider the future to be based on Mandelbrotian Randomness.

Take advantage of positive Black Swans and reduce your exposure to negative Black Swans. For example, keep 85% of your worth in low risk assets like cash, unexposed to Black Swans and keep 15% of your assets in high-risk assets like early-stage startups.

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

The Big Idea: Success in poker and life comes from making good decisions while recognizing that luck is also a major factor.

There are two things that determine how our lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck.

Life is poker, not chess. Chess contains no hidden information and very little luck. Most of our decisions involve hidden information and a much greater influence of luck.

Poker players have to make multiple decisions with significant financial consequences in a compressed time frame.

Treating decisions as bets will improve decision-making.

Cognitive biases: hindsight bias, correlation vs causation, confirmation bias,

Many times, “I’m not sure” is simply a more accurate representation of the world.

An unwanted result doesn’t make our decision wrong. Sometimes, we were just unlucky.

Hiring an employee is a bet based on incomplete information. Betting on hiring the wrong person can have a huge cost.

Unfortunately, our default setting is to believe what we hear is true. In reality, you should believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

Research shows that instead of altering our beliefs to fit new information, we do the opposite. We alter our interpretation of that information to fit our beliefs. This is called motivated reasoning .

It turns out the smarter you are with numbers, the better you are at spinning those numbers to conform to and support your beliefs, so intelligent people might actually be more susceptible to motivated reasoning.

Instead, frame a belief like “I’m 80% sure that XYZ.” This way you don’t overcommit to a belief and you open the door for others to tell us what they know.

The way our lives turn out is the result of two things: skill and luck. We take credit for the good stuff and blame the bad stuff on luck. The challenge during learning is how to know when to credit skill and when to credit luck.

Give more credit to your peers, be more willing to admit mistakes, be more willing to explore possible reasons for an outcome.

Thinking in bets is easier if you have an accountability buddy. Other people can spot our errors better than we can.

It’s important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth and improve decision-making.

A predetermined loss limit acts as a check against irrationally chasing losses.

Create a “red team” to protect against confirmatory thought.

Expert opinions expressed as a bet are more accurate than expert opinions expressed through peer review.

Robert K . Merton created the CUDOS framework. Communism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, and Organized Skepticism.

Communism: communal sharing of data and information

Universalism: Don’t disparage or ignore an idea just because you don’t like who or where it came from.

Disinterestedness: Avoid conflict of interest. The best way to do this is to deconstruct decisions before an outcome is known. When presenting a decision, don’t bias the group with your opinion. Reward group members for skill in debating opposing points of view and finding merit in opposing positions.

Organized skepticism: real skeptics make arguments and friends. A productive decision group would do well to organize around skepticism. Eg. devil’s advocate, red teams.

CIA has red teams

Take some time to consider the decision from the perspective of our past and future.

Don’t blow the present moment out of proportion. Take a longer-term perspective on the decision at hand.

Overestimation of the impact of any individual moment on our overall happiness is the emotional equivalent of watching the ticker in the financial world. If you’re investing for the long-term, nothing can be gained by obsessing over the ticker.

Mental time travel is when you consider the present in the broader context of the past or the future.

If you’re up $100, your happiness will be framed depending on if you were down $1,000 or if you were up $1,000.

Avoid decisions when you’re in a highly emotional state. Better to take 10 deep breaths or sleep on it.

Odysseus was thinking about the future when he filled his sailors’ ears with beeswax to protect them from the Sirens. This forward-thinking has become known as a Ulysses contract.

Other examples of a Ulysses (Odysseus) contract: throwing out all your junk food, set up automatic transfers into a 401k.

Be aware of certain phrases that might signal that you might thinking irrationally:

  1. Signs of illusion of certainty or overconfidence: “I know,” “you’re wrong,” “there’s no way.”
  2. Signs of irrational outcome fielding: “I planned it perfectly,” complaining about bad luck
  3. Shooting the message because we don’t think much of the messenger, or accepting a message because of the messenger.
  4. Signs of zooming in too much on the present: “worst day ever.”
  5. Signs of accepting or rejecting information without evidence: “conventional wisdom,” “if you ask anybody.”
  6. Saying the word “wrong.”
  7. Signs of lack of self-compassion: “I should have known,” “how could I be so stupid?”
  8. Signs that you are biasing the group when presenting something for decision.

Reconnaissance is mapping out future scenarios. The reason why we do reconnaissance is because we are uncertain.

Perform reconnaissance using diverse viewpoints. Diverse viewpoints allow for the identification of a wider variety of scenarios deeper into the tree, and for better estimates of their probability.

Scouting various futures has numerous additional benefits.

First, scenario planning reminds us that the future is inherently uncertain.

Second, we are better prepared for how we are going to respond to different outcomes that might result from our initial decision. We can anticipate positive or negative developments and plan our strategy, rather than being reactive.

Third, anticipating the range of outcomes also keeps us from unproductive regret (or undeserved euphoria) when a particular future happens. We are less likely to fall prey to resulting or hindsight bias.

Backcasting is working backward from a positive future. We imagine ourselves looking back from the destination and figuring how we got there.

Our decision-making improves when we can more vividly imagine the future, free of the distortions of the present. By working backward from the goal, we plan our decision tree in more depth, because we start at the end.

Premortem is working backward from a negative future.

While we need to have positive goals, we are more likely to execute on those goals if we think about the negative futures.

Imagining both positive and negative futures helps us build a more realistic vision of the future, allowing us to plan and prepare for a wider variety of challenges.

Life, like poker, is one long game, and there are going to be a lot of losses, even after making the best possible bets. We are going to do better, and be happier, if we start by recognizing that we’ll never be sure of the future.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

The Big Idea: Humans are at risk for a number of cognitive biases that hamper our ability to think analytically and exhibit good judgement.


It is the overdramatic worldview that draws people to the most dramatic and negative answers to my fact questions. The overdramatic worldview is so difficult to shift because it comes from the very way our brains work.

Our quick-thinking brains and cravings for drama — our dramatic instincts — are causing misconceptions and an overdramatic worldview.

Factfulness, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, can and should become part of your daily life. Start to practice it, and you will be able to replace your overdramatic worldview with a worldview based on facts.


Do you know why I’m obsessed with the numbers for the child mortality rate? It’s not only that I care about children. This measure takes the temperature of a whole society.

You won’t find any countries where child mortality has increased. Because the world in general is getting better.

Most of us are stuck with a completely outdated idea about the rest of the world.

Today, most people are in the middle. There is no gap between the West and the rest, between developed and developing, between rich and poor.

To summarize: low-income countries are much more developed than most people think. And vastly fewer people live in them. The idea of a divided world with a majority stuck in misery and deprivation is an illusion.

Factfulness is recognizing when a story talks about a gap, and remembering that this paints a picture of two separate groups, with a gap in between. The reality is often not polarized at all. Usually the majority is right there in the middle, where the gap is supposed to be.

Beware comparisons of averages.

Beware comparisons of extremes.


I never trust data 100 percent, and you never should either. There is always some uncertainty.

And look at the last 20 years. Extreme poverty dropped faster than ever in world history.

There’s a dip in the global life expectancy curve in 1960 because 15 to 40 million people — nobody knows the exact number — starved to death that year in China, in what was probably the world’s largest ever man – made famine.

People are consistently more negative than the data says they should be.

There are three things going on here: the misremembering of the past; selective reporting by journalists and activists; and the feeling that as long as things are bad it’s heartless to say they are getting better.

Now girls have almost caught up: 90 percent of girls of primary school age attend school. For boys, the figure is 92 percent. There’s almost no difference.

Remember that the media and activists rely on drama to grab your attention. Remember that negative stories are more dramatic than neutral or positive ones.

Factfulness is recognizing when we get negative news, and remembering that information about bad events is much more likely to reach us.

To control the negativity instinct, expect bad news.

Good news is almost never reported. So news is almost always bad.

More bad news is sometimes due to better surveillance of suffering, not a worsening world.

Beware of rosy pasts.


The dramatic drop in babies per woman is expected to continue, as long as more people keep escaping extreme poverty, and more women get educated, and as access to contraceptives and sexual education keeps increasing.

The new balance is nice: the typical parents have two children, and neither of them dies.

The only proven method for curbing population growth is to eradicate extreme poverty and give people better lives, including education and contraceptives. Across the world, parents then have chosen for themselves to have fewer children.

The best way of controlling the instinct to always see straight lines — whether in relation to population growth or in other situations — is simply to remember that curves naturally come in lots of different shapes.

Factfulness is recognizing the assumption that a line will just continue straight, and remembering that such lines are rare in reality.

Don’t assume straight lines.


Critical thinking is always difficult, but it’s almost impossible when we are scared.

The media can’t waste time on stories that won’t pass our attention filters.

The media cannot resist tapping into our fear instinct.

The world has never been less violent and more safe.

330,000 child deaths from diarrhea.

Today, conflicts and fatalities from conflicts are at a record low.

March 11, 2011. Fukushima. Not one person has yet been reported as having died from radiation. It wasn’t radioactivity, but the fear of radioactivity, that killed them.

We have been left with a level of public fear of chemical contamination that almost resembles paranoia. It is called chemophobia.

In a devastating example of critical thinking gone bad, highly educated, deeply caring parents avoid vaccinations.

DDT is harmful but I have been unable to find numbers showing that it has directly killed anyone either. DDT should be used with great caution, but there are pros and cons.

Improvements in regulations have been driven not by death rates but by fear, and in some cases — Fukushima, DDT — small but scary chemical contaminations receive more news coverage than more harmful but less dramatic environmental deteriorations, such as the dying seabed and the urgent matter of overfishing.

Terrorism is one of the exceptions to the global trends discussed in chapter 2 on negativity. It is getting worse.

No matter how much I love Wikipedia, we still need serious researchers to maintain reliable data sets.

Since 2001, no terrorist has managed to kill a single individual by hijacking a commercial airline.

On US soil, 3,172 people died from terrorism over the last 20 years — an average of 159 a year. During those same years, alcohol contributed to the death of 1.4 million people in the United States — an average of 69,000 a year.

In the United States, the risk that your loved one will be killed by a drunk person is nearly 50 times higher than the risk he or she will be killed by a terrorist.

One week after September 11, 2001, according to Gallup, 51 percent of the US public felt worried that a family member would become a victim of terrorism. Fourteen years later, the figure was the same: 51 percent.

Fear can be useful, but only if it is directed at the right things. The fear instinct is a terrible guide for understanding the world.

Natural disasters ( 0.1 percent of all deaths ), plane crashes ( 0.001 percent ), murders ( 0.7 percent ), nuclear leaks ( 0 percent ), and terrorism ( 0.05 percent ). None of them kills more than 1 percent of the people who die each year, and still they get enormous media attention.

Factfulness is recognizing when frightening things get our attention, and remembering that these are not necessarily the most risky.

To control the fear instinct, calculate the risks.

The world seems scarier than it is because what you hear about it has been selected — by your own attention filter or by the media.

Risk = danger × exposure.

Make as few decisions as possible until the panic has subsided.


Organizing, supporting, and supervising basic community – based health care that could treat diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria before they became life – threatening would save many more lives than putting drips on terminally ill children in the hospital.

Paying too much attention to the individual visible victim rather than to the numbers can lead us to spend all our resources on a fraction of the problem, and therefore save many fewer lives.

The size instinct directs our limited attention and resources toward those individual instances or identifiable victims, those concrete things right in front of our eyes.

But almost all the increased child survival is achieved through preventive measures outside hospitals by local nurses, midwives, and well-educated parents.

So if you are investing money to improve health on Level 1 or 2, you should put it into primary schools, nurse education, and vaccinations. Big impressive-looking hospitals can wait. Additionally, consider investing in student housing Melbourne to support the growing educational needs in the area.

The wars with China had lasted, on and off, for 2,000 years. The French occupation had lasted 200 years. The “Resistance War Against America” took only 20 years. The sizes of the monuments put things in perfect proportion. It was only by comparing them that I could understand the relative insignificance of “the Vietnam War” to the people who now live in Vietnam.

In Sweden, a fatal bear attack is a once-in-a-century event. Meanwhile, a woman is killed by her partner every 30 days.

The news coverage for TB was at a rate of 0.1 article per death. Each swine flu death received 82,000 times more attention than each equally tragic death from TB.

By 2100 the new PIN code of the world will be 1-1-4-5. More than 80 percent of the world’s population will live in Africa and Asia.

By 2040, 60 percent of Level 4 consumers will live outside the West.

Whether measuring HIV, GDP, mobile phone sales, internet users, or CO2 emissions, a per capita measurement — i.e., a rate per person — will almost always be more meaningful.

Factfulness is recognizing when a lonely number seems impressive

Always look for comparisons. Ideally, divide by something.

80 / 20. 20% is likely more important than the 80% put together.

Look for rates per person when comparing between countries or regions.


Everyone automatically categorizes and generalizes all the time.

Misleading generalizations and stereotypes act as a kind of shorthand for the media, providing quick and easy ways to communicate.

The gap instinct divides the world into “us” and “them,” and the generalization instinct makes “us” think of “them” as all the same.

Almost everyone in the world is becoming a consumer. If you suffer from the misconception that most of the world is still too poor to buy anything at all, you risk missing out on the biggest economic opportunity in world history

The challenge is to realize which of our simple categories are misleading — like “developed” and “developing” countries — and replace them with better categories.

One of the best ways to do this is to travel.

Africa is a huge continent of 54 countries and 1 billion people. In Africa we find people living at every level of development.

It makes no sense to talk about “African countries” and “Africa’s problems.”

Be cautious about generalizing from Level 4 experiences to the rest of the world. Especially if it leads you to the conclusion that other people are idiots.

Sweeping generalizations can easily hide behind good intentions.

Factfulness is recognizing when a category is being used in an explanation, and remembering that categories can be misleading.

Avoid generalizing

Look for differences within groups. Especially when the groups are large, look for ways to split them into smaller, more precise categories.

Look for similarities across groups. If you find striking similarities between different groups, consider whether your categories are relevant.

Look for differences across groups.

Beware of “the majority.” The majority just means more than half. Ask whether it means 51 percent, 99 percent, or something in between.

Beware of vivid examples. Vivid images are easier to recall but they might be the exception rather than the rule.


He was having a hard time making his clients understand that the most profitable investments were no longer to be found in European capitals boasting medieval castles and cobbled streets, but in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa.

I said that the best places to invest right now were probably those African countries that had just seen decades of rapid improvements in education and child survival.

The destiny instinct is the idea that innate characteristics determine the destinies of people, countries, religions, or cultures. It’s the idea that things are as they are for ineluctable, inescapable reasons: they have always been this way and will never change.

Societies and cultures are not like rocks, unchanging and unchangeable. They move.

Five large African countries — Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Egypt — have life expectancies above the world average of 72 years. They are where Sweden was in 1970.

Thirty-five years ago, India was where Mozambique is today. It is fully possible that within 30 years Mozambique will transform itself, as India has done, into a country on Level 2 and a reliable trade partner. Mozambique has a long, beautiful coast on the Indian Ocean, the future center of global trade.

The same destiny instinct also seems to make us take continuing Western progress for granted,

Iran — home in the 1990s to the biggest condom factory in the world, and boasting a compulsory pre-marriage sex education course for both brides and grooms — has a highly educated population with excellent access to an advanced public health-care system.

Exaggerated claims that people from this religion or that religion have bigger families are one example of how people tend to claim that certain values or behaviors are culture-specific, unchanging and unchangeable. It’s just not true. Values change all the time.

Swedish culture changed.

Even changes that seem small and slow add up over time.

The annual increase was absolutely tiny, almost imperceptible. Today a stunning 15 percent of the Earth’s surface is protected, and the number is still climbing.

To control the destiny instinct, stay open to new data and be prepared to keep freshening up your knowledge.

If you are tempted to claim that values are unchanging, try comparing your own with those of your parents, or your grandparents.

Many Swedes think of the United States as having very conservative values. But look at how quickly attitudes to homosexuality have changed.

Some Americans think of Sweden as a socialist country, but values can change. A few decades ago Sweden carried out what might be the most drastic deregulation ever of a public school system

Factfulness is recognizing that many things (including people, countries, religions, and cultures) appear to be constant just because the change is happening slowly, and remembering that even small, slow changes gradually add up to big changes.

Slow change is still change.

Keep track of gradual improvements.

Update your knowledge. Some knowledge goes out of date quickly.

If you want to be reminded of how values have changed, think about your grandparents’ values and how they differ from yours.

Challenge the idea that today’s culture must also have been yesterday’s, and will also be tomorrow’s.


I have found two main reasons why people often focus on a single perspective when it comes to understanding the world. The obvious one is political ideology, and I will come to that later in this chapter. The other is professional.

When you have valuable expertise, you like to see it put to use. Sometimes an expert will look around for ways in which their hard-won knowledge and skills can be applicable beyond where it’s actually useful.

Though we absolutely need numbers to understand the world, we should be highly skeptical about conclusions derived purely from number crunching.

Medical professionals can become very single-minded about medicine, or even a particular kind of medicine.

Big Pharma companies have been dropping. Most of them are fixated on developing a new, revolutionary, life-prolonging medicine.

Experts in maternal mortality who understand the point about hammers and nails can see that the most valuable intervention for saving the lives of the poorest mothers is not training more local nurses to perform C-sections, or better treatment of severe bleeding or infections, but the availability of transport to the local hospital.

Similarly, educators know that it is often the availability of electricity rather than more textbooks or even more teachers in the classroom that has the most impact on learning.

But ideologues can become just as fixated as experts and activists on their one idea or one solution, with even more harmful outcomes.

And if I were to choose where to live, I would choose based not on ideology but on what a country delivers to its people.

The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, but 39 countries have longer life expectancies.

Instead of comparing themselves with extreme socialist regimes, US citizens should be asking why they cannot achieve the same levels of health, for the same cost, as other capitalist countries that have similar resources.

The communist system in Cuba is an example of the danger of getting hooked on a single perspective: the seemingly reasonable but actually bizarre idea that a central government can solve all its people’s problems.

The health-care system in the United States is also suffering from the single-perspective mind-set: the seemingly reasonable but actually bizarre idea that the market can solve all a nation’s problems.

I strongly believe that liberal democracy is the best way to run a country.

Of the ten countries with the fastest economic growth in 2016, nine of them score low on democracy.

Anyone who claims that democracy is a necessity for economic growth and health improvements will risk getting contradicted by reality.

There is no single indicator through which we can measure the progress of a nation. Reality is just more complicated than that.

Factfulness is recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles.

Get a toolbox, not a hammer.

Have people who disagree with you test your ideas and find their weaknesses.

Don’t claim expertise beyond your field: be humble about what you don’t know.

If your favorite idea is a hammer, look for colleagues with screwdrivers, wrenches, and tape measures. Be open to ideas from other fields.

The world cannot be understood without numbers, and it cannot be understood with numbers alone.

Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. History is full of visionaries who used simple utopian visions to justify terrible actions. Welcome complexity. Combine ideas. Compromise. Solve problems on a case-by-case basis.


The blame instinct is the instinct to find a clear, simple reason for why something bad has happened.

The blame instinct makes us exaggerate the importance of individuals or of particular groups.

This undermines our ability to solve the problem, or prevent it from happening again.

The blame instinct drives us to attribute more power and influence to individuals than they deserve, for bad or good. Political leaders and CEOs in particular often claim they are more powerful than they are. Eg. Mao’s policy. The pope.

We should look at the systems instead of looking for someone to blame when things go wrong.

The unsung heroes of global development: institutions and technology.

Resist the urge to blame the media for lying to you.

Resist blaming experts for focusing too much on their own interests

And it’s almost always more complicated than that. It’s almost always about multiple interacting causes — a system.

Factfulness is recognizing when a scapegoat is being used.

Resist finding a scapegoat.

Look for causes, not villains.

Look for systems, not heroes.


When we are afraid and under time pressure and thinking of worst-case scenarios, we tend to make really stupid decisions.

But now that we have eliminated most immediate dangers and are left with more complex and often more abstract problems, the urgency instinct can also lead us astray when it comes to our understanding the world around us.

Climate change is too important for that. It needs systematic analysis, thought-through decisions, incremental actions, and careful evaluation.

Demographic forecasts are amazingly accurate decades into the future because the systems involved — essentially, births and deaths — are quite simple.

But the future is always uncertain to some degree.

But those who care about climate change should stop scaring people with unlikely scenarios.

Let’s instead use that energy to solve the problem by taking action: action driven not by fear and urgency but by data and coolheaded analysis.

When you are called to action, sometimes the most useful action you can take is to improve the data.

Most concerning is the attempt to attract people to the cause by inventing the term “climate refugees.” My best understanding is that the link between climate change and migration is very, very weak.

Crying wolf too many times puts at risk the credibility and reputation of serious climate scientists and the entire movement.

When a problem seems urgent the first thing to do is not to cry wolf, but to organize the data.

Data was absolutely key. And because it will be key in the future too, when there is another outbreak somewhere, it is crucial to protect its credibility and the credibility of those who produce it.

The five that concern me most are the risks of global pandemic, financial collapse, world war, climate change, and extreme poverty.

Factfulness is recognizing when a decision feels urgent and remembering that it rarely

To control the urgency instinct, take small steps.

Take a breath.

It’s rarely now or never and it’s rarely either/or.

Insist on the data. If something is urgent and important, it should be measured.

Beware of fortune-tellers.

Be wary of drastic action. Ask what the side effects will be. Ask how the idea has been tested.


We should be teaching our children the basic up-to-date, fact-based framework — life on the four levels and in the four regions.

Most important of all, we should be teaching our children humility and curiosity.

Understand that the world market of the future will be growing primarily in Asia and Africa, not at home.

Factfulness Rules of Thumb

Gardening with Less Water by David Bainbridge

The Big Idea: Super-efficient irrigation techniques (ollas, clay pipes, terraces, check dams, swales) have been used for thousands of years.

Drip irrigation has helped most landscapers like King Green. Drip irrigation has helped increase water-use efficiency in gardens and farms, but drip systems are for the well-off.

The key to minimizing water use is to get water to the plant just as it is needed, with little or no loss to evaporation and runoff .You can also seek the help of U.S. Lawns Franchise to grow fruits and vegetables in your home garden as business and you can earn profit out of it.

Irrigation systems that automatically self-regulate, such as buried clay pots, porous capsules, porous clay pipes, and capillary wicks, are particularly efficient because the water flow rate varies with plant water demand.

Deep pipes can be best for trees and shrubs, buried clay pots may be best for spreading crops such as melons, and porous hoses may be best for row crops such as carrots.

Buried clay pot (also called pitcher or olla) irrigation is one of the most efficient systems known, thought to have originated in China thousands of years ago.

The olla should be buried up to the neck. A small lid or a rock can be placed over the opening.

Roots of older plants may grow thick around the pot, but in desert studies, this did not hurt long-term survival.

Clay pots must be porous, not glazed, and free of wax, paint, or other impervious coatings.

Snails and slugs are easy to manage with clay pot irrigation. They tend to collect at the pot / soil seam or crawl into the pot as it dries out and can easily be removed and fed to the ducks.

Buried clay pots are usually filled individually, but if you will be away often or don’t want to bother filling them by hand, they can be connected to a reservoir or water system.

Porous capsule irrigation is a modern adaptation of buried clay pot irrigation.

A plastic sports bottle makes a handy reservoir for a porous capsule.

Standard red clay garden terra-cotta pots and pot bases make good porous capsules when glued together.

Deep pipe irrigation uses a vertical pipe to move water into deeper soil where it is safe from evaporation.

I prefer 2-inch diameter PVC pipe or conduit because it’s easy to fill from a water jug.

Deep pipes work well for starting orchards and for planting cottonwood poles in riparian areas where very deep watering is needed.

Pipes can often be removed 1 or 2 years after the trees or shrubs are well established.

Converting an established shrub or tree from surface to deep pipe irrigation should be done gradually to enable a shift in root development.

Porous hose (ie soaker hose) lets water seep out through pores in a buried hose.

Porous hoses are typically made of recycled rubber, with the water release rate depending on pore size and water pressure.

For trees and shrubs, make a loop of porous hose around the plant.

Porous hose can be looped around trees to improve water distribution and root growth.

Give priority to the native plants from your region.

Choose varieties that are dryland adapted.

Replace your lawn.

Plant in blocks instead of rows.

Keep your soil healthy and uncompacted.

Check your soil’s drainage.

Use mulch.

Consider irrigating with greywater.

Ten inches of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof will provide about 6,000 gallons of water.

The lowest-cost tank is probably homemade with ferrocement.

One of the best learning experiences is watching and experimenting with various rainwater harvesting systems during rainstorms.

Cross-slope collection ditches or swales may be interspersed to collect excess water on the slope during severe storms.

Vertical mulching consists of placing straw, sticks, or brush upright in the soil to help move water deeper into the ground.

Check dams have been used for millennia to protect fields and help capture rainwater.

They also allow the sediment to drain, and are more likely to grow vegetation that can further stabilize the gully.

Terracing is one of the most common responses to erosion and runoff retention.

Many terraces in China have been used continuously for thousands of years.

Raised beds, developed for wet areas, are more widely known and promoted, but waffle-like sunken beds work better in dry lands.

Flip the Script by Oren Klaff

The Big Idea: Instead of studying hard sell techniques, a better approach is help the buyer discover for himself why he wants what you’re selling.

Get your audience to pay full attention to you and take you seriously, as they would a partner or colleague. Do this by achieving Status Alignment, the first step to making a deal.

No buyer of any kind is going to listen to you until they feel they’re in the right place at the right time with the right person. That’s why the Status Tip-Off is so powerful. When your buyer sees that you understand who they are, can speak their language, and are part of their in-group, they’ll immediately become receptive to what you have to say.

Once you’ve established your status and expertise, it’s time to explain your big idea to the buyer. Specifically, answer the three questions in the buyer’s mind: Why do I care? What’s in it for me? and Why you? The faster you answer these, and the less cognitive strain you place on the buyer, the better your chances are of closing the deal.

Flipping the script isn’t about changing yourself to give the buyer what they want; it’s about sticking to your guns. Stay consistent to your personality, your character, and, most importantly, your values. This is what the most compelling people in the world have that others don’t: character and values.

University of Berkshire Hathaway

The Big Idea: What you want in a business is an economic castle with a very wide moat and an honest, talented knight to handle marauders. Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful. Think different from the crowd. Think long-term when others are thinking short-term. When the tide goes out, you will see who has been swimming naked.


Pouring over Berkshire’s reports, reading Buffett’s annual letter, and listening to Buffett and Munger at the annual meeting have all been central to our growth as value investors.

He could use this captive permanent capital to invest long-term by buying businesses, in part or in whole.

He loves the insurance business which offers courier insurance london and also to other parts of the world. With its float characteristics, it creates a powerful platform for compounding wealth.

In 1972, Berkshire bought See’s Candy.

He loves the power of brands and the virtues of companies that don’t require a lot of capital to grow.

Those two pieces — the insurance company as a platform and high-quality brands as cash generators — built the base for the wealth-compounding machine that is Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett bought GEICO.

With billions in cash and fixed income securities, Berkshire is now a financial Fort Knox.

Berkshire continues to represent solid value, lower-than-average risk, and unparalleled quality. It is a superb company with better relative value than almost anything else in the U.S. stock market.

Berkshire has consistently outperformed the S&P 500 during negative years.

Buffett wanted to make sure that Nebraska got their sales tax. He was adamant about making sure that Berkshire paid — not more taxes than it had to, but the taxes that it was responsible for.

These newsletters form a conversation with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger spanning three decades.

great value investors, like Buffett and Munger, sleep like a baby — provided they follow simple timeless principles.


Numerous occasions arise where a business’ market price is distinctly out of line with its true business value.

Graham emphasizes a large margin of safety.

As long as politicians lack self-restraint, they will print a lot of money at some point.

Long–term bonds and other investments vulnerable to inflation should be avoided.

Buffett said he pays no attention to economic outlooks. His decisions are based simply on intrinsic business values.

There are thousands of wonderful small companies we can consider.


Outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community.

Be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.

“Anything that can’t go on forever will end.”

Significant inflation is inevitable due to our government’s quick-fix attitude.

“The availability of a printing press as a short-term band aid is very tempting. Inflation is a narcotic.”

Know Your Limitations / Be Humble

He’d rather be with a guy with an IQ of 130 who thinks it is 128 than a guy with an IQ of 190 who thinks it is 240.

Keynes said, “I would rather be vaguely right than precisely wrong.”

On the Ideal Business Buffett: “Something that costs a penny, sells for a dollar and is habit forming.”


“Printing money is too easy. I’d do it myself if I could.”

“Everyone talks about the big money made in real estate, but they forget to talk about the big money lost in real estate.”

Foreign Currencies Munger : “ It’s hard enough to understand the culture you’ve been raised in, much less someone else’s.”

What can we do then to mitigate the effects of inflation?

We’d buy great businesses with excellent management at a fair to bargain price and leave them alone.

Well-run businesses that employ relatively little capital, that throw off lots of cash and that have pricing flexibility will cope well with inflation.

Encyclopedias will be little changed 20 years from now.

“The fact that you are being obsoleted does not mean you should go into the successor business.”

Buffett and Munger steadfastly refused to get into a long discussion of macroeconomics.

Brilliant investors focus on finding good businesses at bargain prices within our resilient economy.

Buffett sees the trade deficit as a far more serious problem than the federal budget deficit.

Heartily recommended biographies as a way to “make friends among the eminent dead.”


In sum, the trade deficit amounts to the gradual giving away of the farm. As these claim checks are cashed, America gives up more and more of its productive assets.

In sum, the LBO junk bond game will go to an extreme and will stop only when it cannot be done anymore. At that time, “there will be blood in the streets.”

Intrinsic Business Value is present value of the net cash flows from here to eternity.

Buffett noted that if he and Munger get a value of X to 3X for an asset, then they attempt to buy it at 1 / 2X.

Munger flies coach.

An established brand name product is so valuable.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi have over 70 % of the soft drink market, and their market share grows each year.

The history of Wall Street has forever been one of boom and bust.

“If investors only had to study the past, the richest people would be librarians.”


“It is far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

Two basic themes in value investing: 1) buy assets and 2) buy earnings power.

What he wants are “idiot-proof” businesses.

“Business schools are good at keeping their eyes half shut.”


His appraisal of Coca-Cola is unequivocal: “the most valuable franchise in the world.”

Buffett has classified Berkshire’s holdings in Capital Cities / ABC, Coca-Cola, GEICO and the Washington Post as “permanent.”

Good economic characteristics, able and trustworthy management.

Financial disasters come about because stupid decisions in financial companies are not accompanied by immediate pain.

The secular trend for media is not good.

Certain areas of the media industry are quickly turning from marvelous businesses into mediocre ones.

“Do what you enjoy the most. Work for people you admire. You can’t miss if you do that.”

The documented record of how people have behaved over many years has far more predictive power than a personal interview.

They don’t hire fresh MBA graduates. There is no record of on-the-job performance.


Guinness receives the vast majority of its profits from overseas.

Liquor can be a status symbol and that Guinness’ products enjoy the rare and remarkable quality that the higher the price, the higher the perceived value.

He pays so little attention to macroeconomic factors.

Relate compensation directly to the performance of the business.

Large sums being paid for mediocre performance.

Professors are so enamored by modern portfolio theory.

The distinction between the growth and value styles of investing is nonsense.

Studying airlines teaches you about competition in a high fixed-cost business with a fungible commodity.

Book value simply records what was put into the business. The key to calculating value is determining what will come out of the business.

A corporation’s return on equity approximates its equity coupon.

Post-retirement medical benefits amount to a huge liability for corporate America that has been accruing for 20 years but is only now beginning to be reported on balance sheets.

There is a bias toward inflating the numbers in U.S. accounting.


Buffett continues to like world markets.

Guinness itself already earns money in many different currencies.

Berkshire seeks to keep things simple, “so the chairman can sit and read annual reports all day.”

Long-term government bond rate (plus a point or two if interest rates are low) is the appropriate discount rate for most assets.

They would have no edge if they tried to evaluate every horse. They have an edge only if they pick their spots.

Generics have been doing well, but not all brands are alike.

Gillette has a much larger moat around its business castle.

Coke has a worldwide infrastructure that is very impressive.

“The failure rate of all great civilizations is 100%.”

When asked for great investment books to read, Buffett cited The Intelligent Investor.

The real key to investment success is to have the right mindset.

Stay within your circle of competence.

Few humans have an edge if they try to follow 40 companies or more (such as yours truly). Eight or 10 in a lifetime, or even one, will get you your return.


“You don’t find out who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out.”

Parsimonious Munger reputedly flies coach. The back of the plane invariably arrives at the same time as the front

Two criteria for evaluating the performance of management: 1 ) How well do they run the business? and 2) How well do they treat the owners?

Identify and keep good managers. Keep it fun and interesting, compensate them fairly based on performance and to leave them alone.

Munger added that they are agnostic on macroeconomic factors. Instead, they spend all their time on individual businesses.

Buffett’s preference is to buy the entire company.

Buffett and Munger took their annual shot at debunking modern portfolio theory.

He would prefer a steeply progressive tax on consumption rather than on income.

It is judgment that has utility in measuring price and value. What is needed is not quick information, but good information.

You cannot let the market think for you.

Beware projections. “Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut.”


‘Listen to your customers’ as a business principle does not require a 300-page book.

Munger claimed projections do more harm than good.

“Something with a lousy past record and a bright future, that’s an opportunity we’re going to miss.

Buffett noted that newspapers still have exceptionally good economics.

The ideal business has a wide and long-lasting moat around a terrific castle with an honest lord.

The moat represents a barrier to competition and could be low production costs, a trademark, or an advantage of scale or technology.

Even with U.S. national debt at 60 % of GDP (versus 125 % of GDP at the end of World War II), Buffett does not think the national debt is a big worry.


Buffett explained the purpose of the “B” issuance was to head off the creation of unit trusts by brokerage firms.

Buffett spoke highly of Gates’ managerial talent and business focus. But, ever principled, Buffett said technology is just not something they want to bet on.

GEICO is an outstanding company with a low-cost distribution method and has widened its competitive moat by its focus on lowering costs.

Corporate stock buybacks add to shareholder value only if the purchases are made at prices below intrinsic business value.

One of Buffett’s tricks is that he keeps learning.

Buffett claimed that in 40 years, he has never gotten an idea from a Wall Street report.

Diversification makes no sense for someone who knows what they are doing.

Diversification is a protection against ignorance,

“Much of what is taught in corporate finance classes is twaddle.”

Soft drinks, candy, shaving, chewing gum — there’s not a whole lot of technology going into the art of the chew.

They love focused management.

Businesses should become more efficient, not less so.

He could not name one business ruined by downsizing, he could think of many ruined by bloat.

Buffett has long chastised the way stock options are handed out in boardrooms.

Munger said he preferred the old-fashioned way – have executives buy stock in the market.


Buffett referred to Coca-Cola and Gillette as “The Inevitables” due to their massive market dominance.

Buffett claimed there will never be another major soft drink company. Coke’s infrastructure is incredible.

The restaurant business is much tougher than the razor business. With food, people will switch with competitive pricing. Meanwhile, Gillette sees few customers changing their shaving habits to save a few dollars.

At 15% a year, stock returns are growing far faster than the economy itself. Sooner or later, something has to happen.

A company with a ton of debt could be a candidate for foreclosure.

With commodity businesses, unless you’re the low-cost producer, these are poor businesses to own.

Berkshire seeks low-risk businesses with sustainable competitive advantages and strong capital structures.

Volatility is a huge plus to real investors.

Berkshire has seldom invested in technology,

Aristotle’s observation that systems work better when perceived as fair.

Buffett said he looks for a manager who bats .400 and loves it.

Stick to those who take their promises seriously.

Go with businesses that are understandable with a sustainable edge.

Munger remarked that the accounting of options is weak, corrupt and contemptible.

Buffett said the real sin is mediocre management. That is what costs the shareholders money. It is almost impossible to overpay for good management.

Find people with brains, energy and integrity, and you can own the world.

Munger noted that Buffett is the most rational person he has ever known.

Buffett’s ability to learn has been essential to the success of Berkshire.

Buy only understandable, predictable businesses.

See’s Candy taught them the virtues of a franchise-type business.

It is essential to learn from both the mistakes of others as well as your own.

Patton: “It’s an honor to die for your country. Make sure the other guys get the honor.”

Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot just by looking.”



His focus has always been to find great businesses – with great management and great economics at a reasonable price.

With 4% – 5% GDP growth and 1% inflation, it is unlikely that corporate profits will grow faster than 5% – 6%. Otherwise, profits will eventually be greater than the GDP!

Buffett reiterated the importance of staying within one’s circle of competence.

Buffett believes GEICO’s direct model should grow more and more powerful.

Buffett sees that the Internet will have a huge impact on retailing.

Buffett believes Berkshire’s furniture stores, for one, will be little affected by the Internet.

Brand names will be important. Buffett doubts that people will go to brand “X” over the Internet.

It is tricky attempting to predict what changes in technology will do.

The greater the moat, the greater the certainty and the amount of future cash flows.

Peter Lynch has said, “Find a business any idiot could run because eventually one will.”

Buffett added that there is a big difference between identifying a growth industry and minting money.

Buffett contended that the average college student has the same standard of living as he does. Same food. No important difference in clothes, cars, TVs.

After you have enough for daily life, all that matters is your health and those you love. Likewise in work, what really matters is that you enjoy it and the people with which you work.


“If share of mind exists, the market will follow.”

American Express, which has maintained a very special position in people’s minds about financial integrity and worldwide acceptance.

“You are mixing a good concept, such as the Internet, with irrational excess. But if you mix raisins with turds, they are still turds.”

The single biggest outcome of the Internet has been little understood: buyers are the winners.

If someone else is getting rich, so what? Someone else will always be doing better.

Buffett suggests that expectations of a 6% annual return in stocks over the next 17 years would be rational.

We should all employ an interdisciplinary approach to solving human problems.

By learning the primary models in each major discipline (such as compound interest and probability in math and break-points and back-up systems in engineering) and applying all of them, he asserts that people will make better decisions.


Buffett concluded that stocks are a perfectly decent way to make 6% or 7% a year over the next 15 to 20 years. But anybody that expects to make 15% per year is living in a dream world.

Back in the 1970s, when the prospects for stocks were better, pension funds were using assumptions in the 6% range. Now, when prospects are way poorer, most pension funds have built-in assumptions of 9% or better.

Buffett said it will be interesting to watch how quickly assumptions change as pension shortfalls mount in the years to come.

Buffett explained that there will always be a battle between brands and retailers. The retailer would like his name to be a brand. And to the extent that people trust Costco or Wal-Mart as much as they trust the brands, then the value of the brand moves over to the retailer.

He went on to say that the muscle power of Sam’s Club and Costco has gotten very extreme.

Munger asserted, “It’s stupid the way we extrapolate the past. Not just stupid, massively stupid.”

It’s a mistake for any company to predict 15% growth.

Buffett advised younger attendees to start saving early.

Buffett asserted that the very best investment you can make is in yourself.

Buffett and Munger have repeated year after year that they seek to buy businesses with enduring competitive advantages.

A superior cost structure is often fundamental to a business’ sustainable advantage.

Understand a company’s costs and why it’s got a sustainable edge against its competitors.

Since airline travel is pretty much a commodity business, costs are the key factors.

Buffett anticipated that Berkshire might buy 40 companies, roughly two a year, over the next 20 years.


Buffett noted there is nothing wrong with earning 6% to 7% on your money.

We each receive one body and one mind for a lifetime. You cannot repair them at age 60. You must maintain them.

Crooks – normally, they tell you things too good to be true. They have a smell about them.

Enormously successful companies as Wal-Mart, GE and Microsoft never mention EBIDTA.

Depreciation not only reflects a real cost, but the worst kind of cost.

Berkshire vastly prefers businesses where you get the cash up front (like insurance).

Taxes are a real cost.

Buffett and Munger shared their disgust with the flagrant abuse of stock options in corporate America.

Enron is one of the most disgusting examples of a business culture gone wrong.

Dollar-cost-averaging into a broad-based index is a reasonable approach.

The Nikkei Index returns over the past 13 years have been negative.

It’s crazy for Americans to assume that what happened to Argentina and Japan won’t happen to us.

Buffett has frequently used his “waiting for the fat pitch” baseball analogy to describe Berkshire’s asset allocation approach.

At least two-thirds of acquisitions are duds.

Temperament is very important, especially a willingness to go away from the crowd.

Know why things are happening.


Buffett warned investors that management that refuses to expense options or has fanciful pension assumptions will likely take the low road on other matters as well. He cautioned, “There’s seldom one cockroach in the kitchen.”

“Everywhere you see ‘EBITDA’ in some analyst’s report, simply insert the words ‘bullshit earnings.’”

Inflation is the enemy of the investor.

Returns of 6% to 7% for equity investors seem a reasonable expectation and not bad in a low-inflation world.

The fail rate of all great civilizations is 100%.

One of the keys to a successful society is the perception of fairness.

One of the most remarkable qualities of his friend, Warren, is that he continues to get better with age and continues to keep learning.

Wall Street Journal and Fortune as favorite sources and included the usual corporate filings.

One thing Buffett said he never reads are analysts’ reports.

Success resided in waiting for the fat pitch.

Making money is no replacement for friendship and happiness.

They knew people with buildings named after them but had no one who loved them. That’s no way to live.


For inflation strategies, Buffett suggested, as a first line of defense, that one increase his / her earning power.

As a second strategy, Buffett recommended owning businesses that can price through inflation and have low capital expenditures to maintain the business.

The worst sorts of businesses to own in an inflationary environment are ones that require lots of capital to stay in the game and provide no real return.

It is virtually ironclad that most people will get only a small return after inflation and taxes.

Avoid having “a lot of silly needs in life.”

Managers can make a lot of money at Berkshire, but the bonuses are always related to performance.

For a good compensation agreement, he advised, you must understand the keys to the business and keep it simple.

A 50-year retrospective shows only a very few companies were able to grow at even 10% or better over that period.

While intelligence is helpful, Buffett and Munger asserted that having the proper temperament was far more critical.

One must read a lot to be wise.

Most get confused by the mass of information.

Successful investing requires not extraordinary intellect but extraordinary discipline.

“What we learn from history is that people do not learn from history.”

God made the world so only math can understand it.

Buffett asserted that his underlying premise is that business will do well in America.

With low probability events, he asserted that people underestimate them if they haven’t occurred for a while and overestimate them if they occurred recently.

Conduct yourself so that if there is a financial crunch, you’ll get through.

They don’t believe in a lot of leverage at Berkshire. Throughout history, it is leverage that wipes people out.

Buffett summed up with regard to financial calamities: (1) don’t let it wipe you out, and (2) be prepared to take advantage. Berkshire is so positioned.

The key has been having incentives in place to get the right employee behavior. And for that, you must think the business through.

Buffett noted that most people underestimate how important good habits are.

Munger added that it is critical to “avoid dumb stuff” like going to the race track, risking AIDS, experimenting with cocaine or getting into debt.


Poor Charlie’s Almanack

Buffett noted that he loves companies with untapped pricing power.

The U.S. is trading away $ 2 billion per day of her assets as we consume roughly 6% more than we produce. In time, our children will be paying “tribute” to foreign investors for our current over-consumption.

Buffett observed that if you take a centuries-long view, you will see that extraordinary things have happened.

Buffett added, “It’s Armageddon around here every day.”

Buffett shared that his number one concern was nuclear terrorism.

He also mentioned a website,

After the NCB problem, Buffett sees education as the nation’s largest problem.

He believes that a good school system is like virginity: it can be preserved but not restored.

Buffett observed that mortgage terms have gotten easier and easier as housing prices have gotten higher and higher.

CEOs with big egos making precise predictions are kidding investors, themselves or both.

Too many compensation systems incentivize the wrong things.

Many corporate managers are told to submit budgets and quarterly estimates. This leads to a short-term focus.

At Berkshire, managers do not submit budgets.

General Motors could be said to be owned by its retirees, with $90 billion in retirement benefit obligations compared to just $14 billion of equity for shareholders.

Buffett noted the best way to find great managers is to look at the record.

Munger noted that Berkshire does no asset allocation. They merely go where the opportunities are regardless of categories,

He stated his belief that a rich country should take care of the young and the old, so Social Security should not be taken below its current level.

He figured a logical way to handle future spending needs would be a consumption tax.

Munger declared that Social Security is one of the best things government has ever done.

Buffett thought to earn 6% to 7% in stocks over the long run would be a reasonable expectation.

Buffett stated that he is an enormous bull on the U.S. economy long term.


Buffett was especially taken by ISCAR CEO Eiton Wertheimer and his family-style culture, which was reflected in the fact that ISCAR was not put up for auction.

Buffett has been very patient sitting on the Berkshire cash horde through a period of very low short-term interest rates.

So it is envy, not greed, that is the dominant sin among investment bankers.

Buffett opined that envy is the least fun of the seven deadly sins because it leaves you feeling awful.

Munger emphasized that Berkshire does not train executives, it finds them.

Buffett asserted the real question for boards of directors to consider is, “To what extent do the managers think like owners?”

The key is knowing the edge of one’s circle of competence.

Buffett noted that, as a general rule, he ignores what is hot.

“How can you gain a significant competitive advantage?” With commodities, if you get too many producers, you’ll have poor returns.

Buffett informed the crowd that he sold his much-heralded silver position some time ago for a modest profit.

Costing around $45 per square foot, manufactured homes offer good value.

Munger sees the same sins that collapsed the manufactured housing industry five years ago resurfacing in the stick-built industry.

Buffett noted that loose lending has run amuck.

So media economics will continue to deteriorate as competition increases. For newspapers, TV and cable, the future will be less attractive than the past.

He called it a very high probability that the U.S. currency will weaken over the years given our current policies.

Buffett predicted currency markets will be a catalyst for some future decline.

The CPI understates inflation.

Buffett noted that often the best opportunities come in the midst of some convulsion. The key is to buy when others are paralyzed.

The key is to follow logic rather than emotion. Focus on what is important and knowable rather than on public opinion.

“Any calls you get on Sunday, you’re going to make money.” Those rare calls are the best since they are inevitably from seriously distressed sellers.

Munger noted that the chance of going 60 years with no nuclear events was close to zero.

Berkshire has the lowest turnover of any major company, and that is attributable to the owner attitude of Berkshire’s shareholders.


Buffett noted that he and Charlie have seen guys go broke or close to it because 99 of 100 of their decisions were good, but the 100th did them in.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. We’ll have something that rhymes.”

Buffett believes the dollar will likely decline against most major currencies over time unless current policies change in a major way.

He concluded that it is easy to get anchored in your own currency.

Buffett concluded that it will be at least a couple of years before real estate recovers.

It’s an enormously difficult thing to run a big company, so the greater sin is having the wrong person.

Buffett’s view is that the most important job of the board is to pick the right CEO.

The second most important job is to prevent the CEO from overreaching, which often happens in acquisitions.

Buffett noted that earnings at The Buffalo News are down 40% from the peak.

Similarly, the shift to the digital world has decimated World Book Encyclopedia, where unit sales have dropped from 300,000 to 22,000.

Buffett asserted that to a large extent, gambling is a tax on ignorance.

Buffett favors great businesses, which he defines as those having a high return on capital for a long period of time, where he thinks management will treat shareholders right.

He added that he has no system for estimating the correct value of all businesses.

Buffett has taught in past years that it is important to know the one or two key factors in each business you own.

Finally, Buffett stressed the importance of staying within one’s circle of competence.

Munger has often extolled Buffett’s relentless thirst for learning, calling him a “learning machine.”

Buffett agreed that he is big on reading everything in sight and recommended good investors should read everything they can.

Fill your mind with competing ideas, and see what makes sense to you.

In an interesting point, Buffett again noted that you need something in your programming so that you don’t lose a lot of money.

Buffett begs to differ, asserting volatility does not measure risk. Beta is nice and mathematical, but it’s wrong.

Buffett believes that real risk comes from the nature of certain kinds of businesses, by the simple economics of the business and from not knowing what you’re doing.

We have often recommended to our friends and clients George Clason’s classic, The Richest Man in Babylon,

So he decided he would sell himself the best hour of the day to improving his own mind, and the world could buy the rest of his time.


Buffett suggested reading his old standby, The Intelligent Investor.

Just as the priesthood of Biblical scholars would not have much to do if the masses simply followed the 10 Commandments, so do business school professors need something to teach and impress the students.

Buffett asks whether the manager loves the money or loves the business. If they love the business, they’ll be a good fit for Berkshire.

He suggests the “newspaper” standard: behave as if your actions will be on the front page of the local newspaper. Berkshire has no budgets or earning goals, which eliminates some of the perverse pressures that infect most other large companies.

Buffett warned years ago that the U.S. dollar was at risk with our ever-expanding trade deficit.

As a result, Buffett is happy to earn profits in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. That can happen through stock ownership (Coca-Cola earns 80 % of its profits overseas) or through the direct purchase of foreign companies.

Buffett noted how China is now unleashing its potential in a more open society. The talent was always there. It was just suppressed for so long.

Munger rued that elite schools teach that the secret of investment management is diversification. They have it backasswards he asserted. Non-diversification is the key.

The danger, according to Buffett, isn’t that we will run out of oil, as is sometimes heralded by the press, but that daily production will level out and then slowly decline over time.

Munger noted that it is stupid to use our limited supply of hydrocarbons as fast as we are.

Munger believed that we need to use the sun – there is no other alternative.

Buffett noted that this simplicity is a big advantage. Mars came to Berkshire because they knew no lawyers were needed. The folks at Mars knew that at Berkshire, a deal’s a deal, and the check will clear.

Buffett observed that big food companies are good businesses. They earn good returns on tangible assets. Good brands like See’s, Coke, Mars, Wrigley’s are tough to compete with.

Buffett noted that the size of a bank means little to him. What really counts is the culture. He wants a bank CEO who has risk controls in his DNA.

Buffett noted that one of the greatest risks to civilization continues to be nuclear proliferation.

Munger believes CEOs taking compensation have a moral duty not to take the last dollar. Like Supreme Court justices, they should choose to be underpaid.

Seriously, he noted the importance of a good mental attitude, to love what you do and to do it with other people who love what they do.

He also noted that getting the right spouse is essential.

Recommended that many could benefit by forcing themselves to learn public speaking at an early age.

Buffett suggested the best investment one can make is in oneself.

Buffett admitted that the focus has been on the mind at Berkshire. He and Charlie didn’t bother to work too hard on the body.

He strongly recommended Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, for the task. He also recommended Cialdini’s newest book, Yes,

Buffett reflected that he devoured books from an early age. He spends much of his day reading books, annual reports and newspapers.


Buffett and Munger were both complimentary of the government’s actions in the midst of crisis and are optimistic for the recovery of the banking system.

Wells Fargo has a fabulous business model. With Wachovia, it picked up the fourth largest deposit base in America.

Munger noted that a lot of spreadsheets and fancy math can lead to false precision and worse decisions.

In fact, he suggested, if you have a high IQ, keep your 120 and sell the rest. Higher math can lead you astray.

In valuing businesses, it is important to understand the language of accounting, to stay within your circle of competence, and to focus on what is meaningful and sustainable.

He went on to say that there is one big no brainer that would hugely improve U.S. industry and commerce, and that is to build a nationwide electricity grid.

Buffett noted that the Berkshire culture and business model are very difficult to copy.

They run the business without teams of lawyers and bankers. Management is decentralized and incentives are rational. The culture is constantly reinforced as the managers see that it works.

Our reputation is that we buy to keep, and people can trust us on that.

Buffett guaranteed that the dollar will buy less over time,

All major nations are electing to run major deficits in the face of the economic crisis.

The best protection against inflation, according to Buffett, is your own earning power.

The next best thing is to own wonderful businesses, especially those that have low capital requirements.

As for retail, Buffett sees a big change in consumer behavior going for the low-priced products, and he suspects it will last quite a long time.

Munger was very excited about Berkshire’s attempt to acquire 10% of BYD, a Chinese manufacturer.

Now, the company aims to take on the auto world from a standing start by building electric cars.

Lithium batteries are needed in every utility function.

For all its flaws, the capitalist system works, unleashing human potential.

He noted that mankind is getting close to solving the technical problem of our time – solar power. Cheap, clean, storable power will change the world.


He emphasized that there is no possibility of U.S. default – because it prints its own currency and can simply print more money.

Munger added that unfunded promises are miles bigger than the reported problem. It can work out as long as the economy grows. If growth stops, you have a very difficult problem.

We will have higher inflation in our future.

Buffett noted that the culture at Berkshire now is strongly self-reinforcing.

He added that it’s really tough to change an existing culture.

Buffett emphasized how important it is to form good financial habits early in life.

McDonald’s has been a great educator for the American workforce. It teaches folks to show up on time, do their work efficiently.

BYD will work out well as it solves significant world problems with its batteries and electric cars.

Stocks would be better than bonds or cash over the long run.

Munger was less sanguine, saying that equities were the best of a bad lot of opportunities and that he sees a long period of dull returns ahead.

Today, oil is not so essential.

Munger asserted that solar power is coming because it is so obviously needed.

Buffett repeated his old mantra that successful investing requires the right temperament – to be greedy when others are fearful.

Buffett suggested that most people would invest better with no daily stock quotations. Buy a good business, and hold it for a long, long time.

Buffett shared that there’s nothing like following your passion. That’s the common factor with all of Berkshire’s excellent managers – they love what they do.

Spend less than what you make. Know and stay within your circle of competence.

Keep learning over time. Don’t lose. Insist on a margin of safety.

Munger reminisced that the only business course he ever took was accounting.

The main problems of civilization are technical and solvable, all with energy, with huge benefits for civilization.

Maintain low expectations – that is the key to happiness.

Do what works and keep doing it. That’s the fundamental algorithm of life – REPEAT WHAT WORKS.


By separating the chairman and the CEO positions, Berkshire can more easily correct mistakes with CEOs that don’t work out. Fire one, hire another if need be.

Since 1776, America has been the most extraordinary economic story in the world.

Buffett predicted that in the next 100 years, we will have 15 to 20 lousy years and that we’ll be so far ahead.

“Europe had the Black Death where one – third of the population died. The world will go on.”

Buffett declared the best inflation hedge is a company with a wonderful product that requires little capital to grow.

Category 1 – Investments denominated in a currency.

Any currency investment is a bet on how government will behave.

Category 2 – Investments that don’t produce anything but you hope to sell at a higher price.

Gold, for example.

Category 3 – Investments in assets that produce something.

Munger added that gold is a peculiar investment in that it only works if everything goes to hell.

Buffett concluded that he will bet on good businesses to outperform gold.

Buffett shared his usual advice that the average investor would do fine to simply buy shares of an index fund over time.

The next 50 years will not be as good as the last 50 years for skilled investors.

He added that lowering expectations was how he got married – “My wife lowered her expectations.”

Munger added that one advantage of buying into cyclical industries is that many people don’t like them because the earnings are so unpredictable.

Munger felt it was a huge mistake not to learn more from the subprime mortgage debacle.

Finance attracts the same sort of people who are attracted to snake charming.

Those institutions that put society at risk and fail should leave the CEO and spouse dead broke.

Costco (the $ 80 billion membership warehouse club retailer) is the best in the world in its industry.

It’s a meritocracy that takes it as its extreme ethical duty to pass along savings to its customers,

Costco has the right ethics, diligence and management to continue its winning ways

Basically, at Berkshire, cash is always in Treasuries.


St. Augustine, “Everyone wants fiscal virtue but not quite yet.”

Buffett asserted that American banks are in far better position than European banks.

Munger noted that we have a full federal union, so we can print money. He’s comfortable with the U.S. system.

Greenspan was wrong with his laissez-faire policies. It is the duty of government to step on bad behavior.

Buffett noted that surprises like this are why Berkshire’s overriding principle is to reserve conservatively.

Buffett insists that Berkshire keep at least $20 billion in cash.

Buffett’s key to motivating Berkshire’s managers is giving them room to paint their own paintings.

He likes painting his own canvas and getting applause for doing well. So he seeks managers who are wired in the same way, giving them the paintbrushes and compensating them well for good performance.

Berkshire managers don’t have to talk to shareholders, lawyers, reporters, etc., so they can focus on their businesses.

Regarding compensation consultants, he suggested prostitution would be a step up for them.

Buffett asserted that The Intelligent Investor chapters 8 (Mr. Market) and 20 (Margin of Safety) give you all you need to know. Build into your system that stocks get mispriced.

In the next 20 years, Berkshire will be significantly overvalued and undervalued at different points.

He asserted that we would have been better off to keep oil and gas, the hydrocarbons that are the single most precious resource of the U.S., in the ground over the last 50 years.

“Energy independence is stupid. We want to conserve it and use the other fellow’s resources.”

Buffett and Munger took their annual shot at modern portfolio theory and the business schools that teach it.

Keep plenty in reserves, and go low on debt.

Railroads are an extremely efficient and environmentally friendly way to move goods.

It takes the railroad one gallon of diesel fuel to move one ton 500 miles. Trucks cost three times more. Railroads move 42% of all intercity traffic now, offering very powerful economics compared to the cost, congestion and emissions of moving by roads.

While the economics are not as good as they once were, newspapers still have a role to play.

Buffett suggested that investors stay away from businesses they don’t understand well.

You want to be able to have a decent idea of what the business will look like in 5 – 10 years, then wait for a crazy price.

Avoid new issues.

Use filters so that you don’t waste time on unproductive ideas. Avoid big losses.

Buffett noted their constant study of others’ disasters has helped them enormously.

Buffett took note of how Richard Branson’s Virgin Cola came and went, joking that a brand is a promise, but he’s not sure what the promise was with Branson’s product.

Buffett also declared that no one will ever build another railroad.

Munger noted that all it takes is one competitor to ruin a business.

With $48,000 in per capita GDP, America is a rich nation. However, far too much compensation has gone to the top executives over the last 20 years. The tax code has encouraged this trend.

Meanwhile, medical costs equal 17% of GDP, a seven-point disadvantage to the rest of the world. Medical costs are the tapeworm of American industry.

Munger opined that it is time for a value-added tax.


Well-run companies with winning business models are taking market share from the less well-run. Those companies with scale can more easily deal with the increasing regulation and complexity of modern society. We love the little guy, but the way to bet has been on the big. GEICO is getting big fast.

Low-cost providers usually win in commodity-type businesses.

“Well, obviously, we’re not going to copy the oddball things every competitor does when we’ve got an operation that’s working so well.”

Berkshire’s advantage is that they don’t have such pressures – “we just don’t give a damn.” Munger added that the Bible says things like, “You can’t covet your neighbor’s ass,” for a reason. Borrowing from past comments, he finished with, “Even worse, envy is the one sin that’s no fun.”

“Anything Wall Street can sell they will. You can count on that.” Munger added, “They’ll throw in a lot of big words, too.”

Buffett stressed that he and Charlie don’t pay any attention to macro forecasts.

Buffett acknowledged that as Berkshire gets bigger, it gets harder to move the needle, and returns, although satisfactory, will not be as good as in the past.

Berkshire’s success will also depend on opportunities provided by turbulent markets.

Buffett added that if you buy a great business for what appears to be a high price, it’s seldom a mistake.

Buffett declared that he thinks the dollar will be the world’s reserve currency for some decades to come.

Munger continued, “Well, if you stop to think about it, every great civilization of the past has passed the baton.”

Munger indicated that he is worried about inflation and that the next century will be harder.

Buffett continued, “Interest rates power everything in the economic universe.”

“Berkshire is the 800 number when there is a panic in the markets.”

Buffett pointed out that when the investment tide goes out, you will see who has been swimming naked.

Stay sane when others are crazy.

Treat subsidiaries as they would want to be treated.

You shouldn’t make important decisions when you’re tired.

They don’t waste energy on the ordinary things that come up every day.

Buffett asserted that health care costs are the biggest threat to American competitiveness.

He thinks the key to life is that the old virtues still work, like plugging along and staying rational.

Bill Gross recently made comments that his generation of investors owed a lot of their success to the timing of their birth.

Buffett said he envies the baby being born today in the United States. That’s the luckiest individual ever.

Munger confidently predicted that there will be more solar generation in deserts than on rooftops.

Overall, he thinks that U.S. banks are much stronger than they’ve been in 25 years.

He added that our banking system is far stronger than Europe’s.

He noted we will always have bubbles because it is the nature of capitalism to go to excess. That’s what humans do.

The important thing will be to preserve the culture and that picking the right CEO will be the key to that.

The wrong sort of person would be rejected like “foreign tissue.”

Munger continued, suggesting that if 50 years ago, someone would have said that Buffett would manage a huge firm like Berkshire from Omaha, Nebraska, with a tiny office staff, people would have said it could never work. But it has.


He clearly believes equities are the superior choice to bonds and cash at this time.

Buffett loves banks.

The Big Four get plenty of press: Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, American Express and IBM.

Buffett has modeled a rational, intelligent and sometimes inspired approach to capital allocation.

Berkshire has been on a buying spree of capital-heavy businesses, highlighted by his “Powerhouse Five”: MidAmerican Energy, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, ISCAR, Lubrizol and Marmon Group.

Being able to think and invest very long term and not worry about current earnings or Wall Street analysts can be a major competitive advantage.

Buffett said he prefers to keep the balance sheet super strong.

Berkshire has famously not paid dividends.


The lack of skill that many CEOs have at capital allocation is no small matter.

Intelligent capital allocation is the essence of sound wealth-building.

He quoted the Russian worker who said, “Everyone has a job, and it all works out. They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”

“Efficiency is required over time in capitalism.”

Interestingly, Buffett does not see any scale advantages to owning auto dealers. Most dealerships work on local considerations.

A key one is whether they have a good idea of how the business is going to do over the next five or 10 years.

Buffett wants people to run the business the same way after selling to Berkshire as they ran it before selling to Berkshire.

Munger sees IBM as “a very admirable enterprise bought at a reasonable price.”

Buffett asserted that Berkshire’s culture runs deep.

Culture comes from the top according to Buffett. The leader must be consistent, communicate well, and reward proper behavior and punish misbehavior.

Buffett countered that Coca-Cola has a very wide moat.

He predicted that 20 years from now more Coke will be consumed than today.

Buffett reiterated that a strong brand is really powerful, though you do have to build them and promote them.

Buffett noted that he would have never predicted five years of zero interest rates.

Fortunately for shareholders, macro predictions are not essential to the Berkshire process.

Renewable energy costs are becoming more competitive.

Buffett noted that all of his and his families’ net worth is in BRK.

One ratio that Buffett is known to track is the total market cap to GDP.

Another number that Buffett has mentioned is the ratio of corporate profits to GDP.


Berkshire has done it with no corporate budgets, no quarterly earnings projections — focusing instead on adding sustainable and growing earnings power.

This is a departure from the early years at Berkshire when they owned cheap stocks and easy-to-operate companies. Now, they’ve learned to find great managers, which creates an opening to own more complex businesses.

He noted that he learned early in life that his favorite employer was himself.

Amazon’s created a big advantage with its intense focus on developing millions of satisfied customers.

Adaptation to the Internet by the American public has been amazing.

Buffett likes peanut brittle and flavored drinks. People should be free to choose to do what they like.

Munger went even further by suggesting that if you disagree with someone, you should understand their side better than they do before you open your mouth.

Berkshire will continue to have a large appetite for renewable energy development.

The great danger is when there are discontinuities that cause the system to stop such as World War I, September 11, 2001.

Buffett noted that a major cyber, nuclear, or biological attack is a near certainty that will happen at some point.

Buffett reminded folks that to buy a stock is to buy part ownership of a business.

Munger added, while it’s difficult, to look for people you can trust in dealing with investments.

Buffett assured that American business will be fine over time. Don’t be envious. Follow your own course.

Buffett noted that monopoly and bureaucracy were widespread in higher education in America.

For too many schools, the purpose of the endowment is to make a bigger endowment.

In sum, you can skip the fees and get the performance of American industry by owning an S&P 500 Index fund.

Buffett noted that Berkshire selects board members with (1) business savvy, (2) shareholder orientation, and (3) special interest in Berkshire.

All Berkshire board members have bought stock in the open market. There are no stock options.

Buybacks above intrinsic value destroy value.

Cyber, nuclear, biochemical, and chemical attacks – it’s just a matter of time because a percentage of the population comprises psychotics, megalomaniacs, and religious fanatics.

He loves to know all the details of a business.

He noted that Warren’s gift is that he thinks ahead of the crowd. He thinks in such a clear way.

Buffett quoted Yogi Berra:“ You can see a lot just by observing. ”

Munger concurred, noting that the essence of it all is the quality of the business and the human quality of the management. Neither can be assured by “due diligence.”

Buffett suggested that all kinds of companies have people not doing much.

He concluded that a lean staff is always better.

Munger noted the importance of proper incentives. You get what you reward for.

GEICO uses just two variables that apply to its 20,000 employees’ laddered bonus program: (1) growth in policies in force and (2) profitability of seasoned business.


Focus on intrinsic value growth, not reported earnings.

Each business will have a couple of unique factors that are essential in evaluating its progress. Often, those unique factors are not immediately reflected in the reported earnings.

Another lesson is how Berkshire’s laser focus on long-term intrinsic value growth and comfort with lumpy earnings puts it at a major advantage compared to its publicly traded peers.

Under pressure from analysts, shareholders, and other constituencies, public companies are often driven to forgo the long-term, rational decision in favor of short-term gratification.

Buffett noted that driverless cars were a threat to both GEICO and the railroads.

These five companies (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft) require no equity capital to run them.

It’s a very different world.

Munger observed that what Amazon has done was very difficult and not at all obvious. Missing Google was worse.

Munger concluded that Jeff Bezos is a different species.

He praised Bogle for his lifelong championing of the idea of index funds.

Munger joked that a hedge fund manager was asked, “Why do you charge 2 and 20?” The manager replied, “Because I couldn’t get 3 and 30.”

Berkshire leans heavily on principles of behavior rather than loads of rules. He claimed that a culture that self-selects is better than a 1,000-page manual.

“Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose one shred of reputation for the firm and I will be ruthless.”

Although every situation is unique, in general, he loves a competitive advantage that can last for decades, talented and eager managers who fit the Berkshire culture, and of course, a good price.

He noted that life properly lived is learning, learning, learning all the time.

He summed up that what you want is an economic castle with a very wide moat and an honest, talented knight to handle marauders.

Buffett affirmed that Berkshire is built to last.

Berkshire’s culture is significantly more shareholder – oriented than that of the companies in the S&P 500.

Munger noted that, if things went to hell in a handbasket, Berkshire would do much better. While he doesn’t wish adversity on anyone, Berkshire benefits from times of chaos.

Farming, steel, retail — all these areas have always been getting more productive. America is a story of constantly finding better ways to do things.

While it wasn’t fun, it was pro-social for textile production to move where it could be more efficiently done.

With artificial intelligence, Buffett observed that more change will be coming. Almost certainly it will cause less employment in certain areas while being good for society overall.

He wrapped up the topic by opining that change will continue, but it won’t happen that quickly — so people don’t need to worry so much.

Buffett predicted that in the next 10 years, Berkshire will have significantly more money invested in utility systems

Buffett labeled medical costs the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness. The rest of the world spends 5% – 10% of GDP on healthcare, mostly with socialized medicine.

However, vested interests are hard to change. We are in love with our lifesaving technologies. The system is crazy, and the costs are wild.

How to Clear Land by James Starbuck

The Big Idea: use a backhoe to topple and then use forks on the backhoe to move into brush piles.

  • I know what you’re up to… you’re on a mission to reveal your land. You want to show it off by uncovering its natural attributes.
  • I don’t favor clear cutting – the practice of cutting all sizable plants from a tract of land.
  • I could hire, in my upstate New York hometown, a skilled chainsaw man for $15-$20 an hour. That’s only for his saw and labor. Using it, he can drop whatever’s in his way.
  • I found a skilled and honest young logger who owns a small log skidder who could saw anything, then use his skidder to cinch debris and pull it to anywhere on my land. He charged $45 an hour.
  • I haven’t used any tree surgeons in my land-clearing project. A tree surgeon (who is from Rich’s Tree Service, Inc offering tree services) is a good choice to get rid of one problem tree in the middle of your beautiful lawn.
  • My first mission was to begin to grasp the size and scope of my project. I traveled light with safety glasses, gloves, and a machete.
  • There’s a breed of brush mowers out that I bet could cut down sunflower stalks and sumac shoots pretty well.
  • Skidders: I’ll get skidders out of the way first, cause it didn’t take long to conclude a skidder wasn’t right for me. A skidder is a great tool. It bends in the middle for tight navigation. All its tires are equal size, so it’s very stable and can crawl over and around anything. They often have a small dozer blade in front for pushing and piling. The wire ropes and winch allows you to cinch onto quite a load of logs or debris piles and drag them a long distance in good time. However: A skidder can’t dig or grade. It doesn’t have the strength of hydraulic pistons. The operator has to get out of the machine to grab onto debris. If I can only have one machine, then a skidder isn’t the one that’s best for me.
  • Bulldozers: I was more serious about bulldozers. They’re very powerful. Dozers don’t get flat tires. They can grade, actually change the shape of the terrain, and not just scrape it. You can work stumps and boulders out. However: I gathered from talking to lots of people that bulldozers generate a lot of vibration and can gradually shake themselves into maintenance problems. Bulldozers are only doing work when they are in motion. Consequently, the machine is always working, unlike and excavator or backhoe, that set up and use other mechanics to do some of the work. Replacing undercarriages is expensive. I wasn’t going to be buying a new machine, no matter what type it was, and was therefore concerned about undercarriage wear. Bulldozers are not fast. I wanted to be able to remove debris at least 1000 feet or more to a stump dump. That’s a lot of additional running for a tracked machine. So again, if I can only have one machine, then a bulldozer isn’t the one that’s best for me.
  • Excavators: I thought a long time about excavators. I actually think I was close to going that route. They are very popular now, almost the hip thing to have. They come in all sizes. They are stable and have a light footprint on the ground (low ground pressure per square inch) because of the tracks. You don’t have to change seat positions to switch from moving the machine to digging. The reach is 360 degrees for fewer machine moves. Visibility is excellent and they don’t have stabilizers to deploy every time you move. The machines generally weigh less than comparable backhoes and are easier to transport. However: I still wasn’t going to be buying a new machine, so since they are tracked machines like bulldozers, I was still worried about undercarriage and track condition. Excavators are slow. I’d grow old waiting while dragging debris to the dumping area and waste the undercarriage if I did. When an excavator is fitted with a dozer blade, it’s small and not designed to deal with large brush piles. The blade is worthless. There’s no loader capability. I didn’t realize at the time how important it would be to have a front-end loader much as I like the features of an excavator, if I can only have one machine, then it’s not the one.
  • Backhoes: I backed my way into a backhoe. When I was a kid, I wanted a backhoe. Well into adulthood I said to people, “If you ever see me with a backhoe, you’ll know I’ve made it!” However, in the last few years, backhoes have started to feel like has-beens to me, overtaken by the new and fashionable excavator breed. All the extra turning of the seat and the raising and lowering of arms and buckets for stability now seemed unnecessary and clunky. It took awhile to see them again for what they are – an extremely versatile, all round, go fast, dig deep, lift high, load heavy, kind of machine that deserves a lot of respect. This was confirmed when I started asking excavator contractors I know, “What machine would you choose if you could only have one?” I think you know the answer. However: Backhoes can get stuck, get flat tires, you have to swivel the seat around all the time, you have to raise and lower the flaps, you have to move the machine a lot.
  • Regarding the type of machine I was looking for, I decided it was a backhoe.
  • Of all the miscellaneous tools and equipment I had gathered and was using, there were three absolutely indispensable tools I needed to pull off a big land clearing project. They are a backhoe, a pair of forks, and a front-end loader rake.
  • All the steps and techniques I used to transform a thickly overgrown and treed area into a cleared one, fell into six defined categories: Toppling, Plucking, Piling, Lifting, Moving, and Dumping.
  • I’d like to say how much fun I’ve had and satisfaction I’ve felt from the work associated with this project.

Friction by Roger Dooley

The Big Idea: always try to make things easier for customers.


Eliminating or reducing friction can have long-lasting and even disruptive effects.

Stamp out ridiculous rules, pointless procedures, and meaningless meetings.

Become a relentless advocate for the customer and minimize customer effort.

PROLOGUE: Engine of Disruption

The roads the Romans built were amazing feats of engineering and construction technology.

The level of logistical superiority demonstrated by the Romans gave them an enormous advantage in conquering and holding territory.

Sometimes, making things easy requires hard work.

CHAPTER 1 The Friction Evangelist

When you reduce friction, make something easy, people do more of it. — Jeff Bezos.

This focus on reducing friction is a key reason for Amazon’s emergence as the world’s biggest, fastest-growing retailer.

1-Click works because Amazon has implemented a host of friction reducing tactics, many of which have to do with security.

A key element of Amazon’s success is observing customer behavior and making changes to reduce effort and annoyance.

Amazon introduced “frustration-free packaging.”

The monetary value of abandoned shopping carts is not only more than double the amount of commerce sales, it’s bigger than the US budget deficit.

How does one get easier than a single click?

Amazon has offered subscriptions for products you buy on a regular basis.

Alexa eliminates most device friction by responding to and acting on voice commands.

Alibaba is reducing friction by combining every way the customer might want to both shop and obtain or consume their product in a single store / app concept.

CHAPTER 2 Retail Disruption — Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Montgomery Ward showed that making shopping easy could create explosive growth.

By the turn of the century, Sears’s revenue edged ahead of Montgomery Wards.

The remarkable efficiency achieved by Sears was attained without computers, robots, or, in the earlier years, even telephones.

In 1962, Sam Walton opened his first store in rural Arkansas.

Taking a page from the mail order giants that preceded it, Walmart built an impregnable base of rural stores first. Then, it used the high-volume cost advantage gained from these stores to begin moving closer to big cities.

Walmart itself is subject to disruption by e-commerce giants Amazon and Alibaba.

CHAPTER 3 Transportation Disruption

The development and proliferation of railroads was the first major reduction in transport friction of the century.

Then the automobile changed everything.

In 2010, after a short test in New York, UberCab launched its service in San Francisco.

Uber and its ride-sharing peers opened our eyes. Suddenly, when most of the taxi friction was removed, we could see it for what it was.

One of the best parts about driving for Uber and Lyft is how frictionless onboarding can be.

Uber and its ride-sharing peers wisely focused on customer experience first.

Uber and Lyft have tried to take friction out of every part of the driver experience, including easy onboarding of new drivers and nearly instant payment.

CarMax, meanwhile, continues to emphasize their low-friction experience. The headline describing their shopping experience reads “We Make It Easy.”

With much of their manufacturing infrastructure destroyed, Japan had no choice but to rebuild from scratch. This enabled them to leapfrog established rivals by using newer technology as they built more modern facilities.

Kaizen = continuous improvement.

Muda is the Japanese term for waste that encompasses wasted materials, effort, and time.

A key element in the Japanese approach to lean manufacturing is to make the work as easy as possible.

Waste, they were told, would lead to higher car prices and lower sales.

Just about every organization has its share of muda that, if eliminated, will make the work easier and let people get more done.

CHAPTER 4 Digital Disruption

Google’s dominance in search is unchallenged.

They are very good at producing the result.

They make it very, very easy to get that result.

Even in those early days, Google’s home page was nothing more than a search box surrounded by white space.

The combination of simplicity and accuracy drove Google’s dramatic growth.

Google’s relentless pursuit of minimum user effort to get the desired information has enabled it to retain its dominant position.

Can you anticipate your user’s or customer’s needs and offer time-saving choices?

Both Instagram and WhatsApp grew to a size where the network effect kicked in.

In Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal explained how products became habits by using the Hooked model, a circular series of four steps: 1. Trigger 2. Action 3. Reward 4. Investment.

The model works in a circular loop, with the user’s brain continuing to seek the rewards offered by the app. The more cycles the user goes through, the more using the app becomes a habit.

Unless users are highly motivated, even a little friction in the onboarding process can stop them in their tracks.

Dan Ariely says “free” is very appealing to our brains.

The freemium strategy has paid off for Evernote.

For some users, a credit card requirement is simply friction.

Across all social media platforms, Hootsuite emerged as the tool of choice for power users like social media managers.

Hootsuite avoids initial credit card friction and eliminates any risk for users in evaluating the product. Hootsuite’s early goal was to convert 5 percent of their users into paying customers.

One simplifying strategy used is to begin with smart defaults.

One firm sends out many handwritten notes to customers, often eliciting a surprised and pleased reaction from customers used to impersonal e-mails.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion, found that complimenting someone was one way to invoke liking, one of his seven (originally six) principles of influence.

In a software space where technology can often be intimidating, this kind of reassurance can keep users engaged.

Amazon appeals to our hunter-gatherer instinct to collect more stuff with minimum effort. Easy stuff is the best stuff, because it consumes less energy and gives you time to do other important things.

While competitors focus on delivering “more for less, much of the success of Apple, Amazon, and the others is based on “removing obstacles and time killers from our daily lives.”

CHAPTER 5 The Science of Friction

Decreasing friction increases action.

Henry Ford’s early cost advantage in the auto industry could be explained not just by its innovative assembly methods but also because the company made its own parts and even steel.

Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler showed people were more irrational.

Endowment effect predicts that you will value an item that you own more than the same item owned by someone else.

While scale and integration can indeed increase efficiency and reduce costs, it can also add complexity to an enterprise.

There are many frictions in the labor market.

As in other areas, the Internet has helped reduce friction in the employment market.

Beyond employment ads, Craigslist killed most newspaper revenue from other categories of classified ads as well.

Daniel Kahneman in 2002 and Richard Thaler in 2017.

Behavioral economists have shown that people don’t always behave in the rational, logical way that traditional economists and their models predict.

Friction is the mortal enemy of motivation.

High motivation can overcome friction.

Or, if you are selling a product, you can make your price lower than competitors’. But these alternatives are rarely better than making the action easier to accomplish.

The Law of Least Effort, sometimes called the Principle of Least Effort, says that given a choice, people will choose the option that requires the smallest amount of work.

The minimum friction option is usually to ask for one piece of information only — an e-mail address.

Adding friction in the form of a couple of qualifying questions will reduce the number of leads. But, the leads collected would be of higher quality and the action taken by the company could be more targeted and effective.

CHAPTER 6 Decision Friction

Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it but they’d prefer not to.

Too many choices can create friction.

Amazon uses a variety of techniques to combat paralysis of choice. First and foremost, its review system provides a powerful way for consumers to distinguish between apparently similar items.

Amazon guides customers by flagging products as “Amazon’s Choice” or “Bestseller.”

If you are going to offer customers many choices or options, reduce decision friction by guiding them to the best choices.

In the countries with extremely high donation rates, enrolling as an organ donor is friction-free.

The easiest way to avoid decision fatigue is to eliminate the decision completely.

Assuming a decision is necessary, whenever possible make your desired choice the default.

Making decisions requires mental effort and consumes scarce resources.

Any decision point, large or small, is friction. If you are hoping for the other person to take some action, eliminate any decisions that aren’t absolutely necessary. Where choices must be made, present a default if one option is the most commonly chosen.

CHAPTER 7 Customer Experience and Friction

Many marketing experts emphasize the importance of customer delight.

But, there are three problems with that advice: your story isn’t going to break the Internet, it doesn’t scale, delight doesn’t drive loyalty.

Reducing Friction tops delight.

It turns out that customer effort has a huge effect on what people say.

Is there anything more infuriating than being transferred from person to person in an organization and having to repeat your personal information or describe the problem each time ?

Delighting your customers occasionally is fine, but it shouldn’t be your primary strategy if you want to build loyalty. Instead, increase sales and loyalty by reducing customer effort. Resolve issues in a single contact, preferably with one person.

People often say they want more choice, but more choices make deciding difficult and increase post-purchase anxiety. The better approach is “prescriptive” selling. The salesperson reduces customer effort, a.k.a. friction, by guiding the customer through a specific solution that has been shown to work in similar situations.

Don’t overwhelm the customer with information.

Disney management realized that waiting in lines wasn’t a great customer experience, so they tried to mitigate the damage.

The key to a better Disney World experience wasn’t more “what.” Rather, Disney World needed to work on the “how” of the park experience. “If we changed how guests experienced the ’what,’ they could consume many more experiences, leave with higher guest satisfaction, higher intent to return, and ultimately have a higher perceived value for their overall vacation.”

The objective, Padgett says, was to eliminate friction at every touch point.

To achieve its goal of simplifying and enhancing guest experience, the MagicBand had to work everywhere in the park.

And, by shipping the bands to guests well in advance of their vacation, Disney adds still more value to the vacation. First, there’s the “unboxing” process that builds excitement.

Disney also worked to take the friction out of things like luggage transfers, hotel check-in, park entry, standing in long lines, and so on, can’t help but have a positive effect on post-trip happiness.

As pointed out by John Maeda in The Laws of Simplicity, there are two conditions: quantitatively fast (wait time is shorter) and qualitatively fast (wait time is more tolerable).

Finally, like Amazon’s 1-Click buy button, the MagicBand technology makes spending faster and easier.

By rethinking every element of every guest interaction, Disney reduced points of friction that were thought to be unimportant, inevitable, or someone else’s problem.

Removing friction will keep your customers loyal and your competitors off balance.

Many of the top reasons people cite for cruising involve friction reduction.

For those travelers who prefer to simplify both the planning and logistics of a vacation, cruises are an ideal choice.

According to Carnegie Mellon’s George Loewenstein , “sushi-style” pricing is the worst — when each small element of consumption is priced separately, it’s a more painful experience.

To greatly reduce not only transaction effort but to serve passengers better and anticipate their needs, Carnival is going all-in on technology.

Padgett and his team are introducing the OceanMedallion, a wearable (or pocketable) device.

Cruise ship guests do not crave great technology, he says; they desire great experiences.

“Guests don’t care about technology. Guests care about experiences.”

Can you use past behavior or what the visitor told you about themselves to deliver a lower friction and / or more personalized experience?

Despite Maeda’s complex set of interests, he is also an advocate of simplicity. His TED Talk on the topic has garnered more than a million views, and his book, The Laws of Simplicity, has become a classic.

Apple’s iPod — Minimum Friction, Maximum Simplicity.

The Shuffle’s simple interface, small form factor, and time-saving effect turned it into yet another hit for Apple.

Today, music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora let you access a vast selection of music without having to buy it or manage your collection.

Now, without lifting a finger, you can tell Alexa (or Siri or Google Assistant) what to play and it will happen.

CHAPTER 8 Technology Friction

Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.

A frictionless experience may be optimal from the user’s viewpoint but might not provide the best level of safety.

Whenever you change your website or launch a redesign, do a quick user test to see how people really behave.

One key factor for Whatsapp was how free of friction their process for onboarding new users was.

Sam Hulick, author of The Elements of User Onboarding,

Can you onboard a user or subscriber in two minutes?

CHAPTER 9 Friction Within Your Business

Internal friction — red tape, wasted effort, pointless meetings, and so much else — all combine to raise costs, reduce productivity, and slow progress to a crawl.

Issues like regulatory compliance, privacy protection, and data security have resulted in a proliferation of processes.

It’s clear that bureaucratic processes and out-of-control collaboration are behind the slow pace at many companies.

This resource is often squandered in attending pointless meetings, handling irrelevant e-mail, and following bureaucratic procedures.

Parkinson’s law states simply that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Parkinson argued the opposite: as more people are added, the work expands to fill their time.

  1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
  2. Officials make work for each other.

The Law of Triviality states that the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved.

In “In Search of Excellence,” Peters’s frustration with most corporations is palpable.

The importance of culture as a driver of growth and success is painfully obvious to Peters.

Have a passion for excellence, hate bureaucracy and all the nonsense that comes with it.

Jack Welch rejected the conventional wisdom of layered, hierarchical management. Welch wanted a more nimble, agile organization where accountability was clear. He wanted information to flow freely.

Small companies move faster. They know the penalties. Small companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills.

In your organization, there are probably rules, defined procedures, and customary ways of doing things. If these are hindering the performance of your people, or making them feel untrusted, don’t be afraid to deviate from them if it will make things better.

Rules and procedures are often put in place because of lack of trust. Sometimes, these are necessary — you probably don’t want your bank to open its vault and operate on the honor system. But often, the savings from these onerous processes are far smaller than the cost of wasted time and effort they engender. Look for places where a small increase in trust will result in a big decrease in friction.

It’s not uncommon for executives to spend half their time in meetings.

High-performing organizations use meetings sparingly.

Ease of scheduling is a mixed blessing — one person organizing a meeting can, with a few clicks, commit a larger much larger number of people to wasting an hour of their time.

Productivity experts recommend that individuals schedule blocks of “focus” time to prevent others from committing that time to meetings.

When scheduling meetings is easy, people schedule more meetings.

Some businesses are ensuring at least one day of uninterrupted deep work.

If meetings are the biggest waste of time in many organizations, e – mail is a close second.

This ease of creating and distributing e-mail resulted in an explosion in the total amount of communication.

E-mail is an indispensable tool in today’s organizations, but it has also become a burden on individual productivity.

Managers should model good e-mail etiquette.

Internal Revenue Service guidelines generally don’t require receipts for business travel expenses like meals unless they exceed $75. But, my new employer said every expense needed a receipt.

All too often, this is how organizations deal with time-consuming activities. Instead of questioning whether the activity could be eliminated completely, they look for ways to save time in performing the activity.

If your people are spending time on processes that aren’t absolutely necessary, don’t try to automate the processes, just eliminate them.

In her book Why Simple Wins, author and consultant Lisa Bodell does a deep dive into organizational complexity and why simplicity is better. She offers many techniques to reduce complexity, and one of my favorites is an exercise she calls “Kill a Stupid Rule.”

CHAPTER 10 A World of Friction

Regions and entire nations can trace success or failure to elements of friction.

Around the globe millions of individuals are confounded daily by bureaucratic rules and regulations that make no sense. Laws remain on the books for decades, even as new and conflicting laws are layered on top of them.

When you are confronted with a sea of red tape, sometimes the only way you can reduce friction is by getting help from a person or company who knows the system and the people who run it.

When friction is institutionalized within a nation, the effects can be devastating and long-lasting.

The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer people become. The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.

There are many reasons for India’s slower pace of economic growth compared to China, but bureaucratic stifling of business activity is one.

CHAPTER 11 Bureaucrats and Red Tape Warriors

The worst attributes of bureaucracy should much more often be treated like the cancers they so much resemble.

Yinchuan is a textbook example of how eliminating pointless paperwork, collapsing layers of approvals, and streamlining processes can save money and, at the same time, unleash creativity and increase desirable outcomes.

In 1925, US laws fit into a single, albeit far from skinny, book. Today, it seems, nobody really knows how many laws there are nor how much space they take up. The tax code alone has been said to run 70,000 pages.

Businesses in New York City don’t love the bureaucrats they have to deal with.

Zuurmond and de Jong published a case study comparing the time to open a restaurant in the two countries. In Belgium, obtaining the necessary approvals took just three days. In Holland, it was an amazing two years.

The World Bank considers the ease of starting a business to be a key indicator of the health of a nation’s economy.

CHAPTER 12 Taxes and Beyond

Any tax is a discouragement.

Fees and taxes are a perfect friction tool.

The other way legislators employ tax policy as a tool to change behavior is to reduce taxes on activities they want to encourage.

Distrust inevitably leads to more friction. If you don’t trust somebody, you will create more detailed contracts.

A higher trust environment changed the entire ecosystem in Silicon Valley.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a vertically integrated business, historically they have proven to be less flexible and slower to adapt to changes.

CHAPTER 13 Habits and Productivity

Don’t focus your motivation on doing Behavior X. Instead, focus on making Behavior X easier to do.

Fogg’s Behavior Model has been the basis for any number of high-growth programs and services.

The model says you need three things to get someone to do something: motivation, ability, and a prompt.

When he teaches his Behavior Model, Fogg emphasizes a key point: it is almost always easier (and less expensive) to increase ability than motivation.

Fogg’s years of behavior design research show that you can change behavior or cause an action by increasing motivation and/or reducing friction. In business and other contexts, it’s usually easier and less expensive to start by reducing friction.

One of the practical outcomes from Fogg’s extensive study of behavior change is his “Tiny Habits” method.

Habit stacking suggests combining multiple habits in a chain builds a stronger overall habit and is a great way to introduce a new habit on top of existing habits.

Markman has written more than 125 scholarly articles and is the author of multiple books, including Smart Thinking and Smart Change.

Markman calls this the “Netflix effect.”

They were making future decisions based on “should” but in-the-moment decisions based on “want.”

Make it easy for people to take desired actions.

Adding difficulty reduces undesirable behaviors.

He’s also the author of the excellent book Atomic Habits.

James Clear identifies Four Laws of Behavior Change. To create a habit, he says, one must: Cue — The 1st Law: Make it obvious. Craving — The 2nd Law: Make it attractive. Response — The 3rd Law: Make it easy. Reward — The 4th Law: Make it satisfying.

To reduce a behavior, he alters the list: Cue — The 1st Law: Make it invisible. Craving — The 2nd Law: Make it unattractive. Response — The 3rd Law: Make it difficult. Reward — The 4th Law: Make it unsatisfying.

CHAPTER 14 Friction Design

The effect of distance on food consumption is so well documented that it has its own name — “the proximity effect.”

Google consistently ranks as one of the best places to work, and part of its appeal to employees is the constant availability of free food and drinks.

Digital designers are usually far more interested in reducing friction than increasing it.

Friction is well known to conversion experts like Massey. Testing almost always shows that reducing friction increases the conversion rate.

As illogical as it seems, the version with the difficult form produced the most phone leads of any variation. Massey has since employed this with other clients who find telephone leads more valuable.

Friction contrast – if you employ a freemium model and the free product is so good that nobody would need to upgrade to a paid version, adding friction is one way to help convert users from free to paid.

CHAPTER 15 Nonprofit Friction

The high-friction aspect of the University of Chicago’s application may have caused it to have far fewer applicants, but it offered benefits, too.

Know your customer and their pain points to take the friction out of your own processes.

CHAPTER 16 Friction Everywhere

Tom Tullis encountered one of these installations and was inspired to deliver a presentation titled “You shouldn’t have to read a user manual to ride an elevator!”

To avoid confusing people and slowing them down, don’t tinker with the way they are accustomed to doing things.

I never thought about writing as a source of friction until I read Josh Bernoff’s excellent book Writing Without Bullshit.

Bernoff’s cardinal rule is that writers should treat the reader’s time as more valuable than their own.

Press releases are great examples of high-friction writing.

Write short.

Put the important stuff first.

Don’t use the passive voice.

Don’t use jargon.

Don’t use weasel words.

Bernoff’s book Writing Without Bullshit has many more ways to eliminate communication friction.

Make your copy so easy to read and so compelling that the reader can’t stop. This means using fewer words and simple phrasing.

Zak is the world’s leading expert on oxytocin, a hormone and neurotransmitter colloquially known as the “hug drug.”

People in the high-performing firms trusted each other more.

In his book Trust Factor, Zak identifies eight practices that high-performing companies engage in to create trust.

Nothing says “we don’t trust you” like rules and procedures that assume people aren’t honest.

Amazon often reduces friction by refunding customers as soon as they drop off a product return at UPS or an Amazon Locker.

When things are hard for our brains to process — fine print, fancy fonts, hard-to-say names — they seem more difficult or more dangerous. People will be less likely to follow instructions or make decisions.

CONCLUSION Go Forth and Find Friction

Everyone may know about friction, but in too many cases they aren’t doing anything about it.

Bill Gates included a chapter in his 1995 book The Road Ahead, titled “Friction-Free Capitalism.”

Eventually, low-friction solutions will win. But, in the meantime, we can expect incumbent players to resist progress rather than adapting their business model to minimize customer friction.

When you see friction, fight it. If you can fix it yourself, do it. If someone else can, ask that person to do it. Don’t organize large meetings, send out mass e-mails, or be a jerk.

Nobody likes wasted time and effort. Nobody enjoys pointless meetings. Everybody hates burdensome red tape. The more you point out friction to the people around you, the more they will see themselves.

The Storm Before The Calm by George Friedman

The Big Idea: Tumultuous times in the 2020’s will clear the way for calmer times beginning in the 2030s.

The kind of mutual rage and division we see in America today is trivial compared with other times in U.S. history.

The American president has little power compared with European prime ministers.

At the moment, a series of deep structural changes are taking place in the United States.

The economic system is undergoing a fundamental shift driven partly by an excess of money and limited opportunity for investment.

Results in a massive decline in productivity growth.

The glue that was holding American society together has weakened and will continue to decline throughout the 2020s.

This is not the first time this has happened.

There are two major cycles in American history according by archeologist near me.

One is the “institutional cycle,” which has transpired approximately every eighty years.

The second major cycle is the “socioeconomic,” which has occurred approximately every fifty years.

The 2020s will be one of the more difficult periods in American history.

Each of these American socioeconomic cycles ended in a period of confidence and prosperity.

I am predicting an intensely difficult period of time between now and when the next phase of American history begins in the early 2030s — and the period of confidence and prosperity that will follow it.

The white industrial class believed that both the technocracy and the federal government had turned against them, their economic problems, and their cultural values and ideology.

Donald Trump promised to make America great again. This made no sense to the rest of the party or to the technocracy, both of whom believed that America not only had retained its greatness but was enhancing it.

Trump does not represent the transition to the new era. He is instead the first tremor who appeared decisive to his supporters and frightening to his opponents.

The most important fact to bear in mind is that the United States was an invented nation; it didn’t evolve naturally from a finite group of people over thousands of years in one indigenous region, as did, for example, China or Russia.

The regime, the people, and the land combine to give the nation agility most other nations lack.

America actually refuels itself from the crises, re-forming itself with a remarkable agility.

In the fourth institutional cycle as I see it the technocratic approach will be dramatically modified to permit the intent of government to be rationally administered by each level, similar to a military commander’s intent.

Universities will have to cut extravagant costs.

The core problem of the next sociopolitical cycle will be demographic.

Therefore, the need is for a massive revolution in biological research applied to medical care.

Second, a health-care system must be created that does not follow the current federal model of ultra-centralization and ultra-complexity.

Therefore, the traditional family will be redefined. The hunger for companionship is still there and asserting itself constantly.

In this, there will inevitably be a return to the past. Or more precisely, moving the computer into its limited place re-creates the past.

The tax on higher incomes will surge at the beginning of the sixth cycle. Just as tax cuts drove the microchip economy, so they will, in the 2050s, drive the transformation of medical care.

The children of what are called millennials will be the ones who revolt against the previous generations’ rootlessness. They will be the ones who find computers and the Internet old-fashioned and creating powerful family ties modern.

Imperial wars exhaust the homeland. A mature national strategy minimizes conflict.

The new technology that will exist will be one that extends healthy life expectancy.

The United States is becoming more mature by the nature of demographics.

Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt

The Big Idea: You don’t have to be racist to behave with subconscious racial bias.


  • This book is an examination of implicit bias.
  • Implicit bias is not a new way of calling someone a racist.
  • One of the strongest stereotypes in American society associates blacks with criminality.
  • Knowing that a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by young black men can bias judgments about black people.


  • Other Race Effect is a universal phenomenon.
  • Brains react more strongly to faces of their own race than to faces of people unlike them .
  • The brain is not a hardwired machine. It’s a malleable organ.
  • A region known as the fusiform face area, buried deep near the base of the brain, helps us distinguish the familiar from the unfamiliar, friend from foe.
  • Race might influence FFA functioning.
  • FFA was responding more vigorously to faces that were the same race as the study participant.
  • The challenges of cross-racial identification are as well known to law enforcement officials as they are to scientists.


  • We reserve our precious cognitive resources for those who are “like us.”
  • Racial categories are so significant that knowing a person is black or white, for example, can shape how we see that person’s facial features.
  • Categorization can be a precursor to bias.
  • At the same time, categorization is a fundamental tool that our brains are wired to use.
  • Our beliefs and attitudes can become so strongly associated with the category that they are automatically triggered.
  • The concept of stereotypes dates back to the time of Plato.
  • Confirmation bias – people tend to seek out and attend to information that already confirms their beliefs.
  • Confirmation bias is a mechanism that allows inaccurate beliefs to spread and persist.
  • “There is economy in stereotyping.”
  • Just like categorization, the process of stereotyping is universal. We all tend to access and apply stereotypes to help us make sense of other people.
  • Stereotypes is culturally generated.
  • Preschoolers are able to pick up on how adults view other people.
  • Is clutching your purse when you see a black man a reflection of prejudice? Is presuming a Latino doesn’t speak English logical or ignorant?


  • Implicit bias can shade police interactions with the communities they protect and serve.
  • Bias, even when we are not conscious of it, has consequences that we need to understand and mitigate. The stereotypic associations we carry in our heads can affect what we perceive, how we think, and the actions we take.
  • The relentless loop of police-shooting videos leaves some people angry and introduces others to the challenges faced by police.
  • Only a tiny fraction of officers involved in questionable shootings are prosecuted, and it’s rare to get a conviction.
  • Ask whether the association between black people and crime is so powerful in the minds of Americans that it can influence what we see and what we ignore.
  • Our attention can be driven by stereotypic associations that we are not even aware are operating on us.
  • Black faces are much more likely to capture the attentional systems of those who have been induced to think about crime than of those who have not.
  • Reams of studies demonstrating that blacks are perceived as threatening.
  • Study participants consistently rated black men as taller, heavier, and stronger than white men.
  • White participants rated black men as more capable of doing harm than white men of the same physical stature and size. Black participants exhibited no such bias.
  • 42 percent of whites who shoved blacks were deemed to be simply “playing around” — but only 6 percent of blacks who shoved whites were categorized in that benign light.
  • The stereotypic association between blacks and crime influences not only how we see black people but how we see guns.
  • Participants were even faster to respond “shoot” to a black person holding a gun than they were to a white person holding a gun. They were also more likely to mistakenly “shoot” a black person with no gun.
  • Officers who work in bigger cities, with larger black populations and higher crime rates, tend to exhibit the greatest racial bias in reaction time.
  • When the police kill unarmed black suspects, those deaths are associated with a significant dip in the mental health of blacks across the entire state where those killings occurred.


  • Stop-data collections have been occurring in police departments around the country for years.
  • Relying on racial disparities to gauge the quality of policing can be a double-edged sword. The same disparities that community leaders view as proof of racial profiling can be cited by police officers as proof of who is most likely to commit crimes.
  • Officers — or anyone else — can be immersed in an environment that repetitively exposes them to the categorical pairing of blacks with crime and not have that affect how they think, feel, or behave.
  • If officers act in accordance with four tenets — voice, fairness, respect, trustworthiness — residents will be more inclined to think of the police as legitimate authorities and therefore be more likely to comply with the law.
  • The “invisible gorilla” study reminds us of how selective our social perception may be.
  • “Growing up there, some of the most violent people I’ve seen were actually police officers, ” Armstrong told me.
  • The sense of “protecting the community” was strong among even the most hard-nosed cops. But too often they couldn’t tell bad from good, so everyone was treated like a suspect.
  • When he stopped white men, there was a completely different pattern, he said. Often, they would be defiant and challenge him: “What did you stop me for ?”


  • Stopping drivers for equipment-related issues — a broken light, an expired tag, a faulty turn signal, an unfastened safety belt — is a time-honored way to investigate who these drivers are, what they are doing, where they are going and why.
  • Body cameras worn by police officers are giving us access to how these stops unfold in real time.
  • Officers were professional overall. But when officers were speaking to black drivers, they were rated as less respectful, less polite, less friendly, less formal, and less impartial than when they spoke to white drivers.
  • An officer’s language and the attitude it conveys could decrease a black driver’s inclination to cooperate. That increases the likelihood that the interaction might escalate.
  • The inherent unfairness of the bail system has led to calls for reform.
  • Being behind bars for months awaiting trial can unravel a life: the accused can be fired from a job, be subject to eviction, incur debt from being unable to pay bills, lose custody of children. Many defendants are so desperate to be free that they bargain for a short sentence or immediate release by pleading guilty.
  • The plea-bargaining system is a clear example of how institutional practices can directly affect the mental connections we make.
  • 94 percent of cases involving criminal charges never go to trial; they are settled when the defendant agrees to plead guilty.
  • The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation in the world.
  • In Oakland, for example, although blacks make up less than 28 percent of the population, 70 percent of those on probation and 61 percent of those arrested are black.
  • A prison record can stifle earning potential, limit housing options, and derail educational aspirations.
  • White applicants with criminal histories were much more likely to be interviewed by employers than blacks with similar records.
  • Even the decline in the marriage rate among African Americans can be attributed in part to racial disparities in the era of mass incarceration.
  • San Quentin is the oldest and most notorious penitentiary in the California prison system.
  • Only about one-third of American prisons offer education or job-training programs.
  • Blacks make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s prison inmates are black.
  • Nearly 60 percent of black male dropouts born in the late 1960s wound up in prison, compared with 11 percent of similarly situated whites.
  • The “war on drugs” imposed harsh penalties on hapless crack addicts.
  • “Three strikes” sentencing schemes.
  • “More and more black people are getting trapped in the system, but nobody sees a problem with that, ” one student said.
  • The United States is one of only four industrialized nations in the world — along with Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan — that still executes criminals.
  • The trial jury decides who lives and who is slated to die.
  • In the United States, racial disparities in death sentencing.
  • Murderers of white victims are significantly more likely to be sentenced to death than murderers of black people.
  • Looking “more black” more than doubled their chances of being sentenced to death.


  • As the slave trade to Europe and the Americas became a flourishing economic system, the subjugation and brutalization of millions of Africans was rationalized by science with theories that decreed the dark-skinned captives less than fully human.
  • For decades, IQ testing helped to map and tally supposedly inherent differences between ethnic groups.
  • The implicit association between blacks and apes was much stronger than the black-crime association.
  • Marginalized groups in countries all over the world are often discredited through animal imagery.


  • Black and white Americans are still likely to wind up in separate neighborhoods.
  • The federal government played a direct and deliberate role in creating segregated spaces: refusing to back mortgage loans in racially mixed neighborhoods, subsidizing private development of all-white suburbs, and restricting GI Bill housing benefits so that black military veterans could buy homes only in minority communities.
  • Zoning regulations in many cities forbade blacks to move into white neighborhoods.
  • Forcing black families to crowd into undesirable areas where amenities were few, the housing stock was often decrepit or cheaply built, and the streets were lined with factories spewing industrial pollution.
  • African Americans are more likely than any other group to live in segregated neighborhoods.
  • More than half of whites say they would not move to an area that is more than 30 percent black, because they believe that the housing stock would not be well maintained and crime would be high.
  • Stereotypic images of black spaces, buttressed by historical and current-day racial inequalities, led our study participants to imagine black space as polluted.
  • Across history and around the world, immigrants have borne the burden of that sort of place-based prejudice that presumes that the stench of squalid places clings to human beings.
  • In Europe, immigration is being framed as a security risk as waves of people from Africa and the Middle East pour into once largely homogeneous nations.
  • Immigrants aren’t the only group viewed through the lens of bias as diseased outsiders. Homeless people are even lower on the sociological totem pole.
  • The “dirty Jew” rhetoric that powered persecution of Jews since the Middle Ages had begun to penetrate the newspapers, pamphlets, and everyday conversations.
  • Part of the stigma of black skin has to do with cultural associations that mark white as a sign of purity.
  • This is how bias operates. It conditions how we look at the world.
  • What made the South so difficult for blacks was more than the constant reminders of second-class citizenship: the separate drinking fountains, schools, restaurants, restrooms, and areas for waiting, sitting, standing, and healing. It was the ever-present threat of violence, without protection or redress.
  • Lynchings — unprosecuted murders by mobs of unidentified people — occurred all across the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century but were concentrated in the South, particularly in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.
  • Space can also liberate. When people leave an oppressive physical space, they are often driven by the rudiments of life: they want better schools, more jobs, safer streets.
  • As blacks migrated by the millions to the North in the 1930s and 1940s, they were viewed as an ugly invading force, and northern cities had to be reshaped and fortified.
  • Surveillance cameras have gone mainstream, guarding our front doors.
  • Residents can circulate photographs of “suspicious” strangers to neighbors and police with the touch of a button and without any evidence.
  • Sarah Leary, one of the founders (with CEO Nirav Tolia) of Nextdoor, an online social networking.
  • The platform exposed raw racial dynamics that generated hurt feelings, sparked hostilities, and fueled fierce online arguments.
  • They developed a checklist of reminders that people have to click through before they can post under the banner of “suspicious person”.
  • The posting process was changed to require users to home in on behavior, pushing them past the “If you see something, say something” mindset.
  • Research shows that talking about racial issues with people of other races is particularly stressful for whites, who may feel they have to work harder to sidestep the minefields.
  • Airbnb provides a platform for sharing our homes with distant travelers.
  • Complaints began trickling in from minorities who felt they’d been discriminated against.
  • The primary problem is not that “people on the platform say, ‘Look, I don’t want any African Americans,’ ”Laura said. “The biggest problem to me is the unconscious bias.”


  • Both black and Latino students do better academically when they attend integrated schools.
  • Integrated schools in middle-class and affluent areas tend to be better resourced.
  • People of all races who attended racially diverse schools are more likely to have friends of other races, choose to live and raise their children in integrated neighborhoods, and have higher levels of civic engagement than those who did not.
  • Many schools still fall short.
  • When we’re faced with a common enemy, research has shown, our biases can temporarily dissolve by the urge to band together and survive.
  • Integrated schools promise to turn us into global citizens, appreciative of cultural differences, skilled at navigating diversity.
  • Integrated spaces can also heighten the threat of becoming the target of bias.
  • And despite the stumbles, progress is being made.
  • But in the last twenty years, school segregation increased as legal rulings whittled away options.
  • Americans still appear to believe in the value of integrated education.
  • The number of intensely segregated schools — where less than 10 percent of students are white — has more than tripled in the past thirty years.
  • Segregation is nearing epidemic levels in the central cities of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.
  • Black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended from school as their white peers.
  • Black students are significantly more likely to be disciplined for relatively minor infractions than any other group.
  • Teachers commonly perceive black students to have more negative demeanors and a longer history of misbehavior than whites.
  • Decreasing racial disparities in discipline will require both teachers and students to focus on the relationships they have with each other.
  • During the empathy exercise, teachers learned about the kinds of experiences and worries that could lead to mistrust and misbehavior.
  • Our brains, our culture, our instincts, all lead us to use color as a sorting tool. And yet the color-blind message is so esteemed in American society that even our children pick up the idea that noticing skin color is rude.
  • When we’re afraid, unwilling, or ill equipped to talk about race, we leave young people to their own devices to make sense of the conflicts and disparities they see.
  • Color blindness promoted exactly the opposite of what was intended: racial inequality.
  • It takes more than interpersonal connection to break the bonds of institutional bias and promote the sort of equality that allows us all to thrive.
  • 22 percent of young Americans who came of age in the twenty-first century said they never heard of the Holocaust.
  • Survey of high school seniors and social studies teachers in 2017 found students struggling on even basic questions about the enslavement of blacks in the United States.


  • College students’ commitment to activism and civic engagement is higher than it’s been at any time in the last fifty years.
  • The 2016 election of Donald Trump galvanized liberal students and emboldened right-wing fringe groups.
  • The changing status of whites in America is tinder for the fire of white nationalism.
  • By the middle of this century, white people are likely to be a minority in this country.
  • Feeling outnumbered can signal a threat to the legacy of dominance and the white privilege that affords.
  • The summer of hate began with white nationalists who came to Charlottesville to protest a plan to remove the statue of General Lee from a park in the city’s historic downtown core.
  • “In their minds, to dishonor Robert E. Lee was to dishonor them, was to strike at the soul of their being.”
  • “Jews will not replace us!”
  • Twenty-one-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. — a self-professed neo-Nazi from a small town in Ohio — was convicted of murder by a Charlottesville jury that recommended prison, plus 419 years.
  • The Unite the Right rally was the largest public gathering of white supremacists in a generation.
  • Experts who study hate groups say their ranks are growing as social media makes connecting easier and the guardrails that reined in overt displays of racism have begun to come down.
  • “If you’re a liberal white person in the South, then you can’t not grow up constantly wrestling with and thinking about issues of race.”
  • Research shows that black parents talk to their children about race much earlier and more often than white parents.
  • Some felt the university was a champion of constitutional rights, and the students’ emotional wounds were mere collateral damage.
  • But you can condemn what people say without condemning their legal right to say it.
  • The Unite the Right rally might have been the largest public gathering of white supremacists in a generation. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. And it could have been reined in before someone died.
  • Many white counterprotesters felt so unsafe and unprotected by police at the march that they got a hint of what it’s like to experience the world as black people often do.
  • Jefferson built UVA with black enslaved labor.


  • Today, the unemployment rate for black teens and young adults is about twice as high as it is for whites.
  • Many factors contribute to these disparities, including the quality of the applicant’s social networks marshaled to secure employment as well as the level of education, skills, or experience certain jobs require.
  • Racial bias is also a factor that influences the choices employers make.
  • This particular practice of fitting in is so widespread that it even has a name: Whitening the Résumé.
  • Students were employing what legendary social scientist Erving Goffman called an “assimilative technique.”
  • Companies want to check the boxes but not change their culture.
  • More than half of white Americans — 55 percent — believe there is discrimination against white people in the United States today.
  • Even in the high-stakes world of entrepreneurial markets, minorities and women are held to higher standards than white men in competing for investment dollars.
  • Scarcity of minorities at the helm of powerhouse corporate entities.
  • Black people regularly encounter racial bias in all types of businesses and in all types of routine interactions. They attract outsized attention from sales and security personnel.
  • Starbucks also did what no other company had done before: it held a nationwide training on implicit bias for all its 175,000 employees.
  • The store closures were estimated to cost Starbucks $12 million in lost revenue, but were hailed as a smart business move for the brand.
  • “Bias training” is the new watchword in human-resource programs.
  • But implicit bias can be layered and complicated. It’s simple to explain, but not so easy to see or to rectify.
  • Bias training is a fast-growing for-profit business, and finding fault with results could affect the bottom line of the trainers. Better to just check the box that says “Yes, we’ve trained our employees” and call it victory.
  • For businesses, there are big upsides to training. But there are also downsides.
  • We may not ever know whether the training Starbucks offered to its employees was effective.
  • When we are forced to make quick decisions using subjective criteria, the potential for bias is great.
  • Bias is also more likely to flare up when our decisions are left unmonitored.
  • Monitoring certainly helps.
  • Personal connections can override the power exerted by implicit bias.
  • Research shows that close attachments between people from different groups can puncture holes in stereotypic beliefs and negative attitudes.
  • Science has shown that intense relationships that cross racial, religious, or ethnic boundaries can quickly undo fundamental associations that have built up slowly over time.
  • Resetting norms isn’t easy, for a country or a company.
  • Curtain interviews have become the norm.
  • The founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain was forced to step down from the company he built for using a racial slur.


  • The Oakland Police Department was an early adopter of body-worn cameras.
  • The role of obvious racial disparities can’t be overlooked.
  • Every society has disadvantaged groups that are the targets of bias.

Build a Better World In Your Backyard by Paul Wheaton

The Big Idea: Small scale permaculture is the solution to most environmental problems.

Ch 1: A Different Approach to Solving World Problems

  • Nearly all environmental problems are mostly solved with a combination of homesteading and permaculture.

Ch 2: Environmentalist vs “Environmentalist”

  • Most people who call themselves “environmentalist” are probably very wasteful of natural resources.
  • Energy use is the best metric for defining an environmentalist.
  • The average American adult spends $83 a month on heat and electricity.

Ch 3: The Wicked Lies About Light Bulbs

  • The LED light bulb is a good metaphor for environmental thinking.
  • It sounds environmentally friendly, but mathematically, the incandescent bulb is better (lower toxicity, more efficient for those in cold climates, better light quality.)

Ch 4: Carbon Footprint

  • The average American adult generates 30 tons of annual carbon emissions.
  • Focusing on 80/20, the big winners are to reduce your heat usage in cold climates and to grow your own food.

Ch 5: Petroleum Footprint

  • The unsubsidized price for a gallon of gasoline is actually three times higher.
  • Lots of ways to reduce fuel consumption.
  • 80/20 says to telecommute and to grow your own food.

Ch 6: Toxic Footprint

  • Sources of toxins that probably cause cancer and other diseases: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, plastic with BPA, aspartame, sucralose, saccharine
  • What to do: stop using toxic soaps and shampoos, stop using toxic household cleaners, don’t drink chlorinated water, stop using teflon, stop using plastic containers, live in a home built with toxin-free materials, avoid city pollution

Ch 7: The Wheaton Eco Scale

Ch 8: Moving Way Beyond Recycling

  • There is no such thing as waste in nature. Everything is recycled.
  • Even better than recycling is not using packaging in the first place. Grow as much of your own food as possible.

Ch 9: Vote with Your Wallet

  • Stop buying traditional, industrial-grown food.
  • “If you think organic food is expensive, have you priced cancer recently?”

Ch 10: Radically Deviant Financial Strategies

  • If your life doesn’t change if you had a million dollar, then is it fair to say you’re living the life of a millionaire.
  • Want to learn how to live without a mortgage? Read Rob Roy’s book Mortgage Free.
  • Jacob Lund Fisker has a blog “Early Retirement Extreme” which says basically live frugally and save 75% of your income.
  • An alternative is to build one or multiple side businesses.
  • Another alternative is to try community living and pool your resources.

Ch 11: Organic vs Local

  • Permaculture >> organic >> local

Ch 12: Vegan vs Omnivore vs Junk Food

  • Veganism is a noble path.
  • In terms of impact, polyculture/permaculture >> vegan >> junk food.
  • Cowspiracy stats are a load of manure.
  • The lowest-impact and most healthy source of food is your own backyard.

Ch 13: Really Reducing Home Energy Usage

  • Nearly all war and pollution is related to energy usage.
  • Most energy usage is related to heating and cooling, including heating water.
  • Use more blankets, insulate your home better, take shorter showers, use a toaster oven, get a smaller house.

Ch 14: More People Living Under One Roof Without Stabbing Each Other

  • Keep the common areas clean by charging more rent and hiring a cleaning service.

Ch 15: Toxic Gick vs 20 Years of Your Life

  • As a cleaner, water alone is enough 90% of the time.
  • Vinegar and baking soda can clean most surfaces fine.
  • Cast iron >> teflon.
  • Use diatomaceous earth for insect control.

Ch 16: The Huge Link Between Food and Global Footprint

  • Learn permaculture concepts to grow your own food with minimal effort.

Ch 17: Double the Food with One Tenth of the Effort

  • Direct seeding >> transplanting.
  • No-till >> tilling.
  • Hugelkultur raised beds.
  • Perennials >> annuals.
  • Chop-and-drop is an ideal approach to mulching.
  • Incorporate deciduous trees in your permaculture design.
  • Polyculture is required.
  • Include mushrooms for diversity and resiliency.

Ch 18: The Dark Side of Native Plant Enthusiasm

  • Better understanding of horticulture >> blind advocacy for native plants.

Ch 19: 20 Things to Do with the Twigs That Fall n Your Backyard

  • Mulch, hugelkultur, brush piles.

Ch 20: Not Composting

  • Instead of composting, feed kitchen scraps to your chickens.

Ch 21: Better Than a Solar Panel – A Solar Food Dehydrator

  • Properly dehydrated food can last for years.

Ch 22: Breaking the Toxic Water Cycle with Greywater Recycling

  • Read Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig.
  • Build a laundry-to-landscape system, and use environmentally friendly laundry detergent.

Ch 23: Harvesting Electricity in Your Backyard

  • Going off-grid forces to you question your energy usage.
  • The best off-grid power source is micro hydro.

Ch 24: The Conventional Lawn vs a Mowable Meadow

  • Mow higher and always leave the clippings.
  • Water deep and less often.
  • Build earthworm towns once and pile on organic matter regularly for them to eat.

Ch 25: How Vegans Benefit from Caring for Farm Animals

  • If you’re a vegan, either your farm animals do the work, or you do the work.
  • Pamper your animals with a movable paddock shift system.
  • Get a livestock guardian dog.

Ch 26: Replacing Petroleum with People

  • Try to incorporate people and hand tools when possible.

Ch 27: Wrestling with Poop Beasts and Peeing in the Garden

  • Build a dry outhouse on an elevated mound.
  • Urinate near plants or use a urine diverter and use diluted urine to fertilize plants.

Ch 28: The Solutions to Colony Collapse Disorder are Embarrassingly Simple

  • Organic beekeeping >> conventional beekeeping.

Ch 29: Destroy Your Orchard to Make a Food Forest

  • A monocrop orchard is not permaculture.
  • Trees from seeds >> trees grown from starters.
  • The bottom third of a fruit tree is for critters, the middle third is for humans, the top third is for birds.

Ch 30: A Building Design that Solves Almost Everything

  • A straw bale house has walls made from natural materials, but is otherwise the same as a conventional house, only with thicker walls and more expensive.
  • A cob house is similar to a straw bale house, but more labor intensive, and, maybe more fun and beautiful.
  • The ideal permaculture home is an underground home, in the style of Mike Oehler – a wofati.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Big Idea: Forget about goals. Focus on systems, good habits, and continuous improvement.


Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years .

PART 1: THE FUNDAMENTALS – Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

Ch 1: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference.

Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions.

Eg. bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.

Poster in the San Antonio Spurs locker room: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”


Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh says, “The score takes care of itself.”

Winners and losers have the same goals.

Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.

Goals restrict your happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Ch 2: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Once your habits are established, they seem to stick around forever.

Three layers of behavior change

  1. Changing your outcomes
  2. Changing your process
  3. Changing your identity

Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.

Behind every system of actions are a system of beliefs.

The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.

The person who incorporates exercise into their identity doesn’t have to convince themselves to train.

Once you have adopted a negative identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change for the better.

Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it.

The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

The process of building habits is actually the process of changing yourself.

The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.

Decide who you want to be. This holds at any level — as an individual, as a team, as a community, as a nation.

Identity change is the North Star of habit change.

Your habits matter because they shape you into the type of person you wish to be.

There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.

Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

Ch 3: How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience.

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

Four Laws of Behavior Change

  1. Cue: Make it obvious.
  2. Craving: Make it attractive.
  3. Response: Make it easy.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

PART 2: THE 1ST LAW – Make It Obvious

Ch 4: The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Eg. Pointing-and-Calling, is a safety system designed to reduce mistakes by making an unconscious habit a more conscious action.

Make a list of your daily habits.

The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.

Ch 5: The Best Way to Start a New Habit

An implementation intention is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act.

Eg. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

Eg. Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7a.m. in my kitchen.

Eg. Exercise. I will exercise for one hour at 5p.m. in my local gym.

Make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time.

One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking (BJ Fogg).

The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

Eg. Meditation. After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.

Eg. Exercise. After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.

Eg. Gratitude. After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.

The secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off; a very strong habit to build from.

Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious. Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.

Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location. The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with an existing habit. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT ].

Ch 6: Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

Eg. People often choose food not because of what they are, but because of where they are (convenience matters.) Items at eye level tend to be purchased more. End caps are moneymaking machines.

The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision.

Eg. Homes with meters located in the main hallway use less electricity.

Creating obvious visual cues can draw your attention toward a desired habit.

Eg. If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.

Eg. If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.

The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.

You can train yourself to link a particular habit with a particular context/environment.

Teach your brain that sleeping — not browsing on phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock — is the only action that happens in the bedroom.

Want to think more creatively? Move to a bigger room, a rooftop patio, or a building with expansive architecture.

Trying to eat healthier? Try a new grocery store.

Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking. The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”

When you can use your phone to do nearly anything, it becomes hard to associate it with one task.

Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.

Ch 7: The Secret to Self-Control

Typically, 90 percent of heroin users become re-addicted once they return home from rehab.

“Disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.

Yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “cue-induced wanting”: an external trigger causes a compulsive craving to repeat a bad habit.

You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.

And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.

In the short-run, you can choose to overpower temptation. In the long-run, we become a product of the environment that we live in.

A more reliable approach is to cut bad habits off at the source.

Reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

If you’re continually feeling like you’re not enough, stop following social media accounts that trigger jealousy and envy.

If you’re wasting too much time watching television, move the TV out of the bedroom.

I’m often surprised by how effective simple changes like these can be. Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.

Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

PART 3: THE 2ND LAW – Make It Attractive

Ch 8: How to Make a Habit Irresistible

Junk food, for example, drives our reward systems into a frenzy.

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

We begin by examining a biological signature that all habits share — the dopamine spike.

Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop.

When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.

It is the anticipation of a reward — not the fulfillment of it — that gets us to take action.

This is one reason the anticipation of an experience can often feel better than the attainment of it.

As an adult, daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can be more enjoyable than actually being on vacation.

We need to make our habits attractive because it is the expectation of a rewarding experience that motivates us to act in the first place.

Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle.

The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is : After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

After I get my morning coffee, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened yesterday (need). After I say one thing I’m grateful for, I will read the news (want).

If you want to check Facebook, but you need to exercise more: After I pull out my phone, I will do ten burpees (need). After I do ten burpees, I will check Facebook (want).

The hope is that eventually you’ll look forward to calling three clients or doing ten burpees because it means you get to read the latest sports news or check Facebook.

Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Ch 9: The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

“A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.”

Eg. The Polgar sisters grew up in a culture that prioritized chess above all else — praised them for it, rewarded them for it. In their world, an obsession with chess was normal. And as we are about to see, whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find.

Humans are herd animals.

We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.

Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close, the many, the powerful.

  1. Imitating the Close

We pick up habits from the people around us.

Another study found that if one person in a relationship lost weight, the other partner would also slim down about one third of the time.

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.

Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.

Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe.

  1. Imitating the Many

We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?”

There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group.

Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.

Running against the grain of your culture requires extra effort.

  1. Imitating the Powerful

We want pins and medallions on our jackets.

We try to copy the behavior of successful people because we desire success ourselves.

We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Ch 10: How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

It is an inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change: make it unattractive.

Some of the underlying motives of human nature include: conserve energy, obtain food and water, find love and reproduce, connect and bond with others, win social acceptance and approval, reduce uncertainty, achieve status and prestige

Look at nearly any product that is habit-forming and you’ll see that it does not create a new motivation, but rather latches onto the underlying motives of human nature.

You can make hard habits more attractive if you can learn to associate them with a positive experience.

Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.

Reframing your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks is a fast and lightweight way to reprogram your mind and make a habit seem more attractive.

Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. However, you can associate it with freedom rather than limitation if you realize one simple truth: living below your current means increases your future means.

These little mind-set shifts aren’t magic, but they can help change the feelings you associate with a particular habit or situation.

If you want to take it a step further, you can create a motivation ritual. You simply practice associating your habits with something you enjoy, then you can use that cue whenever you need a bit of motivation. For instance, if you always play the same song before having sex, then you’ll begin to link the music with the act.

Say you want to feel happier in general. Find something that makes you truly happy — like petting your dog or taking a bubble bath — and then create a short routine that you perform every time before you do the thing you love. Maybe you take three deep breaths and smile. Three deep breaths. Smile. Pet the dog. Repeat.

Once established, you can break it out anytime you need to change your emotional state. Stressed at work? Take three deep breaths and smile. Sad about life? Three deep breaths and smile.

Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.

Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

PART 4: THE 3RD LAW – Make It Easy

Ch 11: Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change.

As Voltaire once wrote, “ The best is the enemy of the good.”

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done.

When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it.

This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in.

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Repeating a habit leads to clear physical changes in the brain.

Each time you repeat an action, you are activating a particular neural circuit associated with that habit. This means that simply putting in your reps is one of the most critical steps you can take to encoding a new habit.

One of the most common questions I hear is, “How long does it take to build a new habit?” But what people really should be asking is, “How many reps does it take to form a new habit?”

To build a habit, you need to practice it.

Focus on taking action, not being in motion.

Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.

Ch 12: The Law of Least Effort

The Law of Least Effort states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.

This is why it is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them even when you don’t feel like it. If you can make your good habits more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.

Trying to pump up your motivation to stick with a hard habit is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it requires a lot of effort and increases the tension in your life. Meanwhile, making your habits simple and easy is like removing the bend in the hose. Rather than trying to overcome the friction in your life, you reduce it.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design.

Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle.

The Japanese companies looked for every point of friction in the manufacturing process and eliminated it. As they subtracted wasted effort, they added customers and revenue.

If you look at the most habit-forming products, you’ll notice that one of the things these goods and services do best is remove little bits of friction from your life.

Meal delivery services reduce the friction of shopping for groceries. Dating apps reduce the friction of making social introductions. Ride-sharing services reduce the friction of getting across town. Text messaging reduces the friction of sending a letter in the mail.

Business is a never-ending quest to deliver the same result in an easier fashion.

Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy. For instance, my wife keeps a box of greeting cards that are presorted by occasion — birthday, sympathy, wedding, graduation, and more.

There are many ways to prime your environment so it’s ready for immediate use. If you want to cook a healthy breakfast, place the skillet on the stove, set the cooking spray on the counter, and lay out any plates and utensils you’ll need the night before. When you wake up, making breakfast will be easy.

Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time.

Want to improve your diet? Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables on weekends and pack them in containers, so you have easy access to healthy, ready-to-eat options during the week.

You can also invert this principle and prime the environment to make bad behaviors difficult.

Unplug the television and take the batteries out of the remote after each use, so it takes an extra ten seconds to turn it back on.

When I hide beer in the back of the fridge where I can’t see it, I drink less.

When I delete social media apps from my phone, it can be weeks before I download them again and log in.

Design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right.

Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible .

Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

Prime your environment to make future actions easier.

Ch 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that you would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in your arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.

Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as decisive moments. The moment you decide between ordering takeout or cooking dinner. The moment you choose between driving your car or riding your bike.

The Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

Eg. “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.” “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.” “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.” “Fold the laundry” becomes “ Fold one pair of socks.” “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”

A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.

The point is to master the habit of showing up.

Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.

The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.

The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.

Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.

Ch 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.

If you’re feeling motivated to get in shape, schedule a yoga session and pay ahead of time.

Commitment devices increase the odds that you’ll do the right thing in the future by making bad habits difficult in the present.

The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.

The brilliance of the cash register was that it automated ethical behavior by making stealing practically impossible. Rather than trying to change the employees, it made the preferred behavior automatic.



  1. Buy a water filter to clean your drinking water.
  2. Use smaller plates to reduce caloric intake .


  1. Buy a good mattress.
  2. Get blackout curtains.
  3. Remove your television from your bedroom .


  1. Unsubscribe from emails.
  2. Turn off notifications and mute group chats.
  3. Set your phone to silent.
  4. Use email filters to clear up your inbox.
  5. Delete games and social media apps on your phone.


  1. Get a dog.
  2. Move to a friendly, social neighborhood.


  1. Enroll in an automatic savings plan.
  2. Set up automatic bill pay.
  3. Cut cable service.
  4. Ask service providers to lower your bills.

Technology can transform actions that were once hard, annoying, and complicated into behaviors that are easy, painless, and simple. It is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.

Medicine: Prescriptions can be automatically refilled.

Personal finance: Employees can save for retirement with an automatic wage deduction.

Cooking: Meal-delivery services can do your grocery shopping.

Productivity: Social media browsing can be cut off with a website blocker.

When you automate as much of your life as possible, you can spend your effort on the tasks machines cannot do yet.

The power of technology can work against us as well.

Instead of pressing a button to advance to the next episode, Netflix or YouTube will autoplay it for you. All you have to do is keep your eyes open.

The downside of automation is that we can find ourselves jumping from easy task to easy task without making time for more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding work.

Every Monday, my assistant would reset the passwords on all my social media accounts, which logged me out on each device. All week I worked without distraction. On Friday, she would send me the new passwords.

When working in your favor, automation can make your good habits inevitable and your bad habits impossible.

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future.

The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.

Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.


The 1st Law: Make It Obvious
1.1: Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them.
1.2: Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
1.3: Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
1.4: Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive
2.1: Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
2.2: Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
2.3: Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy
3.1: Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
3.2: Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
3.3: Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact.
3.4: Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
3.5: Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases that lock in future behavior.

PART 5: THE 4TH LAW – Make It Satisfying

Ch 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.

The first three laws of behavior change — make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy — increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change — make it satisfying — increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop.

We are looking for immediate satisfaction.

Our bias toward instant gratification causes problems. Eg. lung cancer, obesity, STD’s.

Put another way, the costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded.

The best way to do this is to add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

You want the ending of your habit to be satisfying. The best approach is to use reinforcement, which refers to the process of using an immediate reward to increase the rate of a behavior.

Eg. Open a savings account and label it for something you want — maybe “Leather Jacket.” Whenever you pass on a purchase, put the same amount of money in the account. Skip your morning latte => transfer $5. Pass on another month of Netflix => Move $10 over. It’s like creating a loyalty program for yourself. The immediate reward of seeing yourself save money toward the leather jacket feels a lot better than being deprived.

It is worth noting that it is important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity rather than ones that conflict with it.

Eventually, as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduced stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. The identity itself becomes the reinforcer.

Immediate reinforcement helps maintain motivation in the short term while you’re waiting for the long-term rewards to arrive.

The 4th Law of Behavior Change is “make it satisfying.”

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

Ch 16: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures — like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles — provide clear evidence of your progress.

Visual measurement comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, even the page numbers in a book. But perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker.

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine.

Jerry Seinfeld reportedly uses a habit tracker to stick with his streak of writing jokes. In the documentary Comedian, he explains that his goal is simply to “never break the chain” of writing jokes every day.

“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra.

Benefit #1: Habit tracking is obvious.

Habit tracking also keeps you honest.

Benefit #2: Habit tracking is attractive.

The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path. In this way, habit tracking can have an addictive effect on motivation. Each small win feeds your desire.

Benefit #3: Habit tracking is satisfying.

Tracking can become its own form of reward. It is satisfying to cross an item off your to-do list, to complete an entry in your workout log, or to mark an X on the calendar.

Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result.

You’re not fixated on getting six-pack abs, you’re just trying to keep the streak alive and become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.

Furthermore, habit tracking provides visual proof that you are casting votes for the type of person you wish to become, which is a delightful form of immediate and intrinsic gratification.

First, whenever possible, measurement should be automated.

Second, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits.

Finally, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the behavior is the cue to write it down.

I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.

It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it.

If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings.

The human mind wants to “win” whatever game is being played.

This pitfall is evident in many areas of life. We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done.

In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior. This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

But just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing. And just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.

One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit — like marking an X on a calendar.

Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.

Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.

Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.

Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.

Ch 17: How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

Just as we are more likely to repeat an experience when the ending is satisfying, we are also more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful.

If you want to prevent bad habits and eliminate unhealthy behaviors, then adding an instant cost to the action is a great way to reduce their odds.

A habit contract is a verbal or written agreement in which you state your commitment to a particular habit and the punishment that will occur if you don’t follow through. Then you find one or two people to act as your accountability partners and sign off on the contract with you.

To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment.

The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.

We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.

An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.

Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

PART 6: ADVANCED TACTICS – How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

Ch 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

Habits are easier to perform, and more satisfying to stick with, when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities.

In short: genes do not determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity. As physician Gabor Mate notes ,“Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.”

Our habits are not solely determined by our personalities, but there is no doubt that our genes nudge us in a certain direction.

The takeaway is that you should build habits that work for your personality.

There is a version of every habit that can bring you joy and satisfaction. Find it Habits need to be enjoyable if they are going to stick. This is the core idea behind the 4th Law.

Learning to play a game where the odds are in your favor is critical for maintaining motivation and feeling successful.

Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.

The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net.

After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found — but keep experimenting occasionally.

Ask: What feels like fun to me, but work to others? What makes me lose track of time? Where do I get greater returns than the average person? What comes naturally to me?

When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out. You can shortcut the need for a genetic advantage (or for years of practice) by rewriting the rules.

Specialization is a powerful way to overcome the “accident” of bad genetics. The more you master a specific skill, the harder it becomes for others to compete with you.

Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.

Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.

Play a game that favors your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favors you, create one.

Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

Ch 19: The Goldilocks Rule – How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

And yet Steve Martin faced this fear every week for eighteen years. In his words, “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years as a wild success.”

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

In psychology research this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, which describes the optimal level of arousal as the midpoint between boredom and anxiety.

A flow state is the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity.

They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.

As a result, many of us get depressed when we lose focus or motivation because we think that successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion.

The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.

Mastery requires practice. But the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes. Once the beginner gains have been made and we learn what to expect, our interest starts to fade.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us.

In psychology, this is known as a variable reward. Slot machines are the most common real-world example. A gambler hits the jackpot every now and then but not at any predictable interval. The pace of rewards varies. This variance leads to the greatest spike of dopamine, enhances memory recall, and accelerates habit formation.

The sweet spot of desire occurs at a 50/50 split between success and failure. Half of the time you get what you want. Half of the time you don’t. You need just enough “winning” to experience satisfaction and just enough “wanting” to experience desire.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

You have to fall in love with boredom.

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.

Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.