Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari


  1. The Cognitive Revolution (c. 70,000 BCE, when Sapiens evolved imagination).
  2. The Agricultural Revolution (c. 10,000 BCE, the development of agriculture). The unification of humankind (the gradual consolidation of human political organisations towards one global empire).
  3. The Scientific Revolution (c. 1500 CE, the emergence of objective science).


  • 13.5 billion: Matter and energy appear. Beginning of physics. Atoms and molecules appear. Beginning of chemistry.
  • 4.5 billion: Formation of planet Earth.
  • 3.8 billion: Emergence of organisms. Beginning of biology.
  • 6 million: Last common grandmother of humans and chimpanzees.
  • 2.5 million: Evolution of the genus Homo in Africa. First stone tools.
  • 2 million: Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia. Evolution of different human species.
  • 500,000: Neanderthals evolve in Europe and the Middle East.
  • 300,000: Daily usage of fire.
  • 200,000: Homo sapiens evolves in East Africa.
  • 70,000: The Cognitive Revolution. Emergence of fictive language. Beginning of history. Sapiens spread out of Africa.
  • 45,000: Sapiens settle Australia. Extinction of Australian megafauna. 30,000: Extinction of Neanderthals.
  • 16,000: Sapiens settle America. Extinction of American megafauna. 13,000: Extinction of Homo floresiensis. Homo sapiens the only surviving human species.
  • 12,000: The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of plants and animals. Permanent settlements.
  • 5,000: First kingdoms, script and money. Polytheistic religions.
  • 4,250: First empire – the Akkadian Empire of Sargon.
  • 2,500: Invention of coinage – a universal money. The Persian Empire – a universal political order ‘for the benefit of all humans’. Buddhism in India – a universal truth ‘to liberate all beings from suffering’.
  • 2,000: Han Empire in China. Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Christianity.
  • 1,400: Islam.
  • 500: The Scientific Revolution. Humankind admits its ignorance and begins to acquire unprecedented power. Europeans begin to conquer America and the oceans. The entire planet becomes a single historical arena. The rise of capitalism.
  • 200: The Industrial Revolution. Family and community are replaced by state and market. Massive extinction of plants and animals.
  • 0 (The Present): Humans transcend the boundaries of planet Earth. Nuclear weapons threaten the survival of humankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than natural selection.
  • The Future: Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? Homo sapiens is replaced by superhumans?


Rainwater Harvesting, Vol 1 by Brad Lancaster

Eight Principles of Rainwater Harvesting

  1. Begin with long and thoughtful observation: Notice what’s working and what’s not.
  2. Start at the top of your watershed and work your way down: Collect water at the top, and then let gravity drive your water distribution downhill to meet your needs.
  3. Start small and simple: Strategies are easier to implement and adjust when they are small. Small mistakes are easier to fix than big mistakes.
  4. Spread and infiltrate the flow of water: Slow it, spread it, sink it. Don’t let water erosively run off your land.
  5. Always plan an overflow route, and manage that overflow as a resource: Take advantage of heavy rains.
  6. Maximize living and organic groundcover: Create a living sponge.
  7. Maximize beneficial relationships and efficiency by “stacking functions”: Berms can double as raised walking paths. Plants can also cool buildings. Vegetation can also provide food for people, animals, or insects.
  8. Continually reassess your system since it’s a “feedback loop”


  • Good rainwater harvesting helps prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Replace paved parking and driveways with pavers to reduce runoff.
  • Native plants are a much better choice for water conservation.
  • Using bio-compatible soaps allows you to use greywater to water plants.
  • Consider waterless compost toilets.
  • Plant shade trees on the east and west sides of buildings.
  • Before you plant trees, you must plant water. (Implement rainwater harvesting earthworks.)
  • Get a detailed topographic map of your land to identify watersheds and ridge lines.
  • 1 inch of rain on 1,000 sqft of surface area can capture 600 gallons of water.
  • The highest quality source of water is direct rainwater capture. Use this for drinking.
  • Earthworks to learn: swales, berms, terraces, infiltration trenches, infiltration basin, imprinting, mulch, diversion swales, check dam, one rock dam, rock plunge pool
  • Cisterns will be covered in Vol 3.
  • Every foot of elevation provides 0.43 psi of water pressure.
  • Orient buildings east-west, with long walls facing south-north) to maximize winter heating and minimize summer heat.
  • Design roof overhangs and awnings to shade in the summer but not in the winter.
  • Always pair a raised path with a sunken basin to capture runoff and grow shelter and beauty for the path. Plant a tree in the basin.
  • Build a Zuni bowl to repair a headcut.
  • A wide gully is more stable than a deep gully. Stabilize with rock check dams and vegetation.
  • Stable floodplains are nature’s solution to flooding. Do not disturb.
  • Exposed roots are an indication of erosion. Find and repair.
  • Plant cottonwoods, sycamores, willows near water.
  • Waffle gardens are the opposite of raised beds, used for capturing rainwater.
  • In floodplain farming, grow more cold-hardy crops and use earthen walls to spread water.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and DHH

The Big Idea: choose to have a calm, profitable, healthy workplace. 

  • Why is work so crazy? Physical and virtual distractions at work. And an unhealthy obsession with growth.
  • Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.
  • How many hours at the office are really spent on work itself?
  • The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production. Fewer distractions and less stress.
  • It’s time to give people the uninterrupted time that great work demands.
  • Basecamp has been profitable every year. Profitability alleviates stress.
  • Where does our money come from? Customers, not venture capital.
  • We don’t have a single employee in the Valley.
  • We put in about 40 hours a week most of the year and just 32 in the summer.
  • On balance we’re calm — by choice, by practice. We’re intentional about it.
  • Protect people’s time and attention.
  • 40 hours of work per week.
  • Ample time off.
  • Meetings are a last resort.
  • Asynchronous communication first, real-time communication only when necessary.
  • Sustainable practices for the long term.
  • Focus on profitability.
  • When you realize the way you work is malleable, you can start molding something new, something better.
  • We didn’t just assume asynchronous communication. We tested out everything and figured it out.
  • We found that paying for people’s vacations was better than cash bonuses.
  • Hustlemania has captured a monopoly on entrepreneurial inspiration.
  • You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day.
  • Improve iteratively and continuously. Fewer explosions and more laying of bricks and applying another layer of paint.
  • Put in a good day’s work, day after day, but no heroics.
  • The business world is obsessed with fighting, winning, dominating, and destroying. But there is another way.
  • Do we have enough customers paying us enough money to cover our costs and generate a profit? Good. Then we’re successful.
  • What matters is that we have a healthy business with sound economics that work for us. Costs under control, profitable sales.
  • We’re serving our customers well, and they’re serving us well. That’s what matters. And just for the customers, we’ve invested in many softwares like CRM that help us in managing customers and have been trying to follow whatever Salesforce has professed.
  • “Comparison is the death of joy.” —Mark Twain
  • There’s no chasing others at Basecamp, just deep work and keeping customers happy.
  • We don’t do goals.
  • We don’t mind leaving some money on the table and we don’t need to squeeze every drop out of the lemon. Do we want to maximize value through constantly chasing goals? No thanks.
  • We are working on building a long-lasting sustainable business with happy employees.
  • How about something really audacious? No targets, no goals. And if you must have a goal, how about just staying in business? Or serving your customers well? Or being a delightful place to work?
  • Everyone wants to be a disrupter these days. If you stop thinking you must change the world, you lift a tremendous burden of yourself and your team. 9pm. meetings and weekend sprints are not as necessary.
  • “NO PAIN, NO GAIN!” looks good on a poster at the gym, but real life is not like the gym.
  • Most of the time, if you’re uncomfortable with something, it’s because it isn’t right. Listen to your discomfort. It was the discomfort of knowing two people doing the same work at the same level were being paid differently that led us to reform our payment structure.
  • It was discomfort working at companies that had taken large amounts of venture capital that led us to pursue a path of profitable independence.
  • Working 40 hours a week is plenty. During the summer, we even take Fridays off. If you can’t fit everything you want to do within 40 hours per week, you need to get better at prioritizing and focusing, instead of working longer hours .
  • Cut out what’s unnecessary.
  • Protect what’s both most vulnerable and most precious: your employees’ time.
  • Eight people in a room for an hour doesn’t cost one hour, it costs eight hours. Plus the cost of the interruption in concentration.
  • Instead of update meetings, we ask people to write updates daily, when they have a free moment. Others can read them when they have a free moment.
  • 60 minutes isn’t really an hour if it’s broken up into four 15 minute blocks.
  • Productivity is for machines, not for people. We believe in effectiveness .
  • Stop equating work ethic with excessive work hours.
  • Work doesn’t happen at work because of all the interruptions. To facilitate collaboration, we borrowed an idea from academia and have people schedule office hours. People are welcome to stop by and discuss work during office hours, while also using Moveable Office Walls to organize office space.
  • The shared work calendar is one of the most destructive inventions of modern times. Taking someone’s time should not be easy.  Meetings should be a last resort, especially big ones.
  • We don’t require anyone to broadcast their whereabouts or availability at Basecamp. Hours worked and butts in seats don’t matter; only actual work matters. The only way to know if work is getting done is by looking at the actual work. That’s the boss’s job.
  • We don’t require anyone to broadcast their availability and we reject the proliferation of chat tools invading the workplace. Know how to reach someone in an emergency but also recognize there are very few actual emergencies.
  • The expectation of an immediate response is the ember that ignites so many fires at work. Create a culture of eventual response rather than immediate response.
  • Instead depending on chat to stay caught up on work, catch up on what happened today as a single summary email. We also write monthly updates called “Heartbeats.”
  • We do care and we do help. But a family we are not. A family sacrifices everything for each other. We’re people who work together to make a product that we are proud of. You don’t have to pretend to be a family to be courteous. Or kind. Or protective.
  • The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families.
  • A leader sets the example that everyone follows. If you value reasonable hours, plentiful rest, and a healthy lifestyle for yourself, then others will follow. If you, as the boss, want employees to take vacations, you have to take a vacation. Workaholism is a contagious disease.
  • The trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise.” A low trust battery is at the core of many personal disputes at work.
  • What the boss most needs to hear is where they and the organization are falling short. The boss needs to ask: “What can we do even better?” “What’s something nobody dares to talk about?” “Are you afraid of anything at work?” “Is there anything you worked on recently that you wish you could do over?” “What do you think we could have done differently to help Jane succeed?” “What advice would you give before we start on the big website redesign project?”
  • The CEO is usually the last to know how things are really going.
  • There’s no such thing as a casual suggestion when it comes from the owner of the business.
  • On low-hanging fruit: the further away you are from the fruit, the lower it looks. Declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit probably means the person doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
  • In the long run, work is not more important than sleep.
  • At most companies, work-life balance is a sham. If work can claim hours after 5:00pm, then life should be able to claim hours before 5:00pm to regain the balance.
  • CVs might as well be tossed in the garbage. Everyone know they are exaggerations. To work at Basecamp, you have to be good people.
  • To evaluate someone, we put a real project in front of the candidates so that they can show us what they can do.
  • Be wary of senior people from large companies. Trying to teach a small company how to act like a big one rarely does anyone any good. Unlearning can be just as hard as having to pick up entirely new skills.
  • But be patient. Unless you hire someone straight out of an identical role at an identical company, they’re highly unlikely to be instantly up to speed and able to deliver right away.
  • Talent isn’t worth fighting over. Someone who’s a superstar at one company often turns out to be completely ineffectual at another, so a superstar somewhere else is not worth fighting for.
  • Talent at Basecamp rarely comes from traditional war zones like San Francisco or New York. More likely, it’s Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Toronto.
  • We look at people’s actual work, not at their diploma or degree.
  • It takes patience to grow and nurture your own talent.
  • Most people just don’t enjoy haggling, so Basecamp has a fixed salary structure. Everyone in the same role at the same level is paid the same.
  • Once every year we review market rates and issue raises automatically.
  • The goal at Basecamp is to pay everyone at the top 10 percent of the market for their role and level.
  • We get the market rates through a variety of salary survey companies.There’s also no penalty for relocating to a cheaper cost-of-living.
  • We don’t pay traditional bonuses, just a generous salary.
  • There are no stock options at Basecamp because we never intend to sell the company.
  • We’ve vowed to distribute 5 percent of the proceeds to all current employees if we ever sell the company.
  • There is profit-sharing. Basecamp distributes 25 percent of growth in profits to employees in that year.
  • Basecamp isn’t a startup. Basecamp is a stable, sustainable, and profitable company.
  • Happiness and productivity are found in working with a stable crew.
  • Free dinners are a hoax. A free dinner for working late sounds more like a bribes than a benefit.
  • We don’t offer gotcha benefits, only relevant “outside the office” benefits. Benefits: fully paid vacations, 3-day weekends all summer, paid sabbaticals, continuing education allowances, charity matching, CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares, one monthly massage, a monthly fitness allowance.
  • Offices should operates by library rules. The office should be quiet and calm. Conversations should be kept to a whisper.
  • The purpose of a vacation is to get away. We used to offer unlimited vacation, but we eventually noticed that people actually ended up taking less time off.
  • When someone leaves, be honest and clear with everyone about what just happened. At Basecamp, an immediate goodbye announcement is sent out companywide.
  • Following group chat at work is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. It’s completely exhausting. Chat puts conversations on conveyor belts that are perpetually moving away from you. Chat is great for hashing stuff out quickly.
  • The two rules for chat at Basecamp is “Asynchronous most of the time. Real-time only sometimes.” And if it’s important, slow down and take it offline to think.” Important topics need time.
  • A deadline with a flexible scope will result in a healthy, calm project.
  • When we present work, it’s almost always written up first. Then it’s posted to Basecamp, so people can have time to digest and respond, with a written respond on Basecamp. We don’t want first impressions.
  • Friday is the worst day to release anything.
  • Culture isn’t what you intend it to be. Culture is what culture does. What we do repeatedly hardens into habits and that becomes your culture.
  • Right from the beginning of Basecamp, we insisted on a reasonable workweek. We didn’t pull all-nighters to make impossible deadlines. When calm starts early, calm becomes the habit. If you start crazy , it’ll define you .
  • Today we ship a feature when it’s ready rather than waiting until all features are ready.
  • If every decision has to be made by consensus, you’re in for an endless grind. Someone in charge has to make the final call. Instead, get used to saying “I disagree but let’s commit.” Then move forward.
  • Knowing when to embrace Good Enough is what gives you the opportunity to be truly excellent when you need to be. Separate what really matters from what sort of matters from what doesn’t matter at all. Be clear about what demands excellence.
  • When we spend six weeks on a project, we begin prototyping as soon as we can in those first two weeks. As we pass the mid-point, it’s time to focus in and get narrow. New ideas that arrive too late will just have to wait.
  • “Doing nothing” should always be on the table. It’s too easy to fuck up something that’s working well. “What if we did nothing?”
  • Calm requires getting comfortable with “enough.” If it’s never enough, then it’ll always be crazy at work.
  • Every mature industry is drowning in “best practices.” So much of it is bullshit. There are so many reasons to be skeptical of best practices.
  • Unless you’ve actually done the work, you’re in no position to encode it as a best practice.
  • Many best practices are purely folklore. No one knows where they came from, why they started, and why they continue to be followed.
  • All this isn’t to say that best practices are of no value. Some are helpful to get you going, at which point you can abandon them as you need.
  • You can’t develop a calm culture if you’re constantly fretting about what the best practices. Create your practices and your patterns.
  • “Whatever it takes” is the rallying cry for captains of industry and war generals. Reasonable expectations are out the window when we operate according to “whatever it takes.” There certainly will be rare moments when whatever it takes is truly called for .
  • Rather than demand “whatever it takes,” ask , “what will it take?” Then decides if it’s worth it. Discuss strategy, make tradeoffs, make cuts, or come up with a simpler approach.
  • Too much shit to do is the problem if you’re obsessed with productivity hacks.  The only way to get more done is to have less to do. Saying no is the only way to claw back time.
  • “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all .” — Peter Drucker
  • At Basecamp, we’ve become ruthless about eliminating wasteful tasks.
  • Nearly all product work at Basecamp is done by teams of three people. The team is usually two programmers and one designer. We don’t throw more people at problems, we chop problems down to size. Big teams make things worse all the time.
  • Work expands to fill the time available. Work expands to fill the team available. You can do big things with small teams.
  • Rather than jumping on every new idea right away, we make every idea wait a while. First we finish what we started, then we consider what we want to tackle next. New ideas can wait.
  • Learning to say no is a required skill if you want to be calm.
  • We’ll take a risk, but we won’t put the company at risk.
  • When we make big changes to Basecamp, we give it six months and see how it turned out. We’ll tweak it along the way. We’ll be ready to revert if needed. We prefer managed, calculated risk with a safety rope attached.
  • In the summer, we work 4 day, 32 hour weeks.
  • In the autumn, we pay for a weekly community-supported agriculture share for each employee .
  • Until you’re running a profitable business, you’re slowly (or quickly) running out of business. We focus on keeping out our costs in check.
  • Being profitable means having time to think and space to explore. Being profitable means being in control of your own destiny and schedule.
  • When companies are in the red, employees worry about their jobs. When companies talk about burn rates, two things are burning: money and people.
  • Selling to small businesses and selling to enterprises are two very different approaches requiring two very different kinds of people.
  • Learn to launch. Generally, you just have to ship it. Do your best, believe in the work you’ve done, and ship it. After you ship, you can iterate on real insights and real answers from real customers.
  • We’ve never committed to a product road map. Promises in a product road map pile up like debt. Promises are easy and cheap to make, while actual work is hard and expensive.
  • We’ve been ripped off and cloned a hundred times. We’ve learned you have to move on.
  • People don’t hate all change. What customers and employee don’t like is forced change. We still run three completely different versions of Basecamp, so that customers don’t have to change if they don’t want to.
  • Things get harder as you go, not easier. The easiest day is day one of a new company. As you get bigger, you hire people, there is more competition, and there are increased costs.
  • When it comes to complaints, remember that, mostly, everyone wants to be heard and respected.
  • Companies are culturally and structurally encouraged to get bigger and bigger. But the good old days, the founders miss, are when their business was simpler and smaller.
  • We wonder why didn’t they just grow slower and stay closer to the size they enjoyed the most?
  • Our goal is to maintain a sustainable and manageable size. We still grow, but slowly and in control.
  • We chose calmness, so we cut back on products and features, even when times are great. Cutting back when times are great is the luxury of a calm, profitable, and independent company.
  • A successful business is healthy profits, increased benefits for our employees, and an environment where people can do the best work of their careers.
  • Choose to: protect people’s time.
  • Choose to: work reasonable number of hours.
  • Choose to: relieve people from the conveyor belts of information.
  • Choose to: give employees the focus that their best work requires.
  • Choose: contemplation and consideration prior to communication.
  • Choose to: give endless growth a rest.
  • Choose to: give teams control over what can be reasonably accomplished given the time.
  • Choose to: finish what you started before moving on to the next idea.
  • A calm company is a choice

Data Science for Business by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett

The Big Idea: Invest in data and data science teams. Better data + better data scientists = better models = better business decisions = sustainable competitive advantage. 

Chapter 1: Introduction, Data Analytic Thinking

  • Data mining is the extraction of knowledge from data.
  • Data science is a set of principles to guide data mining.
  • Big data means datasets that are too large for traditional data processing systems and require new technologies such as Hadoop, HBase, MongoDB.
  • We are in Big Data 1.0 still. Big Data 2.0 will be the golden era of data science.
  • Building a top-notch data science team is nontrivial but can be a tremendous strategic advantage.
  • Ex: fraud detection, Amazon, Harrah’s casinos.
  • It’s important for managers and executives to understand basic data science principles to get the most from data science projects and teams.
  • Just like chemistry is not about test tubes, data science is not about data engineering or data mining.

Chapter 2: Business Problems and Data Science Solutions

  • There are a few fundamental types of data mining tasks: classification, regression, similarity matching, clustering, association grouping, profiling, link prediction, data reduction, causal modeling.
  • This book will focus on: classification, regression, similar matching, and clustering
  • Ex: churn prediction is a classification problem.
  • Supervised vs unsupervised. Supervised data mining has a specific target. Unsupervised data mining is used to learn and observe patterns in the data but doesn’t have a specific target.
  • It’s important to appropriately evaluate prediction models.
  • Your model is not what the data scientists design, it’s what the engineers build.
  • Data science engineers are software engineers who have expertise in production systems and in data science.
  • Data mining is closer to R&D than to software engineering.
  • Invest in pilot studies and throwaway prototypes.
  • Analytics skills (ability to formulate problems well, to prototype solutions, to make reasonable assumptions) are more important than software engineering skills in a data science team.
  • Useful skills for a business analyst: statistics, SQL, data warehousing, regression analysis, machine learning.
  • There is much overlap, but there is a different because understanding the reason for churn, vs predicting which customers to target to reduce future churn.
  • Ex. Who are the most profitable customers? SQL
  • Ex. Is there really a difference between the profitable customers and the average customers? Statistics and hypothesis testing.
  • Ex. But who really are these profitable customers? Can I characterize them? SQL, statistics, automated pattern finding. Classification.
  • Ex. Will some particular new customer be profitable? How much revenue should I expect this customer to generate? Predictive model. Regression.

Chapter 3: Introduction to Predictive Modeling, From Correlation to Supervised Segmentation

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  • Predictive modeling is supervised segmentation. We have some target quantity we would like to predict.
  • A classification tree, or decision tree, is a method to classify data instances.
  • Tree structured models are a very popular data modeling technique and work remarkably well.
  • Tree structured models are also easy for business users to understand.

Chapter 4: Fitting a Model to Data

  • Tuning the parameters so that the model fits the data is parameter learning or parametric modeling.
  • The most common procedure is one you’re already familiar with, linear regression.
  • Logistic regression applies linear models to class probability estimation, and is one of the most useful data mining techniques.
  • Nonlinear support vector machines and neural networks fit parameters based on complex, nonlinear functions.
  • If we increase the complexity, we can fit the data too well, then we are just memorizing the data.

Chapter 5: Overfitting and Its Avoidance

  • Just because a model fits the data very well, doesn’t mean it is better at predicting. It could just be memorizing the data.
  • If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.
  • Fundamental tradeoff between model complexity and overfitting.
  • Always hold out data to test the model.
  • A fitting graph shows the difference between accuracy during training and accuracy during testing.
  • Overfitting is bad because the model picks up spurious correlations that produce incorrect generalizations.
  • A learning curve is a plot of the generalization performance against the amount of training data.

Chapter 6: Similarity, Neighbors, and Clusters

  • Similarity between data instances is described as distance between their feature vectors.
  • Nearest-neighbor methods predict by calculating distance between a new data and neighbors in the training set.
  • Similarity is used as the basis for the most common methods of unsupervised data mining, clustering.
  • Hierarchical clustering can provide insights that instruct further data mining.
  • A cluster centroid can be used as the basis for understanding clusters.

Chapter 7: Decision Analytic Thinking I, What is a Good Model?

  • Accuracy is too simplistic a metric.
  • A confusion matrix differentiates between different types of errors (eg. sensitivity vs specificity)
  • Expected value frameworks are extremely useful in organizing data science thinking and evaluating models.

Chapter 8: Visualizing Model Performance

  • A profit curve is useful for business user to evaluate classifiers.
  • A Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) graph is useful for evaluating models when class priors or costs/benefits are not known.
  • Since ROC curves are not intuitive, a cumulative response curve (or lift curve) is most appropriate for some business users which get paid using checkstub creator modern.

Chapter 9: Evidence and Probabilities

  • Bayes rule is used for conditional probabilities which occurs frequently in business problems.
  • Naive Bayes rule is valuable because it is very efficient, practical to use, and can learn on the fly.
  • Naive Bayes rule should be avoided when costs/benefits are uses. Best to use when rankings are more important.
  • Bayes rule are the basis of evidence lifts. Evidence lifts are useful for understanding data like “Facebook Likes as a predictor of High IQ”

Chapter 10: Representting and Mining Text

  • Term frequency (TFIDF) is a simple and useful data mining technique for text.
  • Topic layers can also be used to assist with understanding text.

Chapter 11: Decision Analytic Thinking II, Towards Analytical Engineering

  • Expected value framework is a core approach useful in many data science scenarios.

Chapter 12: Other Data Science Tasks and Techniques

  • Not discussed in depth in this book: co-occurrence grouping, lift and leverage, market basket analysis, profiling, link predictions, social recommendation, data reduction, latent information, bias vs variance, ensemble models, causal explanations

Chapter 13: Data Science and Business Strategy

  • Understanding data science concepts leads to awareness of new opportunities.
  • Understanding the ROI of data science results in increased investment in data and data science teams.
  • Data science is a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • A culture of data science is valuable in building a data science team.
  • A top data scientist is worth many times an average data scientist.
  • Data science is learned by working with top data scientists, either in industry or academia.
  • A top data science manager understands the technical principles, understands the business needs, and manages people and projects well.
  • There is only one reliable predictor of success of a data science research project: prior success.
  • Top data scientists want to work with other top data scientists. Most want more responsibility. Most want to be part of a fast-growing, successful company.
  • Consider funding a PhD student for $50k/year.
  • Consider taking on a data science professor or a top data science consultant as a scientific advisor to guide projects and attract data scientists.
  • An immature data science team has processes that are ad-hoc.
  • A medium-maturity data science team employs well-trained data scientists and managers.
  • A high-maturity data science team focuses on processes as well as projects.

Permaculture by Sepp Holzer

The Big Idea: Learn how nature works. Then work with nature, instead of against it, to practice sustainable agriculture.

Ch 1: Landscape Design

  • Permaculture landscape design is about restoring a partially destroyed natural landscape.
  • Keep water on your land as long as possible.
  • Terraces are an important part of my permaculture system.
  • With the exception of raised beds, there should be no straight lines, corners, or steep slopes.
  • Create microclimates where possible, to increase diversity and maximize use of land.
  • Livestock plays an important role in my permaculture system.
  • When making larger changes, seek professional help to avoid landslides and gully erosion.
  • Mechanical diggers might be used when first creating the system.
  • Burning biomass is a mistake.
  • Loosening subsoil with the excavator helps make the soil productive again.
  • Flat land, at low altitude, with lots of sun is the easiest, but permaculture systems can be developed in many unfavorable lands.
  • Understand soil conditions, water sources, aspect (directionality), and climate.
  • Raised beds are great over heavy soils that are difficult for plants to establish roots in.
  • Good healthy soil is critical for earthworms and micro-organisms that benefit plants.
  • Indicator plants will tell you what the soil conditions are like.
  • Dig deep test trenches in many places to see what the soil layers are.
  • Always experiment with new plants to see what might grow.
  • Pioneer trees can be planted to quickly protect land from erosion.
  • Lay thorny branches to protect germinating seeds from animals and to create a microclimate for growth.
  • In dry areas, you must retain as much water as possible.
  • Terraces prevent erosion, hold moisture, and increase the amount of usable land.
  • Dispersing water for roads by making the middle of the road higher.
  • Use pipes or culverts to divert streams and springs underneath roads.
  • Ditches are good for collecting water and collecting organic material.
  • Develop terraces slowly, over multiple years.
  • After excavating terraces, plant immediately and mulch to encourage fast growth.
  • Green manure or wildflowers can be planted immediately to improve suboptimal soil on a terrace.
  • Cutting grasses in summer and autumn is not necessary.
  • Plant fruit bushes and trees on embankments of terraces.
  • Humus storage ditches can be built the bottom of a slope and a terrace.
  • Raised beds are a staple of Holzer permaculture.
  • Holzer permaculture raised beds are 3-4 feet deep into the ground, 4-6 feet wide, filled with hugelkultur material, then soil to 3 feet high, with steep (45+ degree) sides.
  • Cover raised beds with mulch to prevent drying out.
  • Consider planting bushes on top of raised beds. Vegetables can still be planted under the bush. Bushes can protect vegetables from the sun drying out the soil.
  • Inside the hugelkultur, use wood chips for vegetables that require lots of nutrients. Use bulky material for vegetables that don’t require as many nutrients.
  • Try to retain as much water as possible on your land.
  • Wetlands house snakes and amphibians that help control pests.
  • Large areas of water help to stabilize temperature fluctuations.
  • A pond for fish will be different than an aquatic garden for plants, or for a pond for swimming.
  • Play close attention to topography when building a pond.
  • Rain-filled ponds are for plants. Animals require a constant flow of water.
  • An excavator is used to dig the pond and tamp the base to seal it.
  • Holzer ponds never use a pond liner.

Ch. 2: Alternative Agriculture

  • Fossil fuels have enabled large, unsustainable monoculture farms to replace sustainable, diverse farms.
  • Healthy plants require healthy soil and healthy micro-organisms.
  • Green manure crops help restore soil health.
  • Using flail mowers to cut down green manure is a common mistake.
  • Gardening problems are usually caused by an imbalance which we should fix, instead of treating the symptoms.
  • Many corrections (weeding, chemical fertilizer) that are are possible on a small scale, but not feasible or desirable on a larger scale.
  • It’s better to understand and correct the imbalance instead. Eg. mulch with cardboard, plant Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Old plant varieties generally make the best crops. Avoid hybrid seeds.
  • Store or propagate the seeds of your strongest plants growing in the worst conditions.
  • Try to grow plants in polycultures. Eg. cereals with catch crops. Eg. corn with beans or peas.
  • Breed only old, domestic breeds of livestock.
  • Keep livestock humanely, and in family groups.
  • Pigs loosen the soil and till the terraces.
  • Direct pigs to loosen desired soil by scattering feed.
  • Pigs can clean up fruit orchards, preventing rotting fruit from spreading fungus and mold, without damaging the fruit trees.
  • Pigs can also control snails.
  • Use a rotating paddock system when keeping pigs.
  • Keep wild and domestic cattle in paddocks and let them forage to stay healthy.
  • Birds are great for controlling insect population and helping to propagate plants. Provide them with good forage and habitat.
  • Free range poultry needs good habitat, protection from predators, and good forage plants.
  • Ponds with an island in the middle provide good protection against predators for ducks and geese.
  • Earth shelters can be used to house pigs and as storage cellars.
  • Cellars can also be built out of stone to last forever.

Ch. 3: Fruit Trees

  • Fruit trees provide food for animals and insects.
  • Fruit trees provide wood for homes, fuel, and furniture.
  • Fruit trees provide shade against the sun and also stabilize soil.
  • Plant fruit trees wherever possible.
  • Wild fruit trees can pollinate cultivated fruit trees.
  • You don’t need to prune, fertilize, or use chemical pesticides. Doing this trains them to depend on human care forever.
  • Leave all the branches below the graft intact.
  • Do not use a tree guard, hammer in a stake, or use chemical fertilizer.
  • Cover the base with mulch and stones.
  • Plant green manure around the base.
  • Create microclimates around the tree to give it protection.
  • Branches sink down under the weight of fruit, allowing sunlight to reach in. Do not prune.
  • Pruning also creates wounds and can introduce disease.
  • Side shoots and branches also protect the tree from deer from damaging the trunk.
  • Plant distraction plants such as fruit bushes and willow trees to protect fruit trees.

Ch. 4: Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium.
  • Mushrooms can be cultivated on wood, compost, or straw.
  • It’s easiest to grow mushrooms on wood.
  • Softwoods gives faster yields, if that’s what you want.
  • Use only fresh, healthy wood.
  • Inoculation is easier than growing from spores.
  • The key to mushroom growing is the right combination of sun, moisture, and substrate.
  • Snails will try to eat your mushrooms.
  • You can also cultivate wild mushrooms by inoculating in the wild forest areas.

Ch. 5: Gardens

  • Try to keep gardens closer to the home.
  • Plant vegetables, medicinal, and culinary plants in your garden.
  • Natural medicine is being replaced by more effective modern medicine. However, natural medicine is safer and still effective.
  • A cold frame can extend the growing season.
  • When you weed the garden, place weeds on the ground as cover and mulch.
  • In the spring, you can lightly loosen the soil.
  • There is no need to dig soil over. It is harmful because it disturbs micro-organisms and worms.
  • Watering in the garden should be limited to dry weather. Use lots of mulch to help protect plants from drying out.
  • Adding compost is not required, though it is helpful.
  • Mulching is important. Mulching is basically surface composting and happens in nature. Spread mulch loosely because mulch needs oxygen for decomposition.
  • Natural liquid fertilizer is useful for nutrients and repelling pests.
  • Pest problems are an indication of an imbalance.
  • Monocultures are an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Lack of natural predators is an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Restore natural balance and pests should not be a problem.
  • Non-indigenous pests are an exception and should be controlled more aggressively.
  • Create good habitat for garden helpers like lizards, birds, worms, and predatory insects.
  • Create enough good forage to distract garden critters from your vegetable garden and fruit trees.
  • Encourage lots of earthworms by giving them lots of mulch and stones for good living conditions. Consider breeding earthworms in your garden by burying food compost in your garden.

Ch. 6: Projects

  • Example project in Scotland.
  • Example project in Thailand.

Built From Scratch by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

The Big Idea: Clarify your core values and make sure everyone knows them.

Core Values
1. Excellent customer service
2. Taking care of our people
3. Developing entrepreneurial spirit
4. Respect for all people
5. Building strong relationships
6. Doing the right thing
7. Giving back to our communities
8. Shareholder return

Ch 1: Two Regular Guys

  • Two Guys discount retail was destroyed by overexpansion.
  • Bernie started off as a controller for Handy Dan hardware stores.

Ch 2: Origins

  • There is transactional banking and there is relationship banking.
  • The vision for Home Depot was created in 1976. There were too many small chains, no national companies, and prices are too high.
  • Home Depot would buy directly from manufacturers for increased margins and build immense warehouse stores for higher sales volumes.

Ch 3: The Financier

  • Ross Perot nearly invested $2mm for 70% of Home Depot, which would now be worth $50bn+.
  • Home Depot found seed capital elsewhere.

Ch 4: The Merchant, Act I

  • Merchandising is a core competency for Home Depot.
  • For Home Depot, merchandising is knowing what to buy and how to sell it in the stores.

Ch 5: The First Stores

  • Atlanta was chosen over Boston, Dallas, and LA, because of demographics and economics.
  • Home Depot got the cash it needed for inventory because of its relationships with bankers.
  • The stores were meant to look more like warehouses than showrooms.
  • Some deep discount sales brought customers into the first stores, which led to word of mouth.
  • Home Depot lost money in 1979 but quickly turned it around and made a profit in 1980.
  • Home Depot went public in 1981, which financed expansion into Florida.

Ch 6: The Associates

  • Take good care of the customer.
  • Empower associates to make decisions.
  • Pay people what they are worth.
  • Hire the best people and pay them more than the competitor.
  • Offer stock options or a stock purchase program to let all employees be owners.
  • Do what you can to keep associate turnover low.
  • Take care of associates and they’ll take care of customers.
  • Work hard and also work smart. People need a balanced life.
  • Don’t ask your managers or associates to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  • Sometimes you need to untrain bad habits that associates pick up at other companies.
  • Don’t be afraid to hire senior citizens.
  • Invest time in training and developing people.
  • Home Depot offers apron badges for key accomplishments.

Ch 7: The Customers

  • New executives always spend time in the stores.
  • Associates are expected to walk customers to the product, not just point.
  • How-To Clinics were developed because Home Depot cared about customers and their projects.
  • The Home Depot return policy is flexible because they trust the customer.
  • Associates are expected to be responsible for customer service.

Ch 8: Building the Brand

  • Low prices are just the beginning.
  • Home Depot’s size made national advertising finally cost-effective.
  • Home Depot wanted to become synonymous with home improvement.
  • Home Depot copied the Wal-mart employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
  • Everyday low prices was a better strategy for more consistent sales than occasional sales discounting.
  • Home Depot spent millions on the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and became part of the fabric of America.

Ch 9: The Competition

  • Home Depot is far ahead of Lowe’s.
  • When you copy somebody and don’t really understand what they’re doing, you’re never going to be as good as the original. That’s Lowe’s problem.
  • Home Depot can never beat specialty stores and so they will continue to exist.
  • Core values remain the same but everything else is subject to innovation and disruption.
  • Retailers can’t ever stay the same. Times change and retailers either adapt or die.
  • The focus is always on the customer. Home Depot doesn’t need to beat the competition, they need to win the customer.

Ch 10: Growth

  • Walmart founders always have retained humility, despite their incredible success.
  • Walmart reached $10bn in sales by concentrating on stores, particularly control of merchandise, distribution, finances, and infrastructure.
  • Home Depot gets lower prices by paying invoices immediately instead of net 30.
  • Home Depot makes buying decisions on the local level, instead of centrally.
  • Vendors generally ship inventory directly to stores, instead of to a distribution center. This saves time and money.
  • Secure twice the capital you think you need. It gives you the confidence and financial strength to do what’s best for the long-run.
  • Hire people who are overqualified at first and let them grow with you. Payroll is an investment, not an expense.
  • In the early days, Home Depot managers worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to open new stores.
  • It’s not easy being a public company, but without the IPO, Home Depot would still be a chain of four stores in Atlanta.
  • The board of directors agreed to cap annual growth at 25%, to protect the Home Depot culture from expanding too rapidly.
  • During expansion, Home Depot learned the importance of planning and then learning when to adjust and improvise.
  • The 24-hour Home Depot concept was driven by customers.
  • Home Depot stocks contractor brands for the pros, but they have become popular with the DIY.

Ch 11: The Merchant, Act II

Ch 12: Strategic Partners

  • Bankers and vendor relationships were key, especially since Home Depot did not use distributors.
  • Home Depot works with vendors to improve their products.
  • Eventually, Home Depot developed or bought in-house brands of tools, such as Ridgid.

Ch 13: How We Manage

  • Humility is key. Accept that they are people smarter than you and hire them.
  • What works in Atlanta might necessarily work in Maine.
  • Give your managers firm boundaries at first and then loosen them as they earn your trust.
  • Some things are the same from store to store. Some things are flexible. Some things are completely dependent on the store.
  • Hire people who are overqualified and let them grow with the company.
  • As you scale, keep a close eye on fiscal discipline.
  • Success depends on teamwork.
  • Communication is key. Avoid bureaucracy by keeping lines of communication open.
  • Store walks are great for keeping executives close to the stores.
  • Employee stock ownership program comes with a 7-year vesting period so it had a chance to build value over time.
  • Best Practices program is how good ideas spread from one store to the entire chain.
  • Teach employees core values and you won’t have to micro-manage.
  • Use 360 feedback to develop people.
  • Establish team-building programs to establish trust and improve communication.
  • Never let the cancer of bureaucracy into your organization.
  • Executives serve managers. Managers serve associates. Associates serve customers.
  • The main office in Atlanta is not called “Headquarters.” It’s called “Store Support Center.”

Ch 14: The Communities We Serve

  • Do the right thing and give back to the community.
  • Don’t just encourage stores to do community service, give them a budget for it.

Ch 15: The Future

  • Growth will come from the core business, professional customers, international expansion, specialty stores, convenience stores.
  • Future leaders will be better than the founders.
  • It’s the leader’s job to train people to be better than him.

Ch 16: Legacy

  • It’s important to stay close to the stores and to the associates.
  • The founders still walk around stores and talk to associates.
  • Opportunities are still out there for anybody with the courage to reach out.
  • Starting Home Depot looks easy now, but there was often a lot of pain, a lot of struggle, and many lucky breaks.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

The Big Idea: focus on fundamentals and execution (The Standard of Performance), instead of focusing on the score and on the competition.

Part I: My Standard of Performance

  • Failure is a part of success. Everyone gets knocked down.
  • The Standard of Performance is the set of core values, principles, and ideals that define the organization. Implementing the Standard of Performance is more important than any strategies and tactics you might implement.
  • Bill Walsh wanted the 49ers to be the pinnacle of professionalism in the NFL.
  • Practices were precise and demanding, never sloppy.
  • Continuous improvement was more important than victory.
  • Character, intelligence, work ethic, and fit was more important than raw talent.
  • The leader’s job is to teach and to encourage everyone else to teach.
  • Champions behave like champions before they are champions.
  • If you place a premium on fundamentals and consistent execution, you can perform reliably in big games and in big moments.

Part II: Innovation, Planning, and Common Sense

  • Innovation is often born out of necessity and resourcefulness.
  • Always be quick to share credit (and accept blame.)
  • Contingency planning was one of the 49ers’ secret weapons. Be prepared for anything. Hail Mary’s are not a strategy.
  • Analyze your vulnerabilities and take action to counter or protect them.
  • The truth is hidden in the numbers. Follow key metrics more closely then big milestones or wins/losses.

Part III: Fundamentals of Leadership

  • There are many equally valid leadership styles.
  • The common trait, however, is an indomitable will to succeed.
  • Know when to persevere and know when to quit. It’s a delicate balance that requires distinguishing a good plan from a bad plan.
  • Sweat the small stuff, but only the small stuff that actually matters.
  • Leaders must be both subject matter experts and delegation experts.
  • Leaders teach others and show the entire organization how to teach each other.
  • You don’t need to shout, stomp, and strut to be a good leader. Joe Montana was a quiet but incredibly effective leader.
  • Treat people like people.
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere.
  • Know that humor has its place.
  • Give no VIP treatment.
  • Show interest in your people and their families.
  • Don’t let animosity linger.
  • Praise is more powerful than blame.
  • Discipline is based on pride in the profession and attention to details.
  • Officers must be seen on the front lines during action.
  • Bill Walsh’s praise was sparse but meaningful.
  • Employees thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Don’t mistake activity for achievement. — John Wooden
  • Being a good listener is the key to good communication.
  • Don’t let rank, titles, or status impede open communication.
  • Leadership is about teaching skills, attitudes, and goals to the organization.
  • Persistence is essential because knowledge is rarely imparted on the first attempt. You must drill over and over.

Part IV: Essentials of a Winning Team

  • High expectations of your team are the key to winning.
  • Let your people know they are part of something special.
  • You are only as good as your people, so hire only the best.
  • Traits to look for in hires: skills, energy and enthusiasm, ability to spot talent, ability to communicate, loyalty to others.
  • How to keep people working well together: clear expectations, open communication, flexibility in method (but not core values), alignment with core values.
  • Be aware that success can breed over-confidence and complacency.
  • Place a premium on people who exhibit great desire to push themselves. (Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig)
  • Ego can kill an organization.
  • Never ignore the front-line (guys in the trenches) because they will generally pave the way to success or failure.
  • The most powerful way to maximize someone’s potential is to say, “I believe in you.”
  • There are times to sprint, but success is more like a marathon than a sprint.
  • You can’t teach work ethic or willpower.
  • Don’t waste energy on enemies.
  • Focus on the process, not the prize.
  • Make your own mentors by seeking out experts and asking questions.

Part V: Looking For Lessons in My Mirror

  • Jerry Rice and Joe Montana are in the Hall of Fame because of their focus on fundamentals.
  • The starting point for everything is work ethic.
  • Teach your team how to teach their team. Build an organization of teachers.
  • What goes around comes around. Treat people well.
  • Know how to delegate well.
  • Eliminate bad hires or toxic people quickly and compassionately.
  • The best marketing strategy is to build a good product.
  • Don’t expect quick results. Building a winning organization takes time.

Tribes by Seth Godin

The Big Idea: In today’s world, where geography doesn’t matter, tribes are thriving. Tribes are about connection and caring. Leaders of tribes build connection and caring into the tribe.

  • Human beings need to belong.
  • You can’t have a tribe without a leader, so learn about leadership.
  • Everyone is expected to lead.
  • Geography used to restrict the boundaries of tribes but the internet changed that.
  • Leadership is pulling, not pushing.
  • It’s better to make the rules than to follow them.
  • Leadership is not management. Management is getting things done. Leadership is about creating change and inspiring people.
  • Leaders are not afraid of change.
  • Authority does not equal leadership.
  • Two things to turn a group into a tribe: shared interest, a way to communicate.
  • A leader of a tribe encourages members to communicate with each other.
  • Tribes aren’t about stuff. They are about connections, in the context of a shared interest.
  • A crowd is a tribe without a leader and without communication.
  • An artist needs 1,000 true fans. A corporation needs more than 1,000 but fewer than it thinks. True fans are much more important than average customers.
  • Real leaders give back generously to their tribe and help the tribe grow closer.
  • Change is made by acting first and asking for forgiveness later.
  • The best followers are not blind sheep but vibrant fanatics.
  • One person with a persistent vision can make changes happen.
  • Industries don’t die by surprise. The signals are always there.
  • Life is too short to be unhappy and mediocre.
  • Publish a manifesto, connect with followers, encourage followers to connect with each other.
  • It’s powerful to exclude outsiders.
  • Be willing to be wrong. Being wrong isn’t fatal.
  • The big win for nonprofits is turning donors into patrons and activists. Encourage donors to network and volunteer. And vice versa.
  • Caring is the emotion at the center of the tribe. Members of a tribe care about the tribe and each other.
  • The secret of effective leadership is to first listen deeply.
  • Success and change happen a little at a time. Drip, drip, drip. It takes time.
  • You can’t bring permanent change in from the outside.
  • Real leaders don’t care about who gets the credit. There’s no record about Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi whining about credit.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

The Big Idea: The presence of cognitive biases means we don’t always act rationally. Cialdini outlines six weapons of influence which can be used to influence behavior. Even if you aren’t a salesperson, you are a consumer so it’s good to be aware.

1. Reciprocation

  • We tend to reciprocate a favor, even if it is unsolicited.
  • Start by asking for a large favor and then expect a concession to the real favor you want.
  • Selling down works better than selling up.

2. Commitment and Consistency

  • After making an initial choice, we tend to stand by that choice over time. People usually don’t switch sides after they have committed.
  • In a debate, start with a small area of agreement or concession and build from there. People want to stay consistent.
  • We are more consistent in our commitment if we did it for our own purpose rather than from external reward or pressure.
  • Bribing children doesn’t work.

3. Social Proof

  • People like to follow the crowd (of people like them or people they want to be.)
  • Examples: canned laughter, tip jars, Jonestown, peer learning, bystander effect.

4. Liking

  • People want to please others whom they like.
  • Attractive people are more persuasive.
  • People like others who are similar to them.
  • Compliments and flattery work.
  • Familiarity increases persuasiveness.
  • Establish a connection between your product and an attractive or winning person.

5. Authority

  • We obey authority mindlessly in many cases.
  • Titles, uniforms, and appearances convey authority.

6. Scarcity

  • Losing something is more painful than gaining something.
  • Something that is hard to obtain is more valuable than something that is easier to obtain.
  • People fight fiercely to retain something they worked for.
  • Sometimes it’s better to be censored than publicized. (Eg. Some “secret information” the industry doesn’t want you to know.)
  • Indifference towards a lover becomes passion when a rival appears.
  • Scarcity+rivalry drives up prices in bidding wars. Always mention a rival buyer when selling something.

The Right and Wrong Stuff by Carter Cast

The Big Idea: High potential people stumble in their careers most often because of a lack self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses. Fantastic advice in this book.

  • The five archetypes of high potential people who stumble:
    • Captain Fantastic: high performer but terrible interpersonal skills
    • Solo Flier: high performer when working by himself but doesn’t know how to lead
    • Version 1.0: high performer but resistant to change
    • One-Trick Pony: high performance limited to one skill
    • Whirling Dervish: lots of potential but can’t manage time or projects
  • Many high performers are completely unaware of their weaknesses.
  • The book has specific advice and tools to help address weaknesses that could derail a career.
  • High performers: love learning, have high emotional intelligence, and have lots of perseverance.
  • High performers have a growth mindset (Carol Dweck.)
  • Understand what motivates you and find the right job and organization for you.
  • Five key motivations: achievement, affiliation, power, autonomy, and purpose.
  • No one is going to care as much as you about your own development. Seek knowledge, feedback, and mentoring.


To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

The Big Idea: Even if you’re not a “salesman”, you probably have to sell or persuade people all the time. Therefore, learn how to sell.

  • Everyone sells.
  • Physicians sell patients on treatments. Lawyers sell juries on verdicts. Teachers sell students on coursework. Entrepreneurs sell investors on visions. Writers sell producers on scripts. Coaches sell players on plays.
  • Before the internet, sellers had all the information on their product so they were able to deceive and manipulate.
  • Today, buyers have more information and leverage, so the balance has shifted.
  • Instead of Always Be Closing, the new ABC is Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
  • Attunement
    • Show empathy
    • Be humble
    • Mimic strategically
    • Put yourself in their shoes
    • Be ambivert not extrovert
    • Ask others “where are you from?”
  • Buoyancy
    • Instead of stating “I will ___,” ask yourself “how will I ___?”
    • 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is better than infinite positivity.
    • Develop an optimistic explanatory style to deal with rejection: rejections are temporary not permanent, specific not universal, external not personal.
  • Clarity
    • The ability to move people hinges less on problem-solving than on problem-finding.
    • Problem finders tend to be more successful than problem solvers.
    • Problem finding is about asking the right questions and being good at curating information.
    • One of the most essential questions is “compared to what?” Frame your offerings in ways that contrast its alternatives and clarify its virtues.
    • 5 Frames: less frame (paradox of choice), experience frame (experience vs physical), label frame (names matter), blemished frame (include a negative), potential frame (potential is more powerful than actual)
    • “On a scale from 1 to 10…” “How can we move that up?”
    • Books: Influence, Made to Stick, Switch, Mindless Eating, Nudge
    • Ask 5 Whys
  • How to Pitch
    • Don’t present a pitch end-to-end. Start your pitch and invite the others to create it with you.
    • 1. The One Word Pitch. Simplify everything to one word.
    • 2. The Question Pitch. “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”
    • 3. The Rhyming Pitch. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
    • 4. The Subject Line Pitch. Utility first. Curiosity second.
    • 5. The Twitter Pitch.
    • 6. The Pixar Pitch. “Once upon a time…Every day…One day…Because of that…Until finally.”
  • Learn from improvisational theater. Listen closely. Make the other people look good.
  • Service is at the core of sales.
  • To serve, make it personal and make it purposeful. Eg. Radiologist viewing photos, hospital hand-washing to protect others, fundraisers reading stories about alumni who received scholarships.
  • Be grateful. Always act like the other guy is doing you the favor. No matter what.
  • Look at all your signs and ask if they are emotionally intelligent and well-designed.
  • Treat everyone well.

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

The Big Idea: An efficient, eco-friendly homestead takes good planning and years of work to become stable and self-sufficient.

  • Modern, industrial agriculture is incompatible with a rapidly growing population and resource depletion.
  • Well-designed permaculture systems promote biodiversity and restore land back to health.
  • Nut trees are the core of good permaculture.
  • A nut tree is simply more effective and efficient at converting sunlight and rain into value, over the long-term. A nut tree orchard is also a pasture, a game reserve, a shelter for understory berries, and a site for medicinal plants.
  • (See chapter 2 for seventy two permaculture design principles.)
  • Before you begin, do a deep site analysis, observing water, sun, temperature, soil, topography.
  • The purpose of a plan is to avoid huge mistakes so you can know where to experiment.
  • Understanding and shaping water flow and storage is fundamental to your farm.
  • Understand keylines, swales, and ponds.
  • Overgrazing in the 19th and 20th century has destroyed most of America’s rich topsoil.
  • Strategies to rebuild your land’s topsoil:
    • Compost, urine, humanure.
    • Biochar.
    • Fungi.
    • Remineralization.
    • Cover cropping.
    • Tall grass grazing.
    • Subsoil plowing.
    • Keyline agriculture.
    • Deep root perennials.
  • Strategies for growing food:
    • Plant permaculture guilds.
    • Start a forest garden.
    • Emphasize perennial plants.
    • Know which foods should be staples (rice, meat, eggs, fruit, nuts).
    • Until your systems can produce staple foods, vegetable gardening will comprise the bulk of your yield and your work.
    • Among your annual vegetables, emphasize reliability and calorie foods such as potato, winter squash, cabbage, garlic, and carrots.
    • Learn to preserve food via kimchi and sauerkraut.
    • Emphasize crops that also provide medicine or rebuild the soil.
    • Fungi are very underrated.
  • Fuel and shelter advice:
    • Learn how to use wood as your main fuel and heat source.
    • Biochar has been used for thousands of years to amend soil.
    • Passive solar home design uses large, south-facing windows to trap the sunlight and warm the home.
    • Good home design considers sun, water, wind, surrounding landscape, elevation, views, noise, and road access.
    • Solar south is not always the optimal solar orientation. On a west-facing slope, a home has a late solar day.
    • Foundation advice: extend the foundation wall higher, go deeper for frost stability.
    • Roofs should be steel or slate.
    • Normally, go with a cheaper and faster stud wall frame home. A timber frame is prettier, though. You can do a hybrid if you like.
    • Never use spray foam insulation. Use cellulose for ease of use, low toxicity, sustainability, resistance to mice, and reusability.
    • In terms of insulation, a few large windows > lots of small windows.
    • Use daylight or LED for lighting.
    • Consider getting a landline for phone service.
    • A wood stove can serve many functions: space heater, water heater, stove, and oven.
    • Good home design can reduce the need for heating, A/C, and fans.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Summit Interview

The Big Idea: Be resourceful, think long-term, and have a sense of adventure.

  • I learned self-reliance and resourcefulness on my grandfather’s Texas ranch.
  • Building Amazon is a constant flow of problems solved by self-reliance and resourcefulness.
  • About letting his kids use power tools, “I’d much rather have a kid with nine fingers than a kid who lacks resourcefulness.”
  • About his choice of wife, “I wanted a woman who could get me out of third-world prison if necessary.”
  • About abandoning a good life to start Amazon, “When I’m 80 years old, I want to minimize the number of regrets I have.”
  • My space exploration company Blue Origins requires long-term thinking.
  • Big problems can be solved if you think long-term.
  • While our competitors have a 2-3 year time horizon, Amazon has a 10+ year time horizon. That is a tremendous competitive advantage.
  • I don’t like to multi-task. I am focused on whatever the task I’m on. If I’m reading email, I’m reading email. If I’m relaxing, I’m relaxing.
  • A sense of adventure is one of my core values. Choose a life of adventure and you’ll be more proud of this when you’re 80.
  • Exposing yourself to new things and creating is all about having a sense of adventure.
  • To me, fellowship means traveling down the road together. It encompasses more than friendship.
  • On work-life balance, “If I’m energized at work, I’m a better husband-friend-father. And vice-versa.” Is your work energizing or draining? Both sides of my life give me energy, so it’s never been a problem.


How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons

The Big Idea: Grow Biointensive (a variant of organic farming) produces more food per square foot while also building soil, using less water, using less fertilizer, and requiring less fossil fuel.

  • Industrial agriculture depletes 6 pounds of soil for every 1 pound of food produced.
  • Organic agriculture also depletes soil as it produces food.
  • Grow Biointensive and permaculture builds soils as it produces food.
  • Grow Biointensive farming builds soil, uses less water, uses less fertilizer, requires less energy, and increases food production per square foot.
  • Grow Biointensive relies on human labor instead of external inputs.
  • Similar to Grow Biointensive: agroforestry, no-till Fukuoka farming, Asian blue-green algal wet rice farming, natural rainfall arid farming, and indigenous farming.
  • Build compost (using earthworm) for soil fertility.
  • Deep soil preparation (double digging) sets a foundation for building good soil.
  • Companion planting enhances growth and plant health.
  • Carbon-efficient crops produces carbon for compost.
  • Calorie-efficient crops produces lots of calories.
  • Open-pollinated seeds preserves genetic diversity.
  • A holistic farming system minimizes waste and required inputs.
  • Start small and build from there.

How I Built This: Patagonia

The Big Idea: We’re here for the long-term. That means we need to treat everyone well and make quality, long-lasting clothing.

  • I started Patagonia to make better quality climbing gear for myself. Our profit margins were about 1%
  • Patagonia branched out into clothing when I wore some local clothing and people started asking me where I got them. It was much more profitable.
  • I make product decisions based on intuition, not data.
  • “If you wait for the customer to tell you what to do, you’re too late.”
  • We had to slow down growth because we wanted to grow only out of retained profits.
  • I hated laying people off during one of our early recessions.
  • Our earliest mistake was growing too fast.
  • We fixed things by slowing things down and putting ourselves on a growth plan that aimed to make sure we were in business 100 years from now.
  • Our advertising budget is tiny. Because we are private, we can grow as much or as little as we think is right.
  • “There are two kinds of growth. One is where you grow stronger. The other is where you grow fatter.”
  • We have the largest garment repair facility in North America. We’ll repair any Patagonia clothing forever. So that incentivizes us to make clothing that lasts (or can be easily repaired.)
  • I studied Japanese and Scandinavian business and management models in search of a better way of doing business.
  • Ant colonies don’t have bosses. Every ant knows what to do. We hire motivated, young, independent people and leave them alone.
  • “Let my people go surfing.” I don’t care when you work as long as the job is done.
  • Our employees are so independent they are almost unemployable anywhere else.
  • We started a childcare and learning center at the company for employees. Why not?
  • We’re not going to sell the company. We’re not going public.
  • We’re here for the long-term. That means we need to treat everyone well and make quality, long-lasting clothing.
  • You’re not going to beat Coca-Cola at their own game.
  • But if you play a different game, you can win. Pick a game where there is little competition. Be creative. Break the rules.
  • I never took a penny of investment. I still own 100% of the company.
  • Patagonia reportedly did $750mm in sales last year.

The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama

The Big Idea: You have everything you need to achieve happiness. Happiness is achieved through mental practice.

  • Service to others is the best way to live.
  • If you can’t live your life in service to others, at least refrain from doing harm to others.
  • Happiness is not a luxury but the purpose of our existence.
  • Eliminate habits that lead to suffering.
  • Cultivate habits that lead to happiness.
  • In Buddhism, there are four factors to happiness: wealth, worldly satisfaction, spirituality, and enlightenment.
  • The real secret to happiness is a disciplined mind.
  • A calm mind, or one that is engaged in meaningful work, equates to happiness.
  • A basic way to happiness is to cultivate affection and connection with other human beings.
  • Always look for what you have in common with others and you will never be lonely.
  • All emotions, negative and positive, grow in size if practiced regularly.
  • Don’t confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure lacks meaning. Happiness depends on meaning and is often felt despite negative external conditions.
  • Become a student of happiness and practice how to improve happiness.
  • Replace anger and hatred with tolerance and patience.
  • Compassion means seeking to truly understand others. Compassion is the key to communicating and bonding with others.
  • The cure for loneliness is to recognize the need to open your eyes to all the people who surround you and to connect with them.
  • Instead of loving someone so that they love you back, seek to love them by increasing their happiness.
  • Without attempting to feel another’s pain, we set ourselves up for isolation.


Extraordinary Experiences by Denise Lee Yeon

The Big Idea: creating extraordinary customer experiences is an essential part of building a great brand.


  • Brands matter more than ever.
  • The internet has increased transparency, so now brands need to be more authentic than ever.
  • Image manipulation through marketing muscle is not enough.
  • Great restaurant and retail brands rely heavily on great customer experiences and are worth studying.
  • Benefits of a strong brand: higher profit margins, customer loyalty, lower overhead costs, greater market valuations, and good will for when things go wrong.

1. Great Brands Start Inside: Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

  • Prioritizing the needs of franchise owners (not shareholders, customers, or employees) resulted in a dramatic turnaround for Popeye’s.
  • The change in priority led to more training, better communication, improved culture, motivated front-line employees, and improved customer experience.
  • A strong company culture is a competitive advantage.

2. Great Brands Avoid Selling Products: H-E-B

  • Selling food can be a commodity business, but HEB has managed to differentiate itself from Walmart and others by designing a stellar customer experience that is about more than commodity groceries.
  • Examples: longer sampling hours, a greater variety of wines, attractive displays, demonstration kitchens, in-store restaurants, take-out bbq.
  • HEB also makes Texas part of its identity. People tend to do business with people like them.
  • HEB knows their customers better because they are local.
  • HEB’s charitable giving “Helping Here” also supports the local branding and commitment to the community to be more than a place to buy groceries.

3. Great Brands Ignore Trends: Buffalo Wild Wings

  • While other casual restaurants lowered prices during the Great Recession, Buffalo Wild Wings reinforced its positioning as the ultimate sports bar by increasing service, improving the experience, and highlighting its unique personality.
  • The result was a better customer experience, more customer loyalty, lower employee turnover, stronger differentiation, and increased market share.
  • Most companies don’t pioneer, they follow the leader. They will always be behind.

4. Great Brands Don’t Chase Customers: Costco

  • Costco succeeded by stating, “this is who we are, these are the customers we care about” and then doing everything they can to meet those customers’ needs.
  • Costco’s $55 membership fee weeds out low-income customers and selects for higher-income customers who want higher-quality goods but still want a bargain.
  • In return for lower prices on higher-quality goods, customers make a commitment to shop there regularly by paying a membership fee.
  • Costco is able to earn customer loyalty with better customer service enabled by paying employees well.
  • It’s okay to alienate some customers to serve other customers better. You can’t be everything to everybody.
  • A mass, undifferentiated marketing strategy might produce big gains in the short-term but won’t differentiate the brand or attract/retain customers in the long-term.

5. Great Brands Sweat the Small Stuff: PIRCH

  • PIRCH is a luxury appliance retailer with eight showrooms.
  • PIRCH differentiates itself by playing attention to every detail.
  • Examples: a barista greets you at the front door then asks you if you would like a tour or prefer to wander, free samples of food as you shop, cooking demonstrations, working showers, thoughful design of the company headquarters.
  • “Retail is detail.”
  • Note: company may or may not be profitable yet.

6. Great Brands Commit and Stay Committed: Jason’s Deli

  • Privately held company with more than 240 locations. Based in Beaumont, TX for over 40 years (I see a pattern).
  • Prices were always low, but portions are always generous and food quality is high.
  • They decided against breakfast even though it would increase sales short-term because it would affect lunch and catering long-term.
  • Basecamp mandates a 4-day workweek in the summer because balance is part of its culture.
  • In-N-Out pays front-line employees generously because they understand that they drive the customer experience and drive the business.
  • Jason’s Deli prefers to stay private because their culture would not be a good fit with Wall Street
  • They discovered their own values. They didn’t hire a company to decide them.
  • Instead of chasing growth, they grow when feel they are ready to grow.

7. Great Brands Never Have to ‘Give Back’: sweetleaf

  • sweetleaf is a restaurant chain focused on local food and environmental friendliness.
  • By being authentic to its values, sweetleaf attracts customers who share those values.
  • Great brands who choose to pursue social impact – do it as a core element, not as a bolt-on program for good publicity.


  • Be different and memorable.
  • Branding is not taglines, promotions, logos, or advertising.
  • Branding is expression of the company’s values, mission, and personality.
  • Short-term success may come at the expense of long-term success.
  • Brand-building can’t be delegated to the marketing department or an advertising agency. It starts from leadership and company culture.

Kellogg on Branding by Kellogg School of Management

The Big Idea: a strong brand is one of the most important economic moats a company can build. Building a brand is not easy but, if done well, can pay dividends for many years.


  • A brand is much like a reputation.
  • A strong brand will reshape perception.
  • Cash: Executives are pressured to focus on short-term financial results, however, brand building is a long-term project.
  • Consistency: Brands are built at every touchpoint with the customer.
  • Clutter: A strong brand needs to be focused and unique to stand out from the clutter.

1. Brand Positioning

  • Develop a formal brand positioning statement to guide internal marketing managers.
  • Once a brand is well-established, it is difficult to change.
  • Who is this brand for?
  • What does it help the customer accomplish?
  • How is it different from the alternatives?

2. Designing Brands

  • Begin with a strong brand concept.
  • Incorporate specific cues into the design.
  • The best technique for evaluation of brand design is to expose the design briefly and then ask consumers what they remember.

3. Brand Meaning

  • A strong brand is differentiated from the competition in a meaningful way. Consumers are willing to pay a premium and to repeat purchases over time.
  • Effective brand management involves the discovery, creation, and constant revision of stories.
  • Brands can promote and proclaim brand affiliation (Harley Davidson, Apple.)
  • Conduct a brand meaning audit to track and guide brand management efforts.
  • Brand stewards must become astute meaning managers.

4. Competitive Brand Strategies

  • The pioneer who creates, then dominates, a category enjoys a significant advantage for years and, sometimes, decades.
  • Late entrants have three broad competitive strategies: fast-follower, differentiation, and innovation.

5. Brand Extensions

  • A familiar brand name signals trust which can persuade consumers to try a new product launched with the brand name.
  • The brand extension must make sense.
  • Too many brand extensions can confuse consumers.
  • Sub-brands are sometimes a better choice. Eg., Sony Walkman, where Sony is the parent brand and Walkman is the sub-brand.

6. Brand Portfolio Strategy

  • Brands are a long-term asset.
  • A company with many brands has two broad strategies: house of brands or branded house.
  • House of brands: Proctor and Gamble, the brands are kept distinct and little effort is made to market the parent company to the consumer.
  • Branded house: Apple, the parent company has a strong brand and the sub-brands are natural extensions of the parent brand.

7. Building Brands Through Effective Advertising

  • Advertising should reflect the consumer’s aspirations.
  • Advertising should resonate with prior beliefs, not try to change them.
  • Advertising should resonate with existing goals.
  • Some advertising strategies: hard sell (Visa and “we’re everywhere you want to be”), big idea (Delta stands for convenience because of X, Y, Z), story grammar (follow a character from problem to solution.)
  • Keys: selecting the right media and the right timing.

8. Relationship Branding and CRM

  • CRM can be used to build a personal connection with the brand.
  • First, subsegment the market.
  • Second, personalize the touch points to improve the customer experience.
  • Segmentation methods: monetary value, sociodemographics, purchase behaviors.
  • Cluster analysis is a statistical method used to find natural groups.
  • Well-defined rewards (loyalty club benefits) generally work better than discretionary rewards (complimentary upgrades).

9. Brand Strategy for Business Markets

  • Managing business brands presents unique challenges.
  • The foundation of branding is positioning.
  • A positioning statement declares who that target customer is, what you offer, and why it’s customers should prefer your offering.
  • Brand equity is determined by the associations that are established in the customer’s mind with your brand.
  • The brand associations can be functional (easy to use, high quality, affordable) or they can emotional (exciting, fun, trustworthy, exclusive.)

10. Services Branding

  • A brand name is a promise made to the customer.
  • Customers are either delighted, satisfied, or disgruntled.
  • In contrast to goods, services are generally more intangible, complex, variable in their delivery, process-dependent.
  • For services, the front-line employee (the primary touch point) is the brand.
  • Since the front-line employee is the brand, marketing the brand internally is critical.
  • Front-line employees must view their role as partners. Treat employees like part of the brand.
  • Using self-service technology can reduce variation in customer experience. Service machines make remaining human employees even more valuable.
  • Since the company is the brand, be careful to control communications of the company identity (from sponsored events to ethics to social media.)
  • To manage and improve the customer experience, map all the touch points.
  • Service blueprinting is a mapping of all the touch points with the customer.
  • The blueprint will help identify bottlenecks, ensure consistency, and reveal opportunities to distinguish the brand from competitors.
  • Ex. Mayo Clinic “patientfirst”.
  • Be careful when selecting partners because they become an extension of the brand, for better or worse.

11. Branding in Technology Markets

  • There has been a cultural bias in technology towards engineering and features and against branding.
  • Technology firms need to learn from the CPG firms.

12. Building a Brand-Driven Organization

  • The strongest, most resilient brands have a strong internal company culture that upholds the brand promises.
  • A strong brand leads to customer loyalty, which leads to lower marketing costs, more repeat purchases, and a higher customer lifetime value.
  • A strong brand leads to a higher willingness to pay, which leads to more revenue per customer, and a higher customer lifetime value.
  • A strong company culture motivates employees, reduces employee turnover, and lower operating costs.
  • A strong company culture motivates employees, which improves touch points with the customer, which leads to a strong brand.
  • The touch point wheel consists of interactions during pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.
  • At companies with a strong brand, CEO is the lead brand builder. But all leaders must build the brand in their departments or business units.
  • Form an executive brand council (EBC).
  • To communicate the brand to the employees, segment them like you would segment customers. Then customize the message and the delivery for each employee segment.
  • 1. Make the Brand Relevant to Employees. (What does this mean for me?)
  • 2. Make the Brand Accessible to Employees. (What is our brand, more specifically?)
  • 3. Reinforce the Brand Continuously to Employee. (What is our brand, again?)
  • 4. Make Brand Education Part of New Employee Training
  • 5. Reward On-Brand Behaviors (What’s in it for me?)
  • 6. Hire Based on Brand Fit
  • What gets measured gets managed. Set up employee-focused brand metrics. Surveys, suggestion boxes, focus groups.
  • Common pitfalls: relying on broadcast instead of conversation, not allocating sufficient resources, being seduced by sexy but shallow tactics, and relying too much on technology.

13. Measuring Brand Value

  • What gets measured gets managed.
  • Book: Managing Brand Equity (1991) by David Aaker
  • 1. Customer-centric metrics: qualitative and quantitative measurements of consumer awareness/attitudes, eg. BrandDynamics model
  • 2. Sales-centric metrics: marketing mix modeling (measure ROI via statistical analysis), predictive modeling (customer most likely to respond, Customer Brand Value)
  • 3. Company-valuation-centric metrics: specialists determind brand valuation using accounting and finance principles, for M&A or brand management via scorecards

14. Using Positioning to Build a Mega-brand

  • 1999, NetZero invested remaining capital to position itself against AOL and MSN as “Defenders of the Free World.”
  • The campaign was a big success, NetZero launched premium extensions, and NetZero eventually became United Online.
  • 1. Start with a tangible point of difference that resonates with consumers.
  • 2. Create the impression that you’re bigger than you are.
  • 3. Be nimble in responding to changes in the marketplace, but be true to your brand.

15. Marketing Leverage in the Frame of Reference

  • Do not underestimate the impact of the right frame of reference.
  • 1. Broaden the frame of reference: BMW is not a sports car, it’s the ultimate driving machine; DeBeers is not in the diamond business, it’s in the gift business
  • 2. Compare your offering to the gold standard even if it’s not your primary competitor: it’s not delivery, it’s Digiorno; Visa positioned itself as better than Amex even though its primary competitor was Mastercard
  • 3. I am what I’m not: it’s not TV, it’s HBO

16. Finding the Right Brand Name

  • If your brand name is distinctive and memorable, it can make the difference in winning.
  • Your name must be memorable and ownable.
  • Be careful of descriptive names, fad-ish names, or names that define a product or benefit too narrowly.
  • The brand and its name should convey a personality.
  • Eg. Mrs. Dash

17. Building Global Brands

  • The ideal strategy is to complement global standardization with local customization.
  • Consumers have high expectations of global brands, so it’s best to focus on superior benefits.
  • The brand essence should stay consistent globally, with a little bit of flex for local tastes.
  • Local changes include: sizing, pricing, distribution.
  • Eg. Philadelphia Cream Cheese

18. Branding and Organizational Culture

  • Strong brands in healthcare begin with a strong internal culture.
  • Begin with a clear mission and value statement.
  • If your brand is tied to your employees, they must buy into the mission and purpose of your organization.
  • Eg. Northwest Memorial Healthcare.

19. Branding and the Organization

  • 1. Match the brand to the internal culture and reality.
  • 2. Involve senior management in the branding process.
  • 3. Manage the brand actively with marketing professionals.
  • There is an advantage to scale in building a brand, but there is also an advantage to small size in maintaining a strong company culture and strong core values.

20. Internal Branding

  • Don’t forget your employees when communicating the brand.
  • Employees can be powerful brand ambassadors.
  • Good internal branding can motivate employees to provide exceptional service.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

The Big Idea: you can’t trust the media.

  • Clicks equal revenue. Therefore, online news sites care more about clicks than truth.
  • Since all news is online now, established media has to compete for clicks with millions of blogs, twitter accounts, and satirical news sites.
  • The result of this competition is that the media we consume is flooded with sensational headlines, click-bait, rumors, and unsupported fake news.
  • Most blogs serve no real purpose in our lives than to distract.
  • Read books instead of following blogs.
  • Subscription-based news sites are more trustworthy than free sites because they are not solely dependent on clicks and ad revenue.
  • If you must get coverage for your company or organization, the basic formula is simple: manufacture an effective story, submit it to a small news site, *quickly* trade it up the chain to a larger news site, and repeat until you are mentioned in The New York Times.
  • Afterwards, you can forever say “as seen in The New York Times.”
  • Other tactics: press releases, Wikipedia, leaked stories, HARO, effective headlines.
  • Ryan Holiday knows this topic first-hand because he was one of the pioneers of media manipulation.

Permaculture for the Rest of Us by Jenni Blackmore

The Big Idea: With creativity and persistence, you can live well on a small homestead, even if the climate is difficult and the soil is subpar.

  • Every homestead will be unique. Contours, zones and sectors should be mapped out on paper before getting started.
  • Zones are concentric circles around your home. Zone 0 is your home. Zone 1 is next out and will contain herbs, etc. Zone 5 is further away and will contain less visited trees and bushes.
  • Sectors are like slices of a pie-chart  that clearly define sunniest spots, wind tunnels, water courses, etc.
  • Develop the land slowly so that you have time to experiment, adjust, and enjoy.
  • Develop intimate knowledge of every corner of your land.
  • Encourage what wants to stay and let the rest go away. This will lighten your work immensely.
  • Soil is made of sand, silt, and clay. There is an ideal ratio of all three for plants.
  • Important layers are: topsoil (2-8″), subsoil (12-30″), and bedrock.
  • Only a few plants (comfrey, dandelions, daikon radish) have roots long enough to penetrate subsoil and bring nutrients up.
  • Amend soil by adding good organic material like compost, humus, and worms.
  • A well-designed compost bin can speedy up decomposition and keep things clean.
  • Red Wrigglers are the best compost worm.
  • Chickens can be a great help turning compost.
  • Chicken manure must be aged one year before using on plants.
  • Comfrey fixes nitrogen, attracts bees, can reach down into the subsoil, and can be used to supplement compost piles or as green mulch. Just be careful to plant comfrey in an unused area of land.
  • Digging and tilling disrupts the organisms living in good soil. Try the no-till method instead.
  • Instead of digging vegetable garden beds, use raised bed gardens.
  • Try hugelkultur raised bed gardens.
  • Try keyhole raised bed gardens.
  • Try lasagna raised bed gardens.
  • Copper mesh along the top sides of raised bed walls keeps slugs away.
  • An herb spiral is a classic permaculture design.
  • Every vegetable has its own growing preference. Proper timing and environment is essential to learn.
  • Easy starter crops: garlic, chard, potatoes, squash.
  • Crop rotation is essential to healthy gardens.
  • Get at least on really comprehensive gardening guide to explain each plant’s preferences.
  • Legumes are great for the soil.
  • Greenhouses are not a luxury. They are integral to a successful homestead.
  • You can find lots of inexpensive DIY designs online.
  • Traditionally, greenhouses are placed with maximum southern exposure but this is not a hard rule.
  • Three purposes of a greenhouse: starting seeds, growing plants that prefer warmth, prolonging seasonal growth. If you’re a gardening enthusiast looking to extend your growing season, consider buying a greenhouse.
  • Brussel sprouts are underrated vegetables and should be started inside.
  • Ladybugs are fantastic for dealing with an aphid problem.
  • Even the smallest homestead should have a wild Zone 5. (Zone 4 is a food forest. Zones 2 and 3 are gardens, compost, and animals.
  • Hugulkulture is ideal in colder climates because it creates a warmer environment for growing.
  • Natural or manmade microclimates help protect plants from wind and cold.
  • While not required, good livestock design makes permaculture easier.
  • Chickens are great for eggs, manure, composting scraps.
  • Chicken manure always needs to be aged before using.
  • Chickens need to be well-protected from predators
  • Ducks are great for eggs and slug control.
  • Ducks are harder to keep because of their water requirements. Minimum 4 inches of water to dunk their heads.
  • Rabbits are great for meat production.
  • Rabbit manure can be used immediately in gardens.
  • Turkeys are good for meat and eggs and very easy to care for.
  • Build a chicken tractor and a henposter if you raise chickens.
  • Principle 1: Feedback loops: accepting and responding to change.
  • Principle 2: Integrated symbiotic support between all systems: every system must support other systems and in turn be supported by other systems.
  • Principle 3: Cultivate local species: avoid introducing invasive species.
  • Principle 4: Ensure the fair distribution of yield and empower others to become self-sustaining.
  • Principle 5: Continuous and mindful observation.
  • Principle 6: Intelligent design and the observation of naturally occurring patterns.
  • Principle 7: Capturing and storing energy and the efficient use of resources.
  • Principle 8: Ensure a yield.
  • Principle 9: Start small and move slowly.
  • Principle 10: Introduce renewable, biological resources only.
  • Principle 11: Celebrate and value diversity.
  • Principle 12: See creative solutions not problems.
  • Save any valuable seeds in labeled pill bottles or envelopes.
  • Learn to preserve harvest with canning, drying, root cellars, cold rooms, freezing.
  • Cold frames and greenhouses help to prolong the growing season.
  • Read Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

The Big Idea: the key to success in life is relationships + creating with others.

  • Real networking is about helping others succeed.
  • Make goal setting a lifetime habit.
  • Young Bill Clinton would record the names and backgrounds of everyone he met on index cards.
  • Older Bill Clinton is famous for creating instant rapport with everyone who meets him.
  • Build your network long before you need it.
  • Before you meet someone, always do your homework (personal, professional, hobbies, company.)
  • Invest time in organizing your contacts using databases and LinkedIn.
  • Learn how to make a warm call. Never cold call.
  • Learn how to send a warm email. Never cold email.
  • Treat the gatekeeper with warmth.
  • Keep your social+work calendar full of events.
  • Formal networking events are lame. Instead, network on planes, at the YMCA, at church, at conferences, at dinner parties, at charity fundraisers, etc.
  • Good follow-up will separate you from everyone else. Develop a system for following up, thanking others, and finish with “next step.”
  • The real value of conference is not the content, it’s the networking. Do your research on the attendees, organize meta-events, or help the conference organizers.
  • Nourish your relationships with super-connectors.
  • Small talk is underrated as a way to connect with others.
  • Take the time to understand what motivates someone. Usually, it’s: health, wealth, or children. Help others achieve their goals.
  • Real power comes from being indispensable. Help to connect others. It costs you nothing but might change others’ lives.
  • When you hear someone has a problem, try to think how an introduction you make might lead to a solution.
  • Always be pinging. Pinging takes effort. Create an automated system for pinging.
  • An anchor tenant is someone particularly unique or interesting to make your dinner parties memorable for everyone.
  • Arrange regular dinner parties to connect people.
  • The main value of social networking is curation and learning of knowledge.
  • Robert Scoble is very selective about who he follows. Through this, Scoble stays on top of key trends in technology and then curates information to his followers. He is so effective at doing this and adds so much value that his time is in great demand from venture capitalists and business leaders.
  • Have a large, diverse social network and a small core of intimate relationships.
  • The best online networking crosses back and forth between virtual and in-person.
  • Don’t waste time trying to connect to the obvious mega-celebrity. Invest your energy connecting with the rising micro-celebrity. Connect with him before anyone else knows him.
  • When sharing content online, it’s better to be authentic, vulnerable, and candid.
  • When appropriate, co-create content to widen your audience.
  • Lucky people know how to engineer luck by creating a broad network that funnels opportunities their way.
  • If you don’t want to be in Silicon Valley, New York City, or Los Angeles, travel frequently, attend conferences, and connect online.
  • If you plan your whole life, by definition, you can’t get lucky.
  • As a leader, focus less on “todo” lists and more on “to-meet” lists.
  • Be an interesting person yourself by developing hobbies, reading voraciously, and having new experiences.
  • Remember that journalists are hungry for ideas. Develop those relationships early and ping regularly.
  • The best way to become an expert in a topic is to teach it.
  • Your message to journalists and the public must be both simple and universal.
  • In an economy that values emotion over numbers, storytellers have an edge.
  • Be the guardian of your own personal brand.
  • The best strategy for producing viral content is curation, not creation.
  • A PR firm can help you connect to journalists, but you’re the one they should be talking to.
  • Get closer to influence by joining Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), attending political fundraisers, and participating in charity fundraisers.
  • Mentors are another key to success. They teach skills and also make valuable connections.
  • Mentors expect gratitude and application of what they have taught.
  • For leaders in today’s connected age, balance is a myth. Successful leaders blend professional into personal as one.
  • Remember that people are hungry for meaning.
  • Stay focused on the big picture and helping others.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

The Big Idea: how to succeed in business and life using science.

Chapter 1: Should We Play It Safe and Do What We’re Told If We Want to Succeed?

  • Grades are a great predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and compliance.
  • Grades are a poor predictor of career success.
  • There are two types of leaders: filtered (rise up the ranks), and unfiltered (leap forward).
  • Unfiltered leaders break things but can also transform.
  • Good leaders are usually filtered leaders. Great leaders are usually unfiltered.
  • Ex: Winston Churchill vs Neville Chamberlain.
  • Swedish expression: most kids are dandelions but a few are orchids.
  • Some traits that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation. Ex: eccentric pianist Glenn Gould.
  • A “hopeful monster” is an individual that deviates radically from the norm because a genetic mutation that confers a potentially adaptive advantage. Ex: Michael Phelps, geniuses.
  • All of Silicon Valley is based on character defects that are rewarded uniquely in this system. (Intensifiers theory.)
  • Ex: Israeli Defense Force recruits autistics to help surveil.
  • Ex: to reinvigorate Pixar, Brad Bird recruited “black sheep”.
  • Extremely creative people have a far higher incidence of mental disorders. The Mad-Genius Paradox.
  • Poor people are called crazy while rich people are called eccentric.
  • Ten thousand hours requires an unhealthy obsession.
  • 10% of the Fortune 400 founders never finished college.
  • Silicon Valley founder stereotypes indicate hypomania, a relentless, euphoric, impulsive machine that explodes towards its goals while staying connected with reality.
  • Marc Andreesen invests in flawed founders who can be extreme successes.
  • Know thyself. Know if you’re filtered or unfiltered. Know your signature strengths.
  • Pick the right pond. Which environments value your signature strengths?

Chapter 2: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

  • Jerks definitely win in the short-term.
  • Work teams with just one bad apple underperform by 30%.
  • In the long-term trust matters.
  • Ex: criminal organizations know that selfishness, internally, doesn’t scale.
  • Pirates were so successful because they treated their people well.
  • Professor Adam Grant found that Givers were found at the very top and at the very bottom.
  • On average, jerks do better, but at the very top, Givers do better.
  • The most successful Givers surround themselves with Matchers, who punish Takers and protect Givers.
  • Don’t be envious. Let others win too.
  • Start off by giving.
  • Never betray anyone, but if a person cheats you, don’t be a martyr.
  • Pick the right pond. Connect with Givers if you’re a Giver.
  • Cooperate first. Get others to like you. Do small favors.
  • Don’t be a martyr. Sometimes you’ll need to retaliate. Giving too much can lead to burnout.
  • Work hard but make sure it gets noticed. You need to be visible. Your boss needs to like you.
  • Think long-term and make others think long-term. People who act like family treat each other better than colleagues.
  • Forgive to prevent death spirals.

Chapter 3: Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit?

  • Sometimes you need grit to be successful. Sometimes you need to know when to quit and start over.
  • Navy SEALs use positive self-talk to pass BUD/S.
  • Optimistism is telling yourself the kind of stories you need to keep going.
  • Optimistic people are happier, healthier, and luckier.
  • Optimistic people tell themselves that bad things are: temporary, aren’t universal, and are not their fault.
  • Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust because his stories were greater than his suffering. He was living for something greater than himself.
  • Hearing how couples tell their story can predict with 94% accuracy if they’ll get divorced.
  • Stories rule our thinking, because they impose meaning on events.
  • When schools are structured like a game, students perform better.
  • Games change the struggle to something fun instead of something that requires willpower.
  • Games are another kind of story.
  • Change the story and you change the behavior.
  • Games must be: Whiny Neutered Goats Fly (WNGF)
  • Games must be: Winnable (not too hard, not too easy), Novel (new challenges), Goal-Oriented (clear goal), Feedback (small wins)
  • Strategic quitting recognized the concept of opportunity cost.
  • If you quit something, it frees up time for something else.
  • Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive highlights the supreme importance of time.
  • Jim Collins’ book Good to Great highlighted that most of the turnarounds involved quitting something instead of starting something.
  • Lucky people maximize opportunities. They are more open to new experiences. They try lots of new stuff. They don’t dwell on failures, they see the good side of failures and learn from them.
  • Ex: comedians know the importance of trying lots of material until a joke clicks.
  • Ex: successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas; they discover them.
  • Devote 5-10% of your time to small experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.
  • Thinking about love as a journey, with twists and turns and challenges, leads to more success.
  • Stoics used “premeditatio malorum” (premeditation of evils). What’s the worst that could happen?
  • US Special Forces use if-then scenario planning.
  • How do you know when to quit? WOOP. Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan.

Chapter 4: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know (Unless It Really Is What You Know)

  • Eg. Mathematician Paul Erdos loved to collaborate.
  • Research shows that extroverts make more money, have more satisfying careers, are luckier, and happier.
  • People who speak early and often are seen as leaders.
  • Introverts are more likely to be experts in their field.
  • In some fields, introverts outperform. Eg. math, athletics, music, chess.
  • Extroversion is also linked to crime, infidelity, car accidents, overconfidence, and financial risk-taking.
  • Extroversion is a skill one can develop.
  • The best networker in Silicon Valley is Adam Rifkin. He’s a shy introvert nicknamed Panda. His secret? Be a friend, share knowledge, offer introductions.
  • Similarities create rapport.
  • Ask questions and then listen.
  • Flattery works. Even obvious, insincere flattery works if needed.
  • Ask people what challenges they face.
  • Offer to help others.
  • Reconnect with old friends. Send a few emails every week, asking ” What’s up?”
  • Find your super-connectors and ask them “who should I meet?”
  • Budget time and money every week to connect with people.
  • Join groups and be on the lookout for “Interesting People” dinners.
  • Be a part of diverse social groups.
  • Checking in every now and then matters.
  • Be the hub not the spoke. Organize events.
  • Following up and staying in touch is more important than meeting new people.
  • Top performers at work tend to have bigger networks.
  • Everyone needs a mentor. It’s one of the biggest shortcuts available.
  • Five tips to find an amazing mentor: be a worthy pupil, study your mentor’s work, never waste a mentor’s time, follow up and show them your completed homework, make your mentor proud
  • Mentoring makes mentors happy, too.
  • Want to win a negotiation? Get them to like you. Eg. NYPD hostage negotiators
  • Negotiation tips: keep calm, use active listening, label emotions out loud, ask questions that force them to think
  • Gratitude is the most certain strategy for happiness. Eg. Walter Green’s happiness tour.

Chapter 5: Believe in Yourself…Sometimes

  • Successful people are confident. They over-rate themselves relative to their peers.
  • Overconfidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks.
  • In a way, successful people are “delusional.” They interpret the past positively and increase the chance of future success.
  • Confidence gives you a sense of control.
  • Should you “fake it until you make it”? Eg. U.S.A. Ghost Army in WWII.
  • “The CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.” –Warren Buffett
  • Confidence is dangerous when it leads to hubris and delusion. Eg. Kung Fu master’s $5,000 challenge.
  • Also, power reduces empathy, causes us to be more selfish, and makes us better liars.
  • If you don’t have any fear, bad things can happen. Eg. Urbach-Wiethe disease.
  • Humility has incredible benefits: drives self-improvement, improves performance, inspires leadership.
  • Abraham Lincoln is the epitome of humility in politics.
  • We need a balance of optimism and pessimism.
  • Bosses that show vulnerability and underrate themselves are the most popular.
  • The best is to develop self-compassion, which has all the benefits of self-esteem without the downsides. Self-compassion allows you to forgive yourself and increase your grit.
  • How do you increase self-compassion? Positive self-talk, mindfulness, meditation.
  • Eg. Emperor Norton I of San Francisco was both delusional and humble.
  • Believing in yourself is nice. Forgiving yourself is better.
  • Confidence is a result of success, not a cause. So focus on competence and self-improvement. Focus on improving your skills, not your outcome.
  • Don’t fake confidence. Present the best version of yourself.

Chapter 6: Work, Work, Work…or Work-Life Balance

  • Extreme hard work produces extreme success.
  • The top 10% of workers produce most of the results.
  • Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s keys to success: energy and stamina.
  • Talent + hard work = success.
  • Hard work also leads to unhappiness and stress, unless your work is meaningful.
  • A meaningful career boosts longevity.
  • A boring job can kill you.
  • Einstein strained his family to the breaking point, even creating a duties contract with his wife.
  • Ted Williams was a baseball perfectionist but also divorced three times.
  • Perfectionism is poison to relationships. And relationships are the key to happiness.
  • Burnout is virtually nonexistent in monasteries, Montessori schools, and religious care centers where people consider their work as a calling.
  • Resilience often comes from optimism. Burnout is the flipside of grit. Burnout is the result of pessimism towards your job.
  • Remember to have fun. A playful attitude is associated with better grades.
  • Money and promotions weren’t nearly as important to people as working someplace fun.
  • Predictable time off increases employee happiness and employee performance.
  • Creativity requires rest and freedom to let your mind wander.
  • Early morning hours are statistically the most productive.
  • Three highly productive hours is usually better than ten mediocre hours.
  • Technology increases choice but also increases comparisons with others and therefore dissatisfaction.
  • You need a personal definition of success because you can no longer rely on external comparisons (Facebook.)
  • What does the good life mean to you? If you don’t decide, the world will decide for you.
  • “Just Enough” authors say the good life is: a) happiness (enjoying), b) achievement (winning), c) significance (making a difference), and d) legacy (extending).
  • How did Genghis Khan conquer the world? He had a goal and a plan.
  • Without a plan, you’ll default to what’s easy.
  • A plan gives you a feeling of control and keeps you motivated.
  • Andy Grove says track your time in a journal to see where each hour goes and note which hours are contributing to the good life and which hours are the biggest time-wasters.
  • Todo lists are evil. Schedule everything. Make sure you give time to whatever is priority. Schedule work, not interruptions. Schedule time for deep work. Schedule free time. (Cal Newport.)
  • Control your environment. Create a distraction-free zone. Shawn Achor says make important but ignored tasks 20 seconds easier to start and make unimportant time-wasters 20 seconds harder to start. Reduce temptations (close that browser, put your phone in another room.)
  • Cal Newport recommends a shutdown ritual to settle your brain and help you relax.


  • The path to success is to dream and then do something about that dream. Example: Martin Pistorius and locked-in syndrome.
  • The key to success is alignment between you, your values, your environment, your peers, and your goal.
  • Know thyself.
  • The key to happiness is relationships.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin

The Big Idea: Today’s level of overconsumption and resource-depletion is unsustainable.
Ch. 1: Children, Chores, Humility, and Health
  • Historically, children had chores and responsibilities that taught them how to be an adult.
  • Our children were homeschooled, never had television, and were encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial adventures.
  • I don’t believe in allowances.
  • 50 years ago, 50% of produce grown in America came from backyard gardens.  Gardening teaches children about responsibility and nature.
  • According to the hygiene hypothesis, sheltering children from dirt and minor pathogens leads to allergies, asthma, and a weaker immune systems.
Ch. 2: A Cat Is a Cow Is a Chicken Is My Aunt
  • Traditional agricultures has always used grazing animals to replenish the soil.
  • The circle of life demands that something must die for something to live.
  • Animal activists will learn more working on a functioning organic farm with animals than sitting in air-conditioned home, reading articles on the internet.
  • Chickens and pigs are great for turning scraps into fertilizer.
  • Nobody in the world goes hungry because of lack of food production.  What kills people is food distribution problems.
  • Heifer International is getting it right, by starting with livestock.
  • Not all plants are good.  Many grains, grown industrially, devastate our topsoil.
  • If people knew more about where food came from, we would all be better off.
  • Can you name four vegetables that grow underground?  Above ground? Legumes?
  • Spend some serious time on a farm.
  • Start a backyard vegetable garden.
  • Eat more grass-fed beef and less chicken and less pork.
  • Raise small livestock (rabbits, chickens).
  • Take your kids hunting.

Ch. 3: Hog Killin’s and Laying in the Larder

  • The average town only has three days’ supply of food.
  • The first supermarket in America appeared in the 1940’s.
  • Nobody goes hungry because of lack of food.  They go hungry due to a lack of distribution.
  • Having all food available all year is not natural.
  • Lack of food security, caused by our current system makes us vulnerable.
  • Buy more food from local farmers.
  • Learn how to preserve food.
  • Buy a big freezer and store more food.
  • Start a 19th-century hobby.
  • Grow some food on your property.

Ch. 4: Wrappings, Trappings, and Foil

  • Book: Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Learn how to preserve your own food.
  • Learn how to extend your gardening season with cool-season crops like brassicas, carrots, beets, and greens.
  • Take your own containers to the farmer’s market and grocery store.
  • Reduce or eliminate buying processed foods.  They are responsible for all the wasteful packaging.
  • Get a ton of stackable, reusable containers.
  • Get a good thermos.

Ch. 5: Lawn Farms and Kitchen Chickens

  • Long distance distribution now defines the modern food system.
  • Half of all food fit for human consumption never gets eaten.  Much is lost to long-distance transportation.
  • Lots of farmland is going underused because farmers are getting older and the children are not farmers.
  • You can’t preserve farmland without preserving farmers.
  • Urban farm example: raised beds, chicken yard, worm farm.
  • Will Allen, Growing Power in Milwaukee: fish, hoophouses, warm farm.
  • Small Plot Intensive Farming (SPIN): half-acre, vertical stacking, polyculture.
  • Combining plants and animals gets the best of both worlds.
  • America has 35mm acres of lawns and 36mm acres of land for recreational horses.  And much more for golf courses.
  • Cheap energy masks the true cost of our food system.
  • We’ve traded our backyard gardens and neighborhood farms for Chinese imports and mega-crops filled with diseases.
  • Plant edible landscape.
  • Use marginal land.
  • Eat locally.
  • Raise backyard chickens.

Ch. 6: Dino-the-Dinosaur-Shaped Nuggets Don’t Grow on Chickens

  • People today have forgotten how to cut up a whole chicken.
  • Get a slow cooker.
  • Today’s kitchen is nothing more than an unpackaging center for packaged food.
  • Learn how to cook a complete meal from scratch.
  • Process something simple for yourself, like applesauce.
  • Everyone pitches in with cleaning up after dinner.

Ch. 7: We Only Serve White Meat Here

  • A quarter of all food is now eaten in automobiles.
  • Eat more home cooked meals and save more leftovers.
  • Eat more soups.  They are easy to prepare/store and way better than fast food.

Ch. 8: Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetate-Yum!

  • Quit buying processed food with ingredients you can’t pronounce.  It’s terrible for your gut biome.
  • Buy organic and local from farmer’s markets.

Ch. 9: No Compost, No Digestion

  • Food that doesn’t decompose isn’t normal.
  • Get chickens to turn kitchen scraps into fertilizer.
  • Get earthworms to turn kitchen scraps into earthworm castings for your garden.
  • Buy only perishable food.
  • The only stable foods at ambient temperature are normally nuts and dehydrated foods.

**Ch. 10 The Poop, the Whole Poop, and Nothing but the Poop

  • On some farms, half the workload can be shoveling manure.
  • Cities in the early 1900’s would suffocate in horse manure.
  • Soil fertility is linked to manure.
  • Cheap energy led to chemical fertilization.
  • Soil is fundamentally a living organism.
  • Book: The Complete Book of Composting by Rodale
  • Composting + intensive pasture management with herbivores and electric fencing = productive soil.
  • We should not be feeding herbivores grain.  It’s not their natural diet.

Ch. 11: Park, Plant, and Power

  • We are too dependent on cheap oil, even as we are reaching or have reached peak oil.
  • Before petroleum people acquired their own energy.
  • Before petroleum, people didn’t commute.  They lived where they worked.
  • Without petroleum, the suburbs will have to become more self-sufficient or else collapse from lack of food.
  • Green trend: living where you work
  • Green trend: passive solar gains at home
  • Green trend: edible landscaping
  • Green trend: backyard chickens and rabbits
  • Green trend: biodiesel

Ch. 12: Roofless Underground Dream Houses

  • Earth-sheltered home are naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • A methane digester can take care of human waste.
  • A solar water heater would run showers and hot water faucets.
  • A clothesline would replace a dryer.
  • Gray water would irrigate vegetables and fruits.
  • Rain water would collect in the cistern.
  • A small woodstove would supplement passive solar gain.
  • A solar array or windmill would supply energy.
  • Earth berming would keep the house cool in the summer.
  • Tiny houses are replacing McMansions.
  • Buy tiny homes that are built with local materials.
  • Book: Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire.
  • Book: The Moving Feast
  • Hogs in forests help to stimulate growth.

Ch. 13: Grasping for Water

  • Water is the most essential and overlooked resource.
  • Less than 22 inches of annual rainfall is brittle (vs. temperate.)
  • Permaculturists are deep ecologists who understand the need to collect, preserve, and use water efficiently.
  • The key concept is to slow down and hold onto rainwater on your land.
  • Use water barrels.
  • Use greywater instead of clean water for toilets and landscaping.
  • Consider alternative toilets like composting toilets or moldering toilets.
  • Dig more ponds.

Ch. 14: Mob Stocking Herbivorous Solar Conversion Lignified Carbon Sequestration Fertilization

  • Traditional farms used to be very diversified, with varieties of plants and animals working together. Modern farms specialize in one crop or animal.
  • Perennials and herbivores build soil naturally.
  • Perennials are great for building soil because they put all their energy into accumulating root reserves. They sequester lots of CO2.
  • Herbivores forage on these grasslands and close the loop.
  • Too much grain production leads to deserts.
  • Herbivores + grazing management + grasslands + compost can build great soil on eroded bare rock.
  • Traditionally, herbivores (cows, sheep, goats) were a stable and omnivores (chickens, pigs) were a luxury. Grains were expensive.
  • Cheap oil reversed this. Omnivores > Herbivores.
  • Grassland is as efficient as trees at sequestering carbon.
  • Grass + herbivores is nature’s miracle cycle.
  • Eat more grass-fed beef, less chicken, less pork, less soy.

Ch. 15: Let’s Make a Despicable Farm

  • Today’s animal farms are kept alive only by cheap oil, animal pharma, and money.

Ch. 16: Scientific Mythology: Centaurs and Mermaids Now in Supermarkets

  • Buy organic, local, unprocessed, non-genetically modified food.

Ch. 17: You Get What You Pay For

  • Farmers are often synonymous with peasants.
  • To save our environment, farming needs to attract more of our best and brightest people. Even at the very small-scale with backyard vegetable gardens and chicken coops.
  • Buy less, but higher quality food and be willing to pay more if needed.

Ch. 18: Get Your Grubby Hands

  • When you tax inheritance, you destroy farms.
  • Prosecute anyone who pollutes, especially industrial agriculture.
  • Reign back eminent domain.

Ch. 19: Sterile Poop and Other Unsavory Cultural Objectives

  • Our legal system is set up to support industrial, mono-species farms, not small, diversified family farms.

Ch. 20: I Hereby Release You from Being Responsible for Me

  • Frivolous lawsuits cost millions of dollars.
  • Due to the risk of litigation, people confuse safe with sterile.
  • Our legal system needs reform.

Ch. 21: I’m from the Government, and I’m Here to Help You — Right

  • The two enemies of the people are criminals and government. –Thomas Jefferson
  • If we want to raise responsible children, we cannot protect them from every risk.
  • Quit buying from industrial food systems.
  • The answer is not regulations that limit competition but favor industrial agriculture.

Ch. 22: The Church of Industrial Food’s Unholy Food Inquisition

  • The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is the small farmer’s version of the NRA, built to protect small farmers and food rights.

Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

The Big Idea: to win in business, learn how to recruit A players.


When do most hiring mistakes happen?

Most mistakes happen when managers are:

1. Unclear about what is needed in a job
2. Have a weak flow of candidates
3. Do not trust in their ability to pick out the right candidate
4. Lose candidates they really want to join them

Why is it preferable to hire internally?

One of the hardest challenges is to hire people from outside the company. A resume is a record of a person’s career with all the accomplishments embellished and all the failures removed.

What are the ten voodoo hiring methods you should avoid?

1. The art critic: going on instincts
2. The sponge: let everyone interview; no assessment is very deep
3. The prosecutor: aggressive interviews and brain teasers
4. The suitor: all talking and no listening; sell the job but not learn about the candidate
5. The trickster: gimmick questions and gimmick scenarios
6. The animal lover: nothing but pet questions; favorite but irrelevant questions looking for creative answers
7. The chatterbox: small talk
8. The personality tester: not predictive of performance on the job
9. The aptitude tester: helpful but only part of the larger equation
10. The fortune teller: hypothetical, behavioral questions; academic literature makes a strong case against; not predictive of actual performance

What is an A Player?

You are who you hire. An A Player is a candidate who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates would achieve.

What is the “Who Hiring” Method?

1. Scorecard: not a job description; outcomes and competencies that define a job well done
2. Source: have a talent pool before you have slots to fill
3. Select: series of structured interviews
4. Sell: don’t lose the perfect candidate at the 11th hour


What is the Position Scorecard?

Scorecards describe the mission for the position, outcomes that must be accomplished, and competencies that fit with both the culture of the company and the role.

What is the first failure point of hiring?

The first failure point of hiring is not being crystal clear about what you really want the person you hire to accomplish.

What are the three parts of the scorecard?

The scorecard has three parts: job’s mission, outcomes, and competencies.

What is the mission part of the scorecard?

The mission is the executive summary of the job’s core purpose.

Mission statements help you avoid one of the most common hiring traps: hiring the all-around athlete. All-around athletes have impressive pedigrees, speak well, learn well, and seem able to do it all. Hiring all-around athletes rarely seems to work. A family-practice doctor knows something about a lot, but you wouldn’t let him perform open heart surgery on you. If you need solutions to specific problems, you want the specialist.

What is the outcomes part of the scorecard?

Outcomes, the second part of the scorecard, describe what a person needs to accomplish in a role. 3-8 outcomes, ranked in order of importance, is usually right.

Set the outcomes high enough so that you scare off B and C Players and excite A Players.

Job descriptions focus on a list of things will be doing, but scorecards describe what a person must get done to consider themselves successful in the role.

Seek to make the outcomes as quantifiable and clear as possible.

New hires will appreciate the clarity, since they know what they’ll be judged on.

What is the competencies part of the scorecard?

Outcomes describe what must be accomplished. Competencies define what a new hire needs to have/be to achieve the outcome.

What are critical competencies for A Players?

Critical competencies for A Players (from University of Chicago, used by author’s consulting firm)
1. Efficiency
2. Honesty/Integrity
3. Organization and planning
4. Aggressiveness
5. Follow-through
6. Intelligence
7. Analytical skills
8. Attention to detail
9. Persistence
10. Proactivity

What are some other possible competencies to include?

Other possible competencies, depending on position:
1. Ability to hire A Players
2. Ability to develop people
3. Flexibility/adaptability
4. Calmness under pressure
5. Strategic thinking
6. Creative thinking and innovation
7. Enthusiasm
8. Work ethic
9. High standards
10. Listening skills
11. Openness to criticism
12. Communication
13. Teamwork
14. Persuasion

How strict should you be with competencies?

Don’t create a rigid checklist of competencies, because there are multiple ways to succeed in a position. One person might rely on creativity to succeed, while another person might rely on aggressiveness and persistence in the same role.

What does the CEO of Heinz look for?

CEO of Heinz looks for: 1) chemistry, 2) commitment, 3) coachable, 4) humble, 5) smart

Why is cultural fit so important?

One of the biggest hiring mistakes made by CEOs is not evaluating cultural fit.

Bad cultural fits hurt in the short-term for the position, but they also hurt in the long-term, because they affect other people around them.

How do you start to define your company’s culture?

Begin by evaluating your company’s culture. Write down keywords in a brainstorming session. Generate a tag cloud.

Don’t be afraid to write down what cultural competencies might seem blindingly obvious. In the midst of hiring, the clearest things sometimes get overlooked.

Part of successful hiring means having the discipline to pass on talented people who are not a fit.

Why are scorecards so important?

Scorecards are the guardians of your culture.

Scorecards become the blueprint that links the theory of strategy to the reality of execution.

1. Set expectations with new hires
2. Monitor employee progress over time

What is in a scorecard?

1. Mission: 1-5 sentences answering “What is the core mission for this position?”
2. Outcomes: 3-8 specific, quantifiable objectives to achieve
3. Competencies: a) List competencies that describe what behavior is needed to achieve the outcomes for this position. b) List global, cultural competencies that describe your culture for all positions.


Always be working on a talent pipeline, before a new hire is needed.

What are the best ways to find candidates?

Ads are a good way to generate lots of resumes but a lousy way to generate the right flow of candidates. Using recruiters depends heavily on the quality of the recruiter assigned to your project.

The number one method is to ask for referrals from your personal and professional networks. This stance is unanimous among everyone interviewed.

A good question to continuously ask people you meet: “Who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?” Then call them and stay in touch. Do this for years and you’ll have a tremendous talent pool.

Ask your customers and business partners to look out for talent.

Ask your current employees for referrals. In fact, make it part of the job description (and employee scorecard) to refer new A Players.

Incentivize your team with gifts, cash, and PTO for referrals.

Early stage companies often use their advisory board as recruiters.

Being a member of a CEO network gives you access to a network of great recruiters.

Are recruiters helpful?

External recruiters can work well but they need to know the inner workings of a firm. They are like a real estate agent in that they are most helpful when they know your budget, your preferences, your dealbreakers, and your true needs.

You can also hire recruiting researchers. They don’t do the interviews but only identify names. It’s a low-cost way to augment your recruiting. Just be careful about lack of filtering and qualification.

How do you avoid having a weak talent pipeline?

Sourcing talent is not hard. The hard part is having to discipline to source while doing your regular daily work.

Create a system to automate and organize the talent recruitment part of your job. Use spreadsheets and weekly call lists. Or use an applicant tracking system. Spend 30 minutes each week calling potential A players, until you have one live conversation. End those calls by asking them “who are the most talented people you know who might be a good fit for my company?”


What should you use instead of traditional interviewing or voodoo interviewing?

Traditional interviewing is terrible at selecting A players.

Four Interview Sequence
1. Screening interview
2. Who Interview
3. Focused interview
4. Reference interview

What is the screening interview?

The screening interview is a short phone interview to clear out B and C players. This is the opportunity to save lots of time later by screening out people quickly.

Use the same questions every time to ensure consistency and quickly learn how to qualify candidates.

What is the structure of the screening interview?

1. What are your career goals?
2. What are you really good at professionally?
3. What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?
4. Who were your last five bosses, and how will they rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them?

1. What are your career goals? Don’t talk about what you’re looking for, to avoid tainting the discussion. Anyone lacking career goals needs to be screened out. Listen for candidates with passion and energy about topics relevant to the role. Alignment is more important than skill.

2. What are you really good at professionally? Push candidates to tell you 8-12 positives so you can build a complete picture of their professional aptitude. Ask them to give you examples. If you see a major gap between someone’s strengths and your scorecard, screen that person out.

3. What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally? Push for a real weakness or a real area for development. Don’t let them weasel out. If you still need to push, rephrase as “what will your references say is your weakness or area for development?” If you see any deal-killers relative to your scorecard, screen them out.

4. Who were your last five bosses, and how will they rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them? Note the assumption that we WILL talk to them. Find out why they were rated that. 7 is a neutral, anything below requires explanation. Occasionally someone is fired but actually an A player.

How should you start and end the screening interview?

Start the screening call by reviewing the scorecard, then launch right into the screening questions. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, end the call after 15 minutes. If you like what you’re hearing, schedule a follow up to finish the screening. End the call with an offer to answer questions.  After the screening call, compare your notes to the scorecard.

What are some other tips for the screening interview?

Stick with the four screening questions but if you want to learn more, ask a follow-up question that begins with “what”, “how”, or “tell me more”.

Weed people out as soon as possible. Try to weed out 80% of people at the screening stage. Listen to your gut when something doesn’t match what’s on paper.

What is the Who interview?

Start your next stage, 2. Who Interview, when you have narrowed your list down to 2-5 candidates. This is the key interview. The literature says that this interview is the most reliable predictor of performance. Use the power of data and patterns of behavior for making predictions about future performance.

What is the Who interview?

The Who Interview Guide is a chronological walkthrough of a person’s career. Ask the same 5 questions for each job. Learn the story of a person’s career. Remember that people love talking about themselves, so this should be easy.

Always conduct the Who Interview starting with the first job on the resume and talk forward.

What is the structure of the Who interview? What are the 5 questions you ask for each job?

1. What were you hired to do?
2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
3. What were some low points during that job?
4. Who were the people you worked with?
5. Why did you leave that job?

1. What were you hired to do? Learn what their original scorecard was. What were their missions and outcomes?

2. What accomplishments are you most proud of? Let them elaborate on the high points of their career. See if those accomplishments match your scorecard. See if there is a mismatch between the accomplishments and the original scorecard for that job.

3. What were some low points during that job? If hesitation, reframe it. “What went really wrong? What was your biggest mistake? What would you have done differently?”

4. Who were the people you worked with? Get all bosses’ full names with full spelling! This forces them to tell the truth. Then ask what they thought it was like working with each boss. Look for overly negative answers. Then ask what each boss will say about their strengths and weaknesses. Keep pushing until you get the truth about what their boss will say. Ask how they would rate the team they inherited and what changes they implemented to make a better team. What will they say your strengths and weaknesses are as a manager?

5. Why did you leave that job? Were they promoted, recruited, or fired. Were they taking the next step or running from something? Get as specific as possible. Don’t let the candidate off the hook with a vague answer.

How long should the Who interview take?

The Who Interview takes 3 hours on average. For every hour you spend on a Who Interview, you’ll save hundreds of hours by not dealing with poor performance.

Who should conduct the Who interview?

Conduct the Who Interview with two interviewers, not one. So that two people can take alternate taking notes and asking questions.

How do you start the Who Interview?

Start the Who Interview by explaining the question structure and there will be room for candidate questions at the end.

What are some tips for the Who interview?

1. You have to interrupt the candidate. But do it with positivity instead of reprimanding.
2. Use 3P’s when assessing an accomplishment. How did the accomplishment compare to P=Previous year, P=Plan, and P=Peers?
3. Being pushed out of a job vs being pulled out of a job = very important difference.
4. Get as specific as possible until you can completely visualize what the candidate is saying.
5. Look at body language for a mismatch in verbal vs nonverbal communication.

What is interview #3, the Focused interview?

Use the Focused interview to gather specific information about your candidate. The Focused Interview is focused on the scorecard (mission, outcomes, and competencies.) Go through each point in the scorecard and make sure you ask about it. Include cultural competencies to ensure cultural fit.

What might a typical interview look like?

Typical Interview Day
8:30-8:45: team huddle
9-12: Who Interview
12-1:30: other employees take the candidate to lunch
1:30-4:30: Focused Interviews x 3 (or on a second day)
4:30-5: team debrief

What is the reference interview?

Don’t skip the references. Conduct reference checks for all hires.  Ignore references your candidate gave you and contact former bosses, peers, and subordinates. Ask around to find those people. Tip: ask the candidate to make an introduction to help facilitate the calls. Check 7 references = 3 bosses, 2 peers, 2 subordinates.

What questions do you ask in the reference interview?

1. In what context did you work with the person?
2. What were the person’s strengths?
3. What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?
4. How would you rate the person’s overall performance on a scale 1-10? Why? (Note: adjust for inflation. A 6 is really a 2.)
5. The person mentioned he struggled with ____ in that job. Can you tell me more?

What are some code words you might hear when talking about a risky candidate?

Code for risky candidates: can only confirm dates of employment, “if…then” responses to qualify their reference, lots of “um’s and er’s”, hesitation instead of enthusiasm, lukewarm or qualified praise, neutral references

What are some general red flags to watch out for during the who and focused interview?

1. Doesn’t mention past failures.
2. Exaggerates answers.
3. Takes credit for the work of others.
4. Speaks poorly of past bosses.
5. Cannot explain job moves.
6. For managers, no hire/fire experience.
7. More interested in compensation vs job.
8. Tries too hard to look like an expert.
9. Self-absorbed.
10. Too much talk about winning. (might be petty)
11. Adding too much value. (instead of giving praise, tries to always improve, too much ego)
12. Starting sentences with “no,” “but,” and “however.” (overactive ego and overly argumentative)
13. Blaming others.
14. Making excuses.
15. Proclaiming “that’s just me” indicates a fixed mindset.

How do you make your final selection?

1. Review scorecards
2. Review your ratings of candidates vs score card (A, B, C)
3. Eliminate B and C’s
4. Rank all A’s and start with #1

With Winning in Mind by Lanny Basham

The Big Idea: winning consistently requires the mental programming of a champion.
Principles of Mental Management
  • Your mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time.  If you are picturing something positive in your mind, it is impossible, at the same time, to picture something negative.  Choose to think about what you want to create in life.
  • What you say is not important.  What you cause yourself or others to picture is crucial.  Give yourself commands in a positive manner.
  • The Subconscious Mind is the source of all mental power.  You perform best when you allow your all-trained Subconscious to do the work.
  • The Subconscious moves you to do whatever the Conscious Mind is picturing.  Positive pictures demand positive results from the Subconscious.  If we think negatively, we have to expect negative results.
  • To change your performance, you must first change your Self-Image.  Some people hope they can win.  Some people expect to win.  Winning Olympians control their Self-Image.
  • You can replace the Self-Image you have with the Self-Image you want, thereby permanently changing performance.
  • When the Conscious, Subconscious, and Self-Image are all balanced and working together, good performance is easy.
  • The more we think about, talk about, and write about something happening, the more we improve the probability of that thing happening.  Do not spend time thinking about failures.  Think only about your successes.
  • The Self-Image cannot tell the difference between what actually happens and what is vividly imagined.  Mentally rehearse and replay good performances.  Rehearsal can help reduce fear by giving you many positive mental experiences before the actual performance. Rehearsal can help restore relaxation.
The Balance of Power
  • When beginning any new activity, we have to use the Conscious Mind since we have not yet developed Subconscious skill.  Also our Self-Image tells us we are beginners.
  • If we practice properly and are encouraged, our Subconscious and Self-Image circles will grow to match the Conscious circle and we will be in balance.
  • Learn how to make your circles (Conscious, Subconscious, Self-Image) larger, while keeping them in balance.
The Mental Management Goal-Setting System
Only the super successful ever bother to set personal goals and plan their work.
  1. Decide exactly what you want.
  2. Decide when you want it.
  3. List the pay-value.
  4. Create a plan.
  5. Start.
  6. Never quit.
Improve Concentration by Running a Mental Program
Winning requires you to develop a consistent mental picture.  A mental program is a series of thoughts that when pictured, will trigger the Subconscious to perform the appropriate action.  A mental program controls the thought process occupying the Conscious Mind.
  • Initiate: just be consistent
  • Attitude: picture the feeling of success
  • Direction: rehearse success
  • Control: center concentration on the most critical part of the action
  • Focus: the last thing you picture
How to Develop Skills
  • Catch yourself doing something right.  Study only your successes, not your failures.
  • Train 4-5 days a week.  2-3 is not enough.
  • Wherever you are, be all there.
  • Rehearse the match day within the training session. Treat every training day as if it had the same importance as the most crucial competition day.
  • When you are shooting well, shoot a lot.  If you are having a bad day, stop training.  Do not practice losing.
  • We raise or lower ourselves to the standard we are around.  Train with people who are better than you and you will get better.
  • Make a bet with yourself, when you win it, pay off.
Performance Analysis
  • Keep a performance journal or diary.  In it, record your schedule, diary, solution ideas, successes, and goals.
  • Use your journal to document and track your training program.
Building a Powerful Self-Image
  • Remember to run a mental program and record successes in your journal.
  • The Directive Affirmation is the most powerful tool for changing your Self-Image.  The Directive Affirmation is a paragraph written in the first person present tense that describes a goal, a plan, and habits and attitudes required to achieve the goal.  Write it down on index cards, placed in prominent places around your home and work.  Rehearse it every time for 21 days and rest for 9 days.
  • Constantly promote and praise others, your coaches, teammates, and colleagues.
Seven Strategies of the Mentally Tough
  1. The Principle of Transportation: transport the habits and attitudes you need to perform at the higher level and adopt them today.
  2. Your Past Is Not a Prison: do not think about the past, focus on the future
  3. Imitate the Champions: find out what the best people in your space are doing and copy what they are doing.  Go to the places where these people train to learn from them.
  4. Train Hard, Compete Easy: outwork the competition in training, but not in competition.
  5. Visualize Before Game Day: mentally rehearse the competition before the competition.
  6. Take All Problems As Positive: problems identify areas we need to work on.
  7. Have Big Dreams: don’t settle for mediocrity, dream big, achieve big

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

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

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

SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman

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

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

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Big Idea: Productivity can be learned.

Chapter 1: Motivation

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

Chapter 2: Teams

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

Chapter 3: Focus

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

Chapter 4: Goal Setting

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

Chapter 5: Managing Others

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

Chapter 6: Decision Making

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

Chapter 7: Innovation

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

Chapter 8: Absorbing Data

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

Aquaponic Gardening by Sylvia Bernstein

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

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

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox

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

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

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

As a beginner, gardening can be quite overwhelming, but learning from experience is key. Last year, I jumped right into creating a square root, raised bed vegetable garden without much prior knowledge or preparation. However, this year I plan to approach it differently and do some research beforehand. In addition to learning about plant care and maintenance, I will also research how to properly dispose of unwanted soil and other waste materials that may result from the process. This will not only make the gardening process more efficient but also more environmentally conscious.

I decided to explore as we have several stumps and I really want to get rid of them asap.

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

Why square foot gardens?

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

How do you get started?

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

Made in America by Sam Walton

The Big Idea: Walmart succeeded through a combination of unique culture, very effective strategies, and lots of hard work. Nadine West’s two favorite role models are 1) Southwest Airlines and 2) Walmart, for their shared focus on affordable prices, lean operations, and Texas/Arkansas authenticity.

Wal-mart Culture

  • Building a great team is a given. Hiring only people with good attitudes is a given. Hard work is a given.
  • The whole point of retailing is to service the customer.
  • It’s always been more important for Wal-mart be the best than to be the biggest.
  • Wal-mart looks for action-oriented, do-it-now, go-getter types — not brilliant intellectuals who can’t get anything done.
  • Consider yourself lucky if you are short on cash early on.  It’s the best to build frugality into your DNA.
  • We’ve always tried not to take ourselves too seriously. Let’s have some fun.
  • Constant change is a vital part of the Wal-mart culture.
  • Wal-mart is not about big mansions or fancy cars.  We’re about serving our customer.
  • Wal-mart loves competition.  It only makes us better.
  • Big egos have no place at Wal-mart.  They tend to lead to bureaucracy and myopia, followed by decline.
  • Think small to grow big.  Remember what got us to where we are.

Wal-mart Strategy and Tactics

  • Always buy direct.  Using a middleman means you’re paying for their inefficiencies.
  • Don’t rely on third-party.  It’s harder to build your own logistics and distribution systems, but once you do, it’s a huge competition advantage.
  • Build stores in small towns that retailers are ignoring.
  • Use technology to improve the quality and speed of information.
  • Study your competition and copy what’s working.
  • Try lots of different things. Learn from the failures. Double down on what works.
  • Talk to everyone. The best ideas usually come from the front-lines, not headquarters.
  • If everyone else is going one way, think about going the opposite direction.
  • If you can, fly under the radar until you’re too far along to catch.
  • Share profits with employees and they will reward you with effort and loyalty.
  • Happy customers = word of mouth, which saves you a ton on advertising.
  • Be transparent about financials and share store financials with the people who work there.
  • When in doubt, over-communicate.
  • Focus on one store at a time – what they are getting right and wrong. Solve it for them and you can apply some of those solutions everywhere.

The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

The Big Idea: Happy employees are a competitive advantage.

 Chapter 1: Success is Overrated, Why Great Work Places Reward Failure
  • make it okay to try new things and fail
  • learn something from every failure, always
  • reward attempts, not just results
Chapter 2: The Power of Place, How Office Design Shapes Our Thinking
  • office design matters
  • eg. red invokes attention to detail, but also anxiety
  • eg. silence invokes focus, but also anxiety
  • optimal: caves + campfires
  • caves are quieter spaces where people can focus and think
  • campfires are interactive spaces where people can collaborate and communicate
  • good to have: safe and warm environment, nice views, scenes of nature, sunlight, lots of plants, aquariums,
  • use your workspace to convey what your company is about: Apple Store = simplicity, framed pictures, employee artwork,
  • let the team design their workspace
  • don’t forget about nice bathrooms (art, plants, magazines)
  • if possible, let people telecommute. You can also try this web-site for the best plumbing services for your bathroom.
Chapter 3: Why You Should Be Paid to Play
  • to improve problem solving and creative thinking, go on a walk
  • exercise improves your mood, triggers chemicals that reduces stress, and improves thinking
  • napping also improves problem solving and creating thinking
  • a careful balance of work and recovery is vital
  • late nights and burnout culture lower long-term productivity
  • disconnecting is important
Chapter 4: What Happy Workplaces Can Learn from a Casino
  • small, frequent pleasures can keep us happier than large, infrequent ones
  • perks communicate on an emotional level and provide a motivational boost
  • on-the-job rewards are significantly more motivating than cash bonuses
  • variety increases happiness
  • variation of activities make the workplace more enjoyable
  • unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill
  • unexpected events have greater emotional weight
  • a constant flow of surprises keeps you engaged (movie, massage therapist)
  • experiences are more rewarding than objects; they involve other people, the memories improve with age; they can be relived
  • we don’t always know why we’re happy
  • color/scent/music can give an unconscious happiness boost
  • a grateful mind is a happy one;
  • gratitude: gratitude journal; ask staff to share what they are most proud of since last meeting; ask staff to thank someone else for a contribution made
  • excessive/extreme happiness can increase tendency to make mistakes, reduce motivation; people who don’t have negative emotions are called psychopaths
Chapter 5: How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Community
  • the strongest predictor productivity: friendship at work
  • how to create workplace friendships: proximity, familiarity, similarity
  • how to accelerate friendship: share personal information
  • shared group activities (sports) >> happy hours and cocktail parties, because of interaction
  • a shared purpose (or common enemy) can unite factions
  • friendships at work help people stay emotionally and physically healthy
  • gossip can be a problem but it can also be useful to establish company culture and norms
  • gossip tends to happen when people are feeling powerless or insecure
  • identify strategic and persistent gossipers early
  • gossip tends to be a problem when leaders gossip
Chapter 6: The Leadership Paradox, Why Forceful Leaders Develop Less Productive Teams
  • intrinsic motivation > extrinsic motivation
  • emphasizing rewards reduces intrinsic motivation
  • the more emphasis placed on salary and bonuses, the more employees are going to focus on them
  • autonomy increases intrinsic motivation
  • let your team set their own calendar
Chapter 7: Better Than Money, What Games Can Teach Us About Motivation
  • the only thing that sustains happiness is status, respect and admiration among friends/family/peers
  • being recognized feels good
  • recognition feeds our need for competence
  • competence increases intrinsic motivation
  • being ignored is often more psychologically painful than being treated poorly
  • undeserved positive feedback is demoralizing to others who actually deserve the recognition
  • feedback is more effective when it is provided immediately
  • feedback is more effective when it is specific
  • compliment the behavior, not the person
  • public praise is more powerful than private praise
  • reward high performers with more responsibility
  • encourage peer-to-peer recognition
  • find a way to give meaning to the work (eg. nonprofit fundraisers)
  • to experience flow, work needs to be not too easy and not too hard
  • consider making on-the-job learning a requirement
  • acquiring new skills releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine
  • consider peer-to-peer coaching (pods of 3)
Chapter 8: How Thinking Like a Hostage Negotiator Can Make You More Persuasive, Influential, and Motivating
  • good communicators listen much more than they talk
  • good bosses listen much more than they talk
  • good listeners do a lot of paraphrasing and repeat backs
  • resolve workplace conflicts by understanding there is a task channel and a relationship channel
Chapter 9: Why the Best Managers Focus on Themselves
  • attitudes, emotions, and behaviors are contagious
  • leaders attitudes and habits are adopted by the members of their teams
  • culture comes from the top, so be aware that someone is always watching
Chapter 10: Seeing What Others Don’t, How to Eliminate Interview Blind Spots That Prevent You from Reading People’s True Potential
  • first impressions persist
  • referrals from your high performers (with no referral bonus) is the best strategy for hiring
  • interviews that involve a work assignment are optimal
  • cultural fit matters but too much similarity can lead to groupthink and impair innovation
Chapter 11: What Sports, Politics, and Religion Teach Us About Fostering Pride
  • pride in one’s company matters a lot
  • pride is fundamentally about status
  • share your company’s history with the team
  • share your company’s mission and vision with the team
  • being different is good (company culture)
  • include altruism alongside making a profit
  • emphasize everyone’s contribution: decision making, recognition by name
  • consider thanking a high performer’s family for that person’s efforts at work
  • avoid inflated job titles

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

The Big Idea: the purpose of life (and business) is happiness, not money.

  1. Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and yourself.
  2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.
  3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
  4. Never do anything just for the money.
  5. Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  7. Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
  8. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.
  9. You can’t please everyone,
  10. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.
  11. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.
  12. The best plans start simple.
  13. If you’re not saying, “Hell, yeah!” about something, say no.
  14. The way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers.
  15. Ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
  16. Care more about your customers (and employees) than about yourself.
  17. Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake.
  18. When you delegate, trust but verify.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Big Idea: 

Chapter 1: Good is the Enemy of Great

  • Good to Great companies always had Level 5 Leaders.
  • Recruit the right people before choosing a direction/mission/vision/strategy.
  • Confront the brutal truth and move forward anyways.
  • Stick to your core.
  • Create a culture of discipline.
  • Use technology as an accelerator of existing greatness.
  • Focus on small, continuous progress, not grand transformations.

Chapter 2: Level 5 Leadership

  • Level 5 leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • Level 5 leaders put their company and their team before themselves.
  • Level 5 leaders are fanatical about results, not credit.
  • Level 5 leaders come from within the company, not from outside.
  • Level 5 leaders display workmanlike diligence, not celebrity charisma.

Chapter 3: First Who…Then What

  • Hold out for the best talent.  Don’t lower your hiring standards.
  • Hire slow, fire fast.  Then strive to zero turnover.
  • Don’t rely on one genius leader.  Have lots of great minds on board.
  • There is no right answer for how to structure executive compensation.  Just make sure it makes sense. The right people will deliver the best results, regardless of the compensation structure.
  • You can create an environment that attracts the best people, but no compensation structure will turn poor performers into rock stars.
  • Hire for attitude and character than for specific knowledge and skills.
  • The best companies build great teams.  They don’t work their people to the bone.

Chapter 4: Confront the Brutal Facts

  • Don’t be afraid to look at the brutal facts.
  • Create a culture that embraces truth and honesty.
  • Ask a lot of question and engage in open dialogue.
  • When something doesn’t work, take responsibility, figure out why but don’t blame others.
  • Pay attention to key metrics so you know early when something is wrong.
  • Regardless of the situation, have unwavering faith that the team will find a way to succeed.
  • The three circles are: what are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at?  What drives your economic engine?

Chapter 5: The Hedgehog Concept

  • Focus on the essentials and ignore the rest.
  • You will success if you can identify one simple concept that is good and execute it fanatically.
  • Eg. Walgreens key metric: profit per customer visit; Wells Fargo had profit per employee; Fannie Mae had profit per unit of risk; Kroger had profit per local population.
  • Everyone has strategic plans, but the good-to-great companies are more likely to be based around a simple idea.
  • Three key questions that define the hedgehog concept: what are you deeply passionate about, what can you be the best in the world, what drives your economic engine?
  • Don’t focus on mindless pursuit of growth. Focus on your core business, defined by your hedgehog concept.

Chapter 6: A Culture of Discipline

  • Startups often fail because they hire too many new people, acquire too many new customers, launch too many new products.
  • Things become too complex and problems start to surface.
  • Fast-growing startups will hire professional managers to reign in the mess, but also kill the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Instead of installing bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, hire the right people in the first place.
  • Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline.
  • Build a culture around the idea of freedom and responsibility, within a framework.
  • Fill that culture with self-disciplined people who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities.
  • Create a stop-doing list and focus on the hedgehog concept.
  • Develop a system and manage the system.  Don’t manage the people.
  • Culture beats great individual leadership.
  • A culture of discipline prevents you from expanding outside of your core.
  • A culture of discipline prevents you from an inflated overhead and layers of waste.

Chapter 7: Technology Accelerators

  • Be selective about which technologies you adopt.
  • Make sure your technology supports your hedgehog concept.
  • Technology by itself is never the primary cause of success or failure.
  • Reliance on technology can give you a false sense of invulnerability.

Chapter 8: The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

  • Success is an organic, cumulative process.  It never happens overnight.
  • Success takes patience and discipline.
  • Focus on continuous, incremental improvement, not miraculous transformations.
  • Once there is visible progress, keep the momentum going.  It is infectious.

Chapter 9: From Good to Great to Built to Last

  • The central concept of Built to Last: discover your core values and purpose beyond just making money (core ideology) and combine this with the dynamic of preserve the core/stimulate progress.
  • Hewlett Packard started with “who” before ever deciding what they would build (“what”.)
  • Walmart had taken 25 years to get to 38 stores, patiently defining their hedgehog concept.
  • Profits and cash flow are like blood and water.  They are necessary for life, but they are not the purpose of living.
  • Built To Last 1. Clock Building not Time Telling: culture and systems > single great leader/idea
  • Built to Last 2. Genius of AND: purpose AND profit, continuity AND change
  • Built to Last 3. Core Ideology: core values and purpose
  • Built to Last 4. Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress: (except for core values) constant change, innovation, experimentation

High Output Management by Andy Grove

The Big Idea: Understand the principles of factory production and apply them to business management.

Chapter 1: The Basics of Production

  • Focus efforts on identifying and fixing the bottleneck (limiting step) in the workflow

Chapter 2: Managing The Breakfast Factory

  • Define good KPI’s.
  • Understand JIT inventory management.
  • Automate things to improve work leverage.

Chapter 3: Managerial Leverage

  • Judge a manager by the results of his team.
  • Results are what matter; not effort.
  • Most of a manager’s time is spent acquiring information, which is critical to making good decisions.
  • The most important resource for a manager is his time.
  • Being prepared for meetings saves a lot of other people’s time.
  • Investing time preventing someone important from quitting saves lots of time finding a replacement.
  • New employee orientations are important to do well since new employees are most impressionable.
  • Meddling too much can hurt performance in the long-run.
  • Delegation is another way to improve leverage.
  • When you delegate, you must still monitor and follow up.
  • When reviewing reports, ask to see the rough draft to add feedback as early as possible.
  • Batch similar tasks together to save time.
  • Use your calendar to manage your work and minimize interruptions.
  • Have some free-time projects to tackle during downtime.
  • Six to eight subordinates is about right.
  • Minimize interruptions and documenting FAQs, delegating, batching, and having fast access to information (KPI).

Chapter 4: Meetings

  • Meetings have a bad name, but they add lots of value if done well.
  • Regular meetings allow managers to batch decisions and batch information sharing.
  • One-on-ones are great for teaching, sharing information, and building relationship.
  • One-on-ones can start out weekly and move to monthly.
  • One-on-ones should be about an hour.
  • Staff meetings are to discuss issues and offer solutions.
  • Staff meetings should have an agenda and an open discussion session.
  • Mission oriented meetings are ad-hoc and designed to produce a key decision.

Chapter 5: Decisions

  • Be wary of groupthink in group decisions.
  • Be wary of peer-plus-one in group decisions, where everyone automatically agrees with the senior manager’s opinion.

Chapter 6: Planning

  • Understand basic factory production principles.
  • Apply Management By Objectives (Key Objective, Key Results) and review every quarter or every month.

Chapter 7: The Breakfast Factory Goes National (Scaling)

  • The central tradeoffs when scaling is centralization/decentralization.  (Buddhism/Catholicism in Scaling Up Excellence.)

Chapter 8: Hybrid Organizations

  • Mission-oriented companies are completely decentralized.  Units work towards the mission but operate independently.
  • Functional companies are completely centralized.
  • Most companies are a hybrid of mission-oriented and functional.

Chapter 9: Dual Reporting

  • Matrix management means employees can have two supervisors (their business unit supervisor and their functional unit supervisor.)
  • For example: a controller can report to the CFO and also to the business unit general manager.

Chapter 10: Modes of Control

  • Sometimes you will motivate by money, sometimes by contract, and sometimes by shared cultural values.

Chapter 11: The Sports Analogy

  • Management is a team activity.
  • Employee performance is a function of training and motivation.
  • Understand where on Maslow’s Hierarchy the employee is at.
  • Most people are competitive and motivation is a given in competitive sports, so try and turn work into a game by providing instant feedback and metrics.

Chapter 12: Task-Relevant Maturity

  • Provide detailed instructions to an inexperienced employee.
  • Establish monitoring and then give experienced employees freedom and autonomy.

Chapter 13: Performance Appraisals

  • Performance reviews are absolutely necessary.
  • Level, listen, and leave yourself out.
  • Document everything.
  • Give the review in writing, first, and then meet later in person to review.

Chapter 14: Two Difficult Tasks

  • Interviewing is just about impossible.
  • Do everything you can to save a valued employee who wants to quit.

Chapter 15: Compensation as Task-Relevant Feedback

  • Some employees view salary as a means to pay for living expenses.  Some employees view salary as a measuring stick to compare to others.
  • Performance bonuses should be partly individual, partly team, and partly organization.
  • Performance bonuses should be linked to objective metrics.

Chapter 16: Why Training Is the Boss’s Job

  • Don’t hire external trainers to train employees if you can do it yourself.
  • Managers should learn how to teach a formal course to employees.


Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon

The Big Idea: Invest more in creating an exceptional customer experience.

What is the cardinal rule of exceptional service?
Anticipate the needs of your customers.

What are the four basics of good (but not yet exceptional) service?
1. Perfect product
2. Delivered by a caring, friendly person
3. In a timely fashion
4. Supported by good problem resolution if something goes wrong

Why are problems sometimes a good thing?
Many studies show that a customer whose problem is effectively resolved is a more loyal customer than a typical customer who has had no problem to resolve.

How do you create a loyal customer from a poor customer experience?
1. Sometimes customers who complain want to help improve your company.
2. Resolve the problem.
3. Go above and beyond with some personal gesture (eg. handwritten note or freebie.)
4. Identify and fix the root cause.

How do you ensure a consistent tone and use of language for every customer touch point?
Create a dictionary of preferred language and phrasing and use it for everything — signs, emails, voicemails, and employee orientations.

How do you institutionalize exceptional service? 
Develop a good system of tracking customer preferences, including personal information (birthdays, spouses, pets, occupation.)

Use Toyota Production System principles to build efficiency and eliminate waste in your service processes.  However, remember that exceptional service may seem wasteful in the short-run but will benefit your company in the long-run.

How do you measure your customer service? 
Financial: revenue, retention, profits.  Non-financial: surveys, mystery shoppers, willingness-to-recommend.

How do you build a good customer service team?
Hire for talent and attitude, not skills or experience. Look for personal warmth, empathy, optimism, teamwork, and integrity. Never lower your hiring standards just to fill a position.

How do you maintain exceptional service over the long-term?
Perform 5 minute daily standup meetings to keep everyone motivated and supported.  Treat employees as human beings, not “8 hours of labor” or “full-time equivalents.”

Exceptional service costs money.  How do you justify the costs? 
Consider the many long-term benefits: word of mouth marketing, low staff turnover, more productive staff, lower staff recruiting and training costs, higher sales per customer, higher customer loyalty.

How do you leverage the Internet for exceptional service?
1. Make yourself unusually easy to reach.
2. Respond to public complaints promptly and personally.
3. Build evangelists who can defend you online.
4. Use technology to offer even more human interaction (800 number, live chat.)
5. Make the experience fun and memorable.

What does good copy on the Internet look like?
Offer both short copy for people who just want a summary and long copy for people who want to read more.

Why should you pay more attention to hello and good-bye?
Neuroscience studies show that humans disproportionately remember the first and last impression, so make sure those are positive and memorable impressions.


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

The Big Idea: Losers have goals.  Winners have systems.

  • Losers have goals.  Winners have systems.
  • Your mind isn’t magic.  It’s a moist computer you can program.
  • The most important metric to track is your personal energy.
  • Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.
  • Happiness is health plus freedom.
  • Luck can be managed, sort of.
  • Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way).
  • Fitness is the lever that moves the world.
  • Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing.
  • A smart friend can save you loads of time.
  • Forget about passion.  Be successful first and passion will follow.
  • The market rewards execution, not ideas.
  • Positive affirmations really work.
  • Simple systems are probably the best way to achieve success.
  • Simplification frees up time and energy, which makes other things possible and easier.
  • Exercise, sleep, and food should be your first priority in maintaining good energy.
  • Working on a big, world-changing project (on the side) can be very energizing.
  • Smiling makes you feel better.
  • Success at one activity can spill over to other activities.
  • A clue to an innate talent: willing to embarrass yourself in something.
  • Be persistent if something doesn’t work out perfectly.  However, know that most big successes started out successful in some small, important way.
  • Try to be good at several complementary things instead of excellent at only one.  (Eg. good engineer + good marketer > great engineer.)
  • Key skills for success: public speaking, psychology, business writing, accounting, design, conversation, conversation, overcoming shyness, foreign language, golf, grammar, persuasion, technology, voice control
  • Be familiar with most common cognitive biases.
  • Successful people tend to follow this pattern: lack of fear of embarrassment, they love learning, they exercise regularly.
  • Luck can be engineered by consistently being in the right place at the right time.
  • Experts are right about 98% of the time on easy stuff, but only 50% of the time on complicated stuff.
  • Happiness should be your primary goal in life.
  • If you’re not happy, look at your environment and fix what’s wrong.
  • The flexibility in your schedule to take naps, all else equal, will make you much happier.
  • Simply imagining a better future hacks your brain chemistry and makes you happier.
  • People become unhappy if they have too many options in life.
  • No two humans are alike, but eating too many simple carbs is probably depleting your energy.
  • Think of food as the fuel that makes exercise possible.
  • Vegetarianism is probably healthy and beneficial, but be wary of the science quoted because vegetarians have an agenda beyond nutrition.  (Not a malicious agenda, however.)
  • Coffee makes you more likely to exercise and has cancer-protective antioxidants.
  • Any form of exercise that requires willpower is probably unsustainable for most.
  • Make exercise fun, or at least, make exercise a non-negotiable habit.
  • After exercise, always reward yourself with reading, healthy snack, or coffee.

Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao


Scaling is a ground war, not just an air war. Scaling requires grinding it out; building the organization brick by brick, day after day. One more metaphor…it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


1. All scaling issues are basically the same across all organizations and industries.
2. Scaling entails more than the Problem of More. You must grow AND get better.
3. People who are adept at scaling excellence are comfortable with the uncertainty and mess that accompanies scaling.
4. Scaling starts and ends with individuals.


1. Spread a mindset, not just a footprint.
Running up the numbers and putting your logo on as many people and places as possible isn’t enough.
Examples: Facebook Bootcamp

2. Engage all the senses.
Bolster the mindset you want to spread with supportive sights, sounds, smells, and other subtle cues that people may barely notice, if at all.
Examples: Disney theme parks

3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
Hound yourself and others with questions about what it takes to link the never-ending now to the sweet dreams you hope to realize later.
Examples: Stanford Directors College

4. Accelerate accountability
Build in the feeling that “I own the place and the place owns me.”
Examples: NovoEd

5. Fear the clusterfug.
The terrible trio of illusion, impatience, and incompetence are ever-present risks. Healthy doses of worry and self-doubt are antidotes to these three hallmarks of scaling clusterfugs.
Examples: Oracle Financials at Stanford

6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
The problem of more is also a problem of less. What got us here won’t get us there. There is time to take down the scaffolding.
Examples: IDEO, Cost Plus Market

7. Slow down to scale faster – and better – down the road.
Learn when and how to shift gears from automatic, mindless, and fast modes of thinking (system 1) to slow, taxing, logical, deliberative, and conscious modes (system 2); sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

Chapter 1. It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War
Chapter 2. Buddhism Versus Catholicism

Chapter 3. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions
Chapter 4. Cut Cognitive Load: But Deal with Necessary Complexity
Chapter 5. The People Who Propel Scaling: Build Organizations Where “I Own the Place and the Place Owns Me”
Chapter 6. Connect People and Cascade Excellence: Using Social Bonds to Spread the Right Mindset
Chapter 7. Bad Is Stronger Than Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence

Chapter 8. Did This, Not That: Imagine You’ve Already Succeeded



Chapter 1. It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War; Going Slower to Scale Faster (and Better) Later
-scaling requires grinding it out
-make one small change after another, day after day
-never leave well enough alone
it’s a marathon, not a sprint
-7 scaling mantras (see above)

Chapter 2. Buddhism Versus Catholicism
-Buddhism: mindset guides behavior, but actions and practices vary wildly, KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut in China, Joie de Vivre hotels,
-Catholicism: actions and practices are replicated identically, In-N-Out, See’s Candies
-constant tension between replicating tried-and-true practices and modifying them (or inventing new ones) to fit local conditions
success requires balance between Buddhism and Catholicism
-examples: IKEA in China, Atul Gawande and surgical standardization, Girl Scouts of Northern California, Starbucks, McDonald’s
-start with a great template and customize it
customization of a template instills a sense of ownership in people
-references: Mindset by Carol Dweck, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
-scaling tradeoff “alone versus together”: shunning partners can slow growth but retain quality and consistency
-scaling tradeoff “more versus better”: grow faster might cost quality, sometimes quality can rebound
understand these tradeoffs and make a clear decision



Chapter 3. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions
-a hot cause (crisis) triggers attention, emotional energy, and commitment
-when changing a culture, focus on both beliefs and actions
-when getting people to rally behind a hot cause, the key is creating experiences that generate “communities of feeling”
-it is harder to break a commitment when you have proclaimed it publicly
don’t foster a heroic mindset, where problems are continuously resolved with quick fixes by heroes instead of finding permanent solutions
-focus on creating good systems and a continuous improvement mindset
-strategy: name the problem to galvanize efforts, ex: “date rape”, “100,000 Lives Campaign”
-strategy: name the enemy to create some team spirit, ex: Apple vs Microsoft
-strategy: make efforts highly visible, Cialdini’s public commitments and accountability, ex: Gandhi’s Salt March
-strategy: breach assumptions, ex: IDEO CEO desk
-strategy: create gateway experiences and on-ramps, ex: teddy bear, security blanket, Chrysler factory cleanups,
-strategy: new/better rituals, Omnicell coatracks to check ego at the door
-strategy: lean on people who can’t leave well enough alone, identify and promote change promoters, ex: Charlotte Beers at Ogilvy Mathers
-tradeoff between poetry and plumbing, poetry can inspire people, plumbing makes things work
-example: Stanford bike helmets and smashed watermelons

Chapter 4: Cut Cognitive Load
-new rules, processes, and technologies can create cognitive overload
-cognitive overload can obscure focus, lower motivation, increase errors, decrease effectiveness
as teams get bigger, individual performance suffers
-J. Richard Hackman rule of thumb: no more than 10 people in one work team
-Dunbar number is 150 people
-at some point, bloated bureaucracies overwhelm the advantages of greater scale
-most startups are too small to suffer from Big Dumb Company disease but lessons still apply
people say they dislike hierarchies, but studies show they are happier, calmer, and more productive when power and status differences are present and well understood
-strategy: subtraction is a way of life, routinely refactor to remove bureaucracy
-ex: scaffolding in construction is needed at the beginning but always removed
-A.G. Lafley: keep things Sesame Street Simple
-strategy: make people squirm, killing bureaucracy is always a little scary, ex: Pixar’s Incredibles
-strategy: bring on the load buster (subtraction by addition), tools that focus attention to what matters, ex: Sberbank’s traffic light system, ex: checklists
-strategy: divide and conquer, divide large teams into smaller teams, ex: hospital pods, carefully think through coordination between small teams, bonus for team/organization performance not individual performance, ex: Ben Horowitz Freaky Friday
-strategy: bolster collective brainpower
-stick with savvy insiders and stable teams over new hires and new blood
-put together people who’ve worked together on new teams
-a team of smart people doesn’t automatically mean success
-fatigue and burnout hurts performance and decision making, so make sure everyone gets plenty of physical and mental rest
-it’s a marathon, not a sprint
-more hiring, more processes, and more rules are inevitable but wait until they are absolutely necessary
-Ben Horowitz says “give ground grudgingly”

Chapter 5: The People Who Propel Scaling
effective scaling requires people who care about the company and the customers
-Netflix pays top dollar to have stars at every position, then expects that they “act in Netflix’s best interest”
-alternatively, Japanese food service Tamago-Ya hires high school dropouts, give them lots of training and support, and receives loyalty and effort in return
-organizations that scale well avoid the trap of hiring “high-priced stars” to fix issues, instead they do the deep thinking and demanding work required to install, spread, and sustain excellence
-talent x accountability = scaling excellence
-strategy: squelch free-riding
-at about 20 people, if startups aren’t careful, new hires will feel like employees not owners
-at P&G, managers who fail to share ideas simply don’t get promoted
-GE evaluates managers based on leadership (including supporting GE’s culture) and performance
-moving out bad apples (free riders) is almost as important as hiring the right people
-strategy: inject pride and righteous anger
-Netflix treats the company like a competitive sports team, not a family, to focus employees on winning
-strategy: bring in guilt-prone leaders
-leaders who worry about their performance tend to be action-oriented and put the needs of others ahead of their own
-strategy: use subtle cues to prime accountability, ex: pair of eyes on the wall
-strategy: create the right gene pool, hire carefully early on
-a company becomes the people it hires, because founders and first employees create the culture
-founders tend to believe they are destined for greatness, and this belief gives them resiliency, persistency, and persuasiveness
-people shape the culture, and the culture then shapes the people, ex: Tata CEO Factory
-strategy: use other organizations are your HR, ex: hire from Teach for America, military, Stanford
-strategy: hire people prewired to fit your mindset, ex: Specialisterne hiring autistic workers

Chapter 6: Connect People and Cascade Excellence
-scaling hinges on discovering pockets of excellence and connecting them to others, then the excellence spreads on its own like dominoes
amateurs discuss strategy, professionals discuss logistics –US Army
-having a diverse change group propels scaling because diverse people interact with diverse groups of people
-look for master multipliers, high energy people who can spread the excellence broadly, ex: Hayden Fry, ex: Dr. William Halsted
bring on energizers, people with lots of positive energy to infect others with, ex: Facebook Chris Cox
-implement savvy gamification, ex: Rite-Solutions Mutual Fun for idea generation
-seven tools for activating domino chains of excellence: top down, broadcast your message out to one and all, have the many teach the few, one on one, from the few to the many, brokers, create crossroads and meeting places
-create a common heart beat through stand up meetings, 2-4 week sprints
-scaling is propelled by leaders who think and act like connectors

Chapter 7: Bad is Stronger than Good
-a little bit of negativity can undermine a lot of good work
when one deadbeat or asshole joins a small team, performance can drop 30%-40%
-8 strategies for getting rid of bad: nip it in the bud, get rid of bad apples, plumbing before poetry, adequacy before excellence, use the cool kids, kill the thrill, time shifting, focus on the best/worst/end



Chapter 8. Did This, Not That: Imagine You’ve Already Succeeded
-Daniel Kahnamann’s premortem: imagine failure and try to explain what happened, imagine success and try to explain what happened
most high-growth startups fail because they grew too big too fast
-ask your team, are we happy living in the world we built?

Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg

The Big Idea
Southwest succeeded by focusing on profitability over market share and by taking the time building a fun and positive culture. Doing this likely slowed down their growth but also resulted in top customer service ratings, top safety record, very low employee turnover, and 40+ consecutive years of profitability

Key Takeaways

Chapter 1: Nuts? You Decide
-Southwest maniacally avoids following industry trends
-Results: profitable since 1973, steady growth, little debt, low fares, productive work force, low employee turnover, highest customer ratings, highest on-time, best safety
-mission: make air travel affordable for everyone
profits are required to fulfill the mission

Chapter 2: Goliath Meets David
-the early years of fighting for survival (against litigation and recession) gave Southwest a tenacity that is now a part of its culture

Chapter 3: The Battle Heats Up
-in order to be different, Southwest chose a strategy of low fares + superior service
-Southwest advertised its underdog position heavily in the early days

Chapter 4: A Maverick Emerges
-early employees had an intense work ethic and drive to win
existing competition was conventional, businesslike, and bland
-Southwest’s outrageous personality partially resulted from desperation
-Southwest’s ad agency delivered campaigns meant to be outrageous
-employees were allowed freedom to get the job done
-management spent a lot of time with employees
-Southwest hired people who were fun, as well as hard working, smart, reliable
-the early fight-for-survival mentality didn’t just breed a can-do, inventive spirit; it also brought everyone very close — like family

Chapter 5: Flying in the Face of Conformity
purpose: to make a profit, achieve job security for every employee, and make flying affordable for more people
-strategy to achieve that purpose: best service and lowest fares to the shortfall, frequent-flying, point-to-point traveler
-Southwest Airlines (unlike competitors) never strayed from its strategy
profits are more important than market share
-clear strategy led to clear tactical decisions: point to point >> hub and spoke, avoid congested airports, target overpriced markets, use only 737, keep boarding simple, serve no meals, constantly improve turnaround times
think ahead and be frugal

Chapter 6: Professionals Need Not Apply
hire for attitude, train for skills
-Southwest hires a certain type of person: light-hearted, fun, enthusiastic

Chapter 7: Kill the Bureaucracy
-Southwest moves fast and is opportunistic
stay as lean as possible to avoid bureaucracy and sluggishness
-in a lean organization, poor performance is impossible to hide
-communication is face-to-face and on a first-name basis
-meetings are short and action oriented
simplification decreases costs and increases speed
-it all boils down to a thousand little things that help people solve the problem of how to turn the planes faster
-Southwest financial results are open to any employee
-times change and companies that don’t adapt will not survive
-changing times offer an opportunity for companies that can adapt and move quickly
-Southwest doesn’t do traditional strategic planning; instead they perform future scenario planning
-Southwest trusts its employees to do their jobs and that helps it adapt so quickly
-Southwest positions itself as an underdog to convey a sense of urgency and instill competitiveness to employees

Chapter 8: Act Like an Owner
employees who are also owners care a lot more about the bottom line
-hire entrepreneurial self-starters
-Southwest has a profit-sharing plan for all employees, investing 15% of pretax operating profits, some of which is used by employees to buy stock
-today employees own about 12% of the company

Chapter 9: Learn Like Crazy
-learning is key to Southwest’s success
hire voracious readers
-hire people who listen more and ask more questions than they talk
-encourage people to understand others’ jobs accelerates learning (pilots <> ground staff <> ramp agents)
-employee newsletter, LUV Lines, shares stories and lessons, teaches employees about financial performance

Chapter 10: Don’t Fear Failure
-always be experimenting
remove the fear of rejection and people will be willing to experiment more
-do more of what works, learn from what doesn’t work
experimentation solidifies an action-oriented, get-it-done culture
-experiments led to new cost-savings, new features, happier customers

Chapter 11: One Great Big Family
-shared struggle to survive fostered a close-knit family-like culture that still remains
Southwest core values: profitability, low cost, family, fun, love, hard work, individuality, ownership, legendary service, egalitarianism, common sense, simplicity, altruism,
Southwest philosophy: employees are number one, think small to grow big, manage in the good times for the bad times, irreverence is okay, it’s okay to be yourself, have fun at work, take the competition seriously but not yourself, hire for attitude and train for skill, Southwest is a service company, do whatever it takes, always practice the golden rule
-Southwest norms: be visionary, celebrate everything, hire the right people, limit committees, keep a warrior spirit, keep multiple scenarios, minimize paperwork, feel free to be informal, move fast, dare to be different

Chapter 12: Keeping the Spirit Alive
-Southwest is a family
-Southwest celebrates its people through photos, news clippings, letters in the hallways
-Colleen sends birthday cards to all members of the Texas legislature
-Colleen sends personalized birthday gifts to employees
-Herb tells great stories
-Culture Committee formalizes these practices
-Walk a Mile in My Shoes helps reinforce culture and keep people connected across functions
-Helping Hands directs employees to temporarily help overworked employees elsewhere

Chapter 13: The Art of Celebrating Milestones
-take time for outrageous celebrations of milestones
-celebrations: build relationships, create shared history, helps envision the future, recognize milestones, reduces stress, inspires and motivates employees, builds self-confidence and removes fear, mourns the loss associated with change

Chapter 14: Celebrating Big People With Big Hearts
people love awards and public recognition
-must be authentic, must raise people’s self-esteem, must be done right, must appeal to all the senses, must be seen as an investment, must be cost-effective

Chapter 15: Still Nuts After All These Years
always have fun
-business casual clothes only
-costumes when appropriate
-good-natured pranks to lighten things up
-fun games and contests for employees or customers (worst drivers license, holes in socks)
-having fun = productive employees, low absenteeism, low turnover, more creativity and innovation

Chapter 16: Luv
-people need to be loved and accepted
-display patience and commitment to employees and customers
spend more time with your people and less time with other CEOs — Herb
when your employees know you care, it’s easier to offer constructive criticism
-share your appreciation for employees hard work
-love comes without conditions, however approval must be earned
-Colleen has little patience for habitual mediocrity
-employees are rarely fired for technical skill but anyone who mistreats an employee is history

Chapter 17: Compassion for Community
-community service starts on a local level
-eg: disaster relief, Ronald McDonald house, holiday charity, neighborhood makeovers

Chapter 18: Unconventional Advertising
-Herb arm-wrestled another airline CEO to resolve a dispute => great PR for both companies
-Southwest uses the underdog story to turbocharge marketing and advertising
-10 core advertising principles: make advertising entertaining, use advertising to keep the company’s spirit alive, match the message and media with the company’s strategy and culture, take the competition seriously but not yourself, make flying fun, make every employee a living advertisement, model the company’s values for employees, under promise and over deliver, make creativity a team effort, build credibility in everything you do

Chapter 19: Customers Come Second
-the customer is not always right
Herb is not afraid to ask problem customers to fly another airline
-talk to your employees, don’t just offer them a suggestion box
-track both customer complaints and customer compliments
great customer service is understanding (intellectual) + empathizing (emotional)

Chapter 20: Employees Come First
-trust your employees to use good judgement instead of rigid policies
executives lead by example with good customer service themselves
-no job is too mundane, Herb loads baggage the Wednesday before every Thanksgiving
-Southwest respect front-line employees enough to share performance and financial information
-Southwest publicly celebrates outrageous customer service stories in Luv Lines

Chapter 21: Leaders Leading Leaders
-there is no heroic leader at Southwest
-there are leaders at every level of the company
leadership is not getting what you want, it’s getting people to want what you want because they share your purpose, vision, and values
-leadership does not come from titles or positions, it comes from ability to influence
-integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do
-Southwest has a reputation among suppliers, government, customers for doing what it says it’s going to do and that trust gives it an advantage over competitors
-do your research and be more prepared than your competitor
-love your people and they will follow you
-listen more than you talk
a group of people inspired by a common vision and purpose is incredibly powerful

Chapter 22; Leadership From The Inside Out
employees are proud to be part of a company culture that values them as people not positions or roles
employees understand that their job security is inextricably tied to the company’s performance
-for most employees, Southwest is not a job, it’s a crusade, and a fun one
-customers are also treated like people, not numbers
-employees take care of each other through compassion and an independent charity to help other employees in short-term need
-leaders recruit and groom other leaders to succeed them

Chapter 23: Go Nuts!
people want work that is meaningful, so your company needs a purpose
people want to have fun, so don’t take yourself so seriously
when you believe in people, they will rise to greatness
dare to be different, yes there are risks but the payoff is worth it
culture is more important than strategy and operations
choose service over self-interest

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

The Big Idea
Work smarter, not harder.

Key Takeaways

  1. Hacking the Ladder: sometimes the fastest way up is side-to-side; eg. US presidents with little political experience, movie stars with little acting experience
  2. Training with the Masters: find a successful mentor to accelerate your learning; eg. Jimmy Fallon, Steve Jobs
  3. Rapid Feedback: embrace failures but always learn from them, develop a system and culture of experimentation; eg. Upworthy, Second City, heart surgery
  4. Platforms: take advantage of existing platforms to maximize leverage and avoid reinventing the wheel, build platforms when necessary, don’t repeat yourself; eg. David Heinemeier Hanson, Ruby on Rails, car racing, calculators, Finland schools
  5. Waves: riding a wave is good, riding two converging waves is much better, learn to spot trends and move quickly, first-mover advantage is overrated; eg. Scrillex, surfing
  6. Superconnectors: building relationships can accelerate progress like a turbo booster, become a superconnector by being generous with your time; eg. Fidel Castro, JJ Abrams,
  7. Momentum: parlay small wins into big wins to keep the momentum going; eg. Michelle Phan, Oreo
  8. Simplicity: less is more, small is beautiful, taking on less focuses your resources and energy; eg. Embrace, Mac, Finland schools
  9. 10x Thinking: big thinking can galvanize teams and partners, fewer competitors can focus your efforts; eg. SpaceX, GoogleX

Get Acquired by Ian Bednowitz

Wonderful Udemy course for founders on how to get acquired — taught by the former head of M&A for eBay, Ian Bednowitz.

Fortune 500 M&A teams have different priorities than investors.  They care much more about strategic fit than about traction and revenue.

Take the course. It’s all meat, no filler.

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

95% of this book was about why sleep is so important.

5% of the book is about how to get better sleep.  Save time by reading this article instead.


More and better quality sleep will make your life better.  Exercise. Meditate. Avoid caffeine after 2pm.  No digital devices near bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool.


  • Lack of sleep weakens your immune system, can make you fat, can make you depressed, and hurts your decision making.
  • Sleeping pills are terrible for you.
  • No coffee after 2pm.
  • Dreams can often be the source of good ideas, so keep a dream journal by your bed.
  • Do you check the post on because you snore too much? Snoring might be a sign of sleep apnea, which can disrupt REM sleep and make you perpetually exhausted.
  • Lucid dreaming helps some people overcome night terrors.
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Some couples sleep in separate beds and still maintain a happy relationship.
  • Turn down all light an hour or two before going to bed.
  • No digital screens allowed in bed.
  • Ideal sleeping temperature is 60-66 degrees.
  • Exercise at some point during the day will improve that night’s sleep.
  • Eat dinner at a reasonable time.
  • Avoid spicy foods before bed.
  • Alternative remedies can help but ignore alternative remedies until you get the basics handled: acupuncture, chamomile, lavender, GABA.
  • Reduce your stress with yoga, meditation, or qigong.
  • Write down your blessings before bed.
  • Write down your todo list before bed.
  • Naps are fantastic for your body and mind.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

THE BIG IDEA: We, as individuals and organizations, operate by habit; learn how to engineer good habits; learn how to identify keystone habits that shape many other habits


  1. Habits emerge because the brain is looking for ways to save effort.
  2. The habit loop is: cue => routine => reward.
  3. Craving for the reward is what powers the habit loop (eg. Febreze, Pepsodent.)
  4. To change a bad habit, first understand the cues and the true rewards that power the habit.  Then keep the cue but change the routine (eg. Tony Dungy, AA.) Also, change is more likely if done with a group.
  5. Changing a keystone habit will start a chain reaction that can change many other habits (eg. Alcoa, Michael Phelps.)
  6. Willpower can become a habit when you choose a certain behavior ahead of time, and then follow the routine at the appropriate time (eg. Starbucks.)
  7. Even destructive habits can be transformed by leaders who know how to seize the opportunity offered by a a crisis (eg. Rhode Island Hospital, London Underground.)
  8. To market a new habit, you must understand how to make the novel seem familiar.  Carefully insert new habits alongside old habits (eg. Target, Outkast, organ meats, YMCA.)
  9. A social movement starts because  of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close acquaintances.  It grows because of the habits of a community and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together. And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership (eg. Rosa Park, Rick Warren.)
  10. Although habits are hardwired, people have the power to rewire their brains (eg. William James, compulsive gambling.)
  11. To change a habit, 1) identify the routine in order to insert a new routine, 2) experiment with different rewards in order to determine the underlying craving, 3) isolate the cues by writing down what happens when the craving hits, 4) have a plan.   The plan will use the existing cues, insert a new routine, and link it to the true underlying reward/craving.

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg

The Big Idea: concentrate your efforts on the core traction channel that really matters; learn how to quickly identify your core traction channel because it will change as your startup grows


  1. One traction channel will always dominate.
  2. Predicting which traction channel will work for you is nearly impossible, so always test and let the data tell you.
  3. Spend 50% of your time building the product/service and 50% building a traction channel
  4. Early on, do things that don’t scale
  5. Testing channels your competitors are ignoring is a great way to acquire customers cheaply.
  6. Define your traction goals clearly and ignore marketing efforts not on the critical path to achieving those traction goals.
  7. The Nineteen Traction Channels
    1. Targeting blogs
      1. try small blogs first
      2. see Noah Kagan and Mint
    2. Publicity
      1. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
      2. target smaller outlets first
      3. craft a good narrative
    3. Unconventional PR
      1. PR stunts require creativity and willingness to keep trying
      2. Customer appreciation (handwritten notes) is more sustainable and systematic
    4. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
      1. use ads to test changes to your product or service
    5. Social and Display Ads (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter)
      1. social ads are more focused on brand awareness than conversions
    6. Offline Ads
      1. radio ads, magazine ads, and local tv ads can be cheap
      2. remnant advertising can be an amazing bargain
      3. use coupon codes or landing pages to track effectiveness
    7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
      1. fat-head vs long-tail
      2. SEO = getting lots of links
      3. infographics, slideshows, images, and original content drive link-building
    8. Content Marketing
      1. hard to build but can a huge payoff (size and speed of customer growth)
      2. in-depth posts and infographics work the best
    9. Email Marketing
      1. one of the most effective channels of all
      2. make emails as personalized as possible (name, interests, content)
      3. retarget leads through email
      4. use email for friend referrals
      5. A/B test everything in your email campaigns
    10. Viral Marketing
      1. K = i x conversion (i = invites per user)
      2. Any K > 1 will result in exponential growth; Any K > 0.5 will help you grow considerably.
      3. A/B test everything
      4. Sign up for the most viral services and understand their strategies
      5. Think deeply about building virality into the product instead of just adding a FB like button
    11. Engineering as Marketing
      1. build tools, widgets, and microsites that your customers find valuable
    12. Business Development
      1. build partnerships with complementary companies to expand your market, acquire/license IP, jointly develop a product, or secure key inputs
      2. understand your partner’s needs
      3. get a warm introduction
    13. Sales
      1. best for entreprise and expensive products
    14. Affiliate Programs
      1. best for low-price, e-commerce, digital information
      2. existing affiliate platforms are expensive but have large audiences
      3. building your own affiliate network is a possibility if you have a large customer base
    15. Existing Platforms
      1. Includes app stores, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat
      2. Find out where your customers are and how they use the platform
      3. Get to the platform as early as possible
    16. Trade Shows
      1. great for meetings, landing big sales, building partnerships, or making announcements
      2. clear goals and preparations are key
    17. Offline Events
      1. organize conferences, parties, and meetups to attract and retain customers
    18. Speaking Engagements
      1. start small
      2. remember that event organizers are looking for speakers
    19. Community Building
      1. you need to have a mission that customers want to buy into if you want to build an awesome community
      2. pay attention to keeping quality high as you scale

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

This is a study on how to build a company that is resilient and exceptional.  It’s one of my favorite books.

The Big Idea: visionary companies have a strong inner core (core purpose, core values) and a willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.


  • 1. Build clocks instead of relying on time tellers.
    • Focus on building organizational intelligence and capabilities rather than relying on a charismatic leader coming up with a great strategy or a great idea.
    • Founders of these visionary companies are builders and architects, not artists or inventors.
    • The company is the creation.
  •  2. People, products, and purpose come before profits.
    • Built-to-last companies are willing to lose some profit margin to fulfill a purpose, not because it will increase long-term shareholder value more (which it might) but because it’s the right thing to do.
    • Profit for the company is like oxygen for the body.  The body needs oxygen to survive but consuming oxygen is not the point of life.
    • Built-to-last companies have very different purposes, but they all had one.
    • These companies indoctrinate new employees into the core ideology and promoted/rewarded based based on employee alignment with the core ideology.
    • Sometimes, these companies were founded with a core ideology.  Sometimes, the core ideology evolved only after the startup phase.
  • 3. Keep the core but be ready to change everything else.
    • Core ideology never changes.  Culture can change.  Strategies usually change. Tactics definitely change.
    • Built-to-last companies are constantly improving and are never satisfied with the status quo.
  • 4. Make sure everything is aligned.
    • Even small processes, decisions, and systems should align with the core.
    • People do notice the little things, so definitely sweat the small stuff.
    • Everything should reinforce everything else to support the core.
    • Decisions that fit the core ideology might often seems crazy from the outside.


  • 1. Set Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG).  Get everyone in the company to buy-in.
  • 2. Develop a cult-like culture that some people love and some people dislike.  Those that love it stick around for a long-time.
  • 3. Try lots of stuff and keep what works. Evolution beats intelligent design.  Failure is okay.  Detailed plans usually fail because circumstances always change.
  • 4. Promote from within. Recruit and develop the next generation of leaders.
  • 5. Always be improving. Develop mechanisms to prevent complacency and status quo. Become a self-improvement machine.

Emergency by Neil Strauss

After reading Emergency, I watched the bleak, post-apocalyptic The Road, with Viggo Mortensen.  Bad combination for a good night’s sleep.

The Big Idea: when the shit hits the fan (WTSHTF), will you be prepared?

  • LA >> NYC, since it’s too spread out and has no single building or monument that symbolizes the nation
  • Most gas masks are useless against biological and nerve agents.
  • Katrina demonstrated you can’t count on FEMA.
  • 88% of Americans don’t own a passport.
  • You can get almost anywhere in the world with a EU passport but they are difficult to obtain.
  • Empires collapse when they spread themselves too thin. — The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
  • The Passport Book describes how to get a second passport.
  • PT = permanent traveler
  • 3 flag system = second passport, a safe location for your assets in another country, a legal address in a tax haven, bonus: business base country and a playground country with the support of the companies like Soft Play Design and Install Swansea.
  • During most of history, almost everyone was a survivalist.  They knew how to hunt, farm, fight, and keep themselves and their families alive.
  • The urban survival kit is: cell phone, ATM card, pistol. — Bruce Clayton
  • You don’t rise to the occasion. You default to the level of your training.
  • Twelve gauge shotgun and birdshot for indoor protection.
  • A motorcycle with saddlebags and local trail maps to escape via isolated mountain roads instead of crowded highways.
  • Take a CERT class for the practical training, the green vest, and the badge.
  • The average person needs a gallon of water a day.  After a massive earthquake, it might take 30 days to fix the pipes.
  • Plumbers, contractors, and carpenters will be your best friends.
  • The sacred order of outdoor survival: shelter, water, fire, food.
  • The three qualities for wilderness survival: nature awareness, physical fitness, and self-mastery.
  • The three skills for wilderness survival: hand drill, debris hut, throwing stick.
  • Once you learn lock-picking, the world is your oyster.
  • The most likely causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, trauma (especially motor vehicle accidents), poisoning, falling.  Near the bottom: terrorism.

Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Just finished watching Cosmos on Netflix.  Amazing work!  Had to post this final monologue by Carl Sagan.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

–Carl Sagan


Get Backed by Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis

The Big Idea: you need a well-designed pitch deck and a well-planned road show to raise serious money for your startup.

Pitch Deck

  1. Overview
  2. Opportunity
  3. Problem
  4. Solution
  5. Traction
  6. Customer or Market
  7. Competition
  8. Business Model
  9. Team
  10. Use of Funds

Road Show

  • Investors love a great story
  • Potential stories: origin story, customer story, industry story, venture growth story
  • Use Nancy Duarte’s Sparkline to tell your story

Fundraising: From Meetings to Closing

  • Book: Venture Deals by Brad Feld
  • 80% of all funding comes from friends/family
  • Equity crowdfunding is a new option: CircleUp, Crowdfunder
  • Accelerators are a runway to funding; quality varies
  • Ask these when thinking about an angel: do I like you? do I trust you? do I want to do business with you?
  • Notable angels bring many connections and secondary investors
  • AngelList is the LinkedIn for startups
  • Post on AngelList after you’ve raised a third of your total
  • Syndicates on AngelList pool lots of small investors together
  • Relationships are more important than cash when fundraising
  • Ways to stand out: handwritten thank you note, thoughtful gift, offering your personal network
  • Asks: invest, join advisory board, introduce to others
  • Find the super connectors and leverage weak ties
  • Make your needs known
  • Talk to everyone
  • Work in public spaces
  • See book for emails scripts: ask for feedback, ask for intro,
  • Always follow up after an intro meeting with short email and clear next steps
  • Investors ask themselves within the first meeting: do I like you? do I trust you? do I want to do business with you?
  • So, be likable, be trustworthy, be someone they’d want to do business with
  • Do your homework on anyone you meet with
  • See book for scripts about meetings
  • During meetings: find commonalities, ask great questions, listen, invite them to brainstorm or suggest improvements
  • During the ask: make the investor feel like an important contributor, assume the sale, be comfortable with silence following the ask
  • See book for scripts on how to make the ask
  • Types of asks: lead your round >> invest >> join advisory board >> stay updated
  • Send monthly updates for prospects via Mailchimp or bcc
  • Keep these updates separate from investor/advisor updates
  • See book for template of monthly updates
  • Elements of the close: verbal yes, termsheet, due diligence, signatures and money transfer
  • See book for list of due diligence docs
  • See book for template on signature and money transfer

The Next 100 Years by George Friedman

The Big Idea: U.S.A will dominate the next hundred years, first by controlling the oceans, then by controlling space.

  • Geographic isolation gives the U.S. military advantages few nations can claim, which translates to economic and political dominance.
  • Russia will challenge American dominance but will suffer from internal problems, declining population, and poor infrastructure.
  • China will not challenge American dominance because it is too geographically isolated, is too economically stratified, inefficient, and corrupt.
  • Japan, Turkey, and Poland will emerge as strong challengers for world dominance.
  • Population growth will slow and then stabilize.
  • Advanced industrial countries will suffer from aging and declining populations and will rely on immigration to support their economies.
  • Solar power will replace fossil fuels.  The nation that controls space controls energy.
  • By the late 21st century, Mexico will emerge as a world power, due to its favorable demographics, strong economy and geographic advantages.
  • The Muslim world will remain too internally divided to form a unified Caliphate and the U.S.-jihadist era will fade away.


The One Thing By Gary Keller

The Big Idea: 1) find your purpose and then 2) for four UNINTERRUPTED hours every morning, focus on THE ONE THING that will get you there fastest.

  • If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. –Russian proverb
  • Ask yourself “What’s the one thing you can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
  • It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. –Og Mandino
  • Most great businesses owe their great success to only one thing.
  • 80/20: 80% of the output is from 20% of the input.
  • Multitasking doesn’t work.
  • Don’t rely on extraordinary discipline to achieve.  Rely on habits developed with just a little bit (66 days) of discipline.
  • Willpower is limited.  Do your hardest tasks in the morning, when your willpower and energy are highest.
  • Don’t pursue a life of constant balance.  Instead counterbalance your life between sprints of work and constant life.
  • Extraordinary success requires thinking big.
  • If you have a growth mindset, you don’t need to fear failure. –Carol Dweck
  • Ask yourself “What’s the one thing you can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
  • The most productive people start with a purpose and use it like a compass.
  • Having a clear purpose makes it easy to prioritize.
  • Money won’t make you happy.
  • Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.
  • Ask yourself where you want to be in 20 years, then 5 year, then 1 year, then 3 months, then 1 month, then 1 week, then what you need to do today.
  • Block out the first 4 hours of every morning for your ONE THING and don’t let anyone interfere.
  • Successful people always have coaches.
  • Get used to saying no to requests that don’t advance your ONE THING.
  • Be prepared for a little chaos while you are focused on your ONE THING.
  • Watch your mental and physical health and sleep.
  • Avoid any negative environments and people.
  • The best way to live is to live with NO REGRETS.
  • Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
    • I wish I’d let myself be happier.
    • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
    • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
    • I wish I’d hadn’t worked so hard.
    • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

One of the top ten most influential books of the 20th century.  It’s a great book to read or re-read when I’m in need of a little perspective and inspiration in my life.  Read wikipedia’s book summary.

  • the meaning of life is found in every moment of living
  • Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.
  • The salvation of man is through love and in love
  • When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
  • Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
  • Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This is another quick read from the founders of 37 Signals and creators of Ruby on Rails.  Nadine West has been working remotely from the beginning and there isn’t anything in the book to disagree with.


  • Fewer interruptions than at the office
  • No commuting
  • Technology makes it possible
  • Flexible work hours
  • No need to live in a city or suburb
  • Freedom to travel while working
  • Bigger pool of talent to choose from
  • Save money on office, overhead
  • Pay your employees more compared to local rates (except for the coasts)
  • The work itself becomes the only yardstick to judge someone’s performance
  • When people manage themselves, managers must have other skills to be useful
  • When an employee moves to another city, it has zero impact on their employment, so less turnover
  • Parents can spend more time with family


  • Less structure and regimen: establish your own daily routine
  • Fewer serendipitous moments of brilliance: not really needed all the time
  • Drop in productivity: only hire people you trust
  • Too many distractions at home: vary your routine, do more interesting work
  • Data security: use standard tools
  • Big businesses don’t do it: big business are usually very inefficient anyways
  • Impact on company culture: demonstrate your culture through your work
  • Communication suffers: require some overlap, use collaborative tools
  • Collaboration suffers: give everyone access to everything by default
  • Social interaction suffers: have a group chat room, talk online a lot


  • Cabin fever: remember to get out of the house, schedule checkin calls, cowork
  • Burnout: working too much is more of a concern than too little, establish work-life boundaries
  • Health: encourage exercise, get ergonomic furniture


  • Never hire anyone with a bad attitude.  It’s toxic.
  • Pay your team more than local markets (except coasts).
  • Develop your team’s writing skills.
  • Hire someone for a small task before hiring full-time.
  • Try to meet in person a couple of times a year.
  • Over-communicate to keep everyone engaged.
  • Check-in with people regularly.
  • Watch out for drops in motivation and counsel if needed.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

Two things about this book: it’s very short and it has a very simple message: repeat “I love myself” over and over, every day.  I bought it because it was recommended by James Altucher, Tim Ferriss, and Sean Stephenson.

  • Repeat “I love myself” every day.  Do this with emotional intensity.
  • Meditate for 5-10 minutes every day.  Inhale “I love myself.”  Exhale anything that arises.
  • Respond to fear by telling yourself it’s not real.

Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

Preface: Why Google’s rules will work for you

  • Companies who follow many of the same principles: grocery chain Wegman’s, a Sri Lankan clothing manufacturer, a Nike factory.
  • The book’s key messages: take power and authority over employees away from managers, managers serve the team not vice versa, empower your employees

Chapter 1: Becoming a Founder

  • Every great tale starts with an origin story.
  • Larry and Sergey knew how they wanted employees to be treated.
  • Examples from Google: hiring decisions are made by groups, stock grants to all employees, more women engineers, dogs are welcome, free meals
  • Other founders who focused on treating employees well: Henry Ford, Milton Hershey, and Bell Labs founder.
  • Encourage your employees to think of themselves as owners.

Chapter 2: Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

  • 10 Things We Know to Be True: 10 guiding principles for Google
  • The 3 defining aspects of Google’s culture: mission, transparency, voice
  • Google’s mission: organize the world’s information
  • Good missions gives individuals’ work meaning.
  • A more traditional mission (creating value for customers or shareholders) doesn’t inspire innovation.
  • An inspirational mission attracts world-class talent.
  • Deep down, every human being wants to find meaning in their work.
  • If you believe people are good, you must be unafraid to share information with them.
  • Google’s intranet includes product roadmaps, launch plans, employee status reports, team goals (OKR).
  • Larry and Sergey hold a weekly all-hands TGIF meeting, with an AMA session
  • Transparency has been proven to improve performance.
  • Voice means giving employees a real say in how Google is run.
  • Employees see problems first and are the best source of solutions.
  • Local culture groups have been critical for maintaining the Google culture as they grew.

Chapter 3: Lake Wobegon, Where All the New Hires Are Above Average

  • Offering higher wages just means you get more applicants, not necessarily better.
  • Most organizations recruit like everyone else: post a job, screen resumes, interview people, pick someone.
  • Most people are simply not good at interviewing.
  • Interviewing is flawed because of cognitive biases.
  • It’s almost impossible to train an average performer and turn them into a superstar.
  • Today, companies spend more on training than on hiring, when they should be spending vast more on hiring than on training.
  • Key Point 1. hire more slowly and more carefully.
  • The top 10% aren’t normally looking for work.  But finding one who is, is worth the wait.
  • Key Point 2: hire only people who are better than you.
  • Take a bright, hard-working student who graduated at the top of her class in a state school over an average or above average student at an Ivy League.
  • Warning from Malcolm Gladwell: systems are just as important as stars, so have great processes and great people
  • Two intangible traits Google looks for: humility and conscientiousness (don’t just hire IQ)

Chapter 4: Searching for the Best

  • Crowdsource HR and hire people by committee.
  • Never lower your hiring standards, hire more slowly or expand your hiring pipeline instead.
  • Ignore candidates’ references and ask other people who worked/studied with them instead.
  • Hire smart generalists, not experts.
  • Grades and transcript are a crude measure of intelligence.
  • Becoming a Googler might mean 6 months of interviewing.
  • Bad hires can be toxic so do everything you can to avoid them.
  • For many years, Google’s best source of new employees was existing employees.  Talent attracts talent.
  • Later on, Google had to build an in-house recruiting department to find employees, often already working for other companies.

Chapter 5: Don’t Trust Your Gut

  • In an interview, people form an opinion of you in the first 10 seconds and then spend the rest of the interview looking for evidence to confirm that opinion.
  • Most interviews are a waste of time.
  • The best predictor of performance is a working interview.
  • The second best predictor is a general cognitive test.
  • Structured (behavioral or situational) are tied with general cognitive test.
  • The best approach is to use a combination of working interview, general cognitive test, and structured interview.
  • To keep improving, ask your candidates for feedback about the hiring process.
  • Four key attributes that predicted success at Google: general cognitive ability, leadership, personality/character fit, and role-related knowledge.
  • Also track your interviewers’ ability to predict good performers.
  • Always hire by committee.

Chapter 6: Let the Inmates Run the Asylum

  • Take power from your manager and trust your people to run things.
  • Psychology says that managers have a tendency to amass and exert power, employees have a tendency to follow orders.
  • De-emphasize titles, status, and hierarchy.
  • In a non-hierarchical organization, symbols and stories communicate company values and culture.
  • Make decisions based on data, not managers’ opinions.
  • Not sure what to do?  Run an experiment and let the data tell you.
  • Be aware of cognitive biases that impair decision making.
  • Google’s 20% Rule (20% on side project) is an example of finding a way for people to shape their own company.
  • Survey your people (Happiness survey, Ecstasy survey, Googlegeist) to give your people a voice in how their company is run.
  • Let your people make decisions.  Bubble it up to the next level ONLY when they can’t come to a decision.
  • Happier people generate better ideas.
  • Fight the impulse to micro-manage and control everything.  Instead, hire better people and trust them to do their job.

Chapter 7: Why Everyone Hates Performance Management and What We Decided to Do About It

  • Use OKR (objective and key results) framework.
  • Focus on both speed and accuracy (aka efficiency and quality).
  • Google tried a bunch of performance ratings system and found the best was to rate employees on a 5.0 rating scale every 6 months based on OKR.
  • Always separate the “how you did” discussion from the “how you can do better” discussion.  Why? Because intrinsic motivation >> extrinsic motivation.  Performance evaluation should be separate from people development.
  • Performance evals should come from managers, coworkers, subordinates, and self.

Chapter 8: The Two Tails

  • The biggest opportunities lie in your best and your worst employees.
  • Most organizations under-reward and undervalue their best people.
  • Why focus on your worst performers?  They will either improve a lot, or you can identify which of them should leave.
  • Learn from your best performers.  Learn what makes them so good.
  • Google studies found out that good managers matter a lot, contrary to what they and most engineers thought.
  • Google found that their best managers: were good coaches, empowered the team, cared about employees, were results oriented, communicated well, developed teams, had a clear vision, and had useful technical skills
  • Google studied top managers and created a management checklist which drove managers’ performance eval design

Chapter 9: Build a Learning Institution

  • Most training money is wasted, especially if you use an outside company.
  • Deliberate practice is, by far, the best way to learn.
  • Your organization’s best teachers are sitting right next to you.
  • Have your best performers teach the worst performers and the overall gain is much greater.
  • Academic knowledge is too theoretical.  Consultant knowledge is too shallow.  Your people are the best teachers.
  • G2G is a Google program for Googlers to teach other Googlers various skills, such as meditation, intro to programming, presentations.
  • Everyone in industry uses the 70/20/10 rule (70% on-the-job, 20% coaching, 10% classroom) but there’s no evidence that rule works.
  • Google thinks the best way to learn is to teach.  Plus teaching gives people purpose.

Chapter 10: Pay Unfairly

  • Before Google’s IPO, their average executive salary was $140k, lower than average for Silicon Valley.
  • Early on, Google hired only risk-seeking entrepreneurial types willing to take a big pay cut for extra stock options.
  • At Google, everyone is eligible for stock grants.
  • Paying more can get you more loyalty and productivity.  Costco vs Sam’s Club.
  • The best of the best are worth a lot and should be paid accordingly.
  • People on average are underpaid early in their careers and overpaid later in their careers (Edward Lazear).
  • Most companies design pay systems that incentive their best people to quit.
  • Pay according to contribution, not seniority.
  • Individual performance follows a power law distribution (80/20).  Note: this is less true for industrial/manufacturing roles where there is a ceiling imposed by machinery or raw materials.
  • Celebrate accomplishment not compensation by focusing on earned praise and non-financial awards.
  • More experiential gifts (trips, dinners, electronics).  Fewer cash awards. (Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness)
  • Let employees grant awards to other employees. (gThanks, Wall of Happy)
  • Public recognition of small acts and accomplishments is incredibly underutilized.
  • Reward thoughtful failure to encourage risk-taking and innovation.

Chapter 11: The Best Things in Life are Free (or Almost Free)

  • Most of Google’s people programs can be duplicated by anyone.
  • Many on-site services are actually provided at the cost of the vendor, not Google.
  • Perks paid for by Google: a few electric vehicles, concierge team.
  • Annual Take Your Parents To Work Day.
  • Meetups for Googlers various interests.
  • Culture Clubs.
  • Various community service projects.
  • Micro-kitchens to encourage social interaction and teamwork.
  • Authors@Google was self-organized by Googlers.
  • Talks@Google can be replicated by asking a local college professor to stop by.
  • Be there when your people need you: unexpected death benefits, maternity leave.

Chapter 12: Nudge…a Lot

  • Book recommendation: Thinking, Fast and Slow.
  • Small changes can make a big impact.  Find out what those small changes are.
  • Small changes in physical layout can make a big impact.
  • Small changes in pricing can make a big impact.
  • Book recommendation: Nudge
  • Use nudges (and experiments) to help your people become healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • Nooglers and checklists help new Googlers succeed.
  • Small nudges help improve employees investing and personal finances.
  • Small nudges help employees eat more healthy.

Chapter 13: It’s Not All Rainbows and Unicorns (Google’s Past Mistakes)

  • Sometimes information leaks out but that’s just the price of transparency.
  • So many perks can sometimes create an attitude of entitlements.
  • Be careful about continuing something that’s no longer useful.
  • Don’t try too many new ideas at once.
  • You can’t please all the people all the time, so just do your best.

Chapter 14: What You Can Do Starting Tomorrow

  1. Give your work meaning.
  2. Trust your people.
  3. Hire only people who are better than you.
  4. Don’t confuse development with managing performance.
  5. Focus on the two tails.
  6. Be frugal and generous.
  7. Pay unfairly.
  8. Nudge.
  9. Manage the rising expectations.
  10. Enjoy!

Advice From First Round Capital

The Most Dangerous Leadership Traps — and the 15-Minute Daily Practice That Will Save You

  • Spend 15 minutes a day in reflection — true reflection, in a quiet space, with your inbox closed.
  • Take this time to review the events of the previous day and make plans for the one coming up.
  • At the end of every week, run the same exercise for an hour and review the entire week.
  • 1. Ask: Did you execute on your plan? (IT)
  • 2. Ask: Did you take care of your team? (WE)
  • 3. Ask: Did you manage your own energy and mood? (I)
  • Why do all of this? Reflecting accelerates learning.

Here’s the Advice I Give All of Our First Time Founders

  • Focus on three things: hire the right people, don’t run out of money, always have a North Star.
  • That’s all.  People.  Cash.  Mission.


Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

I read in the Amazon reviews that Oren Klaff is the Neil Strauss of Wall Street.  That comparison makes a lot of sense.  I really liked this book. My notes are below.


  • Pitching may be the most important thing we do.
  • What are the two brains humans have? Crocodile brain (fast thinking) and Neocortex (slow thinking)
  • Q: How does the crocodile brain think?
    1. If it’s boring, ignore it
    2. If it’s dangerous, fight or run
    3. If it’s complicated, summarize the big picture and pass it on
  • Q: How do you engage the crocodile brain?
    1. Make it feel safe
    2. Feed it short vignettes of clear, visual, and novel information
    3. Don’t make it think too hard
  • STRONG is the framework Oren Klaff uses
    1. Set the frame
    2. Tell the story
    3. Reveal the intrigue
    4. Offer the nail
    5. Nail the hook point
    6. Get the decision


  • The stronger frame absorbs the weaker frame.
  • If your frame wins, you enjoy frame control and your ideas are followed.
  • Traditional sales tactics were created for people who have already lost the frame collision and are struggling to do business from a low status position.
  • If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage, or advantage, you do not hold the stronger frame.
  • Frame collisions are primal. They freeze out the neocortex and bring the crocodile brain in to make decisions.
  • Weak arguments, made up of logical discussions and facts, just bounce off strong frames.
  • Three frames you will meet: power frame, time frame, analyst frame.
  • Four responses to frames: power-busting frame, time-constraining frame, intrigue frame, and prize frame.
  • The power frame is the classic frame in business. Don’t reinforce the power frame by accepting the beta role. Instead, instigate a power frame collision: 1) perpetrate a small denial or 2) act out some type of defiance, usually with light humor.
  • Eg. “Thanks for coming over. I only have 15 minutes this afternoon.”
    “That’s okay, I only have 12.” (smile)
  • Stay in control of time. Running long or beyond the point of attention shows weakness, neediness, and desperation.
  • When you feel attention drifting away, set your own time constraint, and bounce out of there.
  • The response to an analyst frame (digging into the technical/financial details prematurely) is to use the intrigue frame. First respond with summary data. Then refocus on the relationship. “The revenue is X and the profit is Y. These and other facts you can verify later, but right now what we need to focus on is: are we a good fit? Should we be doing business together?” Then invoke the intrigue frame by sharing a narrative.
  • People will pay attention only to the point where they realize that they understand everything you are saying and you have nothing new to add.
  • The prize frame is incredibly important to understand and master. Believe and behave such that you are the prize. Make the other party work for your approval and validation. “Why would I want to do business with you?”
  • Why does prizing work?
    1. We chase that which moves away from us.
    2. We want what we cannot have.
    3. We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain.


  • In most cases, you enter a new business setting with a low status position.
  • Status can depend greatly on context. A french waiter can have higher status in a restaurant than a business executive. A golf pro can have higher status on the golf course than a surgeon.
  • Having alpha status in the room makes every interaction easier.
  • Beta traps are such things as waiting in the lobby, waiting in the conference room, filling out an application, and getting a guest name badge. They reinforce the existing status differential and benefit only the higher status person.
  • If you wish to elevate your social status, redirect people to a domain in which you are an expert. This is called local star power.
  • A well-chosen, well-timed, friendly but disruptive act will neutralize the other guy’s higher status. Follow that up by moving the focus to your domain of expertise (local star power.)
  • Genuinely enjoy your work. Having fun means instant social status and stronger frames.
  • Establishing a prize frame increases your own social status.
  • Finally, confirm your alpha status by playfully making the other party make a statement that confirms your higher status. “Remind me again why I would want to do business with you.” Even if it is obvious and you are being sarcastic.


  • When pitching, always start off by saying that you’ll be brief. It will put the audience at ease.
  • There are 4 phases in this method of pitching:
    1. Introduce yourself and the big idea: 5 minutes
    2. Explain the budget and the secret sauce: 10 minutes
    3. Offer the deal: 2 minutes
    4. Stack frames for a hot cognition: 3 minutes
  • 1. Introduce yourself and the big idea
    • Share only a few big wins from your background
    • When discussing why now, talk about three market forces of social/economic/technological are converging for the perfect storm and a narrow window of opportunity
    • Use the idea introduction pattern: For [target customer] who are dissatisfied with [current offering] my idea is a [new product or service] that provides [key problem/solution features] unlike [competitive offering] my idea is [describe key features].
  • 2. Explain the budget and the secret sauce
    • Tune your level of detail to the other person’s mind.
    • Keep this section short.
    • Use push/pull (novelty/tension or dopamine/norepinephrine) to keep your audience’s attention. “There’s a real possibility that we might not be a fit for each other. But then again, if this does work out, our forces could combine to become something great.” (Mad Men Don Draper)
    • A pitch narrative is a series of tension loops. Push then pull. Create tension. Then resolve it.
    • Delivering the core of the pitch is straightforward. Package the information for the crocodile brain. Big picture. High contrast. Visual. Novel. With verified evidence.
    • Be different by discussing the budget first. Most startups overestimate revenue and overestimate costs.
    • Discuss competitors.
    • Discuss your secret sauce, your unfair advantage.
  • 3. Offer the deal: Tell them exactly what the deal is. And do this quickly so you can move to phase 4, stacking frames.


  • This is phase 4: Frame stacking and hot cognitions
  • People think they decide things rationally (slow thinking) but more often people decide things emotionally (fast thinking). We justify decisions after we’ve already decided.
  • You want to create hot cognition (emotional decisions) by stacking frames.
  • Frames you can use to create hot cognition: intrigue frame, prize frame, time frame, moral authority frame.
  • Intrigue frame: tell a narrative with the classic pattern: put a man in the jungle, have beasts attack him, get the man to the edge of the jungle but don’t save him, will he get to safety?
  • Prize frame: make the buyer qualify himself and chase you, the stronger you believe you are the prize the stronger your prize frame
  • Time Frame: introduce a gentle and friendly time pressure, this creates a scarcity bias, don’t force extreme time pressure, “the train is leaving the station at X”
  • Moral Authority Frame: if available, eg. Mother Theresa on physician volunteers for her clinics
  • No pitch is going to get to the logic center of the brain without passing through the crocodile brain first.
  • Hot cognition is fast. Cold cognition takes hours or days.


  • Showing signs of neediness is about the worst thing you can do to a pitch.
  • Neediness triggers fear, uncertainty, and avoidance.
  • Neediness equals weakness.
  • Use the Tao of Steve to eradicate neediness:
    1. eliminate your desires
    2. be excellent in the presence of others
    3. withdraw
  • Constant self-talk up to and during your pitch: I don’t need these people. They need me. I am the prize.

Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some notes on Unbeatable Mind, based on a quick skim and video from Philosopher’s Notes.  I’m adding some more in-depth notes today.

Mark Divine is a former Navy SEAL turned life coach, fitness trainer, business trainer, and entrepreneur.  Unbeatable Mind is about the mental training he learned as a Navy SEAL and beyond that can help you succeed in business and life.

1. The Five Mountains
You must train and integrate five separate lines of human development: physical, emotional, mental, intuitional, and spiritual/kokoro.  (Similar to Tai Lopez’s 4 Pillars of the Good Life: 1) health, 2) wealth, 3) love, and 4) happiness.)

2. The First Premise
Win in your mind first by practicing insight meditation, starving the fear wolf and feeding the courage wolf, and knowing your purpose.

3. The 3 P’s and the One Thing
Know your Purpose, Passions, and Principles.  Know the One Thing that is your mission in life.

4. Box Breathing
Practice box breathing (inhale for 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, hold for 5) to reduce stress and focus concentration in chaotic times.

5. Big Four of Mental Toughness
Breathing, positivity, visualization, and goal setting.

6. Big Four of Emotional Resiliency
Self-esteem, orientation towards others, positive mindset, self-control.

7. Three Disciplines of the Warrior
Simplicity: reduce commitments, material possessions, and unsupportive relationships.  Dedication: training is not optional and embrace the journey. Authenticity: connect to your 3P’s and One Thing.

8. Three Spheres of Awareness.
The most happy and successful people in the world are also the most aware.  The three spheres of awareness are Self, Team, and Organization. Tools to practice self-awareness: meditation, contemplation, recapitulation (review your past), and journaling.

9. Universal Laws to Understand
a. The law of cause and effect: karma
b. The law of abundance: there is enough for everyone (Peter Diamandes’ Abundance)
c. The law of winning in your mind first (Sun Tzu)
d. The law of focus: fix your mind on what you want (Napoleon Hill)
e. The law of receiving: deliver value to the world and receive value in return
f. The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you
g. The law of surrender: surrender to the tide for enlightenment and peace (Lao Tzu)
h. The law of forgiveness (Nelson Mandela)
i. The law of non-attachment: detach from the material for contentment (Dalai Lama)
j. The law of nonresistance: fight violence with violence only as a last resort (Gandhi)

10. Trustworthiness
More trust increases transaction speed and lowers transaction costs.

11. Leadership
Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.  Leaders craft a vision and motivate a team to fulfill it.

12. Humility
Take the blame and share the credit.

13. Determination and Perseverance
Give it everything — day after day. Find a way, or make one.  Do or do not, there is no try.

14. Cognitive Biases
There are three brains: the reptilian, the mammalian, and the neocortex.  Cognitive biases arise when we  listen to the reptilian and mammalian.  (Daniel Kahneman)

15. Execution Plans
Keep It Simple, Stupid.  A good enough plan aims for 80% solution. Execute on an 80% solution and achieve micro-victories with increasing velocities.

16. SMART Goals
Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and appropriate time frame.

17. Team Training
Team training, retreats, off-site sessions are great for camaraderie, accountability, and respect among teammates. Participation should be mandatory, someone must lead, rotate leadership, engage experts, and make it fun.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book is on my top 20 books of all-time list. I must have been in middle school when I first got my hands on this book and read it cover to cover. Ever since then, I’ve had a copy on every bookshelf I’ve owned. Dale Carnegie included his own book summary at the end of the book, which I’m just reposting below.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want

Six Ways To Make People Like You
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage other people to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important-and do it sincerely.

Win People To Your Way Of Thinking
1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be A Leader
1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Entrepreneurs Are Made Not Born by Lloyd Shefsky

Written by my Entrepreneurship professor at Kellogg.

Ch 1
  • luck is opportunity meets preparation
  • learn how to overcome rejection
Ch 2
  • believe in your dream
  • take the angel money
  • do what you know and love
  • believe in yourself
  • project conservatively
Ch 3
  • keep your business plan informal at first
  • be ready to pivot or even change ideas
  • when talking to investors only talk about one business idea
Ch 4
  • don’t let your fears hold you back
Ch 5
  • entrepreneurship means independence
  • don’t waste money on real estate if not necessary for your business
  • immigrants have an advantage
  • there is life after bankruptcy
Ch 6
  • to conquer a fear, first understand it
  • good enough never is
  • failing doesn’t make you a failure
  • in the long run failing may be better for you
  • an entrepreneur’s secret weapon is his spirit
  • projects fail, entrepreneurs do not
  • if you dwell on failure, you will fail
Ch 7
  • beware the comfortable and secure life
  • something the security of a corporate track may feel like a prison
Ch 8
  • entrepreneurship is not gambling
  • risk is unavoidable
  • managers avoid or reduce risk
  • entrepreneurs focus on the reward
  • investors want to know that you’re risking something too
  • venture capitalists want you to succeed
Ch 9
  • to entrepreneurs, work = life
  • work ethic is found very early in life
  • he who makes money pleases god
  • puritans work to work, entrepreneurs work to achieve a goal
  • entrepreneurial work is fun
  • do you work b/c you love it or to achieve your dreams
  • Bill Gates still works 80 hrs/week
Ch 10
  • entrepreneurs are sometimes unemployable
  • be different
  • some rules are sacred and some can be bent
Ch 11
  • rules that can be broken: it can’t be done, that’s the only way to do it, they are the only ones who can do it, anyone can do it
Ch 12
  • you don’t really fail until you give up
  • you make mistakes not really fail
Ch 13
  • practice endlessly before the opportunity arrives
  • pick a partner for the bad times not the good
  • useful advisors: CPA, insurance, lawyer
Ch 14
  • work hard
  • take care of your body
  • don’t forget your family
Ch 15
  • someone has to be the leader
  • leaders craft and communicate a vision and strategy
  • leaders inspire others to follow them
  • deep down, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, let them be one through you
  • be the team’s biggest cheerleader
  • demonstrate publicly your willingness to sacrifice
Ch 16
  • you can do it
Ch 17
  • for entrepreneurs, money is the vehicle not the destination
Ch 18
  • keep trying

Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine

For this book, I’m piggybacking off of Philosopher’s Notes’ book summary.

1. First Premise
Win first in your mind and then on the battlefield.  An unbeatable mind knows it will win.

2. Starve + Feed
In the parable of the two wolves — the wolf of fear and the wolf of courage — which one wins?  The one you feed.  Intercept any negative thought and replace with positive thoughts.

3. Breathe
In high pressure situation, breathing is the most powerful way to remain calm.  Box breathing = inhale for 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, hold for 5.

4. 1 Thing + 3Ps
What is the one thing you were born to do in this world?  Journal and read to figure this out.  Every day, remind yourself of this.
Know your 3Ps: 1) Purpose, 2) Passion, and 3) Principles.

5. Uncommon Resolve
The components of uncommon resolve: intense desire, belief you can achieve it, positive attitude, military discipline, and unrelenting determination.

Finally: make all of this part of your daily practice.

Simplify by Joshua Becker

This book, from the blogger behind Becoming Minimalist, wasn’t terrible, nor was it great.  But at least it was only $3 on Kindle and took 20 minutes to read.

1. Be Convinced

  • easier to clean
  • less stress
  • eco-friendly
  • more time for other things

2. Make it Work for You

  • find a style of minimalism that works for you

3. Jump Right In

  • start with small decluttering projects first
  • specific tips for living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen
  • sell stuff on ebay and craigslist, or donate it

4. Stop the Trend

  • stop buying stuff
  • stop renting storage space to store your extra stuff

5. Persevere

  • recognize where clutter collects
  • stop junk mail
  • buy fewer and more high quality toys
  • more nature, libraries, parks and museums

6. Share the Joy

  • tell your stories to friends and family

7. Simplify Everywhere

  • simplify your schedule
  • use Stephen Covey’s urgency vs importance grid and spend more time in quadrant 2
  • stop multitasking
  • speak in plain English
  • watch less television
  • clean up your computer

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz

Not a classic business book, but I’ll post my summery anyways.

When you are down to three sheets of toilet paper, you are very careful with it.  When starting a company, you should have the same mentality.  You should manage your precious resources while building the business using creativity and hard work.

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur has 8 attributes:

  1. Cultivates a Powerful Foundation of Beliefs
  2. Has Passion
  3. Slants Towards Premature Action
  4. Extremely Great at Only a Few Things
  5. Uses Ingenuity Over Money
  6. Dominates a Niche
  7. Marries Long-Term Focus with Short-Term Action
  8. Is Not Normal

Delivering Happiness By Tony Hsieh

This is one of our top 5 business books.  Our first company tagline was “Happiness in a Pink Package.”

Book notes are below:

  • Books recommended: Good to Great, Tribal Leadership, Fred Factor, Fish, Made to Stick, Peak, Emotional Equations, Connected, Re-Imagine, Crush It
  • Be clear about your company’s culture, values.  Communicate them.  Commit to them.
  • Ask yourself, “what is your goal in life?”
  • And along with way, ask yourself, “what are your other goals?”
  • Think in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy for customers: first they need the correct item, then free and fast shipping, then surprise upgrades.  Get the fundamentals right first.
  • Zappos: 1. purpose, 2. people, 3. profits

Zappos 10 Core Values

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

This one’s a classic business book by the dean of business thinking.

  1. Effective executives know where their time goes
  2. Effective executives focus on results
  3. Effective executives build on strengths
  4. Effective executives focus on the 80/20
  5. Effective executives make effective decision

1. Effective executives know where their time goes

  • people can be very time consuming
  • be slow to hire and hire only good people
  • track your time and prune time wasters
  • beware the recurrent crisis b/c these should be foreseeable/preventable
  • a well-managed plant is usually quiet and boring
  • time-wasters often result from overstaffing
  • too many meetings indicate poor organizational structure or employees with the wrong skill set
  • consider working from home one day a week or in the morning

2. Effective executives focus on results

  • efforts don’t matter, only results matter
  • three types of results are: 1) direct production, 2) culture building, 3) employee development
  • four requirements of effective workplace: communications, teamwork, self-development, development of others
  • effective meetings have a clear purpose that relates directly to the corporate mission

3. Effective executives build on strengths

  • promote based on the candidates strengths
  • strong people often have strong weaknesses
  • identify the right person to fit the role. Rarely change the job to fit the person.
  • do not hunt for a genius to do the impossible, redesign the job
  • make each job demanding and big

4. Effective executives focus on the 80/20

  • this is the secret to success
  • do first things first and do one thing at a time
  • success is not a sprint, it’s a marathon
  • stay lean by discarding anything that’s not working
  • always prioritize work based on opportunity not problem

5. Effective executives make effective decisions

  • don’t worry about unimportant decisions, worry only about important ones
  • if a problem is general, solve it generally and establish a rule
  • identify the criteria to determine if the problem is solved
  • afterwards, test to see if the problem was solved
  • one does not argue with a hypothesis, one tests it
  • encourage disagreement because disagreement often leads to alternate solutions
  • sometimes decisions are like surgery, the best option is to do nothing

Life of the Party by Bert Kreischer

Collection of hilarious real-life stories by stand up comic and Joe Rogan regular Bert Kreischer.  Below are my notes from the book:

That is all.

Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

This book has some simple but valuable ideas on how to change your life.  The message is simple, probably similar to what you’ve read or heard elsewhere but still valuable.  Another book in this genre is Daily Rituals, one of Tim Ferriss’ favorite books.

The author’s message is that if you want to transform your life, you should six things every morning.  Successful people from Tony Robbins to Oprah tend to do these.

Six Thing To Do Every Morning:

  1. Meditate for 5 minutes.
  2. Read for 20 minutes.
  3. Repeat positive affirmations for 5 minutes.
  4. Visualize the future for 5 minutes.
  5. Journal for 5 minutes.
  6. Exercise lightly for 20 minutes.

Additional Tips:

  • Watch your self-talk closely.  Thoughts become actions.  Actions become habits.  Habits become destiny.
  • Focus on living a life of purpose and passion.
  • Get an accountability partner (like a workout partner for life)
  • You are the average of your five closest friends.
  • Continuous self-improvement.
  • Drink a full glass of water immediately after waking.
  • Try yoga for life.
  • Create a vision board.
  • It’s much better to re-read great books than to read new mediocre books.
  • Don’t forget to review past years in your journal.
  • Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.
  • It takes at least 30 days to create a habit.

Predictive Analytics by Eric Siegel

Predictive analytics is about what the mass media calls data science or big data.  It seems that practitioners prefer the more precise term, predictive analytics, which is what is sounds like, using analytics to predict behavior.  The book is a quick, non-technical introduction to data analytics, explaining basic concepts and definitions, and then sharing real-world examples of predictive analytics.

My Notes:

  • Machine Learning: software algorithms that can learn from and then make predictions about data
  • Predictive analytics focuses on the micro (what is one person likely to do).  Forecasting focuses on the macro (what is the economy likely to do)
  • A predictive model generates a predictive score (credit score) based on the the traits of an entity (borrower) that can be used to predict behavior (loan default)
  • Predictive models do not imply causation but for predictive analytics, causation is not required.
  • The analysis is only as good as the data (garbage in, garbage out).
  • Only a controlled experiment (control group vs experiment group) can show causality.
  • Visualizing the data can help the analyst identify patterns to guide the model building.
  • Machine learning is multivariate.
  • Decision tree is by far the most popular methodology for building a predictive model.
  • Other methodologies are artificial neural networks, loglinear regression, support vector machines, TreeNet
  • The data preparation phase of building the predictive model is tedious but necessary.
  • Predictive multiplier is a simple metric used to compare predictive models.
  • Overlearning is when you mistake noise for information and make the model too complex and less useful.
  • Typically, 80% of the data is used to train the model.  20% is set aside to test the model afterwards.
  • Kaggle is a startup that uses crowdsourcing and competitions to build predictive data models, much like Netflix’s $1m competition.
  • An ensemble model is a combination of multiple predictive models.  Ensemble models are consistently superior than single model.
  • The most popular open source software for analytics is R.
  •  An uplift model is a predictive model that predicts the influence on an individual’s behavior from one treatment vs another.  It is the analog to a controlled experiment when one is not possible.  Uplift models were heavily used by the Obama campaign.
  • Further Reading: KDNuggets, Kaggle, Competing on Analytics,, The Signal and the Noise, The Wisdom of Crowds

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is trending these days on the internet, especially among entrepreneur-types.  What is Stoicism?  Wikipedia says that stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy (300 B.C.) with a number of tenets but most practically for today’s entrepreneur: “Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.”

The Obstacle is the Way is a readable introduction to Stoicism for busy people.  It’s a quick, good read that can be summarized by the maxim “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  The remainder of the book is additional tips and examples of a common pattern — that many highly successful people got there by learning how to overcome adversity early in life.  Ryan Holiday is a precocious and successful marketer and writer who’s worked with Tucker Max, Robert Greene, and Tim Ferriss.

Below are notes from the book.

  • Self-made men always have the ability to turn obstacles into stepping stones towards triumph.
  • Bad companies are destroyed by crisis.  Great companies are improved by them.
  • Three steps to overcoming obstacles: 1) perception, 2) action, and 3) will
  • 1) perception: control your emotions, live in the present, stay calm, identify the opportunity for growth, meditate, exercise
  • 2) action: respond to adversity through action, focus on a consistent deliberate process, be persistent, it’s supposed to be hard, focus on consistent progress not perfection, moving forward isn’t the only way to progress
  • 3) will: true will is humility, resilience, and flexibility, “this too shall pass”, always prepare for difficult times, forge an Inner Citadel that no external adversity can touch, hope for the best but prepare for the worst, shared purpose gives us strength,
  • life is a marathon, not a sprint
  • Haitian proverb “Behind mountains are more mountains”
  • Examples from the book: John D. Rockefeller, Demosthenes, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher, Samuel Zemurray, Amelia Earhart, Erwin Rommel, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Wright, Jack Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, James Stockdale, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Barack Obama, Andrew Carnegie

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

We want to model Nadine West after Zappos.

  1. Happy employees = Happy customers.
  2. Happy customers = Happy company.

Which means, we need to study the science and psychology of happiness.

Below are my notes from Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage.

  • The science says that we become more successful when we are happier and more positive.  Not the other way around.
  • Happiness and positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, which enables the brain to learn better and operate more creatively.
  • Regular meditation increases happiness by rewiring the brain.
  • Committing conscious acts of kindness increases happiness.
  • Your physical environment (air, light, TV, pictures) at home and work affects your happiness.
  • Exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress, decreases depression, and increases happiness.
  • Spending money on experiences and on other people (not on stuff) increases happiness.
  • Recognition and praise can be more motivating to employees than money.
  • According to researcher Losada, 2.9013 is the break-even ratio between positive interactions and negative interactions at work.  Always stay above this, ideally around 6:1 positive to negative.
  • A positive, optimistic attitude is the most powerful predictor of job performance.
  • A calling >> a career >> a job.
  • Train your brain to be happy by practicing gratitude, such as a gratitude journal.
  • Train your brain for resiliency by reframing setbacks as learning opportunities.
  • To guard against irrational, emotional thinking, separate your stresses into 1) have control over and 2) do NOT have control over.
  • Success happens one day at a time.  (aka Kaizen)
  • Thoughts => action => habits => character => destiny.
  • Willpower is a limited resource.
  • Therefore, engineer the adoption of a habit so you don’t have to rely on willpower. For example, sleep in your gym clothes to work out first thing in the morning.
  • Social relationships are the single biggest driver of happiness.
  • The manager/employee relationship is the strongest predictor of employee productivity and retention.
  • Positive emotions are contagious.  So be a good leader and share your happiness with the world.

Like a Virgin by Richard Branson

Weekends are for good books, podcasts, and blogs.

Richard Branson is my favorite entrepreneur.  According to Branson, success in business is best measured by whether or not you have created something of which you can be truly proud.

Below are my notes from Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School.

Success in Life

  • I would rather be a nice guy working with great people having fun with a small successful business than a miserable guy heading up a hugely profitable multinational mega-corp.  But that’s your call.
  • It’s counterproductive to be ruthless.
  • We would add an F to the four Ps (people, product, price, promotion).  Fun!
  • Don’t take yourself and your business so seriously.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Plan for the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Success in business has nothing to do with profits.  Profits are necessary but that’s all.  Celebrity doesn’t matter either.  Success in business is best measured by whether or not you have created something of which you can be truly proud.
  • I’ve always loved learning about new things, trying new ventures, and meeting new people.
  • I pursue only those things about which I can be passionate.
  • Money has enabled me to start up and support a number of philanthropic causes.
  • When you’re wrong, admit it, fix it, and move on.
  • We have avoided having a glass and concrete world headquarters with the bosses in upper-level corner offices.  I have only ever worked from three places: houseboat, home, and hammock.

Success in Business

  • In most businesses, your people are your product.  The secret to success is people, people, people.  Finding them, managing them, inspiring them and then holding on to them will determine the success of your company.
  • I am constantly out and about meeting people.
  • I’ve always believed that small is beautiful. Being big means being cumbersome.  If you are big, always try to act small.
  • Be wary of over-reliance on impersonal digital communication.  One-on-one meetings and old-fashioned brainstorming are vital to your success.
  • The customer is not always right.  Treat your customers well, but treat your employees even better.
  • Think deeply about what your brand is and make sure your company culture aligns with it.
  • Big companies too often treat customers like an annoyance. “Your business is very important to us.  Please continue to hold.”  Ignore them and copy what hotels do instead.
  • Hire great people and then let them do their jobs.
  • Listen more than you talk and ask lots of questions.
  • Make face-to-face employee contact part of everyday life in your office. Management by walking around (MBWA).
  • Don’t bring me problems.  Bring me solutions.
  • Try to ensure that your company grows at a comfortable pace and involve your employees in its evolution.
  • Convincing investors is a hard job.  Never forget that overcoming adversity is the mark of a true entrepreneur.
  • Economics downturns are great for lean companies.
  • It can be superhumanly difficult to change a company’s existing culture.
  • Your employees should never feel like hired hands, but fellow entrepreneurs.
  • Be a leader not a boss.
  • Executives need to periodically dig in and get their hands dirty.
  • Stay in touch with your customers and don’t let employees shield you from what’s really going on.
  • Take care of your employees.  Encourage them to maintain a good work-life balance.  Let them work from home. Continue training and coaching employees.
  • Lead from the front.
  • I always carry a notebook with me.  Hand out your email address and phone number to employees.
  • Earn your customers’ trust and their loyalty will follow.
  • Consider job-sharing, longer holidays, sabbaticals, work from home.
  • Good customer service begins at the top.  Catch people doing something right and make an example out of them.

Starting a Business

  • Starting a business takes huge amounts of hard work and time so you had better enjoy doing it.
  • You’ve got to do something radically different.
  • It’s impossible to start a business without taking risks.  Remember, the brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.  Prepare for the worst to protect your downside, but then go do it.
  • In investment pitches, explain how you plan to tackle the inevitable technological changes and market shifts that are heading your way.
  • Call or email your own customer service line and try to see your business from the eyes of your customer.
  • If you never make mistakes, you’ll never achieve anything.  (Although learning from others’ mistakes is better.)
  • My approach to financing a startup: friends/family, bank loans, then outside investors.
  • I avoided outside investors early on so that I could give equity to employees and retain control of the company direction.

Social Responsibility

  • Explore space
  • End the war on drugs
  • Build sustainability into your business