What I Learned from Reading 50 Books this Year

The 50 Books I Read from January - October 2015

The 50 Books I Read from January – October 2015

As of October 5, 2015, I have officially become a man!

And no, there were no surgeries or bar mitzvahs involved – instead, I read 50 books so far this year.

This is a goal I set at the beginning of 2015 that was inspired by the claim that the average CEO reads 60 books per year.

I asked both Jim McNerney and Dennis Muilenberg – the past and current CEOs of Boeing, respectively – how many books they read each year. Jim said he reads 30-40 a year while Dennis said 50-60, and we’re not talking books like The Giving Tree and Farmer Duck. Both preferred books about political science, geography, and history, as well as various biographies.

Research shows that successful people are readers. Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett read for 4+ hours a day, and Elon Musk is reported to have read eight hours per day when he was a child.

Compare that to the average American adult who spends 3-4 hours a day watching television, with 25% of adults not reading at all.

So for the past ten months, I’ve channeled my beer money into books about psychology, self-help, marketing, public speaking, persuasion, diet, and more. I’ll summarize a few key points of each book I read here, but have no intention of encapsulating the entire message of any of these publications.

Reading these fifty books has exposed me to ideas and viewpoints I had never before considered, and though I’m far from considering myself an expert in anything, reading has definitely enhanced my understanding and appreciation for psychology, other people, and myself. Despite having met my goal for the year, my reading quest is far from being over.

As you go through this, remember that knowledge without action is useless. As Jim Rohn says, “don’t let your learning lead to knowledge; let your learning lead to action.” So be sure to apply what you’re learning.

With that, lets take a look at these 50 books.

The Way of the Superior Man, by David Deida; Pitch Perfect, by Bill McGowan; The Art of Persuasion, by Bob Burg; Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun; Nuts, by Kevin Freiberg

1) The Way of the Superior Man, by David Deida

The masculine are mission-oriented and search for freedom; the feminine search for love. In a couple, if one partner doesn’t act masculine and the other feminine, it causes imbalance and turmoil (in this context, masculine and feminine are unrelated to gender).

When our partner is nagging or upset, we tend to grow impatient, but their actions are only surface level symptoms arising as a response to our own indecisiveness, frustration, or self-doubt.

We should respond to nagging and complaint with compassion and patience; to respond with anger means we are missing the message. The same is true for other challenges in life.

Men who lived significant lives are men who never waited – not for money, security, ease, or women.

David Deida

2) Pitch Perfect, by Bill McGowan

Most ideas are rejected not because they are bad but because they are poorly communicated.

To be a better communicator, don’t use ambiguities like “I think that” and “kind of”; have the confidence to say what you mean and state your point.

Focus on what you want to say, not on what you think the audience is thinking. Don’t let your thoughts compromise your confidence.

If you’re interrupted when answering a question, finish speaking. Don’t give the impression that someone’s questions are more important than your answers.

3) The Art of Persuasion, by Bob Burg

In communication, you can choose to be the child (the victim), the parent (mean well but communicate poorly), or the adult (positive communicator, listener, honest).

Well all like to feel important, so rather than asking someone for a favor, ask for their advice. Allow someone to be right and you wrong, and if they are wrong, allow them to save face. You can let people feel important and proud without diminishing yourself. This is being an adult.

4) Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun

Don’t worry about what the audience thinks – they don’t care as much as you think they do. If something in your presentation goes wrong, be lighthearted and humorous about it. How you react determines how the audience will react.

Also, don’t worry about your message being told before. It’s up to you to say it in a different way and with different stories and context. There’s value in something being said again in a different way.

I’m happy to look like a fool if in return I learned something I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

Scott Berkun

5) Nuts!, by Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

Play to win; don’t play not to lose. Too many people are focused on playing it safe and being loss averse. Which company would you invest in: one that was “in it to win it” or one that was “in it not to lose”?

Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman; Managing Oneself, by Peter Drucker; The UltraMind Solution, by Mark Hyman; Compelling People, by John Neffinger; Mindwise, by Nicholas Epley

6) Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

Your brain shapes your behavior and your behavior shapes your brain.

Behavior is both genetic and experiential. As children, we learn to handle emotions by observing and copying our parents. But if we are aggressive or shy, it may partly be due to having an over-sensitive amygdala, which processes our emotions. When we’re stressed out, our amygdala promotes impulsiveness and inhibits creativity.

When we repeat behaviors, we reinforce certain brain circuits, creating a neural scaffolding and making it difficult, though not impossible, to change.

Although biology does constrain behavior, it doesn’t make it permanent.

7) The UltraMind Solution, by Mark Hyman

Optimizing your biological systems requires that you balance both your nutrition and your mind. Get enough sleep and exercise, and avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Lacking vitamins and minerals can cause diseases that develop over the long term such as cancer and Parkinson’s.

Basically, eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

8) Compelling People, by John Neffinger

To be compelling, you need a mix of strength (ability and will power) and warmth (empathy and friendliness).

If you’re too strong, you may seem cold and intimidating; too warm and you’re a push-over. Having neither stirs contempt against you, but having both creates likability and admiration.

Strength includes: expansive postures, deliberate gestures, speaking loudly, smiling less, dressing professionally, or maintaining “strong lines” (straight wrists, back, and neck).

Warmth includes: tilting head, leaning in, vocal intonation, smiling, bending wrists or leaning daintily, agreeableness, and speaking softly.

Even certain hard/soft-sounding names convey strength (Craftsman, Dennis) or warmth (Chanel, Ariana).

The best leaders have the social intelligence to use both strength and warmth appropriately.

9) Managing Oneself, by Peter Drucker

Successful careers are not planned – they develop when people are prepared for opportunities by knowing their strengths, values, and method of work.

Know your performance style by answering:

  • What are your strengths? Use feedback analysis, as most people are get this wrong.
  • Are you a reader or a listener?
  • How do you learn – writing, listening, reading, doing?
  • How do you work – alone or with others?
  • Do you like structure or flexibility?
  • Are you a decision-maker or an adviser?
  • What are your values? They should match the organization and your coworkers.

Avoid intellectual arrogance – that is, denigrating a field of study outside of your expertise – for instance, engineers disparaging social skills.

10) Mindwise, by Nicholas Epley

Even the smartest of us are constantly tricked and deluded by our own minds. We think we’re better looking, more skilled, and more disciplined than we actually are. On the other hand, we judge ourselves much harder than other people judge us.

A few of our basic pitfalls:

  • Naive realism: thinking we see things as they are and that everyone else is biased/wrong.
  • Correspondence bias: seeing correlation as causation.
  • Stereotypes: seeing an entire group as its average.
  • False-consensus effect: assuming others share our viewpoints and beliefs.
  • Curse of Knowledge: once you know something, you forget what it’s like not to know it.

We need to be more humble in our perspectives. Getting to know people and communicating directly can help clear up many biases and misunderstandings.

How to Have Confidence & Power in Dealing with People, by Les Giblin; Introducing NLP, by John Grinder; On the Shortness of Life, by Seneca; Everything is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer), by Duncan Watts; Nudge, by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

11) How to Have Confidence & Power in Dealing with People, by Les Giblin

Lacking confidence in yourself is one of the biggest disservices you can do to humanity.

People who are always criticizing society and other people are unhappy with themselves. They lack self-confidence and they project it onto others.

To be more confident, act confident, compliment others, avoid negative talk and gossip. Most of all, believe that other people are going to like you. Eradicate neediness and don’t worry about trying to be interesting or cool. Not everything you say has to be brilliant.

Everybody is waiting for you to tell them what to do. If you set the stage where you are confident, people will take you at face value.

12) Introducing NLP, by John Grinder

Neuro-linguistic programming is the study of personal excellence. In short: know what you want, know what you’re getting, change what you do until you get what you want. Change your psychology using anchoring, disassociation, pacing, loops, or systems.

My favorite is anchoring, in which you link a stimulus to a certain psychological state, e.g. red meaning stop, nodding meaning yes, public speaking meaning anxiety. Our anchors determine if we like or dislike something or someone; if we’re anxious or confident in a situation.

To re-anchor, imagine a situation where you want to feel differently – confident, relaxed, cool, etc. Now relive a past event where you had that feeling, and experience that feeling strongly. At its peak, create an anchor – kinesthetic (touching two fingers together), auditory (saying a word), or visual (a distinct symbol) – that you will associate with this feeling. Repeat this exercise over and over to reinforce the anchor. Deploy the anchor (touch your fingers together) in future situations to trigger the desired feeling.

For example, throwing your fist in the air in victory and saying “yes!” every time you win or succeed anchors this motion to feelings of victory, excitement, and confidence and can be used to trigger them at any point in the future.

13) On the Shortness of Life, by Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca_Seneca the Younger_On the Shortness of Life

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Life is long but we make it short. We waste our time in pointless activity – alcoholism, television, YouTube, worrying, and otherwise pursuing no fixed goals – and it isn’t until our final moments that we realize our time has passed without us even realizing its passing.

We are stingy with our money but careless with our time – the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

Don’t waste your time worrying and being overly cautious; don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today.

How stupid to forget our mortality and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!


14) Everything is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer), by Duncan Watts

Common sense doesn’t work in complex situations like politics, marketing, or psychology because it’s impossible to consider all factors involved.

Nearly any outcome can be understood in retrospect. Because of this, we fall into the trap of creeping determinism – the logic that “of course it had to happen because it happened.”

When the Seahawks lost Superbowl XLIX, suddenly everyone was a professional NFL coach: “Why’d they choose a passing play on the goal line?? OMG how stupid!!!” Rewind to just before this fatal play, tell these same people the coach’s logic, and they’d probably be all in favor of the pass. Unfortunately, the details relevant to a situation cannot be known until after it’s already played out.

With people, we should seek to better understand their circumstances and motives instead of snap judging them as crazy or irrational because we’d likely act the same in their shoes.

Leave common sense for knowing not to hug a porcupine. Don’t try to apply it to complex situations.

15) Nudge, by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

A nudge is anything that significantly alters human behavior. For example, putting fly stickers in urinals gives men a target to aim for and reduces spillage by up to 80%.

Nudges require incentives, mappings (a clear relation between choice and result), defaults (pre-selecting the desired choice), feedback, room for error, and structure (simple, clear instructions). Their influence can be the difference between going to the gym and staying home to watch television.

Examples: simplifying/automating tax forms, requiring special licenses for non-helmet-wearing cyclists, or an email civility check that warns you if an email is vulgar and possibly being sent in haste.

Nudges you can implement are: leaving your gym clothes out to encourage you to work out, cutting vegetables as soon as you get home from the store, or turning off your internet for an hour to concentrate on studying.

Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki; Wealthy Speaker 2.0, by Jane Atkinson; The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller; The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne Dyer; Playing to Win, by A.G. Lafley

16) Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

The subject of money is taught at home – not in school – and poor parents can’t teach a child to be rich. They teach children to study hard and get a good job, but this is a failing formula. It worked in the past, but doesn’t work today. A job is a stepping stone, not a destination.

Middle class people think a house is an asset but unless it puts money in your pocket, a house is a liability.

Poor people say that money is bad – that rich people cheated, are greedy, or are unhappy, and yet most divorces and suicides are over financial issues. Poor people say “I don’t care about money” and yet buy lottery tickets and work for eight or more hours a day at a job they hate. By saying these things, they are merely trying to rationalize their feelings of inadequacy and failure. As Jim Rohn says, “those who do not possess will always scorn the possessor.”

Teach yourself and your children that money is good – money is freedom. Money takes care of your family, your hospital bills, your luxuries, and your education. Being poor is not noble or virtuous and it doesn’t bring happiness. Figure out the money for the sake of your family.

Don’t work for money; learn to have money work for you.

17) Wealthy Speaker 2.0, by Jane Atkinson

Tony Robbins A Date With Destiny

Tony Robbins

There’s no secret to success. It’s simply hard work, creativity, and perseverance. When making your business strategy, be honest with yourself. Does the market need you? Go to the buyers, don’t expect the buyers to come to you. Listen to their needs instead of trying to tell them what they need.

Clients don’t hire you to speak; they hire you to solve their problems.

Most fear-based decisions are wrong. Don’t drop your goals down out of fear; don’t play small. Have an abundant mindset – there’s enough for everyone. See your competitors as colleagues.

Always be thinking ahead to the next engagement or business goal. Don’t grow complacent, or you’ll lose momentum and never regain it.

18) The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller

Multitasking is not effective – it makes you more distracted and less productive. Focus on one purpose and do it persistently. Don’t try to start a social media company at the same time that you’re getting into wholesale real estate investing. Choose one path and follow it.

Regularly ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Purpose, priorities, and productivity leads to profits.

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.

— Russian Proverb

19) The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne Dyer

Overcome your ego to overcome mental suffering. Let go of reputation – it resides in others’ minds and is out of your control. Stop being offended and needing to be right, superior, or to win. Defending your identity shows fear and weakness. Let go of your need for more. Money is good, but don’t use it as a basis for your identity and sense of self. No matter how much money you have, it won’t buy you another day.

Learn to love yourself. You can’t see outside of you what you fail to see inside.

Resist the temptation to judge others; instead, see them as teachers of forgiveness in your life. If you focus on the ordinary, you will see only ordinary things. Instead, look for the extraordinary in everyone/thing you see.

Know clearly what you want and act as though you already have it.

20) Playing to Win, by A.G. Lafley

In order to succeed in life, you have to have a strategy. What is your winning aspiration? Where will you play? How will you win? What capabilities must you have? What management systems should be in place?

Look at your competitors and their strategies. Reverse engineer what they’re doing and identify their strategies. Then, compare their strategies with yours and make them better.

Thank You for Arguing, by Jay Heinrichs; The Happiness Hypothesis, by Johnathan Haidt; Give and Take, by Adam Grant; Quiet, by Susan Cain; The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

21) Thank You for Arguing, by Jay Heinrichs

You can win an argument by simply changing your phraseology. Some tips:

  • Use the future tense to move toward a decision – “What should we do now?”
  • If someone objects to your idea, say, “Okay, let’s tweak it.” This suggests it’s already been accepted and just needs revising.
  • Avoid arguing ad hominem – attacking a person rather than their points.
  • Use the law of contrast – propose an extreme view before a softer one.
  • Appeal to logos (logic), ethos (character), and pathos (emotion).
  • Make an inevitable decision look like a personal sacrifice.
  • Take the middle ground – it’s better to make your opponent seem like the extremist.

Pointing out someone’s logical fallacies usually doesn’t turn the tables in your favor so you may as well use fallacies as well, so long as it doesn’t turn a debate into a fight.

22) The Happiness Hypothesis, by Johnathan Haidt

The formula for happiness is:

H = S + C + V

H = happiness, S = biological set point (genetics), C = life conditions, V = voluntary activities

Happy people grow rich faster; they’re more persistent, joyful, and optimistic. Happiness comes from within and without; the mind can make anything either heaven or hell. “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so.”

Money can buy happiness to an extent.

Our minds are very sensitive to changes in conditions, but not static levels, no matter how positive these levels are. It’s more satisfying to make progress than to achieve.

We’re guided mainly by emotion rather than logic. When people argue, their feelings come first and their reasons are invented on the fly. Knowing that, you can never truly convince someone they’re wrong – you’re simply defeating a false argument rather than attacking the cause of their position.

The single word that should guide your entire life: reciprocity. What you don’t wish on yourself you should not to do others.

23) Give and Take, by Adam Grant

Are you a giver or a taker?

Givers donate their time, money, and compassion whether or not anyone is watching and without expecting anything in return. Takers do this only for recognition or reward.

Givers praise others for their work; takers are self-promoting, braggadocios, and take all the credit.

Givers see the potential in everyone; takers kiss up and kick down.

Givers listen to advice from others; takers fight to be the ones giving advice.

Takers have the self-confidence to aggressively champion a project. However, it’s the givers that dominate both the top and bottom of the success ladder. They’re more trusted and adored as leaders.

To be successful, be a selective giver. Give as a default, but don’t give to takers. Be careful though, as takers often disguise themselves as givers.

24) Quiet, by Susan Cain

Introversion and extroversion are simply preferences for different levels of stimulation.

Extroverts tend to be more impulsive and reward sensitive, which can be their detriment in the stock market. Introverts are more thoughtful and calculated and are less susceptible to being blinded by emotion.

Introverts are persistent because they don’t get distracted as easily. Einstein said, “I’m not that smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer.”

The strengths of introverts are having persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and a lower level of impulsiveness. However, introverts think they need to  be extroverts and so they devalue their skills and personality.

Instead, stay true to your nature. You can’t change who you are, but you can play to your strengths. Success relies on principles, not personality.

25) The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Habits are our brain’s way of saving effort. They help us make quick decisions rather than wasting time and cognitive energy. Habits consist of three steps: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

For example:

  • Cue: smell of fast food
  • Routine: going to fast food restaurant
  • Reward: endorphin release/pleasure from eating fast food

Habits can form without us even knowing it and although they never fully die, they can be overwritten.

We can change habits by maintaining the same cue and reward but changing the routine. For example, replacing the routine of drinking alcohol with consoling in another person. Both routines are cued by stress and a need to escape, and both provide the reward of relief.

Man Alone with Himself, by Nietzsche; Social, by Matthew Lieberman; Rewire, by Richard O’Connor; The Social Animal, by Elliot Aronson; Attached, by Amir Levine

26) Man Alone with Himself, by Nietzsche

“Convictions are worse enemies of truth than lies.” Always question your beliefs. Try to prove yourself wrong as often as possible. You’ll find that even the most contrarian viewpoints can be believable.

“When we have just gotten out of the way of a vehicle, we are most in danger of being run over.” Don’t rest on yesterday’s laurels. When you become complacent, that’s when you’re most in danger of failing or being overtaken.

“No one speaks more passionately about his rights than the man who, at the bottom of his heart, doubts them.” Sometimes people who argue vehemently are not trying to convince you so much as they are trying to convince themselves.

Friedrich Nietzsche_Man Alone With Himself

Friedrich Nietzsche

“Truth tends to reveal its highest wisdom in the guise of simplicity.” We over-complicate matters to excuse ourselves from taking action. Likewise, we expect answers to be complicated, and overlook the answers lying right in front of us.

“One meets those perverse wizards who, instead of creating the world out of nothing, create nothing out of the world.” Are you a creator or a detractor? You can either argue in favor of mediocrity or strive for greatness. Often, the rules we imagine to be in place – what we deem possible, realistic, or safe – are just constructs of our own minds. By simply testing them, we’d realize they’re merely illusions. When you make excuses, you’re arguing in favor of your weaknesses.

27) Social, by Matthew Lieberman

We are wired to be social beings. We’re guided by social influences such as recognition and a fear of embarrassment, and act morally if we think we’re being watched by cameras, our conscience, God, or Santa Claus. We even use others’ feedback to define who we are – a process called reflected appraisal generation.

In terms of our happiness, social gains can be quantified as financial gains:

  • Marriage ~ earning an extra $100,000/year
  • Volunteering once per week ~ an extra $55,000/year
  • Seeing neighbors regularly ~ an extra $60,000/year

In terms of health, our brains treat social rejection the same as physical pain. Having a poor social network is roughly equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.

Happiness is not real unless shared with others.

— Into the Wild (2007)

28) Rewire, by Richard O’Connor

Rage is a defense against shame. People are aggressive when they feel threatened. We tend to dislike people we’ve wronged because we rationalize that they deserved it.

Passive-aggressive people transfer their emotions to others. They want to make you feel the anger or guilt that they feel. But suppressing your anger causes unconscious guilt and self-loathing and seeps out in other areas of your life.

“Nice guys” are afraid of conflict. Their insecurity makes them act dishonest, passive-aggressive, and they become full of rage. They can’t communicate or form intimacy, though that’s what they want the most.

When your standards are too high, your self-esteem is low. To compensate, you resort to alcohol, drugs, pornography, overeating, overspending, or other addictions.

To combat these psychological maladies, be more assertive. Learn to express yourself. Admit and accept your weaknesses and flaws. Practice mindfulness.

29) The Social Animal, by Elliot Aronson

Bookshelf by Stella Bleu Designs

Bookshelf by Stella Bleu Designs

Our perspectives all are a matter of context.

We admire a critic so long as they aren’t criticizing us. We treat people better if they’re good looking, and we adopt ideas and attitudes from groups we like (likeability bias).

Society pressures us to stick to our initial decision (consistency) and prove it was intelligent (accountability), even if we want to change our minds. Both increase conformity.

A reward can be re-framed as a punishment – e.g. a compliment can be seen as sincere or manipulative. Likewise, a situation can be re-framed as a gain or a loss – e.g. losing a job can be gaining freedom to start over.

To be more persuasive, learn to re-frame what you say. Also, beware of social pressures. Knowing your weak points helps you defend them.

30) Attached, by Amir Levine

Our childhood experiences cause us to develop one of three attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, or secure.

Anxious types are needy and highly sensitive to others’ emotions and behavior. They are easily scared at the smallest sign of threat in a relationship, and likely had parents that responded inconsistently to their emotional needs.

Avoidants had guardians that neglected their emotional needs. Thus, they become detached from others’ feelings, believing themselves to be self-reliant. However, this is merely a fearful defense against further pain and rejection.

Secure types are comfortable with intimacy and volatility. They are loving and expect love in return, since they had parents who consistently met their emotional needs.

Each style can influence another. For example, an anxious partner can make you more anxious. Likewise, a secure partner can make you more secure.

Also, you should learn to develop yourself in order to become more secure.

No One Understands You and What to Do About It, by Heidi Grant Halvorson; Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath; Psycho-cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz; The Power of Others, by Michael Bond

31) No One Understands You and What to Do About It, by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Our ego may feel threatened by the accomplishments of our peers, depending on how close we are to the person and how relevant their success is to our goals. If both are high, we diminish closeness and sever/damage the relationship, or lessen relevance by belittling their goals and accomplishments. To avoid this negative reaction, be affirmative to others. Avoid bragging. Use language to show you’re on the same team and you support and like them. Also, have your own big goals and projects to focus on and build your self-esteem.

If you want to get someone influential to notice you, facilitate the achievement of their goals. It’s not about being nice – it’s about being useful.

Have a promotion mindset instead of a prevention mindset. Expect to succeed. Focus on gains, not on avoiding losses.

32) Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you had an infinite number of monkeys on typewriters, it’s probable that one would type an exact replica of the Iliad. But would you expect this same primate to type the Odyssey next? Not all successful people should be modeled. People that achieved success only once may not know what they did or how they did it. They may have been successful by chance. They’ll use hindsight bias to make up reasons, but fail to realize that it was mostly luck. We should study people who have a track record of repeated successes.

In areas like stock market investing, success is not predictable nor sustainable. The most successful investor one year may be the worst the next year. But he/she will never attribute their success to luck, but instead to financial wisdom.

You can’t depend on luck. The best you can do is to know and play to your strengths.

33) Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath

Small changes in your psychology can stem large changes in your behavior. Big problems don’t always need big solutions.

To change your behavior, take small steps. Starting off too big can be demoralizing. Small victories cultivate a sense of progress. It’s more motivating to be partly finished with a long journey than at the starting line of a short one.

For motivation, look for people you want to emulate and follow their actions and strategy. Give yourself explicitly clear direction; ambiguity causes procrastination and resignation. Make your path easy to traverse by removing unnecessary or confusing steps and passive barriers. Most importantly, get your emotions involved – they motivate you more than logic.


  • Set a clear goal: be able to do 15 consecutive pull-ups
  • Give yourself clear direction: do 35 pull-ups every day
  • Make the path easy to traverse: buy a pull-up bar for your home; do five pull-ups each time you walk under or near it
  • Get your emotions involved: put up a picture of your role model in an easy-to-see spot in your house, or a picture of you looking scrawny

34) Psycho-cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz

Human personality and behavior are controlled by self-image. If you can change self-image, you can change behavior. To be more confident, start by making it a habit to remember your past successes rather than your failures. Learn from failure, but then let it go. There’s no point in reminding yourself that you messed up.

When you focus too hard on performing well, you put too much importance on your actions and make yourself more anxious. The best communicators aren’t focused on getting a result.

Practice disinhibition. Be less careful, less concerned, and less conscientious. Don’t plan. Don’t think before you act. You already think too much, and it only makes you more timid about taking action. You can’t correct your course if you are standing still.

35) The Power of Others, by Michael Bond

We naturally flock to groups that we identify with. They give us mental support and physical protection. When we are threatened, we cling tightly to our groups and dehumanize/debase outsiders.

Similarly, we dehumanize evildoers to distance ourselves from them psychologically. But we’re not so different – each of us can be hypocritical or moral, good or evil, honest or deceitful, loving or lustful, cruel or compassionate.

Social influence and fear distort our views and decisions. When we are afraid, we look to others for direction; we relinquish free will, and can act in ways that seem unreasonable or heinous even though we think we’re good people (think Hitler and Nazi Germany). We also succumb to the halo effect, or allowing one good trait to override all of someone’s bad qualities (Donald Trump’s business success outshining his racism).

Be aware of your susceptibility to social influence. Don’t just copy your friends or role models. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this because it is right, or because others are making it feel right?”

The New One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard; Think Like a Billionaire, Become a Billionaire, by Scot Anderson; The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman; Diet Cults, by Matt Fitzgerald; The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

36) The New One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard

Set one minute goals – ones you can write in one or two paragraphs that can be read in about a minute.

Give one minute praisings – specifically praise the behavior, and do so publicly. Say how good you feel about it, pause to let it soak in, and encourage them to keep up the good work.

Give one minute redirects – if goals aren’t met, state the error, express your concern, pause to let it soak in, then tell them that you believe they’re better and that you value them. Then let it go.

37) Think Like a Billionaire, Become a Billionaire, by Scot Anderson

Don’t be risk averse – small actions lead to small results. Learn to invest your money – a paycheck won’t make you rich. Don’t make a job your end goal – make it a stepping stone toward financial freedom. How you spend your time determines your future, so study self-help. If you won’t help yourself, who is going to help you? You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.

38) The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman

Jacques Carelman Catalogue of Extraordinary Objects Coffee Pot for Masochists

The Coffee Pot for Masochists

Designers and engineers often underestimate psychology. Because we are only aware of our conscious thoughts, we think all thought is conscious, but in fact most of our behavior comes from subconscious processes. Because of this misunderstanding, most of our beliefs about human behavior – including our own – are wrong.

Designers should learn to use psychology to make designs discoverable and understandable and to account for human error.

When an error occurs, our society is trained to blame the user rather than the design. This blame can cause learned helplessness, in which one comes to believe that they are incapable of doing something, leading to depression and low self-belief.

39) Diet Cults, by Matt Fitzgerald

Which is better: the Atkins, Paleo, vegan, or raw food diet?

The answer: there is no healthiest way to eat. People simply buy into a diet that matches their self-identity.

Humans are incredibly versatile in what they can eat. We believe our diet is perfectible because we long to believe in something, but faith alone doesn’t make something true.

Diets are really about social dynamics. They exploit our need to belong to a group which can motivate us to lose weight.

If you want to lose weight, find a group to diet with. Social pressures may hold us more accountable than ourselves. Just know that there is more than one right way to diet, leaving room for experimentation and creativity.

40) The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

You can have all the resources, time, money, information, and opportunities, but none of it will help you unless you change your philosophy.

Success depends on a few simple disciplines repeated daily – reading, exercising, choosing the apple over the Hersey bar. Failure is a few errors in judgment repeated daily – watching television, sleeping in, choosing the Hersey bar over the apple.

We neglect small disciplines because they seem too simple. They’re easy to do, but easy not to do. But small choices accumulate into something much bigger, whether its success or disaster.

Large-scale success starts with tweaking the small choices throughout your day.

Bounce, by Matthew Syed; My Fight/Your Fight, by Ronda Rousey; Relentless, by Tim Grover; Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, by Jay Abraham; Riveted, by Jim Davies

41) Bounce, by Matthew Syed

Talent is a myth.

It takes a minimum of ten years of purposeful practice to master a skill. It isn’t easy, and so we often attribute greatness to innate talent not achievable by the average person. This delusion causes most people to give up after a few weeks of halfhearted effort.

However, most so-called prodigies have simply practiced way more than anyone else.

If you want be great at something, spend three or more hours every day doing exercises that challenge you. Mere experience does not translate into excellence. It has to test your skills.

Greatness comes from hard work but starts with self-belief. No man is cut from a different cloth.

42) My Fight/Your Fight, by Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey raising UFC Championship Belt

Ronda Rousey raising UFC Championship Belt

Guard your mind – don’t let others dictate your self-belief.

Dream big. If you have small dreams, what’s the point of dreaming at all? Small dreams don’t inspire you – they bore you.

When you dream big, people will call you arrogant or greedy. They’ll tell you to be realistic. But who are they to tell you to think less of yourself? Just because they lack self-confidence doesn’t mean you should too.

Don’t let others intimidate you. Their advantages should not scare you but instead motivate you to beat them.

Don’t let others teach you to lose – make them get used to you beating them. After all, someone has to be the best. Why not you?

43) Relentless, by Tim Grover

Don’t think.

It’s our thoughts that prevent us from reaching our potential.

Our social nature causes us to worry about what others will think, but this only stunts our growth. You have to stop waiting to be told what to do – stop waiting for permission from others to be confident.

You can either be a cooler, a closer, or a cleaner. Coolers wait for orders, closers only do as planned, but cleaners go above and beyond.

Cleaners master their emotions, set the example for others, and think only of winning. They are extremely focused and don’t make excuses; they don’t react to others.

Stop thinking; stop over-analyzing. Trust yourself, and work harder than anyone else.

44) Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, by Jay Abraham

There are three ways to increase your business:

  • Increase the number of clients
  • Increase the average sale per client
  • Increase the number of times clients return and buy again

Look for hidden opportunities. Examine ideas, people, and business from as far outside of your industry or life as you possibly can. Try to draw ideas from these areas.

Sell your customers what they want and love, not just what you have. Be sure to test your products and the market. Be honest with yourself; scrap your idea if it isn’t catching on. Listen to what your clients need; don’t try to tell them what they need.

Make it incredibly easy and convenient to sign up for your business (waiving fees, free trials, bonuses), and eliminate the risk for your client (money back guarantee, risk-reversal, insurance).

45) Riveted, by Jim Davies

We are interested in people, patterns, novelty/incongruity, and what we hope or fear to be true. Stories that involve romance, sex, or misfortune are more compelling – they appeal to our primal needs of reproduction and avoiding danger. We are evolved to prefer certain physical attributes that indicate good health, genetics, and brain development.

Most of our thoughts are about other people. We prefer pictures featuring people, stories about them, and we anthropomorphize animals and inanimate objects. We’ve evolved to make social skills important as in the past, those unable to form social connections were isolated and preyed upon.

Our actions and beliefs all center around a want to feel good about ourselves. We disbelieve ideas that threaten our world, we think we’re more moral or better than others (self-serving bias), and we like theories that make human beings relevant (religion).

Understanding what draws our attention and motivates us helps us become more empathetic toward others and to understand ourselves. Just as we take care of what food we put into our bodies, we should take care of what beliefs we put into our minds.

Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Zero to One, by Peter Thiel; The Man Who Wasn’t There, by Anil Ananthaswamy; Buyology, by Martin Lindstrom

46) Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Whether you enjoy your life is completely up to you. Most people are too dependent on social pressures and need to gain control over their consciousness.

What you become is determined by how you direct your attention. Invest your attention in a project – one with clear goals, a challenge, and that is within your skill set. You will become immersed and will forget your self-consciousness and boredom – you’ll have no need to distract yourself with pointless activity and debauchery, because now you have a purpose. This is flow state – a balance of challenges and skills increasing in unison.

Find a goal to work toward, whether that’s in health, academics, or business, and life will be more fulfilling.

47) Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bodybuilding Three Point Back Posing

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Success is about reps and sets. If you work harder than other people, you’ll beat them. Don’t expect to be great when you’re just beginning. Study harder, read more, get more practice.

No one believed Schwarzenegger could go into acting, but he proved that wrong. Don’t let the world tell you what’s possible; instead, teach the world what is possible.

Make your idols into your peers. Schwarzenegger idolized Reg Park and yet decided he wanted to beat him. He would learn Reg’s strategy, workouts, and diet, and make them even better.

Always strive to win. If you only strive to do well and have fun, you won’t train as hard and you’ll take shortcuts.

Study the lives of inspiring people. You’ll see that they’re different from you only in their mindset. They want more, do more, and become more.

48) Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

It’s easier to copy what works than to create something new. This causes competition and economic bubbles.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Telsa, SolarCity, and SpaceX

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX

Don’t compete – dominate. While most companies compete over unoriginal ideas, the contrarian comes and redefines the market, leaving the competitors to readjust and fight for the scraps.

Identify your strength and become a monopoly in that skill. Ask yourself:

  • What simple idea is no one else realizing?
  • Will my skill be useful 10-20 years from now?
  • What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Good ideas can be found in plain sight, but you have to look for them and believe they can be found.

Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

Peter Thiel

49) The Man Who Wasn’t There, by Anil Ananthaswamy

Our sense of self is a very elusive product of our own mind. If your mind is corrupted by Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, body integrity identity disorder, or Cotard’s syndrome, you can forget yourself, invent personalities, disown your own body or limbs, or believe you’re already dead.

Do not underestimate or take for granted the constructive or destructive power of your own brain. Who you are is not permanent, and can be drastically changed even a small alteration in your genes or brain structure.

50) Buyology, by Martin Lindstrom

Our minds are not the impenetrable fortresses we think they are. We’re constantly being influenced by advertisements, people around us, and our environment.

Colors, shapes, sounds, and context all affect what we buy, though we often delude ourselves by making up different, more “logical” reasons for purchasing.

Our buying rituals give us a sense of identity and meaning. They give us a sense of mastery, belonging, or control. Having a greater awareness of our susceptible nature can make us more logical in our decision-making.

Amazing Bookshelf

Not my bookshelf, but a cool one nonetheless.

One comment

  1. […] Setting meaningful and worthwhile goals (reduce body fat by 3% in 3 months; read 50+ books in a year) […]


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