This series will include more than 4 books, like the normal Bookworm post, as I have actually hacked my reading habits since I came here in Berlin, and thus doubled the amount of books read per month. What’s the secret to all of this? No secret at all, actually. Just pure old-fashioned optimization. It takes me approximately 45 minutes to arrive in Berlin’s center, time which is mainly spent on the S-Bahn or on the U-bahn (subway). The atmosphere on these transport means is quite relaxing, with not too many crowds and plenty of seats to take (or at least on the S5 and U8, at the hours I’m commuting). So I thought to myself, how can I better use these 45 minutes, given the actual conditions? The answer was reading. And it turned out to be more than rewarding when I saw all the grannies with their e-readers following the same practice.
1) “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel.
(Normal) Reading Time: 1 day
Peter Thiel is one of the biggest tycoons out there, and you certainly want to hear the wise words of the man who was once one of the leading members of the PayPal Mafia, became Facebook’s first investor and now runs Palantir Technologies, a company that aims to reorganize how data is being used and analysed in governments and organizations worldwide (all with the aid of back-end integrated, anti fraud software and platforms). The main idea behind the book is that competition sucks. Look at all the Chinese companies at the moment, who are so good at being copy-cats, that they can’t optimize their processes anymore in any better way than lowering their prices, which in return means less product features and thus less quality and customer satisfaction. Sure, globalization (going from 1 to n) – like it still is the case in China – might be the answer, but it’s not the adequate one. The right answer is technology (going from 0 to 1) which is the most suitable thing, for the moment, that moves the human race forward. Thiel builds his arguments around this central idea, and argues that building a monopoly from the very first beginning is the best strategy to have a successful company these days and probably for the next 10 years too. Don’t get discouraged! The book is comprehensible and quite easy to read; you don’t even need a business or economic background, since Thiel depicts things first in a broader perspective in order to allow you to understand the nitty-gritty later after. Definitely a MUST read!
2) “BOLD” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler.
(Normal) Reading Time: 3-5 days
This book is a blueprint for self-achievement, for acting BOLD as the title suggests, and it is addressed to everybody, irrespective of their condition and profession. Diamandis advocates for having guts to solve humanity’s biggest problems and to actually do it. He gives advice on changing and molding one’s mentality in order to turn the impossible possible (by making insightful biographical references and debunking some old myths) and offers the right tools to do so: crowd sourcing and crowdfunding. He’s actually a living example, the true embodiment of his BOLD idea. The XPRIZE represents his legacy, which is a prize competition that aims at making almost unimaginable ideas come to reality. The contest in itself is highly incentivized (1 mil. USD at least, even though often the costs exceed the actual prize), open for everybody who wants to participate and normally has a long time frame of realization (approx. 10 years). A perfect example is the Ansari XPRIZE who “challenged teams from around the world to build a reliable, reusable, privately financed, manned spaceship capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface twice within two weeks.” The competition was opened in 1995 and closed in 2004, when the winning team successfully performed its second flight, with the technology being sold after to Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which would then become the cornerstone of creating Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceflight company. Quite amazing, isn’t it? But the list of projects doesn’t end here. Diamandis has in its portfolio also the Singularity University, a university more like a business incubator that applies the same BOLD concept to space exploration, and a company that exploits and mines resources from the asteroids across the universe. Talk about thinking and acting at big scale, right? Diamandis is the the teacher you’ve been looking for.
3) “The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure” by Grant Cardone.
(Normal) Reading Time: 2-3 days
Grant Cardone is THE sales person! You really have to watch his videos and convince yourself personally (link here to his YouTube channel). I mean, the man is a true force of nature, an ambitious character who really walks the talk until the end. And you would think that by the way he looks, he must be 30-40 something, right? So it’s quite normal to have this kind of drive at his age? Wrong. He’s 57, and he still has it! The book is just a reflection of his belief that “Success is your duty, obligation and responsibility”, irrespective of the circumstances you happen to find yourself in. This means that you assume complete responsibility of your life, even in the events over which you don’t have control at all. A bit far fetched if you ask me, but in the end it all makes a lot of sense. Only so will you be able to perform at 10X levels, meaning that you will set goals 10 times bigger than you initial ones, and take 10 times more action in order to complete them accordingly. So what if you will fail? This Goliath effort will for sure bring you 2x, 5x, 7x results, which are nevertheless bigger than your initial set endeavors. Simple, but powerful concept indeed!
4) “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder” by Nassim N. Taleb
(Normal) Reading Time: 1-2 weeks
Nassim N. Taleb might be regarded as one of the most insightful, yet realistic philosopher the world has ever gave in the last two decades, even though his main occupation for the moment is being an author, who happens to have a financial background on Wall Street in the “good old days”. His specialty? Randomness and unpredictability. A field of science that he actually shed light over/created it himself. The whole book focuses on heuristics and methods of dealing with unpredictability, or in other words strategies on how to keep calm and benefit from set-backs, while other are running around aimlessly like a headless chicken. More on his mission and the main thoughts from his book in a post of mine here.
5) “The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful” by Michael Ellsberg
(Normal) Reading Time: 3-5 days
..or how I like to call it, “How to Be Successful Without College and Academic Credentials”. Now Ellsberg is not against education in whatsoever way. On the contrary, he’s a strong believer of continuous improvement in the form of self-education, as opposed to the more traditional, institutionalized one. You don’t necessarily need a degree, except if you are studying medicine, law, engineering or if you’re preparing for any sort of academic job. Apart these professions, everything is quite improvisable – especially in business. Want to hear your voice heard and probably land a job in a publishing company? Open a blog and write regularly. Want to get a mentor in your professional life and don’t know how? Apply to different LinkedIn groups that best suit your interests and connect with the people out there. These are just a few examples of small things that might actually open big opportunities for you. And the lessons from these practices are much more practical and valuable than the ones taught in boring class rooms. Think about it. How many times does college actually make us think and act dumber, in a more standardized way as opposed to it’s primary goal of teaching us to “think outside the box”? Quite often, I would say. But you don’t have to believe me. Ellsberg made the point in his book, where he gives plenty of examples of successful people who made it without a degree. What’s even better is that he identifies the most important skills needed to succeed in life (sales, marketing, networking; to name a few) and gives actionable guidelines on how to acquire them.
6) “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcom Gladwell
(Normal) Reading Time: 3-5 days
I wish I would’ve read this book when I was younger. It would’ve for sure helped me a lot and make me more conscious about my future. Gladwell is the author behind the 10.000 hours idea, mainly that one needs 10.000 hours of deliberate practice to beat the craft out of a skill, to be more than knowledgeable in relation to it. And his idea is not far away from the truth. Geniuses are not necessarily geniuses because they were born with special talents. Instead they were born in special circumstances that allowed them to train obsessively in their own field of interest and develop those talents. So was the case of Bill Gates, who happened to frequent a school where parents could afford to buy a state of the art computer (for that time) and let their children have access to it. This was the beginning for the 14 year old Gates’ new occupation, who by the age of 18-19 amassed more than 10.000 hours of coding; thus had the proper background and confidence to experiment effortlessly with new ideas in the IT sector. The rest is history. Beatles is another classical example. By the time they became world wide famous, they’ve already accumulated 2 years of voracious training in Hamburg, Germany, where they’ve played non-stop, for 8 hours a day or more in strip clubs (when other bands would maybe play this amount of time 1-2 time/year, IF they had luck); a practice that allowed them to gain stamina, coordinate between each other better and refine their initial sloppy techniques. The lesson is quite clear. Success is not dependent on a single particular factor, but rather is a sum of different circumstances combined with luck and hard work. After all, everything is mileage, thus “Fail fast. Fail repeatedly. Fail forward.” quite makes sense here in this context. A classic best-seller worth reading! Plus Gladwell’s style is quite charming, hooking you up into the story without notice. You will see.
7) “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen
(Normal) Reading Time: 4-6 days
I stumbled upon this book while I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast with Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder), as one of the books that was recommended by the later one. And boy was he right! Allen believes that in order to be more productive, we have to control the talk that goes around in our mind everyday possible – and this includes also small tasks too (e.g. the shopping list). How? By writing everything down. Everything? Everything. He argues that by doing so you free yourself of “idea trash” and make more space for the creative thoughts that actually do matter. After all, why should you think twice about a thing, it it isn’t something you deliberately want to happen? This is just a waste of creative energy. And unfortunately, this is how our minds still work: reminding us about all the things we have to do at the most inappropriate time ever (usually when we don’t have time at all). The antidote lies in a complete, up-to-date system, which can be summarized in 3 simple steps:
- Write down everything that requires more than 1 step of action;
- Organize your notes in specific categories (buckets) and make them visible, so that they always remind you of what you need to do;
- Review and empty the buckets on a regular basis (1 time/week at least).
Read the book for more details on how to efficiently jot down ideas, label information according to urgency and keep track of your progress.
8) “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle
(Normal) Reading Time: –
I probably should have put this book first on the list. Its content is pure gold. I’ve put an indefinite reading time because this book needs to be read with pauses; give a little thought after each important paragraph (it will be marked in the book) and reflect upon your experiences regards to the teachings in every chapter. Tolle demonstrates how we can save ourselves from tapping the power of now, namely living in the present. He identifies two entities within our body: one is the ego, the mind which tries to control us and give us a false identity, and the other one is the source, God, the Universe, call it whatever you want, which is actually our true personality. His point is that we should all aspire to become the source, that is to have an elevated sense of consciousness, in order to have a meaningful life. But why does the solution have to be in the present? Because time is an illusion. The mind does not perceive past or future, instead it has only the present moment at hand. What we think is actually past and future are just memories replayed in our mind repeatedly, in general without too much consideration about it. All the scenarios made up in your head, all the walls that you surrounded yourself with are just mere consequences of the ego, that wanders back and forward, trying to forge a story for you that best suits your circumstances. This in turn points out a permanent state of lack. It’s almost like a “me vs. the whole-world” battle, where you have no chances to win whatsoever. So what’s the salvation? Clarity. Consciousness. How to attain it? There’s no specific recipe. But Tolle advises for a mix of breathing, meditation and acting in a non-judgmental way, indeed like a third party, when the ego starts to manifest itself and crave for attention. Further explanations are useless in this case. I’m afraid (and glad) that you”ll have to read the book to find out about what best suits you in your pursuit of enlightenment.
That was it with the Bookworm post for this month, folks. I hope the books will help you as much as they helped me. Feel free to comment below your opinion regards these books and suggestions of new ones.
Don’t forget, sharing is caring.