2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Philosophy

BR 272: A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: If you have any interest in philosophy or stoicism, this book would be in the “Read ASAP” list. It is an awesome Stoicism 101 – the sort of book that could be a course in Stoic philosophy.

Insights that resonated: While there were individual lessons like negative visualization or many notes on focusing on the process that reminded me of the Bhagavad Gita, the best thing the book did was inspire more reading. Following this, I began compiling notes/principles that resonated and began reading the trifecta of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus.

Thank you, William Irvine, for a beautiful synthesis.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Creativity · Skills

BR 270: Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is a fantastic book on writing. A true masterpiece. As an added bonus, it has plenty of wisdom about skills, practice, and life.

Insights that resonated: I’ve shared a few passages that resonated deeply here. My favorite is the one below.

Why are we talking about sentences?
Why no talk about the work as a whole, about shape, form, genre, the book, the feature story, the profile, even the paragraph?

The answer is simple.
Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Most of your time will be spent making sentences in your head.
In your head.
Did no one ever tell you this?
That is the writer’s life.
Never imagine you’ve left the level of the sentence behind.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Money · Psychology

BR 263: Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is an interesting book because it isn’t about how to invest or how to think about money. Instead, I describe it as a book that is about how to think about thinking about money. It is a collection of stories and anecdotes that you’ve likely heard of before and that provide food for thought. And, it can either be a light heavy read depending on how you’re feeling.

I walked away with a list of questions that I intend to work through in the coming days. It made me think. And, for that I’m grateful.

Insights that resonated:

1. Our savings = Our earnings – Cost of essentials – Cost of our ego (all expenses related to looking good)

2. Manage your money in a way that helps you sleep well at night. 

3. Luck and risk in complex systems explain outcomes better than deliberate action. Respect them. Then do what you control. 

4. The key with compounding is to not interrupt it. 99% of Warren Buffett’s net worth came after his 50th birthday, and 97% came after he turned 65.

5. Luck and risk in complex systems explain outcomes better than deliberate action. Respect them. Then do what you control. 

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · Leadership · Self Improvement

BR 258: Reboot by Jerry Colonna

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This isn’t a “how to” lead book. It is a “here’s what leading technology companies looks like” from the perspective of a CEO coach. This book will resonate a lot more with you if you have an interest in tech start-ups. For everyone else, it may be a category 3 (“shelf it” for later book). I still believe it is one of those that you have to include on your bookshelf because I believe the central premise of the book is important – better humans make better leaders.

Insights that resonated:

1. Better humans make better leaders.

2. Heartbreak is universal. True grit is not only having your heart broken – but it is also managing to keep that heart open despite the losses.

3. What if being lost is part of the path? What if we are supposed to tack across the surface of the lake, sailing into the wind instead of wishing it was only at our backs? What if feeling lost, directionless, and uncertain of the progress is an indicator of growth? What if it means you’re exactly where you need to be, on the pathless path?

4. I took a few writing courses in college. The extraordinary poet Marie Ponsot would talk about the crow sitting on your shoulder saying things like: “That sucks,” ”How could you write that?” and “Are you kidding me?”

Diminutive, chain-smoking Marie would jut her tobacco-stained finger into the air, punctuating every word: Shoot. The. Damn. Crow.

5. One day, the Tibetan teacher Milarepa left his cave to gather firewood. When he returned, he found that his cave had been taken over by demons. There were demons everywhere!

His first thought upon seeing them was, “I have got to get rid of them!” He lunges toward them, chasing after them, trying forcefully to get them out of his cave. But the demons are completely unfazed. In fact, the more he chases them, the more comfortable and settled-in they seem to be.

Realizing that his efforts to run them out have failed miserably, Milarepa opts for a new approach and decides to teach them the dharma. If chasing them out won’t work, then maybe hearing the teachings will change their minds and get them to go. So he takes his seat and begins teaching about existence and nonexistence, compassion and kindness, the nature of impermanence.

After a while he looks around and realizes all the demons are still there. They simply stare at him with their huge bulging eyes; not a single one is leaving.

At this point Milarepa lets out a deep breath of surrender, knowing now that these demons will not be manipulated into leaving and that maybe he has something to learn from them. He looks deeply into the eyes of each demon and bows, saying, “It looks like we’re going to be here together. I open myself to whatever you have to teach me.”

In that moment all the demons but one disappear. One huge and especially fierce demon, with flaring nostrils and dripping fangs, is still there.

So Milarepa lets go even further. Stepping over to the largest demon, he offers himself completely, holding nothing back. “Eat me if you wish.” He places his head in the demon’s mouth, and at that moment the largest demon bows low and dissolves into space.


When dealing with the toughest challenges – the kind that involves the demons inside of us – brute force turns out to be a blunt instrument. Acceptance, kindness, and a willingness to open our hearts and minds to the learning ahead of us enable us to make the progress we seek.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Business · Entrepreneurship · Self Improvement

BR 256: Upstream by Dan Heath

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I love books by the Heath brothers. While this didn’t quite hit the heights of a Decisive or Switch, it was still a good book that sought to focus energy on attempting to solve problems upstream vs. simply reacting to crises.

Insights that resonated:

1. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”

2. I loved this story from the beginning of the book.

“You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river. Suddenly you hear a shout from the direction of the water—a child is drowning. Without thinking, you both dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore.

Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help. You and your friend jump back in the river to rescue her as well.

Then another struggling child drifts into sight. . . and another. . . and another.

The two of you can barely keep up.

Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water, seeming to leave you alone.

‘Where are you going?’ you demand.

Your friend answers, ‘I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water.’”

Other notes here.

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Career · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Self Improvement · Skills

BR 255: Range by David Epstein

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I think this book is an important read as it is an antidote to the “start early and specialize as quickly as possible” advice that is sometimes peddled. While it might appear that David Epstein is against the notion of deliberate practice and specialization, I didn’t take it as such. Instead, his push is for us to appreciate breadth and the meandering path we might take to figure out what we want to specialize in. He makes the case (repeatedly) that the meandering path gives us the range to make the specialization count.

Top 3 Lessons:

1. Breadth of experiences are both key and undervalued. So, take the time to choose where you’d like to focus.

2. Lean into what your experiences have given you. And, also remember to lean into the experiences you are presented with. The dots only connect backward.

3. There is no such thing as “falling behind.” Comparisons are useless too. You are on your own unique path – one that will be defined by the range of skills you develop.

2. BUY it! · Creativity · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Psychology · Technology

BR 232: Algorithms to Live By Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Really fun, geeky, book that doubled up as being insightful and applicable.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Explore/exploit: Exploration early in the lifecycle is the right strategy. Kids were considered intellectually deficient. But, as researchers opened up to the idea that they were in the exploration phase of their life, it made sense. Same with smaller social networks for the elderly.
  2. Wrong lesson from the marshmellow test. University of Rochester researchers exposed kids to an adult who promised to bring them better supplies but didn’t. When those kids were exposed to the marshmellow test, they did far worse.Willpower is important in enabling kids to be successful. But, it is likely more important for kids to grow up in an environment where they trust the adults they grow up with. Still a small sample (28 kids) but worth revisiting the learning.
  3. Prisoner’s dilemma has a dominant strategy that is worse for everyone. Unlimited vacation works like that because everyone wants to be perceived as a little more hard working. Equilibrium is 0.
    The only way companies can get around that is by shifting equilibrium – e.g. enforce x weeks of mandatory vacation.
2. BUY it! · Career · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research · Philosophy

BR 231: Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: An enjoyable book with many nuggets of life advice that will likely resonate with you depending on when you read it.

Not top, but the first 3 Lessons:

  1. Susan Cain – “You will hear so many stories of people who risked everything in order to achieve this or that goal, especially creative goals. But I do not believe that your best creative work is done when you’re stressed out because you’re teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or other personal disasters. Just the opposite. You should set up your life so that it is as comfortable and happy as possible — and so that it accommodates your creative work.”
  2. Tim Urban – “Society loves to glorify the “you-as-CEO” paths and make people who don’t want to be the CEO of their own career feel inferior about their path, but neither of these paths is inherently better or worse than the other — it just depends on your personality, your goals, and what you want from a lifestyle. There are some super smart, talented, special people whose gifts are best expressed as CEO and others whose are best expressed when someone else is worrying about keeping the lights on and you can just put your head down and focus on your work. Likewise, there are some people who need to be CEO to find their work fulfilling and others for whom being CEO and having their work bleed into everything is a recipe for misery.”
  3. Graham Duncan – “I like to think about careers through Dan Siegel’s model of a river flowing between two banks, where one side is chaos and the other side is rigidity.. It’s critical to remember you can always choose to course-correct and swim toward structure or chaos, apprenticeship or freedom, depending on what you need at that moment, what tempo and phase of your career you want to be in, which riverbank you’re coming from and where you want to go.” Advice to himself – be more patient with the rigid side where you’ll likely find yourself in your early life.”

There are literally the first 3 quotes from my book notes. There are many ideas that have stuck with me. R

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Money

BR 225: Simple wealth, Inevitable wealth by Nick Murray

Category: 2 – BUY it!* (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I am a fan of personal finance and investing books and enjoy reading one every year or so. For the most part, they serve as a nice reminder to me to be thoughtful about saving and investing. This book was particularly interesting because Nick Murray makes a strong case for working with a financial advisor. This is contrary to nearly every other famous investing books. Nick is biased by his own experience as a financial advisor and author of books for financial advisors of course. But, he is upfront about those biases. While it didn’t result in me engaging in an advisor, it inspired me to speak to one. While it was definitely not the right time, I might still end up taking his advice some day in the future. He also hammers home the point that ownership (via stocks) is the only route to wealth.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Most wealth is lost not by bad investments but by bad behavior. Fear has a greater grasp on human action than the impressive weight of historical evidence. And, there’s a financial advisor out there for you who is going to be worth every cent you pay (typically 1% of your investments) in terms of adding to your gains, avoiding weaknesses and saving time.
  2. Stocks are the only strategy for long term wealth. Once you adjust for inflation and taxes, bond return is near zero. The real long term return of equities is so much greater than that of bonds that holding bonds is irrational for the true wealth seeker – people fatally underestimate the risk of not holding stocks
  3. Ownership is the only route to wealth. The great long term financial risk isn’t the loss of principal but the erosion of purchasing power = money. Stocks increase in value and raise dividends at a much greater rate than inflation saps our purchasing power.