The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 11/30/21
  • The Alchemist, recommend borrowing from your local library or buy a used copy

The owner of my local pottery studio recommended this book to me in November 2021. I picked it up from the library and it’s a very easy read.  It’s a simple story about a young shepherd’s journey to find his personal legend. It’s philosophical at times.

🚀 Three sentences to summarize the book:

  1. This book is a story of a young shepherd finding his “Personal Legend”
  2. It’s metaphorical in many ways about what you believe as your dream, and pursuing it.
  3. Legend has it, this book finds its way to you when you are ready.

☘️ How did this book change the way I think/work/learn:

It’s a lovely story, one that I couldn’t put down. And the magic about this book is the philosophical elements of it. It’s something that if you believe in then it’s true, if you don’t then it won’t come true. It’s very much a “manifest your own destiny” kind of story. I love that it’s easy to read, and the plot goes by pretty fast. There are also some funny parts in it where I chuckled to myself.

It is a life-changing epiphany about commitment unequivocally and irreversably to your dreams.

📒 Favorite Quotes:

  • The worlds greatest lie: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.
  • Because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.
  • When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
  • People are capable, at any time in their lives, or doing what they dream of.
  • There was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.
  • When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.
  • Life attracts life.
  • All you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.
  • Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.
  • You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.
  • People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.
  • Fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with god and with eternity.
  • Every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 10/4/21
  • Being Mortal, recommend borrowing from your local library or buy a used copy

🚀 Three sentences to summarize the book:

  1. This book is not just for people who are older. It’s for everyone as everyone is mortal.
  2. It addresses very hard but necessary questions about what we value the most at the end of our life.
  3. Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology.

☘️ How did this book change the way I think/work/learn:

  • This book makes me think about what I define my life purpose is, and life purpose can change so quickly, and how even if one’s mobility, single source of life purpose became impossible because of old age, a new purpose can be found in caring for others, contributing to the community, etc. One can survive merely on medical interventions, but living requires a lot more. It requires a purpose to give us the will to continue.
  • It also makes me realize that a lot of the times doctors don’t have all the answers, and diseases are part of human life & aging. We are all headed in the same direction, but to make the journey not a painful one, it has to be consciously thought-out, and deliberately discussed choice.

📒 Favorite Quotes:

  • Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things.
  • We think, nostalgically, that we want the kind of old age my grandfather had (where his son & daughter-in-law took care of him until he died at age 110). But the reason we do not have it is that, in the end, we do not actually want it. The historical pattern is clear: as soon as people got the resources and opportunity to abandon that way of life, they were gone.
  • Historians find that the elderly of the industrial era did not suffer economically and were not unhappy to be left on their own. Given the opportunity, both parents and children saw separation as a form of freedom.
  • We cling to the notion of retirement at 65—a reasonable notion when those over 65 were a tiny % of the population but increasingly untenable as they approach 20%. People are putting aside less in savings for old age now than they have at any time since the Great Depression. More than half of the very old own live without a spouse and we have fewer children than ever before, yet we give virtually no thought to how we will live out our later years alone.
  • The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, morality is only a horror.
  • As our time winds down, we all seek comfort in simple pleasures—companionship, everyday routines, the taste of good food, the warmth of sunlight on our faces. We become less interested in the rewards of achieving and accumulating, and more interested in the rewards of simple living.
  • Yet while we may feel less ambitious, we also become concerned for our legacy. And we have a deep need to identify purposes outside ourselves that make living feel meaningful and worthwhile.
  • Whatever the limits and travails we face, we want to retain the autonomy—the freedom—to be the authors of our lives. The value of autonomy…lies in the scheme of responsibility it creates: autonomy makes each of us responsible for shaping his own life according to some coherent and distinctive sense of character, conviction, and interest.
  • This is why the betrayals of body and mind that threaten to erase our character and memory remain among our most awful tortures.
  • People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the most of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. it is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.
  • On Hospice: “99% understand they’re dying, but 100% hope they’re not,” she told me. “They still want to beat their disease.” “A nurse has five seconds to make a patient like you and trust you. It’s in the whole way you present yourself. I do not come in saying ‘I’m so sorry.’ Instead, it’s: ‘I’m the hospice nurse, and here’s what I have to offer you to make your life better. And I know we don’t have a lot of time to waste.”
  • Hospice has tried to offer a new ideal for how we die. Although not everyone has embraced its rituals, those who have are helping to negotiate an ars moriendi for our age. But doing so represents a struggle—not only against suffering but also against the seemingly unstoppable momentum of medical treatment.
  • Two-thirds of the terminal cancer patients in the Coping with Cancer study reported having had no discussion with their doctors about their goals for end-of-life care, despite being, on average, just four months from death. But the third who did have discussions were far less likely to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation or be put on a ventilator or end up in an intensive care unit. Most of them enrolled in hospice. They suffered less, were physically more capable, and were better able, for a longer period, to interact with others. In addition, six months after these patients died, their family members were markedly less likely to experience persistent major depression. In other words, people who had substantive discussions with their doctor about their end-of-life preferences were far more likely to die at peace and in control of their situation and to spare their family anguish.
  • A landmark 2010 study from the Massachusetts general hospital had even more startling findings… the result: those who saw a palliative care specialist stopped chemotherapy sooner, entered hospice far earlier, experienced less suffering at the end of their lives—and they lived 25 percent longer. In other words, our decision making in medicine has failed so spectacularly that we have reached the point of actively inflicting harm on patients rather than confronting the subject of mortality. If end-of-life discussion were an experimental drug, the FDA would approve it.
  • Four crucial questions at end of life in la crosse wisconsin:

  1. Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stopped?
  2. Do you want aggressive treatments such as intubation and mechanical ventilation?
  3. Do you want antibiotics?
  4. Do you want tube or intravenous feeding if you can’t eat on your own?

Crucial quesitons to discuss with your doctor:

What do you understand your prognosis to be? What are your concerns about what lies ahead? What kind of trade-offs are you willing to make? How do you want to spend your time if your health worsens? Who do you want to make decisions if you can’t?

How much you are willing to go through to have a shot at being alive and what level of being alive is tolerable to you?

  • I’m sorry things turned out this way ⇒ I wish things were different.
  • What do you want when you are dying ⇒ if time becomes short, what is most important to you?
  • The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You want Robert e Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.
  • People die only once. They have no experience to draw on. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come—and escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.
  • We want information and control, but we also want guidance. The Emanuels described a third type of doctor-patient relationship, which they called “interpretive.” Here the doctors role is to help patients determine what they want. Interpretive doctors ask “what is most important to you? What are your worries?” Then, when they know your answers, they tell you about the red pill and the blue pill and which one would most help you achieve your priorities.
  • if to be human is to be limited, then the role of caring professions and institutions—from surgeons to nursing homes—ought to be aiding people in their struggle with those limits. Sometimes we can offer a cure, sometimes only a salve, sometimes not even that. But whatever we can offer, our interventions, and the risks and sacrifices they entail, are justified only if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life. When we forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric. When we remember it the good we do can be breathtaking.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

  • How much I’d Recommend: 10/10
  • Date finished: 10/4/21
  • Show Your Work, recommend borrowing from your local library or buy a used copy

🚀 Three sentences to summarize the book:

  1. A book for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion
  2. A book for someone who doesn’t want to be a sell out
  3. A book for an introverted artist

☘️ How did this book change the way I think/work/learn:

This book makes me think of creativity differently. I always struggles to share my crafts, writing, climbing, reading, pottery, everything I do creatively while wanting to make money (to be self-sustainable hobbies). This book shows me that 1) it is totally possible, 2) it takes time, 3) how to not be a car-salesman about your crafts.

📒 Favorite Quotes:

  • Scenius: an ecology of talent, a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas. Scenius just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.
  • Be an amateur. David Foster Wallace said that he thought good nonfiction was a chance to “watch somebody reasonably bright but also reasonably average pay far closer attention and think at far more length about all sorts of different stuff than most of us have a chance to in our daily lives.
  • The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others. Don’t worry, for now, about how you will make money or a career off it.
  • “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” —Steve Jobs
  • Overnight success is a myth.
  • Once a day, after you’ve done the day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share.
  • Be open, share imperfect and unfinished work that you want feedback on, but don’t share absolutely everything.
  • Tell good stories, work doesn’t speak for itself.human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.
  • Don’t brag, don’t get cute. Just state the facts.
  • Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step by step through part of your process. “Make people better at something they want to be better at.”
  • Don’t be a human spam. Be an open node.
  • Don’t ever ask people to follow you. “Follow me back?” Is the saddest question on the internet.

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 7/29/21
  • The Psychology of Money, recommend borrowing from your local library

Wow. It was a beyond fantastic book about wealth and greed. My favorite part of the book was the postscript on “a brief history of why the U.S. consumer thinks the way they do” which I quoted at the very bottom of this post the ending of that history to present time. Housel really boiled the truth down to very simple observations. It is fascinating to read.

  1. We all do crazy stuff with money because we’re all relatively new to this game and what looks crazy to you might make sense to me. But no one is crazy — we all make decisions based on our own unique experiences that seem to make sense to us in a given moment.
  2. Your personal experiences with money make up maybe 0.000000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.
  3. Bill Gates experienced one in a million luck by ending up at Lakeside Highschool (a U.S. high school that has a computer curriculum in 1968). If you give luck and risk their proper respect, you realize that when judging people’s financial success—both your own and others’—it’s never as good or as bad as it seems.
  4. Be careful who you praise and admire. Be careful who you look down upon and wish to avoid becoming. Some people are born into families that encourage education; others are against it. Some are born into flourishing economies encouraging entrepreneurship; others are born into war and destitution. I want you to be successful and I want you to earn it. But realize that not all success is due to hard work, and not all poverty is due to laziness. Keep this in mind when judging people, including yourself. Therefore focus less on specific individuals and case studies and more on broad patterns.
  5. The hardest financial skill is getting the goalpost to stop moving. Know when it is enough.
  6. Social comparison is the problem that makes you want more.
  7. Good investing isn’t necessarily about earning the highest returns, because the highest returns tend to be one-off hits that can’t be repeated. It’s about earning pretty good returns that you can stick with and which can be repeated for the longest period of time. That’s when compounding runs wild.
  8. Getting wealthy vs. staying wealthy: money is about survival. You will get the biggest return if you are able to stick around long enough for compounding to work wonders. Optimistic about the future, but paranoid about what will prevent you from getting to the future – is vital.
  9. You can be wrong half of the time and still make a fortune:
  • You could invest $1 a month from 1900 to 2019 regardless of market – you will end up with $435,551
  • You could invest $1 in the stock market when the economy is not in a recession, and save your monthly dollar in cash, and invest everything back into the stock market when the recession ends – you will end up with $257,386
  • Or it takes a few months for a recession to scare you out, and then it takes a while to regain confidence before you get back in. You invest $1 in stock when there’s no recession, sell six months after a recession begins, and invest back in six months after a recession ends. You will end up with $234,476.

The moral to the story, don’t time the market.

  1. Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays. Money’s greatest intrinsic value – and this can’t be overstated – is its ability to give you control over your time. Having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of wellbeing than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered. More than your salary, more than the size of your house, more than the prestige of your job.
  2. No one is impressed with your possessions as much as you are. You might think you want an expensive car, a fancy watch, and a huge house. But you don’t. What you want is respect and admiration from other people, and you think having expensive stuff will bring it. It almost ever does — especially from the people you want to respect and admire you.
  3. Spending money to show people how much money you have is the fastest way to have less money.
  4. Building wealth has little to do with your income or investment returns, and lots to do with your savings rate. The value of wealth is relative to what you need. You can save just for saving’s sake. And indeed you should. That flexibility and control over your time is an unseen return on wealth.
  5. Reasonable > Rational: Aiming to be mostly reasonable works better than trying to be coldly rational.
  6. History is the study of change, ironically used as a map of the future. The most important part of every plan is planning on your plan not going according to plan. Harvard psychologist Max Bazerman once showed that when analyzing other people’s home renovation plans, most people estimate the project will run 25% – 50% over budget. But when it comes to their own projects, people estimate that renovations will be completed on time and at budget. Oh, the eventual disappointment.
  • The biggest single point of failure with money is a sole reliance on a paycheck to fund short-term spending needs, with no savings to create a gap between what you think your expenses are and what they might be in the future.
  1. Long-term planning is harder than it seems because people’s goals and desires change over time. We should come to accept the reality of changing our minds. The trick is to accept the reality of change and move on as soon as possible.
  2. Everything has a price, but not all prices appear on labels. Every job looks easy when you’re not the one doing it because the challenges faced by someone in the arena are often invisible to those in the crowd. We are not good at identifying what the price of success is, which prevents us from being able to pay it.
  3. Beware taking financial cues from people playing a different game than you are. When a commentator on CNBC says, “you should buy this stock,” keep in mind that they don’t know who you are. Are you a teenager trading for fun? An elderly widow on a limited budget? A hedge fund manager trying to shore up your books before the quarter ends? Are we supposed to think those three people have the same priorities, and that whatever level a particular stock is trading at is right for all three of them?
  4. Forecasts of outrageous optimism are rarely taken as seriously as the prophets of doom. Pessimism just sounds smarter and more plausible than optimism.
  5. The more you want something to be true, the more likely you are to believe a story that overestimates the odds of it being true.

The summarized notes on Money

  1. Go out of your way to find humility when things are going right and forgiveness/compassion when they go wrong.
  2. Less ego, more wealth – saving money is the gap between your ego and your income, and wealth is what you don’t see.
  3. Manage your money in a way that helps you sleep at night.
  4. If you want to do better as an investor, the single most powerful thing you can do is increase your time horizon.
  5. Become ok with a lot of things going wrong. You can be wrong half the time and still make a fortune.
  6. Use money to gain control over your time.
  7. Be nicer and less flashy.
  8. Save, just save. You don’t need a specific reason to save.
  9. Define the cost of success and be ready to pay it.
  10. Worship room for error. A gap between what could happen in the future and what you need to happen in the future in order to do well is what gives you endurance, and endurance is what makes compounding magic over time.
  11. Avoid the extreme ends of financial decisions. Everyone’s goals and desires will change over time, and the more extreme your past decisions were the more you may regret them as you evolve.
  12. You should like risk because it pays off every time.
  13. Define the game you are playing.
  14. Respect the mess. Smart, informed, and reasonable people can disagree in finance, because people have vastly different goals and desires. There is no single right answer; just the answer that works for you.
  • Independence, to me, doesn’t mean you’ll stop working. It means you only do the work you like with people you like at the times you want for as long as you want.
  • True success is exiting some rat race to modulate one’s activities for peace of mind.
  • Good decisions aren’t always rational. At some point you have to choose between being happy or being “right.”
  • How Morgan Housel invests: we invest money from every paycheck into these index funds—a combination of U.S. and international stocks. There’s no set goal—it’s just whatever is left over after we spend. We max out retirement accounts in the same funds and contribute to our kids’ 529 college savings plans. Effectively all of our net worth is a house, a checking account, and some Vanguard index funds.
  • one of my deeply held investing beliefs is that there is little correlation between investment effort and investment results. My investing strategy doesn’t rely on picking the right sector or timing the next recession. It relies on a high savings rate, patience, and optimism that the global economy will create value over the next several decades. I spend virtually all of my investing effort thinking about those three things—especially the first two, which I can control.
  • You can scoff at linking the rise of Trump to income inequality alone. And you should. These things are always layers of complexity deep. But it’s a key part of what drives people to think “I don’t live in the world I expected. That pisses me off. So screw this. And screw you! I’m going to fight for something totally different, because this—whatever it is—isn’t working.”

Housel’s summary on most recent events, Trump, and the future.

The unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been in decades. Wages are now actually growing faster for low-income workers than for the rich. College costs, by and large, stopped growing once grants are factored in. If everyone studied advances in healthcare, communication, transportation, and civil rights since the Glorious 1950s, my guess is most wouldn’t want to go back.

But a central theme of this story is that expectations move slower than reality on the ground. That was true when people clung to 1950s expectations as the economy changed over the next 35 years. And even if a middle-class boom began today, expectations that the odds are stacked against everyone but those at the top may stick around.

So the era of “This isn’t working” may stick around.

And the era of “We need something radically new, right now, whatever it is” may stick around.

Which, in a way, is part of what starts events that led to things like World War II, where this story began.

History is just one damned thing after another.

Notes on A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 7/21/21
  • Notes on A Nervous Planet, Recommend borrowing from your local library

It’s a lovely book of short articles Matt Haig wrote about battling with anxiety and depression in his life. It’s quite funny and very informative. It actually made me feel very peaceful knowing someone out there is going through very similar things in life. I finished this book in 2 days and wrote down a lot of quotes. I am almost inclined to buy a copy of this book and keeping it to go back and read more – which doesn’t happen to me a lot. I’d still say, borrow it from the library first and see if it’s your cup of tea because it seems that people who’s never had anxiety/depression (or won’t admit they have) won’t be enjoying this book much.  

  • Couldn’t aspects of how we live in the modern world be responsible for how we feel in the modern world? Not just in terms of the stuff of modern life, but its values, too. The values that cause us to want more than we have. To worship work above play. To compare the worst bits of ourselves with the best bits of other people. To feel like we always lack something.
  • If the modern world is making us feel bad, then it doesn’t matter what else we have going for us, because feeling bad sucks. And feeling bad when we are told there is no reason to, well, that sucks even more.
  • it sometimes feels as if we have temporarily solved the problem of scarcity and replaced it with the problem of excess.
  • for instance, personally I need to know why i have a fear of slowing down, like i am the bus in Speed that would explode if it dropped below 50 miles per hour. The reason is simple, and partly selfish. I am petrified of where my mind can go, because I know where it has already been.
  • I am a catastrophizer. I don’t simply worry. No. My worry has real ambition. My worry is limitless. My anxiety – even when I don’t have capital-A Anxiety—is big enough to go anywhere. I have always found it easy to think of the worst-case scenario and dwell on it.
  • i worry that I upset people without meaning to. I worry that I don’t check my privilege enough. I worry about people being in prison for crimes they didn’t do. I worry about human rights abuses. I worry about prejudice and politics and pollution and the world my children and their entire generation are inheriting from us. I worry about all the species going extinct because of humans. I worry about my carbon footprint. I worry about all the pain in the world that I am not actively able to stop. I worry about how much I’m wrapped up in myself, which makes me even more wrapped up in myself.
  • Years before I ever had actual sex I found it easy to imagine I had AIDS, so powerful were the British Government’s terrifying public awareness TV slots in the 1980s.
  • I stepped off the Paris Metro and into wispy mouth-burning clouds of tear gas. At the time, covering my face with a scarf just to breathe, I thought it was a terrorist attack. It wasn’t. But simply thinking it was one was a kind of trauma. As Montaigne put it, “He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.”
  • Even the best news channels want high ratings, and over the years they work out what works and what doesn’t, and compete ever harder for attention, which is why watching news can feel like watching a continuous metaphor for generalized anxiety disorder. The various split screens and talking heads and rolling banners of incessant information are a visual representation of how anxiety feels.
  • The whole of consumerism is based on us wanting the next thing rather than the present thing we already have. This is an almost perfect recipe for unhappiness. We are not encouraged to live in the present. We are trained to live somewhere else: the future.
  • To see the act of learning as something not for its own sake but because of what it will get you reduces the wonder of humanity. We are thinking, feeling, art-making, knowledge-hungry, marvelous animals, who understand ourselves and our world through the act of learning. It is an end in itself. It has far more to offer than the things it lets us write on application forms. It is a way to love living right now.
  • Far and away the biggest regret [old people] had was fear. Many of Bronnie’s patients were in deep anguish that they had spent their whole loves worrying. Lives consumed by fear. Worrying what other people thought of them. A worry that had stopped them being true to themselves.
  • How to stop worrying about aging: understand that old people aren’t actually that worried about old age.
  • There was no clocks until the 16th century. 16th century pocket watches didn’t even have minute hand. But now, we have time, we were told what to do where to be when to do something. We often find ourselves wishing for more hours in the day, but that wouldn’t help anything. The problem, clearly, isn’t that we have a shortage of time. It’s more that we have an overload of everything else.
  • Don’t play the ratings game. The internet loves ratings, whether it is reviews on Amazon and Tripadvisor and Rotten Tomatoes, or the ratings of photos and updates and tweets. Likes, favorites, retweets. Ignore it. Ratings are no sign of worth. Never judge yourself on them. To be liked by everyone you would have to be the blandest person ever. William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest writer of all time. He has a mediocre 3.7 average on Goodreads.
  • Life isn’t about being pleased with what you are doing, but about what you are being.
  • How to be happy: Do not compare yourself to other people x10.
  • The cure for loneliness wasn’t always to have company, but to find a way to be happy with your own company. Not to be antisocial, but not to be scared of your own unaccompanied presence. She thought the cure to misery was to “decorate one’s inner house so rich that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
  • When I first became ill, age the age of 24—when I “broke down”—the world became sharper. I felt the wearying pressure of advertising, the frantic madness of crowds and traffic, the suffocating nature of social expectation. But when I am well I forget those things. The trick is to keep hold of that knowledge. To turn recovery into prevention. To live how I live when I am ill, without being ill.
  • Don’t grab life by the throat. Life should be touched, not strangled.
  • To be aware of breath is to remember you are alive.
  • We are frequently encouraged to want the most extreme and exciting experiences. To act on a heady impulse for action. To “Just Do It” as Nike always used to bark at us, like a self-help drill instructor. As if the very point of life is found via winning a gold medal or climb Mount Everest or headlining Glastonbury or having a full-body orgasm while sky-diving over the Niagara Falls. And I used to feel the same. I used to want to lose myself in the most intense experiences, as if life was simply a tequila to be slammed. But most of life can’t be lived like this. To have a chance of lasting happiness, you have to calm down. You have to just be it as well as just do it.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel you aren’t enough. Don’t feel you have to achieve more just to be accepted. Be happy with your own self, minus upgrades. Stop dreaming of imaginary goals and finishing lines. Accept what marketing doesn’t want you to: you are fine. You lack nothing.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

  • How much I’d Recommend: 8/10
  • Date finished: 6/30/21
  • Why We Sleep, recommend borrowing from your local library

It’s a pretty enjoyable book, but you know that feeling when you have a bad cough and look up on WebMD and try to self diagnose and you feel like you have cancer? That’s kind of how I feel about reading this book. It feels like if you miss one night of sleep, hell, just a few hours of the sleep, you might as well just end right there because your brain will not recover completely ever again, you will have hyper tension, which leads to heart disease and cardiac arrest, you might get depression, schizophrenia, and just die from lack of sleep.

Other than that, it’s a pretty easy read. Here’s some notes from the book.

  • If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.
  • We sleep for a rich litany of functions, plural – an abundant constellation of nighttime benefits that service both our brains and our bodies.
  • Two main factors that determine when you want to sleep: 1 circadian rhythm (internal clock), 2 Melatonin (chemical sleep pressure)
  • Circadian rhythm is not precisely 24 hours but slightly longer.(24 hours and 15 minutes)
  • Sunlight methodically reset our inaccurate internal timepiece, even during an overcasting day.
  • It controls timed preference of eating and drinking, moods and emotions, amount of urine, core body temperature, metabolic rate, release of hormones.
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus – samples light inside your eyes to reset the 24 hour cycle.
  • Morning larks and night owls are not “by choice”. Usually it’s genetically determined. 40% of people are early larks, 30% night owls, and another 30% lie somewhere in between with a slight leaning toward eveningness.
  • Melatonin: there is a significant sleep placebo effect – the most reliable effect in all of pharmacology. Over the counter melatonin is not regulated by FDA and can be 83% less than that claimed on the label, to 478% more than stated.
  • It feels harder to acclimate to a new time zone when traveling eastward than when flying westward. It’s easier for you to stay up a little longer (stretch your internal day) than to going to bed early (shorten your internal day). Ability to learn reduces and short term memory loss due to frequent time-zone travel
  • While you are awake, you produce adenosine. Caffeine can occupy the receptors of adenosine to make you feel that you are not sleepy. Caffeine peaks at 30 minutes after drinking, half-life is 5-7 hours.
  • Circadian rhythm and sleep-pressure do not sync up with each other. They are two separate systems that are ignorant of each other.
  • If you feel sleepy mid-morning, you are likely not getting enough sleep, or the quality of your sleep is insufficient.
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
    • After waking up in the morning, can you fall back asleep at 10 or 11 am? if so, you are not getting sufficient sleep quantity and/or quality
    • Can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If no, then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.
  • What you experience during deep NREM sleep is one of the most epic displays of neural collaboration that we know of. Though an astonishing act of self-organization, many thousands of brain cells have all decided to unite and “sing” or fire, in time. It is a highly active, meticulously coordinated state of cerebral unity.
  • We do not dream in deep NREM sleep, nor do we keep explicit track of time. It is a near state of nocturnal cerebral meditation (different from brainwave activity of waking meditative states).
  • The brain paralyzes the body so the mind can dream safely.
  • Both NREM and REM sleep are equally important. When sleep deprived, the brain will attempt to get NREM sleep first, but in subsequent nights, the brain will get more REM sleeps. But none of this would ever “gain” back the sleep you lost.
  • Birds and aquatic mammals can sleep with one side of the brain at a time, leaving another side of the brain alert or conducting life-preserving tasks.
  • Humans sleep a little lighter in one side of their brain when they are in new environment to ensure safety.
  • REM sleep require both halves of the brain to be equally asleep.

How should we sleep: 1) mono phase – sleep once a day for 8 hours 2) biphase- sleep sleep the regular 8 hours but take a 20-40 min nap during mid afternoon.

  • Myth: Early 17 – 18 century Western Europe had a new way of sleeping: two long bouts of sleep separated by several hours of wakefulness. There is no anthropological reasons to do this, suggesting it is not the natural, evolutionarily programmed form of human sleep. It is rather a cultural phenomenon popularized with Western European migration. No biological rhythm of brain activity, neurochemical activity, or metabolically activity that would hint at a human desire to wake up for several hours in the middle of the night.

humans are special when it comes to sleep:

  • We have 20-25% REM sleep when primates usually have 9%
  • We sleep 8 hours when other primates sleep 10-15.
  • we sleep laying flat (exclusive terrestrial sleepers) while other primates prefer sleeping on branches or in nests
  • Extra REM sleep allows 1) our degree of sociocultural complexity and 2) our cognitive intelligence

What may at first blush have seemed like a modest asset awarded by REM sleep to a single individual is, I believe, one of the most valuable commodities ensuring the survival and dominance of our species as a collective.

  • Drinking while pregnant is not recommended because alcohol (even 2 glasses of wine) will disturb baby’s REM sleep which prevents baby’s brain development. Drinking while nursing is also not recommended for the same reason.
  • Teenagers’ sleep have more NREM to help them mature their frontal lobe and aid their transition into early adulthood. Young children’s circadian rhythm makes them sleep earlier at night (and more) and rise earlier than their parents while adolescents’ circadian rhythm makes them stay up at night, and rise later than the parents.
  • Adults lose their deep sleep (NREM) as they age. Their sleep become more fragmented (waking up at night) mostly due to medication and weakened bladder. Senior adults circadian timing regresses, leading to earlier and earlier bedtimes.
  • Sleeping (NREM) helps slowly upload all your information absorbed during the day into your memory, salvage those that appeared to have been lost soon after learning. Naps make your memory better.
  • Sleep (NREM) also help us forget – we have yet to harness this power to battle trauma, drug addiction, and substance abuse.
  • A pianist would practice a piece for many times and cannot play it perfectly, but after she goes to sleep, and next morning she wakes up, can simply play it perfectly. Sleep helps our motor skills so simply “learn offline.” Similarly, chromic lack of sleep increase sports injuries in adolescent athletes.

How to Stay in Love by James Sexton

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 5/27/21
  • How to Stay in Love, Recommend borrowing from your local library

Main Ideas:

  • Hit send now: If you are unsatisfied/angry/pissed/upset/annoyed with your spouse on some specific thing they did, communicate immediately. Don’t wait. Write an email and send now. 

Justice deferred, they say, is justice denied. . . Hit Send Now is meant to combat or neutralize the natural inclination of so many of us to not express the true nature of what we are feeling. And – no small bonus – it makes you feel much more as if you are living in the moment, becauso you are expressing yourself in the moment.

  • You can be right or you can be happy: Shoot for resolution rather than full satisfaction. Stop worrying about being right.
  • Expectation vs. reality: Admit to yourself how much time you have to devote to the goals you are trying to achieve as a parent or partner, and what you are doing with that time. Be honest about the aspects of partnership and/or parenting that you enjoy and the ones that you loathe.
  • Tight grips and loose arms: It’s scary to let go of your spouse. It’s scary to let go of illusions about your marriage, marriage in general, or even yourself. . . Perhaps by letting go, you’ll find yourself establishing a much stronger grip.
  • Reading minds and accepting appearances: Your partner can’t hear what you don’t say, and vice versa. Ignorance is rarely bliss for long. If you care enough about your relationship to want to keep it, be sure you are checking in with your partner on a regular basis. No one is good at mind reading. There is no such thing.
  • Pretend you are not married: appreciating the things you take for granted that your spouse does for you.
  • Did you spend more time shopping for your car or for your spouse?: Our grandparents didn’t lease cars. They bought a car and drove it as long as they could. They took care of it and they appreciated the fact that their car was reliable. They did what they needed to keep the car healthy in the long run. What if you can only pick a car for the rest of your life? Would you change the criteria of what kind of car you want? 

If you want permanance, don’t stand in front of people and recite marriage vows. Go to a tattoo parlor.

  • Prime your spouse to do things you like: i.e. have sex on vacation so he will take more vacations.
  • Remind yourself from time to time that the only rules defining marriage, as an institution, are those that we as a culture have made.
  • Think about divorce.
  • Know that a marriage can end without the marriage itself ending.
  • One of the pillars of marriage is sex. Be honest with yourself, and with your spouse as to what you want.
  • Sometimes the bad guys win. The only thing more expensive than a good divorce lawyer is a bad one.
  • Divide and conquer: everybody should do something about everything, and neither of you should do everything about anything. Don’t relinquish the control of being independent. Always know a little bit of everything you need to be on your own.

I bet you’ll be surprised at how much your spouse does. What would you miss if they were suddently gone from your life or from the home you share together? Perhaps some imagining of that loss, while we still have what we have, is in order.

  • It’s easy to express commitment to a principle; it’s tougher, and more important, to ask yourself whether your actions demonstrate that commitment.
  • Don’t lie. Or if you are going to lie, don’t lie to yourself. It’s far better, on and off any witness stand, to be painfully honest with yourself about what you’ve done, what you could be doing, and what you sometimes failed to do.
  • There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t make yourself crazy.
  • Know yourself: One of the most important traits that the strong possess, from what I see, is knowing their weaknesses. Being able to do that for yourself is a virtue.

My professional experience gets me to the same place, if from the back end: I’m in the business of weaponizing intimacy, to dissolve marriages. Those who are in love and want to keep it that way should try to see the ability to weaponize intimacy not as a threat, but as proof of its power. Not just for ammunition on the witness stand. Power that can be used for good.

  • Make the holes you dig shallow because the deep ones are hard to climb out of.
  • Identify the subject – don’t drag old laundry out
  • Don’t start something that has no end – Don’t argue with him about how much better it would be if he were taller.
  • Write a letter to your partner. List at least five things they do that you appreciate. Tell them a few things they do that upset you. Tell them what you are craving but not getting from them. Tell them a few things you are getting and are incredibly grateful for. Tell them a story from your shared history, in as much detail as you can, that you remember fondly. Maybe write a mini-chronicle of your marriage. It’s been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. My experience has taught me that the unexamined marriage is not sustainable. 
  • Use a “yours” and “mine” accounts: 1. preventing ignorance while maintaining privacy, 2. creates opportunities for autonomy, 3. it can easily be converted into a legally binding system. 
  • When is the last time you and your spouse discussed what it specifically means to be “happy” and how you each define that term? When was the last time you discussed, in specific terms, what a “satisfying” sex life is for each of you? These should be conversations you look forward to! They’re about being happy and about fucking, for fuck’s sake!
  • Sometimes it’s nor worth trying to save something, because the saving requires you to be miserable. It’s not worth doing CPR on a dead body. If it’s dead, bury it. But if it’s not dead. . . let’s not bury it.
  • I hear you. I hear your frustration. I get it.
  • Hate can eat away at you at least as much as it eats away at the object of your hate.
  • It’s hard to end things; it’s hard to keep things together.

Think Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

  • Date read: April 2021.
  • How strongly I recommend: 8/10.
  • Think Fast and Slow: Recommend borrow from library

This book reminds me a lot of Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational. It is a very thick book. I wish I have more time with it but I have to return it to the library soon. Overall, it was a great mind-opener (as always) to realize how your brain deceives your perception of the world.

Two Systems:

  • He had an impression, but some of his impressions are illusions. This was a pure System 1 response. She reacted to the threat before she recognized it. This is your System 1 talking. Slow down and let your system 2 take control.
  • Attention & Effort: I won’t try to solve this while driving. This is a pupil-dilating task (something that requires deep concentration). It requires mental effort! The law of least effort is operating here. He will think as little as possible. She did not forget about the meeting. She was completely focused on something else when the meeting was set and she just didn’t hear you.
  • Control: She did not have to struggle to stay on task for hours. She was in a state of flow. His ego was depleted after a long day of meetings. So he just turned to standard operating procedures instead of thinking through the problem. Unfortunately, she tends to say the first thing that comes into her mind. She probably also has trouble delaying gratification. Week System 2.
  • Priming: The sight of all these people in uniforms does not prime creativity. The world makes much less sense than you think. THe coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works. They were primed to find flaws, and this is exactly what they found. I made myself smile and I’m actually feeling better!
  • Cognitive ease: Let’s not dismiss their business plan just because the font makes it hard to read. We must be inclined to believe it because it has been repeated so often, but let’s think it through again. Familiarity breeds liking. This is a mere exposure effect. I’m in a very good mood today, and my System 2 is weaker than usual. I should be extra careful.
  • Norms and Causes: When the second applicant also turned out to be an old friend of mine, I wasn’t quite as surprised. Very little repetition is needed for a new experience to feel normal. When we survey the reaction to these products, let’s make sure we don’t focus exclusively on the average. We should consider the entire range of normal reactions. She can’t accept that she was just unlucky; she needs a causal story. She will end up thinking that someone intentionally sabotaged her work.
  • Jumping to conclusions: She knows nothing about this person’s management skills. All she is going by is the halo effect from a good presentation. Let’s decorrelate errors by obtaining separate judgments on the issue before any discussion. We will get more information from independent assessments. They made that big decision on the basis of a good report from one consultant. What you see is all there is. They did not seem to realize how little information they had. They didn’t want more information that might spoil their story. What you see is all there is.
  • Judgment: Evaluating people as attractive or not is a basic assessment. You do that automatically whether or not you want to, and it influences you. There are circuits in the brain that evaluate dominance from the shape of the face. He looks the part for a leadership role.
  • Substitution and heuristics: Do we still remember the question we are trying to answer? Or have we substituted an easier to? The question we face is whether this candidate can succeed. The question we seem to answer is whether she interviews well. Let’s not substitute. He likes the project, so he thinks its costs are low and its benefits are high. Nice example of the affect heuristic.

The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

  • How much I’d Recommend: 4/10
  • Date finished: 2/26/21
  • The One Thing: recommend borrowing from your local library.

I can’t believe the retail price of this book is $24.95. It must be a scam or a joke, perhaps both. This book has no original ideas and the title alone says basically everything there is about the content of the book. Anyhow, if you are still here after all this, read on to my notes from the book.

  • Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results and it works.
  • The key is over time, one thing at a time.

The six lies between you and success:

  1. Everything matters equally: 80/20 rules, prioritize, say no, do the most important thing.
  2. Multitasking: Don’t do it.
  3. A disciplined life: you already have enough discipline, use powerful habits instead, build a habit at a time
  4. You have unlimited willpower: you don’t. Monitor your willpower use, do the most important thing first.
  5. A balanced life: counterbalance the areas you focus too much on, and… balance your life from period to period.
  6. Big is bad: Think big, think outside the box, don’t ask for permission, don’t fear failure.

Simple task to productivity:

  1. The focus question: what is the one thing?
  2. The success habit: understand and believe your one thing.
  3. The path to great answers: Think big and specific, benchmark and trend for best answer.

Extraordinary result:

  1. Live with purpose: discover your why, absent an answer, pick a direction
  2. Live by priority: backpeddle your 5 year goal to weekly to daily goal.
  3. Live for productivity:block your calendar for your one thing, protect it from peer pressure, outside and inside distractions.
  4. The three commitments:
    1. follow the path of mastery
    2. move from entrepreneurial to purposeful (to break the ceiling of achievement
    3. Take ownership of your outcomes
    4. find the coach

The four thieves of productivity:

  1. Inability to say No
  2. Fear of chaos
  3. Poor health habit
  4. Environment (people around you) doesn’t support your goals

If you feel pretty unsatisfied and a bit confused, this is how the book felt to me even after reading the entire book. All the advice were very generic, and some of them were explained in a more complicated way than it needs to be. Yet, Amazon review is like 4.5 stars… Oh well, hope you learned something useful from my notes and save yourself some time to do something productive.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 2/26/21
  • Piranesi: recommend borrowing from your local library.

I found this book through Mark Manson’s 2020 favorite book list. Of course, I never paid for the subscribed version of Mark Manson’s website, though, I frequently contemplated on becoming a member (paying). So the unsubscribed version cuts off half of the article but Mark did share the full list for people who don’t subscribe. 

I requested this from the local library and absolutely LOVED every page of it. It was a fantasy, a novel, a mystery, and so much more. It is a well-deserved top-selling book. 

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. he lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house, a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.