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Posts about book-notes (old posts, page 2)

A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston

A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston

fun read
when a working actor, tells their story, it’s always a treat.
when a working actor, who struck it big, tells their story, it’s a roller coaster :)
Bryan has fun with the book; there are tales that appear so real, until he yanks the rug, telling you it wasn’t. And there are passages that are unbelievable, but true.
Loved this passage in the book …

Early in my career, I was always hustling. Doing commercials, guest-starring, auditioning like crazy. I was making a decent living, but I confided to Robin that I felt I was stuck in junior varsity. I wondered if I had plateaued. Ever thoughtful, my wife gave me the gift of private sessions with a self-help guy named Breck Costin, who was really wonderful with actors and other creative people.

Breck suggested that I focus on process rather than outcome. I wasn’t going to the audition to get anything: a job or money or validation. I wasn’t going to compete with the other guys.

I was going to give something.

I wasn’t there to get a job. I was there to do a job. Simple as that. I was there to give a performance. If I attached to the outcome, I was setting myself up to expect, and thus to fail. My job was to focus on character. My job was to be interesting. My job was to be compelling. Take some chances. Serve the text. Enjoy the process.

Learning Python

Did I need to read a fifteen hundred page book to learn Python?
At the end of fourteen hundred pages, I can safely assure you, I did not.

If you want to just solve your pressing issues or scratch your itch, or just plain get started with programming (and programming in Python specifically), I’d recommend starting with a simple, fast paced book, like Python for you and me, and then doing tons of practice.1

Mark Lutz, as he closes the book, himself laments that Python has gotten too big to hold in your head. And by doing so, has lost some of the simplicity and the joy and fun and the magic, Python held for the early adopters of the language.

And yet, having said all this, boy, am I glad, I read the book.

This is a master class from a master.

I may not have understood everything. I may have skimmed a chapter or two (Lutz assures me, it’s ok :P), but what this book has done to my mind, the furrows it has ploughed, will be with me forever.

I have been trying to get into the book, multiple times since I bought it.
It took me a long time, before, as Mortimer Adler puts it, I could come to terms with the author.
The only reason I kept coming back, was because, Mark’s earnest teaching voice shines through, and I loved it, even if I did not quite get what he was saying in the beginning.
And the reason I could get through it (and enjoy it) this time, because I decided to follow his advice and follow along on the computer.
To actually type in the code, and see what happens.

Yes, the book is big, yes, the concepts are repeated a couple of times, but as I progressed, I could feel him sweating the small stuff over and over, just so that I could understand things, so that I would not get scared away.

Time and again, the book reassured me, that what was said, was not as complicated or hard as it read on the page.
And that turned out to be true as I kept trying the examples out.

While I still have a long way to go, before I can remotely be called fluent, I know this book will have a been a big reason, I will be.2

This book was last updated, oh, some six years ago, and yet unless Python decides to change radically, I dare say, the principles in here will stand the test of time.

This was a great read and will serve as an awesome reference on my Python journey.
If you are slightly kooky like me, and you want to know, why things are the way they are as you learn to program in Python, get this book.


  1. Which is actually, what I am doing. 

  2. Besides the practice, that is. 

The Final Word on Building Habits – Atomic Habits

If you want to build a habit, this is the definitive book on the topic. 1 You could read about habits in other books, to learn more, but if you actually want to be building them, look no further.

This was the first book in a long time that moved me to actually take action. Succint, pithy and packed with advice, there isn’t a wasted word in its 300 odd pages. And unlike other, it does not feel like three-hundred-pages. Moving from introduction to positing its arguments to tactical advice to conclusion, this feels more like a fast paced novel.

On we go to the things that moved me.

Read more…

Looking for Something to Read in the New Year?

As the year draws to an end, here’s what the folks I follow read this year.

Vishal Khandelwal, has a couple of short, sweet posts on “The Books That Made Me.” Here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2.

If you’ve already read (and reread) Taleb’s books, here’s a list of books he loves (and hates).

Here is Ryan Holiday’s evergreen list and here’s what he was unto in 2018.

Patrick Collison has a whole antilbrary. (via this ttfs episode).

James Clear wins most organised list.

I follow this not a blog and this tumblr, because these giants who I have grown up on, always have something to recommend.

Not an annual list per se, but Brett McKay’s recommendations have always been awesome!

And finally the big daddy of them all, the annual Farnam Street reading list. While Shane Parrish changed my life in more ways than one, by teaching me how to read and focus, it was his opinions on the books he read that made me follow him all those years ago.

My own eccentric list of books is here.

And there you have it. My little gift to you.

I have about a hundred of you awesome folk on this list. And no matter how infrequent or erratic I am, more than half of you always read every mail I send.
And you always have an encouraging word for me.

For your time, and your attention, and your little acts of kindness, I am truly humbled and thankful.

Merry Christmas to you all! And a Happy New Year!

Gratefully, Jason

P.S. And if you haven’t already, you can always subscribe here.


A Simple Marketing Worksheet

A Simple Marketing Worksheet

  • Who’s it for?
  • What’s it for?
  • What is the worldview of the audience you’re seeking to reach?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What story will you tell? Is it true?
  • What change are you seeking to make?
  • How will it change their status?
  • How will you reach the early adopters and neophiliacs?
  • Why will they tell their friends?
  • What will they tell their friends?
  • Where’s the network effect that will propel this forward?
  • What asset are you building?
  • Are you proud of it?

“This Is Marketing”, Seth Godin


The Personal MBA

tpmba

There is absolutely nothing I can say about the Personal MBA that hasn’t been said.

I cheat and present Derek Sivers’ notes on the book.

But here’s his point about the book as a whole …

Wow. A masterpiece. This is now the one “START HERE” book I'll be recommending to everybody interested in business. An amazing overview of everything you need to know. Covers all the basics, minus buzz-words and fluff. Look at my notes for an example, but read the whole book. One of the most inspiring things I've read in years.
Want proof? I asked the author to be my coach/mentor afterwards. It's that good.

My main regret? That the book was on my shelf nearly three years before I picked it up. Talk about lost time.
And as someone who’s helped friends with their MBAs and helped his wife with her DBA, I can absolutely attest that the Personal MBA, does what it claims to do.
It’s world class education for less than 500 bucks.

I’m also a bit jealous and awed. Josh read and synthesised and made notes on so many books and created a smashingly amazing syntopical work. Which is what I do so agonisingly slowly here :P

Short, pithy notes and chapters, keep you engrossed and the book is pretty fast paced and engaging for the enormous breadth of knowledge it seeks to distill within its 500 pages.

Personally biased, I loved the chapters on antifragility, optionality and tinkering. Those are Taleb terms. Josh calls them Resilience, Fail Safes and The Experimental Mindset.

But the whole book is awesome!
It’s my new quake book.

I learnt so much and I know I will learn much more as I revisit it again and again.
I’ll close with two things. The short B. C. Forbes passage (all emphases, mine) that Josh closes the book with, and a short audio introduction below.

Your success depends on you.
Your happiness depends on you.
You have to steer your own course.
You have to shape your own fortune.
You have to educate yourself.
You have to do your own thinking.
You have to live with your own conscience.
Your mind is yours and can be used only by you.
You come into this world alone.
You go to the grave alone.
You are alone with your inner thoughts during the journey between.
You make your own decisions.
You must abide by the consequences of your acts …
You alone can regulate your habits and make or unmake your health. You alone can assimilate things mental and things material …
You have to do your own assimilation all through life.
You can be taught by a teacher, but you have to imbibe the knowledge. He cannot transfuse it into your brain.
You alone can control your mind cells and your brain cells.
You may have spread before you the wisdom of the ages, but unless you assimilate it you derive no benefit from it; no one can force it into your cranium.
You alone can move your own legs.
You alone can move your own arms
You alone can control your own muscles.
You must stand on your feet, physically and metaphorically.
You must take your own steps.
Your parents cannot enter into your skin, take control of your mental and physical machinery, and make something of you.
You cannot fight your son’s battles; that he must do for himself.
You have to be captain of your own destiny.
You have to see through your own eyes.
You have to use your own ears.
You have to master your own faculties.
You have to solve your own problems.
You have to form your own ideals.
You have to create your own ideas.
You must choose your own speech.
You must govern your own tongue.
Your real life is your thoughts.
Your thoughts are your own making.
Your character is your own handiwork.
You alone can select the materials that go into it.
You alone can reject what is not fit to go into it.
You are the creator of your own personality.
You can be disgraced by no man’s hand but your own.
You can be elevated and sustained by no man but yourself.
You have to write your own record.
You have to build your own monument—or dig your own pit. Which are you doing?



Book Notes – The First 20 Hours


“The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.”
— Geoffrey Chaucer, Parlement Of Foules, 1374

This quote that opens the book reflects the chaos in my life.
I have too many things to do, a busy life and yet, innately I am an autodidact.
I yearn to learn new things!
And learning new things is also how I’m slowly shifting my career goals.
Needless to repeat, tonnes to do, and grains of time in hand.

My growing frustration with why I cannot learn things as fast as I want to in conjunction, with aforesaid situation, is when I picked up this book by Josh Kaufman, last night. It seemed right for my situation. I’d bought it up along with The Personal MBA, a while ago and they’re in my unread pile.

And I was done in 2 hours. I don’t know why I did not read this earlier and save myself a tonne of grief.
While I’m slogging away at lots of things, I now realise I do not have to slog at all of them equally :)

“Work smarter, not harder.” As it turns out, the process of skill acquisition is not really about the raw hours you put in … it’s what you put into those hours.

Also, I don’t really want to become a world class expert. Just “good enough” will do, with most of the things I want to learn.

Based on research conducted by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson expert-level performance takes, on average, ten thousand hours of deliberate practice to achieve.
Ten thousand hours equals eight hours of deliberate practice every day for approximately three and a half years, with no breaks, no weekends, and no vacations. Assuming a standard 260 working days a year with no distractions, that’s a full-time job for almost five years, assuming you spend 100 percent of that time exerting 100 percent of your energy and effort.

As if learning a new skill wasn’t hard enough. Not only do you have to make time for practice … but you now also have to put in ten thousand hours? Most of us count ourselves lucky if we can set aside a few hours a week. Why bother at all if it takes so long to be good at something?

But … and this is a big but;

There’s an element of Dr. Ericsson’s research that’s very easy to overlook: it’s a study of expert-level performance. If you’re looking to become the next Tiger Woods, you’ll probably need to spend at least ten thousand hours deliberately and systematically practicing every aspect of golf.

On the other hand, what if winning the PGA Tour isn’t your goal?

That’s another matter entirely. World-class mastery may take ten thousand hours of focused effort, but developing the capacity to perform well enough for your own purposes usually requires far less of an investment.

That’s not to discount the value of what Ericsson calls “deliberate practice”: intentionally and systematically practicing in order to improve a skill. Deliberate practice is the core of skill acquisition. The question is how much deliberate practice is required to reach your goal. Usually, it’s much less than you think.

Leave the ten thousand hours to the pros. We’re going to start with twenty hours of concentrated, intelligent, focused effort.

20 hours! 20 hours to pick up and get good enough at a new skill? Now that’s an idea I can get behind.
And just how are we going to spend those 20 hours?
In a process called Rapid Skill Acquisition

You’ll have a better chance of success if you start with twenty hours of rapid skill acquisition.

Rapid skill acquisition has four major steps:

  • Deconstructing a skill into the smallest possible subskills;
  • Learning enough about each subskill to be able to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice;
  • Removing physical, mental, and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice;
  • Practicing the most important subskills for at least twenty hours.

And while that is the big, one–two–three–step, high level, 30,000 foot overview of the process, here’s ten principles to get you to do rapid skill acquisition really, really quickly

  1. Choose a lovable project. (or something you really, really want to solve)
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time. (Guilty! will pare them down to 2)
  3. Define your target performance level. (Define your enough. I want to learn just enough Ansible to setup my server)
  4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills. (This was my biggest aha! Know the map. Know your map. I used to think of Python as this big amorphous thing that’d take me years to learn. Now I’ll just take it one problem to solve at a time. What problems? Well I’ll figure that out for myself.)
  5. Obtain critical tools. (Try and do all your yak shaving beforehand)
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice. (I just roll out of bed and eat my physio frog first. That’s the hardest. Followed by studies now that I know this)
  7. Make dedicated time for practice. (Mornings for 12th studies. evenings for programming)
  8. Create fast feedback loops. (Well Python is brutal at that. You know instantly when you’re wrong. But with studies, I can do this with Anki and tests)
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts. (Pomodoro FTW!)
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed. (Lots of writing to improve writing, lots of studies to do well in 12th, lots of Python to … well you get the idea)

And this is just the first two chapters :)
Josh also has another chapter on effective learning to close out the first half of the book.
The second part is the fun part.
Josh walks the talk and tackles six disciplines that run the gamut from health (Yoga) to a mental discipline (programming) to physical (windsurfing) to prove that rapid skill acquisition works.
And how!
Yoga’s done in three hours, programming in twenty, and he falls short in windurfing, doing nine and learning a tonne, but ending up thwarted by nature.

This is amazing!
Six skills in less than a year!

Is this possible? Really possible? Why, yes of course, Josh promises, with this caveat,

You can prepare. You can research. You can eliminate distractions and alter your environment to make it easier to practice. You can find intelligent ways to make your practice more effective or efficient.
But, in the end, you must practice.
What feels like the long way is the shortest way.
Zero-practice shortcuts don’t exist.
No practice, no skill acquisition. It’s as simple as that.

To see how he did what he did, watch Josh’s TedX Talk above.
To learn how to practice deliberately, with intention, read Peak or watch the whimsical summary below.

And like Josh asks as he closes the book,
What will you do today?



Writing Day 29 – Conspiracy

conspiracy-front


Started: 2018-03-18
Finished: 2018-03-19

I think most of my writing about books will be just short stabs like this.
Or I’ll never get to anything in time.

I was supposed to start with Perennial Seller and then this popped up and looked like less intensive, so I picked it up first.

Well, it’s an awesome, racy read.
And something only Ryan Holiday could have done justice to.
He writes almost objectively, never hiding his biases.

Sometime in late 2007, Gawker publication Valleywag, outed Peter Thiel as gay.
And nearly ten years and ten million dollars later, Peter Thiel burned Gawker Media to the ground by secretly backing another Gawker victim with his case against Gawker in court.

So what happened in between?
Well, that’s what the book is about.

The sheer amount of hopelessness, hubris, desspair, planning, plotting, conspiracy in the whole book is almost perversely delightful.

I don’t agree with Thiel on most of what he does. (Palantir … Trump … )
But when I put myself into his shoes, what would I have done, if I was violated and I had the means to strike back?
I know that feeling of despair when I have been wronged, and yet I couldn’t do anything about it
I would have done exactly what he did.

And while the book is about conspiracy, the part that I identified the most with, was the fact that Peter was the only one with the balls to call Gawker’s bluff.1
Gawker upset a lot of rich folk and large companies.
Yet, it was only Peter who did something about it.

And I identify with it, because I did exactly that after nearly 4 years of being bullied and blackmailed in high school.
Reading this brought back memories …
Driving an enemy into the ground, so completely that they’ll never do harm again, is exhilirating.
I’ve never let myself be helpless ever again.

And while I’ve taken Marcus Aurelius’ exhortation2 to heart, there is also a bit of truth to this quote from the book …

I couldn’t stand it. I still can’t stand it.
I can’t stand the way things are. I cannot tolerate this age.
What is more, I won’t.
That was my discovery: that I didn’t have to.
—Walker Percy, Lancelot


  1. And the fact that revenge is a dish best served cold. 

  2. The best revenge, is not to be like that 

Writing Day 21 – Notes on Willpower

np_motivation_1110005_000000l


Started: 2018-05-14
Finished: 2018-05-14

Willpower is like a muscle.

There’s only so much of it that you can use if you don’t train it.
And it gets tired and depleted of its energy reserves, if you just use it rashly.

You need to train it, bulk it up and make it strong so that you can then use it to create change.

As Baumeister states in the conclusion of the book,

Self-control is ultimately about much more than self-help.
It’s essential for savoring your time on earth and sharing joy with the people you love.
People with stronger willpower are more altruistic.
They’re more likely to donate to charity, to do volunteer work, and to offer their own homes as shelter to someone with no place to go.
Willpower evolved because it was crucial for our ancestors to get along with the rest of the clan, and it’s still serving that purpose today.
Inner discipline still leads to outer kindness.

Notes from the book

Willpower 101, First Lesson: Know Your Limits

No matter what you want to achieve, playing offense begins by recognizing two basic lessons
1. Your supply of willpower is limited, and
2. you use the same resource for many different things.

Watch for Symptoms

Do things seem to bother you more than they should? Has the volume somehow been turned up on your life so that things are felt more strongly than usual? Is it suddenly hard to make up your mind about even simple things?
If you notice such feelings, then reflect on the last few hours and see if it seems likely that you have depleted your willpower.

While you’re depleted, frustrations will bother you more than usual. You’ll be more prone to say something you’ll regret.
Impulses to eat, drink, spend, or do other things will be harder than usual to resist.

Pick Your Battles

You can’t control or even predict the stresses that come into your life, but you can use the calm periods, or at least the peaceful moments, to plan an offence.

When you pick your battles, look beyond the immediate challenges and put your life in perspective.
Are you where you want to be? What could be better? What can you do about it?
You can’t do this every day, of course, and certainly not during busy, stressful times, but you can set aside at least one day a year—maybe your birthday—to do some reflection and write down notes on how well you spent the previous year.
If you make this an annual ritual, you can look back over the notes from previous years to see what kinds of progress you’ve made in the past: which goals were met, which goals remain, which ones are hopeless.

Tactics

  • Make a To-Do List—or at Least a To-Don’t List

    • Write & Prioritise stuff
  • Beware the Planning Fallacy

    • When was the last time you heard of a highway or building being completed six months early? Late and over budget is the norm. One way to avoid the planning fallacy is to force yourself to think about your past.
  • Don’t Forget the Basics

    • While cutbacks might seem a fair price to pay in order to channel all you energies into preparing for exams, In the long run, slovenliness can leave you with less energy—and fewer healthy relationships.
      Self-control will be most effective if you take good basic care of your body, starting with diet and sleep.
  • Use The Power of Positive Procrastination (like The Nothing Alternative)

    • Do what Raymond Chandler did to write his books. Use the Nothing Alternative; a marvelously simple tool against procrastination for just about any kind of task.
      Set aside time to do one and only one thing. You can look out of the window or stand on your head or writhe on the floor, but you are not to do any other positive thing.
      You might, for instance, resolve to start your day with ninety minutes devoted to your most important goal, with no interruptions from e-mail or phone calls, no side excursions anywhere on the Web.
  • Keep Track

    • Besides offering immediate encouragement, monitoring lets you improve your long-term planning. If you keep records, you can periodically check how far you’ve come so that you can set more realistic goals for the future.
  • Reward Often

    • When you set a goal, set a reward for reaching it—and then don’t stiff yourself. If you just use willpower to deny yourself things, it becomes a grim, thankless form of defense. But when you use it to gain something, you can wring pleasure out of the dreariest tasks. We’ve criticized the everybody-gets-a-trophy philosophy of the self-esteem movement, but trophies for genuine accomplishments are fine.
      Which incentives work? A mix of frequent small prizes with occasional big ones.

Writing Day 19 – Artemis

Artemis Book Cover


Started: 2018-05-07
Finished: 2018-05-10

Done with Artemis.
If you like sci-fi well told, if you liked the Martian, you’ll love Artemis.

I did audio this time and was in for a pleasant surprise.
Rosario Dawson reads the book. Yes. That Rosario “Badass” Dawson!

And of course, she makes for a badass narrator too.
Listening to her go, “Shit! Shit! Shittity Shit!” is a hoot.

Instead of a solo guy stranded on Mars, this one is all about the first lunar city (the titular Artemis) with it’s settlement domes and loads of intrigue

Andy Weir opts for a heroine this time and Jazz Beshara is badasser than Watney ever was. (aah, which is why they got Dawson to narrate, natch)

I wish he’d put more drama into the endings though. They always wind down properly and logically.

Totally worth your time time.