Anything You Want

anything-you-want-siversAnything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

by Derek Sivers

I think Derek Sivers is my spirit animal. Everything he writes or publishes resonates with me in ways that I don’t get from most other authors, speakers, artists, or entrepreneurs.

This book is hard to summarize because it’s so darn short. You can read it in about an hour. You can also get most of the lessons from this great talk, or these cool cartoon videos.

Sivers shares his experiences building and selling CD Baby to impart some counterintuitive nuggets of wisdom for both life and business. Here are a few of them:

  • A business plan should never take more than a few hours of work. The best plans are simple ones.
  • Being persistent in improving and innovating, not in doing the same thing over and over.
  • By not having money to waste, you never waste money.
  • Every business decision should be based on whether it helps your customers.
  • Focus on being useful & helpful, not on being big.
  • Most common formalities of business are not necessary. Focus on what you need, not what you think you should have.
  • By excluding people who aren’t right for you, you tell your target crowd that you value them.
  • Whatever your plan is, it’s only one of many options. There is no one way to do it.
  • Focus on what’s actually important to you, not what others think is important.
  • Any company that’s selling a cure, will never focus on prevention.
  • Your company should be willing to die for your customers.
  • There are consequences to unclear communication. Make clarity a priority
  • Small details can make more of a difference than big plans.
  • Be self sufficient. It may seem faster to get others to do things for you, but  if it makes you happy (or if you can’t afford it) learn to do it yourself.
  • Anything you hate doing, someone else loves. Find that person and let him do it. As owner, your job can be whatever you want it to be.
  • No matter what goals you choose, there will be people telling you that you are wrong.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

zen-mind-beginners-mindZen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

by Shunryu Suzuki

A mental workout is often required when studying Buddhism, Taoism, and other easten philosphy. The teachings are so simple, they can be difficult to understand.

This collection of teachings is no different. But anything that requires the reader to think deeply about simple things is a good read. The book refers mostly to zazen, but basically covers all aspects of life through meditative practice.

The purpose of the teachings are to develop “beginner’s mind.”

  • Always be a beginner.
  • You can’t control what’s around you until you’re in control of yourself.
  • There is no good or bad only to-do and not-to-do.
  • The worst way to control something is to try to control it, or ignore it. The best way to achieve control is to give it freedom, and observe it.
  • As long as you have rules you have a chance for freedom.
  • When times are hard, meditate. If you only meditate when times are easy, you’ve missed out. Meditation is the place where you can accept your situation. Only then can you deal with it effectively.
  • Idealism can lead to despair. The idealist sees the world as they’d like it to be, then despairs because there is no bridge long enough to cross the gap between what is and their ideal.
  • Spirituality is not about idealism, it is about practice.
  • Practice is your food, encouragement is your medicine. Do not let medicine become your food.
  • Having an open mind is to have the joy of life
  • Wisdom is not something that is learned outside yourself, it is a result of mindfulness.
  • Attainment of some skill or state of being is not the goal. Practice is enough.

The Artist’s Way

artists-way-coverThe Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity

by Julia Cameron

Almost every artist I know seems to have heard of this book. None of them, as far I know, have finished it. It’s not meant to be read cover to cover (I did it anyway)… The end of each chapter is more of a workbook with exercises. Activities later, I read it all first.

I’m glad I did. For all those that start and never finish, it’s a shame to miss out on the wisdom from the later chapters.

Reading this book requires an open mind. There are concepts, language, and activities I can almost guarantee don’t fit in with how you think about the way you — or the universe — works. That’s part of the value in this book: it stretches you past what you know. Even if you don’t believe any of it, it’s worth it for the mental exercise.

  • Exercise your ability to silence your inner critic.
  • The well of creativity must be replenished often. It may be drained when things are going well. Perhaps because things are going well.
  • It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time.
  • Do not let your self-doubt turn into self-sabotage.
  • Avoid crazy makers at all costs.
  • Doubts can sabotage you unless you explore them fully.
  • Skepticism is the enemy of creativity.
  • The key to healing is awareness of the present moment.
  • Anger is not the enemy, is to be listened to and learned from. It is a compass that points us in the direction we must go.
  • The antidote for criticism is self-love and self-praise.
  • Rather than convincing ourselves that criticism doesn’t matter or doesn’t hurt, we should admit that it does; but also tell ourselves that we can heal from it.
  • In order to have self-expression you must have a self to express. To work on your art, work on your life.
  • Before you let go you need to know what you’re holding onto.
  • The speed at which you’re traveling down your path is only apparent based on how hard you hit an obstacle.
  • Reduce inflow to a minimum and be rewarded with increased outflow.
  • Perfectionism is not actually about doing your best. It’s about telling yourself that nothing you do will ever be good enough.
  • Jealousy is just a mask for something you want but are afraid you can’t have.
  • Turn loss into opportunity, pain into energy.
  • When fantasizing about pursuing our art work full-time, we often fail to pursue it part-time… or at all.
  • Artists often prefer anxiety over disciplined action towards their goal. But drama belongs in your art, not in your actions.
  • Big questions will not yield small answers.
  • Big changes occur in tiny increments.
  • Being blocked is not the same as being lazy. Thinking you’re lazy makes you more blocked. Being blocked is about fear, and the cure for fear is love.
  • The prospect of being happy as an artist is threatening to those who are used to getting what they want by being unhappy.
  • Trying to be productive may get in the way of being creative.
  • The most important thing artist can have is a friend that believes in them.

Think Like a Freak

think-like-a-freakThink Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain

by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

If you haven’t read Freakonomics or SuperFreakonomics, you absolutely should. Right now. They’re some of my favorite books because they illustrate a counter-intuitive way to look at the world and data to learn things that would be difficult to find anywhere else.

This book, instead, attempts to illustrate the principles required to solve problems and think in the Freakonomics style. And there are more great stories included to illustrate the points. Lots of valuable ideas from how to decide whether to quit something, or how to pursuade someone that doesn’t want to be persuaded.

  • The more complex the problem, the harder it is to get feedback.
  • Discover a new set of solutions by redefining the problem.
  • How people say they behave and what they actually do are rarely the same.
  • If you resort to name calling to your opposition, your objective was never really persuade them but to prove your superiority.
  • Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion.
  • Use a pre-mortem to discuss challenges and what might go wrong for any given project.
  • You can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you’re not willing to let go of today’s.

I particularly enjoyed the section persuasion. Highly recommended for people who are interested in effecting social change.

The Slight Edge

The Slight Edge

slight-edgeThe Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness

by Jeff Olson

The lessons of this book are simple. But applying them is not easy. If they were, there would be more successful people.

The slight edge is the ability to take focused actions over time to acheive big results.

Just like practicing piano every day. Put in an hour a day and you’ll get a little better at first. But continue that daily for 10 years and you’ll be world class.

My takeaways here may be a little repetitive. The book itself said the same message over and over in different ways. It’s not, however, a sign of new ideas to tell. Only that the main idea is incredibly important.

  • When faced with failure, most people will work hard to get out of that state. But once they are able to survive, they stop those actions and slowly descend toward failure again.
  • If you can survive, you can succeed. You already know how to get there.
  • You can’t control how you feel, but you can control what you do.
  • Key to success: Double your rate of failure.
  • For financial success, create a discipline of saving and investing intelligently.
  • The result of tiny choices over time compound into big consequences. For better or worse.
  • Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.
  • Success comes from disciplined repetition of mundane, simple things.
  • The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is the application of knowledge everyone already has.
  • Simple actions that compound over time are easy not to do because there’s no immediate consequence or benefit. But there will be one eventually.
  • Undramatic actions over time create dramatic results.
  • Just because you can’t see results yet doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t working.
  • What you do now does matter.
  • Stop looking for a miracle. Be the miracle.
  • Happiness creates success. Not the other way around.
  • Daily habits to create happiness: write something you’re grateful for, journal about positive events, meditate, acts of kindness, exercise.
  • Adding 1% improvment per day means tripling your results after a year.
  • Whether you know it or not, the slight edge is always affecting you.
  • The state of mind of success: responsibility. Of failure: blame.
  • Unsuccessful people tend to dwell on the past. Successful ones, the future.
  • You’re either on the upward path or the downward one. There is no middle.
  • People fail because they become too grown-up to take baby steps.
  • It’s just as easy to go back to a habit of succeeding as it is to one of failing.
  • Apollo rockets were slightly off course more often than they were on. Arriving is about constant course corrections, not getting it right from the start.
  • The plan you start with will not be the plan that gets you to your destination. And it is foolish to try to make it that. Create and execute a plan that gets you started before anything else.
  • The power of a plan is not that it will get you to your destination. The power is that it will get you started.
  • Identify a vision, then make a simple plan with simple daily actions — for every area of your life.
Very powerful concepts. Simple, but not easy.

The Obstacle is the Way

The Obstacle is the Way

obstacle-is-the-way The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

by Ryan Holiday

This is a guide through stoic philosophy without being one. Stoicism isn’t particularly well known. Most know it’s something Roman-related, and calling someone “stoic” means they appear cold an unfeeling.

Stoicism actually is a philosophy about how to live life. It’s like a Roman version of Zen.

This book skips talking about stoicism, and gives a well-structured guide to how to think about life and the obstacles it throws at you. It includes lots of great stories from some people you’ve heard of, some you haven’t, to serve as examples to illustrate each point.

Points that stood out to me:

  • Turn challenges into “I can make this good”
  • Don’t be a slave to your impulses
  • Being able to turn obstacles into opportunities requires self-discipline and logic
  • You don’t have to agree with what your mind tells you
  • Learn to separate the unlikely from the impossible
  • Focusing on what is in your power magnifies your power
  • Half of all fortune 500 companies were started in recessions or during poor economic conditions. Success isn’t about good conditions. It’s about accepting the conditions you have
  • Take action as soon as you can, don’t wait for the perfect opportunity
  • Genius is often persistence in disguise
  • Being trapped is just position, not a fate
  • Channel your energy. Be physically loose and mentally tight
  • Every situation that blocks our path actually presents new path
  • Personal pain can be an advantage. Your words go to people’s hearts if they come from yours
  • Craft spiritual strength through physical exercise
  • Resisting the setbacks in life is as useless as arguing with a traffic light. The only option is to accept and act accordingly
  • All paths lead to death. Might as well choose a path you like
  • Be like fire: whatever it is given it consumes and grows stronger

Turns out philosophy is not some heady game for scholars. It is, in fact, about finding practical solutions to life’s challenges.

Inboxing

Inboxing is a term I coined to refer to the process of clearing out the inbox.

It’s not just about replying and archiving… and it doesn’t just refer to email.

Multiple Inboxes

Yes, I have more than one. An inbox is a file, folder, or pile of inputs that have to be processed.

  • Email – This one is obvious. People send me messages.
  • ToDo List – In my To Do list app, Wunderlist, I an have multiple lists. I created one called “Inbox” and I set it as the default list. So that any todo I create (unless I manually add it to another list) will go into the Inbox list.
  • Evernote – I store all my notes and ideas here. Screenwriting notes, finances, blog ideas, links to articles to read later, and more. I’ve got a default notebook called “.Inbox” (the period is so it shows up first on the notebook list).
  • “The Pile” – Then there’s the physical. Notes I scribble on paper, snail mail, things like that. This lives in a semi-organized pile near my desk.

An inbox has one job: to collect. It’s not where I do work.

For example, I often capture writing notes in evernote on my phone while I’m on the go. I don’t want to deal with it then and there. This allows me to save something important and deal with it later.

With tasks, I can do the same. I’ll be with friends who suggest I contact so-and-so about such-and-such. So I’ll fire up the Wunderlist app, make a todo and save it.

It only lives there until I…

Process It. aka, Inboxing

Now I’ve got all these ideas and notes and emails and papers. What next?

I don’t start working with them yet. Because then I’d still be reacting to the overwhelming mass of notes and communications.

The goal here is to put every input into a place where I can work on it at the appropriate time.

In Evernote I’ll put my blog post ideas into the notebook for blog posts. I’ll take the ideas for my screenplay and put it in that notebook, or copy the info into an existing note.

My todos I’ll move into the apropriate list, or I’ll add an event into my calendar.

Email, I will reply if necessary, or I’ll use Boomerang to move it out of my inbox until it’s relevant. Or I’ll save the info into Evernote if I need to access it later with something else I know I’ll need that’s already in there.

And the pile of papers will get scanned into evernote for reference, recycled, or whatever I need to do with them.

Do It Consistently

This is the kind of thing that should be done on a regular basis. I’ll try to do a little daily, but I’ll be sure to be at Inbox Zero for all inboxes during my Weekly Review.

Put it in your calendar! So that when I actually sit down to write, I don’t need to hunt through my inbox.

I’ve already got that blog idea where I know I can find it in Evernote. So my writing time is just writing.

And other work time is working. Not hunting through emails.

That’s It!

In order for this to work, you’ll need to have other places to store notes, tasks, events, and ideas. But once you do, it’s a great system.

What do you think about my Inboxing system? Tweet me!

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Ignore Everybody

ignore-everybody-hugh-macleodIgnore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

by Hugh MacLeod

Great book about living a fulfilled life, career choices, and art.

Some points that stuck out:

  • Asking whether to choose between art and money is asking the wrong question.
  • Small ideas nurtured over time create big results.
  • Being afraid of selling out is useless when you’re not earning lots of money from your art.
  • Stop using the “Van Gogh’s paintings never sold while he was alive” fact to justify your lack of money or recognition. Van Gogh killed himself. If you stay alive and keep doing great stuff, you will enjoy some reward from your work.
  • Do the work. Keep working. Don’t give up.

This quick read contained a plethora of simple truths that were explained in a new way that made a heck of a lot of sense. Highly recommended for creatives.

Essentialism

516TXpkm6+L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown

Read this book!

Biggest takeaways:

  • Priority is singular. If you have more than one, you don’t have any.
  • Saying no is uncomfortable in the moment, but more space to pursue my priority yields great rewards.
  • If you are firm with your boundaries, people will respect them. And you.

Battle for the Final Chip

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Directed by Michael Lang
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