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Highlights

That in order to “have” you must “do,” and in order to “do” you must “be”—and this process is immediate. Although it takes time for these desires to manifest in our material world, you must see the thing you desire as completed, finished, and real, now. The better you can do this, the more you can accomplish.

Page 20

Intelligence is like following a GPS route right into a body of water until you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, decides not to follow it, then finds a new, better way. Wisdom reigns supreme.

Page 22

Never worry about the competition. When you’re creative, you can, in fact, cheer others on with the full knowledge that their success will undoubtedly be your own.

Page 23

You don’t find the time to do something; you make the time to do things.

Page 26

The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

Page 33

Ignore: The news. Complainers, angry people, high-conflict people. Anyone trying to scare you about a danger that isn’t clear and present.

Page 33

The people who matter most are always in competition for your time with both your work and with other people, and the Deathbed Test can be a good reminder that the only way to dedicate the proper amount of time to your key people is by saying no to a lot of other stuff and a lot of other people.

Page 49

Today when I speak with anyone about anything, I try to hold their perspective with a “light grip”: the knowledge that they, and I, have very incomplete maps of reality.

Page 60

I ask myself “what would be the worst thing” about that outcome not going the way I want? I had started using it out loud with my kids, and recently my eight-year-old daughter started asking it back to me.

Page 61

Meditation has taught me that most of the ideas, opinions, rules, and fixed systems I have in my mind aren’t the real truth. They’re the residues of past experiences that I haven’t let go of.

Page 72

Feeling overwhelmed usually means one of two things: either my blood’s trapped in my head and I need to go exercise, or, more likely, I’ve overcommitted myself and my brain knows there’s no way I can reasonably get done everything I’ve set out to do. Usually the solution is to take a deep breath, look at the calendar, and start canceling things or moving deadlines until the paralysis evaporates.

Page 74

We can’t control the fact that bad things are going to happen, but it’s how we react to them that really matters, and that we can learn to control.

Page 83

The first no is by far the easiest and cleanest. Declining a request is uncomfortable, so it’s tempting to equivocate, say you’ll hear someone out before deciding, or agree to a smaller version of the request, even when you’re confident that you would rather not engage at all. As soon as you open that door, however, you’ve almost always ensured at least one more request that you’ll have to accept or decline in the future and thus haven’t saved yourself the discomfort at all.

Page 83

Over the last couple decades, I’ve noticed that the best, most enduring partnerships in business (and in life) are among people who are constantly growing together. If the person you choose to depend on is constantly striving to learn and improve, you too will push yourself to new levels of achievement, and neither of you will feel like you have settled for someone you eventually outgrow.

Page 93

Note that criticism is not failure. If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything exceptional.

Page 98

We are in an arms race against distractions. Our devices and technology have gotten to know us so well that we now need devices and technology to protect us from them.

Page 98

What’s helped with saying no to others is asking myself first if I’m saying yes out of guilt or fear. If so, then it’s a polite no.

Page 99

Anything healthy that gets you out of your mind and into your body is ultimately good for your mind.

Page 99

I always feel better after making a good list. It’s a lot more satisfying for me to have something written down on paper that I can forcibly cross off when it’s done. It gives me better focus on what I can get done in the short term, and actually feels like a completed task in and of itself.

Page 103

The best skill is to be able to communicate efficiently both in writing and speaking.

Page 110

We may be approaching a time when sugar is responsible for more early deaths in America than cigarette smoking.

Page 111

The moment I start one of these three behaviors—blaming, complaining, or gossiping—I become negative.

Page 124

Creating jars eliminated the necessity of using force, manipulation, or persuasion. Now we don’t waste time on making simple decisions, we just pull the jar out and randomly pick one, and we all love (or accept) the choice.

Page 125

In Japanese, there is a term, “forest bathing,” where you take a walk under the trees and the coolness, the smell, and the silence wash over you.

Page 125

So many athletes have gotten into the mindset that more is better, which sets you up for burnout, injury,

Page 130

Don’t just do the thing that people expect you to do or go for the money. That might work out for a while, but you will harbor some serious resentment as you get into your 40s if you do that.

Page 134

Earplugs for sleeping. I’ve tried them all. Hearos Xtreme Protection NRR 33 work best and are the most comfortable. If you really want to go to extremes to also control light, Lonfrote Deep Molded Sleep Mask is the best for airplanes or anywhere else.

Page 145

Good judgment is what allows you to evaluate whether a recommendation is appropriate to your situation or not; without it, you can’t tell the difference between good and bad advice.

Page 165

Now, I so eagerly look forward to leaving my home each day, wondering what magic I’ll create encountering others, that I can scarcely contain myself.

Page 188

But I eventually reframed meditation as a way to relinquish control of my conscious mind so that my more powerful unconscious mind could take over, and my analysis of the world would improve.

Page 189

Beyond a certain minimum amount, additional information only feeds—leaving aside the considerable cost of and delay occasioned in acquiring it—what psychologists call “confirmation bias.”

Page 191

When I am feeling unfocused, the first question I ask myself is, “Am I rehearsing my best self?” And if the answer is no, I ask myself how can I reset. Each day presents us with 86,400 seconds, which means each day presents us with virtually countless opportunities to reset, recover our balance, and continue rehearsing our best selves.

Page 192

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”—Betty Reese

Page 204

“Knowledge is the beginning of practice; doing is the completion of knowing.”—Wang Yangming

Page 205

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”—Peter Drucker

Page 205

“Our fears are always more numerous than our dangers.”—Seneca the Younger

Page 206

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”—John Gall

Page 206

“Whenever there is a hard job to be done, I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.”—Walter Chrysler

Page 206

I started working out twice a week versus three times. Small change, but something great happens when you work out less: you realize that you have to eat better, sleep better, and live better on your off days. Working out more frequently can cover up bad habits, but when you work out less frequently, everything else matters more. That really helps me make better decisions about how I take care of my health.

Page 207

Just like you walk through the air and you swim through the water, you work through your attention. It’s the medium of work.

Page 208

Everybody’s impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I’m not worried about my years, because I’m squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days. It’s going to work out.

Page 216

I pretend that my family has died in a horrific accident. Honestly, that’s what I do. It’s probably weirder than a lot of people’s answers in this book, but it’s absolutely what drives me. I go to a very dark place, really feel it, feel that pain in my heart, and then realize no matter what I’m dealing with right now, that it’s not even in the same universe of something like that. Then I become grateful for losing that client, missing that opportunity, getting made fun of, etc.

Page 218

Forethought is a virtue; remember that one day, that distant future will be now, and the choices you make today will have shaped the choices you are able to make then.

Page 222

The secret to building a better future is to use technology to do things that were previously impossible. That was true in the first industrial revolution, and it is true now. It isn’t technology that eliminates jobs, it is the shortsighted business decisions that use technology simply to cut costs and fatten corporate profits. The point of technology isn’t to make money. It’s to solve problems!

Page 223

Most see excellence as some grand aspiration. Wrong. Dead wrong. My two cents: Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of, yes, your next email. Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock!

Page 228

Whenever I am trying to decide whether to accept an invitation, I just pretend it is going to happen tomorrow morning. It is easy to say yes to something happening six months from now, but it has to be super fantastic to get me to go tomorrow morning.

Page 249

The second is a quote from a very special man, Christopher Carmichael, “You are 99 years old, you are on your deathbed, and you have a chance to come back to right now: what would you do?” I have used this one many times when faced with difficult questions.

Page 259

If you are studying business/PR/marketing, then drop out today. The world is already full of marketers and businessmen.

Page 261

I never forgot that my failure was not convincing them that short-term thinking is not good in a marathon.

Page 281

“The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it.” Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.

Page 281

I make loads of mistakes daily. But mistakes can be identified and corrected (or at least addressed) in the moment. A failure is a collection of small mistakes that haven’t been identified or corrected along the way.

Page 290

While it can feel embarrassing and uncomfortable to apologize, it’s a sign of maturity and good character.

Page 291

Every industry on our planet is going to become an information business. Consider agriculture. If you ask a farmer in 20 years’ time about how they compete, it will depend on how they use information, from satellite imagery driving robotic field optimization to the code in their seeds. It will have nothing to do with workmanship or labor. That will eventually percolate through every industry as IT innervates the economy.

Page 295

When we look back 2,000 years, we can see how much we have changed as culture matures. It’s much more difficult to identify something that we do in our current lives and the mainstream considers moral, but our future selves will consider immoral.

Page 295

As crushing as those first meetings seemed, they were exactly the motivation I needed to set myself up for the right opportunity.

Page 298

These days, I say no to most big group dinners. I prefer situations where one conversation happens at a time.

Page 303

I just thought, “I’m going to get better, and this is what I have to do to get better. These are my weaknesses; let me correct my weaknesses.”

Page 314

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Page 335

The Dhammapada, containing the sayings of the Buddha. It teaches the importance of inner exploration if we are to see beyond the programmed prejudices and limitations of the egoic mind.

Page 342

I get paid to read and comment on the news for a living, and I still wake up every morning completely overwhelmed by all that’s going on. I can feel my blood pressure go up as I try to figure out what to focus on first. The way I manage it is to remember that the world will go on if I don’t read everything. Newspapers will publish again the next day. I will always be better off consuming a smaller amount of high-quality information than trying to consume it all. I think that lesson can apply to a lot of things. For instance, you’re better off spending quality time with one friend on a given night than trying to run around and see everyone.

Page 355

For every stage in life, you discover books that speak to you, that help you change, to become the version of yourself that you need to be.

Page 363

“Take it easy, ya azizi.” Azizi means “my dear” in Arabic. Do your best, trust your abilities, and if it does not happen, then “Take it easy, ya azizi.”

Page 363

“I wake up each day with the firm conviction that I am nowhere near my full potential. ‘Greatness’ is a verb.”

Page 370

Greatness is not a final destination, but a series of small acts done daily in order to constantly rejuvenate and refresh our skills in a daily effort to become a better version of ourselves.

Page 370

There are many organizations that fret over small, direct expenses, yet have no misgivings about keeping superfluous staff tied up in a conference room for hours.

Page 374

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

Page 375

It’s an assumption because it happens automatically if you follow the standard path: Spend 85 percent or more of your income and borrow freely if you ever want something that you don’t yet have the money for.

Page 378

“If you can’t laugh at it, you lose.”

Page 386

The sooner you can laugh at yourself, the sooner you will really be living life, truly.

Page 387

If you think you are just wasting time in general, even though you may not know it, your mind and body are solving problems you can’t face head on. So it’s okay to take a walk, get lost in a bookshop, watch a movie, or go for a swim (just don’t get lost on your phone).

Page 400

I have observed that people want the magic new thing more than they want improved management to fix problems.

Page 417

“Calendar architecture” is designing and implementing a repeatable schedule every day. As an introvert, this requires a lot of alone time, and everyone around me protects this in my day.

Page 430

I am typically someone who wants to help others, and in my business there is always one more fundraiser or cause to support. But over time, those commitments cannibalize my creative time and keep me from reaching my personal goals.

Page 434

I stop everything and take a long walk alone. Long contemplative hikes, where I get ample time to daydream and think—with no opportunity to sprint to my desk and obsess over minute work obligations—allow solutions to bubble to the top of my mind.

Page 435

“Deep work” for me means no interruptions or jumping around casually between tasks. Deep work is the three-plus-hour focus-on-one-problem stuff that I find especially hard to do in the constantly connected era we live in . . . hence the rewards and incentives I reserve for such work.

Page 461

The greatest lessons you learn in the beginning of a career are about people—how to work with people, be managed by people, manage expectations with people, and lead other people.

Page 461

“You can do so much in ten minutes’ time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good. Divide your life into ten-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.” –Ingvar Kamprad Swedish business magnate, founder of IKEA

Page 463

We all should reassess what we think and believe constantly—in politics, in life, and in our thinking. Otherwise, we get too rigid.

Page 465

Most likely, the problem won’t be around in a year, but my reputation of how I dealt with it will.

Page 483

So know that when you get expert advice, it’s often people telling you about their journey, and every journey is different. This doesn’t mean to not listen to the wisdom of others, but to really try it on for size and ask yourself, “Does this fit me mentally and physically?”

Page 491

Basically, everything in your life gets better if you find time to exercise regularly.

Page 497

Someone once told me, “If you only engage with people about problems, pretty soon, you’ll become the problem for them,” and I agree with that. I now try to make space and time for saying, “This is what’s going really well . . .” whereas, when I first managed people, the approach was more, “What do we need to fix today?”

Page 499

“No one is qualified to tell you how you experience the world.”

Page 502

After I give up, and decide that I’m not going to do any of the things I previously decided to do, I almost always immediately am relieved of depression. Sometimes this is all I need to start working on the things I previously decided to do.

Page 504

“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” –Seneca

Page 513

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”—Bertrand Russell

Page 515

Always be a student and always be a teacher.

Page 517

I can choose to be a victim to my circumstances, or I can choose to stand responsible for how I handle my circumstances. The latter approach is a powerful place to come from, while being a victim is a helpless place to come from and is rarely productive.

Page 534

In order to get the job you love or start the company you want, you have to build your résumé, your reputation, and your bank account.

Page 538

“Never let a good crisis go to waste. It’s the universe challenging you to learn something new and rise to the next level of your potential.”

Page 546

Indeed, Huxley’s genius consists in showing that you could control people far more securely through love and pleasure than through violence and fear.

Page 555

Nobody really knows what the world and the job market will look like in 2040, hence nobody knows what to teach young people today. Consequently, it is likely that most of what you currently learn at school will be irrelevant by the time you are 40. So what should you focus on? My best advice is to focus on personal resilience and emotional intelligence.

Page 557

Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. In the first part of life you built a stable identity and acquired personal and professional skills; in the second part of life you relied on your identity and skills to navigate the world, earn a living, and contribute to society. By 2040, this traditional model will become obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves again and again.

Page 557

The current educational model, devised during the 19th century Industrial Revolution, is bankrupt.

Page 557

We are not living in the era of hacking computers—we are living in the era of hacking humans.

Page 558

“When I was a young player in Italy, nine or ten years old,” he said, “my coach gave me a rule: I could make mistakes, but I couldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Page 561

Excellence is the next five minutes, improvement is the next five minutes, happiness is the next five minutes.

Page 561

Broadly speaking, as good as it feels to have a plan, it’s even more freeing to realize that nearly no misstep can destroy you. This gives you the courage to improvise and experiment. As Patton Oswalt put it, “My favorite failure is every time I ever ate it onstage as a comedian. Because I woke up the next day and the world hadn’t ended.”

Page 561

To learn from the best, you don’t need to meet them, you just need to absorb them.

Page 561

Feeding your mind is how you become your own best coach.

Page 561

Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

Page 561

Books I’ve read.

Johannes Holmberg

Tiny summaries on books I’ve read. Sorted by latest read. But you can also sort on top recommendations. Highlights and covers are copyright to their respective authors.