Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization

Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization

Recently on reddit, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, did an ask me anything.
One of the questions caught my attention:
… of all your father’s philosophies, which do you feel we can all learn from? I am a huge fan of your father’s cinema, martial art form and of course his writings.
Shannon Lee’s response was pretty amazing.
I feel we can learn from his philosophy on self-actualization. I believe we are all still talking about him because he was so good at cultivating and expressing his true essence. If we all did that, we would all be cultivating our uniqueness and we would all put something original and truly authentic into the world because it would emanate from deep within ourselves which [is] a place that no one else can inhabit but ourselves!
So I went digging to read some of Lee’s thoughts on this.
In Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, he writes:
… if you are cursed with perfectionism, then you’re absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal, and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castrating. It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.” It never works.
Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live for their image.
Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are so busy projecting themselves as this or that. This again is the curse of the ideal. The curse is that you should not be what you are. Every external control, even internalized external control—”you should”—interferes with the healthy working of the organism. There is only one thing that should control the situation. If you understand the situation that you are in, and let the situation that you are in control your actions, then you learn how to cope with life.
The less confident we are in ourselves, the less we are in touch with ourselves and the world, the more we want to control.
In Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living, he expands on the difference between fulfillment and appearances using similar language.
Most people only live for their image, that is why some have a void, because they are so busy projecting themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualize a concept of what they should be like rather than to actualize their ever-growing potentiality as a human being. Wasting, dissipating all their energy in projection and conjuring up of facade, rather than centering their energy on expanding and broadening their potential or expressing and relaying this unified energy for efficient communication, etc.
(image source)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance

Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance

Charlie Munger Avoid Stupidity
Simon Ramo, a scientist and statistician, wrote a fascinating little book that few people have bothered to read: Extraordinary Tennis Ordinary Players.
The book isn’t fascinating because I love tennis. I don’t. In the book Ramo identifies the crucial difference between a Winner’s Game and a Loser’s Game.
Ramo believed that tennis could be subdivided into two games: the professionals and the rest of us.
Players in both games play by the same rules and scoring. They play on the same court. Sometimes they share the same equipment. In short the basic elements of the game are the same. Sometimes amateurs believe they are professionals but professionals never believe they are amateurs. But the games are fundamentally different, which is Ramo’s key insight.
Professionals win points whereas amateurs lose them. Think about professional games. Each player, nearly equal in skill, plays a nearly perfect game rallying back and forth until one player hits the ball just beyond the reach of his opponent. This is about positioning, control, spin. It’s a game of inches and sometimes centimeters.
In his 1975 essay, The Loser’s Game, Charles Ellis calls professional tennis a “Winner’s Game.” While there is some degree of skill and luck involved, the game is generally determined by the actions of the winner.
Amateur tennis is an entirely different game. Not in how it is played but in how it’s won. Long and powerful rallies are generally a thing of the past. Mistakes are frequent. Balls are constantly hit into nets or out of bounds. Double faults are nearly as common as faults.
The amateur duffer seldom beats his opponent, but he beats himself all the time. The victor in this game of tennis gets a higher score than the opponent, but he gets that higher score because his opponent is losing even more points.
Two Games
Ramo found this out because he gave up trying to keep track of conventional scores — “Love,” “Fifteen All,” etc. Instead he simply looked at points won versus points lost.
In expert tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are won; in amateur tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are lost. In other words, professional tennis is a Winner’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the winner – and amateur tennis is a Loser’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the loser. The two games are, in their fundamental characteristic, not at all the same. They are opposites.
After discovering that there are, in effect, two different games and realizing that a generic strategy will not work for both games he devised a clever strategy by which ordinary players can win by losing less and letting the opponent defeat themselves.
… if you choose to win at tennis – as opposed to having a good time – the strategy for winning is to avoid mistakes. The way to avoid mistakes is to be conservative and keep the ball in play, letting the other fellow have plenty of room in which to blunder his way to defeat, because he, being an amateur will play a losing game and not know it.
An Investor Bets on Someone Else’s Game
This brings to memory something about Warren Buffett and Ben Graham. Buffett used to convene a group of people called the “Buffett Group.” At one such meeting Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett’s mentor and teacher, gave them all a quiz. I spent hours searching for this reference, which comes from Benjamin Graham on Value Investing: Lessons from the Dean of Wall Street.
“He gave us a quiz,” Buffett said, “A true-false quiz. And there were all these guys who were very smart. He told us ahead of time that half were true and half were false. There were 20 questions. Most of us got less than 10 right. If we’d marked every one true or every one false, we would have gotten 10 right.”
Graham made up the deceptively simple historical puzzler himself, Buffett explained. “It was to illustrate a point, that the smart fellow kind of rigs the game. It was 1968, when all this phony accounting was going on. You’d think you could profit from it by riding along on the coattails, but (the quiz) was to illustrate that if you tried to play the other guy’s game, it was not easy to do.
“Roy Tolles got the highest score, I remember that,” Buffett chuckled. “We had a great time. We decided to keep doing it.”
Avoid Stupidity
The point, if I have one, is that most of us are amateurs but we refuse to believe it.
This is a problem because we’re often playing the game of the professionals. What we should do in this case, when we’re the amateur, is play not to lose.
This was a point Charlie Munger, the billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett, made a long time ago.
In a letter to Wesco Shareholders, where he was at the time Chairman (and found in the excellent Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger), Munger writes:
“Wesco continues to try more to profit from always remembering the obvious than from grasping the esoteric. … It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. There must be some wisdom in the folk saying, `It’s the strong swimmers who drown.'”
And there is so much wisdom embedded in that quote that I’ve attached it to my wall.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Surprising Books That Billionaires, Chess Prodigies, Performance Coaches, and Bestselling Authors Recommend

The Surprising Books That Billionaires, Chess Prodigies, Performance Coaches, and Bestselling Authors Recommend

One question Tim Ferriss asks people on his mind-blowing podcast is “What book have you gifted most often to others, and why?” This is one of my favorite parts of the show.
Below are some of the answers from people like Tony Robbins that might catch your attention. Thanks to this list, I just got a lot of my Christmas shopping done.
Before we get to that though, let’s recap the books that Tim has recommended.
Ok, now it is time for Tim’s podcasts guests to take over. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye. While I’ve read a lot of these, there were some very interesting new finds. I ended up ordering several books.
Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of WIRED magazine, recommends:
Tony Robbins, performance coach to Bill Clinton, Serena Williams, Paul Tudor Jones, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah Winfrey, and a bunch of other people you’ve heard of, recommends:
Neil Strauss has written 7 New York Times bestsellers, including The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. He offers:
Ryan Holiday is an author and the media strategist behind authors Tucker Max and Robert Greene. Ryan mentioned Farnam Street in his podcast with Tim and might be the only person I know who consistently reads more than I do. He recommends:
Ramit Sethi is a personal finance advisor and entrepreneur. Sethi is the author of the 2009 book on personal finance, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a New York Times Bestseller. He recommends:
Still not satisfied? See what Elon MuskPeter Thiel, and Bill Gates recommend.

Over to you

Comments are on. Let me know what book you give away most often? For me it’s Peter Bevelin’s Seeking Wisdom and Robin Dreeke’s It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone.

Media Consumption in 2014

Media Consumption in 2014

“Few things are as important to your quality of life as your choices about
how to spend the precious resource of your free time.”
— W. Gallagher in Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life
“[W]e’re surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us
that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all.”
— Nicolas Carr
Take a look at the media you’re consuming. There is so much noise. And no matter how many times I click, open a new tab, or check my email the pile of “interesting” information doesn’t seem to shrink.
I’m working harder and harder but not moving ahead. People can create clickbait faster than I can consume it.
As we approach 2014, I’ve been giving my media consumption some thinking. Maybe I’ve been trying to do too much. How many open tabs can one person honestly read, connect, consolidate, and retain anyway? And how many of those tabs are noise?
We tend to just add things and never take things away. There are always more people to follow on Twitter. More people to ‘friend’ on Facebook. More periodicals to read. More blogs to subscribe to. More news to watch. More … more … more …
But what are we so worried about?
Are we really going to miss a major news event? No. Unless we pack up and move to the mountains major news will find us. So is it that we’re worried about not finding out in real-time? Who cares if you find out in the first minute that Nelson Mandela has died. What matters is that he’s gone. Whether it takes you 30 seconds to find out or a day, the loss is the same.
But we need to know. And, more than ever, we need to know in real time. It’s like we’re in a race with our friends to see who of us can find out news first and share it in our circle first.
Well, that’s a race I don’t want to win.
It’s not just news. It’s the rebirth of Yellow Journalism, where everyone wants to stir emotion more than inform. Everyone wants your eyes and, more importantly, your clicks. Traffic matters. And every day the competition for our attention starts all over again. It’s toxic to us.
But is any of that making us smarter, furthering our relationships, or giving us real pleasure? I don’t think so.
The more we consume, that is the more noise we let in, the harder it becomes to find signal. And if we are what we consume, I want to make sure my brain is not getting the (mental) equivalent of too much sugar.
So my plan for 2014 is to clean my mind a bit by consuming less internet and more books. In addition to that, I want to reflect more about what I don’t want to consume. More is not better.
What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.
Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,  and a need to allocate that attention
efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
— Herbert Simon


In July 2013 I stopped reading newspapers. News is toxic to the mind.
“To be completely cured of newspapers,
spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.”
— Nassim Taleb in Bed of Procrustes
Why? The ratio of signal to noise in papers is too low. We end up misinterpreting noise for signal.
We’re all worried about missing out but if something important is going on, trust me it will find its way to you.


A friend of mine, who reads as much if not more than I do, has a simple rule for periodicals: Either it gets read by the end of the following day or it get chucked. This keeps them from building up.
The added bonus is that if you find yourself throwing away the same thing too often, you know exactly what to unsubscribe to.

Social Media

On Twitter, for example, I follow only the number of people I can really get through in 10 minutes of looking at everyone’s tweets. For me this is about 160-170 people.
So my rule is that If I’m at 160 and I want to add someone that means I have to remove someone. It isn’t so much that 160 is a hard limit but rather that this rule acts as a trigger to make me consider adding someone.
Within that 160, I try to also ensure that I have a lot of different politics and ideologies. Occasionally I’ll rotate people in and out to shake up my thinking.
I don’t have a Facebook account, only a fanpage. Given the management overhead associated with that page and the low traffic flow through as a result of the business model changes at Facebook, I’m even considering getting rid of that.
It seems old school but if I want to know what my friends are up to, I’ll ask them.
In short, follow only those who consistently deliver value to you. Be ruthless.


Just cut the cord. Put the time you were spending watching TV into reading and building your relationships.


If your inbox is like mine it’s probably full of junk. I’ve been doing something about that recently.
All those emails that companies send you that you never asked for. I’m unsubscribing or marking them as spam. That only makes a small, yet meaningful dent.
And most importantly, I’m cutting back on the number of emails I send. Why? Because the more emails I send the more emails I get. Another tip I follow is to only check it certain times of day.


I know phones are not really media but I can’t help myself.
Much to my mother’s dismay, my home phone is set up to almost always go right to voicemail. She can call my cell if it’s an emergency but she never does. (Love you mom.)
I have a cell phone. But I use it differently than most people.
First, only a few people have my cell number. I don’t spend my day texting, sexting, or snapchatting.
Second, I use my cell primarily as a productivity enhancement: to send emails or read.
What about the apps?
When the app for linkedin started going crazy with alerts, I deleted it. Too much noise.


This goes for me too.
Commenting on this post a friend of mine said “Aren’t you worried about people unsubscribing from Farnam Street?”
I’m not.
Your attention is valuable. I know this and I work hard to earn it.
If I’m not adding value to your life on a consistent basis, you should unsubscribe. Although the paradox is that if you unsubscribe you’ve just proven that I am adding value.