My Favorite Reads for 2015

Ryan Stephens
Jan 18, 2016 · 67 min read
Photo Credit: Michael_D_Beckwith

Every month, I try and capture a handful of the best and most interesting posts I read online and highlight them on my blog at Ryan Stephens Marketing.

Below, I have curated 130+ of my favorite reads from 2015. (Only slightly more than last year’s list of 125 favorite reads).

Why so many? Because these posts made me stop and think this year. Having this list enables me to review key insights and mental models that will help shape my thinking, my work and my life in 2016 and beyond.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.”

— Charlie Munger (Billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett and the Vice Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway)

This post is over 17,000 words and would take you about an hour to read. I don’t expect you to read it all today, but I hope you’ll use it as a resource and refer back to it occasionally. As a result, I’ve done by best to categorize each article and post by a broad topic (busyness, happiness, leadership, learning, perseverance, productivity, success, work, etc.) so that you can tap into whichever topic interests you in the moment.

The commentary below each link is typically the author’s own words that I’ve extracted as a key takeaway; however, sometimes I add my own commentary and make connections as well.

Enjoy. And best of luck in 2016!

Top Post of the Year:

As I read, I was moved to laugh, to cry, and to think about both death and friendship in entirely new ways. I encourage you to read it. And then I encourage you to share it with someone.

“His wife was just thirty-four. They had two little girls. The cancer was everywhere, and the parts of dying that nobody talks about were about to start. His best friend came to help out for a couple weeks. And he never left.”

Read: The Friend.

Advice:

Tony Robbins: The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been GivenProduct Hunt

The secret to life is to find a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing. If you want to be extraordinary as a friend or business person, as a father or a lover, find a way to add more value — especially to those you love the most. I’m obsessed by this focus, and I really believe it’s the secret to not only wealth, but real lasting happiness. In my soul I believe the secret to living is giving.

2.) Proximity is power.

3.) On Success:

Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.

I also enjoyed the exercises he leverages to focus on introspection as it relates to goals and gratitude. Click the link above to read the full interview. Should take you about 10 minutes.

Art:

What is Your Art? — Seth Godin

The most difficult part might be in choosing whether you want to make art at all, and committing to what it requires of you.

Brainstorming:

Brainstorming Does Not WorkKevin Ashton

Busyness:

25 Ways to Stop Feeling Overworked and Overwhelmed — Marc & Angel

Get over feeling like everything is so important. It isn’t. Stop overworking yourself. Don’t exaggerate the importance of things. Learn to say no to others so you can say yes to yourself. Identify what’s most important to you. Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed — Shane Parrish

In short, thinking is everything the modern workplace is designed to eradicate. We’re expected to have an opinion about everything and yet our time to think is near zero. We hold more opinions than ever but have less understanding.

Fast eats time. One consequence of fast is that we make poor decision after poor decision. Those decisions don’t go away never to be seen again. It’s not like we make a bad decision and we’re done with it. No, the consequences are much worse. Poor decisions eat time. They come back to haunt you. They create issue after issue.

Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family — Claire Cain Miller

“This is not an individual problem, it is a social problem,” said Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist and the founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California, San Diego. She said policies like paid family leave and after-school child care would significantly ease parents’ stress.

Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children. Fifty-nine percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same. Of parents with college degrees, 65 percent said they found it difficult to balance job and family.

Life is about choices, I suppose.

Addicted to Distraction — Tony Schwartz

Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.

The solution? As often as possible, I try to ask myself, “Is this really what I want to be doing?” If the answer is no, the next question is, “What could I be doing that would feel more productive, or satisfying, or relaxing?”

If we didn’t spend so much of our work time on needless distractions, maybe we’d have more time for our families.

What’s the solution? Deep work.

This Company Eliminated E-mail and Nothing Bad Happened — Cal Newport

A lot of the busyness afflicting the burnt out knowledge working class isn’t actually producing much value. For more research on the pitfalls of e-mail and meetings on productivity, including a quote from Cal, check out my newsletter on the perils of work/life balance.

There’s Enough Time in Your Life for Everything Important — Ariana Huffington

Our culture is obsessed with time. It is our personal deficit crisis. We always think we’re saving time, and yet we feel like we never have enough of it. In order to manage time — or what we delude ourselves into thinking of as managing time — we rigidly schedule ourselves, rushing from meeting to meeting, event to event, constantly trying to save a bit of time here, a bit there.

According to a 2008 Pew report, when asked what was important to them, 68 percent of Americans replied “having free time.” It ranked even higher than having children and a successful career. Yet the way many of us choose to live doesn’t reflect those priorities.

As long as success is defined by who works the longest hours, who goes the longest without a vacation, who sleeps the least, who responds to an email at midnight or five in the morning — in essence, who is suffering from the biggest time famine — we’re never going to be able to enjoy the benefits of time affluence.

How to Not Do It All — Leo Babauta

  • Curate your days. Put only the best things in each day — don’t just let any junk into it. Would you pay $20 to read the things on your reading list for an hour?
  • Be OK with imperfection. Even if you filter and curate, you’ll never create the “perfect” day or the “perfect” life. We can either accept that, or be dissatisfied.
  • Be ruthless. You need to filter out the things trying to overwhelm your life. Say “no” to most requests.

Generation Overstimulation? Generation Y’s Addiction to Being Busy — Inga Ting

Young people are aware that being busy has negative effects, the research shows. More than 80 per cent of 18 to 29-year olds say their physical health suffers from being too busy; 77 per cent say their social and personal time suffers; while 76 per cent say their emotional or mental state suffers, according to the Future Leader Index.

Notably, young people put work well ahead of their physical and mental health, social lives and personal time, the report found. Only 28 per cent of young people say their work suffers, despite work emerging as the third-most common source of stress, according to the research.

The Man in the Van — Eli Saslow

We’re all overworked and overwhelmed. We’re all in search of lost time. The busy bragging epidemic is completely out of control. And people are pushing back. Even people major league baseball players with millions of dollars. Have you examined why you’re so busy?

Career:

The most important piece of advice for folks starting their careers — @jason

There is always more knowledge to acquire, new skills to be mastered, yet most folks hoard their talents. This is a mistake. Give away everything you’ve learned, and take credit for doing so.

Don’t get involved with politics or be negative. The people who are killed, the deer, tend to huddle around the kitchen or go on cigarette breaks and bitch and complain about everyone and everything at the company. The tigers are too busy killing it to be bothered with such things.

Also read about how top performers take on projects, embrace chaos and define reality. Do this whether you’re at a start up or a big company. This stuff will separate you from the pack.

The Fruitless Search for Extraordinary People Willing to Take Ordinary Jobs — Seth Godin

And most of all, it’s unreasonable to think you’ll find great people if you’re spending the minimum amount of time (and money) necessary to find people who are merely good enough.

Building an extraordinary organization takes guts. The guts to trust the team, to treat them with respect and to go to ridiculous lengths to find, keep and nurture people who care enough to make a difference.

80,000 Hours Career Guide

  1. What should you look for in a job?
  2. How can you build a good career?
  3. What career paths are most promising?
  4. How you should make your next decision?

I also love that they echo, Cal Newport’s advice not to follow your passion. The chances are that following your passion will end in failure. And this advice ignores decades of psychological research, which shows that you’ll develop passion by getting good at something meaningful.

Millennials in the WorkplaceBen Casnocha

Toby Murdock, CEO of Kapost, a Boulder, Colo. marketing-software firm, said he has adopted that mind-set. “It is a very fluid marketplace for young people,” said Mr. Murdock, 41. “Let’s be honest about that instead of trying to deny it.”

He wants young workers to consider his company a career accelerator, rather than a parking lot. That attitude has given Kapost a reputation as a career launchpad, Mr. Murdock said, and helps the company attract a stream of ambitious young candidates.

Bosses Just Don’t Get MillennialsBrigid Schulte

Most baby boomers in leadership positions have their spouse at home, but in 80% of millennial relationships, both members work full time. That’s created an empathy gap between older workers who have someone else to take care of the home front and millennials struggling to do it all. Most boomers also equate a butt in a seat to getting work done and do not understand the value telecommuting.

Collaboration:

Don’t be “Nice.” Be Instrumental — Heidi Grant Halvorson

Everyone’s mental and emotional resources are limited. It may be arrogant, but it’s also fundamentally practical. You have to be worth taking time and energy for, and they have no reason to believe you are unless you give them one. That does not mean that you should walk up to a powerful person and just start listing your good qualities. They don’t care about those, either. It’s the goals that matter. What are their goals, do they align with yours, and how can you be instrumental in reaching them?

Communication:

How to Be Someone People Love To Talk To — Eric Barker

As with all of Eric’s content, this is a well-written piece, backed by research and expert interviews, highlighting things like how to make a good first impression, how to be a great listener, the best subjects to discuss, how to prevent awkward silences and more.

In short: stop trying to impress people or “win” the conversation. It’s really much simpler than that. Just listen intently and make people feel good about themselves.

Customer Service:

What is Customer Service For? — Seth Godin

Seth highlights 10 uses for customer service (ranging from extraordinary to downright pitiful) and in the process highlights companies like Zappos, Rackspace, Apple, and 37 Signals.

If you have anything to do with your organization’s customer service (and you do), I recommend reading this piece.

Decision-Making:

3 Timeless Rules for Making Tough Decisions — Peter Bregman

  • Use habits as a way to reduce routine decision fatigue (i.e. always eat a salad for lunch). This works well for predictable decisions.
  • Use if/then thinking to routinize unpredictable choices (i.e. if this person interrupts me twice, I’ll say something).
  • Use a timer. For decisions for which there is no clear, right answer the time you save by not deliberating pointlessly will pay massive dividends in productivity.

Education:

Meet the School that Hates the RulesBrian Foglia

The current US educational system treats children like wildlings, or criminals, that need to be controlled, seen and not heard, lectured to but not listened to.

At Sudbury, children take their play seriously. It is partially during this state of “serious” curiosity and self-criticism that students learn their life lessons and find their element. During School Meeting sessions, students and staff jointly vote on new rules, hiring decisions, and how to spend tuition. All students are involved in the process, and are given as much time to speak as staff — teaching them critical life skills like communication and negotiation.

But how do graduates of this kind of program fare in the “real world”? A longitudinal study of graduates — now numbering over 800 — shows that Sudbury alumni lead deeply satisfying lives. Most are unusually resilient. Almost all feel that they are in control of their destiny. In disproportionately high numbers — 42 percent — Sudbury graduates become entrepreneurs.

Empathy:

Empathy Is Still Lacking in the Leaders Who Need It Most — Ernest J. Wilson III

What is empathy? It is a deep emotional intelligence that is closely connected to cultural competence. Empathy enables those who possess it to see the world through others’ eyes and understand their unique perspectives.

Check out the article for a better understanding of why empathy is so important. And then check out Ben’s article below for a different take.

The Dangers of Empathy — Ben Casnocha

Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. Our policies are improved when we appreciate that a hundred deaths are worse than one, even if we know the name of the one, and when we acknowledge that the life of someone in a faraway country is worth as much as the life a neighbor, even if our emotions pull us in a different direction.

Energy:

Glow in the Dark — Seth Godin

Even more valuable, though, is the person who glows in the dark. Not reflecting energy, but creating it. Not redirecting urgencies but generating them. The glow in the dark colleague is able to restart momentum, even when everyone else is ready to give up. Do you glow in the dark?

Failure:

Turning Towards FailureShane Parrish

Our resistance to thinking about failure is especially curious in light of the fact that failure is so ubiquitous. ‘Failure is the distinguishing feature of corporate life,’ writes the economist Paul Ormerod, at the start of his book Why Most Things Fail, but in this sense corporate life is merely a microcosm of the whole of life. Evolution itself is driven by failure; we think of it as a matter of survival and adaptation, but it makes equal sense to think of it as a matter of not surviving and not adapting. Or perhaps more sense: of all the species that have ever existed, after all, fewer than 1 per cent of them survive today. The others failed. On an individual level, too, no matter how much success you may experience in life, your eventual story — no offence intended — will be one of failure. You bodily organs will fail, and you’ll die. (Source: The Antidote)

Regardless of your political disposition, hearing President Obama, in his interview on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, talk about learning from experience and overcoming fear is fascinating.

Fasting:

Why Fasting Bolsters Brain Power — Mark Mattson

  • Fasting is good for the body. It will reduce inflammation. It will reduce oxidative stress in organ systems throughout the body. And one thing that happens when you fast that does not happen when you eat three meals a day is that your energy metabolism shifts so that you start burning fats. (This is why I intermittent fast a couple of days a week).
  • Fasting, like vigorous exercise, is a challenge to your brain and your brain responds to that challenge of not having food by activating adaptive stress response pathways that help your brain cope with stress and risk resist disease (i.e you’re producing new nerve cells and forming new connections).
  • In addition to the increasing neurotrophic factors and increasing the energy neuronal bioenergetics if you will, we have found that intermittent fasting will enhance the ability of your nerve cells to repair DNA. (i.e. Fasting *may* have the ability to heal some illnesses).

Gratitude:

The Structure of Gratitude — David Brooks

People with dispositional gratitude take nothing for granted. They take a beginner’s thrill at a word of praise, at another’s good performance or at each sunny day. These people are present-minded and hyper-responsive. This kind of dispositional gratitude is worth dissecting because it induces a mentality that stands in counterbalance to the mainstream threads of our culture.

…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic. (Source: The How of Happiness)

Gratitude is the key to happiness.

Happiness:

3 Happiness Principles — A Synthesis of 50+ Books — Rohan Rajiv

He’s distilled his learnings into 3 principles:

  1. Optimize your energy over everything else.
  2. Use your willpower to build good habits like exercising, reading, keeping a journal/meditating, and building meaningful relationships with people you care about.
  3. Choose learner questions over judger questions (See also: Carol Dweck’s Fixed vs. Growth Mindset)

If there’s a ‘one last thing’ idea here, it is that all this data is useless if we don’t use it to make better decisions. The Latin root of decision translates into ‘to cut’ or ‘to kill’. So, learning to say no, and in the process, deciding what we effectively say ‘yes’ to may be the single most important skill that affects our happiness. The quality of our lives are directly proportional to the quality of our daily decisions. And (echoing Annie Dillard), as we live our days, so we live our lives.

Stop Delegating Your HappinessShrihari Sankaran

Instead, why can’t I derive happiness from the action itself? Why can’t I enjoy the process of gifting my friend? Can’t happiness be my action, and not the result of my action? Now, I am directly responsible for my happiness. I have taken control of my happiness.

The 5 Daily Rituals that Will Make You Happy — Eric Barker

  1. Switch Autopilot On: Make unpleasant tasks into habits. Tie them to things you already do.
  2. Unshackle Yourself: Decide your five priorities for the day and say NO to everything else. Does it have to be done? Do you have to do it? Does it have to be done perfectly? Does it have to be done now? Probably not.
  3. Cultivate Relationships: They are the single biggest happiness booster. Celebrate the successes of those you love.
  4. Tolerate Some Discomfort: Push to keep getting better. Mastery brings joy. Striving creates smiles.

For more, check out Christine Carter’s, “The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work”.

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy — Eric Barker

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps. Gratitude can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it. Labeling is a fundamental tool of mindfulness.
  • Decide. Making decisions reduces worry and anxiety. Go for “good enough” instead of perfection.
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch. Touching someone you love actually reduces pain.

The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to be More — Leo Babauta

So I started working on being more content. That meant accepting a lot of things about myself, learning to appreciate what I have, learning about the concept of “enough”instead of always wanting to do more, be more. I became happier with the concept of already being enough. The conflict doesn’t go away. The urges never end. Meaning is all that matters.

The Power of Good Enough — Olga Khazan

The reason this happens, as Schwartz explained in a paper with his Swarthmore colleague Andrew Ward, is that as life circumstances improve, expectations rise. People begin comparing their experiences to peers who are doing better, or to past experiences they’ve personally had that were better.

The Secret to Never Being Frustrated Again — Eric Barker

Rarely can you change the world. But you can always change your thoughts.

10 Habits to Be Happier and More Productive — James Altucher

  • Read an Archive. The archives of yesterday are the secrets of today.
  • Over Deliver. Give people what they deserve, not what they expect.

The Secret to Happiness is 10 Specific BehaviorsBenjamin Hardy

  • Let Go Of The Need For Specific Outcomes
  • Define Your Own Success And Happiness
  • Be Grateful For What You Already Have
  • Put “The Important” Before “The Urgent”

Hiring:

The Risky Business of Hiring Stars — Boris Groysberg, Ashish Nanda & Nitin Nohria (HBR)

“I painfully learned that hiring a star analyst resembles an organ transplant. You could get lucky, but success is rare.”

Companies cannot gain a competitive advantage by hiring stars from outside the business. Instead, they should focus on growing talent within the organization and do everything possible to retain the stars they create.

Most executives realize that a star’s appointment will hurt the morale of the people she will work with, but they underestimate the aftershocks. Their coworkers often become demotivated because they feel they must look outside the organization if they want to grow or to occupy leadership positions.

Most firms hire hardworking people, don’t do much to develop or retain them, but focus on retaining the high-level stars they bring in from outside. Others recruit smart people and develop some into stars, knowing that they may lose them to rivals. Only a few corporations recruit bright people, develop them into stars, and do everything possible to retain them. Which one do you think wins in the long run?

Housing:

Renting is Throwing Money Away … Right? — Paula Pant

The article explores the “should I rent or buy?” question using logic, math and reason, rather than ill-informed clichés.

The article methodically breaks down some of the biggest myths around home (or mortgage) ownership. Here are three popular arguments defending the “renting is throwing money away” myth.

#1: Rent is an expense. Mortgages build equity.

#2: Rent is forever. Mortgages end.

#3: Renters don’t benefit from rising home values. Homeowners do.

Do not tell me the article is too long to read before purchasing a very expensive, highly illiquid asset — and effectively tying up a lot of cash in a down payment. In short: Do not oversimplify a life-changing, six-figure decision because of some BS pop-mythology).

Hustle:

Two Kinds of Hustle — Seth Godin

Then there’s the hustle that’s actually quite difficult and effective. This is the hustle of being more generous than you need to be, of speaking truthfully even if it delays the ultimate goal in the short run, and most of all, the hustle of being prepared and of doing the work. It’s a shame that one approach is more common (though appropriately disrespected), while the other sits largely unused.

Leadership:

Great Thoughts on Being a Boss vs. Being a Leader — Rohan Rajiv

Things that help this cause are consistently playing janitor, cleaning up, never being the bottleneck and just being helpful. Things that don’t are a continuous propensity to show authority or take credit.

Here’s a great infographic from Michael Keating on the difference between a boss and a leader.

Soldiers and Generals — Rohan Rajiv

The general way is where you deal with the reality of war very differently. You take control of your work, actively set boundaries and expectations and learn to work with others (often soldiers) to do what needs to be done. Being a good general requires a degree of calm, mindfulness and focus.

So, why does this matter? I find it worth remembering that it is soldiers who die in battle. Generals don’t.

A 3 Part Framework for Great Managers — Rohan Rajiv

  1. Great managers learn how to scope work well. The worst managers over-promise to their higher ups/clients and burn their teams by making them work 12+ hour days to achieve unrealistic, unproductive and generally unnecessary results. The ability to scope work is a learned skill. It also requires guts as it necessitates pushing back and saying no to unnecessary work.
  2. Outstanding managers care more about their team’s goals and individual ambitions than their own progress. While characteristics 1 and 2 make good managers great, an outstanding manager is one who simply cares a lot more than the next person.

The Basic Rule of Management that Propelled 3MShane Parrish

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

[Sounds a lot like Daniel Pink’s research on what motivates us: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.]

How to be a Bad LeaderJames Altucher

How do you become a good leaders?

  • Every day, 1% improvement on yourself in the areas of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. This 1% compounds very very quickly.
  • Every day, do something to help the people around you achieve greater competence, better relationships, and more freedom in their choices.
  • Repeat this: help others, then give them full credit. Whether it’s your boss or your colleagues or your friends or family or whoever.

Leadership starts at the bottom, does these three things, and floats to the top.

Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong — Darren Murph

  1. Exist to Serve — If a leader seeks first to serve, it’s amazing what else falls into place.
  2. Empower with Impunity — Teams that are empowered to make judgement calls without approval are able to be more nimble.
  3. Distribute Credit, Absorb Blame — A leader’s true value is measured by the accomplishments of his or her staff.
  4. Lead in Life, Then in Work — Having a healthy mind, body and soul enables leaders to think more clearly, act less impulsively and show genuine care for the well-being of those working around them.

Jack Welch Says Only Two Words Matter for Leaders Today: Truth and Trust — Daniel Roth

When they trust you, you’ll get truth. And if you get truth, you get speed. If you get speed, you’re going to act. That’s how it works.

Other highlights:

  • See, one of the things about appraisals for people, appraisals shouldn’t be every year. The world changed in a year, they’ve changed in a year. You’ve got to let them know, “Here’s what you’re doing right, here’s what you can do to improve.”
  • Big companies can’t change quickly. Every big company’s gotta be a small company in their head. You want the muscle of a big company, and the soul of a small company.

5 Essentials for Cultivating Intrapreneurial EmployeesDixie Gillaspie

With artificial intelligence increasingly makes many jobs obsolete, companies are looking for employees who approach creating value for the business as their “undertaking” rather than their job description, employees who are self-managed, who make decisions and exhibit behavior that is in line with the best interests of the business, someone who has an entrepreneurial mindset but no desire to have financial or legal responsibility for a business.

Check out Dixie’s article to understand how to create a culture where intrapreneurial employees can thrive.

Learning:

10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I LearnedBen Casnocha

Here’s a few of my favorite takeaways:

  • The best way to get a powerful person’s attention: offer to help them.
  • Reason is the steering wheel. Emotion is the gas pedal.
  • Trade up on trust even if it means you trade down on competency.
  • Most strengths have corresponding weaknesses. If you try to manage or mitigate a given weakness, you might also eliminate the corresponding strength.
  • Professionals in permanent beta — those who seek constant professional and personal growth — also know that they only improve when they get constructive feedback.
  • The people you spend the most time with will change you in ways you cannot anticipate or ever fully understand after the fact. The most important choice of all is who you choose to surround yourself with.

What You Learn in Your 40s — Pamela Druckerman

  • There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
  • By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.
  • Just say “no.” Never suggest lunch with people you don’t want to have lunch with. They will be much less disappointed than you think.

What I Learned About Life After Interviewing 80 Highly Successful PeopleJames Altucher

“I wanted to know at what point were they at their worst. And how they got better. Each person created a unique life. I wanted to know how they did it. I was insanely curious.”

Here are a few things he learned:

  • A life is measured in decades
  • Give without thinking of what you will receive
  • Taking care of yourself comes first
  • Figure out how make uncertainty work for you

Click the link above to see 11 other things James learned.

What are some of the easy things that anyone can do to keep improving their intelligence?Shane Parrish

Click the link above for a broad, and thorough, explanation and also some great useful tips like, learn how to read a book, keep a decision journal and more.

“What’s One Thing You’ve Learned at Harvard Business School that Blew Your Mind?”Ellen Chisa

I especially appreciated her insights from her Leadership and Organizational Behavior class on understanding your worse self. Unfortunately, things won’t always go well in your career. And, as a leader, how you react and recover impacts everyone around you. As a result, it’s important to answer these two questions honestly:

(1). What is my worst self?

(2). When does my worst self come out?

Life:

A Few LessonsShane Parrish

  1. Learn to say “I don’t know.”
  2. Learn the difficult skill of changing your mind.
  3. Your reputation for helping others is the most important thing.
  4. Knowing what to avoid is often more valuable than knowing what you think you want.
  5. Learn to recognize mistakes and correct them.
  6. Goal-orientated people mostly fail.
  7. Friendship is more than just being there for your friends.

Pair with Maria Popova’s 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing and Living.

Lifelong LearningShane Parrish

It may boil down to choices and priorities. It is easy to be drawn towards passive entertainment, which requires less from us, over more energetic, active understanding. Inconvenience might be an alibi: “I don’t have time for continuous learning as I am too busy with real life”. But that excuse doesn’t withstand close scrutiny, as experiences (coupled with reflection) can be the richest of all sources of investigation and discovery.

Why not make a conscious decision to learn something new every day? No matter how small the daily learning, it is significant when aggregated over a lifetime. Resolving early in life to have a continuous learning mindset is not only more interesting than the passive alternative, it is also remarkably powerful. Choosing lifelong learning is one of the few good choices that can make a big difference in our lives, giving us an enormous advantage when practiced over a long period of time.

“Reading,” writes Endersen, “is the foundation of indirect learning.” Learning how to read and finding time to read are two of the easiest and best changes you can make if you want to pursue lifelong learning.

10 Things More Valuable Than MoneyJames Altucher

When we turn back into the midst of nothingness, all that is left are the tattoos we drew on the souls of others — children, friends, lovers, the stranger in the street who smiled at us. The art we created from our imaginations and not from our fears or angers.

Check out the infographic of all 10 things here.

Life, Death and LivingChris Yeh

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — E.B. White

Saving the world brings a certain kind of fulfillment, but it often keeps you from living the life you want. Make time for savoring, and even if you aren’t given the chance to live the full Biblical threescore and ten, you’ll still have found a way to live a truly full life.

Which Character Strengths Are Most Predictive of Well-Being?Scott Barry Kaufman

Next, I wondered which character strengths stood alone as predictors of well-being after taking into account the other strengths. After all, I noticed that many of these character strengths were related to each other.

Out of all 24 character strengths, the only significant independent positive predictors of well-being were gratitude and love of learning. (Note that love, honesty, hope and humor came very close.)

The Ultimate Guide to Making a Personal ManifestoJames Altucher

A few of my favorites from James:

  • Do things that will make me laugh. Do things that will make others laugh. Laughter is the one key to long, quality life.
  • I try not to need permission for anything. Once I ask, I just let someone else build my ceiling, blocking me from the stars.
  • Listen. You can’t learn if you are talking. (Corollary: Listen more if someone is in pain. Don’t solve. Just listen).
  • Books are virtual mentors. Read a lot.
  • Honesty, Humor, Health, Help.

The Good Life Sessions — Rohan Rajiv

There are many false assumptions around ideas of happiness and purpose. Many assume that you only pursue these once you become wildly successful. That’s missing the point. It is only when we live a life we consider “good” do we feel successful in the first place. This isn’t about getting things “right” or being “balanced.” I keep going back to the ‘life as an ECG’ analogy — good lives work like good ECG readings. There’s a lot of fluctuation around the line. Too much fluctuation is a problem. A flat line is a massive problem.

No, Not Now — Rohan Rajiv

But, they would. Such is the power of delayed gratification. Say “No, not now” to unhealthy food and we gift ourselves better health in the future. Say “No, not now” to non essential time suckers and we gift ourselves productivity and happiness.

It is a beautiful virtuous cycle that encourages us to focus on what’s important for the long term.

Make the Most of Your DayZeynep Tufekci

Lisa was determined to use (her) time on earth to remind us, daily, that life mattered. (Irving) Yalom had once written that his patients often told him how cancer is wasted on the dying. This wasn’t a wish that everyone get cancer, far from it, but that everyone should strive for insights that spring from our inevitable mortality, to understand what’s truly important in life, and what’s passing and frivolous.

Counter Intuitive — Rohan Rajiv

The more you feel like working, the more you need to take a break.

The more you feel like running around in different directions, the more you need to pause and enjoy the moment.

Perhaps they are not counter intuitive after all?

In Defense of Being AverageMark Manson

Mark takes a detour from our “make more, buy more, f**k more” culture and argues for the merits of mediocrity, of being blasé boring and average. Keep in mind that mediocrity, as a goal, sucks. But mediocrity, as a result, is OK.

Our lives today are filled with information coming from the extremes of the bell curve, because in the media that’s what gets eyeballs and the eyeballs bring dollars. That’s it. Yet the vast majority of life continues to reside in the middle. And being “average” has become the new standard of failure.

This is the great irony about ambition (and the drive to be exceptional). If you wish to be smarter and more successful than everybody else, you will always feel like a failure. If you wish to be the most loved and most popular, then you will always feel alone. If you wish to be the most powerful and admired, then you will always feel weak and impotent.

The ticket to emotional health is through accepting the bland and mundane truths of life. The knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish with no judgments and no lofty expectations.

Life-Hacks, 10 Life-Habits, 10 Meta-HabitsJames Altucher

  • You don’t need to be the best in the world to be better than everyone around you.
  • Sleep 8–9 hours a day. People who sleep more get sick less, have more willpower, are less at risk for cancer, etc.
  • Honesty. Honesty defines your character. And character defines your future.
  • Failure = Experiment. Thomas Edison did not fail 10,000 times to make one lightbulb. He did 10,000 experiments.

Resolve to Live a Deep Life — Cal Newport

  • You systematically train your ability to concentrate intensely.
  • You build your workweek around protecting and supporting many occasions to work deeply.
  • You take bold measures to demonstrate respect for your attention.

Love:

How to Love: Legendary Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on Mastering the Art of “Interbeing”Maria Popova

Meditation:

Meditation. Why Bother?Shane Parrish

The same themes repeat throughout our lives: jealousy, suffering, discontent, and stress.

Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power. Then, piece by piece, your own subconscious motives and mechanics become clear to you. Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases, and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion.

Mental Strength:

10 Characteristics of Mentally Strong Individuals — Gregg Swanson

  • They embrace change and are highly adaptable when new experiences and situations occur in their lives.
  • They understand that failure is a normal occurrence when one strives for success.
  • People with mental strength believe they control their outcome.
  • They are smart enough to request help whenever necessary.

How to Be Calm Under Pressure — Dr. Travis Bradberry

If you struggle with putting things into perspective, just ask yourself two simple questions: What’s the worst thing that could happen as a result of this? Will this matter in five years? To help put things in perspective, think about situations that were worse than yours were. Next, you need to recognize that people are less focused on you than you think they are.

Finally, magnify your logic and take action. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Beating yourself up might be a tempting option, but it never accomplishes anything, and it certainly doesn’t make you any calmer. Instead, keep your energy focused on the future and the things you can change.

Mindfulness:

The Power of Full Engagement — Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal RenewalShane Parrish

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

  1. Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
  2. Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.
  3. To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
  4. Positive energy rituals — highly specific routines for managing energy — are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

How Mindfulness Fixes Your Brain, Reduces Stress and Boosts Performance — Dr. Travis Bradberry

  • Focus on your breathing
  • Go for a walk.
  • Repeat one positive thing about yourself, over and over. (i.e. “I am capable.”)
  • Interrupt the stress cycle.

This sounds very easy, but in fact, it’s quite challenging. I’m currently working on my own mindfulness after reading Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation. Here’s my review = 44 Takeaways from Sit Like a Buddha.

Motivation:

6 Things to Know About How to Get Out of Funk Town — Leo Babauta

There are two main factors that lead to finding yourself in Funk Town:

  1. You have low energy, from a lack of sleep, overwork, an illness, or overdoing the exercise (you know who you are).
  2. You get into a negative thinking spiral — one self-doubt leads to another, one bad thought about your life leads to another, until you no longer believe in yourself.

The gist: When you find yourself in Funk Town, get some rest and practice self compassion.

Networking:

Network Intelligence: Your Company Can’t Thrive Without ItReid Hoffman

Learn the secrets of network intelligence in the presentation below:

New Years Resolutions:

Self-Refinement Through the Wisdom of the Ages: 15 Resolutions for 2015 from Some of Humanity’s Greatest MindsMaria Popova

  • Seneca: Make Your Life Wide Rather Than Long
  • Alan Watts: Break Free From Your Ego
  • Carl Sagan: Master Critical Thinking

The most typical New Year’s resolutions tend to be about bodily health, but the most meaningful ones aim at a deeper kind of health through the refinement of our mental, spiritual, and emotional habits — which often dictate our physical ones. Click the link above to visit 15 timelessly rewarding ideas of great thinkers from the past two millennia.

Paternity Leave:

Paternity Leave is a Medicine We Still Can’t Seem to Choke Down — Jake Anderson

Amidst the silent apprehension, paternity leave should feel a godsend. For a generation committed to data and proof, there are reams of studies that demonstrate taking paternity leave creates equality in the home and healthier relationships between father and child. Yet many new dads still don’t take paternity leave, why?

Most have just enough responsibility to have direct reports who can bungle something critical, but not quite enough responsibility to ensure they won’t get edged out, undermined, displaced or overlooked. Nearly 50% of dads on paternity leave checked email once-per day and cite workplace pressure and stigma for cutting leave short.

Patience:

Sooner or Later, The Critics Move On — Seth Godin

Sooner or later, your work speaks for itself.

Outlasting the critics feels like it will take a very long time, but you’re more patient than they are.

Perfection:

Abandoning Perfection — Seth Godin

You’re not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that’s what the world wants from you.

Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.

Perseverance:

Brené Brown on the Physics of Vulnerability and What Resilient People Have in CommonMaria Popova

Embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit. To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important — toughness, doggedness, and perseverance.

Although we live in a culture of perfectionism where our idealized selves become our social currency, we know, at least on some level, that risk-taking, failure, and success are inextricably linked.

In Rising Strong, Brown builds upon her earlier work on vulnerability to examine the character qualities, emotional patterns, and habits of mind that enable people to transcend the catastrophes of life, from personal heartbreak to professional collapse, and emerge not only unbroken but more whole.

Stronger: Developing Personal Resilience and Becoming AntifragileShane Parrish

What factors do resilient people have in common?

  • Optimism — A mandate to bounce back, to be successful, to avoid being a victim.
  • Decisive action — You must act in order to rebound. You must learn to leave behind the comfort of the status quo and make difficult decisions.
  • Moral Compass — There are four points to our moral compass: honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethics. Simply do what is right and just.
  • Tenacity — Success often comes to those who not only show up but tenaciously show up and carry with them a relentless defiance of failure.
  • Interpersonal connectedness — Great strength is derived from the support of others. Knowing when to rely upon others is a sign of strength and wisdom.

Check out Shane’s post above to learn how to overcome indecision, increase personal responsibility and review the seven characteristics of highly resilient people.

How to Deal With Rejection — Ramit Sethi

But that is exactly why dealing with rejection is so exciting. The moment you experience rejection and decide to push through anyway, you automatically separate yourself from 99% of the people out there who got rejected and chose to quit.

(Source: Jay Cross of DIY Degree)

Rejection is a merely an obstacle most people never even try to overcome.

10 Strategies for Turning Obstacles into OpportunitiesRyan Holiday

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. — Marcus Aurelius

Here are three of my favorites:

  • Alter your perspective — We chose how we look at things. By controlling our irrational emotions, we are able to see thing as they are, not as we perceive them to be.
  • Stay moving, always — Those who attack problems and life with most initiative and energy usually win. Courage is really just taking action.
  • Focus on something bigger than yourself — Sometimes when we are personally stuck with some impossible problem, one of the best ways to create opportunities or new avenues for movement is to think: If I can’t solve this for myself, how can I at least make this better for other people?

After You’ve Done Your Best Work — Seth Godin

You really have no choice but to do it again. To do your best work again, as impossible and unfair as that seems.

It compounds over time. Best work followed by best work followed by more best work is far more useful and generous than merely doing your best work once and insisting we understand you.

How Can we Thrive in a World of ChaosFred Destin

We should all stop trying to predict the future bur rather let ourselves be malleable and open to whatever may happen. A sense of purpose is in my mind the most important element in thriving in a world of chaos. We need to let Chaos wash over us, embrace it to achieve performance and happiness.

On parenting in chaos:

I think we’re not just trying to teach skills at this stage and put people on rails for success, we’re trying to bring up little individuals who know how to thrive in chaos.We need grit, character, the ability to fail and to get back on their feet. We also need to give them the ability to determine what they will be great at. I believe anyone can be exceptional at something, and being in touch with your true self and having a strong sense of purpose is how kids will achieve greatness and happiness. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where we try to constantly shield them from risk, responsibility and failure. By trying to protect what is dearest to us, we’re keeping them from learning much of what they need to thrive.

Productivity:

28 Pieces of Productivity Advice I Stole from People Smarter Than MeRyan Holiday

  • Learning to say no will energize you and excite you. Use it–as much as you can.
  • Get Started. Planning it out is great, but productive people get moving. (Echoing Jason Fried, “Call a plan a guess and just get to work.)
  • From Montaigne I also learned the importance of keeping a commonplace book. If something catches your eye, write it down, record it somewhere. Use it later. Simple as that.
  • I don’t waste time thinking about what books I want, or where to get them cheapest. I buy them, I read them, I recommend them, I benefit from them.
  • You don’t have to be the first one to sign up for things. Wait for things to sort themselves out, let other people do all the trial and error, then when you come, just be the best.

Produce More by Removing MoreShane Parrish

Rather than focusing on what to add, the Essentialist, McKeown argues, focuses on “constraints or obstacles” that need to be removed. It isn’t about adding, it’s about subtracting.

11 Things Ultra-Productive People do Differently — Dr. Travis Bradbury

  • They do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.
  • They fight the tyranny of the urgent, the tendency to do little things that have to be done right now (put out fires) than do the work that really matters.
  • They avoid the biggest time waster there is, meetings. If they have to attend, they stick to the schedule.
  • They say no. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
  • They do not multitask. Research confirms over and over again, multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance.

The Things That Get in the Way of Doing — Leo Babauta

Spending More Time Managing Your Time — Cal Newport

It’s true that many people approach their days with flexibility, perhaps hunkering down when an immediate deadline looms, but otherwise letting their reactions to input drive the agenda. But I want to emphasize that there’s another group of us who take our time really seriously, and aren’t afraid to spend hours figuring out how best to invest it.

3 Simple Forcing Functions That Will 3–5x Your ProductivityDan Martell

Understanding your default states to procrastinate and adding forcing functions (any task, activity or event that forces you to take action and produce a result) throughout your week is a key strategy to get more done.

Slash and Burn Your Calendar — Rohan Rajiv

Slashing and burning calendars periodically challenges a company to allocate its most scarce resource, employees’ time, more effectively. By torching all the scheduling chaff that accumulates over time, companies can start fresh and cultivate a schedule to maximize company and employee performance (and happiness). — Tom Tunguz

James Reinhart and the team at ThredUp, a clothing marketplace metamorphosing through hyper-growth, slashed and burned their calendars by deleting every standing and recurring meeting in their agendas. During the next few days, the team questioned what meetings should exist, who ought to attend them, and what their agendas and goals should be. In addition, the team pushed to cut meeting times in half from 50 to 25 minutes.

On Full Horizon Planning and the Under-Appreciated Power of Workflow Systems– Cal Newport

Consider my own workflow system (evolved over a decade of close scrutiny). I call it full horizon planning.

I don’t deal in abstractions, I like to work directly with the brute physicality of time. This makes sure I get the most out of the cycles I have available, and it prevents me from committing to more than is feasible. (Check out the full post above for more details on how you can double the amount of value the average employee produces.)

Reading:

7 Books that Change How You Will See the WorldMark Manson

So instead of divulging what my favorite books are, I’ll leave you with something better: seven of the most mind-fucking, reality-reshaping, Keanu Reeves from-the-Matrix “Whoa” inspiring books that I’ve ever read.

The 10 Most Important Books to Expand Your BrainJames Altucher

Click the link above to read James’ full list and his excellent, and unique, explanation on the 3 different kinds of non-fiction books.

4 Science-Backed Reasons to Read More (Even If You’re Busy)David Ly Khim

Make downtime reading time. If you want to read more, promise to yourself that you’re not going to make time for reading but instead say, “I will read.” The just do it.

Self-Compassion:

Forget Self-Esteem. Try Self-Compassion. — Eric Barker

Stop lying to yourself that you’re so awesome. Instead, focus on forgiving yourself when you’re not. Why? Research shows increasing self-compassion has all the benefits of self-esteem — but without the downsides.

Self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. Research also shows self-compassion even makes you less likely to procrastinate. It also boosts happiness and reduces stress.Want a better love life? Self-compassion improves romantic relationships.

Self-Development:

Warren Buffett Says to Invest as Much as You Can in ThisChris Winfield

“Invest as much in yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.” — Warren Buffett

You will never get a better return on life than when you truly invest in yourself.

Don’t stop learning. Hang out with people smarter/better than you. Spend time getting to know yourself.

Ryan’s note: My wife and I have a food budget, a booze budget, a travel budget, a clothes budget and… you guessed it: a self development budget. (Here’s some things I’ve learned in the last 2 years as a result).

Don’t Trust Anyone Under 500 — Dale Davidson

So he shifted gears and launched The Ancient Wisdom Project in which he pursues personal growth by adopting practices from an ancient religion or philosophy that have persevered and still around today. Click the post above to read some of his most insightful things he learned. To get you started here are a couple of my favorite:

  • Modern advice tells us to pursue accomplishments. // Ancient wisdom tells us to live virtuously.
  • Modern advice tells us to enlarge the self. // Ancient wisdom tells us diminish the self for others.
  • Modern advice encourages us to achieve work-life balance. // Ancient wisdom tells us to work hard at building a life.

Stocisim:

Stoicism isn’t Pessimistic. It’s Boldly OptimisticRyan Holiday

“Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

What Marcus was writing — reminding himself — is one of the core tenets of Stoicism. What it is prescribing is essentially this: in any and every situation — no matter how bad or seemingly undesirable it is — we have the opportunity to practice a virtue.

We all face tough situations on a regular basis. But behind the circumstances and events that provoke an immediate negative reaction is something good — some exposed benefit that we can seize mentally and then act upon.We blame outside forces or other people and we write ourselves off as failures or our goals as impossible. But there is only one thing we really control: our attitude and approach. Find the silver lining.

Success:

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson?Justine Musk

These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.

What Drives Success? — Amy Chua & Jeb Rubenfeld

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s precisely this unstable combination that generates drive: a chip on the shoulder, a goading need to prove oneself. Add impulse control — the ability to resist temptation — and the result is people who systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.

In isolation, each of these three qualities would be insufficient. Alone, a superiority complex is a recipe for complacency; mere insecurity could be crippling; impulse control can produce asceticism. Only in combination do these qualities generate drive the “longing to rise.”

The way to develop this package of qualities — not that it’s easy, or that everyone would want to — is through grit. It requires turning the ability to work hard, to persevere and to overcome adversity into a source of personal superiority. This kind of superiority complex isn’t ethnically or religiously exclusive. It’s the pride a person takes in his own strength of will.

I Spent 5 Years Interviewing the Most Successful People Alive — They All Have These 7 Things in Common — Gillian Zoe Segal

  • Their career paths are fluid
  • They create their own opportunities
  • They question everything

How One Life Hack From A Self-Made Billionaire Leads To Exceptional SuccessMichael Simmons

Expert-generalists face far less competition. The more fields you can pull from, the fewer people you’ll find taking the same approach. When it comes to drilling into one domain,the competition is generally fierce. Narrowly specializing also leaves you vulnerable to the ever-more daunting forces of change.

The 20 Habits of Eventual MillionairesJames Altucher

  • No excuses. Blaming is draining. Complaining is draining. Explaining is draining.
  • Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule. Make a list of the 25 things you want to do in life. Now do the top 5. Don’t think about the other 20.
  • Don’t be in a rush. Celebrate small successes. Along the way to overnight success (20 years) you will have many many small successes.

Click the link above to see the other habits including: say “no”, sleep, plant seeds and more.

Looking for the Next Mountain — Rohan Rajiv

But, as you might have gathered, it isn’t in the peaks that life is lived, but in the climbing.

Frankly Speaking: How I Found PurposeFrancesco Marconi

As a result, he drafted his own personal playbook of tested, real-time observations along the way. The resulting five-part publication is Frankly Speaking, bite-sized chapters with anecdotes, data and inspirational takeaways that tell it like it is. The link above is, Part 1: How he Found His Purpose. It’s a worthwhile read with some great, digestible takeaways.

Why it Pays to be a Jerk — Jerry Useem

As Grant himself puts it, “What I’ve become convinced of is that nice guys and gals really do finish last.” He believes that the most effective people are “disagreeable givers” — that is, people willing to use thorny behavior to further the well-being and success of others.

Some good takeaways: Take the initiative. Tweak a few rules. Don’t puncture the impression that you know what you’re doing. Let the other person fill the silence. Get comfortable with discomfort. Don’t privilege your own feelings. Be tough and humane, and challenge ideas, not the people who hold them.

Thinking:

How to ThinkShane Parrish

Slowing down, examining impulses, and considering alternatives sounds reasonable but it’s quite rare in contemporary American Schools. (More on the pitfalls of the American education system).

Top Performers:

Being a Go-Getter is No Fun — Bourree Lam

  • Their peers often get the same rewards, while coasting along with less work and lower expectations.
  • Not only do bosses assign more tasks to the go-getters — but they underestimated how much work it would take to get the job done.

If someone is doing more than her fair share, compensate her for it. If not, she may ultimately leave and seek recognition elsewhere.

Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ — Ramit Sethi

Just a sharp, successful, Indian bro dispensing free and useful advice.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Space, Fame, and the Future of the Human SpeciesJoseph Stromberg

Read the article above to understand:

  • How he prepares for an interview with Jon Stewart so that he comes off as a “natural.”
  • How understanding the basics/core tenets of your field is so important to establishing consensus with real evidence.
  • Why space exploration is important to our future.

Travel:

Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time — Chelsea Fagan

Traveling for the sake of travel is not an achievement, nor is it guaranteed to make anyone a more cultured, nuanced person. Nothing about your ability or inability to travel means anything about you as a person.

Some people are simply saddled with more responsibilities and commitments, and less disposable income, whether from birth or not. And someone needing to stay at a job they may not love because they have a family to take care of, or college to pay for, or basic financial independence to achieve, does not mean that they don’t have the same desire to learn and grow as someone who travels. They simply do not have the same options, and are learning and growing in their own way, in the context of the life they have. They are learning what it means to work hard, to delay gratification, and to better yourself in slow, small ways. This may not be a backpacking trip around Eastern Europe, but it would be hard to argue that it builds any less character.

Work:

The Reasons We WorkShane Parrish

Promotion, Demotion and Opportunity — Seth Godin

The question, then, isn’t, “when am I going to get promoted?”

No, I think the question is, “will I grab these openings to become someone who’s already doing work at a higher level?”

Act ‘as if’. If the people around you don’t figure out what an asset you’ve become, someone else will.

Why Your Job is Becoming Impossible to Do: The Tragedy of Well-Intentioned Organizational Overload Bob Sutton

  1. Are you rewarding and engaging in disciplined subtraction?
  2. Do the people who add new practices, rules, meetings, and functions ALSO understand what outcomes are most critical to the success of the organization, who does that work, and what those people need to succeed and remain committed?

Speaking of disciplined subtraction…

Is it too little butter, or too much bread? — Seth Godin

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. — Bilbo Baggins

Most individuals and organizations complain of not having enough butter. We need more resources, we say, to cover this much territory. We need more (time/money/staff) to get the job done.

What happens if instead of always seeking more butter, we find the discipline to cover less bread?

Spreading our butter too thin is a form of hiding. It helps us be busy, but makes it unlikely we will make an impact.

The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone — Susan Cain

“I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.” — Steve Wozniak

If this is true — if solitude is an important key to creativity — then we might all want to develop a taste for it. We’d want to teach our kids to work independently. We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy. Yet increasingly we do just the opposite.

We need to create settings in which people are free to circulate in a shifting kaleidoscope of interactions, and to disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus or simply be alone. It’s also vital to recognize that many people — especially introverts — need extra quiet and privacy in order to do their best work.

Deep Work Helps You Produce at an Elite Level — Cal Newport (excerpted from Deep Work)

Grant recommends the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches.

In particular, by consolidating his work into intense and uninterrupted pulses, he’s leveraging the following law of productivity:

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

By maximizing his intensity when he works, he maximizes the results he produces per unit of time spent working.

By working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, Grant minimizes the negative impact of attention residue from his other obligations, allowing him to maximize performance on this one task. When Grant is working for days in isolation on a paper, in other words, he’s doing so at a higher level of effectiveness than the standard professor following a more distracted strategy in which the work is repeatedly interrupted by residue-​slathering interruptions.

I highly recommend Cal’s new book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”

Deep Habits: The Danger of Pseudo-Depth — Cal Newport

The bottom line is that if you’re intrigued by depth, give real depth a try, by which I mean giving yourself at least two or three hours with zero distractions. Let the hard task sink in and marinate. Push through the initial barrier of boredom and get to a point where your brain can do what it’s probably increasingly craving in our distracted world: to think deeply.

To Get More Out of Workers, Invest More in Them — Tony Schwartz

What fuels people at work is deceptively simple. We want to feel valued and valuable — cared for by our bosses and colleagues and encouraged to develop and express our talents.

We want to matter and we also want the work we do to matter.

[Ryan’s note: This is deceptively simple and yet most managers (and companies) are still terrible at it.]

How to Get Any Job You Want (even if you’re unqualified)Raghav Haran

Doing a pre-interview project makes you stand out because the secret sauce is hard work. So most people will never do it.

It’s just human behavior. People want their problems solved, and they’re much more likely to hire someone who’s already working on solving them than someone who MIGHT solve them.

Why I Don’t Care if My Employees Come to WorkAdarsh Pallian

I like to challenge those people with the fact that the 40-hour work week as we know it was invented in the year 1840. We’ve managed space travel, disrupted the tech industry 1000 times over, and made the microwave into a household product. I think it’s time to shake up our schedules.

Productivity is as much about being empowered as it is getting the right amount of sleep. So I empower my team to do what they need to do.

Quadrant II — Invest to Prevent Fire Fighting — Rohan Rajiv

Source: Tina O’Brien

Stephen Covey’s thesis was that effective people spend a comparatively large chunk of their time in quadrant II — activities that aren’t urgent, but are important. Quadrant II activities are those that require us to invest in ourselves and the long term. For example, exercise and spending time with your loved ones are Quadrant II activities. If you don’t exercise and take care of yourself, it is very likely it’ll show up in Quadrant I as a health crisis.

Your Progress Report — Seth Godin

  • The difficult questions that remain unanswered
  • The long-term goals where you don’t feel like progress is being made
  • Risky, generous acts that worked

Even more important: All the things that aren’t on your list, but could be.

Wanted in College Graduates: Tolerance for AmbiguityJeff Selingo

The ability to tolerate ambiguity on the job requires people to think contextually, what I call the “connective tissue” that occupies the space in-between ideas. It is the “killer app” of today’s workplaces. We make these connections by following our curiosity and exploring and learning from peers.

Knowledge is not just what is in our brains, but is distributed throughout our networks. Learning happens by building and navigating those networks.

Here’s a great slide deck from LinkedIn’s Co-Founder, Reid Hoffman on Networked Intelligence.

Straight Talk About the Wage Gap — Independent Women’s Forum

It’s Time to Kill the Performance Review — Melissa Dahl

This, as it turns out, is pretty much the way most performance appraisals end up working, according to a new review of the literature on the subject. Most are nothing more than an “administrative ritual,” and they often end up discouraging employees instead of motivating them to perform better, the authors on that new paper write. And this is why, they argue, it is high time for the annual review process to die.

Fortunately, there appears to be a simple alternative. Informal feedback sessions — conversations that take place directly following some disappointment in performance — have been shown to result in an actual improvement in performance.

Work/Life Balance:

Leisure, the Basis of Culture: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of WorkaholismMaria Popova

How to Say “No” When It Matters Most Tim Ferriss

“Make your peace with the fact that saying ‘no’ often requires trading popularity for respect.”
– Greg McKeown,
Essentialism

If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions:

  • In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract?
  • Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?

When Should You Say No To Your Boss? — Dr. Travis Bradberry

The items that follow are yours. If you don’t set boundaries around them and learn to say no to your boss, you’re giving away something with immeasurable value.

  • Your health
  • Your family
  • Your sanity

Google CFO Retires with a Candid Memo About Work/Life BalanceSeth Fiegerman ✍

In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavors and family/community.

How Successful People Work Less — and Get More Done — Dr. Travis Bradberry

Vacation Policies You’ll Envy from Companies You Don’t Work ForJessica Leber

Click the link above to check out how some smart companies are encouraging change and instituting vacation policies that have a positive impact on morale, productivity, and overall happiness.

The best employee benefits I’ve seen? Basecamp.

Miscellaneous:

I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles — Sarah Kurchak


If you like what you read, or learned something new, be sure to ❤ it below so that others will see it. I would greatly appreciate it.


Want to become a top performer in your job and in your life?

Stay in touch. Follow me on Twitter @ryanstephens.

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