#0001 - Tools of Titans

(This is the first part of my review of Tools of Titans. I'm two thirds through but moved on to a few other books. I'll finish this up at some point before the end of the year but wanted to get at least half of this up there before too much time went by without a post.)

One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog is to get my thoughts out there on what I'm reading to hopefully encourage you to pick up a book or chat on here about the takeaways or what you're currently reading and what parts of your books are getting the most marked-up! I love hearing about or seeing how people mark what they read: some people take a highlighter to the entire thing, others scribble notes along the edges of the page, while others (who must have incredible memory - or out of respect for the author!) keep their notes in their head or on their computer. I tend to use my pen to highlight paragraphs at a time (I can't draw straight enough to underline) and usually take short notes when something resonates with me.

The first book I read that triggered my desire to get to work on this project was Tools of Titans by author, podcast host, and investor (I'm sure I'm missing a lot of other titles) - Tim Ferriss. I'm about two-thirds through this tome (400 of 673 pages) and will post a follow-up post covering the final 1/3. This book is long - it's taken me a while to get through but there are most definitely some meaningful nuggets throughout. However, if you've listened to his podcasts religiously (I haven't), you might not pull very much new material away.

I haven't had too much experience with Tim Ferriss - I've listened to just a few of his podcasts and maybe one or two in which he was a guest but I can see why people find Tim appealing - he asks good questions, gets some interesting people, and can be pretty motivating.

I think the most compelling reason I'd tell someone to not buy this book is it's difficulty to read and it's hold on you - it's a difficult one to get through if you're a completionist and want to read the entire thing. To his credit - he's well aware of that and approaches this less as a "read beginning to end" book and more as a collection of some of the "greatest hits" of his interviews. I'd take his advice and go through the people and the topics that interest you and read the others at your leisure.

That having been said - I can't think of a better starting point for a blog that will involve reading lots of books. The book recommendations from so many people I admire create a very good starting point and, IMO, are alone worth the price (although most, or maybe all of that list is posted online!) But reading this book not only introduced me to some new books I hadn't considered in the past, it rekindled (no pun, seriously) a desire to read some others, and also introduced me to the Twitter accounts of some really fantastic people (and, unfortunately, some duds. One of the guys I felt had a really good interview ended up being a complete shill on his social accounts.)

Things I have considered from reading this book: 

  • No phone 30 minutes before bed - this one is difficult - any of you go screen-less before bed? How do you do it?! I sleep with a TV on - I like the predictable noise of a TV much more than the loud stuff that may happen on the streets outside our apartment.
  • Ketogenic diet - this is something I've thought about and will likely give it a try sometime soon - lots of his guests are on some variation of this diet.
  • Meditation (with Calm or Headspace apps)

Actions I've taken:

One interview I really enjoyed reading was Gabby Reece - and the idea she shared was "Go First" - make eye contact with people and smile first, say hello first to the cashier at the store you're visiting - it's a little thing but can really change how you interact with others and how others perceive you. Since then, I've found myself going out of my way to make eye contact with people and say hello (this isn't super easy for me!) 

Realizations:

I miss the sauna. The gym I used to go to back in Jersey had a sauna and it was a fantastic way to unwind. Recommendations to take a regular sauna came up a number of times in this book and made me miss those days.

- Tim's interview with Chris Sacca and an (unrelated to the book but somewhat similar in takeaways) interview of someone I really admire (Michael Ovitz) both had a direct impact on how I approach my work. In Chris' interview, he mentions the importance of being curious, getting into meetings and finding ways to make yourself useful. 

"Go to all of the meetings you can, even if you're not invited to them, and figure out how to be helpful. If people wonder why you're there, just start taking notes."

Ovitz, in an interview with Marc Andreessen (which is really worth the watch) notes the importance of curiosity but also of getting yourself into a position in which opportunities are more likely to present themselves - finding ways to provide value to people who can have an impact on the next steps of your career.

Books:

  • sivers.com - Derek Sivers had a great interview in this book but what I wanted to go back to after reading his interview was his website on which he's reviewed over 200 books and that list seems to be a pretty good starting point for where I'll go at some point

I'll finish this Part 1 post with a quote that really stuck with me that came from Tim's interview with Jane McGonigal.

"You should never publicly criticize anyone or anything unless it is a matter of morals or ethics. Anything negative you say could at the very least ruin someone's day, or worse, break someone's heart, or simply change someone from being a future ally of yours to someone who will never forget that you were unkind or unfairly critical. It's so common today to complain or criticize others' work on social media, or dogpile on someone for a perceived offense. I won't do it. It's not my job to be the world's critic, and I'd rather not rule out any future allies."

Thanks for reading my first post! I'll wrap up this book sometime soon but will likely be posting 0002 soon with some great news!

#0002 - Cool Japan Guide

Not all of the books I read for this blog are going to be business related, or self-improvement. In fact, I'm trying to mix in even some of the classics that I never got a chance to read (or maybe just forgot about).

I've always wanted to go to Japan - the culture, the food, the video games, the scenery - everything seems wonderful there - I can't imagine a better place to go on vacation - yet I still haven't been!

That changed last month - Jess and I found a great price (thanks Google Flights/ANA!) and we're going in April (just in time for the cherry blossoms) - but the next few months are going to be filled with planning. I've already started reading books and watching travel vloggers (some of my favorites so far: SoloTravelBlog, Yummy Japan, and KimDaoVlog - but there are so many good ones!)

As soon as we booked the flights, we looked for some travel guides. If we're only going to do 7 days for our first time in Japan (extremely limited vacation time) we want to pack in as much as we can.

This was the only book that the Seattle Amazon store had that wasn't just a book full of maps and it looked like a fun, quick read. It was.

Abby Denson put together an entertaining, quick read (seriously, this book took me about two hours to read - that's like what it took me to get through 1/10th of my last book) and it covers just about everything you'd need to know for your first time in Japan delivered in a unique comic-book style presentation.

Each section is about ten pages (and, really, most of it is art) but the sections start off with a quick language lesson. The sections cover:

  • Preparing for your trip
  • Arriving
  • Eating
  • Lodging
  • Entertainment
  • Sightseeing
  • Shopping
  • Pop Culture (this section is titled "Manga and Anime and VIdeo Games - Oh My!"
  • Leaving

Admittedly, I've done quite a bit of research for this trip already (but have this immense fear that I'm going to miss something) - so I didn't think I'd take a ton of information away from this book - but Abby gets into the details of things I hadn't even thought about (vital things like the importance of getting ekibento before the Shinkansen and some of the cultural norms one should know before arriving) - the food section gets into even more detail about what to expect, what to order, and how to act in many different types of restaurants.

This book was exactly what I wanted in an introduction to traveling to Japan. I highly recommend it for someone who just decided to book their trip and want something quick and fun to read that will also give you great primer to vacationing in Japan. Stay tuned for more updates on the trip planning (also, I picked up the Tokyo Lonely Planet guide a couple weeks back and once I finish that up, I'll throw a review up on that too.)