(book review) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

TL:DR: Giving so many f*cks about so many things–especially about things that don’t matter–will drive us crazy and make us unhappy. This book is not only incredibly dense with wisdom but also incredibly well written and edited. It really feels like every word was chosen and place carefully, so as to make the precise point intended. I highly recommend the book, and think you will find value paying attention to each and every word.


We live in a world that is constantly berating us to do more, eat more, make more, sleep more, exercise more, buy more, own more, etc. Here in the United States, the world seems to want us to give too many fucks about too many things. As Mr. Manson suggests, this is probably because the U.S. is a capitalist society and this is good for business.

Don’t let the title fool you. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson is a book full of deep insights and smart wisdom that can help you live a better life. Mark does an amazing job of examining behavior that hurts us, so that we can stop repeating our mistakes. There are so many lessons but some of my favorite are:

Life is about choosing which pain you want to endure. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that life is about choosing which pain you want to endure. There is no one choice that is pain free. There are always pros and cons to each choice. You just have to pick the choice for which the cons are something you are willing or enjoy enduring.

Our plentiful society is anxiety inducing. Much of the angst we feel is a result of the vast range and number of opportunities we have in our society. The more we have opportunities we have, the more things we have to measure up to and feel worse about ourselves.

We have really become the victims of our own success. Stress related health issues, anxiety disorders and cases of depression have skyrocketed over the past 30 years. Despite the fact that everyone has a flatscreen tv and can have our groceries delivered.

We have so much f*cking stuff and so many opportunities, we don’t know what to give f*ck about anymore.

Our ability to think about our own thoughts makes things worse. Humans are the unique animal that can think about its own thoughts. Other animals just feel and react to that feeling. As humans, however, we worry about worrying, get more anxious about feeling anxious, get angry about getting angry, get more sad about feeling sad, etc. This ability to think about thoughts and feelings means that we compounding our negative feelings. This is why it is so important to not give a f*ck, because doing so means that you stop that recursive loop and stop hating yourself for your feelings. By not giving a f*ck we simply don’t care that we are sad, angry, anxious, etc. and we move on. “We should accept that the world is f*cked and move on, because it has always been that way and it always will be.” says Manson.

Wanting a positive experience is itself a negative experience, while accepting one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

When we give too many f*cks, we set ourselves up for perpetual and unnecessary disappointment. 

When you give a f*ck about everyone and everything, you will feel that you are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and  happy at all times. that everything is supposed to be just the way you f*cking want it to be! This is a sickness, and it will eat you alive. You will feel that you have the right for have everything feel the way you want it to be!  You will see every adversity as an injustice… Every challenge as a failure…

Every inconvenience as personal slight…

Every disagreement as a betrayal.

 

There is a subtle art to not giving a f*ck; and it doesn’t mean being indifferent. “There’s a name for someone who finds no emotion or meaning in anything…a psychopath.”  Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent. It means being comfortable with being different.  Since being indifferent requires figuring about what matters to you, being indifferent requires figuring out who you are and want to be. And since understanding oneself to this degree and what our guiding principles will be is difficult, Mr. Manson properly notes that:

Learning how to focus on what matters…what matters to you, is extremely hard to do; but it is the most worthwhile thing we can work on in our life.

People who act indifferent are probably the saddest form of a human being possible.

People who act indifferent are actually lying about their difference. They actually give too many f*cks about too many things and are too afraid to speak up and act on their own views. The bellow quote from the book’s preface best sums up the driving motivation of the book:

There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and internet trolls. In fact, indifferent people often attempt to be indifferent because–in realit–they give way too many f*cks. They give a f*ck about what everyone thinks of their hair, so they never bother washing or combing it. They give a f*ck about what everyone thinks about their ideas, so they hide behind sarcasm and self-righteous snark. They’re afraid to let anyone get close to them so they imagine themselves as some special unique snowflake who has problems that nobody else would ever understand.

 

Indifferent people are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their choices. That’s why they don’t make any meaningful choices.  They hide behind a gray, emotionless pit of their own making.  Self-absorbed and self-pittying.  Perpetually distracting themselves from this unfortunate thing demanding their time and energy called life.

 

Because here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a f*ck. You must give a f*ck about something. It’s part of our biology to always care about something and therefore to always give a f*ck. The question then is: What do we give a f*ck about?  What are we choosing to give a f*ck about?  and How can we choose not to give a f*ck about what ultimately does not matter?

 

 

(book review) A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer

TL;DR Summary:  I can’t say enough about this book. The content is rich, tangible, accessible, actionable, and as life-changing as anything I’ve ever read. Anyone who reads this book and makes curiosity a driving force behind their behavior, will be the better for it. Also, movie making might be the perfect career.


 

This week, I was fortunate enough to discover and read two books that have helped me better understand the world, life, and myself. Few books have been so meaningful and helpful to me personally as these two books, which were both shoe-ins for my “Favorite Reads” list.

The first book was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

a-curious-mind-9781476730752_hrThis post is a review of the second and equally impactful book: A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer. I am sharing this book because it has helped me understand myself in a very core way and because it provides so many good ideas/ways for how to get the most out of life going forward. It really is a powerfully down-to-earth and joyful book that I think pretty much anyone can benefit from reading.

How to get the most out of life going forward.

Better relationships.

One thing I was probably most surprised to learn from the book was how curiosity can be a driving force behind good, healthy inter-personal relationships. For me, it’s more obvious how curiosity can make us all more thorough and more innovative professionals, but what is less obvious is how curiosity can make me a better people manager, spouse, brother, parent, friend, colleague, etc.

As a self-described servant leader, as a fiancee to my future wife with whom I want to build a long and fruitful relationship that doesn’t end in divorce, and as a brother and son to struggling relatives, the stories Mr. Krazer tells about how curiosity drives constant question asking and how this makes people more responsive to him, were priceless.

Better citizen.

No man is an island. We are all members of at least one society and organization, and so perhaps curiosity can be a driving force to our asking questions of our government organizations and elected officials. If we never ask why and seek to understand how things are done, things would never get done better.  Perhaps this topic can be an opportunity for a revised edition.

Proper questioning.

One thing I think worth highlighting is the difference between “questioning” and “asking questions”.  It is a subtle difference but also at the core of how curiosity can be very a powerful force for good; or an insulting and ineffective force that distances you from people and whatever thing you need to understand.

Curiosity can and should lead to you becoming inquisitive and asking a lot of questions in search of understanding. “Questioning”, however, implies critique, which puts people on the defensive. When people feel defensive, they will not share openly with us; and we won’t learn the truth from them. The whole purpose of being curious is to learn the truth. Instead of “questioning”, our aim is to inquire, discover, understand, and discuss ideas.

“Anti-curiosity”

Mr. Grazer makes it clear that he a proponent for using curiosity to achieve desired results. It is a tool and culture. He is not suggesting we be curious for the sake of being curious. I love the practicality of this.

Ever the proponent of curiosity but of also achieving desired results and being a leader, Krazer does something really smart towards the end of the book, and describes this idea of “anti-curiosity”.  He points out that we must also learn when to stop asking questions; otherwise, we increase the likelihood of being convinced by respondents to not move forward with an idea that we believe worth pursuing.

Better understanding myself.

Curiosity is a good thing…a very good thing.

As anyone with ADHD will tell you, we are constantly distracted by things. We are–by definition–wired to notice. Before reading A Curious Mind, I understood my distractibility primarily in terms of an ADHD mind. Since my curiosity inherently makes me even more vulnerable to distraction, and I’ve always thought of distraction as a bad thing, I saw my curiosity as a bad thing. In fear of “not getting anything done”, I’ve spent more time telling myself to ignore my curiosities than to follow them. Not anymore. In A Curious Mind, Brian illustrates–with many tangible examples–that being curious is not only a unique personality trait but an extremely good way to live one’s life.

It is tough to put into words–especially without becoming a bit emotional–how good it feels to have struggled so much with one’s own mind and then come to realize that you’re mind isn’t “broken”. As they say here in Silicon Valley, my unfocused range of curiosities is not a bug; it’s a feature. And this feels so good.

Making movies might be what I should do with my life.

I still remember the first great movie I saw: American Beauty. I was 18 years old. For me, that movie was far more than an entertaining two-hour escape from reality. Somehow, it was a believable story into which I could escape and at the same time continue thinking about the world but in a new light. It was a magnificent experience,  ingeniously written and executed.

The lessons the movie taught me have stuck with me to do this day, almost 17 years later. Lessons like how people can put up facades and hide who they truly are on the inside. How the people society may judge was “weirdos” or “losers” might be the sanest of us all. It put so much of our society in front of us to rethink and question ourselves, making the movie far more than a great story. Immediately after finishing the movie, I knew right away that this was my kind of movie. These movies that cause us to think about things differently. These are the movies that responsibly take most advantage of this most powerful medium.

I’m fortunate to have attended three great institutions of higher learning, all of which I took very seriously, worked hard at, and learned a tremendous amount from; but movies have been my other educational institution.

As I take a step back and consider my vast range of curiosities, my unique ability to engage with people with different backgrounds, my business and intellectual property backgrounds, and my passion for influential movies, what could be a better job for me than producing movies?

 

 

Layer Cake

Ever know you are going to like a movie within the first 30 seconds of it starting and/or when the first track from the soundtrack plays, well that’s what happened when I watched Layer Cake (free on Amazon Prime Video).

Admittedly, the heavy english accent made me pay attention that much more, but it is an engaging, well-made film nonetheless. If you like suspense, mind twists, and real endings, then you should watch this movie. Still not convinced. watch the first 15-30 seconds, and if you like the first impression, continue watching. Actually, if you don’t like the first 15-30 seconds, watch the rest anyways!

 

Some themes of the movie:

  • everyone depends on someone
  • we are only as good as the company we keep

Really good cheese

Sometimes I find food so good that I feel obligated to write about it. This is the first such post. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the foods I recommend.

Below are three of my favorite cheeses, and I bought all these at my local San Francisco Whole Foods.

1. Cabot’s Vintage Choice Cheddar Cheese (aged a minimum of 24 months)

Savory, simple, and just delicious. Full bodied, and stands up to similarly strong wines.

cabot

Look for the purple wax when looking for the Cabot Vintage Choice

2. Pyrenees Herve Mons Affinage sheep’s milk cheese 

Complexity of flavors come in waves. Enjoy sober because variety flavor profiles are subtle.

Gabietou

3. KALTBACH™ CAVE-AGED LE GRUYÈRE® 

Add to your pizza, apples, or just enjoy at the table. An absolutely incredible, nutty, and flavorful cheese.

gruyere

Vehicle Lease vs Buy Decision (an Excel model)

I recently helped my fiancée decide between leasing and purchasing a new car. When I could not find a model helping evaluate the relative economic attractiveness of a lease, I built one. You can download it here. Below, is an explanation of the logic driving the model. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know.

THE MODEL

The model is pretty straightforward, and allows you to compare one loan to one lease at a time. The model will tell you if the lease or the loan is economically better, and by how much.

LOGIC BEHIND THE MODEL

Evaluating the economic attractiveness of a car loan versus lease essentially requires calculating the “equity”–whether realizable (in the case of loan) or not (in the case of lease)–you as the leasor would have in the vehicle when the would-be lease ends. The vehicle’s value at some future point in time doesn’t depend on your lease / buy decision. Thus, the only question is what the vehicle’s value will be (vehicle purchase price less depreciation) and how much you will have paid through that forward moment in time (sum of your payments).

Determining the economic attractiveness of a car loan is easier because it is as simple as calculating the equity you would have in the vehicle. Evaluating economic attractiveness of a lease was slightly trickier to figure out because you don’t actually own the car when the lease terminates.

The way I thought about how to evaluate a lease is to look at the lease from the leasor’s perspective. If the lease is good for the leasor, it is bad for you. Conversely, if it is good for you, it is bad for the leasor. So we want to look for the scenario wherein it is bad for the leasor. A lease is a bad deal for the leasor if the leasee doesn’t pay for all of the vehicle’s depreciation upon return of the vehicle. In such a case the vehicle will have lost $X dollars of value (due to depreciation) and the leasor will have received less than $X dollars of payments from the leasee. Hence, a lease is good deal for the leasee if the sum of your payments is less than the vehicle’s lost value. In such a case, the leasor is essentially paying for some of the vehicle’s depreciation, instead of you.

If this is still not clear, consider the following. The ideal lease for a leasor is one in which the leasee’s total payments exceed the total depreciation of the vehicle, such that the leasor can then sell the vehicle at market value for a profit. When selling the vehicle, we can safely assume that leasor will not be able to sell it for more than it’s expected market value (purchase price less depreciation), which acts as the max expected sales price. Now, since the leasee paid the leasor X dollars of payments, and the vehicle depreciated by W from Z and is now worth Y, to sell a vehicle at a profit, the leasor must sell the vehicle for at least Y-(X-W).  As you can see from this equation, the more money the leasee pays (ie. the larger X gets), the lower the minimum profitable sales price becomes, thus increasing the likely profit that the leasor will make upon selling of the vehicle.

 

2016 Thailand trip – Day 3

It is day 3 of our Thailand trip and the morning after our first day in Chiang Mai. Yesterday, was probably my most enjoyable day so far. Chiang Mai feels different and slower-moving than Bangkok. It moves at a slower, gentler pace. It is cleaner, and people so far have been very kind and patient with our inability to speak more than three Thai phrases.

Last night after we spent the day visiting tigers and deadly venomous snakes in an unnerving proximity, we asked to be dropped off at one end of the town so that we could walk back to our hotel on the other end. We wanted to experience the local market and see the city. It was pleasant and very family-oriented experience. The market stalls were almost always manned and operated by family members. Elena commented that she felt very safe walking the streets and even the smaller, darker alleyways. We meandered down a small one-car wide street peppered with hostels and all the accommodations such travelers require. Good, cheap restaurants. Corner stores selling cold beverages. Pharmacies and laundry services.

Dinner was a highlight for me because we used Trip Advisor ratings to find a restaurant that specialized in grilled fish over open fire. Tour operators, and pharmacies. 24-hour bespoke suit shops that will make a suit in 24 hours. it was a love a family-run business with the father and oldest son manning the grills and preparing most of the dishes, while their daughter and wife took very good care of us in the on-street dining area.

I’ve probably never had such an Anthony Bourdain experience. it was incredible. From the interactions with the family to my dishes of simple yet flavorful grilled meats that were just the perfect amount of painfully hot chilis to the two large bottles of perfectly cold local beers. I was very content. WE ended the night with a beautiful 15-minute stroll down artist and vender-lined streets back to our hotel but not before we found Elena a cool pair of light-weight pants to add to her wardrobe.

Tomorrow, we travel to a working farm and cooking school to learn a few recipes of Thai cuisine.

Quick guide to great mobile strategy design

Create mobile optimized site(s).  Whether responsive or adaptive design, make sure users have a good mobile web experience. If you can’t make your entire site mobile optimized or responsive, then focus on those pages to which users will be directed while on a mobile device. For example, the URL in an email that will be opened on user’s phone should put the user on a mobile optimized site.

Take advantage of mobile tools to create unique services.  Three factors make the mobile device a game-changer in terms of understanding user’s context. These are: 1) sensors (e.g. GPS, microphone, accelerometer, clock, etc.) onboard the device, 2) data flowing from wearable tech and other devices and systems into the mobile device, and 3) the fact that mobile device is always on the person.  My advice is to think outside the box, and create an experience that takes advantage of mobile platforms and tech, and that is unique to other channels. Your mobile web and apps do not have to offer the same functionality that is available in all your other channels.  Decide what existing and new services make most sense to be on mobile.

Think local, but don’t not strictly!  (mobile—especially with the GPS sensor and internet connection—is a tool we use on the go and to find things physically near us) but don’t forget that mobile is not just on-the-go experiences anymore, as our mobile devices are powerful, light-weight computers with bigger screens and more sensors that are increasingly being used at home and in the office to consume long-form content as well!

Think time sensitive tasks and job/task-focused users.  The natural ubiquitios nature of mobile means that it often is the first thing we reach for to solve urgent problems. Hence, content should be organized and reshaped so that it is to find and digest via mobile.   For example, organize content by jobs, use search instead of lots of navigation bars, shrink content into smaller file sizes, make content lower resolution, etc.

Include mobile in your marketing plan.  Whether advertising, customer referrals, customer feedback, customer support, etc.

Enable integration of third party data/channels in omnichannel execution.  Mobile sits at the center of an omnichannel experience that includes sensors and a range of digital and physical touchpoints, from store clerks to geo fences.  Don’t forget about integrating data from third-party channels, as this can be an opportunity to create value-add experiences for users!

Constantly analyze how users are using your mobile assets.  Are people not using certain assets?  How long are people using assets? Where are they using them? When are people using them?  On what devices are people using them?    Work towards putting IT infrastructure and organizational processes that enable you to track users as they move through and across channels.  This is by no means easy to do but it is very to doable today and it is where the world is moving very quickly.

Deliberately Developmental Organizations are the future

I recently came across a Harvard Business Review article that defines a small group of organizations that are prioritizing the individual employee in a new way.  This HBR article and its author calls these organizations, which make business personal by prioritizing  individual employee development, Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO). The DDO organization is fundamentally about building a culture that reinforces the importance of all employees being who they are always–both inside and outside the traditional walls of the organization.

At present, these organizations are seen as somewhat of an experiment by many managers but I see them becoming a best practice in the future because they will be shown to lead to highly productive organizations.

 

Great stories are…

I recently attended a presentation by Jeff Gomez, who is the creative mind behind many well-known Transmedia fiction stories, and he gave some interesting insights into what great stories are. I have translated them a bit to be more relevant to the business focus of this blog:

  1. Storyline has to be something worthy of devotion. A good story simply has to be compelling and grappling enough that it moves us emotionally. Ideally, so much so that we share it with others.
  2. Story has to create a world with a past, present, and future.  This is more mechanical, but great stories set the context that helps us understand why the vision is relevant.
  3. Creative visionary & but align to the brand.  It is great think outside the box, but make sure everything aligns to the brand strategy.

Disconnect (product that protects our online privacy and speeds up internet browsing)

Image

Like most great products, services, and businesses that I am inspired to write about, Disconnect seems to share my philosophy that there is no detail too small when it comes to the user experience; and that this philosophy doesn’t stop at just the product design. User experience includes all stages of the product lifecycle, including support; and this is reflected in Disconnect’s payment / donation web page and experience.

What Disconnect does and why the company/product is interesting:

  • Disconnect is browser plug-in/extension available on Chrome that blocks the multitude of websites that are capturing your browsing activity on a given website.  These sites that are capturing your activity are advertisers, analytics, and social sites; and they are not only capturing your browsing data but this capturing of your data greatly affects your web browsing experience, which is what really bothers me.
  • It is pay-what-you-want software.  You can pay nothing or whatever you are able.
  • Send them an email with any feedback or concerns up to a year after you’ve paid them, and they will refund your money for any reason–even if they’ve already donated your money to charity.
  • You can pay with BitCoins
  • You can “pay/donate” for the software and make a separate donation to the “Charity of the month – as voted by Disconnect users”