My Reading List

I believe that any good writer must first be a good reader. For that reason, I decided to take notes from the books I’ve read in an attempt to digest them better. I’ve complied the results onto this ever increasing page of personal source material and favourite quotations. Most of these books are aimed at exploring the question: How can we live a better and more meaningful life? Next to them I’ve given a personal rating and a quick overview of what its about followed by some rough notes.


  • TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET – by Colin Thubron (5 stars – A masterful piece of travel writing from an author who has a remarkable grasp of the English language. It recounts his spiritual journey following the death of the last of his family to Mount Kailas in Tibet.)

  • GRIT – Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success by Angela Duckworth (5 stars – A fascinating and book written by renowned physiologist Angela Duckworth who explores how passion and perseverance (aka Grit) is the key to success.)

The biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple: By shinning our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors – including grit – don’t matter as much as they really do.

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” I would add that skill is not the same as achievement, either. Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.

Buffet’s 3-step process for prioritizing – first write down a list of 25 career goals. Second circle the five highest – just five. Third take a hard look at other 20 and avoid at all costs. I would go one step further. Ask yourself to what extent do these goals serve a common purpose? The more they’re part of the same goal hierarchy, the more focused your passion, the better.

How does grit grow? Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do (ie interest. They are doing what they not because they have to or because it’s financially lucrative. Matching your job to what captures your attention and imagination is a good idea. If you don’t have a passion then foster one. Ask yourself what do I like to think about? Where does my kind wander? What do I really care about? What matters most to me? How do I enjoy spending my time? And in contrast what do I find absolutely unbearable? After you have a general idea of direction go out and experiment. Try things! Begin with the answers you’re surest of and build from there. Don’t be afraid to guess. There isn’t just one thing you can do or develop into a passion. You don’t have to find the right one or best one! Don’t be afraid to erase an answer that isn’t working.

After interest comes practice. Not just time on task but better time on task -otherwise known as deliberate practice. The primary motive for doing effortful deliberate practice is to improve skill. You’re concentrating one hundred percent, and you’ve deliberately set the level of challenge to exceed your current level of skill.

The basic requirements of deliberate practice: A clearly defined stretch goal; full concentration and effort; immediate and informative feedback; repetition with reflection and refinement.

Make your practice a habit – figure out where and when you’re most comfortable doing deliberate practice and then do it there and then everyday!

Shame doesn’t help fix anything – it’s all about in the moment self awareness without judgment. It’s about relieving yourself of the judgement that gets in the way of enjoying the challenge.

Purpose – the intention to contribute to the well being of others – is the other important source for passion. Gritty people are not just goal-orientated; the nature of their goals is special. The message is the same whether family friends country or society: the long days and toil, setbacks and disappointments, struggle and sacrifice – all this is worth it because ultimately their efforts pay dividends to other people.

How you see your work is more important than your job title. This means you can go from job to career to calling – all without changing your occupation. A lot of people assume they need to find their calling – like a magical entity exists waiting to be discovered. They don’t realise they need to play an active role in developing and deepening their interests.

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find, it’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do – whether you’re a janitor or the CEO – you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values”.

Reflect on how your work already makes a positive contribution to society.

Think about how, in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values.

Find inspiration in a purposeful role model. – imagine yourself fifteen years from now. What do you think will be most important to you then? Can you think of someone whose life inspires you to be a better person? Who? Why?

“Fall seven, rise eight” – an old Japanese saying.

Grit depends on a different type of hope – it rests on the expectation that our efforts can improve our future. The hope that gritty people have had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.

Optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes to their suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent and pervasive causes are to blame.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right”

Language that promotes growth mindset and grit for parents, coaches, managers etc: “You’re a learner! I love that.”
“That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”
“Great job! What’s one thing that could have been even better?”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”
“I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together”.

Adopting a gritty perspective involves recognising that people get better at things – they grow. ‘When you have setbacks and failures, you can’t overreact to them. You need to step back and analyse them, and learn from them… keep saying to yourself, ‘just keep working hard and learning, and it will all work out.’

How to teach yourself hope? First – update your beliefs about intelligence and talent – talent is overrated and intelligence is not set. You can increase your intelligence! Second practice optimistic self-talk. Find a cognitive behavioural therapist – ask for help!

Part3 – Parenting for Grit

“I’ve always had an instinctive sense that life and nature and evolution have planted in children their own capabilities – their own destiny. Like a plant, if they’re fed and watered in the right way, they will grow up beautiful and strong. It’s just a question of creating the right environment- a soil that is nurturing, that is listening and responsive to their needs. Children carry within them the seeds of their own future. Their own interests will emerge if we trust them.”

So much of sticking with things is believing you can do it. That belief comes from self-worth. And that comes from how others have made us feel in our lives…

Children must be loved and accepted, but then, without complications, they need to be taught – to live by clear principles and moral guidelines.

There’s no either/or trade off between supportive parenting and demanding parenting. There’s no reason you can’t be both affectionate and respectful on the one hand and firmly enforce expectation on the other. This is wise parenting – to be both supportive and demanding. To be child-centred by clearly putting your children’s interests first but not allowing them to be the authority of what to do, how hard to work, and when to give up on things.

You must also be a role model of grit and demonstrate it in your own life. Ask yourself how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask how likely it is your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you.

I recommend as soon as they are old enough you find something they might enjoy outside of class and sign them up. Kids thrive when they spend at least some part of their week doing hard things that interest them. Schools hard but for many kids it’s not intrinsically interesting. Texting your friend is interesting but not hard. An extracurricular activity can be both. It can serve to develop an interest early on – one where they will be keen to practise, to learn what they previously couldn’t and also hopefully learn the beyond the self purpose of their efforts so that when they have a bad day they acquire the hope and perseverance to try, try again.

In our family we live by the hard thing rule. It had 3 parts. The first it that everyone including Mum and dad has to do a hard thing that requires daily practice. The second is that you can’t quit until the season is over or some other natural stopping point has arrived. You must at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you began. In other words you can’t quit when your teacher tells you or you lose a race. You can’t quit on a bad day. Finally the hard thing rule states that you get to pick your hard thing – something you’re interested in. In high school a forth requirement is added that you must pick a hard thing – continued or new – and commit for at least two years!

Whether we realise it or not, the culture in which we live, and with which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being. If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.

Thinking of yourself as someone who is able to overcome tremendous adversity often leads to behaviour that confirms that self-conception. You’re a competitor – you have what it takes to succeed – Grit is who you are.

“It is not the critic who counts… the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The origin of great leadership begins with the respect of the commander for his subordinates.

Personally I have learned that if you create a vision for yourself and stick with it, you can make amazing things happen in your life. My experience is that once you have done the work to create the clear vision, it is the discipline and effort to maintain that vision that can make it all come true.

“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”


  • TRUMP AND ME by Mark Singer – (4 stars – A hilarious and scathing profile of the United States 45th president.)

“Trump loomed as an aspirational figure, a pseudo-populist self-proclaimed multi-billionaire whose contempt for the customary protocols of the reviled Washington establishment bound him to his adherents in a mutual intoxication. A cocktail of bogus facts, stirred by fear, naivete, and an indifference to pragmatic exigences. A zeal only loosely tethered to reality. “I love the poorly educated!” he crowed. They loved him back.”


  • WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi (5 stars – This heartbreaking memoir recounts Paul’s life before and after he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He tells of his struggle with identity and how his diagnosis forced him to evaluate not only what it means to live, but how to approach death with both courage and grace. It’s as beautifully written as it is inspirational and deeply, deeply moving…

“Literature not only illuminates another’s experience, it provides the richest material for moral reflection.”

“Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” In the practice of Medicine.

“Direct experience of life-and-death questions was essential to generating substantial moral opinions about them… Moral speculation was puny compared to moral action.”

“Putting a lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling.”

“Patients, when hearing the news, mostly remain mute. (One of the early meanings of patient, after all, is one who endures hardship without complaint.)”

“The pain of failure had led me to understand that technical excellence was a moral requirement. Good intentions were not enough, not when so much depended on my skills, when the difference between tragedy and triumph was defined by one or two millimeters.”

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

Alexander Pope: “A little learning is a dangerous thing; / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”

“Coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before and after my diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”

“Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”

“The paradox is that scientific methodology is the product of human hands and thus cannot reach some permanent truth. We build scientific theories to organise and manipulate the world… Science is based on reproducibility and manufactured objectivity. As strong as that makes its ability to generate claims about matter and energy, it also makes scientific knowledge inapplicable to the existential, visceral nature of human life, which is unique and subjective and unpredictable. Science may provide the most useful way to organise empirical data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central parts of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honour, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”

“Each of us can only see part of the picture. The doctor sees one, the paitent another, the engineer a third… Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”


  • HOMO DEUS by Yuval Noah Harari (5 stars – A mind spinning and thought provoking book that postulates what the future holds during the next stage of our evolution).

Among a wide range of arguments Yuval makes the case that we will (in fact have already started to) use advances in bioengineering and cybernetics to create new super humans that could potentially live forever. We will not only reengineer homo sapiens so that they can enjoy much longer lives but to also enjoy everlasting pleasure and happiness. He also says these advances will go so far as to control our minute by minute existence. Indeed when artificial intelligence exceeds our own, computers will know us far better than we could ever know ourselves. These advances will also create a new wave of religions that will ultimately replace the existing ones of humanism, liberalism and democracy. All this headed by a small elite of upgraded super humans or Homo Deus if you will.


  • THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT by Chris Guillebeau (4 stars – The happiness of pursuit provides a practical guide on how to live a life filled with greater meaning and happiness. Chris uses a number of case studies of ordinary people who have given up a great deal in the pursuit of something extraordinary. He then offers up some practical advise on how you might do the same).

Make a life list and pursue it.

“Do one thing every day that scares you”. – Make a list of life experiments and proceed (eg cook a meal each week from a different country/begin a conversation with a stranger/make a rule to exercise as soon as alarm goes off (no snooze button)/walk everywhere/join a free foreign language meet up (Meetup.com)/offer your couch to a stranger (couchsurfing.com)/speak up more). #Give10 – give to 365 charities in a year (or commit to regular donations to one and learn about it). Cook a meal from every country. Epic quest of awesome. Travel to 100+ countries. 100 days of rejection therapy. Walk a great distance (the length of Great Britain). Master (or take up) a martial arts. Publish annual reports. Publish a continual stream of ideas. Read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica (or 1 wiki entry per day for a year). Log your food and activity in a diary. Don’t speak for a day. Visit water.org/donate. Enroll and complete an online course in IT (MIT computer science).

Document your quest(s). Be specific and PLAN – Apply time and money principle (GOAL: learn a new language/TIME: 6 months/MONEY: variable – affordable to free/OTHER COSTS: lack of time – make it a routine everyday (spare just 5mins if it’s all you have) /UNKOWN: how to proceed – download podcasts/look up courses/just start). Have an annual review (what went well and what didn’t? – come up with 10 answers each and use to make yearly goals in following categories (30 total) – writing/business/friends and family/service/travel/spiritual/health/learning/financial (earning?giving?saving?). Finish with a statement. Eg. By the end of 2017 I will have got married to Holly and… Etc )


  • MAYO CLINIC HANDBOOK FOR HAPPINESS by Amit Sood (3 stars – Amit talks about two basic modes of the mind – focused or default (distracted or wandering mind). The more we can engage the focused mind the happier we will be. Amit outlines some stratergies to do so among some other practical advice to life a happier and more fulfilling life).

Brain has two modes – focused (happy) or default (wanders or distracted often = unhappy) Although healthy default activity is good for monitoring the world and for creativity it becomes a problem if we spend too much time in the default mode and when spontaneous thoughts constantly dwell on imperfections.

You are in the focused mode when you’re paying attention to something interesting and meaningful AND INTENTIONALLY CHOOSING PRODUCTIVE, PURPOSEFUL THOUGHTS ALSO ENGAGES YOUR FOCUSED MODE. The simplest way to exit unhealthy mind wanderings is to recognise them early and engage your brain with activities that get it into the focused mode.

Ways to engage the focused mind: Read a good book. Playing a sport or activity. Hiking. Watch a beautiful sunset or sunrise. Explore somewhere new. Enjoying a delicious meal. Cooking a delicious meal. Meditating (focus or body scan meditations). Writing or blogging. Researching for Holidays. Problem solving. Creating or drawing something.

Everyday:

WAKE UP WITH GRATITUDE AND IN THE MOMENT – Start with a meditation (don’t reach for you phone), then think about the people and things you at grateful for.

APPRECIATE AND SPEND TIME IN NATURE ONCE A DAY – spend a few mins each day attending to nature. Pay attention as you look around, go for a walk or a hike.

HEART-FULLY MEET LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS – meet your loved ones/friends as if you’re meeting them for the first time in a long time.

GRATITUDE – Write 3 things you’re grateful for every morning. Practice gratitude meditations for these people every Monday.

COMPASSION – Do one random act of kindness today. Practice loving kindness meditation.

POSITIVE THOUGHTS – “You are perfect the way you are, but you can be better”. Find one thing to concentrate (i.e. Acceptance) on becoming better at today – invest your energy in the process and forget about the outcome.

MEANING & SPIRITUALITY  -Find a cause you believe in and champion it. Consider these 3 questions – Who am I?, Why do I exist?, What is this world? – I believe I’m an agent of good/love and I exist to make the world happier and kinder. Consider your answers in everyday life. “Living a moral, ethical life is the highest spiritual practice”.
Areas of spirituality – the environment/the present moment/your work/your relationships. Think of a way to enhance each of these areas.

FORGIVENESS/FOCUS – Forgiveness is a voluntary choice. You’ll have to keep forgiving the same issue many times before it becomes permanent. Forgiveness helps you more than anyone else. Humans are fallible. Don’t let hurts become a black hole by ruminating and consider the above/the other person. Try to find a way to forgive today. “I must harbour no resentment towards anyone”.

REFLECTION/PLANNING – Reflect every week on the week passed and plan for the week ahead. What went well and what can go better?

Visit www.stressfree.org for more info.


  • READY TO RUN by Dr. Kelly Starrett (3.5 stars – Premise of the book states “Everybody should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves”. Kelly outlines 12 standards with which to use to restore your body tissues, joints and mechanics to optimal levels for running).

1. Neutral Feet and spine – try to maintain while standing or walking as often as you can throughout the day. Braced neutral spine – Squeeze your butt. Pull rib-cage down – breath in and tighten your abs then slowly exhale. Set your head in neutral then extend arms out and pull shoulders back into external rotation. Align ears with shoulders and hips. Your gaze is forward and hips shoulders and head in neutral position. Now dial down tension to about 20percent. Practise this regularly till it becomes part of your normal ready state.

2. Wear Flat shoes. Try to go barefoot where possible. Avoid shoes with heels higher off the ground than forefeet. Don’t heel strike when you run. Avoid Flip-Flops!

3. Maintain a supple thoracic spine. Taking care of your middle back when running, sitting, walking, talking, texting etc. – Need to be vigilant about your positions. To achieve supple thoracic spine squeeze shoulder blades together to externally rotate shoulder blades till set. Move arms into relaxed 90-degree position while retaining neutral midline.

4. Perform regular squats with the CORRECT technique. Developing and mastering your squat will give both your running and life a boost. To perform a good basic air squat – stand with feet just outside shoulders with feet straight. Activate posterior chain by imagining you are screwing two dinner plates into the ground with your feet (right foot in clockwise direction and left in counter clockwise). Extend arms forward then drive knees outward. Drop hips below knees but don’t extend knees over feet! Keep Flat back by activating glutes and abs throughout movement. Hang out in this position daily for a few mins a day.

5. Maintain proper hip flexion. If sitting for long periods get up regularly and practise the bracing sequence (see above) then return to your seat. To test hip flexion stand on one leg with braced neutral spine and neutral feet then pull knee to your chest. Allow hands to drop. Hold a tall position for 30secs then repeat with second leg.

6. Maintain healthy hip extension. Poor hip extension can lead to knee pain from looping of the foot during running. Sit as little as possible and do the couch stretch everyday. – back feet against wall and slide left (or right) leg up so shin is flush with wall and knee in corner toes pointing to ceiling (squeeze your glutes as you do). Draw right (other) leg in front of you with shin vertical. With butt squeezed drive front of hip toward the ground and hold position for one min. To increase intensity lift and drive torso upright with glutes and abs engaged and hold for another min.

7. Ankle range of motion – be able to hold pistol position with either leg. Start standing with feet together than squat driving knees outward. Keep heels to the ground and with butt lowered extend right (left) leg out at 45degrees and maintain. Be able to hold kneeling position

8. Warming up and cooling down – do it EVERYTIME! Warming up – start with few mins of walking and arm movements like circles. Follow this with burgees and lunges. Take a few mins to mobilise any high priority joints or range of motion issues. Jump rope work is also very useful. Cooling down – a walk or 10-15 min bike ride or rowing machine. A selection of bodyweight movements – lunges, jumping jacks, arm and leg circles. 5 mins of mobility work on a ball and/or roller. Spend the rest of the day hydrating and moving often. Sit as little as possible.

9. Compression – wear compression socks as often as possible – easy way to assist circulation and restoring of tissue. Especially useful when flying!

10. No hotspots – if you notice any tweaks listen to your body. Cut short your run or exercise and practise focused compression work on and near hotspot (use ball or roller).

11. Hydration. Drink 2-3 litres of water everyday minimum – ideally enhanced with electrolytes (nuun hydration tablets/nutriforce sports hydration powder/camelbak elixir tablets). Consider using RRUD – rapid response urine dipstick to assess hydration/need for rest etc.

12. Jumping and landing – to land with good mechanics. Test 1. Jumping onto a box. Start with neutral feet and back and load hips and hamstrings. Jump and land with knees straight then drive knees outward on landing – feet remain neutral and arches are activated. Test 2. Single leg skip rope jumps – perform 30 on each leg. Use hips to power jumps and keep neutral position throughout. Land on forefoot and allow heel to kiss ground before popping up. Foot must be straight and knee in neutral position.

MOBILIZATION WORKOUTS & GUIDELINES:
1. Work on hotspots first. First the hotspot itself then upstream and downstream. If it’s significant spend at least 10mins on it.
2. Work on a specific goat second to improve and if time permits work on a second or improve on a strength.
3. Test range of motion before and after to notice any change.
4. If it feels sketchy it is (back off and go about it differently)

Conclusion. It’s not the job of sports medicine professionals to look after your tissues and joints, whether you hydrate or whether you actively work toward improving and maintaining healthy positions and range of movement throughout the day. It’s up to you. Spend 10mins minimum per day. No days off. No excuses.


  • THE ONE-PAGE FINANCIAL PLAN by Carl Richards

Chapter 1: Why is money so important to you?

Before you can plan you need to know why you’re planning. This will give you a great deal of clarity using the values you’ve identified to drive your financial planning decisions. Start by asking yourself why many times;

Why do I invest so much time and money on (travelling)? Why do I spend so little (time money and energy) on (charity) when I claim it’s so important? Why do I save as much (or as little) as I do? What am I hoping to achieve?

Thinking about how you spend your time and how you spend your money to identify what’s important to you and also perhaps what you’ve been wasting money on. Here are some guidelines before asking why.

1. Set aside time
2. Get out the house (keep conversations about money outside of the bedroom)
3. Let go of the past
4. Don’t feel shame and don’t blame
5. Skip over goals for now (This is meant to reveal the reason why you have certain goals.

It can take time to figure out what’s really important so give yourselves time. Try to also think about money in new ways – don’t forget to factor other forms of capital: energy, time and skills.

Chapter 2: Guess where you want to go

You can’t know exactly what will happen so best to guess where you’d like to go. Don’t be committed to the guess but to the process of guessing. Don’t worry about getting it right. You can and should course-correct your guess when you notice yourself getting off track.

Guessing your way to your goal: how much money do you need to save per month/year to save for your retirement? That can be your first goal. How much money to save for starting a family of two children – setting up education accounts? To take one big trip every year plus one ski HollyDave every year? How about emergency funds for 3 to 6 months? Really ask ‘What if?’ Could you plan to take 6 months off and home school your kids for example?

Three guess process for determining goals and the cost:

1. What is the goal?
2. When do you want to achieve it?
3. How much will it cost?

Use your one page plan and values to come up with some financial goals using this process. Following that by ranking them in terms of urgency and importance. Remember there are also going to be trade offs. We have to make room for the most important things in our lives. Don’t obsess over your goals. They will naturally act as a guide in your decision making without even thinking about it. Also remember that life happens and you’ll need to adapt as you progress – disappointment will happen. At these times try to think about the big picture and all the things that are right in your life. Let go of expectations about the future and of outcomes we can’t control. Let go of worry and any need to compare with others. One more question to consider: How badly do you want it?

1. I want it badly and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
2. I want it badly but i don’t have time/money or don’t think it’s possible…

If you answered the second way ask yourself what have you tried to help achieve the goal? What sacrifices have you made? Often we write off goals without even trying to achieve them. The ones that matter often involve a sacrifice. Hopefully this question will help you evaluate what’s truly important to you and what isn’t.

Chapter 3: Get clear about your current location.

“Once we realise that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only failing to correct our mistakes”.

Don’t ignore the dam that is about to burst. The sooner you start repairing it, the better off you’ll be. All you have to do is tally up your assets and liabilities then subtract liabilities from assets to get your net worth.

PART 2: SPENDING AND SAVING

Chapter 4: Budgeting for awareness.

Budgeting makes us aware. We think we know where our money is going – No you don’t. Sorry! Tracking will teach you something you didn’t know about yourself. Financial goals get funded with dollars but they tend to slip through our hands and this builds up over time unless we have a system for plugging those holes. Budgeting shows where those holes are. It forces us to face the reality of how we spend – allowing the opportunity to close gap between what we say is important and how we spend our money.

Where to begin?

Start by making a list of fixed monthly expenses (Rent/Mortgage/Credit card payments/cell phone/utilities bills/internet cable/therapy or medical bills/gym memberships etc). Next if there are any fixed expenses for you to pay and/or long-term savings goal – automate them. Don’t just say you want to save x amount each month, do something about it. You can automate transfers to savings or investments each month.

Once you’ve done this start reviewing your discretionary spending (aim to do it once a week to begin with). We’re looking for awareness NOT judgement. Find out how much you are spending on eating out/coffee/shopping etc. If you’re paying for anything you no longer need then cancel or change it. Don’t wait. Automation is about simplifying your monthly finances. Some rules:

1. Track EVERYTHING you spend
2. Use tools to help stick to process (Mint.com/YouNeedaBudget.com)
3. Watch out for one-time events – set money aside to help cushion against the unexpected
4. Consider a spending cleanse (try not to spend ANYTHING for a period of time) – turn budgeting into a game

Chapter 5: Save as much as you reasonably can.

Start with where you are and the awareness from budgeting to work out what is ‘reasonable’. Be wary of instant gratification- small things build up over time. Use what surprised you when Budgeting to find ways to save (stop spending). Implement a 72hour rule before buying something. See if you still want it after that. Stop waiting for golden ticket. Just start saving. Some Tips:

1. Be mindful by being aware
2. Remind yourself why you are saving regularly
3. Save one-time windfalls (rewards)
4. Automate savings
5. Set short term goals (if you have a little more left to save then put into savings)

PART 3 INVESTING

Chapter 6: Buy just enough insurance – today.

Aim to figure out if you need it and if so how much you need:
If someone depends on you economically, you need life insurance. (Yes when we have children). Rule of thumb for determining amount you’ll need (economic loss) is to divide annual loss (for example 1 million) by 4% or .04 (therefore a 25million policy).
Once you have determined how much you need and over what period (10,20 or 30 years) BUY TERM INSURANCE! – this means you’re renting insurance but by end of period you’ll have nothing – this keeps the costs low compared to other kinds of insurance. Buy the longest policy you think you’ll need (30 years) based on your age. Suggest rounding up as you can always cancel (as you’re not locked in) and is so cheap. Don’t let fear drive your decision – your goal with life insurance is to have as much as you need but never more than you need.

Chapter 7: Borrowing and spending wisely.

Most basic rule of investing – earn more, spend less.
Paying down debt is an investment – figure out where you have debt with the highest interest rates and start throwing money at it.
Should you buy a house? Ask yourself can you afford it (enough for down payment plus all fees)? If no then forget it. Next do you qualify for a loan? Again if no… How long do you plan to live/own? Anything less than 5 years forget it. More than 10 years is best. Remember it’s not always the right time to buy a house.
Should I be paying down my mortgage? (Short answer yes – getting debt free is a guarantee- betting on how your investments might turn out isn’t).
Sometimes spending more makes sense provided it’s inline with YOUR values and goals.

Chapter 8: Invest like a scientist.

Don’t mistake speculation with investing. Before buying a stock to invest do your research – look at their latest annual report (don’t invest just because you like their latest product). Gut instincts will fail you in the stock market game. Approach investing in a rigorous disciplined way.

Framework for investing comes with a little faith. We don’t know short term market trends so much better to play the long game (as in all investing). Ask yourself do you believe that stocks will continue to do better than bonds and bonds better than cash as they always have? If we accept this basic framework then temporary declines (or increases) will help prevent you from making big mistakes in the short term.

3 principles based on scientific and historical data about the market over the LONG term:

1. Diversify your portfolio – when we do so we lessen the risk of any one stock hurting us (eliminating unsystematic risk such as betting on a particular industry or owning individual stocks (believing we can predict the market) and instead taking on systematic risk – i.e. Betting on the market as a whole. A well diversified portfolio should include as many different companies as you can – US and international – mix of small and large. The easiest way to do this is through low-cost diversified mutual funds (think of index funds as your default). Try to look for portfolios that give you the highest return for the lowest risk (there is always a trade off but the more diversified the better by and large i.e. Portfolios that include stocks and high quality bonds and cash).
2. Keep costs low. The more money you pay for your investments the less money you’ll end up keeping.
3. Correlation between risk and reward – there is one but we need to look for the right kind of risk. You should look for compensated risk. Examples include stocks over the LONG term – riskier than bonds or cash but over twenty plus years can expect a good return. Better off owner a basket of small companies rather than large ones – again riskier but potential for greater reward – same applies to financially weak companies.

Building a default portfolio – now that your armed with basic framework building the portfolio is more difficult – requires balancing between what you can reasonably save and your goals. It’s as much an art as a science. But as a rule of thumb can follow 60/40 split between stocks and bonds:

1. Determine what you’ll need in next ten years – leave it in CDs and savings
2. Of money you need after only after ten years time put 60 % in stock market (following split of 18% in international stocks (recommends Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund) and 42% in US stocks (Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund).
3. Put remaining 40% in safe fixed-income binds (something low cost and diversified such as Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund)

It’s not perfect for many reasons but provides a historically solid default provided you can stick to it and not panic when markets go down. Try to remind yourself why you are sticking to you plan by keeping a simple statement (even if if appears you’ll lose out in the short term).

Using your goals and values to customise your portfolio (see examples p178+)

Remember to rebalance portfolio on periodic basis to keep it at 60/40 of your allocation

PART 4: STRATEGIES FOR AVOIDING THE BIG MISTAKE

Chapter 9: Hire a real financial advisor to help you see clarity when you are emotional. Things to look for: they diagnose before prescribing and are open about conflicts of interest. They are also transparent about fees and compensation (ask how much do I pay? And How are you compensated?).

Chapter 10: Behave for a really long time.


  • THE SPARK IN THE MACHINE by Daniel Keown (How the science of Acupuncture explains the mysteries of western medicine.

Daniel explains the concept Qi and how it applies to acupuncture – explains that Qi is a misunderstood concept in the west and can be explained using Western science.

Prologue talks about why adults can’t regenerate their limps but certain animals such as salamanders can (to do with electrical currents in the body (Qi) but also the blood. As humans don’t have DNA in our red blood cells so messaging of signals for regeneration doesn’t work. In Salamanders and other more primitive mammals the red cells are nucleated. I.e. All the genetic code is present so if a limp is lost it can be reformed. We actually regenerate bones and skins and other cells all the time – we just don’t have the ability to regenerate entire limps or organs if lost however children Can regenerate finger tips if cut above the nail and under the age of 6 as they have stronger Qi (explained as a DC current).

Part 1: What god forgot to tell surgeons

How the body is created to do with genetics and their organisation (achieved via Qi). Talks about how cells divide and then subtly change and respond to their positions as they continue to divide and grow with different areas taking on different roles.

Our cells stay connected via fascia. Fascia is greatly ignored in Western medicine however every organ, nerve, bone, tendon and blood vessel is surrounded by it. It binds everything together. It’s a type of connective tissue. It’s impenetrable to almost all biological substances and it’s also piezoelectrical (can create electrical signals from mechanical ones). This is in part how and why acupuncture works. Fascia is vital to how the body forms. Tiny internal pathways in Fascia connect the whole body in certain ways. These channels (Qi meridian lines) are what acupuncturist use to heal in their practice.

Chinese character for Qi is actually a drawing of one of the simplest equations in medical science: Food (rice) + air = energy. The energy created is Qi! However it is more than this and is very much a concept rather than an exact science which Western medicine has struggled with. Unlike simple metabolism Qi is an organised metabolism.

Qi is energy produced by each cell, the process by which organs create themselves and then work harmoniously. It’s why incredible organisation forms in the embryo way before any nerves appear. It is not just metabolic energy but developmental and cooperative energy. There is no equivalent concept in Western medicine which is why it opens up avenues of healing that do not exist in the West such as Acupuncture.

The body can be divided into 3 simple layers: the outer (skin and nervous system), the inner (guts and glands), the middle (all else – blood, bone, fascia and muscle). Organs stem from these three simple layers having been folded in some way. What tells them to fold?

The ability of the a single human cell to multiply and produce a full human baby requires an astounding level of organisation. How the cells work out how to go about forming the different parts of the human anatomy is due to a simple mathematical rule that all cells follow. In simple terms they are fractals. Cells themselves basically represent or appear like humans in miniature. They have brains (nucleus), skin (membrane) and lungs (mitochondria) etc. Tiny changes at a cellular level then dictate what type of cell it will become whether it forms a muscle, bone or certain organ by multiplying themselves until you get a bigger version of that first base cell. This mathematical theory can be found across our entire universe. Indeed the universe itself is fractal. DNA is also fractal. Every cell in the body comes from the DNA of the first cell. This cell multiplies to produce a number of identical cells however in order for the embryo to survive a change takes place – the outer cell get touched and the inner remain liquid. Now you have two different types of cells. Eventually they will further develop until a new change is needed and so event reoccurs until 10 trillion cells make up the human body. This ability for the cells to activate certain DNA while repressing other parts and for the cells to talk to each other is intelligent metabolism. It is Qi. The DNA code created over 4.6 billion years of random mutations is what resulted in the modern human form. This code is what the cells follow when creating the human body. It is now random but resulted from randomness over a great deal of time.

Acupuncture points are located where the embryological organising centres of the body are located – where the main points of change occur in the body during its inception. (I.e. The armpits and shoulders and elbows and wrists and start of fingers etc). The questions posed about these positions is why will needling at these positions cause change and how can this be transmitted to internal organs or other parts of the body?

Part 2: The Embryology of Chinese Medicine

One cell turns into many, compacted, formed an egg yolk, made a flat disc and then curled that up on itself to form a tiny embryo floating inside an egg. Where the Flat disc lied is the junction of Yin and Yang. They combined to create life.

Jing is what we inherit from our parents – it is the energy stored in our kidneys. In Chinese medicine the kidney is seen as equally important to the heart. It is the Yin to the hearts Yang. Jang creates our body and guides its development.

Genetics helps explain how we form the way we do – via the DNA passed on from our parents and a combination of what genes are passed down and in turn which genes are more dominant. However doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes dominant genes are not always dominant – genes interplay with each other in ways difficult to predict. Similarly genetics has very little to do with personality. Personality has a much bigger affect on genes rather than the other way around. Personality guides genes to risk themselves en mass, slowly die, or spread with wild abandon. How genes create disease isn’t well understood but we can take a good guess that personality may have something to do with it.


  • BOUNCE – The MYTH OF TALENT AND THE POWER OF PRACTICE by Matthew Syed

Argument of the book rests on the premise that differences between expert performers and normal adults reflects a life-long persistence of deliberate practice and effort to improve performance.

First few chapters talks about stories surrounding successful and elite athletes who have been born and raised in a very specific environment. Mozart was raised by a famous composer – Leopold Mozart – who was extremely domineering and set his son on a programme of intensive training in composition and performing from the age of 3. Laszlo Polgar – an educational psychologist – was one of the earliest advocates of the practice theory (not talent) of expertise. He raised all three of his daughters to become world champion chess players.

Next chapters talk about the importance of deliberate practice – not simply putting the hours in – but through constant repetition and deep concentration on tweaking your particular skill almost any average person can tread the path to excellence.

The danger of believing in the theory of talent is that it robs individuals and institutions of the motivation to change themselves and society. They become fearful of failure having been told they are naturally talented at something and so don’t try, or simply lack the self esteem from being told they are unable to do something.

Motivation is another major factor for excellence. Why are some able to sustain their motivation while others fissile out? Answer comes from having a fixed mindset that you are either good at something or not versus those who have a growth mindset – i.e. Believe that practice will ultimately lead to success and betterment. From Dweck’s book mindset he says you can cultivate a growth mindset from an early age based on type of praise you give. Praise practice and effort, never talent. Don’t use the word clever. If something’s too easy say sorry for wasting your time. Let’s do something you can really learn from. If they achieve something from effort praise them by saying well done – you must have worked very hard to achieve that grade – etc.

Next point to make is you have to believe in what you are doing and what you can achieve. The power of the mind is exercised through the medium of belief, and it doesn’t matter if it is true or false or how delusion is created – so long as it is created successfully. The placebo effect was used successfully during the war to treat the wounded with saltwater instead of morphine when the doctors had run out. The soldiers believing they had been administered morphine were then able to tolerate the agonies of surgery! Top athletes use the placebo effect in sport. The technique is to eliminate doubt by associating a seemingly difficult task with a simple action that has never failed.

Start by finding a quiet place and perform a carefully rehearsed sequence of deep breathing exercises until you have quietened the mind. Once in a state if deep relaxation begin process of positive imagery – recalling the most inspiring flights you have ever performed. Begin by looking from the outside as a spectator and being impressed by the confidence and aptitude. Level of knowledge and awareness of your surroundings. Then switch perspective and imagine inhabiting own body – feeling everything as you were there and feeling the exhilaration pride and confidence from performing to best of my ability and beyond. Finally switch focus to upcoming flight and imagine performing in the same manner. Start to state repeatedly with growing conviction ‘you can win – you can win’. Then with the very last few affirmations state you WILL win! You WILL win!

How to overcome choking? Choking occurs when experts – put under extreme pressure – explicit memory rather than trained subconscious implicit memory takes over and they begin to perform like a novice. As if they are learning for the first time. Instead of performing naturally from a subconscious level the conscious takes over. It’s not a lack of focus but TOO MUCH FOCUS. Given this only tends to occur in high pressure environments – what better way to convince oneself that what they are doing/trying to achieve doesn’t really matter. If performer does not feel any pressure the conscious mind won’t try to wrestle control from the implicit system. Tell yourself repeatedly ‘it’s only work’. ‘It’s only one flight’.

Last couple of chapters talk about drugs in sports and drug testing and the argument to allow certain drugs or enhancements up to a certain point that isn’t detrimental to that persons health. Also argument for testing for affects of certain drugs as opposed to the drugs themselves. This leads onto bioengineering and the future of sport and mankind. The future will give us the ability to insert enhancements directly into our genetic makeup. Some believe that bioengineered sportsmen and women already exist among us. Question is is it ethical? Should it be allowed provided it harms no one? Final point on genetics and long held beloved that Africans are superior runners because if genetics. Theory is thoroughly debunked. Genetic variation accrued the world is available from any small group of people across the world. Has to do with environment not genetics.


  • THE POWER OF NOW by Elkhart Tolle

“The single most importantly step to enlightenment – to disidentify from your mind”

To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time – Time is a delusion. Use only clock time not psychological time by focusing only on now (task at hand). The moment you focus on the goal (instead of what you are doing) you have lost the moment and the mind has taken over. Remember there are no problems, only solutions to be dealt with now or left and accepted (until another time or forever).

Observe the mind, smile at it (esp if feeling stressed or anxious etc)

The past cannot survive in your presence, only in your absence. Body awareness keeps you present – it anchors you in the now. Use it as soon as any challenge arises.

Being present is the only way to overcome addiction or addictive relationships. Think of relationships as being here to make you conscious instead of happy – this will offer salvation.

Whenever you notice some form of negativity look at it as telling you to wake up – get out of your mind – and be present. All evils are the effect of unconsciousness.

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. Surrender first (accept what is) then act second (Surrendered action). If you cannot surrender then take action immediately. Speak up or do something or remove yourself entirely. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE. Do not give unhappiness any form of dwelling place inside you whatsoever.

There are no problems or illnesses in the NOW (time and pain are inseparable).

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