Tools of Titans

date Jun 7, 2017
authors Timothy Ferris
reading time 43 mins

Books to read

  1. Sapiens
  2. Poor Charlie’s Almanack
  3. Influence
  4. Man’s Search for Meaning
  5. Siddhartha
  6. Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  7. The Joy of Living
  8. Neal Gabler’s biography of Walt Disney
  9. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
  10. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  11. The Effective Executive
  12. How Proust Can Change Your Life
  13. Words that work
  14. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things
  15. Autobiography of Malcolm X
  16. The Second World War by John Keegan
  17. The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita—A Commentary for Modern Readers by Sri Swami Satchidananda
  18. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  19. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.
  20. Genghis Khan book
  21. Nautilus magazine
  22. Brain Pickings
  23. Esther Perel
  24. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
  25. Plato’s republic
  26. Books by Epicurus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Michel de Montaigne, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell
  27. West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  28. Praise of Idleness and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell
  29. The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts
  30. Maxims and Reflections by Goethe
  31. Radical Acceptance by Tara
  32. Century of the Self
  33. Morning pages



“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

Long term

“My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.”

Original work

“To do original work: It’s not necessary to know something nobody else knows. It is necessary to believe something few other people believe.”

Sleep and subconscious

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”—Thomas Edison


You are forced to shed artificial constraints, like shedding a skin, to realize that you had the ability to renegotiate your reality all along. It just takes practice.


More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice

Using ideas

Borrow liberally, combine uniquely, and create your own bespoke blueprint.


Money is a great servant but a horrible master


Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’ — Hunter S. Thompson


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

Changing the world

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion


Those who are offended easily should be offended more often — Mae West.

Praise specifically, criticize generally - Warren Buffett

Be a skeptic, don’t be a cynic.


Copying success

Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits. Someone else has done your version of “success” before, and often, many have done something similar.

Strengths and weaknesses

The superheroes you have in your mind (idols, icons, titans, billionaires, etc.) are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximized 1 or 2 strengths. Humans are imperfect creatures. You don’t “succeed” because you have no weaknesses; you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them.

3 attributes from Siddhartha book

“I can think” → Having good rules for decision-making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others. “I can wait” → Being able to plan long-term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources. “I can fast” → Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.

Showering in cold water

Wim takes cold to terrifying extremes (his retinas froze once while swimming in a lake under sheets of ice), but you can start with a cold water “finish” to showers. Simply make the last 30 to 60 seconds of your shower pure cold.

Positive re-enforcement

Good rule for Acro and for life: Tell people what you want, not what you don’t want, and keep it simple. In other words, say “Stronger elbows” and not “Don’t bend your arms.”

Offensive and defensive ways to prevent death

“There are really two pieces to longevity. The first is delaying death as long as possible by delaying the onset of chronic disease (the ‘big four’ above). We call that the defensive play. The second is enhancing life, the offensive play. On that defensive play, there are basically four diseases that are going to kill you.

4 major causes of death

It turns out that when you look at the mortality tables, there’s an 80% chance you’re going to die from cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease, period.

Multivitamin risks?

Multivitamin: “They’re the worst of both worlds. They contain a bunch of what you don’t really need and don’t contain enough of what you do need. It poses an unnecessary risk with no up side.”

Resistance training to loose weight

On Dropping Running and Picking up Weights “Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing that person who’s struggling to lose weight who thinks that they need to run 20 miles a week. They have no desire to do it, their knees hurt, they hate it, and they’re not losing weight.

Melatonin for adjusting jetlag

Here are five tricks that work. I deliberately omitted melatonin and prescription medications, which I don’t use unless adjusting to large time zone differences.

Morning routine

Here are five things that I attempt to do every morning. Realistically, if I hit three out of five, I consider myself having won the morning. And if you win the morning, you win the day. I’m probably not the first person to say this, but it’s how I frame the importance of the first 60 to 90 minutes of the day. They facilitate or handicap the next 12 + hours. I’ve deliberately set a low bar for “win.”

  1. Make Your Bed (< 3 minutes)
  2. Meditate (10 to 20 minutes)
  3. Morning Pages or 5-Minute Journal
    • what should I do?
    • how should I focus and execute?

Training / habits vs expectation

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” —Archilochus

Start small

Complete 7 sessions before you get ambitious with length. 10 minutes is plenty. Do NOT start with 30-to 60-minute sessions, or you’ll quit before hitting the phase shift. Start small and rig the game so you can win.

Iterations - maintain the momentum

Don’t sit for so long that it becomes burdensome. Sit often, for short periods, and your mindfulness practice may soon feel like an indulgence… There are two reasons why one breath is important. The first is momentum. If you commit to one breath a day, you can easily fulfill this commitment and preserve the momentum of your practice.

Dealing with frustration

Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals.

Show up

Unreasonable expectations timewise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.

Long-term focus

accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.

Offense or defense?

Chris elaborates: “Generally, what all of this comes down to is whether you are on offense or defense. I think that as you survey the challenges in your lives, it’s just: Which of those did you assign yourself, and which of those are you doing to please someone else? Your inbox is a to-do list to which anyone in the world can add an action item.

Being too experienced…

When you have a lot of experience with something, you don’t notice the things that are new about it. You don’t notice the idiosyncrasies that need to be tweaked. You don’t notice where the gaps are, what’s missing, or what’s not really working.”

Not knowing what you want…

“We do see companies that, literally, every time we meet them, they’ve pivoted. Every time, they’re off to something new, and it’s like watching a rabbit go through a maze or something. They’re never going to converge on anything because they’re never going to put the time into actually figuring it out and getting it right.”

Strong and flexible views

“Most people go through life and never develop strong views on things, or specifically go along and buy into the consensus. …That’s where “loosely held” comes in. People everywhere hate changing their minds, but you need to be able to adapt in light of new information. Many of my friends in this book will fight you tooth and nail over a topic, perhaps making dinner company nervously glance around, but as soon as you cite better information or a better logic, they’ll concede and say something like, “You’re totally right. I never thought about that.”

They were just like you…

“Get inside the heads of the people who made things in the past and what they were actually like, and then realize that they’re not that different from you. At the time they got started, they were kind of just like you … so there’s nothing stopping any of the rest of us from doing the same thing.”

Measuring metrics

For every metric, there should be another ‘paired’ metric that addresses adverse consequences of the first metric.”

Investing in others

Arnold makes films or stars in them, but he doesn’t invest in them. He’s offset the potential volatility of his own career by investing primarily in real estate. I’ve taken a similar approach to date, focusing on two ends of the spectrum: early-stage tech startups (extremely volatile) and real estate that I’m happy to hold forever, if need be.

Arnold’s different way into acting - reminds me of the useless/endless awards/mentions/competitions in tech/startups

“I never auditioned. Never. I would never go out for the regular parts because I was not a regular-looking guy, so my idea always was: Everyone is going to look the same, and everyone is trying to be the blond guy in California, going to Hollywood interviews and looking somewhat athletic and cute and all this. How can I carve myself out a niche that only I have?

Starting a business

I believe you shouldn’t start a business unless people are asking you to.

Little tests

“My recommendation is to do little tests. Try a few months of living the life you think you want, but leave yourself an exit plan, being open to the big chance that you might not like it after actually trying it.

Everyone feels this way..

And when—despite your best efforts—you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, remember: Even the best of the best sometimes feel this way. When I’m in the pit of despair, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

On being calm like Matt Mullenweg

Matt is one of the people I most try to emulate. He is exceptionally calm and logical under pressure. I’ve seen him face multiple data-center collapses with near-indifference, calmly sipping beer before another billiards shot. What should I tell a hugely influential journalist asking about it? “Tell him we’re on it.” Then he sunk another ball. He’s the epitome of “getting upset won’t help things.” I frequently ask myself “What would Matt do?” or “What would Matt say to me?”

Clarity through writing

“You know something I can say, you asked about what we look for in candidates: clarity of writing. I think clarity of writing indicates clarity of thinking.”

Story on focusing on the long term

Playing the Long Game Nicholas explains why he decided to specialize in left-hand repertoire, instead of also using his right “little hand,” a very short extension of his forearm from the elbow: “It was what my teacher at the time said: ‘You don’t want to become a gimmick.’ Especially with all the TV talent shows, which were just coming about then. It was at the start of Britain’s Got Talent. . . . I’m so relieved I took her advice, because I would’ve been that gimmick who maybe made a quick buck over two years, but I certainly wouldn’t have the respect that I have now as a pianist, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the career that I’ve had to date and that I look forward to continuing until I’m in my 60s.”


Neal’s Yard aromatherapy diffuser, which he uses every day when at home: “I find [geranium] relaxes me, but at the same time keeps me perked up enough to be able to work.”

Suffering patterns

Suffering comes from three thought patterns: loss, less, never.”

State -> Story -> Strategy

If you were to look at my daily journal right now, you’d see that I’ve scribbled “STATE → STORY → STRATEGY” at the top of each page for the next several weeks. It’s a reminder to check the boxes in that order.

Don’t strategise when you feel low

Let’s say you wake up feeling tired and overwhelmed. You sit down to brainstorm strategies to solve your issues, but it comes to naught, and you feel even worse afterward. This is because you started in a negative state, then attempted strategy but didn’t succeed

Strategise in your prime state

fix this, he encourages you to “prime” your state first. The biochemistry will help you proactively tell yourself an enabling story. Only then do you think on strategy, as you’ll see the options instead of dead ends.

Testing with little or no risk

Branson also tested with little or no risk. In Losing My Virginity, which had a huge impact on me around college graduation, he described his very first flight:

Work hardest and quietly

“You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”

Doing what you love most of the time

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate. And this woman spent all day, every day doing what she loved.”

We are all the same…

It’s easy to imagine our heroes as unflappable juggernauts, who conquer insecurity with a majestic mental karate chop every morning. This is, of course, a fantasy. Most people you see on magazine covers have plenty of mornings when they’d rather hide under the covers all day long.

Solve happy problem first

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult.”

Do the most creative work early in the morning

Ideally, Reid budgets 60 minutes for the following: “The very first thing I do when I get up, almost always, is to sit down and work on that problem [I’ve set the day before] because that’s when I’m freshest. I’m not distracted by phone calls and responses to things, and so forth. It’s the most tabula rasa—blank slate—moment that I have. I use that to maximize my creativity on a particular project. I’ll usually do it before I shower, because frequently, if I go into the shower, I’ll continue to think about it.”

Decide fast even with a higher error margin

He told me, ‘In order to move fast, I expect you’ll make some foot faults. I’m okay with an error rate of 10 to 20%—times when I would have made a different decision in a given situation—if it means you can move fast.’ I felt empowered to make decisions with this ratio in mind, and it was incredibly liberating.”

A players

“How do you know if you have A-players on your project team? You know it if they don’t just accept the strategy you hand them. They should suggest modifications to the plan based on their closeness to the details.”

Why not in 6 months?

So if you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask: Why can’t you do this in 6 months? Sometimes, you have to actually go through the complex, 10-year trajectory. But it’s at least worth asking whether that’s the story you’re telling yourself, or whether that’s the reality.”

Failure is overrated

“I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn anything at all because the failure was overdetermined. [TF: Overdetermined: “To determine, account for, or cause (something) in more than one way or with more conditions than are necessary.”] You will think it failed for Reason 1, but it failed for Reasons 1 through 5. And so the next business you start will fail for Reason 2, and then for 3 and so on.

People don’t learn from failure much

“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralizing to people in the long run, and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy.

Sense of mission

So I think trends are often things to avoid. What I prefer over trends is a sense of mission. That you are working on a unique problem that people are not solving elsewhere.

Learning, not copying

“The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”

College: consumption or investment

What is it that we’re learning? Why are you learning it? Are you going to college because it’s a 4-year party? Is it a consumption decision? Is it an investment decision where you’re investing in your future? Is it insurance? Or is it a tournament where you’re just beating other people? And are elite universities really like Studio 54 where it’s like an exclusive nightclub?

3 questions:

  1. The Monopoly Question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  2. The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?
  3. The Distribution Question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?

Scarce things

“Trust and attention—these are the scarce items in a post-scarcity world.” “We can’t out-obedience the competition.”

We are lucky!

“Those of us who are lucky enough to live in a world where we have enough and we have a roof and we have food—we find ourselves caught in this cycle of keeping track of the wrong things. Keeping track of how many times we’ve been rejected. Keeping track of how many times it didn’t work. Keeping track of all the times someone has broken our heart or double-crossed us or let us down.

Keep track instead…

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep track of the other stuff? To keep track of all the times it worked? All the times we took a risk? All the times we were able to brighten someone else’s day?


When we start doing that, we can redefine ourselves as people who are able to make an impact on the world. It took me a bunch of cycles to figure out that the narrative was up to me.

Spending time on reactive mode

“If you think hard about one’s life, most people spend most of their time on defense, in reactive mode, in playing with the cards they got instead of moving to a different table with different cards. Instead of seeking to change other people, they are willing to be changed. Part of the arc of what I’m trying to teach is: Everyone who can hear this has more power than they think they do. The question is, what are you going to do with that power?”

10 people

“The blog post I point people to the most is called ‘First, Ten,’ and it is a simple theory of marketing that says: tell ten people, show ten people, share it with ten people; ten people who already trust you and already like you. If they don’t tell anybody else, it’s not that good and you should start over. If they do tell other people, you’re on your way.”

What’s the smallest possible?

“My suggestion is, whenever possible, ask yourself: What’s the smallest possible footprint I can get away with? What is the smallest possible project that is worth my time? What is the smallest group of people who I could make a difference for, or to? Because smallest is achievable. Smallest feels risky. Because if you pick smallest and you fail, now you’ve really screwed up.

Fallacy of picking big / infinity

“We want to pick big. Infinity is our friend. Infinity is safe. Infinity gives us a place to hide. So, I want to encourage people instead to look for the small. To be on one medium in a place where people can find you. To have one sort of interaction with one tribe, with one group where you don’t have a lot of lifeboats.”

Out-lead and out-solve

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition. Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people

Telling the truth to a kid

And then, don’t criticize them when they fail. Because kids aren’t stupid. If they get in trouble every time they try to solve an interesting problem, they’ll just go back to getting an A by memorizing what’s in the textbook. I spend an enormous amount of time with kids . . . I think that it’s a privilege to be able to look a trusting, energetic, smart 11-year-old in the eye and tell him the truth. And what we can say to that 11-year-old is: ‘I really don’t care how you did on your vocabulary test. I care about whether you have something to say.’”

On saying No

The World Doesn’t Need Your Explanation. On Saying “No”: “I don’t give explanations anymore, and I’ll catch myself when I start giving explanations like ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it. I have a doctor’s appointment that day. I’m really sick. I broke my leg over the weekend’ or something. I just say, ‘I can’t do it. I hope everything is well.’”

Elements of humour by Adam Scott

Scott believes there are six elements of humor: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable. You have to have at least two dimensions to succeed.

Systems instead of goals

Scott helped me refocus, to use his language, on “systems” instead of “goals.” This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills or relationships. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably “succeed” over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects.

Developing systems

Fundamentally, “systems” could be thought of as asking yourself, “What persistent skills or relationships can I develop?” versus “What short-term goal can I achieve?” The former has a potent snowball effect, while the latter is a binary pass / fail with no consolation prize. Scott writes about this extensively in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

Repeat of noticing

“But you can use these affirmations, presumably—this is just a hypothesis—to focus your mind and your memory on a very specific thing. And that would allow you to notice things in your environment that might have already been there. It’s just that your filter was set to ignore, and then you just tune it through this memory and repetition trick until it widens a little bit to allow some extra stuff in. Now, there is some science to back that

Being successful and doing something extraordinary

If you want an average, successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing. 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

Top 25% in 2 areas

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare.

We don’t remember the second pioneers

After IBM became a big success in computers, everybody and his brother jumped into the field. Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, Sperry. Snow White and the seven dwarfs, they were called. Which dwarf grew up to become a worldwide powerhouse, with 126,000 employees and sales of $ 14 billion, a company often dubbed “the second largest computer company in the world”? None of them. The most successful computer company of the seventies and eighties, next to IBM, was Digital Equipment Corporation. IBM was first in computers. DEC was first in minicomputers.

A winner in new category

Sometimes you can also turn an also-ran into a winner by inventing a new category. Commodore was just another manufacturer of home personal computers that wasn’t going anywhere until it positioned the Amiga as the first multimedia computer.

Option B: playing the long game

Option B: You can play the long game, wait 6 to 12 months until you have a critical mass, then get to 300K downloads per episode and make more than 10 times per episode with much larger brands who can afford to scale with you as you grow.

1000 fans / customers

1,000 customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans. Millions of paying fans is just not a realistic goal to shoot for, especially when you are starting out. But 1,000 fans is doable. You might even be able to remember 1,000 names. If you added one new true fan per day, it’d only take a few years to gain 1,000.

Kickstarter funders are less than 1000

The average number of supporters for a successful Kickstarter project is 241 funders—far less than 1,000. That means if you have 1,000 true fans, you can do a crowdfunding campaign, because by definition a true fan will become a Kickstarter funder.

1000 fans as step 1

1,000 true fans is step 1, whether you want a $ 100K per year business or the next Uber. I’ve seen this with all of my fastest-growing and most successful startups. They start laser-focused on 100 to 1,000 people, niche-ing down as necessary with their messaging and targeting (demographically, geographically, etc.) to get to a manageable and cost-effectively reachable number.

Tackle the big things first

“Imagine you have a large glass jar. Next to it, you have a few large rocks, a small pile of marble-sized pebbles, and a pile of sand. If you put in the sand or pebbles first, what happens? You can’t fit the big rocks in. But if you add the big rocks, then the medium-sized pebbles, and only then the sand, it all fits.” In other words, the minutiae fit around the big things, but the big things don’t fit around the minutiae.

Starting out

When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) you have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong.

Forwarding by respect

Attach yourself to people and organizations who are already successful, subsume your identity into theirs, and move both forward simultaneously. It’s certainly more glamorous to pursue your own glory—though hardly as effective. Obeisance is the way forward.

Reducing ego

That’s the other effect of this attitude: It reduces your ego at a critical time in your career, letting you absorb everything you can without the obstructions that block others’ vision and progress.

Let others take credit

It was a strategy he used time and again over his career—once even publishing in his competitor’s paper in order to undermine a third competitor—for Franklin saw the constant benefit in making other people look good and letting them take credit for your ideas.

Being humble

Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results. There is an old saying, “Say little, do much.” What we really ought to do is update and apply a version of that to our early approach. Be lesser, do more.

Long term payoff

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected,” you can forget credit.

Focus on one thing and not many things you love

“From this experience I learned what legendary writers call ‘killing your darlings’—the plot points and characters that detract from a novel. Sometimes you need to stop doing things you love in order to nurture the one thing that matters most.”

Saying yes to everything

“Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

Creative work of no interruption

As investor Brad Feld and many others have observed, great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted blocks of time—3 to 5 hours minimum—create the space needed to find and connect the dots.

Thinking of the bigger context

Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place. A lot of people—when you’re standing at the edge of your horizon, at death’s door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos.”

No need to reply to everyone

Don’t succumb to replying to everyone out of guilt. From Maria: “Guilt [is] interesting because guilt is the flip side of prestige, and they’re both horrible reasons to do things.”

Paradox of media limelight at the expense of the quality of your work

“Maybe appearing on CNN for two minutes will make your grandmother proud, but if the travel and the preparation and the logistics eat up 20 hours of your time so that your writing suffers [and] you will ultimately not be proud of the result, then maybe it’s not worth it. Often I think the paradox is that accepting the requests you receive is at the expense of the quality of the very work—the reason for those requests in the first place—and that’s what you always have to protect.”

Don’t do it for audience

The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it. . . .

Always have plan B

“Two Is One and One Is None.” This is a common expression among SEALs. Jocko explains: “It just means, ‘Have a backup.’” If you have two of something, you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining; if you have one, you will break or lose it and be screwed. One of my favorite Franz Kafka quotes is related: “Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.”

Boss’ fault?

“You can’t blame your boss for not giving you the support you need. Plenty of people will say, ‘It’s my boss’s fault.’ No, it’s actually your fault because you haven’t educated him, you haven’t influenced him, you haven’t explained to him in a manner he understands why you need this support that you need. That’s extreme ownership. Own it all.”

Humbleness in leadership

What Makes a Good Commander? “The immediate answer that comes to mind is ‘humility.’ Because you’ve got to be humble, and you’ve got to be coachable.

Busyness - set of steps to prepare for attack

They started stockpiling their ammo, getting the plasma bags ready, whatever they do before an attack. All of that busyness gave them a sense of mastery and control that actually made them feel less anxious than just waiting around on an average day in a dangerous place.”

Unification in crisis

why unifying disasters and crisis, like 9/ 11 or the World War II Blitz bombings on London, often results in dramatic decreases in suicide, violent crime, mental illness symptoms, etc.

Wisdom to stop exploring

but also having the wisdom to stop exploring when you’ve found something worth sticking around for. That is true of a place, of a person, of a vocation. Balancing those two things—the courage of exploring and the commitment to staying—and getting the ratio right is very hard.

To learn about some of the starting tools a hacker, attacker, or someone just curious about security would use, I’d suggest looking at beginning tools such as

  • Wireshark
  • Charles (web debugging proxy)
  • NightHawk (ARP/ ND spoofing and password sniffing)
  • arpy (ARP spoofing)
  • dsniff (password sniffing)
  • Kali Linux (penetration testing)

3 people

you should have a running list of three people that you’re always watching: someone senior to you that you want to emulate, a peer who you think is better at the job than you are and who you respect, and someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did—one, two, or three years ago—better than you did it.


Spend a few minutes on each answer. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need to—make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10?

Being ultra-thrifty

“One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’s traveling through time . . . in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode. . . .

Playing thrifty

How might you put this into practice? Here are a few things I’ve done repeatedly for 3 to 14 days at a time to simulate losing all my money: Sleeping in a sleeping bag, whether on my living room floor or outside Wearing cheap white shirts and a single pair of jeans for the entire 3 to 14 days Using or a similar service to live in hosts’ homes for free, even if in your own city Eating only A) instant oatmeal and/ or B) rice and beans


The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

Heart, then head

The Beginning Is “heart work,” not “head work” “So much of the job is more emotion and ‘heart work’ than it is ‘head work.’ The head comes in after, to look at what the heart has presented and to organize it. But the initial inspiration comes from a different place, and it’s not the head, and it’s not an intellectual activity.”

Submerge yourself in the greatest work

The only way to use the inspiration of other artists is if you submerge yourself in the greatest works of all time. . . . If you listen to the greatest songs ever made, that would be a better way to work through [finding] your own voice today,

4 Stories

“There are only four stories: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power, and the journey. Every single book that is in the bookstore deals with these four archetypes, these four themes.”

The artist get to work when the pain of not doing the work exceeds the paid of doing the work

Probably, this is my inner ritual. I have to feel guilty about not writing for 3 hours or 4 hours. Then, when I’m there, I start writing and it’s nonstop. . . .

Political correctness are end of free speech

Out-of-control political correctness and online lynch mobs are the end of free speech. Fight it. The world we live in is becoming a horrible “consensus reality.” Don’t run over the cliff.

Better to be in an expanding world

I think what I needed to do was decamp and realize that technology was going to be a boom area. And even though I wanted to do science rather than technology, it’s better to be in an expanding world and not quite in exactly the right field, than to be in a contracting world where peoples’ worst behavior comes out. [In the latter,] your mind is grooved in defensive and rent-seeking types of ways.

About your work and audience

  1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.
  2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.
  3. When in doubt, starve it of oxygen
  4. If you respond, don’t over-apologize Crazy readers

“Oh, I have 1,000 readers now. That means that 100 are going to respond like assholes. Not because I’m bad, not because they’re bad, but because that’s how the math works.” If you anticipate it, it will throw you off less. On top of that, I assume that 1% of my fans are completely batshit crazy, just like the general population, which helps me handle the far scarier stuff.

Don’t respond impulsively - expect it, don’t react!

If you (wrongly) assume that everyone is going to respond with smiles and high-fives, you are going to get slapped, you’ll respond impulsively, and you’ll triple the damage.


I think what I would talk to myself about is, ‘You have to believe in your capacity.’ You have to believe that your capacity is greater than you could probably imagine. To me, this is a kind of divine question. God has given us talents and faculties, and it’s up to us to discover them, expand them to their maximum, and use them for maximum service in the world.

Compound interest

All the real benefits in life come from compound interest.

What and who » How

“What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work.”

The big picture

“This universe has been around for probably 10 billion years or more, and will be around for tens of billion years afterwards. So your existence, my existence, is just infinitesimal. It is like a firefly blinking once in the night. Nothing that we do lasts. Eventually you will fade, your works will fade, your children will fade, your thoughts will fade, this planet will fade, the sun will fade . . . it will all be gone.

Don’t talk down to kids…

If you’re lucky, you have someone when you’re young who doesn’t talk down to you, who speaks to you as a serious person and exhorts you to take something seriously, to take work seriously. If a person does that in the right way, you feel elevated. As a young person, you feel like someone is saying to you, ‘Hey! You want to be taken seriously? Then take things seriously. Do the work, you know? Don’t coast, you know?’ I’d say that’s what she gave.”

Awards and work

He said, ‘Look, Richard, if you work for the awards, you don’t do good work. But if you do good work, the awards will come.’”

Mason jar!

Anytime something really cool happens in a day, something that made me excited or joyful, doctor’s orders are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this mason jar. When something great happens, you think you’ll remember it 3 months later, but you won’t. The Jar of Awesome creates a record of great things that actually happened, all of which are easy to forget if you’re depressed or seeing the world through gray-colored glasses.

Don’t view everything in the moral compass

“Now that may be true, but it also may not be true. Our point is, if you try to approach every problem with your moral compass, first and foremost, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You’re going to exclude a lot of possible good solutions. You’re going to assume you know a lot of things, when in fact you don’t, and you’re not going to be a good partner in reaching a solution with other people who don’t happen to see the world the way you do.”

Little things to big things

“Oh, I think the little things are the big things. Because they’re a reflection. This may sound clichéd, but how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Be vulnerable first, then gain trust

People always [think] you gain trust first and then you’re vulnerable with people. But the truth is, you can’t really earn trust over time with people without being somewhat vulnerable [first].”

Routine with a full time job

Khaled Hosseini wrote The Kite Runner in the early mornings before working as a full-time doctor. Paul Levesque (page 128) often works out at midnight. If it’s truly important, schedule it. As Paul might ask you, “Is that a dream or a goal?” If it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.

Occurrences in chunks

Things that you thought were spread out over 2 years were actually Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and that Monday. So many occurrences happened in chunks that could blow you away, things that kind of define you. . . .


“You get it in your own way—thinking that you needed to know something, a trick or a process, before it would flow. If you got out of the way, it would just flow. What gives you permission to let it flow? Sometimes if you take 4 years of schooling or you study under somebody, then you’ve suddenly given yourself permission to let it flow. . . .

Act for inspiration

They think, ‘Well, I don’t have an idea, so I can’t start.’ I know you’ll only get the idea once you start. It’s this totally reverse thing. You have to act first before inspiration will hit. You don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act, because you’re never going to have the inspiration, not consistently.”

I’m not trying to sound like Mr. Smiley Positive Guy. That guy ignores the hard truth. That guy thinks a positive attitude will solve problems. It won’t. But neither will dwelling on the problem. No. Accept reality, but focus on the solution. Take that issue, take that setback, take that problem, and turn it into something good. Go forward. And, if you are part of a team, that attitude will spread throughout.