Drawing on examples from Mozart to the Muppets, MIT tech pioneer and serial entrepreneur Kevin Ashton explores the history of creativity, providing practical advice to harness your own creativity. There’s also a great chapter on the Wright Brothers and how their progress was a succession of small discoveries and interests of their lifetime that influenced the creation of the first flying machine (rather than “sudden” moments of inspiration). The writing is concise, his points
counterintuitive and the examples are fresh and illustrative. I keep going back to the book for inspiration and a kick in the butt when the going gets tough. If any part of your life or work is creative — or you want it to be — you’ll find it well worth the read. Here’s one more quote from the book: Beginner’s mind and expertise sound like opposites, but they are not. Western philosophy has conditioned us to see things in opposing pairs—black and white, left and right, good
and evil, yin and yang (as opposed to the original Chinese idea of yin-yang), beginner and expert—a paradigm called “dualism.” We do not have to see things this way. We can see them as connected, not opposed. Beginner’s mind is connected to, not opposite to, expertise because the greatest experts understand that they are working within the constraints of a paradigm and they know how those constraints arose. In science, for example, some constraints are the result of available tools and
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery
This is one of the best books on mindfulness I’ve ever read. The word ‘mindfulness’ is thrown around a lot nowadays, but if you’re going to start somewhere, there’s probably no better place than here. The author Jon Zinn was one of the key figures that helped bridge meditation from east/west and speaks from a Western perspective — no fluff. He dispels a lot of the New-Age ideas about “letting go” and paints a more realistic picture of what meditation is and isn’t. Beyond meditation,
Zinn encourages us not to retreat from our lives, but rather, use these techniques to become better at what we are already doing. One question that’s posed in the book struck me as very important, which I’ve asked myself a few times in the past year. I think it’s a good one to write down and stare at for a couple of hours, at least once a year. “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for
it?” Whether you already have some sort of meditation practice, or are simply curious, this is an easily accesible guide full of insight and depth, from meditation to managing the stresses of your daily life and search for meaning. Here’s another quote from the book: If you are truly strong, there is little need to emphasize it to yourself or to others. Best to take another tack entirely and direct your attention where you fear most to look. You can do this by allowing yourself to
feel, even to cry, to not have to have opinions about everything, to not appear invincible or unfeeling to others, but instead to be in touch with and appropriately open about your feelings. Download a full list of my Kindle Notes here: Wherever you go, there you are. You can purchase the book on Amazon here.
Wherever you go, there you are
Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio is one of the world’s 100 wealthiest and a fascinating character. This is a book that I’ve picked up and put down a few times in the past few months. Each page is packed full of big ideas on living a principled life and actionable advice to do your best at work, so I’ve found that it’s easier to absorb in small sections. There’s so much covered in this book and Ray answers some big questions like… Why is tough love the best gift you can give? How do
you operate in a world amongst a blizzard of information and noise? What is radical transparency? Is leadership innate or can it be learned? What are first order and second order consequences? What are the three stages of life? Why are “criteria for decisions” more important than the decisions themselves? The way that he setup and ran his company Bridgewater is interesting and I remember reading that he recorded each company meeting on video (including internal catch ups with teammates),
that way all sides could analyze and give each other feedback on how they did in the meeting. That sort of radical transparency isn’t for everybody, but it has sure worked out for their company. A quote from the book: To be successful, the “designer/manager you” has to be objective about what the “worker you” is really like, not believing in him more than he deserves, or putting him in jobs he shouldn’t be in. Instead of having this strategic perspective, most people operate
emotionally and in the moment; their lives are a series of undirected emotional experiences, going from one thing to the next. If you want to look back on your life and feel you’ve achieved what you wanted to, you can’t operate that way. Download a full list of my Kindle Notes here: Principles. P.S. Ray also made a 30-minute animated video that summarizes the key points of the book. Check it out here. Purchase the
book on Amazon here.
Principles, Life and Work
There’s a lot information floating around about the science of sleep, multi tasking, behavioral psychology, money and motivation, and about a dozen other things that affect how we perform at work. So much so, that it can be rather confusing to really see how it all fits together, and to know what applies to us. Look no further. This book brings together a lot of disjointed concepts that I’d previously heard about into a coherent guidebook for the modern worker. Full of mostly practical advice
(although a bit dry at times), with a healthy dose of science and explanation of the “why,” it answers questions like… How do I make meetings more efficient without preparing anything extra? How can I be more creative? How do I get work done when there are colleagues around me constantly badgering me? What are the secret weapons of “cognitive jujitsu?” What small changes can we make at our work place if we’re bored? How does dopamine affect our ability to focus at
work? And much more. A quote from the book: The former CEO of an American airline famously discovered that he could save the company an estimated $40,000 a year simply by removing a single olive from the salads that the company used to furnish its passengers for free. Download a full list of my Kindle Notes here: The Leading Brain Purchase the book on Amazon here.
The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier
The author Seth Stephens poses some fascinating questions: Why does the crime rate decrease during weekends when violent movies are playing? Do parents secretly favor boy children over girls? Can you beat the stock market? How regularly do we lie about our sex lives? The answers are provocative and are hidden deep in Google search results data. Indeed, Google may be one of the most important tools to understanding human psychology in the 21st century… Here’s a quote to give you a
sense of the book’s flavor: And though I like to think that nothing can shock me, I was shocked aplenty by what the internet reveals about human sexuality—including the discovery that every month a certain number of women search for “humping stuffed animals.” Download a full list of my (free) Kindle Notes here. Purchase the book on Amazon here.
Seth Stephens Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
I know, the title is a bit provocative. However, from the start of the book Robert makes it clear that he won’t be going into reincarnation (he stays true to his word), and keeps the conversation pretty secular. He has a dry sense of humor and uses his love of powered sugar donuts and his cute dog as primary examples to articulate some of his points on traditions that are over 2500 years old — so it makes for both an educational and entertaining read. Specifically, he touches on happiness in
our modern world, how to foster “beginner’s mind,” and what evolutionary psychology has to teach us about the ancient practice of meditation. I’d recommend this to you if you’re already a meditator, but it’s also a good primer for those interested in learning more about the scientific basis for meditation. A quote from the book: “Imagine a world in which affluent American parents showered slightly less devotion and concern on their children. And imagine they spent the time saved thinking
about children who don’t have parents at all and asking what they could do to help them. Would that be so bad? It’s great that natural selection gave us the capacity for love and compassion and altruism, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept natural selection’s guidance on how to allocate these precious resources.” Download a full list of my Kindle Notes here: Why Buddhism is True Purchase the book on Amazon
Robert Wright Why Buddhism is True