How to Read 50 Books in a Year

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R.R. Martin

I never thought that one day I could have a “realist” goal of reading 50 books in a year. This is happening now. I’ve been asked by a few people how I read that much (I don’t think 50 is a lot, when some people a reading a hundred in a year). I don’t use fast reading techniques. You won’t find any hacks or shortcuts below. I’m actually a slow reader. I think anyone can do it with the proper mindset. Here are a bunch of ideas that could help you boost your reading in the next year.

*The first thing you should do is to make reading a priority. You probably watch TV for a few hours every week, play video games or browse internet (Facebook, Reddit, etc.). Instead of doing these activities, make reading your default option. I’m not saying don’t watch TV at all, but you can surely be creative and make more time for reading.

*One thing I do that help a lot is taking reading appointments. Whenever I have free time during the week, I’ll plug a 2-3 hours of reading in Google Calendar. Doing that will make you commit to do it. An other option would be to make a habit out of it, like reading 40 pages everyday. I don’t use that option because my days are never equal. But, I can see how it’s a great way to read much more.

*I suggest that you either always carry a book with you or one on Kindle (iPhone/Android). Dead times are underestimated. You easily lose few hours every week doing nothing. Read when waiting in line at the grocery stores, between gym sets, when waiting for meetings, in the metro or at any other dead times.

*I personally read 2 books at the same time. Usually 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Why am I doing that? Sometimes you won’t feel like reading a certain book. When you are tired, it will be way easier to read a fiction for example. You increase your chance of wanting to read something.

*It’s important to read stuff you like. If you don’t like what you’re reading, chances are that you will stop right at the middle. If you don’t like it, throw it away. As simple as that.

*I would say that one of the most important thing is to have a goal. Not aiming for an objective will make you fail. I know that I have to read 50 books before the end of the year and the goal is clearly inside my head. I track my progress and list each book I’m reading. I use a countdown to see where I’m at. It’s useful because you’ll know when you’ll have to read more. It’s just like project management, the closer you get to the deadline, the more time/effort you’ll put into your work.

*I think focus is mandatory. You need to make your reading a fun and relax activity. I usually make myself a coffee during the day or an herbal tea in the evening. Put your cell away. The last thing you want to do is check it every 2 minutes. And every time you stop, you’ll need to get your concentration back. I don’t use music when I’m reading, but some people like classical music.

Don’t know where to start? I did a bunch of book reviews if you need some inspiration: Moneyball, You Are Now Less Dumb, Steal Like an Artist, The Dip, 7 Years in Tibet, The Old Man and the Sea and Appalachian Trials.

Man With a Mission

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“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” – Seneca

Alexander The Great had a mission, he wanted to conquer the world. We can attack or defend his motives, but this isn’t the goal here. The one thing we can be certain is that he had one clear purpose and he didn’t deflect from it. Only death stopped him.

In each part of our life, we have a mission: work, community, relationships, education, hobbies and the list goes on. Those missions are different from one individual to another. Some people will have only one mission, others will have more. There are no rules about that.

What are your missions? It’s important to ask the question. It’s the only way to have a clear picture. It’s the only way to know if what we do matter or not. Missions will evolve. Some will stay. Some will go. But, you need to know them.

Randomness #7: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Scotch, Nicaragua and much more

The sea gets deeper as you go further into it.” – Venetian proverb

[1] The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit @ Pursuit of Everything – It’s a short interesting book that I found by total randomness (it’s free and in pdf). It’s a bunch of essays about doing what matter in life, finding our purpose and being creative. The author, AJ Leon, has quit his job to travel the world and work on humanitarian projects.

[2] The 24 Books that Shaped Gabriel Garcia Marquez @ Brain Pickings  Gabriel Garcia Marquez died a year ago. If you don’t know him, he’s the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in Time of Cholera. It’s interesting to see his favorite books. from the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Alexandre Dumas, William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.

[3] Not a single one of us knows what the future holds. The unexpected happens even when we’ve got everything mapped out” – A great quote by Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild. It’s true that we often try to anticipate everything that will happen. We make new years resolutions and we make long-term goals. We think that everything will go along our plan. But, a lot can change in a year. Life is full of surprises.

[4] Kill the Messenger @ Blu-Ray – That movie went under my radar. I didn’t even know the existence of it until last week. Based on the True story of Journalist Gary Webb. The film takes place in the mid 90s. Webb uncovered the CIA’s past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was sold in ghettos across the country to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. And then, he becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide.

[5] 9 Short Quotes That Changed My Life And Why @ Thought Catalog – An interesting piece by Ryan Holiday. One of my favorite quote of the article is by Heraclitus: Dogs bark at what they cannot understand.And here his Ryan explanation to it:People don’t like change. They don’t like to be confused. It’s also a fact that doing new things means forcing change and confusion on other people. So, if you’re looking for an explanation for all the barking you’re hearing, there it is.” Ryan make the list almost each month, the reason? There is a lot of wisdom in what he writes.

[6] You should watch Ex-Machina @ Cinema – It’s already out in the United States, not yet in Canada (April 24th). It look like a great sci-fi movie. It’s the story of young programmer selected for an experiment in Artificial Intelligence. He must test the human qualities of beautiful female AI. It’s from Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later and Dredd.

[7] Top 10 Fish Oil Supplements @ Labdoor – It’s tough to make the right decision when choosing supplements. When are never sure of the qualities of each of them. LabDoor did the job for us. They analyzed the 51 best-selling fish oil supplements in the United States. After the experiment, they classified the different products by “highest quality” and “best value”. The other great news? They did it for a bunch of other supplements like multivitamins and protein.

[8] Workflowing @ 5 by 5 podcast – I found a new podcast about productivity and efficiency. The hosts Mike Vardy and Michael Schechter have a weekly discussion (sometimes with a guest) about various subject like boosting your brain, resistance, the comfort zone, focus and a bunch of other stuff.

[9] Scotch Bucket list @ Cool Material – I’ll finish with some fun. This is a list of 15 bottles of Scotch you should try once in a lifetime. Some of them are affordable (between 50-100$), some are expensive and some are just…25 000$ (okay we’ll skip that one).

The Unmistakable

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They criticize me for harping on the obvious; if all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” – Calvin Coolidge

Have you ever search for your keys only to find out they were in your hand? The answer can be straight in our face and we can be blind to see it.  What we search can be so obvious, it’s natural to look elsewhere.

A while ago, I was trying to find ways to improve my strenght at the deadlift and overhead press. My first instinct was trying to find shortcuts. Maybe a new supplement could be my savior? Maybe I could add a new assistant exercise to my training? What if I wasn’t stretching properly? You can see where this was going.

After thinking about it, I concluded that if I wanted to get stronger, I needed to do more strength. As simple as that. I’ve added a few sets of singles (doing the maximum for 1 rep) to each session and after a week I was already seeing a big difference. We often try to find shortcuts, hacks, tips, tricks or whatever. We want to find the easy way to do things, because we want to avoid the hard way.

You want more money? Instead of cancelling your Netflix account, you could just find an another job or ask for a raise. You need to lose weight, drinking Coca-Cola Zero won’t make a big difference. What you need is to eat less carbs period.

We don’t need the new cool apps, the next productivity hacks or that new trendy idea. What we need is to stop bullshiting ourselves for one moment and do what fucking matters.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Book #7)

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A baseball team, of all things, was at the center of a story about possibilities and the limits of reason in human affairs. Baseball of all things was an example of how an unscientific culture responds, or fails to respond, to the scientific method – Michael Lewis

How could the poor Oakland Athletics be as competitive as the rich Yankees? That’s the main question Moneyball try to answer. Michael Lewis went inside the Oakland Athletics for the whole 2002 Major League Baseball season.

The Major League Baseball is a kingdom of inequalities. On one side you have the rich teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. On the other side you have teams like the Oakland Athletics. What was achieved with that team was near unbelievable. They had one great tool named “Billy Beane”.

He took control of the team with the idea of changing things. He hired Paul DePodesta, a Harvard graduate in economics, as his assistant. We can see here a break with the old tradition of hiring only people with “baseball” experience. Beane went down the road. He took all the old “false ideas” of baseball out of his team’s management.

The main idea was that opportunities can be created for the people who resist irrationality. Beane started to see the Athletics as a real business and he went for efficiency. He introduced sabermetrics (empirical analysis of baseball) inside his team.

This book isn’t just about baseball. It is a story of adapting or dying. Without Billy Beane turning the tides for the A’s who know what would have happened with the team (remember the Expos?). Imagine not having enough money to sign free agents or not being able to keep your own good players. Most people would have thrown the towel being in Beane’s shoes. Here are the words of Billy Beane:

No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo. When you have no money you can’t afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones. You have to always be upgrading. Otherwise you’re fucked. – Billy Beane

This book showed me that innovation is always possible. It’s not because things were done in a certain way for the last 100 years, that nothing will ever move. It’s the perfect example of thinking outside the box.

It was one of my favorite non-fiction in a long time and among my favorite ever. It is as entertaining as it is useful. I’ve learned a bunch of things in that book that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Read it if you have any interest in sports, business or trading. The movie with Brad Pitt is good, but this go way deeper in the subject.

Overall: 10/10
Fun Factor: 9/10


Micheal Lewis is also the author of  Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. If you want to know more about him, visit his website.

Judgment Day

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My whole outlook on life is, never judge a book by its cover.Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Last week I was at home with my girlfriend. As usual, we were fighting over which movie we would watch. She suggested Paddington. My first reaction was:”It will be total shit“. After a few minutes I surrendered. We watched to whole thing. To my surprise…it was good. Nothing amazing, but good entertainment.

I remember when my brother was reading Game of Thrones.  He introduced me to the TV show right after the first episode was aired. I seriously thought it would be awful. I watch it and I was instantly sold. I’ve been a fan of the show ever since. I’ve read all five books of the series.

Why am I telling these little stories? Good question. As you can see, both these anecdotes as one thing in common: we make ignorant judgment. The same pattern repeat itself everywhere. This can go from people to cultures to ideas. We judge what we don’t know.

I could say that Winnipeg is a boring city (nothing personnal Winnipeggers). I’ve probably already said it in the past. The truth is that I’ve never set my foot there. I have no idea if it’s boring or not. In that case, I should simply shut my mouth. I could say that “it look boring“, but that I would need to see for myself to make a proper judgment.

The wise abstain from making judgment until he experience. That’s what we should aim for.

The Soothsayer

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We love to make predictions. But, clearly we are bad at making them. Take a look at sci-fi books from half a century ago and you’ll see that most of the predictions never happened.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a man was interviewed by the Time magazine. He said this:

Everything that can be invented has been invented.

That man was Charles H. Duell the commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Shortly after the interview, he resigned from his position.

The First World War was expected to last a few months. It finally last 4 years and around 8.5 millions people died. Making it the most violent conflict in history at that time. Nobody could predict that. And nobody could predict that it would happen again 21 years later.

Nassim Nicolas Taleb explain in Black Swan that we are often mistaking a naïve observation of the past as something definitive or representative of the future.

Last year, Warren Buffet offered 1 billion dollars for correctly guessing all the game of the NCAA March Madness. The result? Not a single soul won.

Most of my and your predictions are dead wrong. You don’t believe me? Start taking notes of every guess you make. You’ll see how bad you are. We have a problem of overrating the success of our forecast.

The end isn’t near. Maybe it is. We have no fucking clue about it. It’s as simple as that.