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.

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You are Now Less Dumb: Conquer Mob Mentality, Buy Happiness, and Outsmart Yourself (Book #6)

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What is it about.

We are dumb and stupid. Our brains has much more limits than we think. This book explore those psychological limits that are also called “self delusions”. One of them being the narrative bias. It means that we all tell ourselves stories to stay sane. Everything we do and see in life must have a cause and effect. We often try to find meanings in sequences. We are champion of doing that when we study history. The author educate us about a sixteen other ways we fool ourselves. Get ready to read about the sunk cost fallacy, the Benjamin Franklin effect, the pluralistic ignorance and the backfire effect.


Why you should read it.

Knowing that your own brain has limits and changing the way you think  can give you huge benefits in your daily activities. Everything in You Are Now Less Dumb can be applied in real life. I think that’s big plus about that book. You will learn about willpower, the importance of clothing, how to be happier, about the paradox of choice and how to take good decisions. Everything in the book is backed by psychological research.


The Bottom line.

Avoid the book if you are already a psychology junkie. It is a pop psychology book, not a PhD thesis. Otherwise, you’ll learn a lot of interesting stuff like I did. It’s easy and fun to read. The stories and the examples are originals. The author mention a good number of interesting sources. You’ll have further reading for a while. 

Overall: 7.5/10
Fun Factor: 8/10


David McRaney is also the author of You Are Not So Smart. He has an interesting blog and podcast of the same name.

Steal Like an Artist (Book #5)

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What is it about.

In Steal Like an Artist, you will learn that it’s okay to steal ideas. Nobody in history were original. All great musicians, writers, inventors has taken influences from someone else. Shakespeare inspired a great deal of modern authors. He himself took most of his influence from the Greek historian and essayist Plutarch. Do you know where Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin took his influence for the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords? From Middle Age Scottish history (The Black Dinner). You don’t have to be a genius to create something. You just have to be yourself and be inspired by the world around you.


Why you should read it.

Most people don’t believe they can be creative. They think they have to be 100% original. Once you will read this book, you will understand a bunch of things about the creative process that you didn’t know before. It’s a game changer. It opened my eyes and it might open yours. The book is filled with great quotes from Kurt Vonnegut to Steve Jobs. You will surely be inspired by what you’ll find in it.


The Bottom line.

It’s a great book. The design is beautiful. It’s a fast and easy read. You could get through it in one evening. You will find a bunch of ideas and tools to apply for your inner creativity. I think it’s a great investment for your mind. On top of that, it’s a cheap book. Stay away from it if your name is Leonard Cohen or Irvine Welsh. In other word, if you are already creating a lot of stuff in your life, you won’t get much from that book.

Overall: 8.5/10
Fun Factor: 8/10


Austin Kleon is also the author of Show Your Work and Newspaper Blackout. If you want to know more about him, I suggest you listen to the interview he gave at Unmistakable Creative.

Book #4: The Dip

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“Quite or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”Seth Godin

You probably already know Seth Godin because of his popular blog. Who doesn’t know him? If you don’t, I seriously think it should be on your must read list. For the others, it’s also possible that you know him because of one of his seventeen books. He’s a best selling author. On the top of my mind I can think of books like Tribes, Purple Cow and Lynchpin. In the field of marketing, Seth is a great and popular writer. For The Dip, he went in a different direction. This book isn’t about marketing. It’s a book about motivation and life decisions. The main idea is “when to stick or when to quit”. This is the core of the book. Well obviously, the author push the subject deeper than its surface. The book is quite short, less than a hundred pages, but it very interesting. Believe me, it is worth it. Recently, I had a few problems with a project. I was about to quit. Then, this book came back to my mind. The project was saved. Thank you Seth.

Godin advocate that we should know when to quit. Many projects are dead ends and shouldn’t be pursued. That’s a problem we often meet. Let’s take the example of someone who isn’t able to let go a business that isn’t worth a shit. Another common example is staying in a job with no possibilities of advancement in salary or/and responsibilities. It’s the idea of accepting a permanent status quo. This kind of situation is a dead end in the pure sense of the word. It’s not even a dip. If you work harder, nothing will change. On my part, I can say I had that exact problem when I was in university. I’ve forced myself to complete a bachelor in a field that I had zero intention of working in afterward. My decision was already taken at the end of my first year. At that time, my motto was: “always finish what you start”. What a dumb idea! Looking back at it, it was a useless “pride” problem. Pride can easily be the cause of a dip.

On the opposite side, some people quit way too soon. I’ve seen a lot of people starting weightlifting with promise. Things would go well for a few weeks, then whitout warning they would vanish from the surface of the earth. No explanations, total mystery. The problem is that we all start things with ease. After the honeymoon, things start to get hard…sometime really hard. That’s “the dip” and that’s where most people will quit. When I’ve started snowboard, everything was easy at first. I had a teacher and everything was going fine. Once the teacher was gone, the dip came and my snowboard adventure was over. I could make a very long list of all the things “dips” have crushed in my life. The problem is that we want it easy, we want the quick fix mentality. We are pain avoidant. As soon as things will get hard, resistance will tune in and we’ll most likely quit.

People who do great things are the one who get through dips. They see the light at the end of the tunnel where others aren’t able to see it. It’s accepting the long term rewards. Being on the other side mean big opportunities. Godin is right when he says that we should never start something if we intend to quit when we reach “the dip”. Otherwise, it’s a total waste of time and energy. It’s making a habit out of it. Like Godin said, you’ll become a serial quitter. Starting one thing after another and never finishing anything. Quitting is most likely a bad decision at a bad moment. One of the best advice I got from this book is to never take a decision during a crisis. We tend to make big moves during those times of panic. In other words: “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.“.  The best thing to do is to wait and take you decision when calm is back.

Nobody can avoid the dip. Not you, not me. The only difference is how we react when we meet one. The next time things start to get hard, you’ll know that are going down in a dip. The good news is that you can reach the other side. Remember, hard work and persistence can lead to big rewards. Be great or quit. It’s the only solution.

Taking Risks in 9 Quotes

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We live most of our lives with the fear to take risks. The Merriam-Webster define it as: “someone or something that may cause something bad or unpleasant to happen.” The spectrum of bad or unpleasant things that could happen can be quite large. Most of the things we fear of doing day by day will not likely cause injuries or death. The risks we aren’t taking are usually harmless. The goal here is to give you inspiration of doing things that your afraid of. Like Bryan Koppelman said: “The only risks of doing something are time and ego“. Here are 9 quotes about taking more risks in your life.

[1] “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life in a great cause.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

The 26th American President was right. Take a look at his life and you will understand. He graduated from Harvard. He became a frontier sheriff from 1884 to 1886. Then, he went back to New York where he worked on the New York City Police Board and assistant secretary of the navy. He was a war hero during the Spanish-American war of 1898.

He became Vice-President under McKinley who was assassinated in 1901. That made Roosevelt President of United States. He was president until 1908. Added to that, he wrote many books. I could go on for hour talking about his different accomplishments and the risks he took in his life. Looks like it wasn’t for nothing.

[2] All the course of action are risky, so prudence is not avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” – Machiavelli 

I first read that quote in the book 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I really liked it. I know it was said by Machiavelli the author of The Prince, but I don’t know where he said it. Every thing you will do will have is share of risks.

It’s impossible to avoid risks. I mean taking you car in the morning can be a risk. I could say the same about taking the plane. Don’t make the mistake of being apathetic, make mistakes by doing audacious things. You can develop a strength to do bold things. In that matter, you should consult law #28 in 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (Enter Action with boldness).

[3] A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” – Albert Einstein

In other words, Einstein was trying to that we were built to take risk, We weren’t built stay inside a shelter and watch life goes by. What is the use of building a ship if you are not going to take it to the sea. I might sound self-righteous by telling you that you should do other things than watching tv and drinking beer. I’m in the same boat, from time to time, we all need a good kick in the ass.  You must live experiences in your life. You must make it worthwhile. Otherwise you’ll regret it. 

[4] “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.” – Herodotus

This was said by the Greek historian Herodotus in his work The Histories. He wrote it more than 2000 years ago and it didn’t grow old. Doing something we fear and going through the repercussions will always be better than doing nothing. You will probably miss more by doing nothing than by attempting.

[5] “The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!” – General George S. Patton

Patton was American general during the second world war. I think what he meant by that is take into account all the fears you have about taking a risk. Then, imagine the worst case scenario. Most of the time, the worst case scenario isn’t life or death dilemma. Once you know your fear, forget them and head for the battlefield. If you want to know more about this man, you should watch Patton with George C. Scott.

[6] “It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.” – Seneca

Lucius Seneca (4 BC – AD 65) was Roman philosopher and one of the main figure of stoicism. I really like how he depicted the idea of risk. We consciously make things difficult. If you don’t want to do something, you’ll find any reason in the world to make it difficult. It’s often the case that after we did something risky, that we will say that it was easy in the end. If you want to know more about his work, I suggest Letters From a Stoic and On Shortness of Life.

[7] “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” – Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker is the author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and bunch of other great business books. I think he meant that people who take risks don’t make more mistakes than those who don’t. Acting with boldness will probably be way more rewarding in the end of the year than doing nothing.

[8] “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain 

The boat thematic is quite popular in the field of risk quotes. This quote was attributed to the writer Mark Twain, but it cannot be verified. I think it’s really straight forward. Think of yourself in twenty years. Will you be disappointed by the risks you didn’t take? Don’t fear to try things outside of your comfort zone.

[9] “Play the game for more than you can afford to lose… only then will you learn the game.” – Winston Churchill

I don’t know the context of that quote from the British Prime Minister during the second world war. My interpretation of it is that  you will never reach the top of your game if you’re not ready to lose first. Avoiding the lost, is avoiding to play. Can you imagine a boxer never going in a ring. This is the whole essence of the game. You must play it and play it again.

In the Bookshelf #3: 7 Years in Tibet

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“We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.” – Dalai Lama

When I think about an epic life, Heinrich Harrer comes immediately to my mind. He was on the climbing team that made the first ascent of the north face of the Eiger in 1938. The novelist Arthur J. Roth called it the “Wall of Death“.  Harrer went to India to attempt an ascent of Diamir Face of the Nanga Parbat. He was planning to conquer the Himalaya. His projects were halted when the Second World War erupted. He was arrested and put in British POW camp in India. He had to tried multiple attempt of escape before finally succeeding 1944. He has managed to reach Tibet by foot and cross the border. He will live in Tibet for 7 years until the Chinese invasion. Even more impressive, he will one of the few westerners to be accepted in the “foreign city” of Lhasa. He will meet the Dalai Lama and will become his tutor. After, his seven years in Tibet, Harrer will do many more adventures where he will climb several mountains in Alaska, Andes, Borneo, New Guinea and in Eastern Africa. He explored the Amazon with the former king of Belgium Leopold III. He’s the author of 40 documentaries and more than 20 books including The White Spider and today’s book Seven Years in Tibet. The book is mainly Harrer’s travel journal from is prison camp to his departure of Tibet in 1952. 

I think one of the main lesson I’ve learned from “Seven Years in Tibet” is to never quit. Harrer never accepted to stay in prison as POW. He didn’t want to lose years of his life in internment. He tried multiple attempts before succeeding. Most of us would have quit the first time. Reaching Tibet by foot from India is not easy deed and he managed to do it. In Tibet, he was sometime in really difficult condition, without food and sleeping outside. Tibet’s authorities didn’t want him in the country because he was strange. He tried every possible ways to stay in the country. He bought more and more time. He didn’t quit in his dream of reaching Lhasa even with minimal chance of getting inside the forbidden city. After Tibet, he will never quit his fight against the chinese invasion. I think we can learn a lot from that.

Seven Years in Tibet also teach us to be more open to other cultures and to be more curious about life. Harrer comes to Tibet as westerner. Tibet in 1945 was still in feudal system ruled by the Dalai Lama. Men, beasts and lands are property of him. Is power is strongly supported by a monastic order of monks. Buddhism is the main religion and it is deeply anchored in Tibet tradition. As he will see, it is forbidden to kill any living animals or humans. Even taking something that come from an animal like honey is against the law. People in Tibet express deep devotion. Religion occupies most of the life of the individual. Harrer will learn a whole other way of living. As he will say: “Tibet has not yet been infested by the worst disease of modern life, the everlasting rush.”  European haste has no place in Tibet. The book can make us understand the different tradeoffs of the modern culture. A new way of living, will mean the disappearance of an old way. A new technology will remove an older one. A new custom, will make an old one go. Harrer explained it well: “Here it is the yak’s pace that dictates the tempo of life, and so it has been for thousands of years. Would Tibet be happier for being transformed? Tibet will deeply change him.

He will be force to leave Tibet because of the invasion. Powerless and he will say: “I felt like a spectator at a play, who foresaw the tragic denouement and was saddened by the inevitable end, but had to sit out the last act“. But, he will never forget how lucky he was for those seven years. He lived something that couldn’t have happen elsewhere. He will feel homesick of Tibet even after is return in Austria. He will write “Seven Years in Tibet” in the hope of turning the eyes of the world to the fate of Tibet. Forty-four years later a movie will be made about this epic story.

In the Bookshelf #2: The Old Man and the Sea

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I’ll make a confession to you and I’m shy about it. For 27 years of my life, I had never read a book by Ernest Hemingway. Well, it’s now a thing of the past. The Old Man and the Sea was my first Hemingway’s experience. I can say I’ve really appreciated it. To make a little background, the book was written in 1951 in Cuba and published in 1952. It is the work that made Hemingway well known. He won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1953 and it was one of the main reasons for is Nobel prize of 1954.

In this book, the author bring us into the life of an old cuban fisherman named “Santiago”. The whole book is a battle between a fisherman and a huge fish (a large marlin). At the beginning of the book, the protagonist is out of luck. He didn’t catch any fish in the last 84 days. On the 85th day, he sail far on the Gulf Stream with the intention of turning the tide. By noon the first day, a fish bait is line. The battle begin. After days of struggle, he finally catch the giant fish. Unfortunately, he’s unable to get the fish inside the boat. The marlin is simply too heavy. The catch will be devoured by sharks on his way back. The fights that Santiago had with the marlin, nature and sharks can offer many life lessons. Here are my three favorite lessons.

One of the main message of the book is that luck isn’t something we should depend on. Santiago is called a “Salao” by the villagers. It means  that he is doom by the worst luck. He even lose is fishing partner, a young boy, because of that. Santiago believe in his own skills. He thought that with perseverance he can shift to momentum. “To hell with luck,” he thinks. “I’ll bring the luck with me.” The old man work hard and he use the best techniques. He knows that good things don’t happen to those who wait. He’s a great example to follow. As Thomas Jefferson said:“I’m a great believer in luck, and I have found the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Another important lesson of the book is to accept the present moment for what it is. The fight between Santiago and the fish is long. It last a few days. The fisherman hurt his hands during the battle. He’s alone and he doesn’t have anything to cook food. Even with all those problems, he doesn’t quit. He knew that all of it is a temporary situation. “He was shivering with the morning cold. But he knew he would shiver himself warm and that soon he would be rowing.” He accept the suffering without complaint.

Finally, the book put a lot of emphasis on the idea that we must refuse to give up. A man can be destroyed but not defeated“. Being destroyed is something you don’t have control on. You can die, but it doesn’t mean it happened because you gave up. To be defeated you need to give up. If you don’t, you can’t be defeated. The best example is the American conflict against communists in Vietnam (1959-1975). The south of the country was occupied by US army but Viet Congs never surrendered. Therefore, they were never defeated. Even if Santiago only brought back the fish bone, he wasn’t defeated by the sharks because he never abandoned the fight.

 “The Old Man and The Sea” is a Great introduction to Ernest Hemingway. This book is much more than a simple novel. Most of the things you will read in it can be applied to your daily life. In other word,  you should read it. If you don’t have time to read it, I will probably call you a lazy motherf*cker because it’s only about a 100 pages. Anyway, if you really don’t have the time, I recommend that you watch the oscar winning animation film (1999). I’m still not sure what will be next Hemingway’s book. A Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bells Tolls?