Those Bullshit Excuses

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”The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”Jordan Belfort

We always have excuses. Not enough money. Not enough time. Being too old. Being tired. Not having the skills. I could go on and on. I could find a thousand of bullshit excuses. During the last 4 months, I’ve postponed writing something for the simple reason that I was telling myself that I didn’t have enough time.

Really? In all honesty, I had time to watch tv, play video games and lose my time on internet. In the end, we choose what we really want. We choose that we are too tired. We choose that we don’t have the skills. The universe doesn’t use magic against us. It’s all us. It’s our damn choice.

Leap of Faith

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“Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.” – Ray Bradbury

The whole idea of this post came to me while I was struggling writing. I didn’t know where to start after nearly a month off. I was searching for the perfect topic or the perfect idea. That fucking blank page. All the result of the fear of judgment. All that time, the only thing I should have done was to go with my guts. Write the damn thing and press publish. It might be shit. It might be good. It might be average. It doesn’t matter in the end, if I don’t press publish, it will never exist. Resistance will build up. The only solution? Doing it now.

The Next Chapter

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“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” – Duke Leto Atreides (Dune)

Deep inside, we fear change. We are afraid of going out of our comfort zone. Why do we feel that fear? It’s because what comes next is unknown. We can’t predict the future, therefore we cannot anticipate the chaos and turbulence that could happen in consequence. Still, it’s critical for each individual to embrace change.

Societies has evolved through time with revolutions, inventions, wars, new ideas and big changes. We aren’t where we are today because of stagnation. We are here because some people did it. They went beyond their threshold to make the human race evolve.  Without changes, we would still be in the stone age.

It’s the same for each and every one of us. We need to confront fear. We need to go beyond the comfort zone. That’s the only way to grow. Stagnation was never the answer. Make the next chapter happen, whatever it is.

Enemy Mind

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“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

What I’m about to say will look nerdish. I was checking at a PC game on Steam the other day, Crusader Kings II, for those of you who care about it. For the others, it doesn’t really matter. My friends talked about that game for the past three years. They always told me how much I would like it. A historical game of conquest…well I guess that is exactly the kind of stuff I like! Having a shitty laptop, I told them each time that sadly I couldn’t run the game.

The other night, I saw the demo online. I had a doubt. You know….kind of a “what if” situation. I downloaded the thing. I started the game and…it worked! IT FUCKING WORKED! I sent an sms to my friend telling him that I made probably the stupidest assumption of the decade. He found it very funny. And he told me something like our assumption are most often bad. My first thought was: “If I was wrong about that all the time, what else could I be wrong about?” Here we are.

It made me see that these kind of stupid assumptions can crawl into our brains and affect much more important stuff in our lives than a video game. What if you’re not making the most important move of your life because of that? It’s worth thinking about it.

Eyes Wide Open

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“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

Last Sunday, I wanted to watch a movie. I didn’t have any idea what I would watch. I finally stopped my choice on a movie I’ve seen 8 years ago. It was David Lynch’s Dune. The version was three hours combining theatrical cut, extended TV cut and deleted scenes. The film was good, but it made me remember how great the book was.

After watching it, I was curious about the book follow-up Dune Messiah. I found myself reading about Frank Herbert, the author. I was astonished by the way the book was born. Herbert was making an article on the sand dunes near Florence, Oregon. He became really involved with his subject. The article was never finished. But it became the seeds of the book Dune.

It’s crazy that one of the best sci-fi novel of all time started  just like that. Nothing fancy here. He didn’t have a sign of God or something like that. He was just inspired in the moment by something he was witnessing in his daily life. You never know what the world could teach you. That’s why you should always keep your eyes wide open.

How to (Really) Read a Book

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A good book deserves an active reading. The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.Mortimer J. Adler

This is the logical follow-up How to Read 50 Books in a Year. Reading a book doesn’t finish with the last page. Far from it. Work needs to be done afterward. That is in my opinion the most important part of reading a book. That will be the make or break in what you’ll get out of the book. Really reading a book means to be an active reader. If you go from point A to Z without any work, chances are that you will forget 99% of the book in a year. Here are some thoughts about my reading process.

*I’m active during my reading. That mean I highlight things of interest. It can be interesting quotes, stuff to apply in my daily life, interesting resources (books, movies, authors, music, etc.) or just interesting facts. In other words, highlight everything you find interesting. I don’t hesitate to write ideas or comments inside my books. They are my personal working tools. They aren’t meant to stay blank. You will read at a slower pace. That’s fine, it’s not a race. No need to rush.

*Once the reading is done, I write a summary of the book in Evernote. You can use whatever tools you want for that. I used to have a desktop folder with summary written in Word documents. To each is own way. You could write them on paper sheet if you want. In the summary, I’ll write about: the author, the subject/themes, what I thought about the book (make a critic of it), what I learned and whatever ideas that comes to my mind.

*After that, I will transcribe all book notes (things that we’re highlighted) after the summary. I’ll usually keep the most important stuff. I think notes should be well-organized for a later consultation. Dividing by chapters is probably the easiest way. Writing all your notes will boost the retention of what you just read. It can be a long process, but you’ll get use to it with time.

*As you can see, Fiction don’t follow the same pattern. I won’t use the summary/notes organization. I will start by saying what I thought about the book. Then, I will make a longer summary with quotes here and there if the book is like Game of Thrones or Dune. What I mean is that the book main point is to tell a story. The other option is to write you summary around the themes of the books. Here I’m thinking about Fight Club. Sometimes, you’ll have book that fall in between.

*The way you do your summary is personal. The important point is to do it. The way of doing will differ from person to another. Some people will keeps pages and pages of notes. Others will prefer the one page rule. It’s up to you. You can write on computer or by hand. You can use tables, images, whatever you want. The idea is to make it useful. For example, for my summary of The Borgias, I’ve included a map of Italy in 1492.

*I would suggest to keep a task list (if you read a non-fiction) when you are transcribing your notes. It’s a good way to make things you learn actionable. By doing that, you’ll commit to apply what you learn it the real world.

*I keep a system to check at least 1 or 2 old summaries/notes every week. That point is very important. You need to go back to your notes once in a while. It’s interesting to add new thoughts to your book notes after a year. You’ll see things differently each time you’ll return to it. I suggest adding new comments each time to make it a perpetual work.

I would rather read 20 books in a year with an active reading mindset than 100 in a passive reading way. I believe reading is an activity to make us grow. Making the most out of it make sense. See it as your personal school. You need to do your homeworks if you want a good grade. It’s the same for books. You need to do the work if you want to get the most values out of them.

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.