Top 5 Quotes from Books I’ve Read in 2016 – PART 1
Nine months after committing to reading one book a month as part of my marketing resolutions, I’m now addicted to it!
Now isn’t about creating a reading habit anymore, but about picking the books with the greatest ROI for my growth.
Beyond craving reading and consuming books, I want to make sure I learn and implement something from those books.
Here’s what I do to get better at it:
- Highlighting sentences I want to remember.
- Adding my personal notes on top of my highlights.
- Compiling my notes and highlights in a Google Doc I will read once I’m finished with my current book.
- Review my notes every now and then, usually when I’m in between books.
These tasks have been easy to go through because I mainly read using iBooks besides some paperback books I want to finish before donating them to my local library.
Reading entire books has been more beneficial than reading a ton of news and articles online. It allows me to deep dive into a topic instead of just scratching the surface. It’s about the quality of the content than the quantity. Some chapters might be redundant, especially with self-help books, but it gives me time to process and form my own opinion.
If you wish you could read more but aren’t making the time yet, here are of some of my favorite quotes from my recent reads.
I hope you’ll find some wisdom to it.
Knowledge workers, I’m arguing, are tending toward increasingly visible busyness because they lack a better way to demonstrate their value. Let’s give this tendency a name.
Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.
-Cal Newport, Deep Work
I’m the first to plead guilty on this one. The culture of busyness has been prominent in most organizations I’ve worked for. Employees don’t take the time to step back and reflect on what the long term vision of the business should be. It’s easy to think you’re here to produce visible tangible work. Shallow tasks such as replying to emails are the easiest to track because they’re visible, but is it how knowledge workers productivity should be measured?
Unfortunately, as mentioned in How Google Works, there are differences between knowledge workers and smart creatives. If you want your employees to be more than email replying machines, but assets creating value, being productive won’t be as visible and measurable as you want it to be. Smart creatives need room and time to focus on deep work that will benefit the organization for years to come. As mentioned in High Output Management, the outcome of the work an employee is producing now might only be measurable in 3 or 6 months.
It’s time to stop measuring productivity the same way it was done during the industrial age (assembled products/emails responded per hour).
There’s a high demand around deep work because that’s how companies generate value. On the other end, we live in a world of distraction. Multi-tasking has become the new norm. People can’t seem to focus on deep thinking because of this environment. If we use the economic basics of supply and demand, it’s easy to understand why the creatives who are able to do deep work will succeed over the ones focusing on shallow work like replying to emails within 5 minutes.
If you’re comfortable going deep, you’ll be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy.
-Cal Newport, Deep Work
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
I read the biography of Elon Musk because I wanted to move away from self-help books for a bit. I wanted to learn more about someone who took thinking big and being the best version of himself to another level.
Musk always had one clear goal: do something meaningful with his life—something lasting. A lot of people think Musk is doing all this because of his big ego, but to me it’s more about building something that’s beneficial for humanity.
Did you wish you found the ultimate purpose of your life? Something that could impact the world in a big way? Most of us are not 100% happy at work. Making sure we look good from the outside, keeping a facade, can be exhausting. Most likely Musk doesn’t run into that issue. He wakes up everyday (sometimes after spending only a few hours sleeping under his desk), and do meaningful work.
Another impressive aspect of Musk’s character is his logic. He would always ask his engineers to take it back to physic principles. He knows exactly how to structure his thoughts, and communicate it in the best way possible. Musk’s clear, concise writing is the work of a logician, moving from one point to the next with precision.
I never want to hear that phrase again. What we have to do is fucking hard and half-assing things won’t be tolerated.
-Elon Musk on making a choice because ‘it was the standard way things had always been done,’
There are so many bits I could use from this book, but I’ve experience this one personally. As Derek Sivers says, there’s a benefit to being naive about the norms of the world. When starting a new job, I make sure to use my new set of eyes to question everything. On one hand, it’s a way to learn more about how things are being done, and on the other hand, it’s a way to see if there’s a better way to execute. Too often, this is what I get from asking “why?”:
- “We’ve always done it like that”
- “This is what I’ve been told”
Using those canned answers tells me a lot about someone. When you’re not sure what to say, please take the time to dig enough into the problem, understand the root of it and how to fix it.
What Musk would not tolerate were excuses or the lack of a clear plan of attack. Hollman was one of many engineers who arrived at this realization after facing one of Musk’s trademark grillings. “The worst call was the first one,” Hollman said. “Something had gone wrong, and Elon asked me how long it would take to be operational again, and I didn’t have an immediate answer. He said, ‘You need to. This is important to the company. Everything is riding on this. Why don’t you have an answer?’ He kept hitting me with pointed, direct questions. I thought it was more important to let him know quickly what happened, but I learned it was more important to have all the information.”
Slipstream Time Hacking
Enjoy the journey. Money should be just a tool to do what you want with your time. Money for the sake of money won’t make you happy. Your life should be fun, or at least enjoyable, now, not once you retire. Here are some of the concepts I’ve read in the past. This book just gave a new perspective on why they matter.
Benjamin P. Hardy introduces the concept of slowing down time and makes the parallel of time as a currency, something he illustrates using the movie Time (yes, this is the movie with Justin Timberlake).
This begs the question: What if time was literally money, and vice versa?
The author also talks about the idea of slipstream, meaning that choices you make in a few seconds can fast forward your life’s plan a few years ahead. One of the first examples that comes to mind, in my personal experience, is when I accepted a new job that came with salary raise. That choice put me in a position I thought I would only get a few years later. As Hardy says, “what if rather than focusing on how long something took, we focused on how far we went?”
For a few years now I’ve made the choice to make new year resolutions and break them down into smaller goals. Trying to come up with a plan, and sticking to it, has been challenging but gives a stronger direction to my life. It allows me to move away from treating every day the same way. I want to make the most of out every day instead of waiting for something (retirement) to happen.
One thing I still struggle with is focusing on the critical few goals that will make the bigger impact on my life. As this book reminds us, “anything is possible, but not everything is possible”.
We view time in seconds, minutes, hours, and days. Not in kilometers or miles. But what if we did measure time as a distance? How would our lives look? What if rather than focusing on how long something took, we focused on how far we went?
-Benjamin P. Hardy
Search Inside Yourself
Meditation is finally part of my daily routine. I could be more consistent but it’s already made an impact on my well being.
My practice is very basic. It can be as simple as closing my eyes, focusing on breathing through my nose three times. It takes thirty seconds to clear my mind, focus, and get back to work.
This book taught me the importance of not reacting to stimulus right away. You need to take control back and create a buffer between the stimulus and your reaction. To quote Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”
I also discovered what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
On top of those definitions, Chade-Meng Tan gives some practical exercises to start with your meditation practice and eventually push it further.
One of the simple technique I started using for self-regulation is “affect labeling,” which simply means labeling feelings with words. When you label an emotion you are experiencing (for example, “I feel anger”), it somehow helps you manage that emotion.
This concept of emotion labeling, also mentioned in Your brain at work, allows you to detach yourself from the emotions you’re going through. These emotions are just temporary states you experience but they don’t represent who are permanently. That is the big difference between “being” angry and “feeling” anger.
Life-changing insight: It implies that happiness is not something that you pursue; it is something you allow. Happiness is just being. That insight changed my life.
–Chade-Meng Tan, Search Inside Yourself
Anything You Want
In this short read, Derek Sivers goes through some of his personal experiences during his time at CD Baby, a company he started as a way to help friends make their album available online. It was such a success it quickly turned into the largest distributor of music by independent artists in the world.
Derek is an original who doesn’t play by the conventional standards. When everyone else thinks about growing their company and making as much money as possible, Derek focuses on doing what he wants, what makes him happy.
How do you grade yourself?
Would you rather make enough money to achieve your goal, or travel more, without having the constraints of working 70 hours a week because your business depends too much on you? Whatever your priorities are, Derek Sivers says “it’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.”
This reminds me of the Inner Scorecard idea. Do you go about life playing by other people’s standards or your own? What matters the most?
Before I let you go, here’s the full quote I mentioned earlier about the benefit to being naive.
Ten years later, I was running CD Baby, and for the first time, an employee told me he needed to quit. I said, “Drag. Well. OK. I wish you the best! Who’s your replacement?” He looked confused. I said, “Have you found and trained a replacement yet?” He looked a little stunned, then said, “No . . . . I think that’s your job.” Now I was stunned. I asked a few friends and found out he was right. People can just quit a job without finding and training their replacements. I had no idea. All these years, I just assumed what I had done was normal. There’s a benefit to being naive about the norms of the world—deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.
– Derek Sivers, Anything You Want
What’s the best quote from a book you’ve read this year?