Book Review | The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey

Inner Game of Work by Timothy Gallwey

Inner Game of Work (see on Amazon)

When you’re trying to learn something new or excel at something you’re familiar with, there’s a predictable process that we all default to. First, we’ll track down or listen to a set of instructions, then we’ll set goals to achieve them, then we’ll just sort of have at it. We’ll fail or fall short of expectations and get frustrated. Then we’ll either put our heads down and keep at it – and keep failing or succeeding by brute force or give up saying we’re not “talented” enough.

Every bit of research into learning & performance has shown that that is the wrong way all around. Timothy Gallwey was on the leading edge in the 1970s on the shift in academic understanding about learning and performance. He actually quit academia to apply coaching principles as a tennis coach. Here’s an amazing video showing him introducing a better way of learning to his students. [Read more...]

Book Review | The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

Art of Learning (see on Amazon)

Josh Waitzkin was called a chess prodigy at a very young age, and was actually the subject of a film called Searching for Bobby Fischer. But even though the term “prodigy” connotes some sort of in-born chess playing ability, his world class skill at chess really comes down to an insatiable curiosity, focus on deliberately developing skills, and seeking out behaviors that create extreme mental focus.

The Art of Learning is basically a memoir of someone who had lived Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule of mastering a skill, and applied the principles of extreme human performance backed by academic research outlined in Talent Is Overrated.

And that’s really the hook of the book – the inner journey of learning & performance. Thousands of people have read stories and anecdotes on what it takes to get to a very high level in any field – the insane number of training hours Olympians put in, Tiger Woods playing golf every single day as a little kid, authors writing for decades in obscurity honing their craft. But just like the experience of playing a game is very different from watching it, the experience of the person putting in those hours feels very different to them inside their head.

That’s the story that Josh Waitzkin tries to tell with The Art of Learning – what is going on inside his head, what the experience feels like to keep pushing to levels that very few people occupy. [Read more...]

Book Review | Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of World Travel by Rolf Potts

Vagaboding by Rolf Potts

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts (see on Amazon)

“Vagabond” is a word with lots of negative connotations – laziness, narcissism, dependency, aimlessness – someone avoiding commitment to home or job. In Middle English, it was actually a synonym for a criminal.

So despite many famous endorsements, I had been skeptical of  the book – assuming it was  just another quit your job, leave your commitments, and explore type book with lots of trite, over-simplified advice. That assumption turned out to not be true after I, you know, actually read it.

It turns out that Vagabonding is possibly the most practical book of the genre I’ve ever read. It’s simply different – so much so that Rolf Potts starts the book right off the bat with his own definition of Vagabonding as an outlook (vs. someone who is a vagabond). [Read more...]

Book Review | Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years

Writing On The Wall by Tom Standage

Writing On The Wall (see on Amazon)

I originally read Tom Standage in The Economist where he’s an editor & columnist and writes the best Holiday Issue columns of anyone at The Economist.

He’s written other excellent books like Edible History, but Writing On The Wall specifically looks at social media throughout human history, particularly since the Romans.

Yes – the Romans.

If you listen to most breathless journalists, worried parents or sketchy “social media marketing ninjas,” you might think that social media kicked off with Friendster, MySpace and The Blogosphere until Mark Zuckerberg and a little blue bird stole the show with Facebook & Twitter (along LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, SnapChat, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Weibo, etc).

The argument that Tom Standage drives home in a fun, fascinating way with Writing On The Wall is that social media is not new. Rather, the current crop of Internet based sites are part of a long tradition of communicating & sharing in a 1 to 1 fashion – directly with a specific social network. [Read more...]

Book Review | Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Contagious: Why Things Catch On (see on Amazon)

In the past ten years, there’s been a really fun genre of books that take normally boring academic research in behavioral economics and psychology and package it into a readable, fascinating book. Think Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, or Made to Stick by Chip Heath.

Contagious by Jonah Berger falls into that genre – and definitely lives up to the classics in the field. The book is specifically focuses on why things catch on and why things spread.

The book is particularly interesting (and possible) in the age of the Internet where concepts, media, and stories can spread so fast and so easily. But it’s not limited to just why YouTube videos go viral – he also looks at offline ideas, ads & trends that catch on and spread. [Read more...]

Book Review | Headhunters on My Doorstep by J. Maarten Troost

Headhunters On My Doorstep by J. Maarten Troost

Headhunters On My Doorstep (see on Amazon)

There’s a long tradition of modern travel writers retracing the steps of famous travel routes – whether it’s retracing George Orwell in Burma or Paul Theroux retracing his own journey 40 years later.

Headhunters on My Doorstep is a double-revisiting of travel journeys. J. Maarten Troost retraces the steps of Robert Louis Stevenson’s voyage In The South Seas, but he also revisits his own time in the South Pacific which gave him his initial fame with Sex Lives of Cannibals.

The book has 3 narratives woven throughout as Troost visits islands of French Polynesia, the Gilberts, and Samoas. First is the main travel narrative. It’s the straightforward I went here, did this, experienced this classic travel narrative.

Second is the historic narrative featuring Robert Louis Stevenson covering not only his 19th Century journey, but also anecdotes about one of the world’s most celebrated (and oddest) writers.

And third is the narrative of Troost’s recovery from alcohol addiction. 9 months before starting the research for this book, Troost landed in rehab – and writing this book was sort of his return to a big professional project without the addiction. [Read more...]

What Happens When An American Posts About Tiananmen Square On Weibo (China’s Twitter)

June 4th, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests/massacre in China, immortalized by the Tank Man photo. It was one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century where, unlike other Communist regimes in Europe, the Chinese Communists were able to keep their hold on power.

The massacre is immortalized everywhere…but China, where it has been actively censored and suppressed to the point where people will literally run away before talking about it.

The Internet was supposed to kill censorship, but China has the “Great Firewall” and one of the most ambitious censorship operations in the world. I had always heard that China actively and successfully censors the Internet, but never understood exactly how it works or what it would feel like to live in a completely censored world a la 1984.

China has banned Twitter because they will not grant access to the sensors, so they have a homegrown version – Sina Weibo. It has 500 million users – including me, an American citizen living in Atlanta, GA.

Yes – unlike some Chinese sites, anyone can sign up for Weibo, granted that you agree to their terms of service (ie, the Chinese government can revise your account).

1 Weibo Signup

I’ve had an account for a couple years, but had never used it…mainly because Google Translate has a very hard time with Mandarin Chinese. I have 9 followers (you know the type of people who follow everyone, mixed in with a couple bots).

But on June 4th, I thought I’d do a test of China’s censors. And see exactly what happens. [Read more...]

Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap On The Appalachian Trail

View of North Georgia Mountains from Rocky Mountain

Mid-March is thru-hiker’s season on the Appalachian Trail. The most common schedule for anyone planning on hiking all 2,000+ miles is to start in Georgia at Springer Mountain in March and finish in Maine at Mt. Katahdin in September. You get to beat the heat of the South while also beating winter (and the closing of Mt. Katahdin) up North. It was also one of the few times in which my, my brother’s, my Dad’s, and my brother in law’s schedules all aligned for 2 days to hike another section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. So that’s what we did.  [Read more...]

Capital One 360 Savings Account Review: My 4 Pros & Cons After 8 Years

Not enough people talk about their finances. For whatever reason, we’ll talk and write about our favorite products – but never about things like banks, lawyers, or doctors. I do a lot of book reviews, but wanted to venture out with something a bit different – a Capital One 360 Savings Account review.

Back on January 6, 2006, I ditched my local banks’ one-tenth of 1% interest rate on my personal savings (at the time), and signed up for ING Direct. At the time, online banking was still a new industry. It’s now very normal will a ton of companies to choose from.

In the 8 years since I signed up, ING Direct has become Capital One 360® (see their plans & promotions here), and is now one of the largest online banks in America. After 8 years of banking with them, here’s my pros and cons of Capital One 360 (and online banking in general). [Read more...]

On Visiting Boston, Massachusetts

Visiting Boston

During the last week of December 2014, my wife Shannon and I went to Boston, Massachusetts on a brief 5-day trip. It was my first trip to a major US city outside of my Atlanta home since my City Stereotypes post went viral last summer.

Boston is a big city for tourists, and you can find generic tourist information all over the Internet. You’ll find no shortage of people who have been to Boston who’ll tell you where to go.

I read all that information, talked to friends who had been there, and friends who live there before the trip. But here’s 11 things in no real order that still stood out to me once I got there, and makes Boston a really worthwhile visit (or home). [Read more...]

Book Review | One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer

One Summer: America, 1927 (see on Amazon)

In 1927, there was no major war. There was no major election. There was no major economic upheaval. And yet, it was still remarkably eventful – and one that laid the groundwork for so many huge events just a couple years later.

Or that’s what Bill Bryson argues and writes about in One Summer. He’s the master of taking otherwise dense and boring topics (like the History of Knitting) and turning them into an engaging, interesting, and amusing book (such as At Home)

One Summer is a book that takes a few key events of summer 1927 and interweaves them in such a way to give a full picture of what living that summer in America must have been like – and how so much history can happen all at once to set the stage for the years ahead.

Without spoiling the book – the major events of the summer in 1927 were,

  • Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs (new record)
  • Charles Lindbergh flies across the Atlantic solo
  • Sacco and Vanzetti are tried and convicted
  • The Mississippi River has a thousand year flood
  • First school bombing in American history
  • The world’s central bankers meet
  • Calvin Coolidge chooses not to run for President

All of those events, while important, are not notable in comparison to, say, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but they all add up to form the foundation of so much of our modern life. And that’s the story that Bill Bryson weaves in One Summer. [Read more...]