Tag Archives: Self-help

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Obstacle is the Way

  1. With short but sweet advice and pointed historical examples, Ryan Holiday envelops you in a Stoic world where people not only can conquer any obstacle, but take advantage of it, enjoy it and become better and stronger people because of it. Holiday is a very interesting guy who has worked closely with critically acclaimed author Robert Greene since dropping out of college at age 19 and I would highly recommend his podcasts with Tim Ferriss.
Key Takeaways
  1. The most successful people have a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon obstacles life throws at us. Great individuals and great companies find a way to turn weakness into strengths. The greater the obstacle, the greater their/its strength becomes (pair with Taleb’s amazing Antifragile)
  2. Every obstacle is unique to each of us but the responses they elicit are the same – fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression, anger
  3. With the advice in this book you will be able to attack any obstacle by seeing clearly, acting correctly and enduring and accepting the world as it is
  4. Our perception can be a source of strength or our greatest weakness
  5. See things as they really are, without their legend or ornamentation
  6. Live in the present, day by day. Do not always try to figure out what things mean – why they are the way they are.
  7. Don’t waste time on false constructs
  8. Of course you want to avoid negative situations if you can but what if you were able to remember in the moment the second act, that opportunity to improve even the slightest, that comes with unfortunate situations
  9. Action is commonplace. Proper action is not
  10. Genius often really is just persistence in disguise
  11. Stop looking for angels and start looking for angles
  12. What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better
  13. We must be willing to roll the dice and lose. Prepare, at the end of the day, for none of it to work
  14. Will is our internal power which can never be affected by the outside world. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility; the other kind of will is weakness disguised as bluster and ambition
  15. Love everything that happens – Amor Fati
  16. Death gives life meaning. Having that finite timeline pushes you and inspires you
What I got out of it
  1. As we all know, simple often does not mean easy. The themes in this book not only cover how to face and conquer obstacles, but how to live a happy and successful life. Much of the advice may not be novel, in fact much of it is Stoic and dates back thousands of years, but it is nevertheless invaluable. People are capable of anything as long as they don’t confuse perception with observation, can learn from their mistakes and can embrace the problems everybody undoubtedly will face with a clear mind, acting correctly and accepting the world as it is.

Read The Obstacle is the Way

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The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyle

book of talent
  1. A very succinct book which does an excellent job of quickly laying out tips that will help you in achieving any type of skill you want to acquire. May be simple, but certainly not easy
Key Takeaways:
  1. Know exactly what the skill you are trying to acquire is and then begin to chunk it into the smallest imaginable parts
  2. Repetition is the single most important tool we have to acquire skills. Small actions, repeated over time, transform us
  3. Have fun and enjoy it, make training a game as often as you can
  4. Constantly push yourself to be in your sweet spot, just out of your comfort zone where you make mistakes and realize those mistakes immediately and get clear and immediate feedback
What I got out of it:
  1. An enormously powerful book which if taken to heart can have life changing effects.

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Kwik Master Recall

Jim Kwik does an unbelievable job of making a lot of pretty complicated topics around improving your memory straightforward and enjoyable to learn about. Hope you find the notes I took from his lessons as useful as the lessons themselves. I have provided below a very broad synopsis but the context in the lengthier notes really helps to solidify the techniques. Please leave any questions or comments and I’ll answer any questions you have!

  1. The “sun” list matches a unique image to numbers 1-20 with the idea being that you can create an outrageous image with whatever you are trying to remember (US Presidents, amendments, periodic table, etc.) and the image associated with each number. For example, 1 is associated with sun and to remember that George Washington is the first president, I created an image of the sun burning wooden teeth. The more ludicrous the image the more likely you are to remember it. (see Masterclass – Week 1)
  2. The alphanumeric or Major Mnemonic system turns numbers into letters and from those letters you form words with the idea being that words/images are easier to remember than numbers. (see Masterclass – Week 6)
  3. These two lists are interchangeable but I highly recommend making the initial upfront investment and memorizing the sun list forwards and backwards (literally) and then creating an image for numbers 00-100 using the alphanumeric system. This really isn’t as daunting as it might sound and you will amaze yourself with how much and how quickly you will be able to memorize enormous lists. Also, you would think that having the same image would confuse you when you have dozens of different lists you want to memorize, but you’d be amazed how well you can compartmentalize and keep everything distinct.

Masterclass – Week 1

  • This session will focus on word recall – Basic Association and PEG Method
  • 4 areas of learning
    • tactics/techniques
    • toughness
    • theory
    • teamwork
  • Memory and recall is very measurable so can see improvement clearly
    • The most influential people tend to have a super memory in 1 or 2 of the 12 memories (Buffett with numbers, Clinton with names, etc.)
  • The more you put in your brain the more you can hold (like a web and the more you know the more connections you can make)
  • Emotion tied to information becomes a long-term memory
  • Basic Association – Technique 1
    • Making an association between two or more things
    • Exercise – when given 20 words I remembered 8 but they weren’t in order like he wanted (average around 5-9)
    • Memorize this “sun” list!:
      • 1 = sun
      • 2 = socks
      • 3 = traffic lights
      • 4 = car
      • 5 = gloves
      • 6 = soda
      • 7 = rainbow
      • 8 = magic 8 ball
      • 9 = cat
      • 10 = toes
      • 11 = skis
      • 12 = roses
      • 13 = spaceship
      • 14 = carrot
      • 15 = tennis
      • 16 = candles
      • 17 = magazine
      • 18 = voting booth
      • 19 = golf
      • 20 = glasses
    • Got 18 of 20 second time after doing these associations once! (forgot rainbow and voting booth)
  • All learning is connecting something you know to something you don’t know
  • PEG Method – Technique 2 (if can’t use basic association)
    • Imagine and set pegs in order to help remind you of things – location reminds you of information
    • 3 steps for memorizing (memory is as easy as PIE)
      • Place (location)
      • Imagine (imagination)
      • Entwine (association)
    • Have 20 Pegs already – this is the “sun” list from technique 1!
      • 1 = sun = newspaper burning in the sun =  freedom of the press
      • 2 = socks = a bear wearing socks on his arms = right to bear arms
      • 3 = traffic light = quarters falling out of the traffic light = restrictions on quartering soldiers
      • 4 = car = searching for someone in a car = unreasonable search/seizure
      • 5 = glove = OJ Simpson’s glove = no self-incrimination
      • 6 = soda = Speedy Gonzalez drinking soda = right to speedy trial
      • 7 = rainbow = jury debating on a rainbow = right to trial by jury
      • 8 = magic 8 ball = magic 8 ball says need $1M to be bailed out = excessive bail prohibited
      • 9 = cat = people being walked by cats= people’s rights’ retained
      • 10 = toes = toes of a salsa dancer have incredible power = power reverts back to the states
      • This exercise teaches you the  Bill of Rights!
  • Worst way to take notes is not at all, then verbatim. Take down key words which reminds you of key concepts (mind maps)
  • Exercise = learn “sun” list backwards and forwards, practice PEG method (memorize 12-15 random words), build on PEG list (21 = deck of cards, etc.)

Masterclass – Week 2

  • This session about remembering names and faces – MOM, FDR, Be Dr. Suave, TIP, 
  • Remembering people’s names is a very powerful way to show you care and is a leadership skill
  • MOM – technique 1
    • Motivation – why do you want to remember the person’s name?
      • Jim creates a motivation scale from 0-10 and if low, figure out how to boost it up
      • Can use motivation metric for pretty much anything
    • Observation – remembering often more a matter of paying attention than having poor retention
      • Be powerfully present and observe your surroundings!
      • Make people feel like they are the only one in the entire room
    • Mechanics – techniques used to improve memory
  • FDR – Technique 2
    • First time he’d meet someone he’d imagine writing that person’s name on their forehead
    • Mind doesn’t know the difference between something you vividly imagine and something that’s real
    • So, first time you meet someone write their name on their head and use as many senses as possible – makes ordinary/bland information stand out and memorable
      • Spell “Janet” on her head in your favorite color, does it smell like those markers we used when we were young
      • Make micromovements with your hand to actually write out the name
  • Be Dr. Suave – Technique 3
    • Believe – you have a good memory and never tear yourself down because mind believes what you think
    • Exercise – the memory techniques, practice makes progress
    • Decide – you are going to remember whatever it is
    • Relax – Stress is self-made and can be helpful but usually only if you are in danger. Can’t be upset or stressed or worried if you are completely present and breathe deeply
    • Say – the person’s name or whatever you want to memorize
    • Use – use the name or whatever in conversation
    • Ask – about the person’s name, especially if unique
      • Be genuinely more interested in people than you yourself are interesting
    • Visualize – try to turn the person’s name into a picture
    • End – when you say goodbye to someone use their name and you will remember it (and you will remember them)
  • TIP – Technique 4 (General memory tool to better remember anything)
    • Turn
    • Into
    • Picture
  • Exercise – Practice FDR Strategy with anybody new you meet, MOM

Masterclass – Week 3

  • This session is about mastering words, spelling and vocabulary – deep immersion, using the language, organizing information and key word substitution 
  • Space Repetition – Technique 1
    • When want to take from short to long term memory can use space repetition technique
    • Space the memorization – Study for one hour. then wait to review one hour later, one day later, one week later and then one month later and once remember it then you will know it forever
  • Deep Immersion – Technique 2
    • Living in the environment you want to conquer on a consistent basis (country for language, med school, etc.)
  • Use it – Technique 3
    • Use new vocabulary word or language to deepen the hold you have of it
  • Organize information – Technique 4
    • Keep a vocabulary journal, flashcards, etc.
  • Key Word Substitution – Technique 5
    • Turn Into a Picture
    • Take word into a picture, turn definition into a picture and then connect the two. Make the picture:
      • ction – make picture animated
      • xaggerate / Emotion – exaggerate the picture or make emotional
      • llogical – make picture illogical since that’ll be more memorable
      • utstanding
      • nusual
  • To improve spelling – Write a word down on a piece of paper, move it so you have to look up and left, close your eyes and then see if you can still picture it and “spell” it in your head
  • Looking up and right can indicate a lie since that usually indicates imagining something
  • Looking up and left helps with visualization
  • Looking down helps access more feelings
  • Using certain unusual smells/fragrances while studying can help – chewing a weird flavor gum, smelling an incense, etc.
  • Exercise – carry a vocabulary journal and write 5 -10 words and definitions per day

Masterclass – Week 4

  • This session is about recalling what you already know – chain linking method
  • Being able to use your body to help recall things (using fist to recall which months have 30 v 31 days)
  • Can’t just say something, have to say it and feel it in order to remember it
  • Space repetition, as always, important to turn something into a long term memory
  • Can get rid of certain body lists if need be – imagine yourself showering yourself clean of that list and this can help you forget it
  • Chain Linking Story Method 
    • When given a list of words/facts/whatever, create a story that links the list
    • Don’t have to use the “sun” list

Masterclass – Week 5

  • This session is about giving a speech in 3 steps without any notes – Loci Method
  • Loci Method Technique 1
    • Simonedes came up with this method after he escaped a building that collapsed but was able to identify where everybody was sitting
    • Within 48 hours, up to 90% of the information you learned can be forgotten if don’t take good notes
      • Best way was to take notes of key words and key ideas
      • Kwik prefers mindmapping (Tony Buzan) – forces you to determine key concepts and then use pictures/few words to take notes
    • Once you have your key concepts, you “place” them in your different loci and can then walk through your palace to remember concepts
    • 10 tips for activating superhero brain (which of 10 areas are you neglecting?) – diet, kill ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts), exercise, brain nutrients (Omega 3’s, etc.), positive friend group, clean environment, sleep, brain protection, learning new things, and stress management
    • Example of Loci Method using my room
      1. Front door
      2. Closet
      3. Island
      4. Sink
      5. Stove
      6. Fridge
      7. Couch
      8. Desk
      9. Bathroom
      10. Bed

Masterclass – Week 6

  • This session about how to recall numbers
  • Goes over alphanumeric again
    • 1 = top = “ta” sound, etc.
    • vowels, silent letters, “w, h and y” have no value
    • double letters have single value (shimmer = 634)
  • Can use this system for dates by turning into numbers
    • Land on Moon July 7, 1969 = CaNs TuB SHiP (bad example but you get the idea)
  • Exercise – create images for 00-100, memorize and once feel comfortable, ask people for random numbers and try memorizing
  • Alpha numeric or Major Mnemonic System:
    • An extremely useful system with the premise that words are easier to remember than numbers. By using this system you can chunk numbers by turning pairs of numbers into sounds and eventually words and eventually stories
    • 0 = S, Z
    • 1 = T
    • 2 = N
    • 3 = M
    • 4 = R
    • 5 = L
    • 6 = Sh
    • 7 = K
    • 8 = F, V
    • 9 = P, B
    • So, for example, the number 27 is broken out into N (for 2) and K (for 7). Since vowels are unassociated, you place vowels in between the N and the K to form a word – NuKe or NiKe would both be appropriate but the important thing is that its memorable to YOU.

Masterclass – Week 7

  • This session focuses on dates
  • Human Calendar – Allows you to determine what day of the week a date falls on (for 2015)
    • January – 3
    • February – 6
    • March – 6
    • April – 2
    • May – 4
    • June – 0
    • July – 2
    • August – 5
    • September – 1
    • October – 3
    • November – 6
    • December – 1
    • 0 = sunday
    • 1 = monday
    • 2 = tuesday
    • 3 = wednesday
    • 4 = thursday
    • 5 = friday
    • 6 = saturday
    • January 1, 2015 = Add the 1 plus 3 (value for January) = 4 = 4th day of the week = thursday (if less than 7, that is the only number you need)
    • January 15, 2015 = 15 + 3 = 18/7 = 2 r 4 = 4 = Thursday (only care about the remainder if greater than 7, 21, 28)
    • January 21, 2015 = 21 +3 = 24/7 = 3 r 3 = Wednesday
    • December 25, 2015 = 25 + 1 = 26/7 = 3 r 5 = Friday
    • Cool but I don’t think very useful and they don’t describe how the “human calculator” gets the numbers which you have to add.

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

  1. Haidt uses an elephant to represent emotions and the rider of the elephant as reason. Reason attempt to control emotions but is often unsuccessful. This book helps define and clarify what truly makes people happy and what steps you can take to get there

Key Takeaways

  1. Happiness doesn’t just come from within as the Buddha or other sages claim. It comes from somewhere between in and out – people need both strong social ties, good relationships and being content from within to be happy
  2. Control your perceptions and you can control your world. There is no reality, only perception
  3. Central belief of Hinduism is that we all have our role to play and should play it well but not be attached to the results or outcomes. Be unmoved by praise or blame and contented with whatever comes your way. This mindset is required for happiness
  4. Decide that you do not want events to happen a certain way but that you want them to happen as they do happen. Amor Fati
  5. Success is often more often received with relief than ecstasy
  6. Feel more joy while making progress towards your goal than when you actually accomplish your goal. The journey and not the destination is what counts
  7. Happiness formula: Happiness = set point + conditions + voluntary activities
  8. Seems counter-intuitive but fewer social constraints leads to higher rates of of suicide. People need some boundaries to function and be happy
  9. Weak vs. strong adversity hypothesis – can grow from trauma vs. need trauma to grow. If strong is true, then we need to take more risks and chances

What I got out of it

  1. An interesting read which does a great job of making abstract concepts of happiness concrete and actionable through real world examples.
  2. Helpful to be aware that happiness tends to come from a balance of both inner and outer factors such as being grateful, not being attached to results, helping others, etc.
  3. Do not make assumptions or be tied to results. Want things to happen as they do happen. I think these two concepts are so simple and so powerful

Buy The Happiness Hypothesis

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How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

  1. Very interesting book that describes the science behind how people make decisions and how you can improve your decision making by using both the emotional and rational parts of your brain. Lehrer uses a diverse array of examples from many different fields which helps make this book more relatable and actionable.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in history and his decision making is what sets him apart. He does not have time to think about which receiver he wants to throw the ball to but relies on his feelings when he scans the field – he either gets a good feeling and throws it or a fearful feeling and keeps looking
  2. Lehrer describes a story about a pilot who was in an unimaginable situation when all his hydraulics broke and he was forced to fly the plane manually and with only one engine. By just using his feelings and gut instincts he was able to safely land the plane and save everyone onboard. When this same situation was later run in a simulator, not one person was able to land successfully.
  3.  Be weary of over thinking decisions – avoid paralysis by analysis.
  4. Lehrer argues that when making big decisions, such as buying a car or a house, one should rely on one’s emotional brain (gut instincts) since chances are that you have already invested a lot of time and energy into researching these types of decisions. However, small decisions that we make on a daily basis can be aided by our rational brain
  5. Another great example is of a Stanford particle physicist who becomes one of the best poker players in the world. He continually tries to determine what he did wrong, what could he have done better, instead of looking what he did well
  6. The rational brain has been around a couple hundred thousand years whereas the emotional brain has been around for hundreds of millions of years. I think this is something to keep in mind when making certain decisions. Trust your gut, what your instincts are telling you more often.
  7. From the perspective of the brain, new ideas are merely several old thoughts that occur at the exact same time.”
  8. “Reason without emotion is impotent.”
  9. “Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Only then can you tell me what you think. Always keep these three things separate.” (Colin Powell)
  10. “An expert is someone who has made every mistake in a very narrow field.”

What I got out of it

  1. I think this book does a good job of handling a lot of complex topics and making it engaging and easy to read. The main point I got out of this was to be aware of using both the emotional and rational parts of your brain when making decisions but knowing which decisions require more of one area. When deciding on things you care the most about, go with your emotions, When making mundane, every day decisions, use your rationality

Buy How We Decide

Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander



  1. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neuroscientist, contracts acute graham negative bacterial meningitis which is extremely rare and often fatal. He enters a coma and this book is about his journey during that time, a time when he believes he is in Heaven. While the journey itself can be debated, I believe that the lessons that can be drawn from this book are extremely powerful, universal and the whether his trip to Heaven “really” happened or not is irrelevant.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Here are some of the highlights I pulled from the book:
    • Love is at the center of everything and is of the utmost importance
    • Human experience does not stop with the death of the brain or body
    • You are unconditionally loved and cherished – you have nothing to fear and can do no wrong
    • Everybody is part of the divine – every particle in the universe is interconnected
    • It is impossible to separate the observer from what is being observed
    • Consciousness is the most “real” thing in the universe and probably the core/base of it all
    • Gratitude incredibly important for all aspects of life

What I got out of it:

  1. This will definitely be a book that I re-read. I think the idea of being interconnected, having nothing to fear because you are unconditionally loved and the infinite power of love itself are so powerful. These are the types of principles that I want to live my life bye.

Buy the book here