The top 17 #books #podcasts #netflix & 1 epic quote to from 2017

80s music may seem to get better with time – in reality, there were many crappy 80s songs and a few good ones. The good ones have remained in our memory because they were so good. Similar to this, the books I read earlier this year don’t seem as impactful as the ones I read later in the year, but the few that stuck around must have been really good.

Here is my list of favorite media from 2017.

1) The Elon Musk Series by Tim Urban

 How mind-blowingly awesome. Urban writes a blog “Wait but Why” and breaks down each piece of the Elon Musk story, including something called “Chefs vs. Cooks” (which works really well with another piece of media below). Total game changer. A Chef is someone who makes some truly – trulytruly – new, unprecedented, pioneering. It may fail, but a chef keeps going – because that is what a professional does. They have a goal in mind, work with what they have to accomplish that goal. Cooks read out of a cookbook (copying) – nothing wrong with that when your’e getting started. But if you want to truly revolutionize or change the status quo, you’ll need to embrace the fear of failure, regard it as feedback (that is what it is), and persist.

When an artist or scientist or businessperson chef reasons independently instead of by analogy, and their puzzling happens to both A) turn out well and B0 end up outside of the box, people call it innovation and marvel at the Chef’s ingenuity. When it turns out really well, all the cooks do what they do best – copy – and now its called a revolution.

This concept itself has made me re-think how I approach creativity & taking on risks.

2) Win Bigly by Scott Adams. 

This book is about persuasion, specifically the master-level persuasion abilities of someone. It dives into the fact that people can be programmed by language. Adams says that humans are ‘moist robots’ – which means our brains are computers with software that was written 50,000 years ago, and if you know how to program the software using language, that knowledge can be used offensively and defensively.

This book helps people to understand how Trump won the election. The focus was not based on which states he campaigned in, nor or how good or bad Trump is as a candidate/person, but on how he communicated.

One of the first things written about in the book is “cognitive dissonance”. When people are expecting one outcome and another happens, they are put into a state of cognitive dissonance – people rationalize away the outcome instead of seeing the reality of the situation.

When Donald Trump announced his run for presidency, Scott Adams predicted he would win w/ a 98% confidence rating. When he won, Adams said that it jumpstarted the biggest doses of cognitive dissonance “that you would ever see in your lifetime”.

This made me think, “how often am I being manipulated or persuaded?” and “can these tools be used to create good habits?” I assume the answers are “very often” and “absolutely”.  It also made me start exploring how to use the tools to persuade myself & others to develop good, healthy habits.

3) The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Pressfield introduces the concepts of The Professional, Resistance, and Muses in this book. “What keeps us from sitting down is resistance”. Resistance is everything that keeps the amateur from doing the job that The Professional does whether they want to or not. They don’t have a choice, because the Professional, as Pressfield defines it, does what must be done to stay a Professional. They go into the trenches, they don’t complain, and they do the work. To do find what work they must do, they use a sort of invite “the muse” into their minds – which tells them what to work on.

A great read for the professional creative or hobbyist creative who wants to make the jump.

4) Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday.

As a Big fan of Ryan’s book The Obstacle Is The Way, and a semi-fan of his next book “Ego is The Enemy (on which I interviewed him on the Podcast), I decided to buy this book.

This was a sort of meta-book: a book about how to write and market a good book, one that gets better with time, but what I took out of it was that in order to crate work that resounds for generations you need to tap into the universe and humanity and bring a truth forth in your own way. This springs from the concept of the Chef & the Cook, the Professional, Resistance and The Muse, and to persuasion techniques to create cognitive dissonance which will ideally enable your audience to have one or several epiphanies.

Honorable mentions.

5 Show your work & 6 Great Artists Steal Austin Kleon.

Lower on the list because of the first concept of “cooks vs. chefs” This is seemingly guide to being a really great and innovative “cook”, but one point it made was funny: If you steal from a single artist, it is called “plagiarism”. If you steal from dozens of artists, it is called “creativity”. Show your work tells people to highlight their creative process, bringing their audiences along for the ride in what they’re creating. There is a fine line between what you want to share and what shouldn’t be shared. Some may not want to share anything at all – perhaps at the possibility of others stealing their ideas. But then you have to think about the concept of time: who has the time to totally replicate what you’re doing? And if they do, they are a copy of you, not being original. You’re effectively writing the cookbook for other cooks to replicate your success. If you can be the chef and create new things (or at least present the things you’re creating in a new way), share your work, it may catch on and create a whole genre.

7 Sapiens by Yuval Harari:

A big message of this was that, similar to the Wait but Why series, it highlighted that humans have been physically the same for the last 100,000 years, and mentally the same for the last 10,000 years, if not the last 50,000 years. Our brains haven’t expanded that much during the last 10,000 years, so we are working with the same software.

Podcast episodes:
Masters of Scale w/ Reid Hoffman.
He interviewed Mark Zuckerburg who said that when “they” started building (or even before they started building) Facebook, they knew someone was going to connect the whole world, they just didn’t expect it to be them. This made me think – what futures out there are going to be created by people that don’t realize they will be creating them? Or, what futures are other people envisioning, and how will they be creating them?

9 Masters of Scale again – Cheryl Sandberg.

One phrase stuck out for me “Hire Skill” – what skills do you have that others will hire?

10 Blog of Rashad Tobaccowala
specifically the entry from the TED conference where he referenced a project on global living across socioeconomic levels. This combined with trips we took this year (especially to Marrakech) highlighted the similarities and differences of people all over the world.

11 Jerry before Seinfeld. I‘ve heard that Jerry Seinfeld was once asked how to write a joke. He answered by saying that every day he writes a joke. Every single day. He never doesn’t write a joke one day. There is probably a lot of crap in that. But then he edits it down by testing it. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But when it does, he keeps it all.  In the documentary – which is hilarious (at least in 2 parts) – has him at one point sitting in the middle of a street in New York with each ‘good’ joke he wrote since 1975 sitting on the ground around him. He said he put it into a accordion folder.

How simple, yet so hard to do. This the work.

12 The video about Platon highlighted to me the simplicity of doing great work. All of his photos of people exhibit their pure presence – they are all sat on the same stool, and he captures them in the moment. Very powerful

13 Chef’s Table: Alain Passard.
At the beginning of this episode the directors are interviewing Alain, presumably (in french) asking why he became a chef. He answers very simply and directly “When I was 14 I decided I wanted to be a chef. And I have never changed my mind. ”
Now, he runs a restaurant that only takes what the farm (also run by Alain) gives the restaurant each day. There are no recipes, nothing is written down. Until the food gets to the restaurant in the morning, They don’t know what they will be cooking. Alain said this keeps him challenged – this is the mark of a true chef (as mentioned in the Wait but Why on Elon Musk series).

14 Get Me Roger Stone.
This guy is ridiculous, and he totally owns it. Totally obsessed w/ Richard Nixon (has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back), fairly ostentatious dresser, extremely divisive language and actions, but damn it, the guy can run a successful presidential campaign. Love the guy or hate the guy, gotta respect him for being a pro at what he does.
Planet Earth II & Blue Planet II. The most exciting TV to watch & learn about earth. There is SO much going on in nature that we aren’t even aware of (living in big cities), but it is all very impressive. The cinematography and advancements in filming technology are the most impressive i’ve ever seen, because it makes the storytelling much more granular.

15 In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

I’ve begun to view food as fuel especially while training for triathlon, so this was a great primer for how to think in that way. Michael Pollan shares the idea that food has been degraded through mass production which has cut out the nutrition. He outlines 7 rules to eating in a conscious manner “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. By “food”, he explains that via processing, much of the nutrition is taken out of our food. Instead,it is engineered to taste VERY good, and get us coming back. But, it takes more food for our bodies to get the nutritional requirements, and thus we eat more empty food. This leads to health issues like diabetes & heart disease, and possibly cancer. But when you eat real food – not processed foods – which is found on the outer aisles of the grocery store or at the farmers market, you’ll be fuller quicker, it will taste better, and be better for you. It is a bit more expensive, but by eating in this way you will reduce your chance of disease, thus requiring fewer doctor bills.

(If this works – if it all works and more people starting eating this way – where does that leave doctors? One idea: encouraging & guiding towards healthy living, rather than dealing with the effects of un-healthy living.)

16 Casey Neistat Videos:
I have a special playlist on youtube called “good thoughts”.  Casey has a few videos that have great messages to them, and he has a great eye for framing & editing. A few that I really like:

  1. Take risks, because “live expands or contracts in proportion to the risks you take”, and “the most dangerous thing you can do in life is play it safe.”
  2. “life is substantiated by whatever impact or contribution you can make while your’e alive” The best way to do this is by maximizing every waking minute. “free time is the enemy of progress.
  3. “Do what you can’t” is a great video because between the lines you hear echoes of “be resourceful”.


17 – quote by Meghan Johnson,
Great to take into the holiday season: “Champions are made in the offseason”.

Very helpful to keep in mind when you’ve got training & other types of work to do!


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