Stoicism Quotes, February 2016

“Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.

The impediment to action advances action.

What stands in the way becomes the way.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“I believe that it would be almost impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant than I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest light can come; it is only after extreme grief that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come.”
– Malcolm X

“The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way. I saw: ‘Lookit. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover? Now, that’s an interesting question.

Here’s another one. If the world couldn’t see your results, would you rather be thought of as the world’s greatest investor but in reality have the world’s worst record? Or be thought of as the world’s worst investor when you were actually the best?

In teaching your kids, I think the lesson they’re learning at a very, very early age is what their parents put the emphasis on. If all the emphasis is on what the world’s going to think about you, forgetting about how you really behave, you’ll wind up with an Outer Scorecard. Now, my dad: he was a hundred percent Inner Scorecard guy.

He was really maverick. But he wasn’t a maverick for the sake of being maverick. he just didn’t care what other people thought. My dad taught me how life should be lived.”
– Warren Buffett

“You should never, when facing some unbelievable tragedy, let one tragedy increase into two or three through your failure of will.”
– Warren Buffett

“He refused to accept automatically received truths, and he wanted to examine everything himself.”
– Jack Dudman on Steven Jobs

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. there is no reason not to follow your heart.”
– Steve Jobs

“No person is free who is not master of himself.”
– Epictetus

“Unfair things happen. You might be diagnosed with a disease, demoted for a mistake you didn’t make, convicted of a crime you didn’t commit. The ref might make a bad call, an agreement might be abrogated, a partner might let you down.
Our instinct is to fight these unfairnesses, to succumb if there’s no choice, but to go down kicking and screaming. We want to make it clear that we won’t accept injustice easily, we want to teach the system a lesson, we want them to know that we’re not a pushover.

But will it change the situation? Will the diagnosis be changed, the outcome of the call be any different?

What if, instead, we went at it singing and dancing? What if we walked into our four-year prison sentence determined to learn more, do more and contribute more than anyone had ever dreamed? What if we saw the derailment of one path as the opportunity to grow or to invent or to find another path?

This is incredibly difficult work, but it seems far better than the alternative.”
– Seth Godin

“‘Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard.”
– Warren Buffett

“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“In the Air Force we have a rule: check six. A guy is flying along, looking in all directions, and feeling very safe. Another guy flies up behind him (at “6 o’clock” – “12 o’clock” is directly in front of him”) and shoots. Most airplanes are shot down that way. Thinking that you’re safe is very dangerous! Somewhere, there’s a weakness you’ve got to find. You must always check six o’clock.
– U.S Air Force Gen. Donald Kutyna

“A horse that can count to ten is a remarkable horse – not a remarkable mathematician” – Samuel Johnson. (Note: See things for what they really are)

“Success is not worth rejoicing over, failure is not worth grieving over.”
– Luo Guanzhong

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
– Lao Tzu

“Poise and control.”
– Herb Brooks

“Objective judgment, now at this very moment.

Unselfish action, now at this very moment.

Willing acceptance — now at this very moment — of all external events.

That’s all you need.”
– Marcus Aurelius

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My Top 5 Books of 2014

As we round off 2014, let’s take a look back on some of my favourite books of 2014. Here they are in no particular order:

The Fish That Ate The Whale

Who could have guessed that a historical profile of a banana man would prove to be one my favourite reads this year?

The Fish That Ate The Whale tells the true rags-to-riches story of immigrant Samuel Zemmuray as he goes from banana street peddler to become the CEO of United Fruit. He wasn’t just a regular corporate suit though, this man was the Godfather of Bananas. The means he used to climb and then stay on top of the banana game were effective, but often on the wrong side of the law. Getting in his way often meant being very dead.

But he was an entrepreneur at heart. Hussled to get into the game, and hussled to stay on top.

As a subject, Zemurray is compelling, and the author Rich Cohen does him justice with an utterly unique voice. Truly a great read.

The Obstacle Is The Way

“Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.

The impediment to action advances action.

What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

Before reading this book, I had always thought philosophy was the domain of snotty intellectuals. Boy, was I wrong.

The Obstacle Is The Way gathers and organises the principles laid down by Ancient Roman Stoics in a practical how-to book to survive and thrive regardless of the situation.

The way to turn trials into triumphs, the book argues, is to first see the obstacles for what they really are, and then embrace it. Not step around the obstacle (unless there is no other way), but to use the obstacle and turn it into an advantage.

As Tim Ferriss puts it, it is the operating system for life. I’ll have it on the bedside table for years to come.

Billion Dollar Lessons

I once heard a saying: “A smart person learns from her mistakes, a dumb person repeats them, but a genius learns from the mistakes of others.”

This is a wonderful book about failure (and therefore a great chance to learn).

Billion Dollar lessons definitively debunks some of the most popular business strategies from synergy through acquisitions, roll-ups, to expansions to adjacent industries. The authors give example after example of how smart and capable CEOs repeat the same mistakes repeatedly, deluding themselves that this time it will be different and that this time we’ll execute it right.

As it turns out, it wasn’t the execution at all, maybe they (and you) should re-consider if the strategies were really right in the first place. If even one of these cautionary tales saves you and your business a lot of time and money, then it’s well worth the price of the book.

Shantaram

I’ve heard of this book from multiple sources before I picked it up.

The story is based largely on the life of Gregory Roberts (the author) and starts with his escape from prison over the wall between two gun towers in broad daylight. He finds himself a fugitive in Bombay as Australia’s most wanted man.

What follows is one of the most vivid and immersive reads I’ve ever come across. Shantaram is masterfully written, from the fascinating philosophical discussions on an objective definition of good and evil, the exploration of the nature of love, to the depiction of the gritty, realistic and brutal life in India’s most memorable city.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the novel:

“The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men… It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men — it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone — the noblest man alive or the most wicked — has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-folds of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving towards God.”

Tigana

Tigana is a fantasy novel about redemption of a people, and how the past affects the present. What do you do when warring magicians rips the name of your home from existence, so that none remember it? For the main characters, they fight to get it back.

This book is somewhat hard to review, as many of the reasons why I like it are intangible. There’s something musical about the world that makes it stick in my mind, and a romantic aspect to the premise of the story. Perhaps the greatest strength of Tigana is the ambiguity of many characters ethics. For a genre that can often be faulted as too black-and-white in its portrayal of the good and evil, Tigana manages to create characters that are engagingly grey.

The book also has one of my favourite female characters in fantasy fiction, Dianora, for being beautifully conflicted and flawed, and yet deeply relatable.

Loved this book.


 

What are some of your favourite books this year?

24 Mental Triggers That Sell

No fluff, let’s get going.

  1. Reciprocity: People tend to return a favour. Explains why gifts are exchanged, and why free samples work so well.
  2. Commitment and consistency: If you can get someone to commit to something publicly, then they are more likely to follow through.
  3. Social proof: When lost at a busy airport terminal, why do you tend to follow the crowd? We’re far more likely to take actions that we see other people taking.
  4. Authority: When we see figures in authority (real or faked), we tend to obey them.
  5. Liking: How much we like someone contributes greatly to how willingly we’ll listen
  6. Scarcity: If it’s rare, and hard to get a hold of, then it must be good!
  7. Anticipation: The wait is sometimes more powerful than the actual gift. Think Christmas.
  8. Common Enemy: United against a common cause.
  9. Surprise/Novelty: In 2004, Oprah gave away cars to everyone in her audience. They’re still talking about that.
  10. Credibility: How do people know that you really know what you’re talking about?
  11. Authenticity: Is what you say congruent with what you do? If not, we’ll notice.
  12. Purple Cow: A normal cow never gets noticed. But a purple one would. For a while. Be interesting, or be invisible.
  13. Controversy: We like to gossip, we like to gossip about scandals. It’s not for everyone, but engineering a controversy could create a lot of buzz.
  14. Testimonials/Proof: Give us testimonials from people we trust. Better yet, give us testimonials form people who are just like us. Give us a live demonstration. Prove to us that what you sell works.
  15. Celebrity: I mean, they gave Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian their own TV shows. We like talking about interesting people (or at least people who act in… interesting ways).
  16. Community: Humans are social creatures. Given the right community, we’ll conform to the actions of the members (their actions, their beliefs, the stuff they buy).
  17. Emotions: People buy on emotions… 
  18. Reason Why: … but rationalise with logic. Give them both.
  19. Stories: Give your product and company a story. A story that engages an audience with a very specific worldview.
  20. Conversation: Give your audience an outlet for discussion. Marketing is no longer just a broadcast. Not even a two-way dialogue. It’s a conservation between all your fans, often at once, and they’ll talk with or without you. So join in.
  21. Ease of use: It’s counter-intuitive, but your product is often an obstacle. What they want when they buy is a solution to their problem. The harder your product is to use, the more difficult it is to get from A to B. Easy-to-use stuff sells.
  22. Avoid pain: We are an irrational species. Studies have proven that we are more likely to take action in order to avoid pain than to get some benefit.  
  23. Specificity: Information Bias describes a psychological tendency to favour options/decisions/products that we have the most information on. So don’t hold back, don’t be general. Be painfully specific, because people that are in pain can’t possibly hear enough on how they can solve it.
  24. Short-end of the stick: Eben Pagan is fond of the phrase “love getting the short-end of the stick”. Let your customers think they’re taking advantage of you. Let them think that the deal is so great, that you’re stupid to offer it. Watch this.

What do you really sell? (It’s not what you think)

What sells kids cereals is the same thing that sells Happy Meals; not the food, but the toy.

What sells American Express isn’t a credit card, it’s the community.

What sells at Zappos isn’t the shoes, it’s the customer service.

What separates Tiffany’s from the cheaper shop down the road, isn’t a higher quality product, it’s the blue box. The box is such a big deal that they sell a porcelain version of it for $75.

What keeps a little restaurant in Tokyo, Japan in business (and thriving) isn’t the quality of the food, it’s the monkey waiters (not a joke).

The stuff that separates the invisible from the remarkable often isn’t the core product you offer. It’s the extra stuff. The special bonus. The story. The free prize inside. The little irresistible nugget that makes you worth talking about.

What do you really sell?

Email Marketing In 100 Words

Interruption marketing is like that “friend” who calls only when she wants something. Email marketing is about earning the respect and attention of your prospects so that they want to hear from you.

The steps:

1. Sign up for an autoresponder.

2. Create an opt-in box.

3. Make a compelling offer in exchange for their email address.

4. Deliver what you promised. Follow up regularly with useful content to keep them coming back.

5. Only after you’ve added value, are you allowed to sell. They’ll be more willing to listen.

6. Keep sending them free content. Good friends stay in touch.

That’s it.

The Breaking Bad Method – How To Keep People Talking About You

So there’s this show called Breaking Bad and it’s awesome. Problem in years past is that there are only a dozen episodes a year, followed by a lot of waiting. What often happens in my experience is that after the season finale, you talk about it for a week or two before you eventually run out of things to talk about. A lack of conversation can kill excitement.

But AMC does something great: a content-rich website that’s regularly updated during off-season. It has exclusive videos, articles, interviews, behind-the-scenes clips, an email newsletter, and various fan tools (avatars, a name generator and so forth). The content keeps on coming, fans keep on coming back, and word of mouth spreads.

The golden asset of the internet age is attention. With so many other options, you can’t afford to let people forget you exist. In between product launches, for example, you can maintain a blog, or grow a community, run a contest, give a few talkers a private tour, and give insider sneak-peeks.

How will you keep people talking about you?

This Is How It Should Be Done

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A friendly and welcoming bank? A manager who wants to hear from you? Is that a personal mobile number? That’s crazy. Shouldn’t be done. But it works.

Most of the time, the customers won’t call the number. But just knowing that I can, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing any questions or problems I have will be taken care of, is priceless. We’re not just talking to the “Customer Service Team”, we’re talking to a person. A person who trusts and cares about us enough to step up publicly is, again, priceless.