Weekend reflection and reading

This is the first week in maybe 5 years when I’ve written as much as I have. I’ve posted every day for the last 5 days, and will continue to post daily for as long as possible just to keep the chain going. I’m enjoying the routine, and I’m enjoying the uptick in traffic too, so¬†if you’re reading this, thank you ūüôā

My big goal right now is building a¬†repeatable, scalable system¬†to generate leads for my copywriting business. Right now I’m doing a lot of haphazard, ad-hoc outbound sales and network marketing, which is OK, but isn’t systematic. I need a way to produce reliable, consistent leads and sales. I need to think about how best to do that, and how to build it.

On the plus side, I had some great conversations with potential clients and potential sources of leads and JV deals this week, which was really positive.¬†They were the type of things that will probably lead to good income streams in a few weeks or months, but won’t put cash in the bank right this second. Which is fine, it just makes me wish I’d done them a few weeks ago, but there you go. The¬†best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now.

I didn’t work out at all this week — had a minor injury that I didn’t want to aggravate,¬†so I skipped the gym, but I can already feel myself getting out of the habit. I need to correct that as soon as possible.

Also, in future I want to make this weekly goal review more structured and systematic too. I want to figure out a way to do that that isn’t too burdensome. I’ve seen some people use systems like this¬†that look good on paper, but would be way too complex to start with, so I want something more basic. I’ll work this out this week.

Anyway, here’s a collection of things I’ve been¬†reading¬†this week, and recommend¬†you peruse over your leisurely weekend. Enjoy.


  • Real World Blueprint for a $5million week¬†– Ramit Sethi goes into deep, intense detail about a product launch at his company, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ramit is one of the best in the business when it comes to online sales and marketing, so you can learn a ton from him. But more importantly: don’t try super-advanced tactics if you’re just starting out. Get the fundamentals right, and build from there.
  • Career advice no-one tells you – job requirements are negotiable,¬†imposter syndrome is a good things, and other unconventional job hunting advice. What I love most in this article is the¬†concept of doing the job you want before you’ve got it. Just start doing stuff, and send it to the person you want to hire you. If it’s good, they won’t ignore it.
  • Don’t say “maybe” if you want to say “no” – good piece from Ryan Holiday on not being afraid to turn down things that you just don’t want to do. It’s your time, your life, so protect it.
  • The Million Dollar Question¬†– this is an older essay by Sebastian Marshall that PERFECTLY encapsulates the issues and insecurities of taking an unconventional path in your career and your life. It’s a big fear that I have as I move towards more freelance and entrepreneurial projects, and something that I’m wrestling with right now, so it was good to read this again.


  • The Millionaire Fastlane¬†– I love the¬†central idea of this book — that the only way to really get wealthy before you’re old is entrepreneurship and building income-producing assets — but god, the title is awful. It sounds like a bad infomercial and makes me not want to recommend it. A good read though.
  • Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders¬†– I’m a huge Warren Buffett/Charlie Munger fanboy, and there’s more wisdom in this book than an entire MBA course. But¬†it’s a long read — it’s just a collection of every letter to BH shareholders from 1965-2014. For edited excerpts of these letters, check out The Essays of Warren Buffett, and for more on Charlie Munger, Tren Griffin’s recent book Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor is really good.
  • The End of Jobs – my buddy Taylor Pearson’s first (but probably not last) book is a fantastic argument that traditional jobs are in terminal decline, and that you¬†should start to move towards a more entrepreneurial career path. Taylor’s a great writer — his essays are testament to that — and this is an important and timely book. Pair it with Choose Yourself, which covers similar ground but from a more inspirational point of view (Taylor’s book is more the nuts and bolts, practical advice).


The Obstacle Is The Way

I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday’s blog for about 7 years now. He’s the Director of Marketing for American Apparel, and has worked with authors like Tim Ferriss, Robert Greene¬†and Tucker Max. He’s also a staunch advocate of stoicism as a¬†personal¬†operating system.

His new book is called The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. It’s the best book I’ve read¬†in a long time, and it’s a book I will undoubtedly turn to again and again over the next 50 years. Ryan teaches you how to deal with anything in your life, and turn it to your advantage.

There are three aspects to this.

1. Perception

Controlling your perception is key – you have to flip the obstacle around to see how it can work for you. Think: tight deadlines give you the opportunity to practice working under pressure and focus on what really matters. Failing at a business venture gives you more intel about what does and doesn’t work in a particular marketplace. If your computer crashes and you lose all your work: now you have a chance to do it over, even better than before.

What matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure…this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming – or possibly thriving because of – them.

2. Action

Every single thing we do is a reflection of who we are as a person. We owe it to ourselves to do our best work, to keep going, to strive and to what it is we were meant to do. And we always have a choice to keep working and to put in the effort and the work required of us.

The great psychologist Victor Frankl, survivor of three concentration camps, found presumptuousness in the age-old question: “What is the meaning of life?” As though it is someone else’s responsibility to tell you. Instead, he said, the world is asking¬†you that question. And it’s your job to answer with your actions.

3. Will

Finally, there is the idea of will, which is what you hold deep inside of you.

True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility…[not] weakness disguised by bluster and ambition. See which lasts longer under the hardest obstacles.

This is what we should all strive to be:

Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens – at that exposing moment – the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside you. So what will be revealed when you’re sliced open by tension and pressure? Iron? Or air? Or bullshit?

Ryan is also clearly influenced by both Robert Greene and Marcus Aurelius in terms of his writing style for this book – it is simple, clear, direct and practical. I found myself highlighting and marking numerous passages which I will turn to again and again in the future.

On reading and progress

Ilan Bouchard has a great post up at his personal blog called On Reading and Progress.

I never read anymore without a pen and highlighter. I highlight passages that stand out and scribble notes in the margins; when I finish a book, I set it aside for a month or two. Then I return to it and transcribe all the highlighted passages and notes into a word document, marking their page numbers. This allows me to review the book and fixes its main concepts in my mind. If I want to review a quote, I can search within the word document for a few words or phrases from the passage, and jump directly to the quote in question, even if I can’t remember who wrote it or which book it came from.

I can’t stress how much doing exactly this has helped me. I’ve only done this with maybe 15 books since I started doing it a few months ago, but it’s already helped me massively. If you want to do the same, here’s some great resources:

These are more for learning on your own time, and if you want something a little more structured, MIT’s Open Courseware is awesome as well. They have lecture notes and presentations and recommended textbooks for all the courses that MIT offer, for free. It’s fantastic.

My top 3 blogs

On the main page of this site is a list of blogs and websites that I read on a regular basis (in fact I subscribe to them all via RSS and read them in Google Reader). I’d recommend all of them, but thse are the three that I think are the best.

Ryan Holiday

I’ve written about Ryan a couple of times before, but his site is fantastic. Ryan is PR director for Rudius Media and also does work for a big Hollywood management company and the author Robert Greene, among others. Aside from the huge fact that his site is the inspiration for mine, the guy works for Tucker Max, and he reads like his life depends on it. His reading list is packed with great books (I’m working through them now). Ryan is only a year older than me and yet seems so driven, motivated and mature, it’s incredible. If you’re under the age of 25 and aren’t reading his blog, you should be. Here’s some posts of his from my delicious bookmarks:

Seth Godin

Seth’s blog is a fantastic blog on business and marketing. He is one of the most respected business thinkers in the world and, if I remember rightly, his blog is the most read business blog on the internet. His common sense approach to business is great. If and when I start a business in the future, this post will be my manifesto. Some other posts of his that I like:

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell

This is the production blog for Tucker Max’s first film, I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, and is written predominantly by Tucker, but with posts from his executive producer and co-writer Nils Parker, and a couple from his assistant Greg and the lead actors. Obviously I’m a big fan of Tucker Max, but I never really appreciated how hard the guy works or how smart he was until he started this blog. The archives stretch right back to pre-production, and Tucker talks about finding a director, casting, making the financing deals and so on, before moving onto the actual shooting of the film. It’s now in the post-production process, with editing and test screenings and so on, and it’s scheduled to be released in 2009. I can’t wait. If you have any interest in filmand want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes, you should definitely check it out. Here are some of my favourite posts from the IHTSBIH production blog:

Of course I’m always looking for new sites to read, more content to devour, so if anyone knows any other good blogs or websites they think I should be reading, fire away in the comments section. I’d love to hear what other people are reading, or what they think of these choices.

Book quotes, Malcolm X edition

A couple of guys that I read regularly like typing or writing out their favourite quotes from books that they’ve read, for reference, inspiration and the like. I think it’s a good idea, and I’m going to do the same. Eventually I’ll consolidate them all into one page on this site, but for now, here’s a few of my favourites to get started with. These are all from The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

“Malcolm’s life finally demonstrates difficult and perennially unfashionable notion that people are not fixed or closed products of their circumstances.”

“Children have a lesson adults needs to learn, to not be ashamed of falling, but to get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so “safe”, and therefore so shrinking and rigid and afraid that it is why so many humans fail. Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure.”

“Anyone who wants to follow me and my movement has got to be ready to go to jail, to the hospital, and to the cemetery before he can be truly free.”

“All I had done was to improve on their strategy, and it was the beginning of a very important lesson in life – that any time you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business – you know they’re doing something that you aren’t.”

“I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.”

“My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs your alma mater?‚Äô I told him, ‚ÄėBooks.‚Äô”

“‘Don’t condemn if you see a person has a glass of dirty water,’ [Mr Muhammed] said, ‘just show them the clean glass of water that you have. When they inspect it, you won’t have to say that yours is better.'”

My favourite quote in bold. This is a great book, one that I should probably read again some time. I’ll put it back in the ever-growing pile next to my bed. More book quotes to come soon.

Starting a new blog and creating a new media presence

I’ve decided to start this blog based on the indirect advice of several people, who have hugely influenced me over the past year or so.

Ryan Holiday, PR director for Rudius Media, the media company established and run by Tucker Max, is probably my main influence in this area. He talks about creating a new media presence, and believes that in order to get places, to do the things you want, you need to put yourself out there, educate yourself, make connections, and so on. I started reading Ryan’s blog over a year ago now, and it is fantastic. I can relate to a lot of what he says: Ryan is sort of like a successful, smarter version of how I see myself at the moment (although whether that’s just wishful thinking on my part, I’m not sure). A lot of the stuff he talks about is to do with educating yourself, improving your thinking and setting yourself up to be successful in the future. Probably my main influence at the moment.

Ryan has also posted what he considers to be the 3 best blogs on the internet. His number one is business guru Seth Godin, who’s blog I also subscribe to. He constantly emphasizes the importance of going the extra mile with customers, creating meaningful relationships and doing remarkable things to make you and your company stand out. He wrote this brilliant post on Why bother having a resume?. His main point is here in the latter half of the blog post. Instead of a resume:

“How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?

Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”

Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have those, why do you think you are remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.”

Honestly speaking, I read that article once or twice, thought it was cool and that he was right, and then ignored his advice and carried on as I had before. But I’ve decided to actually do something about it now. The third and final motivator for my action was another Rudius Media writer Ben Corman, who has written a fantastic piece about this sort of thing, called In the future we’ll all be art students. Ben mentions a great quote from a Wall Street trader he met in the mid-90s, who was frustrated at the lack of quality of graduates applying for jobs at his firm. He said:

“All of these kids tell me that they want to be traders. So why aren’t any of them trading. Why aren’t they taking a few grand and creating a portfolio? Or if they don’t have the money why aren’t they giving themselves an imaginary budget, “buying” a few hundred shares of different companies then tracking that for six months? I’ll hire the first kid who shows me initiative even if he’s lost money. I can teach trading strategies, I can’t teach hunger.”

I’d love to say that his advice really resonated with me, and I had an epiphany and realised that this was the future, the gold-paved road to success. But that’s not true. It took several weeks for the message to really sink in, and I’ve read all of the articles that I’ve linked to several times. But I think I finally understand, or at least am beginning to understand, what all these people are talking about.

Which is where this blog comes in. This will be where I write about what I’m learning, what I’ve discovered, how I think I’ve developed myself personally, and so on. This is my portfolio.

Massive thanks to everyone mentioned in this post: Ben, Seth and Ryan. I have a feeling I’ll be linking to them a lot more in future. And I am undoubtedly indebted to Tucker Max, as without his influence and advice I literally wouldn’t be the same person that I am today. Although I still have a ridiculously long way to go.