Quotes, March 2014

It never ceases to amaze me: We all love ourselves more than other people, but we care more about their opinion than our own.
-Marcus Aurelius

I think the single hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur starting out is to maintain the tension between getting things done as quickly and efficiently as you can and maintaining a sense of perspective of how long things take to build. I am now 39 and when I talk to 22-year-olds the single biggest advantage I have over them is that I can think in five-year increments. If you can pull that trick, it gives you a huge edge.
-Andrew Yang

It is either easy or impossible.
-Salvador Dali


It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.
-Dale Carnegie

Consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures, and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence is shown. However, we cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures. Isn’t it the same with life? Doesn’t the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself, it at all, only at its end, on the verge of death?
-Viktor Frankl

We believe most of what we believe about the world because others have told us to. Reliance upon the authority of experts, and upon the testimony of ordinary people, is the stuff of which worldviews are made. In fact, the more educated we become, the more our beliefs come to us at second hand. This does not suggest, however, that all forms of authority are valid; nor does it suggest that even the best authorities will always prove reliable.
-Sam Harris

If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.
-Austin Kleon

For a start, the salary begins to have an attraction and addictiveness all of its own. A regular paycheck and crack cocaine have that in common. In addition, and more to the point, working too long for other people can blunt your desire to take risks. This last factor is crucial, because the ability to live with and embrace risk is what sets apart the financial winners and losers in the world.
-Felix Dennis

The only real difference between adults and high school kids is that adults realize they need to get things done, and high school kids don’t. That realization hits most people around 23. But I’m letting you in on the secret early. So get to work. Maybe you can be the first generation whose greatest regret from high school isn’t how much time you wasted.
-Paul Graham

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
-Mark Twain

Take as much risk as you can as early in life as you can. My choice at the time was to either be an investment banker or start a company with some friends. Starting a company sounded way riskier. Which is the main reason why I think I took it. Yogi Berra may have said when you come to a fork in the road take it but I’d merely add when you come to a fork in the road take the riskier path.
-Jon Bischke

Fear of disapproval is the major force that keeps a society intact: fear of God, fear of the police, and fear of the judgment of neighbors. Religious authorities want the fear of God to be the predominant controller. Civil authorities want fear of police and court to dominate. But the opinion of one’s neighbors trumps all others.
-Peter Bevlin

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.
-Marcus Aurelius

Happiness has more to do with where you’re heading than where you are.
-Scott Adams

But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”
-Stephen R. Covey

Screw Originality, Just Do It

Every time I begin writing a new post, an internal struggle takes place in my head.

“I’m not being original.”
“Someone else has already written about this.”
“There are a million articles like this — why would anyone read mine?”

Usually the struggle wins and stops me from writing. Instead of taking action, I wait. I go back to consuming rather than producing.

I realize now how completely futile and self-destructive this kind of mindset is. This is not the abundance mentality. This is not how creators think. My actions have proven Salvador Dali right.

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing. — Salvador Dali


There’s a lot of undue pressure today to ‘be original.’

Here’s the definition of original: “created directly and personally by a particular artist; not a copy or imitation.”

The truth is, very little in this world can be considered wholly and unequivocally original. The phrase “there is nothing new under the sun” captures the essence of this. Every film, every book, every speech, every painting, every innovation, is built upon the prior work of thousands of others.

Take a look at this list of some of the people who have stolen, copied and imitated: Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Michael Jackson, Mark Zuckerberg, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, William Shakespeare… in fact, this exercise is just as pointless as trying to be original is, as I would have to name every single revered figure in the history of mankind.

Were it not for stealing, progress as we know it would grind to a halt in every last domain: poetry, science, writing, art, music, sports… it is simply not possible to create something out of nothing. Every innovation builds upon the past, standing on the shoulders of giants.

Creativity is not a spark of instantaneous inspiration, but rather a combinatorial process of assembling bits and pieces from various sources.

Laurence J. Peter said it best when he said, “originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear and forgetting where you heard it.”

Coming to terms with the notion that originality is overrated is liberating. There is nothing wrong with taking something old, adding a twist, and calling it new. Things need not be original to be of value.

In 2013, Hollywood had a record-setting year with $11 billion in box office revenues. The top grossing movies included Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games 2, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, Thor 2, and The Hobbit 2. Notice a trend?

The most popular movies of the year consisted almost completely of sequels and reboots based on prior pieces of work. They aren’t ‘original’ by definition, but people can’t seem to get enough of unoriginal work.

I’ve also come to appreciate imitation as a necessary component of the learning process. Just as a child learns how to write by spelling out the ABCs over and over and a programmer learns how to code by copying others’ code, the first step in any learning curve is doing by imitation.

After that, the fundamental process of improvement is based upon studying and emulating the masters in a given field.

Michael Jordan recently claimed that Kobe Bryant stole all of his moves. Indeed, there are numerous videos on YouTube showcasing the extent to which their playstyles are almost identical. But as Kobe responded, it is simply the domino effect at work. Each generation of players takes from those that came before them and makes it their own. This is how progress is achieved.

Imitation alone does not lead to success though. Every beginning basketball player tries to imitate Michael Jordan, yet there is only one Kobe Bryant. Every new investor tries to mimic Warren Buffett, yet few (if any) replicate his success.

The importance of imitation is to understand why the masters do what they do. Doing so gives you a glimpse into their minds to see what they see, to think what they think. Mimicry without understanding is akin to studying for a test through rote memorization rather than holistic learning: you will only ever scrape the surface of what you’re doing.

The late Hunter S. Thompson was ruthless about imitating his heroes. He rewrote the entirety of The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter to better understand the writing styles of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. He wanted to learn the magic and flow of a great writer and experience the feeling of writing a timeless masterpiece.

And perhaps it is only possible to find true authenticity after being callously unoriginal.

Conan O’Brien once remarked that he wanted to be David Letterman, and David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and Johnny Carson wanted to be Jack Benny. Each of them failed to become their heroes yet became something more. As Conan said, “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

So where do you get ideas from? Consider the advice of Jim Jarmush:

Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.

I now take comfort knowing I’ve internalized what millions of creators before me have felt. The struggle I face when writing has been placed on mute. With the newfound quiet, I feel at ease to write and express myself, regardless how unoriginal my ideas may be. I’m reassembling the old into something new and making it mine; something that makes me tingle and gives me pleasure.

The key takeaway is this: stop worrying about being unoriginal and just DO it. You are only able to hone your craft and discover your uniqueness through actionBuild something, draw something, write something, program something, record something, dance something, teach something. Create something.

Creating is scary, but the truth is everyone is scared. An artist’s fear never goes away, but, as Steven Pressfield says, “the battle must be fought anew every day.” The only solution for overcoming the fear of judgment is to create constantly.

Do not let the voices in your head convince you it’s already been done. Do not wait for that one idea, that one product, that one inspiration, that one something before you get started.

Embrace unoriginality, steal something, and don’t look back.

I hope this post has inspired you and I encourage you to take any ideas you’ve learned from me.

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7 Unexpected Benefits From Weightlifting

We all know at this point that exercise is crucial to living a healthy life. It decreases the risk of disease, improves sleep, combats depression, and reduces stress.

However, fitness regimes often overlook one crucial aspect: strength-training. Here’s why you can drastically improve your physical and mental health by incorporating weightlifting into your routine.

1) Weightlifting increases bone density

Weightlifting has been proven to increase bone density and help ward off stress fractures and osteoporosis, a progressive bone disease that results in a decrease in bone mass and density. A study at McMaster University found that a year-long strength training program increased the spinal bone mass of subjects by 9%, while those who did not participate actually lost bone mass. Weight training also helps retain and assimilate calcium in your body.


2) Weightlifting increases muscle mass

The muscle you build from weightlifting isn’t just for show. Increased muscle mass prevents the onset of sarcopenia, which is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. This has been deemed to be a major health concern and can start as early as your 20s. The good part is that sarcopenia is preventible and even reversible. Regardless of age, the best way to combat it is to build and maintain muscle.

3) Weightlifting lowers blood pressure

Conventional wisdom says people with hypertension (high blood pressure) should avoid weightlifting because it may temporarily raise blood pressure during a workout. However, the long-term benefits to blood pressure outweigh the risk of a temporary spike. A recent study took a group of men with stage 1 hypertension to lift weights 3x/week for 12 weeks. The result was a decrease in systolic and diastolic of 16mm and 12mm Hg, respectively, bringing them down to pre-hypertension levels.

4) Weightlifting burns excess calories

While cardio burns calories while you’re doing it, high intensity strength training allows for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (or the afterburn effect). This refers to an elevated metabolism after exercise, allowing you to burn more calories long after the workout is finished. A 2003 study in Norway found that lifting heavier weights created a longer and more profound afteburn effect. Another study at Southern Illinois University found that exercisers who did a 15-minute resistance workout burned 100 extra calories a day for three days afterward.

5) Weightlifting improves posture

Bad posture is an epidemic these days. Weightlifting addresses this by allowing you to identify and correct muscle imbalances. It is also a necessity to maintain proper form while performing any lifts, which further promotes good posture with a neutral spine. This also forces you to work on mobility issues. When performing the squat for example, many people realize they lack adequate hip flexibility to reach the bottom.

6) Weightlifting decreases injuries

A common misconception is that weightlifting is dangerous and leads to harmful injuries. This is only true if excessive weight is used with improper form. Take a look at the following chart of injury rates for sports:

80% of injury cases occur due to a tendon, ligament or muscle not being strong enough to handle a stressful force. Weightlifting actually strengthens these ligaments and tendons. Stronger connective tissues and increased joint stability also prevents back pain and arthritis.

7) Weightlifting improves cognitive functions

Yes, lifting weights can actually keep your brain sharp. A study at the University of British Columbia assigned subjects to three groups: resistance training, aerobic training, or balance-and-tone training. At the end of six months, those who had participated in strength training outperformed the other groups on tests measuring attention, memory and higher-order brain functions like conflict resolution.

This happens because weight training leads to higher levels of recepter/effector communication, motor unit recruitment, and neural stimulation. When you train, you’re also training your central nervous system (CNS) which consists of the brain and spinal cord. The reason why Olympic lifters are able to lift the weights they do is because they’ve trained their CNS to adapt to such intense stress.

The implication of this is that weightlifting can potentially help offset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, strokes, and other cognitive and neurological disorders.

Still Unconvinced?

Weightlifting is like a form of magic that cures you of the bad and leaves you with the good while physically transforming your body. It instills in you a sense of confidence and pride. It empowers you. It provides you with the knowledge that you’re bettering yourself, and it keeps you coming back. There’s no other feeling like picking up 200, 300, or 400lbs off the floor with your bare hands.

It’s never too early or late to start, and anyone at any fitness level can do it. Even children benefit enormously from resistance training. According to Dr. Faigenbaum, an expert on youth strength training, it is absolutely safe for young people and and does not stunt growth or lead to growth-plate injuries. Children develop a significant increase in motor-unit activation within their muscles after training and enjoy numerous neurological and physiological benefits. So what are you waiting for?

If you do incorporate weightlifting into your routine, just make sure you’re eating right and sleeping enough. The bulk of your recovery happens at night. Ensure that you maintain proper form during lifts. Get coaching if necessary. Don’t start too heavy – leave your ego aside. Don’t expect overnight gains, but don’t be discouraged. Slow progress is the name of the game.

Why the News is Slowly Killing You

Following the news isn’t just a waste of time, it’s slowly killing you. The news’s obsession with the deviant makes us less trusting of people and the government. Its obsession with the minutiae of the day-to-day makes us less reflective. It spoonfeeds us opinions, inhibiting creativity. And it exacerbates our many cognitive biases. So while we claim the news informs us, in reality we may just be ignorant and deluded.
We need to rethink our news consumption habits. News is the equivalent of mental sugar to the brain, and it’s in our best interest to reduce how much we intake.

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed. —Mark Twain

News misleads

During the “yellow press” times of the early 1900s, the media industry was notorious for cultivating sensationalism to sell its newspapers. The newspaper’s role was “not to instruct but to startle.” Content that evoked high arousal emotions such as awe, anger, anxiety, fear, loss, or shock resulted in greater engagement and led to sold papers. This sensationalism has continued to sweep its way into every aspect of the news today. Turn on the TV and what you’ll see largely sits in five categories: violent crime, tragedy and suffering, conflict and discord, social and collective protests, and war and military affairs.

It’s no surprise that this is a terribly inaccurate representation of reality. In addition to overreporting such events that inspire fear and panic, the media overemphasizes such news by the way it distorts the stories. Stories are often episodic, ahistorical accounts that fail to provide meaningful context or explanation. Instead of communicating substantive information, TV news often focuses on the emotional and tragic elements that overshadow the crux of what is taking place.

Iterative journalism has also created a culture whereby being first to publish is more important than the truth, which has dire implications. A study at the University of Michigan asked its subjects to read a fake news article, but half were provided with a correction at the bottom of the article discrediting the central claim. The subjects who saw the claim were actually more likely to believe the initial claim and held the belief more confidently than those who didn’t. This is now known as the “backfire effect,” as corrections backfire and actually make the misconception worse.

The world isn’t such a bad place at all — as long as one didn’t read the daily newspaper — Bill Aitken

News causes depression

The steady diet the news feeds us of worst-case scenarios triggers our fight-or-flight system and causes the release of cortisol, which deregulates the immune system, inhibits growth hormones, and leads to a state of stress and fatigue. A 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School further found that each hour of television news increased the chance of depression by 8%.

The worst part about this is that we actually become addicted to the negativity. One of the many cognitive errors humans exhibit is negativity bias. We have a greater recall of unpleasant memories and we seek out news of dramatic, negative events. The news industry feeds off this. We become hooked and crave the negativity. It’s no surprise why psychologists will often prescribe depressed patients to completely cut off reading and watching the news.

We’re surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the never-ending pressure of trying to keep up with it all.— Nicolas Carr

News is irrelevant

Much of the news we intake is irrelevant to our lives. We simply don’t apply what we read or hear in any meaningful way. It’s not making us smarter, furthering our relationships, or providing us real pleasure. The signal to noise ratio is simply too low.

The fact is news stories are largely about problems that are outside our circle of influence: in a study of network news, 71% of the news stories were about people who had very little control over their fate.

The constant barrage of problems outside our control instills in us a sense of hopelessness and pessimism, a term called “learned helplessness.” Such a view is also in line with an external locus of control as opposed to an internal locus of control. Research suggests that people who operate with an external locus of control have worse health, relationships, and personal growth than people with an internal locus. The price of remaining “informed” seems to come at a high cost.

You know, all we’re trying to do here is fill up the space between commercials. — James Altucher, recalling a CNBC producer’s words backstage

News is a business

At their core, news companies are businesses. The body of news is determined by profits and prestige, not the devotion to inform the public or provide objective coverage. Content is carefully orchestrated to produce high ratings and conform to an ideological view of the world. It is page views and new content that leads to advertising revenue, not accuracy and relevancy.

Some of the harshest criticisms of the news industry have come from disillusioned insiders. Hughes Rudd, a former journalist at CBS and ABC, called TV news a comic strip medium. Gabe Pressman, a pioneer of televised news, called the news “bodybag journalism” and that part of the problem is it’s easier to focus on such stories than do serious reporting. Nick Denton, founder of Gawker, ceded that much of what constitutes news these days is “fake news, manufactured, hyped, rehashed, retracted—until at the end of the week you know no more than at the beginning.”

I’ve always thought the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder. — Michael Oakeshott

The News Diet

Reduce the amount of news in your life. Read books about issues you care about and you may find yourself equipped with more knowledge than from tidbits of scattered news. Delete the news apps from your phone pinging you with instant updates. Cut TV out entirely. If something is important enough, rest assured it will find you either through conversation or social media.

I’m not suggesting we turn a blind eye towards the problems of the world, but the constant assault of negativity isn’t helping. Change comes from within first, and the first step is realizing there is a choice. The news diet is not a new concept, but it seems our habits have been slow to change in the face of convention.

You’re either growing or you’re dying. Don’t let the news kill you.