In 2012, when I started blogging, and Mr. G and I were getting into internet marketing, I knew nothing about running a blog or online business.
My European studies degree, which gave me insight into European politics, proved of little use when it came to building websites and writing copy.
I figured that if I was ever to become a successful blogger and entrepreneur, I needed to school myself in the topics of my new pursuits.
Inspired by James Altucher’s article, The Ultimate Guide to Reinventing Yourself, I decided books would be my teachers.
That post now includes an overview of the first 27 books I read. The rest, the 73 books that I’m still to read, I’ll be adding right here on this page.
I’m continuing where I left off, at number 28, but in a different, lighter form.
I dreaded writing one-sentence summaries and half-reviews so I won’t do that anymore.
Instead, I’ll add a quote I like for each book and, at times, a lesson or takeaway that I catch myself retelling to friends.
The links below correspond to a book’s Amazon page; however, unlike the URLs at thespinoffproject.com, these are all non-affiliated.
On My Bookshelf
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert B. Cialdini
- Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life – Martin E. P. Seligman
- Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World – Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
- The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. and Richard De A’Morelli
- On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction – William Zinsser
- Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English – Patricia T. O’Conner
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within – Natalie Goldberg
- Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer – Roy Peter Clark
91. Clean Code
🔗 Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship – Robert C. Martin
If we all checked-in our code a little cleaner than when we checked it out, the code simply could not rot. The cleanup doesn’t have to be something big. Change one variable name for the better, break up one function that’s a little too large, eliminate one small bit of duplication, clean up one composite if statement.
90. Four Thousand Weeks
🔗 Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals – Oliver Burkeman
Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster.
🌅 An exercise I undertook: “Seek out novelty in the mundane - Pay more attention to every moment, however mundane: (...) find novelty not by doing radically different things but by plunging more deeply into the life you already have. Experience life with twice the usual intensity, and ‘your experience of life would be twice as full as it currently is.’” -Via meditation teacher Shinzen Young
Just before sunrise, I dressed Dylan in his winter suit and went for a seaside stroll. The daybreak unfolded into a hue of pink only reserved for fishermen, dog walkers, and Wim Hoffers. I zeroed in on the coldness, allowing the cold sensations in my face to meld with the wintry air. At last, it dawned on me that my wish to live at the beach had come true. I was living the yearning. All those longings–happening. –A journal entry following the above exercise 'Seek out novelty in the mundane'
🖼️ An exercise I’d still like to undertake: “Choose a painting or sculpture in a local museum, then go and look at it for three hours straight. No checking email or social media; no quick runs to Starbucks.” –Via Jennifer Roberts, Harvard art historian (See: Harvard art historian Jennifer Roberts teaches the value of immersive attention)
Recommended to me by Hayley, ice bath lover in the making, personal energy booster
89. Digital Gold
🔗 Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money - Nathaniel Popper (🎧)
The essential quality of successful money, through time, was not who issued it—or even how portable or durable it was—but rather the number of people willing to use it.
88. The Infinite Machine
Peer-to-peer networks interconnect equally privileged nodes with each other, allowing users to share and transfer data without the need of a centralized administrative entity. Systems using this architecture are resilient against censorship, attacks, and manipulation. Just like the mythological Hydra, there’s no one head that you can cut off to kill it, and it gets stronger after each attack.
🔗 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol S. Dweck
Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.
86. First-Time Investor
🔗 First-Time Investor: Grow and Protect Your Money (How To Invest) – Paul A. Merriman and Richard Buck
One of the biggest mistakes investors make, including everyone from amateurs to professionals, is trying to beat the market by buying and selling.
🎓 Lessons I shared with friends:
- Live below your means
- Save 10 percent of your income if you can
- Build your financial future with mutual funds
- Diversify your investments across many asset classes
💵 Merriman’s equity class recommendations that I try to follow:
|U.S. large blend
|U.S. large value
|U.S. small blend
|U.S. small value
|U.S. real estate
|International large blend
|International large value
|International small blend
|International small value
|International real estate
85. Thanks for the Feedback
🔗 Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well – Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen (🎧)
Receiving feedback well means engaging in the conversation skillfully and making thoughtful choices about whether and how to use the information and what you’re learning. It’s about managing your emotional triggers so that you can take in what the other person is telling you, and being open to seeing yourself in new ways.
💡 Helpful insight: There are three types of feedback: “Appreciation (thanks), coaching (here’s a better way to do it), and evaluation (here’s where you stand).” If we know what form of feedback we need, we should ask for it. Getting one type of feedback while we need another isn’t helpful.
🌱 Most important takeaway: Having a growth mindset is essential for many things in life, from developing skills and overcoming crises to receiving feedback and doing well socially.
84. Little Bets
The little bets approach is about using negativity to positive effect. If your plans fall apart, refine them; if you don’t know where best to begin, just begin somewhere. Every decision is a risk: take a chance and see what happens.
☕️ Inspired me to: Keep meeting creatives in various design fields as I had started doing after reading Designing Your Life.
🐣 Parenting takeaway: Parents of successful creatives “tend to support their kids’ natural pursuits, while also stressing work ethic and quality.”
📖 Book recommendation I followed: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
🍒 Cheeky fact: Inspired by the title of this book, I made Slow Retreats happen. Though I only actually read the book after the retreat.
83. To Sell Is Human
🔗 To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel H. Pink (🎧)
Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.
Inspired by a missed chance to turn a job offer into a lead, move leadership to set diversity objectives, and Rich Dad Poor Dad, I resolved to learn more about sales. To Sell is Human is the first book I picked up to help me with this goal.
🔎 Insight I’m implementing: Using interrogative self-talk to prepare for and deal with challenges by turning affirmations into questions. For example, instead of simply stating “I can do this,” I answer the question, “Can I do this?”
💡 An idea I already implemented before reading this book: When I negotiated my latest salary bonus, I highlighted what I had achieved thus far and what I planned to accomplish in the coming three months. Apparently, “people often find potential more interesting than accomplishment.”
🐵 Unexpected confirmation: Mimicking people’s gestures actually does make them like you more. I first read about this “trick” in How to Win Friends and Influence People.
📖 Book recommendation I followed: Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman
🎧 Listening memory: From atop a cliff, I’m watching G surfing at Ribeira d’Ilhas with a winter sunset as backdrop and pastel blues all around.
🎥 Pair with: Daniel Pink’s MasterClass Sales & Persuasion
82. Zero to One
🔗 Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel and Blake Masters (🎧)
Would-be entrepreneurs are told that nothing can be known in advance: we’re supposed to listen to what customers say they want, make nothing more than a “minimum viable product,” and iterate our way to success.
But leanness is a methodology, not a goal. Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum, but it won’t help you find the global maximum.
💥 Paradigm shift: Where most often, you’ll read that a startup should only want to be moderately original; iterate to success; improve on the competition, and focus on the product instead of sales, Peter Thiel believes we need to turn this advice upside down. He thinks successful startups should be bold; have a plan; stay away from competition, and put as much effort into sales as into product.
81. The Art of Gathering
🔗 The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters – Priya Parker (🎧)
When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.
When organizing Slow Retreats, I wondered if I should take a more relaxed approach. Encouraged by Priya Parker, however, who advises against being a chill host, I enforced a detailed plan and set of out-of-the-ordinary rules. Awkward before the happening but in the end, the guests loved both.
🧾 Purchases I was inspired to make after reading this book:
🔖 Links I followed and liked:
- Against Chill
- Party Architecture: #1 – Density
- Angry Voicemail We Got From an Alamo Drafthouse Customer
Recommended to me by Medha, lioness and story collector
80. How to Talk to Anyone
⭐️ Few favorite tips:
1. Never the naked thank you – “Never let the words thank you stand naked and alone. Always make it thank you for something.”
2. The broken record – “Whenever someone persists in questioning you on an unwelcome subject, simply repeat your original response. Use precisely the same words in precisely the same tone of voice.”
3. Bluffing for bargains – “Your price is much lower when you know how to deal. Before every big purchase, find several vendors – a few to learn from and one to buy from.”
79. Rich Dad Poor Dad
What is missing from their [people’s] education is not how to make money, but how to manage money. It’s called financial aptitude—what you do with the money once you make it, how to keep people from taking it from you, how to keep it longer, and how to make that money work hard for you.
🏚 Changed my mind about:
- Selling our Amsterdam home. I now understand that having a place that we can rent out is an asset.
- Buying a big new home. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage and higher utility bills, translating to a significant monthly expense. It’s a liability, not an asset. That’s why, instead, I’d like G and I to keep our living expenses modest and live well within our means.
💰 Inspired me to:
- Invest my pay raise into my investment portfolio instead of indulging in new purchases
- To live more frugal by, among other things, starting a one-year no-tipping challenge, and Googling or asking for a discount before buying anything (except things like groceries)
- Learn about sales
Recommended to me by Miguel, Lifehacker, and colleague
78. No Hard Feelings
🔗 No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed – Lizz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy (🎧)
Caring too much about a job is unhelpful and unhealthy. It makes small problems seem exceptional and throwaway remarks feel appalling. And it’s not only leaders or women or Virgos who care too much: it’s possible to be overly attached to any job at any level. That’s why we came up with the first new rule of emotion at work: Be less passionate about your job.
While amid a tough work week and not enough sleep, No Hard Feelings reminded me to take care of myself first. I took a day off, invested in rest, reached out to friends, spent time with family, and reinstated good habits of not checking work email and Slack messages in the early mornings and after-work times.
📋 Inspired me to:
- Edit my Manual of Me at work
- Learn more about physlogical safety in groups
- Make sure to always try to attach a solution to critical feedback
- Work on communicating how I feel without becoming emotional
77. The Culture Code
🔗 The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups – Daniel Coyle
One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.
🗯 Takeaways I’m implementing: In group conversations, keep contributions short, don’t interrupt others, and explicitly give other people turns.
🎙 Question I’d ask in an interview: If I could get a sense of the way your culture works by meeting just one person, who would that person be?
76. Give and Take
🔗 Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success – Adam Grant (🎧)
New research shows that advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority.
👉🏽 A change I’m making after reading this book: Professionally, I tend to act more like a matcher (balancing between giving and getting) than a giver. While, in my personal life, I’m the latter. I want to try to be more of a giver in my working relationships too.
Recommended to me by Medha, lioness and story collector
75. Learn Enough CSS and Layout to Be Dangerous
🔗 Learn Enough CSS and Layout to Be Dangerous – Michael Hartl
Make design choices that are modular so that your styles only affect things inside of modules instead of leaking out to affect elements site-wide.
🧹 An action I implemented after reading this book: I swept through our project at work and converted all
px values to relative values.
🐭 A topic I enjoyed learning more about: All the available pseudo-classes.
🗞 References I followed and liked:
- This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult
- Pronunciation Changes in Words that are Both Nouns and Verbs
- URLs are UI
74. Designing Your Life
🔗 Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived Joyful Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans (🎧)
As a life designer, you need to embrace two philosophies: 1. You choose better when you have lots of good ideas to choose from. 2. You never choose your first solution to any problem.
🤙🏼 An action I implemented after listening to this book: I invited developers who are on a career path that I’m considering for a chat. One of my most valuable conservations so far was with Dries Bos, who gave me the advice to look further into UI design and UI libraries.
💡 An idea I shared with friends: We tend to experience happiness at work when we work on things that challenge us just enough–on tasks that are neither too easy and boring nor too difficult and stressful.
73. Leaders Eat Last
🔗 Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek (🎧)
Stress and anxiety at work have less to do with the work we do and more to do with weak management and leadership.
🎬 A few actions I implemented after reading this book:
- I brought back our weekly virtual chai sessions at work
- I asked my leads if we could spend 5 minutes having water-cooler conversations before jumping into our meetings
- I started checking in with each of The Knitting Club members individually
🎥 Pair with: Simon Sinek’s TED talk, Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
🔗 Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein (🎧)
If we treated careers more like dating, nobody would settle down so quickly.
🐌 A takeaway I keep reminding myself of: Learning is best done slowly.
🥸 A couple of insights I had: When I follow my curiosity into a new interest, I tend to be in a state of flow while researching it. Also, one of the reasons I’m attracted to a breadth of topics is the opportunity it provides to connect different ideas creatively.
Recommended to me by Hrishi Mittal
71. The Lean Startup
Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.
Neo’s Tree started as a side project, an app that I built for myself because I wanted one place for all my recipes and a project to keep learning full-stack coding skills. Then, I got the chance to pitch Neo’s Tree, and I decided to learn more about the pitching and startup process.
The Lean Startup underlined the importance of doing user interviews, which I did, and discovered I loved.
From the user interviews, I learned that people were hesitant to add all their recipes on a platform that may disappear one day. That’s why I decided to implement a PDF feature, which would allow users to get their recipes out as a neatly collected recipe booklet any time they wanted.
The user interviews revealed the feature I had to build next. And in doing so, I ended up working on something that was slightly out of my comfort zone but from which I learned plenty.
Some other takeaways I had were that building a product alone is difficult and that some products shouldn’t be built at all. I’m relieved to say that Neo’s Tree is back being a side project.
70. Competing Against Luck
🔗 Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice – Clayton M. Christensen
The moments of struggle, nagging tradeoffs, imperfect experiences, and frustrations in peoples’ lives—those are the what you’re looking for. You’re looking for recurring episodes in which consumers seek progress but are thwarted by the limitations of available solutions. You’re looking for surprises, unexpected behaviors, compensating habits, and unusual product uses.
🎓 A practice I did: I applied the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework to Neo’s Tree, analyzing the jobs it gets done for me. These were my findings:
- On a practical level, Neo’s Tree allows both G and I to pull up our recipes quickly just by going to my profile page
- On an emotional level, Neo’s tree enables me to preserve our family’s recipes and to document them for our future children
- On a professional level, Neo’s Tree lets me practice my coding skills and show off an app I created on my portfolio
- On a personal level, Neo’s Tree allows me to work on a creative project with my friends
🎥 Pair with: The “Job” of a McDonald’s Milkshake
Gifted to me by Tushar, CEO of TourHero
69. Pitch Perfect
🔗 Pitch Perfect: Raising Capital for Your Startup – Haje Kan Kamps
It may be tempting to lead with your product slide to tell the story of your company, but that’s almost always the wrong decision. If you have traction, that’s a better slide to lead with—and if your product is magnificent, contextualize it with your bigger vision (the “solution” slide), rather than waxing lyrical about the product itself.
📖 Book recommendation I followed: Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
🍒 Cheeky fact: A couple of hours after showing my pitch deck to my CEO, he was in a meeting to improve his own pitch deck. Coincidence? I think not.
📎 Pair with: Kamps’ Medium posts on pitching
68. Learn Enough Git to Be Dangerous
Note that, as with addresses on the World Wide Web, this [/] is a slash, not a backslash (a common confusion humorously referenced in the xkcd comic strip Trade expert.
Although I know the basics of Git well, I still like reading tutorials like these. They round out my existing hands-on knowledge, and there’s always something new I learn.
📦 New commands I learned:
git commit -amto both stage and commit changes with a message
- git log -p to show both the commit messages and full diffs
- git diff –staged to see the difference between staged changes and the previous version of the repo
- git checkout -f to force checkout, discarding changes
⚡️ Stack Overflow question I followed: Difference between
git add -A and
git add .
👨🏻💻 Small talk topic I picked up: Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, also developed Git.
67. The Tipping Point
🔗 The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Malcolm Gladwell (🎧)
Emotion is contagious.
🔖 A word I learned more about: Maven
66. Keep Going
If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to.
🔗 Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad – Austin Kleon
🍃 Advice that resonates: “Pay attention to the rhythms and cycles of your creative output and learn to be patient in the off-seasons.” In the past, when I needed a break from writing or some other creative pursuit, I thought it was a bad sign, and I worried I might not pick up the creative habit again. But nowadays, I’m much more able to trust these breaks to be much-needed recharge periods.
❤️ An idea I love: To have a sacred time during which you disconnect from the world and retreat to think, write, and let yourself be creative.
📝 An exercise I tried: When Kleon doesn’t know what to write about, he’ll divide a paper into two columns. On one side, he writes the things that he’s grateful for, and on the other, the things he needs guidance with. He calls it a paper prayer.
📰 Article recommendation I followed: Not Everything Is a Side Hustle by Ann Friedman (And an opinion that I agree with: Stop telling people to turn their hobbies into side hustles.)
65. The Artist’s Way
🔗 The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity – Julia Cameron (🎧)
By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.
The first time I read The Artist’s Way, I was on a creative low. I was trying to finish The Spin-Off project, and yet, I couldn’t move forward with my writing. One morning, after a particularly devasting round of emotions, I picked up The Artist’s Way and started working my way through the 12-week program. It saved my creative life. Without The Artist’s Way, I’m not sure I would’ve finished The Spin-Off Project. I also don’t believe this blog would exist, and I’d surely be leading a less full life.
👩🏻🎓 Teachings I’ve applied:
- To protect my work from premature criticism, self-doubt, and sabotage, I make sure not to show first drafts or any projects in their beginnings.
- When I’m nearing the end of a creative project, I’m vigilant in keeping away from people and conversations that may upset me. I don’t want to give myself an excuse to tend to the drama instead of finishing the work.
- Every week/chapter in The Artist’s Way comes with ten exercises. Cameron’s advice regarding which ones to do is: “Pick those that appeal to you and those you strongly resist. Leave the more neutral ones for later. Just remember, in choosing, that we often resist what we most need.” I often think of this advice when resisting a particular coding exercise, house chore, podcast, meditation, book, or article. I try to follow my resistance anyway and see what’s there.
✍🏽 My favorite artist date: A friend of mine and I each wrote two letters. We addressed the first letter to ourselves, and the second to the other, respectively praising our own and each other’s creative selves. We then mailed both letters to one another, opening the second upon arrival, while keeping the first until we thought the other could use some words of encouragement, and then sent it back.
🧶 Related reading: Silvia, Devon, and I followed The Artist’s Way for chapter VI of The Knitting Club.
64. David and Goliath
🔗 David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell (🎧)
Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.
🐣 Parenting takeaways:
- Sending your kids to the most prestigious school (where they’ll compete with the best of the best) is likely to hurt their motivations to study and stay in science.
- Small classrooms aren’t necessarily better than large ones. There’s a sweet spot, which leans towards large rather than small.
📄 A test I learned about and took: The cognitive reflection test by Dr. Frederick. Here’s one of the questions: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
🎧 Listening memory: I’m in the pool listening to the book, swimming super slowly as I try not to get my AirPods wet. I look ridiculous to myself, questioning if this is necessary when Malcolm’s stories guide me into a swimming meditation. Some point into chapter five, I get teary-eyed as I learn how Emil Jay Freireich found a treatment for leukemia and saved thousands of children’s lives.
63. Getting to Yes
🔗 Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – Roger Fisher, William Ury (🎧)
The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.
🎓 Takeaways I’ll be keeping in mind:
- Before you start a negotiation, come up with your BATNA, your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.
- Be open to changing your starting position. If you focus on convincing the other party that you won’t budge, you might convince yourself too. Your ego will get in the way, which will then make it more challenging to change your mind.
- You haven’t won a negotiation if the other side feels they’ve lost.
🍒 Cheeky fact: I listened to Getting to Yes in preparation for salary negotiations. Let’s just say that I still have a lot to learn.
🖇 Pair with: Chris Voss’s MasterClass: Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation
62. The Getaway Car
🔗 The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life – Ann Patchett
Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing.
📚 Book recommendation I followed: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.
🍒 Cheeky fact: After Patchett sold her first book, the first thing she did with her earnings was to repair her car’s air conditioning. I always said I was going to buy a Chanel bag with my first proper salary, but when I got it, I much preferred a Vitamix.
👩🏻💻 Experiment I’m doing: Curious to find out how much writing I could get done in a month, I followed Patchett’s advice and started writing every day for an hour.
🔗 Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine.
💭 Chinese proverb I learned and love: “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”
🧱 Creativity test I’ll be taking myself: The Brick and Blanket Divergence Test. The assignment is as follows: Write down as many uses as you can for both a brick and a blanket.
👶🏿 Parenting takeaways:
- Make sure that your children are learning and competing with children of the same age. If you put them in school with older kids, you’re setting them up for failure since they’ll start behind, and keep being behind.
- Teach your children how to speak up for themselves and how to reason and negotiate with those in authority.
- You want your children to talk back and question you.
60. Deep Work
🔗 Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport
Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy
1) The ability to quickly master hard things.
2) The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.
To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.
🎓 Most important takeaway: The ability to focus and learn hard things is becoming scarce. If you want to differentiate yourself and get ahead professionally, nurture your skill to concentrate.
💥 Paradigm shift: The remote work knife cuts both ways. Yes, it makes it easier for everyone to find more interesting jobs, but at the same time, it also ups the competition, since everyone, including the best of the best, can apply.
59. What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20
🔗 What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World – Tina Seeling (🎧)
The well-worn path is there for everyone to trample. But the interesting things often occur when you are open to taking an unexpected turn, to trying something different, and when you are willing to question the rules others have made for you.
While building up my career as a web developer, I haven’t been following the most straightforward path. Instead of doing an internship with just any company, I created my own web development MBA. Taking the unconventional route, though, at times, becomes tiring. I have no rules or guides, and I often doubt whether I’m going about this the right way. What I Wish I Knew I Was 20 encouraged me to keep questioning the rules imposed on me by society, my family, and myself, and to embrace the uncertainty of not knowing how my career will shape up.
Recommended to me by Katie, heroin without a cape
58. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
🔗 How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life – Scott Adams (🎧)
Step one in your search for happiness is to continually work toward having control of your schedule.
🏃🏻♀️ An action I implemented after reading this book: I redesigned my exercise routine. I no longer work out so hard that I can’t move the next day. Instead, I pick lighter forms of exercise and do shorter sessions. Most of the time, this means any combination of the following: a walk, run or swim, an 8-minute yoga session, or a few bodyweight exercises. And, since I don’t push myself to exhaustion, I can follow this new routine daily, which I do and is the only rule of my new system.
📎 Advice I took: I don’t take up any projects that don’t prepare me for something better.
👀 Eye-opener: With the chapter “Some of My Many Failures in Summary,” Scott made me realize what failing really looks like, and that I haven’t failed nearly enough times to claim any success (or defeat) that may come as a reward of failing often.
📂 Wonderful discovery: While searching for my favorite Dilbert comics printed in this book, I discovered that Scott Adams has all his Dilbert strips archived on dilbert.com. Here are the ones I was looking for /strip/2012-12-06 and /strip/2013-04-25.
57. Make Good Art
🔗 Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman
A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.
⭐️ A takeaway I remind myself of often: To keep making art and living life the only way I can–my way.
💭 Advice I’m going to follow: When I need to do something that I think is going to be difficult, I’ll pretend that I’m someone who can do it.
🖇 Pair with: Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass: Neil Gaiman Teaches The Art of Storytelling
🥚 In the story Poppy, I refer to a part of Neil’s speech. Can you find which part?
📺 This speech was originally delivered to the University of the Arts Class of 2012. You can watch it here on Vimeo.
56. So Good They Can’t Ignore You
Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
I graduated from university, believing that if I wanted to have a fulfilling working life, I needed to find my passion first. This approach, which Cal calls the passion mindset, made me feel lost since I didn’t have a pre-existing passion (and it’s not like I didn’t try to find it). In the last couple of years, however, I’ve come to realize that passion tends to be a side effect of becoming good at something. The better I get at something, the more pleasure I derive from doing it. Become So Good They Can’t Ignore You builds upon this idea that passion follows mastery. It’s a book I wish I had read ten years ago, although I’m not sure I would’ve listened to the message. I’m listening now, though.
⭐️ Career advice I’m following: I’m focusing on building up my coding and writing skills, and the value of what I’m offering to the people and companies I work with. I’m also practicing patience and reminding myself often that to have a compelling career, I first need to build mastery in my fields.
🖇 Pair with: Daniel Sax’s short video THE GAP by Ira Glass
55. Digital Minimalism
🔗 Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World – Cal Newport
Humans aren’t wired to be constantly wired.
🎬 Takeaways I implemented: 1) Instead of using text messages to keep in touch with friends and family, I now try to leave voice messages more often. 2) I sometimes leave my phone at home when I go outside. 3) I spend more time in solitude and parks.
💭 An action that I’m considering: Conversation office hours. I want to schedule a couple of hours a week during which my friends and family can call me, knowing that I’ll be available.
54. Atomic Habits
🔗 Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear (🎧)
When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out these individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower or self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.
😌 Reassuring takeaway: If I haven’t managed to implement a habit yet, it doesn’t mean that I’m somehow flawed. It means that my strategy isn’t right. I can make any habit stick with the right strategy and by keeping trying.
💥 Paradigm shift: Both winners and losers have the same goals
🔖 Interesting learn: The Diderot effect. This effect states that if you buy something, which compared to your old possessions is out of place, it will likely lead to additional buys. Learning about this idea made me think twice about buying a new couch, lest I end up redecorating the entire living room, followed by the kitchen, bedroom–the apartment.
🦖 Listening memory: I’m out for an evening walk in the hood, bogged down with the blues. When I cross a familiar street from a new angle, some of the weight lifts.
Recommended to me by Camille, warrior-in-disguise
53. Art and Fear
🔗 Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking – David Bayles & Ted Orland
Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again — and art is all about starting again.
👩🏻💻 A cross-connection: The two times that I joined Le Wagon as a teaching assistant, I realized that I missed coding myself. When I read in this book about artists who become art teachers, and then stop making art themselves, it underlined for me what was missing. Although it would be easy for me to start teaching all over the world, I want to stay a hands-on developer. Combining both teaching and working as a developer, as one veteran developer once advised me, is a balance I enjoy best.
52. A Mind for Numbers
🔗 A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) – Barbara Oakley (🎧)
Persistence is often more important than intelligence. Approaching material with a goal of learning it on your own gives you a unique path to mastery.
🌳 An action inspired by this book: When I’m stuck with a coding challenge, I’ll discuss it with G on one of our walks. Trying to solve the problem by building out the solution “in the air” (and no screen or paper in front of us), is not only helpful but also inspiring and exciting.
👵🏻 Mom says: My mom taught me that I sometimes might need to spend more hours than others to learn the same. She told me that this shouldn’t discourage me, however, since that’s simply reality, and doesn’t mean anything.
Recommended to me by G, a wonderful man
Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone. Then begin from scratch, asking which you would add today.
🔗 Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg Mckeown
Before I add a book to this list, I always go through my highlights and notes for it. When I reread the above quote, I realized I needed to revise my weekend plans. I found it so difficult to cancel some meetings, however, that I learned I rather not put myself in this position again. To minimize my chances of having to cancel events or going to them half-heartedly, I now don’t commit to social events much longer than a week ahead of time.
Recommended to me by Charly Martin, emoji-sender-in-crime, and creator of Mayoneese
50. Refactoring UI
🔗 Refactoring UI: The Book – Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger
Start with a feature, not a layout.
📐 The tip I used most recently: Hyphenate justified text. When text is justified (both left and right-aligned), it can create random gaps between words. By setting the CSS property
auto, I was able to reduce this.
🦖 Reading memory: I’m at Axil Coffee Roasters (50 Lonsdale Street) in Melbourne. I’m grateful to be part of the working crowd buzz, and yet alone with my coffee, absorbed in such a wonderful book.
49. This Is Marketing
🔗 This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See – Seth Godin (🎧)
🎓 A takeaway that I’m applying:
When we seek feedback, we’re doing something brave and foolish. We’re asking to be proven wrong. To have people say, “You thought you made something great, but you didn’t.” Ouch. What if, instead, we seek advice? Seek it like this: “I made something that I like, that I thought you’d like. How’d I do? What advice do you have for how I could make it fit your worldview closely?”
📖 A word I learned: sonder, the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. From The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Recommended by Charly Martin, emoji-sender-in-crime, and creator of Mayoneese
🔗 Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin (🎧)
When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short nor easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it’s not, dream bigger.
Every time I hesitate to ship, that’s, to publish a post, send my newsletter, or share a coding project, I remember Seth’s advice on the importance of shipping. Then I squeeze my eyes, hold my breath, and hit that publish or send button.
🍒 Cheeky fact: Seth’s books tend to make me uneasy. I suspect this is so because they leave no room for my excuses.
Recommended to me by Silvia, my sister from another mother, peanut butter addict, and photographer
47. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
🔗 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
The next time you ask an employee to go pick some low-hanging fruit —stop yourself. Respect the work that you’ve never done before. Remind yourself that other people’s jobs aren’t so simple.
❤️ Essays I loved: “The quality of an hour,” Nobody hits the ground running, “Benefits who?” and “No fakecations.”
🎓 Advice that I intend to follow for an upcoming project: “Narrow as you go.” I like the idea of the workload lessening as a deadline nears, not increasing. This means seeing pending tasks through and not adding new features and improvements last minute.
🔥 Wild ideas: I want to ask future employers and collaborators if they read It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. And if I ever start a company of my own, I’d like to build it on the principles in this book.
46. How To Fight a Hydra
Fear doesn’t mean you’re weak: it means you’re sane.
Unpleasant emotions do not dictate your actions.
In the chapter, “The Insight,” the heroine mentions that her journal serves as a reminder of far she’s come since the beginning of her quest. When I got my first freelance job as a developer, I began keeping notes of my coding milestones. I still do this and like to refer to these pages in moments of self-doubt.
45. The War of Art
🔗 The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Steven Pressfield
We get ourselves in trouble because it’s a cheap way to get attention. Trouble is a faux form of fame… The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.
I never read anything by Charles Bukowski, except for his poem So you want to be a writer.
And ever since I read it, I’ve thought that I perhaps shouldn’t be writing. Because I do “have to sit there and rewrite it again and again,” and again.
The Art of War, however, has turned this narrative around. I experienced a personal paradigm shift when I read the chapter “How To Be Miserable.”
It made me realize that it’s not only normal to find writing (and creating) hard. But that it’s okay to feel half-miserable doing it and wanting to do it nevertheless.
I can work with half-miserable.
Because the words may not come out of me unasked, but the intention to share, to connect, does.
44. On Writing
🔗 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
📖 An action that I’m considering: To pick up an English grammar book and learn verb tenses and punctuation rules at last.
🤴🏻 Something that stunned me: At the end of the book, King shares a fragment of the first and second draft of his short story “1408.” It’s remarkable how complete his first version is and how little he has to change the latter–that, compared to my fiddling.
43. The Obstacle Is the Way
We’re crushed when what we’re promised is revoked–as if that’s not allowed to happen.
I read The Obstacle Is the Way during my first job as a web developer, a first that was brutal. Promises were broken, and I was crushed from the start. Inspired by the book, I tried to see every obstacle as a learning opportunity. Although it wasn’t easy to do, and I collected some bruises, I did learn a lot by sticking around.
42. Tools of Titans
The one sentence that changed everything:
If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times a year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body. –Dom D’Agostino on Fasting, Ketosis, and the End of Cancer
🎙 Podcast recommendation: Ferriss largely adapted the profile chapters in Tools of Titans from interviews that he did on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. You can listen to these interviews for free online. Two of my favorite episodes are Scott Adams: The Man Behind Dilbert and Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life.
🥑 Related reading: Everything I Know About Fasting and Going Keto (and how I used both to purge precancerous cells)
41. The Daily Stoic
🔗 The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living – Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman (🎧)
The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flulike symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask: Is this actually making me feel better?
🔌 A powerful reminder: Just because I don’t manage to do the right thing all the time, doesn’t mean the good days don’t count. It’s okay to break the streak and start again. (“20. Reignite Your Thoughts”)
The above realization reminds me of a quote that I like to share with my friends when they tell me that they’ve failed themselves in some endeavor, like quitting sugar or meditating daily. It comes from Julia Childs: “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”
In turn, giving advice to friends that I really should follow myself, brings another quote to mind: “On one level, wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.” –Sam Harriss, Waking Up
🎓 Other lessons I loved: “40. Did That Make You Feel Better?” “41. You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion,” “118. Things Happen in Training,” “124. Be the Person You Want to Be,” and “134. Kindness Is Always the Right Response.”
🛒 A purchase I made after reading this book: The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living. This is the journal that I’m using in 2019 for daily reflections and for practicing Stoic philosophies.
40. Show Your Work!
🔗 Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered – Austin Kleon
Strike all the adjectives from your bio. If you take photos, you’re not an ‘aspiring’ photographer, you’re not an ‘amazing’ photographer either. You’re a photographer. Don’t get cute. Don’t brag. Just state the facts.
❤ A detail I learned: In French, the word amateur, which comes from the Latin amator, means lover. (“Be an Amateur”)
💡 Two ideas I already implemented before reading this book:
Turning off comments on my blog (“Don’t Feed the Trolls”)
I did this around the time that my post 10 Reasons Why Every Girl Should Learn to Kiteboard went viral, which was rather early in my blogging career.
I turned the comments off because I didn’t have the emotional resilience to deal with people who would leave comments like “I think you should’ve called it 10 Reasons Why Every Woman Should Learn to Kiteboard.”
Sometime later, I would run into this post by Seth Godin: Why I don’t have comments. It reassured me that I had done the right thing at a time when turning off comments was a big blogging no-no.
Properly attributing the work of others (“Credit Is Always Due”)
I go all the way with this one: crediting the original creator and linking to the source where I found the work itself. Also, whenever I share a friend’s recommendation, I always include a hat tip.
🍒 Cheeky fact: I think it’s bad style to pass on a recommendation as a discovery of one’s own.
39. Do the Work
🔗 Do the Work – Steven Pressfield (🎧)
Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
🎓 Lessons learned and applied:
- “Research can become resistance,” so limit the time you spend on research, especially at the start of a project. (“The Beginning”)
- Get the first draft done as fast as you can: “Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything.” (“The Middle”)
- At the end of a project, keep your focus, and be prepared to go all in. It’s when resistance is most persistent. (“The End”)
👩🏻🎨 Encouraging insights:
- You’re not to blame for the creative battles you experience. Everyone experiences resistance, and “so did Picasso and Einstein.” (“Belly of the Beast”)
- Be grateful for your (creative) failures. They’re “the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines.” - “The End”
38. The 48 Laws of Power
🔗 The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene (🎧)
An anecdote that made me smile:
One oft-told tale about Kissinger… involved a report that Winston Lord had worked on for days. After giving it to Kissinger, he got it back with the notation, “Is this the best you can do?” Lord rewrote and polished and finally resubmitted it; back it came with the same curt question. After redrafting it one more time–and once again getting the same question–Lord snapped, “Damn it, yes, it’s the best I can do.” To which Kissinger replied: “Fine, then I guess I’ll read it this time.”
🕵🏻♀️ A discovery I shared with friends: Mata Hari came from a little city in Friesland, Holland. Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. I never knew she was Dutch. (“Law 6: Court Attention at All Cost”)
👑 Something I enjoyed: The anecdotes about women in power like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I. I found it inspiring to learn about the lives and decisions of the great women in our history. I also realized just how few women role models I have in my life, and that I’d like to change that.
🔗 Mastery – Robert Greene (🎧)
It is time to reverse this prejudice against conscious effort and to see the powers we gain through practice and discipline as eminently inspiring and even miraculous.
When I picked up Mastery, I had just finished my coding boot camp and was at the start of my first freelance project as a web developer. I was eager to learn but also in a hurry to do so. Reading Mastery calmed me down and made me excited about being a beginner. I realized that although the journey in front of me was long, for the first time in my life, the path was clear. All I needed to do was enjoy the ride and be the best student possible on my way to mastery.
36. The 4-Hour Workweek
🔗 The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss (🎧)
If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
❤ An idea I adore: Instead of taking time off for extended travel, relocate to a place of choice for a few months and work remotely. (“Mini-Retirements”)
🍒 Cheeky fact: Mr. G’s and my big escape of 2012 was in more than one way inspired by this book. Rereading it now made me realize that we cherry-picked only the most appealing ideas, which certainly explains why some of our business plans failed.
35. Don’t Make Me Think
Clear, well-thought-out navigation is one of the best opportunities a site has to create a good impression.
🔨 Changes I implemented to this website after reading the book:
- Added a hover effect to the links to emphasize that they’re clickable. (“Make it obvious what’s clickable”)
- Changed the line height of the headings so that they don’t float anymore. (“Format text to support scanning”)
- Added a logo to make it clear that you’re on my site and not somewhere else and so that you can go back to the home page when you “get lost.” (“Now I know we’re not in Kansas,” “Just click your heels three times and say, ‘There is no place like home’“)
- Added a page for all posts for better navigation. (“Street signs and breadcrumbs”)
🔗 Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
Sometimes, distractions can actually serve a purpose. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, they warn us— when we feel ourselves regularly succumbing to them— that our work is not well defined, or our tasks are menial, or the whole project we’re engaged in is fundamentally pointless.
⚗️ An idea that I’ll be experimenting with: To be more flexible with my working schedule. I often end up working from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, even though I don’t need to. I’d like to see if I can mix up some of those standard working hours with working on the weekends and by starting my days around 6 am. (“Escaping 9 am – 5 pm,” “Thou shalt overlap”)
📚 A book recommendation I followed: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
🔗 Rework – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (🎧)
When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.
🕴 Three takeaways I’d keep in mind when starting a business:
- Make something that solves a problem you experience (“Scratch your own itch”)
- Find out what you stand for and stick to it (“Draw a line in the sand”)
- Don’t take any funding (“Outside money is Plan Z”)
🎓 Advice I successfully applied: When inspiration strikes, take immediate advantage of it and get as much work done as you can while the rush lasts. (“Inspiration is perishable”)
32. The Power of Habit
🔗 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg (🎧)
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit— unless you find new routines— the pattern will unfold automatically.
🥨 A habit that I’ll be trying to change: Whenever I fall below my ideal weight, I start eating more than usual until I tip back to just above ideal. Following the ideas in this book, the habit loop of my eating pattern looks something like this:
- Cue: Look in the mirror and think: “Wow, I look great!”
- Routine: Have an extra pretzel a day until I look a little less than great
- Reward: Maintain self-image of being the chubby kid I once was
To try and change this habit, I’ll be experimenting with different routines (have a cup of tea) and rewards (maintain an ideal weight, build resistance).
31. The 4-Hour Chef
It is possible to become world-class, enter the top 5% of performers in the world, in almost any subject within 6–12 months, or even 6–12 weeks.
🛒 A purchase I made after reading this book: Unicorn Magnum Pepper Mill 6″ (p. 112). You’ll want to add ground pepper to everything.
🍴 A restaurant tip I followed and loved: Limón Rotisserie at the Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco (p. 564). Have the rotisserie chicken.
🍒 Cheeky fact: During the 10-day silent meditation course that I followed, I wasn’t allowed to write. Using The Method of Loci (p. 99), however, I memorized my introspective adventures, which I was then able to recall when I wanted to write about them.
⭐ Reading tip: The 4-Hour Chef is quite a monster, and trying to read it from start to finish could overwhelm you. I recommend listening to the audiobook instead and referring to the written work when needed. Reading along for some parts is also nice. You can download The 4-Hour Chef audiobook for free after you subscribe to Tim’s newsletter.
30. Stumbling on Happiness
🔗 Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
If you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people.
😌 A takeaway that I’ve (unsuccessfully) shared with friends: The best way to predict if something will make you happy is to talk to people who already have what you want (or are who/where you want to be) and ask them if it’s making them happy. (“The Myth of Fingerprints”)
29. Steal Like an Artist
🔗 Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon
Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying.
🎬 A small action that I successfully implemented after reading this book: I now write my first drafts on paper instead of on the computer. This change prevents me from editing my work (and thus massacring it in the process), before giving an idea some chance of survival by writing it out in its entirety first. (“Step Away from the Screen”)
28. How to Win Friends and Influence People
🔗 How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.
🎬 A small action that I successfully implemented after reading this book: Making sure to call people by their name as soon as I learn what it is. I don’t do this for personal gain. I do it because it seems to make people’s day. (“If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble”)
You can find the first 27 books that I read at Read 100 Business Books · Part I.
My idea to read hardcore business books never really came off the ground. Instead, I chose to read books on subjects related to my online projects (and businesses), like photography and marketing. Right now, my focus is on writing, creative living, and web development. ↩