Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper

Just finished reading Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper (Affiliate Link).

The book is about Bitcoin and how it started. I have been hearing about Bitcoins and Cryptocurrencies since 2011. It seemed like it was not real money. It was only recently with surge in Bitcoin value that I got interested in it.

I was still skeptical of Bitcoin and the whole idea behind it. But after reading this book, I am coming around. The book was not preachy or pro-Bitcoin. It simply told the history and thinking behind Bitcoin, yet it was able to change my mind. I think Bitcoin and other decentralized currencies are the next big innovation that will change society and culture like the Internet and smartphones did. I like the idea of decentralized currency that is not controlled by any government or central authority.

In countries like Pakistan, there are a lot of rumors that government officials buys US Dollars before devaluing Pakistani Rupees, and end up earning hefty profits. In other developing countries like Argentina corruption might be less of an issue but government policies have caused runaway inflation. People in Argentina prefer to keep their savings in foreign currencies.

Bitcoin and decentralized currencies started with cypherpunks and libertarians. They still didn’t trust that governments & central banks will always take actions that are best for the people.

Bitcoin mining used to be possible on average laptops but lately only profitable way to do Bitcoin mining is using specialized hardware in a location with cheap electricity like China.

 

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

One of my goal with this new blog is to organize my thoughts and knowledge. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is a recent book I listened. So I will start with it.

My biggest takeaway from this book was that most people start business to create a job for themselves. For example, a person who enjoys baking may start a cake shop. The problem with this approach is that one is working in the business, not on it. The right way to start a business is with a goal of eliminating one’s job. For example, the person above should figure out a way to hire someone else to do baking.

This was a slightly hard lesson to digest because as programmer, I have often dreamed about starting consulting business. Mostly, so that I get to work with more interesting technologies.

The other lessons were:

Establish Processes & Document Everything

Create a business that can be easily franchised. In order for a business to be franchisable, it needs processes and systems. So document and create repeatable processes. You may never want to franchise, but well-established processes will help a business run smoother.

How to choose business

This was another interesting way to figure out what sort of business one should pursue.

  1. Start with your life’s goal. Of course, life’s goals change but choose something for now. It could be something like spend more time with family and volunteer at homeless shelter. It could be to own a biggest house in the town.
  2. Now choose your business strategy that will help you achieve your life’s goals. It could be a business that you can sell in a few years for $10 Million. Or it could be a business that can run on its own with minimal involvement from you and generate $100K yearly income.
  3. Finally, look at business opportunities. The first requirement for any business is revenues. Then see if it aligns with your business strategy. If your strategy is to generate semi-passive income while traveling the world, then pursuing a Silicon Valley style startup is probably not a good idea.

Write Job Descriptions

Another interesting idea presented was to write down all positions you see your business will need eventually. Draw organization chart. Then start hiring for each position. Initially, you will be filling all these positions, from CEO to lowest ranking worker. Your goal should be to work in each position, systemize it, and hire someone else. You should start filling positions at the bottom of chart first, slowly moving up as you systemize each position.

Manage by Delegation

One last point, many first time business owners manage by absenteeism once they hire someone. This usually doesn’t end well as employees then have no idea if they are doing good or not. Before you hire someone, their position should have well defined criterias to measure against. And you should actively review work done by your direct reports.


If you like to read this book, you can purchase it here using my Affiliate Link:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I learned of Mark Manson through his blog, especially this post, 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Purpose. Since then I have been on and off following his blog. He usually has a lot of good advice, so finally I decided to get his book. Makes it easier to have all information in one place.

I had no idea what Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was about. It was an impulse purchase, perhaps to support his blog. It turns out to be a really good book. As a semi-regular reader of his blog, I sort of knew what his philosophies were. Still it was good to read everything in one place.

He is not encouraging to not care about anything but to care about things that matter. It is human nature to care. But a lot of us start to worry about things that don’t matter. Sometimes, it is because we have nothing to care about. For example, elderly lady in retirement home who has all her needs met, would get really pissed if her coupon is not accepted at super market because that is all she got.

Sometimes, we care about useless issues because real issues are too hard to deal with. For example, unemployed person may go back to school for their 3rd degree just because they are unable to get a job.

The basic idea is everyone cares about something but is it the right thing. His philosophy is very similar to Stoicism or even Buddhism philosophy.

The book is written well and easy to read. If anything negative, I would say that he is a bit verbose. Some of stories in it dragged on a bit too long. For example, when he was in his principle’s office, it was clear about what was going to happen but he dragged on that scene a bit too much.

Overall, I highly recommend this book especially if you are interested in some sort of self-help book.

The War of Art

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It shows up on Hacker’s News and other entrepreneurs’ forums regularly as a recommended reading. Steven Pressfield is a novelist but this book is popular reading for anyone who is pursuing a goal.

The author’s main point is that the most important and the hardest thing is doing. Weather that be sitting down at desk to write a novel or software. Once you are at your desk, or at your office, the hard part is done. This can apply to anything; fitness, painting, photography, etc.

Things that make you the most nervous about doing; are probably the most important things. If these were not important to you, then you would not feel resistance when attempting these things.

One last piece of advice that I really liked was from Bhagwagita. It says that one has no right to their fruit of labor, only their labor. Basically, one should work hard without any expectations of reward. If they are lucky, their work will bring them all kind of rewards such money, fame, respect. But if they don’t get anything in return for their work, then so be it. They should do work for work’s sake and nothing else.

 

How to Fail at almost Everything & Still Win Big

How to Fail at almost Everything but still Win Big by Scott Adams (affiliate link) comes up on Hackers’ News a lot. Finally, I had a chance to read it.

This is a little different kind of book compared to my regular reads about ultra-successful business titans. I had no idea who Scott Adams was until I heard about this book. He created Dilbert comic. He gave very down to earth perspective on how he achieved success in this book.

Basically, he started various ventures throughout his life including restaurants, websites, etc. Eventually, he started getting traction on his Dilbert comics, so that became his number one focus which led to even more success. He developed passion for comics & art as his comic got more popular and earned him financial success.

The main takeaways for me are try try again, you will fail at most things, passion grows as project grows.

 

Antifragile

Antifragile was my introduction to Nassim Taleb. A lot of people had recommended this book. I finally signed up for Audible. I was never a big fan of audiobooks but they make sense on long treadmill runs or while stuck in traffic. But I have a feeling Nassim Taleb won’t approve of audiobooks. He would probably say that a book should be read with full attention to it not while navigating traffic.

Antifragile is anything such as object, individual, or system, that benefits from disorder or stress. The easiest example is muscles in body. Another example might artist since controversy usually end up with more sales for artist.

One thing that bothered me a bit was Nassim Taleb dissing highly educated people. He believes that higher education & highly educated people are just sham. Done only for meaningless abbreviations after name. The real breakthroughs in knowledge, technology, and science come from doers who are trying to solve real problems.

Overall, definitely a good book. It will challenge, if not change, some viewpoints.

4 Hour Body Lessons Learned

Slow motion workout

The technical term is 5/5 Cadence (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down). I tried this for the first time on Sunday, it is really intense. Momentum is not there to help you. You will feel every part of your muscle throughout the motion.

Weights to workout with

Tim Ferris showed a simple formula to figure out what should be the starting weight to workout with. Simply do regular sets. If you can do 5 rep, wait a minute & then increase the weight by 10lb or 10%. When you fail a set, then take 70% of last 5 rep set and use that weight for slow motion workout. You can figure out weights to use by trial and error. This should prevent injuries or wasted time.

The other part of choosing weights is to monitor progress. Every time to you finish a set with 7 reps, next time increase weight by 10% or 10lb.

Rest Days

I never knew importance of rest days until I read it in this book. Basically, your muscle grow during rest period. I used to workout everyday & not really gain any muscle.

Cat Vomit abs workout

You basically exhale as deeply as you can, hold for 10 seconds and then inhale. Repeat 10 times.

Do not drink calories

Not drinking calories is easy. Sweet stuff is disgusting anyways.

Bike Shed Effect

This is one of the best advice in the book. Basically, if you say you are building a nuclear power plant, no will tell you how to build it. If you tell them, you are building a bike shed, everyone will tell you how to do it even if they never build it.

Same thing happen when working out & eating healthy. Everyone thinks they know the best way of eating & working out. Ignore them.

Learning: Implicit vs Explicit

I just read “The Art of Failure” by Malcom Gladwell, a short article in “What the Dog Saw.”

Do you know there are two types of learning? Explicit is when you are learning something new by taking instruction. For example, taking tennis lessons, initially you will learn different strokes, when to use them, etc.

At the same time you are learning subconsciously. This is Implicit learning. A different part  of your brain is involved in implicit learning. Implicit learning will make tennis your second nature. Only way to learn implicitly is by experience, in other words, by playing a lot of tennis. Once you learn something implicitly, you can turn off thinking while doing it. Or once you gain enough experience in tennis, you will just play, your movements will be smooth & you wont think about which stroke to use .

What really interests me is that when you are under pressure or stress, your brain will turnoff subconscious. So everything you learned subconsciously or implicitly wont be available for you now that you need it most. Your brain cannot afford any mistake, so it goes back to your first tennis lessons. Your brain wants to be in 100% control. Explicit system takes over and you will think about every little detail. For example, playing tennis in a tournament or taking an exam. When this happens most people don’t do well or they choke.

Win a little everyday or lose a little everyday

Just read Malcolm Gladwell’s article on Nasim Taleb in What the Dog Saw.

It basically talked about 2 different investing strategies & psychology behind them. Most people prefer to win a little everyday even if their investing strategy exposes them to lose everything in a day. Nasim Taleb has figured out how to make money by losing a little everyday but making a fortunate in a day. He is basically making a bet on the world being a lot more unpredictable than predictable.