Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss was a really good book with the subtitle The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

The book is split into into Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise sections and along with the wisdom and recommendations from well over a hundred people, Ferriss includes his own thoughts and highlights where ideas from one person intersect with another. This is the type of book that could be revisited many times over and the concepts and recommendations I found particularly of note, and then resources mentioned, are the following...

Within the Healthy section is the import of exercising, however briefly, first thing when you wake and mentioned a few times is the health benefit of both cold and heat exposure, like via a sauna, and the remarkable sounding exercise of AcroYoga.

Ferriss notes that more than 80% of the people featured in Tools of Titans have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice and noted multiple times in the book are Transcendental and Vipassana Meditation. Additionally on the subject of mental heath was the notion of if you can't make yourself happy, try to make others happy, or even just wish for specific people to be happy, and see the impact it has on you. Also mentioned was the idea of going first, being willing to make the opening friendly interaction with strangers, and if depressed, to express gratitude, and remember that you're not alone and are better than you think.

One thing I found particularly interesting from the book is the notion of writing morning pages, and the related idea of doing regular work before you worry about doing good work. Additional ideas around this are if stuck on something, to be willing to produce just one word at first if that's all that can be done, or if stuck at the beginning with something to start it in the middle. Also interesting was the story about how IBM developed their sales force by intentionally setting quotas low so people wouldn't be intimidated.

A recurring idea from the book was about spending your time doing the things you choose to do, rather than what people want you to do, in a way it's the difference between spending your time on offense or on defense. A notion from the book is we're only here a short time on earth, like monkeys on a spinning rock. Related to the idea of how to spend your time is you should either be saying Hell Yes or No to things, with the result of that you shouldn't be lamenting how busy you are as you're doing things you want to do. I also liked the concept that you shouldn't wait for inspiration and then act, just act and then inspiration has a chance of coming.

Also interesting was the concept of nerds at night, what people do outside of work and 1,000 true fans, getting a dedicated following. In terms of what one should be doing, an interesting idea from Tools of Titans was think small, be great at something thin. Related to this is the idea of picking what you're spending time on and are after, is it hunting mice or chasing antelope?

If things don't go well, it's noted that you shouldn't get upset about things, rather think about whether it happened for a reason and what can you learn from it. When something happens that's bad, it's ok to say "good" and move on, and when stuck on something, go around, try a different way. There are three options in life with any situation, change it, accept it, or leave it. Also, one should be willing to live poor, it's not that hard if you don't have people to support and your well being doesn't really require money.

About things to do at the of the day was the idea of writing at the end, noting what you're thankful for and happy about and taking notes before bed on what happened to you. Additionally, a couple of very tangible things from the book related to sleep are usage of the ChiliPad for cooling at bedtime and Sleep With Me podcast to fall asleep to.

Books of interest noted - haven't read

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Seung Sahn
Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers
Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story by Dan Harris
Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within by Chade-Meng Tan
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Artist's Way Morning Pages Journal: A Companion Volume to the Artist's Way by Julie Cameron
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Levels of the Game by John McPhee
I Seem to be a Verb by Buckminster Fuller
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Books of interest noted - have read

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Show Your Work by Auston Kleon
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feyman by Richard Feynman

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
Not Fade Away by Peter Barton and Laurence Shames
How to Get Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Other resources of interest

1,000 True Fans and Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly
Inviting Mara to Tea poem by Rumi
The Shortness of Life by Seneca on the site Brain Pickings
Don Wildman profile for Esquire

The Tim Ferriss Show podcast
Derek Sivers podcast with Ferriss
Hardcore history with Dan Carlin podcast
Neil Gaiman University of the Arts commencement speech

Monday, January 23, 2017

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight was an excellent memoir from the Nike creator, who served as CEO from 1964-2004, Board Chairman through 2016, and then Chairman Emeritus of the company. In addition to being a compelling story of business success, the book was really well written and in the acknowledgements, Knight thanked author J.R. Moehringer and noted relying on his storytelling gifts through drafts of the book. Learning of Moehringer’s involvement felt to make complete sense for me as I saw throughout how good the writing was, and Moehringer wrote along with tennis great Andre Agassi perhaps my favorite sports biography, Open.

Part One of Shoe Dog began after Knight’s graduation at twenty-four from Stanford Business School, with him embarking on what wound up being a solo backpacking trip through Asia, Europe, and Africa. Additionally, he went to Japan to try to start a business importing running shoes, based off a research paper written in an MBA entrepreneurship class. Knight visited the Japanese company Onitsuka, maker of Tiger shoes, convinced them he had an importing company called Blue Ribbon Sports, and placed an order for $50 in shoes. Knight then continued on with his journey around the world, from which he seemed to gain a great deal, and wrote in Shoe Dog of how he early on knew he wanted his work to be play, something where he could hopefully feel what athletes feel while competing.

After returning to Oregon from his trip, Knight was counseled by a friend of his father to get his CPA so that he'd have "a floor under his earnings," enrolled in three classes at Portland State and nine credit hours later took a job at an accounting firm. Knight noted that while later staffing his own company, he tended to hire a number of accountants and lawyers, both for the thinking skills they had acquired and that they showed they could pass a difficult test.

The shoes from Onitsuka arrived in December 1964 and Knight sent a couple of pairs to the track coach from his Oregon undergrad days, Bill Bowerman, who went in with him on the business, 49% to Knight's 51%. Knight placed a large order with Onitsuka and then quit his job at the accounting firm to sell shoes out of his car and hired Jeff Johnson as his first sales rep for Blue Ribbon. While the company was growing fast, cash on hand was always a problem and Knight took a job with another accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, with this one requiring less hours so he could continue growing Blue Ribbon at the same time. Additionally, he in this role met Del Hayes, who would work for Knight for years, and got experience learning what caused some companies to succeed, and others to fail. It was also interesting to read of how Knight spent so much time in a traditional job, while still growing his company outside of that. Blue Ribbon continued expanding and to free up more time, Knight left the firm for a job at Portland State, teaching accounting and it's maxim of assets equals liabilities plus equity, a principle Knight was often up against.

One quote about business that stuck with Knight was "don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results," and also of note from Shoe Dog was how many different times the company could have gone under, and still made it through. There were various inflection points and Knight battled in business like it was a race, one taking every ounce from him.

As Blue Ribbon continued to grow, it made a deal with a Japanese trading company, Nissho Iwai, and while Onitsuka was considering dropping Blue Ribbon as it's U.S. distributor, Knight made a football shoe in a factory in Mexico, and under the name Nike. A legal battle later ensued with Onitsuka and while it was settled in 1974, Nike battled supply and demand issues with the new waffle trainer shoe a huge hit. Then in 1975 the company had a cash crunch and lost it's local banking partner, with the relationship with the trading company saving the day and keeping them in business as Nissho paid the Oregon bank in full. Then after getting past this hurdle, Nike received a letter from the U.S. Customs Service saying they owed $25M in retroactive import duties, as the result of orchestration by competitors. A lengthy back and back with the government ensued and after a settlement of $9M was reached, Nike was able to continue forward, with going public at least in part to finally get past it's constant cash flow issues.

The ending of Shoe Dog is heavily about Knight's sons, including his first born Matthew, who as an adult died in a scuba diving accident, and the final chapter beautifully written and really brought everything together as a poignant and compelling read.