Fabian Geyrhalter: Insights On Building An Authentic Brand

“Dressing up for Halloween is a great analogy for how many educated consumers see branding: a fake persona is crafted to evoke emotions from a specific audience in order to achieve a predetermined goal,” says the brand strategist Fabian Geyrhalter in his bestselling branding book, Bigger Than This – How to turn any venture into an admired brand.

Clearly, Fabian understands the problems many businesses face when branding themselves. But he also understands how they can be truly authentic. Here is one of many stories of authentic brand building that’s featured in Bigger Than This:

“Matthew Griffin, the founder of Combat Flip Flops, understands this well. While on duty in Afghanistan, Griffin, then a U.S. Army Ranger, stumbled upon an Afghan combat boot factory that also created flip flops for soldiers for when they were taking off their boots to pray. Feeling empathy for the people he met (“such honorable hosts; an amazing experience,” he told Inc. magazine), he immediately knew he wanted to bring those flip flop designs home with the goal of creating jobs and funding education in wartorn countries such as Afghanistan. Griffin took the saying “Borders frequented by merchants seldom need soldiers” and inspired his tribe to help that cause. The website now features lines such as “bad for combat, perfect for peacemaking” to describe the flip flops offered.”  

Would anyone view Combat Flip Flops as dressing itself up? Of course not. It’s authentic.

As Fabian explained, “I am writing about a subject that has barely been explored: companies that launch seemingly boring commodity products into this world without edgy technology but manage to transform themselves into staple household brands for urbanites and beyond.”

So who is Fabian Geyrhalter? Fabian Geyrhalter is a renowned brand strategist and the founder and Principal of FINIEN, a Los Angeles-based consultancy specialized in creating strategic, verbal and visual brand clarity.

His client list ranges from high-growth startups such as Jukin Media, Survios, and Vimmia to established brands like Warner Brothers, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Goodwill, W Hotels and Honeywell. His branding work has won numerous accolades, including 30 “American Graphic Design Awards.”

Along with Bigger Than This, Fabian has also written the #1 Amazon Bestseller, How To Launch A Brand. He’s also been published in The Washington Post, Mashable, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post.

And that was just a summary. You can read his full bio here.

I sat down with Fabian for my podcast, T-Shirts & Ties where I chat with Creatives & Strategists. We discussed the spark for his book, the personality of the brand, and more. You can listen to the full podcast here. Here are some highlights…

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Sustainable Fashion Vs Zara, H&M, and Forever 21

Noemi Florea grew up in Potomac, Maryland. She had a negative high school experience. Now she’s studying in New York at the best art and design school in America.

“I had a really negative experience growing up with high school. The county that I was going to public school in, Montgomery County in Maryland, had this very competitive atmosphere. Everybody was always competing for the best grades and the best SAT scores.

When I was fifteen, I realised that this competition for the best statistic, using the statistic to define yourself, I just thought it’s so unfulfilling. I really just rejected that and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was kind of an anarchist for a little bit. I negated everything. I thought society was this big circle jerk. We all just applaud each other and we never achieve anything. Nobody thinks for themselves. It sounds very radical.

As some years went by I became more mature. I was never able to return to that idea that you have to study finance, you have to get a good job, because that’s your purpose. You have to study so you can get a good job and you can make money. I never was able to return to that.

Art was this kind of inbetween of being this institutionalised person who I despised, versus being a total anarchist and going nowhere.”

Now, Noemi is 18 and living in New York.

She’s studying a dual degree. One degree to earn a bachelor of fine arts from Parsons School of Design with a major in integrative design. The other half of her dual degree Noemi is majoring in environmental studies Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Why is this combination important?

“As designers, everything we create, we have to consider the impact on the environment that our creations will have because that’s so crucial today.”

Noemi and I sat down to talk for my podcast T-Shirts & Ties where we chat with Creatives and Strategists. We discussed her thoughts on design, her upcoming exhibitions, and the problems with fast fashion and what we can do about it. Enjoy.

What is fast fashion? Why is it dangerous? Why is it unethical?

“Fast Fashion is those brands that are globalized; Forever 21, Zara, H&M. Their method of production is so dangerous and unethical.

So one, the materials they make their clothes out of are not biodegradable and quite toxic, even for your skin. It’s bad for you when you’re wearing them. And then when you’re done you throw them away and they just sit in landfills. They’re not biodegradable so they just take up space. And the fashion industry today is because of fast fashion. It takes up the second largest amount of space in landfill.

The other half of it is that these clothes are made by workers in developing countries for nearly slave labour. They’re paid maybe $2 a day. And they’re working in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Thailand and Cambodia. They’re working in these sweatshops for next to no money and then they’re just sent to America and Europe where they’re sold for cheap. That’s why people buy them. That’s why they’re so popular. It’s cheap.

But just because something is cheap it doesn’t mean that it’s ethical, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, so you think why are people shopping from fast fashion if they know that it’s unethical and it’s unhealthy? And it’s because there’s this consumer mentality that there are fifty-two seasons in a year and every single party that you go to you have to buy a new dress. Every two weeks you have to buy a new set of shirts because people are in this habit now of buying clothes and then quickly throwing them away once they decide that they’re bored with them.

That’s really not how shopping, especially for clothing, should be because in the 1950s when the baby boomers were the main shopping demographic, the idea was they you only had two seasons in the whole year. You had the cold and the warm. And you really didn’t need to buy more clothes. I think that’s the step that we need to take; going back to this mentality where it’s I don’t need to buy clothing every week.”  

Why do you think people want to buy clothing every week?

“Because of marketing and advertising. These fast fashion brands induce the idea that if you’re wearing something from three weeks ago it’s out of style now and nobody is wearing it anymore. So you need to go and buy new clothes. When really what people should do, they should try to develop their own style. It shouldn’t be what marketers decide is your style. You should really be able to decide this is what I like, this is the kind of style that I feel represents myself, and I don’t need marketers to tell me what to wear. When you achieve that you don’t need to buy new clothes every single week. You can buy your own clothes and wear that for the next five years.”

What can people do?

“There’s a documentary called The True Cost which is really famous for how it documents that fast fashion industry. I recommend watching the movie because it will definitely convince V safe brand.”

Listen to the full T-Shirts & Ties podcast here.

Minimalism, Massimo Vignelli, & Black Sweater Antidepressants

Noemi Florea grew up in Potomac, Maryland. She had a negative high school experience. Now she’s studying in New York at the best art and design school in America.

“I had a really negative experience growing up with high school. The county that I was going to public school in, Montgomery County in Maryland, had this very competitive atmosphere. Everybody was always competing for the best grades and the best SAT scores.

When I was fifteen, I realised that this competition for the best statistic, using the statistic to define yourself, I just thought it’s so unfulfilling. I really just rejected that and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was kind of an anarchist for a little bit. I negated everything. I thought society was this big circle jerk. We all just applaud each other and we never achieve anything. Nobody thinks for themselves. It sounds very radical.

As some years went by I became more mature. I was never able to return to that idea that you have to study finance, you have to get a good job, because that’s your purpose. You have to study so you can get a good job and you can make money. I never was able to return to that.

Art was this kind of inbetween of being this institutionalised person who I despised, versus being a total anarchist and going nowhere.”

Now, Noemi is 18 and living in New York.

She’s studying a dual degree. One degree to earn a bachelor of fine arts from Parsons School of Design with a major in integrative design. The other half of her dual degree Noemi is majoring in environmental studies Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts.

Why is this combination important?

“As designers, everything we create, we have to consider the impact on the environment that our creations will have because that’s so crucial today.”

Noemi and I sat down to talk for my podcast T-Shirts & Ties where we chat with Creatives and Strategists. We discussed her thoughts on design, her upcoming exhibitions, and the problems with fast fashion and what we can do about it. Enjoy.


“I think minimalism is key. I don’t think that there should be very much excess. Also, being organic in your creation or your style. So architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese artists, they always gravitated towards nature and the environment for their inspiration for their creations. I feel that the philosophy of minimalism and letting the environment dictate the creation is very important for design so it’s cohesive with its surrounding.”

Massimo Vignelli.

“I’m really interested Massimo Vignelli. He’s not super well-known, but he’s a communication designer. He designed the NY subway communication map. That’s probably his most famous creation, but he also did a number of other commissions. He did architecture; several churches in NY, and he designed the brochure layout for the National Parks in America. I’m really interested in his style, it’s very minimal and it’s very geometric. He uses bold colours and clean lines and I think that style from the 70s, which was his peak era, is so compelling.”

Black Sweaters Antidepressants.

“I’m putting together my first exhibit event in a month in New York in the East Village. I’m doing it with a group of artists at Parsons. So each of us are proposing our own work for this exhibit. The exhibit is called My Pill. So you go back on some kind of traumatic experience that you had and you reflect on how that contributed to who you are today.

So I decided to go back on my high school experience and how I really felt like an outsider in this environment that was so academically pressuring. So I’m taking some poems that I wrote when I was fifteen and I illustrated them this year and put them together into a book called Black Sweaters Antidepressants.

I’m going to make 50 copies of the book which I will be selling at the exhibit and I’m going to buy an authentic school desk from eBay. I’m painting that black; symbolic of high school and how I hated it. And I’m going to spill these copies over the school desk and I’m going to choose one spread from the poetry book and I’m going to blow it up to hang on the wall as a visual.”

Just Friends.

“I did do another book project for the final project of one of my classes at Parsons. It was called Just Friends. I took [the texts from] one of my high school friends, when we both moved to different colleges we were texting everyday to talk to each other about our day, college and how things are changing. Over time we grew apart. We were texting less and less. I decided to take this book where I just repeated verbatim all of our texts. I emphasized the distance that grew between the texts as time went on. I showed how two people can grow apart. You don’t even have to explain that; it’s just evident in the distance between the texts.”

Listen to the full T-Shirts & Ties podcast here.

Why Can’t We Just Sit Down Over A Beer, And On The Back Of A Napkin Write Some Names Down?

What’s In A Name? We Explore Company & Product Naming Insights With Mike Carr Of NameStormers

“Why can’t we just sit down over a beer, and on the back of a napkin write some names down?” Mike Carr knows this is the attitude most people have about naming a company or product. But as we’ll see, his 33 years of experience running a naming firm in Austin, Texas has shown him the hidden complexity within the seemingly simple task of naming companies and products.

Mike’s company is called NameStormers. They’ve worked with corporations including Revlon, Discovery Channel, IBM, BBC News, Canon, Nestle, Honda, Citibank, Raytheon , 7-Eleven, TGI Fridays, and many more. Mike has a large team contributing to their naming process, yet he remains hands on for every project.

I sat down with Mike at his home in Austin for my podcast, T-Shirts & Ties, where I chat with Creatives and Strategists. Below are some highlights from the podcast, including:

> The golden rule of naming.

> The unbelievable price tag of a coined name.

> When purposely misspelled names can work.

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How To Read 100 Books In 242 Days

34 Practical Tips To Read More Books

In December last year I was reading Nassim Taleb when I discovered he reads 30 hours per week. Not long after I discovered Ryan Holiday reads over 150 books a year.


These are the writers I admire most. I want to write like them. But what was I doing?


I was reading at a rate of 50 books a year. That’s 100 fewer. Something had to change. So I set the goal of reading 150 books in 2018. As of the end of August, I’m on track. I’ve read 100 booksalready 100% more than I read last year.


Do I spend all my time reading? Anything but. I’ve been living in South America where I’ve visited the Amazon and swum with pink dolphins, surfed the longest left-hand wave in the world, and hiked the Andes.


You’re probably thinking I’m traveling so I have all the time in the world. Not quite. I’m working 40+ hours a week remotely, as well as writing for 15+ hours a week.


So how do I fit in all the reading? It hasn’t been easy. But the practical tips below are what have made it possible:


  1. Follow The ABR Rule

Always Be Reading. Eating lunch? Read. Sitting in a taxi? Read. Waiting for your kindle book to download? Read a physical book.


  1. Have A Goal

Goals give us motivation. It’s my goal to read 150 books this year. So I read every day to accomplish that goal.


  1. Read For 5 Hours Every Day

I have a daily goal: read for 5 hours every day. (I started with this number as I wanted to match Nassim Taleb reading 30 hours a week).


  1. Read Two Books At The Same Time

I could read Adam Smith for 3 hours a day. But not 5. Complimenting Adam Smith with an easier to read book, such as an autobiography, kept reading fun and allowed me to hit 5 hours each day.


  1. Live In A Developing Country

Reading lots of books isn’t expensive because you’re buying a new book every second day. It’s expensive because that time reading is time you aren’t making money. So what can you do? Live cheap. I lived in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico. Accommodation and four course meals cost practically nothing.


  1. Get Lunch Made, Laundry Done, And Room Cleaned

Time spent doing chores is time you could be reading. Paying someone to do them is an investment in your reading.


  1. Avoid Meetings

Where possible, I avoid pointless work meetings. Unless I can contribute something that will make a real difference, I don’t attend. Being across an ocean from Australia helps.


  1. Stop Listening To Podcasts

Every second podcast is an author talking about the book they wrote. The book is always

better. Skip the podcast and read the book.


  1. Be Lazy Efficiently

Forget TV series. They take up too much time. My lazy entertainment time is watching Youtuber David Dobrik. He puts out three videos per week all 4 minutes 20 seconds long. 13 minutes of mindless entertainment a week. That’s efficient laziness.


  1. Meditate

Ever had to read over a paragraph because you read it, but didn’t really read it? It’s easy to daydream when you’re supposed to be reading. Meditation is the cure. Meditation is practising focusing your attentionexactly what you’re doing when reading. Meditation is the difference between daydreaming and living your dreams.


  1. Read While The Pope Is Speaking

When I was in a small town in Peru, the Pope came to visit. I went to see him speak in person, but I took my Kindle with me and read most of the time. Spend time doing what’s important to you, not what’s important to others.


  1. Lift Heavy

When you lift heavy, you get a great workout done in 45 minutes rather than 90 minutes. Instead of doing beach curls, deadlift. That gives you 45 extra minutes to read. But you don’t have to lift weights, you just need to workout with intensity. Instead of jogging; do sprints.


  1. Find A Hideout

Having a spot where no one can distract you is invaluable. I’ve read at lakes in the Andes, a cemetery in Sucre, and on a rooftop in Chile.


  1. Eat To Read

For breakfast I eat 10 eggs and a bowl of oats. Fat and protein give you sustained energy through your whole day.


  1. Take The Battery Out Of Your Phone

Phones are the kryptonite of reading. Our lazy side would rather waste time on the web. So use your laziness to your advantage. The more difficult you make it to use our phone, the easier it is to resist the temptation. Take the battery out of your phone.


  1. Share Your Goal

My Dad was an English teacher. He knows I want to read 150 books this year. He asks me how it’s going. Wanting to be able to tell him I’m on track gives me another reason to read.


  1. Don’t Make Friends

In 2018 I’ve been living in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. It’s impossible not to make friends. But as awesome as they can be, they can also be a distraction. So my rule is to let friendships happen naturally, but don’t go out of my way to make them. I still make lots of friends, but not so many that I don’t have time to read.


  1. Keep A List Of Books You’ve Read

Reading over the list of books I’ve already read, gives me motivation to read more. If you have a library of physical books you can admire, even better.


  1. Keep A Commonplace Book

As Ryan Holiday wrote, a commonplace book is “A central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.

Gives purpose, more find it useful, more want to add to it.” Why is it so important? A commonplace book gives you another reason to read.


  1. Take A Break, Don’t Quit

Sometimes I’m over it. I don’t want to read another word. Instead of stopping for the day, I’ll take a break. I’ll do some work or go for a walk. After a break I’m ready to read again.


  1. Read To Solve A Problem

I had just started reading a book about negotiating written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. I’d just read the first chapter when I was crossing the border from Bolivia to Chile. The border agents were hustling me. I lost my cool and lost at least 150 bolivianos more than I needed too. Losing the money wasn’t a big deal, but the feeling of having been played made me angry. I never wanted that to happen again. When I got back on the bus, I read that book for 6 hours straight until it was finished.


  1. Accept Some Books take FOREVER To Finish

Atlas Shrugged. Wealth Of Nations. Anything by Ron Chernow. They’re going to take a looooong time to finish. Accept it and start reading.


  1. Test Ideas In The Real World

Testing the ideas you get from books in the real world makes them come alive. It makes reading 10 times more fun. For example, I’d sent a proposal to a bank in New York but hadn’t heard back from them. I took some advice from Never Split the Difference to email “Have you given up on this project?”. I heard back the next day.


  1. Hell Yeah Or No

Derek Sivers wrote, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

Got an invite to dinner? Thinking about a weekend away? Unless it’s a hell yeah, say no and spend your time reading. While traveling I skip 90% of what others do. I skip the ghost town, the walking tours, and Churches. But I say hell yeah to Machu Picchu, double-overhead surf, and the salt plains in Bolivia. I have time to read.


  1. Don’t Drink

Maybe you like reading with a glass of wine, but don’t get drunk. You won’t read hungover.


  1. Wear A Chronograph

I set the goal of reading 5 hours per day. If you use your phone to measure how much you’re reading, you’re going to get distracted. That’s why I bought a watch with a chronograph so I can ensure I get my 5 hours of reading done.


  1. Listen To Audiobooks

Unfortunately, I don’t have the talent to read my Kindle whilst walking down a busy street. I’ve tried. But I can listen to audiobooks. No doubt, reading text is better. It’s easier to take notes and forces you to give your undivided attention. But when you can’t read a physical book, you can keep reading by listening to an audiobook.


  1. Buy A Kindle If You’re On The Move

If you can’t get physical books sent easily, a Kindle is perfect. I’ve downloaded new books everywhere from airports to beaches.


  1. Use Background Noise

When you’re somewhere with distracting noise, drown it out with background noise. My favourite is listening to rain.


  1. Read Nassim Taleb

Taleb’s books are so interesting to read that I don’t have trouble reading for 5 hours. I have trouble finding time to brush my teeth because I don’t stop reading. Similar books are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography and Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday.


  1. Buy A New Jacket

I bought a jacket with a pocket big enough for my Kindle so I’d ALWAYS have it with me. It’s my best purchase ever.


  1. Prioritise Your Reading

My day looks like this. First I write. Then I read. Then I work. I need to work. I need the money. My reading gets done so I can start working.


  1. Have Heroes

Thinking of people I admire who read all the time motivates me. Ben Franklin, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, Cal Newport, Nassim Taleb, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss.  


  1. Follow Your Superpower

Curiosity is your reading superpower. When you want to know something, and a book might illuminate you, you’ll devour that book.


These are my practical tips that have helped me read 100 books in 8 months so far. Do you have any weird tips that help you to read more? If so, share them below and help us all read more.


P.S. You Don’t Have Time To Speed Read

You’ll notice not one of my suggestions has been to speed read. Speed reading is a bad idea. Sure, it’ll help you read more books, but you’ll be getting less out of them. Plus it kills the pleasure of readinglife’s too short to speed read.


P.P.S. Stare At Things Far Away

This doesn’t help you read more, but it helps protect your eyes so you can still be reading 150 books a year in ten years time. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your book and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Apollo Vs Dionysus? The Secret Power Artists & Engineers Are Ignoring

How To Empower Yourself With Emotion & Rationality


You’ve heard of the Greek god Apollo. You know he’s the son of Zeus. But you’re probably not as familiar with Zeus’s forgotten son – Dionysus. Apollo’s brother.


Apollo is the god of music, truth, prophecy, and light. He is associated with order, control and rationality. Dionysus is the god of wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy. He is associated with chaos, emotions, and spontaneity. As gods we know them as Apollo and Dionysus. As abstract ideas we know them as Apollonian and Dionysian. They’re simplified as reason vs emotion.


To explore the relationship between the Apollonian and Dionysian let’s venture back in time to the summer of 1969. The moon landing, coincidently but appropriately named Apollo 11, is a celebration of the rational, the apollonian. Woodstock is celebrated as hippies revolt against the establishment, a drug fuelled party, the dionysian. As Ayn Rand wrote, “The issue in this case is the alleged dichotomy of reason versus emotion.”


The Apollo moon landing is indeed an incredible feat of humanity. The best rational minds worked together to conquer nature. But to view this event as only apollonian is a mistake. Why? You know what fuelled the space race. A cold war. An existential threat. The dionysian.


Woodstock has a parallel side. It was a festival of drug-fueled, sex-crazed hippies. They claimed individuality while wearing the same ugly garments as the other 299,999 attendees. They claimed they reached higher state of reality, but in really they were just high. Yet Woodstock is embedded in America’s folklore. It’s revered. Even respected. Why? Remember how Apollo is the god of music? Music may evoke emotion, but it is built on rational effort and understanding. And Woodstock was the greatest gathering of musicians. Janis Joplin. Jefferson Airplane. Jimi Hendrix.


Many people identify as rational or emotional and forget the other. They focus on what they’re good at and ignore the other. Computer programmers dress in jeans, a hoodie, and Cheeto stained T-shirt. Artists in Gucci jackets gleefully brag that they don’t know how to send an invoice. We think we’re one or the other.


Elon Musk is the Founder and CEO of SpaceX whose mission is to populate Mars. Why isn’t NASA populating Mars? Well, since the cold war ended, funding nosedived like a failed rocket launch. Once the emotional fuel of the nuclear threat cooled, so did the Space Race.


Musk is an engineer’s engineer. He is hyper-rational. Apollo’s apollonian. Yet he didn’t start SpaceX out for the thrill of solving technical challenges or making billions (you start rocket companies to lose billions not make them). Sure, his rationalist side wanted to populate Mars to ensure humanity’s survival. But he also thought venturing to Mars would make life more exciting – a dionysian motivation.


Now consider Jimmi Hendrix. At Woodstock he did a now infamous improvised version of the Star Spangled Banner. It was beautiful. Pure emotion. Dionysian. But the dionysian view ignores the decade he spend practicing 9 hours a day – the apollonian.


Whether at a society level or individually, it is not only our emotional or rational self we must use to succeed, but both. Our emotional desires fuel our rational goals. And inversely, our intellect gives direction to our passion.


It is not the Apollo versus his brother Dionysus. It is the brothers working together.

31 Pieces Of Life Advice I Stole From People More Successful Than Me


Below are some great pieces of life advice that have helped me live better. The more I steal, the better I live.


Some of the people below are from the same suburb as me, some have been dead for thousands of years and some of them are top influencers here on Medium.


To everyone on the list, thanks for helping me live better.


1. Eric Weinstein – Be A High-Agency Individual

I found this piece of advice through Ryan Holiday’s book Conspiracy:

“It is always revealing to see how a person responds to those situations where he’s told: “There’s nothing you can do about it. This is the way of the world.” Peter Thiel’s friend, the mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein, has a category of individual he defines as a “high-agency person.” How do you respond when told something is impossible? Is that the end of the conversation or the start of one? What’s the reaction to being told you can’t—that no one can? One type accepts it, wallows in it even. The other questions it, fights it, rejects it.”

Now when I hear myself saying I can’t do something, I assume that’s not true, then figure out how I can do it.  


Here’s where I read this advice: Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue


2. Thomas Oppong – Give 60 Minutes More Effort

Feeling exhausted at the end of a long day isn’t an excuse to avoid my goals; writing, growing a business, learning Spanish. At the end of my day, I started giving one final 60 minute effort. It’s an extra hour I would otherwise not get. I get more done. As Thomas Oppong said, “Invest in yourself, it’s the best investment you can ever make.”


Here’s where I read this advice: Do These Things After 6 P.M. And Your Life Will Never Be The Same


3. Cal Newport – Deep Work

I used to party a lot. I stopped so I could read more, write more, and grow my business. I’m on track to read 150 books this year. Although at times I miss the nights out, my life is way better now. One person I credit to this change is Cal Newport and his writings on Deep Work. Here’s what he wrote;

“If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured web surfing.”


Here’s where I read this advice: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World


4. Nat Eliason – Delete Facebook

Productivity writers like Cal Newport long ago convinced me to stop using Facebook. But Nat Eliason makes it clear I needed to go a step further and delete it. He makes it clear by looking at it from Facebook’s perspective; “it’s fine to play fast and loose with customer data in the name of growth, to optimize your product around addictiveness, and to sell information on your users.”


Here’s where I read this advice: Yes, You Should Delete Facebook


5. Josh Waitzkin – Embrace Discomfort

Growth is painful. Josh Waitzkin wrote, “Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.” Instead of fighting the discomfort, I practice leaning into it and growing from it.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance


6. Dr. Stephanie Estima – Give Girls More Love

Men have 50% more serotonin receptors than women. So men can feel twice as good as women with the same amount of serotonin – which comes from our relationships. If I’m getting enough love from my relationship, my girlfriend may still need more attention.


Here’s where I read this advice: Why Women Need Twice As Much Sex As Men


7. John Mashni – Don’t Celebrate Success

Don’t celebrate success. When you celebrate early you relax and lose your momentum. Wait until you’ve completed your goals before celebrating success.
But John Mashni also shared a deeper truth in the following story. When a Spartan won the equivalent of the Olympics, he was given an expensive trophy covered in jewels. The next day he sold it and went right back to training. It’s the process, the love of hard work that sustains us; not the shiny cars, watches or trophies.


Here’s where I read this advice: If You Don’t Eliminate This Habit, You Will Never Grow


8. Oprah Winfrey – Empathy Trumps Hyperbole

Here’s my theory. Both Oprah and Trump are master persuaders. That has allowed them to become wildly successful. However, I see their persuasion differ in one key way. Oprah uses her skills to empower others, Trump uses it to make himself appear more powerful. While they are both effective, Oprah’s way is the better way to live.


9. Albert Camus – The Question Is The Answer

When I find myself questioning the meaning of life; it tells me I’m living without meaning. When I’m searching for happiness; it tells me I’m unhappy. Albert Camus showed me I don’t need to keep asking questions or thinking about it, I need to live differently. Here’s his quote that helped me come to this realisation: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”


10. Benjamin P. Hardy – The Start Determines The End

‘Inspiration, Discipline, Risk, Humility’ poster by Joey Roth



I love this line he wrote, “If you lose an hour in your morning, you’ll spend your whole day looking for it.” Starting well sets me up for my whole day. I know the opposite is true. A bad morning always leads to a rushed day where I feel I haven’t accomplished half of what I needed to.


Here’s where I read this advice: You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5-7 AM


11. Tim Ferriss –  Question Yourself

Question what you are doing. Could it be done faster? What is the lead domino? Does it need to be done at all? Thanks to Tim Ferriss I’ve found myself working in four countries, keeping fit and having fun doing it.


12. John Gorman – How To Live

John Gorman gave a two-step guide on how to overcome fear. But I take it as advice for how to live:

  1. Do scary (but potentially rewarding) shit.
  2. Repeat.


Here’s where I read this advice: You’re Not Lazy


13. My Parents – Invest First, Spend Second

My parents have always been smart financially. They taught me the value of investing when I was young by operating as my banker and offering my an outrageously high interest-rate on the money I invested instead of spending. What I would give for those interest rates today! Now I always invest before I spend.


14. Nicolas Cole – Never Lie

Never lie is the simple advice that makes life so much easier when you practice it. I find the hardest part of this is never lying to myself. But that’s where a journal helps so much. When I force myself to reflect on my day, it’s easy to spot my bullshit.


Here’s where I read this advice: 19 Tiny Habits That Lead to Huge Results


15. George Horace Lorimer – Dress Well

I wear a black t-shirt and jeans most days. I waste no time. But the following two quotes by George Horace Lorimer made me rethink that. Now, I will wear a nice shirt and jacket on occasion:

  1. “…it isn’t enough to be all right in this world; you’ve got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right.”
  2. “A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin.”


Here’s where I read this advice: Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son


16. Tim Denning – Suffer Better

Suffering is not optional. What we do with it is. That’s why I love Tim Denning’s advice; “When you see suffering as a necessity and you learn to use it to your advantage, that same suffering becomes fuel for your goals and dreams.”


Here’s where I read this advice: 19 Harsh Truths You Don’t Want To Hear But Must (You’ll Be 10 Times Better For It)


17. Joe Rogan – Remember We’re Talking Monkeys

When I can’t stop thinking about a problem, I think of what Joe Rogan said; “If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.” Life is crazy, the little things don’t matter. And they’re all little things.


18. William N. Thorndike – Allocation Is Everything

William N. Thorndike wrote a book that showed the most successful CEOs focused on capital allocation above all else. That is the most important task. I’ve taken this lesson and applied it to my daily living. As part of my journaling I reflect on where I spent my time, what it produced, and how I can allocate my time better.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success


19. Zdravko Cvijetic – Skip The Unimportant Tasks

He taught me to spend my time doing the things that will have the most impact – to “Focus on high leverage activities.” I think of this advice when I’m answering an unimportant email. It won’t produce any results. Writing another article will.


Here’s where I read this advice: 10 Daily Habits That Will Improve Your Life


20. Malcolm X – What Don’t You Know?

Malcolm X tells this great story. He’s invited to go hunting for rabbits, or maybe he invited himself. Anyway, the fellow hunters teach him a trick. When a rabbit escapes down a path, the rabbit will later have to return past the same spot to get back to its home. The hunters would wait for it to return and shoot it. Malcolm X realised he could predict that since the rabbit was returning to that point, it would also have to pass a point further on. Instead of waiting with the hunters, he would go down the track where the rabbit would run past first. He would get four rabbits himself while the entire hunting group would only have one. They all thought he was a brilliant shot. But Malcolm X knew the deeper lesson. If someone else is getting something you’re not getting, they know something you don’t know.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Autobiography of Malcolm X


21. Mark Manson – “This Is Enough.”

While you’ll have to excuse his Latin, here’s how Mark Manson phrased it; “We now reserve our ever-dwindling fucks for the most truly fuck-worthy parts of our lives: our families, our best friends, our golf swing. And, to our astonishment, this is enough.”

I’ve found adopting Manson’s advice shows that most things don’t matter. But some matter more than anything. Focus on what and who matters. Ignoring the rest reduces stress and improves relationships.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck


22. Serge Faguet – Finding Flow

This guy is fascinating. By working in flow he’s pushing boundaries everywhere from business to biohacking. Working in flow makes me more productive, creative and having more fun. I learn faster. Serge has a number of specific tips I follow to help get into flow: practice every day, meditate, eliminate distractions, have high-quality downtime.


Here’s where I read this advice: How to biohack your intelligence — with everything from sex to modafinil to MDMA


23. Seneca – Religion Has A Use

Growing up I never gave religion a second thought. At the age of seven, God was in the same mental category as Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Seneca made me rethink religion with this quote; “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

Now whether Seneca meant the rulers use it as a tool for power, I don’t know. But I now can see that religions are mental frameworks to help people deal with life. The myths and rules help them live.

What made me realise this more than anything was adopting stoicism. While the philosophy is not a religion, there are enough similarities that the benefits stoicism has brought me has allowed me to appreciate religion.


24. Nicolas Cole – Laughing

Yes, this is is his second appearance in this list. But this time it’s for a different piece of advice.

When I’m chasing a goal it feels so serious. I’m not thinking about having fun. Nicolas Cole reminds us we can do both: “The best ideas come through ease.” & “The best flow happens in moments of joy.”


Here’s where I read this advice: 7 Crucial Lessons People Often Learn Too Late in Life


25. Ron Paul – Don’t Forget The Golden Rule

My first instinct now isn’t to help someone, it’s to make sure I don’t hurt anyone. Harm can be done to ten people when you help one. It’s made me realise if you want to do good in this world, you must make sure you’re not doing any harm. When Ron Paul imagined applying the Golden rule to nations, I realised it is as applicable to my own life. Here’s what he said:

“Maybe we ought to consider a Golden Rule in foreign policy: Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want happening to us.”


26. Darius Foroux – Exercise Daily

I lift weights. But I only need to do that 4 days a week. I used to rest the other three days. I had a strong body. But exercising everyday makes it far healthier. Why? When I’m not lifting weights, I’m stretching, walking or doing yoga. Now my body is much healthier.


Here’s where I read this advice: 25 Things About Life I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago


27. Zat Rana – Don’t Do One Thing

Zat Rana taught me how learning multiple things at a high-level makes you learn faster. So instead of having casual hobbies, I take them seriously. I learn from them, and they enforce my other skills. Bodybuilding helps me write, and writing helps me lift. Weird but true.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Expert Generalist: Why the Future Belongs to Polymaths


28. Nassim Taleb – Follow Your Excitement

Reading Nassim Taleb is one of the most fun things I do. Even when he’s talking about traditionally dry subjects; finance and statistics, his writing is exciting. His life is exciting. Here’s what Taleb wrote:


“My knowledge of technical matters, such as risk and probability, did not initially come from books. It did not come from lofty philosophizing and scientific hunger. It did not even come from curiosity. It came from the thrills and hormonal flush one gets while taking risks in the markets. I never thought mathematics was something interesting to me until, when I was at Wharton, a friend told me about the financial options I described earlier (and their generalization, complex derivatives). I immediately decided to make a career in them.”


Doesn’t that sound awesome? A career that gives you thrills? Following his excitement wasn’t a distraction, it became a learning superpower. For me, writing is like this. You write successful articles, ones that are ignored, and pieces you’re nervous to publish. That’s a thrill, and a good way to live.


Here’s where I read this advice: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life


29. Aaron Curtis – You Don’t Need To Cheat

Aaron Curtis is a natural bodybuilder (doesn’t use steroids or performance enhancing drugs), yet looks better than most steroid users. He’s a powerful reminder you don’t need to cheat to reach your goals. Sure, you need to work harder and be more disciplined: but that makes your success even sweeter. He’s also hilarious.

(And please note; while I’m using the word cheating to describe steroid users – Aaron Curtis is always humble and shows admiration towards the professionalism of many enhanced bodybuilders).

Here’s what he said on the subject: “I just like eating lots of foods and trying to lift more weights than I lifted the week before, I don’t need steroids to do those things.”


30. Ryan Holiday – Stoicism, Reading, & A Commonplace Book

I have stolen so much advice from Ryan Holiday. More than anything his introduction to stoicism has had the biggest effect on my life. His books are awesome.

In contrast to the deep advice of stoic philosophy, here’re three practical pieces of advice I’ve stolen:

  1. Reading 150+ books per year (I’ve read 100 in 242 so far)
  2. Keeping a commonplace book (Although I use Evernote)
  3. Listening to one song on repeat when writing

Also, I literally stole the idea and headline for this article from Holiday. Here’s what he wrote: 28 Pieces of Productivity Advice I Stole From People Smarter Than Me.


31. Blake Powell – Focus On The Process

“Instead of wanting to be successful, you need to learn to enjoy the process itself. Revel in the act of creation, accept good things will come if you do good work, and just breathe,” advises Blake Powell.

Powell’s advice is similar to the story of the king and the original mood ring. The king asks wise men to create a ring that makes him feel happy when he is sad. The wisest of creates a gold ring with the following inscription, “This too shall pass.”

That phrase brings us back to reality when our ego inflates after some success, and lifts our mood when we’ve failed. But Blake Powell’s advice to focus on the process does the same thing. We focus on what we can control, so we keep producing good work.

Btw, here’re 9 more things I’ve learnt from Blake Powell.


Here’s where I read this advice: The Simple Truth Behind Being Successful at All You Accomplish






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Write To Rise

Nations. God. Capitalism. These ideas rule the world, yet they have no concrete existence. The ideas exist, only, when they exist in our minds. They’re abstract. Sure, we see the Stars & Stripes, a painting of Christ and Elon Musk launching a car into space. But they are only symbols. Yuval Noah Harari writes, “You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after he dies, he will get limitless bananas in chimpanzee Heaven. Only Sapiens can believe such stories. This is why we rule the world.”


Indeed, we rule the world. We rule fire, we rule lions, we rule the sky. We rule each other. A toddler has a mother. A student a teacher. An employee a boss. Those above, rule those below. We live in dominance hierarchies. Dominance hierarchies are not abstract. They are real, like the law of motion – they exist with or without our belief or conscious realisation.


Dominance hierarchies are our reality. Where do you want to sit in it? At the bottom? Where your shelter, if you have one, is dirty. Where your desire for education is suppressed by your need to eat. Where your daily stress breeds ulcers and disease. Will you be satisfied in the middle class? You can have a white picket fence, roast chicken on Sunday and a degree on your cubicle wall. Do you need to be in the top 1%? Probably not, but if a flood or bushfire is descending on your home you’ll be wishing there’s a helicopter on your roof for your three kids. The higher in life’s dominance hierarchy you sit, the more problems you escape.


Humanity’s dominance hierarchies exist within humanity’s abstract ideas. Our nation has a head of state at the top, you the tax paying citizen in the middle and a welfare recipient on the bottom. A Christian God has themself at the top, you & I in the middle and Satan at the bottom. Capitalism has a billionaire at the top, a worker paying off his mortgage in the middle and a beggar at the bottom.


There are no stupid doctors. The better you mentally understand abstract ideas, the higher you will rise in your distinct dominance hierarchy, from medicine, to law, to business, to art. George Soros is an investor who has accumulated over $25 billion. That’s more than the GDP of Afghanistan and a hundred other countries. Soros credits part of his success to his understanding of Karl Popper’s General Theory of Reflexivity and applying it to capital markets (applying a complex abstract idea to another complex abstract idea).


Writing is a superpower for understanding and organising abstract ideas. Seeing ideas written on a screen lets us tinker with then. We analyse them. Order them. Question them. Invert them. Writing helps us identify ideas that will help us rise within dominance hierarchies and those that will hurt us. Democracy from dictatorship, diplomacy before destruction.


The more minds an abstract idea exists in, the more powerful it is. If Catholicism had only 700 followers the Pope would be a cult leader. If Seal Team 6 weren’t American they’d be the world’s most elite group of terrorists. Hell hath no fury for an atheist. Believing in abstract ideas gives those ideas power, and in turn, those abstract ideas gives their promoters power.


Presidents don’t stutter. Clearly communicating abstract ideas helps us convince others of their value. Richard Branson has made more than $5 billion. While that’s only more than the GDP of Sierra Leone and 50 other countries, he’s also at the top of the business hierarchy. Branson says, “[Communication] is the most important skill any entrepreneur can possess.” It has seen him convince investors and the public of new ideas, from a gay nightclub to a hyperloop.


Writing then helps us communicate those superior abstract ideas so other people believe in the same abstract ideas as us – giving the idea and us power. We write a constitution. We tell stories about Jesus. We write annual reports. We write, and those who do it best – dominate.

On Aesthetics

What are aesthetics? Can you articulate exactly what aesthetics are? If you can’t describe aesthetics, I bet you feel them when you read Hemingway, drive a Tesla or admire supermodel Miranda Kerr.


A supermodel? Beauty and elegance are the first foundation of aesthetics. Yet beauty is superficial. Can we ignore it? Sure, at your peril. As George Horace Lorimer wrote, “A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin.” He insists that two thirds of success is making people think you’re alright. Google’s homepage, www.google.com, is the most valuable web page in the world. It could earn the GDP of a small country if they placed ads on it. That’s what other search engines did in the early 2000’s – they plastered ads all over their homepage. But where are they now? Google kept their homepage ad free, clean, simple. Beautiful and elegant. Aesthetic. And today they’re the most popular search engine in the world. Google, as Lormer would say, made people think they were alright.


What makes something elegant? Simplicity leads to elegance. Simplicity is the second foundation of aesthetics. Simplicity isn’t finding important ideas. When you say three things, you say none. Simplicity is finding the core idea. When you say one thing, you’ve won. For example, the core idea of Christianity is as useful as the entire bible: don’t do to others, what you don’t want them to do to you. Simplicity is the secret of designers; a profession dedicated to aesthetics. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”


So what are aesthetics? Aesthetics are elegance, beauty, and simplicity.


From Words To Culture: The Levels Of Resolution In Writing

When we want to master a specific domainwe need to understand every level of resolution. A mechanic needs to know far more than how to drive. It is the same for writing. A writer should know more than the mechanics of writing. So let’s embrace the nuancethe multiple levels of resolution that writing exists in. We’ll begin at the most literal level and rise in levels of abstraction.


Level 1: Words

Professor Jordan Peterson said wrote, “Each word should be precisely the right word.” What’s the right word? It’s concise. It’s never two when one will do. It keeps the beat. It’s never the 17-letter synonym that you think makes you sound intelligent. The right word is like a star in the night sky. Alone, it seems insignificant. But when it’s surrounded by hundreds of other right words, your writing shines bright. Lao Tzu said, “Great acts are made up of small deeds.” Similarly, great writing is made of the right words. Every word matters. Just as every pebble mattered to the crow in Aesop’s fable…


The Crow and the Pitcher

A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher.  


Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  


At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life. Little by little does the trick.


Level 2: Sentences

Write good sentences by obeying these 3 laws:


  1. Put the words in the right order so the sentence is grammatically correct.


  1. Make them clear and easy to read.


  1. Express only one thought per sentence.


Level 3: Paragraphs

Like a sentence should express one thought, a paragraph should express one idea. Those sentences, or thoughts, should be ordered logically to communicate the overarching idea. Here’s a rule to follow when writing a paragraph: Each paragraph must be at least 10 sentences or 100 words. If you can’t write 100 words on an idea, you don’t need a thesaurus, you need a better idea. Regardless of any reasoning, the 10 sentence/ 100 word rule exists because it works. Nassim Taleb wrote, “Not everything that happens happens for a reason, but everything that survives survives for a reason.” You don’t need to know why the rule works, but you need to follow it.


Level 4: Structure / Sequence Of Paragraphs

“You must map out the path if you ever plan to make it to your destination alive.”Ryan Holiday

Your paragraphs should follow a logical progression. Each paragraph builds upon the previous paragraph. Paragraph by paragraph, you build towards your ultimate conclusion.  

You lead, they read.


Level 5: Your Piece Of Writing As A Whole

All the previous levels of resolution can be correct, yet the writing can suck. It’s not what’s written that makes it weak, it’s what’s lacking; originality, creativity, insight. Consider the inverse: writing filled with originality, creativity, and insight. But it’s also filled with grammatical errors, a disorganised structure, and uses the wrong words. It can still be brilliant. The previous steps are more technical. This step is not. It’s a poorly translated Dostoevsky; the grammar is wrong, yet it is still brilliant.


Level 6: Reader’s Interpretation

Before America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima they gave a warning: The Potsdam Declaration. It demanded complete surrender, or promised complete destruction. The Japanese Premier, Kantaro Suzuki, responded via a news conference saying “No comment. We’re still thinking about it.” However, the Japanese word for ‘no comment’ is ‘mokusatsu’, which also means “We’re ignoring in contempt.” It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what your reader hears.


Level 7: Our Culture

People are not blank slates with completely open minds. They have developed a way of looking at the world. Their perception is a product of their culture, and biology. You may mean one thing, but a reader can interpret it as something else. 7 billion people view the world 7 billion different ways. Different people can read the same work differently. There have been more than a few disagreements over the interpretation of the bible.


It is not enough to simply want to write well. We must also understand how—and follow that process. Otherwise we will never reach our potential. However, as we are analysing our own writing, we must not overanalyze. We must keep writing, not writing a piece that’s perfect at each level of resolution, but is moving towards perfection. We learn to write by putting these ideas in practice. As Amelia Earhart said, “Always think with your stick forward.”