Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker

Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial IndependenceEarly Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence by Jacob Lund Fisker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is book is not like any of the other “retire early in 10 easy steps” books…it is a full-blown life plan for making it happen, and not for those who aren’t willing or able to take massive action to change their current consumerist habits.

I’ve read a ton of blogs and books on financial management and investment, but this one has a very counter-intuitive and yes – EXTREME – approach to retirement that can be achieved relatively quickly. The overall thesis is that by saving a majority of one’s net income (50, 60, 70 or even 80%!) on an annual basis, it is possible to “retire” in five years or so. This is the case not just due to the high amount of savings, but the low annual expenses needed to sustain a lifestyle where you live on 20% of what is earned. The author was a theoretical physicist and the attention to detail comes through (and at times the math equations get a bit extreme!).

What I liked:
1. A significant amount of the book is devoted to the MINDSET needed (philosophy /psychology) around the early retirement approach. It really goes deep and Jacob provides examples (from his own life), frameworks to help the reader understand character types and plenty of hardcore data.
2. There are specific strategies and tactics that can be applied on day 1 by the reader to boost savings and cut expenses. Some may not apply to you, but many will.
3. There is a very detailed blog Early Retirement Extreme that provides more examples, Q&A topics and links to an active online forum to go deeper into various topics.

What I didn’t like:
1. Many times the books dives too deep into a topic (e.g. in taking about character archetypes, detailing math equations) or seem to be going off on tangents and rambling. I am good at skimming/skipping this stuff so didn’t mind it too much. Overall, there is much more good about this book to love so I was willing to put up with these parts.

View all my reviews

The New Good Life by John Robbins: Book Review

I’ve ready several of John Robbin’s previous books, including Diet for a New America and Healthy at 100. Both were awesome, and his latest book, The New Good Life, is no exception. Robbin’s story is remarkable not just because he eschewed a life of privilege at a young age (he was the heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune and destined to take over the business, but gave it up to live off the land in a log cabin for 10 years) but because his message is so clear, supported by facts yet engaging to read.

The book states that “The New Good Life” can be had by anyone who is willing to focus on what brings joy in life and not what prevailing market trends and peers dictate as necessary parts of a successful life. Do we need multiple fancy cars? Do we need large expensive houses? Do we need to work long hours in jobs that don’t bring fulfillment? Do we need to spend money we don’t have on food that is destroying our health and the environment? Those are all trappings of the “old good life” and no longer sustainable for the exploding modern world population.

What I like about this book is that it is NOT a book about minimalism. I personally do not believe a minimal lifestyle is inherently better than a highly consumptive one. There are many positive benefits, however, of being happy with less, when the motivation in doing so is appropriate. That is exactly the message in this book. Explore the possibility that you might be happy with less. Challenge yourself to really focus on the things that bring you happy and your family joy, and do more of those things and less of the rest.

I read this book in a single weekend…..it’s that good – though I did skip the chapter on health as it repeats similar messages as covered in his previous books.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll: Book Review

My last two books were both written by vegan endurance athletes. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and more recently Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Both were enjoyable reads and inspiring. What I like about Finding Ultra is the focus on multi-sport athletics (triathlon). Rich also has a very unique background; having been a standout student, lawyer and national-level competitive swimmer…all the while battling alcoholism.

If you like Eat & Run, you will definitely enjoy Finding Ultra. However, I did think Eat & Run was a better book overall. It interleaved more plant-based nutritional guidance throughout the book. Finding Ultra, while it did have nutritional advice, seemed to be pitching supplementation using products from a company Rich Roll is involved with. Eat & Run focused on recipes you can cook at home – I like that. I also just think Eat & Run was better written and overall more inspiring a story (Scott Jurek has done some pretty gnarly races and has a much longer endurance race history!).

So do read both books if you can. If you need to pick one, go with Eat & Run.

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Read Scott Jurek‘s book Eat & Run last week. It is an awesome read, and it doesn’t matter if you are vegan or into running long distances.

I thought I knew Scott’s story, but there is a lot in this book that was totally new to me. He had a tough upbringing and surprising stories about his races. For example, I knew he raced the Hardrock 100, but I had no idea he did it on a nearly broken ankle! I also knew he raced (and won) the Spartathlon, a 150 mile race in Greece, but I didn’t he won it twice!

The book also introduces a few dozen vegan recipes….that are quite good. I made his recipe for mushroom-lentil veggie burgers and they turned out amazingly well. Nice to read a story about someone who is performing at a world-class athletic level on a plant-based diet.

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

I just finished reading The Pilgrimage, A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom, by Paulo Coelho. The novel follows Paulo as he goes on pilgrimage across Spain in search of a miraculous sword. It’s a story of  a man in search of spiritual development and mastery. The pilgrim’s path is a sacred one used by millions of pilgrims in the Christian faith, one that leads from the mountains near France to the coast of Spain. The path is also known as “The Way of St. James.”

Along the way, he is guided by a wise man, and learns a number of important lessons. I particularly like how the book introduces a number of interesting meditations (8-10, can’t remember exactly) that you can apply in your own life. It’s both a story and a personal development manual.

While this book is not nearly as profound as The Alchemist (perhaps my favorite book of all-time, also by Coelho) it is a worthwhile and fast read. I got through it in a long weekend of lazy reading.

How will you measure your life? Another post.

I just finished reading Clayton Christensen’s new book, How Will You Measure Your Life. As i posted before, when I joined Microsoft as an intern over 12 years ago my manager handed me a copy of his then breakthrough best-seller “The Innovators Dilemma” (it’s still a best seller). I liked it for the way it used historical examples and simple theory to explain complex business situations.

What I like about his most recent book, is that it provides more of these theories, but applies them to personal life situations. Finding a job that is fulfilling. Finding meaningful relationships. Finding a life purpose. Things like that.

The biggest insight I got from the book is to not settle until you find your purpose, and find a career and lifestyle that supports it. I was surprised to learn that Christensen (a Harvard Business School professor) didn’t decide to teach until he was in his late 30’s, after two other careers.

It’s never too late to make a change. When it comes to your profession, you will spend a large portion of the waking hours in your prime years doing what you do. Pick something great and don’t settle until you find it.

How will you measure your life?

One of the first business books I read (not counting college textbooks) was The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. I was an intern at Microsoft 12 years ago and my boss had just read it. He handed it to me (along with a stack of printed revenue reports to review) and recommend I take a look. The book is a classic now, easy to read and simple in its theory but very applicable then and now to the problem of sustained innovation for any business.

I’m now halfway rough his latest book How Will You Measure Your Life in which he applies business theory to the problem of finding a career and life purpose that will be fulfilling.

The Innovators Dilemma theory states that businesses that are successful are often and eventually disrupted by emergent strategies by companies in their industry, with products that are initially deemed inferior in some way, but superior in other meaningful ways. In the same way that people initially dismissed autos as inferior to horses and buggies (they were noisy, broke down and were limited to level roads), the autos slowly improved and redefined transportation. The same thing has happened to the steel business, retail stores, tech industry, books, restaurants and almost every other industry.

I like this book because it challenges the reader to think hard about the patterns they are running in their lives and the assumptions and motivations driving their decisions. Christensen himself decided to get a PhD at the age of 37 and change careers to become a professor at 39, after years as a consultant and business owner. He disrupted himself before he found himself trapped in a career and lifestyle he didn’t truly love. That takes courage no book can in itself give to a reader, but the theories he lays out do help.

The Happiness Project

Just starting to read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

I do truly believe that happiness is a choice, even in the most dire of situations. In the book, Gretchen accounts of her year of test-driving wisdom from various traditions and popular culture regarding how to be happier. I’m not expecting any breakthrough insights from this book but do expect it to be a fun read.

Have you read this book? What do you think about it?

 

 

Steve Jobs Authorized Biography Book Review

Three words come to mind when recalling the life of Steve as described in his authorized biography:

Disturbed
Driven
Idealistic

He was a deeply disturbed individual. Seemingly incapable of showing remorse or sensitivity to others feelings. He was also incredibly driven to create and achieve things that lived up to his ideal vision of how the world ought to be.

This book is a remarkable read. I had no idea Steve was so influenced by his explorations in Indian and Zen Buddhist training. I did know that he was vegan for a time, but was surprised by how much of his life was impacted by his dietary tendencies.

I was also amazed by how emotional a person he was, apt to break into tears when things didn’t go his way. He was a master of harnessing his emotions to create change.

I was also given a glimpse into how he built his company. His relentless focus on doing a few things exceptionally well. His commitment to building a team of only A players (since A players don’t like working with Bs and Cs). Most importantly, his belief in taking responsibility for all aspects of the product experience. From retail to packaging to the chips running Apple device, he demanded control over everything to ensure that customers got something remarkable (or at least his definition of remarkable!).

The most impressive thing to me was how he kept focus on the company even through his painful battles with cancer. His dedication to his vision of the future was unwavering. Most humans would have passed the torch well before he did. He was driven by far more than money or fame.

If you are even remotely interested in technology, and especially if you use Apple products, it’s worth reading this inside look at what made Steve tick.

Staying Power

What gives some people the capacity to reach great heights and stay there? Folks in the limelight are not always the most talented, connected or resourceful people. Look to artists and this is definitely true.

I was at a book reading with Neil Strauss a couple of days ago. His latest book, Everybody Loves You When You Are Dead, is a compilation of interviews he has done with dozens of artists and musicians during his tenure as a writer for Rolling Stone and co-author of numerous biographies.

He is an expert at getting to the heart of an interview…not asking fluff questions but really asking questions that help you understand what people are really like; insecurities, idiosyncrasies and all.

One thing he shared was that in all his interviews he’s come away with a defining characteristic that separates those that are successful long-term or those that are not. Those that are long-term successes believe that they were destined for the position they were in. It was as if they believed that God, fate and all the mysterious forces in the universe were aligning to assure them of their path. That they were truly the chosen ones. That they should not be guilty for what they have or aspire to have because that is their path.

On the flip side, those artists whose careers never took off or fizzled out early felt that they didn’t really deserve their social standing, and along with this came guilt and fear of losing what they had.

Whether you believe in a greater power or not, I think it makes sense to assume that you deserve to be successful and all the good things that come with it.

The Four Hour Body: Video Trailer

I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris‘s blog and his book The Four Hour Work Week. Here’s a trailer for his new book (to be released this month), The 4–Hour Body. Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIVmsIJyj3A]

Over at The Huffington Post, they have a link to this video, along with a poll asking for reader opinions on the book. Here’s the results so far (doesn’t show number of completes yet…but the poll has only been open for a few hours so far)

100 Most Influential Books Ever Written

Bored? Don’t be. Here’s a list of the 100 most influential book ever written.

Visit a library, bookstore or grab your Kindle and start reading. There is a ton of stuff out there.

I like books that are over 50 years old that are still in print. If it’s still being printed after that much time, chances are there is something worthwhile in there. Many of the books on the top 100 list are thousands of years old which probably means there is a lot in their worth reading :).

These are the kind of books that have influenced presidents, religious leaders and business tycoons over the years. They are worth digging into. Put down the pulp fiction and pick up one of these.

Happy reading,

Sailing Alone Around the World: Book Review

This is a truly outstanding book. I give it a solid rating of 8 out of 10.

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum is the story of Mr. Slocum’s solo sail around the world in his hand-built wooden ship in the late 1800’s. The book is written by Slocum and is a brilliant account of his nearly 3 year ordeal. Throughout the adventure he has run-ins with pirates, tribal people, cultures from around the world, military battleships and modern “steamers” that motor on by as he relies solely on the power of the wind to get him from point A to point B. He fights through stormy seas and patiently waits through weeks of calm nothingness.

He conveys a strong empathy for people of other lands, including indigenous people. He has an unwavering confidence in his own skill and craftsmanship. I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been to venture alone around the world without things like beacons and satellite phones to keep you connected should things go incredibly wrong. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys adventure. I also learned a ton about sailing history in general through reading the copious footnotes and glossary.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Book Review

One tough book to get through!

I can’t believe I FINALLY made it to the end! I give it lowly a rating of 3/10.

You might consider this blasphemy, as it is a classic and one of the most widely read books of all time. It was just so darn boring and tough to follow!

It follows the real-life story of the author (Robert Pirshing) and his son Chris’s long road trips on a motorcycle in the 1960’s. Throughout the book, the author recounts the beauty and wonder of his long motorcycle journey’s with frequent segues on Ancient Greek philosophy and his own troubled (psychotic even) past. Ultimately, it provides a glimpse into the harried pace of things in the world, and the gap between rationality (seeing objects as separate) and quality (the fundamental nature of all things). It’s very much about the difference between seeing yourself as separate from the world duality and oneness – where you see yourself as unique but made from the same fabric as the rest of the world. It draws parallels with Zen, Buddhist and Hindu teachings in this regard.

The underlying message is powerful, but the book is ridiculously long-winded. The stories about Robert riding with his son were great to read and very enjoyable. Hearing about his relationship to his motorcycle and his caring for it like a human being and going into great detail about the workings of the motorcycle is super interesting. However, the book would often break loose on tangents exploring the innards of Greek philosophy or flash-back to some weird dialectic between the author and his college students or fellow faculty members. There were many times when I was totally lost reading this thing. I frequently couldn’t follow what was going on and many paragraphs just didn’t make sense. This was perhaps the single most frustrating book I have ever read for this reason. The vocabulary was too advanced at times and at other times just boring to read.

I’m glad I made it through to the end, I was very close to abandoning it – but it’s been on my book list for a very long time and I wanted to make it through. However, this is one book I don’t plan on giving another read.

The monk who sold his ferrari: book recap

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Finished reading a very quick book – The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, by Robin Sharma. I was perusing Barnes and Noble and noticed the book due to the striking title. I had never heard of Robin Sharma, but have since learned that this book is a bestseller and has been for the past 10+ years.

It was an incredibly quick and easy read (I finished it in 3 sittings, about 2.5 hours total). It’s written as a fable and embeds a whole bunch of personal development teaching through the story. If you have read Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins or other personal and spiritual development teachings, the themes of this book will be very familiar.

Overall, the book was OK. I give it a 7 out of 10. It’s worth reading, but the fable itself had a bunch of information (and quotes!) I had already read through other teachers. the fable itself also was pretty darn predictable in terms of how the dialogue progressed (though there was a twist at the end!).

Some of my take-away’s:

  • Time management is one of life’s most important skills
  • Most of us sleep far too much
  • Not being motivated means you don’t have a clear vision/purpose/goal for your life
  • Mental chatter causes physical fatigue and “aging” on some level – thus the importance of meditation
  • Never put off happiness for the sake of achievement – stay in the present
  • The purpose of life is to serve others
  • Will-power is required for personal transformation on any level
  • The mind will follow your direction, your will….don’t let yourself follow the whims of your mind!

There’s a bunch of other nuggets. It’s a worthwhile read, not mind-blowing but full of good insights and it’s very quick and easy to get through.

How To Win Friends And Influence People (Part III)

Listening to the audio book for How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Read Part 1 and Part 2 for insights from the earlier portions of the book. Here are some insights from this evening’s listening:

  • See things always from another person’s point of view – always, try as hard as you can to do this
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Appeal to people’s nobler motives
  • Use showmanship to get attention – movies do it, TV does it, window displays do it – and it works
  • You can dramatize ideas in business or any other part of life – works great when dealing with adults and kids! Dramatize facts to make a point in a business setting. Use props if necessary to get your point across
  • The way to get things done is to stimulate competition – in a healthy and productive way, throw down a challenge and see what happens!
  • Work is the most motivating force for any worker, not money, benefits or anything else – quality and interesting work is the single biggest tool to keep people interested in their job
  • Let other people do a great deal of the talking in any conversation
  • It’s always easier to listen to criticism after you have given someone some praise – never just criticize, always see the positive aspects and comment on them first – them provide your thoughtful critique
  • Providing criticism after praise is a technique used by many world leaders past and present (Lincoln, Coolidge, McKinley, etc.) in motivating staff an leading without making people feel bad
  • Beginning with praise is like a dentist that begins with Novocaine!
  • There is a way to redirect/correct/criticism without upsetting people – make others feel important (praise) while correcting
  • People judge us by our “letters” – small errors, like spelling errors, make a big impression
  • Humbling oneself and praising another can turn a staunch adversary into a close friend
  • Admitting one’s own mistakes can motivate others to change their behavior for the better. For example, by quitting smoking – parents will set a positive example that children and friends will notice (and potentially follow)
  • A good leader talks about their own mistakes before criticizing others

The Ultimatum Game

It is in our best interests as a society to want others to succeed. If other people succeed, we really are better off. Think about it. If your friends and other members of your community have better jobs, better education, better access to services and better/adequate pay, they would be able to contribute even more back to their communities – wherein they and everyone else (including you) would benefit.

However, we don’t naturally act like this is real life. The Ultimatum Game was an experiment that studied the willingness of people to contribute to a common pool of money over time, in return for everybody getting a specific and favorable payout.

Everyone contributes and everyone benefits.

In reality what happens is that people begin to realize that even when they don’t contribute they still reap the rewards. A classic example of this is the effort people make to evade taxes, while still benefiting from public services and infrastructure that other people’s tax dollars provide.

As a result of this, people feel cheated because some members of their community are getting more than their fair share. They then stop contributing to the overall pool even though they would be better off by doing so.

Primates have been found to do the same thing. A story from a recent book I read, The Wisdom of Crowds, pointed out a study conducted with Chimps. The researchers had chimps trade pebbles for small pieces of cucumber. One pebble = one cucumber. After some time, the rules changed and some chimps were given a grape (a much tastier snack!) instead of the cucumber. The other Chimps, upon seeing this…would react in disgust, either throwing away their cucumbers or in some cases even refusing to turn in their pebbles at all.

They would forgo a modest payoff just because someone else got something better.

Think of how this unconscious pattern plays out in your own life and in your own community. Think about the improvements we could make in the world by letting go of greed and jealously and really acting in our own best interests – which often are in the best interests of the community as a whole – and not getting sucked into the Ultimatum Game.

3 Original Gift Ideas for the Holidays

It’s now the season where people run to their nearest malls – to empty their savings – all in an attempt to make other people happy. Giving is fantastic, but there is a better way to do it than just racking up debt. Below are a few ideas that redefine what it means to give a gift.

In fact, you would think that the tough economic times we are in would curb some gratuitous spending, but the mall next to my home is still swarming this weekend. I wonder how many of the gifts that people receive over the holidays are actually used?

When I downsized earlier this year I was guilty of giving away many things that someone surely spent good time and good money to purchase for me. I am not alone in this.

So what to do? I think this holiday season we have an opportunity to rethink what it means to give. It doesn’t have to be all about clothes, games, electronics, gifts cards or cash. Here are just three simple ideas for unique gifts that express your own originality and have a meaning beyond the price tag.

1. Share an idea – gift your books to others

I love books, reading close to 100 every year – either through print or audio-book. You can imagine that such a reading habit would built up quite a library. That’s why one of my favorite things to do it to give away my favorite books to other people that I think would resonate with the ideas of the author.

I was just talking with a friend at a party yesterday. I mentioned this concept of giving away books and she thought it would be so tough, since she loves her book so much. Think about it this way, by giving away a book – you are sharing the ideas of the author with other people, and once they read the book your conversations with that person will be that much richer. It’s also free 🙂 . Don’t forget, if you ever want to re-read the book, you can just borrow it back!

My hope is also that is the reader enjoys the author, that they will support them by buying future books, telling their friends about them. I’ve found this to be true in practice.

When giving books, I don’t worry about the book being in pristine condition. However, I do include a little note on the inside cover of the book stating how the book has impacted my life, and wishing that it brings similar joy to the recipient. I also urge the reader to pass it on when they are done.

2. Be creative – gift a masterpiece

We used to doodle all the times as kids. As adults, most of us have lost this habit, along with the habit of actually writing anything by hand. A few months ago, for my birthday, I received only 1 handwritten card in mail, it totally blew me away. All my other birthday wishes came through phone calls, e-mails, Facebook wall posts, text messages and the like.The fact that someone actually took the time to write a thoughtful note on a card and send it really meant a lot.

As a kid, I remember making the silliest drawings and notes, that my parents would post up on the fridge with pride. Instead of going out and buying a gift card, that not only costs you money but also has little sentimental value, try writing a thoughtful note on a nice piece of paper. Try decorating it any way you see fit, with dried/pressed flowers, doodles or images cut from cartoons and magazines. If you got such a thoughtful gift, what would you do with it? Would it at least bring a smile to your face for the day? If so, it’s one of the best gifts you can give.

3.  Be a contributor – support those in need

At a time when so many beings are suffering in this world, giving a gift that directly helps others – on behalf of someone you care about – is incredibly touching and makes a significant difference in the world. There are many ways you can give in this way and I urge you to do a little research online – or just contact a charity that you currently support – and see how you can provide a “gift donation” on someone’s behalf.

If you don’t currently have a charity that you support, you can try contacting your regional chapter of the United Way. Another great approach is to sponsor a child through World Vision. You can support the needs of a child for only $35 per month, or you can specify any amount that fits within your budget. World Vision also allows you to provide other goods and services to needy people – farming tools, wells, educational supplies…with a wide ranges of contribution amounts that can match any budget. Check it out!

Hopefully these three ideas have given you something to think about in the midst of your holiday shopping. I urge you to take a moment and re-think your approach for gift giving. Think about how you make each and every gift you give truly authentic. It is not about the cost, it is the meaning behind the gift that matters.

If you have other original holiday gift ideas, I’d love to hear them. Please add any ideas to the comments of this post. By the way, this post was partly inspired by Tina Su’s great post over at Think Simple Now highlighting some super creative gift ideas for the holiday. Check out her blog for more inspiring content.

A Few Good Reads

Darri left a comment to my last post about “The Dip” asking what some of my favorite books are. This post isn’t about my all-time favorite books, but rather about books that I’ve read recently and have enjoyed. Here are five that I particularly like right now.

The Dip. I just wrote about it and I’m going through my own exercise right now to figure out what things in my life are worth slogging through the dip for, and which things I should cut loose from. A short and very good book that applies to personal development and business. It’s all about being deliberate in doing certain things well (and pushing through “the dip” that happens when times get tough), and quitting those things that aren’t bound to be productive to your life.

Made to Stick. I read this book as part of a marketing leadership development I’m in at work. It’s all about storytelling. While geared for business professionals, the book applies equally to how we talk about and present ourselves every day to family, friends or co-workers. The book is an easy read and there are quite a few case studies that bring the text to life.

Think and Grow Rich. This is a classic but I’ve put off reading it for many years. It’s the foundation for many other personal development books and systems that have come about over the years. Napolean Hill studied the success characteristics from the world’s most successful people for decades on behalf of his benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. It was written years ago but is highly relevant. Highly recommended.

Tribes. Another Seth Godin book, and also very short but very good (it is really hard to write short books, I commend Seth for doing this!). This book is all about communities, and how we are ALL empowered to lead a community (if we so choose). Be it a community group, church group, meetup group, peer group or any other community….the world needs leaders now. Are you up for the challenge? Best of all, you can download the audio version of the book for FREE from audible!

Journey to the Heart. This is a book of daily reflections/meditations that I use frequently when teaching my yoga classes. The readings are powerful and very well put.

Ultramarathon Man. I haven’t read this book <yet> but it is next on my list. Dean Karnazes likes to run…to the point of frequently running ultramarathons lasting over 100 miles (or longer) over rugged terrain. He also completed 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days last year (this is covered in his most recent book – “50/50”). Some people like to call him crazy, but I think we all can learn something from his focus, dedication and sheer tenacity.

What books have you read recently and really enjoyed? Please leave a note in the comments, I’m always looking for good book recommendations!