Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. @sivers
Awaken the Giant Within
Permanently changed the way I think, starting at age 19, and ever since. The profound lesson is this: You can change how you feel or think. Most people think, “I can’t help the way I feel,” or “That’s just who I am.” But you can rewire your brain to anything that supports what you want from life. Everything is changeable. Fears, personality traits, long-held beliefs – you can change all of these if they’re not helping you live the life you want. I read this book at 19 on the advice of a mentor, and have read it again every few years since. A surprising amount of how I think and act is based on this book. I’m tempted to recommend other classics like “Think and Grow Rich”, but really most wisdom of all self-help books is contained in this one.
Stumbling Upon Happiness
Brilliant Harvard psychology professor has studied happiness for decades, and shares his surprising factual findings. The profound lesson is this: You are bad at predicting what will make you happy. We all are. You make huge decisions in life like where to live or work or what to buy, based on mistaken thinking. We think a big house will make us happy, but people in big houses are often less happy, and people with long commutes are the unhappiest of all. We think an upgraded item (new sunglasses, car, computer) will make us happy because in the moment we’re comparing it to our current one. But as soon as we upgrade, the comparison to the previous one disappears, and we realize it was only the comparison that made us happy. The new norm does not. Imagine a whole book filled with factual findings on what actually does make most people happy, what doesn’t, and proof that you’re not as different from most people as you think. This had a profound impact on the decisions I’ve made in my life since.
The Wisdom of Crowds
This is not as universal as my other recommendations. It’s about the power of crowds, which matters a lot to me because I have a crowd. Those without a crowd might not relate. But the profound lesson is this: Big diverse groups of people make better predictions and decisions than any one individual in the group. This goes against the conventional wisdom of the superstar. In a race, for example, the individual is better than the group average. But that’s why it’s surprising that in markets, predictions, and decisions, the group average is better than any individual. It’s the old saying, “Two brains are better than one,” multiplied. So how does this affect our life? Think of all the places in business where someone is getting a superstar salary. Most high-paid superstar investment managers actually underperform the market average. Most CEOs would be better off deferring to a board. And we’d be better off trusting the collective book reviews on Amazon.