Self-Education and Insights from the 86 books I read in 2015

Self-Education and Insights from the 86 books I read in 2015


I read 86 books in 2015. Turning the final page on each one makes me realize how little I know. I shared some of my thoughts from these books: #here #here #here and #here

Today I’m about to do the same.

I do the bulk of my reading on my tablet. It’s a very enjoyable and convenient experience. I use a stylus to highlight passages that I consider insightful or relevant to me; passages that I would later (quite often) come back at to refresh my knowledge.

Lessons From 2015

  1. Karl Albrecht – Social Intelligence

No two brains contain exactly the same “meaning” for any word, expression, or concept; the meanings are embedded in the people, not in the words.

Neuroscience teaches us how reality is perceived and constructed differently by each individual. There may be some aspects of reality that share a common denominator among people, but encoding stimuli into the brain is a unique process.

To illustrate:

I think egg consumption to be of great importance to my health, mostly because I’ve been taught (through knowledge acquisition and intimate experience) about the importance of dietary fat on optimizing wellbeing, as well as the package-full of nutrients that comes along with this foodstuff. Many other folks associate egg consumption with higher cholesterol values because that’s the message they’ve been getting from the media. So, I have to be aware of the possible conflict of opinions on this subject whenever I talk to someone about it.

You and I may be more successful in our social interactions if we consider the differences in the meaning, feelings, and experiences in constructing reality.

  1. James Altucher – The Power of No

Be a surgeon. You are operating on all of your social relationships. It doesn’t matter: boss, family colleagues, anyone. This doesn’t mean being selfish and avoiding people who need your help. You can be there for them. But put the oxygen mask on your own face first when the plane makes an emergency landing.

James tells me to make no discrimination about the people that I choose not to spend my time with. My mentors (all of them) gravitate toward the idea that we are the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. So, I’d better make good decisions about this…

And yes, this doesn’t license me to be a selfish jerk; I have to be of service as much as I can. But I also have to be aware of the fact that time is the most precious resource I have and that I should spend it as efficiently as possible.

Choosing (improving) myself first is the only way for me to help others. Otherwise, it’s nothing but cheap talk.

  1. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler – Bold

If creating more flow is the aim, then the emphasis falls on ‘clear’ not ‘goals’. Clarity gives us certainty. We know what to do and where to focus our attention while we are doing it. When goals are clear, metacognition is replaced by in-the-moment cognition, and the self stays out of the picture.

I wrote about my experience with flow here. And I also gave you some insight on how I write and seek to accomplish my goals here.

Of course, goals without deadlines never escape the realm of dreams. And as my mentor Brian Tracy says, fuzzy goals lead nowhere, which is why when I write things down in my virtual notes-book I have to be very specific, result oriented and deadline oriented.

Arnold Schwarzenegger advises along the same lines (see below). Go figure!

  1. Loretta Breuning – Habits of a Happy Brain

Dopamine disappointment is easier to accept when you understand its survival value. Imagine your ancestor finding a river full of fish. He’s very excited as he runs back to tell his clan about it. Dopamine creates the energy to run back, and the memory to find the spot again. Then its job is over. Your ancestor might feel happiness in other ways:

His serotonin might surge when he thinks of the respect he will get for his find.

His oxytocin might activate when he thinks of the shared pleasure of feasting.

Dopamine, as I’ve heard, fuels the reward mechanism of the brain. A recent and very influential book on the topic is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

Motivation is a limited resource. As you go through your day, motivation and dopamine levels tend to decrease. This is one of the reasons we’re less able to resist binge eating at night. You’re at the bottom of your tank.

And it’s also the reason why we make less-than-beneficial decisions immediately after resisting temptation for something. You’ve avoided that unhealthy piece of dessert all day long, so you entitle yourself to binge-drink at night. Makes sense (for the brain), right?!

Knowing this has to do (in part) with dopamine depletion, you should seek ways to boost its secretion as you progress through your day. It’s like stopping for a refuel. Delaying gratification, dietary fail-safe approaches (fast => feast), and heavy lifting work wonders for me.

And another one from Loretta:

You didn’t decide consciously which synapses to develop. It happens in two ways:

  1. Repetition, which develops a synapse gradually.
  2. Emotion, which develops a synapse instantly.

Attaching feeling (emotion) to stimuli (experience) builds stronger and longer-lasting memories. This is a great way to power-speed skill acquisition. It’s also how you and I can memorize decks of poker cards or hack our way into race-car driving.

  1. Taylor Pearson – The End of Jobs

Horace Mann, often credited as the father of the modern education system, started a school one-hundred-and-fifty years ago, called the Common School. The Purpose of the common school was to teach students how to follow directions effectively, so they would be prepared for factory work.

Living by mum and dad’s archaic life philosophies…that’s representative of today’s and tomorrow’s youth force.

There’s nothing wrong with taking good advice from your parents. But you should make sure you know when their blind love represents an obstacle to your maturation.

In your coming of age, mom and dad are driven by an evolutionary mechanism (protect!) so they may often advise you not to take the bold steps that could propagate you to whatever you want to achieve in life.

I’m not sure how people of my age can still delude themselves with the necessity of formal credential. Information is ubiquitous today. You have in your pocket the knowledge of the entire humanity.

You can (to be read: should!) educate yourself by taking courses online (highly organized and structured, free) from top universities at your own pace. You decide what you want to learn.

Of course, formal education (college, university) can still (to a certain extent) help you become a good employee – if that’s what you want. Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar have been shouting about it for decades:

Formal education will make you a living, self-education will make you a fortune.

The sad thing is that my fellow youngsters end up working laboring jobs after graduation (waiters, cashiers, clerks, merchandisers, etc). You don’t need to go into debt for that. And most importantly, you don’t need a college degree for that.

One of the benefits I see in formal education is in the ability to leverage/build productive relationships with the people you interact. But, I guess, most folks only see the redundant, unnecessary, and obsolete degree.


Frequently overshadowed by Warren Buffet, his partner in the $300 billion Berkshire Hathaway holding company, Charlie Munger, is a quiet, reclusive figure. Rarely making public appearances, the unostentatious billionaire spends most of his time as Buffet does: reading, thinking and managing Berkshire Hathaway from his home in Southern California…

So, how to self-educate?!

  1. Read books – a dozen, a hundred, a thousand – on the skills you want to develop.

Reading personal development books will get you nowhere, unless you want to become a motivational speaker. It’s a good way to start, but after the first 5-10 personal development books, start becoming specific (skill oriented) in what you read.

  1. Take free online course from top Universities – learn at your own pace.

Start with Coursera.

  1. Watch online lectures and seminars.

Youtube has many beneficial uses besides watching music clips and funny videos.

  1. Follow people who are higher in the hierarchy.

Instead of mindless scrolling-down, social media can be a useful tool.

  1. Attend local live events (not too many) and connect with people.

Eventbrite and Meetup can do the trick. I wrote about this in my book, Urban Escape.

  1. And so on and so forth.

And if you’re still obsessed with formality, some online platforms (and universities) offer paid programs and courses, where on your graduation you are being awarded your most precious licensed certificate (degree). This is still cheaper (both in time and money) than physically attending school.

  1. Craig Venter – Life at the Speed of Light

These experiments left no doubt that life is an information system. I looked forward to the next goal. I wanted to put new information into life, to create a digital code on my computer, use chemical synthesis to turn that code into a DNA chromosome, and then transplant the man-made information into a cell. I wanted to take us into a new era of biology by generating a new life form that was described and driven only by DNA information that had been created in the laboratory. This would be the ultimate proof by synthesis.

This is the kind of 10,000 feet thinking that makes me vibe. Craig Venter single handedly confronted an alliance of governmental programs in the race to sequence the human genome. They were wise when they decided to join forces and work for the same goal together rather than head to head.

To give you more insight into Venter’s prowess, here’s what he often ponders upon:

Send a rover to Mars. Attach a 3D printer to it. Once on Mars, use a synthesizer to build life forms.

This is not far from current reality. I think it’s only a matter of logistics. After all, Venter led the team that created the first synthetic life form a few years ago: from mere DNA and some four bottles of chemicals.

The 3D printer would also sequence bacteria and other organic compounds found on Mars, send the data (DNA sequences) back to Earth, where the same life form would be recreated in a contained and strictly controlled environment, keeping human life (astronauts) safe and potential contamination (with outer space material) at bay.

All life information after all. DNA is information that can be sent through the Internet. For more of Venter’s bold thinking and life achievements see this talk he gave at NASA Ames.

  1. Carol Tavris – Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

A friend returning from a day in traffic school told us that as participants went around the room, reporting the violations that had brought them there, a miraculous coincidence occurred: not one of them was responsible for breaking the law.

They all had justifications for why they were speeding, had ignored a stop sign, ran a red light, or made an illegal U-turn. He became so dismayed by the litany of flimsy excuses that, when his turn came, he was embarrassed to give in to the same impulse. He said,

“I didn’t stop at a stop sign. I was entirely wrong and I got caught.”

There was a moment’s silence, and then the room erupted in cheers for his candor.

The brain (mine, your’s, ours) is the subject of numerous logical fallacies. Knowing the faults of your biological CPU will (indefinitely) make everything in your life (and how you perceive and experience life) way better than it currently is.

I hate using absolute words. I only do it when it’s really necessary. To know more about this, do a research on logical fallacies, cognitive biases, and critical thinking.

  1. Noah Harari – Sapiens

For most of history, humans knew nothing about 99.99 per cent of the organisms on the planet – namely, the microorganisms. This was not because they were of no concern to us. Each of us bears billions of one-celled creatures within us, and not just as free-riders. They are our best friends, and deadliest enemies. Some of them digest our food and clean our guts, while others cause illnesses and epidemics.

Yet, it was only in 1674 that a human eye first saw a microorganism, when Anton van Leeuwenhoek took a peek through his home-made microscope and was startled to see an entire world of tiny creatures milling about in a drop of water…Today we engineer bacteria to produce medications, manufacture biofuel and kill parasites.

Still, way too many people fail to grasp the nature of our current reality by complaining about the mundane. Putting things into this kind of perspective (like Noah Harari) is very sobering to me.

  1. Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You

If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”)

The world doesn’t owe you or me anything. Some are more privileged while other are more oppressed. Those more privileged may have to put-in less work to achieve greatness, while those more oppressed…you get the idea. Nevertheless, impossible does not exist. Anyone can achieve greatness, whatever that means.

It becomes more clear to me that you need to put-in the work – the intelligent and obsessive work.

Passion is a myth, usually proclaimed by average people. Passion, at most, is something that you develop, not search for.

Imho, finding your passion is a bullshit message, often used only to fuel the confusion of unanchored (wandering, goal-less) individuals.

Avoiding the risk of ending on a negative note, please read more about my thoughts (and Cal Newport’s) on the myth of finding your passion here.

  1. Daniel Levitin – The Organized Mind

Studies have shown that early birds tend to be happier, more conscientious and productive, than night owls. Sticking to a schedule helps, as does making time for exercise. Mark Cuban, the owner of Landmark Theatres and the Dallas Mavericks, echoes what many CEOs and their employees say about meetings:

They’re usually a waste of time. An exception is if you’re negotiating a deal or soliciting advice from a large number of people. But even then, meetings should be short, drawn up with a strict agenda, and given a time limit.

Warren Buffet’s datebook is nearly completely empty and has been for twenty-five years – he rarely schedules anything of any kind, finding that an open schedule is a key to his productivity.

Time is the most precious resource I have. The best education is self-administered. But you know this already, right!?

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Total Recall

I always wrote down my goals, like I’d learned to do in the weight-lifting club back in Graz. It wasn’t sufficient just to tell myself something like “My New Year’s resolution is to lose twenty pounds and learn better English and read a little bit more.” No. That was only a start. Now I had to make it very specific so that all those fine intentions were not just floating around. I would take out index cards and write that I was going to:

– get twelve more units in college;
– earn enough money to save $5,000;
– workout five hours a day;
– gain seven pounds of solid muscle weight; and
– find an apartment building to buy and move into.

I would be a fool not to follow this advice when one of the individuals who implemented it had reached the top of the ladder in three different, and mostly unrelated, life paths:

– bodybuilding (7 times Mr. Olympia),
– acting, and
– politics.

Concluding Thoughts

Reiterating from the top:

Each book I read makes me realize the little I know.
It ain’t a misnomer. It’s a fact – And, yes, I hate absolutisms.
The infiniteness of knowledge ripens into consciousnesses as I try to grasp more of it. It’s a wonder.
With each page I turn, the wonder grows evermore. I’m so excited about 2016…

A few days ago I published my #6 title – Mastering Udemy. It’s a walk-through of the process of concocting, working-on, and having my first online course approved – all drama included. The story started on a return trip from Mexico over a background of acute alcohol intoxication…

The book is free on Kindle today – same as my other Kindle titles. If you get it, please be kind and leave a short and honest review once you finish reading it. I always ask this because it’s the most important thing for me as an author. Only my closest ones seem to understand…

Image: here

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2 Responses to Self-Education and Insights from the 86 books I read in 2015

  1. Richard says:

    Hey Cristi,

    Firstly just wanted to say I love your books! I was just wondering how did you manage to read 86 books in one year! Do you have any tips you can share?

    • Chris Chris says:

      yes. thanks for the reply. there’s no magic around it. it’s just a matter of time management and prioritization. reading is one of my most important daily to-dos. hope this helps

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