Thoughts on the state of books

Books have been going out of style for a while now.

I still buy books (often used) because I like the feeling I get from holding one. I like highlighting them and going back to the source later down the road. I like that I have “rescued” a book from someone else’s shelf or warehouse. I like seeing them on the shelf and being reminded about something. They are cherished in my house and are some of my most prized possessions.

Most importantly, when I read a book I am now fully immersed in one subject. When you spend 20 or 50 hours on idea, you begin to think deeper about it.

That’s the problem with audio books. On one hand, you can have someone dictating while doing the dishes or on your commute. Taking dead time and now making it productive. There is an important place for this.

On average, people read no more than one book per year after formal education. That is really depressing when you consider how many hours per day we spend on our smartphones.

Audio smashes these barriers. While I don’t think audio will ever completely replace how we learn, audio books and regular books can work together to create a massive shift in our decision making.

Read one book and you can become informed. Read 10 and you are an expert. Read 100 and you are now a world expert.

100 books is the barrier to becoming someone we will seek to learn from.

Written language is one of the most important human inventions of all time. Creating a bank of knowledge has changed us more than anyone of us can recognize.

Monsters and angels

No one is ever just one.

The truth is we are capable of being both.

The difference is, a monster is someone in a ton of pain.

The question is, do we choose to break the cycle when someone wrongs us, when monsters attack?


The problem with changing your mind, pivoting from one direction to the next, there is a massive chasm you must cross.

Sunk costs.

Are you willing to admit that dumping your life saving into Doge coin wasn’t a good idea?

Are you willing to say after 10 years of medical school you don’t want to be a doctor?

The choice can be painful. You have your fragile ego whispering you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of your friends or family. You have another part of you recognizing the consequences of betting on the wrong decision.

If you are like most people, when we don’t know what to do we end up procrastinating. Effectively, making the sunk cost even grater.

Performing life saving surgery is great but it doesn’t change the fact you don’t like the site of blood.

While there is no easy way around financial implications–and you certainly can’t get your time and energy back (that is spent)–you can say, “Knowing what I know now, I can make a new decision.”

That is the power of knowledge and experience. You didn’t know back then and it was always a possibility things could go wrong or not work out. It wasn’t a sure thing to begin with. There is always a risk in every decision.

It’s not always a bad thing either. People find a new faith all the time. Yet, they met their spouse, had kids, spent time, money under one assumption…and now they believe something different.

The difference we have to ask ourselves is, Are you happy where you landed?

Losing your 401K at Vegas, that’s often rock bottom. Knowing what you know now, however, you can make a change.

If you are happy about the person you are today, you rarely regret the decisions you have made along the way that led you here.

Design with intent

India has a huge crisis with toilets. With a population of 1.3 billion people, they simply doesn’t have enough of them. Which means most people, particularly in rural areas, end up defecating outside which spreads into the water supply and leads to diseases.

Diarrheal diseases (from poor sanitation) in India leads to over 126,000 deaths every year, making it the 5th leading cause of death in India.

Over the last several years, 30 billion dollars has been poured into building 110 million toilets. So, why do so many toilets still go unused?

Because sometimes people are charged to use them, many don’t have water, some are physically not safe for women and many are just a hole in the ground with some walls put up.

Here’s the lesson:

We design through the lens of our own imagination. Which makes it extremely difficult when we are designing for someone else who lives a completely different life than us.

Who’s it for? What’s it for? These questions must be asked over and over again.

HT Jacqueline Novogratz


In studying the largest objects in the universe (like stars) and the smallest (like quarks), you will find what is true in one scale is not on another.

So the simplest example is gravity. Gravity on earth shows objects falling at the same rate. That is inconsistent in space.

There is an metaphor here:

The friction we have with people often has to do with scale. We are too focused in and lose the big picture. And it can be easy to hang in the clouds while skipping the details too.

Perhaps then, when we approach solving really difficult problems, we should address the scale we are going to use. Do we need to see this from the 30,000 foot view or do we need a microscope?

When is the last time you allowed yourself to dream bigger?

Not the kind of vacation you are going to take but what you can focus on that will make an impact in this world?

Often, we are not given the time, money or resources to change at a global scale. It is unlikely you will be the one to cure cancer. Bill Gates is probably not going to fund your idea either.

So, we give up.

We shouldn’t though. While changing the whole world is probably out of reach, we get a chance to change a segment of it.

Scale isn’t the problem here. Changing a tiny slice is an incredible endeavor. The problem is consistency. Showing up day after day, that is really powerful.

How many of us are scared to let a dream run a bit more wild? To dare to fly a bit higher?

It’s not over until it is over. If you are not feeling satisfied it is perhaps you are not tapping into your full potential.

Refusing to take the L

You just finished 10 years of medical school, accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and now realize you don’t want to be a doctor, what do you do?

You can’t get your ten years of time, effort, energy and money back. It is gone. You spent it. However…

You get to decide what you want to do next.

Understanding sunk costs, seeing when you have made a wrong decision and are fighting to make a square peg fit in a round hole–that is extremely difficult thing to do. Most of us don’t want to admit we are wrong.

That is why it took Semmelweis 20 years to convince doctors to adopt the practice of washing their hands after it was first introduced.

Change creates friction and inevitably there is a price to pay for it. It might mean uprooting your life. More likely, it is looking in the mirror and admitting, “I made a mistake.”

Mistakes are not a bad thing when dealing with incomplete information. Knowing what you know now you can make a better decision. Sometimes you need to make the journey up the road to realize this is a dead end.


We pose questions like “How did we get here?” and “What happens next?”

Important questions. For sure. Ones that deserve much careful thought.

We also forget that we are the anomaly.

There is no one else like us. Like you.

You are unique beyond measure. There is only one of you in this entire universe. Think about it.

So why be so careless with your actions?

Your actions have consequences, more than what can ever be measured or comprehended.

If you don’t prioritize your life

Who will?

Because when you decide to leave a decisions on the table eventually someone else is going to decide for you.

The environment, more importantly the culture, are just too powerful. Always nudging us to do one thing over another.

It takes effort to be mindful and to decide for yourself. No one is going to do it for you.


Tuned guitars sound so much better than ones out of tune.

Every guitar has to be routinely tuned. It isn’t the default setting for a guitar to stay tuned. You have to make slight turns to the strings as you play.

The more you play, the more you tune.

Musicians are always making slight adjustments again and again and again. You’re not surprised or caught of guard by this. It is expected.

Choose your metaphor here.