I grew up hating to read until I dropped out of college and felt free to choose the books I wanted to read. Since then, reading books has been an extension of my curiosity rather than an assignment.
One year ago, I made a commitment to read more. I challenged myself to read 52 books in 2017. I fell short and ended up reading 34. I’m very proud of this because I still accomplished my core goal: to rekindle my desire for reading. After this year, a new book seems like candy to me. My family keeps asking me what I want for Christmas and the only thing I can think of is more Audible gift cards.
I love books because they give me a glimpse into somebody’s mind. They let you in on another human’s unique explanation of ideas. Understanding a new book means I understand something about humanity in a new way.
Here are my 3 favorite books from this year in no particular order.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
I listened to this audiobook over the summer. It’s an anthropological view of the whole of human history. What I love about this book so much is how objective Harari’s viewpoint is. He analyzes things like religion, economics, and politics as if he were coming from the perspective of an alien who is viewing the events of history for the first time. It’s eye-opening and refreshing, and I can’t recommend this book enough. In fact, Richard Branson recommended it recently as one of his top books of 2017.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I read this book at the very beginning of the year and then reread about half of it later in the year. This book changed my life. It helped me begin to grasp what it truly means to be virtuously selfish. It shaped my understanding of my own values as they relate to work and love, and I continue to expand this understanding every day.
Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
I read the kindle version of this book in February. It gripped me the whole way through. Carse breaks down life into two types of games: finite and infinite. Understanding the difference between these two types of games has helped me prioritize the events I choose to participate in. I’ll be reading this one again in 2018. It inspired me to write about freedom and choice.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba
What are the best books you read this year?
Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash
The other day I watched two kids climb on a bank sign. They were trying to get up on the higher ledge to see how far they can climb. They were intently focused on the task, laughing, giggling, trying, failing, and trying again.
The parents were standing behind them talking, and after a few minutes they sternly told the kids to stop playing on the sign. The kids got down obediently and follow their parents into the restaurant looking defeated and disappointed.
A part of me cringes every time I see something like this happen.
I’m sure the parents had good reasons for telling their kids to stop playing on the sign. The bank is somebody else’s property, and they might not appreciate kids climbing all over there sign. Or maybe they were worried for their safety. It wasn’t that high up, but there was a possibility they could hurt themselves in an avoidable way. Or maybe the parents were just ready to go into the restaurant and were tired of waiting.
But there was no clear explanation. From the kids’ point of view, they were tackling a meaningful challenge before they were told to stop. The lack of an explanation likely reinforced the idea that they aren’t old enough to understand, so they should obey the authority of their parents blindly.
Now, I’m not a parent. I don’t have any experience raising children. But I was a child at one point in my life, and I remember being in similar situations. I remember doing things that I thought were fun and being told to stop without understanding why. I remember the feelings of playfulness and joy being replaced with guilt and shame.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to give a child the idea that they should obey authority without understanding the reasons for their boundaries. Children — humans — naturally push boundaries. We confront the unknown and prod at uncertainty in an attempt to grow and become stronger.
A seemingly inconsequential event like this without an explanation discourages that natural and playful growth process.
Don’t tell kids what they can and can’t do without a good explanation. Otherwise, let them experience the consequences and they’ll learn to be independent and develop an understanding of what they can and can’t do on their own.
Good leadership requires two factors. Each person in the relationship controls one factor, and progress will only be made if both variables are satisfied.
They have to want something
The person you are leading has to want what you are leading them towards. It has to be a desire that came from them, not you. It cannot be manufactured, required, or enforced externally. They must have a keen, pulsating desire.
You have to provide value for them towards that thing
If they want something badly but you can’t help them make progress towards getting it in some capacity, they will drop you and move to somebody who can. This doesn’t need to be specific knowledge about the thing they are working towards. You can help them improve psychology or habits, or you can help them remove obstacles that are in their way, or do anything else that will help them achieve their end.
Here is a quick list of things that have a greater return on investment than a college degree. This was inspired by Isaac Morehouse’s recent post.
One share of Amazon stock
One year of website hosting
A DSLR camera
Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand
Almost any other book
An Audible subscription
One year of internet from Comcast
A box of thank-you cards
An Adobe Creative Cloud subscription
Buying lunch for a CEO
A musical instrument
A subscription to Mailchimp
A ticket to a FEE seminar
A plane ticket
Experts don’t exist. Neither do students.
In any field, you will have students below you and experts above you. The students below you are seen as experts by the students below them, and so on. The experts above you are seen as students by the experts above them. Experts and students are the same thing. It’s turtles all the way down.
What makes an expert an expert isn’t that their knowledge comes from some sacred pool of expertise that only they have access to. They haven’t reached a definitive point and transitioned from being a student to an expert. They are always students. They are humble. They barely notice how they are seen by their students because they themselves feel like students.
The defining characteristic of experts is their curiosity. They consistently conduct themselves like students. Experts are experts because they’ve spent a lot of time practicing the act of learning things. They desire to learn and they let their curiosity drive them. They don’t desire to reach the status of being an expert, they simply learn things that interest them.
Once you draw a definitive line between students and experts, you are forced to identify with one or the other. You decide that you cannot be both at the same time.
Those who identify as students don’t give themselves enough credit. They believe that they haven’t yet reached a defined or undefined tier that will switch their status to an expert. They see themselves on a rung below experts. They see themselves unfit to lead people or give advice because they are merely a student and don’t have enough to teach.
Those who identify as experts give themselves too much credit. They believe they’ve learned as much as they need to know. They believe they are finished learning and they are ready to start teaching people what they know. They believe they have a pool of knowledge that other people don’t have access to. They stop indulging in their curiosity.
But they are the same thing. This is how unimpressive people on YouTube can gain a large audience. This is how any average person can start a blog and change peoples’ lives with their words. This is how a 20-year-old can write a best-selling book before he has accomplished what he plans to accomplish. He learns through the process of being an expert for people while he takes inspiration from people he views as experts.
Don’t be an expert or a student. Be a learner. Be curious.
You might have heard the phrase, “a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma.” Simple economics says when supply goes up, demand goes down, and that’s part of what has happened with college degrees. They have become commodities. They no longer set you apart.That’s not the whole story though.
If a degree and all that came with it was truly valuable, it wouldn’t matter so much that there were more of them. That would just mean that more people are better off.
So what really lead to the collapse of the college credential?
Two people did it: Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page.
Just kidding. Kind of. It really comes down to the accessibility of knowledge and communication. Mark and Larry had a lot to do with that.
First, let’s start with knowledge.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google in 1998 with one goal in mind: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They (along with many others) have done a great job towards this end. Right now, you have access to a majority of the information available through the device in your pocket. A simple Google search will locate you a book, podcast, website, blog, or resource no matter where, who, or when it came from. HUGE amounts of knowledge are unfathomably accessible to each and every one of us.
Before this was the case, people couldn’t have books instantly sent to their kindles at the click of a button. Instead, they were forced to gather together, pool their resources, and create libraries.
These libraries grew into universities which became geographical hubs of knowledge. People with a thirst for knowledge began to gravitate towards them. The experienced ones became professors, and the younger ones became the students with a mission to learn as much from the local experts as possible. This process made sense and it actually worked quite well for the time, given the resources available.
Now for the second factor: communication.
Communication has never been easier. Our smartphones and apps like Facebook and Voxer have done incredible things. You can have a video call with someone on the opposite side of the globe. You can communicate across thousands of miles via phone, email, text, and more in a matter of seconds. You can also hop on a plane and traverse the country in a matter of hours, something that used to take months.
When universities were the best way to attain knowledge, they were also the best way to connect with professionals. People couldn’t chat on the phone or travel quickly. They gathered into these geographical hubs, and because of the secluded nature of cities and countries, you had to make do with the resources around you.
So put the two together. Not only can you access all the world’s information at the click of a button, but you can communicate that information with people across the planet by the same means and at the same rate.
Why would you limit yourself to attending one college for tens of thousands of dollars when you can use the resources from all of them for free?
It’s not just easier to build the skills you need. You can also create a better signal than a degree by tapping into the world’s knowledge and interconnectedness. There are more resources available and at much cheaper costs. You can connect with the best mentors and attend the best classes in the world for free from your living room. It doesn’t make sense to limit yourself to the resources and staff of your local college.
Getting a college degree is the educational equivalent of a horse and buggy. Clunky, slow, expensive, and simply not practical. The same credential that used to be the holy grail for a job search has been sliced up and made available. You can build a better credential for less money and in less time.
This is not to say that building a career without college is easy. It’s hard work and it takes some creativity. The world’s information and resources is available to everyone–not just you. The fact that you have access to it is your new baseline. Your differentiator will be how you choose to use these resources.