Joe Choi – Copywriter, Golfer, Health Fanatic

Joe Choi is a copywriter, golfer, and overall health fanatic. He once wrote and published a book called ‘Happy Foods’ on a challenge in 11 days. He shares his personal stories, advice, and anecdotes on his blog: These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning. This is an incredible book that highlights the sacrifices our troops make during their tours of duty. What I really like about this book is that it not only highlights a number of heroic battles in the war in Afghanistan, but it also highlights other struggles soldiers face. The author highlights what it feels like when you’re on leave while others are still at war, politics and trust among other soldiers and counterparts, and having to patrol while injured and exhausted.  

Start with No: The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know by Jim Camp. How many times have you been told to win-win? Heck, it’s even one of the 7 habits of highly effective people according to Stephen Covey. Camp shows you why this win-win attitude is harmful and it even causes some seasoned business people to drive themselves, and their businesses, to the brink of failure. Now, you may be thinking that you don’t want to be adversarial and you want others to like you and all that. But Camp actually outlines how to be a great negotiator without being adversarial or hostile. In fact, what he advocates is the exact opposite of what you may be thinking.

I’ve received the low end of the bargain many times in my life. This book showed me step-by-step, how to get back what I deserve and what is rightfully mine without being adversarial. This book isn’t just for business and multimillion dollar deals, we negotiate everyday and Camp gives examples throughout.  

I Was Blind But Now I See by James Altucher. This is actually my favorite book by James Altucher. We go through life assuming many things and do things we supposed to do, without ever questioning why. We all put ourselves through hell by sticking to jobs we hate, paying down mortgages, and taking on massive debt by going to college.

Altucher highlights why many of these assumptions are wrong and how we can be happy and succeed without having to pay dues of unhappiness upfront. You don’t necessarily have to agree with all the points—although I do—but you should read it with an open mind. If certain parts make you angry, ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it because of a deep-rooted assumption you’ve held your entire life and you fear being wrong? Is it because you’ve experienced something else? Don’t just disparage the thoughts in the book right away, but really explore them to get the most out of it.

Good things to watch.

Miracle. This is about the 1980 US Men’s Olympic Hockey team. They were just a bunch of college players going up against an international powerhouse. I like this movie because I have a certain personal attachment to it. I played hockey growing up and had the privilege of training with a former Soviet skating coach. He developed a number of notable players who went on to play professionally. (No, I wasn’t one of them). He had a very radical approach to skill development that is very different than what North Americans do. Being able to experience that was pretty neat.

In the summer of 2005, I lived in Moscow, Russia. I was browsing a souvenir market and came across a deck of postcard-sized cards of the former Soviet Hockey team—I guess it’s the Soviet version of baseball cards. All the great names like Tretiak, Festisov, and Makarov were in the deck. I bought it as a souvenir. Miracle highlights the tremendous accomplishment of the US hockey team in 1980. I’m not sure that people realize how big of a deal it was before then.

8 Crazy Nights. This is Adam Sandler’s animated holiday movie and my favorite holiday film. I usually watch it sometime after Thanksgiving. It’s very funny and has some great characters in it. I love repeating lines from this movie and making references to it, even though nobody knows what the hell I’m talking about.

Strangely, the first time I ever saw this was in Seoul, Korea while I was visiting there. It was the only thing in English I could find on TV, so I ended up watching it and loved it! I had to buy it when I got back to the states.

Big Fish. I saw this alone in a movie theater in London for the first time. It’s a Tim Burton film so the artistry is phenomenal. But I also like the story and characters. It’s half fantasy and half reality. I don’t really know how else to describe it, but I love it. It is based on a novel, which I haven’t read, but perhaps I should at some point.

Good things to use.

SuperFlex Bands. These are layered resistance bands that are flat and form a giant loop. They make a few different resistances and sizes. I love how convenient the bands are. I use them at home just about every morning to get in a good workout. They’re also very easy to take on the road when traveling. I keep one in my golf bag and use it to warm up before I play.

MacBook. It took me a while to warm up to Apple products, but I’m glad I started using Mac as my personal computer. It’s great for portability, the battery life is long, and the computer never seems to slow down. Honestly, I don’t even use a lot of the applications on it and there are probably things that I can do with it that I don’t even know about.

I mainly use word, internet browser, and iTunes. Everything is easy to use and works like a charm. I also like that I can take photos with my iPhone and it syncs to my Photo Stream without me having to plug anything in. Time Machine makes backing up everything on the computer easy and fast.

Kindle. I’ve been making it a goal of mine to decrease the amount of stuff I own. I read a lot and don’t mind spending money on books, but the number of books can pile up and this can become a storage issue really fast. It’s also a pain if you ever move. Realistically, I’ll read most books once and never open them again. With a kindle I can store many books on a device the size of my two hands put together. I could move books to archive and manage the archive from my computer.

I have an older model (the one with the clay keys). It works fine and gives me what I need so I don’t see any reason to upgrade. One thing I wish I’d done was shell out the extra couple of bucks for a case with a light on it. I was trying to save a few bucks and not thinking of the value a light can have for my reading pleasure. Oh well, you live and learn!

Connect with Joe on Twitter @jchoi007.

Jonas – Storyteller, Creative Director, Tennis aficionado

Jonas pretends to work as a creative director in his daytime and squeezes out words onto pages in his night time. He has published two novels and is half-way into his third one. When he’s not at work or with family, he’s dancing around on a tennis court somewhere, trying to imitate Roger Federer.

Good things to read.

Independence Day by Richard Ford.  This Pulitzer and Pen prize-winning book made me want to become a novelist. A brilliant story without murders. Here the beautiful language and strong realism makes sure you keep turning the page.

On Writing by Stephen King.  It’s hard not to like Stephen King. He sells boatloads of books, yet is still true to his craft. This is his book on writing, which is truly a labour of love and very inspirational.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher.  A book that fits so well in with our chaotic times that I wish I’d written it myself. James’ brain is an exciting place and the honesty and clarity of his writing is both refreshing, thought-provoking and revolutionary.

Good things to watch.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians. (Nah, that was a joke…)

Star Wars.  I’ve loved the Star Wars saga ever since I was a little boy and I’m happy I’ve managed to brainwash my stepson (9) into liking it as much. Not the best dialogue in the universe, but the storytelling is top notch and the visuals give you goose bumps.

Shawshank Redemption.  More Stephen King, I know. But this is his best movie by far and I’m not alone in thinking this (best movie of all time according to IMDB). It’s difficult not to shed a tear at the end of it.

Mad Men.  Having worked with advertising in some form or other for most of my adult life, the TV series Mad Men felt like home. I’m also a nostalgic for a time when you could drink generously in the middle of the work day. Fantastic acting and storytelling.

Good things to use.

Evernote.  For many years I wanted a software that could keep all my notes organised and in one place. Evernote does this wonderfully. Makes me feel creative and calm at the same time.

Dropbox.  Every creator’s worst nightmare is that all his/hers hard work is disintegrated in a hardware malfunction or a wildfire. Dropbox allows me to pour water on my Macbook Air without worrying about data loss (disclaimer: don’t pour water on your computer!).

Kindle.  The perfect travel buddy. Since I used to type newspaper articles on the classic Psion3a, the e-ink screen gives me both nostalgia and less tired eyes. If you love books, but don’t want to carry the weight of them, the Kindle is the way to go.

Follow Jonas’ musings on Twitter: @jonaswrites.

Tiffany – The Budgetnista

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” is a bestselling author (The One Week Budget), and a sharer of all things, frugal, fun and fabulous via her financial, education firm, The Budgetnista.

Good things to read.

The Richest Man in Babylon. A prerequisite read for all other financial books.

The Alchemist. If you’ve ever dreamed of more, this book will inspire you to keep going until it’s yours.

The 4-Hour Workweek. For my Dream Catchers. For those who understand that and extraordinary life cannot be had by doing ordinary things.

Good things to watch.

The Secret. The Law of Attraction explained. 

Scandal My not-so-secret guilty pleasure and just plain fun TV.

YouTube. Where I learned how to do yoga, paint my home, program my phone and a ton of other things ranging from completely useless to life changing. Oh, and all for FREE!

Good things to use.

Navigation on an Android phone.  I LOVE this feature. Whenever I travel I use the turn-by-turn walking feature to help me get around unfamiliar cities.

Kindle (the original without internet) Having a Kindle has dramatically increased how many books I read. It has also helped me be more patient and enjoy waiting, because I use that time to read instead.

Budget.   All of our financial successes or failure can be traced back to our budget, or lack thereof. Change your budget, change your life.

For all things budgets and more connect with Tiffany on Twitter at @TheBudgetnista.

Vikki Davis – Cool Cat Teacher

These are Vikki Davis’ good things.

Good things to read.

The 4-Hour chef by Timothy Ferris.  It is supposed to be about cooking but it is not, it is squarely about learning and, although I’m in the midst of reading this, I’m just blown away and processing through what he shares about learning something new in this book (plus I appreciate some of the cooking tips and I thought I was a good chef.)

Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers. We are supposed to start with a “to be” list before we give students a “to do” list. This book applies to parents and teachers alike. Habitudes are attitudes that we make a habit of practicing and emphasizing. I think every school and home should adopt these habitudes. Research is increadingly showing that character traits have more to do with success than intelligence and grades. Curiosity, adaptability, passion, and the other four habitudes are things we should inspire in ourselves, our students and our children.

Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay.  Yes, I wrote this one, but the trend towards connecting classrooms is soon going to take some schools by surprise when they realize that the relationships between schools are already established and they are not joining in.Students are the greatest textbook ever written for each other and it is time to connect them around the world.

Attack Your Day by Mark Woods. This practical book helps you see your work in a whole new way. I use their free forms from their website and tips when I need super-charged productivity and the methods are addictive. A fantastic read for anyone.

Three good things to watch.


The Secret Weapon Evernote TutorialsThis combines Evernote and GTD and the labeling system used is fantastic. I learned so much about Evernote from this free tutorial. If you’re not going to use the Awesome Note app I recommend below, this is a must see.

Cool Cat Teacher’s Inspiration PlaylistI keep a playlist of the inspiring videos that I love the most and add it to them. I think that we should all be creating and sharing playlists to inspire others.

Pranav Mistry on 6th Sense TechnologyI love this speech because it not only shows how innovation happens but where technology is moving. My students always say “wow” and become interested in invention when seeing this video. I think every student should see it.

Good things to use.

Evernote is the most useful app on my dashboard. I use it for everything and use the Awesome Note app, which even syncs my to do’s with Evernote. I scan files to Evernote and snap photos to it as well. It is my outboard brain and even my Livescribe pen that records my lectures syncs with this. I use vJournal for my daily journal of work done which automatically sends that journal with time stamps into Evernote. I love it.

I love Google Reader and use it to build my Personal Learning Network. It is an important tool that I read daily whether it is on the web or using the Mr. Reader app.

KindleI have trouble reading on my iPad because I get so many notifications and sometimes have trouble focusing. I like having a device that does only ONE thing — let me read. It is important that I read an hour a night. According to speaker, Brian Tracey, in studies they have found that to be the top of one’s field, you should read an hour a day in-field. I set that as a goal several years a go and this is one thing that makes all the difference in my professional career. I do have the Kindle app on my iPad, but I will be hard pressed to get rid of my trusty old Kindle even with the cracks in it. There are no notifications and no distractions from the quiet of snuggling up with a good book. The great thing about this device is that it comes with worldwide download abilities that I paid for with the device, that, in itself, makes it important to take on trips because I can even surf in a pinch, like I did when I took some students to India and needed some important information.

Carrie Smith – financial strategist

These are Carrie Smith’s good things.

Good things to read.

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. This book makes up my top five list of books I’ve read in the past two years. We all need to invest in ourselves to be successful — to treat our lives and careers as a start-up!

Dream Save Do by Warren and Betsy Talbot. I already read the first edition of this book and fell in love with it, but the second edition is even better. If you want to turn your dreams into a living, breathing reality then this book will give you the tools you need to succeed.

The Pumpkin Plan by Michael Michalowicz. This book is a fantastic combination of all the business books out there. All of the best but simple business principles are wrapped up into this book, with some excellent analogies to learn from.

Good things to watch.

ABC’s Shark Tank. I’ve learned a ton of business lessons from this show. The most important one, is to know your numbers — no matter what kind of business you run, if you’re in a leadership position this is vital.

Chopped. A show about food, competition and money? Yes please! Just like in life, in order to win the prize you’ve got to be creative, work well with others and keep your cool under pressure. This food competition show is a guilty pleasure of mine!

The Cosby Show. This is a classic and Bill Cosby is by far my favorite actor. This show is lighthearted, funny and entertaining. It totally hits me with a dose of nostalgia from the 80’s and 90’s.

Good things to use.

A spending plan. Yes, as a financial geek I had to sneak that in here! Without a spending plan (aka budget) I wouldn’t be debt-free, be able to invest for the future, or save up for a month-long summer vacation this year. Seriously, a spending plan will change your financial life!

An eReader. Electronic books and eReaders are a must-have, and I would be lost without my iPad, with both iBooks and Kindle apps. Of course a Kindle or Nook is just as great too, you don’t know what you’re missing till you get an eReader.

Google Calendar. Stop trying to remember everything, keep track of everything and do everything. Write down all your to-do lists, tasks and meetings into Google Calendar. You’ll be surprised how clear your head becomes (and how much more productive you become) when you don’t have all those things floating around.

Dan Andrews – founder of TropicalMBA

These are Dan Andrews good things.

Good things to read.

When Dan was getting out of debt he still wanted to read, budgeting 10% of his take home pay or books.  Some of those on that list were Purple Cow, The Ultimate Sales Machine, and The 4-Hour Work Week.

Good things to watch.

Besides people watching and south Asian scenery? Dan says that he limits what he watches now although he would “gorge himself” on The West Wing while in college.  The main reason is “I don’t feel like I need to get away from my business to be entertained.”

Good things to use.

Dan is on Twitter and does the Tropical Talk radio podcast.  “When you record audio for anything, make sure your mic plugs in with a USB. Anything else sounds bad. Toss in a little EQ and compression in FREE audacity and boom, you’ll sound like a pro.”  He also updates what he reads on his Kindle and uses Instapaper and noise cancelling headphones on all his flights.

Stephen King – author

These are Stephen King’s favorite things.  See more of his work at Pop of King or his many books.

What are some good things you’ve read?

Lord of the Flies.

In Entertainment Weekly King wrote “Reading The Hunger Games is as addictive (and as violently simple) as playing one of those shoot-it-if-it-moves videogames in the lobby of the local eightplex; you know it’s not real, but you keep plugging in quarters anyway.”

Devils in Exile. “It’s a terrific Boston-based crime thriller about Iraq vets who decide to torch the city’s drug trade. They grab the money when the big deals go down and trash the drugs.”

What are some good things you’ve watched?

Game of Thones.  “The HBO series is good but the books are even better”.

At Entertainment Weekly King offers up his thoughts on the best of television and movies suggesting that Breaking Bad “is an American classic”.  He also suggests Sons of Anarchy and Margin Call.

What are some good things you’ve used?

When it comes to reading, the Kindle supplies everything I want, thanks. I can order the latest Michael Connelly out of thin air, carry it in my jacket pocket, and make the type as big as I want. After all that, should I insist it sing, dance, and give me GPS coordinates to the nearest Waffle House? Comrade Stevie says nyet.

Mac computer.

The Boston Red Sox.

Steve Cavins – web designer

This is Steve Cavins and these are his good things.

What are some good things you’ve read?

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read a little of this in college, but finally got through the thing over the summer. It completely demystifies the concept of war in a way that I’ve not really experienced, in that, yes, it’s got this Vietnam narrative going on in which we basically are able to tidily organize history between these battles, but in that we are able to immortalize ourselves in the subjectivity of stories, which may or may not even be truthful. He says never to believe a war story with a moral, because there is no moral in a war story. I think that probably goes for any kind of story.

2666 Roberto Bolano. Totally strange, creepy, sad, and violent. Bolano pivots his universe on a “fictional” border town between the U.S. and Mexico where women are being routinely killed with no end in sight. The story weaves through time and space somewhat chaotically, but never without style or a sense of purpose. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit here: economic imbalance, political corruption, and class isolation, but Bolano seems to merely shrug his shoulders and lift these things up to some sort of spiritual mysticism that transcends logical explanation.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This sort of thing hits a sweet spot for me: New England private college, murder mystery, privileged academics. These students live in this cocoon-like world and find refuge and meaning in esoteric subjects, never ceasing in the desire to lap each other intellectually, and yet totally failing the most basic or trivial exercises of whatever might be considered Normal Life. Of course, the thing is as bleak as it sounds, and really offers nothing of a way out for these characters or this type of living.”

What are some good things you’ve watched?

It seems to be a great time for television at the moment. I’ve nearly completed The Wire, and obviously have much admiration for Breaking Bad. The length that a series affords really allows you to go deep into a subject, which makes a 90-minute film seem utterly futile (and often times, it probably is.) But I should probably toss a film in here. We Need to Talk About Kevin stuck out to me as an interesting, sad, fractured thing that (cliche) had me thinking about it for weeks. It’s true, Tilda Swinton probably walks out of the sea whenever she is beckoned to perform. Bless.

What are some good things you use?

I’m a terrible consumer. Really anti-American when it comes to this department. I’m often so gutted by the prospect of adding anything to my life in way of material objects, in that I must turn the thing over and over again in my head, attempt to talk my way out of the purchase, and see if the need persists. When I moved to New York, I pretty much threw away everything I owned. I recently purchased a kitchen table after two years of eating on the couch. I’ve had a Kindle for about a year now and the thing is totally useful for a train commute. Oh, and my mother gave me an industrial clothes wardrobe to hang my clothes on. Closet space is awfully limited in my apartment, and I no longer have to hang my shirts on the upper molding of the wall.