Aaron Wolfson – Writer, Reader, Coder, Thinker

Aaron Wolfson is a writer, reader, coder, and thinker. He spouts off on books at his blog, Profound Reading, and he is building a better reading list at BookTrackr. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite novel by my favorite novelist.

What would happen if all of humanity was destroyed—except for a ragtag tour group on a visit to the Galapagos Islands? What would happen if this group was left to evolve for a million years?

This is Vonnegut’s treatise on how the great big brains we’ve evolved are always getting us in trouble.

Would we be better off if we could have a do-over? Go back to our small-brained existence?

This is not your average post-apocalyptic scenario. Then again, Vonnegut is not your average writer.

Plutarch, Parallel Lives. This is a 2,000+ page book. Of biographies. Of dudes who have been dead for millennia. Written by a guy who’s been dead almost as long.

Why should you read it? Because there’s really nothing new under the sun.

All of the lives described here are pertinent to what you’re doing today. Avoid making the same mistakes that have been made in the past.

You’ll learn how to deal with corruption and favoritism in the workplace (Life of Cato), how to build a team that will follow you anywhere (Life of Alexander, Life of Caesar), how to become an expert in your field (Life of Demosthenes), how to build a culture from scratch (Life of Solon, Life of Lycurgus), and, if you wish, how to terrorize an entire populus (Life of Sulla, Life of Marius).

You’ll learn about the true origins of many ideas, words, and techniques that we still use today.

And it’s just a good time. Plutarch includes plenty of time-tested jokes, and he dishes on all the juicy rumors and debaucheries of some of history’s most ridiculous tyrants, sybarites, and fools.

You’ll also come to understand the fickleness of public adoration, as you see the rise and fall of titans like Themistocles, Pericles, Cicero, Caesar, and Pompey the Great.

The collection may be massive, but you can read one bio every few days, and pick and choose the ones you’re most interested in.

Use Aubrey Stewart and George Long’s translation on Project Gutenberg for maximum effect.

Zero to One, Peter Thiel. An incredibly wide-ranging work on business, entrepreneurship, philosophy, and how to change the world, from a guy who’s been there, done that.

It gets the most notoriety for its controversial ideas about why competition and capitalism are opposites, and how the world is largely at a technological standstill.

But my favorite thread is about how we should strive to create brand new things in the world, instead of making incremental improvements to what already exists. Thus, going from zero to one, instead of from one to N.

This book will change the way you think.

Good things to watch.

Turtles. My wife and I were at a wildlife refuge, and I noticed there were some turtles sunning themselves on some logs near the shore of a lake. I sat down to watch, and found myself transfixed.

It takes the average turtle about 15-30 minutes to actually climb up onto a log. Then they simply sit. Be. Enjoy.

It’s easy to forget how fast we live our lives. Maybe that’s why we all notice time speeding up as we get older. So much to think about.

Next time you feel sped up, go find some turtles and watch how they live.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. How amazing is it that two cousins became two of the most important and influential world leaders in all of history? This Ken Burns documentary series will show you exactly.

Oh, and that Eleanor was no slouch.

Louis CK. Funniest human alive. Get lost in his brilliance.

Good things to use.

Noise-cancelling headphones and Spotify. If you are ever forced to be in proximity to people who do things that annoy you (cubicles, airports… pretty much any public place), don’t get annoyed. Tune out. Who’s living in your head rent-free?

Your hands. It doesn’t have to be “making things.” Honestly, I don’t do nearly as much of that as I could. But you can try washing dishes by hand, now and then. Touch and hug people. Feel textures—on book covers, wallpaper, carvings. We live most of the day in our minds. Get back in touch with the world.

Nature. It’s, well, nature’s de-stressor. Just take some long walks amidst foliage and everything else will take care of itself.

Connect with Aaron on Twitter, @AWolfson0

Happiness Journeyman – Brave New Life

The Happiness Journeyman writes about his journey to financial independence – early retirement – at Brave New Life with a mantra to live simple and be fulfilled, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Your Money Or Your Life. If it were up to me, this book would be a requirement in every public high school. This is no ordinary financial book about investing strategies or 401K’s. Nope – this book goes deeper by explaining what money really is, and helps the reader figure out how to consciously live, work, save, invest, and spend.

How many people can say they changed jobs, sold their car, and moved across the country based on a single book? Well, I can. After reading this book, everything changed. How I lived, worked, saved, invested… Even how I viewed life and family changed, and all for the better. If you’re working/spending/saving without understanding the concept of this book, you’re building a house on a foundation of sand.

Fight Club, by Chuck Pahlaniuk. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book. Don’t be fooled into thinking this book is about fighting, it’s not. It’s an entertaining novel about our consumer culture, and the inner struggle we all have to escape it (whether we know it or not). Let’s face it, we all have a little Tyler Durden in us. Here’s a few great quotes to wet your whistle:

You buy furniture, you tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled, then the right set of dishes, then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things that you used to own, now they own you.

Getting fired […] is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives

I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.

The liberator who destroys my property, is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free

Classic Kid’s Books. A few years ago, when my son was 3, I was so fed up with all the crappy little Disney books that filled his bookshelf. These books are atrocious. I’m not taking anything away from some of the better Disney movies (Cars, Toy Story, etc) – but the book spin-offs for 3 year olds are unforgivably bad. Not only are they too short for a 3 year old, but they are mind boggling boring to read as an adult.

On the other hand, consider a timeless classic like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When I read this to my son, we usually would read one chapter each night. My son was fascinated with the book the entire time (which took a few weeks). Each night during dinner he would talk about the book, practically begging for bedtime so he could find out what was going to happen with Dorothy, scarecrow, and the flying monkeys!

Just a few other great children’s books include Call of the Wild, Curious George (the original), The Little Prince, and of course – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. How can you go wrong with a children’s book that includes a cat smoking hashish from a hookah?

And by the way, you can usually download these classics to your kindle or kindle app for free!

Good things to watch.

Nature. Let’s face it, between DVR, Youtube, and smart phones – we stare at screens way too much. Many studies have shown that the disconnection from nature that came with the industrial revolution is seriously harmful to our physical, mental and spiritual health. So I like to spend as much time as I can outside, observing everything not man-made. Even now, I’m writing this on an outdoor patio. So yeah, put down the smartphone and go for a walk.

Although I try not to watch very much TV, occasionally I do watch documentaries. One that I watched recently and really enjoyed was I Am, by Tom Shadyack. It’s a story of a rich and famous man who wrecked his mountain bike and spent nearly a year in chronic head pain. When the pain finally subsided, he went on a journey to understand what life was really about. He learned something interesting – check it out.

Kids At Play. First off, I’m not suggesting that you become some creepy old man hanging out at playgrounds and staring at kids. But when I’m around kids at play, including my own, I always find it uplifting. Seeing their pure innocence, joy, and energy reminds me how great life is when you live in the moment. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Good things to use.

Your bike. If you don’t have a bike, go get one. If you don’t use yours, go out to your garage and pump up those tires. I’ve been riding my bike as my primary source of transportation for 2 years now, and that time spent outside is my favorite part of the day. I feel bad for the people sitting in their stuffy little cars and trucks drinking their caffeine trying to wake up in the morning, as I zoom down the road with natural endorphins giving me the energy I need for the day. There are plenty of studies to show the health benefits of bicycling regularly, and I can personally attest to this.

Team Treehouse. Before signing up at Team Treehouse, I had never written or studied Objective C, the language used to program iPhone apps. But within 2 days of taking these online courses, I had already completed my first app. The subscription is $25 per month, but easily worth it if you want to learn one of the many skills they teach. Besides programming languages, they have topics ranging from website design to “how to start a business.” With the $25 subscription, you can take as many courses on as many topics as you choose. That’s a helluva lot better than the cost of college. I also appreciate that the videos are a good balance of form and function. There’s nothing dry – unlike most college professors. The first month is also free to try.

The library. It blows my mind that so many people pay money to own books, when there’s a library that will let you borrow the book for free. I mean, how many books are you really going to read more than once?

You can follow him on Twitter, @BraveNewLife.

Mike Hrostoski – Men’s Coach

These are Mike Hrostoski’s good things.

Good things to read.

The Way Of The Superior Man. This is my go-to book when someone asks me for a book recommendation. Of any book I’ve ever read, it has had the shaped me the most of how I show up in the world as a man. This should be required reading for every man in the world.

The Millionaire Fastlane. This is one of my favorite books on money, investing, and entrepreneurship. MJ Demarco is very straight forward and doesn’t beat around the bush, but I respect him more considering he was a millionaire BEFORE he wrote the book, not after. Meaning he didn’t make his millions from selling books on how to make millions.

Loving What Is. Byron Katie’s system of The Work is one of the simplest and most effective healing modalities that I’ve come across. I use it all the time in my coaching practice and in my life. This book helped me stop suffering from arguing against reality and start accepting things as they are.

Good things to watch.

Nature. I work from anywhere in the world with my laptop and an internet connection, so it’s easy to spend a lot of time sitting behind a computer screen. I make sure to go outside every day whether it’s a hike, jog, walk, or just a 10-15 minute meditation break from my work. I feel the most alive when I’m outside, so I try and maximize my time outdoors.

Live Music, Dance or Theatre. There’s something that’s beautiful about watching live music, dance or theatre. Anything can go wrong. Every moment is so fragile. I’m blown away any time I watch a large production with hundreds of moving parts, all working together in symphony. You don’t get that feeling from watching reruns of Scrubs on Netflix.

TED talks.  I’m sure a lot of people mention TED, but it’s my go-to place for killing an hour or two. I don’t watch TV and I rarely watch movies, but I’m always up for being inspired, moved, or educated for 18 minutes.

Good things to use.

Your Body. Move! Our human body wasn’t designed to sit for 10-12 hours a day. I’m always trying to add movement into anything I do. I take phone calls while walking around the block. I’m always stretching. I work out regularly whether it’s at a gym, park, or in my living room. My health is my most valuable asset and I structure my life around it.

Google Voice. Since I starting traveling internationally more, I’ve started using Google Voice for making free calls to any US number through the internet. It’s amazing. Even when I’m in the states, I use it because it’s so convenient.

DuoLingo. I started learning Spanish before a recent trip to Colombia and Mexico. This is one of the best language learning systems I’ve ever used. And it’s totally free.