Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

Blog Notes Photos Links Archives About

This book was on sale on Amazon Kindle a while back, I figured I’d give it a whirl. Some years ago I had read one of the author’s previous books, The Four Hour Workweek, and I wasn’t too impressed. It was interesting at least, but a lot of the advice seemed either difficult to apply to my personal situation or involved doing stuff I wasn’t really interested in (i.e. sales and marketing and whatnot). But this new book intrigued me – it’s a collection of life advice from “mentors”, basically successful people from a wild variety of fields including entrepreneurs, celebrities, venture capitalists, athletes, chefs, scholars, bloggers, authors, and so on. I’m always a sucker for this sort of thing – even if I don’t learn anything myself personally, it’s always interesting to learn how other people approach life. Spoilers: I enjoyed the book.

There’s some common themes that are often repeated among the different mentors in the book:

  • Many recommend some form of meditation, whether it be transcendental or something else
  • Many stress how important it was to them to be able to say “no” to unnecessary commitments
  • A lot of them recommend some form of nonconformity and taking the time to find your own path
  • Some great examples of learning from failures and really makes you think about how we often overreact to failures that later on turn out to be not that big a deal
  • I was often pleasantly surprised by how well-read some of the celebrities turned out to be
  • Each mentor also gives a short list of books they often give out as gifts, and there’s a *lot* of interesting books mentioned, I’ll probably try to read quite a few of them

I also started using this function in the Kindle app which let’s me highlight some parts and save them for later. I would send those quotes to Google Keep. (Although to be honest there were a lot I didn’t bother to note down, mostly because I was lazy.) Here are the ones I did manage to save:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” –Steve Jobs

“I say no to nearly everything. I make a lot fewer short-term compromises. I aspire to only work with people who I can work with forever, to invest my time in activities that are a joy unto themselves, and to focus on the extremely long term.” – Naval Ravikant, CEO and co-founder of AngelList

“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards."—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” – Naval Ravikant, CEO and co-founder of AngelList

“First, whenever possible, connect with others. Second, with enthusiasm, strive always to create fun and delight for others. And third, lean into each moment and encounter expecting magic—or miracles.” – Adam Robinson, educator, freelance author, and US Chess Federation life master

_“Too often, I hear people effectively given advice that is consistent with sunk cost fallacies. I certainly heard it a lot. “You’ve spent X years learning Y, you can’t just up and leave and now do Z,” they say. I think this is flawed advice because it weighs too heavily the time behind you, which can’t be changed, and largely discounts the time” – Peter Attia, Surgeon


_“Yet change is usually stressful, and after a certain age, most people don’t like to change. When you are 16, your entire life is change, whether you like it or not. Your body is changing, your mind is changing, your relationships are changing—everything is in flux. You are busy inventing yourself. By the time you are 40, you don’t want change. You want stability. But in the twenty-first century, you won’t be able to enjoy that luxury. If you try to hold on to some stable identity, some stable job, some stable worldview, you will be left behind, and the world will fly by you. So people will need to be extremely resilient and emotionally balanced to sail through this never-ending storm, and to deal with very high levels of stress.” – Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind


_“So you have no choice but to really get to know yourself better. Know who you are and what you really want from life. This is, of course, the oldest advice in the book: know thyself. But this advice has never been more urgent than in the 21st century. Because now you have competition. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the government are all relying on big data and machine learning to get to know you better and better. We are not living in the era of hacking computers—we are living in the era of hacking humans. Once the corporations and governments know you better than you know yourself, they could control and manipulate you and you won’t even realize it. So if you want to stay in the game, you have to run faster than Google. Good luck!” – Yuval Noah Harari again


Whenever I read a book like this it refreshes me a little bit and gives me a better sense of perspective and inspires me to do more things that I want to do and maybe live life a little bit more on my own terms. (Whether I actually execute on that, well that’s a different matter all together.)

See Also