Read a Book* in 10 Minutes

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If you found your way here, I assume you have a thirst for knowledge. I also assume you have a desire for efficiency, seeing as how most of this blog’s posts clock in at around 700 words and offer quick, simple solutions to problems. Well, this one’s a quickie, but the links contained here will keep you busy for hours as you read entire books* in 10 minutes flat. This isn’t about speed reading (though here’s how to do that), and it really only applies to nonfiction, but it’s time you explored the world of book summaries. It’s already saved me 15 hours this week.

The beauty of most self-development books is you can distil their information down to a few actionable points. The rest is anecdotal or fluff. This makes self-development books perfect fodder for summarization. In listening to “The 48 Laws of Power” on audiobook – an appallingly Machiavellian tome I don’t recommend anyone actually read – I realized each point of advice was easily summed up in a single sentence, or “law”. The rest of the book was just cherry-picked examples from history meant to illustrate the principle in question. After suffering through numerous hours of Robert Greene praising demagogues and conmen, I decided to opt out of finishing the full-length, 23-hour audiobook… buuuuut I was still curious about the remaining laws. I eventually found this, confirming what I already knew. I didn’t need to finish the book. I wouldn’t have taken the advice anyway.

Yet, this was a learning experience. Impressed with how quickly I breezed through the main points of a 496-page book, I started looking for book summaries online. I found Deconstructing Excellence and its summaries of books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I found Actionable Books and its summaries of business nonfiction like “The Art of Authenticity”. I found Derek Sivers and his notes on titles like “The E Myth” and “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. Suddenly, I had a free online library at my disposal, and I could digest any piece of it in just 10 minutes! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Obviously, you wouldn’t be getting the full experience of reading the real book. My advice is to actually take some time to think about each book summary. If something really captivates you, consider taking it out of the library and reading it long-form. Hell, it might save you the cost of a movie ticket! I know the links here have already saved me countless hours and dollars.

What can book summaries do for you?

It’s Time to Stop Joking About Being Shitty

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New Year’s 2007 was rock bottom for me. I’m not exaggerating. I somehow passed out in a crack house after consuming WAY more tequila than any 18-year-old should, and the night ended with me projectile vomiting all over the front porch as my friends left disgustedly. I slept on a mattress on the floor, and over half the people there were high on something, super racist, or both. My only saving grace were two friends I had there who remain my friends to this day. Without them dragging my hungover ass to Denny’s the next day, and eventually disassociating us from the denizens of said crack house, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. It was a pretty fucked up time in my life, but what happened next was worse. For years after that, I wore that night as a badge of honour.

Let me explain: 19-year-old me was a piece of shit too. By then, I’d already developed an alcohol problem that I still wrestle with today. At wild parties, I’d often talk about New Year’s 2007 to garner approval from the “cool kids”. I was somehow content in my shittiness, and used it as a social poker chip in conversations to go all-in. “Oh, you think you had a wild night? LET ME FUCKING TELL YOU A STORY…” It was gross, immature, and shameful – my most pathetic attempt at trying to earn the approval of others. I even thought that was what they wanted to hear. Every time I told that story, people would smirk, ask questions, laugh… How was 19-year-old me to know I was being a dumb brat? Not only was I perpetuating toxic behaviour; I was indirectly telling other people I approved of it! Well, no more. I’m putting my foot down, and you should too. Here’s why.

You’ve probably done the same thing, albeit in less dramatic ways. It’s most insidious in self-deprecating humour – [Why go to the gym when I have ice cream? LOL. #iloveicecream #fatforever] – and a lot of us are guilty of it. When we joke about our terrible habits, we’re actually seeking approval for our idiocy and choosing not to change. We know what we’re doing is unhealthy, yet we continue to brag about it. Why? Why do we come back after a weekend bender and give our coworkers a tally of how much we drank? Why do some meat eaters joke about “never touching a vegetable”? Why are we proud of being so unsustainably busy that our health suffers? WHY DO WE CELEBRATE BEING BROKE?!?

This attitude makes us poorer. If we don’t hear enough positive influences, we accept shittiness as the norm. If Tom, Dick and Harry make $4,000/month and blow it all on booze and cocaine, only to roll in all fucked up on a Monday to high-five each other, THEY’LL NEVER BREAK OUT OF THAT CYCLE. Be the person who brags about good shit, like “I worked out this morning and I feel great” or “my savings rate this year is through the roof”! Sure, you might not make Tom too happy, but who cares? You can choose to recognize your bad habits and change into the beacon of health, wealth and intelligence YOU KNOW YOU CAN BE… or you can just keep joking about your low bank balance, get a few chuckles, and stay poor forever.

A weird thing happens when you start being vocal about healthy habits instead of joking about shitty ones. The people around you don’t want to be left in the dust and adopt healthy habits too! My friend C texted me: “You also have inspired me to get healthy.” J messaged me also: “I think I’m gonna see if I can just get up earlier and walk to work the scenic route”. Oh, and remember Mike, the dude with the ridiculous car? HE TRADED IT IN FOR SOMETHING WITH TWICE AS MUCH FUEL EFFICIENCY AND HALVED HIS MONTHLY PAYMENTS. And thanks to A’s frugal eating habits, I’VE now adopted a mostly vegetarian diet and am losing weight so fast, it’ll only take me a month to hit my goal weight! (More on that soon.)

Comedy is tragedy plus time. Do you really want to be tragic FOREVER, just for a laugh? Didn’t think so. Stop joking about being shitty. Let’s boost each other up and conquer the fucking world. It’s all uphill from here.

All My Failures Weren’t Failures At All

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It all started when I noticed the performers weren’t getting ID’d.

I was at a bar on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and I was 18, desperate to drink with my 19-year-old friends. We were all out on the town to support my friend M as he did standup comedy. He wasn’t very good yet, but showbiz kids stick together. I ordered an appy and settled in.

Every night featured about seven performers. Pretty much all of them were terrible. They were the entertainment for the night though, so the bar treated them with respect. There were occasional free drinks, and I guess they gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were all 19+. I wanted in on that. I waved the emcee over.

“Hey, can I sign up for next week?”

“Uh, have you done this before?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can do what they’re doing.”

“Do you have any material?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll come up with something.”

After ten minutes of needling, he reluctantly gave me a slot. I’d invite my friends too, I thought to myself. They’ve been laughing at my dumb jokes for years. I walked home that night performing for an imaginary crowd. Surely, I was hilarious. This wasn’t even about the drinking anymore. When I was 18, I was about 80% hubris.

*****

I’ll spare you my jokes.

I was 18 at the time, and thought I was WAY funnier than I was. At best, my comedy stylings could be described as “bad”, and at worst, “probably somewhat racist against Koreans”. I was just another terrible performer. I got my drinks though, and I even went up four more times that summer and recycled the same shitty material for new crowds. Only once did I get great laughs. All the other times, I bombed hard. I gave it up, of course, but something started that summer. I learned the confidence I needed to go up in front of strangers and actually speak! Not just that, but FAILING my comedy show so many times made me realize the worst I could do was just piss people off for 10 minutes, and they’d forget all about me afterward. I was putting myself out there, and it was up to them whether they liked me or not. If they did, they’d pay attention – great! – and if they didn’t, they’d just ignore me, and that was fine. The end result was the same: I GOT MY DRINKS!

Even better than that was suddenly losing my fear of public speaking. I’ve now been invited to photo clubs, high schools, and industry events like 20Summit to speak about entrepreneurship and photography. I accept whenever I can. Because my business sense is better than my comedy, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. My failure at comedy led to success as a public speaker!

This is only one example, but I’ve failed at stuff a LOT. I once tried screenwriting. That led to film school, and I don’t even work on film sets anymore. I once tried drumming for a band. Over a decade later, I still struggle with a proper paradiddle. I once tried community theatre. The group imploded after only two productions. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I learned a fuckton. Nowadays, I don’t see all those as failures anymore. Rather, they’re all TEMPORARY SUCCESSES that inform my CURRENT GOALS.

Screenwriting taught me how to take a written idea and translate it visually. Drumming for a band taught me how to work and collaborate creatively in a group dynamic. Community theatre taught me how to market my art locally, and how to drum up business for something that people don’t even need. IT WAS ALL USEFUL.

There’s something I want you to take from all this: Try – and fail – often. Seriously. Fail all the fucking time. Fail so spectacularly that insurance companies get involved. Fail, then fail again, then fail again. Try everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t give a shit if you fail. I can guarantee you you’ll learn SOMETHING from it, and it WILL inform your future success. You’re not even failing. You’re taking small, measurable steps toward your next success. The modern day master is a jack of all trades. Anything more complicated can be looked up on YouTube. Hell, I’m trying to be a personal finance blogger. Have you seen how much fucking debt I’m in?!?

What have you always been afraid of trying/failing? Tell us in the comments.