Categories
Lifestyle

Lessons From Working in Healthcare

For a long time, I had a dream to work in the healthcare industry and shortly after graduating college I was able to do just that. I mean, I wasn’t saving lives or anything too crazy, but I did learn a lot about the realities of working in the healthcare industry. When I was a naive lil pre-med, I would always hear people talk about how “the healthcare industry is so corrupt.” Well I’m a little less green, and I thought it would be fun to articulate the lessons that I didn’t know before working in healthcare.

Over the past 10 months, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in the ambulance and it’s been a fantastic opportunity to reflect. There’s a joke from a tv show I saw that went something like “there’s something about this ambulance that makes me want to open up to you,” and let me tell you, that is so true! I’ve had eye-opening and intimate discussions with people from all walks of life and it’s shown me how different everyone really is. I’ve worked long hours, been with patients through good times and bad, and learned a lot from it. To be honest, being an EMT can suck but the lessons I’ve learned from this experience are infinitely valuable.

The system is set up to profit, not help people. 💰

I didn’t believe it until I saw it. It’s easy to imagine big companies screwing people over for profits, we see it all the time at theme parks, but seeing it in healthcare and the direct effect it has on real people is a tough thing to get over.

There was this one patient who was put on a 5150 (an involuntary 72 hour hold which results from being a danger to yourself or others) and was kept in the hospital for 2 days. On the third day, hours before his hold expired, I was called in to take him to another facility for psychiatric care. Here’s the terrible underbelly of the story – this patient did not get any psychiatric help in the 2 days that he spent in the hospital. To make matters worse, when he was going to be sent to the new facility, the doctor there will do a new examination and will put him on another 5150. This guy came in to his hospital for mental health issues and ended up financially and temporally gouged. That was tough to watch.

On a day car (10 hour day shift), my partners and I knew that the mornings are usually slow (unless there’s an ER call). Sometimes we’d talk, watch movies, or my personal favorite, work on something creative. But I soon found out that we had our slow mornings because hospitals don’t discharge their patients until 1 pm so they can charge their patients for an extra day. The morning is pretty quiet, then bam! It’s 1 pm and every hospital in the county is discharging their patients.

Sometimes patients who can’t pay for the level of care they need or who don’t have good enough insurance usually have to take ambulance rides to places with lower levels of care, which ends up costing them more in the long run. It’s shitty watching someone who can’t afford high qualities healthcare get charged for unnecessary treatments at understaffed facilities.

The industry is filled with people who genuinely want to help. 🤲🏾

Examples of people getting screwed by the system is in no short supply. The people who work in medicine aren’t stupid and see the flaws of the system upfront. The problem is, most people don’t have enough power to change the system and organizing people well enough to change a system is difficult so people try to do what they can to make things better. I would say my healthcare experience was 70% doing my job and 30% trying to help the patient get less screwed. There’s a lot of time and energy spent on good healthcare providers trying to work against their system for the better of the patient.

The reality is rough, but people do care and try to make things better in the small ways that they can.

Rarely anyone in healthcare is really concerned about their own health. 🧟‍♂️

There are some people who are mindful about their health but they are few and far between. Most people don’t sleep enough and if you know Matthew Walker’s work, then you know how dangerous that is, especially for healthcare providers.

It’s too easy to eat like shit. Our eating patterns aren’t fixed and most of the time we are on the go so it’s easy to just grab fast food or eat whatever is in the vending machine. I tried various diets during the last 10 months and I’ve found it so difficult to stick to the diets not because I wanted to eat foods that were forbidden but because it was hard to find access to healthy food. I’ve found fasting to be the healthiest diet while I worked on the ambulance. I can only imagine what that does to people working in the industry for a while.

A balanced life is looked down upon in medicine. The more you work, the more you are respected. It’s pretty lame tbh. There’s no culture of rest or rejuviation for the employees, just the patients.

Healthcare is essentially a religion. 🏩💒⛪️

Working extra hours is like being involved in the community. The doctors are like the priests. The hospital is the church. We have a coded language and a initiation process. Some people think medicine is the end all be all of life. I believe it’s self evident as to why these aren’t the best ideas to adopt but enough people do and to thrive in medicine you have to play the game.

Healthcare providers are still people just going into work like anyone else. 🤦🏾‍♂️🤷🏾‍♂️

We’ve all seen The Office, and those who haven’t seen the show have an idea of what the employees are like on the show. Healthcare is no different. People slack off and try to cut corners. They make mistakes and talk mad shit. The system has a relatively high barrier to entry, so it filters out some of that out but people get complacent quickly.

Healthcare workers are usually compassionate and high achieving individuals, but they are still people who can get jaded when it comes to situations that throw most people off. This is why some healthcare workers may come off as rude, disconnected, cold, or callus. They aren’t any of those things. Chances are, they’re just overworked and have seen that situation 4 times that day and it’s not even lunch yet.

We are more physically fragile than we’d like to believe. ⚰️

We are tough but not in some ways. I believe that people are mentally stronger than they give themselves credit for but I also believe that people are physically weaker than they give themselves credit for.

There was this patient who hit his head when he was out with his dad and brother, and he didn’t think it was a big deal. He had a pretty bad headache but his dad and brother told him to man up and tough it out. By the time he got home his pupils were completely dilated, like the eye of horus. He was dead by the time he was brought into the hospital. Hitting your head is a big deal. Chest pain is a big deal. Do yourself a favor and see a professional if you are dealing with either of those, no matter how minor it seems. You won’t be judged for it either, the professionals know how important it is to make sure.

PSA: If you hit your head, feel lethargic, and start to vomit, that is a major sign that you have intracranial pressure (ICP) building in your head from a brain bleed.

Things can always be worse. 🕳

I’ll never forget the day I learned this lesson. One day I clocked in and I thought that I was having a terrible day. My morning just wasn’t going right and the shift was off to a bad start. It was just one of those days when I wasn’t in the mood to go to work, but then I walked into the ER and I saw a woman who was completely broken down crying the the middle of the room. She was literally in the middle of the floor so I knew something was seriously wrong. I looked to the left and saw an ER tech doing compressions on a little boy. One of the nurses told me that they were doing compressions for 22 minutes. The boy didn’t make it. That put things in perspective for me. Things can always be worse.

Hell really is a bottomless pit.

Our choices do matter and will always catch up to us. ⌛️

There was a patient we had who’s chief complaint was a drug overdose. The patient ended up being the same age as the nurse as I was working with. The nurse told me that they went to high school together and how crazy it was to think that the guy’s life was ending just as his career was beginning. He told me that that our patient always lived the fast life. Everything catches up to us. I’ve seen thing sort of this over and over with so many patients. They’re in the hospital not because they have some acute pathological condition, but because they made low quality choices every day for years.

Most RNs understand lifestyle balance. ⚖️

I met nurses who could have became doctors but chose nursing because of the lifestyle balance that it offers. Nursing is also unionized so it’s pretty rare for nurses to get screwed over when it comes to pay, vacation days, time off, etc. Nurses aren’t worked into the ground like doctors and everyone respects them. A lot of the nurses I met went into it because of the lifestyle balance that it offers. I think it’s so important to know what you want for your own life rather than just blindly shoot for the highest position in a hierarchy.

Spending time doing what I love is what matters most to me. 📖💻🎵🎶🎤🎧

If you work in EMS, it’s pretty common to be held over past the time your shift was scheduled to end. When I signed up for the job I didn’t mind it at first, but after it started happening almost every shift I was forced to reevaluate how I value my time. I remember reading On The Shortness of Life by Seneca (which is on my Must Read Book List) and feeling like being held over was more of a sacrifice than I originally intended. Life is made of time and to give my time is to give my life. If I do not dedicate my time to myself I will always be exhausted and feel as if life is passing me by. Being held over forced me to ask myself what really matters to me because if I didn’t answer that question I would be giving my life to people who do not appreciate it as much as I would. I came to the conclusion that it isn’t medicine that matters to me – or even patient care – its being creative. If I was not dedicating myself to creative endeavours, I was dying. This was probably the most important lesson I’ve learned from this experience because it was a key insight into myself and what success means for me.

If it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen. 📋

The ugly truth – sometimes people do things and don’t write it down, sometimes people write things down that they didn’t do. If you’re admitted to a hospital, I recommend keeping your own written record of everything that happens to you. People in medicine are masters in the art of CYA (Cover Your Ass).

You gotta love old people. 👴🏿👵🏽👴🏽👴🏻👴🏾👵🏻👴🏼👵🏼👵🏾

Most of my patients were old. Like way more than I was expecting. The volume of geriatric patients we get is always a point of conversation with everyone I’ve worked with. The geriatric community is a strong pillar of the medical empire.

Finding the sweet spot of compassion is a must. 🍬

Compassion is what gives birth to great patient care, but you can’t be too compassionate or else you’d be completely drained by the end of a shift. It’s possible to go through all the major moments of life in one day. You can have one call where a baby is born, you can have another call where a little kid is hurt, you can have another call that ends up in death. Anything can happen so it’s important to get that perfect level of disconnection. Don’t be too disconnected, but don’t be so invested either.

The job is physically and emotionally draining and you need to be emotionally and mentally tough. I believe the best way to build emotional and mental stability is through consistent practice of meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude.


Special Thanks

To all the people who made my time doing IFT somewhat manageable.

  • Adrian
  • Kyle
  • Shane
  • Kingsley
  • Alena
  • Zackaree
  • Luke
  • David
  • Michael
  • Krystal

P.S. I’m still an EMT, I’m just not doing interfacility transports. I’m switching to event safety so I can have more flexible hours. 😉

Categories
Education Lifestyle

My Must Read Book List

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin (1948 – )

Here’s a list of all the books that had a massive impact on my life and would bring tremendous value to everyone else too – in no particular order:

Laws of Human Nature (2018) – Robert Greene

This is hands down one of the best books ever written. When I read the title, I thought it was too ambitious to try to capture human nature in a book but Robert Greene was the perfect man for the job and he did it fantastically. Greene beautifully outlines the underlying forces that control our behavior and gives us the tools to recognize them within ourselves and others. After reading this book, I was given new insights on what really drives human beings and the pitfalls that we should be aware of as we navigate life. I was especially impressed and surprised with the chapters on narcissism and envy. Greene opened my eyes to how deep those two forces run in our society today and how dangerous it can be. I went to a book signing when it was first released and Robert said it’s important to read this book as as insight into ourselves rather than as insight into other people. I cannot say enough positive things about this book. Right now, it’s my #1 most recommended book for everyone to read. Buy a copy for yourself. Buy a copy for someone you really care about. Then buy another copy for someone they care about. This book is too important to skip over.


Outwitting the Devil (1938) – Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill is the O.G. when it comes to writing about success. OTD isn’t as popular as Hill’s best seller, Think and Grow Rich, but it shares many similar themes. The concepts that Hill uncovers in this book laid the foundation for a majority of my own personal development. Styled as an interview between an intelligent human and the devil himself, Hill captures how the devil is very much alive and well in our world — just not in the way that we think. Idle hands truly do the devil’s work. He cautions us of the dangers of being a drifter, the power of definitive purpose, independent thought, and hypnotic rhythm. A fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into reading and doesn’t know where to start. This book really helped me out when I first got out of college. It really gave me the tools to outwit the devil that I didn’t even know I was battling.


Tao Te Ching (~4th Century BC) – Laozi

This ancient Chinese religious text details the common principles of Eastern thought. A must read if you want to live well. The wisdom written in this book is timeless. The book itself is a practice of minimal necessary effort. So it’s a short, easy, but deep read.


Show Your Work! (2014) – Austin Kleon

This book is so great for creative types who have trouble putting their work out. It’s also great for those wondering how to get their creative endeavour started. It’s given me new and fantastic perspectives about creativity and what it means to make art. We should all strive to be amateurs – Sharing my art inspires others and contributes to the culture around me – No one artist or genius was created in a vacuum. This book has shown me countless ways to be inspired by and inspire others. It’s also filled with creative methods from so many unique creative types. If you want to unleash the creative side of yourself – read this book.


Lord of the Flies (1954) – William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a masterpiece. It’s about a group of boys stranded on an island and their attempt to govern themselves. Golding perfectly nails the complexities of the human spirit. He captures the everlasting struggle between our desire for order and tendency for chaos. This book is gripping and perfect for anyone looking for a good story. Even putting the themes aside, the plot is interesting and the characters are lovable. This was one of the first books that opened my eyes to the power of reading. For the first time, I saw that characters in a book can be as complex as people in real life. I used to think characters in books were just representations of the author, but Golding showed me that people can put enough thought and care into a book and create a literary mural that represents humanity.


The 48 Laws of Power (1998) – Robert Greene

I think about this book at least four times a week. This is the book that Andy from The Office should have read to truly win over Michael Scott. This was Robert Greene’s first book and it took the world by storm. He explains each of the 48 laws of power with examples from history of how each law can be used to one’s advantage and disadvantage. In his early days, similar to Benjamin Franklin, Robert Greene found himself getting the short end of the stick on many situations. He took his intense frustration and anger and articulated each and every trick that his superiors would use on him. This book helped me understand the power plays used on me in the past but the best part, is being able to spot the power moves others try to pull on me now. The world belongs to those who read.


Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732) – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite people in history. He’s accomplished enough for 10 men and in Poor Richard’s Almanack he lays out his basic principles which set the foundation for his success. I love this book because the principles are so simple and, for the most part, common sense. It’s essentially a list of 670 nuggets of wisdom. Most people link the famous idioms “Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise,” or “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” with this book. One of my favorite quotes was “Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep the.” It’s one of those books that you can go back to and always find something new. The best part is it’s free and you can probably read the whole thing over your lunch break.


I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Second Edition (2019) – Ramit Sethi

Yeah, the title is sounds scammy but it’s legit. Ramit Sethi goes over all the financial knowledge necessary to build an automated money machine that can help you live a rich life. This book gave me a solid understanding of financial fundamentals to take control of my own finances. Since I didn’t study anything financial in my formal education, it was really helpful to learn about credit card optimization, 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, Target Date Funds, stocks, and bonds. He even includes scripts to negotiate down interests rates, remove banking fees, and asking for raises. Admittedly, I read the book in two weeks and applied the principles over a four week period but by the end of it, I established my own automated money machine equipped with an emergency fund, multiple savings accounts and a retirement investment portfolio. However, the most important thing I learned from this book is that we can learn how to do anything if we decide to go out and look for the information. Investing my money and learning all the financial jargon seemed out of my depth, but this book showed me that everything can be learned.


On The Shortness of Life (49 AD) – Seneca

I first heard of this book from Maria Popova. She is a fantastic writer and runs a blog (there really should be a different word for what she does) called Brain Pickings. It’s a huge archive of the deepest ideas from an extremely well articulated writer. Maria recommends people to start with her post about this book. I read her post and loved it. Then I read this book and it changed my life. Seneca talks about how there is more time than life. So much more that we actually waste it. How much of our lives are spent trying to answer the question at a dinner party, “so what do you do?” We give most of our time to others and much of the time dedicated to ourselves is in the service of impressing others. It’s no surprised life is exhausting. The key is to take the time back for ourselves. Seneca suggests that if we were to give all the time we were allotted on Earth to ourselves then we would greet death with open arms. This book has given me a damn good reason to let go of the idea that life is short.


The 4-Hour Workweek (2007) – Timothy Ferriss

Oh boy. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start with this book. Read it. It’s literally a manual to escape the 9-5 and live like the new rich. This is the first book I’ve read from Tim Ferriss and I fell in love with it. Tim breaks down what it means to start and automate a business that gives you the money and freedom to live your dream life. Tim started a mega successful online business in his 20s which gave him a pretty solid fortune. However, he was spending literally all of his time working (specifically replying to emails). Tim, being the unique thinker he is, found a way to restructure his business to maximize his efforts and run his company with only a few hours of work a month. This book isn’t literally about cutting your workweek down to 4 hours, its about maximizing the output of the work so you can free yourself up to do the things that really matter. He has ways to increase productivity with lower levels of stress and effort for all types of jobs. Whether you own your own business, work for an idiot boss, or are looking for a way to escape the rat race, this book is a must read. He’s included little “life hacks,” mindset switches, and resources that you may need to start an automated business. Pair this with Ramit Sethi’s just as scammy sounding book I Will Teach You To Be Rich and you have the tools necessary to design and live out your rich life.


Mastery (2012) – Robert Greene

Robert Greene is a powerhouse and heavy hitter when it comes to writing damn good books. This book is a guide to mastering anything. Robert researched masters from all walks of life throughout time and found the common threads between each of them. He covers everyone from Mozart to Charles Darwin to Temple Gradin to Freddie Roach. My favorite person he writes about in this book is Benjamin Franklin. I love how Greene outlines Franklin’s journey to mastery in writing and social interactions. Robert goes above and beyond for this book (as usual) and takes things much further than the typical skill acquisition advice like the 10,000 hour rule or practicing every day. I saw Robert Greene at a book signing and he said that he writes books out of anger. When he wrote this book, he said he was angry that people couldn’t make things well anymore. So I like to think of this book as a guide to learning how to do things well.


The Art of War (~5th Century BC) – Sun Tzu

Perfect reading for learning war strategies on a battlefield. Also perfect reading for MBA types about to enter the business world. Also perfect reading for anyone who finds themselves in adversarial situations. This book is pure wisdom when it comes to war, or anything that can resemble a war. Sun Tzu’s philosophy on war is to win without fighting. Running in head first into a battle is a sure way to get yourself killed, lose resources, and cause long term damage to the state. It’s better to cultivate your defenses, fortify your plans, and only fight when you know you are going to win. This is a quick and short read. The Art of War was originally written for military strategy but that doesn’t mean it can only be applied in the literally battlefield. Much of our encounters and challenges we experience today are war-like and the principles discussed in the book are worth applying to other areas of life. I have a thing for books written mad long ago but are still relevant now. This was written around 5th century BC but the lessons have been true throughout time. Timeless books are the best books.


The 4-Hour Body (2010) – Timothy Ferriss

One of Tim’s main goals in life is to learn something once and never have to learn it again. To make this happen, he takes meticulous notes on his diet, work out, habits, etc. so when he sees a picture of himself years prior he knows exactly what he was doing to get the body he had. He also keeps journals too, so he can do a similar type of assessment with his mental health as well. The combination of his meticulous note taking, years of experimentation, and hours of consulting physicians has given us this unconventional guide to healthier and easier living. Similar to The 4-Hour Workweek, this book is about getting the maximum results for the smallest effort. This book is filled with Minimum Effective Dosages (MEDs) for fat-loss, muscle gain, better sex, better sleep, reversing injuries, and much much more. I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants a guide to the human body.


Letters From A Stoic (65 AD) – Seneca

This book came up in the afterglow of reading On The Shortness Of Life. It’s a collection of letters Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius. There are 224 letters and each one is on a profound topic. Reading these letters made me feel like I was getting to know Seneca personally. I love his humor and his unapologetic fanboy attitude towards Epicurus. What I loved the most about this book is that it explains Stoic philosophy within the context of something relatable which made it easy to see the usefulness of stoic practices. Wisdom is an art and this book is filled with it. Each letter is short but the ideas introduced will have you thinking about them for years to come. Every time I pick up this book it’s an absolute mindfuck. Seneca was able to articulate some of the most complicated thoughts I have ever had but never been able to say. This book was simultaneously a justification and condemnation of my perspectives and value structures and I love it. This book has wisdom beyond my years and I’m excited to see what else I’ll learn as I read the book with older eyes. This book has an extremely high reread value. Similar to Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, this is a book that you study – not read.


12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Let me start by saying if you haven’t checked out Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s work – check all of it out. This is his 2nd book and it’s more than worth the read but diving into his hours of lectures on YouTube will really take you for a ride. Peterson is a clinical psychologist from Canada who taught at the University of Toronto and Harvard. He’s spent decades studying the world’s best thinkers and reading some of the most complicated and influential texts. And through those studies, he’s articulated the true importance of meaning and responsibility. This book is a small part of that perspective. It originally was a list of 40 rules Peterson wrote in response to a post on Quora: “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Peterson cut down the list to 12 and wrote this book. Peterson said that these 12 are not necessarily the most important rules, but they do make a cohesive narrative together.


Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (2016) – Tim Ferriss

Another Tim Ferriss masterpiece. Tim Ferriss is to me what Epicurus is to Seneca. Tools of Titans was written after Tim’s 4-Hour trilogy. The book was created from a plethora of interviews from The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim interviews the world’s highest performers about their habits, mindsets, and personal quirks that make them successful and put that in this book. He interviews everyone from Jocko Willink to B.J. Novak to Rick Rubin to Sam Harris to Maria Popova. Since there are so many people in this book, it’s easy to look up people that you already admire as well as discover new people to learn from. He breaks up the book in 3 sections (I love that it’s inspired by Ben Franklin): Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. My favorite chapters were in the Wise section, but that’s just me. There is enough information in this book to build empires and has an extremely high reread value.


Updated October 20th, 2020
The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: The Wisdom of Life (1851) – Arthur Schopenhauer

Probably my favorite piece of work from the Great pessimist. I thought the title was too grandiose at first, but Artie delivered. This book truly contains the wisdom of life. There are some things he was pretty off on, but for the most part he was on point. He captures the beauty, rarity, and absurdity of life in a way that doesn’t play them up or down.

I also think this book is great because it’s like a collection of blog posts Schopenhauer would have written if blogs were a think in the 19th century. I’ve already written things in my blog that I don’t completely agree with and I could imagine that if Schopenhauer wasn’t bounded by his time that he would redact some of what he said. When we write down what we know, we are sure to be wrong but I believe it’s worth it to capture the things we got right.

Schopenhauer is a thinker for the ages and I highly suggest this book is someone who wanted to check out his work. He wrote it later in his life so his words carry the wisdom of his past works and it shows.


Games People Play (1969) – Dr. Eric Berne

This fantastic book goes over something called transactional analysis which is the study of how humans interact with each other. Berne suggests that everyone had 3 primary ego states — Child, Adult, and Parent and those ego states communicate with each other. The “games people play” are dependent on which ego state is communicating with what and how they do so. For example, there’s a game refers to as NIGYSOB (Now I’ve Got You Son Of a Bitch) is a game played between one’s parent ego state and the other’s child ego state. I might do a post on the different games mentioned in this book (at least the one’s I’ve found most prevalent) sometime because it’s almost unbelievable how much of human interaction are simply games.

On top of the incredibly deep analysis of human interaction, he sprinkles in humor throughout the book with smart ass comments and witty names for the games. This is book spelled out many ideas that I knew existed, but couldn’t articulate for myself and having access to these ideas gives me a greater understanding of human interaction and a special peace of mind.


The Seagull (1896) – Dr. Anton Chekhov

This is the first play I’ve put on this list and admittedly, the first play I’ve read since my appreciation for literature blossomed. I read this when I was at a point in my life when I felt like I had to choose between pursuing medicine and being creative and I was shocked to discover Anton Chekhov, famed playwright/physician. I first heard of Chekhov in Robert Greene’s Laws of Human Nature and I was so blown away from his story that I had to check out his work.

This play is super short and can easily be read in a few hours. The characters are brilliant and the story is beautiful. It’s a fantastic dramatization of the violence that occurs when a beauty is misplaced. One of the ideas I took from this play was “beautiful creatures in beautiful places will lead to destruction if things are not in their right place.” Chekhov created an excellent depiction of the realities of true rage, the struggles of the creative spirit, and the dangers of not being seen in the hearts and minds of others.

This play also gave me insights into what I was feeling as a creative person. If a Russian playwright could perfectly write about a similar struggle and capture my feelings perfectly, then what I was feeling must have been universal and archetypal. This realization lifted a huge burden on me because I realized that what I was dealing with could be surmounted by man and didn’t have to crush me.

If we’re not careful, we can all be like Treplieff.


The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2009) – Dr. Atul Gawande

I wouldn’t suggest this book to beginner readers, as most things written by doctors are long-form and operate at a certain level of complexity, but if you’re comfortable reading lengthy texts, then this is a great book.

I originally didn’t want to put this book on the list, but as I continued to write my blog and work with my students I’ve noticed how much this book changed my thoughts and actions. Any book that changes how I act and think on a daily basis for the better is worth putting on this list.

I guess that’s precisely what Dr. Gawande was referring to in the book as well — the idea that checklists are so easily overlooked, but also so effective.

Checklists are my primary go-to method for organizing the chaos and getting things done right. They are too simple and too effective to ignore.


Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1959) – Dr. Carl Gustav Jung

This is the deepest book I’ve ever read. On top of that, Jung is the smartest person I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. He accurately sums up the most abstract and complicated ideas in a concise way that’s easy to understand. Jung believes that humans encounter the experience of the unknown in similar ways, through archetypes. These archetypes are patterns of behavior coded in us from millions of years of human evolution and are the same no matter what society we’re from. The archetypes give us access to the collective unconscious which allows us a greater understanding of the human psyche.

Jung puts this way better than I could and has been a MASSIVE contributor to everything I do. The way I teach and conduct myself in the world is informed through my knowledge and understanding of the collective unconscious.

He doesn’t go into as much detail as I’d like in this volume, but he touched upon his famed archetypal ideas in a way that provides a rudimentary understanding to those who aren’t familiar. He talks in depth (by not deep enough) about the Shadow, the Anima (Great Mother), the Animus (Judgemental Father), and so many more.

This is the only book (so far) that I haven’t finished yet, but I’ve gotten through a good chunk of it. It’s so dense and rich with knowledge and wisdom. I knew that I had to put this book on my list when I was just a few pages in.

This guy sees the edge of human knowledge and goes there. Jung is probably my favorite author of all time. Read this book and get your mind blown.


Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) – Dr. Viktor Frankl

This book changed me life and I cannot understate it’s value. Everyone needs to read this book. It details the horrors of the Holocaust from the perspective of Jewish psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl. He is an incredible writer and captures such powerful images despite being traumatized himself. The images he describes were vivid and dark, but the lessons he learned about human beings are both beautiful and tragic. This book also outlines a method of created for his medical practice – logotherapy, which is based on the premise that meaning is our fundamental driving force as human beings.

This book is one of the most beautiful pieces of work ever created. Frankl showed us how people can really find meaning, even in the most hopeless situations. Meaning will carry us through any and all suffering.


Self-Reliance (1841) – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

This book is so dope. It’s written in a slightly outdated language, but the message is evergreen and powerful. He talks about the importance of self-reliance, giving to yourself, and the morality of only involving ourselves with the things which concern us.

In a weird way, this book was able to give me the reasoning I lacked to only concern myself with matters that concern me. I used to feel like I couldn’t act purely in my own interests, but this book has shown me that it isn’t only okay to act in my own interests but a moral duty, especially if my interests can make things better for me, my family, and my community.

One of the most amazing parts about it is that this was written while Emmerson was away from society locked up in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Then fast-forward almost 200 years, I’m reading it on an iPad in the comfort of my own bed. This realization had nothing to do with what he wrote, but it speaks to the power of writing. After I read this book, I was able to find the strength within me to write more vigorously and focus on myself and that led to incredibly important groundwork.


The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life (2006) – Thomas M. Sterner

Everything worth achieving requires practice and Thomas M. Sterner gives us techniques to develop the focus and discipline necessary to practice successfully. I’ve written an entire blog post based on the principles from this book that highlights some of the ideas that I thought were the most worth knowing.

Reading this book gave me a much-needed perspective on what it means to practice effectively. It’s so easy to see practicing as work, but after applying the methods Sterner talks about in the book, practice becomes a time full of meaning and purpose. Focusing on the process and intentionally staying present are highly underrated ideas that will bring out the best in anything.


The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (2010) – Josh Kaufman

This is a fantastic book on business. Honestly, it could be THE book on business if there was one. It’s cool to see all the fancy business jargon wrapped up all nice and neat and it’s doubly cool to see a book that’s kind of like the book I’ve been writing but in a completely different field.

It’s been a huge influence on me and how I run my business and is a must-read for anyone who’s interested in entrepreneurship. It goes over everything from value creation from marketing to sales to finance to the mind to creating systems and so much more.

I’m constantly finding myself going back to this book. It’s full of amazing information that is extremely useful when starting a business, especially since I never had any formal training. I read it shortly before starting my 1st official company and while I was reading it, I knew that I was going to be going back to it for years to come.

Whether you’re an expert or a beginner in business, this book is a must-read if you want to be intentional about your business.


The Slight Edge (2005) – Jeff Olson

When I first read this book I didn’t think the slight edge could be true because of the sheer simplicity of it, but then I started trying it in my own life.

I think everyone should still read this book (obviously because it’s on this list), but the slight edge as a concept is pretty simple — small disciplines over time is what determines our life outcomes. The good things we do make our life better, the bad things we do make our life worse. These outcomes work on an exponential basis so over time, the successful win more often and the losers lose more often.

The slight edge really is what separates the successful from the failures. Olson says the slight edge is what’s the difference between a beach bum and a multimillionaire because he’s been both.

I’ve also seen Kobe Bryant talk about this being the reason why he was so much better than everyone else in the NBA. He kept pushing when everyone else didn’t. It’s probably a cognitive bias thing, but after I read this book I’ve noticed it in so many places.

Like everyone – this list is forever in a state of becoming.

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

Another 5 More Tips for Better Scheduling

“‘Why are you idle? If you don’t seize the day, it escapes.’ Even though you seize it, it still will flee.

Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

Scheduling is so important. If we can control our time, then we can control our lives since time is what makes up life. I have two other posts about scheduling which I recommend checking out before you read this one. They’re 5 Tips for Better Scheduling and 5 More Tips for Better Scheduling. This is yet again even more tips that I have for scheduling – take what you love and leave what you don’t.

Always Input Locations

This is good because of all the reasons mentioned earlier in Be As Specific As Possible but also because my calendar app tells me when to leave depending on the traffic. Honestly, I used to forget where I would have to meet people during my mobile tutoring days so it really helps to get that extra reminder to leave a few minutes early. Also, you don’t want to be on time but show up to a completely different location. If you’re a mobile tutor, I highly recommend adding locations to the event. If you’re a college student, I highly recommend putting the building and classroom of your classes in your locations. It’s much easier to pull up your calendar than log onto your portal and check the class number. For a lot of people, forgetting where you have to go isn’t a big deal but during my life as a college student and mobile tutor, it definitely paid off to always input the locations.

Batch Whenever Possible

Batching. This is a common technique that many of us use already. When we want to do our dishes or our laundry we don’t wash each dish or each article of clothing right away, we wait until it builds to a critical mass then wash all the dishes or clothes at once. We can apply the same technique to other tasks. I got the idea of applying batching to other tasks from Tim Ferriss.

I love applying this to errands. Wait until you have a few errands and run them all at the same time rather than constantly running back and forth. I love applying this to groceries too (many people already do). Do your shopping once a week rather than going to the grocery store for every meal. Try that for a week and see how inefficient it is.

Batching – doing similar tasks at once.

I apply batching whenever I can. I reply to my text messages in batches (which is why it takes me forever to reply, sorry ya’ll). I reply to emails in batches. I blog in batches. I write lyrics in batches. I buy my stuff in batches. I batch whenever possible.

One of my favorite places to batch is in music production. If I’m feeling creative, I usually compose a bunch of tracks in one session So in a day, I can make 8-10 instrumentals. The next time I produce, I can focus on just the mixing process for each track. The next session, I can focus on just mastering. So this way I can pump 8-10 songs in three sessions rather than spending a session doing the composing, mixing, and mastering for one track. In this example, the batching method pumped out 8 songs in 3 sessions while the other method would pump out 3 songs in 3 sessions.

Batching multiplies productions because it minimizes task switching, which takes a lot of cognitive load and time. Obviously, this depends on the nature of each track, but the point is that batching is generally better than not.

Don’t Fall for Being Busy

I always laugh a little when people tell me they’re sooooo busy. Being busy is not a status symbol, a badge of honor, or an excuse. Being busy is a delusion. When I’m busy it’s because of two things:

I have no priorities – everything I do is important, therefore nothing I do is important. I’m constantly shuffling from one “important” thing to the next.

I’m giving too much of my time to others rather than keeping it for myself – when I’m feeling busy (or pretentiously claim to be) it’s usually because I’m giving too much of my time to other engagements that are not only for me. I like to keep in mind – life is made of time. Giving your time is giving your life.

Both of these result in terrible production and a shit quality of life. Plus, when we’re busy we can’t stop to appreciate the small things in life that make it worth living.

“Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

Tim Ferriss (1977 – )

When we’re busy we:

  • don’t appreciate the sunset
  • don’t stop to smell the roses (literally)
  • aren’t present with our loved ones
  • can’t process what’s happening

Rather than accepting the busyness, I try to notice when I feel it coming and reexamine my priorities or where I am spending my time. Usually attending to one of those two things will cure my busy sickness. We all have the same amount of time in a day, but there is always someone who will get more done than us. Being “too busy” is a hollow excuse. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s not the life you want.

45 Instead of 43

I got this idea from Derek Sivers. He’s an author and entrepreneur. He wrote the book Anything You Want and I highly recommend it if you are a creative person trying to break into the world of business.

When Derek was living in Santa Monica, he took up cycling and would ride a ~25 mile bike path often. He rode as fast as he could, red-faced and huffing, pushing as hard as he can. But no matter how hard he tried, he could never get his time under 43 minutes.

Over time, Derek got less excited to go out for bike rides. (Not surprising, the way he was cycling was physically painful and hard work. I wouldn’t be too stoked on it either.) When he realized this, he decided to go half his normal pace and enjoy the ride. He noticed things he never noticed before – the beautiful ocean, a pelican, dolphins. At the end of his ride he checked his timer and it took him 45 minutes to complete it. Derek was shocked that all of that extra suffering from pushing as hard as he could only gave him that extra 2 minutes. Every since that day Derek says he always prefers 45 instead of 43.

I think this story is fantastic because it demonstrates how pushing ourselves to our limits may not always yield us proportional results. At 50% of the effort, Derek only lost 4.6% in time. Sounds like a good trade to me. Giving 50% more effort for a 4.6% increase is definitely not worth it.

After reading this story, I took a look at what I was “red-faced and huffing” about in my life. Turns out, I was pushing too hard with everything. Ever since I dialed the intensity back, preferred the 45, my quality of life has seriously improved. It’s easier for me to do the things I want to do, and when I do them it’s not as difficult as they used to be. It’s allowed me to enjoy my life rather than subject myself to suffering thinking I’m going to get a fair compensation.

If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a No

There will be a point when opportunities can become more of a hindrance than a benefit. I believe it’s important to say yes to things that make us uncomfortable. It’s a great way to cultivate ourselves. Saying yes gives us fantastic opportunities to try new walks of life, however, once we know what we are good at and what we want to do, we should stay focused.

Once my aims are set, new opportunities quickly turn into distractions. Unless I’m feeling a “Hell Yes” when something new comes up, I keep it far far away from me. My focus, energy, and attention are limited resources and I believe it’s so important that I keep them triangulated on the important things.

Learning to say no is a metaskill and has so many other benefits outside of scheduling. Developing this skill for scheduling is great because it keeps order within my calendar and keeps me on track but the value it has brought to the other areas of my life are unimaginably positive.

Categories
Education Productivity

The Transition Curve

“You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”

Casey Neistat (1981- )

Beginner’s luck — it’s totally a thing. There’s actually an entire pathway that illustrates our levels of competence when we learn a new skill. This pathway easily explains the stages from day 1 to total mastery, The Transition Curve was developed as a result from a study at Cranfield University School of Management.

The study suggests that the transition curve can be applied to the individual and organizational level. So people and companies would follow something similar to this pathway whenever they are learning something new.

The transition curve shows competence and confidence levels over time. This is scientific evidence for the idea that:

At first you’re going to stuck, but if you keep practicing you will get better.

or the age old dictum:

Practice makes perfect.

I found that this curve to be pretty accurate with my own personal experience too. I’ve gone through these stages with multiple skills. It was true when I was learning how to play the guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, produce music, tutor, write, drive, be an EMT…you name it.

Stae Jez Ov Comp Pe Taunce (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

The Stages of Transition

Shock

When we are first introduced to a new activity we are shocked that we encounter something that we are unable to do. It sounds arrogant, but it’s true. It’s surprising to encounter something that we don’t know how to handle. Check out the slight dip that happens right at the beginning of the curve. That’s from the shock. We usually start off decent at most skills, but the shock from being confronted by unexpected circumstances throws us off our game a little bit.

Note – the more unexpected the new skill or circumstance the larger the initial dip in competence

I like to think that we’re pretty tough cookies, and it’s true because most people don’t usually quit during this stage.

Denial

We deny that we’re bad at something and it actually makes us perform a little better but eventually our delusions get the better of us and our competence starts to decline.

Barring the incredibly few exceptions — without hours of deliberate practice and mistakes, we cannot be highly competent at anything. Any skill worth mastering will be difficult and anything difficult will take time to master. Do not let the guise of a slight short term improvement delude you into thinking that you have mastered something.

Awareness of Incompetence

Awareness of our incompetence starts to dig at us. Our confidence and competence plummets. We start feeling worse and worse about our abilities. This is where most people will get trapped and stop practicing a skill. This is where the quitters get off the train.

This stage is where all the convincing excuses will come up. “I’m not a ___ person anyway.” “This is way too hard.” “This is pointless.” “I’m too busy for this.” The list is endless.

I think the best way to get through this stage is to know that difficult times are coming and they will pass. Keep practicing and remember that every urge to quit is just a trap preventing us from learning something new.

Acceptance

Once we’ve hit rock bottom, we finally accept that we don’t know how to do this. This allows us to learn as much as we can about it with minimal egoic resistance. This can be a brutal place. Rock bottom is lovely for our growth and development but it feels terrible when we are there and is often hard to recognize too. So that leads me to the question:

Why do we have to reach rock bottom before we start getting better?

There are many reasons. One is to breakdown the ego which can prevent us from taking in new information. Another is because we don’t understand the dangers of our actions. Rock bottom is a natural place, so don’t be spooked once you’re there. We can try to avoid it, but true mastery comes after we’ve risen from the ashes.

I believe some of the lessons to be learned from hitting rock bottom are:

  • humility
  • discipline
  • rigor
  • consistency
  • tenacity
  • there are so many that they need their own blog post…

It’s one thing to read about these lessons or keep them in mind for others, but it is another thing entirely to internalize these lessons from life experience. Go out and make mistakes. Learn as much as you can.

Testing

This is when we start applying the new things we learn, smoothing out the rough edges, and learning from our mistakes.  We start to see the big things that we do which prevent us from being competent and correct them accordingly. We start to toss out techniques or perspectives only held by novices.

If we are tenacious enough to get to this stage, then us could consider ourselves “official” students of the craft. We’ll experience the most growth and strength from this stage and the next. According to Nietzsche, “People do not seek pleasure and avoid displeasure. People seek more power and in the will of that seek resistance. For aiming at a lofty goal and being thwarted in that pursuit builds strength within us.” When we see our actions move us towards a goal we feel happy, but we feel even better when we meet resistance while trying to reach that goal. This stage is filled with opportunities for that level of growth. Our competence is really low here but we feel pretty good striving to be better.

Search for Meaning

Once we get decent at this skill, we start to dissect why certain methods work and others do not. All the hours of trial and error, along with the deliberate practice, gives us a clearer understanding of how to be competent. We use multiple perspectives and experiences to synthesize our results and draw conclusions as to why certain techniques work. Now, we can really develop ourselves strategically within a skill.

Once we know why we are doing something, we are able to apply our knowledge in various situations. My girlfriend tells me that’s what real intelligence is — the ability to apply knowledge in different situations. In terms of The Transition Curve, this stage is a fun place to be.

Integration

In this stage, we have found ways to weave this skill into our everyday lives. We take our competence (consequently raising our confidence) to a place higher than ever when we internalize the knowledge and skills required for mastery. A thorough understanding of strategies, hours of deliberate practice, and a steady foundation of the fundamentals can take us here. This is the ideal stage and where we want to be with everything we learn. It’s the best place to work from. Your skill takes less energy to execute and you are able to maneuver well through complication situations.

So what does this all mean?

There are stages to learning something new, similar to grief or change. These stages are temporary and will pass with dedicated practice and a rigorous commitment to learning.

Learning about The Transition Curve has helped me get some clarity around why I felt like I was on a rollercoaster every time I was learning something new.

Know the tough times are coming. Prepare for them. Meet them with a strong belief in yourself. Work diligently. Master everything.

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

Understanding Change

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Lao Tzu (601 BC – 531 BC)

I totally get that it’s possible to write multiple books and courses on how to initiate and facilitate change, but this post is an approach meant to explore our understanding of how our minds deal with change. With this understanding comes the ability to manipulate ourselves into helping us break the habits we don’t want and start the habits we do.

I like to think of change as a function of two separate processes.

The 1st: Knowing what to change into, a.k.a. Setting the Stage

The 2nd: Overcoming the resistance to change.

Setting the Stage

It’s not enough to want to change. You have to know what you want to change into. We can’t change into new clothes without having new clothes.

Two Schools of Thought

When it comes to thinking about setting the stage for change there are two schools of thought that tend to dominate most of the conversation.

The first are people who think they need to change everything about themselves. They don’t know enough and do everything wrong. These people usually don’t want any new undertakings since they see themselves as someone who isn’t capable.

The second are people who think they don’t need to change at all. They know everything and are oblivious to their mistakes. These people are usually arrogant, bite off more than they can chew, and rarely achieve anything substantial.

Most people fall somewhere in between.

How much change do you believe you need to make?

People who think like the former group, may have more to work with than they think and will probably want to focus on optimizing the skills and knowledge they already have.

People who think like the latter group, may want to reevaluate their value structures and ask themselves if they are still working properly. If you think your life is perfect, then they are working just fine, but to be honest no one’s life is perfect so let’s not pretend.

BUT…before you go and change everything, you will probably want to ask yourself:

“If I were to change and get my intended result, what would that do for me?” 

I got this question from Russell Brand and it is great because it gives us the real answer to focus on. Usually it isn’t the good grades that’s going to make us happy. It might be the feeling of accomplishment after completing something really hard or peace of mind knowing that you are doing everything right.

After asking myself this question, I found that a lot of the things I wanted to change about myself had overlapping benefits if they were completed and this helped me focus in on the few things I really needed to change.

This is also a great question because I see it as a sort of “cheat code” to life. Instead of focusing on what we think the problem is, we shift our focus to the source of what we want and go after that instead.

I asked myself this question last month when I was confronting my own physical Everest. I’ve always been skinny and I wanted to put on a few pounds to bulk up for summer. So instead of telling myself “I NEED to get buff!” I asked myself “If I were to get buff, what would that do for me?” and I realized that I wanted to get buff to earn the respect of others, feel more confident in myself, and be physically stronger. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t get buff. But, learning this new insight gave me the opportunity to focus on earning the respect of others, feeling more confident, and becoming physically stronger. I’m not saying we shouldn’t accomplish any goal we think we want to accomplish, I’m just saying be crystal clear on why we want to change ourselves.

Overcoming the Resistance

It is difficult for us to change because our pathological tendencies in adulthood were developed as solutions to problems when we were younger. We resist to let go of these tendencies because our identity is developed from these tendencies and we cling to them for self preservation. Therefore, changing requires intense effort for long periods of time and during that time one should expect to feel a gang of negative emotions. The negative emotions don’t mean that we’re on the wrong path, but on the right one.

Whenever we want to change, our brain looks for reasons to not.

According to Ramit Sethi, a NYT Best Selling Author who’s also received his Masters in Sociology from Stanford:

3 Manifestations of Doubt

  1. What if-ing – these can illicit powerful emotions from you but keep in mind that these scenarios are not always valid reasons to give in to doubt “everyone who’s created something valuable — whether it’s an online business, a work of art, even a great speech — faced doubts like these. The difference is, they trusted themselves enough to acknowledge these doubts, then set them aside and took action.”
  2. Slicing the Pie – the next easiest crutch for us to lean on is saying “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford that” when we all have the same 24 hours in a day and can save money for the things we find important. Pay attention to the VALUE and vs. the cost of something. Keep in mind the cost of missing out as well. Ask yourself “how can I make time for this?” Or “how can I afford this?”
  3.  Alibi-hunting – people love to hunt for an alibi to use to not take action. And once they found an obscure reason not to join, suddenly they felt liberated to justify their inaction. Special Snowflake Syndrome. “I can’t do X because I have this super special situation that doesn’t allow me any freedom to do X.”

When we do something new for the first time we experience cognitive dissonance because our brain thinks we are doing something wrong but over time we will habituate. Anyone who’s tried to brute force change a behavior knows what I’m talking about. Mantras and affirmations helps override this cognitive dissonance. Tell yourself that you are doing the right thing and tell yourself often. There are other ways to hack our mind’s compliance systems.

Six Methods to Engineer Compliance (When Logic Fails Us) according to Tim Ferriss:

  1. Make it Conscious – mindfulness. Be aware and intentional when trying to start a new habit. Accidental habits are usually the worst for us.
  2. Make it a Game – stickiness of 5 sessions. Reward yourself when you get to 5 sessions of a new habits. According to Nike, it only takes 5 logged sessions of an activity to make it a new habit. Go for five. 🖐🏾
  3. Make it Competitive – fear of loss and benefit of comparison. It sucks to lose and its great to win. Adding a competitive element to whatever you do creates a natural Tracking-Loss Aversion dynamic but also brings another person into the mix for accountability. I’d say this is the most effective method Tim recommends.
  4. Make it Small and Temporary – easy and quick. If the new habit is little and doesn’t take much time, then you’ll have a higher success rate implementing it in your life. Anyone can do anything for two weeks but you don’t even have to commit yourself for that long. Just aim for the five sessions and watch yourself make progress.
  5. Lower Your Standards – lower your standards until you can start. Start with micro assignments. Can’t study a whole chapter for math? No worries, just do one problem. Can’t read that book for English? No worries, just read a page. Make the bar so low that starting is cake, then when let the momentum take you. IBM had the lowest quotas in the industry; there is a correlation between low standards and high performance.
  6. Keep Things Simple – I believed that I could handle complex things well and that gave me a competitive advantage since the games I played had a high barrier to entry and I could win but then realized that I’m just fighting myself. “What might this look like if it was easy?” – complexity can come later, but if it is complex at the beginning you will not want to do it.