Highlights from "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey

1. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

2. “A modern stoic,” he observed, “knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”

3. When he did find the time to compose, Feldman employed a strategy that John Cage taught him—it was “the most important advice anybody ever gave me,” Feldman told a lecture audience in 1984. “He said that it’s a very good idea that after you write a little bit, stop and then copy it. Because while you’re copying it, you’re thinking about it, and it’s giving you other ideas. And that’s the way I work. And it’s marvelous, just wonderful, the relationship relationship between working and copying.”

4. All those I think who have lived as literary men,—working daily as literary labourers,—will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.

5. Isaiah Berlin describes Marx’s habits during this time: His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British [Museum] reading-room, where he normally remained

6. And although he had many patients who relied on him, Jung was not shy about taking time off; “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool,” he said.

7. In Everybody’s Autobiography, Stein confirmed that she had never been able to write much more than half an hour a day—but added, “If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half hour a day.”

8. When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004. “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

9. “Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

10. “My experience has been that most really serious creative people I know have very, very routine and not particularly glamorous work habits” - John Adams

11. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

12. “I find that having a job is one of the best things in the world that could happen to me,” he once said. “It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life. I am just as free as I want to be and of course I have nothing to worry about about money.” - Wallace Stevens

13. Angelou has never been able to write at home.

14. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. “Like the pugilist,” Gershwin said, “the songwriter must always keep in training.”

15. Heller wrote Catch-22 in the evenings after work, sitting at the kitchen table in his Manhattan apartment. “I spent two or three hours a night on it for eight years,”

16. As a young apprentice in Thomas Edison’s New York office, Tesla regularly worked from 10:30 in the morning until 5:00 the following morning. (“I’ve had many hardworking assistants, but you take the cake,” Edison told him.) Later, after he had started his own company, Tesla arrived at the office at noon. Immediately, his secretary would draw the blinds; Tesla worked best in the dark and would raise the blinds again only in the event of a lightning storm, which he liked to watch flashing above the cityscape from his black mohair sofa. He typically worked at the office until midnight, with a break at 8:00 for dinner in the Palm Room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

17. “Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” - William Styron

18. Descartes believed that idleness was essential to good mental work, and he made sure not to overexert himself.

19. Dickens was prolific—he produced fifteen novels, ten of which are longer than eight hundred pages, and numerous stories, essays, letters, and plays—but he could not be productive without certain conditions in place. First, he needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, an extra door had to be installed to his study to block out noise. And his study had to be precisely arranged, with his writing desk placed in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials—goose-quill pens and blue ink—laid out alongside several ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched upon it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads dueling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies).

20. The morning is the best time, there are no people around.

21. “The overriding factor in my life between the ages of six and twenty-two was my father’s candy store,” Asimov wrote in his posthumously published memoir. His father owned a succession of candy stores in Brooklyn, which he opened at 6:00 A.M. and closed at 1:00 A.M., seven days a week. I have kept the candy-store hours all my life. I wake at five in the morning. I get to work as early as I can. I work as long as I can. I do this every day in the week, including holidays. I don’t take vacations voluntarily and I try to do my work even when I’m on vacation. (And even when I’m in the hospital.) In other words, I am still and forever in the candy store.

22. (Stephen) King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words.

23. (Georges) Simenon was one of the most prolific novelists of the twentieth century, publishing 425 books in his career. The Belgian-French novelist worked in intense bursts of literary activity, each lasting two or three weeks, separated by weeks or months of no writing at all.

Highlights from : "Sleep Smarter" by Shawn Stevenson

1. Get more sunlight during the day. It may sound counter-intuitive that getting more sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night, but science has proven that this is precisely the case.

2.Avoid screens before bedtime. Cutting out some screen time at night is likely the number one thing you can do to improve your sleep quality immediately.

3. Two hours of computer screen time before bed was enough to significantly suppress people's nighttime of melatonin. When your melatonin secretion is thrown off, it will intrinsically throw-off your normal sleep cycle.

4. If you want to give your body the deep sleep it needs, make it a mandate to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize.

5. Use a blue light blocker. Extenuating circumstances come up, and you may need to be on your computer later than you want.

6. Have a caffeine curfew. Set an unbreakable caffeine curfew to make sure your body has time to remove the majority of it from your system before bedtime. For most people, that's generally going to be before 2:00pm.

7. Keep Cool. Studies have found that the optimal room temperature for sleep is really quite cool at around 60 to 68F. Anything too far above or below this range will likely cause some difficulty sleeping.

8. Studies have shown that insomniacs tend to have a significantly warmer body temperature than normal right before bed.

9. Researchers found cooling caps allowed insomniacs to fall asleep in about 13 minutes compared with 16 minutes for the healthy control group. They also found insomnia slept for 89% of the time they were in bed, which was exact amount of time the healthy control group slept in bed.

10. If you have trouble falling asleep, try taking a warm bath 1.5 to 2hrs before hitting the sack.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but while your core temperature will increase from the bath, it will fall accordingly and level out a little cooler right around the time you turn in for the night.

11. There are mattress pads you can use that may help regulate your body temperature.

12. You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours.  It's been shown that human beings get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10pm to 2pm. You get the most rejuvenating effects during this period, and any sleep that you get in addition is a nice bonus.

13. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up  late repeatedly, and working overnight is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation.

14. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who worked the overnight shift had a 30 percent greater incidence of breast cancer.

15. Just one night of sleep deprivation can make you as insulin resistant as a person with type 2 diabetes, but extend that out to when you're not sleeping during the night at all, and you and diabetes will do more than just flirt with each other.

16. Fix your gut to fix your sleep. Upwards of 95% of your body's serotonin is located in your gut.  The obvious sleep connection is that serotonin is the building block for the "get-good-sleep" hormone, melatonin.

17. Incorporate magnesium-rich foods in your diet

18. It's a well-established fact that we sleep better in a dark environment, yet so many people aren't taking full advantage of this. Studies show that exposure to room light during usual hours of sleep suppresses melatonin levels by more than 50%.

19. Sleep experts suggest that your room be so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face.

20. Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia discovered that even a simple nightlight could contribute to myopia in children and lead to significant vision problems later in life. The researchers found that 10 percent of children who slept in the dark ended up being nearsighted, while 34% of the children who slept with a nightlight and 55 percent of the childreen who slept in a lightened room developed nearsightedness.

21. Morning exercisers had up to 75 percent more time in reparative "deep sleep" stage at night than midday or night exercisers.

22. One of the big issues with working out late in the evening is that it significantly raises your core temperature, and it take upwards of 4 to 6 hours for your temperature to come down again.

23. Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep and sex.

24. Data show that children with televisions in their bedrooms score lower on school exams and are more likely to have sleep problems.

25. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that 4 hours of wireless Internet-connected laptop exposure led to a significant decrease  in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation.

26. Lose weight. People with a healthy weight show a 5% increase in cortisol levels after consuming a meal, while overweight and obese individuals' cortisol levels increased by a whopping 51%! The biggest issue is that cortisol is as close to an anti-sleep hormone as you can get.

27.Give your body a solid 90 minutes(more is better) before heading off to bed after eating. 

28. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published research showing that meditation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

29. One of the best times for meditation is when you're already close to the alpha and theta brain waves. This would be as soon as you wake up in the morning, or right before bed at night. As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine research showed, meditating in the morning is proven to help test subjects sleep at night.

30. Chamomile can be used as a mild sedative and sleep inducer.

31. The use of melatonin supplementation is that it can potentially down-regulate your body's natural ability to utilize melatonin on its own.

32. Going to sleep early and waking early syncs the body clock with the earth's natural circadian rhythms, which is more restorative than trying to sleep while the sun is up.

33. In 2008, a study from the University of North Texas found that students who identified themselves as morning people earned significantly higher grades. In fact, the early risers had  a full grade point higher than the night owls in the study with a 3.5 to 2.5 GPA respectively.

34. A comprehensive study conducted through the department of radiotherapy and oncology at San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, Italy, found that 60 percent of patients with sleep disorders had an improvement in sleep quality after at least 2 weeks of acupressure treatment.

35. A 2009 study found that women who slept in their bras had a 60 percent greater risk for developing breast cancer.

36. Oxytocin is a potent anti-stress hormone. It reduces the signs and symptoms of depression, combats the negative effects of cortisol, and helps regulate blood pressure. It's also been shown to decrease intestinal inflammation and improve gut motility as well. All the more  reason to get as close as possible (Oxytocin is released during skin to skin contact for example massage, sex, or simply cuddling).

37. Overwhelming research is mounting that shows the impressive benefits the earth's electromagnetic surface has on the human body. 

38. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, researchers found that when test subjects were grounded, there was a "rapid activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and corresponding deactivation of the sympathetic nervous system".

39. Dr. Spencer is an Olympic athlete and 8 time Tour de France- winning team doctor and has been directly involved in more than 40 Olympic, World, National, or Tour de France Championships. He told me(author) that grounding technologies played a vital role in the success of his athletes. He found very quickly that earthing accelerated tissue repair and wound healing from injuries that athletes encountered during practice and competition. Among the benefits he also observed and reported from his patients: better sleep, less pain, more energy, and faster recovery.

40. "Grounding to the earth changes your physiology immediately. The more you ground, the more you can benefit because you are at your most natural electrical state when connected to the earth."  That said, even a minute is helpful, but the longer the better. I'd say to target a minimum of 10 minutes each day.

Highlights from: "Get Together : How to build a community"

1. The secret to getting people together is this: build your community with people, not for them.

2. Amateurs try to manage a community, but great leaders create more leaders. Nearly every challenge of building a community can be met by asking yourself, “How do I achieve this by working with my people, not doing it for them?” In other words, approach community-building as progressive acts of collaboration— doing more with others every step of the way.

3. If you want to spark your own community, you’ll need to first pinpoint your people. Find your kindling— those early allies who care about what you care about enough to manifest your idea for a community into an actual gathering of human beings.

4. No matter your community-building endeavor, the original leader should start with a clear who, then craft a why with that who in mind.

5. You can find your team of allies by asking yourself a series of more targeted questions: 

  • Who do I care about? 
  • Who do I share an interest, identity, or place with?
  • Who do I want to help?

6. Focus on two criteria: 

  • Who brings the energy— who are the people who already engage, contribute, or attend? Don’t try to conjure motivation out of thin air. Start with keen participants. 
  • Assuming that the community flourishes, who will you stick with? Cultivating a community is a long-term play. Who does your organization’s future

7. In order to make sure that your community’s purpose is grounded in your people’s needs, and that it expresses what you can accomplish together, consider: 

  • What do my people need more of? 
  • What’s the change we desire? 
  • What’s the problem only we can solve together?

8. Make your list of names: Don’t underestimate the power of personal outreach when you’re trying to spark a community. You truly become a community leader only when you establish your first early ally.

9. No matter if you’re working solo or backed by an organization, your first members will probably stem from existing relationships, the people you already know. That personal connection eases people into taking the leap to participate in something new. Your list might start with close friends who share your passion, or with some of the most engaged users of your app.

10. But there are three principles that any first community activity should integrate in order to start your group on a collaborative path: 

  • Make it purposeful. Tie the activity back to why your community teamed up in the first place.
  • Make it participatory. Don’t just talk at people. You gathered them because they’re passionate, just like you! Give them the chance to contribute to the purpose you share.
  • Make it repeatable. One-offs are the enemy. Relationships need time to flourish, and it’ll take a few cycles for some folks to warm up and begin actively contributing. Design the first activity with the intent to repeat it with your people over and over.

11. Stop thinking about your community as just an audience. Instead, treat these people as collaborators. Even with your first activity, carve out ways for others to participate. People are showing up to realize a shared purpose, not to watch you realize it for them.

12. Meaningful human connections are sticky. They make us return to shared endeavors, from Weight Watchers to team sports to church. As Scott Heiferman, co-founder of Meetup, told us during a workshop, “people show up for the meetup but they come back for the people.”

13. Through open and ongoing dialogue, a loose group of people with a shared interest can be transformed into a community, teeming with life.

14. To enable all the ways your people can share and collaborate with one another, you’ll have to create spaces where members can freely connect on their own time.

15. “I don’t think there’s much secret. Get the product right, treat the customer well, and get them talking. And that’s it,” Instant Pot founder Robert Wang 

16. Give members the space, prompts, and structure to start talking Conversations— like those unfolding daily in the Instant Pot Facebook group— don’t start without provocation. Leaders need to lay the groundwork for free-flowing communication between members.

17. To get your community talking, figure out: 

  • Space - Where can members find each other to continue their conversations independently?
  • Prompts - How do I give people an excuse to connect for the first time? It’s scary to talk to strangers. Guide your members into discussions by modeling what good participation looks like. Craft regular prompts and make introductions for newbies.
  • Structure - What structure would make communication in this space more meaningful? When implemented with care, ground rules and moderation can facilitate and reward focused, sincere conversations. Structure also supports healthy debate when conflict arises.

18. Appoint moderators and establish a code of conduct;  by doing so,you’re making a safe space for conflict, which is an essential part of any community.

19. Starter questions for your code of conduct:

  • What’s our purpose? Remind members why your community exists before dictating specific rules. 
  • What is okay? How should members act? Describe the spirit of your community and introduce etiquette that keeps conversations valuable. (Bogleheads: “Discussions are about issues, not people.”) 
  •  What is not okay? List behaviors that are not allowed (e.g., no insults or hateful language) to help make members feel confident in joining the community and safe in reporting violations. 
  • How do members report violations? Give members a private way (such as an email address) to report violations. Explain who receives that report. 
  • How will you investigate and enforce the rules? Let members know how you’ll collect information on the situation and what consequences to expect when the code of conduct is violated (e.g., a private warning, followed by a temporary ban for a certain number of days).

20. A sign of a vibrant community is that new members join because they want to. Aspiring leaders frequently forget the importance of this agency. They plop unknowing people on a list and start calling them a community.

21. Work with your members to collectively send a clear, authentic signal about what your community is all about.

22. Step one in attracting new members is crafting your origin story.

23. Marshall Ganz is a Harvard senior lecturer who organized the United Farm Workers alongside Cesar Chavez from 1965 to 1981, and designed the grassroots organizing model for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Ganz’s current course is titled Organizing: People, Power, Change.

24. Ganz believes public narratives communicate three key concepts. When you refine your origin story, follow Ganz’s lead: 

  • Tell the story of self. Make it personal. Describe the moment that you started on the path to rally your community.
  • Tell the story of us. Show that it’s bigger than you. What do you believe is made possible when this group comes together?
  • Tell the story of now. What’s one small, immediate way someone can get involved (e.g., attend a meetup, sign up for a newsletter, sign a petition)? Why should they do so now? This urgency will make people feel the pull to get started right away.

25. Once you’re satisfied with your narrative, the next step is to make that origin story available to anyone curious about what you stand for. Share your origin story in one-on-one conversations with strangers, newcomers, and other potential community members. If you gather in person, don’t be timid.

26. Now that you have your origin story pinned down, here’s the secret to spreading the word: attracting others can’t just be your job. Ask any traditional marketer, and they’ll tell you that word-of-mouth advertising is their most powerful tool.

27. You can’t expect people to recruit others without a nudge. Make it clear to members that their active involvement is crucial to ensuring the vitality and success of your community.

28. Each week, without fail, Aria takes a team photo at halftime (so that even players who have to leave early don’t get left out). “People always say, ‘I haven’t come before, I’m not going to be in the team photo,’” Aria explains. “So that photo is a moment to be like, ‘No, you’re on the team and we’re showing that to the world.’” Before practice wraps, she offers to share the team pic with anyone who wants it. Nearly everyone raises their hand. Within an hour of receiving the squad pic, many of the players have posted it on their personal Instagram accounts, coupled with captions describing their experiences.

29. You can’t force people to spread the word. Instead, ask: How can I make it easier for them to do so on their own terms?

30. Collect the right shareable stories for your community

31. It’s your job to figure out how to turn your community’s unique activities into natural, simple narratives. Here are some starter ideas: 

  • Your community centers around in-person experiences.
  • Your community centers around training or learning.
  • Your community centers around contributing and sharing content.

32. If none of these sharing strategies jumps out as a natural choice for your community, don’t fret. Look to your community members for inspiration. They’re already passing around stories. That’s guaranteed. Dig into how and what they’re sharing. Figure out which tools, information, and resources you could offer to boost their storytelling.

33. With a refined origin story and resources for members to spread the word, the foundation to attract new people to your community is in place. Congrats!

34. Now your job is to put a spotlight on the inspiring people in your community. In creating exposure for these exceptional folks, you’ll bring the community to life for others considering joining. And, as a bonus, you’ll celebrate what standout participation looks like, which can motivate existing members to deepen their involvement.

35. Build a culture of reciprocity with your storytelling. Proactively seek stories from exceptional members, then share them widely to inspire others to join the fun.

36. One way to cultivate your community’s identity is to equip enthusiastic members with badges. A badge can be anything visual that enables members to telegraph an affiliation.

37. As your own group grows, you may want to consider localizing certain badges to help foster recognition and intimacy between individuals.

38. Celebrate the self-expression of your members and encourage them to make their own badges. Whether those badges are physical or digital, the tools for customization are more accessible than ever.

39. Bonds between members are fostered through the rituals they practice together, from reciting a mantra to participating in a daily standup meeting. Kursat Ozenc, a designer whoresearches, writes, and teaches at Stanford’s d.school about rituals, notes, “When you practice a ritual that others have practiced before you— or that others are practicing at the same time as you— the actions make you feel connected to them.

40. You don’t have to meticulously design every ritual. Start by noticing and then codifying the idiosyncrasies that people are already repeating.

41. Another way that people bond over their shared identity is by creating language unique to their community.

42. As a start, try agreeing on a name for members. A demonym is a word used to describe someone from a certain place. For instance, people from California refer to themselves as Californians. Communities have demonyms, too.

43. Just as she was breaking into the music scene, Nicki Minaj came up with a demonym for her biggest fans: Barbz, or Barbies.

44. “A community is a living organism. It’s either declining or improving; there’s no steady-state in a community.” - Jennifer Sampson,

45. Similarly, a community can only grow sustainably if newcomers find value in their first interactions, then return. If you find that your members aren’t consistently participating in or contributing to the group— they’re showing up to only one event or sending just one message— you have a leaky bucket. Your community hasn’t established the foundation it needs to proliferate.

46. You can begin tracking and exploring your community’s retention in three steps: 

  • Collect participation data. Prioritize the tracking of member participation in community activities. The more the measured action demonstrates true participation, the better.
  • Gather info about your regular participants. Get to know the people who keep showing up. Build a Rolodex that includes notes, like where members are from and contact info. A spreadsheet is a fine start.
  • Seek insights on why they participate and what they want more of. Listen, listen, and listen. Numbers are great at explaining how many, but you’ll need to have conversations in order to ask why?

47. It’s not enough to measure your community’s retention. You need to dig into who keeps showing up and why.

48. Use your measurement and listening processes to search for people we call “hand-raisers.” These people are your most passionate community members, the hardcore of the hardcore. They always show up. They consistently invite friends. And most importantly, they’re raising their hands— eagerly contributing time and energy toward taking your community to the next level.

49. Hand-raisers have the potential to become homegrown leaders of your community, your most valuable collaborators.

50. Passing the torch to the folks who are raising their hands is how you’ll multiply your efforts as a leader and grow together as a community.

51. But your listening processes are perhaps even more crucial during challenging times. At some point, you may make a change or decision that is not well-received. Paying close attention to your community helps you monitor sentiment, detect your missteps early, and react appropriately.

52. “One of the things that is the death knell for a community manager is to not listen,” Mia points out. “Even if it’s a simple ‘Thanks so much for your feedback,’ you have to acknowledge people.”

53. Spread out ownership by encouraging hand-raisers to lead in ways big and small, supercharging their efforts, and, last but not least, celebrating their accomplishments.

54. Growing a community isn’t about management. It’s about developing leaders. With their help, your community will affect more people and sustain itself longer than you could have managed on your own.

55. In any community, a small set of extra-passionate people will do the majority of the work to push the group forward and expand what’s possible.

56. Mary Ellen Hannibal’s book Citizen Scientist, “the bulk of what gets done is by a small set of fanatics.”

57. But when you’re the original leader, trusting others to take over is often a challenge. We get protective, controlling, even paranoid. We worry about people “not having the same standards” or “misrepresenting the brand.”

58. Don’t bend to fears of losing control. As Marshall Ganz says, “Organizers think of themselves as people that develop the leadership of others.” You don’t have to toil alone. Shift your mindset from stoking the fire to passing the torch. Your community depends on it.

59. Cultivating hand-raisers into leaders isn’t just a way to expand your reach. It’s also the only way that large communities stay relevant over the long term and that small communities ensure their own sustainability. If your community is dependent on a lone leader, it’s more at risk of collapse in the face of uncertainty and a changing world.

60. So, what do you look for in potential leaders? Seek genuine and qualified people from your pool of hand-raisers.

61. What should you do if you promote the “wrong” leader? Our advice: don’t be afraid to say goodbye. Just as an exceptional leader can move a community forward, a bad one can stagnate or, even worse, erode a community’s magic.

62. In many of the communities we studied, a core contingent of extra-passionate people made an outsize impact. These exceptional leaders act as catalysts, accelerating a community’s ability to fulfill its purpose.

63. How do you figure out what support is needed by your community leaders, and when? Your goal is to create a potent system of support instead of a bunch of disparate, semi-helpful resources. Start by mapping out the journey of the person you’re trying to help, using good ol’ pen paper.

65. To get started, assemble a brain trust of your key leaders.

66. Build out a flowchart of the leader’s journey by discussing these questions: 

  • What are the first steps that leaders take after raising their hands to accept a leadership role? 
  • How are they vetted? Welcomed? Onboarded? Acknowledged? 
  • What are the key activities involved in their work? What support do they currently receive?

67. Your support should supercharge valuable activities and minimize or eliminate the others.

68. There are many ways to buoy up leaders when they need it. You can host trainings, offer coaching, create templates, assemble a knowledge base, record tutorials, build tools, pre-write emails, develop checklists, collect best practices, start a newsletter, make a FAQ, form partnerships, streamline communications, translate documents, offer funds, line up contacts, lend credibility, buddy people up, send reminders, cut requirements, or even rearrange the order of key activities.

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Highlights from : "Vagus Nerve" by David Reyes

1.The Vagus nerve is an incredible part of your body. It is long, meandering, and powerful. It is unique and complex. It is truly amazing! Sometimes called CNX, this is the tenth cranial nerve, and it extends from the base of your skull to your colon. Along the way down from your brain stem, the Vagus nerve makes several stops along the way, extending in various areas, and acting as an information “highway” for your body to tell the brain what it is experiencing, and for the brain to tell the body how to respond. And in many instances, this is all happening subconsciously!

2. Your blood pressure lowers and heart rate slows down when the Vagus nerve is stimulated.

3. Otto Loewi, a physiologist from Germany, identified the connection between a stimulated Vagus nerve and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. It was early in the 1920’s when Loewi recognized that the Vagus nerve sent the message to release this, and its primary function is to calm the body and mind when it is experiencing stress.

4. And one of the best and easiest methods for triggering the release of this neurotransmitter is by breathing deeply very slowly.

5. “Controlling” your Vagus nerve, or learning how to work with it, is important because you can keep it functioning properly. If it becomes over-stimulated, you can experience responses like emotional disturbances, added stress, and anxiety.

6. An overactive Vagus nerve can lead to increased stress and anxiety. An underactive Vagus nerve can lead to gastroparesis, which then can lead to diabetes.

7. Techniques to self-stimulate the Vagus nerve include:
  • Engaging your abdominal muscles
  • Acupuncture
  • Chewing gum
  • Prayer
  • Resting on your right side
  • Tai chi
  • Massage
  • Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting
  • Laughter
  • Engaging in positive social relationships and situations
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • Singing
  • Cold showers

8. Cold temperatures: studies have indicated that when your body has to adjust to colder temperatures, it increases your parasympathetic response system to allow you to relax, thereby inhibiting your sympathetic response. This process is overseen by your Vagus nerve. And this does not need to be an extreme exposure to cold; just a small amount of cold exposure can activate your Vagus nerve. One method you can try is dipping your face in ice-cold water or taking a cold shower. You can also expose yourself to cold by going outside in cold temperatures or standing in front of the open freezer door. Drinking ice-cold water is also effective.

9. Chant or sing. You can easily increase the variability in your heart rate when you sing. You can change this variability in different ways when you sing energetically, sing hymns, chant mantras, or hum. The reason this is effective is because of the stimulation of the vagal pump on your throat. If you sing at the top of your lungs you can engage the back muscles in your throat, activating your Vagus nerve. It also triggers your sympathetic nervous system along with your Vagus nerve. Also, singing is shown to increase oxytocin production.

10. Laugh a lot. The more you laugh the more you stimulate your Vagus nerve and calm your body. Studies have shown many times that this really is one of the “best medicines.” There are reports where people fainted from laughing too much. This is likely due to overstimulation of the Vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sensation becomes extreme and activates the immobilization response. In addition, people that experience this response to laughter often have an illness called Angelman’s, which is a fairly rare condition.

11. Increase the amount of zinc you consume. Zinc is a common mineral in foods and in supplements, but surprisingly many humans do not consume enough. In a study where rats were given a diet low or deficient in zinc for three days, it was clear the Vagus nerve was not functioning at full capacity. When zinc was reintroduced the Vagus nerve was activated and stimulated.

Highlights from "The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande

1. In the 1970s, the philosophers Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre published a short essay on the nature of human fallibility that I read during my surgical training and haven’t stopped pondering since. The question they sought to answer was why we fail at what we set out to do in the world. One reason, they observed, is “necessary fallibility”—some things we want to do are simply beyond our capacity. We are not omniscient or all-powerful.

2. There are substantial realms, however, in which control is within our reach.

3. In such realms, Gorovitz and MacIntyre point out, we have just two reasons that we may nonetheless fail. The first is ignorance—we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works.

4. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude—because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.

5. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.

6. That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.

7. And there is such a strategy—though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies. It is a checklist.

8. Americans today undergo an average of seven operations in their lifetime, with surgeons performing more than fifty million operations annually—the amount of harm remains substantial. Moreover, research has consistently showed that at least half our deaths and major complications are avoidable. The knowledge exists. But however supremely specialized and trained we may have become, steps are still missed. Mistakes are still made.

9. On October 30, 1935, at Wright Air Field in Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army Air Corps held a flight competition for airplane manufacturers vying to build the military’s next-generation long-range bomber. In early evaluations, the Boeing Corporation’s gleaming aluminum-alloy Model 299 had trounced the designs of Martin and Douglas. Boeing’s plane could carry five times as many bombs as the army had requested; it could fly faster than previous bombers and almost twice as far.

10. A small crowd of army brass and manufacturing executives watched as the Model 299 test plane taxied onto the runway. The plane roared down the tarmac, lifted off smoothly, and climbed sharply to three hundred feet. Then it stalled, turned on one wing, and crashed in a fiery explosion. 

11. An investigation revealed that nothing mechanical had gone wrong. The crash had been due to “pilot error,” the report said. Substantially more complex than previous aircraft, the new plane required the pilot to attend to the four engines, each with its own oil-fuel mix, the retractable landing gear, the wing flaps, electric trim tabs that needed adjustment to maintain stability at different airspeeds, and constant-speed propellers whose pitch had to be regulated with hydraulic controls, among other features.

12. The army air corps declared Douglas’s smaller design the winner. Boeing nearly went bankrupt. 

13. What they decided not to do was almost as interesting as what they actually did. They did not require Model 299 pilots to undergo longer training. Instead, they came up with an ingeniously simple approach: they created a pilot’s checklist.

14. The test pilots made their list simple, brief, and to the point—short enough to fit on an index card, with step-by-step checks for takeoff, flight, landing, and taxiing. It had the kind of stuff that all pilots know to do. They check that the brakes are released, that the instruments are set, that the door and windows are closed, that the elevator controls are unlocked—dumb stuff. You wouldn’t think it would make that much difference. But with the checklist in hand, the pilots went on to fly the Model 299 a total of 1.8 million miles without one accident.

15. Much of our work today has entered its own B-17 phase. Substantial parts of what software designers, financial managers, firefighters, police officers, lawyers, and most certainly clinicians do are now too complex for them to carry out reliably from memory alone. Multiple fields, in other words, have become too much airplane for one person to fly.

16. In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events.

17. Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

18. Checklists seem to provide protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.

19. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths and saved two million dollars in costs.

20. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the ICU create their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

21. These checklists accomplished what checklists elsewhere have done, Pronovost observed. They helped with memory recall and clearly set out the minimum necessary steps in a process.

22. Theory: under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided—and even enhanced—by procedure.

23. There are good checklists and bad, Boorman explained. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on. 

24. Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

25. When you’re making a checklist, Boorman explained, you have a number of key decisions. You must define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used (unless the moment is obvious, like when a warning light goes on or an engine fails). You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. 

26. The checklist cannot be lengthy. A rule of thumb some use is to keep it to between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory. Boorman didn’t think one had to be religious on this point.

27. But after about sixty to ninety seconds at a given pause point, the checklist often becomes a distraction from other things. People start “shortcutting.” Steps get missed. So you want to keep the list short by focusing on what he called “the killer items”—the steps that are most dangerous to skip and sometimes overlooked nonetheless.

28. Ideally, it should fit on one page. It should be free of clutter and unnecessary colors. It should use both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading. (He went so far as to recommend using a sans serif type like Helvetica.)

29. No matter how careful we might be, no matter how much thought we might put in, a checklist has to be tested in the real world, which is inevitably more complicated than expected. First drafts always fall apart, he said, and one needs to study how, make changes, and keep testing until the checklist works consistently.

30. It is common to misconceive how checklists function in complex lines of work. They are not comprehensive how-to guides, whether for building a skyscraper or getting a plane out of trouble. They are quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals. And by remaining swift and usable and resolutely modest, they are saving thousands upon thousands of lives.

31. Pabrai has studied every deal Buffett and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, have made—good or bad—and read every book he could find about them. He even pledged $650,000 at a charity auction to have lunch with Buffett. “Warren,” Pabrai said—and after a $650,000 lunch, I guess first names are in order—“Warren uses a ‘mental checklist’ process” when looking at potential investments.

30 Highlights from "Spark : How exercise will improve the performance of your brain" By Dr. John Ratey

1.       In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection. —Plato

2.       It was already known that exercise increases levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine—important neurotransmitters that traffic in thoughts and emotions.

3.       They don’t know that toxic levels of stress erode the connections between the billions of nerve cells in the brain or that chronic depression shrinks certain areas of the brain. And they don’t know that, conversely, exercise unleashes a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors that can reverse this process, physically bolstering the brain’s infrastructure. In fact, the brain responds like muscles do, growing with use, withering with inactivity.

4.       It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes. They bear names such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and they provide an unprecedented view of the mind-body connection.

5.       In October of 2000 researchers from Duke University made the New York Times with a study showing that exercise is better than sertraline (Zoloft) at treating depression.

6.       If exercise came in pill form, it would be plastered across the front page, hailed as the blockbuster drug of the century.

7.       In Naperville, Illinois, gym class has transformed the student body of nineteen thousand into perhaps the fittest in the nation. Among one entire class of sophomores, only 3 percent were overweight, versus the national average of 30 percent. What’s more surprising—stunning—is that the program has also turned those students into some of the smartest in the nation. In 1999 Naperville’s eighth graders were among some 230,000 students from around the world who took an international standards test called TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), which evaluates knowledge of math and science. In recent years, students in China, Japan, and Singapore have outpaced American kids in these crucial subjects, but Naperville is the conspicuous exception: when its students took the TIMSS, they finished sixth in math and first in the world in science.

8.        Few researchers have tackled the question, although one study from Virginia Tech showed that cutting gym class and allocating more time to math, science, and reading did not improve test scores, as so many school administrators assume it will. Because gym class can mean so many things, research in this area has focused on the correlation between physical fitness and academic achievement. The most telling studies come from the California Department of Education (CDE). Over the past five years, the CDE has consistently shown that students with higher fitness scores also have higher test scores.

9.       In 2001 fit kids scored twice as well on academic tests as their unfit peers. Among California’s 279,000 ninth graders, for instance, those who scored a six on the FitnessGram ranked, on average, in the sixty-seventh percentile in math and the forty-fifth percentile in reading on the Stanford Achievement Test. If these scores seem less than stellar, consider those of the students who passed only one of the six areas: they ranked in the thirty-fifth and twenty-first percentiles, respectively.

10.   Indeed, studies suggest that simply getting on the scale every morning improves the likelihood that someone who’s overweight will shed pounds.

11.   In 2005 the physical education staff expanded gym from one class a week to forty-five minutes a day, focused almost entirely on cardiovascular activity. In the span of one school year, the students’ fitness levels improved dramatically, and counselors reported that the number of incidents involving violence at Woodland decreased decreased from 228 to 95 for the year.

12.   I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters—along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain.

13.   Only a mobile creature needs a brain, points out New York University neurophysiologist Rodolfo Llinás in his 2002 book, I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self. To illustrate, he uses the example of a tiny jellyfish-like animal called a sea squirt: Born with a simple spinal cord and a three hundred–neuron “brain,” the larva motors around in the shallows until it finds a nice patch of coral on which to put down its roots. It has about twelve hours to do so, or it will die. Once safely attached, however, the sea squirt simply eats its brain. For most of its life, it looks much more like a plant than an animal, and since it’s not moving, it has no use for its brain. Llinás’s interpretation: “That which we call thinking is the evolutionary internalization of movement.”

14.   Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF.

15.   Learning and memory evolved in concert with the motor functions that allowed our ancestors to track down food, so as far as our brains are concerned, if we’re not moving, there’s no real need to learn anything.

16.   One thing scientists know for sure is that you can’t learn difficult material while you’re exercising at high intensity because blood is shunted away from the prefrontal cortex, and this hampers your executive function.

17.    An imbalance of these neurotransmitters is why some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) come across as stress junkies. They have to get stressed to focus.

18.   If you exercise or even just socialize, you’re tapping into the evolutionary antidote to stress.

19.   Studies show that if researchers exercise rats that have been chronically stressed, that activity makes the hippocampus grow back to its preshriveled state. The mechanisms by which exercise changes how we think and feel are so much more effective than donuts, medicines, and wine. When you say you feel less stressed out after you go for a swim, or even a fast walk, you are.

20.   Just keep in mind that the more stress you have, the more your body needs to move to keep your brain running smoothly.

21.   A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing.

22.    Exercise also boosts dopamine, which improves mood and feelings of wellness and jump-starts the attention system. Dopamine is all about motivation and attention. Studies have shown that chronic exercise increases dopamine storage in the brain and also triggers the production of enzymes that create dopamine receptors in the reward center of the brain, and this provides a feeling of satisfaction when we have accomplished something.

23.   A study in London in 2004 showed that even ten minutes of exercise could blunt an alcoholic’s craving.

24.   The fact that exercise counteracts anxiety and depression directly can have a huge impact on any form of addiction, as both of these mood states undermine treatment.

25.   And while I often suggest that people exercise in the morning, if your goal is to break a habit such as having a drink every night when you come home, exercising in the evening is probably a better strategy. You can use the aerobic shot for a different kind of buzz.

26.   Specifically, every fifty minutes of weekly exercise correlated to a 50 percent drop in the odds of being depressed.

27.   Population studies have shown that countries in which people eat a lot of fish have lower incidence of bipolar disorder. And some people use omega-3s as a stand-alone treatment for mood disorders and ADHD.

28.   AEROBIC. Exercise four days a week, varying from thirty minutes to an hour, at 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. At this level, you’ll be burning fat in the body and generating the ingredients necessary for all the structural changes in the brain I’ve discussed.

29.   STRENGTH. Hit the weights or resistance machines twice a week, doing three sets of your exercises at weights that allows you to do ten to fifteen repetitions in each set.

30.   BALANCE AND FLEXIBILITY. Focus on these abilities twice a week for thirty minutes or so. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, martial arts, and dance all involve these skills, which are important to staying agile.


In a former life, I often played poker.  A key concept that bad poker players fail to grasp is the concept of avoiding ruin. If one is to be a good poker player, one needs to be sufficiently bankrolled.  One should only spend a small fraction of their bankroll at each game. For instance if one's bankroll is $1000 and they bet all of it on chance of tripling their money with a 50% chance of winning, half the time they will lose that bet be ruined, ie broken.  A better strategy is to bet $1 with a chance of winning $3 at 50% probability, so that if you were to lose the $1 you will still have $999 more to lose and eventually if you continue playing your $1000 would have tripled without ruin.

This concept can also be applied in life, risk little at a time.  When one innovates the goal is to extract some measure of value from the innovation, but there is always some risk involved.  As an example, you came up with a idea for a website, a site dedicated to cats wearing top-hats.  The risk you are taking are two fold, social and financial.  You could be laughed at for the rest of your days ie social risk and also the monies spending on developing and marketing the site could be lost if the website doesn't recoup a profit ie financial risk.  It is hard to assess the risk one can take reputation, thus it would be more valuable to assess one's financial risk.

A very conservative bankroll in poker is 200 times the max buy-in for one game, ie you would need to lose 200 games or more to lose your bankroll. My proposition is that when one undertakes a venture, he should be able to do it 200+ times without ruin, also the venture he undertakes would be sufficient profitable that it would pay for any loses sustained.

In essence, we are looking for opportunities with little risk with enormous pay off.  Such opportunities tend to come with a high risk of failure on each individual attempt.  Consider singing, each time a singer creates a song, it very unlikely it will become a hit, but if it does it will have enormous pay off. In ones lifetime one could make thousand of songs. It's opportunities like this in which one should seek to engage oneself.

Other examples of opportunities with little risk and enormous pay off:

1. Creating and selling Utility Software

2. Small Game Development

3. Writing blog[<---me]

4. Writing and selling short stories/novels/books

5. Writing and selling tutorials[<--I should try this]

6. Prove a mathematical theorem

7. Create Artificial General Intelligence[<---also me]

40 Highlights From 7 Easy Ways to Say NO to Difficult People by Stephanie Sterner

1. Those who care about you will understand your need to put yourself first once in a while. And those who don’t will struggle to deal with the new you: someone who can no longer be intimidated by a look, a tone of voice, or an unrealistic demand. This new you will quickly learn how to respond to different types of people and situations without sacrificing what matters to you: your time, your relationships, and your good feelings about yourself.

2. The world is full of people who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want … no matter how unreasonable the request may be. And they know that the world is also full of people who will give them what they want – with a bit of persistence.

3.In our sometimes desperate need to feel good about ourselves, we make choices that don’t serve us. We want others to like us, and we want to believe that we’re good people. When others approve of us (as they will when we do things for them that they have no right to expect), we temporarily feel better. Guilt is replaced by a sense of relief. “I really am a good person!”

4. But trying to keep everyone happy keeps you miserable. When you need someone’s approval, that person has power over you. When you want to avoid conflict, anyone who’s willing to argue has power over you. If you’re going to take your life back, you’ll need to let go of the idea that everyone must be (or even can be) happy. You’ll need to be willing to move out of your comfort zone when necessary.

5. Setting boundaries allows you to see what your relationships are really based on – friendship or convenience. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who are only with you because it’s convenient – because you consistently put their needs ahead of your own?

6. The 1st Easy Way Buy Yourself Some Time 

7. Often we put pressure on ourselves (or succumb to the pressure of others) to make an instant decision, to know exactly what we can and cannot do without any time for contemplation. While some decisions may be that simple (“ Hey, wanna go grab a pizza?”), others are not. When the decision isn’t a simple one, give yourself whatever time you need.

8. Once you commit to something, you’ll find it difficult to un-commit.

9. It can be tough to find the words in the moment, so here are some great ways to give yourself the gift of time: 

   a. Let me see how my day goes. 

   b. I’ll let you know tomorrow. 

   c. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you this afternoon. 

   d. I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that. 

   e. I’ll let you know in the morning. 

   f. I’ll need to check my other commitments. 

   g. Please send me an email with the details. 

   h. I’m taking a friend to the airport tomorrow, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it. 

   i. Can I check my schedule and get back to you in the morning? 

   j. Co-signing a loan is more than a formality. It affects what I can borrow in the future. Let me know the details and I’ll think about it. 

   k. I’ll need to give that some thought. Let’s talk about it on Monday. 

   l. I feel uncomfortable agreeing to that, but I’m not sure why. Let me think about it and get back to you.

   m. Send me your business plan and I’ll think about it. 

   n. I can’t even think about the weekend yet. Ask me again on Thursday morning.

10.Over-explaining is a way of giving away your power. It gives the other person something to argue with. This tactic can be used to wear you down, whether you’re explaining your need for more time or the reason for your final decision. Don’t give your power to someone who will disrespect it.

11. Stating that you’re not sure you feel comfortable lets the person know that you may come back with a no.

12. The downside of this option is that someone who is less interested in your wellbeing may take the opportunity to pressure you. A “friend” (whom you see at social gatherings but don’t spend any one-on-one time with) may immediately want to know why you’re not comfortable. Don’t fall for this! When someone who isn’t close to you wants to know why you might not do something, it’s most likely the beginning of a long “debate.” Don’t let someone you hardly know talk you into doing something you don’t feel good about. If someone asks why, you can give a general response that simply reiterates your possible discomfort and your commitment to responding: 

I’m just not sure. I’ll let you know in the morning.

13. Repetition, as you’ll see later on, is a fairly powerful way of stating your boundary. It lets the other person know that you’re not backing off.

14. When the other person has authority over you, asking is a way of acknowledging their position. When the relationship is important for other reasons (as it is with those close to you), asking can be a nice way to communicate that. 

15. When the other person isn’t close to you and doesn’t have authority over you, asking permission is seldom a good idea. It gives the other person power over you – a power that they haven’t earned and may abuse.

16. The 2nd Easy Way Think Outside the Box

17. Rather than thinking about what you don’t want, shift your thinking to what you do want.

18.Look for Other Options Your brother wants you to babysit on Friday night. You have a good relationship with him; you enjoy spending time with his children. And he doesn’t ask you for much, so you’d like to help. But you work long hours during the week, and by Friday you’re tired. Friday night is your night. You don’t want to give it to anyone – especially if it means tiring yourself out even more! You want a quiet Friday evening, but you also want to help your brother. So start with the basics: What’s happening on Friday night? Your brother wants to surprise his wife and take her to a concert. (She loves classical music.) He chose Friday because it would be nice for them to relax at the end of the week. Now that you understand his needs, it’s time to express yours. I’d love to help; you and Susan certainly deserve a night to yourselves, and I love spending time with the kids. But Fridays are difficult for me. I feel drained at the end of the week, and I really need the time to relax and recharge. I’d feel overwhelmed by the kids instead of enjoying the time with them. What about Saturday night? Would that work for you? Saturday is probably fine. And if it isn’t, keep looking for more options. Maybe Mom can join you, so that you won’t feel so overwhelmed (not ideal, but maybe you’re willing to do it for your brother). Or maybe your brother can take his children to other relatives or friends who would be happy to look after them. You don’t have to be physically present for the solution. Just help your brother to get what matters to him while still respecting your own needs. Thinking out of the box is an important skill.

19. The trick is to understand what everyone wants and find a solution that honors everyone – including you. Often this is easier than it seems. And when it isn’t … well, there are still five more tips to help you keep those important boundaries in place!

20. The 3rd Easy Way Recognize Flattery for What It Is

21. “I know I can count on you when I’m in a pinch. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I can’t help you this time. But you’ll do just fine without me. The relevant facts are simple: you’re not available, and although your assistance makes things easier, it’s not necessary.

22. This tactic contains a double whammy: the power of flattery and the power of guilt. He knows he can count on you because you’ve bailed him out before – far too many times, in fact. Taking responsibility for someone else’s mistakes on a regular basis is not a badge of honor. It’s a pattern that leads to anger and resentment – and often prevents us from doing the things that truly matter to us.

23. The 4th Easy Way No Excuses, No Justifications

24.  Some people will use anything you say against you. When you give them a reason, they’ll come up with a way to rearrange your life so that you can still accommodate them.

25. So don’t say so much. Making excuses means handing your power to others; it suggests you must justify yourself to them. Unless you’re dealing with someone in authority, say as little as possible. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you’ll regret later.

26. Here are some ways to hold on to your power and just say no: 

    I can’t help you with that. 

    I won’t be there. 

    You’ll have to manage without me this time. 

 I’d really like to help you get that job. But I’m just not willing to recommend someone who doesn’t have the experience they require. This may sound like an excuse, but it isn’t. It’s a clear statement of where your boundary lies. “I don’t really know him so well,” is an excuse – unless it’s the primary reason you’re uncomfortable with the request. In that case, consider a stronger statement: 

I don’t know him well enough to contact him about this. It wouldn’t be appropriate. 

I’m not taking on any more commitments for a couple of weeks. 

If you still need help after the 15th, talk to me then and I’ll see what I can do. 

27. If the attempts continue, simply repeat your decision, either in the same words or with something similar: 

    I [still] can’t help you. 

    I won’t be there. 

    I understand. And you’ll have to manage without me. 

    I’m sorry, but it’s just not appropriate. 

    If you still need help after the 15th, I’ll see what I can do

28. What if they keep insisting?

29. With a bit of practice, you’ll need excuses less and less. Excuses are another way of giving away your power. When the relationship doesn’t justify it, making excuses tells the other person that you want him to be satisfied with your decision; you need his approval – which he can (and often will) withhold.

30. The 5th Easy Way Handle Manipulation Directly

31. If you’re susceptible to guilt, the people who know this have a degree of power over you. They’ve learned through experience that you’ll give them what they want in order to make that horrible feeling go away. Here are some examples, along with some ways to stop them in their tracks:


“You’re the only one who will help me. No one else cares.” 

This is a classic “poor me” scenario, with you as the hero. If you feel sorry for the underdog, then this one will pull on your heartstrings. Watch out or you’ll feel terribly sorry for this poor victim ... and painfully guilty until you agree to do whatever he’s asking.

32. “How can you be so selfish?” What this really means is, “How can you put your needs before mine?” Take a deep breath and remind yourself of this. With this understanding, all sorts of great responses come to mind. Here are just a few:

     a. I’m not going to feel guilty for putting my needs ahead of yours once in a while. Here you’re using the “g” word. You’ve named the tactic and directly stated that you won’t be giving in to it. You’ve also suggested that you’ve put the other person first more often than you should. It doesn’t get much clearer than this.


      b. I’ve done this out of guilt for years. My dues are more than paid. There’s that “g” word again! You’ve made it clear that your guilt has passed its sell-by date. Using it to manipulate you just won’t work.

33. Obligations don’t last forever. At some point you’ve done enough. It’s up to you to decide when you’ve reached that point. And it’s up to you to choose how to repay your obligations.

34. The 6th Easy Way Handle Manipulation Politely

35. Sometimes you don’t want to be that direct – either because you’re worried about the consequences, or because you have a strong need to be polite. Some of us just can’t be that direct (even when the other person’s behavior is beyond inappropriate). Sometimes we simply aren’t willing to face the likely political consequences.

36. “How can you be so selfish?” 

Remember that this really means, “How can you put your needs before mine?” Once you’ve taken that deep breath and reminded yourself of this, here are some more subtle ways to let people know that this strategy just won’t work with you:

Sometimes I need to put my own needs first. This is one of those times. You’ve restated the situation in your own terms and made it clear that you won’t accept the other’s arbitrary labels. You haven’t come out and accused the speaker of guilt-tripping, but you’ve still made it quite clear that you’re not falling for that trick. 

How interesting ... I’m actually starting to feel guilty about putting my own needs first. I guess I’m just not used to it yet. Let me know if you need anything after the 15th, and I’ll see what I can do. Then leave, hang up or (if neither of these is an option) change the subject. You’ve made your point: this attempt to make me feel guilty isn’t working, even though I do feel uncomfortable. I see what you’re up to. And I’m maintaining my boundary in spite of the discomfort. What makes these responses less direct – and more polite? In both cases, you’ve put everything in terms of yourself. There are no accusations, no statements about the inappropriateness of the other person’s actions, statements or feelings. The focus is on you, so wounded egos and aggressive responses are less likely.

37. The 7th Easy Way The Broken Record Technique 

38. The broken record technique can be used to reinforce any of the previous techniques. It’s most appropriate when you’ve stated your decision clearly and someone is still trying to talk you out of it. It’s also great for someone who just won’t take no for an answer.

This technique consists of repeating something over and over, until the other person finally figures out that you really mean it. 

39. The formula is simple: 

     a. State your decision simply, clearly and firmly. Your words, your tone and the expression on your face should all say the same thing: Yes, I really mean it. No, it’s not negotiable. 


     b. Repeat as needed.


40. When the answer is no, you don’t need to find ten different ways to say it. No is no. Nothing makes that point better than repetition.

26 Highlights from Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

1. Let's begin your first mini habit. Read at least two pages of this book every day until you finish it. You may read more than that, but never less. It won’t require much time or effort to read two pages, so there are no excuses. 

2. Big intentions are worthless if they don't bring results. For example, I can say that I will exercise for two hours every day, but if I never do it, the size of the intention doesn't matter. In fact, intention without action harms self-confidence. People have been shown in studies to chronically overestimate their self-control ability. These two simple points reveal why so many people struggle to change. They have big ambitions, but overestimate their ability to make themselves do what it takes to change. It's a mismatch between desire and ability. 

3. Doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day. How much greater? Profoundly so, because a little bit every day is enough to grow into a lifelong foundational habit, and those are a big deal, as you'll see.

4. This book exists because I did one push-up on December 28, 2012. My ability to do 16 pull-ups in a row and my improved physique result from that same push-up. I read and write every single day because of that push-up. That one push-up was the first step that led to all of these great changes in my life. Every great accomplishment rests on the foundation of what came before it; when you trace it back, you'll see one small step that started it all. Without that one push-up, I'd still be struggling to get motivated to go to the gym, and to read and write consistently. That push-up lead me to discover this new strategy, which turned into these great benefits. Are you ready to hear the story of the one small action that changed everything for me? 

5. How It Began: The One Push-up Challenge I'm thinking about naming it “the golden push-up.” It was December 28, 2012 and the new year was near.

6. Ever since my later years of high school, I had tried to make exercise a habit. But for ten years it never stuck, despite my efforts. Those aren't the types of results that instill confidence in oneself! My motivational bursts to change would usually last me about two weeks before I'd quit for one reason or another. Sometimes there was no reason; I'd just stop. Wanting to do something before the arbitrary January 1st starting point associated with resolutions, I decided to start by exercising right there on the spot for 30 minutes. But I stood motionless. I couldn’t get motivated. I went through my usual “get motivated” routine. Come on Stephen. True champions put in the extra work. I tried listening to up-tempo music, visualizing myself with a great beach body, etc. Nothing worked. I felt out of shape, lethargic, and worthless to the point that I couldn't do anything. A 30-minute workout looked like Mount Everest. The idea of exercise was wholly unappealing. I felt so defeated, and I was. It wasn't just the time or the effort of a 30-minute workout that intimidated me, it was the total amount of work I needed to put in to reach my fitness desires. It was the vast distance between here and there. A year's worth of workouts weighed on my mind. I felt guilty, overwhelmed, and discouraged before I had even done anything! The Turning Point Months earlier, I had read a fantastic creative thinking and problem-solving book called Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. One of the creative thinking “toys” he talks about is called False Faces. In False Faces, you consider the opposite of what you're currently thinking, and see what creative ideas emerge from that. A crude example: instead of building a skyscraper, what if you built a structure deep into the earth? This generates creative ideas by forcing your mind to zoom out and see the spectrum of possibilities. I had a problem to solve, and this technique popped into my head, so I thought about the opposite of a 30-minute workout. Eating ice cream and watching TV would be one opposite of exercise. Then I considered that a full 30 minutes just seemed like such a huge challenge in that moment (i.e. Everest). Another opposite, I decided, could be the workout’s size. What if, instead of this big 30-minute commitment of sweat and discomfort, I did a single push-up? I would have no requirement to do more—just one push-up.

7. The true opposite of my Mount Everest workout. I laughed off the idea, literally. How pathetic! One push-up isn't going to help anything. I really need to put in more work than that! But every time I switched back to my first plan, I couldn't do it. After I got tired of failing to do the 30-minute workout, I thought, Whatever, I'll do one push-up. I got down on the ground, did one push-up, and changed my life for good. *** When I got into push-up position, I noticed it was exactly the same as the start to an actual 30-minute workout. I did my push-up; my shoulder popped, my elbows needed WD-40; it felt like my muscles were waking up from a 24-year nap. But I did a few more since I was already in position. Every push-up was an annoyance to my underused muscles and stubborn brain. As I stood up, I concluded that it was better than nothing. Mind you, I still felt like quitting at this point. But then I had the idea to set another small challenge of one pull-up. It was too easy to turn down. I got my pull-up bar set up and did one. Then I did a few more. Interesting, I thought, this is hard, but not as hard as I was making it out to be. My muscles were warming up. My motivation to do more had definitely increased, but it was so low to start with (and I was so out of shape) that I still had plenty of internal resistance. I continued on with the same strategy, going as small as necessary to continue. During one push-up session in my workout, I had to set seven micro goals like so: ok, one more, ok, two more, now one more. Every time I baited myself with a beyond-easy challenge, I met or exceeded it. It felt nice to hit my targets, however small. When I finished, I had exercised for 20 minutes, and felt great about it. 

8. Mini habits are for good habits only—adding positive behaviors to your life to enrich it for years. Breaking bad habits and making good habits do have the same goal—replacing a default behavior with a better behavior. With bad habits, your primary motivation for change is an away response from something bad. With good habits, your primary motivation for change is a toward response to something good. Mini habits focuses on the toward response.

9. A mini habit is basically a much smaller version of a new habit you want to form. 100 push-ups daily is minified into one push-up daily. Writing 3,000 words daily becomes writing 50 words daily. Thinking positively all the time becomes thinking two positive thoughts per day. Living an entrepreneurial lifestyle becomes thinking of two ideas per day (among other entrepreneurial things). The foundation of the Mini Habits system is in “stupid small” steps. The concept of small steps is nothing new, but how and why they work have not been adequately dissected. Of course, small steps are relative too; a small step for you could be a giant leap for me. Saying “stupid small” clarifies it, because if a step sounds stupid relative to the most you can do, it's perfect. The power of the Mini Habits system is in the application, mindset, built-in positive feedback looping, naturally increasing self-efficacy, and of course, leveraging small steps into habits. This will be explained, but it's also built in; it's a simple system with a complex, smart backing. The way we act on these mini habits is by using a small amount of willpower to force ourselves to do them. It doesn't take a lot of willpower to do one push-up or come up with a couple of ideas. The benefit from following the Mini Habits system is surprisingly big results. First, there's a great chance that you'll do “bonus reps” after you meet your small requirement. This is because we already desire these positive behaviors, and starting them reduces internal resistance. 

10. The second benefit is the routine. Even if you don't exceed your small requirement, the behavior will begin to become a (mini) habit. From there, do bonus reps or scale the habit up. Another benefit is constant success. A bank may be too big to fail, but mini habits are too small to fail; and so they lack the common destructive feelings of guilt and inadequacy that come with goal failure. This is one of the very few systems that practically guarantees success every day thanks to a potent encouragement spiral and always-attainable targets. Mini habits have made me feel unstoppable; prior to starting mini habits, I felt unstartable. To summarize, a mini habit is a VERY small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day. Small steps work every time, and habits are built by consistency, so the two were meant to be together. Hey, it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

11. To summarize, a mini habit is a VERY small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day.

12.  A Duke University study concluded that about 45% of our behavior is from habit. They are even more important than this 45% stake suggests, because habits are frequently repeated behaviors (often daily), and this repetition adds up to big benefits or big damage in the long run.

13.  The most-cited viable study on habit formation duration was published in 2009 in the European Journal Of Social Psychology. Each participant chose an “eating, drinking or activity behavior to carry out daily in the same context (for example ‘after breakfast’) for 12 weeks.” And what did they find?  The average time for a behavior to become habit was 66 days. But the range was wild, from 18 to 254 days, showing that there is huge variation in people's time to reach habit automaticity, and that it can end up taking a very long time in some cases. 21- and 30-day challenges are popular, but they're highly unlikely to form many types of habits. Drinking a glass of water every day could fall into the 21-day window, but something more challenging like 100 sit-ups daily could take a couple hundred days or more to become habit.  That's the bad news. The good news is that habits aren't snap on, snap off—if you do 100 sit-ups for 60 days, day 61 will be much easier for you than day one was, even if it isn't completely automatic yet. Building a habit is like riding a bike up a steep incline that levels out, peaks, and goes down.To start, you have to push with all the force your legs can muster. It gets progressively easier after that, but you must keep pedaling until you reach the top of the hill or you'll go backwards and lose your progress.

14. Repetition is the language of the (subconscious) brain.

15. So really, the two keys to habit change as far as the brain is concerned are repetition and reward. It will be more willing to repeat something when there is a reward. 

16. Stress has been shown to increase habitual behavior—for better or worse! Two experiments at UCLA and one at Duke University found that stress increased people's gravitation toward habitual behavior. Based on her study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,  Professor Wendy Wood argues: “People can’t make decisions easily when stressed, are low in willpower or feeling overwhelmed. When you are too tired to make a decision, you tend to just repeat what you usually do.” This holds true for both good and bad habits and is a crucial insight for their importance in our lives.

17. The human brain is slow-changing and stable; it has routines and a framework that allow it to respond consistently to the world. Having a slow-changing brain is frustrating at times, but overall, it's highly beneficial. Imagine if your personality and life could transform overnight—you would go crazy!

18. The only way to create habits is to teach the rest of your brain to like what the prefrontal cortex wants. The prefrontal cortex is what resists chocolate cake (if at all possible), wants to learn French, wants to be fit, and would like to write a book someday. It's the conscious part of your brain that you'd identify as “you.”
But the problem is that it tires out easily. Perhaps more accurately, because its functions are so powerful, it's an energy hog that tires you out. And when you tire out (or are stressed, as we covered), the repetitious part takes over. The basal ganglia isn't conscious or aware of higher-level goals that are unique to humans. But it is an efficient pattern-repeater that saves us energy. So while it may not be “intelligent” like the prefrontal cortex, it is an incredibly important part of the brain. And once we train the basal ganglia to do positive behaviors automatically, we're really going to love it.


When motivation is at its peak (lower right corner), willpower cost is zero or negligible. That's because you don't need to force yourself to do something you already really want to do. But when motivation drops to zero, strong internal resistance means that the willpower “cost” is high (upper left corner, where willpower cost is 100 and motivation is 0).

20. A destructive habit to have is believing that you have to be motivated to act.

21. The five biggest factors found to cause ego depletion were effort, perceived difficulty, negative affect, subjective fatigue, and blood glucose levels.

22. Result with mini habits: very little ego depletion.

23. Many times, I have planned to “just write my 50” and ended up writing 3,000 words. As I mentioned earlier, I once wrote 1,000 words with a headache and no energy. I felt like Superman after doing that. I looked back on the times I was completely healthy and energetic but wasted time, and then saw what I did with a headache and no energy, and got even more excited to share this book with the world.

24. Another interesting and encouraging anecdote in favor of mini habits is related to Allen Carr's book titled The Easy Way To Quit Smoking. Carr’s book has produced greater-than-expected results for helping people quit smoking. And do you know what the basic technique is? Do you know what the difference between Carr’s book and most other quit smoking strategies is? Rick Paulas discusses the surprising success in his article about the book: What’s most shocking about the book’s contents is perhaps what’s missing. There are no stats about lung cancer, heart attacks, or strokes.

25. Carr’s five-hour seminar based on the book has a 53.3% success rate, and that absolutely blows other methods out of the water (other methods have a roughly 10-20% success rate). It’s surprising, because it’s just information. It isn’t hands on. It’s not a patch that delivers nicotine to the bloodstream. And the secret? The key ingredient? The magic? He gets smokers to believe, consciously and subconsciously, that quitting smoking is easy. When you believe, as many do, that quitting smoking is so hard—doesn't it make sense that maybe your own mind is making it difficult? Mini habits make you believe that adding healthy behaviors is easy.

26. Be the person with embarrassing goals and impressive results instead of one of the many people with impressive goals and embarrassing results.