Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

So Good they Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

so good they can't ignore you

This is an important book and I can’t think of one person who wouldn’t gain something from reading it.

I first got introduced to Cal’s work when I read his most recent book called “Deep Work” where he makes a case for going deep into the work we do, outlining the best ways to go about that and the benefits. This book both provides the background for “Deep Work,” as well as expands its importance.

I’ve already come across tons of people who want to pursue their passion. Who have a slight idea of what that passion is and they’re convinced that ultimately, this is what’s gonna bring them happiness. Once they can align the work they do with the thing they’re passionate about, their lives will be complete. That same group of people usually scoffs when I say that I’m not really sure if I have one of those passions they love to talk about. There are things I like to do, but I don’t have the same inclination they do to drop everything and dedicate myself full time to my website, or whatever other thing.

Instead, I want to keep improving, to keep learning. I want to hone my skills to the point where they’re invaluable and if I feel like dropping everything after that, I’ll have enough experience to know what I’m doing.

Little did I know this book would simply reaffirm those beliefs.

I’m always a little skeptical to review books that align so well with what I think, it feels unfair in a way. In this case, though, it gets hard to argue with the case studies shown.

Personal Development

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“Hold yourself to the highest standard you can and watch the improvement pour as you struggle to reach it.”
—Ryan Holiday

I talk, think about and do a lot of personal development. I like to change, evolve and become a better person, but sometimes I forget exactly in which ways I’m looking to develop myself. It’s easy to say we should “be the best version of ourselves” without really knowing what that entails.

The great thing is that we get to decide what the best version of ourselves is. Anything we do is a choice, so in a day we might realize we have time to either work out or read. We might be able to either learn a new craft or a new professional skill, and ultimately those things shape who we are and who we become. I’m neither wise nor stupid, I’m someone looking to learn. I’m neither in the best shape I possibly could nor overweight, I’m training every day to improve. There are things I could be doing instead of reading or working out. I could be writing for more hours a day than I do, I could be dedicating more time to my studies than I do.

Each and every person has the same amount of potential, what separates us as people is to which extent we can put this potential into the world. I would argue that anyone, and I do mean anyone, has the potential to near the top 5% of at least one particular activity, which is of course defined by their natural inclinations and opportunities. What gives us problems is forgetting that. What gives us the most trouble is choosing poorly and laying in bed with our smartphones all day and eating frozen pizza instead of getting up and learning to cook. It’s mindlessly surfing reddit instead of reading a book. It’s not choosing how we spend our time wisely.

We have very little time in this world. Our current culture is so disconnected from the idea of death that most don’t realize they will even die, until it hits a loved one (who even then will probably pass away in a hospital, away from everyone). Who can feel motivated to use their time in such a situation? When we all think we’re invincible?

It’s not our thoughts that shape who we are, it’s our actions. What we do today defines who we’ll be tomorrow. It’s only worth it to wonder about our futures and or who we could be as long as we also take actions today to become that person, to have that life we dream of.

Clarity in our thoughts is important, but I make a stronger case for clarity in our actions.

To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

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I was meaning to read this book for quite some time now and after finishing I’m quite sure I’ll be going back to it every so often.

The concept of sales fascinates me. Both the regular one and the “non-sales selling” Pink mentions. It wasn’t hard for him to convince me of his thesis that just about everyone nowadays works on sales because that is something I myself believed in already.

Much like his previous book, “Drive,” I was delighted to see that Pink didn’t hold back from naming his sources and backing his arguments with scientific studies. If that wasn’t enough, he finishes all chapters with very practical advice condensed into the last few pages.

Suffice to say I can’t wait to use a few of the ideas I got from this book in the workshops I’ll be facilitating over the rest of this year.

The Way of the Warrior – The Samurai

6890323608_bc1af1b1fe_oWhy are the samurai romanticized as much as they are? What is so special about this class of Japanese warriors? Why do people still to this day try to keep the art (kenjutsu) alive?

To lay all my biases on the table, I’ll start by saying that I’m a big fan of samurais. Since I was very young I remember going crazy over animes about them, playing with swords and pretending I was one. Of course it was only after several years that I started reading about them in detail and going into what it really meant to be a samurai. This is probably the single class of warriors I respect the most and their views resonate very strongly with me.

Why is that, though?

Deep Work by Cal Newport

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There are times when the simple experience of reading a book proves its points. I started this book about halfway through a train trip on the way to an orientation camp I was leading and before I got back home at the end of the weekend, I was done reading.

Such orientation camps take up a lot of time, I joke saying I “have no weekend” whenever I have to lead one, even though it’s volunteer work, just because I don’t have time for anything else and never really “turn off” from all the tasks involved–making sure the program is running smoothly, taking care of the team and getting us in the same page, organizing the activities and debriefing them, socializing with the participants, etc–except for late at night when I go to sleep. I usually fall off track on my reading whenever I travel but this time, I got ahead.

I started reading and saw the value in it, so I immediately started applying, figured there was no better opportunity than that. I decided to dedicate all of my attention to whatever was happening at the moment, to whatever was most important at the moment. Turned off my cellphone and left it in my room, even though I’m supposed to have it with me at all times to be “reachable.” Nobody ever had to call me during these weekends, so I didn’t think it would be different during those times.

When I had to write the protocol, I was in my room, free from distractions, no internet connection, just me and evernote. When having a team meeting it was me, my notes and the other volunteers. In the early mornings and late evenings before going to bed, me and the book. During the train trips, me and the book.

It’s not hard to see the value of going deep when you find yourself in a situation like that one. If the book were only 1/3 of its length, I would have already given it the best rating just for getting me to experience it first hand. But it even goes deeper (heh) than that and shows us how to apply the concepts to our lives with more ease.

All I can say is, I can’t wait to get myself a nice old cabin in the Norwegian fjords and spend a few weeks there undisturbed. Soon.

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