A collection of shorter posts and half-formed ideas. Extracts from my daily writing. Somewhere between diary entry and ‘publishable’ essay.

29 May 2024

17:13 — don’t do it for the money.

Similar to the don’t lie to yourself piece.

Sure the money helps.

“Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.” - Zig Ziglar

I have to agree. I went through a bumpy patch last year with the move to self-employment. I was a bit naive. I thought I would just replace my previous income immediately, but it took a while to find client and build up a network. I learned a lot. I think you need to do things that give you stability and comfort. It put strain on my relationships. I also had to say no to a lot of things because of financial constraints e.g. golf games and Rugby World Cup matches. This wasn’t fun.


I would still say money isn’t the right metric to use when deciding on doing things.

It will land you a job that pays well to finance your lifestyle, but a job you don’t love.

It will make you sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains. E.g. forgoing the dream to write a book by getting a job in the bookshop instead. Swapping out uncertainty (and potential upside) for stability now.

It’s a never-ending chase. Ok so you made money this year, what’s the next goal? More money?

So while it’s important, I think it’s a bad guiding principle when deciding what you’d like to do with your life.

Look this is nothing new. Jesus said you can’t take your earthly belongings to heaven. And there are many quotes on this:

“After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.” – Italian Proverb

Meaning in death we are all equal, so why do we chase temporary, foolish things like money while we are alive?

So what have we established so far? That money is important, but it’s not everything.

I think the ultimate overlap would be something like this:

You follow your purpose, you do what you love, people see this, you spread good energy, the world works in your favour, you are rewarded for your talent, the money follows naturally.

This is the dream.

Chasing money (with no purpose) means you don’t ever reach the dream. You’re stuck in the nightmare.

Chasing only love and purpose but not making money also sucks, but there is a world in which you can get into the dream. You become so good

I suppose the same is true for the money route. First, you make the money and then use the money for good. Build your foundation, sponsor a school, go sailing across the world.

I just wonder if the money route might not keep you in the nightmare for longer. Maybe you lose your purpose on the route.

There are two worlds:

To be continued…

16:40 — Demon Copperhead is sad as hell (I even sound like him now).

A book about the oxycontin crisis that raged in America in the 1990s.

Fun fact: the book (written by Barbara Kingsolver) is an ode to David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It plays off two centuries later in Virginia instead of London.

The main character is a foster kid raised by a single mother who dies from a pill overdose. He gets moved around a lot between foster homes, all of them pretty bad until he finds a home with the local school’s football coach. He makes the team and he starts building a solid life.

Until he gets an injury (prescription: oxy) and falls for a gall with a dope (oxy then heroin problem). I couldn’t believe it as I was reading it. How in love he was with her and how she got him to “chase the dragon”. This good kid who had such a hard life and was finally coming out of the woods, only to be pulled straight back into the depths of drug addiction (and all the sordid things that go with it - robbing, cheating, flunking out, disappointing people, death).

Funny as it sounds, that scene actually made me depressed. I know it’s a fictional character, but Demon represents lots of young people’s lives during that era. Stolen youth. Dashed dreams. Lives ruined. I couldn’t work properly on Monday. It just rocked me. He’s sort of out of the woods now, but a drug problem stays with you. Such a shame. He’s a good kid, his downfall was that he was too kind, too trusting, he just wanted to be loved. So intense.

16:37 — making this writing thing more of a habit. A non-negotiable.

What would that take?

Probably a mindset shift.

Current approach:

  • wake up

  • exercise/take dogs for a walk

  • check emails and to-dos for the day - usually a shit ton of work-related stuff

  • do the work - like a rat on a wheel

With this approach the client work takes precedence. There’s a lot to do. It also pays money so it feels justified.

But I’m missing out on something. The writing, the reflecting, the goal setting, the legacy I’m building. I can’t remember what work I did last month, let alone years ago. It’s all a blur. Some task assigned to me by someone else. Sure, I always learn on the job, build skills and whatnot. But the writing will stand the test of time.

Idea for a new approach (can I do this?):

  • wake up

  • exercise/take dogs for a walk

  • write for 30-60 minutes

  • then only open my phone and check my emails

  • do the work

This would mean completing all writing and ‘personal’ work before 9 am because most of my work engagements/meeting begin then.

Backsolving, this means waking up at 7 am latest, getting the exercise out of the way and sitting down to write by 8 am. Is that how things work? Can I summon creativity on demand? Time will tell.

But this order of priorities feels right.

Is it non-negotiable? I’m not sure sure. i think there will always be situations when I have to pull on all-nighter (so no 7 am wake-up) or where I need to jump on an urgent client request before 9 am, but I think this is a step in the right direction. It’s a good guiding principle, like not drinking on most nights, but having a beer or a glass of wine on social occasions.

16:35 — it’s been a minute.

I’ve been throwing myself at client work and neglecting the writing.

Felt like a week was lost. Crazy how the writing is a way to track time. To take account of my life and attempt to grasp it. It sounds ridiculous because we can’t hold onto anything, let alone time. But writing somehow slows it down. It allows us to hold life in snowglobe for a few minutes before it rushes on to its next stop.

22 May 2024

08:31 — two new apps I’m trying out:

  1. Oom: skip the small talk. An app that asks you and your friend questions to see where you stand on certain topics. Can see this working nicely to slice through the niceties.

  2. Open: breathwork app. Enjoying this one so far. Learning about using my breath to hype me up and calm me down. It’s got a 14-day mental detox series which I’m checking out.

The theory is interesting:

  • Fast short inhale, extended slow exhale: this causes you to calm down and relax. You are not taking in a lot of oxygen and getting rid of a lot of carbon dioxide. So your body needs to hold onto the remaining oxygen (it’s running out) by slowing down your heart rate making you calm down in the process.

  • Slow long inhale, fast burst exhale: the opposite happens. You’re taking in a lot of oxygen and not letting out a lot of carbon dioxide. Your oxygen levels increase (go out of balance) and your hear has to pump faster to burn more oxygen. Causing your heart rate to increase and you to become more alert / focused.

21 May 2024

17:05 — the wisdom in letting go.

“Very much so. Basically, the act of faith in something other than self allows you to release the tiller; to surrender. Whatever the reason for doing it, whatever name you give to the new steering agent or agency, it’s going to be a very positive change because it’s going to be the infinite and unerring intelligence of the universe that takes over.” — Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment

This book made a real impression on me.

Still processing the bigger concepts. I’ll keep tracking the quotes that stood out to me.

08:59 — on being able/open to changing your mind.

A tendency to get married to positions. There is a saying that bad traders divorce their spouse sooner than abandon their positions. Loyalty to ideas is not a good thing for traders, scientists—or anyone. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness

08:52 — on not publishing a post.

For the first time since I started writing (although maybe this has happened before), I’m going to pull the plug on a draft essay.

I wanted to write something about not deceiving yourself. How it’s important to look at yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself. I had examples from my childhood and career and I had a couple of quotes to back it up. So the structure was there, I just wasn’t feeling drawn to posting it.

I think it’s an important rule to follow in life. To keep close to reality.

But I also don’t believe it’s incredibly unique or interesting. Most people know this. There’s even a famous quote that summarises my whole essay in a sentence:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard P. Feynman

So even though I think it’s an important rule to live by, I don’t think it meets my (necessarily high) bar for publishing. I have enough ideas that are unique and spiky and revelatory. I’ll focus on getting those out.

RIP to this idea. It lets the other ideas prosper.

20 May 2024

18:10 — one more memory from Afrikaburn.

A stranger came up to me, my fiancé and a friend of ours and said:

“Can we try an experiment? This will be the hardest thing you’ll do this week. Please say saying something nice about yourself.”

Harder than you think it is - being as kind to yourself as you are to others.

After hesitating for a minute, I said I’m good with people.

It’s funny that I hesitated because I wrote an essay on Positive Self-Talk a few weeks earlier. The guy picked up on my hesitation and said I should be kinder to myself (or at least keep working on it). What a friendly gesture.

17:54 — you need to want it.

Idea for an essay.

When I’m in a meeting, I remind myself, I want it. I want the opportunity to speak up. I want to contribute.

It’s the same attitude you try to embody when fielding in cricket. You need to want the ball to come to you. Your attitude must be positive and aggressive. If you are scared of catching the ball, odds are you’re going to drop it.

Don’t avoid the ball. Don’t avoid the responsibility. Don’t shy away from the opportunity to shine.

17:47 — counterintuitive quote:

“Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. ‘Cease to hope … and you will cease to fear.’ … Widely different [as fear and hope] are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.” — Seneca

Hope (having desires for the future) also creates unhappiness.

As Seneca says, hoping for something can also make you fear losing that thing.

17 May 2024

16:17 — what you fear is what you’ll get // stop making decisions from a place of fear.

My favourite quote from East of Eden.

“But I would like to know what kind of blood is in my boys. When they grow up—won’t I be looking for something in them?” “Yes, you will. And I will warn you now that not their blood but your suspicion might build evil in them. They will be what you expect of them.” — John Steinbeck

I’ve posted this before. Something to always be aware of.

I have fears in my life.

Picked up another quote from the book (not sure if it’s from the same passage) which goes into a bit more detail here.

“I don’t very much believe in blood,” said Samuel. “I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.” “You can’t make a race horse of a pig.” “No,” said Samuel, “but you can make a very fast pig.”

I hope to raise my children without fear. Without trying to over-protect them. I want to trust them. I want to give them the space to make mistakes. If that means they can truly express themselves and do what they life (instead of what society tells them) that would be a big win. I believe they will be smart enough. They will make the best decisions for their life.

16:15 — stop doing performative things.

The fancy car, the prestigious job, the university you went to.

Is that really what you wanted or are you keeping up appearances? Are you being honest with yourself or are you performing according to what you think others value and respect?

15:22 — 2024 reading list update.

I summarized my first 12 books of the year at the start of April.

Here are the 8 books I’ve read since then.

  1. Making Sense by Sam Harris (2013). A compilation of his best podcasts. This was solid. Harris has a sharp mind and he invites excellent speakers on his podcast.

  2. The Most Important Thing by Howard Marks. 3/5. Marks is a good writer, he’s an even better investor. Did I learn something new? I guess so. Second-order thinking (not reacting to the market but reacting to what people will do who react to the market) was my main takeaway. But the main principles on investing (don’t be greedy, don’t be scared, don’t get emotional) I either learned in university, in my work or from reading other books by the likes of Taleb (Anti-Fragile). It’s a good book, but it won’t change your life if you already have some exposure to investment principles.

  3. What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies by Tim Urban (2023). 3/5. I like Urban’s blog posts (he’s the writer behind WaitButWhy) so I was excited to get my hands on his book. While I think the subject matter (the rise of the far right and far left and the polarization of society) is important, I feel like he over-did things in the book. It’s a relatively simple point - anything in the extreme is bad, here’s how this happened, here’s how we can change things. But he backed up each point with a 10s of case studies, which while true, became a bit boring. Maybe it just wasn’t for me and other readers (who are still locked into identity politics) could benefit more from it.

  4. Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing (Enlightenment Trilogy #1) by Jed McKenna (2002). 5/5. Jeeze this was good. Most challenging, but funny book I’ve read this year. I can’t say for sure if McKenna is enlightened (whatever that means), but at least he doesn’t over-hype himself. His teachings are pretty straightforward. I don’t think he actually cares if more people get enlightened. He is (or he says he is) and he’s happy to ask guiding questions to help other people seeking enlightenment, but he’s not out there with a microphone on the street corner shouting at people to repent and change their lives. Enjoyed the thought experiments and analogies. It made me look at religion a bit differently (short answer: he’s not a fan of any beliefs). I’m happy I had some exposure to the enlightenment lingo through Waking Up and Sam Harris so I could follow most of what he said.

  5. The Anthology of Balaji: A Guide to Technology, Truth, and Building the Future by Eric Jorgenson. 4/5. Really enjoyed this book. Good nudge to think more about the future and learn from the past. Balaji is good at understanding history, applying this to modern-day tech and projecting how things will play out in the future. Recommended reading.

  6. Eiger Dreams: Adventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer. I love Krakauer’s writing. I’ve already read Into Thin Air, Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven. All excellent books in their own right. This was another strong one. A collection of essays and articles he’s written about the mystical, brutal world of extreme mountain climbing. Some beautiful, heroic tales. I particularly liked the last chapter, which covered his solo attempt up the Devil’s Thumb in Alaska. He went togo fix things in his life and maybe it did help him to scale the mountain, but when he got back nobody was that impressed. Wonder if that’s true for lots of things we pursue.

  7. Passin’ Through by Louis L’Amour. This was a gamble that turned out well. I have a soft spot for Westerns. Especially those written by Cormac McCarthy (in a league of his own). This was a quick, fun read. Good change in pace from all the heavy, spiritual, intellectual stuff I’ve been reading lately. A lone cowboy in the West who isn’t looking for trouble (just passing through) stops in a town and gets himself entangled in a murder case. Gun fighting, horse riding, seductive women, blood and guts, all the elements of a Western.

  8. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

    by Ryan Holiday. This is a good recommendation if you want to work on your mental fortitude and stop overthinking things. Build your inner fortress. You should only pay attention to what you can control, all the rest doesn’t deserve a minute’s worry.

13:56 — analogies to explain enlightenment.

I recently read Jed McKenna’s Spiritual Enlightenment. The biggest mind bender (mind opener?) I’ve read this year.

Still trying to process it all.

A big theme that stood out was that there’s no right or wrong. Everything just is.

I also liked his analogies on being enlightened vs. being unenlightened.

A fish who knows it’s in water vs. one that doesn’t:

“The truth is identical for both of us. I haven’t achieved a better status than you. When you hear someone say that searching for enlightenment is like fish in the ocean struggling to find water, this is what they mean. One fish may know it and another may not, but they’re both swimming in an ocean of water and always were.” — Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment

And actors who don’t know they’re in a play vs. people in the audience watching the play (almost like the Truman show):

“Imagine you’re in the audience watching a play, and you slowly come to realize that the actors don’t know they’re actors. They think that they’re normal people going about their normal lives, unaware that they’re on a stage, performing. You could never even believe such a thing would be possible if you hadn’t been up there yourself believing the same thing.” — Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment

He goes further to explain that the next level would be to leave the theatre. That would be real enlightenment. To leave the constraints of the world.

Also - it’s probably time to update my reading list.

13:44 — quote of the day.

“It has always been assumed that the most important things in the Gospels are the ethical maxims and commandments. But for me the most important thing is that Christ speaks in parables taken from life, that He explains the truth in terms of everyday reality. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because it is meaningful.” — Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

The whole of life is symbolic. Everything has a deeper layer of meaning.

16 May 2024

17:52 — on backing yourself.

I edited a document for a client yesterday. One of the lines said something about paying the maximum of two amounts.

I wrote: “We’ll pay the higher of X and Y.”

Their CEO said this was wrong, it’s: “We’ll pay the higher of X or Y.”

Deep down I knew this was right, it just ‘felt’/’sounded’ right.

I stood firm. This wasn’t a personal attack, I actually like debating things with their CEO.

But I then let doubt creep into my mind. For a split second. I said I’ll Google it.

Google proved that I was right. Cool - bravo. We got the right answer for the client.

But next time, I’d like to stand my ground and reason it out from first principles.

“The higher of X and Y means the biggest from the set of numbers X, Y…”.

“The higher of X or Y doesn’t make sense. The maximum of two sets then. We’ll pay the highest of X or the highest of Y. Which is random/ambiguous.”

That’s right, right?

I think so haha.

Point is - try to do the thinking yourself (even if it’s in front of others) before going to Google.

17:20 — I updated my Substack tagline today.

From “Lessons on writing, visuals and mindset” to “Observations and practical wisdom from my life and work”.

This feels more “me”.

It’s more natural, less forced. More about what I’m observing and learning than telling people what to do (here's some advice).

I have a few other things I’d like to update on my Substack:

  • The welcome email. Currently it’s long and it’s all about writing. I’d like to update it in a similar way to the above. More relaxed, more observational with some questions to engage new readers.

  • Featured posts. Currently Substack features the most-liked posts. Usually a good proxy for the best posts, but I wrote some posts before migrating to Substack so they could never benefit from engagement.

  • Start Here. Pin a Start Here page so people know who I am and what I stand for. Could be the same as my welcome email. Better than making them read my work to figure out what my vibe is.

  • Work with me page. This is a great idea. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. Maybe you provide the exact service one of your readers is looking for. But they’ll never know if you don’t tell them. This is like adding fertilizer to the soil. Gives you a better shot at growing plants/finding opportunities.

Good to do some spring cleaning from time to time.

17:10 — on looking for a golden thread in your old work.

I wonder if that's something an editor or writing coach could help with.

Reading through your old stuff and pointing out which essays stood out, what the golden thread was, which 20-40 pieces could be combined into a book etc etc.

Might help to have someone who is one step removed. To see the forest from the trees so to speak.

Not sure it's feasible though. Quite a big undertaking, but could be an idea to overcome the overwhelm of doing it yourself.

10 May 2024

12:10 — Tim F on mediocrity: quite harsh.

You need to grow. Big tree. Cutting it down when it’s young.

AI writers. Screw them.

A structure I use from time to time: 1. situation (scene / intro) drop us into the action 2. problem you've been struggling to overcome (from your past) 3. your solution to the problem / learning from situation (growth/new perspective) 4. the benefits to you of finding the solution and how this might help others 5. summary that ties back to the intro

12:02 — my logs are like my creativity faucet.

Ed Sheeran says he doesn’t write great lyrics at the snap of his fingers. He first has to sit down and write shitty first drafts before he starts writing better-quality pieces. He needs the murky water to flush out of the faucet before the clean, clear water runs through.

In the same way, my logs help me to just write without thinking too much about whether it’s good (publish-able) or bad (going to the bin). Without the logs, I would be stuck in perfectionist mode. Stuck at square 1 with nothing to publish. This gets me moving.

09 May 2024

10:41 — reflecting on my first time at Afrikaburn.

A music festival in the middle of the Karoo desert with no phone reception, lots of artwork, 10,000 people, DJs and ‘burns’. Big fires where the wooden art structures are burned every night.

Main observation: I’d like to take the attitude I had there into the rest of my life.

This was a peak experience. I’ve never had so many conversations and fast connections with strangers. I hope to take that aspect/talent of me into the rest of my life. Cutting through the niceties and the BS and the awkwardness and just conveying what I observe. Unfiltered, no angles, no vacuum of air between myself and the other person. You’re cool. You’re beautiful. I can sense some anxiety, happiness, peace in you. Wonder how far I can dial this in without coming across as too intense.

There is a great quote from The Daily Stoic about peak experiences. I can’t find it now, but will come back to it if I publish this.

Going forward I will do things differently. I’ll be kinder, more honest, more authentic. I won’t shy away from the tough subjects. I will acknowledge what I say in others.

Other observations:

Leading up to the event, my sister and I had an argument. I don’t have to go into the details, but it was weighing me down. We are usually on good terms. On the first night at Burn I forgave her. She wasn’t there, but in my heart I dropped the fight. Maybe she was wrong, maybe I was wrong. Was it worth fighting about some small earthly matter that strained our relationship?

I also had an ego death at some point. I realized I was chasing a lot of things in my life. The next client, the next gig, the next opportunity. Always moving, pushing, trying to make more, earn more, catch my peers and friends ad infinitum. On the second night, I took a step back and looked at the situation from the ‘outside’ so to speak. Like someone unattached to the situation. I realized all this trying and pushing was futile. Everything will be the same as it always was. I was on a track, I would earn a little bit more if I went on pushing and I would earn a little bit less if I slowed down a bit. But either way, my life would be good. Other people might have ‘better’ (more financially successful - one aspect) lives. And that’s fine. But there’s very little this ambitious attitude of mine would change. It would all be good. I have a lot to be grateful for.

30 April 2024

08:45 — on going first.

Someone has to write the first draft, create the first pitch deck, build the first financial model.

This provides the foundation for the team to work from.

After that people can give feedback and improve and tweak the original version.

Sometimes the feedback is harsh. Sometimes it sounds overly critical. But the feedback is the easier part. It’s not personal. It just comes with the territory of writing the first piece.

The original version had to be there in order for the feedback and improvements to exist.

29 April 2024

17:05 — on receiving (and giving) compliments.

I was on a call with an old colleague (someone I admire) earlier today. The last time we spoke was when we were still at the same company 7-8 years ago.

He asked me how my writing was going (I had no idea he even read my blogs) and said he shared some of my essays with his sons (both in their early 20s now).

He said it’s good to have someone sharing their career journey and the lessons they learn along the way.

What a pleasant surprise and such a big confidence boost. I’m determined to share more of my writing on LinkedIn again (something I’ve shied away from because I didn’t think people found my posts valuable/relevant).

Note to give people more (genuine) compliments. Can really make someone’s day.

23 April 2024

17:05 — one of my friends asked me what my long-term goal was for my writing.

Good question. It's a mix of things.

  • Sharing more of myself, my work and my thoughts. There are lessons and observations there. I will keep documenting my journey and growing my body of work. Just keep going.

  • Through writing more I also hope to send out a signal to other people like "hey, this is what I stand for and this is what I'm interested in" which could create more opportunities and allow me to do more of the things I like to do. E.g. write a book, get featured on podcasts, speak at conferences etc.

  • Big dream: get featured on the Waking Up app and/or get interviewed by Sam Harris. There is an element of spirituality, a lot on meditation, some talks on the unknown, and some talks on productivity. Think it would be a great milestone to get on there (or something equivalent).

22 April 2024

17:05 — working on a series of essays based on the prompts from the latest instalment of Write of Passage.

#1 What’s a rule you live by, and why?

Above all else, don’t deceive yourself. 60% done.

#2 Share a piece of advice that would surprise most people

Explore your edges. Take a risk like quitting your job and see who comes out on the other side.

#3 What is something missing from the world, and why does it matter?

Self-discovery. Getting creative. Following a different path.

Not all people are served by the lawyer, doctor, engineer, actuary narrative.

We need intelligent, creative people working on bigger problems, finding more alignment, following their calling.

19 April 2024

18:13 — embrace your true calling.

Sometimes, when we're terrified of embracing our true calling, we'll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us. — Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

10:39 — a rule to live by.

You can do many things, but don’t lie to yourself.

Not lying to yourself can take different forms.

At the surface/higher level, it’s about not taking shortcuts in life.

I remember learning this at a young age. In an attempt to look cool and cut corners, I moved the poles we were using for interval training during athletics practice. Instead of 50m apart, I put them at 40m going the coach wouldn’t realize.

Obviously he caught me. And he wasn’t even upset, only disappointed. He said it didn’t really matter to him, I was screwing myself over. It would impact me on race day when I wasn’t as well prepared as my competitors.

Other examples include piggybacking off colleagues to do your work, getting chatGPT to write your assignments, and not giving your best during your gym session. You’re only screwing over your future self by not putting in the work now.

Then there’s the deeper level of not suppressing your instincts.

Doing what is true to you and your soul. Knowing something isn’t right and acting on it. Not ignoring that inner feeling. Being true to your emotions.

I like the quote from Doctor Zhivago where he calls the internal misalignment that comes from suppressing your true feelings the “typical modern disease”. Doing or saying one thing (communism is our light and saviour) and believing something else deep down (this system has destroyed people’s lives).

“It's a typical modern disease. I think its causes are of a moral order. The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune.”

I had a similar internal misalignment for a while. My last job started brightly. I came in with lots of energy and ideas, but eventually, I became disillusioned with the internal politics, bureaucracy and attitude of the place.

Something wasn’t sitting right with me. When my partner asked me “how was work today?” it was a touchy subject. I felt like I was trapped. I knew what the answer was. This wasn’t my true calling. This job wasn’t serving me and I had to get out. Yet I continued in the hope that things would get better. I also enjoyed the financial stability and I had my work visa to consider.

Eventually, I quit and moved on.

I’m in a better place now. I have more alignment between what I do for money and what I’m passionate about. It hasn’t always been easy, but I enjoy the challenges that get thrown my way.

I can look at myself in the mirror and say I’m doing valuable work with people that are aligned with my values.

It reminds me of the poem The Man in The Glass by Dale Wimbrow:

You can fool the whole world,
down the highway of years,
and take pats on the back as you pass.

But your final reward will be heartache and tears
if you've cheated the man in the glass.

Other examples include not being true to your emotions. Some of you may recall the classic comedy, Anger Management with Adam Sandler. We can debate the merits of Sandler as an actor, but I remember it being quite a fun move (“Goosfraba!!!”) and Jack Nicholson plays a great role.

Sandler’s character is this super chilled guy. People screw him over but he never gets upset. His partner is scared there will be a bigger meltdown later. Nicholson steps in to try to trigger him. Rather speak his mind when things bother him than letting it all build up.

It’s the same with being honest with yourself. You can only diverge for so long until the cracks start to appear.

23:20 — great website for learning German idioms. The Germans love sayings (Sprichwörter):


E.g. “Unwissenheit muss fühlen” = Ignorance must be felt.

23:01 — solid advice:

There are two ways to be wealthy—to get everything you want or to want everything you have. Which is easier right here and right now? The same goes for freedom. If you chafe and fight and struggle for more, you will never be free. If you could find and focus on the pockets of freedom you already have? Well, then you’d be free right here, right now. — Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic

Want the things you already have.

22:59 — on the value of self-development and growth:

“Peace of mind isn’t at all superficial, really,” I expound. “It’s the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test’s always your own serenity. If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re working you’re likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.” — Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

We are working towards resilience. We are working towards that inner fortress.

17 April 2024

08:55 — my current writing block.

Mostly excuses on my side, but I am currently neglecting the writing and spending more time on client work. Sitting down to write for 4-6 hours feels like a luxury right now.

I find it quite easy to 'produce' something quick and dirty like the logs. But there is a second step, a 'quality check' where doubt creeps in.

I don't know if a log is worthy of publishing. And to make it 'publishable' I often need to spend a lot of time cleaning it up or combining it with other logs. I'm always happy with the end product, but to get from the V1 draft to the final draft requires a level of effort I'm struggling to justify lately.

I believe it’s good to articulate this though and work on it.

08:51 — the fundamental tension between creative work and work I do for money.

I think I need both.

I need to pay the bills. I also learn lessons from working with clients and junior team members.

The writing takes time and almost feels like a luxury. I find it hard to justify spending time writing when I could spend time earning money. But maybe that’s a mistaken point of view.

I usually feel better when I capture my thoughts and make sense of things. Feeling better and clarifying my thinking is a positive input back into the work I do so I probably perform better for my clients when I’m writing.

The tension might not be a tension at all. It only feels tense when I’m neglecting one component or the other.

They both need attention. The one hand washes the other.

08:47 — on having conversations.

I had a great chat with our gardener/handyman this morning. I took him some coffee and rusks and as I was about to leave he asked me a few questions about my work and my engagement and life in general. We ended up chatting for 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of topics… from the importance of marriage to the role of the husband in a relationship to counselling and working with people going through divorce and drug abuse to controlling your attitude in life and practising gratitude. He’s a very switched-on, positive person.

In the first few minutes, I had this nagging sensation that I better get going. I have a mountain of work and a ton of to-dos. Every minute spent in conversation here was a minute lost ‘doing important things’.

I wonder how many of these interactions I miss on a daily basis because I’m so caught up in optimizing my day and making the most of my time. While I might get more done, I shut out the rest of the world that’s hiding in plain sight, I lose out on spontaneity and randomness and new ideas and conversations.

Something to consider.

08:45 — important thought:

“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

Could go under the ‘business lessons’ or ‘lessons for people starting their careers’ tags.

16 April 2024

17:35 — some goals for this year. It’s never too late for resolutions, right?

  • Running. Sub 1h30 half marathon. I’ve done it! Finally.

  • Improve speaking - fewer uhms and ahs.

  • Get better at understanding AI and its applications. I’m already getting better with ChatGPT. I’m also hosting an AI conference for actuaries later this year so will learn a lot there.

  • Start making videos. Much easier to consume than essays.

  • Work on my breathing. Making progress here - mouth tape at night plus breathing exercises to regulate mood.

  • Post on LI/ twitter more.

  • Postive self-talk / less self-rejection.

  • Make my writing a priority again. My client work is important, but my writing will generate new opportunities. Play between doing the current work vs. securing future work.

  • Check in with people more often.

  • Apply for more speaking gigs and workshops. I hosted one for Small Bets earlier this year. Don’t think I did super well, but I learned a lot and it was paid opportunity. Might have more opportunities through other communities. The Pathless Path, Write of Passage, any others?

  • Potentially work with a coach again. I’m in a good space now, but I can see working with a coach lifting my game even further.

  • Learn basic coaching skills.

  • Create an offer for people who are thinking of quitting or changing jobs. 30min calls.

  • Write more ‘essay’ essays - tackle a single theme e.g. “why you shouldn’t only solve for money” and write about it.

  • Create more products / small bets. I created a couple of products last year. This is always a good opportunity to generate more passive income.

  • Learn to code. Just started my journey with Kaggle.

  • Add Pilates to the training regime. Work on core, mobility and strength. I have some weaknesses from running. Stabilizing exercises have been an excellent antidote against muscle and joint pain.

  • Keep on doing strength training. Excellent way to burn fat.

  • Continue working on my golf swing. I am willing to go for more lessons if necessay. I will figure it out. I believe I can be a single-figure handicap if I apply myself.

17:31 — things I’d like to do to change/improve on my Substack.

  • Add a “work with me” page. Could be cool. Michelle Varghese has a fun one. Just sends a signal to the world that you are open to business.

  • Update my welcome email. Wrote about this yesterday. Edward (no last name) has a great one with three questions - favourite book, which topics subscribers like to see, where they heard of his newsletter.

  • Change my newsletter’s name. Big one. I’ve brainstormed this. Landed on a name. Just hesitant to put it out there for some reason. Time to move on it. It it works, it works. If it doens’t work, I can just change the name again.

17:21 — logging my hard skills / money-making competencies / credibility for my actuarial consulting.


  1. Insurance pricing, product development and technical marketing. Mostly life insurance but also health insurance and investments. This means designing competitive products, presenting to senior leadership, getting the key stakeholders’ buy-in, documenting everything in a product spec, helping the systems team build the product, explaining the details to the sales team so they can sell it.

  2. Prophet coding. Related to point 1, but more technical. Very specific software that is more powerful than Excel. Used to project life insurance future cashflows and determine the present value of a book of insurance business.

  3. What can I add? I can get better at SQL, Power BI and Python.


  • I’m a qualified actuary (Fellow of the Actuarial Society of South Africa). I am also a writer with my own website with over 100 posts.

  • What can I add? Potentially an M in coding or an MBA.

There is more, but those are the key points for now.

16:42 — on noticing negativity.

A large part of our day is spent in conversation with ourselves. It’s just a loop of thoughts on repeat. We can be kind or mean. It’s all one big self-repeating narrative in our heads.

Like a noisy housemate you can’t get rid of. Talking to you 24/7, following you from room to room.

If this person was a nasty human being, you’d want them out of your flat and out of your life.

Why do we allow negative self-talk then? It’s the same thing. We can’t kick ourselves out of the house, but we can change how we speak to ourselves.

I’m keen to observe my thoughts more and see if they are serving me or holding me back.

Some things I say to myself often:

  • I’m tired.

  • This isn’t interesting.

  • I don’t have time for this.

  • I’m taking on too much, I can’t do this basic activity right now.

  • I don’t have energy now.

  • I wish I was better at [X].

  • I can’t post this. People won’t find it interesting. Nobody cares about this topic.

  • I can’t post this. It will take too much effort to clean up.

  • I can’t post this. What will people think? I’m trying too hard to impress others.

  • This is too hard right now, let me do something else.

  • I need to think about this a bit more. Can’t pull the trigger yet. Need more time / more data / more confidence.

Maybe some of these thoughts are valid - little subconscious barriers laid down to protect me from going off the burnout cliff.

But I’d say 80% of them don’t serve me and hold me back from achieving my goals.

Is there more positive language I can use?

  • Yes, this is hard, but that’s the point. Hard things are good for neuroplasticity. You are engaging your brain, the brain is protecting itself by seeking comfort. Stretch it a bit.

  • What’s the worst thing that can happen if you post this? At least you are putting yourself out there.

  • Just do it and stop overthinking things. If it doesn’t work, you can always pivot and change your course afterwards. Without posting you aren’t getting feedback. Standing still instead of moving in a direction.

  • Yes, this might take time, but how much time do you spend per day on Whatsapp and Instagram. You’ve got 30min now. Just start. Sit down for 5min. That’s better than nothing.

  • Yes, I can’t do [X] as well as someone else, but I have a lot of other things to be grateful for. I don’t know the rest of their lives, I’m just looking at one component.

The proof will be in the pudding, but I truly believe this is the right approach to interacting with myself. Almost like being my own coach. Being on my own side. Finding alignment. Moving forward towards goals instead of spinning my wheels.

16:34 — putting some goals out there in public.

Big Dream: get featured on the Waking Up app and/or get interviewed by Sam Harris. That’s what life is all about. Finding better tools to understand it and live it. All the conversations are of a high standard. The guests are thorough and approachable. The golden thread is how they approach life with a bigger-picture view. There is an element of spirituality, a lot on meditation, some talks on the unknown, and some talks on productivity. Think it would be a great milestone to get on there.

Short-term Goal: build a business. Last year I was still finding my feet. Now I have more regular clients. I have one junior reporting to me. It would be great to find more clients, employ more juniors and grow the business. One thing at a time.

These are two completely different goals. Or they feel directionally different.

I think one thing that could unite them is writing. Sharing more of myself and my work and my thoughts. There are lessons and observations there. I will keep documenting my journey and growing my body of work. Just keep going.

08:29 — saw a great welcome email on Substack the other day.

The writer briefly stated what he writes about, but spent more time asking the reader questions. Friendly and engaging, while getting some good inputs for his writing.

  1. What’s your favourite book?

  2. Which topics would you like to read more about from me?

  3. How did you hear about my newsletter?

08:24 — good quote:

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power. — Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

The price can be:

  • Monetary. Paying for an MBA which gives you access to a network and credibility.

  • Time-based. Waking up every morning before work and grinding away at your side hustle.

  • Others? Relationships? Health? Not sure I want to look under those rocks.

15 April 2024

15:11 — on reaching a long-time goal.

For a while now, I’ve written down “run a sub90 half-marathon again” in my annual goals.

I finally hit that mark yesterday.

This has been a long time in the making. The last time I broke 1h30 on 21 kilometres was 13 years ago.

I’ve had two ACL ops in the meantime (good ol’ rugby) and weigh a lot more than I used to as a skinny 20y. old. Since rehabbing my knee, I’ve attempted 15+ half marathons. On this attempt I finally cracked my PB. Very chuffed.

Here’s what made a difference this time:

1. Followed a proper training program for once. Instead of doing junk miles I trained according to a plan incl. intervals, fartleks etc. Some days it sucked but the visible progress made it worth it. You can get quality programs on Strava and Garmin.

2. Carbon-plated shoes definitely helped. Not gonna lie. Embrace the tech.

3. Marathon experience. I’ve done two marathons in the last two years. Makes a 21k feel much more manageable. You get better at judging how much you have left in the tank.


Pictured here with my training partner.


13:31 — picked up two books today.

  1. Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer. I love Krakauer’s writing. I’ve already read Into Thin Air, Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven. All excellent books in their own right.

  2. Passin’ Through by Louis L’Amour. Bit more of a gamble, but I have a soft spot for Westerns. Especially those written by Cormac McCarthy. Let’s see if L’Amour tells a fine story as well.

Two books. One about risk and mountaineering, one about cowboys.

Maybe some inner urge in me to break free. Or live vicariously through people who broke free and didn’t confirm.

07:41 — drawing a line in the sand. Hitting the reset button.

I’ve been in a weird phase. Time to snap out of it.

I’ve been thinking a lot instead of ‘doing’.

It’s time to do things and stop worrying about whether it fits my brand or what people think or how things will land or whether I will get likes and impressions and clients.

I will write again. I will post on Twitter again. I will post on LinkedIn again.

I will do the work. The work is important. I don’t care about the results. Only the inputs matter. Quoting from the Bhagavad Gita:

“Work hard in the world, Arjuna.
You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only.
You have no right to the fruits of work.
Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.
Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender.
Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahma.
They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”

This year has had a slow start and it’s time to fix it.

Good habits to start with:

  • Less time on social.

  • More reading.

  • Better sleep habits.

  • Better diet habits.

  • Stop blaming others.

  • More writing.

12 April 2024

18:13 — some basic apps all knowledge workers should use (learn how to use):

  • Grammarly. Install it. It will make your emails and presentations. Even if you’re English is 99% good, this app will make your writing even crisper. Makes a good impression.

  • Figma. Or something similar like Canva or Miro. Helps you to express your ideas in visual format. 3 bullet points stating the agenda can be replaced by a bar split into 3 sections with 3 topics and time allocations. Much more striking and memorable.

  • Google Docs. Rather than emailing someone a draft or proposal to review, send the draft via Google Docs so they can suggest (mark up) changes. Much easier to track changes and make comments.

  • Cold Turkey. Or some similar distraction-blocking website. Nowadays our attention is constantly pulled into a million different directions. Social media, text messages, emails, you name it. Deep, focused work is becoming increasingly harder. Apps like Cold Turkey can help you block our distractions (websites) while you want to perform a piece of deep work.

There are others, but this is a good place to start.

11 April 2024

15:40 — on the Anthology of Balaji.

Very impressed with the book so far.

Written by Eric Jorgenson, who wrote The Navalmanack, a great book which captures Naval Ravikant’s view on the world and his advice for living and investing.

Balaji is good at understanding history, applying this to modern-day tech and projecting how things will play out in the future.

I think reading more of his work could make your thinking more future-oriented. It’s definitely helped me get more out of the ‘here and now’ and see what’s possible a few years down the line.

I like how he says “crypto agreements are to written agreements what written agreements were to oral agreements.” He expresses many similar tidbits on how we’ve moved from medium X to Y and how we’ll move from Y to Z in the coming years.

Nice way to challenge and expand your thinking.

The best part is the book is free. Link to the PDF version for Kindle here.

15:35 — cool move from Medium to block AI content.

Medium is for human storytelling, not AI-generated writing. Beginning May 1, 2024, stories with AI-generated writing (disclosed as such or not) are not allowed to be paywalled as part of our Partner Program.”

Good to see publishers taking steps to stop the proliferation of low-value, machine-written content.

I like Tim Ferriss’s view here:

“There is a glut of mediocrity on the internet, please don’t contribute to it”

While LLMs are a big leg-up for easy, repeatable tasks, AI-generated writing has increased the quantity but reduced the quality of writing on the internet.

10 April 2024

12:21 — on feeling lighter.

I’m in a better space lately. The start of the year was stressful, there was a lot going on on the work front. I signed a new client and got a junior team member onto the project as well.

I remember coming back from a strat week with the client and having this uncontrollable nervous twitch in my one finger. It settled after a day, but it clearly showed how much underlying stress I was taking on despite putting up a brave face on the surface.

Now that I’ve secured a long-term deal and proven myself I feel more settled, more confident. I’m doing better work because I’m more relaxed.

I also said ‘no’ to another project last week. This was the first time since going self-employed that I’ve shown a piece of work away. Even though it felt like a missed opportunity, I’m happy I declined. I was taking on too much and it was dragging my performance and happiness down.

I now have the headspace to work on creative endeavours again. The writing is flowing again. I’m going through life with a lighter attitude. I think people also experience my calmer demeanour.

Long may it last.

If there’s a learning here, it’s probably that I need stability in my life to operate at my highest level. I also need to manage my priorities to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

12:09 — on managing people.

I’ve managed a handful of people in my life.

My main rule is the fishing proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for his life time.”

So my juniors always need to attempt the work first before asking for feedback.

If they haven’t applied their minds to the problem, they haven’t experienced the main benefit of problem-solving - building the habit and the confidence to solve future problems.

If I give feedback or help them with the problem before they have given their all and exhausted their thinking, I’m doing them a disservice. Sure, it’s nice in the short-term, the project gets settled today instead of tomorrow, but over the long-term, their problem-solving skills (and confidence) wither.

They will become dependent on me (or someone else) when the going get hard. When in the end, there’s only one person that can help them. And it’s themselves.

12:05 — quote on leading teams. Business lessons tag.

Teams need to believe that their work is important. Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful. Teams need clear goals and defined roles. Team members need to know they can depend on one another. But, most important, teams need psychological safety. — Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

Not sure I’m achieving this currently. Could do more to create ‘psychological safety’ for our employees.

I saw another quote along similar lines:

The best way to manage people, he thought, was to convince them that you were good for their careers. He further believed that the only way to get people to believe that you were good for their careers was actually to be good for their careers. — Michael Lewis, Flash Boys

How can I actually be good for people’s careers?

I’ve spent some time finding my own feet. Maybe it’s time to do more for others, for those who report to me. Can I be a better manager?

Talk about areas they’d like to develop. Where do they want to be in 1, 3, 5 years? Which skills do they want to work on? Do they want to study further? What can I do to support this?

09 April 2024

08:22 — two friends from Write of Passage did a lovely collab essay.

Dean's List
Show and tell (but mostly show)
I’ll confess: I’ve never read a memoir, I only experience them vicariously through Charlie Bleecker ’s podcast where she passionately (and sometimes angrily) dissects them every other week. While great memoirs are a beacon for the potential of soul-filled writing, the bad ones apparently smother you with cliches, and an untrained reader won’t know the difference…
Read more

Two things:

  1. Content. Love the essay. Big learning for me - “don’t tell us your thoughts, feelings, or emotions, just show us.”

  2. Format. Think this is a cool idea I would like to try out some time with a writing partner. Collaborating on an essay could improve a piece and reach a wider audience.

08:15 — great essay by friend Louie Bacaj.

A Cautionary Tale: A story about why it's now or never for a lot of ideas.


I got a little sad because, sure, I had missed out on some potential money I could've made over the years. I'd missed out on having some customer emails and conversations with real people on this topic.

But I was mostly sad because I'd done some great work with Azure back in the day, and it was never captured or "immortalized" somewhere.

I have similar regrets for not jumping on inspiration when it struck.

Also have a bunch of skills/knowledge I picked up in my career that I never “immortalized”… Prophet coding, investment cost calculators, longevity projections, retirement annuity models. Wonder if I’ll ever get back to them.

Sometimes it’s now or never for an idea. When you come back to it months later, your writing has changed, your interests have changed, your priorities have changed, you’ve changed.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river, and he's not the same man. —Heraclitus

08 April 2024

21:27 — if I had Obsidian or the perfect Zettelkasten method, it would probably tell me that I’ve written notes on three Waking Up series now.

  • Tom Lutz - Finding comfort in the unknown

  • William B. Irvine - Stoic Lessons

  • Oliver Burkeman - You Are Here

Could be a fun series of essays?

21:08 — Oliver Burkeman has done it again.

Another terrific series on Waking Up. This one is titled You Are Here.

Listened it on the way to a client and back last week. His short, 10-minute long chapters on “slow productivity” really struck a chord.

One thing that stood out to me is that we should give up on ever finishing our to-do list because it is simply impossible to finish a never-ending stream of to-dos.

I also liked his approach to splitting up the day.

He calls it the 3-3-3 method:

  • 3 hours in the morning on his most important project e.g. writing the next chapter in his book

  • 3 smaller, more manageable projects after this e.g. sending an email to his tax advisor

  • 3 maintenance tasks after this e.g. going for a run, taking out the garbage, meditating

The idea behind this is that it should look easy so that you can hit your 3-3-3 even on bad days. On good days, you can do more.

Really enjoying the slow productivity vibe. Way less intense and more sustainable than the mantras espoused by the 5AM club, David Goggins, "only amateurs wait for inspiration". Recognizes the (flawed, imperfect) human being trying to do the best they can at this thing called life. Sometimes we are productive, other times we fall short. Over the long term, we get some stuff done. The key is get the stuff done while being kind to ourselves.

Link to an essay on this:

Getting Stuff Done By Not Being Mean to Yourself

21:05 — holy shit.

David Perell dedicated an episode to Paul Graham’s writing lessons.

It made me think back to my early days of writing.

I just wrote about what interested me. I was like a moth attracted to various different lamps.

And it was cool. There were no rules. There were no goals.

Subsequently I’ve tried to niche down and stay in my lane. I’ve written more about my journey and less about my heroes, which has its merits.

Don’t think it’s bad to evolve, just need to make sure I’m still excited about the writing and I’m doing it for the right reasons.

21:02 — Stoicism in a nutshell.

“The trick is to learn how to want the things you already have.” — William B. Irvine.

Irvine has an excellent series on the Waking Up app.

I also wrote about Stoic Lessons before.

05 April 2024

19:07 — on finding comfort (maturity) on my self-employed journey.

Today, for the first time since quitting corporate 15 months ago, I turned down a piece of work.

Up to now, I have never said ‘no’ to anything that has come across my desk. Whether that’s a piece of ghostwriting, planning a conference, doing an audit, building a job board, doing life insurance product development, building a crypto/blockchain insurance model, doing technical marketing, leading alum calls for a writing course, being a mentor and coach for writers,… everything, every instant, I just said yes.

With the safety net of my salary pulled from under my feet, I was hungry for opportunities to earn money, build my portfolio and ‘make it’ on the self-employed path.

The first months were hard. With very few projects rolling in, I made more from dogsitting than consulting at a time. This was a low point and I felt a real desire to get out of the pit. I still had runway, but it bothered me that there was no ‘proof of concept’ so to speak. No clients coming in implied this might not be the best path for me.

Things have subsequently improved (thank goodness). So much so, that I’ve been able to decline my first project today.

Something I’m not trained for or passionate about. Something I’d do if the chips were down and I had nothing on my plate. But as things stand, my plate is pretty full and I have the luxury of picking projects I enjoy more.

So yeah, it feels weird, but it’s also a relief. Saying no to this project allows me to do a better job on the other 5 on my roster currently.

Bonus - I was able to pass this piece of work onto someone in my network who was going through a tough patch. He didn’t have any work coming in and reached out to me (and other contacts) on LinkedIn to ask for opportunities. I respect that. Couldn’t be easy putting himself out there and asking for help. I’m happy the timing worked out. Maybe next time I’ll be on the opposite end of the deal.

04 April 2024

18:40 — books I’m currently reading:

  1. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022).

  2. Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing (Enlightenment Trilogy #1) by Jed McKenna (2002).

  3. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle (2004).

  4. Making Sense by Sam Harris (2013). A compilation of his best podcasts.

18:34 — books read so far this year:

  1. A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells (1922). 4/5. Important read. A foundational history lesson. We are still a young species struggling to come to grips with our power. Liked his view on Christianity as an upgrade/evolution of Judaism.

  2. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson (2020). 4/5. Enjoyed this one even though I know most of the stories from other books and movies. I felt like it ended abruptly in 1941 just when America entered the war, but this was the point. Larson only wanted to cover the period of Britain’s defiance when they stoof alone against Germany.

  3. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis (1989). 4/5. An eye-opening (often hilarious) insider’s account of Wall Street in the 80s. Lewis, who also wrote Moneyball and The Big Short, started his career as an investment banker at Salomon Brothers – the biggest trading firm on Wall Street at the time. He chronicles the events leading to the firm’s boom and eventual demise – the rise of the bond market, the larger-than-life personalities chasing bigger and bigger profits, and the eventual listing of Salomon. What I found interesting about the book was that he wasn’t singing the praises of investment banking. If anything, he encourages people to look into other career paths - he specifically points out how poorly analysts are treated. What happened subsequently (and what Lewis came to realize) is that the book didn’t dissuade people from investment banking, but attracted more people to it. Not surprising since he was earning $250k per year as a 24-year-old. Favourite quote about the interview process:

“It’s taboo,” he said. “When they ask you why you want to be an investment banker, you’re supposed to talk about the challenges, and the thrill of doing deals, and the excitement of working with such high-calibre people, but never, ever mention money.”

  1. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957). 5/5. History is the best teacher. One of my top reads this year. I did a longer review in What I learned from Ben Hur and Doctor Zhivago.

  2. A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck (2011). 3/5. Tough read. Quite short, but not easy to grapple with the thought experiment — the lack of variation in hell is what gets people. The endless monotony. I suppose it’s a wake-up call to do more cool shit while you’re alive.

  3. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser (1976). 4/5. Solid read. Covers all the basics of writing. Don’t use too many adjectives. A memoir is about a specific period in a person’s life, not their whole life. Don’t overcomplicate things.

  4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (1996). 5/5. A masterpiece. Brilliant memoir. Funny, sad, full of truth and heart. The Irish have a way of making sad stories more humorous.

  5. The Dip by Seth Godin (2007). Recommended to me by a writing friend. It was good in parts. You shouldn’t continue doing something you’re not good at or not passionate about, but you should also not quit when success is virtually around the corner. There is a lot of upside for people who hang tough. While I enjoyed some of the arguments, most were repetitive and fell flat because of contradictions. The quitting vs. not quitting felt quite random based on the case studies. Didn’t allow for luck (which often plays a big part in success).

  6. 17 Questions That Changed My Life by Tim Ferriss. 4/5. Very short, get the free PDF here. Very useful questions. I’d like to do a longer exercise answering them.

  7. The Duel by Anton Chekov (1891). 4/5. Some big themes, little bit messy at points, overall a great read.

  8. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose (1992). 4/5. Entertaining history lesson. Enjoyed going over this again after watching the series when I was in university. These guys were tough, disciplined and principled. A formidable combination.

  9. Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (2023). 4/5. A grim, but brilliant book. A warning of how fragile democracies and the rule of law can be. Shades of Nazi Germany mixed with the anguish and despair refugees face.

18:14 — on creating vs. consuming.

It goes back to the point I made yesterday - it’s lazy to just read/consume content without actually capturing the key ideas and doing the exercises.

That’s on me. Something to work on.

I was in a deep “consumer mode” earlier this year. I read 13 books in 2 months. Listened to a number of podcasts and binged series. While I captured a few notes and ideas during this time, I wasn’t as observant and disciplined as I’d like to be.

It was a difficult time as I was trying to grow my consulting business and gain more traction with a client, so maybe I didn’t have the bandwidth to create content in addition to running the business.

17:55 — another entry for the business lessons series.

Interview questions from Talent (Tyler Cowen):

Here are some questions that not only will elicit stories but also might yield relatively interesting answers:

“How did you spend your morning today?”

“What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from another human?”

“What’s something weird or unusual you did early on in life?”

“What’s a story one of your references might tell me when I call them?”

“If I was the perfect Netflix, what type of movies would I recommend for you and why?”

“How do you feel you are different from the people at your current company?”

“What views do you hold religiously, almost irrationally?”

“How did you prepare for this interview?”

“What subreddits, blogs, or online communities do you enjoy?”

“What is something esoteric you do?”

03 April 2024

23:23 — heard about a cool “friendship accountability” system today.

A friend of a friend sets up reminders to call/check in with his latest every 2 months.

If, for example, he spoke to a friend today, he would log that in his ‘system’ (I assume you can set up a scheduling tool for this). Then 2 months later he gets a notification - “It’s time to check in with Sandra again.”

I like this. I know I’m good with my friends. I know where I stand with my close friends. The bonds are strong and won’t be affected by a period of absence. However, it doesn’t hurt to check in more often. More contact is better than less.

I do something similar where I post 4 questions in a group chat with some of my oldest mates from time to time:

  • How’s work?

  • What’s your latest creative endeavour?

  • Any travel plans coming up?

  • How’s your fitness and mental health? Any events coming up?

23:18 — writing is like a long-time friendship.

During certain phases of your life, you see this person often, hang out together, and call each other frequently.

And during other periods, you have less contact and fewer interactions.

Nothing happens to the friendship. You are still devoted friends. When you see each other again, you will pick up where you left off and things will be cool.

Writing is similar. There are periods when you are brimming with ideas and you can’t help but capture tons of notes and thoughts. Other times, you go through a bit of a lull. The writing is still there in how you observe the world and hold conversations. But you aren’t actively publishing or sharing your work. Long-term it will always be there, an unswerving friend, but for the time being, you have other things that need more attention.

02 April 2024

17:50 — why am I scared to publish?

A writing friend asked why I don’t share my logs on Twitter or LinkedIn. This was my response:

Good question! A mix of reasons:

1. Maybe some latent fear that people will challenge me. These are half-baked ideas that I like to capture privately but don’t necessarily want to discuss/ debate further. Not a good reason to be fair so maybe it’s worth sending a few out.

2. ⁠Bigger reason - time and distraction. I did a Twitter challenge for 6 months (posting every day) last year and while it was cool to grow my followers it killed my focus elsewhere. Constantly checking notifications and replying to people. Not a good space mentally

3. ⁠I like the logs as an input into my bigger pieces. It keeps the writing habit going. So it supports the process.

17:46 — another entry for Poor Johnnie’s Almanack:

“Churchill was particularly insistent that ministers compose memoranda with brevity and limit their length to one page or less. “It is slothful not to compress your thoughts,” he said.” — Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile

I see this a lot at some of my clients.

Long, windy emails when the CEO asked for a summary. Nobody has time to read a 1000-word email. Send the 3 most important bullet points.

17:42 — on being less lazy.

Regarding the previous note.

I would like to make an effort going forward to capture notes when I watch YouTube videos, read books and listen to podcasts. This is not mere entertainment. These are useful lessons and anecdotes. Notes that I can share with my readers. Learnings that can improve my life. Why do I allow them to come in one ear and leave the other without making time to process and reflect?

17:40 — interesting observation from listening to Marc Andreessen speak with David Perell.

There’s a lot of value in holding the pen. Feels like a missed opportunity. Many people look down on note-takers and scribes, but it’s actually a position of power. If you can nail the role and deliver a high-quality summary of the most salient points in meetings, while capturing the bigger picture, you’re most likely to progress inside a company.

16:29 — books are my favourite types of gifts.

Excited to dive into these highly-rated novels. Haven’t read sci-fi since Dune and the Three-Body Problem.

16:27 — one of the standout fiction books so far this year:

16:25 — meta observation:

My logs were becoming stale towards the end of March. Now that I started Q2 and moved all the Q1 logs into a subpage I feel refreshed and hungry to write and capture ideas again.

Something about turning a new page, huh.

Or a blank page calling out to be filled in.

16:10 — another quote on letting energy guide you. Pairs well with Jung’s ‘what turns hours to minutes’:

“Your soul plays the same game with you, letting you know by your energy level whether you are close or farther away from what brings you alive.” — Bill O'Hanlon, A Lazy Man's Guide to Success

15:45 — this is brilliant:

“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.” ― Carl Jung

For me:

  • building model aeroplanes

  • building tree houses

  • playing with lego

  • playing outdoors (mostly cricket or golf)

  • working on math olympiad problems

  • reading (lots and lots of reading)

  • building sand castles

Are these all things only kids can do? What does this translate to as an adult?

What I currently like:

  • having ownership - need skin in the game. Want to be the lead on projects. If it sucks, it’s on me. If it’s good, it’s on me.

  • building stuff - creating - making something from nothing. Whether that’s writing or illustrating or designing new products. Making something that will be here after I’m gone.

  • sharing what I know with others. Teaching, mentoring, coaching.

Log history

Q1 2024

Q4 2023