Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Some of my favorites from 2015:

Best Movie (that I saw in 2015)

Whiplash

Best Thing I Read (Book)

Dead Wake

Best Thing I Read (Short Post)

The Day You Became A Better Writer

Best Podcast

Brene Brown on the Tim Ferriss Show

Best Memory

The sunset in Batu Ferringhi. A pic can’t do it justice, but here it is anyways. IMG_1694

Yeah, I know I’m a bit behind putting a movie from 2014 and blog post from 2007 on my 2015 best of list.

2015 Stanley Cup

A personal aside here — wanted to gather a few pictures from Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago Blackhawks 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 0.

Here’s a video from our seats of the final few seconds:

And a summary of the night’s events:

Three Quotes to Live By

These are three that I love…and try to live:

When a problem came up at the mills, his first concern was to discover what error he had made; he did not search for anyone’s fault but his own: it was of himself that he demanded perfection.

~From Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (said of Hank Rearden)

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

~Abraham Lincoln

Do less, but better.

~From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Hot Streak!

I’ve been riding an unbelievable reading hot streak lately. It seems like every book I’ve picked up has been insightful, entertaining, or interesting. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite reads from the last year or so.

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Thanks to Andy Hagans for tipping me off to this book. I was nodding in agreement from page one here. Essentialism proposes a new way of thinking about being an entrepreneur, employee, or boss: do less, but better.
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. This is a pretty challenging subject matter — death — but I really think it is a must read for everyone (thanks to my mom for this rec). It’s a smart, pragmatic, and thoughtful look at a very complex component of life: that part at the end when bodies and minds start to fail.
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. This might be the best book I’ve read in…well, a really long time. It’s the (true) story of a young man who grew up in the rough part of Newark, escaped to an Ivy League university, and was dead in his early 30s. It’s inspiring and heartbreaking, and was hard to put down. Holy cow I loved this book!
  • Quiet by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert (or think you might be), read this book. If you’re an extrovert, you probably won’t enjoy it nearly as much. Incredibly insightful into the two types of people in this world.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The translation here can be a bit rough, but I loved this book. Try to read it as a guide not only for physical organization, but for organization of your professional and personal lives as well. Very simple, yet insightful.

Other recommended books (novels, for those who just can’t get in to non-fiction):

You can own all of these for about $70 through Amazon (!!!).

Random Notes

Two random notes:

  1. A shout out to my former colleague Tom Reese, who is firing up his own blog. He’s someone I’ve always admired as an entrepreneur and self-taught jack of all trades.
  2. I got to watch my 14-year old niece perform at an open mic in Chicago over the weekend (performing an original song no less!). It was incredible to see her confidence and talent on full display! Future rock star!

IMG_1292 (1)

New Tools!

Some comments from Mark Cuban about the size of the current tech bubble made some waves this week (likely thanks to a few sensationalized headlines). His thought is basically that this time around, much smaller investors have major skin in the game (relatively major at least; a $25,000 investment in a family member’s startup is nothing to a VC, but may represent a major portion of net worth for a middle class family).

There’s probably a lot of truth to this. But in the spirit of staying positive as I get back into the process of firing up a business, I am also encouraged by all tools now out there that weren’t around five years ago when I was going this for the first time. So many great tools that help entrepreneurs stay organized and focused have popped up. They’re obviously too many to note, but here are a few that I’d never heard of but have loved at least tinkering with:

  1. CoSchedule (WordPress editorial calendar)
  2. Slack (Gchat replacement)
  3. Trello (too flexible to really categorize)
  4. Stripe (payment processor that blows PayPal away)
  5. Memberful (member management software – no more aMember!)
  6. Google Groups
  7. UberConference (conference calls)
  8. Ghost Inspector (automated testing)

I’m sure everyone working in the startup world can immediately think of tools that make their lives much easier. That wasn’t really the case five years ago…which is exciting.

On a personal note, my oldest nephew turned 18 this week. Watching him grow into a talented, smart, kind, and friendly young man has been such a joy to me as an uncle–I can’t imagine how proud his parents (my brother and sister-in-law) must be. Happy birthday Danny!

DJ

Writing Again

I’ve decided to start being a bit more active here. I am guessing there are exactly zero people who read this site regularly, but as I start up a new business venture (more on that in future posts), I’m hoping that I will have some valuable thoughts to share.

More importantly, I’ve found that writing helps me to sort through my own thoughts and ideas, and distill what is really useful.

So I thought I’d highlight three books I’ve read over the last year that I found inspiring and insightful:

  1. Quiet: Taught me about natural inclinations towards introversion, including the natural advantages and disadvantages.
  2. Essentialism: Taught me about the power of focus, saying no, and simplifying.
  3. The Power of Habit: Goes nicely with the above, outlining simple ways to be more effective (we’ll see how well this writing habit sticks)

While I’m at it, here’s a list of various things I’ve come across that I’ve been inspired by / found really useful / just enjoyed. In no particular order:

  • Non-Professional Books: I loved The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Equal parts sad and inspiring.
  • Podcasts: I’m still a daily consumer of the Adam Carolla Show, and also have become addicted to The Moth (the live shows are great as well).
  • Recipes: One of my resolutions for 2015 is to cook for my wife and I semi-regularly. The successes so far have been walnut lasagna and bean kale stew (both are high protein vegetarian meals).
  • Shows: Transparent is so good. I’m also (finally) watching The Wire while running on elliptical.
  • Movies: Really enjoyed Boyhood (as did a lot of people) and Alive Inside (streaming on Netflix now).
  • Productivity: The “Focus” playlists on Spotify are fantastic.