Book Review Archive

Book Review: The Sociopath Next Door

I grabbed The Sociopath Next Door while it was on sale because it sounded interesting and it certainly was. The book starts by describing what sociopathy is and the mindset of one possessed with this disorder. Stout stresses that the condition has a spectrum, like most things, where the traits of the sociopath may be pronounced in one person and subdued in another. Apparently the most telling sign of a sociopath is the need to be constantly pitied.

What is most intriguing about the book are the sections where you’re guided from a first-person perspective into the heads of sociopaths in various scenarios. You get to see how they think and the decisions they would make in different contexts. In one example a corporate employee left his dog at home without enough food before embarking on a business trip. The sociopath would think something to effect of “he should be able to survive a few days without food” and proceed on the trip, whereas a conscientious person would abort the trip, or ensure the animal was properly cared for.

Near the end she touches on a theory for the evolutionary need for sociopathy. I wish she expounded on this further. The theory is that sociopathy is an adaption in the warriors of the tribe to enable them to kill their enemies without remorse. This makes a lot of sense to me and why this state has persisted. If they perhaps had guilt or second thoughts before executing a foe, maybe they wouldn’t live to survive the encounter. Being able to kill and still sleep soundly seems like it would be advantageous in a time where you never knew when a warring tribe may raze your home.

Sociopaths tend to be charming, but on the inside find everything trite. It’s a facade to gain the trust of those around them, using it as a tool to undermine those who they find a threat and destroying them when the perfect opportunity appears. They tend to kick people when they’re down. They seek status and power to the demise of everything else. They’re truly dead inside and nothing is off bounds.

Overall, I think The Sociopath Next Door has given me new tools to assess the characters of people I will meet in the future.

Favorite Lines From Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

This was an amazing book that essentially distills the wisdom from Tim’s hundreds of podcast guests. I further distilled it for this blog post with the lines/quotes that I found most personally impactful. I hope this sample encourages you to pick up a copy of the book, it’s an amazing read and well worth your time. Today I am grateful for Kindle highlights.

Tim Ferris

“More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice”

“Life is short. Put another way: A long life is far from guaranteed. Nearly everyone dies before they’re ready.”

“If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep.”

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

“Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer.”

“If you can’t seem to make yourself happy, do little things to make other people happy. This is a very effective magic trick.”

Dominic D’agostino

“Ketones have an anti-catabolic protein-sparing and anti-inflammatory effect.”

“If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body.”

“There is also evidence to suggest— skipping the scientific detail— that fasts of 3 days or longer can effectively “reboot” your immune system via stem cell– based regeneration. Dom suggests a 5-day fast 2 to 3 times per year.”

Charles Poliquin

“The most important thing I’ve learned about nutrition is you need to deserve your carbs . . . to deserve [hundreds of kcal of carbs] post-exercise, you need to be sub-10% body fat. And the quickest way to know if you have sub-10 body fat as a male is: Can I see the lineal alba [vertical separation] on your abs? In other words, can I see all ab rows? One ab row doesn’t count; you’ve got to see them all. In other words, you have to have penis skin on your abs.”

“I think the best magnesium out there is magnesium threonate, if I were to pick one.”

Kelly Starrett

“Men, if you wake up and you don’t have a boner, there’s a problem. Yes or no? One or zero? Boner, no boner?”

Paul Levesque

“Even if it was to get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes to reset things. I learned early that it seemed any time I did that, I didn’t get jet lag.”


“Once an hour, every hour, randomly identify two people walking past your office and secretly wish for each of them to be happy. You don’t have to do or say anything— just think, “I wish for this person to be happy.”

Marc Andreessen

“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Derek Sivers

“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” TF: It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.”

“I would make a billboard that says, ‘It Won’t Make You Happy,’ and I would place it outside any big shopping mall or car dealer.”

Tony Robbins

“If you don’t have 20 minutes to delve into yourself through meditation, then that means you really need 2 hours.”

Seth Godin

“I like to study what Seth doesn’t do as much as what he does. Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook”

James Altucher

You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle . . . it’s your brain trying to protect you from harm, from coming up with an idea that is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain. The way you shut [this] off is by forcing [the brain] to come up with bad ideas.

Tracy DiNunzio

“When You Complain, Nobody Wants to Help You”

Daymond John

“My parents always taught me that my day job would never make me rich. It’d be my homework.”

Noah Kagan

“It’s only real if it’s on the calendar.”

Ryan Holiday

“When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) you have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong.”

Neil Strauss

“The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time.”

Scott Belsky

“In the wrong environment, your creativity is compromised. At 30, I assumed my strengths would always be with me regardless of where I applied them. I was wrong. Truth is, your environment matters.”

Jocko Willink

“If you have two of something, you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining; if you have one, you will break or lose it and be screwed.”

“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.”

Sam Harris

“If she [my daughter] does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience . . . a life without drugs is neither foreseeable nor, I think, desirable.”

“If I give you 5 grams of mushrooms or 300 micrograms of LSD and tell you to sit on that couch for an hour, you are guaranteed to have a radical transformation of your experience. It doesn’t matter who you are. A freight train of significance is going to come bearing down on you, and we just have to watch the clock, to know when it’s going to happen.”

Caroline Paul

“To not do something because you might get injured is a terrible reason not to do something.”

Whitney Cummings

“And in order for art to imitate life, you have a life.”

“And I think ultimately, sometimes when we judge other people, it’s just a way to not look at ourselves; a way to feel superior or sanctimonious or whatever.”

Bryan Callen

“The difference between the people you admire and everybody else [is that the former are] the people who read.”

Alain de Botton

“Advice to your 30-year-old self? “I would have said, ‘Appreciate what’s good about this moment. Don’t always think that you’re on a permanent journey. Stop and enjoy the view.”

Rick Rubin

“The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record, and half the people who hear it absolutely love it, and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it, you’ve done well, because it’s pushing that boundary.”

Paulo Coelho

“A successful writing day is a day that I suffer in the morning, and I have fun in the evening, fun by writing. [I should] not describe this as fun. It’s also painful . . . I’m in a kind of trance.”

“Trust your reader. Understand that he or she can fill the empty spaces. Don’t over-explain.”

“When you sit down to write, there is this process of purging, this process of cleansing, where only the important things remain.”

Richard Betts

“Try smelling with your mouth open, as you’ll get more information.”

Josh Waitzkin

“Josh has no social media, does no interviews (except my podcast, for which he often says to me, “You fuck!”), and avoids nearly all meetings and phone calls. He minimizes input to maximize output, much like Rick Rubin. Josh says: “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.”

 Click here to buy Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The Hilarious Proverbs of Sancho Panza

I’m reading (listening to?) the massive unabridged audiobook Don Quixote and finding it utterly hilarious, especially the proverbs of Don Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho Panza. In the book there are some slow points and a few annoyingly long tangential stories, but excluding that it’s a great read.  Here’s an excerpt from the book with one of my favorite conversations between these two lunatics. I love both of these characters. I think I may at some point have to model one, if not both of them in one of my books.  I put the proverbs in bold and italics to emphasize them.

The Hilarious Proverbs of Sancho Panza

“I can sign my name,” responded Sancho, “because when I was a steward in my town, I learred to make some letters like they use to mark on bales, and they said that it was my name. Besides, I can pretend that my right hand is maimed and I can have someone else sign for me. There’s a remedy for everything except death, and holding the power and the staff, I’ll do whatever I want. And what’s more, he who has a bailiff for a father And since I’ll be governor, which is higher than bailiff, come on and we’ll see what happens! Let them scorn and slander me! They’ll come for wool and go back shorn and the lucky man has nothing to worry about. And the foolish remarks of the rich man pass for wisdom in the world. And being governor and liberal at the same time, as I plan to be, they’ll think I’m flawless. Make yourself into honey and the flies will eat you up. As my grandmother used to say: you’re worth as much as you have. And you can’t take vengeance on the landed gentry.”

“May God curse you, Sancho!” said don Quixote. “May sixty thousand devils haul you and your proverbs off! It’s been an hour since you started stringing them together and torturing me with each one. I can assure you that these proverbs will lead you to the gallows one day. Because of them your vassals will take away your government, or it will cause them to revolt against you. Tell me, you ignoramus, where do you find them? or how to you apply them, you idiot? For me to say a single one and apply it well, I sweat and work as if I were digging a ditch.”

“Before God, señor our master,” replied Sancho, “you’re complaining about very little. Why the devil do you get angry because I’m using my heritage, since it’s all I have? My only wealth is proverbs and more proverbs. And right now four of them come to mind that fit the situation exactly, like peaches in a basket. But I won’t say them, because good silence is called Sancho.

“That’s not you,” said don Quixote, “because not only are you not ‘good silence,’ you’re ‘bad speech’ and obstinate as well. But even so, I’d like to find out which four proverbs just came to you that fit the situation so well. I’ve been ransacking my brain, and I can’t think of a single one that’s à propos.”

“What better ones are there than never put your thumbs between your wisdom teeth, and to ‘leave my home’ and ‘what do you want with my wife?’ there’s nothing to answer, and if the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bad for the pitcher? All of them fit perfectly. No one should take on their governor, nor anyone who’s in charge, because he’ll come out hurt, just like someone who puts his finger between his wisdom teeth, and even if they’re not the wisdom teeth, as long as they’re molars it doesn’t make any difference. And no matter what the governor asks, there’s nothing to say, just like ‘leave my house’ and ‘what do you want with my wife?’ And the one about the pitcher and the rock, a blind man can see it. So, why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the plank in your own, lest it be said of him: the dead woman was frightened to see another with a slit throat. And your grace already knows the one about the fool knows more in his own house than the wise man in someone else’s.”

“Not so, Sancho,” responded don Quixote, “for the fool in his own house or in anyone else’s doesn’t know anything because on the foundation of foolishness you can’t build the edifice of intelligence. And let’s let it go here, Sancho, because if you govern badly, yours will be the blame and mine will be the shame. But I can console myself in that I’ve done what I should by advising you with truths and with whatever discretion I could. With that I’m discharged from my obligation and promise. May God guide you, Sancho, and may He govern you in your government, and take from me the misgiving that I have that you might wind up with the ínsula flat on its back, something that I could prevent by revealing to the duke who you are, telling him that the little fat person that you are is nothing more than a sack filled with proverbs and mischief.”

“Señor,” replied Sancho, “if your grace thinks that I’m not right for this government, I’ll give it up right now. I love the tiniest part of my soul more than my whole body, and I’ll survive simply as Sancho with bread and onions than a governor with partridges and capons. And what’s more, when they’re asleep, everyone is the same—the grandees and the little folk, the rich and the poor, and if you think about it, you’ll see that you alone made me start to think about being a governor. I don’t know any more about governing ínsulas than a vulture does, and if you think that if I become a governor the devil will carry off my soul, I’d prefer to go to heaven as Sancho than to hell as a governor.”

“By God, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “with just these last words you’ve said, I judge that you deserve to be governor of a thousand ínsulas. You have a good instinct, without which knowledge is worthless. Commend yourself to God, and try not to err in your main purpose. I mean that you should always keep a firm intent and purpose to do right in all things because heaven supports worthy aims. Let’s go eat now, because these people are waiting for us.”

Have you read Don Quixote? Have a favorite scene? Let me know in the comments!

Grab a copy here:

The Importance of Movement Breaks

I’m reading an excellent book that has inspired this post, Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Kelly Starrett.  It’s so good it might even make it to the list as one of my favorite books for the year.

A point that has strongly resonated with me has been the author’s emphasis on the importance of movement breaks. As both an office worker, trader and a writer, I spend a lot of time parked in front of a desk. The book has a strong emphasis on moving into a standing desk, which fortunately my employer has provided for my office. At my home office I still sit, though I do implement the method of movement breaks described below.

The main concept is that by shifting into different positions other than the static sitting one most of us spend the majority of our time in, can do wonders to keep our bodies healthy. It prevents achy joints and stiff muscles from limiting your range of motion. To remedy this you must move. Frequently. The movement itself doesn’t have to be something that greatly elevates your heart rate, not that it hurts to get the blood moving a bit.

It could be as simple as a stroll about your house or office. It could be rolling out your wrists, doing some neck circles, and some light stretching. Starett suggests your breaks should be at least 2 minutes long every twenty-thirty minutes. At first, this may seem like a lot of breaks, but you get used to it and can use the time to think about what you’re working on by stepping back and getting a more macro perspective.

According to the book, and certainly from my anecdotal experience, when the body is inactive the brain does not fully engage and it becomes increasing more difficult to stay focused. Have you ever noticed the insights you get to a problem when you walk away from it? I think this is due to the health benefit and brain activation that happens because of the movement itself.

You have to put a condition in place to take these breaks, otherwise you’ll easily let them slide. I use a lightweight break timer on my computer which you can find here Every thirty minutes a popup appears on my screen reminding me to move. It’s hard to obey it sometimes, especially when it rudely interrupts you when you’re deep in thought or in the midst of a flow state. 

In the book he offers a great list of options for routines you can implement during these breaks. The main idea is upon each break to focus on one area. The first break might be your neck, so you would do some neck rolls, stretches, and maybe some light massaging with a lacrosse ball. The next could be your wrists, so you would do some wrist rolls and wrist stretches. You get the idea.

Starettt has an awesome youtube channel as well 

Book Review: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

Review: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

I just finished the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. I read a lot in the health and fitness genre and in that area there is a lot of shit. This book rises to the top and is well worth your time, even if you’re not overly interested in that area.

It’s about how processed foods are rigorously engineered to take you to the bliss point, the point at which they are perfectly palatable.  And big surprise, this is done with a combination of varying amounts of salt, sugar and fat. It’s also about a lot more than that.

The advent of society’s historically recent harried lifestyles have left a gap open which the big food companies have capitalized upon. The book mentions how women joining the workforce and being generally the operators of the household have spurned the creation of a lot of the convenience foods we see lining our store shelves today. There is a price to convenience.

The price is the death of family meals. It encourages eating anytime, anywhere, in any place. The tradition of eating real food with people you love is slowly dying.

I learned that we don’t have a bliss point for fat. We simply want more and more of it. I agree with this wholeheartedly as I add almost pure fat to my morning coffee on the weekends (butter and coconut oil – bulletproof coffee) and find it quite delicious. Now it’s in everything and offers little in the way of nutritional value in its mass-processed form.

Cheese wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. Cheese is on everything as either an accent taste, flavoring, or simply loaded on convenience food adding needless calories. Cheese was formerly mainly consumed as an appetizer or an accompaniment to wine.

Here’s the crazy thing about why we increased our cheese consumption. The Reagan administration subsidized dairy farmers and had no choice but to buy their excess inventory after making the agreement. They needed a way to get rid of it all. The government marketed cheese with your tax dollars. We have literally paid with our own tax dollars to in a way make ourselves fatter.

Salads come with cheese. It’s added to kid’s lunchables pseudo-foods.

Their marketing preys on children who are most vulnerable to their influence. What you learn when you’re young becomes harder to break as you get older E.g. Many people have a tradition like: My family always has English Muffins for breakfast, which might as well be sugar. The book goes deep on cereals and how most cereals are heavily sugar laden, some reaching as high as 60-70% of their content being sugar.

The food companies hire masters of manipulation who employ every psychological technique available. The most insidious thing about it is that in the marketing messages they make sure that the parent feels comfortable giving the child a bucket of sugar, by saying something on the label to the effect of “contains real fruit juice” when that only comprises 5% of the product and the rest is just High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), water, and dubious food coloring. If you were to create these products from scratch at home you would realize they’re fit for nothing more than the drain.

There are a lot of other fucked up things in the book that have stuck with me:

  • Customers are referred to as users, like drug users
  • Far more money is spent on advertising sugar filled products than what it costs to create them by leaps and bounds
  • When it was discovered that children wanted cake for breakfast, Kellog created Poptarts to meet that need so parents could feed their children that shit.
  • The big gulp (64 oz) of soda contains over 40 teaspoons of sugar

The book is very comprehensive and much more is covered. The author visited executives in hundreds of interviews, visited factories, spoke with lobbyists and did a great job as far as I can tell.

Another point that struck a cord with me is how the executives of these companies do not eat the food they produce. They know how bad it is and won’t touch it. In their meetings at the corporate offices it’s not served. There are quite a few people in the book who were trying to make up for damage they levied to society by working with the author to disclosed the food industry’s vile practices.

The book doesn’t end with advice you can implement. It just sort of fizzles out like: “So this is all bad..and THE END.” Despite all of that, I’d still highly recommend it for getting deep dive on what these companies are trying to sell us.