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A few good books

Some good ones I’ve read and enjoyed lately. 

1. How to fail at almost everything and still win big by Scott Adams 

How to fail at almost everything and still win big is one of the most recommended non-fiction books. It has a cult following and people speak highly of the book. 

The book is a blend of philosophic perspectives on failure and success, practical wisdom, and strategies for achieving success. Several themes run throughout the book. 

The first theme I would say revolve around mindset — mental and psychological orientation. This is where failure comes in. The idea is that you have to be willing to fail in order to make progress. Now failure is hard. Most people avoid failure. So Adams suggests you build a system to reduce the cost of failures and increase your gains from each failure such as learning, building new connections and getting new feedback, etc. When you increase your tolerance for failure and follow that up with more initiatives and projects, your chance of hitting a home run at some point grows significantly. 

This sets the context for the next theme where the author talks extensively about goals versus the system. 

Goals are more specific and come from an outcome-oriented mindset. You don't try many things when you operate with a goal-oriented mindset. You fear failure or give up trying after one failure. It eventually limits your success. 

A system approach, on the other hand, is the opposite of goal orientation. When you operate with a system approach, you don’t set outcome-oriented goals. Instead, you put together a system that ensures your expected outcomes. A goal is something like: I want to lose 15 kg of weight. The system is more like I’m someone who lives a healthy life and goes to the gym 5 times a week. 

The author offers a long list of examples and stories from his own life to explain how having a system view of the world helps us to make meaningful progress and achieve meaningful success in life. 

The third theme in the book is skills and learning. The author recommends a list of skills that helped him to grow personally and professionally such as skills of persuasion, psychology, finance, and so on. The general thesis is that every additional skill you gain can significantly improve the chance of your success. It is an excellent book with practical advice. Highly recommended. 

2. 100 ways to improve your writing by Gary Provost 

You have probably seen a meme of a page of Gary Provost’s “100 ways to improve your writing” making rounds on the internet as an example of how beautiful writing sings to your ear. The ebbs and flows of sentence structure. How to use the balance of long, medium, and short sentences to make your writing poetic and come alive. Though the entire book is meme-worthy. If you want to improve your writing, Provost has you covered. The book covers almost every aspect of good writing and offers solid practical advice that you can put into practice the next day. And the book is a delight to read. Writing is a superpower in today’s world. It can transform your life if you can do it well. So it makes sense to improve your writing skills. 

3. On Writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King 

This was my first reread of On Writing by Stephen King. I enjoyed it when I read it for the first time a few years ago. This time I enjoyed it even more. King is a wonderful writer and his personal journey tells a lot about what it really takes to get better at your craft. It also offers interesting clues about the sources of creativity and creative geniuses. 

The book is comprised of stories of King’s early life, his trajectory as an author, and practical wisdom about becoming a good writer. King shares a ton of stories from his early life. For instance, he had a tough childhood. Raised by a single mother, Kings lived a difficult life. On top of it, King went through several severe health problems early in his life. 

When reading the book I can’t help but feel the influence of all his life experiences and struggles not only in his writing but also in how he turned out as an individual. It appeared to me that writing was an outlet for King to express his struggles in a positive way. He took on writing to distract himself and use his otherwise difficult emotion and energy in a positive outlet. To that end, the book explores the role struggles play in our life. The way humans use imagination to create a better future for themselves. 

In many ways, rereading the book taught me how we can better use our struggles and the extraordinary and yet overlooked role of imagination in our life and world. 

I loved the stories and tidbits from King’s life and learned much from them. 

The second aspect is practical wisdom in writing. For instance, King asserts that in order for you to get good at writing you have to sit down every day and write. He writes he has been doing exactly the same throughout his life. There are also interesting tidbits about rejection and improving your craft. The suggestions for improving ones writing are simply excellent. This is easily one of my favorite books. Highly recommended. I published a short piece based on a chapter of the book here.

4. Endure by Cameron R. Hanes 

Endure is an intense read. It is a memoir by Cameron Hanes about his bowhunting to success journey. It can equally be called a manifesto on the importance of training hard, embracing pain, sacrificing for your dreams, finding your tribe, the importance of family, going the extra mile for your passion, pushing boundaries, and giving a little more each day in pursuit of passion. I was in a state of trace for several weeks after reading the book. I published a longer review of the book here

5. Put your ass (where your heart wants to be) by Steven Pressfield 

Steven Pressfield’s new book Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be is a short excellent read. This is my fourth book by Steven. Previously, I enjoyed reading his The War of Art, Do the Work, and Turning Pro. 

“Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be” can be called a follow-up of The War of Art. Steven introduced the idea of Resistance with a capital R in that book. In this book, he re-examines some of those ideas, expands on some, and proposes several new ideas. 

The interesting thing about Steven’s writing is that while the ideas are simple and direct, they don’t lack depth. He summarizes the challenges of creative types extremely well and offers effective solutions to those challenges. 

Creation is a difficult path. Be it a book, a painting, a song, or an enterprise. The work and the predicaments remain the same. 

Three key ideas from the book are:  

1. You have to commit and sit down to do your work. 

2. Place plays an important role in our life. You should move to the places where things are happening because it increases your chance of meeting people you need to meet for your work, finding resources and mentorship, and finding connections. 

3. “Putting your ass where your hearts want to be” means staying with your work psychologically as well as physically. It is all about commitment and sacrifices. It is a short book and I enjoyed reading it. I published a long review here

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Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based writer, researcher, and entrepreneur. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and the author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about entrepreneurship, business, strategy, technology, and culture. He can be reached at [email protected]

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