Foundation

Still working my way through this reading order of Asimov’s books. Foundation is a book comprised of 5 stories; though they all tie together well. Really good read. I’ve been impressed by the consistent quality of each book in this series.

The Breaks of the Game

In-depth summary of the Portland Trailblazers 1979-80 season. Halberstam weaves a lot of storylines together here to give a good picture of the NBA on the brink of change. You get a detailed basketball history along with a look at the social and economic changes impacting the league.

The Clockwork Universe

Great narrative history book about Isaac Newton and his contemporaries’ advancements in the sciences. A light read that covers a lot of ground and weaves together various story lines. You get a solid sense of just how transformational the changes in this era were. Notes I highlighted are below.

God was a mathematician, seventeenth-century scientists firmly believed

the triumph of the scientific worldview has been so complete that we’ve lost more than the losing side’s version of history. We’ve lost the idea that a view different from ours is even possible.

The Royal Society pushed for a radically new approach: knowledge would advance more quickly if new findings were discussed openly and published for all to read.

Aristotle’s why explained the world, Galileo’s how described it. The new scientists began, that is, by dismissing the very question that all their predecessors had taken as fundamental.

calculus is the Latin word for “pebble,” a reference to the heaps of stones once used as a calculating aid in addition and multiplication.

for Newton himself, the answer to the question where does God fit in the universe? was plain. God sat enthroned at the center of creation.

The Three-Body Problem

Great sci-fi book that my friend Luke loaned me. The backdrop is China’s Cultural Revolution (the book is translated into English) and it makes for one of the more original sci-fi stories I’ve read in a while. Looking forward to reading the next two books in the series now.

One Great Shoe

A short Kindle Single that focuses on the story of And1, a sneaker company that rose alongside streetball’s growth in the 1990s. I’d only recommend it if you fondly remember wearing And1 shoes or are particularly into sneakers.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

The subtitle, A Message for an Age of Anxiety, does a good job encapsulating what this more philosophical book focuses on. I found it very worthwhile to read. One of those philosophy texts that puts things in such a way that it clarifies your own thinking. Notes I highlighted are below.

If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp

A myth can only “work” when it is thought to be truth,

The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes.

Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go.

life is likewise a flowing process, change and death are its necessary parts. To work for their exclusion is to work against life.

Life and death are not two opposed forces; they are simply two ways of looking at the same force, for the movement of change is as much the builder as the destroyer.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

ideas and words are more or less fixed, whereas real things change.

To want life to be “intelligible” in this sense is to want it to be something other than life. It is to prefer a motion-picture film to a real, running man. To feel that life is meaningless unless “I” can be permanent is like having fallen desperately in love with an inch.

the special disease of civilized man might be described as a block or schism between his brain (specifically, the cortex) and the rest of his body.

If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life.

Sanity, wholeness, and integration lie in the realization that we are not divided, that man and his present experience are one, and that no separate “I” or mind can be found.

For to be aware of reality, of the living present, is to discover that at each moment the experience is all.

We learn nothing of very much importance when it can be explained entirely in terms of past experience.

For when you really understand that you are what you see and know, you do not run around the countryside thinking, “I am all this.” There is simply “all this.”

if you and your thoughts are part of this universe, you cannot stand outside them to describe them.

Events look inevitable in retrospect because when they have happened, nothing can change them.

It is one thing to have as much time as you want, but quite another to have time without end.

Prelude to Foundation

Another Asimov novel I enjoyed. This is another one set on a single world and follows the events of a mathematician who possesses a prophetic power.

Extreme Ownership

I came across this book through the Tim Ferris podcast episode with Jocko. While it’s a quick read with precise and to-the-point writing it’s also one of the more useful and practical leadership books I’ve read. Would highly recommend to anyone, whether you’re in a position of formal leadership or not. Notes I highlighted are below.

The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission.

Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t. And this applies not just to the most senior leader of an overall team, but to the junior leaders of teams within the team.

“If you aren’t winning,” I responded, “then you aren’t making the right decisions.”

when it comes to performance standards, It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

Every leader must be able to detach from the immediate tactical mission and understand how it fits into strategic goals. When leaders receive an order that they themselves question and do not understand, they must ask the question: why? Why are we being asked to do this? Those leaders must take a step back, deconstruct the situation, analyze the strategic picture, and then come to a conclusion. If they cannot determine a satisfactory answer themselves, they must ask questions up the chain of command until they understand why.

“Relax, look around, make a call.”

leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.

Teams must be careful to avoid target fixation on a single issue. They cannot fail to recognize when the highest priority task shifts to something else.

even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently. It is more important that the junior leaders are allowed to make decisions—and backed up even if they don’t make them correctly.

You need to brief so that the most junior man can fully understand the operation—the lowest common denominator. That’s what a brief is.

Leading up the chain of command requires tactful engagement with the immediate boss (or in military terms, higher headquarters) to obtain the decisions and support necessary to enable your team to accomplish its mission and ultimately win.

there was, and is, a dichotomy in the strict discipline we followed. Instead of making us more rigid and unable to improvise, this discipline actually made us more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient.

Pebble in the Sky

The third book in the Galactic Empire series from Asimov. It’s a really well-crafted story set on Earth many centuries into the future.