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Learning 101

The science of how we learn and make things stick (efficiently)

Did you know there’s a science (+ art!) to learning? Yep. In this class, I’m excited to share some of my favorite Big Ideas on how to learn + make things stick–efficiently! Whether you’re a student, parent, teacher or life-long learner, I hope you enjoy!

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The Art of Learning

An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

Josh Waitzkin is an extraordinary human. Ever heard of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer? That’s the story of Josh life. Literally. After a childhood and young adulthood spent dominating chess, Josh then went on to master Tai Chi and became a World Champion. But what he REALLY became was a master of learning and peak performance. Big Ideas we explore include the two approaches to leaning, the downward spiral (what it is and how to avoid it), honoring your unique disposition, investing in loss, knowing your goal (decent, good, great, among best!), the power of stress and recovery and the ultimate secret of mastery.

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Limitless

Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life

Jim Kwik is a widely recognized world expert in memory improvement, brain optimization and accelerated learning and has “served as the brain coach to a who’s who of Hollywood’s elite, professional athletes, political leaders, and business magnates.” The best part of Jim’s story? After suffering a brain injury in kindergarten, he was described by a teacher as "the kid with a broken brain.” He struggled with learning for most of his life. Then he went antifragile on it and studied (and applied!) the science of how we learn. Fast-forward a couple decades and VOILA. Here we are. This book is REALLY (!) good. Big Ideas we explore include the Limitless Model (Mindset + Motivation + Methods), Supervillans (Digital: Deluge + Distraction + Dementia + Deduction + Depression), Learn FASTER (Forget + Act + State + Teach + Enter + Review), Learned Limitlessness (delete the LIEs and Optimize the BS!), and how to create sustainable Motivation (Purpose x Energy x Small Simple Steps).

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How to Become a Straight-A Student

The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less

Cal Newport is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth who went on to MIT for his Ph.D. and is now a Professor at Georgetown. In this book, Cal shares the top ideas he gleaned from interviews with non-grind Phi Beta Kappa members at elite schools across the country. They had to perform well AND they had to achieve those results without grinding away. Their practices, although discovered independently, reflect the same wisdom shared in the science books. It’s great to see the overlap. Big Ideas: pseudo-work vs. real work (and a secret formula), conquering procrastination, when/where/how long should you study?, #1 way to learn (and #1 trap), the importance of spacing out your work and the power to choose your future via excellent grades.

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A Mind for Numbers

How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

Although, as per the sub-title, the book is ostensibly about “How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra),” it’s really about excelling at learning and at LIFE! Barbara Oakley is an award winning engineering teacher who used to struggle mightily with math and science. She walks us through the latest research in neuroscience and learning as she shares fascinating biographical sketches of scientific + mathematical luminaries along with wisdom from other world-class teachers. Great stuff.

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How We Learn

The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

Benedict Carey is an award-winning science writer for The New York Times. This book is his exploration of what the latest research says about, you guessed it, How We Learn. Big Ideas we cover include the #1 enemy to learning (and how to win that battle), why distributed your learning is where it’s at, how sleeping is like learning with your eyes closed and how to put the Zeigarnick Effect to use for maximum benefit.

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Make It Stick

The Science of Successful Learning

Want to learn about the science of successful learning? Then this is the book for you. Written by a story-teller and two of the world’s leading cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to mastering memory + learning, the book is packed with wisdom on what works and what doesn’t. Big Ideas we explore include mastery vs. fluency, the power of active retrieval (aka “the testing effect”), explaining stuff in your own words and the wisdom in the adage that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

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The Practicing Mind

Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life‎

The Practicing Mind. It’s the key to true inner peace and contentment. In a world that conditions us to obsess about goals and outcomes, it’s easy to miss the importance of the process. The PRACTICE. Thomas Sterner brilliantly (!) helps us bring discipline and focus into our lives to experience the presence and joy that comes as a result. (Bonus: We also create a frictionless path to our goals as well!)

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Locked PhilosophersNotes

The Talent Code

Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown.

Whatever you want to learn, know this: It’s ALL about the myelin. Myelin? Yep. Myelin. In this Note we’ll learn what myelin is and why it’s so cool along with some other Big Ideas—ranging from the importance of “Deep Practice,” to the importance of baby steps as the royal road to skill and the fact that greatness isn’t about not magic, it’s about hard work.

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Talent is Overrated

What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Colvin tells us talent is overrated. (As you may have gathered from the title. :) Where’s it at? 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, yo. That’s the bedrock on which greatness is developed. In this Note, we’ll check out The Mozart Myth (you think he was born great?! Think again!) to falling on your butt 20,000 times, and we’ll have fun seeing how we can create our own personal greatness.

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The Rise of Superman

Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance

The Rise of Superman. What an awesome title and vision. Steven Kotler is one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of flow. He created the Flow Genome Project that is all about “decoding the peak performance state of flow.” (<—Awesome.) In this book we take a peak at how we can get our greatness on. Big Ideas include a quick look at flow and how to hack it, achieving mastery sans misery, using fear as a compass and how to do the impossible.

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Peak

Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Anders Ericsson is the world’s leading scientist studying expert performance—looking at how, precisely, the people who are the best in the world at what they do became the best. In this Note, we take a quick look at The Gift that we all have that’s the key to our potential greatness, HOW to go about tapping into the benefits of that gift via a certain type of practice (forget naive practice and go for purposeful + deliberate!), the fact that there is no such thing as a “10,000 Hour Rule,” and why we should be called Homo Exercens rather than Homo Sapiens. :)

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Deep Work

Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work. It’s the key to how you get So Good They Can’t Ignore You—which, of course, is the title of another one of Cal’s great books. Big Ideas include Deep Work vs. Shallow Work, how to give your neurons a workout, cleaning up attention residue, the four rules of deep work, finding the routine that works for you and learning how to shut down completely.

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So Good They Can't Ignore You

Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Cal Newport decodes the pattern of finding work that inspires us and tells us, as per the sub-title, “Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.” The title of the book comes from comedian Steve Martin’s advice to aspiring entertainers to “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

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Flow

The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow. It's all about the science of optimal human experience. In this Note, we'll explore what the flow state is (hint: get fully engaged in an activity that matches your skills with your challenge) and we’ll look at some other Big Ideas on controlling the contents of our consciousness to get out of anxiety and boredom as we create more flow experiences in our lives. (Plus, you'll even learn how to pronounce "Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.")

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Mindset

The New Psychology of Success

Carol Dweck, Ph.D is a Stanford Professor and one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of motivation. She tells us that our “mindset”—how we see the world—determines a *huge* part of our overall happiness and well-being and achievement. In this Note, we’ll explore the difference between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset” and some Big Ideas on why we want to learn how to live from a growth mindset. And, of course, how to do it!

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Grit

The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Duckworth is the world’s leading authority on the science of grit. In fact, she pioneered the field and, as Daniel Gilbert says on the cover: “Psychologists have spent decades searching for the secret of success, but Duckworth is the one who found it.” In this Note, we explore the two facets of grit (hint: passion + perseverance, why they’re important and how to cultivate them.

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Smartcuts

How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success

Shane Snow is a journalist and entrepreneur who takes us on a fascinating tour of “How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.” The book is packed with stories capturing the ascent of everyone from young Presidents, Jimmy Fallon, and Elon Musk—and, of course, the “Smartcuts” they used to get there. Big Ideas we explore include: the power of progress, failure as feedback, creating a deep reservoir, stripping away the unnecessary and 10Xing our thinking.

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The Power of Mindful Learning

Ready to apply mindfulness to learning and teaching? That's what this book is all about as Ellen Langer challenges seven pervasive myths related to learning. In the Note we explore Ideas ranging from reframing, ever-present gratification and creating options to mindful presentations and celebrating confusion.

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#1194 How to Learn FASTER

Forget + Act + State + Teach + Enter + Review
Today we’re going to revisit Jim Kwik’s brain and book Limitless for some of his wisdom on FASTER learning. Recall that Jim is one of
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#1029 The Pen Is Mightier

Than the Keyboard (Science Says re: Taking Notes)
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’s insight that leadership entails a willingness to embrace what he calls “hatred and
Locked +1s

#1030 Want to Make It Stick?

Explain Like I’m 5
In our last +1, we talked about the research on the fact that The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note
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#956 Your Learning Zone

vs. Your Comfort and Panic Zones
In our last +1, we did a gold-medal-winning layback Ina Bauer with Shizuka Arakawa. Then we counted the number of times she had to fall on
Locked +1s

#1183 Learned Limitlessness

Baby Elephants and You
Jim Kwik is one of the world’s leading peak performance gurus. His specialty is memory improvement, brain optimization and accelerated
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Locked +1s

#787 A Learning Mindset

Is a Wise Mindset
In our last +1, we hung out with the WD-40 chemist in his lab and then joined Thomas Edison in his lab. When I pictured those scenes,
+1s

#96 Win or Learn

Three Questions to Ask after a Disappointing Performance
Lanny Bassham won a gold medal in rifle shooting in the 1976 Olympics. But he didn’t win that gold until AFTER he kinda fell apart in the
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#604 Interleaving

A Key Way to Learn
In Learning 101, we talked about a concept scientists call “interleaving.” The basic idea is simple: If you want to learn something,
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#442 WARNING: Noisy Environments

Can Diminish Your Performance
As I was writing that last +1 about our two Goddesses, some sort of truck starting beeping down the street. I immediately reached over and
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#425 It’s Always Hard

Before It’s Easy
Emerson is learning how to read and I’m the lucky guy who gets to teach him. (btw: We’re LOVING this book: Teach Your Child to Read in
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#370 Mistake-Learner’s High

Enjoy It as You Pursue Audacious Goals and Endlessly Evolve
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’ great phrase: “Endlessly evolving process.” Phil likes to draw upward spiraling loops to
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#250 Incremental to Bam!

Notes on a Baby Learning to Crawl
As all parents know, one of the most amazing things about having kids is watching them hit new milestones—when, one day, they can do what
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#176 Want to Improve? Measure

The Power of a Pedometer and Other Measuring Devices
Did you know that one of the easiest ways to optimize any aspect of your life is to simply measure it? Yep. In fact, this effect is so
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+1s

#110 Desirable Difficulties

How to Turn Weakness into Strength
We’re on a roll with the whole “embrace challenges on your epic quest!” theme so how about one more +1 on the subject? Malcolm
+1s

#19 How to Build Your Grit

The 4 Key Scientific Variables
Angela Duckworth created the science of Grit. It’s fascinating. She defines it as intense passion + intense perseverance. In short,
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#62 "That's Like Me!"

How to Optimize Your Self-Image
Whether you’re an athlete, entrepreneur, teacher, parent, manager, or — fill in the blank here —, what percentage of your game do you
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#85 50 Pounds = A

How to Master the Fear of Art
Imagine this: It’s your first day of art class. You signed up for an intro class on pottery. (Nice! Go you!) The teacher does something a
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#92 The Gift of Greatness

We’ve All Been Given It — Here It Is
Anders Ericsson is the world’s leading authority on the science of what makes great performers great. If you’ve ever heard of the
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#93 The Science of Being Awesome

A Quick Look at Purposeful + Deliberate Practice
In our last +1 we talked about Anders Ericsson and his research on the science of greatness. The most exciting discovery? The fact that we
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#94 Adaptability + Homeostasis

Why Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Is So Important
We’ve talked a lot about how important it is to get out of our comfort zones. But why is it so important? Two words: Adaptability +
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#137 How to Turn Life-Lemons into Optimizade

Instant Recipe with One Ingredient-Question
A lot of people ask me to share more examples of how I personally apply these +1s to my life. Here’s a fun one. So, these days my mornings
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Locked +1s

#165 Flow

What It Is & How to Get in It
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is one of the world’s leading researchers studying the science of well-being. He co-founded the Positive
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#179 Chunk It!

Break Your Epic Goals into Bite-Size Chunks
In our last +1, we talked about reducing Delay to increase Motivation. I briefly mentioned the power of “chunking” a big goal into small
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#240 Our Minds Must Relax

Seneca on How to Avoid Mental Dullness and Lethargy
In our last +1, we talked about the Cal Newport-inspired “Shut-down complete!” First, quick check in: You win that game? 😃 Get this:
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#323 Why We Err

Necessary Fallibility + Ignorance + Ineptitude
In our last +1, we reflected on Nobel Prize-winning Herbert Simon’s wisdom that “A wealth of information creates a poverty of
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Locked +1s

#579 Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing

Choosing a Practice As a Portal to Optimizement
Alexandra recently got Steven Pressfield’s newest book called The Artist’s Journey. Sub-title: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the
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#815 Archeological Reading

← Aka How Twyla and I Read a Book
In our last +1, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on reading and thinking. Recall her comment that: “If I stopped reading, I’d
Locked +1s

#998 Going thru the Motions

vs. Going for Mastery
In our last +1, we chatted about eudaimonology—the study of a good soul. Recall that the ancient Greek philosophers thought that a sense
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#1020 Learning Cycles

And How to Optimize Them
In our last +1, we talked about the PM ritual Pythagoras came up with 2,500 years ago (!) that the Stoics liked to follow: Allow not sleep
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Locked +1s

#1191 Genius Work vs. Mediocre Work

High Fiving Your Inner Genius
In our last +1, we talked about the INFINITE power of Consistency. Recall that our (always evolving) equation for Awesome now goes something
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#1256 Conscious Competence

Is Where It’s At
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a big fan of mental toughness books—whether that’s coming from peak performers in
Locked +1s

#814 Reading and Thinking

The Two Go Together
A few +1s ago, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habit. That led to a little dance through the minds of some pretty epically creative
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#457 The Master’s Plateau

Let’s Learn to Love It
Continuing our George-Leonard-Mastery theme, here’s another quick little tip we want to keep in mind as we commit to becoming Masters.
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Locked +1s

#729 Use It or Lose It, a Case Study

Aka: Where’d My Left Forearm Go?
In our last +1, we had fun hanging out with my new bionic arm as we stepped into the stimulus-response gap to choose our optimal response to
+1s

#264 Prior Best = New Baseline

Your Best Days? That’s Your New Normal
In our last +1, we entered our World Champion You Training Camp. * Cue Rocky theme song * Here’s one way Josh Waitzkin tells us we can go
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#607 IQ vs. Willpower

One Is a Much Better Predictor than the Other
In our last +1, we talked about the awesome CEO-dads (and Harvard interns!) who are committed to mastering their Love as much as their Work.
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#251 Combination Locks

Ideas that Open the Doors to Your Infinite Potential
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that we have a baby on the loose in the Johnson house. We also talked about how all those tiny
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Locked +1s

#654 Your Identity = ?

Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can’t…
In our last +1, we took a trip down Etymology Lane and learned that the word Identity has ancient Latin roots. It literally (!) means
+1s

#12 Keep Shooting

A True Story About Moving thru Some Serious Obstacles
Once upon a time (1938 to be precise) there was a pistol shooter. He was incredibly good. Hoped to be the very best, in fact. Unfortunately,
+1s

#117 Chore vs. Gift

Choosing the Right Why Turns Your Behaviors from One to the Other
Michelle Segar, the scientist we learned about in our last +1, tells us that when we choose the Right (concrete) Why (“Feel better
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#960 Capturing a Richer Mindset

Via the Power of Placebo-Words
In our last +1, we revisited Ellen Langer at her “Psychology of Possibility” lab at Harvard to learn that words matter. As you may
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Locked +1s

#985 Operating at the Highest Level

Nature Says: Here’s Some Energy-Juice!
In our last +1, we did our best Boss impersonation as we reinterpreted our sweaty palms and racing hearts as a sign we’re EXCITED and
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#1135 Be Willing to Fail

Edison, Churchill and YOU!
Continuing our little series on the science of courage, how about some more wisdom from Robert Biswas-Diener? In The Courage Quotient, he
+1s

#286 Genius Dress Code

Save Your Brain Cells for Stuff That Matters
In his classic book on Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi walks us through the science of what makes extraordinary creators so
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#518 Getting to the Bottom of Things

Vis-a-Vis Staying on Top of Things
In our last +1, we talked about the humble algorithm and Professor Harari’s point that it is, arguably, the single most important concept
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#311 Ideal Performance State

Emotional Consistency and Peak Performance
Jim Loehr is one of the world’s leading authorities on peak performance. He and Tony Schwartz wrote The Power of Full Engagement and
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21 Lessons for the 21st Century

This is Yuval Noah Harari's third book (and our third Note). His first two focused on the past (Sapiens) and the future (Homo Deus). In this one, we "zoom in on the here and now" as we take a look at 21 of the most important things to be thinking about in the 21st century. Like all of his books, this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at some globally Big Ideas. Although obviously outside the scope of our normal Optimizing, I think it's important stuff. In the Note we explore dealing with "Disillusionment" (the title of chapter #1) by switching from "panic to bewilderment"), the future of health care and driving (and jobs!), making sure we match our investment in developing AI with an equivalent investment in developing "human consciousness," what we should be teaching our kids (basically, how to Optimize!!), and Yuval's #1 practice: meditation.

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Black Box Thinking

Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do

Failure. Some of us lean into it and learn as much as we can from it, and some of us prefer to avoid thinking about it and/or pretend it never happened. As you may guess, one approach leads to dramatically better performance over the long run. (Hint: Seeing failure as feedback + learning opportunities is a very wise idea.) Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at the aviation vs. health care industries, the importance of quantity of work if you want quality, marginal gains, cognitive dissonance and pre-mortems.

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Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems

Dr. Daniel Amen MD is one of the world’s leading psychiatrists. He’s a clinical neuroscientist (love that phrase!) who has performed 115,000+ SPECT scans on his patients’ brains. (That’s a lot.) This book captures what he’s learned about optimizing our brains, why it’s important and how to do it. Big Ideas we explore include #ANTspray, wisdom from Fat Freddie the penguin, how hungry your brain is (did you know it’s 2% body weight but uses 20-30% of calories consumed?), and a bunch of other goodness.

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Homo Deus

A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari is a brilliant historian and thinker. He has a PhD in history from Oxford and is a tenured professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After finishing my Note on his first bestselling book Sapiens I immediately picked up this one. While Sapiens features a “A Brief History of Humankind,” Homo Deus gives us “A Brief History of Tomorrow.” Wonder what the future might look like and how artificial intelligence and biotechnology will fundamentally change the world and our species? Well, this is the book for you. It’s incredibly well-written and thoughtful and thought provoking. I HIGHLY recommend it. Big Ideas we explore include how Harari developed such an extraordinary mind (hint: 10,000+ hours of meditation and no smartphone), why we should study history (hint: to reimagine a better future), the 21st century's Big 3: Immortality + Happiness + Divinity (which results in an upgrade from Homo sapiens to Homo deus!), and algorithms--"arguably the single most important concept of the 21st century.

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Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is one of the world's leading philosophers and in this Note we'll explore some of my favorite Big Ideas on his "Integral Philosophy" —including the REALLY Big Idea of holding multiple perspectives and seeing the partial truths in any situation (rather than always seeing things as "either/or") plus the importance of turning enlightened state experiences into a way of being (hint: you only get there by doing the work).

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Longitude

The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

This book is “The True Story” of how, as per the sub-title, “a Lone Genius Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.” (<- The “Longitude” problem!) It’s a wonderfully written book by Dava Sobel, who combines her background in both astronomy and psychology to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the science and history of time, longitude, and seafaring all wrapped up in one epic heroic quest. If you’re looking for a fun, quick-reading, mind-expanding escape from the normal self-development literature, I think you’ll enjoy this hero-tale as much as I did. Big Ideas we explore include: clocks and watches (and SUNDIALS!), time (as measured in heartbeats), longitude (vs. latitude), strengths (and weaknesses), encouraging a hero (how will you do so Today?!), Rome wasn’t built in a day (neither was anything awesome), elegant solutions (and the scientific establishment).

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Outliers

The Story of Success

As with all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, this is a fascinating read—exploring the underpinnings of what *really* makes great people great. In short: It’s more complicated than we think and it’s *definitely* not simply innate talent. Culture and hard work and other often wacky variables play a pivotal role. Big Ideas we explore: The 10,000 Hour Rule, no naturals + no grinders, The Beatles (and their 1,200!! shows before they hit it big), Bill Gates sneaking out of bed in high school and the three keys to meaning.

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Locked PhilosophersNotes

The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent

Living the Art of Allowing

The third Abraham-Hicks title we profile, this one's all about aligning our desires and beliefs and taking inspired action to go "downstream" and rock it. In the Note, we'll explore the difference between deliberate creation and creating by default along with another peek at the importance of using our emotions as a guidance system and how it's always best to start with something *easy* and then develop our confidence and skills from there!

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The Art of Peace

Morihei Ueshiba was one of the world's greatest martial artists and the founder of Aikido. In this little book, he shares some awesome Big Ideas on The Art of Peace. Big Ideas range from the fact that life is about growth and that if we stop growing, we're as good as dead to the idea that our ultimate purpose is to realize our inner divinity. Good stuff.

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The Genius in All of Us

New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ

David Shenk is the award-winning and national-bestselling author of six books. He’s also a lecturer and filmmaker. His primary focus with this book is shining a bright light on the fact that the “Nature vs. Nurture” paradigm is a VERY limited way of looking at things. He tells us that the interaction between our genes and our environment is a much more nuanced, DYNAMIC PROCESS. Big Ideas we explore include Genes 1.0 vs. Genes 2.0 (think G+E vs. GxE), the Mozart Myth (remember: Talent is overrated!), deliberate practice (is where it's at), and how to be a genius (or merely great).

Locked PhilosophersNotes

The Little Book of Talent

52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

In The Talent Code, Dan Coyle introduced us to the power of myelin and its role in creating world-class performance. In The Little Book of Talent, he shares 52 uber-practical tips on how to improve our skills. Big Ideas we explore include how to actually deliberately practice (hint: find your sweet spot), the most important skill (hint: get good at actually practicing), playing mental movies, adopting a blue collar mind set and thinking like a gardener while acting like a carpenter.

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Locked PhilosophersNotes

You Learn by Living

Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Eleanor Roosevelt served as the First Lady for 12 years—through her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt’s terms as President during the Great Depression and World War II. She went on to play a leading role as a diplomat in the United Nations was one of the most loved and influential women of the 20th century. This book is a beautifully written, inspiring look into “Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life.” Big Ideas we cover include how to conquer the great enemy (fear), Eleanor’s Top 4 Big Ideas on Time Management 101, holding the tension between our dreams of perfection and reality while making all life one big adventure.