Good Reads, December’s Here Edition

Happy December 1st, everybody! After the Productive Anywhere launch, I’m slowly getting back on top of things, including my online reading that had been quite limited during the last couple of weeks.

Here is some of the good stuff I read in recent days – but let’s start with a bit of shameless self-promotion:

If you think about it, freedom is a lot like apples: There are people who think they can control access to it, who want to sell it to you, or who want to prevent you from getting it. But if the time is ripe, you will find a way to get it anyway.

If you think about it, freedom, just like apples, is free – but it’s not: You often can’t just take what’s right in front of you and expect it to be sweet and tasty. Much to the opposite, it might often be quite sour.

But if all you do is to look at that bright red apple high up in the tree, and wait for it to fall down, it might get mealy and stale before you get it. Or someone else might eat it. If, on the other hand, you try to shake it off violently, you well might get it, but your freedom might have that foul taste just like a bruised apple.

That’s the thing with freedom: You don’t just have to want it. You don’t just have to look at it. You don’t just have to choose it, either.

If you want to get your personal freedom, you have to decide to climb.

This is a post I wrote for Illuminated Mind. It features apple trees and freedom and climbing children and I think you’ll like it. So if you miss a longer update here on TFA, be sure to check it out!


The whole Christmas mall menagerie is so silly that it can barely offend anymore. It doesn’t warrant a serious condemnation, and being hard-nosed about it is a little like picketing a WWE event to convince showgoers that it isn’t real wrestling. More than anything I wanted to be entertained, and I was.

David Cain on his recent experiences in a local mall. Some good food for thought when it comes to Christmas shopping and what to make of it.


Getting Started is Overrated:

Attend any talk given by an entrepreneur and you’ll hear some variation of the following: The most important thing you can do is to get started! I completely disagree.

This advice has percolated from its origin in business self-help to the wider productivity blogging community. You’ve heard it before: Do you want to become a writer? Start writing! Do you want to become fit? Join a gym today! Do you want to become a big-time blogger? Start posting ASAP! If you don’t start, you’re weak! You’re afraid of success!

Here’s the problem: I completely disagree with this common advice. I think an instinct for getting started cripples your chance at long-term success. And I suggest that, on the contrary, you should develop rigorous thresholds that any pursuit must overcome before it can induce action.

A smart and extremely relevant post by Cal Newport over at Lifehacker. This has been lurking in my “Good Reads” drawer for months already because I intended to write a longer post on the topic – but I think I just better get this out now.

The short version: Looking back, success always looks like a straight path, but the realities are different. For every person suceeding in, say, professional blogging, there are many others who failed. What to make of that? Read the whole thing!


Sometimes, during the years of writing this book, I’ve found myself on a crowded train in Tokyo or Osaka, on my way to meet one of the people who live in the mountains, and I’ll look at the businessmen all around me, their suits and ties perfect, but exhaustion hanging over their faces, pallid and overdrawn like a bank account, and I wonder, if like Murata says, they also dream this dream. If so, do they lack the courage? Or have they made choices earlier on about family and house buying so that it’s much less easy to move? Or is Murata right, that it’s much more simple than that? They aren’t doing it because they simply don’t want it enough?

This ideal, I mention, might come from ancient India, where the texts talk about it as something one does as the fourth and last stage of life.

“Yes,” Murata says “for after you finish your working life, in your fifties or sixties…”

“But you wanted to do it sooner?” I ask.

Laughing he says, “Yes!” And then he adds, solemn as if he’s quoting something, “Whatever you can do, it’s best to do it soon.”

This site was recommended to me by Lawson, a good friend of my good friend Ben. The two are currently somewhere in Thailand, studying tropical forests, eating great food, exploring the countryside and whatnot. “Whatever you can do, it’s best to do it soon?” Definitely! ((Do you notice the contradiction to Cal’s post? I put these two one behind another intentionally! This is the fine art of embracing contradictions.)) Thanks, Lawson! Keep those mails coming!


George Christensen, a 55-year-old bike messenger, likes to set challenges for himself. In 1975 he sat through every inning of every game in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. In 1991 he made 73 deliveries in one day, a record for Chicago bike messengers at the time. Last spring he attended 70 movies in 12 days.

But of all his serial obsessions, one stands out. Any bicycling enthusiast might take one long trip of 5,000 or more miles. Some take two or three. Christensen has taken 15. He’s also done at least one 1,000-mile tour every year since 1977 and more 300-to-500-mile trips than he can count.

Epic story. Here’s his blog! This is lifestyle design for reals. I mean… wow. Christensen prefers to work as a messenger during winter because there is less competition and more pay. And then, he does his 1,000+ mile trips during summer. At 55!


Another thing I did not write about quitting Facebook was that one of the great social pleasures in my life has been to leave gatherings or parties unannounced.

What I Didn’t Write About When I Wrote About Quitting Facebook


The internet, as it turns out, is what you make of it. It’s the kinds of sites you visit, the communities you choose to engage with and the amount of time you spend doing so.

I’m always glad to read posts from J.D. Bentley. Unhypey, thoughtful, illuminating stuff. Like this one, about fishes in a bubble! Certainly a simple and relevant (practical!) approach to counteract the filter bubble problem described by Eli Pariser. (Here’s his TED talk, in case you missed it.)


How to find focus? Do more of the following:

•    Sleep. Staying up all night to stay on top puts you at the bottom. Sleep is sexy.
•    Move. We are screen-beings, but fitness helps us focus, boosts our mood, and keeps this meat spacesuit alive.
•    Fuel yourself. Drink much more water. Eat the best food you can afford. Never settle for food. Celebrate it. (Sometimes, greasy beach pizza is the celebration.)
•    Find patience. We only have now. Learning patience is a huge part of learning focus.

I’m glad to see more and more people becoming aware of the importance of idleness and relaxation in life. Even guys like Chris Brogan. Yes, yes and yes: Sleep is good for you. And greasy pizza now and then doesn’t hurt, either. (Now and then!)

By the way, one thing I wholeheartedly disagree with is Chris’ notion that we are “over-informed”. Most of us are certainly “over-newsed,” but unfortunately still under-informed. Check this story about Fox News watchers being actually less informed than people who don’t consume any news at all!

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