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Pedro Lopes Blog

Book Quotes Collection - Part 1

Books are an immensely valuable source of condensed knowledge and insightful thoughts. Here is a selection of my favorite quotes, from books I’ve read throughout the past years:


  • “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. 13
  • By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular. (…) what could be a more appropriate reward for two decades of résumé-building than a seemingly elite, process-oriented career that promises to “keep options open”? 1
  • The biggest battle I have is restricting their video game time because they want to play all the time. The rule is they have to read more than they play video games. They also can’t play completely stupid video games. There’s one game they downloaded recently called Cookies or something. You literally tap a fucking cookie. It’s like a Psych 101 experiment. I made them delete the cookie game. They had to play Flappy Golf instead, which is like Flappy 2


  • But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born, And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life, And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. 13
  • Promises are easy and cheap to make, actual work is hard and expensive. If it wasn’t, you’d just have done it now rather than promised it later. 11

Business / Companies

  • Startups Are Easy, Stayups Are Hard 11
  • On describes the earliest startup as like driving a race car. You’re close to the ground, and you feel every move you make. You have control, you can turn quickly, you feel like things are moving fast. Of course, you’re also at risk of crashing at any moment, but you only take yourself down if you do. As you grow, you graduate to a commercial flight. You’re farther from the ground, and more people’s lives depend on you, so you need to consider your movements more carefully, but you still feel in control and can turn the plane relatively quickly. Finally, you graduate to a spaceship, where you can’t make quick moves and the course is set long in advance, but you’re capable of going very far and taking tons of people along for the ride. 16
  • Most of the people at PayPal don’t understand this. The reason it worked was because the cost of transactions in PayPal was lower than any other system. And the reason the cost of transactions was lower is because we were able to do an increasing percentage of our transactions as ACH, or automated clearinghouse, electronic transactions, and most importantly, internal transactions. Internal transactions were essentially fraud-free and cost us nothing. An ACH transaction costs, I don’t know, like twenty cents or something. But it was slow, so that was the bad thing. It’s dependent on the bank’s batch processing time. And then the credit card transaction was fast, but expensive in terms of the credit card processing fees and very prone to fraud. That’s the problem Square is having now. “Square is doing the wrong version of PayPal. The critical thing is to achieve internal transactions. 2
  • Is this thing any good? Does it solve a real problem? Should we have made it better? Are we making what customers want? Is anybody going to buy this? Did we price it right? 11
  • There’s only a bunch of business-axiom baloney like “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Says who? 11
  • Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina by observing: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Business is the opposite. All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition. 1
  • Are production incidents happening that are taking up lots of time? Are a bunch of people sick? Are they bickering over coding style in their code review comments? Are the tickets that are being written vague, too big, too small? Does the team seem upbeat in their communication style, sharing fun things as well as important work in chat, or are they purely business? Look at their calendars. Is the team spending many hours a week in meetings? Is their manager not doing 1-1s? None of these things are necessarily smoking guns, but they may point to an area to address. 16
  • Conway’s Law is often cited in discussions of this kind of structure. It states: “Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” 16
  • As ridiculous and dangerous as this might seem, plenty of teams fall prey to the lure of status. These often include altruistic nonprofit organizations that come to believe that the nobility of their mission is enough to justify their satisfaction. Political groups, academic departments, and prestigious companies are also susceptible to this dysfunction, as they often see success in merely being associated with their special organizations. 17


  • Forget “minimum viable products”—ever since he started Apple in 1976, Jobs saw that you can change the world through careful planning, not by listening to focus group feedback or copying others’ successes. 1
  • Because let’s face it: Goals are fake. Nearly all of them are artificial targets set for the sake of setting targets. 11
  • Start with a shared understanding of the goals, risks, and the questions to answer before making a decision. When you assign the ownership for making a 16
  • “We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.” 9
  • You have 10 productive engineering weeks per engineer per quarter 16
  • Dedicate 20% of your team’s schedule to “sustaining engineering.” 16
  • It’s likely that Q1 (immediately after the winter holidays) will be the most productive and Q4 (the quarter that includes winter and the end-of-year holidays) will be the least productive. 16
  • Therefore, you must always be aggressive about sharing estimates and updates to estimates, even when people don’t ask, especially if you believe that the project is critical or likely to take longer than a few weeks. This means you must be aggressive about getting estimates, and as we all know, software estimation is a very difficult process. Negotiating the process that your team uses to estimate, on what timescale, for what projects, may be part of your job at this level. 16
  • If you haven’t taken the time to articulate the value of this work, it will get pushed aside in favor of projects that are more clearly valuable. 16
  • My advice is to do your best to gather data to support yourself, and talk about what will be possible when the work is done. 16
  • When an engineer comes to you with an engineering project that she wants to do, think about framing the project by answering these questions: How big is that project? How important is it? Can you articulate the value of that project to anyone who asks? What would successful completion of the project mean for the team? 16
  • The hardest part, in many ways, was getting started. The second-hardest part was getting comfortable making a guess about the future with highly imperfect information. 16
  • “The key, of course, is to define our goals, our results, in a way that is simple enough to grasp easily, and specific enough to be actionable. Profit is not actionable enough. It needs to be more closely related to what we do on a daily basis. (…) By combining some and eliminating others, they narrowed them to seven: revenue, expenses, new customer acquisition, current customer satisfaction, employee retention, market awareness, and product quality. 17


  • The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be able to manage yourself if you want to be good at managing others. The more time you spend understanding yourself, the way you react, the things that inspire you, and the things that drive you crazy, the better off you will be. 16
  • Contrary to the notion that teams waste time and energy arguing, those that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution. They often ask team members to take their issues “off-line,” which seems to be a euphemism for avoiding dealing with an important topic, only to have it raised again at the next meeting. 17
  • Great teams ensure that everyone’s ideas are genuinely considered, which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is ultimately made by the group. And when that is not possible due to an impasse, the leader of the team is allowed to make the call. 17
  • (…) dysfunctional teams that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions until they have enough data to feel certain that they are making the right decision. As prudent as this might seem, it is dangerous because of the paralysis and lack of confidence it breeds within a team. 17
  • More than any other member of the team, the leader must be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong. And the leader must be constantly pushing the group for closure around issues, as well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. What the leader cannot do is place too high a premium on certainty or consensus. 17
  • (…) the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure. One of the benefits is the reduction of the need for excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action. More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivates people to improve their performance. 17
  • If the boss really wants to know what’s going on, the answer is embarrassingly obvious: They have to ask! Not vague, self-congratulatory bullshit questions like “What can we do even better?” but the hard ones like “What’s something nobody dares to talk about?” or “Are you afraid of anything at work?” or “Is there anything you worked on recently that you wish you could do over?” Or even more specific ones like “What do you think we could have done differently to help Jane succeed?” or “What advice would you give before we start on the big website redesign project?” 11
  • A lack of engagement in meetings tends to mean the team isn’t engaged by the work or do not feel like they have a say in the decision-making process. 16
  • But there is such a thing as artificial harmony, and conflict-avoidant managers tend to favor harmony above functional working relationships. 16
  • The goal is to identify problems that are causing the team to work less effectively together and resolve them, not to become the team’s therapist. 16
  • Many of us believe that the way to be liked is to be seen as nice — that niceness is itself the goal. Your goal as a manager, however, should not be to be nice, it should be to be kind. 16
  • It’s kind to tell someone who isn’t ready for promotion that she isn’t ready, and back that up with the work she needs to do to get there. It’s unkind to lead that person on, saying “Maybe you could get promoted,” and then watch her fail. It’s kind to tell someone that his behavior in meetings is disrupting the group. It’s awkward, and uncomfortable, but it’s also part of your job as his manager to have these difficult conversations. 16
  • Thinking about your actions is the best way to combat fear of conflict. Am I pushing this decision to the team because they really are the best people to decide, or am I just afraid that if I make an unpopular but necessary decision people will be mad at me? Am I avoiding working through this issue with my peer because she’s truly difficult to work with, or am I just hoping that the issue will resolve itself because I don’t want to have to discuss it and possibly be wrong? Am I holding back on giving my employee this feedback because he really was having a bad day and it’s just a one-off, or am I holding back because I’m afraid he won’t like me as a manager if I tell him? Be thoughtful about your behavior, and it’s unlikely that you’ll seek out unnecessary conflict. 16
  • The real goal here is psychological safety — that is, a team whose members are willing to take risks and make mistakes in front of one another. 16
  • Your first goal is to protect your team as a whole, the second is to protect each individual on the team, and your last priority is protecting yourself. 16
  • Simply put, if your team member doesn’t respect you or her peers, why is she working there? 16
  • So at the end of another day when I feel like I didn’t write enough code and I have no way to quantify what I’ve achieved, I tell myself I was being as good a manager as I know how to be. 16
  • Project management. Onboarding new team members. Working with the product team to break down product roadmap goals into technical deliverables. Production support. These are all skills members of your team need to learn. 16
  • Even when you have been hired to fix a team, remember that the company has gotten this far because of some fundamental strengths. 16
  • Whether it’s QA, design, product management, or technical operations, ask lots of questions, but in an open way. Make it clear to the person that your goal is to understand what she does so that you’re capable of appreciating it better. 16
  • Sit in their meetings. Are they boring to you? Is the team bored? Who is speaking most of the time? Are there regular meetings with the whole team where the vast majority of the time is spent listening to the manager or product lead talk? Boring meetings are a sign. They may be a sign of inefficient planning on the part of the organizers. There may be too many meetings happening for the information covered. They may indicate that the team members don’t feel they can actually help set the direction of the team, or choose the work that will happen. They often signal a lack of healthy conflict on a team. Good meetings have a heavy discussion element, where opinions and ideas are drawn out of the team. If the meetings are overscripted, so that no real conversation can take place, it stifles that creative discussion. If people are afraid to disagree or bring up issues for fear of dealing with conflict, or if managers always shut down conflict without letting disagreements air, this is a sign of an unhealthy team culture. 16
  • A bunch of people who never talk to each other and are always working on independent projects are not really working as a team. There would be nothing wrong with that if the team were performing well, but given that they’re not, this may be contributing to your problem. 16
  • Projects change. Teams may even be disbanded or moved around in ways that you don’t understand or agree with. As a manager, the best thing you can do is help people feel capable of tying up loose ends, stabilizing the current in-flight projects, and easing into their new work in a controlled fashion. This is an area where you can and should push back. Make sure that your teams get adequate time to finish up current work. Furthermore, push for engineering involvement in the early planning for the new work so that people can get excited about the projects they are moving on to. 16
  • It’s not about being the lead engineer, chasing the latest language or framework, or having the shiniest technology. It’s about building a team with the tools and attributes to build the best possible product for our customers. 16
  • You can’t give up the responsibility of management without giving up the power that comes with it. 16
  • Reach through the part of you that is shy about praising people or embarrassed to share your feelings, and go into the part of you that cares about the people you work with. You can share these stories in a way that is not forced or fake. 16
  • (…) the larger the company, the smaller the team should be at the top. And with the addition of a new head of sales and a human resources director, her staff had grown to a barely manageable eight. It wasn’t that Kathryn couldn’t handle the weekly one-on-ones, but it was increasingly difficult to have fluid and substantive discussions during staff meetings with nine people sitting around the table. 17
  • (…) trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. (…) Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group. They tend to dread team meetings, and are reluctant to take risks in asking for or offering assistance to others. As a result, morale on distrusting teams is usually quite low, and unwanted turnover is high. 17


  • Initially the technologists and the hippies did not interface well. Many in the counterculture saw computers as ominous and Orwellian, the province of the Pentagon and the power structure. In The Myth of the Machine, the historian Lewis Mumford warned that computers were sucking away our freedom and destroying “life-enhancing values.” An injunction on punch cards of the period—“Do not fold, spindle or mutilate”—became an ironic phrase of the antiwar Left. 3
  • Engineers frequently struggle with the transition to respecting and communicating well with diverse peers. I believe the struggle with respect is a side effect of the current tech culture, which tells us that engineers are the smartest people in the room. It can’t be said strongly enough: your peers who are not analytically driven are not stupid. 16
  • “Engineers who graduated from MIT” is not a culture. “People who value technology innovation, hard work, intellect, scientific process, and data” might be. 16
  • A lot of interviews try to determine cultural fit by what I would call “friendship” markers, such as “Would you like being stuck in an airport with this person?” 16
  • Furthermore, culture fit as determined by friendship tests is almost certain to be discriminatory in some way. Humans form friendships with people who have significant shared background experiences, and these experiences tend to closely correlate with things like schooling, race, class, and gender. The shortcuts you get by hiring friends are not usually the values you need to form a strong team. 16

Systems / Processes

  • A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system. 16
  • As your teams and systems grow, it’s almost impossible for any one person to keep the systems in her head. Because we have a bunch of people coordinating work, we evolve processes around that work coordination in order to make risks obvious. 16
  • (…) you should not put a complicated process on any activity where you want people to move quickly and where you believe the risk for change in that activity is low or that the risks themselves are obvious to the whole team. If you want to do code review for all changes, make sure that the process for code review is not so onerous that the team slows down significantly on minor changes, because that will impact your whole group’s productivity. The second implication is that you need to be on the lookout for places where there is hidden risk, and draw those hidden risks out into the open. There’s a saying in politics that “a good political idea is one that works well in half-baked form,” and the same goes for engineering processes. The processes should have value even when they are not followed perfectly, and that value should largely lie in the act of socializing change or risk to the team as a whole. 16
  • Be specific about the kinds of changes that need architecture review. Usually these include new languages, new frameworks, new storage systems, and new developer tooling. 16

Focus on what is important

  • But in effect it was unanswerable even now, since the few scattered survivors from the ancient world were incapable of comparing one age with another. They remembered a million useless things, a quarrel with a workmate, a hunt for a lost bicycle pump, the expression on a long-dead sister’s face, the swirls of dust on a windy morning seventy years ago: but all the relevant facts were outside the range of their vision. They were like the ant, which can see small objects but not large ones. 7
  • It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise \$1,000,000 than it is \$100,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s. If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think. 8
  • One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. 8
  • “Five years of reporting on attention have confirmed some home truths,” Gallagher reports. “[Among them is the notion that] ‘the idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ when you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right.” 9
  • You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. 9
  • Urgency is often more clearly felt than importance. 16
  • “If everything is important, then nothing is.” 17

Choices / Decisions

  • “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where —” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat (quoted from Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland) 8
  • (…) a decision is better than no decision. They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong—and then change direction with equal boldness—than it is to waffle. 17
  • If you’re 25 and announce you want to start a new circus, the response is different: Be realistic; become a lawyer or an accountant or a doctor, have babies, and raise them to repeat the cycle. 8
  • It was curious how that predestined horror moved in and out of one’s consciousness. There it lay, fixed in future times, preceding death as surely as 99 precedes 100. One could not avoid it, but one could perhaps postpone it: and yet instead, every now and again, by a conscious, wilful act, one chose to shorten the interval before it happened. 7
  • Much of your pain is self-chosen. 13
  • No is easier to do, yes is easier to say. No is no to one thing. Yes is no to a thousand things. (…) No is calm but hard. Yes is easy but a flurry. Knowing what you’ll say no to is better than knowing what you’ll say yes to. 11
  • (…) so practice getting comfortable with the quick no (and the quick yes!) for low-risk, low-impact decisions. 16
  • When you want to allow for group decision making, the group needs to have a clear set of standards that they use to evaluate decisions. Start with a shared understanding of the goals, risks, and the questions to answer before making a decision. When you assign the ownership for making a decision to someone on the team, make it clear which members of the team should be consulted for feedback and who needs to be informed of the decision or plan. 16
  • Taking conflicting perspectives and incomplete information and setting a direction, knowing that the consequences of a poor decision will impact both you and possibly the whole team. If making decisions were easy, there would be much less need for managers and leaders. However, as anyone who has spent a lot of time managing can tell you, making decisions is one of the most draining and stressful parts of the job. 16

Get Stuff Done / Productivity

  • People are fond of using the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” adage as an excuse for inaction, as if all successful people are born with powerful friends. 8
  • Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now! 8
  • It’s not uncommon for people to pick up their phones dozens of times a day when some push notification makes it buzz, because WHAT IF IT WAS SOMETHING SUPER IMPORTANT! (It just about never is.) 11
  • “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” 11
  • “I know some of my classmates pursued the alternative scattershot technique with some success, but that’s not my bag,” Marrinan said, explaining his perseverance. “I deal with rejection by persisting, not by taking my business elsewhere. My maxim comes from Samuel Beckett, a personal hero of mine: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ You won’t believe what you can accomplish by attempting the impossible with the courage to repeatedly fail better.” 8
  • Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. 17

Solving problems

  • She provides the example of a couple fighting over inequitable splitting of household chores. “Rather than continuing to focus on your partner’s selfishness and sloth,” she suggests, “you might focus on the fact that at least a festering conflict has been aired, which is the first step toward a solution to the problem, and to your improved mood.” 9
  • Your boss may not want to be stuck solving your problems, but you can bet that she’ll be happy to provide feedback if you phrase it as needing advice. 16


  • “I’m using you as an example, Carlos, because you are an easy person to let off the hook. But this could apply to anyone. Some people are hard to hold accountable because they are so helpful. Others because they get defensive. Others because they are intimidating. I don’t think it’s easy to hold anyone accountable, not even your own kids.” 17
  • “You are fighting. But about issues. That’s your job. Otherwise, you leave it to your people to try to solve problems that they can’t solve. They want you to hash this stuff out so they can get clear direction from us.” 17
  • In fact, team members who are particularly close to one another sometimes hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely because they fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship. Ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate as team members begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations and for allowing the standards of the group to erode. 17


  • In my experience, most people need to hear something at least three times before it really sinks in. You’re going to tell your own senior management and leadership team. You’ll hold an all hands meeting. You may need to send some email detailing the changes as well. A little bit of communication planning can go a long way in such situations. Try to anticipate the questions you might get and prepare answers for those questions. Be as clear as possible about the projects or structure to be changed, so there’s little room for confusion. And don’t forget to sell this change as a good thing! 16

Human condition

  • ‘When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?’ 7
  • Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. 5
  • I define masculinity as that part of a man that equips him to survive as an individual, clan, and species. Without this masculine energy we would have all become extinct eons ago. Masculinity empowers a man to create and produce. It also empowers him provide for and protect those who are important to him. These aspects of masculinity include strength, discipline, courage, passion, persistence, and integrity. 10
  • This frustration is due to the reality that in general, women view men who try to please them as weak and hold these men in contempt. Most women do not want a man who tries to please them — they want a man who knows how to please himself. Women consistently share with me that they don’t want a passive, pleasing wimp. They want a man — someone with his balls still intact 10
  • When recovering Nice Guys create relationships with people who don’t need fixing, they improve their odds of finding the love they want. This doesn’t mean searching for the perfect partner, just one who is already taking responsibility for her own life. 10
  • Internalized shame and fear are the greatest barriers to a satisfying sex life. A man can read all the books he wants on “How To Pick Up Women” or watch all the instructional videos on improving sexual technique. None of these things will help him get good sex as long as he has shame and fear about being sexual or being a sexual being. 10
  • “I am pretty afraid to fail. And so I tend to over-engineer things and do them myself. I don’t like to tell other people what to do, which, ironically, only makes it more likely that I’m going to fail.” For the slightest moment, Jeff seemed to fight back emotions and then recovered instantly. He was sure no one noticed. “And I think that’s probably the biggest reason that we haven’t succeeded, and that I’m not the CEO anymore.” He paused, and then added quickly, “Which I’m okay with, really. In fact, I’m pretty happy to be out of that job.” 17


  • All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business. 17
  • And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone. 13
  • Your friend is your needs answered. (…) For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. (…) For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. 13
  • Former couples who break up because they don’t see a future together can remain friends, and the same goes for former employees who simply need a different team or company to shine. 16
  • “Two households, both alike in dignity.” The two houses are alike, yet they hate each other. They grow even more similar as the feud escalates. Eventually, they lose sight of why they started fighting in the first place. 1
  • All the evidence in the world can’t change a person who doesn’t want to change. 16
  • A very common clash occurs between people who are extremely analytically driven and those who are more creatively or intuitively focused. Another is between the people who prefer to embrace agility and change (and, yes, sometimes disorder) and those who push for more long-term planning, deadlines, and budgets. 16
  • “Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.” 12
  • For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. 13
  • But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. 13
  • Your children are not your children. (…) You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 13


  • She knew the whole drivelling song by heart, it seemed. Her voice floated upward with the sweet summer air, very tuneful, charged with a sort of happy melancholy. One had the feeling that she would have been perfectly content, if the June evening had been endless and the supply of clothes inexhaustible, to remain there for a thousand years, pegging out diapers and singing rubbish. It struck him as a curious fact that he had never heard a member of the Party singing alone and spontaneously. It would even have seemed slightly unorthodox, a dangerous eccentricity, like talking to oneself. Perhaps it was only when people were somewhere near the starvation level that they had anything to sing about. 7
  • As recovering Nice Guys begin to surrender, dwell in reality, express their feelings, face their fears, develop integrity, and set boundaries, they access a power that allows them to welcome and embrace the challenges and “gifts” of life. Life isn’t a merry-go-round, it’s a roller coaster. As they reclaim personal power, recovering Nice Guys can experience the world in all of its serendipitous beauty. Life won’t always be smooth, it may not always be pretty, but it will be an adventure — one not to be missed. 10
  • As Nice Guys try to avoid the dark side of their masculinity, they also repress many other aspects of this male energy force. As a result, they often lose their sexual assertiveness, competitiveness, creativity, ego, thirst for experience, boisterousness, exhibitionism, and power. 10
  • (Activities to break free from the Nice Guy Syndrome) 10
    • If it frightens you, do it.
    • Don’t settle. Every time you settle, you get exactly what you settled for.
    • Put yourself first.
    • No matter what happens, you will handle it.
    • Whatever you do, do it 100%.
    • If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.
    • You are the only person on this planet responsible for your needs, wants, and happiness.
    • Ask for what you want.
    • If what you are doing isn’t working, try something different.
    • Be clear and direct.
    • Learn to say “no.”
    • Don’t make excuses.
    • If you are an adult, you are old enough to make your own rules.
    • Let people help you.
    • Be honest with yourself.
    • Do not let anyone treat you badly. No one. Ever.
    • Remove yourself from a bad situation instead of waiting for the situation to change.
    • Don’t tolerate the intolerable — ever.
    • Stop blaming. Victims never succeed.
    • Live with integrity. Decide what feels right to you, then do it.
    • Accept the consequences of your actions.
    • Be good to yourself.
    • Think “abundance.”
    • Face difficult situations and conflict head on.
    • Don’t do anything in secret.
    • Do it now.
    • Be willing to let go of what you have so you can get what you want.
    • Have fun. If you are not having fun, something is wrong.
    • Give yourself room to fail. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.
    • Control is an illusion. Let go; let life happen.
  • For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite. 13
  • Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master? 13
  • (about crime and punishment) And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also. 13
  • If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. (…) And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion. ​​13
  • And the longer it lasted the more deadly it became. “It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up. And that is really what it was. I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. And now it is all done and there is only death. 14
  • Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. 15
  • There is only one means of salvation, then take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men’s sins, that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and that you are to blame for every one and for all things. But throwing your own indolence and impotence on others you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against God. 15
  • And people have even ceased to feel the impulse to self‐criticism. Don’t be like everyone else, even if you are the only one.” 15
  • Don’t be afraid. Conflict avoidance often arises from fear. We’re scared of the responsibility of making the decision. We’re afraid of seeming too demanding. We’re afraid people will quit if we give them uncomfortable feedback. We’re afraid people won’t like us, or that we’ll fail when we take this risk. Some fear is natural, and being sensitive to the outcomes of conflict is a wise habit. 16
  • Conflict avoidance runs deep in most of us, and matters of what feels like personal style can be particularly difficult. 16
  • “I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway.” 17
  • This background, combined with a strong desire to be seen as smart and “right,” sometimes led to some less-than-productive conversations about technology directions. I’d find myself arguing the merits of a language choice or technology purely based on the technical merits. When this happened I became another engineer arguing in a group of engineers. It took me a long time to realize that my job wasn’t to be the smartest person in the room. It wasn’t to be “right.” Rather, my role was to help the team make the best possible decisions and help them implement them in a sustainable and efficient way. 16
  • “Wanting to be a CTO (or VP of Engineering) is like wanting to be married. Remember that it’s not just the title, it’s also the company and the people that matter.” Titles are definitely not everything. 16
  • Throwing out jargon to people who aren’t familiar with it — and who don’t even need to be familiar with it — makes us look stupid to them. 16
  • “Okay, first of all, don’t ever slam one of your teammates when that person isn’t in the room. I don’t care what you think of Mikey. She is part of this team, and you have to take your issues to her directly, or to me. You’re going to have to make that right.” 17

Group Thinking / Living in Society

  • They were talking about the Lottery. Winston looked back when he had gone thirty metres. They were still arguing, with vivid, passionate faces. The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made a living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. 7
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. 8
  • It takes a tribe to raise a human. 5
  • Sociological research has shown that the maximum ‘natural’ size of a group bonded by gossip is about 150 individuals. 5
  • (…) for the craving for universal unity is the third and last anguish of men. Mankind as a whole has always striven to organize a universal state. 15
  • “What do you mean by isolation?” I asked him. “Why, the isolation that prevails everywhere, above all in our age—it has not fully developed, it has not reached its limit yet. For every one strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self‐destruction, for instead of self‐realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude. All mankind in our age have split up into units, they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof, hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest, and he ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, ‘How strong I am now and how secure,’ and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self‐destructive impotence. For he is accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself off from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity, and only trembles for fear he should lose his money and the privileges that he has won for himself. Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. 15
  • “Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule,” Nietzsche wrote (before he went mad). If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth. 1

Thoughts / Mindset

  • “Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” 1
  • (…) none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings. 5
  • “He who is abandoned is an abandoner,” 3
  • The invitation read, “There’s an old Hindu saying that goes, ‘In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.’ Come help me celebrate mine.” 3
  • (…) and more importantly, in order to take full advantage of the how, you need to understand the why. 4
  • Will they reach the nursery in time? If so, how delightful for them, and we shall all breathe a sigh of relief, but there will be no story. On the other hand, if they are not in time, I solemnly promise that it will all come right in the end. 6
  • What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. 8
  • The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. 8
  • There is a direct correlation between an increased sphere of comfort and getting what you want. 8
  • I define personal power as a state of mind in which a person is confident he can handle whatever may come. This kind of power not only successfully deals with problems, challenges and adversity, it actually welcomes them, meets them head on, and is thankful for them. Personal power isn’t the absence of fear. Even the most powerful people have fear. Personal power is the result of feeling fear, but not giving in to the fear. 10
  • “Comparison is the death of joy.” 11
  • Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream. 13
  • Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. 15
  • (…) for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. 15
  • (…) fools are made for wise men’s profit.” 15
  • “There’s no such thing as a well-adjusted public figure. If they were well adjusted they wouldn’t try to be a public figure.” 2
  • “Men love the downfall and disgrace of the righteous” 15
  • Goodness is one thing with me and another with a Chinaman, so it’s a relative thing. Or isn’t it? Is it not relative? A treacherous question! 15
  • (…) “happiness and positivity is a choice,” the teammate who pooh-poohs every idea and criticizes everything is going to have problems fitting in. Sometimes, people will change to adopt the values. 16
  • “Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.” 17
  • Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. 17
  • You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime. And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. 13


  • And what follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder; for they have been given rights, but have not been shown the means of satisfying their wants. They maintain that the world is getting more and more united, more and more bound together in brotherly community, as it overcomes distance and sets thoughts flying through the air. 15
  • (…) yet to the very end he persisted in hoping that he would get that three thousand, that the money would somehow come to him of itself, as though it might drop from heaven. That is just how it is with people who, like Dmitri, have never had anything to do with money, except to squander what has come to them by inheritance without any effort of their own, and have no notion how money is obtained. 15

History / Evolution

  • Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother. 5
  • Women who gave birth earlier, when the infants brain and head were still relatively small and supple, fared better and lived to have more children. Natural selection consequently favoured earlier births. And, indeed, compared to other animals, humans are born prematurely, when many of their vital systems are still under-developed. A colt can trot shortly after birth; a kitten leaves its mother to forage on its own when it is just a few weeks old. Human babies are helpless, dependent for many years on their elders for sustenance, protection and education. 5
  • Some scholars believe there is a direct link between the advent of cooking, the shortening of the human intestinal track, and the growth of the human brain. 5
  • It is unsettling – and perhaps thrilling – to think that we Sapiens could at one time have sex with an animal from a different species, and produce children together. 5

Religion / Spirituality

  • “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.” 3
  • For even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal 15
  • Freedom, free thought and science, will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: “Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!” 15


  • “Every morning at six A.M., the first thing to hit my desk was this overnight report that included information on who got killed and what killed them,” O’Connell said. “I kept thinking, This is insane. Why are we in this place? It was not just Iraq but the whole picture. Why were we so invested in that part of the world?” The unsurprising answer that O’Connell came up with was oil. 2


  • In Cowen’s future, huge gains in artificial intelligence will lead to the elimination of many of today’s high-employment lines of work. The people who thrive in this environment will be very bright and able to complement the machines and team effectively with them. As for the unemployed masses? Well, many of them will eventually find jobs going to work for the Haves, who will employ teams of nannies, housekeepers, and gardeners. If anything Musk is doing might alter the course of mankind toward a rosier future, Cowen can’t find it. Coming up with true breakthrough ideas is much harder today than in the past, according to Cowen, because we’ve already mined the bulk of the big discoveries. 2
  • If not, things will not improve by themselves. If you are kidding yourself, it is time to stop and plan for a jump. Barring any James Dean ending, your life is going to be LONG. Nine to five for your working lifetime of 40–50 years is a long-ass time if the rescue doesn’t come. About 500 months of solid work. How many do you have to go? It’s probably time to cut your losses. 8

Off the Cuff

  • (Musk nearly died on a trip to Africa, where he caught a type of severe malaria. It was discovered late on his return to the United States, and Musk spent 10 agonizing days in intensive care. It took him six months to recover and lost 20 kilos during the illness.) “I came very close to dying,” Musk said. “That’s my lesson for taking a vacation: vacations will kill you.” 2
  • “The guy comes in, and Elon asks him why they’re meeting,” Spikes said. “He said, ‘To develop a relationship.’ Elon replied, ‘Okay. Nice to meet you,’ which basically meant, ‘Get the fuck out of my office.’ 2

The article’s thumbnail image background was created via Open AI’s DALL-E, with the prompt: “bright, lively and colorful epic light coming from piles of books, with pages flying, against white background, digital art”