All of the Books I Read in 2023

In 2023, I read 4,389 pages.

This was a year with some marked life shifts that were followed closely by priority shifts. Consequently, my book count was down somewhat compared to 2022 and 2021. I make this observation entirely without regret, as the year was full of enriching experiences that took place beyond printed pages.

As always, I started many more books than I ever finished, and those listed here are the ones that kept me engaged until the end. Compared to previous years, many of these titles were a bit longer. I also spent much more time immersed in fiction.

Per tradition, I am sharing a one-sentence summary1 and a notable quote from each book.

2023 Reading List

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

This first installment of a three-part biography delves into the life of Theodore Roosevelt, chronicling his journey from a fragile young boy with precarious health to becoming one of the most influential presidents in American history.

Pages: 960 | Approximate listening time: 26 hrs, 36 min

It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready to take advantage of them.”

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

In this collection, the brilliant comedian Jerry Seinfeld shares his best stand-up comedy routines, offering a hilarious and insightful glimpse into his unique perspective on life.

Pages: 480 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 19 min

“[As a kid] there’s a level of boredom where you simply cannot support your bodyweight … Adulthood is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing.”

The Kill Chain by Christian Brose

Brose provides a thought-provoking analysis of how modern conflicts are shaped and fought in the digital age by exploring the intersections of technology and warfare.

Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 9 hrs, 44 min

“This is the real source of dysfunction in our defense system – the fundamental lack of incentives and accountability for turning small-scale innovation into large-scale disruption – and it remains pervasive as ever …

If we are to prevent history from repeating itself, we need to abandon the belief that the same system that has contributed to our current failure will somehow get us out of it.”

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism is a guide to simplifying life and honing in on the core of what truly matters in pursuit of growth and fulfillment. (A lot of books aim to do this, but I liked McKeown’s framing of “the disciplined pursuit of less.”)

Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 14 min

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

This 1960 novel chronicles the tumultuous journey of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a restless and searching young man, as he navigates through personal struggles, relationship woes, societal pressures, and the pursuit of meaning.

Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 12 hrs, 5 min

“There is this quality, in things, of the right way seeming wrong at first.”

The Enchiridion by Epictetus

This ancient guide provides practical wisdom and insights on cultivating inner strength, resilience, and ethical conduct to live a virtuous life.

Pages: 33 | Approximate listening time: just read this one

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

There and back again, an inspiring adventure with Bilbo Baggins as he sets out on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and treasure within, encountering fantastical creatures, overcoming great personal challenges, and building beautiful friendships along the way.

Pages: 300 | Approximate listening time: 10 hrs, 25 min

“I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

This thoroughly researched account explores the life and legacy of Genghis Khan, shedding light on his profound impact on shaping the modern world through conquest, governance, and cultural exchange.

Pages: 312 | Approximate listening time: 14 hrs, 20 min

“You may conquer an army with superior tactics and men, but you can conquer a nation only by conquering the hearts of the people.”

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Clear offers pressure-tested, practical strategies and actionable advice in memorable terms, empowering you to build habits which bring you closer to your aspirational self.

Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 35 min

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

A Little Life* by Hanya Yanagihara

This novel follows the lives of four college friends as they navigate the beautiful and tragic complexities of love, friendship, and trauma, in a poignant and emotionally-charged exploration of human connection and resilience.

Pages: 832 | Approximate listening time: 32 hrs, 51 min

“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.

*I feel I have a duty to not recommend this book to anyone. Truly. It pulled me in from the beginning and I struggled to put it down, but it was earth-shatteringly tragic and depressing (and I think gratuitously so).

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

The personal anecdotes and philosophical reflections of Rick Rubin, the famous American record executive and producer, exploring the nature of creativity and artistic expression.

Pages: 432 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 45 min

“How shall we measure success? It isn’t popularity, money, or critical esteem. Success occurs in the privacy of the soul. It comes in the moment you decide to release the work, before exposure to a single opinion. When you’ve done all you can to bring out the work’s greatest potential. When you’re pleased and ready to let go.

Success has nothing to do with variables outside yourself.”

Hot Water by P.G. Wodehouse

A delightful and humorous tale woven in classic Wodehouse fashion with his signature wit and charm; a story of mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, and uproarious situations, captivating from the beginning. This was my second Wodehouse book (the first was last year), and it came recommended by my dad.

Pages: 256 | Approximate listening time: 7 hrs, 16 min

“One of the drawbacks to life is that it contains moments when one is compelled to tell the truth.”

As always, thanks for reading to the end.

Drop 2024 book recommendations in the comments below!

  1. Drafted with support from generative AI.

All of the Books I Read In 2022

2022 was a year of growth for me. I learned a great deal about myself and cemented these lessons through personal reflection and reading the voices of others.

I have a tendency to ready several books at a time and started dozens of books last year, some of which I am still working on and many of which I will likely never pick up again. There are too many good books out there to waste time reading the ones that don’t pull me in.

These are the books I read in the order I finished them. I’ve included a-one-sentence-summary along with a quote that stuck with me from each book.

2022 Reading List

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A dialogue of forbidden love between two members of warring factions exchanging letters across time and space.

“There’s a kind of time travel in letters, isn’t there? I imagine you laughing at my small joke; I imagine you groaning; I imagine you throwing my words away. Do I have you still? Do I address empty air and the flies that will eat this carcass? You could leave me for five years, you could return never—and I have to write the rest of this not knowing.”

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

A guide for understanding the intricate games of seduction—political, romantic, professional, or otherwise—by studying their use throughout history and examining the successes and failures of famous (and infamous) seducers.

“There is too little mystery in the world; too many people say exactly what they feel or want.”

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Published in 1992, this cyberpunk novel was the first to coin the term ‘Metaverse’ and introduce a vision of an American future that is both thrilling and terrifying in its accuracy.

“Shit, if I took time out to have an opinion about everything, I wouldn’t get any work done.”

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

An encouraging narrative and synthesis of lessons which can be drawn from the arc of human history, from great ideas to tremendous failures, written by two brilliant historians at the culmination of decades-long careers.

“The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding.”

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

If you are wrestling with resistance when trying to express your creativity or pursue your calling, read this book

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Beyond Order by Jordan B. Peterson

In the follow-on to 12 Rules for Life, Peterson shares 12 additional principles for embracing the chaos of our world instead of trying to control it and, in doing so, lead a more balanced and purposeful life.

“If you truly wanted, perhaps you would receive, if you asked. If you truly sought, perhaps you would find what you seek. If you knocked, truly wanting to enter, perhaps the door would open. But there will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with.”

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s masterful primer on how to become an indispensable member of the organizations and teams you support by setting your intention, creating your path, and sharing your unique art with those around you.

“You are either defending the status quo or challenging it. Playing defense and trying to keep everything ‘all right,’ or leading and provoking and striving to make everything better.”

Risk: A User’s Guide by Stanley McChrystal

In this guide, McChrystal draws on his years of leading teams in the Army (for which he can be forgiven) and his experience advising business leaders to put forth a 10-dimension framework for managing risk.

“We have a tendency to expend all our efforts focusing on what we can’t control, and neglect those we have the agency to correct.”

Four Thousand Weeks – Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

Not just another self-help or personal productivity book, Four Thousand Weeks approaches the issue of our limited time through a philosophical lens and suggests that instead of worrying constantly about getting everything done, we can embrace our finitude and focus on building a meaningful life.

“Once you no longer need to convince yourself that the world isn’t filled with uncertainty and tragedy, you’re free to focus on doing what you can to help. And once you no longer need to convince yourself that you’ll do everything that needs doing, you’re free to focus on doing a few things that count.”

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis pulled back the curtain on what it was like to be a bond salesman on Wall Street in the frenzy of the 1980s at the infamous Salomon Brothers investment firm.

“For me, however, the belief in the meaning of making dollars crumbled; the proposition that the more money you earn, the better the life you are leading was refuted by too much hard evidence to the contrary. And without that belief, I lost the need to make huge sums of money. The funny thing is that I was largely unaware how heavily influenced I was by the money belief until it vanished.”

Very Good, Jeeves! by P. G. Wodehouse

A humorous collection of short stories featuring Jeeves, the loyal and witty personal valet to Bertie Wooster.

“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.”

The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business by Duff McDonald

A history of McKinsey & Company from its founding in 1926 to the early 2000s, including the Firm’s storied accomplishments and controversies.

McKinsey’s greatest challenge going forward — the true test of its genius — is no longer finding inspired solutions to its clients’ problems. The test is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success.”

The Last Lion, Volume 1: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory by William Manchester

Part one of a three-volume biography on Winston Churchill covering his first 58 years of life, from his upbringing in Victorian England at the peak of the British Empire, to his capture in South Africa during the Boer War, to his challenging tenure as the First Lord of the Admiralty during WWI.

“Even in the last weeks of 1918, when the popular slogans were ‘Hang the Kaiser!’ and ‘Squeeze them till the pips squeak!’ he repeated his watchwords: ‘In victory, magnanimity; in peace, goodwill.’”

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

In this thought-provoking book, Deutsch argues that all human progress is made through the quest for better explanations and that progress has no bounds.

“An unproblematic state is a state without creative thought. Its other name is death.”

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

A neat solution for reducing mistakes in our increasingly sophisticated personal and professional lives, the checklist saves lives during surgery, enables the construction of massive skyscrapers, and helps pilots to land safely when they lose an engine.

“Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”

The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty

Boyd Varty takes a lifetime of lessons learned while tracking lions in the South African bush and translates them to practical wisdom for examining one’s principles and living in accordance with them.

“I don’t know where we are going, but I know exactly how to get there.”

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Rethinking our thinking and admitting our ignorance are critical to unlocking success in our individual and collective pursuits, and in this book Grant explores why we struggle to change our minds and how we can improve.

“When we find out we might be wrong, a standard defense is ‘I’m entitled to my opinion.’ I’d like to modify that: yes, we’re entitled to hold opinions inside our own heads. If we choose to express them out loud, though, I think it’s our responsibility to ground them in logic and facts, share our reasoning with others, and change our minds when better evidence emerges.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

In this half-memoir-half-manual, Ben Horowitz (of Andreesen-Horowitz fame) describes his journey as a startup founder during the dot-com bubble and shares lessons and considerations for the aspiring business builder.

“Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all your time to what you might do. Because in the end, nobody cares; just run your company.”

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

James Bond comes to life for the first time as the gentleman spy in this thrilling novel about a high-stakes baccarat game to dismantle an international criminal organization.

“Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.”

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

There is something for every reader in this highly tactical compilation of deep-dives into the practices of people who have achieved great success in their fields

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Practical advice for being a decent person and interacting with other people in a civil and productive manner.

“You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

The Network State by Balaji Srinivasan

I won’t be able to summarize better than Balaji, so here it is straight from the book:

“A network state is a social network with a moral innovation, a sense of national consciousness, a recognized founder, a capacity for collective action, an in-person level of civility, an integrated cryptocurrency, a consensual government limited by a social smart contract, an archipelago of crowdfunded physical territories, a virtual capital, and an on-chain census that proves a large enough population, income, and real-estate footprint to attain a measure of diplomatic recognition.”

“Law is a function of latitude and longitude, so if you can easily change your latitude and longitude, you can change the law under which you live.”

On The Shortness of Life by Seneca

Wisdom for the art of living with a finite amount of time.

“But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.”

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

An earnest, nuanced look into the troubled childhood, adventurous personal life, and early professional career of Elon Musk, one of the most successful and controversial people of our time.

“If the rules are such that you can’t make progress, then you have to fight the rules.”

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Hilarious, cunning, and ruthless, Bourdain details his (mis)adventures as an up-and-coming chef in New York and shares secrets of the trade in this witty memoir.

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”

Invent & Wander by Jeff Bezos

A collection of Jeff Bezos’ writings, including thoughtful essays and Amazon shareholder letters from 1997-2019.

“We humans coevolve with our tools. We change our tools, and then our tools change us.”

Always Faithful by Tom Schueman and Zainullah Zaki

A true story of two men with vastly different backgrounds brought together by their profound courage and sense of duty to fight one of America’s longest and most complicated wars.

(Note: Tom is the founder of Patrol Base Abbate and a good friend of mine. For more, I recommend listening to his interview with Jocko Willink)

“The essential question comes of my time in Afghanistan, again and again, ‘Was it worth it?’ But that question is not even mine to answer. The state demanded someone go. I raised my hand and said yes.

Whether it was worth it or not is a question for the American people, for though some of the effects of war are borne only by a very few, the costs are shared across the whole of the nation. In Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: Warfighting, the Marine Corps asserts, ‘War is among the greatest horrors known to humanity; it should never be romanticized. The means of war is force, applied in the form of organized violence. It is through the use of violence, or the credible threat of violence, that we compel our enemy to do our will. Violence is an essential element of war, and its immediate result is bloodshed, destruction, and suffering.’ Many of those costs are invisible to a public far removed from service. As a nation, we might be more reluctant to pay them if they were more manifest.”

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

In this compilation of sage wisdom and life advice from some of the most brilliant thinkers of our time, Tim asks burning questions which get right to the heart of the problem you’re wrestling with in your mind.

“Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.”

Principles for Dealing With The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio presents a high-level analysis of the helical rise and fall of nations throughout history and provides a set of guiding principles for identifying patterns to see how the world works on a macro level and how one might navigate the uncertain future.

“Anyone who studies history can see that no system of government, no economic system, no currency, and no empire lasts forever, yet almost everyone is surprised and ruined when they fail.”

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

In an exploration of romantic relationships and the paradoxical tension between security and passion within them, Esther Perel will challenge your beliefs about who you are and what you are seeking.

“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?”

Thanks for reading. Drop 2023 book recommendations in the comments below!

When Life Has Other Plans

As hard as I have tried and as diligently as I have worked to control my direction through Life, as much as I have planned and anticipated and laid out my future, there have still been critical points where things simply did not go my way.

On many occasions over the past several months, I did not pass through the checkpoints that I had long intended to pass through. There have been moments where Life has sent me on crazy, unforeseen, unpredictable—even painful—detours.

And there will be many more, I am sure.

To resist Life’s direction only seems to make these detours more painful. My way may not be Life’s Way, and the sooner I come to embrace and celebrate that, the happier and more fulfilled I will probably be.

Image courtesy of

I am cautious about preaching unearned wisdom. My only intent is to share my thoughts and experiences when I feel like I have something helpful—and dare I say original—to share.

When I graduated and received my commission from the US Naval Academy back in May 2020, I truly felt on top of the world. Things could not have been going better. I had graduated near the top of my class, got my first choice service assignment, and was about to start a new and exciting adventure with some of my closest friends. Pandemic aside, the plan I made for myself was coming together and the direction was clear. Full speed ahead.

Then I got pretty sick with C*vid-19. My bed was my companion for the better part of six weeks and I was in and out of the ER three times. Frankly, I considered myself a pretty healthy and fit guy, so I didn’t see that one coming. It was a pretty miserable time, but I was fortunate to make a full recovery. The plans I made continued along. This was just a hiccup, right?

Then my girlfriend of 3+ years broke up with me. I felt completely blindsided and that sucked pretty bad. This was really not part of the plan!

Okay, just a couple of unforeseen events, right? Although these seemed like pretty major detours at the time, the plan was not entirely lost. Some adjustments would need to be made and the plan would look slightly different, but I would nonetheless be able to carry on and pursue what I had originally intended to.

My training as a Nuclear Submarine Officer began in November 2020. It is now November 2021—one and a half years since I embarked on my career and over a year since I checked in to begin training…

…and I am no longer doing that thing which I set out to do. I am no longer training for the job that I chose and planned for over my four years at the Naval Academy.

And why not?

I worked my tail off for four years to prove my worth as a Naval Officer and demonstrate my potential for service on submarines.

I passed the technical interviews at Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C.

I sat across from the four-star Admiral that now sits where Rickover sat and he allowed me to join his community.

I even made it most of the way through Nuclear Power School with pretty high scores.

I checked all of the boxes I possibly could, but there is more to Life than checking boxes.

This is not a sob story. I am not telling this story to solicit pity or tout my past achievements. I am telling this story to illustrate that even when everything seems to be going right, even when everything is going exactly as planned, even when you control and optimize as much as you possibly can, there are still intractable factors and events beyond your influence that can and will send you off in a completely different direction than the one you had intended.

Or, at least, that’s what happened to me.

Several months ago, I learned that I have a medical condition which disqualifies me from service. And rightfully so! Work in the Navy, and especially on submarines, is largely characterized by a lifestyle which is in direct conflict with what I need to do in order to be a physically healthy guy. This means I will not be spending the next few years unduly suffering because of my own pride, ego, or misdirected ambition getting in the way of taking proper care of myself.

It has taken me a lot of time to see it this way. I was pretty pissed when this all started happening. I certainly had a victimized ‘Why Me?’ attitude.

‘Seeing the forest through the trees’ was really hard for me. I was having trouble finding the right perspective because I had become so hyper-focused on a single outcome—a single plan that could not be deviated from. This was a plan that I had spent so much time and effort preparing. Deviations were not allowed! I didn’t account for any.

But that’s what Life is; a series of deviations from the plan.

This experience has forced me to re-assess where my own measures of success and self-worth are coming from. It forced me to reflect and ask myself some hard questions. Where was I coming up short? In what ways was I neglecting important aspects of my own personal well-being? (There were a lot.) Where were my blind spots with respect to what I could and could not control?

The truth is that I was so caught up in this singular plan – so preoccupied with dodging individual trees that I was unable to zoom out and see a better way through the forest.

Life showed me.

Making plans is an effective way to achieve goals, but planning too much or adhering too strictly to them can get in the way of living well when circumstances change, as they often do. I found that it is important to revisit these goals and be honest with myself about whether they still align with my core values and with what I want out of Life – or what Life wants from me – in these new circumstances.

My intentions remain the same as they have always been: to leverage my abilities in an impactful way wherever I go, to work on solving important problems, and to help other people suffer less. I still intend to fulfill my responsibilities faithfully and dutifully to the extent I am able. I do not intend to let future plans get in the way of what is truly important, nor do I intend to let any future goals come into conflict with my own physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

So what, you may be wondering, is the plan now?

There is no plan. There is just Life.

Thank you to Cecily, Fish, and Noah for helping me communicate my ideas.

The 23 Books I Read At 23

When I turned 23 last year, I made it a goal to read 23 books before turning 24. I was reading at a pace of roughly a book each month at the time, and decided that this was a sufficiently lofty goal. It was close, but I managed to accomplish my goal within just a couple days of turning 24. The idea of the blog post only came to me recently, so here it is.

The books I read were fiction and nonfiction, varying widely in length and genre. I started and left unfinished many books which are not listed here. Most of the time I was reading more than one because I have a tendency to pick up different books depending on the mood I am in. I finished only the books which kept me fascinated and spoke to me at the time I read them.

These are the books I read in the order I finished them. I’ve included my attempt at a one sentence summary along with a favorite quotation from each book. My finishing of a book tends to signify my endorsement of it (with a few exceptions).

I plan to read 24 books before I turn 25. Recommendations are welcome and sincerely appreciated in the comments!

The 23 Books I Read at 23

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – A spiritually transformational guide for navigating the suffering inherent to human life through the pursuit of meaning and love.

“Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – A manual for understanding the intricate rules of exercising power by studying its use throughout history and examining the philosophies of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clauzewitz, and others.

Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory. The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – A simple path to wealth explained through easily understandable and memorable parables.

“Where the determination is, the way can be found.”

Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall – An author’s journey to discover the the keys to endurance, nutrition, and movement as they were used by heroes throughout history.

“True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.”

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman – Dr. Chapman presents his 5 Love Languages—quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts—and an approach to understanding both yours and your significant other’s in order to better give and receive love.

“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving. That kind of love requires effort and discipline.”

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household – A gripping 20th century spy thriller about an assassin’s foiled plan to assassinate a European dictator (read: Adolf Hitler?).

“The only periods, I suspect, when a man feels captain of his soul are those when he has not the slightest need of such an organ.”

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – A short story about one fisherman’s greatest conquest and loss, but not defeat.

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is.”

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – An inspirational and heart wrenching story of one boy’s indomitable adventurous spirit taking him across America and into the Alaskan wilderness in search of a simpler life.

“Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom – The compiled lessons in how to live from a college professor dying of ALS, as told by a former student who keeps Morrie Schwartz company in his final days.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Rogue Justice by Geoffrey Household – A British assassin’s second attempt to assassinate a European dictator—Adolf Hitler—and his “own lonely war on the Third Reich.”

“And where do you want to go?”

“To join the armed forces of my country. And if I cannot, I will fight alone.”

My Early Life by Winston Churchill – A great man’s own words on the first thirty years of his life; from his childhood, to his rigorous schooling, to his adventures as a soldier, war correspondent, and prisoner, then finally his early days in British Parliament.

“You have not an hour to lose. You must take your places in life’s fighting line … These are the years! Don’t be content with things as they are. ‘The earth is yours and the fulness thereof.’ Enter upon your inheritance, accept your responsibilities. Raise the glorious flags again, advance them upon the new enemies, who constantly gather upon the front of the human army, and have only to be assaulted to be overthrown. Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Never submit to failure … You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world…”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – Valuable insight into 1/3 of the population that tends to be undervalued in modern society—a must-read for extroverts to understand their counterparts and for introverts seeking validation, explanation, or both.

“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”

The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello – Wisdom and meditations for loving others and yourself in a manner that is both unconditional and fully aware.

“Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now, and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection, that you can truly love them. Otherwise, it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire, not as he or she is in themselves.”

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – Why wait to design the life that excites you?

“People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson – A true story of masterful leadership and courage during the Blitz—a period dominated by unspeakable evil and crippling uncertainty.

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson – Twelve simple principles on living in balance with order and chaos to maximize growth, freedom, and fulfillment.

“If the world you are seeing is not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values. It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions. It’s time to let go. It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson – A convenient collection of pithy wisdom from podcast interviews, Tweets, and essays by Naval Ravikant, a brilliant thinker, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist.

“A happy person isn’t someone who’s happy all the time. It’s someone who effortlessly interprets events in such a way that they don’t lose their innate peace.”

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – Matthew McConaughey’s “love letter to life,” packed with funny anecdotes about his childhood, career, and other whacky life experiences with some pithy wisdom, poetry, and “prescriptions” thrown in for good measure.

We all have scars, we’ll get more. So rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it, because we don’t live longer when we try not to die, we live longer when we’re too busy livin’.”

South of Broad by Pat Conroy – A tragic and inspiring story of friendship, love, and growth which confronts many of life’s confounding dilemmas set in Charleston, SC spanning several decades.

“Time moves funny and it’s hard to pin down. Occasionally, time offers you a hundred opportunities to do the right thing. Sometimes, it gives you only one chance.”

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman – A free-thinking Nobel Prize physicist’s account of his adventures and misadventures—frustrations with bureaucracy and academia, the making of the atomic bomb, theories on quantum physics, safecracking, and playing the bongo drums.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – The history of the human species presented in a way that you have never heard before.

“Biology enables, Culture forbids.”

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – A poignant tale of the Lost Generation, from cafe society in Paris to the bullfighting rings of Pamplona—the truth is unclear, the love is unrequited, morals are questionable, and the wine is endless.

“Never fall in love?”

“Always,” said the count. “I am always in love.”

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel – Think for yourself, ask good questions, and build new things, while trying to avoid competition at all costs.

“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).”

Do you have any book recommendations? Did I miss anything? Have questions or critiques? Post your response in the Comments section below.

Dear Dad

Happy Father’s Day!

It’s been five years since the last time I was able to celebrate Father’s Day with you but, as your son, this day still carries weight with me no matter how far away I am or how long it’s been since I’ve seen you.

I thought about passing this letter off as an idea I had all along, but the truth is I neglected to put a card in the mail on time. I hope this note can make up for that.

I wish I could be with you today. If we were together, we probably would have risen early, shared a pot of coffee, walked the dogs along the river bluff, all the while discussing ideas and projects in the way we like to do. I would inevitably share a hot take, you would question my thinking in a genuinely curious way, and I would be challenged to defend my position only to realize I had not actually thought it out. You are good at that.

I have always admired your ability to think; to parse out problems into their fundamental parts and address each part on its own. You have an uncanny ability to identify the relevant factors contributing to almost any decision, and you never hesitate to ask the difficult but important questions. When you find a gap in your knowledge, you fill it. You have the humility to acknowledge that which you do not know, and immediately set out to learn that which you do not understand. Thank you for teaching me how to learn and showing me what it means to really think; to question my assumptions and be humble about my ignorance.

You have a rare but keen understanding of your emotions and the impact they have on your outlook. At no point in my life did you try to convince me that men don’t have feelings or that men do not hurt. Thank you for not shying away from expressing your emotions in an honest way and showing me that it is okay to be vulnerable.

Your work has never come before your family. Nothing was ever so important that you could not support me at a big event or sit down for a family dinner. Thank you for showing up and being there.

Even when you are busy with work, you never hesitate to take my call or answer a text when I need something. Thank you for dropping everything to help me with whatever project I’m working on at the moment or whatever problem I am trying to solve—even if you’re explaining something for the 100th time.

Your love of reading has always been something I’ve aspired to. The amount of books on your shelf is astounding to me, and you certainly have the wisdom to show for it. Thank you for passing along your proclivity for reading, and for sharing your books and articles that you think I will enjoy or learn from.

When I was about 10 years old—and many times since—you told me something I’ve never forgotten:

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

Thank you for teaching me how to love by loving my mother, and being a model for how to treat my future partner.

When I am discouraged, demoralized, or defeated, you consistently say what needs to be said—not just what I want to hear—to set me on the right track. I have never once questioned your support for what I am doing or where I am going because you have always been in my corner, coaching me in the fight. Thank you for believing in me unflinchingly.

“A boy needs a father to show him how to be in the world. He needs to be given swagger, taught how to read a map so that he can recognize the roads that lead to life and the paths that lead to death, how to know what love requires, and where to find steel in the heart when life makes demands on us that are greater than we think we can endure.” –Ian Morgan Cron

Thank you for being that man for me, and for inspiring me to be that man one day for my son.

I look forward to many more long walks accompanying long talks.



Take The Next Best Step

What is the best way to act in the face of uncertainty over the future?

How should I handle the sometimes paralyzing anxiety that comes along with trying to plan for the unknown?

A handful of events have taken place in my life over the past several months which have led to major deviations from the plans I had made for myself. Some of these changes have made me anxious about the uncertainty of my future and what to do next—or where to even begin. This anxiety sends my frontal cortex into overdrive; thinking about all of the possible decisions, actions and outcomes that will put me back on a path towards my goals. This tends to result in a kind of mental paralysis that keeps me from doing anything altogether. The planning, the details, the possibilities, and the unknown put me in a state of overwhelm that can be difficult to break out of.

The problem is this: you will never know the future. You can make plans all day, but they will never execute with 100% perfection. There will always be hiccups, detours, and monkey wrenches that get in the way of the otherwise flawless plans that we lay out for ourselves. This is not to say that planning is useless or ineffective. Looking ahead, laying out your goals and milestones, and accounting for bad things happening are a very necessary part of getting what you need and achieving what you want in this life. However, making plans may not always be the best use of your time, especially if planning gets in the way of doing or if the plan itself cannot be conceived in the first place. To realize this is one thing, but to act in spite of this realization is not always straightforward.

I have, with deliberate practice, developed a strategy that usually pulls me out of this pit of paralysis. The way to break out is to take the next best step in the direction of greatest importance, as defined by your current priorities (if you don’t know what your priorities are, you should figure them out, but that is a post for another day). Based on your current circumstances, the information you have, and your current abilities, the best thing you can do is move in the direction of your choosing.

Simply determining what the next best step is helps to keep me grounded in the present. I can recapture my agency by shortening the timeline and reminding myself that the only things I have power over are my thoughts and actions in this very moment. Nothing else. Nobody else. Nowhere else.

You can leave the details for later. You can detach yourself from future outcomes and focus only on the process of acting in the short-term. Try to avoid getting so caught up in the details that you paralyze yourself from even starting. It does not matter that you don’t have the whole thing planned out or that you don’t know where you’re going to end up. It’s okay to not see the whole picture—sometimes you have a paint-by-numbers (if you’re lucky), but most of the time you have a blank canvas. Painting by numbers will produce a pretty picture, but it never results in a masterpiece. You have to start with a blank canvas to create something exceptional. But you have to start. When the alternative is inaction or paralysis, the best thing to do is to narrow your focus and shorten your projection to the most manageable view that allows you to further your cause.

I am not going to say that this is always easy. The idea of the next best step is simple, but right action has a tendency to be difficult. The trick is, however, to focus only on what is right in front of you. That’s it. Not all of the other steps that come after it—this is the fast track to becoming overwhelmed and things tend to devolve rather quickly after that. So, if your next best step is making you feel this way, you probably haven’t broken it down enough. The more you break it down—the more manageable each step becomes—the more the plan actually unfolds as you act.

You are not in charge of the future and there is nothing you can do about the past. The only real power you wield is the ability to control your actions and make decisions in the present moment. Thus, given the circumstances, your abilities, and the information you possess right now, all that matters is moving—even if ever so slightly—in the right direction.

Do what you can with what you have where you are.

Take the next best step.

Am I wrong about something? Did I miss anything? Do you agree? Disagree? Have questions or critiques? Post your response in the Comments section below.

Special thanks to Caroline Buzzard for her help with communicating my thoughts.

There Is No Such Thing as “Self-Made”

Why do I insist on doing things on my own? Why do I refuse the help and support of others for the sake of independence? A good argument can be made for personal growth and learning, to an extent. Sometimes it is truly beneficial to struggle alone for a while to achieve some kind of breakthrough or revelation. However, it seems to me that more often than not, I am too quick to adopt lone wolf status and resolve to do things by myself. I allow ego to decide that I don’t need anyone else’s help, because to accept help would be to admit deficiency or shortcoming.

I often find myself thinking about overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, and solving problems in terms of ‘Me vs. ___.’ But what about ‘We vs. ___?’ Or ‘Us vs. ___?” Why not make it the team’s problem to solve? My friends’ challenge to face? My family’s obstacle to overcome? Instead, I am inclined to dismiss collaboration and insist upon shouldering the burden myself and going it alone.

Maybe it’s because—on some subconscious level—I feel I have something to prove. To myself, to my family, to my friends, to the world. Is it to prove that I am strong, worthy, capable, independent, undeterred by challenge? That I am in some way a superior being to my ancestors before me who got by with a tremendous amount of help and are the only reason I am here today? Maybe it’s because I am afraid I will be judged as stupid or incapable if I ask for help. For some reason a part of me thinks that admitting I need help and asking for it makes me weak or dumb or incompetent.

There is no such thing as “self-made.” The truth is that everyone gets help. If you got any kind of education you had help. If you were born in a hospital you had help. If you were orphaned and raised by wolves—I am sorry and also impressed—guess what? You still had help. I am not a self-made anything, and neither are you. Everything I am and everything I have accomplished or overcome is the result, directly or indirectly, of the collaborative effort of many people.

Help comes in different shapes and sizes. Some types of help are easier to ask for than others. When I’ve needed to learn something, I sought teachers and coaches. When I was feeling lost and needed advice, I leaned on family and friends. When I’ve needed to escape or understand, I looked to books written by authors trying to do the same. When I was injured or ill, I sought the help of trained physicians. During especially challenging times, when I’ve struggled with mental health and anxiety, I turned to the help of a therapist. I did not achieve anything on my own. I had parents, a sister, friends, teammates, teachers, coaches, mentors, bosses, doctors, and even authors there to help me every single step of the way.

And yet, there are times when I still find myself feeling ashamed to ask for help or admit that I need it. The messier life gets, the more internally focused I become, the harder it is to turn outward for help. I still feel slightly uncomfortable writing this with the intent for others to read it. I still feel the need to show the world—even those closest to me—how strong and capable and independent I am.

But I am here to admit something: I am human, I am flawed, I am vulnerable, and I need a lot of help. If you’re reading this, you’re probably human too—and you should consider thanking whoever helped you learn to read. You are not self-made. You didn’t get here on your own. And here’s the big one: behind every single person who has helped you is a whole team of people who helped them. Consider how many people you have helped in some way, small or large, over the course of your lifetime. Try to count them on two hands. I bet you don’t have even close to enough fingers—or toes—to count the people you have helped this week alone.

We all need help. We all got to where we are with a tremendous amount of it. As a species we evolved to work together, lending a hand where we can or reaching for the one that is outstretched in our time of need. Remarkably, we are that much stronger, more capable, and independent because of it.

I am here to tell you, in this new blog of mine, that it is okay—expected, even—to ask for help. And if there’s something you don’t need help with, I hope that you will offer yours to someone who needs it, because nobody can do this solo.

You are not self-made, and neither is anybody else. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Am I wrong about something? Did I miss anything? Do you agree? Disagree? Have questions or critiques? Post your response in the Comments section below.

Special thanks to Noah Evans, Caroline Buzzard, and Daniel Fisher for their help in communicating my thoughts.

Thank you to my friends and family for their encouragement in the launching of this space, and to Rhys Parry for his help with launching this site.