When you walk into my house the first thing you see is a tall bookcase screaming out, “Hey look at me and all these books! You must think I’m pretty smart, huh?”

There’s a shelf of novels I never finished and a stack of others I reread each year. There’s Roman philosophy, Holocaust horror, and first-hand accounts of the Civil War. Step inside and Awaken The Giant Withinhang with Dale Carnegie, or get lost in the woods with Thoreau.

My self-help section spills over into the “business” and “biography” stacks, taking up precious shelf space. Of course, like Marc Maron once wrote, “All my books are self-help books. Just having them makes me feel better.”

Yes, my Ikea bought tower of knowledge says, “Oh I read alright. Let me tell you.”

There’s just one problem…

I don’t really read all that much. Certainly not a book a week. Nor do I knock out a quick 20 pages before bed. In fact, I sometimes go weeks without reading at all.

The real downside to this truth is that I have a lot of underlying guilt about it. I walk past this bookcase each day and hear, “Hello!? Aren’t you a little behind on your reading list, hmmm!?”

This daily flick in the ear is certainly magnified by the “knowledge is power” arms race that somehow feels louder than ever.

 

Tweet by @DrAlexTweets

 

“Yep, we’re all reading 60 books a year and running companies. What are YOU doing with YOUR life?!”

The need for speed has found its way into the pastime of reading as our appetite for consumable content remains unsatiated. There are even new apps for breaking down popular books into bite-sized, here’s-the-gist-of-it, prose on the go.

 

https://www.blinkist.com/

 

There’s no reason to take it slow anymore. No need to savor.

Each year I set out to read a certain number of books and each year I fall short. 2017 was no different. Sure, I read some great books, but what I gained from them was served with a sharp hint of “on to the next one…”

“Well, this year is going to be different!” he proclaimed in unison with a billion others.

No, but really… This year I won’t be making any quantifiable goals when it comes to reading. I’m going to let interesting books find me, as they always do, and then make time for them the best I can.

I won’t be keeping score or entering the CEO, million-pages-turned marathon.

I plan on sitting, savoring, and ruminating. I’m a slow reader and if I find myself powering through titles faster than once a week, I’ll take it as a signal that I should probably read more challenging books.

My only goal is to be better at making time for reading instead of hoping time appears. Because one thing we should all agree on is this: Reading is important.

Instead of telling you why I’ll let George R.R. Martin sum it up: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Here’s what I did read

While I didn’t make it to all the books I planned for, I still read some amazing, life-changing, shout it from the mountain tops, works of art.

Here are 12 in the order which I enjoyed most. If you’re looking for a title to add to your 2018 list, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these.

(none of the links below are affiliate links)

1 Tribe, by Sebastian Junger

This was my favorite nonfiction book of the year and one I recommended to just about everyone. It covers eye-opening ideas on society, PTSD, and our evolutionary hardwiring. I’m a big fan of contrarian thinkers and here Junger puts mainstream assumptions to bed with science and historical examples. Fascinating, well-written, and important.

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

 

2 What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver

Caver is a magician. I’ve read most of these stories twice, some five times, and still can’t figure out how he does so much with so few words. This is the best collection of short fiction I’ve ever read. If you like words please read. 

“and it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”

 

3 Perrenial Seller, by Ryan Holiday

All of Ryan’s book seem to find me at the right time in my life. This one unlocked plenty of “aha!” moments and sent me back to drawing board on work I’d thought was, “good enough.” This is one of the best books on marketing I’ve ever read. You really can’t go wrong with Ryan Holiday, but if the subject of this book doesn’t interest you, start with one of his others, The Obstacle is The Way.

“People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification.” 

 

4 Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson

I did devour this 600-page memoir in just a few days time–it’s that good. It’s Sir Richard Branson’s first book and the story of how he went from a high-energy, dyslexic kid who dropped out of high school to a high-energy, dyslexic billionaire who has changed the world multiple times over.

“the best motto to follow is ‘Nothing ventured; nothing gained’.”

 

5 A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

I read a lot of Hemingway while in Colombia early this year. Not sure why, but there is something about humid nights and warm rum just makes me think of the guy. After reading through a dozen of his early short stories, I felt compelled to finally read his memoir of 1920’s Paris. 

Written in 1960 and published posthumously, it’s never been clear what Papa Hem would have kept in and what he would have cut if he’d been around for editing. But what was left are revealing, entertaining, and, at times, unflattering portraits of the people, places, and feelings of The Lost Generation.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

 

6 Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, by Kamal Ravikant

I read this short book twice back to back. I’d been hearing about it for awhile and the first time I went through much of it didn’t register. My second go-round the words sunk in and I’ve used the mantras included inside over and over. 

Self-love is a hot topic and something that the mainstream is finally embracing as a requirement rather than a bonus. Kamal does a great job telling his story while adding value in this quick read.

“Here we are, thinking that one needs to be in love with another to shine, to feel free and shout from the rooftops, but the most important person, the most important relationship we’ll ever have is waiting, is craving to be loved truly and deeply.”

 

7 Deep Work, Cal Newport

I started this book last December, but finished it in the first week of January, so it’s just eligible for the list. Deep Work kept growing on me long after I finished it and it still fresh in my mind. A bit dry at times, I’ll admit, but the overall message and ideas here are well worth anyone’s time who is looking to do creative work or increase overall focus.

I’ll be going through my notes on this book again to start the year off, as increased focus continues to be a goal of mine. 

“To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”

 

8 Wait Until Spring Bandini, John Fante

This is a beautiful novel and the first in the Arturo Bandini series by Fate. I loved this novel, if not only for the fact that it’s a prequel of one of my favorite novels of all time Ask The Dust.

Technically this book is first in the series, but if you haven’t read Ask The Dust yet, I’d start there. 

“If there is work there is warmth, that when a man has freedom of movement it is enough, for then his blood is hot too”

 

9 As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen

This book, written in 1902, spawned all the positive thinking books out there today. Great for a quick read on how much our own thoughts affect our actions and our future. Allen lays it out plain and simple, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”

This is Tony Robbins favorite book, so that alone should be enough of an endorsement. Well worth the read.

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

 

10 How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has turned most of his failures into springboards for success. In the book, he explains why “goals are for losers. And winners create systems.” He offers pragmatic reasoning for why affirmations work and dishes out intellectual kung-fu that challenges old world ways of thinking.

His blog, http://blog.dilbert.com/ is also a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with his writing.

 

11 Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

Steve Martin wasn’t actually born standing up, but he did dedicate 30 years of his life to perfecting the art of telling jokes on stage. 10 years of learning, 10 years of floundering, and finally, 10 years of growing success.

This memoir is more than a laugh out loud read. It’s a story of perseverance and tenacity and a guide to creating laughter in our own lives.

“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”

 

12 Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business, by Ramit Sethi

If you’re looking for straight ahead, no BS business advice, it doesn’t get much better than Ramit Sethi. This book and his site, iwillteachyoutoberich.com hold a wealth of actionable, tactical, and philosophical value. Loved this book and have tons of highlights I’ll be revisiting in the new year.

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Phew, that took awhile. That’s plenty of titles to add to your own list but remember: Reading is to be enjoyed. A book is not something to get through. Make time for reading and please email me all the books I’m missing out on so I can stress-add them to my Amazon cart.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

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the-beatles-instagram

The Beatles get plenty of credit for being social innovators, but few people realize how far ahead of their time they actually were. Hidden between messages of free love and forward thinking, the fab four left behind lessons in something far more important. And we all know the only thing more important than peace and love: Instagram.

So, if you’re looking to grow your page, engage more with your audience, or are strictly in it for the likes, curl up with your Stg. Pepper vinyl and go down this list of Rules For Instagram According to The Beatles.

 

1 “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Especially when you’re starting out, the amount of love you give on Instagram is proportional to the love you’ll get back. That ancient Instagram strategy of, “If you post it, they will follow,” is a myth.

The Beatles knew that you have to go like more photos than the average user and leave the comments you wish someone would leave you. Find the demographic you think should be following you and give their feed the love.  

 

2 “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Trying to make your mark in the brave new world of Instagram is hard enough. Don’t try and do it alone. One of the best strategies for growth on Instagram is finding a community of like-minded creators where you help each other move up and get by. Find those who are producing content that compliments yours and then reach out to them. Promote each other in your stories, pages, and tags. Do this over and over.

 

3 “The long and winding road.”

George Harrison wrote “The Long and Winding Road” after a bout of severe IG depression. @RealG_Harrison was posting regularly, giving the love, but couldn’t break past the 5 million follower mark. He even wrote an old b-side called, “Algorithm Blues.”

He eventually accepted that building a loyal audience on Instagram takes an incredible amount of time. If you’ve hit a plateau with your page, you may need to spice things up, but more than likely you need to have patience and stay at it. 

 

4 “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

Just when you think you’ve got the Gram all figured out, a new feature, algorithm, or trend comes along to shake it all up. If you want to grow you’ll need change along with the app and get better each day. As my great-grandfather once told me, “Son, your feed may have been fire in 2015, but you’re gonna need to step it this year.”

If you don’t want to be a slave to algorithm changes or trends, here’s what you should spend your time getting better at:

Delivering high-quality photos/videos; Writing thoughtful, relateable captions that elicit some type of emotion (#Sundayvibes isn’t going to cut it…); and finding your target audience. For the Beatles, that was anyone under 40 with a pulse. You’ll probably have to get more specific.

 

5 “Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears, enticing and inviting me.”

If you want others to engage with you and follow your page you must entice them with emotion. Look at your feed: Are you inspiring adventure? Laughter? Are you giving your audience ideas that challenge them?

Create photos and captions that entice your audience. Then, invite them to float downstream with you.

 

6 “One thing I can tell you is you’ve got to be free”

John Lennon wrote this after one too many brand collabs clogged up his feed and his engagement tanked. Instagram has proven to be one of the most viable places to market products and services, but if you’re asking more than your giving, you’re doing it wrong.

Whatever your angle is, you should be giving away 90% of your value for free. That’s how you gain trust and earn a following. It’s only after you’ve added enough value pro-gratis that people will support you by buying your product, course, or book

 

7 “I will be there and everywhere. Here, there, and everywhere.”

You don’t need a passport to travel on Instagram. But you do need #hashtags. Hashtags are your photos tickets to lands far away. Use them (all 30) and watch your photos reach new people, places, and cultures.

 

8 “I ain’t got nothing but love babe, 8 days a week”

There are few different schools of thought on how often one should post, but the main thing to remember is to be consistent. And if you have good content, post it! Train your audience to rely on your posting schedule and then keep delivering the goods. The Beatles released 13 records in 7 years! Feeds move fast. No time to rest on your laurels… 

Regardless of how often you post, if you’re serious about growing your page you have to remember rule number one and give that love 8 days a week.

 

9 “I want to hold your hand.”

9 out of 10 marketing experts agree: Be human! This is where many personal brands go wrong, they forget to be relatable humans with cracks and flaws. Give your audience a hand to hold. Underneath those lighting edits, you’re just as vulnerable as they are. Make sure they know it.

 

10 “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”

This isn’t (necessarily) a call to drop acid and get funky with photo filters. What the Beatles were trying to tell us here is, “Relax… It’s just Instagram. Have fun, make art, and enjoy the process.”

You can be serious about Instagram without taking it too seriously.

 

***

I’m sure The Beatles had much more to say on the topic on Instagram, and if you have any favorite lyrics that preach the power of the feed I may have missed, shoot me a DM at @corey.mccomb. And don’t forget to like my photos. Seriously, go like my photos…

 

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5am-club-post

Of all the habits I’ve incorporated into my life this year, waking up at 5 am has been the most valuable. In the early morning, my canvas is still blank and I’m at my most creative. It’s before the colors of a morning commute run down my sides and the sloppy brushstrokes of emails and text messages find me.

My canvas gets filled as the day goes on and the window of possibility gets smaller. By the afternoon I’m bleeding. Heavy with half-dried paint.

But in the predawn darkness, my canvas glows white and my color wheel is full. The slate has been wiped clean and everything is new. Everything is possible.

I started waking up at 5 am as a way to get a few hours of writing done before work. I didn’t feel like I had enough hours in my day, so I created more. But now, 9 months in, I can say that waking up early is much more than another “productivity hack.” It’s had a ripple effect that’s touched all the areas of my life and simply put, made my life better.

Here’s WHY

 

Discipline

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” -Jerzy Gregorek

Getting out of bed is difficult in general. Doing so while it’s dark out can feel like medieval torture. And that’s the point. It’s doing the hard things first that sets the momentum for the entire day. It doesn’t really matter what you do once you’re up. Just by getting out of bed at an ungodly hour means you’ve won the first of many mental battles that are waiting for you. 

Discipline is at the root of all good habits. Cultivate it into your routine and it’ll be there when your motivation is still asleep.

A head start on the world

At 5 am the sun is still asleep and the moon is just finishing her shift. It’s the purgatorial, in-between of day and night and you’re there to watch it happen. There is a strange sense of satisfaction knowing that your day is starting while most people are still in bed. 

Whatever you do in the morning is up to you— Read, meditate, exercise, or just play. But knowing that you’re up and ready ahead of the world has power. It’s one of the reasons Kobe Bryant continued to be the first player on the floor for warm-ups, long after he was established as the best player in the league. Being first holds psychological power. 

Silence

It’s easy to overlook just how hard silence is to come by until you actually find it. The sounds of the world will find you soon enough, but at dawn, we more control over the volume around us. By all means, make 5 am yours — play music, watch tv, talk to yourself. Personally, the only sounds I want to hear at that time are the coffee machine bubbling and my fingers hitting the keys on my laptop.

No need to rush

When I wake up late I have to get moving right away. It’s shower, clothes, coffee, “See ya later!”  My mind is already focused on the day ahead before I even breathe in the morning air. 

Just as the relaxed pace of an early morning follows us throughout the day, the frenetic energy of feeling rushed sticks around as well.

Sunrises are better than sunsets

Sunsets are nice and full moons are beautiful. In fact, anytime the sky does things people gather around and Instagram feeds rejoice. But the reason sunrises are extra special is because they take more effort. Chances are you’ll see fewer in your lifetime than their counterpart. 

A sunrise is you and that big fiery ball wishing each other luck for the day. It’s hello instead of goodbye.

Are you convinced? Of course, you are.

Here’s HOW

 

Have a plan

Whether your aim is to increase productivity or not, you’ll need a plan for the morning before your alarm goes off. Taking the guesswork out of the equation is always a good strategy for getting more done, but it’s particularly important here since your sleepy little brain is going to try and bargain its way out of getting up.

Knowing exactly what you’re going to do once your feet hit the floor will give you a huge mental edge over the snooze button.

Don’t Think

Want to know the best trick for waking up early? Set your alarm and when it goes off get the f*ck out of bed. If you give your brain a chance to ponder why you’re getting up before the sun it WILL talk you out of it. Just zombie walk towards the coffee machine and it’ll all make sense eventually.

Work up to it

The first week or so will be hard to adjust, but like most things: Consistency breeds simplicity. If you can’t quit sleeping in cold turkey, try waking up 30 minutes earlier each day until you reach your target. If you want to be in the 5 am club but normally rise at 8 am, this strategy gets you there by day six.

Whether you do it all at once or work up to it, it takes most humans 7-10 days in a row to adjust.

Go to bed!

As much as I’m a proponent of waking up early, I am a much bigger fan of getting enough sleep. “Well, some people just need less sleep than others.” Nonsense. You need 7-8 hours. Yes, you. The benefits of waking up early aren’t worth much if you aren’t getting enough sleep to function throughout the day.

When life keeps me up and out until midnight or later, I push that alarm forward.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what you do

At least in the beginning, just waking up early is the goal. Once you make it a habit you’ll see the morning as your oyster and you’ll make good use of the time. Maybe you read, write, or do yoga. Hey, maybe you wake up early and tag your friends in hilarious memes so they can have a laugh right when they wake up. Not all heroes wear capes.

Whatever you do, make the morning yours and enjoy a head start on the world. 

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