What this book is trying to tell is extremely simple: treat yourself as a programmable moist robot, build the system to control the inputs, so you can determine the outputs. Your time, focus, and energy are the fuels to keep you in the game, equip yourself with strategies with good odds, all you need to do is stay in the game long enough, success will find you, sooner or later.
What distinguishes it from other self-help books are:
1) The author is the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, that means you will get tremendous entertainment value from the book, guaranteed. It’s enlightening and humorous, the only non-fiction book so far that keeps making me laugh while also sharing something inspiring.
2) Thanks to his various experience in public speaking, business writing, and other backgrounds, I found the book extremely easy to read and persuasive (in a good way.)
I’m glad he stopped pursuing the career as a salesman, otherwise, I might have bought whatever product he’s selling. I’m so hooked as a reader for his humor and storytelling technique.
“Passion is bullshit”, “Goals are for losers.” Given that I’m right in the season of dumping the goal-and-passion-driven engine to my mental garage, this line hits me at the perfect timing. I’m definitely biased, maybe I’m seeking validation, but what it presents is worthy food for thoughts.
The culprit of goals, almost by definition, is that it sets you “in a state of nearly continuous failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.” It pushes you to fight the feeling of discouragement at each turn.
A system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”
For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a writer, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They’re guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.
It focuses on designing each action that naturally drives you to the next step without the need to use up your limited willpower supply. In another word, it’s kind of in the same family tree of routine, ritual, habit, and compass, but system gives you the vision of each component connected to the final outcomes, and it does sound much cooler right?
The concrete example of the author’s system: “Eat right, exercise, think positively, learn as much as possible, and stay out of jail, and good things can happen.” I know it sounds stupidly simple, maybe not that different than what your grandma told you when you were a kid, yet whether you can keep doing all of these throughout your life is the key. Design each step carefully so it drives you to the next action, and collectively it’ll increase the odds for luck to find you.
I have to admit that I do feel that he’ll success one way or another, if not Dilbert it may be other projects (just like Dilbert was one of them.) He’s seeing the world in a macro view, each time he applies his system, he gets a better chance of winning the game.
It reminds me of the Starcraft league (or any other sports leagues), you may get lucky to win one game, but to be the winner of the best-of-7 series, to beat the equally talented opponents, to advance through the seasons of, years of tournaments, you’ll not only need a good strategy, but also apply it, practice it, tweak it, maintain it, and reduce the required willpower to the minimum so it can be sustainable. All of these in a whole is the system.
The book covers a lot of topics: passion, goals, systems, attitude, talents, observations, humor, happiness, diet, exercise, and luck. I’ve never thought about that I would want to acquire skills like public speaking, persuasive writing, humor, and golf(!), but now I’m deeply hooked.
Thanks to the another book Irresistible that pointed me to this one.
Lastly, this could be a spoiler but, my favorite line of the book is this one: “Say something, you bastard!”, page 166.
I dream a lot. I know technically, we humans all dream when we’re asleep and it’s just a matter of whether you remember it or not. Still, I reinforce: I dream a lot.
Some of my dreams are bizarre in an inexplicable way, some are so vivid and immersive that I can’t stop replaying it in my head throughout the day. For such dreams that evoke an emotional response, I would like to share it with people and naively believe they’d be interested too, but I’ve failed every single time.
Sharing dreams are hard. Unlike real experiences, which we forge into a story form that consists of a proper setup, escalation, and twist in an intriguing way, dreams are literally up in the sky and out of our control.
Because dreams are non-logical, non-sequential, with lack of a kind-hearted narrator to fill us in, it’s hard for the teller to reconstruct, and also hard for the listener to capture the whole picture. It’s against how our brain pieces information together.
Simply put, dreams are unshareable.
Sure, we’ve got the powerful weapon when it comes to storytelling, “exaggeration.” We can choose to sprinkle some secret hot sauce to our dreams to increase its entertainment value. But I would know I’m cheating. Eventually, it’s me trying to share the experience, I may still cut some trivial clips, but I don’t want to decrease its legitimacy or lie.
Despite these natural flaws and how meaningless my dreams are to you, I’d still like to take on the challenge. Zero exaggerating guaranteed™, you have my word, but note that there will be no climax or closure or any forms of those things.
So here we go.
First one was an eerie happening. Two giant battleships suddenly appeared in the sky, as if they just blinked from other galaxies, some electronical particles were still left in its trail. Amazingly the battleships share 90% similarity to the Terran Battlecruiser of Starcraft (lucky me, I got the chance to see it “real.”)
People looked above fearfully, for a few seconds, the battleships just hung in there like the alien’s ship in the movie Arrival. All of a sudden, the ships started shooting the ground. I couldn’t believe it until I saw bridges, buildings, and people getting smashed by its laser beams. I could feel my heart pounding so hard, “OMG it’s really happening. Who are they?! Why are they doing this?!”
I tried to run, but got trapped by the laser beams, somehow it didn’t hit me but only around me, as if it wanted to keep me alive on purpose. I thought I was done.
The second one, unfortunately, involved one of my innocent female coworker/friend. As bizarre as it can be, I saw her in my dream half naked (and thank god, she was blurry). She didn’t say anything, she was just standing there, half naked.
Naturally, as you can imagine, I raised my hands (but hold on your imagination there), and flashed her my wedding ring and said in an emotionless tone: “sorry I’m a married man”, as if I were to speak the secret code to bypass a speech recognition system and unlock a door or something. It all happened within 3 seconds.
(Okay this is the last one, hope you are still there.)
It was my least comfortable setting. I was like the little yellow man in Google Maps, got dragged around involuntarily by an evil-minded kid, and just to screw with me, he dropped me to a random place on Earth. Then I opened my eyes. I was in the middle of a busy crowd, which was rushing towards the buildings ahead.
“Where are we going?” I grabbed one guy nearby and asked.
“To the exam, yo!” He shouted as if it was too obvious.
“What.. what? What exam? Where am I?” I panicked.
Then I realized, I was carrying a shoulder bag, and somehow I knew I would find a paper clue that would tell me which classroom to go take the exam, for which I knew nothing about! Why on Earth did I end up like this? What was I doing the whole semester? Where did the time go? It didn’t add up, how could I possibly remember nothing?!
I entered the classroom while scratching my head with all kinds of questions, then I realized: I didn’t even have a pen to take the test.
Blinkist is a service that provides summaries of a non-fiction books that you can read in 15 minutes. I gave it a try over the weekend and here are some first impressions.
It won’t be the dominant way of reading books for sure, but it can be useful in situations like the typical “don’t have enough time” scenario. These summaries are written by the staffs of Blinkist who love to read.
Also, I found that for some authors that I can’t stand their attitudes or repetitive writing styles, but they did make some good points in their books (like The 4-Hour Workweek), with Blinkist I can grab the core ideas with all the arrogance or repetitive shaved off.
It can also be useful for single-purposed how-to guides, like learning some tips on cleaning up the room, without reading through a whole chapter (or chapters) of the life philosophy of the author (if you’re not interested in at all).
During the free trial period, I picked up several new books and also some I’ve had read to compare and try to make a baseline of the evaluation.
The summary is of good quality, and I love the final “Actionable advice” on the last page to give you some guidance on what you can act upon right now, usually something small that you can start immediately.
Although it helped me quickly consumed some books on my to-read list, I didn’t proceed to subscribe. Something was missing for me, some key ingredients. It got me think what we actually gain from reading.
Whenever I start a new book, it feels like I'm on a new journey. I have this hope beforehand where it should and would lead me to, even though most of the time I won't get exactly where I planned to be, the journey itself is valuable.
The materials presented in the way are good supplies for thoughts. They may not directly contribute to the point of the book or are trivial and off-topic, but it inspires me to ponder, to seek the answer myself. These “by-products” are missed if you’re running too fast.
It reminds me of the movie Passengers, where they found the meaning of life "during the journey", not as planned after arriving at the destination.
Bullets are the backbone, but we may need more flesh.
I was gonna say it could be a good “addition” to my day-to-day reading activity. But what put me off was the lack of options of the pricing plans.
The subscription is $50 a year, with a $80 Premium plan that provides better functions like audios and sync. Interestingly you can’t pay monthly, need to be 1-year front. I wonder if they made it that way to prevent people from signing up just for 1 month and reading like a marathon and then just bailing out.
This “lack of options” led me to think I’m less in control (exactly the case mentioned in 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People). If it has had the monthly option, I’d probably sign up and forget about it and let it last for a year heh, who knows heh?
Nonetheless, I’d still recommend you to check out the 1-day free trial, especially with the App that can read it for you, and decide if it’s worth for you or not.
Having experienced obsessively refreshing the website and checking how many likes I got in the early days of Facebook, a hate-it-but-can-not-stop-doing-it behavior that I couldn't explain myself,
I hope that this book - "Irresistible", would provide more insights on this topic.
With the question in mind, I started reading.
This is my "Peek into the Future" series of reading, a "sequel" of the previous book I read - "Thank You for Being Late". Both books reflect on the issues caused by current technologies, while this one focuses on the behavioral addiction in smartphones, video games, wearable techs, emails, and so on.
It's the first book I read that questions the ethics of design of video games, wearable techs, social networks and upcoming VR tech. After years of trial and error, designers have learned and become capable of engineering a system that could abuse the weakness of human being, a weaponized product through thousands of tests that could easily outpace our willpower.
Also, as a software engineer, my company as any other companies, want people to use our products simply, more. The more people use the better. No companies would say "it's enough".
But imagine this, if they use our products 24x7x365, does it improve their lives or rather cause destructions? If I were in a company developing a highly addictive service like YouTube or Netflix or World of Warcraft that keeps so many users hooked to a degree that they can't stop even they want to, would I just blame them lack of willpower and self controls, or would I have this self-consciousness to say, "here we are abusing the human weakness, using it to our advantage, and it's evil"? Quote the book, "There are a thousand people on the other side of the screen who job it is to break down the self-regulation you have."
It made me think about the responsibilities as "the guy on the other side of the screen", to re-examine the ethics when designing a product.
One interesting fact I learned and got surprised was that Steve Jobs chose to not give an iPad to his kids. Evan Williams, a founder of Twitter and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons but refused to give them an iPad. "As if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply."
There are some great pieces in the book that showcased why too much time in front of a screen can affect a child's empathy.
Cyberbullying, or even any other mean conversations sent through message apps, provides zero nonverbal cues, hence hard for children to build empathy.
"Screens" makes parenting easy. But the book calls for more.
Parents have always taught their children how to eat, when to sleep, and how to interact with other people, but parenting today is incomplete without lessons on how to interact with technology, and for how long each day.
After reading it, I imagined, if I want to be a role model for my kids in the future, how I should behave myself these days, and this book showed some methods.
When I was half way through the book, I can't help but comparing it to the other book Grit (and I almost shouted out when it literally used the word "grit" once in the book!). For the almost same stories - like a long-time runner who runs everyday for nearly 40 years - in the other book it'd be modeled as the perfect role model of grit, but here it could be treated as a behavioral addict.
What's the difference? It's the mindset. If he pictures the exercise as a core activity to live a healthy life and chooses to do it every day, then it's a display of true grit. But if he's driven by the numbers/goals shipped from the wearable techs, feeling irresistible of breaking the streaks, forcing himself to go out even when he's physically ill, that's an addiction.
The most critical problem is, you won't learn that much about what the book was titled to teach - ingredients of the behavioral addiction and how to engineer it. You'd get that kind of "aha" moments a lot, but each chapter is not explained in full lengths, and it rarely pieces them altogether.
It felt like the same cotton candy wispy knowledge I get from reading hundreds of articles on my phone but having trouble recounting what I really know now after all that consumption
(One review from Goodreads)
And after 10+ chapters of reviewing the history and revealing the components, you'd expect some sort of solutions or redemptions. Ironically, after criticizing addictive games all the way through, in the end it uses gamification at length as the suggestion to encourage and overcome some of the issues. Too thin.
Lastly, just a preference, but the writing is a little dry.
Where once you had to seek out new goals, today they land, often uninvited, in your inbox and on your screen.
(On the "like" button on Facebook) Users were gambling every time they shared a photo, web link, or status update. A post with zero likes wasn't just privately painful, but also a kind of public condemnation... Like pigeons, we're more driven to seek feedback when it isn't guaranteed.
"I worry what happens when a violent video game feels like murder. And when pornography feels like sex. How does that change the way humans interact, function as a society?"
Wearable techs like the Apple Watch and Fitbit allow you to track your workouts, but they also discourage you from paying attention to your body's internal exhaustion cues.
I've tweeted on the same topics before, and I still enjoy reading/watching them again.
This was directly mentioned in the book, I feel this is exactly the "system" I want to build into my life.
Instead of goals, live your life by systems. A system is "something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run." For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a write, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They're guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.
As for the continuous reading of the "futures", I have these 2 books in mind particularly:
Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It. A quick Ted talk to get the idea: https://www.ted.com/talks/marc_goodman_a_vision_of_crimes_in_the_future
The 100-year Life - Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, I don't want to retire :)
Ready Player One, it's a fiction set in the future where living in the VR world becomes the norm.
When I approach a security check in an airport, I often see some kinds of instructions in the front side to teach people what items I need to put into the trays.
It's one of the critical tasks that require our full collaborations to ensure the safety for all of us. So from the perspective of airport staffs, they need to teach first-time travelers and also remind experienced ones.
Hence the simplest idea is to show some flyers or guidances in the front side of the security checkpoint, and hoping people would read them.
Recently, in the Amsterdam airport, I noticed its tray design works amazingly.
The items you'll need to put are drawn inside the tray! It serves both as an instruction and a reminder at the right timing and right place. When you take one tray, it's right there to guide you.
(And plus it's twice big as the one in Tokyo!)
I guess the security checkpoint is the place where we could assume that people would come with the right mindset - to pass it, they will have to put the right thing into the tray to be examined (unless they want to get caught on purpose). Even for first-time travelers, they can get the picture while waiting in the line.
But not everyone pays attention to the instruction, no matter how well the illustrations are embedded, it still appears complex when it contains just some bold text, and we humans are lazy, we want simple stuff.
And here is the genius part of the placeholder design. All people will take at least one tray, that's the perfect chance to teach them, Not before, and certainly not after. They're guaranteed to see it. The placeholder provides such contextual guidance, that removes all unnecessary hurdles and assit us with zero cost.
I feel so fascinated about it.