This summer I read “The Penguin History of the World”. “The entire story of human endeavour laid out in all its grandeur and folly, drama and pain in a single authoritative book”.

Conor’s World History in 1 Paragraph

World history 9000BC to Today:

The life of the poor was shit under every civilisation. It was short, dangerous, local, painful and dependant. Greek peasant life was bad under Sparta, Athens, Macedon. Roman peasant life was bad. Indian peasant life was bad under Indian rulers, under Mongol rulers, under British rulers. Chinese peasant life was bad under every empire. Russian peasant life was bad under Mongols, Muscovy Princes, Tsars. There were very few wealthy people. Most of the world has always been very poor. Tax systems extracted everything leaving only enough for peasants to not die. Tax was extracted to pay for palaces, rarely improvements in infrastructure.

8 Lessons from World History

The earliest written records are cave paintings from 65,000 years ago. The earliest written culture is 9000 years ago (7000 BC Sumer & Mesopotamia). (History can only begin when we have written records, otherwise it is just guesswork.)

  1. Civilisation rises and civilisation falls: there have been major losses of technology over the last 17,000 years. (This was something of a surprise to me as I realised that I had an untested assumption that innovations don’t disappear from civilisation).
  2. Geography matters a lot. The physical location and terrain of a nation shapes the people. Ireland, Britain, Japan – island nations.
  3. Agriculture allowed wealth creation. Agriculture allowed population growth and the first wealthy individuals (kings, emperors). A king without wealth will soon not be king.
  4. Fragile: Until 1500AD most empires, kingdoms, cities were only 1 or 2 poor harvests away from collapse.
  5. We need a common enemy An Empire without a common enemy will collapse from internal divisions (Rome, Mongols). A common enemy can create an empire or a nation (Greeks vs Persians, France vs England)
  6. Absolute power is the norm The separation of church and state, and limitations on political power are not common. Absolute monarchy that unites political, military and religious power is extremely common.
  7. Guttenberg changed everything. The availability of the printed word changed how we live more than any other change in history. How will the internet & AI change the next 1000 years?
  8. I like my life: I would prefer to be me than any Pharaoh, King, Emperor, Pope, Tsar of the last 17,000 years. The Sword of Damocles is real. (I would prefer to be king than peasant, but that is a different comparison).

The Penguin History of the World

The entire story of human endeavour laid out in all its grandeur and folly, drama and pain in a single authoritative book.

J.M. Roberts, CBE, published The Penguin History of the World in 1976 to immediate acclaim.

Odd Arne Westad, FBA, is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics.

Here’s the book The Penguin History of the World on amazon.

Got a speech to give? What should I say?

That is a terrible place to start.

What’s the most important question you can ask yourself before preparing a speech?

It was fun to make this short “elevator pitch” video with the production team at @iesebschool only 7 floors to make my point!

The founder of Strategic Coach, and one of my favourite podcasters, Dan Sullivan plans to live to 156 years old. It will allow him to see 3 different centuries (19,20,21).

What will it take for him to live that long? He’ll need to eat well. He’ll need to stay physically and mentally fit. He’ll need medicine to come up with some new techniques to extend life…. but more than all of this, he will need a powerful motivation to remain alive.

What gives a powerful motivation to remain alive? In an interview with Peter Diamandis, Dan and Pete shared the perspective that if you have friends, money and purpose: you’ll have a pretty damn good reason to keep on living.

Here’s the original podcast episode: Living to 156 Years old

If you love podcasts, you’ll like my post The world’s best individual podcast episodes

Paul Graham is founder of Y Combinator. Together with Tim Urban, Seth Godin and Derek Sivers these are true artists of the blog format.

“Second order thinking” is a big part of Paul’s approach. Second order thinking is looking for non-obvious rules that improve decision making, efficiency and quality of life. Check out the Python Paradox for an example 😉

Paul’s Essays that have most Impacted My Approach to Life

  1. How to do what you love?
  2. Good procrastination and bad procrastination
  3. The lies we tell our kids, and the lies that our parents told us… and how important it is once in your life to review this set of accepted lies before they mess up your life
  4. Beating the averages
  5. Money is not Wealth, and How to Create New Wealth (not take money from others…)
  6. Relentlessly resourceful
  7. How to Disagree (a ranking order of methods of refuting the other person’s argument)

Google Based Ranking of Paul Graham Essays

This is an interesting big of research – Colin Wright produced a ranked list of Paul Graham’s essays based on google pagerank.

23.02 Beating the Averages
19.84 Lisp for Web-Based Applications
5.56 What You Can’t Say
3.81 Revenge of the Nerds
3.72 The Roots of Lisp
3.66 The Age of the Essay
3.29 What Made Lisp Different
3.26 Why Nerds are Unpopular
2.81 Taste for Makers
2.77 Great Hackers
2.33 The Other Road Ahead
2.12 How to Make Wealth
1.91 Succinctness is Power
1.74 A Unified Theory of VC Suckage
1.73 The Word “Hacker”
1.67 How to Start a Startup
1.43 Hiring is Obsolete
1.39 Why Startups Condense in America
1.39 Programming Bottom-Up
1.35 Inequality and Risk
1.35 How to Be Silicon Valley
1.21 After the Ladder
1.04 How to Do What You Love
1.00 Good and Bad Procrastination
0.90 After Credentials
0.88 The Equity Equation
0.88 How Not to Die
0.84 What You’ll Wish You’d Known
0.83 A Plan for Spam
0.80 How to Be an Angel Investor
0.76 Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy
0.74 The High-Res Society
0.67 The Python Paradox
0.65 Ideas for Startups

0.64 Better Bayesian Filtering
0.64 Filters that Fight Back
0.61 Relentlessly Resourceful
0.61 The Future of Web Startups
0.61 The Hundred-Year Language
0.60 Why Smart People Have Bad Ideas
0.59 The Submarine
0.59 The Power of the Marginal
0.59 How to Fund a Startup
0.56 Why TV Lost
0.56 High Resolution Fundraising 
0.56 Being Popular
0.56 Stuff
0.56 Trolls
0.49 Why There Aren’t More Googles
0.49 The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups
0.48 The Top Idea in Your Mind 
0.48 Hackers and Painters
0.47 What the Bubble Got Right
0.46 Five Questions about Language Design
0.46 The Venture Capital Squeeze
0.45 Cities and Ambition
0.44 Startups in 13 Sentences
0.44 A Fundraising Survival Guide
0.44 The Hacker’s Guide to Investors
0.43 Design and Research
0.43 Two Kinds of Judgement
0.40 An Alternative Theory of Unions
0.38 Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.
0.38 Why to Move to a Startup Hub
0.35 Founder Control
0.35 Why to Not Not Start a Startup
0.34 What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Who are your favourite Bloggers? What are some specific blog posts that have really impacted your views on the world?

Would love to hear in the comments below…

I have this blog. It has been going for over 10 years. Above all other benefits, writing blog posts helps me clarify what I think.

I published my first post on 25th January 2009. It was a paragraph from a book I was reading that I thought was valuable advice. I have written ideas on something 1-2 times every week since January 2009. There are 1,025 posts (not including this one).

I also have a youtube channel that today has a much wider audience than my blog, but it is the blog that has helped me get clarity and sharpen my ideas. Writing is the power tool in clarifying your ideas.

11 Reasons Why You should have a Blog

  1. Improve communication
  2. Clarify your thinking
  3. Library of thinking
  4. Share your Vision
  5. Raise your Visibility
  6. Become a Thought Leader
  7. Build a Community of Support
  8. Build trust
  9. Build Authority as an Expert
  10. Receive Feedback
  11. Mentor Others

How to start a blog?

Pick one of these and start writing. I use wordpress. I used to use Blogger (a google product).

Keep it simple, start writing. Get your thoughts down.

I was doing some mindless twitter surfing just after lunch today, and I stumbled upon a gold mine. I love the thread that followed this tweet:

and here’s some of the answers that really resonated with me…

If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.

When your child wants to have a talk, drop what you’re doing and listen to them.

Only take advice from someone you’re willing to switch places with.

Pay attention to what they do, not what they say.

Don’t complain about what you permit.

The best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing

Run

Don’t ask why the addiction, instead… ask why the pain.

and… Be humble enough to do what you can until you have the strength to do what you want.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

If you are interested in my answers, I have a couple of posts that are big lists of lessons that I have learnt from others: 17 Daily Personal Habits for a Fulfilling Life and The Complete Guide to Personal Habits: 158 Positive Reflections on Life

What is your answer? I’d love to hear it in the comments below 😉

In 2009, I decided to take writing seriously. Stephen King says “A writer is a producer of words.” If you produce words, you’re a writer. If you don’t produce words, you are not a writer.

Every day my coach would ask me “how many words did you produce today?” It was brutal. There is no denial. There were days when the answer was 20… or less. I started to become highly aware of self sabotage.

Self Sabotage is the Most Dangerous Obstacle

The world will put countless obstacles in your path but none will be as big as your own self-sabotage.

The 4 Destructive Self-Sabotage Mindsets:

  1. Distraction – How to overcome? Focus. The Pomodoro technique.
  2. Emotional Impulsiveness – How to overcome? Acceptance.
  3. Arrogance and sense of Entitlement – How to overcome? Faith, Hope and Love.
  4. Fixed Mindset – How to overcome? Focus on process, not outcomes. Appreciate effort and learning, not outcomes. Love problems, for they truly help you grow as a person.

If you liked this post, you will also like 6 Reasons we Give Up on Goals and The Greatest Coaching Question of All Time.

I’ve done a lot of sales over the last 16 years. I was bad at the beginning, but step by step have learnt how to sell.

There are always 3 big questions in the mind of any buyer that you must be able to address if you are to move forward with a contract.

The 3 Big Questions in the mind of the Buyer:

  1. Why buy Anything?
  2. Why buy from you?
  3. Why buy now?

Often I see salespeople and entrepreneurs have wonderful, powerful, clear answers and evidence for questions 1 and 2… but the buyer says “I agree the product is good, I agree you are a solid company… call me back in 2-3 months when we have got through this busy period…”

This response is worse than a simple No. A simple No, you close the opportunity and you move on.

If you liked this post you will also like How to Improve your Sales Process (Personally) and How to Sell a Pen.

In Vistage, we say “Great leaders ask great questions.” The most important question: What’s my purpose?

The 2 Ingredients of Purpose

Your purpose is about solving problems that are meaningful to yourself. Two phrases are key in this sentence:

  1. solving problems – whilst you can get momentary happiness from experiences, only improving quality of life for other beings gives rise to lasting fulfilment
  2. meaningful to yourself – if you don’t enjoy the journey, you are going to give up quickly. If you give up, you will not solve problems. You must be selfish in this respect. You must use your own unique combination of talents and desires in a way that is satisfying to you personally

The path of the purposeless one is beset on all sides by distraction and other people’s priorities. Modern western society gives us the greatest freedom of action of any civilisation in history. This freedom is dangerous without defining how you will use it.

The greater the freedom, the more important to clarify your own purpose.

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me… “

Paolo Coelho

Dan Sullivan speaks about 2 kinds of freedom:

  • “Freedom from” – the removal of obligations: I save enough money to not have to work in a job that is not meaningful
  • “Freedom to” – the creation of a purpose: I actively exercise my power of will to choose to pursue a meaningful purpose

Being highly efficient in pursuit of what is fundamentally unimportant is a terrible life path. I know several people who are brilliant at tactics, but lack any coherent life strategy. They are lost.

Nobody climbs Everest by accident. It was a dream and a plan and part of the meaningful activity of life for a decade before the summit.

How do you begin to answer: What is my Purpose?

Write something down. Anything.

What do you want to do during your life? Bucket list, problems you want to fix, experiences you want to have, how you differ from others, how you relate to others, teachers that made a difference…

Write them all down.

That’s step 1.

My friend David Tomas and I went to a 3 day workshop with Dr John DeMartini about 10 years ago called “Master Planning for Life“. For 3 straight days we sat in silence in a room in London and we wrote a plan for our life. Mine is 150 pages of word document. It is exactly what I described – a big list of every place I ever wanted to go, every thing I ever wanted to learn, every person that matters, every teacher that impacted me, every dream I have… and a set of financial plans that would allow me to make it happen.

I haven’t done everything that is in the document. I get demotivated and forget to review it often. I have days where I ask myself “what is it all about?”

I have this document as a map and a compass that can get me back on track.

You have to write it down.

…and then you iterate it many, many, many times. You come back to it regularly and add things that are even better and delete things that don’t resonate any more.

After 100 iterations you have something that can re-motivate you about why you are here.

After 1,000 iterations you should start to have something that really reminds you what is important and how to use your time.

Is there a shortcut?

…of course not. This is too important an aspect of your life to cut corners. Imagine if you just copied someone else’s purpose document? You’d end up living a great life, for them.

…and iterations are vital – because often what you think is important or meaningful when you are young turns out to not quite be the experience you expected.

Put it where you will see it often

It is not the writing down that matters. It is the iterating and repeatedly reminding yourself of what you think is important.

The problem is not that you don’t know what matters to you and what activities are most important – it is that you forget or get distracted so often.

If you liked this post, you will also like finding purpose and defining a vision for your life and A Truly Compelling Vision.

Professional Rugby Players do it…

On a transatlantic flight this year I came across the “Chasing Great” documentary that followed the life and career of New Zealand rugby captain Richie McCaw.

When Richie was 12 years old, a friend of his father asked him to put his dreams down on paper. They wrote it on a napkin while having lunch. Here is the napkin (source NZ Herald 25 August 2016: Chasing Great: Richie McCaw’s secret video tapes revealed)

A recreation of the napkin containing Richie McCaw’s All Blacks plans.

Professional Golfers do it…

Here’s something I found today on twitter that resonated… Pro Golfer Justin Thomas shared his written goals for the coming season…

I’ve just returned from a few days in Athens, visiting with my daughter. She became a big fan of greek myths and legends from her reading of the Percy Jackson series of books.

As we walked around the Acropolis area, the Parthenon and the ancient Agora of Athens, I reflected upon the elements of civilisation that we still owe to the Ancient Athenians. So much of our politics, our sense of right and wrong, our organising principles of social life come from this small city state that had its peak 2,500 years ago, between 480BC and 320BC.

This video comes from the Acropolis and from the Agora of Ancient Athens.

So much history in this place. Many later cultures copied rather than innovated from the Greek culture. Rome copied the culture, but improved on the military and civil organisation.

Another Greek Video, from Delphi

Earlier in the week we did a day trip up to the ruins of Delphi. Check out the video I made when visiting the location of the ancient Oracle of Delphi.