Every day, there seems to be some new “discovery” or hack that will unlock our happiness. It’s hard to know what will work and what will not. It’s for this reason, I like to remind myself of enduring wise words from people that lived before us. After all, while today’s material world is very different from the past, human nature is the same: we still seek power, money and love, and we still get angry, scared and upset by the actions of others.
I’m not the first to think like this, Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet said ” If you’re lost, look for footprints of those that went before you”and Lao-Tze, the Chinese Taoist philosopher from 2,500 years ago wrote “By sticking to the underlying principles (Tao) of the past, you will master the life of today“. So in a two-part blog, I’ve selected some one-liners from wise people that lived before us. Here’s part one:
“Who has control in a conversation, the guy listening or the guy talking?
The listener, of course.
That’s because the talker is revealing information while the listener, if he’s trained well, is directing the conversation toward his own goals. He’s harnessing the talker’s energy for his own ends.”
That’s what Chis Voss, formerly the FBI’s lead international hostage negotiator, writes in his excellent “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It”. His insights shatter the idea that good negotiators engage in a battle of wills against their counterpart. If there is a guiding principle in the FBI’s elite negotiating team it’s that you have to remove yourself from the equation.
Roughly four years ago, I posted my first blog. It was review of a book on “Raising Boys” by Phil Zimbardo. The punchline was that boys were suffering a crisis of masculinity as they withdraw into the world of video games. I followed that by a blog called “My Optimised Morning Routine“. This eclectic mix of topics with a focus on well-being has set the tone of my blogs ever since. It’s also resulted in spin-offs like my curated newsletters and podcasts.
I will soon be watching Avengers:Endgame. It will be the climax to the 22 episode Marvel soap opera that started with Iron Man in 2008. The franchise has kept us engaged throughout. This loyalty has helped us endure the lows of Thor 2: Dark World and Incredible Hulk and been rewarded with the highs of Thor:Ragnarok, Black Panther and Infinity Wars. Being a movie data junkie, I thought I check the ratings and box office grosses of these movies to see whether I agree with them.
I’m in the process of re-thinking my work situation. Naturally, change, especially when the next step is not fully known, can feel a bit unsettling, but that’s the upfront emotional payment for greater future growth – no pain, no gain as they say. Importantly, the timing couldn’t be better for a big positive transformational change.
I got this as a gift and
I love it. It’s a special Moleskine notebook and pen that you use like a regular
writing set, but it cleverly “records” everything you write, which you then see
perfectly replicated on a Moleskine app. Amazing. It can even transcribe your
writing into digital text, although it doesn’t work for me as my writing is too
messy. I find writing with a pen and paper much better than tapping on a
screen. This gives you the best of both worlds. You write and it is stored
Parents will know that as soon as the their child is born, they subconsciously plan their child’s path to Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge or one of the other top universities. The thinking goes that by attending a top university, a world of opportunities will open up especially in the jobs market.
How do you compare the fame of an actor today to a Greek philosopher from two thousand years ago? Well, the clever people at MIT have come up with a system called Pantheon to do just that.
It looks at the biographies of historical figures that feature in more than 25 languages in Wikipedia. This gives a sense of broad impact of the figure. Then they make adjustments for number of page views, bias towards English language bios and age of the historical character (so if a bio is still being written on someone from two thousand years ago, that means their cultural is very big).
There’s something that is more important for health than diet, exercise and social connections. Sleep. We all know it as we clearly feel the effects of inadequate sleep (bad eating, impaired thinking, constant colds) and the science is clear.
I read an excellent book on the topic, “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker,which spurred me to research the topic more deeply. I was fortunate then to meet one the world’s leading experts on sleep, Professor Adrian Williams. He’s been pioneering sleep research since the late 1970s. First at Harvard and UCLA and later here in the UK at St Thomas’ hospital and Kings College. I interviewed him for my podcast, which you can listen here. I’ve also collated all my research on sleep by topic below. Right at the end, I have the top tips to sleep well.
Many people ask me which podcasts I listen to, especially after the launch of my own podcast: Deep See With Bilal. There are so many, that I couldn’t fit them into one blog, so I thought I’d start with best macro podcasts. When I say macro, I mean not only economics and finance but also tech and politics. I’m not ranking the podcasts, but they are the best ones I’m come across. I also include a sample episode to give a taste of the podcast. I’m sure I must have missed some, so feel free to send me your recommendations!