The starter kit to get your act together

From what I’ve read and heard, and from years of interaction with other humans, I think it’s fair to conclude that everyone has experienced these scenarios:
  1. Crossroad moment: you need to choose one out of two or more possibilities and you don’t know which one will be a better choice.
  2. Rock bottom period: you’ve screwed up in one area and the realisation that you’ve screwed up makes you sad and angry with yourself but instead of picking up, you screw up in other areas. And you feel worse and worse. It’s like nothing is going right in your life at this moment.
  3. Uncomfortable comfortable period: you’re doing fine in every aspect of your life including career, finances, health, relationships, etc, but something’s not quite right. You feel like you should make some changes (big or small) but you don’t know what, how, when, and why.

Although the three scenarios above sound undesirable, I feel that they’re necessary. They’re the moments that will change you for the better 1) if you want them to change you 2) if you know how to ensure that the direction of change is a positive one.

There’s one problem: we’re thrown to life without one comprehensive guidebook that will tell you what exactly to do in every scenario, like an equipment operating manual.
Thankfully, we are living in an age where we can look very, very far back and in that long period of time, a lot of other people have figured things out and written guide books for us (e.g. religious and philosophical texts in the olden days, and self-help books in the 20th and 21st centuries). This age is particularly a convenient one where the inefficiency (in terms of cost, time, and physical distance) in information transmission has been dramatically reduced through the Internet.
There’s one problem: there are guide books, not just one. This is a form of inefficiency in itself, albeit a good one. The good thing is that we have choices. The not-so-easy (but not bad) thing is we have to make a decision (and end up in another scenario #1, when you want to get through it).
The decision-making is inevitable, so why not do it. In writing this, I’d like to help others cut short their crossroad moment in deciding where to look for guidance (not which guide books). After all discovery is an essential part of life, and it’s huge fun, if you know where to start.
This info in this starter kit is free. The items listed may not be. The items are mostly sources of information, and they do two things: 1) enhance the tool you already have, that is your own mind 2) open up possibilities whether in the form of hyperlinks (literal or figurative) which you can follow for further discoveries, or in the form of your enhanced mind being able to understand more things. An enhanced mind gets you through the three scenarios more easily.
So here’s to start:
  1. Mindset by Carol Dweck
    In this book, Dweck proposed that there are two mindsets namely the growth and fixed mindsets. Adopting a growth mindset is more beneficial in most aspects in life. More than this basic premise, this book serves as a ruthless, yet constructive mirror for you to reflect on, and for you to work on the areas you need to work on.
  2. The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
    You might not like this book. Tim was fairly young when he wrote this book and probably that explained his rather flippant tone in the book. Anyway, to me personally, a lot of the suggestions in that book are pretty much things I wouldn’t try. But a good book makes you think. And that book made me ponder for 6 months whether I like Tim or not. In the appendix, there is a list of recommended books. I went to read those. And then I started listening to his podcast. And then I decided, that my first not-so-positive reaction to the book was because of my ego. This book challenges your ego and your assumptions about life, work and society. And those challenges are good.
    Tim is, like what this article hopes to be but way more so, a gateway drug to many good learning opportunities. He recommends great books, he interviews top-level people in various fields, he asks great questions, he wrote good books that are gateways to other good stuff too.
  3. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: the Wit and Wisdom of Charlie Munger by Peter D. Kaufman 
    Warren Buffett’s partner is much less well-known and that’s a plus point because knowing his works and wisdom will make you a cool hipster among the wisdom-nerds. Well, that’s totally besides the point. This book is intimidating because it’s thick and of a dimension that’s not suitable for leisure reading, but it’s more than worth it. The wisdom in this book is not the fluffy kind. It’s very much rooted to reality, good ethics, and self-made intellect.
  1. The Tim Ferriss Show
    Tim Ferriss interviews top-level people in various fields. You feel like you hang out with smart people as you listen to the episodes of this podcast, and I guess… that can make you smarter in the long run.
  2. Inside Quest
    Tom Bilyeu, the co-founder of the second fastest-growing U.S. company, Quest Nutrition, hosts a show that features top-level people in various fields too, with a different style, different set of guests, and shorter duration.
  3. Jocko Podcast
    Jocko Willink is a retired US Navy SEAL and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who co-founded a business consulting company and co-wrote a great book on leadership with his ex-teammate. In each episode he would discuss a book, usually related to war, and answers “questions from the interwebz” with his co-host Echo Charles. Jocko is really good with words; he knows how to choose and say the words that will move you. His podcast, like the other two recommended podcasts, is motivational but not the cheesy kind at all because of the presence of real substances. Word of warning though: you should listen to this podcast with an open mind especially if you claim to be a liberal.


  1. Farnam Street Blog
    Shane Parrish has a simple goal: to help readers go to bed each night smarter than when they woke up by giving tools, ideas, and frameworks for thinking. Shane feels that he’s not smart enough to figure all of this out himself so he tries to master the best of what other people have already figured out by reading a lot and “making friends with the eminent dead” (he borrowed Charlie Munger’s term, which is borrowed from Benjamin Franklin, which is possibly borrowed from Lucius Annaeus Seneca) which means learning from the wise men and women in the olden days. Shane quotes a lot from books and adds his own concise writing to weave the quotes together. His articles are of the right length and he often uses pleasant point form. He recommends a lot of books and hosts his own podcast.
  2. Barking Up the Wrong Tree
    Eric Barker “brings you science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life” in nice, reader-friendly point form and summary at the end of every article.
  3. Seth Godin’s blog
    Seth is THE marketing guru. He writes a lot about marketing but don’t let his apparent specialisation fool you. His wisdom transcends the world of marketing and his free, concise, insightful daily newsletter is always refreshing and thought-provoking.
These are the nine items (out of so many others I am tempted to recommend) that I feel deserve to be in the starter kit for their time-insensitive relevance and flexibility, that is, you could be of any profession and reading or listening to them in year 2084 and I’m quite optimistic they’ll still be relevant. That is because of the common denominators that are focused on: focus on materialistic reality, continuous improvement and deep understanding of human nature as an individual and in the society. These things have hardly changed in the last 20,000 years despite other changes in terms of technology and lifestyle.
We’ve got thousand of years of our predecessors’ wisdom to use against our life challenges, and when we have a starting point, we shall overcome.

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