There are a lot of pages out on the web on career advice, productivity advice, and all of that. I have a ton of opinions, but there are more qualified people offering advice out there, like Nobel prize winners and world leading mathematicians. This page is dedicated to providing links to other peoples’ smart ideas on productivity.

How to read advice pages

A lot of self-help books and advice pages make assertions about the human mind with very little objective backing. There’s the “growth mindset vs. fixed mindset” model coined by Carol Dweck, and the concept of “Resistance” from The War of Art. Even the concept of self control has aspects that are mostly invented.

However, I love the book The War of Art, and I sometimes reference Dweck’s “mindset” idea when talking to others.

When you’re reading advice, motivational, or productivity ideas, I suggest that you treat advice pages as models. There isn’t much objectivity to be found in these models, but fortunately a model isn’t assessed by its underlying factual accuracy, it’s assessed by its usefulness. If a model helps, keep it. If it doesn’t help you, throw it out. It was just a model to begin with. It seems like most authors of self-help books and articles think they’ve stumbled upon some fundamental truth, but that’s not the best way to look at it. They’ve developed a useful model, and your only goal in reading is to see if you can make use of it too.

Videos and Quotes

(Feynman: “It just happens they got interested in this thing, and they learned all this stuff.”)

(Feynman on Confusion)

(Elon Musk: Look at problems in general from first principles)

(Michio Kaku: All kids are born geniuses)

(Max Tegmark: “You’re never gonna be the first person to arrive somewhere if you’re always following other people.”)

Max Tegmark - Q18 from Nautilus on Vimeo.

(Robert Weisbrot on Ed Witten)

“Much clearer to me was an observation Ed made that appeared near the end of this article: every one of us has talent; the great challenge in life is finding an outlet to express it. I thought, he has truly earned the right to say that. And I realized that, for all my earlier concerns that he had squandered his time, in fact his entire career path–the ventures in history, linguistics, economics, politics, math, as well as physics–had been rewarding: a time of hard work, self-discovery, and new insight into his potential based on growing experience.”

(Neil deGrasse Tyson)

While the case portrayed there is some fraction of cases that are out there, at the end of the day, Einstein became Einstein not because someone said, “Keep studying, keep studying!” and someone didn’t say, “Isaac Newton, go invent calculus!” He invented it on his own. So in my world, there is no success without people being self-driven, and to believe that you only achieve greatness because someone pushed you there? I don’t see that.

(Neil deGrasse Tyson)

“You don’t go to the amusement park roller coaster and say ‘I want to be balanced.’ No, you want to be as unbalanced as possible, because that’s the thrill ride,”

(Walter Isaacson on Steve Jobs)

Jobs’s (in)famous ability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues his Reality Distortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek in which aliens create a convincing alternative reality through sheer mental force. An early example was when Jobs was on the night shift at Atari and pushed Steve Wozniak to create a game called Breakout. Woz said it would take months, but Jobs stared at him and insisted he could do it in four days. Woz knew that was impossible, but he ended up doing it.

Obligatory Bruce Lee quote:

It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.

Book Recommendations

Other Links