Self Improvement

Legacy – James Kerr

Legacy – by James Kerr
Date read: 2/1/19. Recommendation: 7/10.

A detailed look at the principles and strategies of history’s most successful rugby team, New Zealand’s All Blacks. There are some great quotes in this book and at its core, it’s all about leadership. Kerr examines the things that set apart the All Blacks, including: discipline, self-awareness, culture, adaptation, storytelling, and purpose. It’s an insightful read that will provide immediate takeaways which you can use to become a better person and a better leader.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

Personal Discipline:

  • Post-game the All Blacks debrief and everyone is given a chance to speak. Once they break, something unexpected happens, two players grab a broom and begin sweeping the sheds, cleaning up after themselves. 

  • No one looks after the All Blacks, they look after themselves. They don’t expect someone else to do their job or things to be handed to them.

  • Strong personal discipline translates to discipline on the field.


  • “Only by knowing yourself can you become an effective leader.” Vince Lombardi

  • Self-knowledge helps develop character and integrity. Character and integrity help develop leadership.

  • “What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” Buckminster Fuller


  • Force multiplier: Any lasting organization has a fundamental set of principles…a values-based, purpose-driven culture. Challenge is to bring that to life and into the lives of those on your team.

  • “My army won because they knew what they were fighting for and loved what they knew.” Oliver Cromwell

  • Establish a higher culture than your opposition and you’ll win.

  • “It’s better to have a thousand enemies outside the tent than one inside the tent.” Arab proverb

  • Multiculturalism - ever-changing sense of what it means to be a New Zealander or an All Black: “Successful cultures are organic and adaptive, they change and flow, yet always just under the surface is a bedrock of values, smoothed by the current above, but unyielding.” See Shane Parrish interview with Shopify founder Tobi Lütke.


  • Sigmoid Curve: Learning, growth, decline.

  • Outwitting inevitability and hijacking the curve: “The key, of course, is when we’re on top of our game, to change our game; to exit relationships, recruit new talent, alter tactics, reassess strategy.” JK

  • Growth comes from allowing yourself, your skills and your sense of authenticity to evolve. Tiger Woods changing his golf swing. Bob Dylan altering his sound. 


  • Leaders create leaders.

  • “Move rapidly into a commanding position, assess your unfolding options quickly and clearly, attack with absolute and ruthless commitment – assess, adjust and repeat.” JK

  • Empower your people: “The competitive advantage is nullified when you try to run decisions up and down the chain of command…Once the commander’s intent is understood, decisions must be devolved to the lowest possible level to allow these front line soldiers to exploit the opportunities that develop.” General Gordon R. Sullivan

  • “Leaders are teachers – our job is to lead people through uncertainty and confusion into self-knowledge and self-possession.” JK

Power of Storytelling:

  • “Using vivid storytelling techniques, including themes, symbols, imagery, rituals, mantras and metaphor, and bringing them to life with imagination and flair, leaders create a sense of inclusion, connectedness, and unity.” JK

  • “We learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord with us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies or themselves.” John Kotter

  • “Metaphors are where we recognize ourselves in stories.” JK

  • “The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance.” Aristotle

Authenticity + Integrity:

  • “Authenticity allows us to author our own lives; to make our own original imprint and to write our own story in a voice that is true to our values.” JK

  • Integrity means being able to count on yourself (and others being able to count on you) to deliver. It’s about honoring your word. 


  • Red head: tight, inhibited, results-oriented, anxious, aggressive, over-compensating, desperate.

  • Blue head: loose, expressive, in the moment, calm, relaxed concentration, clear, accurate, on task.

  • “In the heat of battle, the difference between the inhibitions of the Red and the freedom of Blue is the manner in which we control our attention.” JK

  • To get out of your own head, shift your attention to something external. 


  • Whakapapa - Maori term for genealogy, our place in the ascending order of all living things. Sun slowly moves down this chain of people, signifying life. When the sun is on us we inherit the tribe’s stories, values, transitions. We help advance that, then pass it on to the next person in the chain.

  • Whakapapa is similar to the Stoic term sympatheia (interconnected whole). 

  • “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Sean Fitzpatrick

  • “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see.” Greek Proverb

  • “Character is also the mark left on you by life, and the mark we leave on life.” JK

  • “If we value life, life values us.” JK

Atomic Habits – James Clear

Atomic Habits – by James Clear
Date read: 11/4/18. Recommendation: 8/10.

The idea behind Atomic Habits is that by stacking tiny habits over time you can achieve compounding, remarkable results. Your outcomes, as Clear suggests, are the lagging measure of your habits. He offers great insight into nonlinear growth (breakthrough moments), identity, discipline, and environmental design, as it relates to behavior change. The models used throughout the book help make each concept relatable and are something I will come back to for years to come. The importance of playing the long game and building better systems is hard to undervalue. There’s room for everyone to improve in this capacity, and if nothing else it’s a refreshing reminder: “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?"

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

“To write a great book, you must first become the book.” Naval Ravikant

Automatic Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery


  • 1% better each day for one year = 37x better

  • “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement."

  • Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Knowledge is lagging measure of your learning habits. 


  • Ice cube example warming from 26 degrees, one degree at a time, to 32 when it finally begins to melt. But no visible progress from 26-31.

  • Breakthrough moments = culmination of actions leading up to that point. 

  • Habits need to persist long enough to break through plateau where you don’t see tangible results or “success” as you’ve envisioned it. 

  • Sorites Paradox: Can one coin make someone rich? No, but as you keep adding/stacking coins (habits), at a certain point one coin makes the difference.

Goals vs. Systems:

  • Goals are good for setting direction, systems best for making progress.

  • “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.” Refinement, improvement and commitment to the process.

  • Goal is not to read a book, it’s to become a reader. Not to learn an instrument, it’s to become a musician.

Identity and behavior change:

  • Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want? If it’s a person who could write a book, that means consistent, reliable, etc.

  • Decide the type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins.

  • “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?"

  • At a certain point, the identity itself becomes the reinforcer. Behavior becomes automatic because it’s who you are. 

Keep your identity small:

  • Tighter you cling to an identity, harder it is to grow beyond it and less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you.

  • “When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle. Lose that one thing and you lose yourself.”

  • Redefine yourself so you keep important aspects of your identity even when your role changes. Instead of “I’m the CEO,” “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things."

  • Identity should work with changing circumstances, rather than against them. 


  • “It is only by making the fundamentals in life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity."

  • “‘Disciplined’ people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations."

  • Create a disciplined environment —> easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it often.

  • Environmental design: Remove friction, make doing the right thing as easy as possible. Inversion: add friction to make bad behaviors more difficult.


  • Don’t mistake lack of clarity for lack of motivation, make it obvious.

  • Be specific about what you want and how you will achieve it. When you’re vague about your dreams it’s easy to ignore the specifics you need to do to succeed.


  • Proximity has powerful effect on our behavior (both physical and social environments). Running against the grain requires extra effort.

  • Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself.

  • “When changing your habits means challenging the tribe, change is unattractive. When changing your habits means fitting in with the tribe, change is very attractive."

Motion vs. Action:

  • Motion = planning, strategizing, learning. Important, but don’t produce a result. Allows you to feel like you’re making progress without risk of failure. Ex) Making a list of 20 articles to write.

  • Action = behavior that will deliver an outcome. Ex) Actually sitting down to write an article.

  • Start with repetition, not perfection. Habits form based on frequency, not time.

Time inconsistency (hyperbolic discounting):

  • The way the brain evaluates rewards is inconsistent across time. From an evolutionary perspective, you naturally value present more than future

  • Costs of good habits are felt today. Costs of bad habits are felt in the future.

  • “Most people will spend all day chasing hits of quick satisfaction. The road less traveled is the road of delayed gratification. If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded."


  • Always show up, even on your bad days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.

  • $100 grows 50% to $150. Only takes a 33% loss to take you back to $100. Avoiding 33% loss just as valuable at 50% gain. 

Don’t enter games you’re not willing to play:

  • Maximize your odds by choosing right field of competition. 

  • Think about where you achieve greater returns than the average person and the type of work that hurts you less than it hurts others. 

  • Flow = 4% beyond your current ability.

Checking progress/reflection:

  • Annual review, EOY: 1) What went well this year? 2) What didn’t go so well this year? 3) What did I learn?

  • Integrity report, mid-year: 1) What are the core values that are driving my life and work? How am I living and working with integrity right now? How can I set a higher standard for the future?