Using Audiobooks

by Aaron on January 21, 2012

Matt Aaron is one of our readers who liked the book and Sebastian’s blog, so he offered to write a post about audiobooks for us. You can find him at http://www.googlematt.com/. Without further ado…

IKIGAI recommends using audiobooks for filling dead time. Common situations can be waiting in line at airport security or any type of transportation that doesn’t allow you to sit and read, like walking. While this sounds easy to do, audio listening is not as accessible as one may think (at least in 2012).

There is a Kindle option to auto-read the text of any regular book, but there are drawbacks. Words get chopped; you are literally being read to by a robot. Also, a Kindle is too big to carry in your pocket.

Only a small fraction of books are available in audio format making it quite difficult to find and select a good listen.

Steps to get started listening to Audiobooks:

  1. If you don’t already have one, buy an iPod or a portable MP3 player (I figure you already own one)
  2. Join Amazon’s Audible
  3. Sign up for a monthly plan. Why?  Because, aside from the occasional sales, most books run between $20-$35. With the subscription of 1, 2, or unlimited, you will save at least 50%. Credits also carry over from month-to-month in case your schedule prevents listening time in a given month.
  4. Buy Brian Tracy’s The Luck Factor, or the E-Myth
  5. Now that you are set up, it is time to get some listening ideas. Start with these two blog posts from Sebastian:

32 Audiobooks for $158
Audible Doing the Awesome $5 Thing Again

Listening Tips:

1. If you acquire audiobooks in a regular MP3 or M4A format, make sure you convert the files to M4B. M4B automatically saves the last listening position, which is everything. Imagine having to search a 2 hour audio track for where you left off. It wastes time. I use MP3 to iPod/iPhone Audio Book Converter

2. You can control the speed. I believe up to 2X. Some books move at a slow pace, and you can cover an audiobook faster by increasing the speed. The downside is that the voice sounds less human.

3. When buying, check if the book is Abridged or Unabridged. I usually listen to unabridged, but that is less of a recommendation and more of my personal habit.

4. Consider listening time. The time range varies quite a bit. There are some books that are under 2 hours, like A Book of Five Rings: The Strategy of Musashi (re-listening value) while some are closer to 30 hours like Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes.

If you have any additions/questions/corrections/recommended books to add, please leave a comment. Happy listening.


How to Move Time Within OODA

by Aaron on January 6, 2012

I like thinking about timing, and I’ve recently done a little bit of thinking about marketing, so here’s my all-in post on timing. If you want me to continue writing on the subject, share this with your friends, because I’ll start focusing my attention elsewhere unless this goes awesome.


And without further ado…


OODA is cool. Timing is cool.


You observe what’s going on, orient yourself to figure out what it means (and reevaluate your observations), decide what to do, act, and then look at the results.


There are lots of implications, and ways that you can play with it. I’ll talk about the ones I learned about.


How frequently you can observe things changes how frequently you act.


If you go through an OODA loop every time you act, you can’t act without observing, unless you want to shoot blind. More on that later.


One of the biggest differences between now and about this time last month is the pace of the project. And I think that Observation speed is a major cause of that.


When we were putting together the book, I could get feedback on the organizational structure by just rereading sections in the new order. This would take like, 10 minutes. I could get faster feedback by skimming, and cut that down to minutes. By the time the book was over, I could recall posts on the order of seconds.


If I wanted someone else’s opinion, I could talk with them about it. If I wanted them to directly observe the book, this would normally take a few hours. If I skipped to sharing my Orientation, I could get feedback from other people in like half an hour if they were online.


Now, we’re trying to build relationships with allies over email, and write posts to get people to come on the site and build awareness.


This takes a while. Like, as a rule of thumb I expect an email with someone to take like, a day, unless I respond to them within an hour.


Still though, things seem to be maxed out at one meaningful Observation a day. It takes a while to find out if a post works, or if something is scheduled, and it takes a while for things to come up. So the project slowed down.


You can precompute steps.


I previously talked about speeding up your actions by cutting down on Orientation and Decision making.


Sebastian is really good at this. One of the most interesting things about working with him is that he really quickly has an interpretation of what’s going on, even if he doesn’t have that much information. For instance, everyone on the project was mailing back and forth about title names and different marketing angles and considerations, and we kind of didn’t know what would work. We had reasons for thinking things, and we would need to test them out. Then all the sudden Sebastian would come in and say something that made sense, and we would all change our minds.


Basically, he’s able to decrease the amount of time needed to Observe and Orient.


But he’s not pulling it out of his ass. Most of the time, he’s right about what’s happening and what we should do, or at least more right. Posts with his influence do better. His marketing efforts get farther.


But you still need information in order to accurately know what’s going on. You can’t covary without getting bits in. Where do his bits come from?


Principles. Where do those come from?


Experience. He just has more of it than we do. He’s done lots of projects, and reads ridiculous amounts of history. He already has a lot of information and Observations about things that happen, and has already Oriented himself with regards to those.


He now gets to reuse Orientations. Assuming that things work similarly to the way he did with his other observational data, he needs less time to Observe and Orient.


Living on Principle basically just lets you decide everything faster.


You can trade time between steps.


There are 24 hours in a day, and you can never, ever, get any more.


But you can change how many OODA loops you get in a day.


For instance, you can spend less time Orienting and Deciding, fire more randomly, but be able to cram in more observations. This is basically the “fire bullets, then cannonballs” strategy.


If your Orientation or Decisions aren’t very good, then this is probably what you should be doing. If something works, you just need to figure out why, then repeat it.


If you’re inexperienced and thus your Orientation and Decisions are a bit funky, then you really should be doing this. It gets you the Observations you need in order to build up a framework of what’s going on, and doesn’t overfit to your previous training data.


If you have lots of experience, you can just live on Principle, and see how well they work. Combining strong principles with lots of shots, and you can get success and more data at the same time.


You can substitute steps.


Sometimes though, the Observations limit your speed.


For instance, a decision might need input from someone else. What can you do then?


What I did a lot was trade off Observing their actual response and spending more time Orienting myself to possible answers. I would try and predict what they would say, then tell them that I was guessing that in the email.


If my confidence of my prediction and the utility of the action were both high, then I could just act on that default assumption. If it was correct, then yay, if not, then oops.


Another possibility is just to consider both answers, and do what you would do in either case.


Observations can substitute Orientations or Decisions by just letting you try lots of things, then see what what works.


Orientations can substitute Observations by using previous data.


Orientations can substitute Decisions by filtering out information. (This one seems riskier than others)


Decisions can substitute Observations via precommitments.


Playing around with this is left as an exercise to the reader.



A funny thing about time zones…

December 13, 2011

As I’ve been working on the project, my sleeping schedule has drifted such that I appear to be on Alaska time. Normally I’m on EST. I guess my sleep has been drifting to be the average of the project members.

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Global Time Arbitrage

December 12, 2011

I kind of mentioned this before, but it’s nice working with a global team. Right now I’m going to sleep, and I just handed off my current ideas to Sachit. Sachit can now work on them while I’m asleep because it’s daytime where he is. When he’s asleep, I’m awake. We can work around the […]

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Day 1 Update: No Plan Survives

December 8, 2011

I had what I thought was a pretty rocking plan to get the book moving. We’d find the core posts, and start up editing those. While that was happening, we’d find the secondary posts and then give those to the editor. The editor would edit them and send them back to me, and I’d start […]

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Some Quick Math

December 7, 2011

I have 49 pages of blurbs + links from the archives in the first pass of candidate posts. Each of those pages has about 5 blurbs. So we have about 250 candidate posts to make it into the book. Assuming each one of those is a page (I think they average out to longer than […]

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