Willem Van Zyl – Coach

Willem is a productivity coach at Coach.me, blogs at willemvzyl.net, and runs Code Like a Clockwork  – a software agency specializing in custom business and education platform development.

Good things to read

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufmann. I do a lot of work with entrepreneurs and startups, and many of them ask me whether they should enroll in an MBA programme. As Josh says in the book (I’m paraphrasing here), if you have the time and drive to complete an MBA, you could just as well avoid a lot of student debt and use that same time & drive to use the knowledge resources easily available to you, start a business, and make a profit (while your business school buddies are still paying off student debt).
Getting Things Done by David Allen. As a productivity coach, “GTD” is a term recognized even by my clients who’ve spent only a little time learning about productivity systems. The collection, processing, and planning methodologies described by Dr Allen are the cornerstones of delivering productive work, and he just recently released an updated version of his classic book.
Letters From A Stoic by Seneca. Stoicism is a philosophy based on taking action instead of having endless discussions and debates, modern-day proponents of which include Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, and Donald Robertson. The letters of Seneca, an ancient Roman, to his friend Lucillus are a personable and to-the-point introduction to the concepts behind this philosophy.

Good things to watch

Merlin Mann – Inbox Zero. If your job involves email, your inbox is probably overloaded. In this video by Google, Merlin Mann explains a simple methodology for dealing with email and ensuring that you go home with an empty inbox every day.
Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work – Jason Fried. Jason is the founder of 37signals (now “Basecamp”), the company behind the popular Basecamp project management software, and co-wrote several business books including ReWork and Remote. In this video he explains why, ironically, most people do their best work at places other than the office.
Brain Games. This TV show discusses how our brains play tricks with our perception, memory, and abilities on a day to day (and even minute-to-minute) basis in order to create the illusion of what we see and experience in the world.

Good things to use

Todoist. I’ve tried many, many task / project management apps over the years, and so far Todoist is my favourite. It works on all devices, supports sharing amongst teams, has custom filtering to help with your daily and weekly reviews, and has a built-in “Karma Game” to show you how your level of productivity changes over time.
Evernote. I’ve been using the Evernote app and Evernote Moleskine Notebooks for years to keep track of my notes, book highlights, articles I’ve enjoyed, projects I’m working on, meetings I’ve had, and pretty much everything else related to my businesses.
Coach.me. Not only do I think that Coach.me is the best platform for habit building, but I’m also a Productivity Coach on there. Most of Coach.me’s features are completely free – you select the habits you’d like to build, get daily reminders to “check in” on them, and can ask questions to other people trying to build the same habits. However, if you’d like to push your habit-building to the next level you can subscribe to multi-day courses (called “plans”) ranging in cost from free to a couple of dollars for indefinite access, or you can hire a coach specializing in one of your habits for $14 a week, then interact with the coach over text chat within the app.
Connect with Willem on Twitter, @WillemZyl.

Ruwan Meepagala – Writer, Creativity Coach

Ruwan Meepagala is writer, Creativity Coach, and Orgasmic Meditation instructor. He teaches how to enter highly sensitized states for better communication and creative impulse, often in the realm of sex and relationships. He’s currently working on his first book on how sexual energy fuels creativity. He coaches individuals on Lift specifically around habits to increase creativity.

Good things to read.

If On a Winter’s Night Traveler by Italo Calvino. It starts with a silly premise and structure that quickly becomes profound. It made me laugh out loud while dropping my jaw with the implicit life lesson of the structure of the book. (I can’t explain more without ruining the story.)

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s the only “workbook” I’ve ever recommended. It’s a 12 week program for “creative recovery”—unlocking your creative side. Modeled after the 12 step program, it has a spiritual element to it that offers great insights to creativity even for atheists. I often use it as a teaching tool when my clients want to increase their creative output.
Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. By far the most profound philosophical text I’ve ever read. The sentences are super simple, yet I had to read and re-read them to have the concepts sink in.

Good things to watch.

 Memento (film). By the Nolan brothers long before the Dark Knight Trilogy and in my opinion their best work. Guy Pearce plays a man with no short term memory trying to solve the mystery of his wife’s murder. A dark comedy thriller with an awesome ending.
Reggie Watt’s TEDx Talk Incredibly funny and amazing showcase of talent.
He embodies the Fool archetype in a magical way. Just try not to think too hard else you’ll miss the point.
Blackwater,” Game of Thrones, season 2, episode 9. One of the best psychological portrayals of war I’ve seen. Gives Saving Private Ryan a run for it’s money. (You may need to watch the rest of the GoT episodes to really enjoy it, so I’ll recommend that too.)

Good things to use.

The first 30 minutes after you wake up. Your daily entry into waking life is marked by a period of high suggestibility. The first thoughts you think and the first actions you take will heavily impact you day. I always start the day writing Morning Pages per The Artist’s Way, where I also set intentions and determine my attitude. If possible I take a walk at dawn to keep my mind silent for as long as possible. Whether you’re a creative person or not, you will greatly benefit for finding a mindful activity before you jump into the mechanics of your day.
Moleskine cahiers. Good notetaking habits are critical for creative persons. Despite my sloppy handwriting, I find notes and ideas are better handwritten than electronic (sorry Evernote.) Moleskine is my favorite brand of notebook because their paper feels better than most and they can be found in almost any bookstore. The cahiers are great because they can be stuffed in a rear pants pocket like a wallet. There’s a pocket in the back that can hold cash so you can use it as a wallet (I do.) That way there’s never any reason to be without it.
1 Second Everyday app (1SE). With this iOS app you record one second of video everyday. The app then strings all these seconds together for a 30 second reel every month, and 6 minute five second video every year. I’ve bee doing it since February and it’s amazing having a video recall of daily experience. Definitely beats keeping a diary.
Connect with Ruwan on Twitter, @ruwando.

Jo Thomas – Writer

By day, Jo Thomas is a compliance advisor for a waste resource company – basically an environmentalist hiding in an office. After work, she’s a writer, editor, Hellhound wrangler and Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) hobbyist. Her second novel and second anthology are due out from Fox Spirit Books this year.

Good things to read.

My first nomination for a good read is The Future Fire, a quarterly(ish) online speculative fiction magazine that publishes short stories up to 10,000 words. All of the stories are on individual web pages so, due to the length of them, you should be able to read them one at a time without burning out your retinas if you’re reading on a standard screen. Specifically what I like about TFF is that the material they put out is very… egalitarian. They have a mission statement to be as inclusive as possible. In clumsier hands than their current editor, it could end up preachy. In reality, it just makes the science fiction and fantasy they publish that little bit more welcoming to people who aren’t the “average” (male, white, young, straight, cisgendered, neurotypical, etc, etc). Because full disclosure is necessary, they have picked up a few of my stories and one is due out in the March issue. (Also, I’m not male, I’m edging out of the young and I’m not neurotypical.)

My own reading and writing tends to fall to the fantasy end of the speculative fiction and my favourite book – or the one I go around enthusing about when I get talking – tends to be The Deed Of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. It’s available as three books or an omnibus. In many ways it’s a standard Tolkien-like fantasy set in a medieval not-quite-Europe with elves and dwarves. But there are minor differences that make it stand out, at least to me. Elizabeth Moon has a military background and an interest in HEMA. She’s also done a lot of research into the historical aspects, including the Roman and Germanic law codes. The result is a very believeable journey along the path from young farm hand to fantasy paladin. If you’re into this kind of fantasy, whether through films, books or games, I recommend Paksenarrion as a good read.

The “environmental” in the mention of the day job up there may have been a hint that I have an interest in things Green. I also like the Hulk, BattleCat and Kermit, but I didn’t mean that kind of green. A book I recommend for getting in to this is one of my readers from university (back in the day) called A Green History Of The World by Clive Ponting. The version I have is the one first published in 1993 but he also reissued it with some changes in 2007. As Clive Ponting seems to be more interested in explaining how resources can become overused – a version of the Tragedy of The Commons – I consider it a history book with a focus on resource use rather than a specifically environmental book. However, it’ll give you a taste of the issues involved in being “an environmentalist”.

Good things to watch.

My first nomination is the 1973/1974 duo The Three Musketeers and the Four Musketeers. I am aware these are two films but the people who made them weren’t until they came out. I understand it caused quite a stir at the time. However, my interest is because I love the novel by Alexandre Dumas, père, but understand that not everyone wants to wade through old fashioned prose. These two films capture the storyline and intent beautifully. They have good actors chewing the scenery, some fun and well choreographed fencing scenes (pay special attention to how each of the Musketeers has their own fighting style!), and much snarking from the background peasantry.

My other two nominations are going to stick with the fencing theme – but not quite as seriously, because films should be fun. Although it looks as good, the fencing is more obviously Flynning in the 1952 Scaramouche. What makes this melodrama impressive is the final fight, which is to date the longest fencing scene ever filmed and was apparently blocked out as one sequence, although what we see is probably several takes. This film being a fifties production, it’s all bright colours and significant glances and highly enjoyable. It is, of course, based on a book and the adaption leaves quite a lot out if you’re interested in picking up the book afterwards.

The last good thing to watch I’m going to recommend is The Court Jester from 1955. I’ll start by explaining that Danny Kaye couldn’t fence. However, he had the esteemed Basil Rathbone (yes, that one) to teach him enough Flynning to get through the film. Basil Rathbone, it ought to be stressed, was a fencer and basically obsessed with smallswords and epees. Danny Kaye, however, was a great performer who could do an extremely physical sequence that involves his character being hypnotised into being a great fencer – and snapping between fantastic Flynning and being a clumsy jester whenever he hears fingers click. It’s a very funny film if you like old movies.

Good things to use.

As a writer, I hear and read plenty of recommendations for software for writing. Programs that will allow you to set goals or keep track of multiple story lines or track your submissions or put sticky notes all over your desktop. However, the best thing to start with if you’re interested in giving it a go is the basics. So here are some basics:

If you think old style might be the way forward, get yourself a notebook and pen or pencil – this may also work for drawing but I can’t answer for that. I barely even doodle these days. They don’t even have to be wonderful notepads or amazing pens. I find that I like writing this way on train journeys but can’t seem to sit down to it in other circumstances. On the other hand, pen and paper will work when computers run out of electricity.

I like to pretend I’m a rebel so I haven’t allowed Microsoft near my PC for years. As a result, I don’t use the standard Microsoft Office. What I use is the freely available LibreOffice suite – although donations are appreciated by the team and if you’re going to use them on a commercial basis (i.e. as a company) you may need to pay. It’s worth noting that LibreOffice is just one of several similar packages, it’s just the one I have. So, if you want to try writing (or spreadsheets, or presentations, or basic databases) on your home computer without paying for the full Microsoft licence, look up “OpenOffice” and try out a variant or two.

Get yourself a large mug, for whatever your choice of poison is. Something that holds about twice as much as your average cuppa. If you get into this writing lark, you’re going to need it. Not all shops will sell the bigger cups, so you may need to do some hunting to find them – and then you need to find one you can put up with staring at when your mind’s gone blank!

Connect with Jo on Twitter, @Journeymouse.

Cheryl Morgan – Writer and Editor

Cheryl has won four Hugo awards for writing and editing. She is also the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press. She blogs regularly at Cheryl’s Mewsings, and can be found on Twitter as @CherylMorgan.

Good things to read

As I science fiction critic and editor I have read an awful lot of fiction. Choosing three favorite books is hard, but I’ve made it even harder for myself by restricting myself to one novel. If you were to ask me again tomorrow, I might well choose something different, but today I am going for Light by M. John Harrison. He has been one of my favorite writers for years, and is easily good enough to win mainstream literary prizes should he choose to write the sort of books that wins them. Instead he writes brilliant science fiction and fantasy novels which are not escapist, but are very much about escapism. Light is both beautifully written and fabulously inventive. You should read it with Roxy Music’s song, “Street Life, as the sound track.

Science fiction is also notable for its thriving short fiction market. Clarkesworld, a magazine I had the honor to work at for several years, is one of the best venues. Most people think that producing a short story must be easy compared to a novel. It is only a fraction of the number of words, after all. But those words need to be very carefully chosen. The acknowledged master of the art is Ted Chiang. He only produces one story every year or two, but the work that goes into those stories is incredible. Check out Stories of Your Life and Others for some of his best work.

Lots of people want to be writers, but very few people get to be really good. If you are interested in making a career in science fiction or fantasy one of the things you should do is get a copy of Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook. Not only is it full of fabulous advice from many of the top writers in the field (of whom Jeff is one), it is also a beautiful artefact in its own right.

Good things to watch.

There’s any number of fun, trashy science fiction movies that I could recommend, but choosing between them is hard and anyway I am trying to be a bit serious here. So I am going with Cloud Atlas. To start with it is based on a really good book. Of course that’s not necessarily a good thing. It is axiomatic that the best SF movie adaptations are based on short stories, not novels, because you can’t collapse a whole novel into a 2 or 3 hour movie. That’s why there are so many good films of Phil Dick stories. But Cloud Atlas is also a long and very complicated novel. It was madness to even try to make a movie of it, let alone get into the marvellous conceit of having the same group of actors portray different characters in the different story strands. Watch it, then watch all of the extras. It may be flawed, but given the difficulty of the task the Wachowskis took on it is an extraordinary achievement.

Back in 1966 the BBC and Kenneth Clark undertook to shoot a documentary series chronicling the history of Western civilization. Clark (later made Sir Kenneth and eventually Lord Clark) was an art historian, and certainly knew his stuff. Civilization took 3 years to film, and runs to 13 hour-long episodes. Because it was shot on 35mm film rather than the cheaper 16mm format normally used for television at the time it still looks gorgeous on a modern HD television. Clark obviously has an agenda, and freely admits his ignorance of the civilizations of India, China and so on, but he is no Little Englander. He takes us on a Grand Tour and shows us some of the very best of Western art, thought and literature. There’s even a cameo appearance by a very young Patrick Stewart in the section on Shakespeare. They don’t make documentaries like this anymore.

Much of my TV watching, however, is sport. In particular I am a big cricket fan. (What can I say? It is the only sport we are good at in the part of England where I was born). Now of course most of you will associate cricket with games that last forever. Actually it is only five days, but it seems like forever. (England and South Africa did once decide to keep playing until someone won, but they had to stop after 9 days because this was 1939 and the English team had to catch the boat home.) However, the sport is not deaf to the demands of the short-attention-span public and a new form of the game called Twenty20 (T20 for short) is gaining popularity. It lasts about 3 hours — roughly the same time as a standard baseball game — and it is all action. In an average baseball game, 9 runs are scored. In a T20 game scores of 150-a-side are not unusual. That’s more than a run a ball. Games between top teams can be incredibly close. In the last season of Australia’s Big Bash tournament there was some amazing drama. If you enjoy fast-paced, all-action sport, give it a try. The rules are not that difficult, honest. Cricket has nothing near the complexity of the Infield Fly Rule.

Good things to use

Make-up is all very well, but dear Goddess the amount of faffing around with moisturiser, concealer, foundation, powder, sunblock and goodness knows what else is enough to give a girl nightmares. And then you have to take the whole lot off in the evening when you get home. Not anymore. Now we have BB Creams. One tube, it goes on like moisturiser, and it comes off easily. For someone as useless in the morning as I am these things are just perfect. The one I use is by Garnier, but I haven’t done exhaustive testing and anyway your skin may differ.

I love to cook, but I very rarely have the time so I often end up taking home prepared meals. Microwave food is all very well, but there are some things that just don’t work well in a microwave, pizza being an obvious example. My apartment does have an oven, but it always seems such a terrible waste to turn it on, heat it up, and then use all of that heat to cook something like an individual portion of moussaka. Then my mother showed me her halogen oven. I bought one, and my life was changed. It is basically an oven about the size of a pressure cooker, and it is just perfect for a 10” pizza or aoven-cooked meal for one. It will even do a small chicken, and at Christmas I cook a turkey breast joint in it. Sadly it is not really good for cake, but I can cope with that.

I live close to the small city of Bath in England  once a Roman town, then home to Jane Austen, and now a tourist attraction. One of the best things about it is that it still has a lot of small, independently-owned shops. In these days of mammoth shopping malls full of cookie-cutter chain stores staffed by bored check-out operators who know nothing about the products they sell, this is breath of fresh air. There is nothing quite like going into a small, specialist shop staffed by people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the things they are selling. I’d like to make special mention of Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Independent Spirit, and The Fine Cheese Company. Obviously the chances of your being able to visit them are not high, but if you have a good independent store near you please do use it. If they have good staff you will soon find that they become friends.

Maria Busque – Musical Coach

Maria Busqué is a musical performance coach who works with musicians to find ease and flow in their performance. She is reaching musicians internationally through workshops and individual sessions on the instrument while being an active musician herself. She also writes for the online classical music community HelloStage. These are her good things. 

Good things to read.

The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg. Also known as “Presence”, it is one of the best books I have read on this subject so far. Rodenburg describes presence and all the elements related to it, such as body, breath, voice, words, etc. She further gives exercises and guidelines on how to implement this work not only on stage, but in everyday life.

The Potent Self. A Guide to Spontaneity by Moshé Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais writes here about one of his main concepts of his work: spontaneous action. In his own words: “the idea behind it being not that spontaneity is enacting any wild urges that happens to exist, but that all action is spontaneous when it is not compulsive”. This book made an impact not only on my own work, but on my personal life. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking. And it’s not only important for performers on stage. When everyday actions are free and filled with spontaneity, they are alive and that is what touches our fellow humans.

Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig. The most beautiful language in the world, paired with great sense of humor, humbleness, a love for research and deep understanding of the human nature. A delight from beginning to the end.

Good things to watch.

Fazil Say perform Beethoven’s 3rd concerto. I like Fazil Say because his sound is so vibrant and he’s so alive in his performances. One little gem at the end: the encore at minute 36:40.

Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk about how to truly listen. To be moved by her sound, and to be moved by a speaker who can’t hear. I have so much admiration for this incredible musician.

Pianomania. Or, in search of the perfect sound. This is a documentary feature. Stefan Knüpfer is a piano technician in Vienna whose journey it is to provide first-class piano players with the sound they are looking for. Though this is a very specialized field, the filmmakers found a narrative with a humorous touch, supported by Knüpfer’s natural charisma. It is highly entertaining to watch and you get an interesting view behind the scenes of a very specialised area.

Good things to use.

Public library. For avid readers like me, this is a way to read more without spending more money. There are so many excellent books to be found even in a small library. Since new books are usually difficult to get hold on, I refer to brainpickings.org for recommendations.

Public transport. I’m lucky to live in a city where public transport is excellent. No car means to me no other costs like insurance, parking, gas, repair, and, subsequently, more time.

Notebooks. The best way to collect thoughts, ideas and journaling. Even though I use mostly digital calendars and to-do lists, nothing beats what actually writing things down with a pen does to my brain.

Connect with Maria on Twitter, @Maria_Busque.

Niklas Goeke – Entrepreneur and Author

Niklas Goeke is a 23 year old German student, aspiring marketing entrepreneur and author of the book How to google – the Ultimate Guide to finding everything! Every day he tries to take a step out of his comfort zone  which in his eyes is always a step towards happiness. He uses this mentality to help others in his work as a personal coach  These are his good things.

Good things to read

Managing Oneself. Peter F. Drucker is often called the founder of modern management. I’m not surprised. I don’t think I have ever learned more about myself from 60 tiny pages than when reading this book. Drucker suggests you ask yourself a few simple questions, in order to determine how you perform best. He also encourages you to share the insight you gain with anyone whom you choose to cooperate with. Some people, for example, might be readers, not listeners, thus rendering it useless talking to them for 2 hours, when all they really need to understand you, is a piece of paper with 10 bullet points. This book changed the way I learn and work dramatically. I highly recommend the audiobook (if you happen to be a listener). It is just 45 minutes long and I have listened to it multiple times on longer drives in the car.
Rich Dad Poor Dad. I got this book as a gift. I didn’t know the author, Robert T. Kiyosaki, before, but someone very successful recommended this book to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t read this book, I ate it. I read it cover to cover within less than 5 days. This is the best book to get you started on personal finance. It uses storytelling to show the difference between having an investor mentality of acquiring assets and having a consumer mentality of spending all your income. Robert uses simple graphics to explain income statements and balance sheets and shows you the beginnings of having your money work for you instead of working for money yourself.
On the shortness of life. Whenever I read a page in this book, I marvel at Seneca. It takes a lot to write something that is just as relevant in 2000 years, as it was at the time you wrote it. He argues that life is actually quite long and a substantial amount has been given to all of us – we just waste most of it. Why are you stingy with money you can always make back, but let everyone take up your time most willingly? Often so little of life is truly lived, the rest is merely time. A clear lesson: Don’t keep yourself busy with things you will not remember, but make the most of each day!

Good things to watch

Fed Up. A great movie about the food industry from 2014. I like how it doesn’t promote any singular lifestyle, such as veganism or paleo, but focuses more on the root of a lot of problems: processed sugar. It shows you how you have been manipulated and how hard it is to escape a lot of the common misconceptions about what food is healthy and what isn’t. In the end you are also proposed with a simple solution that you can start implementing today.
How to get things done and stop sucking your thumb. A great video by one of my favorite guys online, Tai Lopez. Take the challenge of not procrastinating on small things for a week. Look at all outside requests like small bullets shot at you, which you must deflect instantly, either by getting things done right away, or delegating/not doing them at all.
Ocean’s Eleven. I can watch this movie 100 times over and still love it. I always learn something about the balance between being a gentleman and a badass, how to talk more eloquently and I sure as hell always laugh my ass off.

Good things to use

Dropbox. Originally I was going to put my macbook here. But after thinking about it, it’s really more Dropbox, that holds my entire life in a folder. Of course I use my macbook for web, writing and recreation, but if it broke today, I could just get any other laptop, and be set up again within minutes. I have it fairly neatly organized and save all my writing and projects there, so I can access them from anywhere. Bump up your space by doing some of the things suggested here.
My feet. I really like to walk. I don’t own a bicycle. I take the car or public transport for long distances, but everything that’s within 30 minutes of walking, I walk to. Every step counts. I also often choose to stand while working, because my shoulders and arms start to hurt if I sit down typing for too long.
Cold showers. It’s amazing how hardwired comfort has become into our brains. It’s time to toughen up! Not only do cold showers come with great health benefits (testosterone for guys, it closes your pores after cleaning and makes your skin less vulnerable, makes you more resistant, boosts your immune functions, and can even be used to accelerate weight loss), but also do they boost confidence beyond anything else I have seen. Go in as a wimp, come out as a winner. This transforms my entire day. Forget coffee, this will wake you up. After you’ve done this, no matter what the day brings, you’ll feel confident, prepared and already have a small win in the bank, which no one can take away from you. If I can do it, so can you!
Connect with Niklas on Twitter, @niklasgoeke, if you want to talk about learning and self-improvement, marketing, or just say hello!

Giovanni Dienstmann – Meditation Coach

Giovanni Dienstmann is a meditation and self improvement blogger, and also an iOS app developer. His app WeSync has been featured in national television in Australia. He coaches people in meditation at Coach.me and blogs at LiveAndDare.com. His goal is to “bring meditation and personal growth to a million people”. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less.This is definitely one of my top three books this year. We all kind of know that we are too distracted, that we need to slow down and focus. How much of our daily activity is really productive and important; how much is just being busy? The author reminds us that we need to say no to many good things, so we can say YES to a very few great things – which are our maximum point of contribution and satisfaction in this world. He explores in detail how we can untangle ourselves from habits and mindsets that compels us to say yes to non-essential things, and gives us tools to live the “essentialist way”. If you like to explore more about keeping to the essential, take a look here.

Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. I think this is a mandatory read for every human-being. We believe we are very rational in our choices, and yet we are not. This lack of self-knowledge about what actually drives most of our decisions is the cause of a lot of regret, stress, waste of time, and waste of money. You will learn about how to avoid pitfalls when comparing your options, how to not be baited into bad decisions (by marketers, friends, of whoever), how to make more accurate judgements about our behaviour, among other interesting things.

The Personal MBA – a world-class business education in a single volume. If you are a business owner, is starting a side-business, or are thinking about it, and you could buy only one book – this should be it. The author, a successful businessman himself, went to the trouble of studying and summarising thousands of books on business related subjects, in this concise and clear guide. The sections of the book that treat about “The Human Mind”, “Working with Yourself” and “Working with Others” are insightful even for those that have no interest in business.

Good things to watch

Hero, with Jet Li. This is a very inspiring movie for me. Besides the majestic fight scenes, this movie teaches a lot about bravery, sacrifice, virtue, and mastery. If you are familiar with the concept of “Flow” from author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you will see instances of it all over the movie – from the training of the swordsman to the work of the master calligraphist.

What the Bleep Do We Know. This is not a “mainstream” movie, so probably most of you won’t know about it. It is a mixture of a drama with a documentary on the latest findings of quantum physics and neurology, and how this challenges our world view. Do you think you know what reality is? Are you aware how much you are affecting it? Watch this movie with an open mind, and be ready to ask yourself some very deep and thought-provoking questions.

Inception. By now you know already that I like some “weird things”… I love exploring the idea (or reality?) that our life is a dream, and this movie gives a nice image for it. It has all the elements of a movie to be loved: engaging, mind-bending, surprising, great production. No wonder it is in the top 500 of iMDB!

Good things to use

Your mind. Seriously! The most important skill any human being can develop is how to use one’s own mind. This includes your power of focus, self-control, self-knowledge, and the types of emotions that we house inside of us. If you know your mind, and how to use it, there is nothing you cannot achieve. Like the Buddha said, “Your mind is either your best friend or your worst enemy”. No place in the world we can get away from our thoughts. And, if the mind does not cooperate, no amount of skill, knowledge, or money, can give us either success or happiness.

What do all wealthy people and word-class athletes have in common? They all understand that mindset is everything; they have put time into developing themselves, into personal growth.

One of the most essential tools for personal growth – and for mastering your mind! – is meditation. I have been doing meditation daily for over 14 years and it has transformed my life and taught me so much. Exploring this subject further would be out of scope here, but I’ll be happy to personally guide any reader from 27GoodThings. Just contact me and say you came from 27GoodThings.

Connect with Giovanni on Twitter, @

Graham Hunt – Spanish Real-Estate Entrepreneur

Graham Hunt is a real estate property developer in Valencia Spain. He’s created YouTube videos for his real-estate company, included 100 tips for moving to Spain,and is the author of Laptop Entrepreneur. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

High Fidelity.  The first Nick Hornby book I read was Fever Pitch of course, a book that summed everything up about being a football fan. High Fidelity summed everything up about being a bloke. The obsessive lists, the compilation tapes, the emotional depth of a blancmange, the self centredness, everything. Just like I could have been Gregory in the film below I could definitely have been Rob in this book. The film version was good by the way, excellent casting of John Cusack, but it just wasn’t “quite” as good.


Choose Yourself. James Altucher’s book has been my go to toilet book for the last year (And believe me that is high praise indeed) The idea that we are in the middle of a sea change in the way we do things in the World Economy and that the old certainties enjoyed by our parents’ generation have disappeared as jobs, careers and life has been outsourced abroad has meant that I have started looking at everything in a new way. The idea of Choosing Yourself and most convincingly the way to become an ideas machine have changed me enormously. Two new businesses later and a huge change in the way I look at any problem mean that now it doesn’t look as if I will be changing my toilet reading for a time yet.

The 4-Hour Workweek. I got this book immediately as a mindset thing but every time I revisit it I get more out of it now. (Would love Tim Ferriss to do an updated version right now with so many other tools out there and so many success stories too).

The point that most people miss about the 4HWW is that it is not a treatise on how to be “lazy” and work four hours a week while supping Margaritas under a palm tree in a hammock (Despite the cover art) What it really is are a series of tools to use to become ultra efficient. I have never even approached four hours work a week, in fact i think I am on about 70 a week at the moment. What I am doing though is the work of 300 hours in those 70. And yes you might say I am missing the point too as the aim of the book wasn’t to give you more time to do more. However I have been able to make time for great holidays now and if I want to take time out and do other stuff I just do. I choose my clients and I choose my projects. Nothing is forced on me and that for me is key.

Good things to watch.

 

Gregory’s Girl. Probably the greatest movie ever ;-) OK it’s cheap, it’s low tech and it’s somewhat risqué in some of the lines looking back on it now. However, I was Gregory and so was every other lad I knew at school, in fact I probably still am. If a girl ever needs to get into what the head of a teenage boy in the 80’s was then just watch this film. Awkwardness, insecurity, white jackets, football and a strange attraction to obscure facts about Caracas. What more could you ask for?

Salvados. The only programme worth watching on Spanish television. Jordi Evole is the innocent going around letting the corrupt, the inept, the self important and the bastards hang themselves with their own words. With such a huge range of potential targets to have a go at in this country, Salvados never usually misses the target. Using a style of interviewing that allows the “victim” to talk themselves into a corner where there is no escape, Evole does a great job of making the corrupt seem like slime in their own words and his reactions to their admissions are priceless.

Derek. Some people love Ricky Gervais and some people don’t. I am in the former camp. However Derek could well be the best thing that he has ever done. The Office was superb, Extras was fantastic. An Idiot Abroad had some brilliant bits and Life’s Too Short was… meh! Derek tugs at the heartstrings and also hits home runs on the comedy. Always remember that “Kindness is magic”

Good things to use.

The Valencia Cricket Ground.  Three years ago I helped to start up a cricket club in Valencia, Spain… yes cricket in Spain. Two years ago I managed to set up a couple of meetings meaning we got to share the Valencia baseball ground. We have rechristened the ground as the VCG and every time we use it we love it.

My iPhone/iPad.  I mostly run my businesses from my iPad and iPhone. If the iPhone is more than a metre away from me consider it a mistake. If the iPad is more than a few metres away consider it a panic attack. Why? Well they are my entertainment, my information, my work tools and of course my communications tool. I am not going to go into the apps that I use but these two things just rock for me as they work so well together along with the MacBook at home for integrated workflows.

The Grey Matter. The more I challenge my brain to come up with creative solutions to problems and issues the better it becomes at sorting things out. And I give it a lot of challenges. If I had to give advice to someone on how to use their grey matter it would be as follows:

Never let it go to mush by watching TV like the X Factor, reading stuff like the Daily Mail and repeating celebrity gossip. You have a brain for a reason. Make the most of it.

Connect with Graham, and his brain on Twitter, @grahunt to talk cricket, Spanish real-estate, or to just thank him for his good things.

Adam Kuban – former food blogger, Pizza Guy

Adam Kuban is a one-time foodblogger turned aspiring pizzeria owner — see Margot’s Pizza. He is the founder of Slice (RIP, 2003–2014) and A Hamburger Today and founding editor of Serious Eats. He enjoys photography, urban hiking, and naps. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope.  “Star Wars” is part of the fabric of American culture and it’s never long (at least in my world) before it comes up in conversation with friends or coworkers. I always end up referring them to this brilliant piece of revisionist Star Wars history that reinterprets the plots of Episodes 4, 5, and 6 in light of what happens in 1, 2, and 3. For instance, Chewbacca is actually a top rebel spy and the original owner of the Millennium Falcon who only uses Han Solo as front man for various intelligence-gathering missions. I end up rereading this at least once or twice a year.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This post-apocalytpic sci-fi novel still haunts me months after reading it because almost everything about it seems all too possible. And, really, we seem to be heading toward much of what’s depicted in it — epic income inequality, severe climate change, rampaging epidemics.

It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” by Colin Nissan – – You’ve probably already read it, but I like to click over to this classic McSweeney’s post in the weeks before Thanksgiving. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal.”

Good things to watch.

Can’t Tell Me Nothing by Kanye West, feat. Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham. A delightfully bizarre alternate video for this Kanye song, it’s set on Galifianakis’s North Carolina farm, where he and singer-songwriter Will Oldham cruise tractors like they’re lowriders, menacingly throw around hay bales, and employ a contingent of clog dancers lovingly filmed in slo-mo. I watch this every couple months and it never fails to put me in a good mood.

The Beaver Trilogy. I’m kind of an Old, so I had the distinct pleasure of watching the cult classic Beaver Trilogy in the late ’90s the way it was meant to be watched — on VHS from a who-knows-how-many-generations copy. It’s basically the same story told three times. The first is original documentary footage that director Trent Harris lucked upon in the parking lot of the local Utah TV station he worked at. While testing out a video camera in the parking lot, he met “Groovin’ Gary,” a unique character with a penchant for imitations and an obsession with Olivia Newton John. Gary’s story goes in an unexpected direction from there. The following two installments of the trilogy are dramatic re-enactments of the original story, starring pre–Fast Times Sean Penn and Crispin Glover, respectively.

In the Mood for Love. This movie remains one of my favorites years after first seeing it in the theater. Lush visuals, costumes, and sets and a pitch-perfect soundtrack. Watching it is like a full immersion in 1960s Hong Kong.

Good things to use.

Bemis Easy-Clean & Change™ Whisper-Close® Toilet Seat.  I’m reminded of how much other toilet seats suck whenever I use someone else’s bathroom that doesn’t have one of these. You get so used to simply tapping the open lid and having it slowly close in a controlled, silent manner that you end up trying it in restaurants, in friends’ homes — and BAM! The cherry on top is the “Easy-Clean & Change” hinges, which allow you to “snap” the entire seat on and off. The only better toilet seat would have to be those heated Japanese bidet seats.

Bar Keepers Friend. This stuff is a miracle for getting crap off your pots and pans. If you cook in pans that are not non-stick, you need this stuff.

Zojirushi SM-KHE-48 Stainless Mug. While called a “mug,” it’s more of a thermos, but whatever you call it, it is AMAZING at keeping liquids hot or cold for HOURS. I fill mine with coffee in the morning at my neighborhood bagel shop, and it’s still too hot to drink by the time I get to work 40 minutes later. Heck, sometimes I forget about it until packing my bag for home, and the coffee is STILL HOT 8+ hours later. That’s not to mention that it has never once spilled or leaked in may bag. This is THE travel “mug” to get.

Connect with Adam on Twitter, @AdamKuban.