Why Finishing Books is Usually Bad

I have mathematical evidence that finishing books is a bad idea most of the time. Unless you love every single book you read, you probably shouldn’t finish most of the books you start.

It’s easy to tell when you love a book – you can’t put it down and before you know it, it’s over. But the majority of books I’ve read were at least somewhat arduous to finish, and I’ve always felt like I was supposed to finish every book I start.

We can probably blame school for this, training us to persevere and suffer through material we couldn’t give half a fuck about. If a book was “decent” I’ve always stuck with it. What I’ve noticed though, is that merely “decent” books are actually worse for me than the truly “awful” books are. This is because I quit reading awful books right away, and tend to finish the decent ones – wasting a shitload of time I could have spent reading fucking amazing books.

We are no longer restricted by the god damn limits of the physical world and the piece of shit library card catalogue and our ability to manually and painstakingly search for fucking amazing books.

With the power of algorithms to match us up with massive databases of books available to us online, we should not be settling for anything less than total perfection every time we read.

I did the math to figure out what my own numbers looked like, and it appears as though there is an infinite stream of insanely awesome books on Audible for me to consume. I just need to stop wasting time on the “decent” ones.

Here’s how I figured out that my own infinite stream of perfect books actually exists:

I looked through all the books in my Audible library. Since 2010 I’ve listened to 118 books, and loved 25 of them. 25 “perfect matches” for me. So it appears that I love about 1 out of every 5 books I read. Out of Audible’s 180,000 title library, let’s say their algorithm finds that I’m only a good match for 1% of the total books available. That cuts the total down to 1800 books I’m initially matched with. Now, if I only love 1 out of every 5 of those books that still means there are 360 perfect matches for me on Audible right now!

At my current rate of listening to 17 books per year, it would take me 21 years to get through this new pile of 360 “perfect match” books. During this time, new “perfect” audiobooks will be recorded at a rate far greater than the rate I’m able to listen to them. With 43,000 new audiobooks added to Audible every year, and with me loving only 1 fifth of 1% of them, that’s still 86 new books per year added to my queue. I’d have to listen to 7 books per month, at 8 hours per book that’s 2 hours per day of listening. During the past 7 years I’ve averaged only 22 minutes per day. So I could listen 5x harder than I currently do, and still not get through all the perfect books available to me.

You can see where I’m headed with this. No more fucking around with less than perfect books.

My new policy: if a book sucks even a little bit I immediately return it (online) and start listening to another one. This process repeats until I find one I can’t put down.

How To Return An Amazon Audiobook

A reader, one of my 3 subscribers actually (Tyler Steeves) asked me how to return Audible Audiobooks, and I sensed a YouTube video opportunity.

Audible allows you to return a handful of books online before you’re locked out of doing future returns on your own, but that’s not a big deal because you can return an audiobook through the Audible chat system in roughly 3 minutes.

How To Breath Like A Mermaid

In Hawaii there are a lot of people who are very good at being in the water, which often involves being involuntarily underwater for long periods of time. Last week I went surfing with a guy who had spent 17 years as a pro bodyboarder. Here’s a picture of him escaping death (photo credit):

When a man can hold his breath for almost 6 minutes, I immediately respect what he has to say on the subject. There’s a lot to practice to get to that level, but fundamentally there’s also a method anyone can use to significantly lower their heart rate (a skill I previously thought required becoming a monk and years of meditation on a mountain somewhere) and subsequently prolong breath-holding abilities.

They call it “breathing like a mermaid.” This method is employed by free divers hours before entering the water, as well as by professional surfers, bodyboarders, and probably the full gamut of aquatic athletes.

You do this:

Big, quick inhale (only a few seconds) followed by long exhale (a minute or more). Try it. I found it really difficult to exhale continuously for over a minute, but I could see how hours of breathing like this would train lung capacity and slow down my heart rate.

And now you know how mermaids breathe: quick in, long out.

It’s Like Magic

I recently discovered all of my old journals and sketchbooks from my late teens and twenties, high school through college and into “real life.”

The spooky parts were the bits where I wrote about what I wanted, or where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do in the future. Most, maybe all, of those things have become reality. This isn’t unique to me. I just listened to Debbie Millman’s podcast with Tim Ferriss and she goes into way more detail about it than I do here, so if you’re curious you should listen to the full episode.

It’s as close to believing in baloney like The Secret as I’m willing to go, and the only reason I do believe that writing about your own future is an effective method in realizing your dreams is because that pattern has been revealing itself in my own life.

The exercise goes like this: write down what a typical day looks like for you 10 years from now. Go into crazy detail. Specify everything from what your spouse smells like to how many kids you have and what their hobbies are. Go from waking up to falling asleep at night, and everything in between. Again, as much detail as possible. I’ll do one now so you can read it and maybe do one of your own. I swear, so far whenever I’ve written these, they’ve done way more good than bad. For example, the first time I wrote about wanting to earn $10,000/month passive income I think I was earning $200-$400 passively. That number is now over $2000. Under $8000 to go!

OK here’s my dream day, January 30th 2027:

I wake up fully rested, early. Like, when the sun is just coming up early. The first birds are doing their thing, but not all of them.

My house is quiet. We have land, by the water. I can hear the waves against the shore. There are old trees on the property too, and I can hear the breeze in the branches just outside my bedroom window, which is on the second floor of the house.

Lia’s in bed with me. Maybe some of our kids come running in and jump on us. Maybe two are old enough to do that, and the other one is too small so they had to carry him/her in. The baby’s shat itself and Isla’s 10 so she can do a pretty good job of changing the diaper, which she does. The kids are happy. Lia and I are happy. We’re somewhere warm, or cold, it doesn’t really matter, but we’re together. Is it our house? I don’t know. Maybe it’s somewhere we’re staying for a while. It feels like home, wherever it is.

Anyway, we get up and shower. The bathroom is connected to the bedroom, I know that’s important to Lia and now that I think of it I like it too. The whole family doesn’t shower. Actually I don’t even think I shower. Nobody showers, we just get up and brush our teeth and do our thing, there’s a breeze coming in so it can’t be winter at this point, wherever we are.

Big breakfast gets made. Isla and her younger bro/sis help but mainly I do the cooking. Lia makes a smoothie or a salad or something. The food I make is fucking terrible for you but delicious. I’ve gotten pretty decent at cooking all kinds of things over the past 10 years. I’ve even figured out how the FUCK to make sourdough god damn bread. Fuck.

Isla says “FUCK” when she burns herself on something hot and nobody cares about the swearing.

Things feel easy, calm, peaceful. Real chilled out. There will be higher-energy stuff because that’s in our blood. But for the morning, things are calm.

Family breakfast, no fucking phones. There’s a mini gong and the baby smashes it with something hard and we all hold hands and feel gratitude for whatever until it finishes ringing. Might take a minute. This isn’t religious, it’s just presence and coming together in a token way as a family.

We eat. Food’s great. Kids pack it in like animals. Lia’s smoothie isn’t just greens and water, it tastes good. Dates or something. But we’ve hit that balance between my version of a smoothie (which would include ice cream) and hers (which often smells like a fresh cut lawn).

Off to activities. Do we exist in some kind of permanent vacation? Not in a conventional way. It’s like a ninja-in-the-mountains kind of training. Like when Bruce Wayne becomes a part of the League of Shadows before becoming Batman. We’re all studying different, or the same, things and that sometimes influences our location for a while. If we all want to learn to surf, as an obvious example, we would need to be in a place like Nosara Costa Rica for several months. Or roadtripping along a coast, preferably with waves that wouldn’t drown my god damn children (or me). Soooooo not Hawaii.

This sounds like we live in a trailer, which we very well may.

Late morning, the kids are studying something or another or we’re surfing or have just finished surfing or hiking or doing something we’ve never done before. Safe to say there’s a good deal of variety in our lives at this point. Lia’s a yoga pro by now, of course. Nobody doubted that for even a second.

I think I’m much better at web design than I currently am – like scary good, and “Full Stack” so capable of building full-on god damn anything I want. With databases and users and automatic two-step verification and payment processing. I know how to do all kinds of shit, and I have clients that love it and pay me to do it from wherever I am.

I am the ninja in the mountain.

What else….

Lunch time – again we maybe get food somewhere or eat something simple. I don’t want my family to get too extravagant. I’d like to be able to feed us but I’m also horny about efficiency. When I cook, there are leftovers (which taste damn good) and nobody complains about eating it for a day or three after the fact. I make good money but I don’t spend it like an asshole. In fact, a decent amount of it gets invested, donated, used for travel in a modest way.

The kids are awesome. I’m reminded of that every so often. Not every time I look at them or my brain would burn out, but a couple times a day let’s say. They piss me off too but I like that about them, they challenge things. They’re not pussies. They speak back and fight me the best they can and I usually win but sometimes they do and that’s the best moment of all, because it means they’re learning and they’re independent. They’re learning how to use their tools, and they’re pumped about it. Lia and I reward their efforts profusely. Our kids are really starting to turn into gritty little bastards, and it’s awesome. Sure, they’re weak sometimes too, and that’s OK – so am I and so is Lia and we show them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. These aren’t machines. They’re kids, but you get where I’m going with this.

Lunch is done and we’re driving, why not? I know I woke up in a house but I think I was confused. I’m probably in a kick ass trailer. We own a property or a couple properties but Lia AirBnBs them when we’re away.

I think we’re driving somewhere none of us have been before. It isn’t sketchy, it’s safe. There’s no real stress about this trip.

I don’t think we own the trailer. I think we’ve rented it, because we’re going to leave it in some town in Sweden and get in a rented sailboat and sail somewhere cool. Lia and I have heard about these islands where people sail and camp throughout them. Maybe we’re there. Maybe we know some Swedish and that’s what the kids were studying before lunch.

I check in with the office and things are normal, I have a bit of work to get through and it takes me an hour or so. Nothing crazy. All of my clients are very cool people, they know who I am and what my life is like. They’re cool with it.

We set sail, maybe we catch a fish or something and maybe by then I know how to clean and cook a fish. That’s dinner.

The kids are documenting these things. They already have developed little followings of their own. They get the value in connecting with their own online audiences and communities and they also earn modest incomes of their own and I probably don’t really understand it fully because I’m 41 and the social side of the internet has long left me behind. I just don’t have time for that shit.

Evening is closing in, the sun is setting. The water is glass. Maybe I do some sketching or watercolour painting or writing. Lia and I have some alone time. The kids have friends I guess, they’re hanging out with them for a bit. Things get steamy on our boat, BOW CHICKA WOW WOW.

Everyone is together before bed. We hang out on the boat and watch the stars. Lia still almost shits herself every time she sees a shooting star. The kids have inherited that from her so actually all of them almost or actually shit themselves as a result of shooting stars. We heat up some hot chocolate, Lia puts cheese in hers. Isla crushes cherry tomatoes into hers. The other kids are normal, they just drink it plain like I do.

We pack into our small sleeping quarters, chat a bit, then one by one we pass out. The kids talk in their sleep but I can’t hear it over Lia’s epic snoring.

My 5 Best Decisions of Life, Being a Meat Sack, and Porno

Here is a countdown of the 5 best decisions I’ve ever made, in my life.

#5 Buying a House, Not in Toronto

first house
Stoked! First HOUSE!

As if I could have bought in Toronto if I’d wanted to! Nope. But having control over my own tiny kingdom is a fantastic feeling. Like anyone with their first car, I got a huge jolt of feeling of freedom when Lia and I bought our little Honda Civic, but that feeling was nothing compared with moving into our own house. For us, being located outside of Toronto has also dramatically improved our lives from an emotional standpoint. Our overall stress is a fraction of what it was when we lived in that city, our cost of living is lower, and the pace of life in Peterborough makes much more sense to us.

#4 Becoming a Freelancer

People think I’m my own boss, and that’s far from true but I’m definitely not complaining. Instead of having one boss, I have a dozen. None of them know who the others are, so I can get fired by one and still keep the rest. This gives me a lot more liberty than if I only had one boss and if my entire paycheque depended on that single relationship. There is much less stress in knowing that I can lose several of my jobs and still get by. If one of my bosses drives my stress beyond a tolerable threshold, I end the relationship and focus on finding a lower-maintenance replacement.

For the first few years of my “self”-employment (it would be more accurate to call it “multi”-employment) I made just enough to pay rent, eat, and occasionally get drunk. Now I’m making enough to live in comfortable frugality, support a family, pay a mortgage, save a little, and travel occasionally. Some days my life follows more of a “retired” pattern, other weeks I’ve got no choice but to string together a sequence of actual, “real grown up” hard work days. On average, life with multiple bosses is fucking awesome.

#3 Signing Up for an Audible Membership

My audible membership sets me back $20/month, and obligates me to use the book credits I’m paying for, and actually follow through on listening to books. After 4 or 5 years, the total book count is into the hundreds – on subjects I absolutely would not have bothered with in printed format. Business, history, self-help, economics, science & technology, fiction, autobiography.. this is some excellent shit and it makes me feel like I have an unfair advantage in life. And even if that’s not true, it sure makes me feel good.

Want a book that will point out dozens of small, simple logical mistakes every single one of us commits? Sneaky little pre-wired errors which trip us up and seriously impair our ability to be truly happy or to make useful, effective, accurate decisions about important shit? This book made me feel like invisible retard-chains had been taken off my brain: You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself.

#2 Having Kids

isla
When not scream shitting, they’re melting hearts.

It’s impossible to imagine how awesome kids are until you have your own. I was slow to come around on the idea of making babies and committing to the responsibility of raising a life. But the truth is Lia does most of the hard work and I help as much as I can, which is probably not very much. Isla is fucking amazing, and gets more amazing as time goes on. She’s the highlight of my day, every day, and when I’m not around her my life is fucking shitty by comparison. I look back on life before Isla was in it and wonder what the fuck I was doing with myself, because it was relatively meaningless.

#1 Marrying Lia

Lia and Isla
My loves.

OK I was pretty hard on myself just there, life before Isla was still amazing because of Lia. Life without Lia was like life without tastebuds, eyeballs, ears, hands, or a penis. I was basically a meat sack with a hole to breath out of and another hole to shit out of. Plus I cried a lot. Lia is the most genuinely happy person I’ve ever met, and I’m lucky she came around on the idea of taking me back after I stupidly broke up with her and moved to Korea. I can be fairly happy when I’m single too, but there’s always the “I wish I had something deeper” feeling echoing around in your heart. “I wish I could have sex with whoever I want” occasionally echoes around in the penises and vaginae of happily married people, because we’re still just animals and probably wired for sexual promiscuity, but hey, that’s what porn is for.

 

The Book that Cost Me $61,202.95

Okay, flashy title, I know. But it’s true. This god damn book will cost me $61,202.95 over the next 51 years, paying $100/month. Here’s how I justified the expenditure:

We all know at least one person (or maybe we ARE that person) who is always worrying about not having enough money. Here are a couple facts to keep in your back pocket which will end the pity party with a hefty bitch-slapping of real life:

If you earn more than $52,000 USD per year, you belong to the richest 1% on the planet.

If you earn at least $28,000 (that’s the typical income for working individuals in the United States), you’re in the richest 5% of the world’s population.

Even someone living below the US poverty line, earning just $11,000 per year is still richer than 85% of people in the world.

There are 1.2 billion people in the world who earn $1.5o per day or less. Do they survive on $1.50 per day? Not really. They die regularly. People in this income bracket have a pathetic life expectancy of only 56 years, compared to our mighty 81 year Canadian life expectancy.

How should we feel about this? We should feel really fucking lucky. We should wake up every day and scream for joy. If you’re having trouble feeling grateful for things in your day to day life, hopefully this post will help you be grateful for your lunch, your shirt, your parents, and your bed.

If your feelings end there, fine. Just by being more grateful and less of a cunt, you’re make a positive difference in the world. Go get ’em tiger.

If you’re still reading, maybe you’re a little pissed off and wondering, “What should we DO to fix this fucking shit?” Well, we shouldn’t give our spare change to that cocksucker outside the LCBO. Unless he sucks our cocks for the change. Assuming he’s mentally sound enough to string together a semi-coherent sentence, that motherfucker has access to all the social support he needs. Even the crazy ones have people hunting for them in vans when it gets cold, to try to keep them from freezing to death by offering blankets and an optional ride to an albeit packed and shitty homeless shelter. But it’s still shelter, and there’s still food, even if it’s shitty food. I’m not saying the bum has a good life, but I am saying he doesn’t deserve our charity dollars above what we already pay in tax to keep our not-so-shitty social support systems running.

What we should do with our spare change is send it to those poor disease-ridden fucks starving and shitting themselves to death in horrible places without a god damn hope in hell.

We should send those guys a little bit of money, regularly. And because we’re lazy cunts, we don’t even have to think about it. There are people out there who love to think about this shit all day and will take our money and stick it where it counts most.

One such organization is GiveWell (UPDATE: For Canadians, Charity Science is a better option for tax reasons). They highlight charities that are thoroughly vetted, evidence-backed, and underfunded. They find charities that are powerfully effective in helping the ultra-poor, by turning pennies into fucking miracles, but are not all that sexy from a marketing standpoint (AHEM! Breast cancer, child cancer, cancer cancer… these orgs don’t need your charity bucks, send that cash to the Malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africans instead).

So what did Ryan Lowe do (other than refer to himself in third-person)?

Like ripping off a band-aid, he clicked on the GiveWell link and then the Donate button, afraid he was going to chicken out the entire time. Then he entered $100 next to the line that says: Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion. Ryan likes not having to research shit, and he trusts that GiveWell is going to do a better job allocating his money than he could possibly do himself.

He then picked Every Month for how often he makes his donation.

He entered his name, addy, and credit card info, and typed his daughter’s name as the person he’s dedicating the donation on behalf of. That made him feel all good inside. Like the world is gonna be a slightly better place for his little girl to grow up in.

Then he held his breath and clicked the Donate button.

Here’s Ryan’s confirmation email if you think I’m full of shit:

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Ryan has always felt like a little bit of a cunt for not doing more to help those who have fucking nothing. Now Ryan feels a whole lot better about himself, and probably won’t miss that hundred bucks anyway… especially now that he’s decided to only have one beer at a time.


Back to First Person and Some Math:

Stats at the beginning of this post were stolen from this book. It cost $2.95. If I live to the average Canadian age of 81 I will make 612 more monthly donations of $100. That adds up to $61,200, plus the book price for the total $61,202.95. Hopefully our fucking dollar evens out a little to make this whole process more bearable. But if it doesn’t, fuck it. I lucked out by being born in Canada and I know what it’s like to shit myself for days on end, and I don’t like it. If that’s how people out there are dying, I’ll gladly part with $100/month to help make it stop.

UPDATE:

GiveWell donations are NOT tax-deductible in Canada. However, Canadians can set up regular contributions through Charity Science and 100% of the donations go through to the Charities. Also we don’t get boned on the US dollar being so high.

I have cancelled my GiveWell contribution and set up a Charity Science contribution (for $100 CAD/month), which will be buying mosquito nets to cover children while they sleep so mosquitoes don’t give them god damn malaria.

Here’s the nice card they send when you donate:

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