Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor Book Review

I just recently finished reading Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor. The book follows the true story of a platoon that found themselves defending COP Keating in early October 2009. COP Keating came under a massive attack from the Taliban — over 300 men to the US forces of only 50. Outnumbered and outgunned, the base was being overrun.

This is one of those books that is absolutely gripping. Once you start reading, you simply cannot put the book down. At some points, I got so enraged that I just wanted to pick up a rifle and join the battle, as ridiculous as that sounds.

Absolutely worth the read.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Book Review

I have recently finished the exciting Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade. When you hear the fight song for the Marines and the line “…and the shores of Tripoli…” — this is what the book is referring to. And quite honestly, that is all I knew of the subject and nothing more. I bought this book thinking “Okay so we sent some marines to Tripoli at some point”. When, how, and why…No clue.

As it turns out, it is incredibly fascinating and has had far reaching effects on foreign policy.

In the early days of the United States, we had begun to establish trade routes across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, piracy from the north of Africa was common place and many American sailors were captured and held for ransom. The famous Adams / Jefferson rivalry actually extended towards the strategy on how to deal with these pirates. Adams favored a more diplomatic approach and Jefferson preferred to destroy them militarily.

How the events unfolded over a decade between America and the savages of north Africa make for a compelling story. The book outlines in great detail the mishaps, successes, strategies, politics, espionage, backstabbing, and military heroics of the conflict. The book reads like a novel — 100% recommend.

Ask: The Counter Intuitive Online Formula Book Review

I just finished reading Ask: The Counter Intuitive Online Formula. Written by Ryan Levesque. The book is okay. It’s probably better for someone who has no experience with online sales, as all of this would be super new to them. I already have experience with online marketing and sales funnels so this was more of a refresher, but there are a few key takeaways I got from this book that I would like to share.

  1. Survey your existing customers if you can with this question: “What is the single biggest challenge you are facing with your [insert thing here].” — everyone knows to survey their clients, that is obvious, but this one exact question I did not know how essential it is to ask. The book goes into detail as to why it is a good question and I agree. It will help you segment your customer base appropriately.
  2. The types of emails and when to send them once they are in the email marketing campaign. This is certainly helpful.

The rest of the book however, was a lot of the author talking about himself. I get that it helps provide context and what not, but I thought it was a bit overdone here. Also there was a ton of self promotion which came off as a gimmicky. Again, I understand the author is trying to promote is business, but there should be a limit to it otherwise it becomes distracting.

That is all.

 

When Genius Failed Book Review

When Genius Failed

Written by Roger Lowenstein. The book centers around a hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management in the mid 90s. Years prior at Soloman Brothers a group formed to do specific type of bond trades called “arbitrage” — the idea is that you pick two bonds that you think whose prices are spread further apart than they should be. You anticipate that they are going to narrow up. So you purchase one bond and short the other. That’s the over-simplified premise.

Now this group went sort of rogue and after some drama unfolded, they all reunited under the new hedge fund Long Term Capital Management. They boasted professors and academics on staff that designed the most popular models in use. They depended so heavily on these models they got in real deep on tons of trades, many risky. They were so sure of it.

They were playing head games with the banks and under financiers. Shit started to unravel when a few key moves in the markets didn’t go their way. What unfolded was an unprecedented event requiring Fed intervention and all of the incredible drama that resulted.

If you liked Barbarians at the Gate, you’ll love this too. Great read.

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The Boys in the Boat Book Review

The Boys in the Boat

Written by Daniel James Brown. This book is about an incredibly inspiring story about the 8-oar US Rowing team that went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. You do not need to be a rower, or really know anything about rowing in order to enjoy this book. It is classic American and you will feel immensely patriotic by the time you turn the last page.

It follows the story of 9 boys who arrived at Washington in 1932 as freshmen. They trained together with a hard driving coach. They had many struggles, but the ultimate learning experience was that they had to completely trust each other. It’s a real “man’s book”.

The author does a great job describing the era, Nazi Germany, and what it was like to attend the Olympics in 1936. The book really makes you appreciate when something comes together perfectly. And that there will be moments in your life that you will never forget. You are provided opportunities and you should seize them with all you got.

The Path Between the Seas: Creation of the Panama Canal Book Review

The Path Between the Seas: Creation of the Panama Canal

Written by David McCullough. Like most of you, all I knew about the Panama Canal was the tidbit I was told in elementary school. “We built a canal at Panama because it was the shortest distance between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean so we didn’t have to go around the horn of South America…” Be honest with yourself — did you really learn more than that?

I got the idea to read about the Panama Canal from The World Without Us which I read a short time ago. There was an incredibly interesting three-page summary about what would happen to the Panama Canal if humans simply disappeared. Those three pages stayed with me and I began searching for a book on the Panama Canal.

David McCullough, known mostly for Truman and John Adams (which became an HBO mini series), wrote this book. And let me tell you, he blows you away. The Panama Canal is a huge story with heroes, villains, spying, government back-stabbing, revolutions, and the construction of the greatest engineering feat in the history of mankind.

I had no idea that the French had tried to build the Panama Canal and failed, nearly bankrupting their own country. There is a story of Yellow Fever and Malaria and the doctor who tried to convince people that mosquitoes were responsible for transmission of the disease while others thought he was ridiculous. Did you know that we almost went to war with Columbia and helped Panama with their revolution so we can build the canal…and the men behind the scenes who were pulling the strings.

The story of the canal was most impressive and I’m a smarter man for having read it. But most of all, you gain an appreciation for the magnitude of what men were able to accomplish in the early 20th century. The spirit of man and what we are capable of doing never ceases to amaze me.

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Devil in the White City Book Review

Written by Erik Larson. If you liked my recommendation for Destiny of the Republic, than you would love this book as well.

The Devil in the White City intertwines two main stories. The first is about a notorious serial killer known as H.H Holmes. This guy is an absolutely insane psychopath but is really popular with the ladies. He has absolutely no morals and gets satisfaction out of being in control and ending lives. Cold, calculated, delusional. All of this is happening in Chicago at the same time as the World’s Fair in 1893 — the second story.

The sheer amount of engineering and architecture that went into building the World’s Fair in Chicago was unbelievable. The World’s Fair happened because the French held their own fair a few years prior and impressed the world. Some guy named Eiffel built a tower there or something. Anyway, the Americans wanted to build something more impressive. The author, Mr. Larson, does an incredible job of bringing you into 1893. You absolutely feel like you are attending the world’s fair. It’s a glimpse into a reality unlike any other. The people just had a different way of life. Attitudes were different. America was very different.

Anyway, some guy named George Ferris invented a wheel to compete with the marvel of engineering that was the Eiffel tower.

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Thinking, Fast and Slow Book Review

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Written by Daniel Kahneman. This is another one of those books that alter your reality. It is a thorough overview of how our brains work when it comes to decision making. In many cases, humans actually make absurd or illogical choices simply because of the way our brains are wired. The author even admits that while educating yourself about how you can easily be swayed on a decision based on the way a question was framed, you may still make the same mistakes anyway. Your brain is split into the “intuition mode” which he describes as System 1 and “thinking mode” which is described as System 2. System 1 is susceptible to errors in intuition.

Of many passages I found interesting, here he describes “Loss Aversion” and how it applies to both economics and putting in golf. Loss Aversion is the idea that humans are more fearful of losing something than they are of gaining something of equal value. Another way of describing it is that you would be more upset if you lost $1000 than you would be happy if you gained $1000. Loss aversion might seem obvious to us, but this passage demonstrates how it can have rippling effects far beyond what we may imagine:

——————-

The economists Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer, at the University of Pennsylvania, reasoned that golf provides a perfect example of a reference point: par. Every hole on the golf course has a number of strokes associated with it; the par number provides a baseline for good–but not outstanding–performance. For a professional golfer, a birdie (one stroke under par) is a gain, and a bogey (one stroke over par) is a loss. The economists compared two situations a player might face when near the hole:
– Putt to avoid a bogey
– Putt to achieve a birdie
Every stroke counts in golf, and in professional golf every stroke counts a lot. According to prospect theory, however, some strokes count more than others. Failing to make par is a loss, but missing a birdie putt is a foregone gain, not a loss. Pope and Schweitzer reasoned from loss aversion that players would try a little harder when putting for par (to avoid a bogey) than when putting for a birdie. They analyzed more than 2.5 million putts in exquisite detail to test that prediction.
They were right. Whether the putt was easy or hard, at every distance from the hole, the players were more successful when putting for par than for birdie. The difference in their rate of success when going for par (to avoid a bogey) or for a birdie was 3.6%. This difference is not trivial. Tiger Woods was one of the “participants” in their study. If in his best years Tiger Woods had managed to putt as well for birdies as he did for par, his average tournament score would have improved by one stroke and his earnings by almost $1 million per season. These fierce competitors certainly do not make conscious decision to slack off on birdie putts, but their intense aversion to a bogey apparently contributes to extra concentration on the task at hand.
The study of putts illustrates the power of a theoretical concept as an aid to thinking. Who would have thought it worthwhile to spend months analyzing putts for par and birdie? The idea of loss aversion, which surprises no one except perhaps some economists, generated a precise and non-intuitive hypothesis and led researchers to a finding that surprised everyone–including professional golfers.

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Destiny of the Republic Book Review

Destiny of the Republic

Written by Candice Millard. This book was incredibly eye opening and centers around the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881. Not many people know about Garfield or the legacy he left behind since he only served as President for 5 months before he was shot.

The more you read though, the more engaged you become. Garfield had no intention of becoming the president but was forced into the position despite his refusal. As the book progresses, you follow Garfield, his assassin, and Alexander Graham Bell. The stories converge of course at the shooting that occurred in a train station in Washington, DC.

Garfield’s assassin was a complete mad man. Insane, no doubt. He believed he was better than everyone else and was entitled to fame and fortune. He was a fuckhead though and just scammed people out of money his whole life.

Alexander Graham Bell, famous for inventing the telephone, wanted to help the president live by inventing a device that would help locate the bullet inside the President’s body. This was effectively the first metal detector.

The most interesting part of the book though for me was Garfield’s doctors. When you read this book, you cringe hard. It’s like the doctors cared more about their egos and who would get recognition than actual common sense. Despite there being early evidence about the real risk of using contaminated surgical methods, American doctors largely dismissed this. Everything you read was disgusting and completely the opposite of how things are done today. By the end of the book, there is a real question about who really killed the president. Was it the assassin…or the doctors?

Other neat little things I learned — back then, people felt entitled to meet the president. It was way different.. For example, if I was willing to wait hours on end, I can just walk up to the White House, sit in the waiting room and wait my turn to talk to the president about my troubles. Unheard of today.

There’s a lot more in this book and I definitely recommend it.

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Unbroken Book Review

Unbroken

I just completed reading the epic biography. It is one of those books that takes you in to the story and never lets you go. It is written by Laura Hillenbrand.

The book is about the life of Louis Zamperini. He grew up as a young kid stealing shit all the time, but was set right by his brother Pete who insisted he join the track team. Louis got good and was soon breaking records. He was immensely popular at USC and people believed he would be the first person to break the four minute mile.

He went to the olympics in 1936 and shook Hitler’s hand.

Fate would have it, as we all know, WWII breaks out.

I’ll let the Amazon reviews clue you in on the rest.

What I want to say is that this story speaks to me — in terms of resilience and never giving up. Having the heart to always stay in it. It will remind you of your own self improvement journey about the ups and downs (mostly downs) that you have to endure.

You never have experienced pain, loss of dignity, and humiliation to the level of POWs that endured in Japanese prison camps.