Zen and Tennis

This article reviews The Inner Game of Tennis and outlines actionable insights from the book.

In The Inner Game of Tennis, Gallwey shows the methods to overcome self-doubt, nervousness and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. These challenges are called the ‘inner game’. The inner game is the game that takes place in the mind of the player and is played against inner obstacles. In contrast, the outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal.

A player wins the inner game when he can cultivate a spontaneous performance. The player then performs with a true self-confidence – calm and not trying too hard. The player’s mind is one with the body and he can surpass his limits.

There are three steps to develop one’s inner game: (1) learning to let go of judgements, (2) learning to trust yourself and (3) learning to program yourself with images rather than instructing with words.

Let Go of Judgements

The first step is to let go of judgements. Judgement is the self-imposed sense of “goodness” or “badness” that the player ascribes to the events that happen. A judgemental person is one who assigns a negative or a positive value to an event. The person is saying that some events are good, and he likes them, or they are bad, and he hates them.

Self-judgements become self-fulfilling prophecies. When a person judges himself, his inner self will act accordingly. He will begin to live according to these expectations. These expectations will perpetuate in his life until his mind establish a self-identity according to these.

In tennis, self-judgements also lead to emotional reactions and physical tightness, trying too hard and self-condemnation.

A person overcomes his judgement by seeing, feeling and being aware of what is. In tennis, the player does not have to think where the ball is, he simply sees it. He feels where the ball is and is aware of its movement. The player acknowledges his strengths, weaknesses, efforts and accomplishments.

Trusting Yourself

The second step is trusting yourself. What does it mean to trust yourself? Trusting yourself is not positive-thinking or overconfidence, convincing yourself to hit an ace in every serve. In the inner game, trusting yourself means to let your body hits the ball. The keyword is ‘let’. The player trusts in the competence of his body and mind, allowing himself to swing the racket.

Similar to self-judgement, not trusting yourself causes both mental and physical interference. These interferences result in physical tightness, mental distraction and lack of concentration.

A player who already knows how to swing the racket should trust his body to do it. A player who does not, should learn it. As he practices, his mind stores, refines and extends this movement in his memory. The mind remembers every action and the results of every action. The player should allow the natural learning process to take place and forget about the stroke-by-stroke instruction, similar to a baby learning how to walk.

Using Imagery

The last step is to program your mind using imagery, rather than words. Imagery is the mind’s native language. Using sensory images, you can hold the desired outcome that you want to achieve and let your body does the work.

To use the imagery technique, hold your desired results or form in your mind and allow the body to do what is necessary. The player must trust his body, refraining from giving itself instruction and from exerting controlled effort. The author stresses that it is important not to make any conscious effort when performing the action.

The Inner Game of Tennis demonstrates than winning in sports and life have both inner and outer game aspects. Overcoming the inner obstacles will allow a player to improve his skills continuously. However, this does not mean that the player should not practice his outer game. The book also dedicates a section to practice and perfect a player’s tennis technique.

Nonetheless, knowing these techniques is only the first step in winning any game. Only constant practise and hard work will help us to overcome any obstacle that life throws at us.

Click here to visit the Amazon book page (affiliate link), where it is available in multiple formats.

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How to Grow Your Startup with Data (Lean Analytics Book Review)

In the book Lean Startup, Eric Ries advocates entrepreneurs to build products that people love. However, entrepreneurs often find it difficult to know what people want. Most people do not know what they want, and entrepreneurs waste a lot of resources building something that no one buys. Fortunately, Lean Analytics illuminates ways to solve these problems.

In , Lean Analytics, the author attempts to guide readers to instil analytics mindset in their business, from validating products to preparing for acquisition. The book is massive, consisting of 30 chapters and over 400 pages. These pages originate from interviews involving over a hundred founders, investors and entrepreneurs.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 covers the fundamental analytics in business while Part 2 shows the applications of analytics. Part 3 discusses the baseline for business analytics. Finally, part 4 guides the readers to apply Lean Analytics to their organisations. This article reviews the book and provides a key summary of each chapter. The article also applies the insights to this blog’s growth. Finally, I will discuss the problems with the book.

Summary

Chapter 1 introduces readers to the Lean Analytics mindset. The core idea of Lean Analytics is knowing the kind of business you are, and the stage you’re at, you can track and optimize the One Metrics That Matters to your startup right now. 

A business is like a scientific experiment, where entrepreneurs have to test their hypothesis.The business survives if its hypothesis is correct, or it fails otherwise. And to test a hypothesis, the business will have to collect data. This continuous process of asking hypotheses and collecting data transform how entrepreneurs run their businesses. Lean Analytics help entrepreneurs to conduct these two processes effectively.

Chapter 2 discusses the aspects of a good metric such as being comparative and understandable. A good metric also needs to change the way you behave. Sometimes, businesses track their metrics not to test a hypothesis, but to make them feel good. If the businesses measure a metric that does not relate to their goals or affect their behaviour, they are only lying to themselves and wasting their time.

The authors also warn against tracking vanity metrics. A vanity metric is a piece of data that does not inform, guide or improve your business model. An example of a vanity metric is the number of signups, which tells nothing about the users and what they do. Alternatively, the authors advocate business to track actionable metrics.

Applying this insight to the blog, I can choose to track the number of visitors per day. However, this metric does not tell anything about what the visitors do or the types of posts that visitors read. As an alternative, I can track the number of visitors for each article and what types of posts do visitors like, comment and share. These metrics are more insightful because it guides me in my next decision.

As of now, the most popular most in the blog is “How to Write Well: 4 Steps to Improve Your Writing”. It received 7100 visitors on the day it was published. The post also has the most comments, likes and shares. My hypothesis is that visitors like an engaging, well-researched and well-written how-to guide. Hence, I could use this information to decide the posts that I will write in the future. If my hypothesis is correct, this blog will have a significant growth.

Next, chapter 3 discusses the questions that founders need to ask before starting a company. The authors recommend using the Lean Canvas framework to answer these questions. Chapter 4 brings the readers back to the importance of combining analytics with human introspection.

Chapter 5 reviews several analytics frameworks such as the Pirate Metrics, Engines of Growth, Lean Canvas and Startup Growth Pyramid. The authors propose a new model called Lean Analytics Stages, which combines the best of these frameworks.

Chapter 6 presents us with the concept, One Metrics That Matters (OMTM). OMTM is the metric that a startup needs to focus on above everything else at a particular stage. Although tracking metrics is good, startups can lose focus and track excessive metrics. Unfocused startups are less likely to succeed because they will waste resources while wandering aimlessly.

Next, chapter 7 discusses business models and how to come up with one, depending on your startups. The next chapters (8-13) examine six types of startups and their business models. These are e-commerce, Software as A Service (SaaS), mobile app, media site, user-generated content and two-sided marketplaces. Each chapter examines the important metrics, problems and challenges for the respective startups. After that, chapter 14 to 20 discusses each stage of the Lean Analytics Stages framework. These stages are empathy, stickiness, virality, revenue and scale.

Chapter 21 establishes the baseline for the metrics that startups track. For example, a 5% growth rate is a good baseline for a startup. The time period for this growth depends on which stage your startup is at. The chapter also outlines other key baselines for metrics such as pricing metrics, cost of customer acquisition, site engagement and web performance.

Similar to chapters 8 to 13, chapter 22 to 27 examine the metrics for the six types of startups. Part 3 ends with a review of these concepts and strategies when startups do not have a clear baseline. Chapter 29 outlines the advantages of having enterprise customers and important metrics. The final chapter recommends readers ways they can apply Lean Analytics concept in their organisation.

Although this book covers a lot of topics, it fails to dive deeper into the specifics. In fact, some chapters contain information that tends to be shallow and generic. For example, in chapter 11, the authors discuss the business model of a media site. I expected the chapter to include evidence of how media businesses achieve growth with certain strategies. Similarly, the book covers the key metrics for media site in chapter 25. These metrics are click-through rates, sessions-to-click ratio, referrers, engaged time and sharing. The chapter only briefly reviews each metric. A more detailed guide on how startups can adapt using these metrics would have been useful. These issues notwithstanding, this book is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to incorporate analytics mindset in his life.

Conclusion

Overall, the authors deliver the main objective of the book, which is to guide readers to instil analytics in their business, from validating products to preparing for acquisition. Additionally, the authors have provided readers with a specific framework to track these metrics, depending on which stages of business they are at. To conclude, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to use analytics to grow their business effectively. The book is massive and if your business is already growing fast, you will not have the time to read this cover-to-cover. Nonetheless, it is worth reading if you want to apply analytics in a systematic way.

Click here to get the book on Amazon.

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I Will Teach You to Be Rich (Book Review)

I have been resisting to read I Will Teach You to Be Rich for a while now because of the clickbait title and weird book cover (on the 2009 version), although it has good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. After seeing Personal Finance and FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early) subreddits recommending this book, I decided to watch some YouTube videos by the author, Ramit Sethi. Surprisingly, Ramit has interesting perspectives on managing money and personal finance. This article will review the book, its key messages and the insights that I find interesting. 

No more Ramit on the cover.

Summary

I Will Teach You to Be Rich employs a unique approach in personal finance, which is to use insights from Psychology and applying them in personal finance. This is similar to the idea of nudging in Behavioural Economics, which is to design the choice architecture surrounding your personal finance behaviour in ways that promote certain desired actions. His main messages are:

Start Today

Starting earlier enables your money to increase exponentially via compound interest. If you start investing earlier in life, your money will have more time to grow.

Focus on The Big Wins.

When cutting down your spending, focus on the Big Wins, which are the areas where you are spending a lot but do not mind reducing with some efforts. For example, unnecessary subscriptions or eating out. 

Spend extravagantly on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you do not love.

Similar to the above, after getting the Big Wins, you should allocate some money on the things that you love.

There is a difference between having possessions and living a rich life.

Ramit urges readers to start defining their own rich life and asking themselves why they want to be rich? Whether it is to have the freedom to make your own career decisions or being able to allocate time for family and the things that you love. Regardless of the reasons, it is important to define your own rich life and understand that personal finance is a tool to achieve that goal.

Do not live in the spreadsheet. Start today, automate your finance and live your life.

Using the techniques in this book, you can automate your money management. Once you have the automation system set up, you can live your life and spend less time thinking about financial issues.

Managing Your Credit Card, Bank Accounts and Investments 

The first three chapters cover personal finance basics such as managing credit card and choosing a bank account. Ramit compares all the American retail banks and recommends the ones that he thinks are good. Chapter three discusses pension and investment and recommends readers to maximise their pension contribution and allocate a certain fraction to your investment account. 

Money Dial

Chapter 4 focuses on money dial, the idea that you should cut cost mercilessly on the things you do not love but spend extravagantly on the things you do. Some of the things that people love are fitness, wellness, convenience, eating out or clothing. For example, although I subscribe to Netflix and other streaming services, I do not fully use them, therefore, I should cut them mercilessly. After that, I can use this extra money and spend extravagantly on things I love. Since I love fitness, I can spend the extra money to hire a personal trainer or buy the highest quality shoes. If I love clothing, I can spend on buying luxurious clothes rather than buying cheaper ones. 

Increasing Your Income

Next, Ramit discusses ways to increase your incomes such as negotiating for a raise, changing jobs or freelancing. Ramit explains elaborately on the steps that you should take to negotiate for a raise, starting from the discussing with your manager and executing the deal.

This is my favourite chapter from the book as it gives practical advice on negotiating for a higher salary or a promotion. If there is one chapter that you need to read, it is this one. I strongly recommend reading this chapter with the book Never Split the Difference. Both this chapter and Never Split the Difference have solid strategies for negotiations. 

Automating Your Finance

In chapter 5, Ramit outlines the ways you can automate your savings, then, in chapter 6, he discusses the myth of expert. With the advent of digital banking, your money management can be automated. For example, you can ask your bank to automatically transfer money between accounts and pay bills (utilities and credit cards). In terms of investment, Ramit recommends the readers to invest in low-cost index funds rather than relying on wealth managers. Next, Ramit discusses ways to maintain this automated system, tax laws and when to sell your assets. 

Money and Relationship

Finally, Ramit ends the book with his own experience in communicating about money issue with his partner. These include the kinds of conversations that you should have before getting married and planning for the wedding.

One thing I find interesting from this chapter is dealing with the taboo surrounding having conservation about money with your partner. It is one of those things where people know they should be doing, but most people do not do it. Additionally, Ramit suggests several ways to reduce your wedding expenses such as by cutting the fixed costs. Fixed costs are expenses that are constant regardless of the amount of good or services produced. For example, photographer, rentals, flowers, invitations, dress and rings. Ramit demonstrates that cutting fixed costs would enable you to reduce your wedding spending significantly. 

Conclusion 

Overall, the book has been very engaging. Ramit offers interesting perspectives not just on managing money, but also on communicating with other people about your financial goals. The book aims to guide people to define their own rich life and I think it managed to do that well. 

I Will Teach You to Be Rich targets young adults who are starting to learn about finance and the advice may seem basic for people who have already dabbled in the personal finance world. Nonetheless, I applaud Ramit’s effort in encouraging people to start early and spreading positive outlook on others’ personal finance. 

Click here to visit the Amazon book page (affiliate link), where it is available in multiple formats.

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Rise and Fall of The Great Powers (Book Review)

Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (affiliate link) traces the development of major empires since the 16th century and seek to explain the reasons for their rise and fall. Compare to other works in the literature, this book focuses on the interaction between economic factors and strategy rather than finding one general rules about the formation of states and empires. Kennedy’s main thesis is a state’s power increases as its production capacity grows. The larger economy makes it easier for the state to sustain armaments during peace and finance military fleets during wartime. However, if a state overextends itself by allocating too many resources in its military or conquering territories more than what it can manage, other rivals can catch up with them.

The first chapter surveys the strengths and weaknesses of great powers in the dawn of the 16th century – Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul empire, Tokugawa Japan, Muscovy, and the smaller states in western Europe. Kennedy argues that despite having large economies and sophisticated inventions, these empires suffer from having centralized authority which limits the formation of new ideas, military development and commercial endeavours. On the other hand, due to the lack of a central authority, European states manage to develop newer technologies and inventions. 

The book did well in providing a broad yet detailed survey of each empire’s economy and political structure on its own. For example, in the first chapter, Kennedy provides a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of great powers in the dawn of the 16th century – Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul empire, Tokugawa Japan, Muscovy, and the smaller states in western Europe. Kennedy argues that despite having large economies and sophisticated inventions, these empires suffer from having centralised authority which limits the formation of new ideas, military development and commercial endeavours. On the other hand, due to the lack of a central authority, European states manage to develop newer technologies and inventions. 

What the book lacks however is explaining why other regions did not develop like Europe despite not having a central authority. An example of this is the African subcontinent. Despite political fragmentations, the region never developed anywhere close to Europe. In the book, Kennedy never dealt with this issue. In addition, Kennedy did not explain how empires such as Ming China and Tokugawa Japan could develop in the first place despite having centralised authorities.

To sum up, in Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (affiliate link), Kennedy argues that a state’s power increases as its production capacity grows. As a state overextends itself by allocating too many resources in its military or conquering territories more than what it can manage, other rivals can catch up with them. Finally, the state declines and is replaced by another state. I recommend this book to those who are interested in detailed history of the rise of empires. However, the book spans 500 pages and its deep flaws suggest that you should consider to invest your time in other similar books such as Toynbee’s A Study of History or Kissinger’s Diplomacy.

Click here to visit the Amazon book page (affiliate link), where it is available in multiple formats.

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