Friday, November 04, 2016

Four Books On Mindset I Read Last Year

Somewhere around late summer or early fall last year, I ended up reading 4 books almost concurrently on the subject of mindset. This won't be a comprehensive book review on any of them; it's more about what I got out of them.

Thanks to Matt Forney's recommendation, I bought Dr. Shad Helmstetter's book "What To Say When You Talk To Yourself".

Thanks to Ramit Sethi, I bought Mark Devine's book "The Way of the Seal".

I also bought R. Lee Ermey's book "Gunny's Rules".

And right around the same time, Mike Cernovich released his book "Gorilla Mindset".

Somehow, I ended up reading them concurrently. Like I said, this isn't a book review, and it's mostly off the top of my head. Here's a high-level overview:

What To Say When You Talk To Yourself gives a scientific overview of how the mind works. We all talk to ourselves. But how does the conversation go? Is it helpful, or hurtful? How can you talk to yourself in a way that makes you better?

I'm not going to re-read the book for this post, but I believe this is where I got the framework for the idea that our minds have an operating system, which can be reprogrammed. In my engineering and systems analysis background, I say that we all have assumptions about the way the world works. Ramit Sethi calls them "Invisible Scripts". We can change these assumptions by reprogramming our minds.

Mark Devine is a retired Navy SEAL. His book introduced me to the concept of the "Mind Gym". It taught me how to create an environment where I can run scenarios in my head. I also learned what he calls "box breathing". Breath in on a four count, hold for a four count, then exhale on a four count. It's apparently how the elite warriors (SEALs, SWAT, etc.) get control of themselves, especially in combat scenarios. It really does calm you down by doing it two, three, or more times. I even used it today when I was growing impatient.

Gunny's Rules was kind of fun. R. Lee Ermey was a farm boy headed for trouble. The Navy told him to get lost. The Marine Corps recruiter asked him to do pull ups. He did 18, and was told "You're hired". But he wasn't always a squared away Marine. He screwed up a lot in his early years. He finally got his head screwed on straight.

He was determined to go all the way to Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps, but an attack while he served in Vietnam got him medically retired as a Staff Sergeant. (The CMC "promoted" him to Gunnery Sergeant in 2002, long after his retirement). He ran some bars, and got involved in movies. He's had some great roles, both as starring and supporting. I always enjoy him "showing up". He played House's dad, and the dad of the Janitor in Scrubs.

His book talks a lot about preparation. His early movie roles resulted him in being prepared. He played a role as a helicopter pilot in "Apocalypse Now" because he was ready to go when no other actor was (He was an advisor or consultant). And his iconic role as "Gunnery Sergeant Hartman" again came through being prepared. Ermey served as a Drill Instructor during that same era as a Corporal, and knew the role. He put on the correct uniform during a casting call, and did it so well, Kubrick had no choice but to cast him, even though another actor already had the role. The original actor cast as Hartman ended up as the helicopter gunner who said "If they run, they'd a V.C. If they stand still, they're a well-disciplined V.C.

Gunny's Rules is divided into 10 chapters based on Ermey's life and experience. It's full of anecdotes and helpful advice to truly get "squared away like a Marine". It also has some interesting anecdotes about Stanley Kubrick (how Ermey came to work for him) and especially about Full Metal Jacket, which I re-watch about once a year because it's so damn good. (Personal anecdote: I graduated high school June 6, 1992. I left for Navy boot camp June 8, 1992. That left little time for sleep. Of course, I was excited. I had to be up for my recruiter to get me at 0400. I think I had time to sleep for a little more than an hour. I closed my eyes, and scenes from Full Metal Jacket came to mind. I cast them aside.)

Gorilla Mindset is the capstone of the four books I read. I'm glad I read it last of the four. I'm sure it could stand alone, but of the four, I read it last.

Your mindset I guess could be described as the program you have running. How do you respond to external stimulants? How do you change your response? How do you live life on your own terms?

Gorilla Mindset is written to be a workbook, complete with exercises to return to again and again.

The most valuable thing I remember from Gorilla Mindset ties back into "What To Say When You Talk To Yourself". Of course, you have an internal dialog running all the time. But what do you say, and why? Do you tell yourself things like "Damn, you really fucked that up. That's all you do is fuck up. Why can't you get it right for once?" (Mike really did have dialogs like that; as did I). But that's the wrong thing.

The trick is to get control of that voice in your head. What would you do if a "friend" talked to you like that? Hopefully, he wouldn't be your friend anymore. Would you talk like that to a friend? If not, why the fuck would you talk to yourself like that? (Pardon my French).

Learn some etiquette, man. Stop talking to yourself in ways you wouldn't talk to others. Of course, you fucked up. We all do. What can you learn from it? Is that really the right frame for it?

All four books were valuable to me. I recommend all four, but if I had to pick one, I advise you to buy and read Gorilla Mindset. I haven't followed Cernovich since his "beginning", but I have followed him long enough to see the growth his own principles have brought to his own life. He went from blogging about "game" to being a fearless, independent journalist and movie producer in his own right, with more Twitter followers than just about all mainstream journalists. He brought down a pedophile Congressman, and Danger and Play Media stopped Nick Denton's party. He even single-handedly FORCED the media to talk about Hillary's Health. Good things will come from Mike Cernovich in the coming years.

He also has a new book, "MAGA Mindset". I've bought it, but I haven't read it yet. Matt Forney's review said you probably need Gorilla Mindset to understand the context.

You can buy any or all of the books here:
What To Say When You Talk To Yourself
The Way of the Seal
Gunny's Rules
Gorilla Mindset
MAGA Mindset
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