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In Life

By Daniel Kao

A Book a Week

On 04, Sep 2014 | No Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

At the beginning of this summer, I decided that I wanted to read one book a week.

The reasoning behind this was simple. Books are a resource that authors spends years crafting and compiling their knowledge and experience that I can pick up for less than $20 and learn about what they learned in a mere couple days of reading. The vast wealth of information, experiences, and perspectives are so immensely large that not reading books would mean missing out on a great deal of learning.

It hasn’t always been easy, however, to fit in reading time in between all the different things that I have been working on this summer, but I did my best to be intentional and consistent with my reading time.

So in no particular order, I’ve had the opportunity to read the following books this summer:

From the engaging narratives of The Promise of a Pencil, I’m Feeling Lucky, and Jesus’ Son to the deep philosophy of Black Swan and The Obstacle is the way, reading has definitely given me a better perspective of the world and how I approach things. It’s given me frameworks to think about everyday choices, and how I can better myself and the people around me.

This is a habit that I hope to continue for years to come, and perhaps I’ll write my own book one day. Feel free to follow me on goodreads, I love chatting books!

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

On Cooking

On 10, Feb 2014 | No Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

For most of my life, I’ve never really cooked.

For most of my childhood, cooking was something that my mother did while I played games, did my homework, or surfed the internet. Even my freshman year in college, the convenience of the dining hall and the lack of a kitchen made it difficult for me to cook on a regular basis.

I have finally been able to cook for myself this year. Regularly feeding yourself and maintaining a healthy diet all while keeping to a budget is a challenge, but like any other new skill, it comes with a learning curve.

A friend bought me the Four Hour Chef for Christmas last year, and I have been faithfully attempting the different dishes in the book. I’ve tried the arugula salad, rock ‘n’ eel, harissa crab cakes, coconut curry cauliflower mash, and union square zucchini. Tim Ferriss does an amazing job of breaking down different cooking techniques into a simple and straightforward book that yields healthy and delicious results.

But beyond following recipes, learning to cook is also largely about grocery shopping, understanding flavors, and clean up. It’s a whole new world to learn and get accustomed to, as all the different varieties of consumables out there can be overwhelming.

But as I’ve realized over time, and the four hour chef touches upon, learning a new skill is only overwhelming because you have no clue where to start; it’s a collection of little actions that aggregate into an ability to do something. It’s easy to get daunted and scared away from learning something new.

I’ve realized the value of focusing on one area of development at a time, in order to develop the little pieces of the puzzle before putting it all together.

Ever since I started reading material from Tim Ferriss, I’ve started critically breaking things down and understanding all the little parts that go together to make a whole. I’ve made my mistakes, learned some lessons, and picked myself up.

Next, time to learn how to grow my own food.

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

On Reading Books

On 27, Jan 2014 | One Comment | In Life | By Daniel Kao

I’ve shared before that in my younger days, I thought I didn’t like reading.

It wasn’t until I nearly turned 18 that I found my love for reading books about real life situations and perspectives.

This year, I’m going to try to read as many books as I can. Books are pretty much a compilation of a person’s life work and life lessons, and by sitting down for a couple of hours and fifteen dollars, I can get a glimpse into a successful person’s process.

Even if I only get one thing out of a book, it was worth it.

In a casual conversation I had a couple weeks ago, I was sharing some of the books that had completely changed my life, and one of my friends asked me how I had so much time to read so much.

The truth is, I don’t have time not to be reading. By reading the lives of people, I am effectively getting perspective from their lives about the challenges they faced and how they overcame the challenges. By reading books, I am actually helping myself save time. I become more aware of the problems and the questions long before they come up in my personal life.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I go out and read every single thing that I can find. I’m a big advocate of watching what content you consume. My focus then, is taking the time to figure out what I am learning from each book that I read. Reading reviews is a helpful way to determine whether a book will be helpful for me or not.

In the wise words in Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger,

You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.

Everywhere means nowhere.

When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.

And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.

Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong.

Oh. And follow me on goodreads.

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On Habits

On 21, Jan 2014 | No Comments | In Productivity | By Daniel Kao

Human behavior is oftentimes nothing more than a collection of habits.

Whether it be everyday routines or reactions in emergencies, the pattern of habit can ultimately explain most physical, emotional, and spiritual behaviors.

Waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth is a habit (maybe it isn’t for some people), so is your response when your roommate jumps on you to wake you up in the morning.

Habits can be formed or broken consciously or unconsciously. Habits form because the brain is always looking for ways to take shortcuts and save time and energy.

Gretchen Rubin explains it extremely well in this presentation at 99u.

The short answer is that everyone has different tendencies to build or break habits, and understanding yourself is an extremely powerful way to understanding where you belong.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’m giving away a copy of The Power of Habit this month!

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

Content Dieting: Managing What you Take In

On 16, Jan 2014 | One Comment | In Life | By Daniel Kao

Many of my friends have been going on diets lately, such as becoming vegan or pescatarian. Besides wanting to cook a steak and shove it down their mouth, I have also taken the time to consider my own diet.

But it also got me thinking about the content I digest. I’m constantly finding new books to read, new blogs to follow, and new TED talks to watch. And over the last year, I don’t know if I can really say that all the content that I consume has actually helped me to be a more knowledgeable and wise individual. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t.

But I think something I did realize was that knowledge isn’t how much content you are able to cover. It isn’t about how many books you read or blogs you follow, but knowledge is more of what you are able to share and produce. Just like with subjects learned in school upon your daily life, it doesn’t really help you to know something unless you are able to apply it and use it.

So while rethinking some critical things about the way that I consume content, I realized a couple of things, and that the content you consume can be seen in a similar way as the food you consume.

Disclaimer: The following is only meant to be an illustration, not a perfect translation of food groups. Nor is it meant to categorize every single type of content out there.

Practical Content – Bread, Starch, Rice, Pasta (carbs) This kind of content is generally things that are interesting to the average person, but also practical and applicable to everyday life. Things like learning how to do better work fall into this category. Also, the average TED talk that is simplified, inspiring, and relevant can be considered in this area.

Necessary Content – Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins) Necessary content is usually the content that contains the little details that may not be fun to read, but are necessary for the work that you do. Things like manuals, research, instructional material, etc.

Perspective Content – Meat (protein) This is the kind of content that helps build you as a person by slowly helping you to see new perspectives. These generally take a longer time of immersion and pondering before any kind of life change becomes visible, but it is always the investment for the long term that makes the difference. This is the stuff that you read about famous and successful people, or the long and involved stories and learning process that eventually helps you to grow as a person.

Entertainment Content – Candy (sugar) This kind of content is usually the kind that is at your edge of understanding and application; things that are generally “out there”. Reading them gets you excited and blows your mind, but ultimately it has little nutritional value in your practical, everyday life.

None of these are bad in it of themselves, but used together and in moderation helps an individual to really learn and grow.

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School Teaches Us to Hate Subjects

On 12, Dec 2013 | One Comment | In Education | By Daniel Kao

Ever since my shenanigan in kindergarten, I thought that I didn’t enjoy reading. In fact, most of my elementary school years I would stay as far away from books as I possibly could. I would only read when I was forced to for my English classes, because something in my mind told me that I wasn’t good at reading and that I didn’t enjoy it.

One day in high school, I picked up a self-help book, started reading the opinions and thoughts of authors on life, and I haven’t stopped reading since. Now, I read voraciously. I’ve been devouring whatever books I can get my hands on to try to see and be aware of as many perspectives as I possibly can. I can hardly read fast enough to keep up with the rate that I find new books to read.

What happened? You could argue that it was merely a point in my life that I found what I truly was passionate about, but a lot of my hesitation in reading stems deeper than merely not knowing what I wanted to learn.

Schools are set up to reward people who get good grades, and patronize people who get poor grades. People who do well in a certain subject gain the recognition and praise for doing well, therefore boosting their confidence in their ability to perform in the subject area. But people who do poorly in a certain subject often adapt a negative feeling toward the subject, simply because they didn’t receive a good grade in the subject.

How many times have you heard a student say “I hate math”?

Have you ever wondered if that student actually hates the subject of math, or if what they actually hate is that they received a poor grade in math?

By learning in a system that gives grades and places such a high value on the grade, the system teaches students to hate certain subjects as a defense mechanism to make them feel better for not doing so well.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a grading system. I believe that being able to chart and measure a student’s progress is a good thing. But the way that the current system of grades is set up can instill some pretty negative side effects into the very people that we’re trying to teach.

What if we were able to promote a system that inspires children to learn and explore the areas that they don’t score well in?

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