Think Different TV: Josh Kaufman and Me

Episode #3 of Think Different TV features Josh Kaufman ( and me in conversation for 40 minutes about books, self-education, the process of reading, ambition, and other topics. I recommend watching it on the Vimeo site and letting it load all the way. Then you can use the chapter markings on that page. Here's an MP3 audio file of the episode. Here's a lengthy email exchange between Josh and me on business books and related topics.


1:13 Josh says he's reading personal development books since it's the beginning of the year and you want to start the year off right

2:14 Steve Pavlina? He promotes 30 day experiments – just test something and see how you like it

4:30 Reducing goals into manageable, bite size pieces helps you start achieving them.

6:20 It's important to have at least one experimental side project going at all times

6:49 Ambition – what is it, how has the word evolved

8:48 When ambition is nakedly about power and money, it can be unattractive

10:40 There are people who are trying to do big things where the motivation is wanting to make the world better or just craftsmanship — wanting to do something for the joy of doing it, have the ability to exercise skill.

12:40 How we choose what books to read

16:28 The role of books in the self-education process

18:00 Searching Amazon and Google for the best books

18:34 Are customer reviews on Amazon reliable?

20:54 The process of reading a book – start to finish or cherry pick sections?

22:18 Take a few minutes before reading a book to think about what you want to get out of it. Selective attention.

26:50 Read until you've gotten the key points and could re-hash them to others

28:00 Recording / summarizing important nuggets from a book

30:00 Looking for mental models: concepts that have broad explanatory power

31:08 The value of book summaries / outlines that are sold?

33:00 If you're a business person, what % of books you read should be in the business book genre?

35:55 Study how people work (psychology, communication, history) and systems / processes.

37:00 Reading about science can help you understand systems / processes (ie, friction)

11 comments on “Think Different TV: Josh Kaufman and Me
  • Intriguing stuff, Ben. On the percentage of business books: After building a knowledge base for awhile you can spot recycled stuff quickly, and dispose of it. I tend to ignore stuff without a significant research base in the field. I do pay attention to some of the best business books lists. One of the best is the Strategy + Business listing (2008) put together by Phil Rosenzweig, et al, for Booz.

    Then too, without reading outside business I think we become pretty limited in our ability to be creative. And there are a number of monthly, quarterly journals that are a helpful “must.” Say, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, etc.

    Dan Erwin,PhD…

  • Way to go, each video has improved significantly. I am happy to see that. All of them are fantastic thinkers.

    Kaufman reading logic is quite good, specially Selective attention (pre-reading questions/expectations).
    Just like a book triggers an idea while you read and makes impact in your thinking. Definitely makes the difference between

    Ben, could you please give another brief hint on how you read/learn when taking notes? I’ve been following Cal Newport’s scheme so far and my own.

    On any kind of readings I tend to look for a general topic or a recommendation from someone I admire. Kaufman’s way may be intense; looking up too specific, or at least it sound to me like that.

    Reading science as Kaufman says is a good point I’ve never heard from a business person, actually very cleaver. As I’m into science I wonder if I should read business literature (??)

    keep up the good work

  • Ben,
    Just wanted to give you some feedback that TDTV is one of my favorite features on this blog. You and Josh talked about wisdom density and I appreciate the fast-moving, many-topics-covered style of these videos. Favorite new discovery: Seth Roberts. I’ve been curious for several years about disciplined self-experimentation (as I do this as well) and am extremely pleased to learn of Roberts. Thanks!

    P.S. Ben, I used to use the same method as you of underlining and then going back through all my notes. Even though this is effective, it’s also time intensive and I found a great solution in “scanning pens”. Using a scanning pen, you just highlight text with it and that text is automatically loaded into a Word document. The one downside is the actual process of typing in my notes by hand helped me to remember what I’d read. Just a thought.

  • It’s possible but you’d need to download the QuickTime file from Vimeo and
    then convert it to iPod playable. Probably too hard to do….but I did post
    the MP3 audio.

  • Ben:

    Thanks for the video. Good items for further thought.

    A quick question for you:

    Have you considered mind maps as a tool for “institutionalizing” you book markings?

    Like you, I found out that I tend to forget details from a book as time passes.

    A couple of years ago I read Tony Buzan’s the mind map book. Since then I (try to) create a mind map of the most pertinent concepts.

    I revisit my mind maps occasionally and I find them very useful as a tool for:
    summarizing subjects, establishing relationships between concepts and triggering re-call.

    Even the anecdotes and author’s phrasing come rushing back to me sometimes, when I’m looking over a mind map.

    Thanks again for all the useful content you put out.

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