Audiobook: So good they can’t ignore you – Cal Newport

A very pleasant book with many anecdotes circulating around the idea that having a passion for something won’t necessarily get you where you’re aiming for. Instead, Newport suggests adopting what he calls ‘the craftsman mindset’. Building rare and valuable skills, that make up your career capital to a point where you will eventually be “So good they can’t ignore you”.

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He takes stand against what he calls ‘the passion mindset’ which according to him has a tendency to ask questions like “What can the world offer me?” and “Is this who I truly am?”. These questions put the one adopting the mindset into a constant state of doubtfulness, causing them to be unhappy about their jobs the first moment their passion fades. The ‘Craftsman mindset’ on the other hand focuses on honing your skills and asks “What can I offer the world?”. This gives the ones adopting it the ability to develop a passion for their craft, which is a reward, not an a priori condition.

 

 

Side note: I learned about this book from an interview with Andrew Ng: Inside The Mind That Built Google Brain: On Life, Creativity, And Failure. I noticed that some of the books he recommends I have already read or had them on my list except for this particular one. It was definitely a good choice to pick it! If you’re interested, have a look at Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning course on Coursera!

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Audiobook: The hard thing about hard things

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This is the story of Ben Horowitz. Starting as a lowly programmer, then proceeding through several steps on the corporate ladder ending up – as he defines it – a wartime CEO and then finally cashing it all in for the big bag of $$$ and becoming a venture capitalist.  There are scenes in this story that are often rude and harsh but he stays at all times very professional and caring for what he does and for with whom he works.

The part that got me a lot is that it seems that during all his career he cared a lot for his work. No fiddling around, no laying low, but pure power and professionalism.

Enduring, navigating and fighting through hard things.

How to stop screwing yourself over by Mel Robbins at TEDx San Francisco

Very energetic, a bit rude and very true.

I’d go straight to the video, but for those who need a bit more motivation to sit through, check my bullet-point summary below.

 

The main points Mel Robbins goes through are:

  • Decide what you want. Be selfish about this decision, this is about you, no need to make it look appealing to others.
  • Use your activation energy. The same energy that pushes you to do great things is the one you exercise creating when you get out of bed in the morning without the “snooze button”.
  • Don’t be just fine. If you tell people that you are fine, you are essentially telling yourself that that’s the best you can do.
  • The 5 second emergency break rule. Helps engaging in different/unusual/unexpected activities. If you don’t engage in an activity in the first 5 seconds, chances are, you never will.
  • Get out of your bed. Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your own head.

2 key slides from the video:

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(more…)

Richard Dawkins

A certainly controversial figure coming from evolutionary biology. He is known for his anti-religious public appearances and publications.

Richard Dawkins

What he is less known for inventing the word meme. It comes from his book “The selfish gene” and stands for a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene. From an evolutionary point of view a meme has the same attributes: reproduction, selfishness and natural selection.

In this book he methodically goes through a handful of ideas and puts them in parallel with evolution. I found it a nice mental exercise.

Let me quote his take on explaining ball games for the roboticists around here.

“When a man throws a ball high in the air and catches it again. he behaves as if he had solved a set of differential equations in predicting the trajectory of the ball… at some subconscious level, something functionally equivalent to the mathematical calculations is going on.”

And for the sake of completeness, I’m also presenting some of his anti-religious quotes. Be advised, they may make sense!

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”

“Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.”

“Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.”

ROS Indigo with Elementary OS Freya

I’ve recently got my a new laptop for work, which is great, but this means I had to abandon all the comfort of OSX.

Of course for work I need an Ubuntu system but I set my eyes on a distribution called Elementary OS before, that is Ubuntu-based but tries to mimic the style of OSX.

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To begin the ROS installation a minor tweak is needed on the first step. Instead of

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb http://packages.ros.org/ros/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ros-latest.list'

use

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb http://packages.ros.org/ros/ubuntu trusty main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ros-latest.list'

Since ROS doesn’t have packages dedicated to Elementary, this second line tells it to use the Ubuntu Trusty packages instead (on which Elementary OS Freya is based).

However, when I tried to start up the simulation of TIAGo, I got buckets of errors from rosdep about the operating system not being detected. After a quick sneak peak at the code of it, I discovered that there is an environmental variable that can be used to override whatever is happening, as rosdep is supposed to support Elementary OS, it’s the latter that does something fishy here.

I added

export ROS_OS_OVERRIDE=elementary

to my .bashrc, and the problem was solved.

Here is a video of the working system, with the TIAGo robot from PAL Robotics.

So those are my notes on the Elementary OS + ROS topic. For those who’d like to get started with Elementary OS check the links below.

 

Elementary OS goodies to install,

20 things to do after installing Elementary OS

Do you like Evernote‘s desktop client? NixNote2 provides a fully cross-platform opensource alternative to the official client.

To see if and where your boot process can be optimized, try bootcharting

To see what you can do with your Thinkpad fans and in Linux go here.

Adafruit wearables electronics videos and adafruit daily mails

The other day I bumped into this video on youtube and thought it’s worth spreading it. In these videos Beck Stern walks through some recent news on wearable electronics, in this episode her co-host is Collin, who’s always funny 🙂

Other than this, Adafruit has started the daily mail programme, where you can subscribe for a “one-liner note along with an image per topic”-sort of mails. It goes well with the morning cup of tea (or coffee). If this got you interested, go check it out:

https://www.adafruitdaily.com