Vince Lombardi on the Hidden Power of Mastering the Fundamentals

It was July of 1961 and the 38 members of the Green Bay Packers football team were gathered together for the first day of training camp. The previous season had ended with a heartbreaking defeat when the Packers squandered a lead late in the 4th quarter and lost the NFL Championship to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Green Bay players had been thinking about this brutal loss for the entire off-season and now, finally, training camp had arrived and it was time to get to work. The players were eager to advance their game to the next level and start working on the details that would help them win a championship.

Their coach, Vince Lombardi, had a different idea.
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Announcing the Reading List: 100+ Good Books to Read

I’m excited to share a new project with you today! It’s called the reading list and, as you would expect, it’s filled with good books to read.

Our community has grown quickly from a handful of people two years ago to more than 125,000 people today. (Thank you so much for taking the time to read the free newsletter each week! It is an honor to share my work with you.)

As we have grown, I have steadily received more requests to share my reading list with you all. Well, after some work, I have a list of more than 100 reading suggestions divided out by category and topic.

Click here to see all of my book recommendations.
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6 Famous Artists Talk About What It’s Like to Overcome Fear and Create Beauty

Long before I was publishing articles for the world to read, I wrote in a private document. I did this for more than a year. There were a variety of reasons and excuses that I used to rationalize why I wasn’t sharing my writing with others, but in many ways it boiled down to fear.

Here’s what I didn’t realize at the time: fear isn’t something that must be avoided. It is not an indicator that you’re doing things wrong. Fear is simply a cost that all artists have to pay on the way to doing meaningful work.

Obviously, not everything that is thought or written or created needs to be shared. In our age, where everyone has a voice and a platform, there is a lot of noise created.

However, if you have a story inside of you, I think you should share it. If you have an idea that you’d like to create, I think you should build it. If you have a dream that would make the world a slightly better place, then I think it’s your responsibility to deliver it to the rest of us. But it won’t be easy. All artists deal with fears, self-doubts, questions, and a roller coaster ride of emotions.

With that in mind, here are six passages from famous authors, actors, and artists on overcoming fear and unleashing your creativity.
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Mental Models: How Intelligent People Solve Unsolvable Problems

Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest physicists of all-time. (He was a pretty solid bongo player as well). [1]

Feynman received his undergraduate degree from MIT and his Ph.D. from Princeton. During those years, he became known for waltzing into the math department at each school and solving problems that the brilliant math Ph.D. students couldn’t solve.

Feynman describes why he was able to do this in his fantastic book, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! (one of my favorite books that I read last year).[click to continue reading…]

Joseph Brodsky Explains Perfectly How to Deal With Critics and Detractors in Your Life

In 1962, a young man named Joseph met a woman named Marina.

They lived in Russia together. They shared a passion for art. He wrote poetry. She created paintings. They fell in love and had a child together.

It was shaping up to be a good life until one day in 1972, the Soviet officials came knocking at the door. They stormed Joseph’s apartment, took him captive, tossed him on a plane to Vienna, and informed him that he was exiled from the Soviet Union.

He never saw Marina again.
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Reducing Stress: What Scientists Learned From the Children Who Survived a Famine During the Deadliest War in History

There was nothing left to eat.

The butter had disappeared in October. By November, adult food rations had been cut to 1000 calories per day. A few months later, in the dead of winter, rations dropped to 500 calories per day. Food stocks throughout the country were empty. If you were lucky enough to have food ration coupons, you could get 100 grams of cheese every two weeks. Meat was a fantasy. By April of 1945, each person was limited to 1 loaf of bread and 5 potatoes — for the entire week. [1]

It was the middle of terrible famine known as the Dutch Hunger Winter. World War II was nearing an end and Allied forces were able to push the German army out of the southern half of the Netherlands. As the Nazi’s retreated, however, they destroyed docks and bridges, flooded the farm lands, and set up blockades in the northern half of the country to cut off shipments of food and fuel. What little food had been stockpiled and saved was nearly impossible to transport. Starving and without options, many people ate tulip bulbs and sugar beets.

Among those struggling to survive was a 9-year-old boy from Amsterdam named Henkie Holvast. During the worst period of the famine, Henkie was one of the many children who would carry spoons with them wherever they went “just in case.” Photographer Martinus Meijboom captured this iconic image of Henkie during the Dutch Hunger Winter. Two of Henkie’s younger siblings died during the famine. Somehow, he managed to survive.

hunger winter henkie holvast martinus meijboom
Source: National Institute for War Documentation, Amsterdam

To make matter worse, winter had come early that year. Canals and waterways had frozen, further restricting food transport. Gas and electricity were either unavailable or inoperable because of the war. The Holvast family, like many others throughout the Netherlands, had begun burning their furniture to stay warm. By April 1945, the situation was desperate. Approximately 20,000 Dutch had died from malnutrition.

In April 1945, the Royal Air Force flew from Great Britain and coordinated a series of air drops known as Operation Manna. In total, they dropped more than 6,600 tons of food in German-occupied territory. The Dutch responded with a simple message of “MANY THANKS” written in tulips on the countryside. [2]

hunger winter operation manna many thanks

The famine mercifully ended the next month, May of 1945, when Allied forces regained control of the Netherlands.

The most surprising part of the famine, however, was just beginning.
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Never Check Email Before Noon (And Other Thoughts on Doing Your Best Work)

Dana Vollmer did not have an easy road to the Olympics.

Vollmer is an olympic swimmer, but it wasn’t just the grueling practice schedule that made her journey to the top difficult. At the age of 15, Vollmer discovered that she had a heart disorder known as long QT syndrome. She had heart surgery later that year, but the operation didn’t eliminate the risk of heart failure. (Even today, her mother watches swim meets from the stands with a defibrillator between her feet.)

When Vollmer finally qualified for the Women’s 100m butterfly at the 2012 Olympics in London, it was her heart that got all of the attention. Little did she know that her head was about to be the problem.
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5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Habits to Fail (and What to Do About Them)

Welcome to 2015. It’s New Year’s Resolution time.

Depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Years Resolutions fail. [1]

Translation: At least 8 times out of 10, you are more likely to fall back into your old habits and patterns than you are to stick with a new behavior.

Behavior change is hard. No doubt about it.

Why is that? What are the biggest reasons new habits fail to stick? And what can we do to make positive changes easier?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but after two years of researching and writing about the science of behavior change, let me share the most practical insights I’ve learned so far.
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2014 Annual Review

Each year, I take some time in December to write my Annual Review. The purpose of this yearly report is to reflect on the previous twelve months and write an honest review of what went well, what could have gone better, and what I’m working toward.

My Annual Review is a time when I get to celebrate the hard work and important decisions I have made over the past year, while also taking stock of where I failed and how I can improve. Although you should highlight your victories, it’s not about comparing yourself to others or picking a winner. The Annual Review is about seeing yourself for who you really are and thinking about the type of person you want to become. As I said earlier this year, keep your eyes on your own paper.

I will answer 3 questions in my 2014 Annual Review. (This is a format you are welcome to copy or modify if you feel like conducting your own annual review.)

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working toward?

Let’s get after it…
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Best of 2014: The 10 Most Popular Articles of the Year

Well friends, we have reached the final month of another great year. After publishing a new article every Monday and Thursday during 2014, I’d like to share the 10 most popular articles of the year.

I started this tradition last year when I published my list of the Best of 2013. For me, it is always interesting to review my work and see which articles exploded out of the gate and which ones limped across the finish line. For you, I think it’s nice to have a summary of the articles that are worth your time and attention.

Let’s get into it…
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