Heyo and welcome back!
While I’m catching up on your answers to the important questions you asked yesterday, you’re in for some dynamite today – quite literally.
Not only that, but also will you prove to yourself that you do have time to read. Let’s go!
The Black Hand
Joe Petrosino takes the stairs two steps at a time. He’s not walking at this point. He’s running.
Third floor. Two flights left. Somewhere above him, a doorbell rings.
“Delivery for Mrs. Mancini. There you go madam. Have a nice day.”
Joe darts around the corner. Fifth floor. He peeks down the hallway. A befuddled postman glances back at Joe’s reddened face. His eyes are green, Joe notices. Before he can finish his thought the tall, dark-haired man turns and dashes towards the end of the corridor.
“Crap, he’s making for the fire escape!” But there’s no time for Joe to chase his target. Instead, he runs up to the visibly confused Mrs. Mancini, who is still standing in the door, holding the shoebox-sized, brown package.
“NYPD, this package is confiscated,” he blurts out before ripping the package out of her hands. Joe can hear the fake postman’s shoes click on the metal steps of the fire escape outside. He tears off the bland, brown paper and opens the wooden box. Mrs. Mancini gasps, her husband’s loud voice drowns out the TV noise in the background for a second: “What’s going on out there?”
From the center of the box, three sticks of dynamite stare back at Joe. Taped together, they sit next to a stopwatch, which seems to be attached to a tiny mechanism at the side of the box.
But this is no time for curiosity. The stopwatch has almost completed a 60-second cycle.
Joe tosses the entire package down the hallway, as far as he can. It barely lands next to the window the assassin used for his exit, before a click sets off the explosion.
The brick wall bursts, the entire building shakes. An ear-shattering bang roars through the air, then silence.
After what feels like an eternity, Joe blinks and slowly raises his head. The blast has hurled him back to the top of the stairs. He yells through the dust: “Mrs. Mancini, Mr. Mancini, are you okay?”
All he hears is a squeak. A few more seconds pass before Joe can make out a face in the dust. Mr. Mancini has made his way into the corridor. He’s squinting, but his thumb points upward.
“We…we’re…I think we’re okay.”
…and that’s how the Italian Squad saved the day. At least, that’s how I imagine it. The story I made up, but Joe Petrosino is real.
In 1902 Lt. Giuseppe Petrosino founded the New York Police Department’s bomb squad, to fight against the delivery of packages like the one above.
Italian mobsters would send extortion letters to Italian residents and merchants of New York, demanding they deposit a certain amount of money somewhere in the city – or else.
These letters were often illustrated with sketches of skulls, crossbones, weapons and hands raised in warning, all in black. Whoever read the telltale signature “Da Mano Nero” (which means “the black hand” in Italian), knew who they were up against.
(a minor’s impostor attempt at re-creating a black hand letter in Chicago, 1908)
Until his assassination in Sicily in 1909, Joe Petrosino and the Italian Squad prevented hundreds of dynamite sticks from ever exploding and arrested thousands of Italian mobsters, even deporting several hundred of them. This lead to an astonishing 50% drop in crime against Italian-Americans in subsequent years.
What lesson can you and I learn from this?
The Italian Squad Principle
Every time the Italian Squad went on a mission, they knew there was a very solid chance they might die. This is the early 1900’s we’re talking about. There weren’t any defusing robots, super protection suits or high-tech scanners around.
Joe Petrosino and his men went into each building well aware of the fact that whatever they find could blow up in their face – literally. What made them such a successful unit is that they went ahead anyway.
Sometimes you have to seek out the very thing that might destroy you, in order to succeed.
You and I are lucky. Today, we don’t have to go look for actual dynamite sticks. But we do have to look for dynamite sticks in our minds, otherwise called opposing evidence.
Opposing evidence is what gets you to call out the emperor on being naked, when everyone else just compliments him on his new clothes. It’s what makes you throw out your three-phase marketing plan and instead experiment with a strategy you came up with on your own. And it’s the little voice in your head that tells you: “Hey, I can DO this after all!” the first time you manage to ride a bike.
Our job is to seek out opposing evidence every day. The kind of evidence that might destroy what we know, think and believe and force us to learn something new – just like the Italian Squad did (minus the explosions).
Hence the name of today’s principle:
The Italian Squad Principle
Here’s what it says: Always seek out opposing evidence.
I’ll let Charlie Munger and Mark Twain elaborate in other, much wiser words than mine:
I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do. – Charlie Munger, billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain
Our natural tendency is to justify our thoughts and beliefs after establishing them. This is called confirmation bias and it massively hurts your ability to learn and grow.
If you always seek out opposing evidence, the stack of knowledge and beliefs you’re building will constantly be evolving, as you’re always debunking things and transforming old beliefs into better ones.
That said, let’s put The Italian Squad principle to use right away!
The reason you signed up for this course is that you don’t believe you have time to read.
This is a limiting belief, because it keeps you from growing and taking your reading habit to the next level.
And you’re not alone. 42% of all college students will never read another book after they graduate. 80% of US families don’t buy even just a single book in a year and more than half of all books that people start will never be completely read.
Contrast that with the number of words you would read annually if you just spent 15 minutes a day reading: 1,000,000. How’s that for a powerful reason to let go of this limiting belief?
In fact, any belief that makes you feel bad is likely a limiting belief, and you can use the same set of questions to find out.
Here they are:
Do you think it’s true that you don’t have time to read?
Is it true without the shadow of a doubt? Isn’t there even a 0.000000000001% chance that you’re wrong or that someone, somewhere on this planet could prove you wrong?
How do you feel when you believe that you don’t have time to read?
What would the opposite thought be?
How does that make you feel?
Remember yesterday’s lesson? Where you learned that questions are at the start of everything? Well, these are the kind of questions someone who seeks opposing evidence asks – all the time.
Exposing the limiting belief that you don’t have time to read is the right first step. I wonder though, what kind of experiment could back this up…
The Media Diet Experiment
If the established belief is that you don’t have time to read, then what would opposing evidence to that look like?
How about a day where you realize you have more time than you think (and could, in fact, use some of it for reading?)
Here’s how we’ll pull it off: Today, you and I will go on a media diet.
If you’re into self-improvement, you might have heard about this in a variety of forms. Popular proponents are James Altucher, who talks about a news diet, and Tim Ferriss, who refers to it as low information diet and cultivating selective ignorance.
But the media diet I’m talking about is on the next level. Speaking of which.
Level 1: No news. Don’t consume any kind of news today. No newspapers, no seven o’clock news on TV, no opening the CNN app, no staring at the stock market reporter while waiting at the DMV and definitely no flipping through tweets about politics.
Level 2: No news, no TV. This includes everything from level 1, but removes TV completely. No movies, whether on Netflix, cable, or DVD, no documentaries and no TV shows (yes, you can watch Game of Thrones tomorrow and the world will keep on turning).
Level 3: No news, no TV, no video in any form. Level 2, but now the entire medium of video is removed. If you now think “Where’s the difference?” that’s a good sign. Youtube junkies, you know what I’m talking about. No music clips, no funny cat videos, no dancing GIFs and no VLOGs.
Level 4: No news, no TV, no video, no audio. This is the ultimate media meltdown. Level 3 + eliminating all sources of audio other than mother nature. No radio, no listening to CDs, no audiobooks, no Spotify, no podcasts, and no calling in on a teleshopping show to listen to the jingle when placed on hold (bored minds get creative).
Before the slight jitters you’re currently feeling (“What? I can’t give up TV!”) turn into a full-blown panic attack, remember Joe Petrosino and his fearless Italian Squad.
You must seek out the very thing, which (you think) might destroy you, in order to succeed.
Pick one of the levels above and commit to this level of the media diet for the next 24 hours.
Bonus: For extra accountability, you can click on any of the respective images to share your commitment on Facebook.
We all live on different levels of the media diet at different times. I want to account for that.
Most of my time, for example, is spent on level 2. I don’t own a TV and I never watch or read the news. However, since I often use Youtube for research, I rarely have a level 3 day, and almost never a level 4 day, because I love listening to music.
Whatever level most reflects your daily life, pick the one above that.
The only way to show yourself there’s still time to read left in your day, and that going a day without something that’s usually part of your routine won’t kill you, is to make this a challenge.
Closing The Chapter
Sometimes you have to seek out the very thing that might destroy you, in order to be successful in your endeavor. The Italian Squad principle tells you to always question your thoughts and beliefs.
Whenever you find yourself believing something that limits your potential and gives you anxiety, try to fight your confirmation bias and find opposing evidence.
Go on a media diet for the next 24 hours, based on what your usual level of media consumption is.
Keep your book with you at all times. I’m sure you’ll need it today 🙂
Tomorrow, we’ll make your reading effortless and explore a technique the world’s best climbers and mountaineers have used for decades, so you can build your reading habit like a professional.
Rooting for your reading,
PS: As a bonus, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tools for blocking access to whatever you want to fast on + instructions on how to use them. Simply share this course and you’ll get the PDF.
PPS: Here is our table of contents with the previous lessons.