It’s kind of mind-boggling to think that here we are wrapping up 2023. It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off the year, and now here we are in December! It’s gone pretty quickly, and I hope that you’ve had a great year.
In this post I’ll be writing about my favourite things that I’ve found, apps, gizmos, books I’ve read and a lot more. Some of the things I’ll share are 100% free, some are not, and there’s a broad spectrum of different things as well. Hopefully you find something of use that you can consider trying out for yourself, and if nothing else then hopefully it’ll give you a bit of an insight into what I’ve been up to.
Books Of 2023
So, let’s start off with books. I’ve “read” about 40 or 50 this year, but the way that I’ve been consuming most of them has actually been through the Audible audio app. Mainly I buy them on Amazon and then listen to them when I’m running errands, driving in the car, going to the supermarket and so on and so forth. It’s a great way to consume content and I really enjoy it.
I also buy physical books as well, and that’s usually after I listen to it. If I really like it, I’ll buy a physical copy or a Kindle copy. Here’s a list of my favourites, in no particular order:
Elon Musk – Walter Isaacson
This comprehensive biography delves into the life of Elon Musk, exploring his extraordinary contributions to modern technology, space exploration, and sustainable energy. Isaacson presents a detailed study of Musk’s innovative vision and relentless drive.
I zeroed in on Walter Isaacson because in the past he’s written fantastic biographies on some of the greatest minds to exist, such as Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and other people as well.
This biography is actually the second one that I’ve read. Elon Musk had a biography come out about six or seven years ago, which was very interersting as well. But a huge amount has happened with him since then, so this is a massive update that’s been needed.
Elon Musk’s different projects have all charged forward. SpaceX obviously has gone on to become the forefront of space travel and technology. Tesla has become the most powerful auto brand in the world. He’s also dealing with sustainable energy and AI.
Speaking of AI, the book discusses how he sees Tesla more as an AI company in the long term than a car company, because of all the data that they are able to capture and collect through the vehicles.
Of course, this year Elon Musk also purchased Twitter, and the jury’s out on how that’ll go. If his history is anything to go by, then he’s probably going to end up turning Twitter (now X) into something amazing. It’s obviously not quite there yet, and as I write this X is definitely going through a few challenges.
Anyway, this is an amazing book, and Walter Isaacson shadowed Elon Musk around for over a year, and he had a lot of one-on-one conversations with Elon Musk which are built into the book. If you’re intrigued by Elon Musk’s story then this is definitely a good one to get.
Outlive – Dr Peter Attia & Bill Gifford
Your lifespan is how many years you’re alive.
Your health span (which I think is more important) is how many of those years you’re able to have a life where you’re fully functioning, able to do all the things that you want to do.
Dr. Attia talks about the science behind how you can prolong the good years of your life, and he is an enthusiast about personal health and fitness. He really dives into the science behind aging, wellness and what you can do to live a healthier life.
The cover says “Rethinking medicine to live better longer“, and I think that’s a really good summation of what the book is about. It’s definifely a chunky book, there’s a lot to it. But it’s broken down into digestible chapters where he’ll talk about one specific area, and then move on to another, so you don’t have to read the entire thing at once.
The Storyteller – Dave Grohl
This is Dave Grohl, a member of Nirvana and founder of the Foo Fighters. Nirvana was an industry-changing band in the early 1990s with Kurt Cobain, and they really changed the face of punk rock. When that all unraveled with Kurt Cobain’s death, Dave Grohl reinvented himself through the Foo Fighters, which has become one of the biggest bands on the planet today.
In this memoir he shares lots of tales from his youth, from the times with Nirvana, other bands he’s been a part of, and of course the Foo Fighters. You also discover his journey navigating the treacherous waters of the music industry.
Something that’s really cool about this book is that the audiobook is narrated by Dave Grohl himself! So you can hear his voice while listening to his story as well. I have huge respect for what he’s done and how he’s done it.
The Algebra of Happiness – Scott Galloway
Next up is an interesting little book from a guy called Scott Galloway. I first stumbled upon this author through another book called The Four. The Four was about the four massive titans that are competing for world domination, which are of course Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.
Scott’s someone who has become incredibly successful in his own life. What he’s tried to do in The Algebra of Happiness is come up with different equations, almost like mathematical equations if you like, for happiness in life and business.
The reason this book jumped out to me is because I’m always trying to find that equilibrium and balance in my life. I think it’s eye opening when you read about someone who is one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet, and that he is also trying to balance out happiness with work.
Zero to One – Peter Thiel
This is a really thought-provoking book. It’s about innovation and it’s about rethinking a way to found new companies, to start up new businesses and build towards a tech driven future.
It’s a really easy read that you can get through very quickly, and for me each time I read it (and I’ve probably read it three or four times now), I pick up something new.
Surrender – Bono
Bono is the iconic lead singer of U2, and the book shares his life journey. I found it very introspective. He delves into his rise to fame, personal struggles along the way, and then he talks about global activism, which he’s involved in a lot now.
U2 was one of the biggest bands in the 1980’s and 90’s, and they are clearly legends in the music industry. This book has quite an insight into what they’ve done, what they’ve achieved and the life of Bono in particular.
Gadgets and Gizmos
Moving on now to gadgets and gizmos. We’ve done a lot of traveling this year, and one of the places we went to was Disney World. One of the things that we didn’t want to do is to be the parents who lost their kids!
So to combat this, before going to Disney World, we purchased a couple of Apple AirTags. Now if you’re unfamiliar what AirTags are, they’re little round devices about the size of a quarter, and they allow you to track an item that they are attached to. In the news they’ve been used to track lost luggage, so affected passengers can track where they actually went.
So, we attached these items to our kids. There’s little wristbands that you can buy as well, so it’s about the size of a small watch, and we put these on our kids and made sure that we didn’t lose them at Disney World.
Our kids, to give you some more perspective, are seven years old and five years old, respectively. And when they see something interesting, they have a tendency to run off and explore it. We certainly didn’t want that happening at Disney World with the thousands of people that are roaming the parks! So these are really cool. I can imagine how they would also be good for people who have a tendency of misplacing their car keys or their wallet or some other item.
Zizzo Foldable Bike
This is something that’s pretty cool that I got this year. It’s a foldable bike. In about 20 seconds you can fold it in half, you can put the seat down, turn it around, bend a bunch of things over, and it makes the bike fold down from being a full-sized bike to something which is essentially a small box.
The reason I got it is because I wanted to have something that I could quickly and easily throw into my car so I can ride my bike with my son and my daughter. I wanted something that would be lightweight but still robust. And the one that I ended up deciding on is one of these Zizzo bikes.
I bought it for under $300. Now these foldable bikes can go up to multiple thousands of dollars but I think this one has got incredible bang for buck. It’s well made, and so far since I’ve been using it, it seems really reliable and durable.
For under $300 bucks I think it’s something that I’m going to be able to get a lot of value out of. It’s small, compact and does the job.
Meta Quest 3
The Meta Quest 3 VR goggles are a vast improvement over the last generation. I happen to have the Oculus Quest 1 (as they used to be called), which I must have gotten about four or five years ago.
The Quest 3, compared to its predecessors, offers much more enhanced processing power and a much improved display. It’s lighter, more ergonomic, and it’s just overall a big step forward in the world of virtual reality experience.
Now, I think the Quest 3 is great, but the one that I’m waiting for, and which I think is going to dramatically change everything (such as how we work) will be the Apple VR goggles. They are supposed to be coming out in 2024, so no doubt you’ll be hearing a lot about those.
The next thing I’ve got for you today are something completely irrelevant, I think, to most of you. They are swim paddles! They are just little paddles on your hands, and you can use them to generate more force when you’re swimming.
Now, typically, swimming paddles will have some straps that goes around your hand to stop them from falling off when you’re swimming. But these ones don’t have any of that. They rely on you having the correct technique when you’re swimming so they do not fall off. I found these to be fantastic because they help you keep your form and correct your stoke technique while swimming (or else they will fall off.)
They’re really cheap, but for me who does a lot of swimming, they definitely made my shortlist.
Apple HomePod (and Bang & Olufsen)
On the smart speaker front, Apple has their HomePods, which come in a range of sizes. You have a very small one about the size of a fist, and you’ve got a much bigger one about the size of a child’s head.
They provide incredible bang for the buck. The larger one costs around about $299 and the mini HomePod speaker is $99. These are not really portable speakers, but house speakers you plug in and leave plugged in. They aren’t designed for you to take down to the park.
Music is beamed in from your device like your phone through wi-fi instead of the bluetooth speakers I’ve had in the past, which is exactly what i need.
In the past when I just relied on bluetooth speakers, if I go to one end of the house, the Bluetooth signal is often not strong enough to reach to the speakers. Since the HomePods go through the wi-fi network, you can have multiple speakers running at the same time with no connection loss. You can set them all up on your network.
I actually do still use a little Bluetooth speaker from Bang & Olufsen. This one I use in my office when I want to listen to music. It provides some seriously good sound as well.
Inflatable Floor Pillows
The final item I’ve got on the list here is something related to travel. They are inflatable floor pillows for flights. I have a recent post where I wrote about my best travel hacks, where I mention these. They are simple inflatable pillows that go on the ground when you are traveling in a plane.
They are made for kids, and when you inflate them, they wedge in your economy seat and the seat in front of you. Ultimately, they create a platform for your kids to sleep on. They can stretch out without their legs falling down. You can put multiple of these next to one another and create this larger bed-type platform.
It makes it a lot easier for kids to be able to sleep through the night in economy class. So these have been a big one this year as well.
Our Travel Adventures
2023 has definitely been a year of travelling, not just for business but also with my family. The year started out in New Zealand and I just recently returned from Dubai and Abu Dhabi… and we’ll be going back to New Zealand before the year is out.
In the middle of the year in my winter, we went up to the Italian Alps and spent some time there. Then into Switzerland, Lugano and Lake Como. That was amazing. We then went to Majorca, an island in the Mediterranean just off of Spain. I had visited there a long time ago, but never with the kids. So as a family we got some beach time!
I also went to Orlando to speak at an event, and saw the Formula One in Miami while catching up with Steve and some other business partners. Another business trip to Chicago, and back to Orlando, this time as a family to Disney World.
I also went with my wife on a trip, just the two of us, to Paris.
While living in Argentina, we’ve done a bit of travel as well, down to Patagonia and another city and region called Córdoba.
If I had to think about all of that now, I would say that we did a bit too much travel. It’s important to find balance in everything that you’re doing, work and lifestyle. In retrospect, all the travelling this year become almost disruptive. These are all things that can throw you off your routine. However, I am so grateful to be able to have done all this travel this year!
Travel has definitely opened my eyes to new places. The most surprising place that I went to was Dubai. I hadn’t been to that region before, and it’s incredible seeing how advanced that city is. I’ve never seen anything like it. It has the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. You see that skyscraper next to other skyscrapers around it, it dwarfs them all!
If I had to choose the place I would go back to in a heartbeat tomorrow, either on a family trip or on my own, would be the Italian Alps and Lake Como. It’s just incredible there. I would add Paris to that list as well. I’m a huge fan of Italy and France, and we always have an amazing time there.
My kids are getting pretty good at travelling as well, and of course their favourite would be Disney World, which is obviously designed for them.
So those are some of the adventures that I had, and I wanted to mention them because they were a big part of my 2023, and I am so thankful to have the business lifestyle to be able to do these things.
My Favorite Apps and Web Tools
I use a bunch of apps and web tools, and there are quite a few new ones that I’ve been trying and using. These are again in no particular order, but I’ll start with one related to travel…
Flighty is an app definitely worth downloading if you are travelling. It tells you what gate to go to, if there are delays, and you can find out this information before it’s publicly announced over the speakers at the airport. I’m not sure exactly how they do it, but it allows you to get insights into the situation or updates around any flight you’re catching or asking about.
It’s really easy to set up as well. You just download it and add in your flight number and your travel date. There is a free and a paid version. The pro version does push notificaions, calendar syncing, and more features. I just use the free.
Another app that I’ve recently used is called Night Sky, and it has a free and a paid version. You simply point your phone up at the sky and it tells you what all the lights up above are. It’s great if you want to figure out which one is Mars? Which of those is Jupiter? Which of those is the Southern Cross, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere? And so on and so forth.
It’s a really, really cool app, and definitely something that kids and people of any age can really enjoy.
A.I. Art Generation Tools
AI advancements this year have been incredible, and I love all the art generation tools that have popped up. I’ve tried all these, and all are amazing and have their own neat features:
Go to any of these tools, such as Bing image creator, and ask it to create an image of anything. Create a watercolor of such and such. Or give me a photo-like quality image of a man working on his laptop in a busy airport… or the Pope in a white puffer jacket…
It’s absolutely amazing to the point where you wouldn’t know if it’s an AI image or a photo (if you remember the buzz around the image of the Pope that people thought was real… that was 100% generated in Midjourney). That’s how good these tools have become.
You can use these tools for all kinds of projects such as logos, birthday invitations, cartoon figures, etc. I’ve used them a lot in a couple previous posts, such as The 7 Deadly Sins. They are just incredible.
A service that I often use is IM Global. I use this for travel insurance, and it’s saved us a couple of times this year.
For instance, my daughter got sick when we were in Lugano, Switzerland. We were able to go down to the local children’s hospital there and got her attended to. It would have cost us about $700 if we hadn’t had the insurance, but the insurance reimbursed us 100% for that cost. It’s just really good peace of mind.
I think the amazing thing for me about IM Global is that the plans for us are something like $3 or $4 per day, per person. So I think it really is a good bang for your buck.
Recently, when I was in Dubai I got a bacterial infection and I was able to go to a clinic there. Again, I got 100% reimbursed for medications that cost about $300-$400.
(By the way, talk about being at the forefront of technology! The medical clinic that I went to in Dubai is incomparable to anything that I’ve been to before. It was incredibly efficient, no waiting, and the facilities were amazing. I was in and out in 10 seconds with a prescription to get the different antibiotics that I needed!)
The next app I’ve got is Duolingo. Now, if you’ve ever tried learning a language or want to learn a language, Duolingo is a cool little tool that you can have in your pocket to help you. For me, it’s mainly about keeping fresh with vocabulary, learning new vocabulary, and it can guide you through as a supplementary tool to some other kind of learning.
I used it this year to help myself in learning Italian (I actually did pretty good in eight weeks!) I continue to study Italian, and Duolingo is something that I use from time to time. I don’t use it every day anymore but at one point for eight weeks straight I was using it every day and found it fantastic for really building up vocabulary.
When I was in Dubai, I didn’t know much about the Sheikh and the rulers of that area, so I asked ChatGPT. I’ve used it for copywriting, marketing. product design and so much more. I just can’t get enough of it!
Watch this space, because (in my opinion) Chat GPT is going to continue to change the way that we live our lives.
That’s my list of favourite things for this year. So what are your favorites of 2023? I would love to hear from you, please comment below!