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The antilibrary

Posted by Mark Harrison on January 4, 2011

In my Top Gadgets 2010 post, I made reference to my antilibrary.

The anti-library is another concept invented by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (who also came up with the concept of the Black Swan).

It was, according to Taleb, influenced by the personal library of Umberto Eco. Professor Eco has, it would appear, about 30,000 books. (I am inspired – I only have about 5,000 – but must admit that my admiration is mixed with a twist of envy.)

The antilibrary is, in some ways, poorly named. It is not the opposite of the library, but a portion thereof.

  • My Antilibrary (to which I’ll give a capital A) is the set of books that I haven’t read.
  • My antilibrary (with a small a) is the set of books that sit on my shelves, but which I haven’t read.

Of my 5000ish books, there are a good few hundred that sit on a shelf for books that I have not yet read, but mean to this year.

To “get” the concept, ask yourself the following question:

Which are more useful; a random selection of 100 books that I have read, or the 100 that I’ve bought and have not yet read?

Statistically, a few of the 100 I have read will turn out to be the “useful references” I need to turn to regularly. However, statistically, I am hopeful that 100% of the 100 that I’ve not yet read will contain some useful insight or distinction that will help me, and my business, over the coming decade.

What is it that you don’t yet know that will end up transforming your life and business over the coming decade? I’m sure it’s in the Antilibrary somewhere, and hope that you will add it to your antilibrary soon, and then move it out of there into your mind. It’s normally the things you don’t know that bite you.


Posted in Investor Psychology, Personal Development | Leave a Comment »

New Years Resolution 2011.1 – watch no broadcast TV

Posted by Mark Harrison on January 3, 2011

Yes, I know it’s the third of January, but various things have come together recently to make me resolve to watch no further “direct to air” TV in 2011.

Do I want to watch a show like this?

Over Christmas, we caught up with some old friends who we see once or twice a year. One of them told us about a friend of his, who has now added a second world record.

He was (and I hope I’ve got these the right way round) previously the holder of the “deepest dive by a blind SCUBA-diver” record. He is now, additionally the “fastest blind waterskier towed by a blind speedboat driver.”

He applied to a TV show in a which a “Celebrity Survival Expert” was to take people with disabilities on a trek somewhere remote. He was turned down because he was deemed too able, and apparently disabled people FAILING TO COPE would make better TV.

Do I want to watch the X-Factor?

Chris Dillow makes the case that I should care about the X-Factor, albeit because it exemplifies so many things that are sadly true.

So, am I no longer watching anything?

Video (by which I mean TV, film, DVD, downloads, irrespective of channel) is a classic example of how specialisation in the West Economy over the last few hundred years gives some stunning results. Take any recent blockbuster film – hundreds of people spending tens of thousands of man-years and tens-hundreds of millions of VC money…

… to give me something that I can have for a fiver.

There is truly great stuff out there. Personally, as someone who hid behind the sofa in the 1970s, I think that the re-birth of the Dr. Who Franchise is great, (and my children love the Sarah Jane Adventures spinoff, to the extent that the Season 3 DVD was the only thing my 6 year old actually asked for as a Christmas Present). Watching the “Christmas Carol 2011 special” was a great use of an hour!

But, it was the iPlayer version I watched, last night, rather than whenever the channel actually decided to broadcast it.

This is the point – I was able to choose to watch that programme AFTER it had been broadcast, and, more importantly, after I’d had enough feedback about it to decide it would be worth watching.

I have a complex mesh of getting recommendations about things – Amazon’s customer reviews are mixed enough to make me believe that they are authentic, not puffed up pieces by PR companies… and of course, the blogs to which I subscribe, and the people I know and meet in “real life” (That phrase needs quoting – it’s as if, somehow, only fake people talk on the Internet?)

But, the resolution – no broadcast TV in 2011 – is the first I’m publishing this year. Feel free to track my progress.

Posted in Investor Psychology, Personal Development, Productivity | Leave a Comment »

Property Negotiation – Slides now available on-line

Posted by Mark Harrison on November 21, 2007

Following the feedback about putting my Negotiation for small businesses slides online, I’ve updated my “Property Negotiation” slides.

These are from the 45 minute version of the talk I’ve given for organisations like the National Federation of Residential Landlords, and others.

If you run a networking event, and would like me to come and give this presentation (or any of my other presentations, please get in touch.)

You should be able to read the slides online here, or download them to your own PC.

And finally, thanks to Chris Brogan for his brilliant idea of using Flickr to find photos licenced under Creative Commons for use in this slideshow. Thanks also to the photographers (credited in the slides) for sharing their photos in this way.

Posted in Investor Psychology, Negotiation, Negotiation Presentation, Property Negotiation, Training course | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Government WILL take back control of Interest Rates, rather than leaving them with the BoE

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 8, 2007

After my article about Market Crashes at the weekend, I’ve had some questions about my comments about Government.

My view remains that interest rates will (again) be set by politicians at some point in the future, but my reasoning is slightly non-trivial.

  • When he was Chancellor, Gordon Brown oversaw the transfer of base rate control away from the Treasury, to the Bank of England.
  • The purpose of doing this was to demonstrate that he was putting long-term inflation control ahead of short-term political tinkering. (Something that both parties have been guilty of.)
  • The BoE is mandated to keep inflation low.
  • The BoE will (almost certainly) do a great job of managing this.

The problem will comes later in the market cycle. At the moment, high inflation is seen as a terrible spectre. However, there will come a point (because there always does) when unemployment rises, and mass unemployment is suddenly seen as the bogeyman. After this has gone on for a while, people (newspapers first, then blokes down the pub) will start talking about how “it’s this low-inflation policy that’s costing jobs.”

Once this cry reaches fever pitch, the Government will have one of two choices:

  • Take back control over base rates
  • Give the BoE a new mandate

This will, of course, be done in the name of democracy, and spun as “good politicians listening to the people, and giving elected officials, the peoples’ representatives better power than faceless bankers.”

Now, what bit of that doesn’t sound like interest rates being used for political purposes, rather than fiscal ones ?

Posted in Economics, Investor Psychology, Property Investment | 2 Comments »

Yes, I read a lot…

Posted by Mark Harrison on August 6, 2007

A couple of years ago, Daniel Wagner interviewed me for “Property Habits”, and one of the questions he asked was how many books on “business and investment” I had.

At the time, I counted, and the answer was a bit over 100.

It turns out I missed a bookcase –  sorry about that, Daniel.

Anyway, as the number of books I own increased, I was running into the problem where I’d buy something that looked interesting, only to find that I’d already got a copy – so I had to start cataloguing.

My fiction, I just catalogued in a spreadsheet, but for the non-fiction, I was recommended an Internet-based tool called Gurulib.

The big advantage of Gurulib is that I can just type in the ISBN number, and it will look up the title, author and publisher for me – in many cases, even providing the cover art.

So, I can safely report that I now have (at least) 409 books in the “Business and Investment” section of my library…

… and you can see them here at gurulib 

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Investment, Investor Psychology | Leave a Comment »

“The Secret” – on DVD

Posted by Mark Harrison on June 14, 2007

I don’t think that I’ve ever blogged about an advert before, but the trailer for “The Secret” is amazing.

I was emailed by my friends at Nightingale Conant (who also publish my CD set – the UK property millionaire) with the news that they’ve just been appointed European Master Distributor for “The Secret”, the wealth-building DVD sensation that has swept the States over the last couple of weeks.

I’m used to reading adverts for this kind of thing, and I’ve seen promotional videos before (like this one we did with Entrepreneur TV for my programme), but “The Secret” is in an entirely different league when it comes to production quality.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Posted in Building Businesses, Investor Psychology | 2 Comments »

Why are you investing in property?

Posted by Mark Harrison on January 9, 2007

Last week, I got an email out of the blue from an old friend with whom I’d lost touch.

The guy in question is actually a bit of a hero to me, having  made money in property, and retired in his early 30s to spend his life skiing. The last time I saw him face to face was in 2005, and he’d just flown back from Canada into Manchester for a few days.

I asked him “How many days did you spend skiing last year”, and he laughed.

“I worked it out recently”, he told me “it was 247.”

That’s right – of the three hundred and sixty-five days available in the year, he had spent pretty much spot on two thirds of them hurtling down a mountain, with two bits of wood strapped to his feet.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy skiing, but not enough to want to spend two days out of three doing it.

My motivation was somewhat different – I wanted to see my children grow up, rather than hear about it in the evenings when they were sleeping.

Now, if you don’t have children (or perhaps if you do), you may be able to think of no horror more vile than being stuck in a house with them seven days a week, but it’s not about what motivates my friend, or what motivates me. It’s about what motivates YOU.

Make no mistake, investing succesfully in property is like building any other sort of business – it is hard, sustained effort. The end-game is that by putting in that effort NOW, you can spend a lot more time doing other things in a few years time, once that business has grown into an ongoing, cash-producing asset.

The downside is that you need to spend the time now, to build that future asset, which is why motivation is so mind-bogglingly important.

If you are (as I and my friend are) motivated by the things that owning a property business will bring,  and are willing to put in the effort early, then the chances are that you too will retire young, and do those things.

However, the people who make phenomenal  amounts of money in property (think Trump, the Reichmanns) are like those who make phenomenal amounts of money in any business (Gates, Buffet, or closer to home Sir. Philip Green) – they build the business because what they actually love to do is… build the business. Any of those three, and for that matter many others, could have retired years ago, bought a boat, bought an island to moor the boat on, and lived out their lives in Champagne and sports cars.  They choose not to.

I chose differently.  This is why they are billionaires and I’m not 🙂

However, when the quiz question comes up “whose life would you like to lead”, I always answer straight up “mine!”

Posted in Investor Psychology, Property Investment | Leave a Comment »

What Einstein DIDN’T say about compound interest, why we DO use more than 10% of our brains, (and a confession on my part about Goal-setting)

Posted by Mark Harrison on December 30, 2006

One of the things that’s long annoyed me about “motivational speakers” is that many of us don’t seem able to do basic research.

Today, I heard a speech in which the speaker said “Einstein said that the greatest invention of all time was compound interest.”

A quick search of the term “Einstein compounding” on Google turned up almost 100,000 pages that reference this quote.

The earliest mention of this quote that anyone seems to have been able to find was a 1983 article in the New York Times. The only problem was that Einstein had died in 1955 – some 28 years earlier. So it seems most unlikely that the physicist ever uttered those words.

Likewise, something I heard on another course earlier in the year was the claim that “we only use 10% of our brains”. For various reasons, I’ve been reading up on Neuroscience recently, and apparantly this claim is one of the hot buttons that really gets them wound up 🙂 It’s been repeated in adverts since the 1950s, and apparantly all stems from some work done by Dr. Karl Lashley in 1939 that showed that rats could carry out visual discrimination even if over 90% of their thalamocortical pathway was removed. In fact, removing as much as 1% of a brain can lead to significant problems.

And this is where I have to make a confession – I’ve made a similar error – and even worse, I made it on a recording. In the 2004 version of “The UK Property Millionaire”, I said that research done at Havard in the 1970s had shown that students with written goals ended up accomplishing far more. In fact, the study was (supposedly) at Yale, not Havard, and ran from 1953-1973.

However, this is where things get more interesting!

Fast Company (US magazine) approached Robbins Resarch International to ask for documentation on this study… RRI suggested that Tony had got it from Brian Tracey, who referred them to Zig Ziglar. And Zig Ziglar’s office said that the source was probably… Tony Robbins!

So they approached Yale directly: “We are quite confident that the ‘study’ did not take place. We suspect it is a myth” said Beverly Water of Yale, who carried out extensive research into whether this study ever happened, after it was reported all over the place.

Brian Tracy, in response to this research piece, apparantly said “Heard this story originally from Zig Ziglar. If it’s not true it should be.”

You can read the full article here.

I have to admit, that while I’m kicking myself for having included this in my CD set, I’m pretty much with Brian Tracy on this one. Goal-setting has proven incredibly valuable to me, and I attribute the fact that I was able to retire at 32 to the fact I’d started setting goals at age 17.

Posted in Investor Psychology | 33 Comments »

At last, the ebook is available

Posted by Mark Harrison on September 27, 2006

Thanks to all of those who have been encouraging me to finish this for the last year… But the good news is that, pretty much on the anniversary of the first mini-course, the ebook is now available.
Priced at $47 (approximately £25), you can see more, and buy at

In the book, you will learn…

Negotiation Principles:

-Why some things work in a negotiation and why others do not

-What you need to have worked out before you start negotiating

Negotiation Psychology:

-Personality types (including a psychometric test) and what this says about your negotiation tendancies

-Understanding the differences in negotiation style and why your opponent may value different things to you

Negotiation Power:

– Where the power in a negotiation comes from, and how you can increase yours

Negotation Ploys:

-The tactics you can use to get your vendor to drop their price (or your buyer to raise their offer)

-How to respond to these tactics

-Dirty tricks you should watch out for

Negotiation Particulars:

-How to deal with estate agents

-Dealing with builders

Posted in Investor Psychology, Negotiation Book, Property Investment, Property Negotiation, Property Negotiation Book | 2 Comments »