Since realizing what a small percentage of books I was reading were having significant impacts on my mindset, I’ve stopped focusing on mass consumption and instead am focusing on finding more pivotal books.
If you, too, are trying to find books that, when you put them down, have added a new color to the world, here’s my list.
“If true wealth consists in worriless sleeping, clear conscience, reciprocal gratitude, absence of envy, good appetite, muscle strength, physical energy, frequent laughs, no meals alone, no gym class, some physical labor (or hobby), good bowel movements, no meeting rooms, and periodic surprises, then it is largely subtractive (elimination of iatrogenics).”
Be the hydra: Develop systems where if one part of you is cut off, you grow back stronger. Entrepreneurship, creative works, freelance, supports this. White collar makes it hard.
Small damage benefits human systems: Lifting weights damages you briefly, then makes you stronger. Fasting is hard but makes you healthier.
Removal is better than addition: Cure illness by finding the cause, not by adding medication. Cure unhappiness by finding the source, not by adding indulgence.
“Being busy is a form of laziness— lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective— doing less— is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.”
Popular / common tactics are usually inefficient: Most systems have a shortcut, you just have to find it.
Money is not about salary: Money is about freedom, and how you leverage it to create the life you want.
“Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, Masters of the small reality we create. In doing this work, we are in fact creating ourselves.”
Mastery comes from mentorship, not study: If you want to truly excel, then you need someone who will take you under your wing (and who you can benefit) to rapidly accelerate your education.
You and your mentors will break up: At a certain point, you must break up with your mentor and move to the next one before they start holding you back.
Social norms around work breed mediocrity: Most people never become masters of their craft. To become one, you must not be like most people.
“All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.”
Resistance is pervasive, and must be fought: The hard part of writing isn’t writing, it’s fighting the desire not to write.
Fear must drive action: The most afraid you are of a work or calling, the more you must do it.
Friends and family will (likely) hold you back (unintentionally):Others will subconsciously attack your success to make themselves feel better about their mediocrity. Don’t eat with fat people, don’t work with/near losers, don’t drink with alcoholics.
“People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it.”
Productivity mostly boils down to Willpower: All “productivity hacks” are related to willpower or habits. Understand how those two work, and you don’t need productivity resources.
Willpower is a resource: Using willpower on one thing drains it for another, e.g. dieting makes you more likely to cheat on your spouse. Use your willpower deliberately, or hack your environment not to need it.
Willpower is a muscle: You can train your willpower and increase your reserves of it through using it, healthy habits, and meditation.
“The increased awareness offered by psychedelics comes in different forms. In higher doses taken in safe and sacred settings, they facilitate recognition of one’s intimate relationship with all living things. In moderate doses, they facilitate awareness of the intricate psychodynamic structures of one’s individual consciousness. In low doses, they facilitate awareness of solutions to technical and artistic problems.”
School / media lies, psychedelics aren’t particularly harmful: No one has died or suffered physical damage from LSD, mushrooms, DMT, etc.
Psychedelics can be a massive creative boon: Properly administered, they’ve helped creatives work through complex problems in ways their sober minds couldn’t.
Micro-doses of psychedelics could outperform caffeine as a “productivity enhancer”: Maybe one day we’ll have our morning tab instead of coffee.
“You can’t just focus on the Mediterranean diet or any other diet. If you live by yourself on the ninth floor of an apartment building and you don’t know your neighbors and you have no friends, you can eat the perfect Mediterranean diet and it may not do you as much good.”
Longevity is a matter of habit, not genetics: You can create a long life for yourself by emulating the right practices.
Modern society is killing us: Most of “modern life” is against those things that create longevity. And life expectancy is decreasing at the upper ends.
To live forever: Healthy diet, strong social connections, plenty of rest, herbal tea, red wine, religion/spirituality, and low stress.
“…experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them— as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go— end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.”
Talent is a myth: No study has shown that humans have certain “talents,” rather, they show the opposite, that skill is entirely a result of effective practice.
Talent is an excuse: People will explain away others’ successes as “talent,” but it’s an excuse for their failure to excel. Don’t be one of those people. Assume you can become equally good at anything with the right kind of practice.
Struggle is where you learn: The key to deep practice and rapid skill acquisition is the right amount of struggle. Enough to be challenged and in flow, not too much to be disparaged and overwhelmed.
Then consider joining the 25,000 other people getting the Monday Medley newsletter. It's a collection of fascinating finds from my week, usually about psychology, technology, health, philosophy, and whatever else catches my interest. I also include new articles and book notes.
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