reading

Should I read?

You know the answer.

But here are some quotes to consider: 

Reading is the primary way that wisdom is acquired.
From: Grant Huhn

There is just no other way to acquire wisdom than by reading. Experience produces little wisdom because no one lives long enough to have all the experiences necessary to understand all that is necessary. Furthermore, humans don’t learn much from experience. You know many people who make the same mistake over and over and suffer for it again and again.

But when you read, you get the best version of the best thoughts of the best minds. All books that endure are the product of years, and likely decades, of agonizing labor. The author explored some aspect of the human experience, or wrestled some profound question or problem, to its end. Usually at great personal expense: of health, relationships, imprisonment, etc.

Few of us have the time, much less the knowledge or intellectual ability, to wrestle such questions.

There is simply no way around it: we must read.

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“The most superficial and bleak point of my existence.”
From: Quotes and Passages. (by Ryan Holiday)

“There was a time in my life where I didn’t read much, and now I look back on it as the most superficial and bleak point of my existence. Ever since I allowed myself to be pulled down the rabbit hole of books–the endless chain of citation, influence and recommendation–my life has improved exponentially.”

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Smart Girls Have More Fun
From: Alan Sorkin

“Honey, look around, smart girls have more fun, and you’re one of them. Doing well in school is the thing that is going to open all the doors to all the fun that you can have. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of incredibly smart, incredibly accomplished women, and they lead very enviable lives.” 

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“20 Things the Rich Do Everyday”

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.
6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.
10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.
11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.
13. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.
14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.
19. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.
20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

Source:
Corley, Tom. “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day.” Daveramsey.com. Dave Ramsey, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

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“Since 2005, I’ve continued to read 1-3 books per week on average, or 50-150+ books a year.”
From: Tim Ferriss

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I listened to audiobooks for hours every day
From: Seth Godin

When I was starting out on my own, success was not around the corner or even in sight. For years, I was flirting on the edge of failure. I was thrown out of salescalls, rejected by just about every organization I approached and was pretty stuck. More than once I considered giving up the entire entrepreneur thing.

One of the key factors in both surviving this time and figuring out how to shift gears was my exposure to (as we called them then) books on tape, particularly the work of Zig Ziglar. I listened for sometimes hours every day.

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Arrange a schedule for yourself… read nine hours a day.
From: Joseph Campbell 

So during the years of the Depression I had arranged a schedule for myself. When you don’t have a job or anyone to tell you what to do, you’ve got to fix one for yourself. I divided the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four-hour periods, and free one of them.

By getting up at eight o’clock in the morning, by nine I could sit down to read. That meant I used the first hour to prepare my own breakfast and take care of the house and put things together in whatever shack I happened to be living in at the time. Then three hours of that first four-hour period went to reading.

Then came an hour break for lunch and another three-hour unit. And then comes the optional next section. It should normally be three hours of reading and then an hour out for dinner and then three hours free and an hour getting to bed so I’m in bed by twelve. 
On the other hand, if I were invited out for cocktails or something like that, then I would put the work hour in the evening and the play hour in the afternoon.

It worked very well. I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight.

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Read the books that have endured

“Read only the best books first, lest there not be time enough to read them all.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There is a good saying to the effect that when a new book appears, one should read an old one.” – Winston Churchill

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My real education, … I got out of the public library.

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”
― Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir

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Mine the Supertexts for Gold
From: The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership (by Steven B. Sample) 

To a greater extent than we realize, and to a far greater extent than we would ever care to admit, we are what we read. (55)

Suppose a [person] were forced to choose between reading the New York Times on a particular day and reading Machiavelli’s masterwork The Prince. Conventional wisdom would favor the Times by a country mile. After all, today’s Time is fresh and new, while Machiavelli’s little handbook is stale and old. And besides, the [person] in question may have already read The Prince twenty years ago while he was in college.

But contrarian wisdom argues just the opposite. As we shall see, a [person] can miss a day or week or even several months of the daily newspapers and be none the worse for it, and in some cases even be the better for it. But missing an opportunity to read or reread Machiavelli (or any of the supertexts) could be a major loss for both the [person] and [everyone they have a relationship with].

[Some might] ask, “What in the world can an obscure Florentine bureaucrat who’s been dead for nearly five hundred years have to say that’s relevant to leadership in the twenty-first century?”

“OK, let’s make a list of all the texts in the whole world which are four hundred years old or more and are still widely read today.”

The point is not whether the list contains twelve or twenty-four or even fifty entries; rather, the point is that the list is extremely short. think of it: of all the hundreds of thousands of books, essays, poems, letters, plays and histories that were composed four hundred years ago or more, only a dozen or two are still widely read today.

“What influence do you think these one or two dozen supertexts have had on human history? How do you think they have shaped the way people have thought, written, spoke, and acted over the past several centuries, up to and including today?”

Of course the answer is obvious: theses supertexts have had, and continue to have, an enormous influence on every part of our culture. Anyone who in 2001 writes a book or an article or a poem or a play, or makes a movie, or gives a speech, is influenced far more than he knows by theses supertexts, even if he has never read them or even heard of them.

Why is that? What gives these supertexts such great power? Is it because they’re especially well written and insightful? Perhaps. But from the standpoint of their usefulness to [us], it doesn’t matter whether these supertexts are great literature of not. Rather, all that matters is the fact that each has been widely read for the last four hundred years or more and is therefore part of the very foundation of our culture.

Let’s put this special power in perspective. Almost everything that’s written in the world today (e.g., letters, memos, e-mails) is read by one or a few people and then discarded. Even a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times, which might be (or at least scanned) by as many as a million people, has essentially no readers twenty-four hours after it hits the streets. For a scientific or scholarly article to be read by as many as thirty people five years after it was published is extraordinary. And fewer than one in two hundred of all books published in the United States are still in print and being purchased ten years after they first appeared in the bookstores.

So to write something—anything at all—that is still read by even a small audience fifty years later is a major achievement. And to leave a written legacy that is still widely read after four or more centuries is almost inconceivably rare—and influential. (55-57)

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. I might expand that number to half a dozen, but no more. And all of these stories are eloquently told and retold in the supertexts. (58)

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HOW TO DIGEST BOOKS ABOVE YOUR “LEVEL”
From: Ryan Holiday

  • Focus on the message, not the details. The work is an expression of the message, not the message itself. So forget everything but that message and how to apply it to your life.
  • Focus on your two most important tasks: 1) What does it mean? 2) Do you agree with it?
  • Find out from the people who have already read it what they felt was important.
  • Read the Intro.
  • You’re going to come across concepts or words you’re not familiar with. Don’t pretend like you understand, look it up.
  • Post It Highlighters: These will change how you read.
  • Before you close the book, go back through and reread all the passages you’ve marked.
  • Type Out the Important Quotes and Passages
  • Read One Book from Every Bibliography
  • When you make connections you can see things for what they are. “We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application and learn them so well that words become works.” – Seneca
  • [Reading is] the only thing that separates me from ignorance. These are the techniques have allowed me to leap years ahead of my peers. It’s how you strike out on your own and build strength instead of letting some personal trainer dictate what you can and can’t be lifting.

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Got a compelling reason to read? Please share it.

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What To Do When You Are 20 Years Old

The Japanese have a saying: “Be youthful in youth.”

It applies if you are anywhere close to 20 and ambitious / adventurous / restless / mature / self-reliant / alive.

Here’s what it means:

  1. Enjoy life. Have fun. Laugh. Do the things that you enjoy. And do them a lot. “Follow your bliss.” (Joseph Campbell) remains the greatest advice ever given.
  2. Take risks. Following your bliss usually means not following the prescribed path. You will have to get off the typical path. That is scary. It means dropping out of things that almost everyone else is doing, to do things that almost no one is doing.
  3. Travel. Aside from the next item on this list, nothing feels more like living than traveling. Ask anyone who has travelled.
  4. Fall in love. If you find someone that you are in love with, and they are in love with you… congratulations! Lucky you. And, if you have found someone that you are deeply in love with, and they are deeply in love with you, marry them. Soon.

Here’s what the saying does NOT mean:

  1. Be stupid. Stupidity is stupid. (It’s right there in the word!)
  2. Waste money. Why are so many people so bad with money? I don’t get it. Work hard, hoard your money, then travel.
  3. Do drugs. Life is too short to do drugs. True story: If you think drugs are cool, it is because you have seen movies where drugs are portrayed positively—where they are associated with fun, romance, adventure, money. You have been told to believe drugs are cool, and you have swallowed the lie. This has been proven repeatedly for cigarettes and alcohol and fame. And it is true for drugs. Media is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, influences. “Men are infinitely malleable.” (George Orwell, 1984) At least question what media tells you to believe.
  4. Get drunk. I have a theory that there are only two reasons people drink: 1) They are an alcoholic. 2) To conform. Both are tragic.

Here are some common arguments for drinking… and why they are useless arguments:

I like the way it tastes.

No you don’t. No one likes the way beer or wine tastes the first time they drink it. (I, and others, claim that no one likes the taste of wine at any time. It is dry and bitter. Liking wine is a classic case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Did you know that for hundreds of years humans used “mumia”—powder made from human corpses—as medicine? Yeah. Not everything that we believe is good, is good.) And if it was hard to swallow at first, then the only way to like the taste is to “acquire a taste for it”. Well, in Cambodia they eat tarantulas. And enjoy them. Does that mean tarantula are tasty? No, it means that humans are infinitely malleable.

If you like the way dessert wines or sugared alcohol tastes, of course you do. You’re drinking sugar. Why drink “fortified” sugar at all… unless you’re either 1) an alcoholic, or 2) conforming?

I like the way it makes me feel.

Uh, isn’t that called being an alcoholic? If you can’t be yourself without drinking, who are you? If feeling good, or not feeling bad, is the goal… I hear cocaine or heroin or meth make you feel really good. There are other, more effective, more fulfilling ways to feel good than intoxication. The incomparable Joseph Campbell also said: “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

It helps me relax.

See the previous point. Alcohol is not the only way, or the best way, to relax. And, is getting buzzed or drunk the same as relaxing?

I like to party/have a good time.

Then go have a good time. Do something you will be proud of later. Drinking fluids is not an accomplishment. Newborn babies can drink fluids. Accepting “partying” as a synonym for “drinking” is accepting the two reasons people drink. Think about it.

It makes me more creative.

There are other ways to tap into your right brain than by killing it.

Although I have thoroughly countered any argument in favor of alcohol, I must end with three points:

  1. Many master thinkers and writers that I admire gave alcohol a lot of the credit for their work: Christopher Hitchens, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson.
  2. Life is painful. What else are you gonna do but drink sometimes? (Probably buy things you don’t need.) “Wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” (Benjamin Franklin)
  3. The pressure to drink is enormous. More powerful than most everyone I know. Including myself. When I hang with a group of guys, and every one of them is drinking beer, I keenly feel the unspoken, suffocating pressure to fit in.

But forget what the saying does not mean. Here is all you really want to do anyways:

  1. Enjoy life.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Travel.
  4. Fall in love.

I suppose those are great things to do at any age. But the Japanese have a saying:

“Be youthful in youth.”

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Further reading (in recommended order):

Must Reads for Nov 5

I have listed them here in order of “must”. Read them in order. You can read all of them in half an hour. (You don’t need to get past the first one.)

  1. Brain Pickings: 20-Year-Old Hunter S. Thompson’s Superb Advice on How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life
  2. Tim Ferris: “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)
  3. James Altucher: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself
  4. James Altucher: How to Screw Up Your Marriage On Purpose
  5. Seth Godin: On Owning It
  6. Seth Godin: Tenacity is not the same as persistence
  7. Seth Godin: Does anger follow the laws of thermodynamics?
  8. Seth Godin: Fear the fear, feel the fear
  9. Seth Godin: Our crystal palace
  10. Seth Godin: Post–
  11. Brain Pickings: Beyond Pretty Pictures: Marian Bantjes on Serendipity, Success, and the Whimsy of Design
  12. Tim Ferris: You Are What You Read: 14 Thought Leaders Share Their Bookshelves
  13. Tim Ferris: Marc Ecko’s 10 Rules for Getting “Influencer” Attention

Better yet: set up an RSS reader, like I did with Netvibes, and read those four websites everyday, on the same webpage.

The Greatest Thing A Person Can Do For Themselves

…is listen to The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brene Brown.

I just finished listening to it this evening.

I have read a lot (see my Reading list in the top menu). And I have watched a lot of movies (almost 1,300).

And I say without reservation that this audiobook is the best thing a person can do for themselves.