Book Notes – Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

Book Notes – Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

NOTES

  • 1: Always without desire we must be found, if its deep mystery we would sound; But if desire always within us be, its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
  • 4: We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others.
  • 7: Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is because they do not live of, or for, themselves. This is how they are able to continue and endure.
  • 7: The sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved. Is it not because he has no personal and private ends, that therefore such ends are realised?
  • 9: It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full. If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness. When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe. When wealth and honours lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.
  • 12: Colour’s five hues from th’ eyes their sight will take; Music’s five notes the ears as deaf can make; The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste; The chariot course, and the wilde hunting waste make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange, sought for, men’s conduct will to evil change. Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former.
  • 13: Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honour and great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind). What is meant by speaking thus of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favour). The getting that (favour) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):- this is what is meant by saying that favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.
  • 16: All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state).
  • 16: When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.
  • 22: The sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of humility), and manifests it to all the world. He is free from self- display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
  • 23: A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day. To whom is it that these (two) things are owing? To Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long, how much less can man!
  • 25: There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of all things. I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao.
  • 26: Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness, the ruler of movement.
  • 29: The course and nature of things is such that what was in front is now behind; What warmed anon we freezing find. Strength is of weakness oft the spoil; The store in ruins mocks our toil. Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.
  • 37: The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do.
  • 38: Those who possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show, and when men did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marched up to them.
  • 42: The violent and strong do not die their natural death.
  • 43: The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).
  • 48: He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge); he who devotes himself to the Tao (seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing). He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.
  • 49: To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good;- and thus (all) get to be good.
  • 57: In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are.
  • 63: It is the way of the Tao to act without (thinking of) acting; to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great, and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
  • 63: The master of it anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small.
  • 64: That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; that which is brittle is easily broken; that which is very small is easily dispersed. Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance; order should be secured before disorder has begun.
  • 67: I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honour.
  • 76: Man at his birth is supple and weak; at his death, firm and strong. (So it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early growth, are soft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered. Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.

It’s been a while since my previous post, but I haven’t been sitting still. I really enjoyed the inspiring nature of the texts in this book. Expect no hands on tools on how to live, but do expect to find wisdom in the collection of age old virtuous texts.  If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on:
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Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

NOTES

  • The secret to Charles Bukowski’s success: the simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself—especially the worst parts of himself—and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.
  • Conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack.
  • “The smallest dog barks the loudest.” A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident.
  • You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick.
  • Companies want you to give a fuck: giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business.
  • The problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction.
  • The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
  • Very few animals on earth have the ability to think cogent thoughts to begin with, but we humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts.
  • We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious.
  • By not giving a fuck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell (feeling bad for feeling bad).
  • Say to yourself, “I feel like shit, but who gives a fuck?” And then, as if sprinkled by magic fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.
  • We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.
  • Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.
  • The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
  • Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
  • Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
  • To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
  • You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon.
  • In the short amount of time between being born and being dead, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.
  • Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent;
    • It means being comfortable with being different.
    • People who are indifferent are lame and scared.
    • It’s about not caring about pissing some people off to do what he feels is right or important or noble.
  • You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.
  • To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  • “Life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about.
  • Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
  • Most things in life have little lasting impact on our lives.
  • Become comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.
  • Life itself is a form of suffering.
  • The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.
  • We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.
  • Our brains don’t register much difference between physical pain and psychological pain.
  • Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of the next one.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.
  • Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you.
  • Many people fuck things up in at least one of two ways:
    • Denial, and/or;
    • Victim Mentality
  • If you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.
  • Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better.
  • Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.
  • The Hedonic Treadmill: the idea that we’re always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different.
  • You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You know what else three-year-olds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
  • You don’t REALLY want something if you want the reward and not the struggle, if you want the result and not the process.
  • People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness.
  • If we have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we’re either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we’re somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us. Put simply: we become entitled.
  • Entitlement plays out in one of two ways:
    • I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment.
    • I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
  • The more exposed we are to opposing viewpoints, the more we seem to get upset that those other viewpoints exist.
  • The vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.
  • Millennials often get blamed for this cultural shift, but that’s likely because millennials are the most plugged-in and visible generation.
  • This constant stream of unrealistic media dogpiles onto our existing feelings of insecurity, by overexposing us to the unrealistic standards we fail to live up to.
  • Because social media only shows unrealistic standards, it becomes better to be at the extreme low end of the bell curve than to be in the middle, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention.
  • Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
  • The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.
  • There are a handful of common values that create really poor problems for people—problems that can hardly be solved.
  • Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose. And yet, pleasure is what’s marketed to us, twenty-four/seven.
  • Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.
  • We consistently make poor assumptions, misjudge probabilities, misremember facts, give in to cognitive biases, and make decisions based on our emotional whims. As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly.
  • Material Success: Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor’s.
  • If your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.
  • Sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.
  • Constant positivity is a form of avoidance.
  • One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.
  • Good values are:
    • reality-based,
    • socially constructive, and;
    • immediate and controllable.
  • Bad values are:
    • superstitious,
    • socially destructive, and;
    • not immediate or controllable.
  • When we have poor values we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter.
  • Self-improvement is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about.
  • Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.
  • If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control.
  • There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
  • We are always taking an active role in what’s occurring to and within us.
  • The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.
  • The real question is, What are we choosing to give a fuck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life?
  • Example of bad values: “a man felt that he was too short, he didn’t often go out and try to meet women. The few times he did, he would home in on the smallest behaviors from any woman he talked with that could possibly indicate he wasn’t attractive enough for her and then convince himself that she didn’t like him, even if she really did. As you can imagine, his dating life sucked.”
  • There are also problems that we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them. For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that the baby had been put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility.
  • Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense.
  • Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you.
  • One side effect of the Internet and social media is that it’s become easier than ever to push responsibility—for even the tiniest of infractions—onto some other group or person.
  • The moment you change your values, your turnaround will reverberate out through your relationships.
  • Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong.
  • A certain man works his ass off and believes he deserves a promotion, but he never explicitly says that to his boss. He is therefore never rewarded for his hard work.
  • We don’t actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating.
  • We experience something. Then we remember it slightly differently a few days later, as if it had been whispered and misheard. Then we tell somebody about it and have to fill in a couple of the plot holes with our own embellishments.
  • By linking our present experiences with that imagined past, our mind allows us to maintain whatever meaning we already established.
  • Not only is certainty unattainable, but the pursuit of certainty often breeds more (and worse) insecurity, because the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel.
  • Before we can look at our values and prioritizations and change them into better, healthier ones, we must first become uncertain of our current values.
  • Manson’s Law of Avoidance: “The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”
  • Buddhism argues that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all.
  • If you assume that your plane is the one that’s going to crash, or that your project idea is the stupid one everyone is going to laugh at, or that you’re the one everyone is going to choose to mock or ignore, you’re implicitly telling yourself, “I’m the exception; I’m unlike everybody else; I’m different and special.”
  • Aristotle wrote: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
  • Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
  • If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have.
  • Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
  • If I measure myself by the standard “Make everyone I meet like me,” I will be anxious, because failure is 100 percent defined by the actions of others, not by my own actions. I am not in control.
  • For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity.
  • Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
  • VCR questions: From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex.
  • Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. A series of VCR questions. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy.
  • Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
  • Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
  • Trick yourself into action (by Tim Ferriss): Promise yourself to write two hundred crappy words per day, that’s it. The idea was that you force yourself to write two hundred crappy words, more often than not the act of writing will inspire; and before you know it, you’ll have thousands of words down on the page.
  • Do something. That “something” can be the smallest viable action toward something else. It can be anything.
  • Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
  • The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.
  • The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things:
    • How well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility, and
    • The willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.
  • Wherever there is a healthy and loving relationship, there will be clear boundaries between the two people and their values.
  • People in a healthy relationship with strong boundaries will take responsibility for their own values and problems and not take responsibility for their partner’s values and problems.
  • A healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.
  • The setting of proper boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t help or support your partner or be helped and supported yourself.
  • People with strong boundaries are not afraid of a temper tantrum, an argument, or getting hurt.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that it’s unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 percent and fulfill every need the other has.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that they may hurt someone’s feelings sometimes, but ultimately they can’t determine how other people feel.
  • There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime.
  • When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing.
  • If there really is no reason to do anything, then there is also no reason to not do anything.
  • By spending the majority of your short life avoiding what is painful and uncomfortable, You essentially avoid being alive at all.
  • Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
  • Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly.
  • Because of this unique mental ability, Becker says, that we all, at some point, become aware of the inevitability of our own death.
  • Death terror: a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
  • We are all aware on some level that our physical self will eventually die, that this death is inevitable, and that its inevitability—on some unconscious level—scares the shit out of us.
  • To compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. This is why people try so hard to put their names on buildings, on statues, on spines of books.
  • All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects: the cities and governments and structures and authorities in place today were all immortality projects of men and women who came before us.
  • All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.
  • We’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about something is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death.
  • Mark Twain: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
  • You too are going to die, and that’s because you too were fortunate enough to have lived.

This book contains some serious life lessons, sometimes on the boundary of stoicism.  There is a reason these notes turned out to be over 3.000 words. I highly recommend this book for everyone, especially in this day and age of entitlement and victim mentality, but also this time of unlimited options and infinite possibilities. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Early Retirement Extreme on Bol.com
Amazon: Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.
You are a special snowflake

You are a special snowflake

When my main source of nutritional information was magazines like Men’s Health, I tried every diet imaginable in order to gain weight or to lose it. “Fats are bad”, so I decreased my fat intake. “Just saturated fats are bad”: best indulge on some avocados and peanut butter. “No wait, you should skip the carbs”: okay, so no more bread for me. Though not every diet gave me the best results, they did work in terms of scale weight. What I also noticed was that without fats, I felt more hungry even though I just ate a large meal. I could go some while without >100 grams of carbohydrates, but I would end up lethargic from eating just protein and fats.

In the end, I found that I perform best on 200 grams of protein, 80 grams of fat and the carbohydrates for my remaining intake. I don’t need a fancy diet, I need moderation when I am trying to lose weight, and to eat a little extra when I am trying to gain. I found out what works best for me by trying a lot of extremes. Years of interest in nutrition and exercise taught me that me that everything in life should be treated as an experiment.

Derek Sivers states in Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans:

“Treat life as a series of experiments.”

Or similarly, by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

By making adjustments to what you are doing right now, tracking the results over time and examining afterwards, you learn how your body responds to a certain stimulus. By changing behaviour based on these tests, you make small increments in improving yourself. Whenever you ask yourself: “Should I squat once a week, twice a week, daily?” the only appropriate answer I reckon should be: “Try them all!”. In exercise, consistency is key. You need volume for bodily adaptation, but how much? In that sense, everybody is a special snowflake. Find out what works for you.

Gratitude is the best combatant of fear

Gratitude is the best combatant of fear

The concept of being alive may be overwhelming at times. The fact that your time on earth is finite can be both debilitating and motivating. The same thought may cause you to realize that you want to do so much in a limited timespan, urging you to pick up on that book you always wanted to read, make the trip you have had in your head for years, or cause you to say: “Fuck it!”, and move your livelihood abroad. It incentivizes you to make the best of your time on earth and decrease the amount of meaningless crap that occupies your days

On the other hand, your limited lifespan may provoke anxiety. The fact that by age 25, you probably have somewhere around merely 2 times of your already spent time left. Time which in hindsight flew by. The realization that one day you will be dead forever, the realization that you won’t be around to experience what the future will look like in one hundred years, the realization that nobody will even know of your existence after a couple of generations. Thoughts like these make you wish you could stop or reverse time. Churning on these thoughts may lead to existential dread. Though I believe that not everyone experiences these thoughts in the same manner.

In light of these morbid thoughts, you do well to be grateful. Ryan Holiday, author of the Daily Stoic, provides us with an early morning exercise that can repel dark thoughts:

Firstly, be thankful that you have actually woken up, many people will not have this privilege today.

Think about the immense luck you have of actually being able to experience everything around you. Your parents just happened to meet at the right place and moment for you to even exist. Not just that, every person in your entire family lineage aligned impeccably to lead to your birth. Even before that, your genes can be traced back to a primordial soup in which scattered simple molecules formed the first proteins. Over thirteen billion years of the most improbable of circumstances in an immensity of chaos that randomly came to order and formed you.

Without making too many assumptions: if you are able to read this on a computer, connected to network of servers and computers all around the globe, you were born in the best time to be alive yet,  in one of the more favorable places on earth. While you get to experience all this, you are being immobilized by thoughts, even though it is so intensely unlikely of you even being able to think. Wouldn’t it be better to just let gratitude flood out your heinous thinking and simpy enjoy it all?

My second brain: the commonplace book

My second brain: the commonplace book

Starting in 2014, I made a concious effort to read more books. Not just reading while on vacation or at the beach, but using the free time in my week to pick up interesting books. All books were non-fiction or biographies. Other books seemed like a waste of time. A year later, I got back into fiction with the Game of Thrones series. That is when I regained my love of reading fantasy books, but my reading goal was still very vague and inconsistent.

In 2016 I defined my goal to read at least 25 pages a day, which amounts to 9.125 over de course of a year. In the end I didn’t make this goal and read closer to 7.000 pages, but I feel like 25 pages a day should be an easy target. As I explained in my previous article, everyone’s schedule contains wasted time. There should be some slack in everyone’s system, and reading should be an enjoyable activity, not a chore. So in 2017 I continued with the same goal, but this time I am breaking through it and am well on my way to read at least 10.000 pages. That’s probably over 30 books. Perhaps less since I’m reading William Manchesters 3 part series on Winston Churchill (around 3.000-3.500 pages).

By reading every day, I sift through a lot of valuable information. I found that simply retaining all read information is not something the brain is made for. At least not my brain.  I couldn’t see myself with a large notebook every time I want to read. So my dilemma was that on the one hand I wanted to retain more information, but on the other hand, reading should remain a simple and fun activity.

That is when I came across Ryan Holiday’s Commonplace Book. The methodology Ryan uses is that everytime he reads something that stands out for him, he folds the page or makes a small note in the book itself for later reference. After reading the book and giving his brain the time to swish around the information for a coupel of weeks, he takes a 4 by 3 index card and transfers all the quotes, phrases or thoughts onto it. One note per index card, allowing for categorization of each card.

He’s no advocate of a digital system, since Ryan feels that the effort of actually physically writing the notes down on an index card increases the value of the information.

I don’t necessarily disagree, but I find that the system I use is more compatible with me. Whenever I read a physical book, I use Ryan’s method of making small notes in the book itself. Sometimes when I want to immediately process information, I transfer my thoughts directly to a note card. I make sure to always have some on hand. After finishing the book, I go through my notes and transfer them to Google Keep. I make one ‘Keep card’ per thought or phrase and tag the general subject for later reference. I am increasingly reading e-books for the advantage of always having the book with you and synching between all devices. Google Books contains a setting where all the marked text is saved to a Google Doc. So there is no distraction while reading, because you can simply mark the interesting text and continue reading. Then after reading the book and giving the stuff I read a chance to find its place in your mind, I transfer and tag these notes in my Google Keep commonplace book.

After I established my commonplace book with the notes I took while reading, I expanded my effort to note EVERYTHING interesting, ranging from lessons I learn in my day job, birthday discussions or on the road. I really like one of the lessons Ryan learned from Robert Greene (the author of The 48 Laws of Power):

It’s all material. Everything bad that happens, everything frustrating or delayed or disappointing—all of it can be fuel for a book. It can teach you something that helps you improve your business, it can become a story you pass along to a friend. Don’t get upset about the things that happen. See it as collecting data. Observe it. Turn it into material.”

By keeping a commonplace book, I am never at a loss for writing material. If I feel down, I simply look under the stoicism tag to read some valuable lessons on letting go on the things that aren’t under your control. I use the same notes for fitness motivation and recipes. Sometimes I simply go through my notes to reread valuable life lessons that have faded in my memory over time. By sharing my book notes, I provide a peek into all the stuff I record while reading a book for the world to learn from. Because a commonplace book can take a multitude of forms and can be created in all kinds of ways, I recommend everyone to start recording what is valuable for themselves. I found a way to make the commonplace book my second brain, why skimp on this luxury?

Cut the crap, you’re not busy!

Cut the crap, you’re not busy!

Take a walk in any office and ask how people feel. I bet that people claim to be busy more often than not. Especially in an environment where people are dealing with a constant flow of e-mail requests and an unending amount of meetings, it is hard not to be overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, there is always more to do. That’s not necessarily bad though. As Jacob Lund Fisker writes in Early Retirement Extreme:

“Busyness is seen as a virtue.”

Cal Newport explains in his book Deep Work: In an environment where productivity is hard to judge, for example in creative endeavours or in knowledge work, looking busy is the only proxy of being productive and valuable.

But also in personal life when trying to make plans, everybody seems to be in a rush. There is just so much to do and there isn’t enough time. Literally, consider all the options you have in a given moment to spend your time. By choosing to do one thing, you have to discard thousands of opportunity’s to spend your time. (That’s why I find it hard to believe that people can be bored, that’s another topic). But if you “mistake busyness for importance – which we do a lot – you’re not able to see what really is important.” – Michael Lewis.

Though it is not always a very pleasant thought, Marcus Aurelius insists you to remember that your total time is limited. This is not just a life and death matter, but you also can’t tell whether your mind is clear enough at an old age to enjoy all the things you want to do (book 3-1, Meditations). So it is not just good to have a sense of urgency in life, moreover, you should make a concious effort to critically examine whether what you are doing is really important to you.

If you are feeling busy, life is controlling you. You have to accept that some things can’t be changed, but how you spend your time isn’t one of them. Are you mindlessly browsing Facebook and YouTube? Are you catching up with people who aren’t actually your friends? Are you doing work that isn’t moving your company forward? It is time for you to cut the crap and take control of your life.

You need principles, not some magical silver bullet

You need principles, not some magical silver bullet

One thing I’ve learned by reading a lot over the past years is that the principles guiding the advice from some book are often a lot more valuable than the actual presented content. What I mean by that can probably be best explained by an example from Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Although this book looks to be about personal finance on the surface, see what happens when you apply the book’s lessons to other areas in life, like fitness:

For example, in the start of the book Ramit writes:

“I have met with thousands of millionaires in my years as a financial counselor[…]. They all lived on less than they made and spent only when they had cash.”

What happens when you rewrite that sentence to be:

“I have met with thousands of cases of successful weight loss in my years as a personal trainer[…]. They all ate less than they needed and indulged only when they had room in their diets.”

Simply replacing the financial aspect with a health expert still yields the sentence to be true. That is because it is not the advice that counts, it’s the underlying principles that are the real lessons. Another one:

“Being rich is about freedom.”

Or:

“Being healthy is about freedom.”

Being rich allows you to be independent of whatever you do daily. You don’t have to worry about earning enough to buy life’s necessities when you engage in some type of entrepeneurial activity. Being healthy allows you to engage in all type of life’s activities without worrying about becoming sick or having pain while doing so. The underlying principle is that having the basics in life in check will allow you to do all the things you deem important without worry.

So instead of looking or silver bullets that you treat like magic:

read them for what they’re actually saying: “I need to eat less to lose weight” or “I need to spend less to have more money”. Though these examples may help and provide useful guidelines, read them for what they are and try and to find the underlying principles the next time you are given advice. Use these to become a little better in all areas of life.

Book Notes – Early Retirement Extreme – Jacob Lund Fisker

Book Notes – Early Retirement Extreme – Jacob Lund Fisker

NOTES

  • Reading a textbook about physics won’t turn a person into a physicist. This only happens when the concepts are constantly applied and one starts “thinking like a physicist.”
  • Looking busy is important because in this culture business is a virtue.
  • Society has made it very easy to spend money. Shopping centers line every street. Many creative means of spending money have been devised. Instead of spending 30 seconds opening a can of tomatoes with a traditional can opener, it’s now possible to spend 30 minutes working to pay for an electric can opener that can open the can in the same amount of time.
  • Is spending the most productive years of your life chained to the job market to collect a lot of rarely used stuff that gathers dust in the closet or takes up space in junkyards a wise choice?
  • Some problems are self-created; one must learn to avoid these. A common solution to problems is to go and buy some product. Too weak to open a lid? Go buy a tool rather than exercise to become stronger. Want to barbecue, but don’t have a grill? Go buy one instead of making a fire pit.
  • Running a marathon is technically easy, but few have the persistence to actually go through with it, and even fewer are already in such a physical condition so as to do it without preparation. Mental blocks are similar. It’s much easier to say that something can’t work than it is to find a way to make it work.
  • There are always excuses. “I don’t want it enough;” “It’d be nice, but I can’t do it,” “Yes, that is interesting and may be fine for you , but I could never…”
  • Why do we still work eight hours a day, 50 weeks a year, when we’re twice as productive as we were 50 years ago?
  • Why do we have children, then send them away for most of the day shortly after they’re born?
  • Being financially independent you can take risks with your time to focus on projects which don’t require an immediate payout to justify your effort.
  • The core of this book: What you want to do with your life given that you don’t have the time to do everything? Do you want to spend most of your life paying off the interest of a 30-year mortgage and working so you can fill increasingly bigger houses with increasingly more stuff while being stuck in your daily commute in increasingly nicer cars? Or are you prepared to give up the stuff so that you can do whatever you want, whenever, and wherever, within reason? What will your legacy be–what you owned or who you were.
  • Runners and other athletes sometimes get the comment that they’re already fit, so they don’t need to exercise. Yet their diligent exercising is exactly what causes their fitness.
  • Change is seen as a personal failure: admitting that an alternative is better is perceived as a personal failure.
  • We have come to a point where spending money is one of the few recognizable signs of success. For instance, spending half an hour in a traffic jam getting from A to B in an expensive car is considered more successful than spending half an hour in a traffic jam getting from A to B in a cheap car. I’m not sure why that is. Even more puzzling, both of these is considered more successful than spending 25 minutes getting from A to B on a train or spending 20 minutes on a bicycle getting from A to B while passing cars in a traffic jam.
  • It’s considered more successful to sit on a couch in your home, if there is an additional unused couch in an additional unused room, compared to a house with no unused couches or no unused rooms.
  • Consumers do not solve their problems. Consumers are used to buying or arguing their way out of problems.
  • Your collection of 20 different cleaning products could all be replaced with vinegar and baking soda. Chop garlic with a knife instead of using one of the many different designs of garlic press.
  • Most career people’s lives are dominated by schedules and procedures. They get up at the same time every day. They take the same route to work and sit at the same desk and do the same things day-in and day-out for many years. At the end of the day, they go back along the same route. They have various chores and activities scheduled until they go to bed at the same time. Maybe they occasionally go to a restaurant, the movies, or a sports event. Weekends are like evenings–structured around chores that didn’t get done during the week, like laundry, cleaning, and sleeping. Vacations are arranged in the same manner–if not taken between job transitions, vacations are spent a few days here and there as people spend one day traveling and then frantically go around and try to see everything they want to see before they head back exhausted. The reward for running on this treadmill occurs not through the satisfaction of doing a good job, but from the semimonthly paycheck.
  • The work system is designed so that most people have been specialized to as far down the production chain as possible. Specialization makes people replaceable either directly through advances in technology or through competition between many others with similar skills. Specialists are like cogs in the system and they tend to have very simple interfaces with it.
  • Pay attention to the number of books on the bookshelves, the tools for the hobby projects, the work in progress spread out on the desk. There are none. What empty lives these people must live.
  • Watch out when buying an expensive shirt, because you will find it needs an expensive suit to match.
  • No matter how much someone earns, expenses tend to match income. This is called lifestyle inflation.
  • On the homefront the growing use of time-saving technology doesn’t result in time saved either. Rather, it results in more being done.
  • Retiring at 50 is still considered early, despite the modern possibility of retiring decades earlier.
  • Reduce waste and live on a quarter of what a normal person spends:
    • Own only what you use.
    • Maintain what you buy.
  • Those with greater control over their income can choose to work less at higher efficiencies and save the money for intermittent periods without income. That way you can start a business without the risk of losing income.
  • Find something meaningful to do (instead of work).
  • A loosely coupled system is less likely to fail. Loosely coupled systems have slack. They’re flexible and resilient. This means that they function within a range of parameters rather than at just a single value.
  • The salary man: (Wage slaves) are free to change their job, but they’re not free to quit their job. Wage slaves are free to choose other products as long as they can afford it, but they’re not capable of creating alternatives to buying products, because they’re too busy working.
  • The business man: makes a living of creating products to solve consumers problems.
  • The renaissance man:
    • Is competent in a wild range of fields instead of a single vocation.
    • Develops all sides of himself to reach his full potential.
    • Uses generalized skills (borrowing, engineering, creativity physical strength) to solve his problems instead of buying a solution.
    • Fixes what is broken himself.
  • To develop into a renaissance man, start self-development activities as hobbies. Start creating your own solutions.
  • Humans with an internal locus of control–the belief that they’re in control and that they’re the masters of their own destiny–possess agency. Agency resists and reduces stress.
  • We have an economic model that is based on pulling resources out of the ground and mostly turning them into unnecessary products, getting people to buy the products by convincing them that they need them, then getting them to throw the products away because they’re obsolete.
  • We are aware of large-scale problems, but most of us believe that we can’t do anything about them. Instead, we believe in a mythical They who will find a solution.
  • When a new field is invented, it’s not the salary men, the businessmen, or the working men who dominate it; it’s the inventors–the Renaissance men.
  • You can be a jack-of-all trades by choosing which areas to master and which to do not.
  • We call people primitive, but they can build their own shelters, find their own food, create their own clothes. But we know about the ficticious lives of TV-characters.
  • Take care of your body: After all, where else are you going to live?
  • Physiological goals:
    • Optimal physical and mental health.
    • Know how the body works.
    • Know which foods promote health and which don’t.
    • Don’t overeat.
    • Be able to perform physically while hungry, exhausted or tired.
    • Know basic first aid.
  • Intellectual goals:
    • Prioritize relevance of information.
    • Have an interest in learning new things.
    • Have general knowledge.
    • Be able to do quick research in multiple areas.
    • Be able to remain independent and critical of models and new ideas.
  • Economic goals:
    • Understand the difference between value (psychological) and price (market).
    • Learn the effect of choices and their opportunity cost.
    • Know how to save.
    • Know how to invest.
    • Make a budget, do your own taxes.
  • Emotional goals:
    • Make your own choices instead of out of fear or because they feel good.
    • Don’t be gullible or subject to manipulation, magical thinking.
    • Be patient and resistant to stress and realize you can’t influence external events.
    • Be empathetic and understand that situations are complex.
  • Social goals:
    • Know people in all different social circles.
    • Learn how to barter, sell, borrow and give things away.
  • Technical goals:
    • Have the knowledge to judge professionals in their service.
    • Understand limits and benefits of technlogy.
    • Select optimal tools and know how to use them.
    • Know how to repair your stuff.
  • Ecological goals:
    • Recognize the foods that are in season.
    • Know how to grow your own food.
    • Don’t waste energy or resources.
  • Tenure and experience are not the same thing.
  • People remember most of what they do, some of what they say, but little of what they see or hear.
  • The main mistake when dealing with an overwhelming amount of data and stuff is to reduce it, rather than relating to it on a more abstract level.
  • Expertise:
    • Copy and compare: define an objective.
    • Compile and compute: set a plan.
    • Skills and coordination will unleash creativity.
  • It’s important to understand that doing the right thing (good strategy) is much more important than doing things right (good tactics).
  • Consumers have become convinced that experts are needed for anything but the simplest task.
  • Self-sufficiency:
    • Mend your clothes.
    • Cook from scratch.
    • Use public transportation, bicycle or walk.
    • Grow your own food.
    • Make your own household agents.
    • Maintain your car. Start with washing it, then changing fluids, then repairing the engine.
  • Consider that almost any work becomes drudgery if you have to do it all day every day.
  • A good strategy solves multiple problems at the same time!
  • There is no such thing as needs and wants: there is no demarcation when a need becomes a want.
  • Happiness does not stem from being surrounded by possessions, being happy because of being surrounded by them is the result of an addictive habit.
  • Buy tools that last a lifetime.
  • When buying parts, tools, as well as new things, always try to get three different prices across markets (new and used) and time (do prices tend to go up or down? are they seasonal?
  • Anything done more than once is worth doing yourself.
  • Measure prosperity by less activity, not more. Do fewer useless things.
  • Focus on developing skills rather than on passive entertainment.
  • The price of stuff is higher than the sticker price, they:
    • Take up space.
    • Require maintenance.
    • Are hard to get rid of.
  • Used something in the last few months? Keep it. Otherwise, dispose of it (sell, give it away).
  • For grocery shopping and other regular purchases, use a maximum price ceiling which is the lowest price you have ever seen. Only buy at that point.
  • Buying a set of, say, screwdrivers to “save” money is rarely worthwhile. You will end up breaking the ones you use constantly and with a collection of ones you never use.
  • Start with cheap tools to see which ones you actually need and use.
  • Learn to be easy to get along with. Be considerate. I’m sure this is a learned skill.
  • Work from home when you can to:
    • Save transportation time and cost.
    • Work flexible hours.
    • Be inaccessable while doing concentrated work.
  • Feeling warm or cold has a lot to do with adaptation. Unfortunately, it’s now normal to live in heated and air-conditioned bubbles which allow for no adaptation at all, except perhaps to the price of those services.
  • Many adults act as if moving is not particularly enjoyable. Given the choice, they’d rather not move around. To them, moving is uncomfortable, exhausting, and even painful.
  • The diet quantity determines how big the body will be and the diet quality determines how healthy it’ll be. The exercise quantity and quality determines its function, form, and health.
  • Running doesn’t get you in shape. Look at the experienced runner: spindly arms and legs, scrawny upper body.
  • The reason that people get weak is not age; it’s a history of disuse.
  • Being hungry is nothing particularly worrisome unless it becomes a permanent condition.
  • If a brand needs advertising, it is probably because it is either difficult to tell the difference between it and another brand or because you would not otherwise want to buy the product in the first place.
  • Clean immediately after using something. It is often easier.
  • A salary is paid when productivity is hard to measure because the effort can’t be directly associated with a specific revenue-generating product or service.
  • This means that productivity has little bearing on how much a person actually gets paid, salary being determined by contract negotiation skills and historical accidents, such as being hired the year before new hires are given a substantially higher starting salary.
  • If investment income matches your expenses, you are financially independent.

The lessons from this book are controversial. The title of the book isn’t Early Retirement EXTREME without a reason. Though sometimes repetitive, it does teach a lot of very applicable principles if you wish to earn more, save more and acquire valuable skills in order to live a simpler life.  If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Early Retirement Extreme on Bol.com
Amazon: Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 4 out of 5.
Book Notes – The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

Book Notes – The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

NOTES

  • Know-how and sophistication have increased remarkably across almost all our realms of endeavor, and as a result so has our struggle to deliver on them
  • Our failures remain frequent. They persist despite remarkable individual ability.
  • The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.
  • Multiple fields, in other words, have become too much airplane for one person to fly. Yet it is far from obvious that something as simple as a checklist could be of substantial help.
  • People can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them.
  • The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the ICU create their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.
  • Checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net.
  • Simple problems, they [Zimmerman, Glauberman] note, are ones like baking a cake from a mix. There is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once these are mastered, following the recipe brings a high likelihood of success.
  • Complicated problems are ones like sending a rocket to the moon. They can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems. But there is no straightforward recipe.
  • Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Once you learn how to send a rocket to the moon, you can repeat the process with other rockets and perfect it. One rocket is like another rocket. But not so with raising a child, the professors point out.
  • [In life] we are besieged by simple problems.
  • Checklists can provide protection against such elementary errors.
  • The assumption was that anything could go wrong, anything could get missed. What? Who knows? That’s the nature of complexity.
  • [Hurricane Katrina] had been an “ultra-catastrophe,” a “perfect storm” that “exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight.” But that’s not an explanation. It’s simply the definition of a complex situation.
  • No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity—where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns—efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail. People need room to act and adapt.
  • Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided—and even enhanced—by procedure.
  • There seemed no field or profession where checklists might not help.
  • Question your seniors: The more familiar and widely dangerous issue is a kind of silent disengagement, the consequence of specialized technicians sticking narrowly to their domains. “That’s not my problem” is possibly the worst thing people can think, whether they are starting an operation, taxiing an airplane full of passengers down a runway, or building a thousand-foot-tall skyscraper.
  • Because we’d worked as a single unit, not as separate technicians, the man survived. We were done with the operation in little more than two hours.
  • Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb.
  • They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on.
  • Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
  • The wording should be simple and exact, Boorman went on, and use the familiar language of the profession. Even the look of the checklist matters. Ideally, it should fit on one page. It should be free of clutter and unnecessary colors. It should use both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading. (He went so far as to recommend using a sans serif type like Helvetica.)
  • But first think about what happens in most lines of professional work when a major failure occurs. To begin with, we rarely investigate our failures.
  • [Anonymous investor] enumerated the errors known to occur at any point in the investment process. He then designed detailed checklists to avoid the errors, complete with clearly identified pause points at which he and his investment team would run through the items.
  • The checklist doesn’t tell him what to do, he explained. It is not a formula. But the checklist helps him be as smart as possible every step of the way, ensuring that he’s got the critical information he needs when he needs it, that he’s systematic about decision making, that he’s talked to everyone he should.
  • Benefits of (good) checklists:
    • They improve outcomes with no increase in skill.
    • The process is more thorough but also faster.
  • It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment.
  • A checklist is only an aid. If it doesn’t aid, it’s not right.

The book is a bit pop-psych and not necessarily a game-changer, but it is an easy insightful read for everyone performing complex tasks on the daily. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: The Checklist Manifesto on Bol.com
Amazon: The Checklist Manifesto on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 4 out of 5.
Book Notes – Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Book Notes – Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

NOTES

  • It’s easy to put your own life and death in perspective when you consider them relative to the eternity and vastness of the universe.
  • 1-4: Value of education: spend lavishly on good tutors.
  • 1-6: Write essays from a young age.
  • 1-8: Moral freedom, the certainty to ignore the dice of furtune, and have no other perspective, even for a moment, than that of reason alone. To be always the same man, unchanged in sudden pain.
  • 1-12: Never use: ‘I am too busy’ as an excuse for the constant avoidance of the proprieties inherent in our relations to our fellows and contemporaries.
  • 1-16: Regulate abstinence and enjoyment where many people are too weak-willed to abstain or enjoy too indulgently.
  • 1-17: Marcus is grateful or being able to have found no lack of suitable tutors for his children.
  • 1-17: Express gratitude.
  • 2-1: Morning ritual: say to yourself: ‘Remain unaffected by and cooperate with all the malicious people you will meet during the day.’
  • 2-4: There is a limit circumscribed to your time.
  • 2-5: Every hour of the day give vigorous attention to the performance of the task in hand.
  • 3: Focus on the tasks at hand and do not let yourself get distracted by the casual. Do not make a drama of your life.
  • 3-1: Not only is our time limited, but if we live longer, there is no guarantee our mind will retain all power to comprehend. Have a sense of urgency.
  • 3-12: If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigour and good will, if you admit no distraction, – then you will live a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.
  • 3-16: Body = sense perceptions
    Soul = impulses
    Mind = judgement
  • 4-2: No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.
  • 4-3: In faring obstacles, consider the immeasurable time before and after and the whole earth as a minute point in space.
  • 4-3: Instead of seeking external retreat, give yourself the retreat of your own mind.
  • 4-7: Remove the judgement, and you have removed the thought: ‘I am hurt.’ Remove the thought: ‘I am hurt’, and the hurt itself is removed.
  • 4-11: When someone does you wrong, do not judge things as he interprets them or would like you to interpret them. Just see them as they are, in plain truth.
  • 4-18: Look only at your own actions.
  • 4-19: Fame is worthless as it and when it is no longer remembered, but even if it was by some immortal, what does it matter?
  • 4-24: “If you want to be happy, do little” – Democrites
    – Remove the superfluity, all unnecessary action.
  • 4-42: Change: nothing inherently bad in the process, nothing inherently good in the result.
  • 5-2: How easy it is to drive away or obliterate from one’s mind every impression which is troublesome or alien, and then to be immediately in perfect calm.
  • 5-5: Integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnamity. Do you see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude?
  • 5-11: To what use, then, am I now putting my soul? Ask yourself this question on every occassion. Examine yourself.
  • 5-13: Every part of me will be assigned its changed place in some part of the universe, then another part, on to infinity. A similar sequence of change brought me into existence, and my parents, and back so in another infinity of regression.
  • 5-16: Your mind will take on the character ofyour most frequent thoughts.
  • 5-20: “The obstacle becomes the way.”
  • 6-6: The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.
  • 6-13: The practice of showing things naked:
    – Roast meat = dead animal body.
    – Falernian wine = juice of grapes.
    – Sexual intercourse = friction of a membrane and a spurt of mucus ejected.
  • 6-51: How to understand your own good:
    – The lover of glory takes it to be the reactions of others.
    – The lover of pleasure takes it to be his own passive experience.
    – The intelligent man sees it as his own action.
  • 7-7: Do not be ashamed of help. It is your task to achieve your assigned duty.
  • 7-14: Let any external thing that so wishes to happen to those parts of me which can be affected by its happening- and they, if they wish, can complain. I myself am not yet harmed, unless I judge this occurence something bad: and I can refuse to do so.
  • 7-18: It makes no sense to be afraid of change, because NOTHING can happen without it.
  • 7-64: When complaining of drowsiness, oppressive heat, loss of appetite, say to yourself: ‘You are giving in to pain.’
  • 7-73: When you have done good and another has benefited, why do you still look, as fools do, for a third thing besides – credit for good works, or a return.
  • 8-36: Do not let the panorama of your life oppress you, do not dwell on all various troubles which may have occurred in the past or may occur in the future. Just ask yourself in each instance of the present: ‘What is there in this work which I cannot endure or support?’
  • 8-47: If your distress has some external cause, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgement of it.
  • 8-50: Deal with minor obstacles immediately:
    – Bitter cucumber? Throw it away.
    – Brambles in a path? Go around them.
  • 9-5: There can be wrongs of omission, as well as commission.
  • 9-12: Work. Don’t work as a miserable drudge, or in any expectation of pity or admiration.
  • 9-27: When someone blames or hates you, see what people they are. You will realize there is no need for anxiety about their opinion about you. (Though be kind to them)
  • 9-33: There are many barriers or impediments in the way. But mind and reason have the power by their nature and at their will, to move through every obstacle.
  • 9-40: Instead of dealing with minute impulses, deal with the judgement of these impulses.
    – One prays: how can I be rid of that man?
    – You pray: how can I stop wanting to be rid of him?
  • 12-10: See things for what they are, analyzing into material, cause and reference.

Even though the content of this book are nearly 2000 years old, it reads as if it was written today. There is a reason this book stood the test of time so well. I provided my favorite outtakes in these book notes, but the book contains an immense amount of wisdom. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Meditations on Bol.com
Amazon: Meditations on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.