Month: July 2017

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.