LFK Thoughtful Weekends 005

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This weeks installment of LFK Thoughtful Weekends will feature 2 articles and a little film clip. They aren’t all that related, but each of them really caught my attention during the past week.

The first one is kind of philosophic and self-examining, but bears a very important message especially in this day and age. With billions upon billions of dollars being spent on advertising the world over, the advertising industry is more than ready to tell you what you want, or should want if you haven’t yet truthfully asked yourself the important questions. Advertisers sells stories, dreams and lives that can be or perhaps rightfully is really tempting. The message here is not whether or not the life and dream advertisers sell is right or wrong. No the message is for you to personally decide what is right for you. You have to decide what you want to want. If not you could end up spending an entire life chasing a goal that is not really yours and end up getting something that you actually did not even want in the first place.

This article spends a lot of time on this aspect and I found it really interesting and important. And don’t be put off by the name of the link, if you are a woman. This applies as much to women as men: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/08/15/what-do-you-want-to-want/

The first article was by no means short, but this second one is more digestible though still bearing an important point. It tells you to stop spending so much time in your head. I may find this interesting as I am super guilty of this and there are numerous articles on the same topic, but this just really caught my eye the past week. To add to some of the points that will presented it also falls right in line with what I am reading at the moment by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which only halfway through looks to be one of the best and most important books I have ever read and I will probably write at least one post on that one alone. But in that book he also mentions that you cannot think yourself happy. Thinking too much impedes action and for most people actually leads to unhappiness. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think at all, but the ones who spend too much time in their head probably already know that they are guilty of it – I sure do for my part.

But go read the very good and to the point article here: http://dariusforoux.com/stop-spending-time-in-your-head/

Finally something I found completely by surprise or at least what it also showed apart from the actual topic was quite a fun discovery. Some people are absolute naturals at striking up conversation and make people do exactly as they want. Seeing these people in “action” can be quite entertaining and fascinating. The clip here is from a Youtube channel for photographers, that in these installments give a shitty camera to a pro photographer to test the myth of equipment vs. skill. Meaning that perhaps you don’t always need the latest most expensive gear to get really good results. With the right attitude and creativity you may even be able to get really good results from shitty equipment.

But the surprising element in this clip actually isn’t the pictures in any way. They turn out okay – but nothing special. The thing to just sit back and watch with fascination is the pro photographer at work. I know that he is in the right element and all the people around the venues where they are as a general rule of thumb probably wants to be seen. But the way he works everybody and just strikes up meaningful conversations, not to mention making people do whatever he likes is just so fascinating in my book. If you ever had a hard time striking up conversations with strangers watch and learn from this guy, he is an absolute beast.

And this concludes the fifth installment of LFK THoughtful Weekends. Hope you enjoyed it. And have a very very pleasant weekend!

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LFK Thoughtful Weekends 001

Flowers and beachI have for a while considered starting a newsletter, with the sole purpose of sharing some of all the articles I read through the week. Whether new or old, but all with the common theme of having been thoughtful to me. Made me think about how I conduct my life, made an interesting point or educated me in some way. They somehow have an impact on me, so maybe it will do the same to others or perhaps it doesn’t – only one way to find out. The plan of the newsletter would in other words not be to gain a big following or earn a lot of money, but just sharing the articles I read anyway, perhaps with a few comments on what I found interesting and what you might learn as well.

But as my thoughts of starting the newsletter never really amounted to anything, or at least not yet, I thought I might try to start of with having it as an weekly feature on my blog. Then I can try my way with it and perhaps with time merge it into some kind of newsletter feature instead.

I had some ideas as to how you could benefit from some of my notes and highlights from the articles, but I haven’t yet found a smart way to do this, so for now it will just be a few links and some comments about each from me. I hope it works for now, but please feel free to comment.

I have thought of different names for these features, without it being that important, but ended with an abbreviation of the title of the blog and a bit about the content which resulted in: LFK Thoughtful Weekends – feedback here is welcome as well.

So what kind of content will make its way into these. In short everything I find interesting. As I will try to explain what I found interesting in the article, you should be able to determine whether it will be interesting at all for you or not and whether it is worth the read or not. But content will keep very much in line with the philosophy of the blog, so if you find some of my writing interesting then I’m sure you will like this as well.

My idea is to send it out at the end of the week so that you can save it and read it Saturday or Sunday morning with a good cup of coffee or tea. Semi fresh and semi open to new ideas and inputs.

First of we start with a little reminder to carve out time to see our friends. I suspect almost everyone will be able to recognize the scenario from this article. It actually is quite a lot in line with the last post I wrote here on the blog How to make everyday feel like vacation without quitting your job. The point isn’t so much that you should find time to see all your facebook friends or be best friends with everyone you ever met. There are people you don’t see that often and honestly deep down actually is okay with it, even though you always says to each other that you should meet more often. That is perfectly okay. This is about the ones where you really deep down actually want to spend more time with them – only you can tell the difference. If they fall in the latter category, MAKE time for them. It is always a “bad” time. Days can go on end without it being the perfect timing for both. Make an appointment and stick to it.

Here is the link to the article from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/19/lets-get-drinks

Next one is from Ryan Holiday. It is no secret that I am a big fan of his writing. I have his book The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage standing face out on my shelf. I really, really liked that one. Even down to the simple fact of the printing and materials used for it. It just oozes quality. Also pre-ordered his new book Ego Is the Enemy which I really look forward to receive and read.

Well this link here is a list of common thoughtful advice from Ryan. They are hard to categorize, and I would prefer not to highlight anything particular although I end up doing so. I think this is one of the saved articles with most notes and highlights I ever had. Of course it is also a collection of a lot of old points from him which I liked in the first place, but still a very, very good list. Lets just take a few to make you go and check it out yourself.

“Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”

“You have no idea what other people are struggling with. You have no idea what their lives are like. Leave them alone. Judge them not”

The article is filled with things like these, each powerful enough to spend an entire blog post elaborating on, but read it and make your own judgement.

Here it is: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2016/06/29-pieces-of-life-changing-advice-i-collected-by-my-29th-birthday/

The last one perhaps is a bit controversial and a point where I have no clear stance on the matter. But what fascinates me is when people think up big ideas that potentially could change the world. Not just incrementally going a bit more in whatever direction but laying out a totally new map. The core of this idea sure fits that description. It may be unattainable or based on flawed assumptions, but independent on whether I think it is a good idea or not, I like that people dream those thoughts and are willing to test them.

Final article: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-05-02/a-basic-income-should-be-the-next-big-thing

That concludes the first issue of LFK Thoughtful weekends. If you liked it please subscribe, or get back next and see if it still floats your boat and subscribe then.

Good weekend everyone!

“A guide to the good life” – and notes

*Notes on the book towards the end

As mentioned before I can’t really remember when I was first introduced to stoicism, but I think some of the first stoic texts I read was from Seneca. Shortly after being introduced to stoicism I stumbled upon A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joyand if I remember correctly I probably bough it together with Letters from a Stoic.

First time I read “A guide to the good life” I liked it, but for some reason not much more than that. It was a good book with good practical advice, but somehow it did not really have the impact I had expected. Too high expectations? – Perhaps.

In the following years I read and re-read a lot of stoic books. Loved Meditations, Ryan Holiday’s book on stoicism and as mentioned above “Letters from a Stoic”. But did not re-read “A guide to the good life” because of my first impressions of it. Then hearing a guest on Tim Ferriss’ podcast praise it, I finally re-read it.

And I am very glad I did. Because this time it really hit something inside of me, it really resonated and I absolutely loved it. It’s really full of practical applications of stoic principles and very actionable. It spend a little too much time on philosophical discussion of stoic principles, but as the author is a philosopher this is not unexpected – even though it seems somewhat going against the exact principles of stoic philosophers; philosophy should be practical applicable in everyday life. But those passages are easily overshadowed by the majority of content that is really top notch.

As I have mentioned in this post: Read and remember – make it stick I always underline passages that resonate with me or perhaps I find worthy of some more digging. Then actually starting with this book, I waited a few days and then went through my highlights writing down notes for most of them.

They are probably very subjective to my head and understanding, but if someone might find them useful they will come below. So as final comment I will highly recommend the book to anyone interested in stoic philosophy and interested in practical advice on how to live like a stoic or perhaps just implement some of their advice.

And now the notes:


 

Notes on “A guide to the good life”

To be virtuous is to live in accordance with nature – if we do this well we live a good life according to the Stoics.

We are social creatures and therefore have duties to our fellow men. Honor friends, parents and countrymen.

Stoic tranquility is the absence of  negative thoughts and the pretense of positive ones.

Unlike Cynicism Stoicism does not require adoption of ascetic lifestyle. We can enjoy money, luxury etc. but should do so while being willing to give it all up. We should not cling to these things.

The obstacle is the way. Hardship and set-backs build character like strength training builds muscle and hormesis builds up our immune system.

Negative visualization. All we have is on loan from “fortune” – cherish it, enjoy it but be prepared to lose it.

Memento mori. Reflect upon each day as if it was your last. Don’t take anything for granted – in an instant it can be gone.

Reflect and be grateful upon the people and things you have in your life and contemplate how sad it would be to lose them. This counteracts hedonic adaptation.

A stoic will not spend all his time thinking about catastrophes and visualizing all things being taken away from him, but a few times a day or week, spend some time contemplating loss of things dear to him in order to make him value them higher.

To practice negative visualization is to contemplate the impermanence of the world around us.

There will be – or already has been! – a last time in your life that you brush your teeth, cut your hair, drive a car, mow the lawn or go for a run. There will be a last time you hear rain or see snow falling, smell newly baked bread or feel the warmth of your child or spouse fall in sleep in your arms. Or a last time you make love. You will someday eat your last meal and soon thereafter you will take your last breath.

Learn to want the things that are easy to obtain or better yet, the things you already have.

Trichotomy of control; things we have full control over, things we have some control over, and things we have no control over. Do not worry over things that you have no control over.

We should periodically cause ourselves to experience discomfort – cold exposure, hunger etc. This rehearses the “what if” and further more builds character and self confidence.

The more pleasures a man captures, the more masters he will have to serve. We must learn to resist pleasures – else we spend our lives twitching in each pleasurable way.

Avoid high expectations – both of people, events and things. Having high expectations set you up for disappointment.

Take responsibility for your reactions to events, a stranger might cut you off in traffic, a colleague may say something insulting – what you can control is your reaction. If you don’t feel insulted – then you weren’t.

In the morning, rather than lazily lying in bed, we need to get up and get to work on the thing that we were created to do. The first resistance of pleasure starts with getting out of bed first thing upon waking.

Avoid melancholy people and negative people – they will upset your tranquility.

Don’t be insulted by things that are objectively right – being bald and then being told that you are bald is not an insult – it is just a fact.

Grief: Grieving for a short period of time is OK. But then move on. If you grieve the loss of a child then after a period get on with your life. Be happy that you had that child in your life in the period you had. And your child most definitely did not want you to suffer so why go against the will of your own child and become a sad and unhappy person?

Anger: Should a stoic that has seen his wife and children be raped and murdered not do anything about it. Indeed he should – but he should remain as calm as possible while doing it. Success in doing so will make for a much better and thoughtful revenge than just resorting to outright anger.

If we seek social status we are at the mercy of other people trying to have them see us in as positive a light as possible. Our goal should be to become indifferent to other peoples opinion of us.

Realize that many other people, perhaps even your closest friend do not want you to succeed. By doing so they may see themselves as being put down, because if you can succeed then why can’t they.

Acknowledge that the exposure to luxury might lose us our ability to enjoy the simple things in life.

Eat to live instead of live to eat. Eat to nourish the body and fill its basic needs not to gain pleasure.

If a stoic finds himself well of, then he should enjoy his wealth but never cling to it. He should contemplate losing it all again. If he clings to his wealth and new lifestyle then he becomes a slave to it. Because then suddenly he might fear losing his high income and therefore becomes limited in his freedom.

Stoics not being afraid of public ridicule, exile or even death often held and stood up for unpopular beliefs. People today often go out of their way to steer clear of trouble, where as the stoics would ask whether a life where nothing is worth dying for is worth living?

A man is as wretched as he convinces himself he is.

The stoics was convinced that what stand between ourselves and happiness is not the government or the society we live in, but the lack of a life philosophy.

Never categorize yourself as a victim. Always take responsibility.

Thanks to hedonic adaptation a pursuit of novel things will always leave us in want and unhappy. We should instead use negative visualization to learn to want the things we have.

Steve Jobs – an evil character

Some months have passed since I read this book: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I can’t really tell why I haven’t felt the urge to write about it yet though. Perhaps more because of the impression about Steve Jobs I was left with after reading it, than the book in itself.

I have read Walter Isaacson’s biography about Benjamin Franklin before, and found it really good and entertaining. I will at some point also read his biography about Albert Einstein – so nothing bad to say about the author or his style of writing – I really like that.

But what really stands in your way as a speed bump the size of Everest is the personality of Steve Jobs. You can try and go around it, look over it, but it is still in your way. Walter Isaacson’s writing is as good in this as in his Benjamin Franklin book, he engages the reader and paints a very telling picture of the man Steve Jobs. But struggle as I might I can’t say that it is a very good book. It is fascinating, shocking and revealing but good – just somehow not.

You can’t argue what Jobs have accomplished. He in many ways have changed the world. But reading the book really made me lose respect for him. And that is not coming from one who did not or still don’t like Apple products – I really am a big fan of them.

The point some people will make however is that he can be forgiven for how he behaved because of what he accomplished – or that you need to be that way to accomplish what he did. I simply just do not buy into that narrative.

There are so many instances where he just acts pure evil! Nothing else to describe it. And it has absolutely nothing to do with being goal-oriented, ruthless business man or anything of the like – he just acts evil. These projections of him can of course be false or projected in a more negative light – but my impressions of Isaacson in general and the book as a whole, is that he tries to be as objective as possible. And this fact just stayed with me for the entirety of the book. People who does so many acts of unnecessary evil and unkindness just cannot be given any respect.

I did finish the book and almost let my guards down a little towards the end, where if you have a really bad short time memory, you may have a slight breeze of compassion towards him. I just couldn’t let go off the evil picture painted of the man. He lost my respect and never won it back again.

Of course your mileage may vary – I almost wish I hadn’t read it. I did not have a positive image of Steve Jobs before, just as slightly unsympathetic at times – but this book really pushed the needle as far towards evil as it goes without physically harming people.

If you somehow feel compelled to read it you can get here: Amazon

 

Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman!

I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite some while. I actually started reading it while in Dublin on a business trip some 6-8 months ago – got very amused by it, but at the time I was in the midst of two other books so had to leave it for some while and finish the others first.

A few weeks ago I picked it up again – and what a book! It is very much on course to be the best and most entertaining book I have read all year. There are some hard contenders in the pipeline but in terms of overall entertainment- and take-away-value I think this book is hard to beat.

I think I can describe Mr. Feynman pretty accurately with just one sentence:

The oldest and most knowledgeable child who ever lived

The full title of the book is: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) and especially the subtitle sure does describe Mr. Feynman accurately. His way of looking at the world is just so incredibly inspiring. He really sees the world through the eyes of a newborn child. He can’t encounter anything without having to know how it works. This thirst for knowing how and why things work inspire you to look differently at the world.

He underlines the importance of this several times throughout the book and especially in regards to education. At one point he joins a special advanced biology class, having no prior specific knowledge about biology. He gets a paper assigned which he reads and then has to give a presentation about in front of the class. It’s a paper about muscles, extensors and flexors which uses a cat as an example – there is one problem however; he can’t figure out where they’re located in relation to nerves or the cat itself for that matter. So he finds a “map of the cat” as he calls it and starts his presentation by outlining where all extensors, flexors and nerves are located on the cat. The class interrupts him and says: “Stop, stop – we know that already!” To which he answers:

Oh! – you do? Then no wonder I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had 4 years of biology.

They has wasted time learning and trying to remember facts that they could have looked up in maximum two minutes time… This analogy is just so important! Why waste your time learning things that you can look up in two minutes? Why not save your precious memory space for knowledge that can actually help you understand both problems and the world in general. Later he also highlights a potential error with this type of learning because it makes you remember certain words, but not understand the underlying principles. This is great for passing an exam but bad for actually applying your knowledge to anything useful.

He also spends quite a lot of time explaining the importance of and joy of teaching others which to him was one of the most important activities of his life. He was by no means a guy that wanted to brag about his knowledge but at the same time he wasn’t afraid to speak up and display how knowledgeable he was either. Applying his curiosity of how things worked made him incredibly capable of applying his knowledge across all domains. This philosophy is exactly what he wanted to come across as he taught classes and had students challenge his beliefs. His Lectures on Physics has for a long time been on my wishlist and has just been amplified by the reading of this book – if only they weren’t so damn expensive!

I could write and highlight so many important points from this book. There are invaluable advice on learning, science, living; even entrepreneurship and how to deal with women – which I found especially amusing and surprising to find in this book. There are so many reasons to pick up this book and the fact that it at times makes you laugh out loud just adds to this.

But to finish of, if you are still not convinced, aren’t sure who this Mr. Feynman actually is or just haven’t seen this before, then please watch this interview with him:

Benjamin Franklin biographies – which should you read?

I can’t recall who led me onto Benjamin Franklin(B.F.). It might have been Ryan Holiday or Tim Ferriss, apart from these two however a lot of historical leaders have claimed to either read or always carried along The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. For this reason I bought it several years ago.

I do not know exactly what I had expected, but I know that I felt like it did not deliver. Boy was I disappointed. I think I struggled through the first 10-20 pages, but just could not grasp how so many people could have said good things about this book – I felt like I learned nothing. I aborted mission and put it back on the shelf.

Several years later I once again somehow came across something about B.F., but this time the recommendation was to read the biography by Walter Isaacson Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. I hesitated – having my last encounter with a B.F. book easily recalled it was kind of a struggle to get myself convinced, but after having read quite a lot of reviews i found a used example and bought it.

It could be a combination of lower expectations and perhaps even my own maturity, but this time a B.F. book did not disappoint. Walter Isaacson really writes in an engaging style and makes the reader feel really familiar with this fun, strange and entertaining character. I finished it with ease and was somewhat disappointed of having to put it back on the shelf – it was so engaging.

After having finished it, I picked up the autobiography once again. This time I went through it much more easily. But I also felt far more familiar with the content as much of it had been explained in the Walter Isaacson book.

Having now read both, I would recommend the one by Walter Isaacson. I think the disappointment with the autobiography comes from the fact that I expected more from it. I expected something in the lines of Meditations from Marcus Aurelius – a book full of good advice on how to live your life – but the autobiography is in many ways just what it says on the box – a biography. You can still learn from it, but I honestly believe that you are better of reading Walter Isaacson. I felt like most of what was covered in the autobiography was also covered by Walter Isaacson, only in a more engaging way.

B.F. sure is a colorful character and there are a lot of takeaways from his way of life. And also a lot of strange paradoxes and lessons on how not to live your own life. What you can’t take away from him however is how much value he gave as a “founding father” of America. His cunning way of maneuvering public life and politics is fascinating, while he to some extend could be accused of totally lacking in the private/family life.

Draw your own conclusions, but I can really recommend the biography by Walter Isaacson, whether you know anything about B.F. or not. It’s a fascinating and engaging read. Now I really want to get through Walter Isaacsons biography on Steve Jobs, which I have on the shelf, and will be ordering his biography Einstein: His Life and Universe very soon – his writing style really engages me.

Stoic books: Aristotle – The Nichomachean Ethics

I have seen this recommended over and over again, and had kind of been looking forward to getting started with it. Having read book by Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, this was going to be my first encounter with Aristotle.

To cut the story kind of short, I was somewhat disappointed. I do not know if this is because I got a ”wrong” edition of it – mine being translated by David Ross. But it was just so extremely hard to read. As I have pointed out in this post I always read these kinds of books with a pen in my hand and underline or mark whenever I stumble upon something useful and then write page-numbers at the back of the book to make it easier to find things I found interesting, when picking up the book at a later occasion.

Judging by the number of page-numbers written in the back I can sort of see the tendency. From page 13 to 24 seems pretty good, then only consistently again from 65-76 and then a long and tedious pause all the way to Book VIII that starts on page 142 where it begins to be really good and remains so pretty much till the end.

But it just keeps nit-picking at little details, shining light on things from so many useless angles that it just get’s so hard to keep reading. It is a really short book, only about 200 pages but, the amount of useless things that are discussed in the middle of the book, just makes it feel like a marathon.

Usually I would abandon ship, if the book keeps being uninteresting after several sittings, but in exactly this case I am rather glad I stayed as the last part, starting from Book VIII is actually really really good.

The Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World’s Classics)

But as my personal advice, I would probably stick to the start of the book and then jump to Book VIII on friendship and keep with it to the end. If you have had a totally different experience with the book then I would love to hear it, perhaps I was just unlucky with my translation, as I have been before the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.