I often revisit the books I read in the past to reprocess the passages that I highlighted and to give a second look at the notes I made. It helps me consolidate the concepts that I took away from them.
I go over some of these titles more often, while others more seldom. It depends. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is one of my reference books. It brings me back to Earth. It is one of the purest forms of stoic motivation and it allows me to recalibrate whenever I feel distracted by reality.
Marcus wrote his meditations to serve as conduit to himself. He never thought they will be found and popularized.
That’s why I write this post to myself. Take it as an open journal. Should you take away something from it? I’ll be glad if you do.
Marcus Aurelius – Stoic Power
- “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so, none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”
Every morning I read a few lines from a personal development book. Now I’m adding Marcus’ thoughts to the routine. They increase my awareness of the bad things that can possibly happen during the day; they make me recognize that, innately, human beings are not bad; they are just not fully awake in their actions.
- “Human life.
Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting fame: uncertain. Sum up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.”
The recurrent theme of Meditations: the fleeting nature of human life.
I have to take action now; not next week, not tomorrow, and not in the next couple of hours, but now.
- “If you seek tranquility, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential – what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.”
I will focalize on the most essential goals/projects of my life. I will work on what I’m good at. Peter Drucker said in his book Managing Oneself that you’d better be improving your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
- “In short, know this: Human lives are brief and trivial. Yesterday a blob of semen; tomorrow embalming fluid, ash.”
Another wake-up call. The first part of Meditations takes the whole picture on the transient nature of human beings.
- “When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.”
What is passion? Do you find it? Do you build it from scratch? Cal Newport wrote extensively about this in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And my thoughts on passion.
- “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
I often run straight into road blocks. It sucks. Yesterday was one of those days. I have to challenge my mind to shift gears from complaining and feeling sorry for myself to trying to find a click in the adversity that allows me to push through. It’s not easy. But I’d rather do this than accomplish nothing through self pity.
Ryan Holiday built his book The Obstacle is the Way on this idea.
- “Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the ‘what’ is in constant flux, the ‘why’ has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see.”
Peter Diamandis, someone who I highly esteem, says: Today, the only constant is change.
What a carefully selected wordplay!
We’re living in a world where hundreds of variables affect us everyday. Everything is in constant transformation; technology is a driver. Not willing to change whenever you should and you’re heading straight into failure.
I know this is too abstract; which is why I have to tailor it to as many situations as possible. To better steer my way through change, I have to reread my notes on Edward de Bono’s book Lateral Thinking.
- “Soon you’ll be ashes, or bones. A mere name, at most – and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, and trivial. Dogs snarling at each other. Quarreling children – laughing and then bursting into tears a moment later. Trust, shame, justice, truth – “gone from the earth and only found in heaven.”
Why are you still here? Sensory objects are shifting and unstable; our senses dim and easily deceived; the soul itself a decoction of the blood; fame in a world like this is worthless.
-And so?Wait for it patiently – annihilation or metamorphosis.-And until that time comes – what?Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood – and nothing else is under your control.”
Can I do this today? I have to try.
- “Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Or that this noble vintage is grape juice, and the purple robes are sheep wool dyed with shellfish blood. Or making love – something rubbing against your penis, a brief seizure and a little cloudy liquid.Perceptions like that – latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time – all through our lives when things lay claim to our trust – to lay them bare and see how pointless they are, to strip away the legend that encrusts them.”
I have to take things for what they are. I need to dispassionately disconnect meaning from trivial stuff. It is one of the best ways to quantify my existence, to build myself based on objective/cold feedback. No meanings, no hard feelings, no remorse; just facts and figures.
- “If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”
I am aware that many people cannot let go of their beliefs. I think I understand why. Once the brain picks up an opinion, it requires mental energy to challenge/change it, to build new neural circuits in support of different beliefs.
We are prone to cognitive biases. I have to stay away from that as much as possible. Note to review Carol Tavris’ book Mistakes were made (but not by me).
- “Death. The end of sense-perception, of being controlled by our emotions, of mental activity, of enslavement to our bodies
Disgraceful: for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.”
I know people who live way into their 80s but are mentally dead since their early 20s; such a waste of O2.
Keep your mind as sharp as possible. Exercise the idea muscle every single day.
- “When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.”
I am the average of the 5 people I spend most of my time with.
It doesn’t matter if these people’s advices come from their books, videos or physical presence.
Virtual mentors can be as good (if not better) as physical mentors.
However, it’s better to marry both worlds.
Tai Lopez’s Law of 33% can help here.
- “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, ‘No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.'”
Viktor Frankl is the most appropriate person to elaborate on this…
The one thing nobody can take away from me is my freedom to choose my attitude/thoughts in any given circumstance. Be careful though, free will can be tricky.
- “Other people’s mistakes? Leave them to their makers.”
- “To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice – it degrades you. And you can also commit injustice by doing nothing.”
- “You can discard most of the junk that clutters your mind – things that exist only there – and clear out space for yourself:
… by comprehending the scale of the world
… by contemplating infinite time
… by thinking of the speed with which things change – each part of every thing; the narrow space between our birth and death; the infinite time before; the equally unbounded time that follows.”
How to build a clear, clean, and decluttered mind. Dan Levitin helps me.
- “Either the gods have power or they don’t. If they don’t why pray? If they do, then why not pray for something else instead of for things to happen or not to happen? Pray not to feel fear. Or desire, or grief. If the gods can do anything, they can surely do that for us.
– But those are things the gods left up to me.
Then isn’t it better to do what’s up to you – like a free man – than to be passively controlled by what isn’t, like a slave or beggar? And what makes you think the gods don’t care about what’s up to us?”
What is religion? Who is my God? I need to review my notes on Noah Harari’s book Sapiens for a refresher on the history of humankind and the adoption of dogmatic beliefs.
- “Epithets for yourself: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative. Disinterested. Try not to exchange them for others.”
It’s not easy, but what in life is?
- “None of us have much time. And yet you act as if things were eternal – the way you fear and long for them …Before long, darkness. And whoever buries you mourned in their turn.”
- “If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live in a consistent way.”
I have to reread Brian Tracy’s work on having clear goals and my notes on David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.
- “Socrates used to call popular beliefs ‘the monsters under the bed’ – only useful for frightening children with.”
Religion and diets: most people’s dogmas. Never attack or try to prove someone they are wrong. Thank you Dale Carnegie!
- “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. If a god appeared to us – or a wise human being, even – and prohibited us from concealing our thoughts or imagining anything without immediately shouting it out, we wouldn’t make it through a single day. That’s how much we value other people’s opinions – instead of our own.”
There’s nobody more entitled to talk about this than James Altucher. I have to choose myself first; every single day. It’s the only way I can become a better and stronger me; it’s the only way I can efficient help others.
Having outlined these inner thoughts here, it is much easier for me to visit them whenever needed. You (another reader) may do this as well. I don’t encourage you to leave me a comment below; it’s not why I wrote this journal; but if you feel there’s something really important to add, I can make an exception.
- Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
- Peter Drucker – Managing Oneself
- Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You
- Ryan Holiday – The Obstacle is the Way
- Edward de Bono – Lateral Thinking
- Carol Tavris – Mistakes Were Made (But not by Me)
- Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning
- Sam Harris – Free Will
- Dan Levitin – The Organized Mind
- Noah Harari – Sapiens
- David Allen – Getting Things Done
- Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People
- James Altucher – Choose Yourself!