I have been listening to a lot of self help books lately. I know what you’re thinking… oh boy another middle aged man in a mid-life crisis. Sure, perhaps that’s true, but it certainly isn’t uncommon. And lord knows the literary world is filled with gurus who claim to have it all figured out.
But for me, as I drove into this topic, I decided to listen to a wide variety of opinions so that I might perhaps find a path of my own. I wanted to pick what made sense, discard the rest, and help me put into words my own ideas. To that end, I have listed brief synapses of several of the books (not all) that I have reviewed below. After that, I will give you my own combined spin on it all. Perhaps you will find it usefull.
- Start With Why — The most important question to ask and answer is Why. From why we can determine how, and finally what. Purpose, or meaning, is far more important to people’s lives in all aspects than any other factor. He who knows his why can withstand any how or what.
- Leaders Eat Last — The purpose of a leader in any group is to provide support to the group members and to put the group first. The leader is expected to sacrifice more than any other member and for that is often gifted special priviledges. Leaders provide the group a collective Why and then support members in their efforts to realize that why.
- The Infinite Game — There are two types of games: infinite and finite. Finite games have a well defined finish and definitions of winners and losers. Finite games are zero sum games. The goal of an infinite game is not win, but to remain in the game. Infinite games have no end, no point where someone has “won” and others have “lost”. Life and business should be treated and thought of as infinite games.
Jordan B. Peterson
- 12 Rules for Life — 12 essays each built on a simple rule. To summarize: face your fears and confront the tragedy of life head on and with your eyes open. Slay the dragon in his den before he comes to your village. Be truthful at all times to all people (including yourself). Take good care of yourself and be kind to anyone you meet, for you don’t know their full story. Do what is meaningful, not expedient. Take on as much burden as you can possibly bare so that your life is meaningful, fulfilling, and useful to others.
- Maps of Meaning — The mind understands the world around it through a map of meaning. We don’t see objects, we see meaning, and we encode much of that meaning through stories. The old stories of our ancestors have encoded the essentials of ethics and what it means to be human. Discount them at your great peril.
- The 10X Rule — In order to achieve great success you must operate at a level that is 10 fold greater than everyone else. 10 fold the effort, 10 fold the spectacle, 10 fold the goals. Go wherever other people don’t (and better yet, won’t) and be utterly fearless in business and in life.
- Sell of Be Sold — Selling is a full-time job that we all do at all times. You are either selling someone else, or are being sold by them. Learn the tricks and methods of good sales and you can apply them to all aspects of your life.
- Unscripted — The 9–5 world, the one where we are buying houses and material goods and watching sports and TV like good little consumers, a.k.a the American Dream, is a lie. Much like the Matrix, it is the system’s attempt at control. Wake up, see the forest for the trees, and break free.
- The Millionaire Fast-lane — There are no cheats to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It takes a vision, hard work, and a relentless spirit. But in the end, it is well worth it. The make millions, you must affect millions.
- The Miracle Morning — By waking up an hour earlier than normal and using that time purely for self improvement, you setup the rest of your day for success. Your mental state will carry from the early part of your day.
- Willpower Doesn’t Work — Thesis is that willpower is mostly an illusion. That in order to succeed or change your life, you must first change your environment. Only through setting yourself up for what you want by altering your relationships and surroundings can you achieve your goals.
Putting it all together
Some of these have been general life advice, some more business focused, and some (not listed) focused on particular experiences of the author. To that end, I think this is a best shot at my thinking at this point, pulling from purely myself along with the ideas of these authors and others:
- The universe is comprised of two coupled but distinct realities: Subjective and Objective. The objective is the reality of physical things and is understood through science. The subjective is the reality of ideas and consciousness. It is wrong to attempt to oversimplify by saying “only the objective is real” or that “only the subjective is real”.
- While our purpose is in fact whatever we choose it to be, it is wrong to think we have full control over our choices (consciously). Like reality itself, our minds are really two distinct and coupled minds. The first is our conscious mind. It is responsible for our logical choices and front of mind understanding. It has the capacity for speech, reason, and problem solving. The other is our limbic brain. It is the center of emotion, it has zero capacity for speech, and makes most if not all our decisions. Jung classified this bifurcation by noting the existence of a “shadow”.
- Our vision (physical and subjective) is extremely limited. The world is vastly more complicated than our minds can process, and so we have evolved mechanisms to simplify things. This leads to our proclivity to oversimplify and group information. It also means we have a certain conscious level of control over what we perceive. If the world is not the way you want it to be, the most likely cause (by a country mile) is that your chosen perception is wrong. If you keep your mental orientation focused up (to the good) you will have a much better life.
- Attack life. Your baseline purpose for existence is to push the boundaries of life out into the dead. Life is the conscious effort to turn chaos into order. Chaos wins whenever you lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc. Build instead of destroy. Help instead of hurt. Don’t allow a neurotic tendency to talk you into retreating. Remember your “shadow” will always try to talk you into doing things you shouldn’t do, and to avoid things you are afraid to do. It is an overprotective lazy choking mother and destructive and tyrannical father.
- The proper way to approach problems is inside outward. Start with yourself. A rightly oriented individual is a center of a network of people and can positively affect everyone. That affect ripples outward, with every single human being within only 7 steps of one another. Life is extremely complicated, and the systems built by people took thousands of years of toil and trial and error and even death to develop. Show respect for your elders and their efforts and change things with caution and humility.
- Results (success) takes time. Success itself is NOT a goal, it is a process. There are no shortcuts or lottery tickets, despite what social media tells you. You must have faith in the process, create an environment around you that will support that process, and execute each and every day. The marathon is won one step at a time.
- Integrate your shadow. Learn to fear and most importantly respect the dark side of yourself. Don’t be naive in thinking that people are “generally good” and that external forces make them bad. It is the opposite. We have learned that lesson through thousands of years of toil and torture and death. We have created institutions in our society designed around containing our dark nature, and while many of these institutions have flaws, they are far better than the alternative. Several entire generations of people have already been damaged or lost to the chaos created. the dark side of mankind is real, inside each and every one of us, and must be properly kept in check. Suppression of the shadow is pushing too far, which is why it must be integrated.
- Strive to be strong, not weak. Try to be a leader for others by supporting their dreams. Face the monsters head on and push back against nihilism, jealousy, and greed.
- Diversity is strength and it is essential for long term survival. Life, as an infinite game, requires diversity. It is our primary weapon against the forces of chaos and entropy.