Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman – Richard Feynman
Screw the government. I believe people should treat people like people.
The first time that I encountered Richard Feynman was when I saw the video embedded below. I was taken aback with his passion for the natural world. I think there is tremendous power in appreciating the little things in life.
In his book he writes about a discovery he had as a child. On a microbiological scale, ants have the capacity to lift droplets of water. Feynman describes a time when he “watched an ant consume a drop of water” with a little microscope. It was “terribly exciting” as he put it. His book is full of little gems like this.
He even provides lots of tips on how to pick locks, party, meet girls, play in a Brazilian samba band, how to become a commissioned writer, deal with Las Vegas gangsters and how to parry the government institutions that make no sense. The practical lessons alone in this book are good enough to warrant my recommendation. The most powerful lesson was to foster a deep appreciation for the natural world. I feel like a much better person for having gone through his life story. I can’t recommend it enough.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it, if you’re doing it, stop.
Pressfield quotes Socrates, “the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” If you can internalize this and believe it, the rest of The War of Art is a boot to the ass in the effort to get the reader to create their self mastery.
One of my favorite delineation is between the fundamentalist and the artist:
- Artist – One whose culture provides for affluence, independence, a core of self confidence & hope for the future. One who believes human kind is moving in a good direction.
- Fundamentalist – One whose philosophy is that of the displaced and dispossessed; believes we have fallen from a higher level; cannot stand freedom, and returns in imagination to the glory days of his race.
The most relentless enemy to the artist is the resistance. Pressfield describes this resistance in a hundred ways because it is everywhere and is probably the most subversive force in the land. The key to fighting it is to go pro and he describes how to do it in great detail.
To be honest, this book scared me. I know there are hundreds of things I want to do, and I know the resistance has had me under it’s gnarly boot heel for far too long. I feel like learning about it is a strong step in improving my position against it. That is why I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s fantastic and easy to read.
Finally, if you’re a Tim Ferriss fan, you’ve got to read this book. Many of the roots of Tim’s ideas clearly have developed from The War of Art.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Almost everything you don’t do has no good reason for it. Almost everything you don’t do is the result of fear inertia or the lack of someone else asking, “why not?”
Again, I’m working my way through Seth’s back-catalogue. “Digital cameras are well on their way to replacing film cameras” – goes to show the age of this book. Yet aside from bits like this, the book is still full of valuable lessons for today.
For example, I’m trying to build a company now and I’m learning as I go. Seth brings up the point that one big reason for business failure is that the owner is busy running the company rather than marketing a product. I’m spending most of my time now running a business and I know I need to transition to marketing the product.
So aside from the marginal age of the book, his points are almost all useful today. He discusses idea viruses, what it means to be remarkable, how safe is risky, why going to the edges is a strategy for success, otaku and much more. Finally he lists some tips for success in the abundance economy.
- Don’t be boring
- Safe is risky
- Design rules now
- Very good is bad
By the way, don’t miss your opportunity to work with Seth
Thats it for the Books
I’m working my way through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich which is proving to be just as depressing and fascinating as one could dream. I think everyone knows Adolf Hitler was the spawn of Satan, but sitting down and studying how he ran his operation is just a dumbfounding experience. I’m about halfway through so I’ll tell you more about it next month.
After that, I’ll be reading Work the System by Sam Carpenter too. You can get a free copy of it here. If it’s good, I’ll throw it up here next month and give a little review.
Prophets of Doom – Hardcore History Show 48 – Dan Carlin
Priests spoke Latin. The bible was only understood in Latin. Therefore, the priests had the key to something that the commoners couldn’t understand. Luther translates the bible from New Testament Greek to contemporary German (of the time.) This turns the “knowing of what god wants” over to the people. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!
Every-time a Hardcore History episode comes out I get giddy like a school girl who just found out Justin Bieber will be in her town. This is hands down my favorite podcast and this episode supports my passion for the show.
It’s all about that stuff you learned in history class. How the collapse of the Roman Empire left a vacum of power that the Catholic Church filled. The Chruch was corrupt and awash with money from selling indulgences and so Martin Luther banged the 99 Thesis to a wall and the birth of the protestant reformation was eminent.
I had some fantastic history teachers, but Dan Carlin is probably the most fantastic history teacher you could imagine. He tells this story with so many bloody details that it’s simply impossible to turn off. Carlin uses descriptions like, “imagine this guy to be on the cover of a Led Zeppelin album.” This just makes the whole thing far more interesting.
At the end of the day, it’s entertaining as all hell but best of all; you learn how crazy lucky we are to be alive in times like these, rather than times like those. Check it out people. It’s free after all.
I absolutely recommend donating to Dan Carlin. I do.
School of Greatness – Lewis Howes
Another month and another mention for Lewis because I really appreciate what he’s doing with The School of Greatness. This month I recommend his interviews with:
- Kyle Maynard – Probably the most inspirational story I’ve ever heard. If you have to choose one from this list, listen to this one.
- Ben Nemtin – It’s all about chasing dreams and making things happen. I think Ben and Lewis really demystify what has made The Buried Life so successful.
- Don Yaeger – Though I’m not really into sports, Don does an excellent job of describing what makes great people great.
- Adam Grant – We’re in a giving economy and Adam’s got science on his side.
You might say, “Ian you’re recommending all of the School of Greatness podcasts. Aren’t you just promoting the podcasts you work on?”
These shows are awesome. Listen to them. If you feel like you wasted an hour of your time, I don’t know what to tell you.
Good Life Project – Jonathan Fields
- Christian Howes – What. An. Amazing. Story (the podcast will be on iTunes in July)
- Chris Guillebeau – Another amazing story. He just recently traveled to every country in the world.
- Seth Godin – You know I’ve got a love for Seth-O – By the way, don’t miss your opportunity to work with Seth.
That’s It for May
Thanks for reading. I really appreciate you all who take the time to sit down and care about what I’m writing.
The process of writing this once a month is incredibly helpful in keeping me studying and working hard to improve myself. If you’re interested in doing it too, I’d love to hear from you. This life is short and it’s important that we do as much of this intensive, reflective study work as possible.
I wish the best for you.