Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Three Questions: How to Discover and Master the Power Within You by Don Miguel Ruiz

Summary
  1. “At each stage in our lives, we must ask these simple yet deeply profound questions. Finding the answers will open the door to the next stage in our development, and eventually lead us to our complete, truest selves”
Key Takeaways
  1. Who am I? You will know who you are by what you are not
  2. What is real? You will know what is real by what is not real
  3. What is love? You will know love when you know what love is not
  4. Everyone feels good around someone who has genuine love for themselves. We can never give what we do not have so it makes sense that it would be hard to truly love others if we don’t move ourselves. Be aware of your self talk and be affectionate and compassionate to yourself. Unconditional love of yourself is paradise.
  5. You can love without worrying about getting anything in return. You’ll find that you come to love naturally. When you don’t have to defend your opinions, you’re free to be authentic and open, surrendering to life
  6. Love has no conditions
  7. When there is nothing left to defend, truth is all that’s left
  8. The solution to all conflict is respect
  9. One of the biggest barriers to love is fear. We must be extremely aware of irrational fears, things which aren’t real, things which we’ve made up. We must face the fear and increase clarity, bringing calm and self awareness.
  10. Fear, left unchallenged, controls our actions. We are often most afraid of our reactions and enjoy being the victim. Awareness is our gift and salvation
  11. Searching for answers brings unexpected revelations. Curiosity opens unseen doors. We allow ourselves to receive the information of life. When we can’t master our own attention, we miss a lot. Too much focus on one thing means we miss so much around us
  12. Humanity’s greatest art is to dream consciously
  13. When you give up having to know or be right, you become so much lighter
  14. People trust authenticity more than almost anything
What I got out of it
  1. Be authentic, self-aware, and give as much of yourself to others as you can

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Summary
  1. Robert Greene draws on a multitude of different resources to highlight the laws of human nature. The examples are timeless, universal, and profound. By acknowledging these human universals, to what extent they impact you, and how they are prevalent in others, you will become more aware and better able to mitigate and control them in yourself and others. “Human nature is deeply ingrained within our genes, within our brain’s structure, and has evolved over millions of years. It is partly responsible for how we make decisions, how we manage our emotions, and it controls, unknown to us, the vast majority of what we do and think. Human nature has helped us survive and determines much of our emotions and how we think and behave.  Understanding how we are wired will help us better deal with others and better see through when they’re trying to manipulate us, take advantage of us, charm us, or otherwise. We developed extreme sensitivity so that we could better read and judge others and to this day, although we don’t realize it, we are finely tuned to register how others react, to their voice, their body language, and more. This book is an attempt to draw together the vast store house of knowledge from many different fields to describe and give examples of some laws of human nature. They are laws in the sense that people tend to react quite consistently in similar situations. Becoming aware of these laws will make you a calmer and better observer of human nature, more able to notice and decipher the subtle cues everyone emits, and become a greater judge of character.”
Key Takeaways
  1. It is important to realize that these laws of human nature impact, affect, and influence you as much as other people and by truly understanding them, they will help build your empathy, allowing you to simply see other points of view better and more clearly, giving you the opportunity to focus on what’s important – helping others and having having an impact. You will be able to train yourself to be present, to let go of preconceived notions, and to continually adapt your understanding of the people around you. This understanding will help you become more empathetic and more effective in everything that you do
  2. The Law of Irrationality – Master Your Emotional Self
    1. Realize that people often act the opposite of how they feel – someone loud and obnoxious is often insecure
    2. Emotions taint our thinking and behaviors, not allowing us to see and act in accordance with reality, leading to bad decisions, pain, and stress. By admitting and embracing this rationality we can slowly tame our emotions, become more rational, thereby making us more effective and insightful as we can align with reality, to see things as they really are and not as we wish they were
    3. The first step to tame your rationality is to admit that you are irrational. As you become more introspective, the calm inner voice will grow more confident and louder, allowing you to see things more clearly and accurately. You first recognize the biases in yourself and work towards giving yourself the space and time to think and act how you want, and not simply react emotionally
    4. The goal of rationality is not to eliminate emotion, but to channel it in order to become aware of why you are feeling what you are feeling – to take advantage of it and use it to further what you want to do
    5. You can become more rational by becoming more aware of low grade irrationality or what happens in the subconscious, and high-grade rationality (what happens in your conscious). Over time, you will be able to train your emotions so that you become be less reactive over time. You improve your rationality by first knowing yourself thoroughly – knowing your strengths and weaknesses, how you react under pressure, and when you’re flattered. Next, you must improve your reaction time giving yourself space to think and not just react instinctively. Then you must accept people as facts and not try to change them but just accept who they are, understand them, and how you have to deal with them
    6. We must learn from our mistakes. The point of memory is to not repeat mistakes but so few people take the time and energy to really dive into what caused him to err.  We have to become aware in the moment of things that make us react and dive into why we feel that way – is it a childhood trauma, something our parents told us, or why do we just react emotionally?
    7. People‘s true character and ability shine through under stress. You have to find time, space, and quiet in order to be able to think and gain perspective. Don’t think you are above stress and that it doesn’t impact you – it does!
    8. Be weary of groups as it doesn’t stimulate rationality and independent thought but rather the much deeper and more ingrained part of us that wishes to belong – leading to herd behavior
    9. Don’t think that we are in a steady path towards rationality as a species. The pendulum swings back and forth between rationality and irrationality. It is part of the cycle of human nature. Irrationality won’t always look the same but it will always come back. Improving rationality is something to be done at an individual level and not at a species level
  3. The Law of Narcissism – Transform Self-Love into Empathy
    1. We must be honest with ourselves and grow and come to love a cohesive self or risk falling into narcissism
    2. Turning your attention outwards to others rather than inwards like most people do will help you grow your empathy muscle and give others the attention they so gravely seek
    3. Shackleton in the toughest of times drew out very specific daily tasks to give everyone meaning and focus. In addition, he understood each man so well that he knew what to talk to them about, when, and how to keep them happy, their morale high and content. This empathy was literally life and death as it is for us, although it’s not as clear
  4. The Law of Role-Playing – See Through People’s Masks
    1. People hide their true feelings and intentions so you must become an expert reader in other people and at the same time learn how to play your role as convincingly and consistently as possible
    2. Milton Erickson was diagnosed with polio at a young age and to occupy his mind he observed others extremely closely and through this knowledge and pattern recognition came to see an incredible world of nonverbal cues, motions, gestures, the importance of tone of voice, and everything beyond what is simply said. Observe, observe, observe. People tell you so much with their walk, tone of voice, how they sit, their micro expressions, and more.
    3. Negative emotions leak out through body language and they must be observed and weighed more than whatever mask people put on
    4. Be authentic, humble, open minded and generous – “saintly” and above reproach
  5. The Law of Compulsive Behavior – Determine the Strength of People’s Character
    1. Gravitate to those who display strength. One best reads people’s character in stressful and difficult times
    2. Character comes from the Greek word meaning “stamped upon”. Our character is ingrained in us and is composed of our genetics, our earliest relationships and quality of attachments, and from habits and experiences. We can learn to compensate any harmful traits but for the most part they’re hard to rid
    3. People are quite bad at judging character but the most reliable way to assess someone is through their actions (people never do anything just once, actions are truer and can’t be rationalized by words), how people handle small and simple affairs, how people handle power and responsibility. Try to only work with people of strong character for those with weak character will negate all their other good qualities and will cause more headache than you want. People who are strong of character are as rare as gold and you should hold onto them is if you found treasure
    4. It is impossible to change one’s or others’ character but you can mitigate them by going deep within yourself, admitting your flaws and weaknesses, and doing all you can to strengthen them up and act in such away to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. The goal is not to become someone else but to be thoroughly and authentically the best version of yourself
  6. The Law of Covetousness – Become an Elusive Object of Desire
    1. Realize that most people, no matter how often it is said, don’t really want truth and facts, they want their imagination lifted and their ego boosted
    2. Realize that the grass is rarely greener on the other side
    3. Learn when and how to remove yourself. You also want to be a little cold and ambiguous so people can’t get a great feel for you
    4. It is not possession but desire that drives people. By becoming a scarce commodity and playing on other’s covetousness, you can become highly desirable
    5. In the end, what you must covet is a closer relationship to reality, bringing calmness, knowledge about yourself, an understanding of what you can change and what you can’t, and being OK with both
  7. The Law of Shortsightedness – Elevate Your Perspective
    1. Learn to judge people by the breadth or narrowness of their vision and seek to surround yourself with those who can understand the consequences of their actions and have a bold vision
    2. With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to achieve almost any goal
    3. When people’s horizon shrink to days or weeks, they lose the ability to see the consequences of their actions and they become manic
    4. 4 signs of shortsightedness:
      1. Unintended consequences (have at least one person focus solely on consequences)
      2. Tactical hell happens when you can’t back out of everyday battles to get detachment, perspective and the long-term view (strategists will always beat tacticians)
      3. Ticker tape syndrome (need to know instantly drives short-termism, avoid the noise as much as possible)
      4. Lost in trivia (know what’s most important and spend most of your time on that)
  8. The Law of Defensiveness – Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-Opinion
    1. Learn to tame your stubbornly held positions and come to see other’s points of views and beliefs. This will open them up, making them more open to your suggestions
    2. It’s hard to ignore a man who makes you feel good. When you have valuable information and can get things done on top of it, you’re a force
    3. LBJ knew he had to rein in his more aggressive and bullying qualities in order to win over key allies and learn from them. Having one key ally near the top of the mountain can make a lot of things happen. He never asked for favors but did others favors, if his allies had any interests he would cultivate an interest in that too, he was always willing to help and work hard, knew what others wanted and needed and figured out how to make himself the gate between those things, he made it in other’s interest to hand over power to him
    4. Influence over people is often gained in the opposite way than we imagine. Put the focus on others and make them the stars of the show. Always step back and assume a subtle inferior position. Then do some small favors for them and they’ll begin helping you, expanding your influence. Bring out the cleverness of others and make them feel good when they leave you
    5. People have a self opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate. 3 universal traits: I’m autonomous, intelligent, good and decent. These affect everyone’s self opinion and playing into these and validate them make them feel good. Avoid confronting people’s self opinion.
    6. 5 strategies of master persuaders
      1. Be a deep listener and be aware of subtle nonverbal cues
      2. Infect people with the proper mood (acceptance of others unconditionally, calm, enthusiastic)
      3. Confirm their self opinion (people choose to help you)
      4. Know what people are insecure about and compliment that
      5. Use people’s resistance and stubbornness against them (channel their aggressive energy in order to make them fall on their own – use their emotions, their language, their rigidity)
    7. Praise people for their effort and not their talent
  9. The Law of Self-Sabotage – Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
    1. Our attitudes are self fulfilling and paint everything we see, experience, learn and do
    2. See yourself as an explorer – always curious, open to new things, having weakly held convictions, you are always trying new things and want to learn
    3. See adversity as opportunities to improve and to get better, not something to be avoided. Understand that you can’t change people – embrace and enjoy who those people are and make the most of it. When you do this people, come to love you, accept you, and see you as a leader
  10. The Law of Repression – Confront Your Dark Side
    1. Embrace your dark side and integrate it into your personality. You’ll become a more complete and authentic person and radiate that to others – attracting them into your circle and influence
    2. Depression and anxiety comes from not being aware of your dark side and not letting it shine through in a positive way. By denying that side and repressing it, it only becomes stronger and comes out stronger in ways that you will come to regret
    3. Most hatred stems from envy and is a way for the subconscious to release some energy
    4. Steps to bring about and integrate the shadow:
      1. Become self aware and see the shadow (others can often see your shadow better than you can so ask them for their opinion)
      2. Embrace your shadow
      3. Show the shadow
  11. The Law of Envy – Beware the Fragile Ego
    1. You must become a master decoder of envy and those who are predisposed to being envious.
    2. People are status-seeking animals and constantly monitor their relative position in the hierarchy. People must have an adequate position to be comfortable and happy
    3. Always emphasize the role of luck in your life. Enhance your flaws in order to make yourself more relatable and to mitigate envy. As you gain power, keep humbling yourself and asking for the opinion of those below you
    4. Be wary of mass – spread the love, the relationships, and the wealth and you’ll have people pushing for you to rise rather than trying to put you down
  12. The Law of Grandiosity – Know Your Limits
    1. You must be aware of your tendencies towards grandiosity and how important that is for you. If you feel the temptation, you must mitigate this by realizing your weaknesses and how big a role luck has played, becoming more realistic and grounded
    2. Be aware of your grandiosity needs, concentrate that energy on a particular task or goal, create a dialog with reality and be open to the flaws in your plan, find appropriate challenges which test you but aren’t too much, occasionally let yourself take on huge challenges
  13. The Law of Gender Rigidity – Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You
    1. By blending in the opposite side, what you’re most lacking, you’ll become more complete, fluid, whole, and authentic, drawing other people to you as you merge the different sides of your personality.
      1. This is a far more effective tactic than trying to become a purer version of what you already have
  14. The Law of Aimlessness – Advance with a Sense of Purpose
    1. We must be open to our internal, primal traits that make us unique. They not only help set us apart and get us on a path towards mastery but also helps the community at large as it fosters diversity and helps spur creativity and innovation in others
    2. Operating with a high sense of purpose which aligns with who you are and what you want is the force multiplier – allowing you to achieve more and have a more meaningful and impactful life. Discover this sense of purpose and find as many ways to connect with it as possible – this will draw others towards you and open up opportunities that you would have thought impossible
    3. Discover your calling by going back to your roots, your childhood, the primal inclinations which set you on fire – the things which you got very enthusiastic about and couldn’t stop thinking about. Things which are so fun or easy for you are good signs.
    4. Surround yourself with as many people as possible with the deep and true sense of purpose. They will help teach you, guide you, energize you, and motivate you
    5. Have a long term goal but also build in small, shorter term goals which build up to the ultimate goal. This will keep you moving in the right direction and mitigate anxiety
    6. You must get into deep flow as often as possible in order to progress quickly and in the right direction. It takes a lot of work and is difficult as it takes sacrifice and dedication but is the only way to get there
  15. The Law of Conformity – Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
    1. Develop self awareness and the changes that occur to yourself and others when in a group. One of the greatest threats to our survival thousands of years ago was being ostracized so today fitting in and being accepted in the group is one of our greatest concerns. We fit in by accepting the norm and imitating and following the group. The danger is that we stop thinking for ourselves and simply imitate the group and lose what makes us unique and gives us power
    2. All people have evolved to see hierarchies and this gets exaggerated in groups. We lose our rationality and go with the herd, often leading to dangerous or poor outcomes
    3. You must be aware of the effect that groups have on people as individuals and the broader group dynamics – hierarchies can lead to cliques, factions, and power mongering
    4. In any group you have to understand the culture and the fact that an older company and a bigger group will likely control you rather than you control it. You also have to understand the group dynamic and the hierarchy – who is moving up and down relatively
    5. You can make factions and cliques less attractive by creating a positive, unifying, and uplifting culture that people can go all in on
    6. You must understand and be really realistic with yourself and how big of an influence the group has on you. You’re not as much of an individual thinker as you think you are. You must be able to detach yourself from the group and be a realist – this is more important today than ever
    7. Bad culture drags everyone down. You can’t focus I’m trying to improve individuals – you have to fix the dynamic. Improving the culture this will lift everyone up. When the group can face reality head on and kick-ass, that is when you have a great culture. Instill a collective sense of purpose (no matter what field, quality and excellence are key factors – money and success are byproducts). This higher purpose is rare to come by so people will go all-in and police themselves when they find it. Assemble the right team of lieutenants (avoid the petty details which cause confusion, competence and character are vital, know their roles and make sure they have complimentary skills, you must treat people equally, get rid of those who don’t fit the mold, and lead from the front), let information and ideas flow freely (frank and diversified information, open communication, transparency on how decisions were made), infect the group with productive emotions (lack of fear, courage, calm, openness to new ideas), forge a battle-tested group (group who rises in tough times and doesn’t wilt)
    8. A group willing to face reality with a great culture help rise people up, it is one of people’s most memorable experiences to be part of a group like this. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process
  16. The Law of Fickleness – Make Them Want to Follow You (an amazing chapter on leadership)
    1. People are always ambivalent about powers and leaders. Authority is the delicate art of wielding power while making people feel like you are working for them
    2. As the leader you have to embody and practice all the traits that you would want in a leader. You must work hard, lead from the front, be fair, be consistent, courageous, wise, and calm and difficult situations
    3. As a leader be very aware of how fickle people are and how history is riddled with examples of great leaders who start showing some signs of weakness, arrogance, or whatever else which leads their people to turn on them and sometimes put them to death or ostracize them
    4. The fundamental role of the leader is to provide a far reaching vision to unite the group. We must avoid seeming petty  and our focus needs to be on others, on the culture, and the vision.
    5. Toughness and empathy are the twins pillars of leadership. They are not mutually exclusive but inextricably bound. You must have both or people will begin to lose faith in you as a leader
    6. You must be a consummate observer of people and these traits of leadership and hierarchy, coming to embody and practice them consistently in all situations
    7. Most people run away from the dangers and responsibilities of leadership but you must embrace it. This skill is increasingly rare in today’s world so the more you can run towards it, the more you’ll stand out. The essence of leadership is that when people willingly follow, you will not need force, rah rah speeches or to punish people. Your leadership style most authentically arise out of your personality and character you can be authentic, a founder, the deliverer, a visionary artist, healer, pragmatist, etc – but it must be natural for you
    8. Turn your focus outwards so that you’re always looking to help others and then you work to earn people’s respect – never assuming it will be given to you. What drives you is bringing the greatest meaning and utility to the largest group – never on your ego or selfish desires.
    9. Having a vision allows you to work backwards from the future to the present and determine the steps that you need to take in order to get there.
    10. You have to lead from the front and show early that you’re tough. Have high standards for your own work and  if there are sacrifices to be made, you have to be the first to make them, and they can’t simply be symbolic. If you take things away, make it known that it is only temporary. Be in a position where you can be generous
    11. Never overpromise
    12. Finally, we like to focus on the psychological health of individuals, and how perhaps a therapist could fix any problems they might have. What we don’t consider, however, is that being in a dysfunctional group can actually make individuals unstable and neurotic. The opposite is true as well: by participating in a high-functioning reality group, we can make ourselves healthy and whole. Such experiences are memorable and life-changing. We learn the value of cooperating on a higher level, of seeing our fate as intertwined with those around us. We develop greater empathy. We gain confidence in our own abilities, which such a group rewards. We feel connected to reality. We are brought into the upward pull of the group, realizing our social nature on the high level it was intended for. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process.
  17. The Law of Aggression – See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade
    1. John D Rockefeller is the role model and story for this. He would use his will to outdo, outthink and outwork his opponents. Hostility is within every human and don’t be fooled to think anyone is too nice. Rid yourself of the denial that this doesn’t exist in people.
  18. The Law of Generational Myopia – Seize the Historical Moment
    1. Transitions can be seen over decades and seem to be universal across time and indicate that they are bigger than any one generation. It is part of human nature the pendulum swings in the trends follow
    2. We must develop generational awareness understanding how our own generation impact our thinking in view of the world and have generations overall impact people across time
    3. You must understand and honor how much the time period and generation you were born into affects you. For example, millennials care more about teamwork than individualism, and security rather than risk because of the financial crisis. If you can define the zeitgeist for each generation, you will better understand the people within it and how to work and get along with them. Taking different perspectives will help your creativity and calm you. Once you have a sense for the zeitgeist, look back in history and find a parallel. Associate yourself with heroes of the past
    4. Always work with the spirit and don’t critique or try to change it. Always evolve and adapt, don’t become a caricature of the past. Modernize your spirit, adopting your experience and perspective with some of the traits of the younger you agree with
    5. You must develop deep relationships with people from various generations
  19. The Law of Death Denial – Meditate on our Common Mortality
    1. Realize that life is short, that most people are terrified of death and have not confronted that within themselves.
    2. If you live everyday, there is more than enough time
What I got out of it
  1. Deep self-awareness is the cornerstone. Once you can face reality and admit your flaws and weaknesses, you can address them and mitigate them. As much as you can, put others before yourself, put your energy and attention on them rather than yourself

A Treatise on Efficacy

This book ties together so many recent themes for me – Werner’s effortless mastery, strategy, philosophy, psychology, and more.

A book well worth reading and re-reading. One of my all time favorites

A Treatise on Efficacy

John H. Patterson: Pioneer in Industrial Welfare by John H. Patterson, Samuel Crowther

Like my write-up on Henry Ford and some of my other “teacher’s reference guides“, I got so much out of Pioneer in Industrial Welfare that I wanted to create a more formal write-up. As always, I have attempted to put together something which is (hopefully) a manageable, actionable and digestible introduction to Patterson’s thinking and business philosophy.

On John H. Patterson

 

 

*The vast majority of the content is from the books and not my own words. I’ve simply distilled, compiled, and added a few notes.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson

Summary

  1. 12 rules for how to balance chaos and order, how to live a meaningful life that benefits self and others. If we each live properly, we will collectively flourish

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
    1. Most animals and every human is part of a dominance hierarchy and being higher has more positive effects than we care to verbalize. It is an external part of our environment, an unchanging aspect of evolution. Where we stand powerfully affects every aspect of our being – conscious and unconscious alike. Our system actively monitors exactly where we stand in society and there are physical changes that occur in victory and defeat (a loss by a dominant lobster leads to a virtual dissolution of his brain into a subordinate brain).
    2. Many human games are winner take all or winner take most so being a winner often has exponentially positive effects – virtuous and vicious cycles. You feel safe and secure so can take more risks, change is typically seen as good and you can be more confident, courageous, and generous, can be on less alert and plan long term, you can delay gratification. All characteristics, traits, behaviors that enhance chances of success. Those at the bottom are generally less healthy and don’t live as long. Being at the bottom necessitates a lot of emergencies and a strong will to survive but this burns our energy.
    3. Having predictable daily routines offsets much chaos, unpredictability and ultimately fear that many people experience – go to sleep and wake up at similar times, have a high protein and fat breakfast. Many difficulties stem from biological imbalance and if we can get our sleep, diet, health in order, we can better manage anything that comes at us
    4. If you start to straighten up, people might just start looking at you and treating you differently. Your nervous system responds totally differently when you take on a challenge directly as opposed to being forced into it. Being higher up in the food chain, in the social hierarchy, has obvious social, physical, psychological, physiological effects which ripple into everything we do or undertake
  2. Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.
    1. Peterson argues that because you know your own faults better than anyone else, how meaningless and flawed you are, you have trouble taking care of ourselves like we would others. We don’t respect ourselves and see ourselves as falling creatures. We don’t stand for and walk with the truth so can’t take care of ourselves in the way that someone who did would. Most people simply do not believe they deserve the best care. However, although we are not a God, we are something, we matter. You have a moral obligation to take care of yourself as best as you can because it not only benefits you but ripples and benefits others as well. You deserve to be taken care of and to be healthy and happy
  3. Make friends with those who want the best for you
    1. Good influences will encourage you and not put up with your flaws. They will push you to be a better person and to strive for more, for better.
    2. Those who are bad influences will try to drag you down for every improvement you make in your life only makes them more aware of their own inadequacies
  4. Compare self to who you were yesterday and not who someone else is today
    1. Aim high but make the goal(s) reachable
    2. Be careful who you compare yourself to. The comparison is generally too narrow, without taking the full context into account. Is that famous person you are jealous of truly happy. Are they close with their families? Do they feel fulfilled?
    3. You have to see yourself as a stranger and ask who you are, what you want, where are you and where you want to go. Imagine that you’re dealing with your moodiest, most sensitive, laziest friend and communicate to yourself as you would to them. Nobody wants to work for a tyrant so ask nicely, humbly. Begin with small, simple asks and actions – what small thing could you do today that would help you accomplish that? That would get you just an inch closer to better, to being happier. Just like you pay an inspector to tell you the flaws in a house, you need an inspector to tell you your flaws. This can be an internal critic, if he/she is on the right track and has your best interests in mind.
    4. The past and the future are similar except that the past is fixed. You can do something about the future and happiness is found in uphill progress.
    5. 3 simple questions to get started on this path:
      1. What bothers me?
      2. Is this something I can fix?
      3. Would I actually be willing to fix it?
      4. What could you do, what would you do, to make life just a little bit better
    6. When you feel strongly about something, you must speak up. When this failure happens at a societal level, tyranny ensues. It is on the individual to speak up for what is right, to stop evil, to do good.
    7. What you aim at is what you see. That’s worth repeating. What you aim at is what you see. Overtime this accumulates and progresses. This is magic. This is compound interest. Seeing is difficult and very cognitively expensive so you must shepherd your resources carefully. You must ignore the unmanageable complexity found in the world and march towards your goal. You see obstacles as they arise and find a way around them. However, you must balance this with knowing when to back off for marching blindly towards your goal will make you unaware of other, potentially better, opportunities. If we accept that we are blind to most of the world, we also must accept that most of the opportunities are outside of our awareness. This is incredibly uplifting because it means that finding different paths, more opportunities is always available
    8. You cannot fool your psyche. You must wholeheartedly want to improve, to become better. You have to know what this means for you from bottom to top. Becoming better and improving takes more resilience and responsibility than living stupidly and without a purpose. It takes perseverance and effort. Don’t let that stop you. Align yourself to your highest good, bring peace and beauty into this world.
    9. You are too complex to ever fully understand. The closest proxy we have is to observe how we act. Don’t overestimate your self-knowledge. On one hand you are the most complex thing in the universe and on the other, you can’t even set the time on your microwave.
  5. Don’t let kids do anything that would make you dislike them
    1. Successful parents make kids eminently sociable (know how to play which allows them to develop and learn and be accepted by a wide variety of groups).
    2. Many parents are willing to give up respect in order to gain friendship. This is wrong. Your children will have many friends but only two parents. Proper discipline is difficult and takes much effort but the long-term payoffs are priceless. It will give you a well-adjusted, socially desirable child. Boundaries and limits, although not generally welcome in the moment, are needed by all children. They push in order to see what is permissible, where the boundaries lie. Consistent correction is necessary and better sooner than later, and a better alternative to what the child is looking for must be shown.
    3. No grudge after victory – you always reward good behavior. Children do not solely cry when they are scared, hungry or sad, but more often they cry because they are angry. Anger crying is often an act of dominance and should be dealt with as such.
    4. Violence, destruction, anxiety are not hard to understand. They are the default. Peace, progress, calm are hard to understand because they are difficult, they take restraint.
    5. Discipline and punishment evoke bad images but their use in raising children cannot be avoided. Rewards are of course needed too and they can’t be so small they are inconsequential nor so large that they devalue future rewards. People move towards what they find agreeable and away from what they don’t. So know what you are looking for and what you want more of and reward that and punish what you don’t. You can discipline your children or you can wait for the harsh and uncaring world to do it for you. Poorly socialized children have terrible lives so it is best, and most loving, to socialize them yourself when they are young. The question is not if to punish/discipline/reward your children, but how to best do it based on the temperament of your children
    6. Rules should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Bad laws drive out the good. Limit the rules and then figure out what is done when one is broken but use the least force necessary to enforce those rules – this must be figured out experimentally (note the rules he mentions in this section for why children should behave well). You are not doing your child any favors by holding back on punishment and discipline and ignoring their bad behaviors. Timeouts are useful to show the child that they can rejoin once the anger or poor behavior has resided.
    7. Parents should come in pairs. Parenting is difficult and everyone has bad days so it is necessary to have someone else around to observe and step in when needed
    8. Parents should understand their own capacity to be mean, vengeful, spiteful. No adult human being can withstand being dominated by a child forever and this will eventually lead to a need for revenge, to ignoring the child and the real punishment will then begin – resentment, holding back love, ignoring them. Planning and knowing the proper punishment and how you will act will stem toxicity and save the family
    9. Parents have a duty to act as proxies of the real world. Caring proxies, loving proxies, but proxies nonetheless. This responsibility supersedes any responsibility to make the child happy, boost their self-esteem, it is the primary job of parents to make the children very socially desirable, bringing opportunities, deep relationships, meaning and fulfillment. Clear rules make for sociable and calm children and rational parents
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
    1. Understanding resentment, revenge, and the dark side of humanity is very helpful but you must come to know these in yourself before you can judge others. It is only through the difficult self-work needed to make your life better, the little things that you know you can do or stop doing in order to make yourself happier, to make your life simpler, to make the lives of those around you better. Only once you have acted on all these and have gained this self-knowledge, can you begin to look outward and expect more of others. Once you see how hard it is to expect these things of yourself, you will better understand others and not have sky high expectations
  7. Do what is meaningful and not what is expedient
    1. Doing anything meaningful requires sacrifice and sometimes the bigger the sacrifice the more meaning you can gain
    2. Delayed gratification, planning, and sacrifice are essentially bargains with the future – you give up something today in order to have more or better tomorrow
    3. What is the biggest most impactful sacrifice you can make today and what is the most ideal future that would create? Define this for yourself and align your life to give yourself the best chance of making that happen
    4. Sharing done properly is giving something today to someone with the hope that they will give you something else in the future. It is the beginning of trade. What is even better than sharing is sharing generously, without expecting anything in return, for this has many positive unintended effects and everyone loves and helps those who are generous
    5. The most successful sacrifice: any sacrifice which is difficult to make, and is personal. Do this until it becomes easy, until it’s routine.  This is foregoing what is expedient and what is easy for what is meaningful
    6. If you learn to listen to your conscious, get to know your values and ideals, and follow them, you’ll be given more than you could ever need or require. The payoffs are greater than you know
    7. Enlightenment is so rare because it takes a move down to move up which means that the enlightened know the darkest, deepest, worst spots and stains and behaviors of man and is therefore never surprised by human nature. However, the flip side is that they also know the highest, the ideal form of man and knows that we are all capable of that as well
    8. Evil is when you make others needlessly suffer for no reason other than to see them suffer and good is anything which stops it. That is the meaning for that we should guide our lives towards. Never lie for this is the road to hell. Make this your moral pinnacle do everything in your power to alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering – that is the meaning of the good life
  8. Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie
    1. Never lie for it is the road to hell. If you lie, you can’t present your true self to others and you will never get to know your true self either. You will never truly know who you are or maximize your potential. You are hiding from the reality and not willing to confront it head on
    2. Lies warp the structure of being and lead to repression, pathologies, and the moral issues and horrific events that we saw in the 20th century
    3. You have to know where you are and where you are going so that you can chart a course, so that you know what you need to do to get from where you are to where you need to be. You have to know what your principles are, what you stand up for, so that you can argue against those who do not believe in what you do, so you can protect yourself, and you can more easily tell what is worth striving for. You have to keep your word and reward yourself when you succeed. It takes work to make heaven on earth, it won’t just be handed to you
    4. True thinking is really hard and really rare. Thinking can be thought of as a conversation between two or more avatars in your head and you have to be able to take each one of their sides, listen to each one, see how they would play out in your reality and then act on it. What most consider thinking is simply self-criticism disguised as thinking
    5. Memory is not meant to be perfect recall of the past for that does not exist. Memory exists in order to help you not make the same mistakes over and over again
    6. Truly listening to someone is one of the rarest skills and gifts there are. People organize their thoughts through conversation and if they have no one to share them with, they lose their minds. If you can truly listen, people tell you more than you could ever ask for and they will generally be very interesting and help you grow as a person
  9. Assume person you’re listening to knows something you don’t
    1. What you don’t know is more important than what you know. If you truly listen to people they’ll tell you what’s wrong, what they want, and how to fix it. Repeat people’s arguments to them and ask if you understood it correctly – don’t want to “win”, want to fix the problem. You and me against the problem, not me against you
  10. Be precise in your speech
    1. We don’t perceive objects like we think we do. We perceive meaning directly and then assign them to objects. We see tools and obstacles, not things and objects. And it depends on our needs and goals. This is why knowing where we are, where we are going, what we want, what we don’t want, our values, etc. is so important. It literally affects how we perceive the world around us
    2. We often see by instinct what things mean even before what they are which means that objectivity is very hard to reach
    3. Emergency = emergence of “c”, emergence of chaos
    4. Never underestimate the power of omissions. When things get swept under the rug and are not discussed and flushed out, they grow and manifest and become worse than you could ever imagine. If only they were brought up early and transparently and discussed openly, they could be called out, named, and dealt with. Everything discussed becomes clarified and gives you the potential to at least remedy them. If you avoid rather than address, what you least want will eventually come to happen, at the worst possible time. To specify the problem is to admit it exists, to admit what it is that you want. This may hurt but it is far better than the alternative and in the other way you cannot fail as you have not admitted what it is you want but this path leads you quickly astray. Be brave. Risk conflict in the present for longer term peace and happiness
    5. If we are imprecise with our speech, things remain vague, we are in the fog, our destination is unknown. Courageous clarity of thought is needed to call forth the problem
    6. Say what you mean, act out what you say so you can find out what happens and then course correct. Tell those around you who you are and what you want
  11. Don’t bother children when they’re skateboarding
    1. Kids need some danger, some consequences, in order to gain competence and later mastery. If things are too safe or predictable, they’ll behave in unintended ways because they need to live on the edge in some sense. They enjoy risk because it helps them improve future performance
    2. If you can’t understand why somebody did something, look at the consequences and then infer their motivations
    3. Conscientiousness and honesty more common and natural in western culture than people give it credit for.
    4. Take responsibility for your life and make the most of it. Don’t restrict children’s play
    5. Competence and not power is what gets you to the top of the hierarchy. In the west, the traits most associated with success are intelligence and conscientiousness and for entrepreneurs and artist, it is intelligence and openness to new experiences
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one in the street
    1. In order to cope with a crisis, people shorten their time frame just to make it through the day. Be alert to the unexpected beauty in life during difficult times
    2. What you love about someone is inseparable from their weaknesses, from their flaws
    3. In the depths of difficult situations it is not thinking that gets you out but noticing. Notice that you love someone not despite their limitations but because of them.
  1. Other
    1. Consciousness is the thin veil the process that turns order into chaos. It has been proposed that the two hemispheres of the brain exist in order to deal one with order and the other with chaos. Meaning progress and for filament is found when you have 1 foot in order and 1 foot in chaos providing some stability and routine while still being able to learn and grow this is the straight and narrow path to flow and all progress. A good question for parents regarding chaos and order is do you want to meet them safe or strong
    2. An idea is more creditable when the results from the investigation come from various different realms
    3. Two lessons Peterson learned about the Golden Rule – about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. The first is that it has nothing to do with being nice and the second is that it is an equation rather than an injunction. It is better for both parties to be strong, to stick up for what is right, because if you just give in and are “nice”, one will become a slave and the other a tyrant. Sticking up for yourself therefore is helpful to you and also beneficial to the other party
    4. Happy is by no means synonymous with good. When you give a child candy, the child is happy but it is not good
    5. There is no one enlightened, only those who seek to be closer to enlightenment.
    6. Overemphasize who you are becoming rather than who you are. This mindset, while often painful, is the fastest road to growth, fulfillment, and happiness.
    7. Aim to be the person at your father’s funeral who everyone can rely on
    8. A shared belief system simplifies communication and allows you to more easily understand where you stand in relation to others. It is inaccurate but a necessary mode of thinking. This simplification is absolutely vital and if it is threatened can lead to outcomes such as the Cold War. It is a system of value, providing a hierarchy and a structure for how to act and respond to others

 

What I got out of it

  1. An incredibly insight and interesting book, drawing from many different realms. I re-read it the minute I finished it and will return to it often

The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer

Summary
  1. Schopenhauer walks us through the art of ordering our lives to gain the maximum pleasure and fulfillment
Key Takeaways
  1. The wise of every age have said the same things and the fools have done the same
  2. The first and most essential factor in our happiness is our personality, what we are, for it is always with us and shapes everything around us and everything that happens to us.
  3. Man’s happiness can be summed up in three lots:
    1. What they are – their personality, what has been bestowed upon them by nature
      1. It is undeniable that lasting happiness and fulfillment comes from the first bucket, from their inner constitutions. External circumstances are worth relatively little because they are shaped by our experiences, thoughts, and ideas that shape the externalities and affect how we respond to them. It is what we are and not what we have that leads to lasting happiness
    2. What they have
      1. Excessive material wealth does little for happiness but we must be able to meet our needs or else we won’t have the luxury of time and space to focus on ourselves and what makes us really happy.
      2. Excessive wealth leads to so many unintended distractions that you can’t focus on what really matters to you.
      3. Focus on acquiring culture and gaining knowledge rather than material wealth
    3. The esteem others hold them in.
  4. Beauty
    1. The gift of beauty is not one which should be lightly thrown away it is an invitation to others to like us and should be used accordingly
  5. Health
    1. Health is the foundation of happiness
    2. Health accounts more for happiness than nearly any other factor.
    3. A sound mind in a sound body is the foundation for all happiness and without which it is very difficult if not impossible to be happy.
    4. For great health avoid every excess and exercise regularly – even the trees must be shaken by the wind in order to thrive.
    5. Therefore any action which deprives us of health is a poor decision as 9/10 of our happiness comes from health
  6. Boredom
    1. The greater one is in their wealth or knowledge, the less susceptible they are to boredom extravagance and other vices.
    2. The wise man aims for a life free from pain and annoyances and seeks one of leisure and quiet.  The less wise a man is, the more apt he is to become bored for when he has nothing to do, his intellect does not turn on and he loses interest in everything around him.
    3. With time, leisure, and intellect, truth becomes clear
  7. Being Self-Sufficient
    1. Happiness is to be self-sufficient which is why wise man needs a little outside stimulation and socialize less on average than the normal person
  8. One can learn best from the extreme examples for they give us a magnified looked at our own nature
  9. Man never feels the pain of not getting what he has never known to ask for
  10. What is worth doing is hard to do
  11. Rank and honor and pride are tied to what others think is useful and not truly what you want to do or what you think is useful or how you best spend your time.
What I got out of it
  1. Striving for leisure and lots of time to read and think are worthy goals; health is at the heart of happiness; it is one’s inner happiness which lasts and paints external circumstances

Acres of Diamonds by Russell Conwell

Summary
  1. Change is never “out there”, it can start where you are, right where you are
Key Takeaways
  1. Most of us look for success anywhere and everywhere except right where we stand, and yet that’s where success can be found. It makes not so much difference where you are as who you are.
  2. To make money honestly is to preach the gospel. 98 out of 100 of the richest Americans are rich because they are honest. That is why they care on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men
  3. Money is power and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it.
  4. Love is the grandest thing on God’s earth, but fortunate the lover who has plenty of money.
  5. A man can judge very well what he is worth by what he receives
  6. The difficulty was that I had not learned then that the foundation of godliness and the foundation principle of success in business are both the same precisely. Treat others as you would be treated, do this kindness and you shall receive rewards yourself which it will be your duty to take
  7. The man who has gone through life dividing always with his fellow men, making and demanding his own rights and his own profits, and giving it to every other man his rights and profits, lives every day, and not only that, but it is the royal road to great wealth
  8. The moment a young man or woman gets more money than he or she has grown to by practical experience, that moment he has gotten a curse. Don’t regard an inheritance as a help. There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation. I pity the rich man’s son. He can never know the best things in life. One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his own living, and when he becomes engaged to some lovely young woman, and makes up his mind to have a home of his own. Then with that love comes also that divine inspiration toward better things, and he begins to save his money. He begins to leave off his bad habits and put money in the bank.
  9. The discipline of a poor boy is worth more than a university education to any man. Just ask Vanderbilt’s son who took a $3/week job after he learned his father earned his fortune all by himself and wouldn’t take any of his father’s money
  10. Known demand. That one thing is the secret of success. You must first know the demand. You must first know what people need, and then invest yourself where you are most needed. When you know what people need you have gotten more knowledge of a fortune than any amount of capital can give you
  11. True greatness is often unrecognized
  12. Lincoln’s rule was this: whatsoever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind into it and held it and held it all there until that was all done. That makes men great almost anywhere
  13. Greatness consists not in the holding of some future office, but really consists in doing great deeds with little means and the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private ranks of life. To be great at all, one must be great here, now.
What I got out of it
  1. Every minute of every day allows us an opportunity to change, to take advantage of an opportunity. Known demand is a key rule in business

Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles G. Koch

Summary
  1. Charles Koch describes his management philosophy, Market Based Management, how it has evolved over time, and how it has been put to use at Koch Industries. MBM emphasizes Principled Entrepreneurship over corporate welfare, virtue over talent, challenge over hierarchy, comparative advantage over job title, and rewards for long-term value creation over managing to budgets.
Key Takeaways
  1. Market Based Management
    1. Charles’ goal when he was young was to discover the principles that best enable people to flourish as they live and work together. He grouped his findings into what is now known as MBM. MBM is a reality based tools that helps employees problem solve without explicitly being told what to do and this requires a simple structure that is deeply understood by all. It’s goal is to create spontaneous order by providing a simplified set of guiding principles and mental models to guide their behaviors and decisions.
    2. The system must be set up so that everyone knows what the right thing to do is and wants to do it, without overly detailed explanations or rules. Enlightened-self interest gets people to do the right thing for others as it also helps themselves
    3. MBM prompts us to focus on understanding consumers’ unmet needs and finding ways to satisfy them. We strive to do this faster and better than existing and potential competitors. This requires that we continuously improve our existing capabilities, such as sales, marketing, operations, distribution, finance, technology, and R&D
    4. MBM guiding principles – integrity, compliance, value creation, customer focus, knowledge, change, respect, fulfillment.
    5. Companies must realize they are not competing just on price and output of existing products. They have to relentlessly strive to come up with new and better products and produce them more efficiently than the alternatives. They also need to constantly improve the way they’re organized, so they can innovate and eliminate waste better than their competitors. This is what MBM enables Koch to do.
    6. No one can decide which products and services a customer values better than the customer. Dedicating ourselves to satisfying what she values is showing respect for her. This is what generates good profit. Bad profit comes from disrespecting customers by making them subsidize our business with their tax dollars and higher prices, siphoning away the good profit other companies could have earned
    7. Over time, we have made changes, not only to our vision, but to our entire approach to recruitment and management, our internships, university relationships, junior military outreach, trade school relationships, compensation system, opportunity origination networks, methods for achieving environmental and safety excellence, and MBM training and application programs.
    8. MBM strives to create a spontaneous order of self-actualizing people by hiring, retaining, and motivating those who internalize and exemplify all ten Guiding Principles – those with integrity and humility who want to create real value. Toward this end, it’s important for leaders to understand the potential and the subjective values of their employees. This is impossible without establishing open and honest communication in order to know employees well enough on a personal level to do so. For some employees, non-financial incentives – such as being praised for a job well done – can be as important as financial incentives. But care must be taken to ensure that such praise is truly earned
    9. MBM is broken down into five core areas including vision, virtues and talents, knowledge process, decision rights, and incentives. These five areas lead to emergent effects as the whole is greater than sum of its parts and become mutually reinforcing. This is a never ending process of learning and improvement and just like the Red Queen Effect, stasis equals death. Even successful companies struggle to keep up because, given human nature, we all tend to become complacent, self-protective, and less innovative as we succeed. It can be far more difficult to overcome success than adversity. I think often about a lesson my father impressed on me at an early age: “Often adversity is a blessing in disguise and is certainly the greatest character builder”
      1. Vision
        1. Determining where and how the organization can create the greatest long-term value. Koch’s is different than most as its focused on value creation and people, not product, industry, profit, or anything else. Koch must create real, sustainable value for its customers, for society, and for itself. It can only do so by inspiring and attracting customers, suppliers, and partners.
        2. Having a clear vision is critical to attracting the best talent. Understanding what a business is trying to achieve and how it creates value not only enables employees to focus and prioritize, it helps them develop and find fulfillment. Having a shared vision guides the development of roles, responsibilities, and expectations. That’s why getting the vision right, helping employees (especially leaders) internalize it, and updating it as often as necessary is essential. Because the future is unknown and unknowable, a company’s vision needs to be open-ended and to embrace creative destruction on a fundamental level. In our experience, a company tends to be better served when it is capability-focused rather than industry-focused. The breadth of a company’s vision should vary with the breadth of its capabilities. At the same time, a business must have a vision specific enough to guide its strategies, decision making, allocation of resources, and the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of all employees. Each vision also needs to be aspirational in order to expand the thinking of leaders and employees through the organization.
        3. Koch underscores that in order to achieve long-term success a business cannot rely on short-term profits but must accept the necessity of what economist Schumpeter calls “creative destruction.” This means that a firm must innovate at least as quickly as its most effective competitor. Building on these insights, Koch explains that at the heart of MBM is the understanding that the role of business is to help people improve their lives by providing products and services they value more highly than their alternatives, and to do so while consuming fewer resources.
        4. Koch’s vision is its north star and acts as a strategic guide which is constant and ever changing and drives the innovation culture and values of the organization
        5. Koch’s vision:
          1. Remain family owned, well-diversified, stable and financially conservative
          2. Grow organically faster than inflation, and achieve additional growth through acquisitions.
          3. Be an employer of choice through extensive team member development and engagement activities
          4. Have our portfolio businesses recognized as “best in class” within their respective industries
          5. Be model corporate citizens in the communities we call home
      2. ​Virtue and Talents
        1. Helping ensure that people with the right values, skills and capabilities are hired, retained and developed
        2. The company has a list of ten “Guiding Principles,” which include integrity, compliance, value creation, Principled Entrepreneurship, customer focus, knowledge, change, humility, respect, and fulfillment. Interviews are based around these traits and open-ended questions are used to discern a candidate’s probability of success in demonstrating the desired traits. Once interviews are completed, a challenge session among the recruiter, interviewers, and hiring manager is held to ensure the best knowledge is shared when making a hiring determination. Employee referrals have resulted in some of our best hires and we have also developed strategic relationships with external sources, including search firms familiar with MBM and our Guiding Principles. We invest heavily in college recruiting efforts and a well-developed internship program
        3. No matter how difficult the role is to fill, it is critical that we not lower our standards. A bad hiring decision is much more costly in many, many ways than is the delay in finding the right candidate
        4. There are many different kinds of intelligence and they should all be taken into account: interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, naturalist, bodily-kinesthetic, and musical
      3. ​Knowledge Processes
        1. ​Creating, acquiring, sharing and applying relevant knowledge, and measuring and tracking profitability
        2. Knowing why something is profitable is often as valuable as knowing what is profitable.
        3. Benchmarking involves identifying, understanding, and adopting superior practices from anywhere in the world – internally, competitors, great businesses in any field.
      4. ​​​Decision Rights
        1. ​Ensuring the right people are in the right roles with the right authority to make decisions and holding them accountable. This should demonstrate an employee’s comparative advantages.
        2. The bestowal of decision rights upon an individual, moreover, should not be predicated upon that individual’s position in the corporate hierarchy.
        3. Many of the things that go wrong or opportunities that go unrealized in business are a result of the tragedy of the commons – shared areas with unclear (or nonexistent) demarcation of responsibilities. At Koch, we use decision rights to replicate the benefits and responsibilities of property rights in society. Just as we think of employees as entrepreneurs at Koch, we think of decision rights as property rights in the organization. Unless people have clearly defined areas of responsibility, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to elicit beneficial proactive behavior, or to hold people accountable when things go wrong. When no one has clear ownership of a resource, no one can be help responsible for its efficient use. In MBM, decision rights are synonymous with authority. If you have the decision rights to decide something, not only do you have the authority to decide it; you are responsible and accountable for it. ​
        4. Decision rights should reflect an employee’s demonstrated comparative advantages. An employee’s comparative advantages are evident in those activities for which she can create the greatest value compared to the opportunity cost of her time. When these are optimized among a group, the value it creates is maximized. Employees who focus on their comparative advantages and consistently make good decisions will have expanding decision rights, regardless of their role or position in the organization. Understanding and applying this concept – that the person with the comparative advantage to make that decision well (not necessarily the highest-ranking person) should be the decision maker – leads to greater value creation.
        5. Competitively advantaged innovation requires working on the best opportunities, establishing a clear owner, having the right people in the right roles, effectively experimenting, rapidly and efficiently scaling up, and finding the balance between short and longer-term disruptive innovations. In other words, the very nature of innovation requires a dynamic approach to decision rights, with frequent reviews and adjustments. ​
      5. Incentives
        1. The first goal of incentives is to harmonize the interests of the individual with those of the company. This reinforces our individual employee’s desire to do the right thing and help the company prosper. Second, compensation should be consistent with the notion that no two employees are alike; thus, their compensation can vary considerably depending on the value of their contributions. As a result of difference in vision, desire, values, and ability, people vary in the advantage they take of the nearly limitless opportunities to create value. This is why two employees performing similar roles may well be compensated differently. Third, no limit should be put on an employee’s compensation, so employees will not put a limit on the value they create. Finally, incentives should be structured in such a way that the company can effectively attract, motivate, and retain principle entrepreneurs
        2. Rewarding people according to the value they create for the organization. There are several tools to accomplish this, including base pay adjustments, annual incentive compensation, spot bonuses, deferred compensation, and other incentives. A key role of managers is to retain and motivate employees who are adding superior value. By paying for value created, we help ensure the firm’s competitiveness
        3. Important to align incentives across business units so that there is no in-fighting
        4. The value of missed opportunities and avoidance of errors should also try to be estimated and included. Makes opportunity cost tangible by taking missed opportunities into account with bonuses and salaries
        5. Koch advises entrepreneurs to stay private no matter how big their company gets
        6. Incentives are incredibly important. Koch incentivizes its employees by paying on marginal contribution and value created in their unit and then based on their contribution. It will never be perfect but it must be directionally correct and the reasoning behind it must be explained as well. Must signal what is valued most highly and doing so in a principled manner. Must be financial and non-financial – meaning, challenge, competition, praise, belief in the mission, being part of a successful team, personal growth
        7. Incentives are as important for external counter parties such as customers, suppliers, contractors, shareholders, distributors, agents, trading partners, former industry employees, specialists, universities, technology developers, consultants, communities, and governments. Aligning incentives with performance is almost always effective but must take these external parties into account too. Must understand what each values and deliver on it. Communities want a good neighbor, who takes care of the area, protects the environment, operates safely, and provides good jobs
        8. Budgets are often useless and sometimes counterproductive if they perverse behavior through misaligned incentives
        9. Framework for determining incentive pay (never perfect but directionally correct and must be explained to the employee)
          1. Determine the value created by the employee’s business unit, facility, or service group to Koch, considering current earnings and return on capital, change in capabilities, competitive position, and the risk-adjusted value of innovations and growth initiatives – that is, the prospect for future earnings
          2. After thoroughly assessing all the employee’s contributions to the value the unit created (positive and negative), we compare this to the contribution necessary for her base compensation. To the extent that her contribution exceeds this amount, we award a bonus or other incentive compensation based on that difference
          3. Deductions are taken for any compliance or EH&S problems to which the employee has contributed. If such problems are serious enough, they could wipe out the employee’s entire award. Additions to, or subtractions from, the employee’s compensation will also be made if she has had a significant positive (or negative) effect on the unit’s culture
    10. Good Profit
      1. ​Good Profit is about providing value to the customer while also benefiting society and comes from Principled Entrepreneurship: creating superior value while using fewer resources and always acting lawfully and with integrity. It comes from contributing something to society. This is the vision of Market Based Management which Charles Koch began developing in the ’60s. It takes a win-win framework and allows Koch Industries to adapt and deal with change more effectively than others. They have prospered through the years with no government aid or external help because their focus is always on producing value. MBM, while simple, is not easy. The whole organization must understand the principles so deeply that they can adapt to any problems or circumstances
      2. Good Profit is what follows when long-term value is generated for customers, employers, shareholders, and society. MBM generates Good Profit
      3. Good Profit 101: providing the best hassle-free service to our clients at the lowest cost to them and attracting the best employees based on the opportunities we offered. Our goal was – and still is – to be the counterparty of choice to our customers, vendors, communities, and employees
      4. The most reliable signal that a business is using reality-grounded mental models and providing service that customers truly value is a profit made over time under beneficial rules of just conduct
      5. Opportunity Cost – the true cost of any activity is the highest-value activity forgone
      6. Subjective Value – At Koch we also urge our salespeople to understand each customer’s subjective values and tailor the way we deal with them accordingly. Many public companies value steady, predictable earnings more than larger (on average) earnings that are more volatile, since steady earnings tend to result in a higher stock price. Because of this difference in subjective values between us and our customers, it can be mutually beneficial for us to absorb the price risk in our contracts, and for them to compensate us for it. Koch is always willing to do this kind of win-win business. Listen to partners particular needs and design structures that suit both parties well. Strive for speed, certainty, confidentiality, efficient and responsive deal screening, and to concede terms that are important to the seller but not as important to Koch.
    11. 8 steps in the Decision Making Framework
      1. Briefly describe the authority being requested
      2. Give the background and a summary of the value proposition
      3. Outline the objective with the strategic fit
      4. Prepare an economic summary with a base case, as well as other plausible scenarios that could make the project much better or worse
      5. Identify the key value drivers
      6. Describe the key risks and mitigants
      7. List the alternatives considered and why the one shown is best
      8. Project the timeline for future steps
        1. Decision traps – overconfidence, framing, anchoring, status quo bias, sunk costs, information / confirmation bias, confusing random events with patterns, allowing a leader’s past rejections to stop the consideration of good future opportunities, conservatism trap
    12. Ludwig von Mises (Human Action) was a big influence in Koch’s philosophy and management style (as was Polanyi’s Republic of Science)
      1. The more books I read, the more passionately I embraced the truth that widespread human well-being demands a system that clearly defines and protects private property rights, allows people to speak freely without intimidation or legal repercussions, refrains from interference with private parties’ agreements and exchanges, and allows human action – rather than arbitrary notions about how much things “should” cost – to guide prices. Allowing people the freedom to pursue their own interests (within the limits of just conduct) is the best and only sustainable way to achieve societal progress. For individuals to develop and have a chance at happiness, they must be free to make their own choices and mistakes, rather than be forced to accept choices made for them by others. As I digested this and went about my business, it dawned on me that these principles are fundamental to the well-being not only of societies – as I learned through my interdisciplinary studies – but also of organizations, which are essentially small societies. When encountering a challenge at work (such as sunk cost or competitive disadvantage), I began responding with the principles of a free society in mind. And sure enough, one concept at a time, I saw that that the principles that worked in society also worked in an organization.
      2. As a young man Charles spent his nights in Wichita Kansas reading every subject trying to understand what principle allows people to flourish. He took ideas from all disciplines such as physics and Newton’s Third Law of Motion regarding reciprocation. Came to understand that organizations are like miniature societies and what would benefit society at large would also benefit organizations
    13. Experimental Discovery > A Grand Plan
      1. ​Must have an experimental discovery mindset rather than a grand plan mindset. Must also know when you are experimenting and bet accordingly. The point is that progress – whether in business, an economy, or science – comes through experimentation and failure. Those who favor a “grand plan” over experimentation fail to understand the role that failed experiments play in creating progress in society. Failures quickly and efficiently signal what doesn’t work, minimizing waste and redirecting scarce resources to what does work. A market economy is an experimental discovery process, in which business failures are inevitable and any attempt to eliminate them only ensures even greater failures. For experimental discovery to work, we have to not only design experiments properly but also recognize when we are experimenting so we can limit the bet accordingly. Koch companies have suffered whenever we forgot we were experimenting and made bets as if the risks were small when they were not.
      2. Smith and Hayek demonstrated that prosperity can take place only through spontaneous order, an order that results from unscripted human action, not human design.
      3. The process of discovery begins when we observe, often vaguely, a gap between what is and what could be. Our intuition tells us something better is just beyond the range of our mind’s eye. To build a culture of discovery, we must encourage, not discourage, the passionate pursuit of hunches (no matter the origin!).
    14. Metrics
      1. Knowing why something is profitable is often as valuable as knowing what is profitable. For this reason, a business must also develop measures that help it understand the drivers of profitability. Prices and profit and loss tell us what people value and the best methods and resources to satisfy those values. They are also the primary indicators of whether we are doing the right thing as a company. In a true market economy, one in which prices are allowed to freely adjust, profit and loss is the market’s objective measure of the value a business is contributing to society. To succeed, a business must not only develop profit and loss measures, but also determine their underlying drivers, in order to understand what is adding value, what is not, and why. This knowledge informs its vision and strategies, leads to innovations, creates opportunities to eliminate waste, and guides continuous improvement
      2. The most valuable measures keep us on track in advancing our vision by enabling us to identify opportunities and problems, and by stimulating innovations,
      3. A successful organization should measure – and do its best to understand – the profitability (and profitability drivers) of its assets, products, strategies, customers, agreements, and employees, and anything else for which it is practical to do so
      4. When measuring, accuracy should always be emphasized over precision. As we use the terms, accuracy is the degree of correctness that creates value. Precision goes beyond that, to near perfection. Perfection, thus, is thus the enemy of progress
      5. Most decisions should be made using marginal analysis. This requires understanding the difference between costs and benefits that are marginal and those that are not, such as sunk costs. Only by making decisions on the appropriate margin will a business consistently enhance its profitability and eliminate waste. That margin will vary enormously depending on the decision.
    15. Other
      1. ​Charles father, Fred, founded what would later become Koch Industries. When Charles joined in 1961 it had a net worth of about $21 million and as of 2015 the number has reached an approximate $100 billion. Father always stressed integrity, humility, character and the fact that adversity is the best way to improve your character and to learn. His father put them to work full-time when he was young following that his son would never become a country club bum
      2. Since Charles took over, they have reinvested 90% if their profits and aim to double profits every 6 years (~12% annual growth)
      3. Their strong balance sheet insured their suppliers that they would pay in full and promptly. Their goal was always to be the counterparty of choice
      4. Corporate welfare is damaging because it limits competition, innovation, and customer options
      5. Koch makes acquisitions when they can provide additional value through their internal capabilities, can improve existing businesses or provide new platforms for growth. I often think of what we do as bricklaying. Or perhaps more precisely, stonemasonry. Once a stone has been carefully selected and set, it shapes a new space in which the mason can set yet another well chosen stone. Each stone is different, but they all fit together to create a framework that is mutually reinforcing
      6. Getting the right people was Charles’ main focus from day one
      7. Creative destruction, while painful for some, is a net positive for society while corporate welfare is a net negative
      8. The man who understands principles can apply his own methods, the man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble
      9. Deciding the order in which to do things can be just as important in deciding what to do. Three step process: quantify, simplify, prioritize
      10. Hiring, retaining, teaching, and inspiring people is one of the most important functions of the organization. You should aim to always hire virtuous people regardless of open positions. Coach employees to be the best that they can and consider moving them around within the company if their skills aren’t lined up with their role
      11. Avoid entering into partnerships without an exit mechanism
      12. The apprentice model has been extremely effective at teaching newer hires. There are 4 stages – I do, you watch; I do, you help; you do, I help; you do, I watch
      13. Every organization has its own culture. If that culture is not created consciously and purposively, it will degenerate into a cult of personality or an anything goes environment. You can never think of yourself as too big or too good to fail. Koch’s culture comes from the framework of the free society, where innovation and productivity thrive – to the degree that the framework is upheld. The second category is the theories of philosophers and psychologists whose behavioral prescriptions strike me as refreshingly reality-based – thinkers such as Hayek, Polanyi, and Maslow. The third is my own life experience, which was spent working with all different kinds of people.
What I got out of it
  1. An amazing look into what has turned Koch from a $21m operation in the ’60s to an over $100b organization today. Simple (but not easy) principles which are scale invariant, win-win, sustainable, and adaptable. An organization is a mini free-society and what works at the largest level of society, works just as well at the level of organizations. Treat people as they want to be treated, be trusting, reward people for the value they create

The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

Summary
  1. Alan Watts introduces Zen Buddhism to a western audience by discussing zen’s history, the principles and practices, za-zen meditations, koans, and how to incorporate into your life
Key Takeaways
  1. The western mind attaches the idea of “self” more closely to what he or she has done or was than who they currently are
  2. Must learn how to combine peripheral with linear thinking. The hunch with rationality, trusting our gut and the feel of the situation as much as what we rationally know about it
  3. The minute nirvana becomes a desire, it becomes Sankara (suffering). Real nirvana cannot be conceived.
  4. One has to know in one’s bones that there is nothing to be grasped. There is no way to enlightenment that requires any force. Must surrender completely
  5. Everything is relative, non dual. Things can only exist in relation to others. Only when we begin classifying things does duality arise
  6. All beings are endowed with a Buddha nature. We simply forget it. There is nothing to achieve, we just need to go back to our original state. To seek Buddhahood is to deny you already have it
  7. The contemplation and distinction between right and wrong is a common sickness of the mind
What I got out of it
  1. A thorough and informative history of zen and a good overview of the main themes, terms, and characters

Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse

Summary

  1. There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

 

Key Takeaways

  1. If a finite game is to be won by someone it must come to a definitive end. It will come to an end when someone has won. The spectators or referee may approve but the players must agree who has won the game. There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. No one can play who is forced to play. It is an invariably principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play. 
  2. A finite game also has a precise beginning and can therefore be said to have temporal boundaries, be played within a marked area and with specific players. One cannot play alone and therefore there are numerical boundaries as well. There can only be one winner and others are ranked
  3. Infinite games are in sharp contrast except in that if one must play, they cannot play. Infinite players cannot day when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent the game from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play. There are no numerical, temporal or spatial boundaries. They are internally rather than externally defined. Since each play of an infinite game eliminates boundaries, it opens to players a new horizon of time
  4. Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game. Infinite players regard their wins and losses in whatever finite games they play as but moments in continuing play
  5. The rules will be different for each finite game. It is, in fact, by knowing what the rules are that we know what the game is. The rules of a finite game are the contractual terms by which the players can agree who has won. The agreement of the players to be applicable rules constitutes the ultimate validation of those rules
  6. The most critical distinction between finite and infinite games is that the rules of an infinite game must change during the course of play. The rules are changed when the players of an infinite game agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome – that is, by the victory do some players and the defeat of others. The rules of an infinite game are changed to prevent anyone from winning the game and to bring as many persons as possible into play.
  7. No limitation may be imposed against infinite play. Since limits are taken into play, the play itself cannot be limited. Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries. Finite players are often unaware of this absolute freedom to play and will Cole to think that whatever they do they must do. All limitations of finite play are self-limitations.
  8. Self-veiling
    1. Some self-veiling is present in all finite games. Players must intentionally forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play, else all competitive effort will desert them. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask. Since finite games can be played within an infinite game, infinite players do not eschew the performer roles of finite play. On the contrary, they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling, but they do so without the seriousness of finite players. They embrace he abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully. They freely use masks in their social engagements, but not without acknowledging to themselves and others that they are masked. For that reason they regard each participant in finite play as that person playing and not as a role played by someone. Seriousness is always related to roles, or abstractions. Seriousness closes itself to consequence but everything that happens when we are playful is of consequence
  9. Theatrical vs. Dramatic
    1. Inasmuch as finite games are intended for conclusion, inasmuch as its roles are scripted and performed for an audience, we shall refer to finite play as theatrical. Inasmuch as infinite players avoid any outcome whatsoever, keeping the future open, making all scripts useless, we shall refer to finite play as dramatic. Dramatically, one choose to be a mother; theatrically, one takes on the role of mother. Finite games are dramatic during their play as the outcome is yet unknown. The theatricality if it has to do with the fact that there is an outcome.
  10.  Surprise
    1. It is the desire of all finite players to be Master Players, to be so perfectly skilled in their play that nothing can surprise them, so perfectly trained that very move in the game is foreseen at the beginning. By surprising our opponent we are more likely to win. Surprise in finite play is the triumph of the past over the future. The Master Player who already knows what moves are to be made has a decisive advantage over the unprepared player who does not yet know what moves will be made. Infinite players, on the other hand, continue their play in the expectation of being surprised. If surprise is no longer possible, all play ceases. Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue. Surprise in infinite play is the triumph of the future over the past. Since infinite players do not regard the past as having an outcome, they have no way of knowing what has been begun there. With each surprise, the past reveals a new beginning in itself. Inasmuch as the future is always surprising, the past is always changing. Because finite players are trained to prevent the future from altering the past, they must hide their future moves. The unprepared opponent must be kept unprepared. Finite players must appear to be something other than what they are. Everything about their appearance must be concealing. To appear is not to appear. All the moves of a finite player must be deceptive: feints distractions, falsifications, misdirections, mystifications. Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. The infinite player does not expect to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past. To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.
  11. Titles, Death & Immortality
    1. What one wins in a finite game is a title. Titles are public, they are for others to notice, it depends on its visibility, its noticeability to others. It is a principal function of society to validate titles and to assure their perpetual recognition. It is in connection with the timelessness of titles that we can first discern the importance of death to both finite and infinite games and the great difference between the ways death is understood in each. A finite game must always be won with a terminal move, a final act within the boundaries of the game that establishes the winner beyond any possibility of challenge. A terminal move results, in other words, in the death of the opposing player as player. The winner kills the opponent. The loser is dead in the sense of being incapable of further play. Death, in finite play, is the triumph of the past over the future, a condition in which no surprise is possible. One can have death in life and for some this is regarded as an achievement, the result of spiritual discipline by extinguishing all traces of struggle with the world, a liberation from the need for any title whatsoever. Life in death concerns those who are titled and whose titles, since timeless, may not be extinguished by death. Immortality, in this case, is not a reward but the condition necessary to the possession of rewards. What the winners of finite games achieve is not properly an afterlife but an afterworld, not continuing existence but continuing recognition of their titles
    2. There is a contradiction here: If the prize for winning finite play is life, then the players are not properly alive. They are competing for life. Life, then, is not play, but the outcome of play. Finite players play to live; they do not live their playing. Life is therefore deserved, bestowed, possessed, won. It is not lived. This is a contradiction to all finite play. Because the purpose of a finite game is to bring play to an end with the victory of one of the players, each finite game is played to end itself. The contradiction is precisely that all finite play is play against itself.
    3. Death, for finite players, is abstract, not concrete. It is not the whole person, but only an abstracted fragment of the whole, that dies in life or lives in death. Immortality is the state of forgetting that we have forgotten – that is, overlooking the fact that we freely decided to enter into finite play, a decision in itself playful and not serious. Immortality is therefore the supreme example of the contradictoriness of finite play: it is a life one cannot live
    4. Infinite players die. Since the boundaries of earth are always part of the play, the infinite player does not die at the end of play, but in the course of play. The death of an infinite player is dramatic. It does not mean that the game comes to an end with death; on the contrary, infinite players offer their death as a way of continuing the play. For that reason they do not play for their own life; they live for their own play. But since that play is always with others, it is evident that infinite players both live and die for the continuing life of others. Where the finite player plays for immortality, the infinite player plays as a mortal. In infinite play one chooses to be mortal inasmuch as one always plays dramatically, that is, toward the open, toward the horizon, toward surprise, where nothing can be scripted. It is a kind of play that requires complete vulnerability. To the degree that one is protected against the future, one has established a boundary and no longer plays with but against others. Although infinite players choose mortality, they may not know when death comes, but we can always say of them that they die at the right time. The finite play for life is serious; the infinite play of life is joyous. Infinite play resounds throughout with a kind of laughter. It is not a laughter at others who have come to an unexpected end, having thought they were going somewhere else. It is laughter with others with whom we have discovered that the end we thought we were coming to has unexpectedly opened. We laugh not at what has surprisingly come to be impossible for others, but over what has surprisingly come to be possible with others
  12. Power and Strength
    1. If finite players acquire titles from winning their games, we must say of infinite players that they have nothing but their names. Names are given but at a time when a person cannot yet have done anything. Titles are given at the end of play, names at the beginning. Titles are abstractions; names are always concrete. Titles point backward in time. They have their origin in an unrepeatable past, they are theatrical and each has a specified ceremonial form of address and behavior. Insofar as we recognize their titles we withdraw from any contest with them in those arenas – cannot compete with the Dalai Lama. The titled are powerful. The exercise of power presupposes opposition, a closed field and finite units of time. My power is determined by the amount of resistance I can displace within given spatial and temporal limits. The establishment of the limits make it possible to know how powerful I am in relation to others. Power is always measured in units of comparison. Power is a concept that belongs only in finite play. To speak meaningfully of a person’s power is to speak of what that person has already completed in one or another closed field. To see power is to look backward in time. Inasmuch as power is determined by the outcome of a game, one does not win by being powerful; one wins to be powerful. If one has sufficient power to win before the game has begun, what follows is not a game at all.
    2. One can be powerful only through the possession of an acknowledged title – that is, only through the possession of an acknowledged title – that is, only by the ceremonial deference of others. Power is never one’s own, and in that respect it shows the contradiction inherent in all finite play. I can be powerful only by not playing, by showing that the game is over. I can therefore have only what powers others give me. Power is bestowed by an audience after the play is compete. Power is contradictory, and theatrical
    3. We do not play against reality; we play according to reality. If I accept death as inevitable, I do not struggle against mortality. I struggle as a mortal. All the limitations of finite play are self-limitations
    4. How then do infinite players contend with power? Infinite play is always dramatic; its outcome is endlessly open. Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others, but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own. Let us say that where the finite player plays to be powerful the infinite player plays with strength. Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits. Power will always be restricted to a relatively small number of selected persons. Anyone can be strong. Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them. 
      1. Power vs. Force and Hawkins ties in beautifully here
      2. Infinite players focus on others, in helping them grow and achieve. That is how they gain strength – you allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them. You raise them up, make them better, allowing the game to continue
  13. Evil
    1. Evil is the termination of infinite play. It is infinite play coming to an end in unheard silence. Unheard silence is not the loss of the player’s voice, but the loss of listeners for that voice. Evil is not the termination of a finite game. Evil is not the attempt to eliminate the play of another according to published and accepted rules, but to eliminate the play of another regardless of the rules. Evil is not the acquisition of power, but the expression of power. It is the forced recognition of a title – and therein lies the contradiction of evil, for recognition cannot be forced
    2. Evil is never intended as evil. Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil. Evil arises in the honored belief that history can be tidied up, brought to a sensible conclusion. Your history does not belong to me. We live with each other in a common history. Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere. Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.
  14. Contradictory vs. Paradoxical
    1. Infinite play is inherently paradoxical, just as finite play is inherently contradictory. Because it is the purpose of infinite players to continue the play, they do not play for themselves. The contradiction of finite play is that they players desire to bring play to an end for themselves. The paradox of infinite play is that the players desire to continue the play in others. The paradox is precisely that they play only when others go on with the game. Infinite players play best when they become least necessary for the continuation of play. It is for this reason they play as mortals. The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish
      1. Why the best leaders work themselves out of a job!! 
  15. No one can play alone
    1. No one can play a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself. There is no selfhood where there is no community. We do not relate to others as the persons we are; we are who we are in relating to others. Simultaneously the others with whom we are in relation are themselves in relation. We cannot relate to anyone who is not also relating to us. Our social existence has, therefore, an inescapably fluid character. This is not to say that we live in a fluid context, but that our lives are themselves fluid. As in the Zen image we are not the stones over which the stream of the world flows; we are the stream itself. As we shall see, this ceaseless change does not mean discontinuity; rather change is itself the very basis of out continuity as persons. Only that which can change can continue: this is the principle by which infinite players live.
    2. It is this essential fluidity of our humanness that is irreconcilable with the seriousness of finite play. It is, therefore, this fluidity that presents us with an unavoidable challenge: how to contain the serious within the truly playful; that is, how to keep all our finite games in infinite play
  16. We must learn the fine arts of war and independence so that our children can learn architecture and engineering so that their children may learn the fine arts and painting.” – John Quincy Adams
  17. Before I can have an enemy, I must persuade another to recognize me as an enemy
  18. Society vs. Culture
    1. In their own political engagements infinite players make a distinction between society and culture. Society they understand as the sum of those relations that are under some form of public constraint, culture as whatever we do with each other by undirected choice. If society is all that a people feels it must do, culture is the realm of the variable, free, not necessarily universal, of all that cannot lay claim to compulsive authority. Society applies only to those areas of action which are believed to be necessary. Society is necessary and finite, culture variable and infinite. The power of a society is determined by its victory over other societies in still larger finite games. Its most treasured memories are those of the heroes fallen in victorious battles with other societies. Heroes of lost battles are almost never memorialized.
    2. The power in a society is guaranteed and enhanced by the power of a society. Because power is inherently patriotic, it is characteristic of finite players to seek a growth of power in a society as a way of increasing the power of a society. Society is a manifestation of power. It is theatrical, having an established script. It is in the interest of a society therefore to encourage competition within itself, to establish the largest possible number of prizes, for the holders of prizes will be those most likely to defend the society as a whole against its competitors. Because culture is infinite and has no temporal limits, a culture understands its past not as destiny, but as history, that is, as a narrative that has begun but points always toward the endlessly open. It is a highly valued function of society
    3. It is a highly valued function of society to prevent changes in the rules of the many games it embraces. Deviancy, however, is the very essence of culture. Whoever merely follows the script, merely repeating the past, is culturally impoverished
  1. Reminds me of Paul Graham and his point about great entrepreneurs bucking social trends, norms, expectations, working in what might be called the non-prestigious or embarrassing areas – deviancy
    1. Society has all the seriousness of immortal necessity; culture resounds with the laughter of unexpected possibility. Society is abstract, culture concrete
    2. Because an infinite game cannot be brought to an end, it cannot be repeated. Unrepeatability is a characteristics of culture everywhere. Just as an infinite game has rules, a culture has a tradition. Since the rules of play in an infinite game are freely agreed to and freely altered, a cultural tradition is both adopted and transformed in its adoption. Properly speaking, a culture does not have a tradition; it is a tradition
    3. Property must be seen as compensation for considerable labor given, as a restoration to the condition one was in prior to competition and must be seen as consumed. The more powerful we consider persons to be, the less we expect them to do, for their power can come only from that which they have done. Consumption is an activity so different from gainful labor that it shows itself in the mode of leisure, even indolence. We display the success of what we have done by not having to do anything. The more we use up, therefore, the more we show ourselves to be winners of past contests.
    4. Those persons whose victories the society wishes never to forget are given prominent and eternal monuments at the heart of its capital cities, often taking up considerable space, diverting traffic, and standing in the path of casual strollers. It is apparent to infinite players that wealth is not so much possessed as it is performed
    5. Infinite players have rules; they just do not forget that rules are an expression of agreement and not a requirement for agreement
    6. It can be said that where a society is defined by its boundaries, a culture is defined by its horizon. A boundary is a phenomenon of opposition. It is the meeting place of hostile forces. Where nothing opposes there can be no boundary. One cannot move beyond a boundary without being resisted. A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. One cannot look at the horizon; it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see. There is nothing in the horizon itself, however, that limits vision, for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself. What limits vision is rather the incompleteness of that vision. One never reaches a horizon. It is not a line; it has no place; it encloses no field; its location is always relative to the view. To move toward a horizon is simply to have a new horizon. One can therefore never be close to one’s horizon, though one may certainly have a short range of vision, a narrow horizon. Every move the infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game therefore presents a new vision, a new range of possibilities. The Renaissance, like all genuine cultural phenomena, was not an effort to promote one or another vision. It was an effort to find visions that promised still more vision. Who lives horizontally is never somewhere, but always in passage
  1. It is essential to the effectiveness of every title that it be visible and that in its visibility it point back at the contest in which it was won. The purpose of property is to make our titles visible. Property is emblematic. It recalls to others those areas in which our victories are beyond challenge. Property may be stolen, but the thief does not own it. Ownership can never be stolen. Titles are timeless, and so is the ownership of property
  2. Force and Storytellers
    1. Only agreement establishes force, never the other way around. Only those who consent to a society’s constraints see them as constraints – that is, as guides to action and not as actions to be opposed. Those who challenge the existing pattern of entitlements in a society do not consider the designated officers of enforcement powerful; they consider them opponents in a struggle that will determine by its outcome who is powerful. One does not win by power; one wins to be powerful. Rather than force, the more effective policy for a society is to find ways of persuading its thieves to abandon their role as competitors for property for the sake of becoming audience to the theater of wealth. It is for this reason that societies fall back on the skill of the poietai (storytellers) who can theatricalize the property relations, and indeed, all the inner structures of each society. While societal thinkers
    2. While societal thinkers may not overlook the importance of poiesis, or creative activity, neither may they underestimate its danger, for the poietai are the ones most likely to remember what has been forgotten – that society is a species of culture. The deepest and most consequent struggle of each society is therefore not with other societies, but with the culture that exists within itself – the culture that is itself. Conflict with other societies is, in fact, an effective way for a society to restrain its own culture. Powerful societies do not silence their poietai in order that they may go to war; they go to war as a way of silencing their poietai.
    3. What confounds a society is not serious opposition but the lack of seriousness altogether. Once warfare, or any other societal activity, has been taken into the infinite play of poiesis so that it appears to be either comical or pointless (in the way that, say, beauty is pointless) there is an acute danger that the soldiers will find no audience for their prizes, and therefore no reason to fight for them
    4. Art is never in possession, art is dramatic, opening always forward, beginning something that cannot be finished
    5. Artists cannot be trained. One does not become an artist by acquiring certain skills or techniques, though one can use any number of skills and techniques in artistic activity. The creative is found in anyone who is prepared for surprise. Such a person cannot go to school to be an artist, but can only go to school as an artist
  3. War
    1. For a bounded, metaphysically veiled, and destined society, enemies are necessary, conflict inevitable, and war likely
    2. War presents itself as necessary for self-protection, when in fact it is necessary for self-identification. If it is the impulse of a finite player to go against another nation in war, it is the design of an infinite player to oppose war within a nation. Finite players go to war against states because they endanger boundaries; infinite players oppose states because they engender boundaries
    3. Winning a war can be as destructive as losing one, for if boundaries lose their clarity, as they do in a decisive victory, the state loses its identity. A war fought to end all wars, in the strategy of finite play, only breeds universal warfare. The strategy of infinite players is horizonal. They do not go to meet putative enemies with power and violence, but with poiesis and vision. They invite them to become a people in passage. Infinite players do not rise to meet arms with arms; instead, they make use of laughter, vision, and surprise to engage the state and put its boundaries back into play. What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited
    4. True poets lead no one unawares. It is nothing other than awareness that poets – that is, creators of all sorts – seek. They do not display their art so as to make it really; they display the real in a way that reveals it to be art
    5. Metaphysics is about the real but is abstract. Poetry is the making (poeisis) of the real and is abstract. To separate the poeima from poiesis, the created object from the creative act, is the essence of the theatrical. Poets cannot kill; they die. Metaphysics cannot die; it kills
  4. Genius
    1. The paradox of genius exposes us directly to the dynamic of open reciprocity, for if you are the genius of what you say to me, I am the genius of what I hear you say. What you say originally I can hear only originally. As you surrender the sound on your lips, I surrender the sound in my ear. Each of us has relinquished to the other what has been relinquished to the other
    2. I am both the outcome of my past and the transformation of my past. To be related to the past as its outcome is to stand in causal continuity with it
    3. Not allowing the past to be the past may be the primary source for the seriousness of finite players. Inasmuch as finite play always has its audience, it is the audience to whom the finite player intends to be known as winner. The finite player, in other words, must not only have an audience but must have an audience to convince. Just as the titles of winners are worthless unless they are visible to others, there is a kind of antititle that attaches to invisibility. To the degree that we are invisible we have a past that has condemned us to oblivion. It is as though we have somehow been overlooked, even forgotten, by our chosen audience. It is the winners who are presently visible, it is the losers who are invisibly past. As we enter into finite play – not playfully, but seriously – we come before an audience conscious that we bear the antititles of invisibility. We feel the need, therefore, to prove to them that we are not what we think they think we are or, more precisely, that we were not who we think the audience thinks we were. As with all finite play, an acute contradiction quickly develops at the heart of this attempt. As finite players we will not enter the game with sufficient desire to win unless we are ourselves convinced by the very audience we intend to convince. That is, unless we believe we actually are the losers the audience sees us to be, we will not have the necessary desire to win. The more negatively we assess ourselves, the more we strive to reverse the negative judgment of others. The outcome brings the contradiction to perfection: by proving to the audience they were wrong, we prove ourselves the audience was right. The more we are recognized as winners, the more we know ourselves to be losers. That is why it is rare for the winners of highly coveted and publicized prizes to settle for their titles and retire. Winners, especially celebrated winners, must prove repeatedly they are winners. The script must be played over and over again. Titles must be defended by new contests. No one is ever wealthy enough, honored enough, applauded enough. On the contrary, the visibility of our victories only tightens the grip of the failures in our invisible past. So crucial is this power of the past to finite play that we must find ways of remembering that we have been forgotten to sustain our interest in the struggle. There is a humiliating memory at the bottom of all serious conflicts. Indeed, it is only by remembering what we have forgotten that we can enter into competition with sufficient intensity to be able to forget we have forgotten the character of all play: whoever must play cannot play. Whenever we act as the genius of ourselves, it will be in the spirit of allowing the past to be the past. It is the genius in us who is capable of ridding us of resentment by exercising what Nietzsche called the “faculty of oblivion,” not as a way of denying the past but as a way of reshaping it through our own originality. Then we forget that we have been forgotten by an audience, and remember that we have forgotten our freedom to play
      1. I think a clear look into why top performers tend to be insecure, narcissistic, self-consumed. They fear being invisible more than anything else and have to continuously prove to themselves they are not losers
  5. Touching vs. Moving
    1. Genius arises with touch. Touch is a characteristically paradoxical phenomenon of infinite play. I am not touched by another when the distance between us is reduced to zero. I am touched only if I respond from my own center – that is, spontaneously, originally. But you do not touch me except from your own center, out of your own genius. Touching is always reciprocal. You cannot touch me unless I touch you in response. The opposite of touching is moving. You move me by pressing me from without toward a place you have already foreseen and perhaps prepared. It is a staged action that succeeds only if in moving me you remain unmoved yourself. I can be moved to tears by skilled performances and heart-rending newspaper accounts, or moved to passion by political manifestos and narratives of heroic achievement – but in each case I am moved according to a formula or design to which the actor or agent is immune. We can only be moved by persons who are not what they are; we can be moved only when we are not who we are, but are what we cannot be. When I am touched, I am touched only as the person I am behind all the theatrical masks, but at the same time I am changed from within – and whoever touches me is touched as well. We can be moved only by way of our veils. We are touched through our veils.
      1. Reminiscent of Hawkins’ “Power vs. Force”
    2. If to be touched is to respond from one’s center, it is also to respond as a whole person. To be whole is to be hale, or healthy. In sum, whoever is touched is healed. The finite player’s interest is not in being healed, or made whole, but in being cured, or made functional. Healing restores me to play, curing restores me to competition in one or another game. Being ill is to be dysfunctional; to be dysfunctional is a kind of death, an inability to acquire titles. The ill become invisible. Illness always has the smell of death about it: Either it may lead to death, or it leads to the death of a person as competitor. The dread of illness is the dread of losing. One is never ill in general. One is always ill within relation to some bounded activity. It is not cancer that makes me ill. It is because I cannot work, or run, or swallow that I am ill with cancer. The loss of function, the obstruction of an activity, cannot in itself destroy my health. I am too heavy to fly by flapping my arms, but I do not for that reason complain of being sick with weight. When I am healed I am restored to my center in a way that my freedom as a person is not compromised by my loss of functions. This means that the illness need not be eliminated before I can be healed. I am not free to the degree that I can overcome my infirmities, but only to the degree that I can put my infirmities into play. I am cured of my illness; I am healed with my illness. Healing, of course, has all the reciprocity of touching. Just as I cannot touch myself, I cannot heal myself. But healing requires no specialists, only those who can come to us out of their own center, and who are prepared to heal themselves.
    3. Sexuality for the infinite player is entirely a matter of touch. One cannot touch without touching sexually. Aware that genuine sexual expression is at least as dangerous to society as genuine artistic expression, the sexual metaphysician can appeal to at least two powerful solutions. One is to treat sexuality as a process of reproduction; another is to place it in the area of feeling and behavior. The profound seriousness of such sexual play is seen in the unique nature of the prize that goes to the winner. What one wants in the sexual contest is not just to have defeated the other, but to have the defeated other. Sexuality is the only finite game in which the winner’s prize is the defeated opponent. In the complex plotting of sexual encounter it is by no means uncommon for the partners to have played a double game in which each is winner and loser, and each is an emblem for the other’s seductive power. Finite sexuality is a form of theater in which the distance between persons is regularly reduced to zero but in which neither touches the other. The most serious struggles are those for sexual property. For this wars are fought, lives are generously risked, great schemes are initiated. However, who wins empire, fortune, and fame but loses in love has lost in everything.
    4. Sexual desires are usually not directly announced but concealed under a series of feints, gestures, styles of dress, and showy behavior. Seductions are staged, scripted, costumed. Certain responses are sought, plots are developed. In skillful seductions delays are employed, special circumstances and settings are arranged. Seductions are designed to come to an end. Time runs out. The play is finished. All that remains is recollection, the memory of a moment, and perhaps a longing for its repetition. Seductions cannot be repeated. Once one has won or lost in a particular finite game, the game cannot be played over. Moments once reached cannot be reached again. The appetite for novelty in lovemaking- new positions, the use of drugs, exotic surroundings, additional partners – is only a search for new moments that can live on only in recollection. As with all finite play, the goal of veiled sexuality is to bring itself to an end. By contrast, infinite players have no interest in seduction or in restricting the freedom of another to one’s own boundaries of play. Infinite players recognize choice in all aspects of sexuality. They may see in themselves and in others, for example, the infant’s desire to compete for the mother, but they also see that there is neither physiological nor societal destiny in sexual patterns. Who chooses to compete with another can also choose to play with another. Sexuality is not a bounded phenomenon but a horizonal phenomenon for infinite players. One can never say, therefore, that an infinite player is homosexual, or heterosexual, or celibate, or adulterous, or faithful – because each of these definitions has to do with boundaries, with circumscribed areas and styles of play. Infinite players do not play within sexual boundaries, but with sexual boundaries. They are concerned not with power but with vision. In their sexual play they suffer others, allow them to be as they are. Suffering others, they open themselves. Open, they learn both about others and about themselves. Learning, they grow. What they learn is not about sexuality, but how to be more concretely and originally themselves, to be the genius of their own actions, to be whole. Moving therefore from an original center, the sexual engagements of infinite players have no standards, no ideals, no marks of success or failure. Neither orgasm nor conception is a goal in their play, although either may be part of the play. There is nothing hidden in infinite sexuality. Sexual desire is exposed as sexual desire and is never therefore serious. Its satisfaction is never an achievement, but an act in a continuing relationship, and therefore joyous. Its lack of satisfaction is never a failure, but only a matter to be taken on into further play.
    5. Infinite sexuality does not focus its attention on certain parts or regions of the body. Infinite lovers have no “private parts.” They do not regard their bodies as having secret zones that can be exposed or made accessible to others for special favors. It is not their bodies but their persons they make accessible to others. The paradox of infinite sexuality is that by regarding sexuality as an expression of the person and not the body, it becomes fully embodied play. It becomes a drama of touching. The triumph of finite sexuality is to be liberated from play into the body. The essence of infinite sexuality is to be liberated into play with the body. In finite sexuality I expect to relate to you as a body; in infinite sexuality I expect to relate to you in your body. Infinite lovers conform to the sexual expectations of others in a way that does not expose something hidden, but unveils something in plain sight: that sexual engagement is a poiesis of free persons. In this exposure they emerge as the persons they are. They meet others with their limitations, and not within their limitations. In doing so they expect to be transformed – and are transformed
  6. Looking vs. Seeing
    1. If to look is to look at what is contained within its limitations, to see is to see the limitations themselves
    2. To look is a territorial activity. It is to observe one thing after another within a bounded space – as though in time it can all be seen. Academic fields are such territories. Sometimes everything in a field finally does get looked at and defined – that is, placed in its proper location. It becomes increasingly difficult to find something new to look at
    3. When we pass from looking to seeing, we do not therefore lose our sight of the objects observed. Seeing, in fact, does not disturb our looking at all. It rather places us in that territory as its genius, aware that our imagination does not create within its outlines but creates the outlines themselves. The physicist who sees speaks physics with us, inviting us to see that the things we thought were there are not things at all. By learning new limitations from such a person, we learn not only what to look for with them but also how to see the way we use limitations. A physics so taught becomes poiesis
  7. Worlds
    1. A finite game occurs within a world. The fact that it must be limited temporally, numerically, and spatially means that there is something against which the limits stand. There is an outside to every finite game. Its limits are meaningless unless there is something to be limited, unless there is a larger space, a longer time, a greater number of possible competitors. There is nothing about a finite game, in itself, that determines at what time it is to be played, or by whom, or where. We cannot have a precise understanding of what it means to be the winner of a contest until we can place the game in the absolute dimensions of a world. World exists in the form of audience. A world is not all that is the case, but that which determines all that is the case. AN audience consists of persons observing a contest without participating in it. No one determines who an audience will be. No exercise of power can make a world. A world must be its own spontaneous sources. If the boundaries of the audience are irrelevant, what is relevant is the unity of the audience. They must be a singular entity, bound in their desire to see who will win the contest before them. The fact that a finite game needs an audience before which it can be played, and the fact that an audience needs to be singularly absorbed in the events before it, show the crucial reciprocity of finite play and the world. There is an indefinite number of worlds
    2. I cannot be a finite player without being divided against myself. A similar dynamic is found in the audience. When sufficiently oblivious to their status as audience, the observers of a finite game become so absorbed in its conduct that they lose the sense of distance between themselves and the players. It is they, quite as much as the players, who win or lose.
    3. A finite game does not have its own time. It exists in a world’s time. An audience allows players only so much time to win their titles. Early in a game time seems abundant, and there appears a greater freedom to develop future strategies. Late in a game, time is rapidly being consumed. As choices become more limited they become more important. Errors are more disastrous. We look on childhood and youth as those “times of life” rich with possibility only because there still seem to remain so many paths open to a successful outcome. Each year that passes, however, increases the competitive value of making strategically correct decisions. The errors of childhood can be more easily amended than those of adulthood. For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have time to be free. The passage of time is always relative to that which does not pass, to the timeless. Victories occur in time, but the titles won in them are timeless. Titles neither age nor die. The outcome of a finite game is the past waiting to happen. Whoever plays toward a certain outcome desires a particular past. By competing for a future prize, finite players compete for a prized past. The infinite player in us does not consume time but generates it. Because infinite play is dramatic and has no scripted conclusion, its time is time lived and not time viewed. As an infinite player one is neither old nor young, for one does not live in the time of another. There is therefore no external measure of an infinite player’s temporality. Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is a beginning. Each moment is not the beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives the time within it its specific quality. For an infinite player there is no such thing as an hour of time. There can be an hour of love, or a day of grieving, or a season of learning, or a period of labor. An infinite player does not begin working for the purpose of filling up a period of time with work, but for the purpose of filling work with time. Work is not an infinite player’s way of passing time, but of engendering possibility. Work is not a way of arriving at a desired present and securing it against an unpredictable future, but of moving toward a future which itself has a future. Infinite players cannot say how much they have completed in their work or love or quarreling, but only that much remains incomplete in it. They are not concerned to determine when it is over, but only what comes of it. For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have the time to be free. For the infinite player in us time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time. A finite player puts play into time. An finite player puts time into play
      1. Agree and disagree. As long as you can course correct fast enough when you’re young, most decisions aren’t detrimental. But, if you get on a path early on which is taking you in the wrong direction, these early bad decisions can compound and have a far greater and longer-lasting impact than decisions made at a later time
    4. Infinite players can join the audience of any game. They do so, however, for the play that is in observing, quite aware that they are the audience. They look, but they see that they are looking
    5. If the goal of finite play is to win titles for their timelessness, and thus eternal life for oneself, the essence of infinite play is the paradoxical engagement with temporality that Meister Eckhart called “eternal birth.”
  8. Nature
    1. Nature is the realm of the unspeakable. It has no voice of its own, and nothing to say. We experience the unspeakability of nature as its utter indifference to human culture. The Master Player in us tolerates this indifference scarcely at all. Indeed, we respond to it as a challenge, an invitation to confrontation and struggle. If nature will offer us no home, offer us nothing at all, we will then clear and arrange a space for ourselves. We take nature on as an opponent to be subdued for the sake of civilization. We count among the highest achievements of modern society the development of a technology that allows us to master nature’s vagaries.
    2. It is as though, by learning nature’s secret script, we have learned to direct its play as well. There is little left to surprise us. The assumption guiding our struggle against nature is that deep within itself nature contains a structure, an order that is ultimately intelligible to the human understanding. Since this inherent structure determines the way things change, and is not itself subject to change, we speak of nature being lawful, of repeating itself according to quite predictable patterns. What we have done by showing that certain events repeat themselves according to known laws is to explain them. Explanation is the mode of discourse in which we show why matters must be the way they are. All laws made use of in explanation look backward in time from the conclusion or the completion of a sequence. It is implicit in all explanatory discourse that just as there is discoverable necessity in the outcome of past events, there is a discoverable necessity in future events. What can be explained can also be predicted, if one knows the initial events and the laws covering their succession. A prediction is but an explanation in advance.
    3. Because of its thorough lawfulness nature has no genius of its own. On the contrary, it is sometimes thought that the grandest discovery of the human genius is the perfect compatibility between the structure of the natural order and the structure of the mind, thereby making a complete understanding of nature possible. This is as much as to say that nature does have a voice, and its voice is no different from our own. We can them presume to speak for the unspeakable. This achievement is often raised as a sign of the great superiority of modern civilizations over the many faded and lost civilizations of the ancients. While our great skill lies in finding patterns of repetition under the apparent play of accident and chance, less successful civilizations dealt with the threats of natural accident by appealing to supernatural powers for protection. But the voices of the gods proved to be ignorant and false; they have been silenced by the truth. There is an irony in our silencing of the gods. By presuming to speak for the unspeakable, by hearing our own voice as the voice of nature, we have had to step outside the circle of nature. It is one thing for physics and chemistry to be speaking about nature; it is quite another for physics and chemistry to be speaking of nature. No chemist would want to say that chemistry is itself chemical, for our speaking cannot be both chemical and about chemistry. If speaking about a process is itself part of the process, there is something that must remain permanently hidden from the speaker. TO be intelligible at all, we must claim that we can step aside from the process and comment on it “objectively” and “dispassionately,” without anything obstructing our view of these matters. Here lies the irony: by way of this perfectly reasonable claim the gods have stolen back into our struggle with nature. By depriving the gods of their own voices, the gods have taken ours. It is we who speak as supernatural intelligences and powers, masters of the forces of nature. This irony passes unnoticed only so long as we continue to veil ourselves against what we can otherwise plainly see: nature allows no master over itself. Bacon’s principle works both ways (“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”). If we must obey to command, then our commanding is only obeying and not commanding at all. There is no such thing as an unnatural act. Nothing can be done to or against nature, much less outside it.
    4. Unveiled, aware of the insuperable limitation placed against our looking, we come back to nature’s perfect silence. What we learn from this silence is the unlikeness between nature and whatever we could think or say about it. But this silence has an irony of its own: far from stupefying us, it provides an indispensable condition for the mind’s own originality. By confronting us with radical unlikeness, nature becomes the source of metaphor. Metaphor is the joining of like to unlike such that one can never become the other. Metaphor requires an irreducibility, an imperturbable indifference of its terms for one another. At its root all language has the character of metaphor, because no matter what it intends to be about it remains language, and remains absolutely unlike whatever it is about. The unspeakability of nature is the very possibility of language
      1. A name of something is not that something
    5. We control nature for societal reasons. The control of nature advances with our ability to predict the outcome of natural processes. Inasmuch as predictions are but explanations in reverse, it is possible that they will be quite combative as explanations. Indeed, prediction is the most highly developed skill of the Master Player, for without it control of an opponent is all the more difficult. It follows that our domination of nature is meant to achieve not certain natural outcomes, but certain societal outcomes
    6. Our attempt to control nature masks our desire for power over each other
    7. Just as nature has no outside, it has no inside. It is not divided within itself and cannot therefore be used for or against itself. There is no inherent opposition of the living and the nonliving within nature; neither is more or less natural than the other. This is not an expression of an order so much as it is the display of a perfect indifference on nature’s part to all matters cultural. Nature’s source of movement is always from within itself; indeed it is itself. And it is radically distinct from our own source of movement. That is not to say that, possessing no order, nature is chaotic. It is neither chaotic nor ordered. Chaos and order describe the cultural experience of nature – the degree to which nature’s indifferent spontaneity seems to agree with our current manner of cultural self-control. A hurricane, or a plague, or the overpopulation of the earth will seem chaotic to those whose cultural expectations are damaged by them and orderly to those whose expectations have been confirmed by them.
    8. The paradox in our relation to nature is that the more deeply a culture respects the indifference of nature, the more creatively it will call upon its own spontaneity in response. The more clearly we remind ourselves that we can have no unnatural influence on nature, the more our culture will embody a freedom to embrace surprise and unpredictability. Human freedom is not a freedom over nature; it is the freedom to be natural that is, to answer to the spontaneity of nature with our own spontaneity. Though we are free to be natural, we are not free by nature; we are free by culture, by history. The contradiction in our relation to nature is that the more vigorously we attempt to force its agreement with our own designs the more subject we are to its indifference, the more vulnerable to its unseeing forces. The more power we exercise over natural process the more powerless we become before it. In a matter of months we can cut down a rain forest that took tens of thousands of years to grow, but we are helpless in repulsing the desert that takes its place. And the desert, of course, is no less natural than the forest
      1. Prepared, adaptive, robust, honoring the possibility of black-swans
  9. History
    1. If nature is the realm of the unspeakable, history is the realm of the speakable. Indeed, no speaking is possible that is not itself historical
    2. Since history is the drama of genius, its relentless surprise tempts us into designing boundaries for it, searching through it for patterns of repetition. Historians sometimes speak of trends, of cycles, of currents, of forces, as though they were describing natural events. Historians who understand themselves to be historical abandon explanation altogether. The mode of discourse appropriate to such self-aware history is narrative. Like explanation, narrative is concerned with a sequence of events and brings its tale to a conclusion. However, there is no general law that makes this outcome necessary. In a genuine story there is no law that makes any act necessary. Explanations place all apparent possibilities into the context of the necessary; stories set all necessities into the context of the possible. Explanation can tolerate a degree of chance, but it cannot comprehend freedom at all. We explain nothing when we say that persons do whatever they do because they choose to do it. On the other hand, causation cannot find a place in narrative. We have not told a story when we show that persons do whatever they do because they were caused to do it – by their genes, their social circumstances, or the influence of the gods. Explanations settle issues, showing that matters must end as they have. Narratives raise issues, showing that matters do not end as they must but as they do. Explanations sets the need for further inquiry aside; narrative invites us to rethink what we thought we know. If the silence of nature is the possibility of language, language is the possibility of history
    3. Explanations succeed only by convincing resistant hearers of their error. If you will not hear my explanations until you are suspicious of your own truths, you will not accept my explanations until you are convinced of your error. Explanation is an antagonistic encounter that succeeds by defeating an opponent. It possesses the same dynamic of resentment found in other finite play. I will press my explanations on you because I need to show that I do not live in the error that I think others think I do. Knowledge, therefore, is like property. It must be published, declared, or in some other way so displayed that others cannot but take account of it. So close are knowledge and property that they are often thought to be continuous. Those who are entitled to knowledge feel they should be granted property as well, and those who are entitled to property believe a certain knowledge goes with it. Scholars demand higher salaries for their publishable successes; industrialists sit on university boards.
    4. One is speechless before a god, or silent before a winner, because it no longer matters to others what one has to say. To lose a contest is to become obedient; to become obedient is to lose one’s listeners. The silence of obedience is an unheard silence. It is the silence of death. For this reason the demand for obedience is inherently evil. The silence of nature is the possibility of language. By subduing nature the gods give it their own voice, but in making nature an opponent they make all their listeners opponents. By refusing the silence of nature they demand the silence of obedience. The unspeakability of nature is therefore transformed into the unspeakability of language itself.
    5. Infinite speech is that mode of discourse that consistently reminds us of the unspeakability of nature. It bears no claim to truth, originating from nothing but the genius of the speaker. Infinite speech is therefore not about anything; it is always to someone. It is not command, but address. It belongs entirely to the speakable. Because it is address, attending always on the response of the addressed, infinite speech has the form of listening. Infinite speech does not end in the obedient silence of the hearer but continues by way of the attentive silence of the speaker. It is not a silence into which speech has died, but a silence from which speech is born. Infinite speakers do not give voice to another, but receive it from another. Infinite speakers do not therefore appeal to a world as audience, do not speak before a world, but present themselves as an audience by way of talking with others. Finite speech informs another about the world – for the sake of being heard. Infinite speech forms a world about the other – for the sake of listening. The contradiction of finite speech is that it must end by being heard. The paradox of infinite speech is that it continues only because it is a way of listening. Finite speech ends with a silence of closure. Infinite speech begins with a disclosure of silence.
    6. Historians become infinite speakers when they see that whatever begins in freedom cannot end in necessity
  10. Machine vs. Garden
    1. Machine is used here as an inclusive of technology and as an example of it – as a way of drawing attention to the mechanical rationality of technology. Garden does not refer to the bounded plot at the edge of the house or the margin of the city. This is not a garden one lives beside, but a garden one lives within. It is a place of growth, of maximized spontaneity. To garden is not to engage in a hobby or an amusement; it is to design a culture capable of adjusting the widest possible range of surprise in nature. Gardeners are acutely attentive to the deep patterns of natural order, but are also aware that there will always be much lying beyond their vision. Gardening is a horizonal activity. Machine and garden are not absolutely opposed to each other. Machinery can exist in the garden quite as finite games can be played within an infinite game. The question is not one of restricting machines from the garden but asking whether a machine serves the interest of the garden, or the garden the interest of the machine.
    2. The most elemental difference between the machine and the garden is that one is driven by a force which must be introduced from without, the other grown by an energy which originates from within itself
    3. A plant cannot be designed or constructed. Though we seem to give it “fuel” in the form of rich earth and appropriate nutrients, we depend on the plant to make use of the fuel by way of its own vitality. A machine depends on its designer and its operator both for the supply of fuel and its consumption. A machine has not the merest trace of its own spontaneity or vitality. Vitality cannot be given, only found.
    4. To operate a machine one must operate like a machine. Using a machine to do what we cannot do, we find we must do what the machine does
    5. When we use machines to achieve whatever it is we desire, we cannot have what we desire until we have finished with the machine, until we can rid ourselves of the mechanical means of reaching our intended outcome. The goal of technology is therefore to eliminate itself, to become silent, invisible, carefree. For example, a perfect radio will draw no attention to itself, will make it seem we are in the very presence of the source of its sound. When it is most effective, machinery will have no effect at all
      1. Seeing this play out today with airpods, smart devices, etc. Becoming increasingly and seamlessly integrated into our lives
    6. To be at home everywhere is to neutralize space
    7. If to operate a machine is to operate like a machine, then we not only operate with each other like machines, we operate each other like machines. And if a machine is most effective when it has no effect, then we operate each other in such a way that we reach the outcome desired – in such a way that nothing happens
    8. If indifference to nature leads to the machine, the indifference of nature leads to the garden. All culture has the form of gardening: the encouragement of spontaneity in others by way of one’s own, the respect for source, and the refusal to convert source into resource
    9. Gardening is not outcome-oriented. A successful harvest is not the end of the garden’s existence, but only a phase of it. As any gardener knows, the vitality of a garden does not end with a harvest. It simply takes another form. Gardens do not “die” in the winter but quietly prepare for another season. Gardeners celebrate variety, unlikeness, spontaneity. They understand that an abundance of styles in the interest of vitality. The more complex the organic content of the soil, for example – that is, the more numerous its sources of change – the more vigorous its liveliness. Growth promotes growth. So also in culture. Infinite players understand that the vigor of a culture has to do with the variety of its sources, the differences within itself. The unique and the surprising are not suppressed in some persons for the strength of others. The genius in you stimulates the genius in me. One operates a machine effectively, so that it disappears, giving way to results in which the machine has no part. One gardens creatively, so that all the sources of the garden’s vitality appear in its harvest, giving rise to a continuity which we take an active part.
    10. Inasmuch as gardens do not conclude with a harvest and are not played for a certain outcome, one never arrives anywhere with a garden. A garden is a place where growth is found. It has its own source of change. One does not bring change to a garden, but comes to a garden prepared for change, and therefore prepared to change. It is possible to deal with growth only out of growth. True parents do not see to it that their children grow in a particular way, according to a preferred pattern or scripted stages, but they see to it that they grow with their children. The character of one’s parenting, if it is genuinely dramatic, must be constantly altered from within as the children change from within. So, too, with teaching, or working with, or loving each other. It is in the garden that we discover what travel truly is. We do not journey to a garden but by way of it. Genuine travel has no destination. Travelers do not go somewhere, but constantly discover they are somewhere else. Since gardening is a way not of subduing the indifference of nature but of raising one’s own spontaneity to respond to the desi regarding vagaries and unpredictabilities of nature, we do not look on nature as a sequence of changing scenes but look on ourselves as persons in passage. Nature does not change; it has no inside or outside. It is therefore not possible to travel through it. All travel is therefore change within the traveler, and it is for that reason that travelers are always somewhere else. To travel is to grow. Genuine travelers travel not to overcome distance but to discover distance. It is not distance that makes travel necessary, but travel that makes distance possible. Distance is not determined by the measurable length between objects, but by the actual differences between them. What is truly separate is distinct; it is unlike.
    11. A gardener, whose attention is ever on the spontaneities of nature, acquires the gift of seeing differences, looks always for the merest changes in plant growth, or in the composition of the soil, the emerging populations of insects and earthworms. So will gardeners, as parents, see changes of the smallest subtlety in their children, or as teachers see the signs of increasing skill, and possibly wisdom, in their students
    12. Society regards its waste as an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of its activities – what is left when we have made essential societal goods available. But waste is not the result of what we have made. It is what we have made. Waste plutonium is not an indirect consequence of the nuclear industry; it is a product of that industry. Waste is unveiling. Because waste is unveiling, it is not only placed out of sight, it is declared a kind of antiproperty. No one owns it and no one wants it. Waste is the antiproperty that becomes the possession of losers. It is the emblem of the untitled.
    13. Since the attempt to control nature is at its heart the attempt to control other persons, we can expect societies to be less patient with those cultures which express some degree of indifference to societal goals and values. It is this repeated parallel that brings us to see that the society that creates natural waste creates human waste. Waste persons are those no longer useful as resources to a society for whatever reason, and have become apatrides, or noncitizens. Waste persons must be placed out of view – in ghettos, slums, reservations, camps, retirement villages, mass graves, remote territories, strategic hamlets – all places of desolation, and uninhabitable.
    14. We see nature as genius when we see genius. We understand nature as source when we understand ourselves as source. We abandon all attempts at an explanation of nature when we see that we cannot be explained, when our own self-origination cannot be stated as fact. We behold the irreducible otherness of nature when we behold ourselves as its other.
    15. For the infinite player, seeing as genius, nature is the absolutely unlike. The infinite player recognizes nothing on the face of nature. Nature displays not only its indifference to human existence but its difference as well. Nature offers no home. The homelessness of nature, its utter indifference to human existence, disclose to the infinite player that nature is the genius of the dramatic.
  11. Myth
    1. Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it. Where explanation absorbs the unspeakable into the speakable, myth reintroduces the silence that makes original discourse possible
    2. Few discoveries were greater than Copernicus’, for they projected an order onto the heavens that no one has successfully challenged. Many thought then, and some still think, that this great statement of truth dispelled clouds of myth that had kept humankind in retarding darkness. What Copernicus dispelled, however, were not myths but other explanations. Myths lie elsewhere. To see where, we do not look at the facts in Copernicus’ works; we look for the story in his stating them. Knowledge is what successful explanation has led to; the thinking that sent us forth, however, is pure story
    3. That myth does not accept the explanations it provokes we can see in the boldness with which thinkers in any territorial endeavor reexamine the familiar for a higher seeing. Indeed, the very liveliness of a culture is determined not by how frequently these thinkers discover new continents of knowledge but by how frequently they depart to seek them. A culture can be no stronger than its strongest myths.
    4. A story attains the status of myth when it is retold, and persistently retold, solely for its own sake. To tell a story for its own sake is to tell it for no other reason than it is a story. Great stories have this feature: to listen to them and learn them is to become their narrators. Our first response to hearing a story is the desire to tell it ourselves – the greater the story the greater the desire. It is as though the story is itself seeking the occasion for its recurrence, making use of us as its agents.
    5. Great stories cannot be observed, any more than an infinite game can have an audience
    6. Stories that have the enduring strength of myths reach through experience to touch the genius in each of us
    7. As myths make individual experience possible, they also make collective experience possible. Whole civilizations rise from stories – and can rise from nothing else. We come to life at their touch. Myths, told for their own sake, are not stories that have meanings, but stories that give meanings.
    8. We resonate with myth when it resounds in us. A myth resounds in me when its voice is heard in mine but not heard as mine.
    9. Myths of irrepressible resonance have lost all trace of an author. Even when sacred texts are written own by an identifiable prophet or evangelist, it is invariably thought that these words were first spoken to their recorders and not spoken by them. Moses received the law and did not compose it. No myth, therefore, exists by itself; neither does it have a discoverable origin.
    10. Myth is the highest form of us listening to each other, of offering a silence that makes the speech of the other possible. This is why listening is far more valued by religion than speaking. Fides ex auditu. Faith comes by listening, Paul said
    11. The opposite of resonance is amplification. A bell resonates, a cannon amplifies. We listen to the bell, we are silenced by the cannon. When a single voice is sufficiently amplified, it becomes a speaking that makes it impossible for any other voices to be heard. We do not listen to a loudspeaker for what is being said, but only because it is all that is being said. Ideology is the amplification of myth
    12. If it is true that myth provokes explanation, then it is also true that explanation’s ultimate design is to eliminate myth. This is the contradiction of finite play in its highest form: to play in such a way that all need for play is erased
    13. It is not necessary for infinite players to be Christians; indeed it is not possible for them to be Christians – seriously. Neither is it possible for them to be Buddhists, or Muslims, or atheists, or New Yorkers – seriously. All such titles can only be playful abstractions, mere performances for the sake of laughter. Infinite players are not serious actors in any story, but the joyful poets of a story that continues to originate what they cannot finish.
    14. There is but one infinite game.

What I got out of it

  1. So much here to mull over and digest. Serious vs. playful. Play for the sake of ending the game vs. playing for the sake of play. Playing within boundaries vs. playing with boundaries. Contradictory vs. Paradoxical. Machines vs. Gardens. Thoughts on nature, war, genius, myths, and more