Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

The Mind of Napoleon: A Selection of His Written and Spoken Words

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. On the human heart – the fact is that men almost never act in natural conformity to their characters but from a momentary secret passion that has taken refuge in the farthest recesses of his heart (fear / self-interest are the underlying motives of all behavior)
  2. On the political order – do you know what I admire most in the world? It’s the total inability of force to organize anything. There are only two powers in the world – the power of the sword and the spirit…In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit
  3. On the art of ruling – my character possesses all those qualities that are capable of strengthening my power and deceiving those who imagine they know me. A true master of politics is able to calculate, down to the smallest fraction, the advantages to which he may put his very faults
  4. On law and social order – man is entitled by birthright to a share of the earth’s produce sufficient to fill the needs of his existence
  5. Napoleon accepted peace from the outset. Cosmic problems stimulated his fancy without causing him unrest. God, to him, was the solution of a sociopolitical problem, and in religion he saw the mystery of the social order – little time for metaphysics or ideologies, a true man of action
  6. How can there be a state without any religion? Society cannot exist without inequality of fortune, and inequality of fortune cannot exist without religion
  7. In Spinoza, each thought is a step to another thought; in Napoleon, each thought is a step to an action
  8. Luck is the ability to exploit accidents. A series of great actions is never the result of chance and luck, always the product of planning and genius
  9. Napoleon had ruthless consistency and the ability of his mind to apply what he’d learned in any problem with almost instantaneous results. My policies are the result of meditation and strength
  10. Work, I was built for work. I have known the limitations of my legs, I have known the limitations of my eyes, I have never known the limitations of my working capacity
  11. Tirelessness, concentration, and speed – these were the characteristics of his mechanism
  12. I know that men have always been the same, that nothing chan change their nature. It is from the past that I will draw my lessons in order to shape the present
  13. Destiny is carried out, fate is suffered
  14. A revolution can neither be made nor stopped
  15. I am a poet in action
  16. What is a theory? Mere nonsense if you want to apply it to human masses
  17. I was sure of being understood by the last drummer boy
  18. Each looks through his own prism, which often misleads him
  19. There is little merit in copying or imitating
  20. Silence often produces the same effect as wisdom
  21. I see further into the future than others
  22. I always lived 2 years ahead of the present
  23. I start out by believing the worst
  24. One must have the will to live and be willing to die
  25. I had few really definite ideas, and the reason for this was that, instead of obstinately seeking to control circumstances, I obeyed them, and they forced me to change my mind all the time. Thus it happened that most of the time, to tell the truth, I had no definite plans but only projects
  26. He who fears to lose his reputation is sure to lose it
  27. History I conquered rather than studied: that is to say, I wanted from it and retained of it only what could add to my ideas, I spurned what was of no use, and I seized upon certain conclusions that pleased me
  28. Frederick was great above all at moments of crisis. This is the highest praise that can be given his character
  29. Liberty is a need felt by a small class of people whom nature has endowed with nobler minds than the mass of men. Consequently, it may be repressed with impunity. Equality, on the other hand, pleases the masses
    1. This is an incredibly deep insight – the French motto of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality was deconstructed by Napoleon – he understood he could do away with liberty and fraternity, but appealed to the masses’ desire for equality
  30. When custom and reason are at odds, custom always wins out
  31. One should never attempt to forbid what one lacks the power to prevent
  32. Avoid everything that might give false ideas of the truth
  33. We are here to guide public opinion, not to discuss it. They must be guided without their noticing
  34. I always went along with the opinion of the masses and with events. I always paid little attention to individual opinions and a great deal to public opinion
  35. What do I care for the opinion of drawing room gossips? I don’t listen to them. For me, only one opinion counts – that of the rich peasants. All the rest is nothing
  36. Absolute power has no need to lie: it is silent. Responsible government, on the other hand, being obliged to speak, dissimulates and lies shamelessly
  37. This famous division of labor, which in our age has brought mechanical pursuits to perfection, is absolutely fatal to the perfection of intellectual production. The quality of a production of the mind is in direct ratio to the universality of its creator
  38. I am sensitive only to the forcefulness of thought
  39. My policies are frank and open, because they are the results of long meditations of strength
  40. True politics is merely the calculus of combinations and of chances
  41. The policies of all the powers are inherent in their geography
  42. Great men are never cruel without necessity
  43. You must know that I am not in the least afraid of committing an act of cowardice if it were useful to me
  44. A true man never hates. A man made for public life and authority never takes account of personalities; he only takes account of things, of their weight and of their consequences
  45. Force is the law of animals; men are ruled by conviction
  46. Men who have changed the world never achieved their success by winning the chief citizens to their side, but always by stirring the masses
  47. Between meditating an action and carrying it out, you must put an interval of 3 years
  48. I know all of Caprara’s defects: I recommend him to you
  49. The great art of governing consists in not letting men grow old in their jobs
  50. The art of choosing men is not nearly so difficult as the art of enabling those one has chosen to attain their full worth
  51. The art consists in making others work rather than in wearing oneself out
  52. War – an immense art which comprises all others
  53. When an enemy army is in flight, you must either build a golden bridge for it or stop it with a wall of steel
  54. As a rule it is easy to find officers, but it is sometimes very hard to find noncomissioned officers
  55. We should do as the Spartan did: the generals ought to mess with the ranks
  56. Napoleon said that war consists of nothing but accidents and that a commander, though he must always adjust himself to general principles, should never overlook anything that might enable him to exploit these accidents. The vulgar would call this luck, but in fact is is the characteristic of genius
  57. My great and most distinctive talent is to see everything in a clear light
  58. I shall be credited with great profundity and subtlety in things which perhaps were simplicity itself
  59. The French people has two equally powerful passions which seem opposed to each other but which in fact derive from the same sentiment – love of equality and love of distinctions. A government cannot satisfy those two needs except by being exceedingly just. In its laws and actions, the government must be the same for all; honors and rewards must be given to those men who, in the eyes of the government, are most worthy of them
  60. My son should read much history and meditate upon it: it is the only true philosophy
  61. Greatness has its beauties, but only in retrospect and in the imagination
  62. I had a taste for founding, not for owning

What I got out of it

  1. His bias for action, ability to simplify things, fickleness were amazing to read about and I found it interesting that he described in himself a lack of ambition, but more being in the right place at the right time and being perfectly suited for what he did. Not ambition, but natural gifts, he couldn’t help but do what he did
Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. Found that algorithms performed most interestingly without an explicit objective function and argues the same holds true for life
  2. Many objectives are admirable, but we should question their dominance in our culture. Sometimes it may be better to surrender.
  3. Interestingly, the most ambitious goals may be best reached without objectives. It’s useful to think of achievement as a process of discovery. Stepping stones are portals to the next level of possibility.
  4. Ambitious goals are deceptive, so the next stepping stone to get to the final end state are unclear. The greatest achievements are less likely when they have objectives, so the optimal path for these great achievements is to have no objective at all as relevant stepping stones aren’t obvious and would be missed if too focused on the objective – the stepping stone doesn’t resemble the final product. In other words, no matter how tempting it is to believe in it, the distant objective cannot guide you to itself – it is the ultimate false compass
  5. Sometimes the best way to achieve something great is to stop trying to achieve a particular great thing. In other words, greatness is possible if you are willing to stop demanding what greatness should be…We’re missing out on a lot by clinging to objectives
  6. The genius of the Wright brothers wasn’t to invent every necessary component from flight from scratch, it was to recognize that we were only a stepping stone away from flight given past innovations. Great invention is defined by the realization that the prerequisites are in place, laid before us by predecessors with entirely unrelated ambitions, just waiting to be combined and enhanced. The flash of insight is seeing the bridge to the next stepping stone by building from the old ones. And the story of those stepping stones is not a story of intentional objective-driven building, one piece at at time towards some distant uber-invention as conceived by an overarching plan. On the contrary, just like in natural evolution and just like in Picbreeder, the stepping stones are laid in their own context for their own independent reasons, not because a visionary foresaw their role in future greatness
  7. Unstructured play is vital for kids and adults – you have the right to pivot and follow your passions. The point is that novelty can often act as a stepping stone detector because anything novel is a potential stepping stone to something even more novel. In other words, novelty is a rough shortcut for identifying interestingness: interesting ideas are those that open up new possibilities. And while it might sound wishy-washy to go looking for “interesting” things, interestingness is a surprisingly deep and important concept
  8. Novelty search accumulates information well, moves naturally from simple to complex
  9. often possible to achieve more by not trying to achieve it
  10. Nothing can reliably reach target objectives. We can find something amazing, we just can’t say what those somethings are. Great discoveries are possible if they’re left undefined…The strange paradox, where trying is a curse and not a blessing, sets the stage for a more realistic understanding of what is achievable and how. It means that ambitious goals can’t be reliably achieved by trying – unless they are one stepping stone away, where they come within reach. Otherwise, the only choice that remains is not trying. And while this treasure-hunting approach will not ensure reaching any particular objective, what it will do is accumulate stepping stones that lead to unfamiliar places. The treasure hunter is an opportunistic explorer – searching for anything and everything of value, without a care for what might be found. To be a treasure hunter, you have to collect as many stepping stones as you can, because you never know which one might lead somewhere valuable
  11. The best way to harness the power of a group of people in the non-objective world isn’t through brainstorming sessions or meetings or big ambitious projects. It’s not about sitting down and coming to a consensus on what to do. That’s not the treasure hunter – consensus is exactly the cultural tendency that we need to scale. We don’t want “Top 40” lists where everyone tries to agree what the best songs are, nor “design by committee” where any interesting vision for a new product is watered  down by consensus. No, the way to unleash the treasure hunter is to actually through separating people from each other, like in Picbreeder, where people only interact by taking off from where someone else left off. While many participants in such a treasure-hunting system might arrive with their own personal objectives, the system as a whole ends up lacking a unified objective because people’s objectives differ…With instantaneous global communication, it becomes easier than ever to organize people all over the world to build off each other’s creations
  12. Having no plan might be the best plan – explore widely without objectives
  13. When there is no destination, there can’t be a right path. Instead of judging every activity for its potential to succeed, we should judge our projects for their potential to spawn more projects…So, if you’re wondering how to escape the myth of the objective, just do things because they’re interesting
  14. To achieve our highest goals, we must be willing to abandon them
  15. Search is at its most awesome when it has no unified objective
  16. Perhaps then it would make sense sometimes to reward maximal disagreement instead of agreement. It’s possible that anti-consensus may be more interesting than bland agreement. After all, attracting a unanimous vote in science could be a sign of nothing more than echoing the status quo. If you’re doing whatever is hot and parrot the right buzzwords, you might be able to attract wide support. On the other hand, an interesting idea is likely to split votes. At the border between our present knowledge and the unknown are questions whose answers remain uncertain. That’s why the opinions of experts should diverge in such uncharted territory. It’s in the wild borderland between the known and the unknown that we should want our greatest minds probing, rather than within the comfortable vacation-spot of maximal consensus. Just think, which project is likely more revolutionary, one that receives, excellent, excellent, poor, poor, or the one that receives excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent? Splitting experts may be more of an achievement than unifying them
  17. If you’re looking to invest in visionaries, find those who wander in nearby shadows
  18. The successful inventor asks where we can get from here rather than how ewe can get there
  19. Competition should play a secondary role to creativity
  20. Natural evolution can be seen as novelty-generating search with local competition…A key insight from thinking non-objectively in this chapter is that although evolution can be seen as a competition, out-competing other creatures on the “objective” of surviving and reproducing is less important than escaping from competition to form new niches.

What I got out of it

  1. The idea of being a curious explorer, following and optimizing for novelty and interestingness strikes me deeply. Importantly, this is for ambitious, audacious ideas and not for to-do lists or day to day life. You have to concede control of the final destination. There is risk in this, but the reward is worthwhile
Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

Awareness: Conversations with the Masters by Anthony de Mello

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Summary

  1. Anthony discusses various elements of awareness and waking up

Key Takeaways

  1. You have to be willing to wake up, to challenge every belief
  2. The wise guru never tries to wake anybody up
  3. Clarity of perception leads to accuracy of response
  4. Life is not the problem. You are the problem. Once you can dissociate, peace and happiness is on the other side.
  5. You see things not as they are, but as you are. When you change, everything changes
  6. Understanding your obstacles drops them
  7. When the heart and mind are unobstructed, you become aware and this leads to love
  8. You become happy by moment to moment contact with reality
  9. The ability for self observation is a superpower. To be truly happy. You don’t have to do anything, simply remove. Remove the association with “me” and with the feelings that incurs. The true “I” is the observer, not the me

What I got out of it

  1. A book worth reading and re-reading! The audible version in this case was amazing since it is de Mello himself speaking and you get such a sense for his joy and personality
Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

The Life of Elbert H. Gary: A Story of Steel by Ida Tarbell

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

This book is full of practical wisdom and deserved a longer write up.

Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn by Richard Hamming

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

“After more thought I decided that since I was trying to teach “style” of thinking in science and engineering, and “style” is an art, I should therefore copy the methods of teaching used for the other arts – once the fundamentals have been learned. How to be a great painters cannot be taught in words; one learns by trying many different approaches that seem to surround the subject. Art teachers usually let the advanced student paint, and then make suggestions on how they would have done it, or what might also be tried, more or less as the points arise in the student’s head – which is where the learning is supposed to occur! In this series of lectures, I try to communicate to students what cannot be said in words – the essence of style in science and engineering. I have adopted a loose organization with some repetition since this often occurs in the lectures. There are, therefore, digressions and stories – with some told in two different places – all in the somewhat rambling, informal style typical of lectures. I have used the “story” approach, often emphasizing the initial part of the discovery, because I firmly believe in Pasteur’s remark, “Luck favors the prepared mind.” In this way I can illustrate how the individual’s preparation before encountering the problem can often lead to recognition, formulation, and solution. Great results in science and engineering are “bunched” in the same person too often for success to be a matter of random luck. Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past…Therefore, style of thinking is the center of this course. The subtitle of the book, Learning to Learn, is the main solution I offer to help students cope with the rapid changes they will have to endure in their fields. The course centers around how to look at and think about knowledge, and it supplies some historical perspective that might be useful. This course is mainly personal experiences I have had and digested, at least to some extent. Naturally one tends to remember one’s successes and forget lesser events, but I recount a number of my spectacular failures as clear examples of what to avoid. I have found that the personal story is far, far more effective than the impersonal one; hence there is necessarily an aura of “bragging” in the book that is unavoidable. Let me repeat what I earlier indicated. Apparently an “art” – which almost by definition cannot be put into words – is probably best communicated by approaching it from many sides and doing so repeatedly, hoping thereby students will finally mater enough of the art, or if you wish, style, to significantly increase their future contributions to society. A totally different description of the course is: it covers all kinds of things that could not find their proper place in the standard curriculum.”

PS – The book is expensive and hard to find but here is a PDF copy of the book and if you’re more of an auditory learner, here are Hamming’s “Learning to Learn” lectures

Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life by Robert Fritz

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

I got so much out of this book that I made a bit of a more formal write-up.

If you want to learn more about the power of creating, why the structure in your life impacts your behavior more than your willpower, the importance of facing reality without obscuring it, and so much more, this book is for you.


If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

A Treatise on Efficacy

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

This book is about the diverging patterns of efficacy between Western and Chinese thinking. The Western model of efficacy, inherited from the ancient Greeks’ conception of action, seeks to attain directly a predetermined goal through voluntary and assertive action. The Chinese tend to evaluate the power inherent in a situation (shi) and transform it through non-assertiveness, relying on the “propensity” of things in such a way that the result takes place of itself. The Chinese strategist manipulates his own troops and the enemy to win a battle without waging war and to bring about victory effortlessly. Efficacity in China is thus conceived of in terms of transformation (as opposed to action) and manipulation. To summarize the difference between Western and Chinese thought: one constructs a model that is then projected onto the situation, which implies that the situation is momentarily “frozen”. The other relies on the situation as on a disposition that is known to be constantly evolving. It is a disposition that functions as a device.

One of my all-time favorites. It ties together so many recent themes for me – Werner’s effortless mastery, strategy, philosophy, psychology, and more.

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

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

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

I got so much out of this book 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.

Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

Human Universals by Donald Brown

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

The book and concepts were rich enough that I did a bit more of an in-depth write up…

Human Universals

Link to further reading and universals
Categories
Books Worth Re-reading

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

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

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.