Tag Archives: Psychology

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memory of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

  1. JD Vance wrote this book not because he’s accomplished anything extraordinary, but because he’s accomplished something ordinary. His poor upbringing and difficult childhood indicates he’d never escape but he was able to graduate from Yale Law School.
Key Takeaways
  1. There is of course inequality but there is also a lack of agency, of responsibility, of accountability that JD has found in his cohort
  2. The honor culture of the south leads many into violence and revenge, not being able to let an insult go
  3. For most hillbillies, the only way up is to move out. There are astonishing numbers of people moving away from the Appalachian region every year, in pursuit of a livable wage
  4. People don’t expect much of themselves because the people around them aren’t doing very much
  5. Despite all the social and peers pressures, JD received a different message at home that it was alright to learn and to strive and that made all the difference to him
  6. Parent’s desire for their kids to do better didn’t just relate to education, work, and pay, but to relationships too. Low expectations for those living in the Appalachians is hurting every generation
  7. JD had no role models for relationships and thought that screaming, violence, and hitting was how adults spoke to each other
  8. We are all very bad at judging ourselves
  9. His grandma was his most important positive influence as she showed him not only what was possible but how to get there. She helped him raise what he expected out of himself
  10. The instability in JD’s life was so disruptive. He was in several different homes with several different father figures in only a couple of years. Once he had a safe, stable place with grandma, he was able to focus and do his work
  11. JD enlisted in the marine corps and graduating was his proudest accomplishment. He got out of his learned helplessness and it made him see and question things once he returned home
  12. Sometimes those in power try to help the helpless without truly understanding their situation, which often ends up with negative consequences
  13. When a group believes that hard work will pay off, they all work harder and go all-in, often with amazing results
  14. The predominant emotion in lower middle class working white Americans is a sense of pessimism and a lack of accountability. They’re not willing to work hard and be consistent and blame others or the government for their problems
  15. Most successful people don’t even play the same game as the people JD grew up with. He had no idea how important networking, one’s social capital, was for one’s prospects. He learned this during his time at Yale Law and going through the interview/admissions process
What I got out of it
  1. An amazing dive into the life of poor Appalachians and the struggles they face. JD told his story in such an open, transparent, vulnerable way and gave me insight into situations I didn’t appreciate or know much about before. Inspiring how hard JD worked to escape his situation, his learned helplessness

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

  1. Although it may not seem like it, violence has seen a steady downward trend over the last several hundred years and we may in fact be living in the most peaceful time in our history. This book describes why this has occurred
Key Takeaways
  1. Hard to make any real progress when you are constantly worried about being attacked and pillaged. Changes not only how life is lived but also how life is understood
  2. Decline in violence has been paralleled by changes in the perception and glorification of violence and brutality, letting “the better angels of our nature” shine through and gain the spotlight
  3. Humans are not innately good nor bad – we have inner demons and angels and, along with culture and history, these guide men in their use of violence
  4. 6 major trends
    1. Pacification process – Shift from anarchy of hunter gatherer to more organized, agricultural life.
    2. Civilizing process – consolidation of land into feudal territories with a central authority
    3. Humanitarian revolution – progress towards removal of group-wide violence such as slavery and despotism
    4. Long peace – after WWII, major world powers have stopped waging wars on one another
    5. New peace – organized wars of all kinds have been on the decline
    6. The rights revolutions – more and more groups are gaining undisputed universal rights
  5. 5 inner demons
    1. Predatory violence
    2. Dominance
    3. Revenge
    4. Sadism
    5. Ideology
  6. 4 better angels
    1. Empathy
    2. Self control
    3. Moral sense through culture
    4. Faculty of reason
  7. 5 historical forces which have driven decreasing violence
    1. The Leviathan – legitimate use of force is encouraged by the central power and makes people feel they are on the right side of the angels when they use violence
    2. Feminization – increased respect for women and women’s rights
    3. Commerce – exchange of goods and ideas allowed quicker spread of more enlightened culture and is not zero sum
    4. Cosmopolitanism – literacy, mobility and mass media allow people to absorb different cultures and move away from immediate surroundings
    5. Escalator of reason – force people to reframe violence and see it as something which we can reduce
  8. Describes in gruesome detail the violence and its common occurrence during the hunter gatherer and early agricultural times. Especially as it’s depicted in the Bible
  9. Honor is a strange thing in that it exists only because we believe others believe it exists
  10. The US has a much higher homicide rate than Europe and most other developed countries and southern US far higher than northern. The author says that a culture of honor which was passed down from herders is the reason. Most southerners descended from herders and herders have a quicker anger trigger and are more likely to retaliate because livestock is easy to steal whereas land, which is what most northerner’s wealth was tied to, isn’t.
  11. One universal constant of violence is that 15-30 year old men conduct most of it
  12. Nature abhors a lop sided sex ratio
  13. Government does not deter violence because its citizens feels like Big Brother is always watching but because there is a reliable and consistent system in place where there is a good shot that you’ll get caught and punished if you commit a crime
  14. As books became more abundant after the printing press, the “bubble of empathy” was inflated as people were more commonly learning about secular rather than only religious topics and able to take fresh perspectives through novels and travel books
  15. War has steadily been decreasing in number but increasing in its total damage
  16. Wars declined substantially in the 18th century as many of the world powers shifted from conquest to commerce.
  17. Democracy, trade and intergovernmental ties reduce violence due to intermingling and inter-reliance
  18. To kill millions, more than weapons, you need an ideology
  19. The author believes that the single greatest catalyst of the rights revolution was the increasing spread and usage of technology which fostered noble action.
  20. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the most important ideas / explanations of the 20th century. It has found that the “tit-for-tat” strategy most often leads to the best outcomes. If you mirror what the other party does, you get the most cooperation and benefits. An even superior strategy, which could be taken advantage of if there are too many “defectors” or “freeloaders” is tit-for-tat with added forgiveness. Mirror what the other person/team/company/etc. does and if they make a decision once which hurts you, forgive them (once).
  21. Increasing self-control over the last several centuries is a key reason for the huge drops in violence we have seen. A culture of honor shifted to a culture of dignity where men were more respected for their self control than for lashing out for any offenses
  22. Intelligence and self-control are the best predictors of success and decreased violence in both individuals and states. Reason has shown to negatively correlate to violence and the Flynn Effect (increasing intelligence seen over periods of decades rather than generations) have helped decrease violence
What I got out of it
  1. A deep and fascinating book. Does a great job of taking a big picture historical overview to describe many trends which have led to decreasing violence

Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams

  1. Discusses how emotional rather than rational people really are and how to use this fact to persuade people. He uses the recent Trump presidential campaign to tie in real life examples of his persuasion tips
Key Takeaways
  1. Trump’s presidential victory “ripped a whole in the fabric of the universe” in the sense that people have had to alter their mental models to fit reality. Objectivity was believed to be synonymous with reality but Trump’s victory shows that we have to alter the “movie in our head” to model what is really happening. This was one of the biggest perceptual shifts to ever occur
  2. A good mental filter is one which helps you predict the future and makes you happy. Adams does not say that the persuasion filter is an accurate representation of reality
  3. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are two phenomena which affects everyone.
    1. Adams’ blog and prediction of a Trump victory was partly motivated by him wanting to make sure people were looking at the situation through the right lens. Trump remade the Republican Party in his own image, destroyed the media’s credibility and crushed the Democrats.
    2. The tell for cognitive dissonance is not the quality of explanations but how many of them there are. Also, overly emotional or aggressive responses, the psychic psychiatrist (thinking you can know other people’s unspoken feelings or thoughts), retreating to analogy, extreme social or professional pressure to agree with the assumed answer, and attacking the messenger are other tells.
    3. Cognitive dissonance isn’t a bug in the operating system. It is the system. Mass delusions are the norm
  4. Always keep an eye out for leaders who have a “reality distortion field”
  5. 2D v. 3D world
    1. Second dimension – mental model most people use which says that people are mostly rational. Master persuaders operate on the third dimension where people are irrational 90% of the time. Humans think they are rational and that they can understand reality but they are wrong on both accounts. The truth is that humans bounce around from illusion to illusion, thinking we see reality.
    2. Facts play little role in the big decisions in our lives as we are emotional creatures. We make emotional decisions and then rationalize them after the fact
    3. When emotions are involved, people simply don’t change their minds just because facts are presented
  6. Evolution doesn’t care if your representation of reality is accurate as long as you procreate
  7. Moist robot filter – people are like software and if you feed them certain inputs, you’ll likely get certain outputs
  8. To attract the other sex, aim to be talented rather than nice. This signals good genes
  9. When someone exceeds your expectations, look to see if they have a talent stack – a grouping of talents which add onto the others and allows them to excel
  10. Some of the most powerful words in history have been “turn the other cheek” and “we the people”
  11. Look for situations or decisions which give you multiple ways to win and none or minimal ways to lose. The importance of systems over goals
  12. Persuasion tips
    1. Fear is the strongest form of persuasion
    2. When you identify as part of a group, your beliefs tend to fall towards the consensus of that group
    3. Reciprocity is a huge tool for the persuader
    4. Persuasion works on the subject even when they know its being used on them
    5. The things you think about the most will irrationally rise in importance in your mind
    6. If you are not a master persuader, find a balance between never apologizing and apologizing too much
    7. Don’t trust any explanation of reality which isn’t able to predict
    8. People are more influenced by the direction of things than by their current state
    9. Display confidence whether real or not to improve persuasion
    10. Hypnosis works best when the hypnotist has credibility
    11. Calling out what someone is thinking when they are thinking it makes you connect and gives you more persuasive power
    12. Leave enough blank spaces in your content/argument/etc. so people can fill it in with whatever makes them happiest (Dilbert has no last name and don’t know what industry he’s in so more people can connect…)
    13. People are more addicted and respond better to unpredictable rewards compared to predictable rewards
    14. Aligning yourself and making yourself a key part of helping people reach their aspirations is a great tool of persuasion
    15. It is easier to persuade when you establish and signal any form of credibility
    16. People hate uncertainty and those who offered we are simple and strong answers even if they’re wrong are more persuasive
    17. Visual persuasion is far more powerful than non-visual persuasion
    18. People are more persuaded by contrast than by fact or reason. Humans need contrast in order to make decisions and prioritize. Find ways to set yourself apart from competitors
    19. Association is a very strong form of persuasion. All people and all companies are always “marketing.” What you associate yourself with becomes your brand and what people think of when they think of you. Associate carefully with positive factors. People forget what you say but not how you make them feel
    20. People almost always get used to small annoyances. We love novelty and almost always adjust to things as they routine
    21. All communication depends upon what we believe is in the mind of the person communicating. What you say is important but not nearly as important as what people think you are thinking
    22. High energy is taken for competent leadership even when it is not
    23. Direct requests are persuasive. Ask the customer if they want to buy. Trump ends many sentences with “believe me.” A command disguised as throw away words but in fact become associated with him over time as he repeats this over time
    24. Repetition is persuasion. Repetition is persuasion.
    25. Match the pace of the people you want to persuade and then you can lead. Copy their emotion and speaking style
      1. Trump matched the emotional base of his constituency and played to it. He made big, outrageous first ask and later, when he compromised, the other side felt relieved but more got done than maybe otherwise would have. Policies during the election weren’t that important as he would figure out the details later
    26. People love the simplest explanation of things but in a “3D” world this is hardly ever accurate
    27. Simple explanations are more credible than complicated ones even if wrong or incomplete
    28. Have to be memorable to be persuasive. Easily remember things which violate our expectations. A good general rule is that people are more influenced by visual persuasion, emotion and repetition of facts
      1. People put far more importance on the first part of a sentence than the second. Structure them carefully
    29. Analogies are great tools to describe a new concept but are terrible tools to try to persuade others
    30. Provide a “fake because”. This is a reason which those on the fence can fall back on and use as their excuse for deciding the way you want them to
    31. Making an exaggerated statement which is directionally correct is another form of persuasion as it tends to stick better in people’s minds
    32. The master persuader move energy and attention to where it helps him the most
    33. High ground maneuver – elevating a debate from the details on which people disagree to a broader concept on which people tend to agree on. Instead of attacking people’s actions, take the high ground and ask them if that is truly the person they want to be. Point out the gap and watch it close
    34. Linguistic kill shot – a nickname or short phrase which is so persuasive that it can end a debate immediately
      1. Trump is a master at using images, visual perception. Low Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, The Wall
    35. Nothing kills humor like a boring and general truth. Steve Jobs’ response to issues with the iPhone 4s antenna is a prime example
What I got out of it
  1.  A lot of gems and great tips / cautions on how to go about being a better persuader. If you know the rules / tactics, you’ll be better able to spot them and combat them from being used on you

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

  1. The authors describe some of the self-justification mechanisms people often use to help them navigate the world. While they may help avoid psychological discomfort, they can lead to painful errors, bad decisions and not learning from one’s mistakes
Key Takeaways
  1. Once proven wrong, people tend to even more voraciously protect their point of view or, if they do admit they were wrong, the responsibility for it falls to someone else
  2. Self justification is so powerful and insidious because it allows people to save face, have a clear conscience, helps to convince themselves that they did everything they could, and, often, what they did was in fact it was the right thing to do. We justify the small or big things so that we can keep doing them without having to change our behavior or see ourselves as bad people or hypocrites
  3. Self justification can help us psychologically but it won’t help us change bad habits or confront reality
  4. Cognitive dissonance is a prime motivator for self justification. People very rarely can face their mistakes and change their minds. It is easier to change their memory or pass on blame to someone or something external
  5. If we have to do something painful or embarrassing we will most likely become more attached to the group, outcome, idea, etc. (i.e., hazing ties people psychologically to the group and the more painful/embarrassing the more they associate)
  6. Everyone has blind spots and they’re so dangerous because they convince us we don’t have blind spots but all others do
  7. It is vital to surround yourself with people who have different views, who are willing to disagree with you, and to study and focus on disconfirming evidence so that you do not fall into the confirmation bias trap and only see things or spend time with people who agree with you
  8. Our memories are extremely flimsy and vulnerable to manipulation or simple fabrication. This is important to remember as many of our life narratives, relationships, etc. are based on memories which very likely aren’t totally accurate and in some cases totally made up
  9. Imagination inflation – the more you imagine something the more confident you become and the more details you add to these memories or images
  10. Repetition slowly chips away at people’s skepticism and is why it is so often used by salesmen and other people tying to persuade you
  11. The victim mindset is often used as it gives people someone or something to blame. Making them feel better and externalize responsibility
  12. Happy partners give each other the benefit of the doubt. Ascribing bad moods to their situation rather than character and thoughtful actions as genuine rather than trying to cover something up. 5:1 positive to negative interactions is the minimum for happy relationships
  13. Shame, mocking, and contempt are the final indications of failing relationships
  14. Owning up to mistakes and apologizing is often the best thing we can do and in fact often gains us favor and standing in the eyes of others. It is of course difficult to admit fault but even more insidious is the fact that we often don’t recognize that we even need to apologize because our self justification is operating at a near sub-conscious level
What I got out of it
  1. Self justification, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the slow and gradual giving in and laxing of morals can have disastrous results on our learning and decision-making over time. We probably can never get rid of them completely, but we can be aware of them and how they might creep up in our lives.

Why Don’t We Learn From History? by BH Liddell Hart

  1. Hart succinctly and engagingly describes why history is so important to study and, yet, why so few do
Key Takeaways
  1. There is no panacea for peace that can be written out in a formula like a doctor’s prescription. But one can set down a series of practical points—elementary principles drawn from the sum of human experience in all times. Study war and learn from its history. Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding. Cure yourself of two commonly fatal delusions—the idea of victory and the idea that war cannot be limited
  2. I would emphasize a basic value of history to the individual. As Burckhardt said, our deeper hope from experience is that it should “make us, not shrewder (for next time), but wiser (for ever).” History teaches us personal philosophy.
  3. Over two thousand years ago, Polybius, the soundest of ancient historians, began his History with the remark that “the most instructive, indeed the only method of learning to bear with dignity the vicissitude of fortune, is to recall the catastrophes of others.” History is the best help, being a record of how things usually go wrong. A long historical view not only helps us to keep calm in a “time of trouble” but reminds us that there is an end to the longest tunnel. Even if we can see no good hope ahead, an historical interest as to what will happen is a help in carrying on. For a thinking man, it can be the strongest check on a suicidal feeling.
  4. What is the object of history? I would answer, quite simply – “truth.” The object might be more cautiously expressed thus: to find out what happened while trying to find out why it happened. In other words, to seek the causal relations between events. History has limitations as guiding signpost, however, for although it can show us the right direction, it does not give detailed information about the road conditions
    1. NOTE: map is not the terrain
  5. History can show us what to avoid, even if it does not teach us what to do—by showing the most common mistakes that mankind is apt to make and to repeat. A second object lies in the practical value of history. “Fools,” said Bismarck, “say they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by other people’s experience.” The study of history offers that opportunity in the widest possible measure. It is universal experience – infinitely longer, wider, and more varied than any individual’s experience.
  6. The point was well expressed by Polybius. “There are two roads to the reformation for mankind—one through misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all educations for practical life
  7. Why were they not deduced? Partly because the General Staffs’ study was too narrow, partly because they were blinded by their own professional interests and sentiments. But the “surprising” developments were correctly deduced from those earlier wars by certain non-official students of war who were able to think with detachment
  8. History is the record of man’s steps and slips. It shows us that the steps have been slow and slight; the slips, quick and abounding. It provides us with the opportunity to profit by the stumbles and tumbles of our forerunners. Awareness of our limitations should make us chary of condemning those who made mistakes, but we condemn ourselves if we fail to recognize mistakes
  9. Viewed aright, it is the broadest of studies, embracing every aspect of life. It lays the foundation of education by showing how mankind repeats its errors and what those errors are
  10. In reality, reason has had a greater influence than fortune on the issue of wars that have most influenced history. Creative thought has often counted for more than courage; for more, even, than gifted leadership. It is a romantic habit to ascribe to a flash of inspiration in battle what more truly has been due to seeds long sown—to the previous development of some new military practice by the victors, or to avoidable decay in the military practice of the losers.
  11. Direct experience is inherently too limited to form an adequate foundation either for theory or for application. At the best it produces an atmosphere that is of value in drying and hardening the structure of thought. The greater value of indirect experience lies in its greater variety and extent. “History is universal experience”—the experience not of another but of many others under manifold conditions.
  12. The increasing specialization of history has tended to decrease the intelligibility of history and thus forfeit the benefit to the community
  13. Observing the working of committees of many kinds, I have long come to realize the crucial importance of lunchtime. Two hours or more may have been spent in deliberate discussion and careful weighing of a problem, but the last quarter of an hour often counts for more than all the rest. At 12:45pm there may be no prospect of an agreed solution, yet around about 1pm important decisions may be reached with little argument—because the attention of the members has turned to watching the hands of their watches. Those moving hands can have a remarkable effect in accelerating the movements of minds—to the point of a snap decision. The more influential members of any committee are the most likely to have important lunch engagements, and the more important the committee the more likely is this contingency. A shrewd committeeman often develops a technique based on this time calculation. He will defer his own intervention in the discussion until lunchtime is near, when the majority of the others are more inclined to accept any proposal that sounds good enough to enable them to keep their lunch engagement.
  14. Another danger, among “hermit” historians, is that they often attach too much value to documents. Men in high office are apt to have a keen sense of their own reputation in history. Many documents are written to deceive or conceal. Moreover, the struggles that go on behind the scenes, and largely determine the issue, are rarely recorded in documents.
  15. Lloyd George frequently emphasized to me in conversation that one feature that distinguished a first-rate political leader from a second-rate politician is that the former was always careful to avoid making any definite statement that could be subsequently refuted, as he was likely to be caught out in the long run.
  16. “Hard writing makes easy reading.” Such hard writing makes for hard thinking.
  17. Discernment may be primarily a gift—and a sense of proportion, too. But their development can be assisted by freedom from prejudice, which largely rests with the individual to achieve—and within his power to achieve it. Or at least to approach it. The way of approach is simple, if not easy—requiring, above all, constant self-criticism and care for precise statement.
  18. To view any question subjectively is self-blinding.
  19. Doubt is unnerving save to philosophic minds, and armies are not composed of philosophers, either at the top or at the bottom. In no activity is optimism so necessary to success, for it deals so largely with the unknown—even unto death. The margin that separates optimism from blind folly is narrow. Thus there is no cause for surprise that soldiers have so often overstepped it and become the victims of their faith.
  20. The point had been still more clearly expressed in the eleventh-century teaching of Chang-Tsai: “If you can doubt at points where other people feel no impulse to doubt, then you are making progress.”
  21. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too “sacred” to think about.
  22. How rarely does one meet anyone whose first reaction to anything is to ask “Is it true?” Yet unless that is a man’s natural reaction it shows that truth is not uppermost in his mind, and, unless it is, true progress is unlikely.
  23. Yet the longer I watch current events, the more I have come to see how many of our troubles arise from the habit, on all sides, of suppressing or distorting what we know quite well is the truth, out of devotion to a cause, an ambition, or an institution—at bottom, this devotion being inspired by our own interest.
  24. It was saddening to discover how many apparently honorable men would stoop to almost to anything to help their own advancement.
  25. A different habit, with worse effect, was the way that ambitious officers when they came in sight of promotion to the generals’ list, would decide that they would bottle up their thoughts and ideas, as a safety precaution, until they reached the top and could put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately the usual result, after years of such self-repression for the sake of their ambition, was that when the bottle was eventually uncorked the contents had evaporated.
  26. In my experience the troubles of the world largely come from excessive regard to other interests.
  27. We learn from history that those who are disloyal to their own superiors are most prone to preach loyalty to their subordinates.
  28. Loyalty is a noble quality, so long as it is not blind and does not exclude the higher loyalty to truth and decency.
  29. Truth may not be absolute, but it is certain that we are likely to come nearest to it if we search for it in a purely scientific spirit and analyze the facts with a complete detachment from all loyalties save that to truth itself. It implies that one must be ready to discard one’s own pet ideas and theories as the search progresses.
  30. Faith matters so much in times of crisis. One must have gone deep into history before reaching the conviction that truth matters more.
  31. All of us do foolish things—but the wiser realize what they do. The most dangerous error is failure to recognize our own tendency to error. That failure is a common affliction of authority.
  32. The pretense to infallibility is instinctive in a hierarchy. But to understand the cause is not to underrate the harm that the pretense has produced—in every sphere.
  33. Hence the duty of the good citizen who is free from the responsibility of Government is to be a watchdog upon it, lest Government impair the fundamental objects which it exists to serve. It is a necessary evil, thus requiring constant watchfulness and check.
  34. What is of value in “England” and “America” and worth defending is its tradition of freedom—the guarantee of its vitality. Our civilization, like the Greek, has, for all its blundering way, taught the value of freedom, of criticism of authority—and of harmonizing this with order. Anyone who urges a different system, for efficiency’s sake, is betraying the vital tradition.
  35. We learn from history that self-made despotic rulers follow a standard pattern. In gaining power: They exploit, consciously or unconsciously, a state of popular dissatisfaction with the existing regime or of hostility between different sections of the people. On gaining power: They soon begin to rid themselves of their chief helpers, “discovering” that those who brought about the new order have suddenly become traitors to it. This political confidence trick, itself a familiar string of tricks, has been repeated all down the ages. Yet it rarely fails to take in a fresh generation.
  36. We learn from history that time does little to alter the psychology of dictatorship. The effect of power on the mind of the man who possesses it, especially when he has gained it by successful aggression, tends to be remarkably similar in every age and in every country.
  37. Bad means lead to no good end.
  38. But “anti-Fascism” or “anti-Communism” is not enough. Nor is even the defense of freedom. What has been gained may not be maintained, against invasion without and erosion within, if we are content to stand still. The peoples who are partially free as a result of what their forebears achieved in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries must continue to spread the gospel of freedom and work for the extension of the conditions, social and economic as well as political, which are essential to make men free.
  39. We learn from history that the compulsory principle always breaks down in practice. It is practicable to prevent men doing something; moreover that principle of restraint, or regulation, is essentially justifiable in so far as its application is needed to check interference with others’ freedom. But it is not, in reality, possible to make men do something without risking more than is gained from the compelled effort. The method may appear practicable, because it often works when applied to those who are merely hesitant. When applied to those who are definitely unwilling it fails, however, because it generates friction and fosters subtle forms of evasion that spoil the effect which is sought. The test of whether a principle works is to be found in the product. Efficiency springs from enthusiasm—because this alone can develop a dynamic impulse. Enthusiasm is incompatible with compulsion—because it is essentially spontaneous. Compulsion is thus bound to deaden enthusiasm—because it dries up the source. The more an individual, or a nation, has been accustomed to freedom, the more deadening will be the effect of a change to compulsion.
  40. Conscription does not fit the conditions of modern warfare—its specialized technical equipment, mobile operations, and fluid situations. Success increasingly depends on individual initiative, which in turn springs from a sense of personal responsibility—these senses are atrophied by compulsion. Moreover, every unwilling man is a germ carrier, spreading infection to an extent altogether disproportionate to the value of the service he is forced to contribute.
  41. Unless the great majority of a people are willing to give their services there is something radically at fault in the state itself. In that case the state is not likely or worthy to survive under test—and compulsion will make no serious difference.
  42. But the deeper I have gone into the study of war and the history of the past century the further I have come toward the conclusion that the development of conscription has damaged the growth of the idea of freedom in the Continental countries and thereby damaged their efficiency also—by undermining the sense of personal responsibility.
    1. NOTE: great parallels to business. Giving away ownership and responsibility gets people all-in, to self-police, to be your best salesman and advocates. Forcing them to try to act this way never works
  43. I believe that freedom is the foundation of efficiency, both national and military. Thus it is a practical folly as well as a spiritual surrender to “go totalitarian” as a result of fighting for existence against the totalitarian states. Cut off the incentive to freely given service and you dry up the life source of a free community.
  44. Reforms that last are those that come naturally, and with less friction, when men’s minds have become ripe for them. A life spent in sowing a few grains of fruitful thought is a life spent more effectively than in hasty action that produces a crop of weeds. That leads us to see the difference, truly a vital difference, between influence and power.
  45. History shows that a main hindrance to real progress is the ever-popular myth of the “great man.” While “greatness” may perhaps be used in a comparative sense, if even then referring more to particular qualities than to the embodied sum, the “great man” is a clay idol whose pedestal has been built up by the natural human desire to look up to someone, but whose form has been carved by men who have not yet outgrown the desire to be regarded, or to picture themselves, as great men.
  46. We learn from history that expediency has rarely proved expedient.
    1. NOTE: John Wooden – be quick but don’t hurry
  47. Civilization is built on the practice of keeping promises. It may not sound a high attainment, but if trust in its observance be shaken the whole structure cracks and sinks. Any constructive effort and all human relations—personal, political, and commercial—depend on being able to depend on promises.
    1. NOTE: like any high performing culture, trust is at the center of it all. Not being able to depend on promises erodes trust
  48. It is immoral to make promises that one cannot in practice fulfill—in the sense that the recipient expects.
  49. I have come to think that accuracy, in the deepest sense, is the basic virtue—the foundation of understanding, supporting the promise of progress. The cause of most troubles can be traced to excess; the failure to check them to deficiency; their prevention lies in moderation. So in the case of troubles that develop from spoken or written communication, their cause can be traced to overstatement, their maintenance to understatement, while their prevention lies in exact statement. It applies to private as well as to public life.
  50. Studying their effect, one is led to see that the germs of war lie within ourselves—not in economics, politics, or religion as such. How can we hope to rid the world of war until we have cured ourselves of the originating causes?
  51. Any history of war which treats only of its strategic and political course is merely a picture of the surface. The personal currents run deeper and may have a deeper influence on the outcome.
  52. We learn from history that complete victory has never been completed by the result that the victors always anticipate—a good and lasting peace. For victory has always sown the seeds of a fresh war, because victory breeds among the vanquished a desire for vindication and vengeance and because victory raises fresh rivals.
    1. NOTE: dialectical materialism
  53. A too complete victory inevitably complicates the problem of making a just and wise peace settlement. Where there is no longer the counterbalance of an opposing force to control the appetites of the victors, there is no check on the conflict of views and interests between the parties to the alliance. The divergence is then apt to become so acute as to turn the comradeship of common danger into the hospitality of mutual dissatisfaction—so that the ally of one war becomes the enemy in the next.
  54. Where the two sides are too evenly matched to offer a reasonable chance of early success to either, the statesman is wise who can learn something from the psychology of strategy. It is an elementary principle of strategy that, if you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat—as the quickest way of loosening his resistance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, especially in war, to provide your opponent with a ladder by which he can climb down.
  55. War is profitable only if victory is quickly gained. Only an aggressor can hope to gain a quick victory. If he is frustrated, the war is bound to be long, and mutually ruinous, unless it is brought to an end by mutual agreement.
  56. The history of ancient Greece showed that, in a democracy, emotion dominates reason to a greater extent than in any other political system, thus giving freer rein to the passions which sweep a state into war and prevent it getting out—at any point short of the exhaustion and destruction of one or other of the opposing sides.
  57. It was because Wellington really understood war that he became so good at securing peace. He was the least militaristic of soldiers and free from the lust of glory. It was because he saw the value of peace that he became so unbeatable in war. For he kept the end in view, instead of falling in love with the means. Unlike Napoleon, he was not infected by the romance of war, which generates illusions and self-deceptions. That was how Napoleon had failed and Wellington prevailed.
  58. One of the clear lessons that history teaches is that no agreement between Governments has had any stability beyond their recognition that it is in their own interests to continue to adhere to it. I cannot conceive that any serious student of history would be impressed by such a hollow phrase as “the sanctity of treaties.”
  59. We must face the fact that international relations are governed by interests and not by moral principles. Then it can be seen that the validity of treaties depends on mutual convenience. This can provide an effective guarantee.
  60. Any plan for peace is apt to be not only futile but dangerous. Like most planning, unless of a mainly material kind, it breaks down through disregard of human nature. Worse still, the higher the hopes that are built on such a plan, the more likely that their collapse may precipitate war.
  61. For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.
  62. Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the degree of resistance can be diminished—by giving thought not only to the aim but to the method of approach. Avoid a frontal attack on a long-established position; instead, seek to turn it by a flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth. But in any such indirect approach, take care not to diverge from the truth—for nothing is more fatal to its real advancement than to lapse into untruth.
  63. Even among great scholars there is no more unhistorical fallacy than that, in order to command, you must learn to obey.
  64. A model boy rarely goes far, and even when he does he is apt to falter when severely tested. A boy who conforms immaculately to school rules is not likely to grow into a man who will conquer by breaking the stereotyped professional rules of his time—as conquest has most often been achieved. Still less does it imply the development of the wide views necessary in a man who is not merely a troop commander but the strategic adviser of his Government. The wonderful thing about Lee’s generalship is not his legendary genius but the way he rose above his handicaps—handicaps that were internal even more than external.
  65. the deeper the study of modern war is carried the stronger grows the conviction of its futility.
  66. The more that warfare is “formalized” the less damaging it proves. Past efforts in this direction have had more success than is commonly appreciated.
  67. The habit of violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it is counteracted by the habit of obedience to constituted authority, whereas the former makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on such an undermined foundation.
  68. Vitality springs from diversity—which makes for real progress so long as there is mutual toleration, based on the recognition that worse may come from an attempt to suppress differences than from acceptance of them.
  69. To put it another way, it seems to me that the spiritual development of humanity as a whole is like a pyramid, or a mountain peak, where all angles of ascent tend to converge the higher they climb. On the one hand this convergent tendency, and the remarkable degree of agreement that is to be found on the higher levels, appears to me the strongest argument from experience that morality is absolute and not merely relative and that religious faith is not a delusion.
  70. Manners are apt to be regarded as a surface polish. That is a superficial view. They arise from an inward control. A fresh realization of their importance is needed in the world today, and their revival might prove the salvation of civilization. For only manners in the deeper sense—of mutual restraint for mutual security—can control the risk that outbursts of temper over political and social issues may lead to mutual destruction in the atomic age.
  71. Truth is a spiral staircase. What looks true on one level may not be true on the next higher level. A complete vision must extend vertically as well as horizontally—not only seeing the parts in relation to one another but embracing the different planes. Ascending the spiral, it can be seen that individual security increases with the growth of society, that local security increases when linked to a wider organization, that national security increases when nationalism decreases and would become much greater if each nation’s claim to sovereignty were merged in a super-national body.
What I got out of it
  1. Not quite Durant’s Lessons of History but one of the best “meta” books on history I’ve come across. The lessons to be gained from in-depth study of history and why it is worth it, and why we don’t

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by Tom Gallwey

  1. “It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Victories in the inner game may provide no additions to the trophy case, but they bring valuable rewards which are more permanent and which can contribute significantly to one’s success, off the court as well as on.
  2. The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.
  3. the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.
  4. All that is needed is to unlearn those habits which interfere with it and then to just let it happen.
  5. I was beginning to learn what all good pros and students of tennis must learn: that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.
  6. Athletes in most sports use similar phrases, and the best of them know that their peak performance never comes when they’re thinking about it.
  7. Perhaps a better way to describe the player who is “unconscious” is by saying that his mind is so concentrated, so focused, that it is still. It becomes one with what the body is doing, and the unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts. The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less of the how-to’s of the doing. When a player is in this state, there is little to interfere with the full expression of his potential to perform, learn and enjoy.
  8. The development of inner skills is required, but it is interesting to note that if, while learning tennis, you begin to learn how to focus your attention and how to trust in yourself, you have learned something far more valuable than how to hit a forceful backhand. The backhand can be used to advantage only on a tennis court, but the skill of mastering the art of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to.
  9. Now we are ready for the first major postulate of the Inner Game: within each player the kind of relationship that exists between Self 1 and Self 2 is the prime factor in determining one’s ability to translate his knowledge of technique into effective action. In other words, the key to better tennis—or better anything—lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  10. This is the nub of the problem: Self 1 does not trust Self 2, even though it embodies all the potential you have developed up to that moment and is far more competent to control the muscle system than Self 1.
  11. Getting it together mentally in tennis involves the learning of several internal skills: 1) learning how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcomes; 2) learning how to trust Self 2 to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures; and 3) learning to see “nonjudgmentally”—that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening
  12. This overcomes “trying too hard.” All these skills are subsidiary to the master skill, without which nothing of value is ever achieved: the art of relaxed concentration.
  13. IT IS THE CONSTANT “THINKING” activity of Self 1, the ego-mind, which causes interference with the natural capabilities of Self 2.
  14. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake. Such moments have been called “peak experiences” by the humanistic psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow. Researching the common characteristics of persons having such experiences, he reports the following descriptive phrases: “He feels more integrated” [the two selves are one], “feels at one with the experience,” “is relatively egoless” [quiet mind], “feels at the peak of his powers,” “fully functioning,” “is in the groove,” “effortless,” “free of blocks, inhibitions, cautions, fears, doubts, controls, reservations, self-criticisms, brakes,” “he is spontaneous and more creative,” “is most here-now,” “is non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing … he just is.”
  15. When this happens on the tennis court, we are focused without trying to concentrate. We feel spontaneous and alert. We have an inner assurance that we can do what needs to be done, without having to “try hard.” We simply know the action will come, and when it does, we don’t feel like taking credit; rather, we feel fortunate, “graced.” As Suzuki says, we become “childlike.”
  16. In short, “getting it together” requires slowing the mind. Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realizing thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.
  17. The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.
  18. First the mind judges the event, then groups events, then identifies with the combined event and finally judges itself.
  19. As a result, what usually happens is that these self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies
  20. Be clear about this: letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them.
  21. judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions and then to tightness, trying too hard, self-condemnation, etc. This process can be slowed by using descriptive but nonjudgmental words to describe the events you see.
  22. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.
  23. no one is ever surprised at seeing something they already know.
  24. When the mind is free of any thought or judgment, it is still and acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they are.
  25. What I have tried to illustrate is that there is a natural learning process which operates within everyone—if it is allowed to. This process is waiting to be discovered by all those who do not know of its existence. There is no need to take my word for it; it can be discovered for yourself if it hasn’t been already. If it has been experienced, trust it. (This is the subject of chapter 4.) To discover this natural learning process, it is necessary to let go of the old process of correcting faults; that is, it is necessary to let go of judgment and see what happens. Will your strokes develop under the effect of noncritical attention or won’t they? Test this.
  26. “My compliments are criticisms in disguise. I use both to manipulate behavior.”
  27. By ending judgment, you do not avoid seeing what is. Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are—undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm.
  28. THE FIRST INNER SKILL to be developed in the Inner Game is that of nonjudgmental awareness. When we “unlearn” judgment we discover, usually with some surprise, that we don’t need the motivation of a reformer to change our “bad” habits. We may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning and performing waiting to be discovered. It is waiting to show what it can do when allowed to operate without interference from the conscious strivings of the judgmental self.
  29. Letting it happen is not making it happen. It is not trying hard. It is not controlling your shots. These are all the actions of Self 1, which takes things into its own hands because it mistrusts Self 2.
  30. Remember that you are not your tennis game. You are not your body. Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations. Let the flower grow.
  31. To Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.
  32. The other possibility is to learn to look up to Self 2. This is the attitude of respect based on true recognition of its natural intelligence and capabilities. Another word for this attitude is humility, a feeling that happens naturally in the presence of something or someone you admire. As you find your way to an attitude that slopes upward toward Self 2 with respect, the feelings and thoughts that accompany the controlling and critical attitude fade and the sincerity of Self 2 emerges. With an attitude of respect, you learn to speak in the language of the respected person.
  33. What is the native language of Self 2? Certainly not words! Words were not learned by Self 2 until several years after birth. No, the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images. Movements are learned through visual and feeling images.
  34. It is often helpful for these players to shift their attention from means to ends.
  35. Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match.
  36. Self 1’ s only role is to be still and observe the results in a detached manner.
  37. “Asking for qualities” describes this other kind of role-playing.
  38. When a player succeeds in forgetting himself and really acts out his assumed role, remarkable changes in his game often take place;
  39. Besides being a lot of fun, this kind of role-playing can greatly increase a player’s range. The defensive player learns that he can hit winners; the aggressive one finds that he can also be stylish. I have found that when players break their habitual patterns, they can greatly extend the limits of their own style and explore subdued aspects of their personality.
  40. Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game.
  41. To me it makes sense to build any system of instruction upon the best possible understanding of natural learning, the learning process you were born with. The less instruction interferes with the process of learning built into your very DNA, the more effective your progress is going to be. Said another way, the less fear and doubt are embedded in the instructional process, the easier it will be to take the natural steps of learning. One way to gain insight and trust in natural learning is to observe young children learning before they have been taught, or to observe animals in the act of teaching their young.
  42. I believe that it is most important to recognize that, fundamentally, experience precedes technical knowledge.
  43. In a society that has become so oriented toward language as a way of representing truth, it is very possible to lose touch with your ability to feel and with it your ability to “remember” the shots themselves. I believe this remembering is a fundamental act of trust in Self 2 without which excellence in any skill cannot be sustained.
  44. In short, if we let ourselves lose touch with our ability to feel our actions, by relying too heavily on instructions, we can seriously compromise our access to our natural learning processes and our potential to perform. Instead, if we hit the ball relying on the instincts of Self 2, we reinforce the simplest neural pathway to the optimal shot.
  45. Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.
  46. “No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.”
  47. So the question that remains is how one person’s greater level of experience can help another person. The short answer is that a valid instruction derived from experience can help me if it guides me to my own experiential discovery of any given stroke possibility.
  48. Natural learning is and always will be from the inside out, not vice versa. You are the learner and it is your individual, internal learning process that ultimately governs your learning.
  49. My model is always being destroyed and rebuilt as I learn more and more. My technique is always evolving.”
  50. When one learns how to change a habit, it is a relatively simple matter to learn which ones to change. Once you learn how to learn, you have only to discover what is worth learning.
  51. It is much more difficult to break a habit when there is no adequate replacement for it
  52. It is as if the nervous system were like a record disk. Every time an action is performed, a slight impression is made in the microscopic cells of the brain, just as a leaf blowing over a fine-grained beach of sand will leave its faint trace. When the same action is repeated, the groove is made slightly deeper. After many similar actions there is a more recognizable groove into which the needle of behavior seems to fall automatically. Then the behavior can be termed grooved.
  53. But there is a natural and more childlike method. A child doesn’t dig his way out of his old grooves; he simply starts new ones! The groove may be there, but you’re not in it unless you put yourself there. If you think you are controlled by a bad habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it. A child doesn’t have to break the habit of crawling, because he doesn’t think he has a habit. He simply leaves it as he finds walking an easier way to get around
  54. Habits are statements about the past, and the past is gone. There may be a deep groove in the nervous system which will take your forehand on the roll-over trip if you choose to step into that trench; on the other hand, your muscles are as capable as they ever were of swinging your racket through flat
  55. In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties. You can prove this to yourself by your own experience.
  56. Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.
  57. Both positive and negative thinking inhibit spontaneity
  58. Watch it change; don’t do the changing
  59. The process is an incredibly simple one. The important thing is to experience it. Don’t intellectualize it. See what it feels like to ask yourself to do something and let it happen without any conscious trying. For most people it is a surprising experience, and the results speak for themselves.
  60. This method of learning can be practiced in most endeavors on or off the court. The more you let yourself perform free of control on the tennis court, the more confidence you tend to gain in the beautiful mechanism that is the human body. The more you trust it, the more capable it seems to become.
  61. When you try hard to hit the ball correctly, and it goes well, you get a certain kind of ego satisfaction. You feel that you are in control, that you are master of the situation. But when you simply allow the serve to serve itself, it doesn’t seem as if you deserve the credit. It doesn’t feel as if it were you who hit the ball. You tend to feel good about the ability of your body, and possibly even amazed by the results, but the credit and sense of personal accomplishment are replaced by another kind of satisfaction. If a person is out on the court mainly to satisfy the desires and doubts of ego, it is likely that in spite of the lesser results, he will choose to let Self 1 play the major role.
  62. Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of “trying” or “making.”
  63. Fighting the mind does not work. What works best is learning to focus it
  64. As one achieves focus, the mind quiets. As the mind is kept in the present, it becomes calm. Focus means keeping the mind now and here. Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it, while with it, much can be achieved. One cannot reach the limit of one’s potential in tennis or any endeavor without learning it; what is even more compelling is that tennis can be a marvelous medium through which skill in focus of mind can be developed. By learning to focus while playing tennis, one develops a skill that can heighten performance in every other aspect of life
  65. I have found that the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived. It’s easy to see the ball, but not so easy to notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins.
  66. Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus
  67. The instructions I gave students were very simple. “Say the word bounce out loud the instant you see the ball hit the court and the word hit the instant the ball makes contact with the racket—either racket.” Saying the words out loud gave both me and the student the chance to hear whether the words were simultaneous with the events of bounce and hit.
  68. It is this rhythm, both seen and heard, which holds fascination for my mind and enables it to focus for longer periods of time without becoming distracted.
  69. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.
  70. It rarely occurs to a player to listen to the ball, but I have found great value in this focus.
  71. Few players understand the importance of concentrating attention on the feel of the racket as they are holding it. There are two things that a player must know on every shot: where the ball is and where his racket is.
  72. It would be useful for all tennis players to undergo some “sensitivity training” with their bodies. The easiest way to get such training is simply to focus your attention on your body during practice. Ideally, someone should throw balls to you, or hit them so that they bounce in approximately the same spot each time. Then, paying relatively little attention to the ball, you can experience what it feels like to hit balls the way you hit them.
  73. Rhythm can never be achieved by being overly purposeful about it; you have to let it happen. But sensitivity to rhythm developed through concentration helps. Those who have practiced concentrating on the feel
  74. Though focus of attention helps your tennis, it is equally true that playing tennis can help your focus of attention.
  75. Attention is focused consciousness, and consciousness is that power of knowing.
  76. But it is also necessary to learn to focus awareness in the now. This simply means tuning in to what is happening in the present. The greatest lapses in concentration come when we allow our minds to project what is about to happen or to dwell on what has already happened.
  77. the conscious energy you need to perform at your peak in the now has been leaking into an imagined future.
  78. All who enter even a little into that state of being present will experience a calmness and a degree of ecstasy which they will want to repeat.
  79. Alertness is a measure of how many nows you are alert to in a given period. The result is simple: you become more aware of what is going on as you learn to keep your attention in the now.
  80. In a match it is usually best to pick one focus—whatever works best for you—and stick with it.
  81. The critical time is between points! After the last shot of a rally, the mind leaves its focus on the ball and is free to wander. It is at this moment that thoughts about the score, your erratic backhand, business, the children, dinner and so forth tend to siphon your energy away from the here and now. Then it is difficult to regain the same level of concentration before the next point begins.
  82. How to stay concentrated in the here and now between points? My own device, and one that has been effective for many of my students, is to focus attention on breathing. Some object or activity which is always present is needed
  83. when we focus on breathing we are putting our attention on something closely connected to the life energy of the body. Also, breathing is a very basic rhythm.
  84. But when your attention is on the here and now, the actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished, and as a result the future will become the best possible present
  85. One caution about “the zone”: it cannot be controlled by Self 1. I have seen many articles that claim to provide a technique for “playing in the zone every time.” Forget it! This is a setup. It’s an age-old trap. Self 1 likes the idea of playing in the zone, especially the results that usually occur. So Self 1 will try to grasp onto almost anything that promises to take you to what everyone agrees is a wonderful place. But there is one catch; the only way to get there is to leave Self 1 behind. So as long as you let Self 1 be the one that takes you there, it will be there too and you will not be able to go into the zone. If you do, even for a moment, Self 1 will say, “Good, I got there,” and you will be out again.
  86. Another way to look at the zone is that it comes as a gift. It is not a gift you can demand of yourself, but one you can ask for. How do you ask? By making your effort? What is your effort? Your effort depends on your understanding. But I would say it always involves an effort to focus and an effort to let go of Self 1 control. As trust increases, Self 1 quiets, Self 2 becomes more conscious and more present, enjoyment increases and the gifts are being given. If you are willing to give credit where credit is due and not think you “know” how to do it, the gifts are apt to be more frequent and sustainable.
  87. I used to think that whatever was present in that state would leave me, was ephemeral. Now I know that it is always there and it is only I who leave. When I look at a young child I realize it is there all the time. As the child grows, there is more to distract the mind, and it is harder to recognize. But it, Self 2, may be the only thing which has been there and will be there your entire life. Thoughts and thinking come and go, but the child self, the true self, is there and will be there as long as our breath is. To enjoy it, to appreciate it, is the gift of focus.
  88. Here and now are the only place and time when one ever enjoys himself or accomplishes anything. Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment. Our desire that things be different from what they are pulls our minds into an unreal world, and consequently we are less able to appreciate what the present has to offer. Our minds leave the reality of the present only when we prefer the unreality of the past or future. To begin to understand my own lapses of concentration I had to know what I was really desiring, and it soon became clear to me that there were more desires operating in me on the court than simply to play tennis. In other words, tennis was not the only game I was playing on the court. Part of the process of attaining a concentrated state of mind is to know and resolve these conflicting desires;
  89. It’s difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle. Self 2 will never be allowed to express spontaneity and excellence when Self 1 is playing some heavy ulterior game involving its self-image. Yet as one recognizes the games of Self 1, a degree of freedom can be achieved. When it is, you can discriminate objectively and discover for yourself the game you think is really worth playing.
  90. But who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things? In fact, who said that I should be measured at all? Who indeed? What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance—or by any other arbitrary measurement
  91. Staying in the tournament another round or two didn’t seem overwhelmingly attractive, so I asked myself a final question: “Then what do you really want?” The answer was quite unexpected. What I really wanted, I realized, was to overcome the nervousness that was preventing me from playing my best and enjoying myself. I wanted to overcome the inner obstacle that had plagued me for so much of my life. I wanted to win the inner game.
  92. Children who have been taught to measure themselves in this way often become adults driven by a compulsion to succeed which overshadows all else. The tragedy of this belief is not that they will fail to find the success they seek, but that they will not discover the love or even the self-respect they were led to believe will come with it.
  93. But as I began exploring Self 2’ s learning process in both the teaching and playing of tennis, I became noncompetitive. Instead of trying to win, I decided to attempt only to play beautifully and excellently; in other words, I began to play a rather pure form of Perfect-o. My theory was that I would be unconcerned with how well I was doing in relation to my opponent and absorbed solely in achieving excellence for its own sake. Very beautiful; I would waltz around the court being very fluid, accurate and “wise.”
  94. Why does the surfer wait for the big wave? The answer was simple, and it unraveled the confusion that surrounds the true nature of competition. The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
What I got out of it
  1. Some great zen principles as it applies to tennis – being present, letting go and having fun, being mindful and aware and other skills which are vital in the path to mastery in any arena. Using imagery, being aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, body, focus and more we’re also some key concepts discussed. A good complement to this book is Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery as many of these same topics are discussed but in relation to archery.

The Book of est by Luke Rhinehart

  1. A written description of the est training program. “Realizing that one creates one’s own experience and coming to take responsibility for one’s own life seem to be two of the most valuable results of the training.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Once you awaken to negative patterns, you have the ability to change them
  2. est seeks to remove total adherence to the mind’s belief systems
  3. Most people will do anything to avoid true feelings and tough experiences
  4. Most people would rather be right than happy
  5. “As soon as you have an idea about what you want and exactly where it is, you’ve ruined your chance of being happy and alive, because an idea or belief destroys experience and you ain’t never gonna be alive unless you live in the realm of experience…”
  6. The only things people believe in are things they don’t know. Experience doesn’t need belief. With experience, you just totally accept, be present, don’t strain, no assumptions and no comparisons
    1. Natural knowing – highest level, most reliable knowledge, don’t need to believe, you simply know
    2. Belief – lowest form of certainty
  7. Tenets of est
    1. First notion of est – all are perfect but some have barriers from experiencing and expressing perfection
    2. Second – what you resist, persists. Make no effort to change
    3. Third – recreating own experience makes it disappear. “Trying to change a thing leads to the persistence of that thing. The only what you’re ever going to eliminate anything is to observe, find out what it is and where it is. The complete experiencing of that thing, being totally with it, leads to its disappearing…”
  8. The elements of experience are bodily sensations. Experiencing problems fully is like peeling the layers of an onion and normal problem solving is like adding skins
  9. What is real is physical and measurable and unreality is experience. “If reality exists only by agreement, then each one of you is responsible for this particular ‘reality.’ We each create our own experience. You can’t name anything for which you yourself are not responsible.”
  10. People let ‘false cause’ rule their lives. You are the sole source of your own experience and are responsible for these experiences
  11. Certain things are real but everyone’s experience of those realities will always be different
  12. “The mind is a linear arrangement of successive moments of now”
    1. Only purpose of mind is survival and anything which the being identifies itself with or considers itself to be
    2. Ego – when the being gets incorporated into the mind and that is when the mind will do anything to help the ego survive; only look for things which we agree with and confirms we are right (confirmation bias)
  13. Value experience above all else – not training, not reading, not knowledge…
  14. Enlightenment is simply knowing and accepting you’re a machine (you are not the Doer but you are responsible for how you react)
  15. What “is” becomes more important than what was or what ought to be
  16. The most important and cherished human experiences cannot be understood by the intellect
  17. “The fully enlightened man always does nothing. Doing nothing is simply doing what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Doing nothing is simply accepting what is. What it is, whether we accept it or not, so you don’t have to be bright to be enlightened, you just come to accept what you are, accept what comes, accept what is, or, as we’ve been saying for ten days, take what you get…when you get it.”
  18. “Being enlightened is knowing you are what you are and aren’t what you aren’t and that’s perfect. Being enlightened is saying yes to what happens, saying yes to your yes’s and yes to your no’s.”
  19. You are not the Doer, you are the source and creator of all your experience
  20. Even when people reach enlightenment, they often get bored as there is no longer any “game” to play so we decide to begin playing again and when we begin playing again we get back on the roller coaster which is life
  21. “What we humans want is interesting problems and games, no more, no less. Not pleasures, not truths, not moral codes, not a state of happiness, but interesting games.”
What I got out of it
  1. A pretty strange book that I forgot how I stumbled upon but I thought it had some key points – take responsibility for how you react to things and realize you can’t control outcomes, most people would rather be right than kind, what you try to resist persists

The Psychology of Human Misjudgment by Charlie Munger

One of the great works of synthesis in the field of psychology, Munger discusses the various psychological levers and biases we should be aware of.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain


  1. We live in a society which idealizes extroverts but many of us are true introverts and many innovations and much progress is due to introverts. This personality trait is one of the most influential in your life, influencing your friend group, spouse, career, hobbies and more.
Key Takeaways
  1. Introverts – need less external stimulation to function well, work more slowly and deliberately and like focusing on one task at a time, prefer to devote social energies to close friends, family and colleagues, listen more than they talk
  2. Introversion different from shyness. Shy people are uncomfortable around people where introverts are often socially adept but prefer less stimulation
  3. Knowing where you fall in the introvert/extrovert spectrum is important
  4. Asking questions one of the best tools you can use to get to know people and gain their trust. Very important in negotiations too
  5. Praising of extrovert started in booming 1920s when American salesman were needed to sell everything from Ford Model T’s to everyday items in JC Penney, best shown by Dale Carnegie. America transformed from a culture of character to a culture of personality
  6. People have a tendency to follow those who take action, any action
  7. Peter Drucker has found that there are dozens of different personality traits which comprise high performers but charisma tends not to be one of them. Charismatic people often have higher salaries but not necessarily better performance. Many of the best leaders are better described as modest, reserved, humble, gracious, understated
  8. Introverts are uniquely good at leading proactive people
  9. Serious studying or practicing alone is where the greatest progress is made
  10. Introverts and extroverts seek different levels of stimulation. Important to know where you stand so that you can work in your sweet spot as much as possible
  11. Introverts tend to be more analytical and empathic
  12. Extroverts can be characterized by their higher need for external rewards (status, money, sex, etc.)
  13. Must balance action with reflection
  14. Speaks about the differences between Eastern and Western cultures and how the different values of group vs individual focus affects personalities
  15. Strong power beats you up, soft power wins you over
  16. 3 steps to determine core beliefs / loves – what did you love doing as a child?; pay attention to what you volunteer for; pay attention to what you envy
  17. Introverts and extroverts are differently social. Small group of close friends with a need for respites of solitude vs larger group of friends and dislike of solitude
  18. Introverts recharge alone or with a close friend or two whereas extroverts gain energy through interacting with others
  19. Couples who have one member as an introvert and the other as an extrovert need to be aware of which personality they have, how they need to relax, how they deal with issues, how they enjoy personalizing and balance it with their partner’s needs
  20. Venting in fact does not serve as catharsis but actually adds fuel to the fire
  21. Shy people are not less agreeable and don’t have less capacity for intimacy, they simply can’t handle as much novelty
  22. People stop learning and being productive when they feel emotionally threatened
  23. A lot of good recommendations on how to raise confident introverted children
What I got out of it
  1. Pretty good book on the powers of being an introvert and just because society tends to lionize extroverts, it doesn’t mean you should change your personality to gain that praise.

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene


  1. This book “is a distillation of timeless wisdom contained in the lessons and principles of warfare. The book is designed to arm you with practical knowledge that will give you endless options and advantages in dealing with the elusive warriors that attack you in daily battle.” Divided into five parts, this book will teach you different strategies related to self-directed war, organizational war, defensive war, offensive war and unconventional (dirty) war
Key Takeaways
  1. Preface
    1. Look at things as they are, not as your emotions color them
    2. Judge people by their actions
    3. Depend on your own arms
    4. Worship Athena, not Ares (avoid direct confrontation – blend philosophy and war, wisdom and battle)
    5. Elevate yourself above the battlefield (plan, respond and think long-term rather than being reactive)
    6. Spiritualize your warfare
  2. Self-Directed Warfare
    1. Declare war on your enemies: the polarity strategy – Life is endless battle and conflict, and you cannot fight effectively unless you can identify your enemies. Learn to smoke out your enemies, to spot them them by the signs and patterns that reveal hostility. Then, once you have them in your sights, inwardly declare war. Your enemies can fill you with purpose and direction
    2. Do not fight the last war: the guerrilla war of the mind strategy – what most often weighs you down and brings you misery is the past. You must consciously wage war against the past and force yourself to react to the present moment. Be ruthless on yourself; do not repeat the same tired methods. Wage guerrilla war on your mind, allowing no static lines of defense – make everything fluid and mobile
    3. Amidst the turmoil of events, do not lose your presence of mind: the counterbalance strategy – In the heat of battle, the mind tends to lose its balance. It is vital to keep you presence of mind, maintaining your mental powers, whatever the circumstances. Make the mind tougher by exposing it to adversity. Learn to detach yourself form the chaos of the battlefield
    4. Create a sense of urgency and desperation: the death-ground strategy – you are your own worst enemy. You waste precious time dreaming of the future instead of engaging in the present. Cut your ties to the past; enter unknown territory. Place yourself on “death ground,” where your back is against the wall and you have to fight like hell to get out alive
  3. Organizational (Team) Warfare
    1. Avoid the snares of groupthink: the command and control strategy – The problem in leading any group is that people inevitably have their own agendas. You have to create a chain of command in which they do not feel constrained by your influence yet follow your lead. Create a sense of participation, but do not fall into groupthink – the irrationality of collective decision making
    2. Segment your forces: the controlled-chaos strategy – the critical elements in war are speed and adaptability – the ability to move and make decisions faster than the enemy. Break your forces into independent groups that can operate on their own. Make your forces elusive and unstoppable by infusing them with the spirit of the campaign, giving them a mission to accomplish, and then letting them run
    3. Transform your war into a crusade: moral strategies – the secret to motivating people and maintaining their moral is to get them to think less about themselves and more about the group. Involve them in a cause, a crusade against a hated enemy. Make them see their survival as tied to the success of the army as a whole
      1. To build morale – unite your troops around a cause, make them fight for an idea; keep their bellies full; lead from the front; concentrate their ch’i (energy), play to their emotions; mix harshness and kindness; build the group myth; be ruthless with grumblers
  4. Defensive Warfare
    1. Pick your battles carefully: the perfect-economy strategy – We all have limitations – our energies and skills will take us only so far. You must know your limits and pick your battles carefully. Consider the hidden costs of war: time lost, political goodwill squandered, an embittered enemy bent on revenge. Sometimes it is better to wait, to undermine your enemies covertly rather than hitting them straight on
    2. Turn the tables: the counterattack strategy – Moving first – initiating the attack – will often put you at a disadvantage: you are exposing your strategy and limiting your options. Instead, discover the power of holding back and letting the other side move first, giving you the flexibility to counterattack from any angle. If your opponents are aggressive, bait them into a rash attack that will leave them in a weak position.
    3. Create a threatening presence: deterrence strategies – the best way to fight off aggressors is to keep them from attacking you in the first place. Build a reputation: you’re a little crazy. Fighting you is not worth it. Uncertainty is sometimes better than overt threat: if your opponents are never sure what messing with you will cost, they will not want to find out
      1. Methods of deterrence – surprise with a bold maneuver; reverse the threat; seem unpredictable and irrational; play on people’s natural paranoia; establish a frightening reputation
    4. Trade space for time: the nonengagement strategy – retreat in the face of a strong enemy is not a sign of weakness but of strength. By resisting the temptation to respond to an aggressor, you buy yourself valuable time – time to recover, to think, to gain perspective. Sometimes you can accomplish most by doing nothing.
      1. Sometimes you accomplish most by doing nothing
  5. Offensive Warfare
    1. Lose battles but win the war: grand strategy – Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the battle and calculating ahead. It requires that you focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it. Let others get caught up in the twists and turns of the battle, relishing their little victories. Grand strategy will bring you the ultimate reward: the last laugh
      1. Grand strategy has 4 main pillars – Focus on your greater goal, your destiny; widen your perspective (see things for what they are, not for how you wish them to be); sever the roots (what motivates the enemy, what is the source of their power); take the indirect route to your goal
    2. Know your enemy: the intelligence strategy – the target of your strategies should be less the army you face than the mind of the man or woman who runs it. If you understand how that mind works, you have the key to deceiving and controlling it. Train yourself to read people, picking up the signals they unconsciously send about their innermost thoughts and intentions
    3. Overwhelm resistance with speed and suddenness: the blitzkrieg strategy – In a world in which many people are indecisive and overly cautious, the use of speed will bring you untold power. Striking first, before your opponents have time to think or prepare, will make them emotional, unbalanced and prone to error
    4. Control the dynamic: forcing strategies – People are constantly struggling to control you. The only way to get the upper hand is to make your play for control more intelligent and insidious. Instead of trying to dominate the other side’s move, work to define the nature of the relationship itself. Maneuver to control your opponent’s minds, pushing their emotional buttons and compelling them to make mistakes.
      1. Dynamic strategies – keep your enemies on their heels; shift the battlefield; compel mistakes; assume passive control
    5. Hit them where it hurts: the center of gravity strategy – Everyone has a source of power on which he or she depends. When you look at your rivals, search below the surface for that source, the center of gravity that holds the entire structure together. Hitting them there will inflict disproportionate pain. Found what the other side most cherishes and protects – that is where you must strike
    6. Defeat them in detail: the divide and conquer strategy – never be intimidated by your enemy’s appearance. Instead, look at the parts that make up the whole. By separating the parts, sowing division, you can bring down even the most formidable fore. When you are facing troubles or enemies, turn a large problem into small, eminently defeatable parts.
    7. Expose and attack your opponent’s soft flank: the turning strategy – When you attack people directly, you stiffen their resistance and make your task that much harder. There is a better way: distract your opponents’ attention to the front, then attack them from the side, where they least expect it. Bait people into going out on a limb, exposing their weakness, then rake them with fire from the side
    8. Envelop the enemy: the annihilation strategy – people will use any kind of gap in your defense to attack you. So offer no gaps. The secret is to envelop your opponents – create relentless pressure on them from all sides and close off their access to the outside world. As you sense their weakening resolve, crush their willpower by tightening the noose
    9. Maneuver them into weakness: the ripening for the sickle strategy – No matter how strong you are, fighting endless battles with people is exhausting, costly, and unimaginative. Wise strategists prefer the art of maneuver: before the battle even begins, they find ways to put their opponents in positions of such weakness that victory is easy and quick. Create dilemmas: devise maneuvers that give them a choice of ways to respond – all of them bad
      1. Four main principles of maneuver warfare – craft a plan with branches; give yourself room to maneuver; give your enemy dilemmas, not problems; create maximum disorder
    10. Negotiate while advancing: the diplomatic war strategy – Before and during negotiations, you must keep advancing, creating relentless pressure and compelling the other side to settle on your terms. The more you take, the more you can give back in meaningless concessions. Create a reputation for being tough and uncompromising, so that people are back on their heels before they even meet you
    11. Know how to end things: the exit strategy – You are judged in this world by how well you bring things to an end. A messy or incomplete conclusion can reverberate for years to come. The art of ending things well is knowing when to stop. The height of strategic wisdom is to avoid all conflicts and entanglements from which there are no realistic exists
      1. Leave people always wanting more
      2. Victory and defeat are what you make of them; it is how you deal with them that matters. Since defeat is inevitable in life, you must master the art of losing well and strategically
      3. See defeat as a temporary setback, something to wake you up and teach you a lesson
      4. See any defeat as a way to demonstrate something positive about yourself and your character to other people
      5. If you see that defeat is inevitable, it is often best to go down swinging
  6. Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare
    1. Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction: misperception strategies – Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Feed their expectations, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. Control people’s perceptions of reality and you control them
    2. Take the line of least expectation: the ordinary-extraordinary strategy – people expect your behavior to confirm to known patterns and conventions. Your task as a strategist is to upset their expectations. First do something ordinary and conventional to fix their image of you, then hit them with the extraordinary. The terror is greater for being so sudden. Sometimes the ordinary is extraordinary because it is unexpected
      1. Four main principles of unconventional warfare – work outside the enemy’s experience; unfold the extraordinary out of the ordinary; act crazy like a fox; keep the wheels in constant motion
    3. Occupy the moral high ground: the righteous strategy – In a political world, the cause you are fighting for must seem more just than the enemy’s. By questioning your opponent’s motives and making them appear evil, you can narrow their base of support and room to maneuver. When you yourself come under moral attack from a clever enemy, do not whine or get angry; fight fire with fire
    4. Deny them targets: the strategy of the void – the feeling of emptiness or void – silence, isolation, nonengagement with others – is for most people intolerable. Give your enemies no target to attack, be dangerous but elusive, then watch as they chase you into the void. Instead of frontal battles, deliver irritating but damaging die attacks and pinprick bites
    5. Seem to work for the interests of others while furthering your own: the alliance strategy – The best way to advance your cause with the minimum of effort and bloodshed is to create a constantly shifting network of alliances, getting others to compensate for your deficiencies, do your dirty work, fight your wars. At the same time, you must work to sow dissension in the alliances of others, weakening your enemies by isolating them.
    6. Give your rivals enough rope to hang themselves: the one-upmanship strategy – life’s greatest dangers often come not from external enemies but from our supposed colleagues and friends who pretend to work for the common cause while scheming to sabotage us. Work to instill doubts and insecurities in such rivals, getting them to think too much and act defensively. Make them hang themselves through their own self-destructive tendencies, leaving you blameless and clean
    7. Take small bites: the fait accompli strategy – over power grabs and sharp rises to the top are dangerous, creating envy, distrust, and suspicion. Often the best solution is to take small bites, swallow little territories, playing upon people’s relatively short attention spans. Before people realize it, you have accumulated an empire
    8. Penetrate their minds: communication strategies – communication is a kind of war, its field of battle the resistant and defensive minds of the people you want to influence. The goal is to penetrate their defenses and occupy their minds. Learn to infiltrate your ideas behind enemy lines, sending messages through little details, luring people into coming to the conclusions you desire and into thinking they’ve gotten there by themselves.
    9. Destroy from within: the inner-front strategy – by infiltrating your opponents’ ranks, working from within to bring them down, you give them nothing to see or react against – the ultimate advantage. To take something you want, do not fight those who have it, but rather join them – then either slowly make it your own or wait for the moment to stage a coup d’etat
    10. Dominate while seeming to submit: the passive-aggression strategy – In a world where political considerations are paramount, the most effective form of aggression is the best hidden one: aggression behind a compliant, even loving exterior. To follow the passive-aggression strategy you must seem to go along with people, offering no resistance. But actually you dominate the situation. Just make sure you have disguised your aggression enough that you can deny it exists.
    11. Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror: the chain reaction strategy – Terror is the ultimate way to paralyze a people’s will to resist and destroy their ability to plan a strategic response. The goal in a terror campaign is not battlefield victory but causing maximum chaos and provoking the other side into desperate overreaction. To plot the most effective counter-strategy, victims of terror must stay balanced. One’s rationality is the last line of defense.
What I got out of it
  1. Very interesting and compelling read on different strategies related to war. Some of them are not directly or at least easily implementable into daily life but many of them are. Even if you don’t put them into use often, knowing they exist can make you aware of when they are being used against you.