Great Books: 7 Days’ Worth of Wisdom and Life Advice from Alan Watts, Seneca, Ryan Holiday, and More…

The following “Life Advice” was re-published from my FREE email course on the “Great Books”, which you can enroll in by clicking here. Enjoy!

You’ll hear me say this quite often:

In many ways, great books are like puzzle pieces.

If the “puzzle” you’re trying to solve is the fundamental nature of reality (which is the most fascinating puzzle around, to be honest), how to live courageously in the world, how to achieve worldly success, or whatever else, then reading the best books will help illuminate your path.

To continue with the metaphor that I’m inordinately pleased with myself for having thought up on my own, the best books are like “edge pieces” that help you develop your macro-level worldview, and the lesser (though by no means unimportant) books serve to fill in the details of whichever puzzle you’re trying to solve.

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The edge pieces give you an idea of how big the puzzle might be, what its basic structure looks like, and then, if you want to dive deeper and really “fill out” your knowledge, you can keep doubling down on your reading and read more books on the puzzle in question, even if those additional books aren’t as paradigm-shattering as the edge pieces you started with.

Follow me?

The funny thing is though (albeit maddeningly frustrating at times) is that you’ll soon realize how much you didn’t even KNOW that you didn’t know!

If you think of what you “know” right now as one giant room, each book you read leads you into an entirely different room.

And once you get to THAT room, you’ll find that it opens up into three ADDITIONAL rooms that you didn’t even know were there.

Clearly, reading is a giant rabbit hole.

You’ll never find all the edge pieces (because most of them haven’t even been written yet), you’ll never be able to explore every room, and you’ll never get to the bottom of the rabbit hole.

But the attempt itself is the intellectual adventure of a lifetime.

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Myself, I’ve set the worthy goal of reading 1,000 books before I turn 30, but I’m quite sure that there are probably tens of thousands of books that are WORTH ​​​​reading.

So, with some measure of sadness concerning the finitude of human life and the immensity of available knowledge, I decided to launch a (free) email course where I discuss what I believe are the greatest “edge pieces” that I’ve read so far.

If I were to mix my metaphors, I would say that these edge pieces are the books that pack the strongest one-two punches I’ve ever experienced in all my years with the printed word.

I’d love it if you enrolled in the free email course and received these lessons from me via email, but even if you haven’t signed up to my mailing list, I still wanted these discussions to be available to you.

I love nothing more than to push books into people’s hands, and running the course benefits me too, because I’ve realized that the best way to learn this stuff is to teach it to others.

Below, there are 7 days’ worth of course material, free as always, on the books we covered that week in the email course.

If you like what you read here, please don’t hesitate to sign up for the REAL email course and get individual lessons sent DIRECTLY TO YOU dealing with the “Great Books” of human civilization.

And while I have your attention, I will say that ALL of my book notes from every single book that I’ve ever read are available on my Patreon page.

My study-notes include thousands of pages of quotes, insights, lessons, etc and I’ve also distilled the BEST notes from each book into one “master” document that is now over 400 pages long! You can get all of that on my Patreon, and I update my notes monthly as I read more and more books.

My email course, however, is absolutely free; all I ask is that you never, ever stop learning, and that you never, ever, stop asking questions.

Anyways, enough of all that. Let’s get to the books!

DAY #1: “In My Own Way” By Alan Watts

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From My Notes:

“And it has been obvious to me that whatever it is, I am that, and whatever I am is also what stars and galaxies, space and energy are.”

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“You didn’t come INTO the world…you came out of it.”

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Those words appear in one of Alan Watts’ spectacular lectures (many of which are now available on YouTube), and it’s a cornerstone of his philosophy.

His philosophy is, of course, EASTERN philosophy, and what he’s really saying here is that everyone and everything is intimately connected and bound up together.

An apple tree produces apples, universes produce galaxies, and stars, and…people like us.

And apples too, of course.

What Alan Watts tried to get across in each and every one of his lectures and books is that what you ARE, deep deep down, far far in, IS existence itself.

You are something that the universe is “doing”, in the same way that a wave is something that the entire ocean is doing.

You are completely inseparable, and in that way, you are “safe”. There is nothing, fundamentally, to be afraid of. I’ve always believed that Alan Watts had this beautiful gift of explanation, and his autobiography was a pleasure to read.

I absolutely consider it a “Great Book”.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #2: “On the Shortness of Life” By Seneca

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From My Notes:

“A significant enough amount of time has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.”

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Tonight we have a short volume of epic Stoic wisdom, from Seneca, one of the greatest philosophers of that great tradition.

It’s called “On the Shortness of Life”, and it’s one of my favorite books. You could probably read it in a couple hours, but it should set your brain-cells going for years and years. It’s jammed with great advice and things that all of us need to hear.

Seneca himself was an interesting cat, one of the richest men in the entire Roman empire, and an advisor to Emperor Nero. That is, until the paranoid Emperor ordered Seneca to commit suicide because he suspected Seneca of plotting against him.

Everyone agrees, however, that Seneca was one of those great men who actually lived what he talked about. He didn’t just tell people to do things that he had no intention of doing himself.

Ya kinda gotta respect that!

I am of the firm belief that you can do (almost) anything you want in life, but you can’t do everything.

Some projects and dreams have to be abandoned in order for you to complete that ONE THING that would change everything.

You can’t become an NHL star AND a bodybuilding champion at the same time.

But a common excuse is that we “don’t have time” and I think this is utter bullshit, for the most part.

We have lots of time, but we WASTE so much of it. We waste it in many different creative ways too. I’m not just talking about Netflix and gossip, but the way we sacrifice our sleep and waste the next 24 hours simply because we’re too tired to do anything productive.

And of course another monumental time-wasting activity is doing something well that doesn’t need to be done at all.

If you reclaimed just a half hour every single day and put it towards something vital, something that’s actually going to move the needle forward in your own life, you’d end up with almost 200 EXTRA HOURS at the end of the year.

Could you imagine if you set aside an extra HOUR every day to work on something big?

In ten years, not counting the time you’ve put into it during the REST of your day, you would have an extra 3,650 hours to throw at some massively important project that you may want to dedicate your life to.

We’re talking THOUSANDS OF HOURS being poured into pounding your greatest dream into submission and making it yours.

Isn’t it worth it to you to at least think about how you can reclaim that lost time?

Let’s start getting a lot more creative here. We can do better. Myself included.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #3: “Gateless” By Sebastian Marshall and Kai Zau

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From My Notes:

“Most people don’t make life-altering shifts very often, and they’re often not doing well when they do so, so these decisions often come from a bad place from which to do any great thinking.”

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Hats off to Charles Chu for pointing me in the direction of this spectacular book. I have pages and pages of notes on “Gateless” by Sebastian Marshall and Kai Zau, and it’s probably one that I could benefit from re-reading in about a year’s time or so.

Whether I actually do is another question, since I always feel like I’m wasting time re-reading, when there are literally thousands of amazing NEW books that I could be reading.

But anyway, “Gateless” is about personal effectiveness and goal-setting, and all that good stuff, but instead of the usual “fluff” that you get with books of that type, “Gateless” is extremely well thought out and useful to the nth degree. Hardly any fluff to speak of.

I really can’t say enough good things about it.

Usually we make big “Life Decisions” when things aren’t going so well. It’s rare that we say to ourselves “Man, this is awesome! I’m going to do something completely different than this from now on!”

It’s usually when we’re beaten down or frustrated that we recognize the need to change, or are pushed to do so.

Realizing this, we can take steps to be extra careful when making these sorts of big decisions, and we can acknowledge to ourselves that we may need some help, or an extra set of eyes on us, in order to make sure we’re not making a monumental mistake.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. But I hadn’t even THOUGHT of this before the authors brought it to my attention.

So what practical steps can we take?

First off, it would make sense to hold off on any irrevocable decisions while we’re angry, tired, bored, or sad. These are likely to be our worst decisions.

It’s generally well-known that pessimists make better decisions because they take into account everything that could possibly go wrong, but being in a depressed state of mind is not conducive to making the kinds of decisions that are going to make a positive difference to your life.

Next, you could ensure that you can change your mind at a later date. No sense in making an impulsive decision that you’ll not only regret but be unable to change.

You get the idea.

The major takeaway here is just to realize that some mental states are better than others for making decisions.

Just keep this in mind when you have a potential earth-rattling decision to make, and you’re more likely to emerge stronger on the other side.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #4: “Cosmos” By Carl Sagan

From My Notes:

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

My country is a rather large place, and not a whole lot of people live here. I mean, there are some 36 million of us, but we’re spread across nearly 4 million square miles.

So, most of us haven’t met each other…

But there are some awesome star-gazing spots here in Canada and I vividly remember the first time I got a perfectly unobstructed view of a brilliant starry sky.

Suddenly, I just felt close to everyone. None of our alleged differences seemed to matter much any more. And certainly, there was nothing to hate anyone for. Not really. To be honest, that feeling has never really left me.

So when I came across Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, it grabbed hold of my attention and didn’t let go. I consider it one of the “Great Books”, and today I’d like to share one of my notes from that book.

Carl Sagan was the first person to open my eyes to the fact that we are literally made from the same stuff that the stars are made from.

Billions of years ago, stars exploded in vacant space, and the material that once formed those stars, traveling across untold lengths of space and time, gradually came together to form the earth that created all of us.

I remember being just completely blown away by the idea that what we are basically, is really the universe achieving consciousness and experiencing itself.

Cosmos is the kind of book that can violently shake your perspective and maybe get you to start obsessing over things like that. Do other people REALLY annoy us that much that we can’t for an instant recognize our underlying affinity?

Are we really going to let our more destructive emotions dictate how we treat the other people who are lucky to share this gorgeous earth with us?

Because as far as Carl and I can tell, we’re alone in the universe. At least, there are no more humans that we know of anywhere else. We are all that we have.

In the 1,000,000,000,000+ galaxies that stretch out as far as our telescopes can see (and we discover more all the time), there are no other people or living beings. I think there might be, but I honestly don’t think anyone on earth has ever seen one.

The point being, of course, is that this person in front of you that irritates you so much…deserves all the kindness that you can spare.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #5: “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” By Scott Adams

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From My Notes:

“People who make goals are in a state of perpetual failure until they reach those goals, and then they lose their over-arching purpose altogether because they don’t have a goal any more. And then the cycle repeats.”

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Are goals really that bad?

No! I have plenty of goals (with one over-arching goal of fighting for the highest good), and I obsess about them each and every day that I’m alive.

But Adams is right. When we set goals, by definition we haven’t yet been able to achieve them. There is something that we lack, and that we are closing in on, never quite getting there.

Systems, on the other hand, are what I sometimes refer to in my Monthly Discipline Reports as “process goals”. Rather than end states, they represent what we have to do in order to get there.

An example of a goal would be to lose 75lbs. But an example of a SYSTEM is to work out and eat healthy foods.

A system is something that you can apply every single day of your life (or, most days) thereby setting yourself up for success.

Adams is a little harsh when he says that “goals are for losers, and systems are for winners”, but I’ll take it in the spirit it was intended; the entire book is fast-paced and fun. He’s not putting down people who set goals for themselves, he’s just sharing his personal outlook regarding their efficacy versus systems thinking.

He also hastens to add that simple systems are better than complicated systems. Tim Ferriss echoes that advice when he says that the perfect system you don’t use is garbage, compared to the imperfect system that you actually use.

Scott Adams also appeared on Tim’s podcast, which you can check out here if you’re so inclined.

Lastly, I myself would like to add that all this works better if you declare to yourself that you are going to do whatever it takes to succeed, whatever success looks like to you. Basically, you need to figure out the price of success, and then pay it.

I didn’t expect THAT from a book written by a cartoonist.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #6: “A Guide to the Good Life” By William B. Irvine

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From My Notes:

“A person who periodically experiences minor discomforts will grow confident that he can withstand major discomforts as well, so the prospect of experiencing such major discomforts in the future will not be a source of anxiety for them.”

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Today’s book is one that I bought for my mother for Christmas…and then took from her to read it myself!

Don’t worry, I gave it back…eventually.

It’s “A Guide to the Good Life” by William B. Irvine and it’s about Stoic philosophy’s remarkable effectiveness in combating the root causes of unhappiness and mental anguish.

Irvine goes further than the ancient Stoics and says that there is really a trichotomous distinction between the things that you have absolutely no control over (catastrophes, bad economy, etc), those that you have complete control over (your own opinions and actions), and those things that you have some, but not complete control over (whether you get a raise at work, etc).

It’s really a spectacular book, and I have six pages of notes to prove it.

Another large part of Stoicism is training yourself to tolerate discomfort, and preparing yourself for the inevitable shocks that life will bring your way.

As I always say (although not at parties), life sucks! I mean, it’s spectacular in many marvelous respects, but the fact is that everyone you know is going to die. And the, sometime later, so will you.

Life is going to make you suffer, you’re going to be tested, bad things will keep happening to you over and over and over again…and a lot of them are going to be unfair.

So how do you deal with that?

Are you just going to keep being surprised that life is still difficult and retreat into victim-hood and moral cowardice?

That’s not the way of the Stoics.

What they used to do is follow a sort of “philosophical training program” aimed at allowing them to expand their comfort zone and preempt their anxieties. Seneca (the richest man in the Roman Empire at one point) would often eat scraps and dress in rags for weeks and months at a time just to prove to himself that he didn’t need his riches to be happy.

While not technically a Stoic (he was a Cynic), Diogenes is known for a particular “confrontation” with Alexander the Great:

When Alexander sought him out in order to praise him, he asked Diogenes, “To thank you for your wisdom, what can I, the most powerful man in the world, do for you?”

Diogenes, who was sunbathing on the grass at the time, responded, “Well, could you move over a few paces? You’re standing in my sun.”

Who the hell SAYS that to Alexander the Great?!?!

Stoicism shares this kind of attitude with Cynicism, but unlike the Cynics, the Stoics don’t renounce all their property or deny themselves every single pleasure in life.

Rather, they are interested in training themselves to be able to live without these things if necessary, prepare themselves for the inevitable disasters that life will bring, and maintain an inner joy and tranquility that remains, independent from circumstance.

That, I think, is something worth striving for.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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DAY #7: “Ego is the Enemy” By Ryan Holiday

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From My Notes:

“It requires a strong constitution to withstand repeated attacks of prosperity.”

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Poverty certainly isn’t any fun, but are you telling me that it doesn’t get any easier?!?!

Yes. Problems don’t go away just because you’re doing a little better financially, or socially, etc. New problems emerge that leave you just as open to shipwreck as you were before.

Some of the major pitfalls are obvious: you don’t know who your real friends are; people always ask you for favors just because “you have the money”; silent resentment breeds among those who keep telling you that they’d do anything for you.

But there is also the constant danger that you will misstep. That you will become overly confident in your own abilities and chances of further success, and strike out on something stupid.

This is a constant danger, and being “successful” doesn’t protect you from it.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I’ve ever read. Organized so that you can find what you’re looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE email course on the “Great Books”. It’s basically in this format that you’re reading now, except sent directly to your email.

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EXTRA CREDIT:

The Bouncer’s Book Club

This is a Facebook group I started where we discuss books and ideas. You’re welcome (and encouraged) to join, but spamming the group will get you kicked out. I AM a nightclub bouncer after all.

My Patreon Page

Here’s why I don’t have time for a girlfriend: I take notes on every single book I read, and over the years, those have grown into a collection of thousands of pages of study-notes on hundreds and hundreds of books. I’ve even distilled the best notes from each book into a “master” document that is now over 400 pages long.

You can get ALL of my notes by clicking here, and these are updated monthly. I read around a dozen books per month, so this collection of notes is growing all the time. There are some other cool rewards on this page too. Check it out!

Blinkist

Don’t have time to read for 7 hours a day like me? Well have no fear! Not only can you get my OWN notes by checking out my Patreon page, you can also use a handy app called Blinkist, which gives you access to thousands of excellent non-fiction books, and distills their key ideas into 15-minute summaries.

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Top Writer in Books and Reading. Physique Competitor. Nonprofit Leader. Best Books: https://cutt.ly/hhmTASC

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