Great Books: 7 Days’ Worth of Wisdom and Life Advice From Alan Watts, Tim Ferriss, Sarah Bakewell, and More…

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The following “Life Advice” was re-published from my FREE daily 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) daily 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 daily 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: “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

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From My Notes:

“Mindfulness is the direct opposite of taking life for granted.”

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Mindfulness has many forms and interpretations, but it’s basically what the quote above says it is.

It’s about going through life as if you actually care about what’s going on around you.

Which sounds very simple in theory, but incredibly difficult and rewarding in practice.

I can’t even begin to describe to you what mindfulness has done for me in my own life, but I can state fairly clearly that you don’t have to change your entire lifestyle to start practicing it.

Just start by being more aware of what’s going on around you and within you.

What are you feeling in this moment?

What are your hands doing?

What’s the temperature in the room you’re in?

How many birds can you see in the sky?

Which muscles are you tensing during your last rep?

Because it’s easy to just float through life, never really understanding any of it or stopping to appreciate anything. It’s very easy to miss most of your life.

Take your time, try to see more of what’s going on around you, and start paying attention to what you’re actually experiencing. Nobody else even has to know that you’re doing it.

But you’ll know.

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 daily 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: “In My Own Way” by Alan Watts

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From My Notes:

“Much of the secret of life consists in knowing how to laugh; and also how to breathe.”

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Alan Watts used to say all the time that perhaps he wasn’t a “serious” person, but that he was “sincere”.

There’s an important difference here.

You don’t have to be so serious all the time!

There. You just got permission from me to stop taking life so seriously.

Sincerity is worth striving for, not seriousness. Seriousness implies that life is a drudgery, something to just get through, something that must be endured.

When really, it’s all so very simple. There isn’t anywhere else you have to be, or “anywhen” else you have to be, besides right here and right now.

You don’t have to do 60 squats all at once. You just have to do THIS REP, and you have to do it with ALL THAT YOU HAVE.

Likewise, you don’t have to ever be bored. You just have to feel this moment in all its intensity and vividness, until the flow of life takes you to the next moment.

Watts would say that you have to display total sincerity, and really get with this universe. If you don’t, well you’re just not going to have any fun here at all. You’re going to be all tensed up, and so tightly wound that you’ll forget that you’re even alive.

And that’s no way to live.

So laugh a little! Breathe deeply, and often! Take it all in, and give it everything you have. As my dad always says, just do your best and have fun.

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 daily 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: “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss

From My Notes:

“If you had a plan to achieve something in 10 years, why couldn’t you do it in 6 months?”

Or, a related question:

“If you were forced to achieve your 10-year goals in 6 months, how would you do it?”

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Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to shake ourselves out of our limited ways of thinking.

You know, the same kind of thinking that has got us to where we are today. Which is, most likely, NOT where we’d LIKE to be.

“Happy, but not satisfied”, is how I usually put it.

I’m happy with where I am, but I’m certainly not satisfied.

So how do you speed things up?

You ask radically different questions, that’s how.

Instead of asking how you can do XYZ in 10 years, you ask what you would need to do in order to make it happen in SIX MONTHS.

And then you go out and do that!

I should take a moment to say, however, that doing it in six months does NOT mean that you burn yourself out, or do anything equally dangerous.

Simply alter your questions, see where it leads you, experiment, and take massive action until either your obstacles falls or you do.

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 daily 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: “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss

From My Notes:

“You have to get really good at suffering.”

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I owe quite a bit to Amelia Boone, including the above quote.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Amelia is a former attorney who ditched the corporate world to become an obstacle course racer (obvious choice, right?), winning a bunch of world titles including the Spartan Race World Championship among others.

She’s basically one of the toughest women alive.

When I first heard her say this, I was like, “Yes!!! That’s what it takes!!!” I immediately knew that she was one of those rare people who actually know what they’re talking about.

They know what it takes to succeed, and a huge part of it is the ability to be “comfortable with being UNcomfortable.”

In short: “You need to get really, really good at suffering.”

Most people just aren’t willing to put themselves through any EXTRA suffering, apart from that which life necessarily implies. That’s why they’re stuck in mediocrity and why they are NOT your competition.

They never will be.

They don’t have the stuff.

You can’t escape suffering, but you can learn to roll with it. The First Noble Truth of the Buddha is LITERALLY “Life is Suffering”.

Life is suffering!

Don’t people GET that?!?!

Part of the bargain of being alive is risking the chance (usually 100%) that you will endure pain, humiliation, hardship, and adversity, among other things. A lot of it is probably even going to be unfair.

I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is.

Are you gonna sit there and whine about it or are you going to turn it to your advantage?

Suffering can become a MAJOR competitive advantage if you’re smart about it. If you crave more of it; the kind that makes you better. Tougher. More of a winner.

The greatest among us know that on the other side of suffering, everything they want is there waiting for them.

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 daily 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: “At the Existentialist Cafe” by Sarah Bakewell

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From My Notes:

‘We are condemned to be free.”

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Today we have one of my favorite books of 2017, “At the Existentialist Cafe”, by Sarah Bakewell.

It’s about some of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century and how their thought changed the world we live in today. It’s also set against the backdrop of World War II and the rise of the Nazis, which, interestingly enough, affected all these philosophers in a MAJOR way.

It even produced some weird / funny stories, such as the time when the world-famous Jean-Paul Sartreescaped from a Nazi prison camp by obtaining a doctor’s note for an eye appointment, leaving camp to go to the doctor’s office, and just NEVER GOING BACK!

How crazy is that?!?!

Anyways, the book is terrifically exciting and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The above quotation comes from Jean-Paul Sartre and describes pretty accurately what the philosophy of existentialism is all about.

We are basically completely and totally free to create our own lives, but we must accept the conditions of our freedom, knowing that we can never escape from it.

We can’t escape our freedom, or our responsibility for it. Basically, what we do matters. EVERYTHING we do matters.

Sarah Bakewell lays out pretty clearly the basic tenets of existentialism, and it’s worth having a quick look at what she’s come up with:

1) Existentialists concern themselves with individual, concrete human existence

2) They consider human existence different from the kind of being other things have. Other entities are what they are, but as a human I am whatever I choose to make of myself at every moment. I am free -

3) and therefore I am responsible for everything I do, a dizzying fact which causes an anxiety inseparable from human existence itself

4) On the other hand, I am only free within situations, which can include factors in my own biology and psychology as well as physical, historical, and social variables of the world into which I have been thrown.

5) Despite the limitations, I always want more: I am passionately involved in personal projects of all kinds.

6) Human existence is thus ambiguous: at once boxed in by borders and yet transcendent and exhilarating.

7) An existentialist who is also phenomenalogical provides no easy rules for dealing with this condition, but instead concentrates on describing lived experience as it presents itself

8) By describing this experience well, he or she hopes to understand this existence and awaken us to ways of living more authentic lives

Read: “We are condemned to be free.”

Your guiding philosophy, should you choose to accept it, is free and complete responsibility for the totality of your thoughts, words, and actions.

No one would blame you, however, for ducking this responsibility. Unfortunately, billions have.

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 daily 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: “But What If We’re Wrong?” by Chuck Klosterman

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From My Notes:

“When you ask smart people if they believe there are major ideas currently accepted by the culture at large that will eventually be proven false, they will say, “Well, of course. There must be. That phenomenon has been experienced by every generation who’s ever lived, since the dawn of human history.” Yet offer those same people a laundry list of contemporary ideas that might fit that description, and they’ll be tempted to reject them all.”

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Out of everything that we think we know for sure, what could we be wrong about?

There’s gotta be SOMETHING, but we have no idea what it is. It’s only when people in the distant (or not-so-distant) future are looking back on us will it be clear what we were mistaken about.

This is maddening to say the least, but it’s also an incredibly thought-provoking idea.

Throughout the years, people thought they knew why objects fall back down to earth, even though they really had no idea.

They thought that the earth was flat, that the earth is the centre of the universe, and so on.

All these ideas seemed perfectly reasonable to them, and yet, over the course of centuries, these ideas all got overturned. One after another after another.

The exact nature of our world, what exactly is going on here, is so elusive, so impossible to pin down, and all our efforts so far have failed to reveal a clear picture.

This isn’t to say that we should stop looking for absolute truth, for objective reality, or that we should give up on the possibility of ever knowing anything at all.

Merely, it should inspire in us some intellectual humility, and patience for those who we feel are completely wrong in their views.

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 daily 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: “Doing Good Better” by Will MacAskill

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From My Notes:

“Absenteeism is a chronic problem in schools in Kenya, and de-worming programs reduced it by 25 percent, when additional textbooks and teachers failed to help at all. Every child treated spent an extra two weeks in school, and every one hundred dollars spent on the program provided a total of ten years of additional school attendance among all students. Enabling a child to spend an extra day in school therefore cost just five cents.”

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What a spectacular example of how we sometimes attack the wrong problem!

Many people, including myself, would have thought that the way to improve education in a developing country like Kenya would be to provide the schools with more textbooks and better teachers.

And we would be wrong.

Obviously, these things help, but the above example shows how attacking a related problem had a much bigger effect on the desired outcome.

Intestinal worms were keeping kids from attending school and preventing them from getting an education. New textbooks aren’t going to help a child who isn’t even well enough to attend school in the first place.

Would you donate five cents so that a child could go to school for a day?

I would!

This was (and is) an intervention that worked, when the commonsense solution failed.

Effective Altruism is the future of charitable giving. Clearly, we need to take a reasoned approach to figuring out which interventions actually have a chance of working, and why.

Then, when we’ve found something that works, we need to double down on it. Then double down some more.

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 daily 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:

In the email course where these lessons were originally published, I occasionally offer up something interesting that I came across in my reading, or whatever.

Some of it is time-sensitive, so it would be quickly out of date if I were to re-publish it here. But I’ve gone ahead and linked to some cool things I mentioned that should stil be running by the time you read this.

As well some additional helpful resources that I may or may not have mentioned in the course directly.

Here they are:

ALAN WATTS:

If you were to ask me who some of my biggest influences are, Alan Watts would be right up there with Muhammad Ali and my dad.

He’s the foremost Western interpreter of Eastern though, or rather “was”, since he died in the seventies I believe.

But fortunately, there are plenty of people who love the man just as much as I do, and some of his lectures have survived in YouTube form! You can check out a couple samples here:

“Is There a Purpose to Living?”

“Time to Wake Up”

“The Mind”

They’re only about 4 minutes each, and Alan Watts has one of the coolest, most pleasant voices to listen to. I could listen to him for days!

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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Written by

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

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