Great Books: 7 Days’ Worth of Wisdom and Life Advice From Carol Dweck, Albert Einstein, Charles Duhigg, and More…

The following “Life Advice” is taken from my FREE email course on books and literature, which you can enroll in by clicking here.

Essentially, it’s a single email per day, 1–5 times a week, with references to some of the best books I’ve ever come across in all my reading life. Enjoy!

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I love nothing more than to push books into people’s hands, and running the email 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.

With just a few “books worth mentioning” thrown in for good measure.

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 700 pages long! You can get all of that on my Patreon, and I update my notes monthly as I read more and more books.

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

DAY #1: “Mindset” By Carol Dweck

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From My Notes:

“Genes require input from the environment in order to work properly. Genes have potentialities, but they are always interacting with and responding to their environment. And environments can be manipulated.”

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“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up being the smartest.”

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.The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

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“A person’s true potential is unknown and unknowable.”

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“It’s impossible to foresee what we can accomplish through years of toil, passion, learning, and training.”

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“Intelligence and ability are things you have to work for.”

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“Effort takes away all your excuses.”

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“You want to be able to look back and say that you gave it your all.”

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“Approach learning with the idea that you’re able to “get it”.”

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“There is a lot of intelligence out there being wasted because of underestimation of students’ ability to develop.”

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“You can’t know whether you’re good or bad at something until you’ve put in a lot of effort.”

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“Never give up on anyone.”

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“Parents, teachers, and coaches are entrusted with people’s lives.”

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“Every word and action sends a message to whoever is listening or watching.”

Have you ever given up on something just because you haven’t gotten it right away?

I have. And it wasn’t really until reading this book that I fully understood that instead of finding out that I was bad at some particular activity, I hadn’t actually given myself enough time to figure out if I could have BECOME good at it.

I just gave up, since I thought that ability was “fixed”.

But in the notes above, you see that it’s impossible know ahead of time whether you have what it takes to be really good at something.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, my parents saw that I was deficient in reading skills (I know, right?!?!) and sent me to a place called Nova-Read.

It changed my life forever.

You’re READING THIS today because my parents sent me to a place where they taught me that I could learn. They taught me that I wasn’t dumb, that I just had to work at it, and that I wasn’t going to be a bad reader forever.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m very hesitant to give up on anyone.

Obviously, if they cheat me, or take advantage of me repeatedly, it’s necessary to remove them from my life. But when we’re talking about giving up on someone because they’re not understanding something you’re teaching them RIGHT AWAY, I believe that’s the wrong move.

Because it’s true: parents and teachers and coaches have little kids’ lives at stake. If we/they don’t teach them that obstacles are meant to be shattered (and realize that we ALSO have this power), then their lives are not going to be what they could be.

And I think that’s a tragedy, especially when I reflect upon what being able to read has done for me in my own life.

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.

DAY #2: “An Intimate History of Humanity” By Theodore Zeldin

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From My Notes:

The world is still full of people who, though they have no recognized slave masters, see themselves as having little freedom, as being at the mercy of uncontrollable, anonymous economic and social forces, or of their circumstances, or of their own stupidity, and whose personal ambitions are permanently blunted thereby

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Fear has nearly always been more powerful than the desire for freedom

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Just as important have been encounters with others, with people or with places, which have provided the inspiration and courage to escape from dull routines. There has been a waste of an opportunity every time a meeting has taken place and nothing has happened. In most meetings, pride or caution still forbids one to say what one feels most deeply. The noise of the world is made out of silences.

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Humans have so far been interested mainly in their own private roots, and have therefore never claimed the whole of the inheritance into which they are born, the legacy of everybody’s past experience

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There is still silence and deafness among the inhabitants of the globe, though the technology exists to enable them to speak to anybody anywhere

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The search for new and old types of relationships, both close and distant, has been the most important human preoccupation throughout history

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No life can be considered fully lived if it has not benefited from all the encounters of which it is capable

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It is impossible to be happy in more than a very superficial way while others are unhappy

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Suffering is humanity’s common enemy

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Toleration is not enough. It has to be a stepping stone to a more general understanding as well as to the development of genuine friendship and discourse between people whose differences are clearly acknowledged

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History did not have to happen the way it did, and what exists today is not its logical conclusion

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I see humanity as a family that has hardly met.”

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Once people see themselves as influencing one another, they cannot be merely victims: anyone, however modest, then becomes a person capable of making a difference, minute though it may be, to the shape of reality.

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When you give something to someone, they may carry on very much like before. But when you ask something of them, ask them to take responsibility, the whole trajectory of their life can change.

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It is in the power of everybody, with a little courage, to hold out a hand to someone different, to listen, and to attempt to increase, even by a tiny amount, the quantity of kindness and humanity in the world. But it is careless to do so without remembering how previous efforts have failed, and how it has never been possible to predict for certain how a human being will behave. History, with its endless procession of passers-by, most of whose encounters have been missed opportunities, has so far largely been a chronicle of ability gone to waste. But next time two people meet, the result could be different. That is the origin of anxiety, but also of hope, and hope is the origin of humanity.

One of the passages from this book that stuck out for me was the one about how “suffering is the common enemy of humanity.”

The natural extension of course, is that individual nations and races are NOT supposed to be enemies; it is suffering itself that we have to defeat.

And truthfully, there’s a lot of suffering that can befall a human being that will have nothing to do with wars of religion or race-based violence.

Life will beat us to our knees on its own. Life doesn’t need our help dispensing suffering!

So we may as well get on with it. The technologies that we have today are SPECTACULAR, and yet hardly anyone is engaging in meaningful dialogue. I shouldn’t say “hardly anyone”, but it’s rarer than it should be.

I can understand how racism can be “natural” in that fear is natural, and we naturally fear those that are different from us. I’m sure it helped us survive, being fearful of people who looked and behaved differently than us.

But we can use our powers of rationality to transcend all this.

After all, the “Naturalistic Fallacy” states that just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it’s always good. Freedom from fear can be our common goal, just like suffering is our common enemy.

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.

DAY #3: “And Now, For Something Completely Different”

We’re gonna do something a little different today:

I received an email the other day from a woman thanking me for finally including a female author in my course.

Now, I chose to interpret her sentiments as genuine (and still do), and I did NOT assume that she meant what she said in any sort of provocative way. After all, it’s notoriously difficult to ascertain tone and nuance in email text.

I still believe that she actually WAS appreciative of the fact that I was discussing a female author.

Still, I felt like I needed to make my feelings known on the subject, and I wanted to let her know that I’ve made it my modus operandi to accept truth wherever I happen to find it.

Dear [Reader’s Name] — Absolutely. Simone Weil has done more to inform my ethical system than any other thinker I’ve ever come across. Everyone who has met her says that she always listened completely and totally to what you had to say, not standing there waiting for you to finish so SHE could say something. I try to emulate her in this regard in my own life.

With all the identifying details of the reader removed, here is my response via email:

A couple other female authors I’ve featured in the past (you may have signed up after I discussed them):

Every Cradle is a Grave, by Sarah Perry: About the ethics of birth and suicide, whether we have a right to stop anyone from taking their own life, as well as the right to bring a new life into the world without their permission. I have about 10 pages of notes on this book and it’s one of my favorites of all time. She shows an excellent understanding of the fact that even the best human lives are full of substantial suffering, and that we need to employ rationality when forming our strategies about how best to deal with that.

At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell: This was one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read in my entire life, and it was actually here that I first heard of Simone Weil and her idea that instead of simple “rights”, what we actually have is a near-infinite degree of responsibility to one another. The book itself follows the lives of some of the most famous existentialist philosophers of the 20th century against the backdrop of the rise of Nazi Germany. It’s a truly spectacular read.

Do you have any reading suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them.

Now personally, I don’t have a lot of patience for the gender debate as such. You may be able to inform my thinking on this subject, but I think people tend to waste a significant amount of time on things like “equality”. Wait! Let me explain haha. I believe equality of opportunity is extremely important and every individual needs to grow up in an environment free from fear and discrimination, where they can actually get down to the real business of living; where they can actually find out for themselves what life is all about and their place within it. Women, men, children, everyone deserves this, everywhere and at all times. And everyone, as individuals, carries with them an obligation to bring this world of freedom into reality.

In fact, I donate every month to Kiva.org and I exclusively donate to female entrepreneurs because it’s been demonstrated that if you want to stimulate the economy, then you need to empower women in business.

That being said, no two people will ever be equal. Two women will never be equal to one another, just like two men will never be equal to one another (in abilities, natural intelligence, attractiveness, other marginal differentiation, etc). “Men” and “Women” are two huge categories, fascinatingly complex, and they will never be “equal” in any meaningful sense of the term.

But men and women are COMPLEMENTARY. We need each other more than anything. In fact, what do we even live for if not to make life a little less difficult for one another? Both men and women contribute to the magnificent richness of life, and you can’t have one without the other. It’s like you can’t have West without East, and “backs” must always have “fronts”.

So I’m grateful for women like Simone Weil who taught me that The Good is the highest to which we can attain, and that we all have an obligation to bring Wisdom, Truth, Justice, Courage, and Compassion into the world. And I’m also grateful for men like Erich Fromm who taught me that love is the only rational answer to the problem of human existence. My advice to all is to be willing to accept the truth wherever you find it. From male and female authors both. I don’t tend to count “One male author, one female author”, etc. But that’s just me.

I’m in danger of rambling, so I’ll leave it at that.

But thank you thank you thank you for reading, and I’ll do my best to keep the good book recommendations coming!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

— — — — — — — — — — — —

Writer | High Existence

Writer | Matt Karamazov.com

Director | Volunteer Incentives Program

Fundraiser | Doctors Without Borders

Supporter | Human Rights Watch

Supporter | Amnesty International

“My apologies if this email was a bit long. If I had time, I would have made it shorter.”

So…what do you think?

Should I have just said “Thank you very much!” and left it alone? Do you think I’m misinformed or wrong w/r/t any of my propositions?

I’d really like to know.

DAY #4: “Smarter Faster Better” By Charles Duhigg

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From My Notes:

Motivation is driven by the feeling of having control

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Praise hard work and things that are hard rather than innate abilities and things that are easy

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Always have a representation mentally of what you expect a perfect situation to look like, or a situation in which all is well, and then look for deviations

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Forcing people to adopt stretch goals that are currently just out of reach inspire bursts of creativity and insight that would otherwise not have been possible

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People need to know that they can make suggestions, and that their mistakes won’t be held against them

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The future is several possible futures fighting against each other until one of them actually wins

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It’s important to maintain distance from what we create so we can entertain alternate viewpoints

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Motivation becomes easier when it’s made into a choice

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Motivation is triggered by having a sense of being in control and having that task being a part of our larger objectives

Motivation is a choice.

When you are working towards goals that YOU have set for yourself, and not goals that “seem right”, then you’re going to be motivated to achieve them.

It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.

Having a sense of agency is what Duhigg is talking about here, and it’s absolutely vital if you aren’t going to let your goals and dreams fade into oblivion like everyone else in this too-tough world.

The worst thing you can do is go to the gym because you feel like you “should”. If fitness is important to you, if it fits into the value system that YOU HAVE CREATED, then go. Do battle with the weights 6 times a week, 2 hours a day, and fight tooth and nail for personal greatness.

That’s what I do.

It’s my CHOICE. I love lifting weights; I love the process, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’m underneath the bar, thinking I can’t POSSIBLY do any more…and then I bang out 5 more.

There’s always 5 more.

But I’m motivated because I chose to be. I’m not thinking about how 6 months from now I’ll have 3 extra pounds of muscle and strangers will “respect me”, whatever that means. Because the timeline is too long. There are simply too many workouts and meals between now and then, and my motivation can’t sustain itself on externals like the respect of others.

It has to be based on choice. It has to be based on the only respect that has any significance…self-respect.

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.

DAY #5: “The Black Swan” By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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From My Notes:

The normal is often irrelevant

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Death is often a good career move for an author

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Feelings of safety are often at their highest when risk is at its highest

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Look for ways that you could be wrong

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We always feel a very strong need to tell a story about what we are perceiving

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Silent evidence is absolutely everywhere

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There is nothing usual about the future

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The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will make along the way, and the worse off they will be

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We tend not to reverse opinions we already have

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We tend to attribute our successes to our skills, and failure to events outside of our control

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We do not know what we will know

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Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut

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It’s easier to predict how an ice cube will melt than it is to rearrange the puddle of water into an ice cube

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A small input in a complex system can lead to non-random large results

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Having unread books in your library means that you know what you don’t know

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Focus on being broadly right rather than precisely wrong

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Missing a train is only painful if you run after it

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A person who never faces stressors will not survive should he be exposed to them

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Nature has been around for longer than we have and knows better than us

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Make yourself ready to lose everything every single day

Picture a turkey.

It’s…oh I don’t know…mid-February, and he’s doing great.

The farmer who’s looking after him feeds him every single day, and puts a roof over his head.

All his needs are taken care of, and he can’t stop RAVING about all this incredible FOOD! Day after day after day…”This farmer guy must really LOVE me!”

The turkey has no idea that Thanksgiving is coming.

Leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, banks were giving out all these crazy loans and making money hand over fist; the market was fattening them up.

Nassim Taleb, with all his brilliance, saw that this couldn’t possibly sustain itself forever, and there had to be something very, very wrong. He wasn’t fooled by “the turkey problem”. He did whatever he had to do to protect himself from the crash, and then he sat back and made millions while everyone else lost their proverbial shirts.

You see, the turkey problem represents a rare, catastrophic event. No one sees it coming because it hasn’t HAPPENED before. Or, at least people aren’t looking backwards far enough to see the patterns.

I hope I haven’t confused you with black swans, and turkeys, and crashes, but the idea here is that no one ever expects the massive event that changes everything.

Black swans are usually missed by everybody, but if you’re smart enough, and prepared enough, you can make them work for you.

Remember, the market crash was a black swan for Nassim Taleb as well.

He just knew how to put himself in front of it, take advantage of it, and get out before the farmer knew where he had gone.

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.

DAY #6: “The World As I See It” By Albert Einstein

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From My Notes:

“Only individuals have a sense of responsibility.”

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“The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.”

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“We exist for our fellow men.”

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“I cannot conceive of a God who rewards or punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fear and absurd egoism of feeble souls.”

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“We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, and live in houses that others have built.”

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“Society is responsible for the fate of every individual.”

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“Cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest achievement of scientific research.”

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“The destinies of all nations are interwoven.”

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“The destiny of civilized humanity depends more than ever on the moral forces that it is capable of generating.”

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“The fate of the world will be such as the world deserves.”

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“Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”

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“Once the psychological impediments are overcome, the solution of the real problems will not be such a difficult matter.”

A lot has been made of the idea of “Einstein’s God”.

Was he actually a believer? Was he an atheist in the strict sense? What did he actually BELIEVE was going on in this universe?

I can’t speak for him, obviously, but it seems to me that he didn’t, and couldn’t, conceive of a “personal” God in the sense that many people believe in today. That is, God, to him, didn’t have a “face”, and “hands”, or even anything that we could liken to a “personality”.

It’s a subtler idea than that, and I would venture today to say that many priests don’t even know what they mean by the word “God”. Basically, Einstein believed that God was closer than people normally believe him to be.

(And obviously, saying “him” is just a convenience of language that can never get at the real idea)

Just like the word “water” came much later and can never accurately describe what we mean by “water”, the word “God” points beyond itself to that which we can never “know”.

But all this being said, Einstein lived in the real world. He understood that problems as we generally conceive them exist concretely, and they demand real human solutions in the aforementioned real world.

We exist for each other, and we’re hopelessly interdependent. We can’t survive without each other, and once our own psychological barriers are resolved (to the extent that we can do that), we can get down to the actual business of solving some of these problems.

As Einstein said, we exist for our fellow men (and women), and the destinies of all nations are interwoven.

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.

DAY #7: “Letters From a Stoic” By Seneca

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From My Notes:

While we are postponing, life speeds by

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Time is the one debt that even a grateful recipient cannot repay

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I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him

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It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor

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No man can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it

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There are more things likely to frighten us than there are to crush us

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He who needs riches least, enjoys riches most

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To gain riches, don’t add to your wealth, but subtract from your desires

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Nature brought us into the world without desires or fears, free from superstition, treachery, and other curses. Go forth as you were when you entered!

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None of our possessions are essential

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To me, the thought of my dead friends is sweet and appealing. For I have had them as if I should one day lose them; I have lost them as if I have them still.

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Let us greedily enjoy our friends, because we do not know for how long this privilege will be ours

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Life keeps no one against his will

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As long as you live, keep learning how to live

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Never measure the pedestal along with the man

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The wages of a good deed are to have done it

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The happy man prefers no other man’s life to his own

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Wisdom does not advance to meet us, and we are each responsible for its acquisition

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In the midst of things which have been destined to die, we live!

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We know nothing about death, and it’s foolish to condemn that of which you are ignorant

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We are in the power of nothing when once we have death under our own power

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It is the soul, and not the bank account, that should be filled

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Nature has made the provision that none shall go unburied

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What does it matter for how long a time you avoid that which you cannot escape?

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The road to vice is not only downhill, but steep

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Lose everything else with equanimity, because you must lose your life also

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To have may be taken from us, but to have had, never

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Much has been overcome by others; therefore, let us overcome something

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He who is privileged to be born, is destined to die

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Compared to eternity, every life is exceedingly short

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Death is the birthday of your eternity

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No matter what trouble you mention, it has happened to many

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Our best days are the first to be snatched away

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Each new day is the best of our entire lives

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Someone who doesn’t want anything can never be poor

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Would you rather a lot, or enough?

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Enough is never too little

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Hunger doesn’t care what food brings it to an end

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If you care about what cup your drink comes in, then you are not thirsty

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Every hour of time thrusts us on towards the precipice over which we must someday fall

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Well, if you took the time to read all THAT, then you probably don’t want any long-winded explanations from me.

I get that.

Above all though, Seneca taught me that I am sufficient unto myself. All the joys that I experience should come from me, because if I rely on anything else in order to be happy, then those things can be taken away from me.

And eventually, I mean, EVERYTHING will be taken away from us. Our family, friends, possessions, our lives.

Seneca spent his entire life learning how to live, and that should be the goal of education in our time as well.

And yet, I see this kind of thing neglected in schools and in our communities. People are constantly being prepared to find a job, or a spouse, or to find something new to buy, but no one ever teaches us how to stare death in the face, how to properly appreciate the brief instant in eternity that we’ve been given to live, and the amazing people we’re lucky enough to be able to spend it with.

That’s what Seneca has done for me, and I hope that others take his teachings to heart as well.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

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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.

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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