Book Review: Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler

Book review of Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler

Everyone has a goal from which most of our actions flows. This is what determines a persons psychic life according to legendary psychotherapist Alfred Adler.

We can’t think, will, or dream without these activities being determined and directed towards an objective.
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We might be more or less conscious of what this objective is, but it’s more common that we actually don’t know what our goals is. Therefore it’s sometimes easier to figure out an individuals objective by looking at the results of her present actions.
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Healthy goals allow us to perform our Life Tasks of work, relationships, and community, but many individuals develop warped goals as they lack the courage or psychic development to carry them out. This often stems from a feeling of inferiority and results in one of them most popular tricks of the human soul:
Clinging to excuses and alibis for not doing what life demands of us.

Adler quote about trust


📝 Adler was contemporary Freud and Jung, but is definitely lesser known then those those giants. Yet his style of psychology is far more practical than his peer’s.
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📝 The many possible interpretations of experience lend itself well to rationalization. We can bend almost any experience or event to fit our goals, turning it into reasons why we can’t fulfill the task of life; like tending to work, relationships and contribute to society.
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📝 “It’s well known that those who don’t trust themselves never trust others.”
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Alfred Adler quote about envy.

⭐️ TAKEAWAYS:
If you want to understand what a person wants, the. observe what they do and where it takes them, rather then what they say. 👌
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⚖️ VERDICT:
I first heard Adlers name in The Denial of Death; I got a taste of his ideas in The Courage to Be Disliked; and with this book I got a more in-depth look into his own writing. It started out slow, but it caught on, and a few chapters into it I didn’t want it to end. My favorite part of this book was chapters on common personality traits of people impoverished psychic development. Traits like vanity, envy, jealousy.
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If you liked The Laws of Human Nature and want more—then this is it!

Have you every held on to beliefs and conditions that gave you an excuse to postpone important life tasks?!

Book Review: The Courage to Be Disliked

Review of The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga


It’s not about the cards your are dealt, but how you play them.
This book adds philosophy to Adlerian psychology in an attempt to reshape the way you view the role of trauma in an individuals life. The main idea is that you are not determined by your experiences, but the meaning you assign to them is self-determining.

Our goal as humans, according to Adlerian psychology, is to attend our Life Tasks; work, relationships and love. But often our goals get skewed because of we lack the courage to carry them out. Our new goal becomes whatever preserves the excuses we have invented for ourselves in order to put off our Life Tasks.

📝 Why does a friend who wants to be a novelist say that he doesn’t have the time to write & finish his novel? Because by not committing to anything, he leaves the possibility of “I could do it if I tried” open. In a few years he will have another excuse like, “I’m not young anymore.”

Adler called the state of coming up with all kinds of pretexts in order to avoid ones Life Tasks the Life Lie. We blame our circumstances; our childhood, parents, and shortcoming for not being able to pursue then.

A prerequisite for getting back on track and gain the freedom to perform ones Life Tasks is to eliminate the desire for recognition, and the book explores the mindsets needed to get there.
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⚖️ Verdict:
The book is written as a Socratic dialogue, between a philosopher and a frustrated youth. A style that I find quite apt for a philosophical discussion, but often come off as unnatural and might throw some readers off.

The book is aimed to be an introduction to Adlerian psychology for a popular audience and it sometimes feels dumbed-down to a level of condescension. That said; it got me to buy my first book by Adler, Understanding Human Nature. Hence, it probably succeeded in it’s mission!

Pick up this book if you are interested in the topics of self-sabotage, inferiority complex & people pleasing.

3/5
Photo credit: @zahraahmadiwrites

⁉️How bad is you people pleasing and recognition seeking?⁉️

Book Review – Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Our nameless protagonist is a vile man. A former bureaucrat, about 40 years of age, and well educated.

“I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased. “

Let’s call him the Underground Man.

The book is made out of two parts: the first part being a confession of sorts, where our Underground Man accounts for his nihilistic theories about society and why he acts like he does in the world. The second part consists of scenes where we get to observe how his spiteful behavior manifests itself in his life.

He is a contradictory and indecisive fellow.

He claims his liver hurts; but refuses to see a doctor.

He knows his spiteful behavior towards others only hurts himself in the end; but he doesn’t change.

He obsesses over what other people think of him, overanalyzes social interactions to the point of absurdity, and finds masochistic satisfaction in his own pain.

He is self-obsessed, self-loathing and self-conscious. He is in contempt toward the utilitarianism of his era (1860’s) and the idea that everything can be explained with numbers, rationality and formulas.

As a way of spiting society in the face, and to prove the existence of Free Will he goes against his own interests. He refuses to visit the doctor out of spite. Because he CAN choose not to.

Video Review of Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

📝  “I’ve never been a coward at heart, although I’ve always been a coward in action;“

📝 The best definition of man: “The ungrateful biped”

📝 “My liver is bad. Well, let it get worse!”

📝 I know a person who reminds me of the Underground Man. I wonder wild what is described in this book is what goes on in his inner life.

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:
Again I’m reminded that classics are classics for a reason. This book is more deeply psychological than my psychology books. If you have any interest at all in understanding  human nature then this book should jump to the top of your reading list. Though less scholarly-minded people, like myself, might want to consult a YouTube lecture or two after finishing the book to understand the full scope of its greatness.

⚖️ VERDICT: This goes directly to my list of Great Books.

5/5

⁉️ Have you read any classics this year?!⁉️

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List

Book Review: Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Review of Stumbling on Happiness – A book for anyone curious about human nature

Stumbling on Happiness talks surprisingly little about happiness. Instead it focuses on how we fail to predict how the outcomes of our actions will make us feel in the future. We are not wired to predict the future accurately. Shortcomings in our way of thinking makes us terrible forecasters of how our current actions will affect our future happiness.

The book brings my thoughts to Thinking Fast and Slow, but it’s a more witty (at least it attempts to be so..) and accessible book on the subject. It cites tons of experiments and studies and it might leave you quite frustrated if you are anything like the average human:

🔸You think you perform above average in skills you deem valuable.

🔹You think are rational.

🔸You trust your imagination to make realistic assumptions of what the future might hold.

Prepare to get slapped in the face! 👋🏻 😈


Video Review of Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

📝 The Curse of Knowledge:
Once we had an experience we can no longer imagine how it is not to have had that experience.

📝 Scientists almost always predict that the future will be too much like the present.

📝 We let our current feelings and experience influence our prediction of the future. Because our brains are hell bent on responding to current events we mistakenly conclude we will feel tomorrow as we feel today.

📝 People regret inaction more than actions. But we predict that it would be the other way around when asked.


💥 ACTION:

Continue to Journal. “Fallible eyesight can be remedied with glasses, and fallible hindsight can be remedied with written records about the past.”


⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

Books like this can help you save time, energy and reduce suffering. When you know about the cognitive biases, errors and misjudgments humans are prone to,  then you can avoid falling victim to them.


⚖️ VERDICT:

This book left me both humbled and a bit sad. There is something frustrating about knowing about shortcomings of our brains and not being able to do much about it. I guess knowing about our cognitive biases is the best defense against misjudgment, but we can’t be on our guard 100% of the time. A great read!

4/5

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List

Book Review – Futureproof: 9 Rules for Human in the Age of Automation by Kevin Roose

Book Review – Futureproof: 9 Rules for Human in the Age of Automation by Kevin Roos

Why would you read a book on AI each year?

Because you want keep a watching eye on developments in that field and see how you can preserve a competitive edge in a world of rapid automation.
And because it fascinating, both the tech in itself and the possible impact it has on what it means to be human.
Is that the only reason I do it? I think that might  be bull 💩.

I think the REAL reason is because I’m subconsciously terrified becoming unless.

📝 Superiority Fallacy:
73% of US adults think that AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates. Only 23% was worried about losing their own job. Almost all trucker interviewed dismissed the idea of being replaced by autonomous trucks:
“Computers taking this job is a pipe dream. No one can do what we do.”
Oh boy! The fallacy of everyone thinking they are above average could backfire big time. 😅

📝 Job elimination outpace new job creation:
Until 1987 disappearing jobs where replaced by new ones at a similar rate. This is not the case today according to MIT studies.

📝 “We’ve been here before and it turned out fine!”
Did it really? A lot of people faced quite serious consequences of previous technological revolutions; child labour in factories,  the 24-7 work culture of recent years and it accompanying burnout and anxiety?

📝 “AI will make our jobs better by doing the boring parts for us”

What’s meant by better?! There is no proof for this. What has happened is that we are more stressed than ever. The effect of more efficient machinery is now affecting white collar workers. The same effect that we saw when machinery got faster and more reliable to in factories.

📝 “The Boomer Remover”:
The internal nickname for a AI  project that would eliminate the need of overpaid middle management.

📝 “The Invisible Automation Problem”

It’s not the case that you will find a robot substitute sitting at your desk one morning when you get to work, and you get shown the door. The effects of automation are more sneaky.

🔹It’s pay cuts, and not hiring as many people as before.

🔸It’s downsizing because the company doesn’t perform as well as it used to, because a startup in Silicone Valley has figured out how to do something similar with less people.

🔹It’s an that gets app that keeps track on when parts on a plane needs replacement, and now old airplanes can be in service for longer, and less planes needs to be produced.

📝 “So-so automation”:
A name for system that don’t do wonders for productivity but only provide “so-so” improvements. They eliminate some jobs but are not adding enough value to society to create new ones.

An example of “so-so automation” is the self-checkout at the grocery store. It kinda works, but far from perfectly. It doesn’t make society more productive, it simply moves the effort to the consumer.

Instead of getting served by store clerks, we all work in a grocery store for 20 minutes each week….

📝 The Effort Heuristic:
People greatly prefer goods that have obvious human effort behind them. Put a human touch into what you do. That will postpone you robot replacement!

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:
Don’t be an end point!
If your job mostly involves moving information from one system to another. Get out! Get a job where you provide value through your judgment.

⚖️ VERDICT:
I really enjoyed this books focus on automation and how it provided some good insights on were its impact might occur—and why the robot takeover won’t manifest the way we might expect.
If you want to get a quick and practical update on the state of AI & automation then this is a good choice. Especially if you want some practical tips for how to  future proof your career and postpone your robot replacement.

And yes; I still consider AI a cause for concern and a technology to keep an close eye on. 🤖 👀

⁉️What do you do for a living and how “future proof” do you estimate your line of work to be?⁉️
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3/5

Book Review: A World Without Email by Cal Newport

A World Without Email by Cal Newport, Book Lab Review

What if time blocks, email free Thursday’s, and turning off notifications is not enough? What if we need to totally reimagine how we work to reclaim our productivity?
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This is the question that Cal Newport, of Deep Work and So Good they Can’t Ignore You fame, tried to answer in his new book.
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He argues that email and Slack (or “The bane of my existence”, as I call it.) has not only made communication fast and frictionless, it has also introduced some quite horrible side effects like growing anxiety, frustration, and loss of productivity among knowledge-workers.

He calls it The Hyperactive Hivemind: workplaces that let the email inbox dictate priorities. You jump between random task and get stuck in never ending email threads that seems to nowhere.
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A lot of things play into the feeling of dissatisfaction, frustration and guilt:
🔸A feeling that people are waiting for you to respond to messages.
🔹Uncertainty about when tasks are done.
🔸Scattered attention.
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This book reminded me of this interesting expression– email apnea– I found in The Iconist:

“I’ve just opened my email and there’s nothing out of the ordinary there. It’s the usual daily flood of schedule, project, travel, information and junk mail. Then i notice… I’m holding my breath.” – Linda Stone

A video review of A World Without Email by Cal Newport. The author of Deep Work, Digital Minimalism and So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

💥 ACTIONS:
-Implemented Personal Work Board: Started to experimenting with focusing on certain work on certain days to reduce the draining effect of switching between tasks of unrelated nature.

⚖️ VERDICT
The book is new, but feels a bit dated— I mean, who is organizing task management though email these days?! or maybe I just working at a company that is ahead of the curve. I have been using Agile frameworks like Kanban and Scrum for a decade, which is what book suggests as an antidote to email chaos.
That’ being said, I’m implementing a few ideas from this book and it feels like they might revolutionize the way I’m working!

If you’re still heavily reliant on email for your daily work, then definitely check out this book! 👌

⁉️What tools and practices makes you productive?⁉️

Review: Faust by Goethe

Cover: Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The book is written by one of the most prominent western writers and thinkers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. A work that he spent almost all his life iterating on and he wasn’t done until he was in his 80:s. It’s a blueprint for how to life, one could say, but also the original “making a deal with the devil” story.

Video book review of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe – Is it worth it? How do I best enjoy it?

Why I’m I reading this old thing?

One of the life goals I have is to “read all the great works of literature”, and each year i try to chip 4 classics off my list. This year it has been:
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🔸 Thus Spoke Zarathustra
🔹Notes from the Underground
🔸The Gulag Archipelago
🔹and, yes, Faust!
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Our main protagonist, Faust, is an aged academic and scholar. He spent all his life accumulating knowledge but have very little to show for himself. No real power. No real achievements to show for himself. No love. He’s feels like a loser. What’s the point of it all?
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One day runs into a dog, a poodle, who follows him home. But lo and behold, the poodle turns into a devil—-Mephistopheles, who offers to grant his every wish. He gives Faust the energy of youth and the ability to do what the wants.
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First Faust thinks that he could become an elite bookworm and get his hands in the most rare and finest manuscripts. He also tries out the path hedonism and worldly pleasure. He dabbles in this and that, but in end Faust thirst for a purpose beyond himself:
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“…A Faustian idea that in order to flourish we need to flirt with things that are quite dangerous. But hold on to a sense of higher purpose.” – The School of Life, YouTube
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📝 I started a “Faust reference counter” a while back because i kept hearing about it everywhere and in very different kinds of books: The Denial of Death, a Nixon biography, and Steppenwolf to name a few.
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⚖️ VERDICT:
I listened to it as an audiobook with proper acting and it was a joy to listen to. Beautiful verse, existential angst, and unexpectedly humorous. The book has two distinct parts, and while the first part fits the description above, the 2nd part was incomprehensible to me. This review is only concerned with part 1.
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4/5
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⁉️What book do you see referenced everywhere but you haven’t read it yet?!⁉️

Review: Fire In the Belly: On Being A Man by Sam Keen

3 Key takeaways from Fire In The Belly: On Being a Man.

The book is meant to uncover a new route to authentic manhood. Sam Keen takes modern society’s often contradictory expectations of what it means to be a man and contrasts it with traditional cultures.

  • What kind of impact does the absence of initiation rites have on the maturation process of an individual?
  • Why does modern jobs leave people depressed?
  • How do we reclaim our Selfs in a financially driven world, where so many of us has adopted “a market orientation towards ourselves”.

This book challenges an outdated definition of masculinity that leaves men impoverish and alienated, and tries to replace it with of purpose and fulfillment.

Video version of the Fire in the Belly Review

3 ideas from the book.

———1. Traditional vs. Modern roles ———

The good and the bad news about the traditional rites of passage:

  • Traditional people knew who they were. (At least they had clear expectations.)
  • These traditional rites prevented the development of individuality.

‍🦱🧑‍🦱 Traditionally you were a child, and then a man or a woman. This eliminated any time where freedom could develop. This was a great way to ensure conformity in the tribe. Carefree years of adolescence is a modern invention.

——— 2. Stress & Dragons———

If I would rank key events that triggered spiritual growth for me, then being close to burnout would rank as nr.1.

“On the path to authentic selfhood we must remain for a time in the dark side of the soul until we reach the very bottom of despair.”

Philosophers and theologians and pilgrims talks about this part of the journey as being crucified, losing the ego, descending into hell, or battle dragons. Now we call it by clinical names like stress, depression, burnout.

Tricks like stress & time management, mindfulness techniques, and learning to cope w. stress, might actually destroy the significance these experiences of despair ones had on people’s lives—or at least delay the growth that needs to happen.

—— 3. The Corporate Hearth ——

Companies are trying to turn the workplace into the new  home and hearth. I can relate to this a lot since I’m in the tech industry where this trend is quite intense. A Company “culture” is invented, with it’s own “myth and rituals” and we are expected to view the workplace as a “family”.

But “under those velvet gloves is the iron fist of warfare.”. I think I know what Sam means by that. I have seen what happens when striving companies hits a rut: No more bean bags and office dogs!

It’s easy to forget the real purpose of a business when it’s so well hidden.

⚖️ VERDICT:

It’s a short and sweet read, but feels a bit dated (91’). The time of “It’s the cost of the toys that separate the men from the boys” mindset among men seems to have past. But I think some of the alienation around masculinity is still around! It would be interesting to read a more recent book in the topic.

What is the closest thing you have to initiation rites in your culture?

Book Review: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

Bronnie worked as a caretaker of the dying. Someone who gets hired to tend for people during their final months or weeks in life. Through her work she was able to identify the most common and deepest regrets people had during those final days—what they wished they had done differently, what they wished they had the courage to be, and to say.
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The list of common regrets probably won’t surprise you. But hearing the stories about the lives of the people who carry these regrets make them connect on a very deep level—deep enough for them to really sink in.


🔸 I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
The most common regret of them all.

🔹 I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.“

🔸 I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.“

🔹 I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
When you are dying you realize the full value of real friends, and by then you might have lost contact with them.

🔸 I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Many doesn’t realize that happiness is a choice until their dying days.

Video Review of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

⭐️ TAKEAWAYS:
Reading through this list, I realize that reading books can protect us from many of these regrets. To live a life true to myself, express my feeling and choose my attitude is something I’ve learned about through books, and which I have been put into practice (still Work in Progress) . I can’t put a price on those insights!
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⚖️ VERDICT:
This book is not just a list of dying people’s regrets and life stories, but also a the story of Bronnie’s own journey, and how working with dying people and learning from their regrets gave her courage to fight her own demons and a build a life true to herself. It’s a powerful read that will snap you out of the matrix for a moment and have you check your priorities. It might even trigger some real change.

5/5

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List

Thoughts on Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran

The idea of me “reviewing” spiritual scriptures is bizarre. Who I’m I to judge the some of the most sacred scriptures known to man? Hehe, fuck it, why not,right!? Let’s go!



“Bhagavad Gita” is an old Hindu scripture. The narrative framework is a dialogue between Arjuna and his counsel Lord Krishna on the battlefield on the dawn of war.

The dialogue soon takes a dive in the deep end and dwells into ethics, karma, meditation, the good life and other juicy topics. Gandhi had “the Gita” as his spiritual dictionary for a reason.

This version of the book is probably preferable to the “raw” Gita. Mainly because you get explanations of the key concepts between chapters and it really helps you to understand the message fully. In the end of the book you get to hear the Gita again at full length without the commentary (about 2 hours long). I loved this book. I initially thought it would be tough to get through such an old book from a culture I’m not to familiar with. But it was the other way around. I was bingeing it and found it both profound and accessible.

My biggest takeaway was the concept of detachment from outcome. Many times we do thing we don’t want to because it might lead to future rewards. Krishna says: “You have the right to work but not to the fruit of work.”

Here are some of my notes:
– Only the one who is utterly engaged and utterly detached is able to live life fully.

– You have the right to work, but not to the fruit of work. Never engage in action in sake for reward.

“When you keep thinking about “sense objects”, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire. The lust of possession which burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgement.”

“Pleasure from the senses seems like nectar at first but is bitter as poison in the end. That which seems like poison at first but taste like nectar in the end, this is the joy of satwa, born of a mind at peace.”

A truly Excellent book!
5/5

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List