Thoughts on: ‘Stoicism and the Art of Happiness’ by Donald Robertson

I have adopted many powerful principles the last couple of years that increased my baseline happiness levels. One of the big ones, second only to learning to stop giving a shit about what people might think of me and what I do (still W.I.P 😉) ,is the Stoic idea of being indifferent to thing that are not under ‘our direct control’.

The weather, death, traffic, other people, outcome of soccer games, train delays, sickness, international politics etc..

So much anger, anxiety and frustration has been avoided since I fully committed to this principle. What a great source of fulfillment and tranquility!

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This book does a great job summarizing Stoic philosophy! Here’s some notes:

  • Mindfulness of what is up to us and what’s not is one of the main remedies for emotional suffering.

  • Set you intentions each morning and evaluate how you did each evening. Where did you act virtuously and where did you miss the mark? Review your actions and evaluate you conduct.

  •  ‘Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them’ – Epictetus

  • Novice Stoics should begin by training themselves each day:

1️⃣ To endure what they irrationally fear, or find aversive, with courage and perseverance.

2️⃣ To renounce, or abstain from, what they irrationally crave, through discretion and self-discipline.

  • Outcome independence: The goal of a Sage (the Stoics ideal) would not be to benefit others, which is beyond his control, but rather simply do his best to benefit them. Like an archer firing a arrow, his work is done when he has done his best, weather or not he hit his target.

This is a great book (even excellent if you ignore its repetitive textbook nature) that provides a great overview of Stoicism. It’s also full of exercises on how to apply the philosophy to everyday life.

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I still think Irvine’s ‘A Guide to the Good Life’ is the best starting point if you are curious about Stoicism (link in BIO). Which you should be! It’s an fascinating and very practical philosophy!

What principles have you picked up during the last couple of years that had major impact on your life?

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4/5

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Thoughts On: ‘On the Shortness of life’ by Seneca

A brief essay on the the duration of life. And about why most people think it’s too short, when it’s actually long enough to if the time is used properly.

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Seneca is a stoic philosopher (4. BC – 65 AD. I won’t go into into much detail about what a stoicism is, since there will be a lot other opportunities to dwell into that in upcoming post (judging from what I’m reading right now). With a risk of oversimplifying, I like how Nassim Taleb put it: “A stoic is a Buddhist with attitude, one that says “fuck you” to faith”

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“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficient measure to allow us to achieve the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested…” “…we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

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So, how do people waste their life? By gossiping, overindulgence in food and sex, living life for others (work a job you hate), complaining, etc.

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Also worrying about the future or letting the past disturb ones tranquility. Then, when we find out that these things are unimportant, we only have a few years left to live and wonder where all the time has gone.

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“He who has grey hair has not lived for long, he has existed for long.”

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Being written 2000 years ago, it’s amazing how almost all these thoughts are applicable to contemporary society. ———————————–

My takeaway from this book is to be more protective of my time and be wise in how I spend it. A sad thing would be to spend your life doing things you dislike with a promise of leisure and freedom in the future. Wasting each day as it comes for a future that one are is certain to live to see.

5/5

Thoughts on: “Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller

Wow, this sucks! The book is just a long commercial for the authors other services and the concepts covered could have been a 15-page pamphlet.

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Wow, this is brilliant! It’s to the point, clear and actionable.

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Both these assessment are correct, depending how you look at it. But my intention when picking up this book was to learn something practical. And I did.

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You brands message should be simple, clear and, most importantly, packaged as a story where the customer is the hero.

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Many brands and marketers get some fundamental stuff wrong and puts the brand as the hero in their marketing instead of the customer.

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📝 Story in a nutshell:

“A CHARACTER (customer) who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before the can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE (you) steps into their lives, gives the a PLAN (your product), and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action help them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.”

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📝 WRONG: An example of doing it wrong was Tidal, Jay-z music service. The marketing made whining artists the heroes of the story instead of focusing on the customers needs.

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📝 RIGHT: And example of doing it right is Apple with the Mac. The customer is the hero facing a problem; Complicated computers that stands in the way of the customers creative expression! Apple has a plan for our hero, the Macintosh computer.

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📝 Story is the greatest weapon we have to combat noise, because it organizes information in such a way that people are compelled to listen.

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When you finish this book, given you’ve done the exercises, you will have a new brand script for your services or products that capitalize on the strength of storytelling (or on human weakness to stories, hehe!😈). The book left me inspired and equipped for taking stuff to the next level!

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

Since I don’t really have a product to sell I’m going to use the story brand method to improve my website (hehe, will be quite easy judging from the state it is in). I will do this next week. Another takeaway is how uncomfortable selling things makes me feel. I have a really hard time with it.

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “Improv Wisdom” by Patricia Ryan Madson

I picked up this book because it was recommended in #StevenPressfield s book Turning Pro. The idea is to use techniques from Improvisational theatre to enhance spontaneity and spiritual satisfaction in everyday life.

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I’m quite stuck in my ways of doing thing and thought it might help me loosen up a bit.

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The ideas where not mindblowingly original but still holds true:

🔸Make mistakes!

🔹Act Now!

🔸Gratitude!

🔹Enjoy the journey!

🔸Show up!

🔹Start from where you are!

🔸Be average!

🔹Pay attention!

🔸Face the facts!

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📝 “Improv is like tai chi for the soul” wrote a former student”…”it provides a workout that helps to shake loose rigid patterns of thinking and doing”.

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📝 Charles Darwin: ”In the long history of humankind (and animalkind,too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most efficiently have prevailed.”

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📝 Be Average! There is a paradox that when we are trying hard the result is often disappointing. Take the pressure off! When we try too hard our performance get jinxed.

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📝 “Make the decision to be a person who notices and remembers names, and then start learning them”.

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📝 “Beyond all other freedoms our greatest liberty is to choose our attitude”.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

There is an opportunity cost for books that only reinforce concepts that you already are familiar with (I.e you could spend that time on something more challenging). To remedy this I did something I usually not do. I did the accompanying challenges that came with the book – and that what provided me with lasting value. They where quite simple but could be quite eyeopening. I learned that it’s hard to really pay attention, I was reminded that saying “yes” usually takes you more interesting places than saying “no” and how devoting yourself to others can be quite rewarding.

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3/5

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Do you ever do the “try this”, “challenges” sections of Howto-books? 🤔

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Thoughts on: “Demian” by Hermann Hesse

The story revolves around young Sinclair and the difficult task of finding ones self. Growing up in a protected and pious middle class home he eventually has to face the real world. Sinclair gets a new mysterious classmates, Demian, who guides him to detach and revolt from the superficial world of form and awaken to his true self.

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📝 Abraxas: A deity combining the godlike and the devilish.

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📝 “All I really wanted was to try and live the life that was spontaneously welling up within me. Why was that so very difficult?”

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📝 “When we hate a person, what we hate in his image is something inside ourselves. Whatever isn’t inside us can’t excite us.”

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⭐️ Takeaway:

About the previous quote: If that’s the case – and by observing this phenomenon for a while I believe there is some truth to it – then even when someone irritates us, we can use that as an opportunity to learn more I out ourselves. I kinda like that quote for that reason.

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📊 My Amateur Jungian Analysis: Sinclair is the “Ego”, Kromer his “Shadow” and Demian the “Self”. Lady Eve is the “Anima” (the unconscious feminine side of a man). One of Jungs anima levels is even named “Eve”. By opening up to Lady Eve, Sinclair becomes complete. He and Damien become one.

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⚖️ Verdict:

This a mysterious and short (100 pages!) coming of age story for philosophically minded reader. Pauses for contemplation are needed between each chapters. The best 3$ spent this year!

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For those who read already: What do you think Demian did to get Kromer of Sinclair’s back?

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What short book blew your mind recently?

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg

Rosenberg teaches you practical skills for getting your needs met in a peaceful way. “Nonviolent communication helps us create a more peaceful state of mind by encouraging us to focus on what we truly wanting rather than what is wrong with ourself and others.”

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Mediocre writing and terrible narration aside (for the audio version that is), this gem of a book is likely to change the way speak to yourself and others in a profound way.

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📝 “When my consciousness is forcused on another persons feelings and needs, I see the universality of our experience”.

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📝 In cultures that judge, violence is more prevalent.

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📝 It’s important that we take responsibility for our feelings, and that we in no way imply that what others say and do makes us feel the way we do.

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📝 J. Krishnamurti: “Observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence”.

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📝 It might be worth trying to pull out of people what they really mean with what they are saying to find out what needs aren’t met. Your initial interpretation might be wrong! And It’s not our fault, society has not conditioned us to express ourself properly.

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📝 When you find you inner critic getting on your case about something you did, then ask yourself – What unmet need of mine is being expressed through these statements?

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

We need to be precise in our speech.

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“Non-Violent Communication” is the perfect compliment “Crucial Conversations”. Read them both and master the principles (easier said than done!) and you will have saved yourself and the people around you from a ton of unnecessary suffering.

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If you could add one more book to create the holy trinity of communication books, which one would that be? 🤔

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4/5

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Photo credit: @monica.bitar (instagram)

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Thoughts on: “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabors is specialized in the study and treatment of addiction. His book offers portraits of his patient lives, stories about his own addictive behaviors, it examines the causes behind addiction and it breaks down the path to recovery.

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He opposes the weight that’s been put on the genetic component of addiction and points at stresses in early childhood (even pre-natal stresses) as the main risk factor. He is a big proponent of more compassion in society’s view of addicts and explains the futility of the “war on drugs”.

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An excellent introduction to the complex problem of addiction!

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📝 “As a rule, whatever we don’t deal with in our lives we pass on to our children” -Our unfinished emotional business becomes theirs.

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📝 Addiction = Fear of emptiness.

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📝 Proximal separation: Physically there but mentally absent when parenting. Children experiencing this look to use external couping mechanisms like thumb sucking or tuning out. These kids have great chances of seeking refuge in drugs later on in life.

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📝 Gabors recommends the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and the book Rosenberg’s book “Non-violent Communication” (I just got it!)

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📝 Circumstances for brain development differs. Some have had positive experiences that others have been deprived of. Think about this before you judge.

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📝 Parents, and mothers in particular, are getting less and less of the suppport they need during their children’s early years. This is a cultural breakdown of cataclysmical scale. Therefore the raise in adhd.

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📝 “All problems are psychological, but all solutions are spiritual”

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📝 “Only healthy nurturing relationships with adults will prevent kids from getting lost in the peer world. A loss of orientation that leads rapidly to drug use.”

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: Regardless of your degree of addiction or whether your drug of choice is heroin, TV, food or shopping – reading the stories and research presented in this book will help to shine a light on your own addictive tendencies.

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My struggles have been with nicotine and refined carbohydrates. What’s your addictions? 🤔😀

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PS: The audiobook version of this book is excellent!

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5/5

Photo credit: @darcy_renea_lalimo (Instagram)

 

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Thoughts on: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport

Could it be that more we focus on finding and following our passions the more discontent we become with our work? Cal Newport makes an argument that you should throw passion aside and get really good first, then passion will follow!

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So what makes for an rewarding career? Room for creativity, Impact and Control are some important factors – and how do you attain that? You GIIIT GUUUUD at something rare and valuable!

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📝 on Deliberate practice: “If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level”.

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📝 on Craftsman mindset: Focuses relentlessly on what value you can offer the world.

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📝 on Passion mindset: Focus on what the world can offer you.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAYS:

Make small bets. In the wake of Tim Farris “The 4-hour work week” tons of people quit their job to become bloggers with passive income streams from internet sites. Lifestyle design is cool and all, but many became disillusioned quickly and realize how hard it is to make money online. Make many small bets when you are transitioning into a new area of work instead of only one really big one.. Ask yourself what are people really willing to pay you for? And prove it. Some things will have to remain just a hobby.

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🔸VERDICT

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This is the perfect book for someone who just starting his/her career. But for the ones of us that have 15-30 years of work experience have probably already learned these things (maybe even the hard way), and have less to gain from this book. If that’s the case, then then study these books and concepts instead:

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📖 “Bhagavad Gita” about freedom from outcome.

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📖 “Mastery” by Robert Greene about being persistent.

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📖 “Outliers“ by Gladwell about deliberate practice.

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3/5

 

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Raw & Unedited Notes: “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson

I had more note than I could possibly share in my review. Here is the full batch. Raw and unedited!


If we put ourselves in order maybe we will do the same for the world?

Author of “map of meaning”

Wrote an answer of quora and struck a home-run.

Our religious stories where moral rather than descriptive.

Why are shared beliefs so important to us that we are ready to the destroy the world for their cause? (The Cold War). A shared belief systems simplifies everyone and it simplifies the world around them. Making it easier to predict action of others and cooperate. It takes the world.

We as individuals need to take responsibility of all of the world and all of its suffering.

“If we all lived properly, we will collectively flourish”

The poor and stressed always die first. “When the aristocracy catches a cold the working class dies in pneumonia “

1. Shoulder back!

Serotonin: increased by winning. Used in antidepressants. Proud posture.

Prices law: winner takes all, a fraction of the work of a fraction of the people that composed classical music created the music that people still know and love. Mathews law.

Dominance games has been part of lobsters lives for almost an eternity. To the the dinosaurs we are the new kids on the block.

Dominance hierarchy is real! It has survived and been selected for eons. A near eternal aspect of the environment.

If we get defeated too many times we get depressed and can’t muster the energy that society and everyday life demands from us.

Low serotonin means: decreased confidence, lower tolerance to stress, less happiness, more pain and anxiety, shorter lifespan.

The importance of this can hardly be overstated.

The lower you are in the hierarchy the more you have to be on guard. It’s dangerous in the lower ranks and you have to spend a lot of energy reacting to your surroundings.

Routine is necessary, the stuff we do everyday needs to be automatized – it must be turned into stable and reliable habits so that they gain reliability and lose complexity.

If depressed: get your sleep in order and eat a proper breakfast.

Positive feedback loop: example: curing ones hangover with more alcohol.

Acgriophopia: fear of going outside.

One foot in order and one in chaos is the way forward.

Render the people you care about competent not protected

If we want to take care of ourselves we need to respect ourselves, and we don’t..

If they know you can bite you are less likely to have to.

If you say “no!” early and clearly it stops attempt at exploitation and bullying.

You don’t have to be low status! Maybe you can stand up for yourself.

Alter you body expression.

Posture.

If you present yourself as defeated people will perceive you as a loser.

Stand tall and speak your mind! Dare to be dangerous.

Rule 2: treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

Rule 3

Doing anything was not cool! (My childhood)

You are associating with people that are bad for you because it’s easy.

Maybe your default assumption should be that the person has rejected the way upward just because it is challenging and hard?

You should associate with people who aim to make the world a better place. Who’s life’s improves when your life improves. If you surround yourself with people who support your upward movement they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness.

They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and carefully punish you when you do not.

People who are not aiming up will do the opposite. They will offer a former smoker a cigarette and a former alcoholic a beer. They will be jealous.

Explore you resentments.

“What you aim at determines what you see”

While a more simple book would say “you will attract what you focus on”

Peterson will say the same thing but going to the root cause of its: how the sight and seeing works and how expensive our sight is to use. How our goals or focus then determines what we see in the world. How the priorities change. If we want to focus on trouble we see trouble, if we focus on opportunity, we see opportunities.

A problem is that we try to individualize problems, no matter how rare, must be solved by societal reconstruction . We try to include smaller and smaller numbers of people, who do not and will not fit in societies ordering structure.

Sometimes it’s the individuals in it that are corrupt. (Bookmarked)

“As hard as it is to believe, a patient adult can defeat a two year old.”

We feel more negative about a loss or a certain size than of a reward of the same size. Pain is more potent than pleasure.

If a child has not learned to behave properly by the age of 4 it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends.

Rule 6: set your house in perfect order before criticizing the world.

Don’t blame your enemies, capitalism or the leftists. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience!

With time, I came to understand through the great George Orwell that much of such thinking found its motivation in hatred of the rich and successful instead of true regard for the poor.

“Aim up, pay attention, fix what you can and don’t be arrogant in your knowledge , strive for humility, be aware of your weaknesses. Consider the murderousness of your own being before condemn and judge others. Maybe you missed the mark? And most importantly, don’t lie! Lying is the path to hell.”

Rule: “tell the truth, or at least don’t lie”

Ideologs : “capitalism is bad”. Chooses an axiom and view the world only from that point.

Rule: “assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

Straw man argument: oversimplify, parody distort someone’s position

“People organize their brain with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to they lose their mind”

Rule 10: “be precise in your speech”

You and I are simple, as long as the world behaves. It’s when I breaks down that complexity is revealed. A working car is a thing that takes us where we want to go. But when it breaks all the complex parts of the machinery that makes it work reveals itself. Society is the same.

“The past is not necessary what it has been even thought it already was” as in the case of a partner being caught having a long going affair.

“Even what is terrible in actuality often pales in significance compared to what is terrible in imagination”

Rule 11: don’t bother children when they are skateboarding

“The smell of the unemployable” – the odor of a body and psyche that is not working right.

“Why does it so often seem to be the very people standing so visibly against prejudice who so often feel obligated to denounce humanity itself?”

“It’s the pursuit of goals that in large parts lends life its sustaining meaning. We experience almost all the emotion that makes life deep and engaging as a consequence of moving successfully towards something deeply desired and valued.” The price we pay for this is inevitable hierarchy. Equality would sacrifice value itself and there would be nothing worth living for. But! Despite hierarchy there are many games to play and many winners!

There are only two major reasons for resentment: being taken advantage of, or allowing yourself being taken advantage of, or whiny refusal to take responsibility and grow up.of you are resentful, look for the reasons.

The eatapel mother: I will do anything for you as long as you’d don’t leave me. The witch in Hans and Gretchen. The terrible mother. Etable?

Too much protection devastates the developing soul.

Deus ex machina: Latin: god from a machine.

Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual? If we put ourselves in order maybe we will do the same for the world.

“I hope this books revealed things you Knew but didn’t know our knew”

Thoughts on: “Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp

When I hear the word alcoholic I usually think about the guy sitting on a park bench, too drunk to notice he peed his pants, but even if he did notice, he would be too disconneced from reality to care.

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This memoir we meet Caroline, she is another type of alcoholic; a “high functioning” one. The type that can maintain jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism.

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She was raised in an upper class family and had her first drink at the age of 15. The next 20 years her relationship to drinking slowly turned from flirting into an abusive relationship. Happening so gradually that she almost didn’t notice her fall, but getting out of the addiction was quite the opposite.

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📝 Discomfort + Drink = Comfort

The equation of an alcoholic.

“It turned me into someone I liked”

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📝 “Ads says: “Drinking transforms you” and it does! It melts down the parts of us that hurts or feels distress. I makes room for another self to emerge that is new and improved and less conflicted. And after a while drinking becomes essential for the development of that version. Without the drink you are version A and with it version B and you can’t get from A to B without it.”

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📝 “The paradoxical thing about drinking alone is that it creates and illusion of emotional authenticity, which you can see is false only in retrospect. Liquor seems to be the only thing that allow access to our own feelings.”

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📝 About choices in recovery: “If it’s warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the The alcoholic choice. If it feel dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, then it’s probably the healthy choice.”

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📝 “You stop growing when you start drinking alcoholicly… prevents you from walking through the painful life experienced that take you from point A to point B on the maturity scale.”

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It’s a sad and touching story, that I really recommend. Especially if you, or someone close to you have a sketchy relationship to “ze booze”, because it might help you put a finger on what’s going on.

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4/5

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What are you drinking and reading this weekend?

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