Punchy, to the point, and no longer than it should be. Vizi’s work will stand the test of time. For fans of wisdom, old stoics, and nothing flashy.
I gave it 10/10 because it’s what I need right now, and what I think most people will need at multiple times in their life.
- He didn’t beat a horse to death at any point. He leaves the deep dives up to his readers, and expects it.
- All chapters are thoughtfully organized
- Footnotes on kindle are done very well, opening doors to more exploration. I think all future books should follow suit.
All quotes below are directly from his book. All in italics are me.
This book was an endeavor to find out who I am and who I want to be. Many maxims and reflections do not describe my virtues per se–but what virtues I aspire to develop.
Intelligence without risk is wasted talent.
The man who’s gathering knowledge for the sake of it is like the sailor who’s dying of thirst on the ocean. No matter how much he drinks, he will always be thirsty.
Make a deal with yourself–never confuse correlation with causation; law with ethics; money with wealth; notoriety with value; muscles with strength; or information with knowledge. This seems prevalent now more than ever.
Carl Jung brilliantly noted: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” And, Hermann Hesse beautifully stretched a similar thought: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.” Thanks to both of them, it is now very clear to me why I can’t stand lazy and arrogant people.
Ideas are not situated within the books we read, but within ourselves. That’s why we consider many ideas to be evident once we read them. We read a book, and, after we finish it, we consider what we’ve read to be “common sense” The expression of ideas, and not the ideas in themselves, is what we seek when reading books. Most ideas are latent components of our soul–and the soul can hardly make an agreement with the brain to encourage language to produce a nuanced and clear expression of those ideas. Those who succeed in making that kind of agreement are the writers–the good writers. And we need to thank them. And we can automatically do so if we buy their books.
Great ideas are like sophisticated cocktails: they require some civilized feelings, a large dose of imagination, forty grams of curiosity, and merely two drops of logic.
Once I make a decision, I decide to ignore any type of counter-arguments, no matter how reasonable they are. I have a strong personality, or, in other words, I’m an authentic imbecile.
In life, if you aim to be “rational”, you can’t be dangerous. You’re weak–because, by definition, you’re predictable.
To win an argument, rely on logic. To win in life, reject logic. If you’re not willing to often take actions that don’t make much sense, having a mediocre life will make perfect sense.
My rational mind is a sly lawyer hired by my guilty instincts, feelings, and values to prove them innocent. This fellow is forced to work in order to protect my identity from change, from damage–to conserve it, thus. It needs to be austerely protected–for, if destroyed, I lose myself. 15
Whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed, look up. It’s hard to feel obsessed with yourself and your “problems” when you are watching the beauty and majesty of the sky, of something much bigger than yourself.
A heuristic for a fulfilled life: don’t take yourself too seriously; take your family, friends, and work very seriously.
The bored-of-life teenager thinks he’s a nihilist. He argues that, since everything in life is meaningless, there’s anyway no reason to be a faithful life partner, to become either a great lawyer or a scientist–or to simply be a good person. He fails to perform a simple trick, to flip the coin upside down: precisely because there’s no reason–and thus no pressure–to be a good person, that’s exactly why he should do so! There’s nothing to lose, only to gain, idiot.
If you feel miserable, chances are, you need to go to sleep: your sanity has just run out of fuel.
Try to live far below your means for at least one month, and watch how you’re slowly starting to taste freedom.
The biggest accomplishment of a human, a busy primate, is to be able to spend hours and hours without doing anything–to enjoy inaction and monotony without feeling any boredom or remorse.
The more you overthink a problem, the larger the debt your actions have to suffer.
Happiness is about frequency, not impact or intensity.
Happy people cultivate stable, positive feelings; they don’t crave euphoric moments.
He who prefers to suffer goes on believing his stressful thoughts. He who prefers to suffer less starts questioning them.
I feel happy when my ambitions disappear; when they fall asleep for a while. As soon as they wake up, stress starts to kick in again. *
Nature programmed us to seek pleasure and avoid pain–but what if we attempt to hack it rather than follow it? What if we attempt to choose our pain, instead of waiting for life to choose it for us? By choosing our challenges, we infuse our life with predictable pain–and, predictable pain is more bearable than random pain. We thus also allow happiness to surprise us, which in turn carries more dynamism than if it were predictable. To hack the chemistry of your happiness, remember that the reaction is counterintuitive: you must pour challenges, rather than pleasure, over your life choices. To hack your human nature, be strategic about your pain and spontaneous about your happiness; the results might surprise you.
You can easily cope with your existence once you realize there’s nothing you should cope with. *
Contrast: to grasp both how fortunate and ungrateful you are, compare what “suffering” means to you with what it used to mean to your grandparents.
The difference between a workaholic and a slave is merely psychological: a slave is forced by society to work hard whereas a workaholic is primed by society to choose to work hard. The alchemy lies in giving the man a sense of independence about his decisions. *
In an abundant world, productivity is about eliminating bad habits; then adding good ones. In an abundant world, knowledge is about filtering, rather than gathering, information. In an abundant world, discipline is the new freedom. In an abundant world–less is more; and more is less.
You cannot squeeze the meaning of life into a crisp form of wording–or any form of wording at all. The purpose of living is the very act of living. In other words, life is more about action rather than meaning.
It’s a trend to conflate capitalism with corporatism–many who claim to be against capitalism can’t grasp that they, in fact, oppose corporatism.
It’s a travesty to argue that modern humanity made tremendous progress in knowledge in the last few decades or so. Knowledge barely advanced. Modernity is boasting myriads of long papers roasted and packed in academia, and libraries are restocking their shelves with fresh books every single day–yet, Herodotus, Machiavelli, Plato, Darwin or Pascal already said it all, hundreds or thousands of years ago.
The fact that a modernist building is no longer new in fifty years represents the best evidence that humanity has regressed, rather than progressed, when it comes to architecture, beauty, aesthetics, and design.
It’s perfectly normal–even a sign of a civilized person–to hold opinions and perspectives; but not convictions. That’s a disease–a contagious one. Once I meet a patient infected with it, I’ll be sure it’s the last time we see each other.
If you happen to meet a fellow who has a habit of producing imbecile opinions, don’t debate or insult him. Just drop an occasional “why” after each of his moronic statements and unapologetically watch his decay.
Excessive debates are for s## kers. Excessive actions are for winners.
A good writer chooses his words carefully. A great writer lets the words choose him. *
“Only the ideas gained from walking have any worth.”–Nietzsche
Creativity is not something we can acquire systematically. The most we can do is to foster a state of mind so that creativity may come to us.
The insults coming from your enemies carry more truth than the flattery offered by your “friends”.
Elections: don’t go vote because you wish to change the balance of power; go vote because you wish to change yourself. Those who avoid taking a moral stance are slowly cultivating indifference and irresponsibility in their hearts–the most shameful vices of any democratic society.
The most dangerous vices are the ones we don’t recognize any longer.
Don’t be tolerant of the intolerant even if, or especially if, you’re a tolerant person.
Patriotism: you don’t have a duty towards your country to improve it; you have a duty towards your country to improve yourself.
Courage: the ability to act well not necessarily in extraordinary circumstances–but in our daily challenges.
Virtue is not about suppressing your vices–but about domesticating them. Only those who have the capacity for evil stand a chance at cultivating a virtuous character.
Information is like alcohol–you can either drink it quickly to get drunk and become foolish; or you can drink it slowly to enjoy yourself yet remain sober. In other words, you can either use information to further develop your biases; or you can use it to train your mind.
Only read the books written by action-takers, so that you won’t have to study any theory for the rest of your life.
To genuinely consider yourself a “realistic” person is intensely arrogant and naïve. If you do so, you claim that you are capable of understanding reality. And, is there a more silly and arrogant person than the one who claims such an impermissible thing?
Reading makes you travel in time; love allows you to stop it; meditation teaches you to feel it; and employment “helps” you squander it.
Show your anger when needed. People need to know what irritates you and what doesn’t. But, crucially, remain internally calm. Your anger is only a tool. Don’t become its puppet.
Never get fooled: what’s urgent may feel important, but it isn’t; and what’s important may not feel urgent, but it is.
Wisdom: what we lack in knowledge we make up for in experience.
If we attempt to learn about ourselves according to someone else, we learn about them, not ourselves. 40 You are your best teacher. The road to personal understanding is thus instantly short; you only need to travel on the inside. Yet, it’s strenuous to obtain a passport. Even the wisest of the wise barely convince their soul to offer them one.
Never listen to any philosophers who offer practical advice as a result of what they merely thought about.
Repetitio mater sutiorum est.
Politics/ Systems: the larger the population, the lower the trust among its members. Since socialism is based on an immense level of trust44, it can thus only work at the family level. You’re a lunatic if you trust your central government as much as you trust your mother.
If you want to become civilized, forget about your mind. Focus on your feelings–on cultivating them. Cultivate higher pleasures and avoid lower ones. Go to the theatre rather than the cinema; read poetry instead of watching the Simpsons; study Hamlet instead of playing video games.