Victor Frankl’s popular work detailing his experience in Nazi concentration camps and the emergent practice of logotherapy that he developed as a result.
I took a few things away from this book. There is a theme around suffering and the value of suffering that I found extremely compelling. Frankl compares our suffering to that of an ape undergoing medical experimentation. The ape does not understand the value of his suffering and neither do we. Our suffering might have some divine or cosmic value that we are unaware of, or unable to understand. Thus, we should value our suffering. And suffer with dignity.
The people who perished in the camps were frequently those who gave up the will to live. Having a purpose helped Frankl and other survivors to continue on.
Ernest Hemingway wrote this book late in his career and won a nobel prize at least partially because of it. The work is short and incredibly poignant.
The old man is a fisherman who has suffered a stint of bad luck. 84 days without a catch. On the 85th day, the man hooks a huge marlin, the biggest he’d ever seen. For days, the man wrestles with the beast, striving against hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He talks to himself and reveals a profound respect for wild life and I am struck by the honor of such a hunt.
I am reminded that man is meant to hunt and kill his food. We are meant to strive for survival. We are meant to savor the hunt, honor the kill, and risk everything to do so.
C.S. Lewis’s thought experiment consists of letters written from a demon to his nephew. Each letter includes instructions that advise the younger demon on the ways of human corruption.
From a Christian perspective, the letters expound on the potentialities of demonic corruption. These are the ways in which the forces of evil work against us. They confound and deceive us at every turn. They twist our righteousness against us. They use our virtue against us. All that is good to them, is bad to us.
The finale of the book relates well to Man’s Search for Meaning which I was reading at the same time.
The demons derive no pleasure from human death. A man of faith, who dies in good faith, is no use to the demon. In fact, an honorable and faithful death is considered a tremendous loss to the demons
Death is not inherently bad. Only a dishonorable death, or a death outside the love of God, is to be feared.
A lot of Napoleon’s Hill popular work strikes me as gimmicky. Few of his ideas are founded on modern, scientifically valid ideas. Still, there is much in this book that is useful.
First of all, the concept of autosuggestion and affirmation is immensely useful. I do not know how it works, but I observe the consequences regularly. Ask and you shall receive applies well here. Perhaps the mechanism is a form of subconscious priming. Perhaps there really is a subatomic law of attraction that can’t be easily measured. Whatever the underlying mechanics, autosuggestions and affirmations tend to be useful, at least in my life.
Hill goes into some interesting ideas around using sexual energy to drive positive action. He doesn’t provide specific tactics to do so. In fact, very little of the book is devoted to specific tactics.
Here’s the philosophy of Think and Grow Rich in nutshell:
- Clearly define a life purpose. Write it down and say aloud, over and over.
- Articulate a plan to achieve said life purpose.
- Execute the plan faithfully.
- Refine the plan in response to feedback.
All-in, I’d recommend the book because it’s short and motivational. Just don’t take it too seriously.
I’ve got to write a longer exposition of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s work on the concept of antifragility. I read it for the first time last year and consider it one of the greatest works of my lifetime.
The philosophy Taleb espouses regarding complex systems and how they react to stressors is fundamentally consequential to everyone’s life. Some things lose from disorder, some things are unaffected, and some things gain from disorder. This book is about antifragility and the things that fall into the third category.
Taleb comes from a background in options trading. The work is itself antifragile. I suspect his sales will spike periodically with economic downturns.
One thing I’ve really pulled away from this book is that people who give advice should have skin in the game. Financial advisors should lose when their clients lose. Guidance counselors should lose when their students lose. A maker’s well-being should be directly tied to the quality of their work.
More on these ideas to come…
I first read Peter Thiel’s Zero to One in late 2014. I have since listened to it at least three or four times.
The book defines zero-to-one improvements as innovations that are at least ten times better than the next closest alternative. That means more-than incremental improvements.
Thiel says that these innovations are the only kinds of innovations that can produce monopolistic technology companies that reap monopoly profits.
He also goes into the cultural paradigms that lead to or away from innovation. There are:
- Definite optimism – the world is going to be better and I know why. e.g. technology
- Indefinite optimism – the world is going to be better but I don’t know why. e.g finance
- Definite pessimism – the world is going to be worse, and here’s why
- Indefinite pessimism – the world is going to be worse and I don’t know why.
For a free version of Zero to One. Try Blake Master’s class notes on CS183 taught by Thiel at Stanford . I’ve heard they’re better anyway (reading them now, I’ll let you know).