Nonfiction Books that have rewired my Brain
Every once and a while we are lucky enough to come across a book that changes the way we live and the way we think. It seems to me that we are often searching for something, and synchronicity then steps in and throws that something to us, sometimes by us browsing in a book store, sometimes it is when someone lends us a book, or we are just plain lucky enough that the book or knowledge finds us.
The Black Swan - Nissim Nicholas Taleb
I had to read this in short bursts, as I would stop, make some notes, reread to make sure I understand, and then realize what I thought before I read this book was wrong. He writes of random events, those that change everything, and how we cannot predict them and how anyone who thinks they are predicting them is wrong. Basically we are predicting in a box with imperfect data. When I was getting my MBA, it used to bother when we would use forecasting models like Black-Scholes, and everyone acted as if it was fact, but it was so diluted and so many things were excluded that it was obvious to me that it was a model that functioned only in a vacuum. We don't live in a vacuum. This book made me realize I wasn't wrong. I will post some notes on this work later, but the short of it is, read it and think.
Out of Control - Kevin Kelly
This book is brilliant and hits artificial intelligence and life, networks, insects, swarms, you name it. and it has left me so that I see the world today as a series of networks making collections of networks all run by a few lines of rules or code. I see companies and its groups as connected network hubs, and when you realize that artificial life can be summed up in a few simple rules, you realize everything can be reduced to a simple form. You make the rules, and let the network run. The game is to find the rules.
The Four Hour Workweek - Tim Ferriss
This book did it and I didn't expect it at all. Sold as a productivity book, it really just takes some old business books, like Dan Kennedy's and Gerber's, and then takes Pareto's and Parkinson's law and updates them. It is good but not that unique. What threw me was the way he deconstructs everything, which is brilliant. He takes complicated scenarios or events and using Pareto's law and some grounded intelligence, and some basic good logic ( does anyone take logic anymore? Most useful class I ever took) and then finds a way to make it happen. He made me disbelieve the 10,000 hour rule. He also said something that made me change my career. We are all raised to think there is something out there we are supposed to be. "What are you going to be when you grow up?" is stated over and over, and most us don't ever really know, and as we get older we think we somehow missed it. He states what we do for money isn't the goal for our life, and we should minimize the intrusion, and then we live the rest of our life.
Walden - Henry David Thoreau
Read this twice as a High School student and at least twice as a college student, and then read it during the summer as a lark and now that I am older and I realize that I had just read the book before, but now I understand it and what he means. Thoreau understood simple basic true rules of life;
Own things, don't let them own you, most men let the world own them
Take care of the world, its our home
The world is just as fascinating in the mile from your house as it is one thousand miles away.
And there are more, many more.
It takes a few pages to get used to the way he writes but once you are in sync he is brilliant.
Enter the Steam - edited by Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn
A book of essays on Buddhism I picked up while in Las Vegas during one of those years when little goes right, and most things made no sense. It opened a new world for me. Not the best book I ever read on the subject, but the one that got me started.
To be clear right off, it is not a religion to me, and I don't believe Buddha was one of a thousand Buddhas or that light came out, that he levitated, or that nirvana is an actual place. He was just a man but that is what makes him special. he is just a very smart man who found a better way to live, and if he can do it, so can we.
I believe he was a brilliant man, who ignored the cultural binds of his time. Who understood that we are not stable consistent beings, and that we are all interconnected, and that we all strive to keep an ever changing world in stasis. And that makes us struggle and unhappy.
I will write more on the subject, but simply said, there is more to the world than the hours upon hours I have spent studying Western Philosophy and literature. The story about fish swimming about not knowing they are in water, they think that water is all there is, and that is exactly us, we forget how much our culture limits our world.
All five authors did the same thing, they showed the world was more than I thought, and they each showed the limit of my education and of the way my culture dictated my view of the world.
After each, it became a new paradigm, a new world.
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”