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Book Notes – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

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Started: 2018-03-11
Finished: 2018-03-13

Imagine the school bum, mending his ways, becoming a success and then sharing his stories and experience.

Well, that’s what this book is.
A pithy summary for a pithy book. Punchy, wise and brief.
Mark Manson is the Dale Carnegie for millenials.

There are f*cks strewn galore, so if you’re not comfortable with such language, stay away.1

Here’s a few things, I took away from the book

  • Learn to be comfortable with pain and failure and suffering and hardship
  • True joy comes from experience, from tackling pain and hardship, from living
  • Live a life of intention. Know what your enough is. Choose your struggle. Care deeply only about these few things
  • Learn to be self aware. Meditation helps.
  • Have good values
  • There are no ready made, cookie cutter solutions to your problems or to finding your path. You have to make your own way. And that is a good thing
  • Don’t be dogmatic. Be comfortable changing your mind as you learn and experience more
  • Learn to be ok with rejection. Also, learn to say No.
  • Be disciplined, focussed, and committed to the things you care about
  • Memento Mori.2
    So make the most of the life you have left. Learn to live, so that you leave with joy, not regret.
Quotes I loved

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
— Albert Camus

“I used to think the human brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.”
— Emo Philips

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
— Sigmund Freud

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
— Mark Twain

On Commitment

I’m quoting this passage wholesale, because this was the thing that resonated with me the most; the fact that Deep Work matters.
Discipline, dedication and commitment to the few things that do matter in your life is what will make your life enriching.

… more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true.
We are actually often happier with less. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from the paradox of choice. Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.
So if you have a choice between two places to live and pick one, you’ll likely feel confident and comfortable that you made the right choice. You’ll be satisfied with your decision.
But if you have a choice among twenty-eight places to live and pick one, the paradox of choice says that you’ll likely spend years agonizing, doubting, and second-guessing yourself, wondering if you really made the “right” choice, and if you’re truly maximizing your own happiness. And this anxiety, this desire for certainty and perfection and success, will make you unhappy.

So what do we do? Well, if you’re like I used to be, you avoid choosing anything at all. You aim to keep your options open as long as possible. You avoid commitment.

But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing. When you’ve never left your home country, the first country you visit inspires a massive perspective shift, because you have such a narrow experience base to draw on. But when you’ve been to twenty countries, the twenty-first adds little. And when you’ve been to fifty, the fifty-first adds even less.
The same goes for material possessions, money, hobbies, jobs, friends, and romantic/sexual partners—all the lame superficial values people choose for themselves.
The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. The first time I drank at a party was exciting. The hundredth time was fun. The five hundredth time felt like a normal weekend. And the thousandth time felt boring and unimportant.

The big story for me personally over the past few years has been my ability to open myself up to commitment. I’ve chosen to reject all but the very best people and experiences and values in my life. I shut down all my business projects and decided to focus on writing full-time. Since then, my website has become more popular than I’d ever imagined possible. I’ve committed to one woman for the long haul and, to my surprise, have found this more rewarding than any of the flings, trysts, and one-night stands I had in the past. I’ve committed to a single geographic location and doubled down on the handful of my significant, genuine, healthy friendships.

And what I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.
Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous.
Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy.
Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again?
Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.

In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us—rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.
Yes, breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you’re young—after all, you have to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle—in everything.


  1. It’s mostly for shock value, sprinkled liberally through the first third of the book. It peters out to almost nothing, as Mark gets into the meat and potatoes 

  2. Remember, you will die! The Daily Stoic explains it far better than I ever could 

A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes

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Started: 2018-01-22
Finished: 2018-01-23

Tired of my daily humdrum, I decided to escape to Victorian London for a while, by reading all of my Sherlock Holmes.

This time though, I was going to make notes!

And then it dawned on me, that I already had a comprehensive set.
I had, along with my copy of Peter Bevelin’s fantastic Seeking Wisdom, also purchased a copy of his A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes.

Bevelin synthesizes not just Sir Doyle’s works, but also pulls related information from a wide variety of sources, like Joseph Bell who was Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe and Michel De Montaigne.

Like thoughts on practice as a discipline …

Practice is a good instructor and teaches us to where to look and what to look for

Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems. Let him on meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the man and the trade or profession to which he belongs. Puerile as such an exercise may seem, it sharpens the faculties of observation, and teaches one where to look and what to look for. (Holmes; A Study in Scarlet)

and on learning

And learning never stops

“But what I can’t make head or tail of, Mr. Holmes, is how on earth you got yourself mixed up in the matter.”
“Education, Gregson, education. Still seeking knowledge at the old university.” (Holmes; The Red Circle)
Like all other arts, the Science of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study, nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it. (Holmes; A Study in Scarlet)
Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last. (Holmes; The Red Circle)

On learning to reason backwards

Reasoning backwards - working back from observations/effects to causes

The essential factor in this method consists in working back from observations of conditions to the causes which brought them about. It is often a question of deciding the doings of yesterday by the records found to-day. (Thomas McCrae; The Method of Zadig)
The ideal reasoner...would, when he had once been shown a single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all the chain of events which led up to it but also all the results which would follow from it. (Holmes; The Five Orange Pips)
The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unraveling it. (Holmes; The Sign of the Four)
In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much. In the everyday affairs of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so the other comes to be neglected. (Holmes; A Study in Scarlet)
Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward, or analytically. (Holmes; A Study in Scarlet)

and the fact that everything old is new again …

History often repeats itself

There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before. (Holmes; A Study in Scarlet)
Mr. Mac, the most practical thing that you ever did in your life would be to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals of crime. Everything comes in circles...The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again. (Holmes; The Valley of Fear)

This is ergo more a book recommendation, than a book notes post.
Most everything that I could hope to capture, is already in this slim volume.
And just like Doyle’s books, this one is worth coming back to over and over again.


The Race for Paradise

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Started: 2018-01-03
Finished: 2018-01-16

I’m Catholic and as a child, I was somehow naïvely proud that Christianity was the largest religion in the world.
We were good people. We were morally superior.
After all, we were the righteous chosen ones!
Our crusades were what helped Christianity become foremost and widespread!
All those knights in shining armour and all those devout folk went from their homes in Europe to battle the bad Muslims and conquer Jerusalem.
It was stuff of heady, wild fantasy!

Time has slowly cured me of my delusions, but the curiosity has always remained.

Why? and How?

Why did these two religions who had so much in common, go to war for centuries?
And the answer after ripping through the book is realistic disappoinment.

For all that many, maybe most Franks and Muslims wished it to be so, the realities were rather different. This was not a clash of Islam versus Christianity. It was at best a clash of specific Frankish polities warring with specific Muslim ones, where universal claims to religious truth or holy war almost always took a backseat to specific regional and political interests.
They do outright injustice to the more nuanced, less dramatic, but nevertheless authentic decisions made by generations of medieval Christians, Muslims, and Jews involved in this history. The Crusades, understood from any perspective, cannot shed light on modern struggles, and their motivations cannot be legitimately claimed as background or inspiration for contemporary conflicts.
Medieval Muslims and Christians went to war for their own motives, not ours.

And nothing captures the zeitgeist of the book, as much as this short note somewhere in the middle of the book

Bashir saw the strange spectacle of the Frankish lord of Antioch marching alongside Muslim troops from the lord of Aleppo, arrayed in battle against the sultan’s representative, the Muslim lord of Mosul, who marched with his own Frankish allies from Edessa.

It was just humans … being humans!
But don’t let that stop you from reading the book.

Paul M. Cobb weaves magic with this well researched work. While it may seem like I took a while with the book, the reality is that this is a page turner for any history buff. I had to slow down consciously because I did not want it to end!

Ranging from Spain to Africa to the Middle East to Mongolia and from the year 750 to 1492, he explores whole host of places, events and people. Action abounds! Treachery, back stabbing, sieges, plague, naval battles, battles in the plains, battles in the mountains, fire, it’s all here!

And while it is about humans being humans, I found it quite enjoyable as I kept switching sides throughout the book, rooting for who I thought, was doing the right thing at the time.

It gave me a perspective on how the “other side” sees these events and it looks suspiciously a lot like mine.

And the only reasonable reason as to why, comes from Yuval Noah Harari (read my notes on Sapiens, here.)

The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively.
This mysterious glue is made of stories, not genes.

We cooperate effectively with strangers because we believe in things like gods, nations, money and human rights.
Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money and no human rights—except in the common imagination of human beings.

You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after he dies, he will get limitless bananas in chimpanzee Heaven.
Only Sapiens can believe such stories.
This is why we rule the world, and chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.


An Idea to Get Me Writing Regularly

Cross posting, because I think the idea is important enough for me to have it on both the personal and work blogs

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I stuggle to write regularly.

Sometimes, I struggle to write, because I can think of anything to write.
And sometimes, I struggle, because I have a deluge of ideas.

So I want to write this wisp of an idea, before I lose it.
1. If I think it is of any interest to me, I should write it down in my own words.
2. I will not pick up another book, before I write what I think of it, or write down the notes I highlighted.
Even if it’s only a line, I ought to write it down, instead of just using Librarything or Goodreads to say I’ve read it.
3. If I learn it, I should write it.
I’ve already forgotten, how I got an image carousel installed on my personal blog. I should write shit down.
4. Drastically reduce twitter and rss use.
5. Copy Kushal and have a regular weekly cadence.
That’ll give me at least fifty two posts a year.

Well, that’s the idea … written down.

All I have to do now, is do it.


So God Made a Dog …

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God said, ‘I need somebody strong enough to pull sleds and find bombs, yet gentle enough to love babies and lead the blind.
Somebody who will spend a day on a couch with a resting head and supportive eyes to lift the spirts of a broken heart.’

So, God made a dog.1


  1. I don’t know the actual source, but I saw it here, years ago 

Portraits – Pooja – 2

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“One day the sun admitted
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The infinite incandescence
That has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!”

— Hafiz