“What’s the one thing you consistently do (daily, weekly or monthly) that allows you to step back and reflect on your business and life overall?”
I READ BOOKS BY DEAD PEOPLE. One to three a week. Once you understand the Lindy Effect, you should disdain living authors. Anything that has survived for hundreds or thousands of years is more likely to continue to survive. Whereas that #1 NYTimes Bestseller at the airport bookstore? That’s garbage; a weed: here today, gone tomorrow — chances are that nobody will be reading it in one hundred years. If the great in every age revisited and studied a text as a source of profound insight, there is also something for you to learn from it.
For example, it is better for you to read Marx and Smith, Keynes and Hayek, Ruskin and Bastiat, Veblein and Coase… than Paul… fucking… Krugman. Paul Krugman does not belong on that list and will not be on that list in one hundred years. He’s a fad, a zeitgeist propagandist. Like the character Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead. Don’t waste your time reading living authors. Your signal to noise ratio will dramatically improve. I will learn far more from Marx than a Marxist; far more from Keynes than a Keynesian. In that sense, even though I’m a hyper-capitalist, I am more of a Marxist that a Marxist… because most Marxists haven’t, in fact, really read and studied and contextualized Marx in the history of thought.
Interest yourself in not just one subject, but all the liberal arts: economics, philosophy, history, literature, art, politics. You may have a favorite subject. Mine is mythology. I default to reading legends, myths, and epic stories. But I push myself to read through the classics of the other subjects as well, because they give me a richer tapestry… And soon, you realize that they all relate, in unexpected ways. Can you really understand and appreciate Thoreau’s Walden, without understanding the economic, historical and political context of 19th century industrialization and urbanization? No. So don’t let your preferences become a prison. Read broadly… within the classics.
So why don’t most people read books by dead people?
— Netflix is the opiate of the masses. You are an addict. Confess. Break the stranglehold the media-entertainment-industrial complex has over your soul. BE FREE OF IT.
— Our education system is an evil monstrosity run by the state, captured by unions, and supported by the ignorance of the populace it produced.
— Most people can’t, actually, read. Reading is hard. Reading is thinking. You have to build up to certain texts over many years. Certain texts are harder to read and understand. You should start with something that’s relatively easy to understand, like Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance. You shouldn’t try to understand, say, Heidegger’s What Is Thinking? until you’ve done at least 5 years or more of heavy reading. But when you do eventually do your first reading of Heidegger, you will appreciate it as a sommelier can appreciate a fine wine, that an ordinary drinker wouldn’t be able to appreciate. Certain thinking is so dense that it will put you to sleep. That is not because it is boring or even necessarily badly written (although it may be). It may be that it is just a profound thought and your brain is bouncing off it. If you can’t power through it, find another classic that actually meets you where you’re at. But for godsakes, don’t read a pop novel.
— Red pill vs. blue pill. Arthur curses Merlin for teaching him how to think (T.H. White’s Once and Future King). Thinking is AGAINST the RELIGION OF HAPPINESS that is very much our popular civic religion. With our neo-Buddhism, we encourage people not to think. In yoga classes, we tell them that thinking is the root of all evil. That is not actually a sophisticated understanding of Buddhism, Yoga, Taoism or Hinduism. Actually, a better reading is that EVERYTHING is thought. The universe is the mind of God; everything is the God-dream. This is not so different than Judeo-Christian “In the beginning was the Word”, or the Platonic ideal of beholding The Good with the mind, contemplating the divine nature. The opposite is probably true: NOT thinking is the root of all evil. And the non-obvious truth is that: BETTER thinking is the first step towards zen.
— Many other reasons.
Reading gives me ALPHA; an edge; another dimension of perception… that compounds over time… and gives me subtle advantages in my practical, tactical, mundane every-day work. Not least of its advantage is the pure inspiration it provides. Another advantage is that you are installing all of these voices in your head, all of these thoughts, and eventually, you BECOME what you read, and you are quite literally a synthetic reincarnation of the dead, carrying forward their ideas into the future.