Sunday, May 4, 2014

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Mastering the best of what other people have already figured out.
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"Trust those who are greedy for money a thousand times
more than those who are greedy for credentials.
— Nassim Taleb

Start here.

I covered a lot of interesting stuff this week. In no particular order:

If you missed last week's edition —Einstein on why "combinatory play" is the secret to productive thought, a stoic reading list, Ernest Hemingway's Nobel acceptance speech on the value of solitude, the illusion of an internet education and so much more—you can catch up here.

What I'm reading.

Cyrus the Great — The Arts of Leadership and War
Amazing. Cyrus was pretty awesome. His insights about leadership have "inspired great men from Julius Caesar to Benjamin Franklin to Lawrence of Arabia." Peter Drucker called this book — Xenophon's biography of Cryus — "the best book on leadership." You'll learn about Cyrus' various campaigns as he conquers Babylon. While the story is old, the leadership lessons are as relevant today as they were then. Among other things "Xenophon shows you how to conduct meetings, become an expert negotiator, deal efficiently with allies, communicate by appealing to the self-interest of your followers, encourage the highest standards of performance, ensure your organization has the benefit of specialists, and prove that your words will be backed by your deeds."

Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) was the brainchild of eccentric Bank of England governor, Montagu Norman. Established in the early 1930s to facilitate German reparations under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles to the victorious WWI allies, it has now become a hub of transnational finance operating in the shadows of the financial world. Norman, with the help of Walter Layton, established a constitution for the BIS that ensured political independence, financial autonomy, and confidentiality. The bank's history is full of double-dealing, trading integrity for survival. The book suggests that in 1999, 11 nations launched the euro in the hopes that economic concerns would trump politics. They also hoped it would inspire fiscal discipline in countries which, historically, have found frugality difficult. In a prescient move, in 2004 the BIS warned against state guarantees of commercial interests. Subservient to no state, the bank's only allegiance is to the financial system it helped create. 

See the big list of what I've been reading.

Links worth clicking.

Some fascinating insights from the doctor who coaches athletes on sleep — "If you don't sleep the night after training, then even if you sleep the next night or the next night, you never learn." (This further reinforces the idea that sleep is how we encode things.)

Aphorisms, Rules, and Heuristics from Nassim Taleb.

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read — "Half a century before e-books turned publishing upside down, a different format threatened to destroy the industry."

11 Ways to Avoid Burnout — #2. Cut down and start saying "no." 

Annie Dillard and the Writing Life — "Don't worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything's been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible."

Answering the Dreaded "So, What Do You Do?" Question — "It is difficult to change our lives because we constantly tell ourselves stories about who we are and what we're capable of. However, your story is often changing, so you may feel compelled not to mention anything until it is certain or has already happened; we aren't something, until we are."

+ Your Brain on Story: Why Narratives Win Our Hearts and Minds — "The power of anecdote is so great that it has a momentum in and of itself." Ira Glass contends, "no matter how boring the facts are," with a well-told story, "you feel inherently as if you are on a train that has a destination."

+ In case you missed it, this is a great lecture on Marcus Aurelius.


Shane Parrish
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