Carlos Miceli sent this wonderful review out to his newsletter. I love it, whether you've gotten the book or not yet, you'll definitely enjoy some of the points in it -
Book recommendation - Ikigai, by Sebastian Marshall
Sebastian Marshall, who has recently became popular online because of his stand against traditional publishing, put together a brilliant set of philosophies, ideas, recommendations and statements for anyone that's serious about becoming a better person. This is not fluffy self-development. It's serious stuff for hard-working people that can take an honest look at themselves. Ikigai, which was marketed as the "one-week book", is not original work, but a compilation of Sebastian's fundamental posts of his blog. The book is divided in chapters such as "Be Principled", "Empire", "Rationality", and "Dealing with Shit", and each chapter has a series of posts and Sebastian's answers on that particular topic.
I loved the book, and read it in a couple of days. Sebastian succeeds at making you want to do amazing things with the time that's been given to you. The reason that Sebastian gets to you is because he's real. He's had a weird life, he's kinda crazy, and he truly acts on principles. The book combines three elements very well: practicality, unconventionality and reach. Anyone can grow from reading Ikigai and applying its lessons.
The biggest criticism is that what was gained in compilation speed, was lost in tidiness. Some concepts appear many times in the book, and it can get tiring to read them over and over again. However, to be fair, it's very easy to just skim what one has already read, and it doesn't make the book any less powerful. This is life-changing work, I'll recommend it often from now on.
Below are some of my favorite excerpts of Ikigai...
On people's opinions:
- "As you become excellent, you show them what they could be, and it hurts them. Viscerally. So don't be too upset, your excellence hurts people to some extent. Expect constant discouragement from normal people. Eventually you'll build a social circle of high-achieving, ambitious, expansive, cool, worldly, giving, encouraging, awesome people, and then you'll be successful and normal people will envy and hate you, but you won't care because you'll have transcended it. So yeah, discouragement and warnings and crap? We all get it on the road to success. Don't take it too seriously. Don't hate people for doing it, but don't give in either."
- "I put my ethics and values together slowly. I think most people struggle with getting an ethical system or value system because they're looking for one overarching principle that makes everything else make sense. Frankly, I don't think there is one."
On low and high happiness:
- "Low happinesses like contentment, sensory pleasure, etc. I don't think those are important to pursue. High happinesses--triumph, camaraderie, epiphany, wisdom--those I think are worth pursuing."
On having kids:
- "Y'know how hard it was for people to have and raise kids throughout history? When I hear people saying they don't want kids, not because they're working on world-changing stuff like Albert Einstein, but just because they think they'd be happier without kids ... . I don't know man, it shocks me. There's been a chain of people brutally struggling and striving forwards throughout history, and you're comfortable breaking that chain? That's ... that's ... well, that's something I'm not comfortable doing."
- "If I'm duty-bound in a situation, I'll aim to perform my duties as best as I can, happiness be damned. A lot of times, the best solutions aren't necessarily the largest number of happiness solution. (Again, trying to explain this to a person who grew up in a happiness-is-most-important culture risks making you seem off your rocker, just like a modern Westerner trying to explain that happiness is more important than duty and loyalty would seem crazy to a samurai.)"
- "Wealth is anything that's suitable to humans that humans want. Reshaping matter and energy into forms more suitable and desirable to humans produces more wealth. There are near unlimited possibilities to reshape energy and matter into more and more suitable forms. Thus, there is near unlimited wealth available."
On the right role for each of us:
- "A captain, not a general, not a king. If one of my sons has the ability, drive, and desire to be a general or king, so be it. He'll be learning lessons at age 5 that I started learning at age 19. When he's 14, he'll know much of what I knew at 24. But not me--no over-expanding, no going too far and losing it all. I'm fit to be a captain, an advisor, a high-ranked servant, but I don't aim to rule. There's still too many screwed up low born ideas in the back of my head."
On wanting to do too much:
- "Be careful about over-expanding--you don't have to do it all in one generation. Have children, raise them well, have your son take over where you left off. There's only so much a person can accomplish in one lifetime, whereas even a modest dynasty can accomplish much, much more."
- "You know, the victors--the ones who build the really enduring victories--they're often not the most brilliant or charismatic or brave. They're the ones who are most patient, who are most rational, who have the most self-control. You can win 10,000 battles, but have it all undone in one rash misstep. You could perhaps lose 10,000 battles, but still win at a decisive moment and then consolidate intelligently."
On knowing how to receive:
- "Most people feel like they should be martyring and sacrificing themselves more, but they also don't like to do it. Anyway, why cover all this ground? Because I don't think it's possible to be as gracious and helpful and friendly as a martyring self-destructing guy. Overwhelmingly, the most gracious people I know are comfortable receiving as well as giving.."
- "Keep in mind you're going to die. It puts things into perspective. Mild discomfort? Who cares, you're going to fucking DIE at some point. DO SOME COOL STUFF BEFORE THAT HAPPENS. As far as I know, you get one bite at the apple that is life. Embarrassment? Dude, eternity stretches before and after us. Embarrassment is your neurochemistry in a mildly uncomfortable position. It doesn't matter at all. None of us are such a big deal that we can't be embarrassed."
On oblivious people:
- "You can plan around lack of skill or ability in many areas, or avoid those areas and key in on virtues. Really, I think there's room in the world for people of people of all smarts and lack-of-smarts. Intelligence is overrated, and there's a dozen or so traits I'd look for before intelligence in someone in my life. Stupid people aren't a problem. Oblivious people, though? Oh, they break all kinds of shit. Oblivious people are a big, big problem. We gotta watch out for them."
On Guiding Structure:
- "A lot of people give up. You can reduce the chances of this by making the environment more supportive of your success, getting emotional support, and the old fashioned "burn your boats behind you." Costs: I think if you've clearly identified the payoffs, it shouldn't be too tough, but the road can get weary at times. Persistence can be hard and tiring. The most expensive cost is doing the right thing when you need to, but you're not in the mood to do so."
- "The question is, were you spending your life right, doing all the best things you could, searching out the most meaningful things, taking the best courses of action, training yourself, building your talent, spending your time well, serving people, appreciating life? If you were, it's no shame to go when you go. The bell rings for all of us at some time."
On finding your passion:
- "Your interests flit around to different stuff? Yeah, me too. But more and more, I'm looking to build/produce/ship things when I have a passing interest. Obviously you can't do that for everything, sometimes you can just be a consumer and be happy with that. But if you have a sincere interest, then why not try to write an analysis or critique or user guide or quick-start manual or observations or ... something? Producing, shipping ... it's cool. I think it's basically the way for people whose interests jump around to achieve lots of good stuff in the world."
- "If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of stuff. If you want to make a lot of stuff, you'll make a lot of crap. If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of crap. And my personal opinion here: And that's okay, because you get judged by your best work, not your bad work."
Is your perspective on kids founded mostly on not breaking the "chain of struggle" with the added bonus of having someone to take over the dynasty? Obviously there are a thousand other variables at play, but would those be the biggest players in your decision?
The part of me that wants kids is curious to meet them and learn who they would become. But the data says I'd be less happy. I'm not concerned with breaking the chain because (lack of) population is no longer a problem we face as a species. So I don't feel duty-bound and I am a data guy...so for now, no kids.
Keep it up man!
I see such an obsession with happiness these days. It's sad.
There's different sorts of happiness, but the one people seem after the most is the lowest, saddest form of happiness - a pleasurable mix of biochemicals.
Do you know how cocaine works? It's what's known as a triple-reuptake inhibitor. It makes some of the happiness chemicals - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - cycle out of your brain more slowly, giving you wonderful feelings.
And - so what? You've got more happiness chemicals in your brain so you bliss out? How could anyone in their right mind think this is the meaning of life?
I try to do things that I find meaningful, ideally on the largest scale I can. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. I still need to get stronger in other areas, get more disciplined. But I'm working on it.
Seven years ago, I wrote a post called "How to Be Happy. Always." It's pretty poorly written, but starts off with an important concept-- we live in a society where happiness is the number one priority. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one really questions that, but maybe we should. Is happiness really the best goal we can come up with?
In the time that's elapsed between when I wrote that post and now, I've thought a lot about happiness, and I still think that maximizing it is a bad idea. But before I get into that, let's talk a little bit about what happiness is.
Happiness is an good state of mind. It allows you to be optimistic, to see the good in people, and to be productive. On the other end of the spectrum, when you're very unhappy, you have a lot of barriers between things like productivity and socialization. Clearly, being happy is much better than being unhappy. It's important to be happy. Is there such a thing as being too happy? I don't think so. I've never seen someone make a mistake because he was just too happy.
So what's my problem with maximizing happiness, then? Well, it's the method, mostly.