I was going through some writings and and analysis of Aristotle's work recently and came across the most fascinating distinction - exoteric and esoteric knowledge.
There's a few different meanings of the words, but exoteric can mean "external / outside / knowledge that's easily ascertained by anyone" and esoteric can mean "internal / secretive / knowledge that's not easily ascertained."
One thing I've started doing in the last year that I've gotten a lot of gain from is trying to find writing by authors and people I respect that were written for a friendly audience.
There's a huge difference in the tone and content of friendly-audience writing (which can be more esoteric) and general-purpose writing (which is frequently exoteric).
Exoteric writing tends to be more sanitized, more generalized, more politically correct, laying out basic premises and assumptions more (instead of assuming skill/background on the part of the reader), and frequently aims to be less offensive.
Things written, said, or spoken for a friendly audience - potentially esoteric - can often cut to the heart of things and provide much more interesting and actionable things to do with it.
Often the greatest advantages come from esoteric writing and teaching - and again, I'll remind you I don't believe in mysticism of any sort, we're just talking about esoteric ways of doing normal daily life activities, or general expansion in arts/commerce/business/governance/law/etc.
So - a recommendation for you - look for esoteric writings. By definition, they're unlikely to be a NYT Bestseller or in the popular categories of Delicious or Amazon.com. But when you find something, it can be incredibly valuable.
Ray Dalio's "Principles" strikes me as a good first example of it. It was originally written internally for his organization, which is already vetted as smart and driven people. Therefore, it contains a lot of rawness and honesty that you wouldn't get in a mass market work which would be more PR-savvy.
Look for things like that. They're hard to find, but potentially worth a lot since they convey rare advantages most people don't have.
I differ from your opinion.
From my point of view the books you say are exoteric are bullshit.
The books you say are esoterric in fact are the true exoteric so called valuable.
The true esoteric book is one which isn't easily understood and gives you guides but you have to find the knowledge by yourself or in yourself. Such book is "Art of War" by Sun Tzu. \hint\It is said that it is intentionally incomplete.
Insightful post, Sebastian. I definitely need to read more esoteric books!
BTW it would be great if you could put a page on your blog with all your books recommendations.
@ David W: you should definitely have a look to Ray Dalio's "Principles". It's one of the best documents I've ever read. http://www.bwater.com/Uploads/FileManager/Principles/Bridgewater-Associates-Ray-Dalio-Principles.pdf
Today, we bring you a veteran creative producer -- learning from his father who was a television executive back when the few networks reigned supreme, Lee Schneider has intense insights from his career in journalism, writing, documentary production, and entrepreneurship. You can find him at his Digital Fundraising School, and he's doing a GiveGetWin deal focused on key insights for creative producers on making high-quality content, building an audience, and earning a living from your art and passion.
How To Build An Audience, insights from Lee Schneider as told to Sebastian Marshall
I started in words even though I was writing for picture. I was a newspaper reporter and writer for TV shows… on TV, I wrote the introductions, intros, and outros.
I wrote for a newspaper in Texas and for A&E. This started teaching me the relationship between words and pictures. I went to writing for local television and Good Morning America. I learned how to write fast and how to write in a big noisy room, and how to write for picture. This is a key thing, the relationship between pictures and words. They get stronger as they relate, words and pictures, and sounds.
That led me to working for news magazines like Dateline NBC and a magazine for Fox, Frontpage. I was producing stories in the 8-10 minute range, and telling a story in that range of time is a very different animal than telling a story in 20 seconds like you would for a news broadcast. That led to longer form stuff; after Dateline NBC, I did Biography for A&E and started my own company doing hour-long documentaries for the Learning Channel, History Channel, and others.
This is a monthly series that documents what I've consumed and, from music to movies and video games to books. It doesn't include everything I've consumed this month, but things that have made an impact or left an impression on me. This is for my own personal tracking, so if this doesn't interest you, feel free to move right along.
After my Kindle broke, I didn't read for months. Ryan Holiday's writings changed that dramatically. Once I had to buy books for school, I snatched up the opportunity to pick up some books that had been on my to-read list, which recently jumped from 10 or 20 books to 556 items as of today. (Buy me books?)
So here's what I've read over the course of August and September, a dramatic increase over the amount I'd read when I had to rely on a library:
I bought books waiting to be read, including Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Trial by Franz Kafka. I'm very excited to get to them, but I hope to finish Ben Franklin's Autobiography first. We're also reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in class, and I'll comment on that next month.
Quick Note About Book Series: I absolutely despise book series. I understand it's a way to get kids to read more, but it's a cheap way to extract more money out of an audience that can't afford it (I got $4-5 a week in allowance). The books are repetitive and waste precious space reminding the audience of certain constants, and if you don't have the creativity to put your series into one book--no matter the size, please stop publishing. I have stopped many series halfway because I simply outgrew them. And now I'll never know the endings...