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
A few of my friends - three friends, to be exact - mentioned to me that I write a heck of a lot on here and they're impressed. I have convinced the ultra-smart Sami Baqai to start blogging, and he just got the holy-shit-this-is-hard-I'm-overwhelmed feeling. Ah, yes, I have been there Sami. Perhaps I can share some thoughts.
First and foremost, I am a huge devotee of the Equal-Odds Rule. As far as I know, I'm the only person talking about it outside of academia. This Amazon review covers it pretty well:
The equal-odds rule says that the average publication of any particular scientist does not have any statistically different chance of having more of an impact than any other scientist's average publication. In other words, those scientists who create publications with the most impact, also create publications with the least impact, and when great publications that make a huge impact are created, it is just a result of "trying" enough times. This is an indication that chance plays a larger role in scientific creativity than previously theorized.
So I read that, and I'm like - whoa. You know Neo in the Matrix? Whoa.
If you want to make excellent stuff, you need to make a lot of stuff.
This time last year I was writing an article a day, and kept it up for 4 months before I let it fade away. But I was writing on one topic, and targeting a specific audience. I couldn't sustain it. This year, I'm doing it again. I seem to be writing an article a day - or more - and I'm writing on multiple topics, and I'm writing for me.
I'm not targeting a specific audience, I'm just writing what I feel like writing, when I feel like writing it.
Right now I'm in the toilet. Hey, some people read books, I just happen to be writing.
Don't worry, I'll wash my hands.
This feels a lot more comfortable for me. The writing, I mean.