I'm really lucky to have the friends I have. (Well, luck doesn't exist, but I'm very... blessed/fortunate/something...)
My friend Brendon and I correspond pretty regularly, keep each other on track with goals/projects, share ideas, share science papers/books. He taught me how to play Go and how to sysadmin a Linux box, and we've had lots of great chats about business, philosophy, martial arts, combat, science, learning, winning, lots of stuff. I told him my book is almost done and though isn't imperfect in some ways, it's close enough, I'm going to finish it up, and that'll free me to work on my next book, on art, on business and entrepreneurship, etc. I could re-write this sucker 3 or 4 times over the next 10 years and it'd get better each time, or I could write a book or two per year and each book I'd improve in skill. I'm going the latter route.
Still, I'm nervous and uneasy over this to some extent, actually to a very large extent, and I'm not too shy to say that. Bren wrote this to me in an email:
Incredibly exciting. Given your commitment to keep writing, I think pushing it out is a great move. The victory of achieving that will be tremendously inspiring, and you can start to get your ideas in front of people to see how they react with no further delay. Enjoy the push across the finish line. You're a great man with a great mind full of great ideas. You will do great good, which will be greatly rewarded, as greatness is all too rare a gift in this world. You will achieve great scorn, which will be promptly forgotten, as there are far too many things for a Hater to Hate in this world.
First, man, I'm so fortunate to have such great friends. Thanks, man. Intellectually I understand most of what you write, but doing it in the real world is something else entirely. Thank you for the encouragement, you couldn't possibly know how valuable it is to me and how even a few words like that help make me stronger and keep me going
Second, I don't think I'm a particularly great man. I hear this kind of shit from people all the time. I don't think people realize what's possible yet - look, you've got the whole world full of information available to you. You've got summaries of every era of history, every notable inventor, every science paper, every kind of music - all of it available for free at your fingertips. Do you know about Sengoku, Japan, and why Ieyasu won where Nobunaga and Hideyoshi didn't? Do you know how the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, why Mark Anthony and Augustus fell out, and how Augustus defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra's forces? How come America became America, whereas the French Revolution became a bloodbath and led to Napoleon? Do you listen to classical music? You can watch Karajan conduct Dvorak's ninth symphony for free on Youtube, it's really nice. Check out some Beethoven while you're there.
I hear this great man shit from people. I don't know, man. Bren, you've got as much natural ability as I do. Probably more. You're smarter than me, definitely, more noble than me, yes, more consistent than me, yes. More wise, healthier. You're taller and better looking than me, which ain't that important, but it helps. You're a good person and people like you, damn near everyone that knows you likes you. Nobody dislikes you. Some people dislike me man, nobody dislikes you. You're as good at explaining things and teaching as me, probably better, because you're more patient and empathetic.
Who am I? I'm nobody. I'll probably become the greatest strategist of our generation, make great works of art, write books, found a virtuous dynasty, sponsor artists and scientists and engineers, build schools and hospitals and universities, improve and serve good governments, serve law enforcement and military and other guardians of society, perhaps liberate some people from tyranny... I don't know, I'll do those things, but why aren't you? Who am I? I'm fucking nobody. I'm just trying.
Don't get me wrong. It sucks. It's hard. It's really, really hard sometimes. It's neurosis inducing sometime. I hate to lose as much as anyone, and I've lost a lot. I push myself to the edge of what I think I can handle, and sometimes I lose and get beaten down. I broke my hand training in fencing, I broke my teeth on separate occasions, I broke my ribs racing an ATV down a canyon, taking a turn too hard and rolling it. Yeah, it sucks. I don't like it. But it's not such a big deal.
Have you been poor? I've been poor. Like, no money at all and "damn them, I'll take nothing from them" poor. I've been there. It's okay. It's not much worse than having a normal middle class life. You do it, you survive. Take some risks. Try. Please, please try. I'm not great. I devote myself to great causes. I try. Oh, it's hard. Don't get me wrong. Broken hand, broken ribs, broken teeth, failures and disappointments, long nights burning midnight oil trying to turn ideas into reality. But - why not do this? What else is life? Drinking a beer, or a glass of champagne, or watching television? I've drank the best beer in the world, I always liked the Trappist beers myself - Chimay, Duvel, and Dubbel. I smoked the best marijuana and hashish in Amsterdam. Television? Sure, I've watched plasma TV. It's great. But it's nothing like producing. Creating. Oh, it sucks. It's hard. You'll go crazy a little bit. But I promise it's worth it. Nothing else compares. You could do it if you try. Why not try?
Do you think that "greatness" is the domain of "great people"? Look, when General Washington had to go to the bathroom, he pulled his pants off and took a shit. So did Tokugawa Ieyasu and Miyamoto Musashi. So did Cosimo Medici. So did Meyer Rothschild. So did da Vinci. So did Jefferson and Franklin. So did Sejong and Zhuge Liang. So did Augustus and Marcus Aurelius and Aristotle and Socrates. All those guys got bitten by a mosquito from time to time and had to scratch the itch and were aggravated. Sometimes they'd be walking and step in a muddy puddle and they'd curse. What's the difference between them and us? Nothing. Except they tried.
Who am I? Nobody. If the bell doesn't ring too early, I'll write works of strategy, history, I'll found branches of science and make great works of art, I'll fund artists and researchers and engineers working on great projects, I'll be a visage of hell and misery to criminals, and I'll make myself into a warrior and guardian of society and support the law enforcement and military that keep us safe. Perhaps I'll serve in combat, or in governance. I don't know. I'll do something. What else is life, but doing things?
I'll have many children, and raise them to be strong and virtuous. Why not? I'll write books. Why not? Sit for an hour each day in the morning before anything else in front of paper or a word processor. Either type, or sit and don't type, but don't do anything else. A book will come from this. Want to write a great book? Free yourself to write a bad book first.
I've tried painting and making music. Why not? It's simple and inexpensive try. I've had a couple lessons on drawing. I study history - why don't you study history? It's all free to study, and it's fascinating. I train my mind and body. Why not? I'm friends with people like you Brendon, who are smarter than me, who are wiser than me, who help me and guide me forwards. You have as much talent as I do, probably more. I don't have so much talent. I just try. I'm not a great man. I'm just working on great things. We'll see how it pans out in the end.