Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Books That Can Change Your World

Here is my list of 5 outstanding books that I think are so powerful they may just change the way you view the world. Each one of these books has something slightly different to offer, so read them all for a synergy that paints a complete picture of how to understand the world. 

Crash Proof is a common sense evaluation of the U.S. economy and personal investing. Schiff clearly explains the financial system in a very easy-to-follow way so that anyone can grasp the concepts. He writes about how the U.S. became the strongest economy in the world after WWII, what problems it currently faces, and how to preserve your wealth and make money. 

Schiff also does a wonderful job of explaining how to think of currency in terms of its purchasing power. He covers how to use the declining U.S. dollar, foreign stocks, and commodities like gold and silver to make money. 

The thing that drew me to the book was the fact that Schiff was on television predicting the housing bubble years before it happened. He has also been very accurate on the decline of the U.S. dollar and the explosion of commodity prices.

This book is a very contemporary read considering that it is over 200 years old. It is a rare glimpse into the life of arguably the most success person ever. It think people often forget how many inventions, institutions, techniques, quotes, etc. Franklin really contributed to society. This is a great book to help you understand how a great mind works. There are tons of little tips and tricks that can be used today, some of which I will cover at a later date.

When you ask a person that has been charismatic their whole life what it takes to be charming, often they cannot give you a good answer. I think this is because it is a natural skill that they've never really though much into the process of it all. The great thing about this book is how it follows author Neil Strauss as he turns from a shy loser into a charismatic pickup artist. 

The book details all of the secrets on how to sculpt the perfect image, and how to break the ice with anyone and get them to like you. There is lots of good advice here to help you develop your own style and become a social butterfly.

2. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

When I came up with the concept of the "Axioms of Success" I couldn't help but think of Robert Greene's Book. The book is jam-packed with what he defines as "48 Laws" to help you succeed in life. The great thing I like about Greene's writing style is that he uses lots of real world historical accounts to prove his points. There is one law that I believe is far stronger than the rest that I will cover in the future.

1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Every once in awhile I read a book that really turns my world upside down, and this folks was one of them! When I first saw that it was a self-help type book I looked up the reviews on Amazon to see what people were saying. It has an average 4.5 stars with over 1,100 reviews - very impressive.

Its pretty hard to even sum this book up, you just kinda have to read it. It lays out a very compelling case that you don't have to work your ass off until your 65 before you can enjoy life. Ferriss calls for "mini retirements" throughout life, and he even give great ways on how to break free from the system and become financially independent. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Axiom 2: Mauvaise Foi - How the Choices You Are Unaware of Can Change Your Life Most

"A man is what he wills himself to be." - Jean-Paul Sartre 

"I call a lie: wanting not to see something one does see, wanting not to see something as one sees it... The most common lie is the lie one tells to oneself; lying to other is relatively the exception." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Existentialists, for which I am one, believe in personal free will. The belief that you are free to choose and shape your own destiny. Mauvaise Foi, is a french existentialist term meaning "bad faith." It was a ground breaking concept Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about in the 1940s. Simply put, bad faith is when a person denies their free will. It is a process deeply rooted in self-deception.  

Here are some examples of how acting in bad faith works:

First, let us suppose Bill Gates decided not to drop out of Harvard to pursue computers. The hypothetical reasoning being that he would upset his parents, and that a successful career in computers would be nearly impossible without a college education. If he had then decided that he did not have the free choice to drop out of school he would have been acting in bad faith. He would have unconsciously limited his freedom. 

Secondly, let's consider Stephen Hawking's career in physics. His most amazing work was not done while he was healthy, but after he became paralyzed and diagnosed with three years left live. He could have easily acted in bad faith and stopped a career in physics on the grounds that his health would not allow it. But in doing so he would have denied his freedom to pursue physics in unconscious self deception.  

Lastly, let's look at Michael Jordan. He was cut from his high school basketball team. He could have acted in bad faith and quit, choosing to only play for recreation. He chose instead to practice harder and try for the team again, and the rest is history. He did not let adversity limit his freedom.

The examples above show that everyone has physical and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Do not allow these to limit your free-will. More importantly do not let your unconscious defeat you and limit your opportunities in life. If you continue to blame your lack of success on your parents, health, lack of money, location, looks, and so on, you are living in bad faith.

For better and for worse our lives are the sum of our decisions. The more we limit our options, the more we limit our freedom. 

It is time to wake up and realize as Sartre wrote, "We are condemned to be free."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Axiom 1: Tabula Rasa - A Good Starting Point to Any Philosophical Endeavor

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." - Socrates
"A wise man changes his mind, a fool never." - Spanish Proverb

Tabula Rasa is a Latin phrase meaning "blank slate." Philosophically the concept is most attributed to John Locke whereby he posited that all humans are born into this world free with no other preconditions other than being human. Therefore anything we learn is a result of our environment through sensory experiences.

It was that concept that really changed the way I chose to learn and view the world. In 2004, while attending graduate school, I had come to realize that a lot of my beliefs were completely unfounded in anything other than what other people told me to be true. Politics, religion, travel, food, education, and almost any other topic I could think of were at least partially rooted in the secondhand experience of others. Once I came to realize this I was of course horrified that my knowledge of this world was distorted - I had been looking at the world through a fun house mirror.

Think for a moment about some of the things you believe to be true. Let's take religion for example. Do you know about the Bible through actually reading it, or only through what someone else has told you about it? Do you know the historical context of religion through multiple sources? Have you read other religious works that you have strong opinions on, or do you simply adopt the beliefs that other people have given you?

The goal is not to turn this into a religious debate, the goal is to look at your life and determine what beliefs you've been clinging to all these years that are partially unfounded. This is where the concept of 'tabula rasa' comes into play.

The concept is simple: 

  1. Wipe away all preexisting beliefs. 
  2. Approach the subject as a blank slate.
  3. Use firsthand sources whenever possible, and secondhand sources with scrutiny.
  4. Always test beliefs with different and opposite opinions.
  5. Let the truth reveal itself.
If you follow this path in the pursuit of the truth, you will be more certain that when you reach a conclusion that you have reached the correct one. The foundation of your beliefs will be stronger than before, and you will have firsthand knowledge to back up your opinions. 

I encourage everyone to do a life audit at least once in their life and challenge everything that they have held to be true. It is this process of being open minded without predisposition that will help you learn from the axioms to follow. Without mastering this axiom, the rest will surely fail.