Do you read quotes from time to time?
To read and interpret quotes from great (historic) people is a good practice for becoming smarter. In My Early Life, Winston Churchill wrote:
It also happens to be an efficient learning hack, because it gives you a brief overview of someone else’s ideology and makes you interested in studying that person more deeply. It’s a good start.
Oscar Wilde, known for his wit, wrote a lot of insightful things.
I’ve selected 13 quotes from him on 3 topics: women, public opinion, and life.
A woman wants a boyfriend, so she gets one. Once she has a boyfriend, she wants to make sure that no other woman can steal him from her.
So what does she do?
She makes him stay with her and forces him to watch Grey’s Anatomy and eat popcorn and candy.
Her boyfriend soon adds weight and loses his six pack. She tells him it’s cute, and calls it her “special cushion”. The boyfriend justifies it to his gym buddies by saying that women don’t care about abs anyway.
Then she prevents him from going out, so that his social skills worsen, and he stops flirting with other women. If she leaves him, he will be incapable of getting another woman.
The boyfriend has a smart business idea, but it would require him to spend all Friday and Saturday working on it. The woman nags him not to. All the couples she knows spend their weekends together; they should be no exception, she thinks!
Soon the boyfriend is not only chubby, but also demotivated. He becomes complacent and loses that “pep in his step”.
Eventually the boyfriend has lost all the charismatic parts of his personality that attracted the woman to him in the first place. She gets turned off and dumps him.
On Public Opinion
Some people, usually true fans and connoisseurs, are of the opinion that once something becomes popular enough to reach the mainstream, it becomes worthless.
I don’t think that such an opinion is very far from the truth.
Take music for example, Hip hop in particular. The concept of Hip hop has been slowly butchered since the 90s. It has become more of a business than an art form. Run DMC set the stage by incorporating Adidas shoes into their songs.
To witness this butchery, all you need to do is listen to an old song by Nas, Tupac, Pete Rock, or CL Smooth, and compare it to a recent one by Rick Ross or Lil Wayne.
The former have a clear ideological message, the latter I can’t even tell because I am too distracted by hearing about Reebok shoes, Ferrari Testarossas, and expensive strains of weed.
The majority of people are more wrapped up in maintaining their own self-image of being a “smart guy”, than actually putting in the work to become one.
It’s easier to play the part than to actually live it.
It’s easier to skip to the end than it is to go through the required practice.
People habitually watch the news, read gossip magazines, as well as the comic section and the horoscope section of the newspapers, but don’t read books on a daily basis.
Entertainment out prioritizes education in the mind of most people.
This is a great rule of thumb about the general public given any topic – not just art.
When something becomes “major news”, it is suddenly deemed remarkable by the mainstream. That’s when they rationalize it as worth memorizing. They don’t memorize it for educational purposes. They memorize this information to impress peers with their absurd trivia relating to current – meaningless – events.
One doesn’t have to be a mediocrity, but it certainly helps in building one’s image. The majority of the population is average, and average people don’t identify as easily with people who are above average.
If Tiger Woods appears on TV, the average people prefer to hear him speak about what he had for lunch yesterday – which of course is McDonalds, just like any of them – over hearing about his strategies for improving mental focus and work ethic.
For the same reasons, Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, never speaks about his incredible shrewdness in business, or his genius of switching back and forth between big picture thinking and detail-oriented thinking.
Instead he speaks about camaraderie, CSR effort, company culture, or his passion of consuming “snus” – a Swedish sort of tobacco. The general public loves him for it and calls him down-to-earth.
When he was younger, Kamprad portrayed himself quite differently: he wore flashy suits and drove a Porsche. Now he wears second-hand clothing and drives an old Volvo.
This speaks for itself.
You might interpret this quote that without contrasts you would be unable to tell things apart from each other: you need pain to appreciate pleasure, hunger to appreciate food, and work to appreciate leisure.
Here’s my interpretation: if you don’t work hard at something you’re passionate about, your life will suck.
If you’re not on the path to mastery your life lacks purpose.
Duty does not exist exclusively. It is only a social construct.
The concept of duty is useful to a manager, to the owner of a company, to the people who rule a country: “It’s your duty to fight for the country, have you no sense of patriotism?
Duty is a useful tool that makes it easier to align the employees or the citizens.
To look back and regret something, or wonder “what if?” is a waste of time. Who you are now is a direct result of what you have done before. Everything that has happened to you has been instrumental in the formation of your brain.
The thoughts you’re now having are – to a large extent – influenced by your current environment and your previous experiences. Priming is one example of this.
If you’re successful at something, it is likely because you learned from previous failures. Such failure is necessary in order to make any sort of progress.
Someone else can show you the way, but you must walk it yourself.
You can only learn – and understand something on a fundamental level – by engaging in consistent self-experimentation.
I never do that anyway, I’m very respectable.
Guilty as charged.