Thought Catalog

11 Important Life Lessons From Reading The Most Brilliant Minds Of All-Time

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11 Important Life Lessons From Reading The Most Brilliant Minds Of All-Time
Anthony Tran

Reading has changed my life. When I read, my mind is transported into a new world, able to see things from someone else’s perspective, gaining a glimpse of their mistakes and how they rectified them, their triumphs and how they did or didn’t let it go to their head, the love lost, the passion found, and how to find other great people to spend time with. I mean I truly have found a new life through reading great minds. Suddenly their way of thinking becomes mine, their entire life distilled into four-six hours for my benefit? I don’t see a better investment of my time anywhere else, and I like to glean everything I can from any book I read, so I use simple sticky-flags and underline what I like.

Two weeks later, I go and copy them onto notecards and label them under a category such as ‘life,’ ‘spirituality,’ ‘business,’ or whatever it fits under so I can revisit them later. Recently, I’ve been taking out 10 cards or so in the morning, writing down the quote, briefly explaining it to myself in written form to better understand it and apply it to my life. It’s been such a great practice, and really has helped me put to use all the hours of reading I do in practical application. Here are some of the best takeaways:

1. “In negotiation, he who cares the least wins.” – Tim Ferriss

An example would be when Arnold Schwarzenegger was starting out in the movies, he could turn down a lot of parts he didn’t want to take, because he had money previously from his real estate business and bodybuilding. He wasn’t going in as a broke actor who was forced into any role he was given because he cared the least. He only wanted the leading role parts in any film, because he knew he would get stuck as a background guy if he let producers make him into one.

In any area of your life whether it’s business, art, or some form of deal, if you can build your main source of income up elsewhere like Arnold did, you’ll always win because they care more than you do to ‘lose.” If you have a typical job, why not start something small you’re really interested in, so when the time comes to renegotiate your salary maybe that small-time hobby has now become a modest income where you have the choice to leave because you don’t like the way you’re being treated.

2. “If it’s a good review it will ruin my writing day, and if it’s a bad review, it will ruin my writing day. Either way, I intend to have a writing day.” – Joyce Carol Oates

If someone compliments us, our head inflates and we have this puffed up opinion about ourselves ruining our work for the day, adding this lens over what we create, causing us to think in terms of what would get us more compliments or reviews as opposed to what got us the reviews in the first place which is doing the work that we truly cared about. If we get a bad review, we start to question ourselves, our work, if we’re even good, and it demoralizes us to a point where we’re hesitating going forward, questioning our ideas at every step. Either way, good or bad, keep the feedback and reviews to a minimum with creative work. Just focus on the work and let people say what they may.

3. “You will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after our own.” – Emerson

Whether it’s our parents, spouses, friends, or critics, people will always suggest to us what we ‘should’ do, or should work on. But who knows us better than us? Well, only a person who spends time alone with his thoughts, feeling what he really feels, thinking what he really thinks can confidently tell the others who think they know what’s best for him. “No, I know what’s important to me, and I will stick with it regardless of the outside world’s opinion.”

Once you get there, and you forget about what your neighbor is doing on Facebook, or friends are doing on Snapchat you become more and more confident in the direction you’re taking because somewhere deep down, you know it’s not some contrived thought that has been placed in there from the crowd, because you haven’t been with the crowd. And when you create from deep down, creating what truly interests you and excites you without thinking of how it’ll be accepted, paradoxically that’s when it connects with an audience because we’re all strangely connected in a way I can’t fully articulate, but I feel as if we all hold these certain truths within us, as if they’re programmed in us, we feel the deep truth in our heart when someone spews their deep truth, it causes this intimate connection & bond between creator and consumer.

4. “It is in times of great security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with difficult times. In the midst of peace, the solider trains and prepares.” – Seneca

It’s when we least expect it that fortune strikes us down. When we’re succeeding is when we must ‘rehearse the worst’ as Seneca would say, whether that’s financially by wearing shitty ripped clothes (not the trendy ripped ones) but worn-out clothes you can buy for a dollar or so. Eating only beans out of a can and possibly some instant coffee. Walking to get around, not using our car. Whether that’s not using one of our arms at all for a few days, knowing that you could lose it at any moment, if it can happen, it can happen to you.

This may sound morbid and off-putting, but it’s actually uplifting for two reasons: you realize you can still be happy without your beautiful shiny things, sleeping on a floor with a can of beans in shitty clothes, without an arm or a leg or your sight or hearing. The main reason people get depressed when devastation strikes is because they weren’t expecting it, it was a surprise, but if we constantly rehearse that anything that can happen, can also happen to me, we protect ourselves against fortunes blows and we also add an entirely new meaning of the word “gratitude” when we realize just how damn lucky we are, and how blessed we are to have our health, somewhere warm to live, and food to eat no matter how scanty.

5. “So much of power is not what you do, but what you do not do–the rash and foolish actions that you refrain from before they get you into trouble.” -Robert Greene, 48 Laws of Power

Emotions can rule our lives. Before responding to someone, we need to continue to practice the art of taking a step back, no matter what, and letting ourselves cool down. No one is perfect and if we respond right away, we will make a foolish mistake. Always ask for a little while to think something over, or somehow get out of the situation when you find yourself getting emotional. Ask yourself, Will this stir up new enemies? Will this have unintended consequences? And make a decision based on reason, and in the heat of the moment emotion will always rein over reason. If you’re not with the person physically, take 24 hours before sending the email back. I’ve never said to myself “Wow, I wish I would’ve send that angry email earlier when I was upset” and by giving it a day for myself to cool down, I have always been able to get better results from people by approaching the situation in a new, calm, and reasoned light.

6. “Not what will pay the most, but what will teach the most?” – Ryan Holiday

Paradoxically choosing what will teach you the most instead of pay the most, will pay you more in the long run. When choosing higher pay, you’re just taking a paycheck with no potential upside in the future. When you’re learning new skills that can be applied to future endeavors in your life, you’re being paid to be educated as opposed to the countless students who spend $100,000 to be taught in a classroom without any pragmatic application to add value in real life (typically). When I evaluate spending my time on a new business idea or partnership, I’ll always turn down getting paid an extra $8,000 a month, to work with an intelligent billionaire scientist who I can learn 100x from which can then be applied to make $30,000 a month in the future with priceless transferable skills (and I’ve done this). Always work with or for someone who you admire, with humility sitting at his or her feet learning everything you can, this is the greatest income you could ever procure.

“7. Believe me it is better to understand the balance sheet of one’s own life than of the corn trade.” – Seneca

It baffles me when people will spend hours studying a topic each day, but take no time for meditation, philosophy, or just taking a long walk with themselves. What does it matter how much you know about business if you have no control over your emotions, not able to confront fear, and not able to prime your state with peace and happiness the majority of your day?

If you focus on learning about yourself, how to best handle your feelings, everything else will be better whether it’s your creativity, your business, your finances, it’s the foundation of all success in every area. Spend the most time developing this part of your life, and then use the remaining time to learn new specializations you’re interested in.

8. What was the turning point in your career? “Saving the first five-thousand dollars I ever had, when I might just as well have spent the moderate salary I made. Possession of that sum, gave me the ability to meet opportunities.” – Marshall Field

It’s easy to blow money on the short-term, but if we want to be able to meet the opportunities that arise in the future, we need to sacrifice the little short-term pleasures we get from carelessly spending the money we earn. We want to get out of earning paychecks, and earn real wealth that we create, so by sacrificing now and always thinking in the long-term inevitability our short-term gets better & better as we already made the initial sacrifice. It’s either that or you can have a modest pleasure for the entirety of your life without any big exponential gains. I prefer the former, making a small sacrifice now for a potential huge upside gain, this applies to time as well as money, you can have the small pleasure of getting drunk at a bar on the weekends, or by using that time to learn, to read, to create something new you can change your life indefinitely, no longer needing a substance to enjoy the life you’ve now handcrafted for yourself.

9. “Ill health is due to mans artificiality of living. He lives indoors. He becomes a hothouse plant; such a plant is never as successful as a hardy garden plant is. An outdoor life is necessary to health and success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

When’s the last time you’ve been out to play? In today’s society, we can’t connect with our primordial roots because we’re these caged robots plagued by constant low-level anxieties caused by incessant cell phone connection that we can never seem to escape, no matter where we go from the bathroom to our beds. I’m not saying technology isn’t beautiful, but just as a world without technology wouldn’t be as brilliant; a world plagued by it, infested in every corner of our lives isn’t beautiful.

We need quiet contemplative walks through the woods, maybe a small quiet garden to tend to, to get out fingernails a little dirty, chopping a little wood on a Sunday morning to heat our homes, and even going back to some hunting, so when you’re searing up a piece of bear or elk in your pan with some olive oil, you have this iridescent, indescribable primal satisfaction in you that you just can’t quite describe. I want that. Everything needs its time, needs its place, and we need to carve space for both ways of life.

10. “That is one reason why her neighbors all like her; she seems so unconscious of her wealth and station.” – Miss Helen Gould

How attractive is it when a beautiful woman or handsome man doesn’t act pompous and cocky like they own the place and they can have anyone they want? How attractive is it when a wealthy person can still live a normal life, not flooding their house with ONLY the best of the best, and constantly putting people down who don’t have as much? Almost seeming ‘unconscious’ of their wealth or qualities, it becomes intoxicating to be around.

So whether you’re beautiful, rich, talented, or anything that makes you stand out, by realizing you’re not some almighty being, of course there was work in getting there, but seeing that a lot of luck was at play do you not only make others look up to you, admiring your admirable composure, but you only continue to grow, for someone who is humble is the fastest to grow so you’re investing in more and more personal growth, while being a role model for others around you.

11. “I have no time for society and indeed I do not care for it at all, I must use my time wisely.” – Miss Helen Gould

Everyone is careful about their money, only spending it when it’s “truly worth it,” but how careless they are with a nonrenewable resource called time? People are constantly trying to take our time away through needless meetings, calls, texts, social notifications, emails, and if we don’t set parameters up to counterbalance these constant pushes, we’re doomed to failure. We need to set guidelines of when we do and don’t use our phone, where we bring our phone, what we will say yes to, schedule ‘pockets of stillness’ (Maria Popova), so when a request does come, or emails do come they’re not responded to by you with a feeling of overwhelm that you just must get them done! No, it’s on your terms because it’s YOUR time and to feel guilty about that is foolish, no one owns you, and by letting people spend your time for you, you let them own a piece of you because what are we without our time? Dust.

Protect your time, every day should be a clock ticking, there are even websites that will show you how many days you have left. I check it every morning and write the number on my wrist. Today is 22,929. Tomorrow is 22,928. Time isn’t stopping, so people greedily taking away my hours must. TC mark

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Poetry that will change you

This is for the women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. This — is for you.

“When Janne has a new poem written, I shut my life down to do nothing but read it, and then when I turn my life back on, everything is better.” — James Altucher

You’ve never read poetry like this before

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