Books for people who want to toughen up

Life, in its natural course, will throw all kinds of shit on us. It doesn’t make sense to think otherwise. At best you’d be practising wishful thinking and at worst you’d be delusional. It’s almost a rule of nature. Some very smart and old and very smart and not so old people have been talking about this for some time now. For example here is what Jeff Bezos (the very smart, not so old one) said about this:

“Complaining is not a strategy. You have to work with the world as you find it, not as you would have it be.”

In short, don’t wish for bad things not to happen but be prepared for when they do. I am pretty sure this is not a sentence I came up with myself, in fact I am pretty sure it’s a quote from someone who is very old (or more likely dead) and very smart.

Another smart thing to generally aim for is not to make your own mistakes to learn but to learn from other people’s mistakes where possible. With that, I give you books for people who want to toughen up:

48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene

You can think of this book as a modern version of Machiavelli’s Prince. However the lessons in the book and the stories they are built up on are actually from real events in history which makes this book a fairly timeless read. It’s not an easy read. Not from a “there are long, weird sentences that make my brain hurt” perspective, more from a “is this is the type of shit people do to get ahead? do I need to do these things to survive?” perspective. Well, it’s your job do what you want with it but at the very least, this is a great read to open your eyes to how others operate to gain and hold power (in many instances at your expense). If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to deal with office politics but still working in one, do yourself a favour and read this.

The 48 Laws Of Power (The Robert Greene Collection) by [Greene, Robert]

Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

This is the original manual for evil geniuses. Written as a field guide for renaissance rulers to maintain power it has been a very controversial book since it was first written and hasn’t really lost its power to divide people. One group says, this is nasty stuff and highly manipulative, the other group kind of uses it to manipulate the people who are in the first group. Fun oversimplifications aside, I am in the camp of “the more I know the better”. Think of it as mental aikido. In other words, read this book so you are not easily manipulated. Similar to 48 Laws of Power. Just (much much) older. If you are a fan of the Lindy effect, you’d start with this book.

The Prince (Vintage Classics) by [Machiavelli, Niccolo]

The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday

Probably my favourite of this list (and of other lists). This is the book to read to get yourself into Stoicism and Stoicism, ultimately, is what you want to be into to deal with the ups and downs of life, survive and (maybe even) thrive. It’s a complete re-framing of what difficulties in life are meant to be. It brings some of the timeless thinking and writing from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and more to modern context. If you are in the midst of a crisis, problem, shitiness start with this book. It’ll give you a mental slap and put you back on track.

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by [Holiday, Ryan]

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