“Subliminal” Quotes

I recently read “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” by Leonard Mlodinow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book and then read it.

“It can be difficult to distinguish willed, conscious behavior from that which is habitual or automatic.” (12)

“Research suggests that when it comes to understanding our feelings, we humans have an odd mix of low ability and high confidence.” (19)

“Research supports that “environmental factors” such as package design, package or portion size, and menu descriptions unconsciously influence us.” (20)

“Both direct, explicit aspects of life (the drink, in this case) and indirect implicit aspects (the price or brand) conspire to create our mental experience (the taste). The key word here is “create.” Our brains are not simply recording a taste or other experience, they are creating it.” (25)

“Deep concentration causes the energy consumption in your brain to go up by only about 1 percent. No matter what you are doing with your conscious mind, it is your unconscious that dominates your mental activity – and therefore uses up most of the energy consumed by the brain.” (35)

“Our unconscious doesn’t just interpret sensory data, it enhances it. It has to, because the dta our senses deliver is of rather poor quality and must be fixed up in order to be useful.” (46)

“When we are repeatedly asked to re-create a memory, we reinforce it each time, so that in a way we are remembering the memory, not the event.” (66)

“If your child’s fantasy is a ride in a hot air balloon, research has shown that it is possible to supply that memory with none of the expense or bother of arranging the actual experience.” (75)

“As humans, we are so prone to false memories that you can sometimes induce one simply by casually telling a person about an incident that didn’t really happen. Over time, that person may “remember” the incident but forget the source of that memory. As a result, he or she will confuse the imagnied event with his or her actual past.” (76)

“Whether or not we wish to, we communicate our expectations to others, and they often respond by fulfilling those expectations.” (113)

“Labeling children as gifted had proved to be a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.” (114)

“It stands to reason that one can also adjust the impression one makes by consciously looking at or away from a conversational partner.” (122)

“One of the major factors in social success, even at an early age, is a child’s sense of nonverbal cues.” (124)

“When asked to rate men they can hear but not see, women miraculously tend to agree: men with deeper voices are rated as more attractive.” (130)

“Speakers with higher-pitched voices were judged to be less truthful, less emphatic, less potent, and more nervous than speakers with lower-pitched voices. Also, slower-talking speakers were judged to be less truthful, less persuasive, and more passive than people who spoke more quickly.” (133)

“A little speedup will make you sound smarter and more convincing.” (133)

“If two speakers utter exactly the same words but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent. Expressive speech, with modulation in pitch and volume and with a minimum of noticeable pauses, boosts credibility and enhances the impression of intelligence.” (133)

“Though your evaluation of another person may feel rational and deliberate, it is heavily informed by automatic, unconscious processes.” (156)

“Desire for food and water is the strongest ideology.” (164)

“Your in-group identity influences the way you judge people, but it also influences the way you feel about yourself, the way you behave, and sometimes even your performance.” (170)

“We are highly invested in feeling different from one another – and superior – no matter how flimsy the grounds for our sense of superiority, and no matter how self-sabotaging that may end up being.” (174)

“Emotions, in today’s neo-Jamesian view, are like perceptions and memories – they are reconstructed from the data at hand.” (182)

“When nerve cells send a signal to the pain centers of your brain, your experience of pain can vary even if those signals don’t.” (182)

“An isolated pratfall such as the coffee-spilling incident tends to increase the likability of a generally competent-seeming person, and the anticipation of meeting an individual tends to improve your assessment of that individual’s personality.” (194)

“The “causal arrow” in human thought processes consistently tends to point from belief to evidence, not vice versa.” (201)

“Our unconscious can choose from an entire smorgasbord of interpretations to feed our conscious mind. In the end we feel we are chewing on the facts, though we’ve actually been chomping on a preferred conclusion.” (203)

“They show that when assessing emotionally relevant data, our brains automatically include our wants and dreams and desires. Our internal computations, which we believe to be objective, are not really the computations that a detached computer would make but, rather, are implicitly colored by who we are and what we are after.” (206)

“The subtlety of our reasoning mechanisms allows us to maintain our illusions of objectivity even while viewing the world through a biased lens.” (214)

“We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers, and spouses not just because of the way we perceive them but because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose to believe.” (218)

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“Elastic” Quotes

I recently read “Elastic: Flexible Thinking In A Time of Change” by Leonard Mlodinow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“The rational, risk-avoiding part of a person’s brain doesn’t fully develop until about the age of twenty-five.” (27)

Logical thought can determine how to drive from your home to the grocer most efficiently, but it’s elastic thought that gave us the automobile.” (42)

For most situations, those who accept options that are good enough, rather than feeling compelled to find the optimal one, tend to be more satisfied with their choices and, in general, happier and less stressed individuals.” (56)

“Many recent studies in social psychology suggest ath monetizing creative output can disrupt the processes that lead to innovation.” (63)

“Offering an extrinsic reward for an intrinsically enjoyable behavior can be counterproductive. Difficulty in original thinking arises, says psychologist Teresa Amabile, when you “try for the wrong reasons.” (63)

“Women’s desirability ratings of the creative but poor men were strongly correlated with their degree of fertility, while fertility had no effect on their rating of the non-imaginative but rich men.” (64)

“When their fertility was high, 92 percent of the women chose artistic ability over wealth, but when it was low, only 55 percent did so.” (64)

“Cramond decided to administer what was essentially a test of elastic thinking to children diagnosed with ADHD and, conversely, to administer a test for ADHD to a group of children in a “scholars’ program.” She found astonishing overlap.” (65)

“When an ADHD brain comes upon a task it finds truly interesting – that is, a task that briskly stimulates the reward circuits – it obsesses over it and becomes hyper focused.” (66)

“I sometimes engage in a little mental flexibility exercise. I list some of my strongly held beliefs on slips of paper. I fold them, pick one, and imagine someone telling me that the belief written on it is false.” (94)

“Poet Friedrich Ruckert:
Each man faces an image
OF what he is meant to become.
As long as he does not achieve it
He cannot achieve his full measure of peace.” (116)

“If the act of walking or running can free your mind, so can taking a few minutes in the morning after you wake up to simply lie in bed. Don’t think about your schedule that day or ponder your to-do list but, rather, take advantage of your quiet state to stare at the ceiling, enjoy the comfort of your bed, and relax a little before popping up to face the world.” (126)

“When you reach an impasse, you may feel frustrated and be tempted to give up, but that is precisely the moment when, if you keep struggling, your ACC may kick into action and your most original ideas can being to surface.” (145)

“Research shows that sitting in a darkened room, or closing your eyes, can widen your perspective; so can expansive surroundings, even high ceilings. Low ceilings, narrow corridors, and windowless offices have the opposite effect.” (149)

“If you are striving for insight, interruptions are deadly. A short phone call, email, or text message can redirect your attention and thoughts, and once you are there, it can take a long while to get back.” (149)

“In life, once on a path, we tend to follow it, for better or worse. What’s sad is that if it’s the latter, we often accept it anyway – not because we’re afraid of change, but because by then we are so accustomed to the way things are that we don’t even recognize that they could be different.” (156)

“Scientists enlisted 119 patients in geriatric nursing homes. Their subjects had been taking an average of seven medications each day. With careful monitoring, the researchers discontinued about half the medicines. No patients died or suffered serious side effects from stopping the drugs, and almost all reported an improvement in health. Most important, the death rate among those in the study was far lower than that of a control group whose members had continued their medications.” (160)

“What we know can put a constraint on the possibilities we can imagine.” (168)

“Our conscious brains can process about forty to sixty bits per second, roughly the information content of a short sentence. Our unconscious has a much greater capacity. Your visual system, for example, can handle about ten million bits per second. As a result, your primary visual cortex can pass only a small fraction of that to your conscious mind.” (173)

“To have original thoughts, you have to let the ideas flow first and worry about their quality (or appropriateness) later. (183)

“The value of an idea can be difficult to ascertain, for it is one of the ironies of science and the arts that the brilliant and the nutty are not always easily distinguished.” (183)

“Ursula K. Le Guin is often quoted as having said, “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” (187)

“Belief in the supernatural declines as children mature and their lateral prefrontal cortex becomes more fully developed; conversely, in old age, as the vigor of the lateral prefrontal cortex declines and cognitive inhibition decreases, belief in the supernatural increases.” (193)

“You could be better at generating imaginative ideas if you do that kind of thinking after working on a chore that involves a period of tedious, focused effort that strains your powers of concentration.” (209)

“The nuns who’d been the most positive lived about ten years longer than those who’d been the least.” (211)

“Because negative emotion creates an instant focus on some particular behavioral response, it narrows the scope of possibilities that your cognitive filters allow through. As a result, a bad mood discourages elastic thinking.” (212)

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“Skin In The Game” Quotes

I recently read “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

“Hammurabi’s best known injunction is as follows: “If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house – the builder shall be put to death.”” (17)

“The Golden Rule wants you to Treat others the way you would like them to treat you. The more robust Silver Rule says Do not treat others the way you would not like them to treat you. More robust? How? Why is the Silver Rule more robust?
First, it tells you to mind your own business and not decide what is “good” for others. We know with much more clarity what is bad than what is good.” (19)

“Rabbi Hillel the Elder drawing on Leviticus 19:18. “Do nothing to others which if done to you would cause you pain. This is the essence of morality.”” (19)

“Isocrates wrote, “Deal with weaker states as you think it appropriate for stronger states to deal with you.”” (20)

“Isocrates managed a rare dynamic version of the Golden Rule: “Conduct yourself toward your parents as you would have your children conduct themselves toward you.” … More effective, of course, is the reverse direction, to treat one’s children the way one wished to be treated by one’s parents.” (20)

“Yogi Berra said, “I go to other people’s funerals so they come to mine.”” (20)

“The general and the abstract tend to attract self righteous psychopaths.”) (21)

“The deep message of this book is the danger of universalism taken two or three steps too far – conflating the micro and the macro.” (21)

“Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living, unless there is a penalty for their advice.” (23)

“You do not want to win an argument. You want to win.” (24)

“What matters in life isn’t how frequently one is “right” about outcomes, but how much one makes when one is right. Being wrong, when it is not costly, doesn’t count – in a way that’s similar to trial-and-error mechanisms of research.” (25)

“Every single person I know who has chronically failed in business shares that mental block, the failure to realize that if something stupid works (and makes money), it cannot be stupid.” (26)

“Things designed by people without skin in the game tend to grow in complication (before their final collapse).” (29)

“As a Spartan mother tells her departing son: “With it or on it,” meaning either return with your shield or don’t come back alive (the custom was to carry the dead body flat on it); only cowards throw away their shields to run faster.” (33)

“There is actually an argument in favor of duels: they prevent conflicts from engaging broader sets of people, that is, wars, by confining the problem to those with direct skin in the game.” (33)

“This form of entrepreneurship (selling the company or going public) is the equivalent of bringing great-looking and marketable children into the world with the sole aim of selling them at age four.” (36)

“People fail to realize that the principal thing you can learn from a professor is how to be a professor.” (38)

“It may be cruel to cheat people of their profession. People want ot have their soul in the game.” (39)

“If you can’t put your soul into something, give it up and leave that stuff to someone else.” (42)

“Whenever the “we” becomes too large a club, things degrade, and each one starts fighting for his own interest.” (59)

“A saying by the brothers Geoff and Vince Graham summarizes the ludicrousness of scale-free political universalism.
I am, at the Fed level, libertarian;
At the state level, Republican;
At the local level, Democrat;
And at the family and friends level, a socialist.” (61)

“No amount of advertising will match the credibility of a genuine user.” (63)

“Legend has it that three high-ranking delegations (bishops, rabbis, and sheikhs) cae to make the sales pitch. The Khazar lords asked the Christians: if you were forced to choose between Judaism and Islam, which one would you pick? Judaism, they replied. Then the lords asked the Muslims: which of the two, Christianity or Judaism? Judaism, the Muslims said. Judaism it was; and the tribe converted.” (77)

“Roman pagans were initially tolerant of Christians, as the tradition was to share gods with other members of the empire. But they wondered why these Nazarenes didn’t want to give and take gods and offer that Jesus fellow to the Roman pantheon in exchange for some other gods. What, our gods aren’t good enough for them? But Christians were intolerant of Roman paganism. The “persecution” of the Christians had vastly more to do with the intolerance of the Christians for the pantheon of local gods than the reverse. What we read is history written by the Christian side, not the Greco-Roman one.” (81)

“The more brilliant one’s mind, and the higher one’s ability to handle nuances and ambiguity. Purely monotheistic religions such as Protestant Christianity, Salafi Islam, or fundamentalist atheism accommodate literalist and mediocre minds that cannot handle ambiguity.”” (82)

“An intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, it will eventually destroy our world. So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. Simply, they violate the Silver Rule. TI is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The west is currently in the process of committing suicide.” (84)

“Alexander said that it was preferable to have an army of sheep led by a lion than an army of lions led by a sheep.” (87)

“So far we have no fucking idea how the brain of the worm C. elegans works, which has around three hundred neurons. C. elegans was the first living unit to have its genes sequenced. Now consider that the human brain has about one hundred billion neurons, and that going from 300 to 301 neurons, because of the curse of dimensionality, may double the complexity. So the use of never here is appropriate.” (90)

“The dog boasts to the wolf all the contraptions of comfort and luxury he has, almost prompting the wolf to enlist. Until the wolf asks the dog about his collar and is terrified when he understands its use. “Of all your meals, I want nothing.” He ran away and is still running.
The question is: what would you like to be, a dog or a wolf?
The original Aramaic version had a wild ass, instead of a wolf, showing off his freedom. But the wild ass ends up eaten by the lion. Freedom entails risks – real skin the game. Freedom is never free.” (102)

“Whatever you do, just don’t be a dog claiming to be a wolf.” (103)

“What matters isn’t what the person has or doesn’t have; it is what he or she is afraid of losing.” (105)

“Cursing today is a status symbol, just as oligarchs in Moscow wear blue jeans at special events to signal their power.” (105)

“It is much easier to do business with the owner of the business than some employee who is likely to lose his job next year; likewise it is easier to trust the word of an autocrat than a fragile elected official.” (106)

“Jean de La Bruyere wrote that jealousy is to be found within the same art, talent, and condition.” (136)

“A good rule for society is to oblige those who start in public office to pledge never subsequently to earn from the private sector more than a set amount; the rest should go to the taxpayer. This will ensure sincerity in, literally, “service” – where employees are supposedly underpaid because of their emotional reward from serving society. It would prove that they are not in the public sector as an investment strategy.” (139)

“You can define a free person precisely as someone whose fate is not centrally or directly dependent on peer assessment.” (144)

“As an essayist, I am not judged by other writers, book editors, and book reviews, but by readers. Readers? Maybe, but wait a minute… not today’s readers. Only those of tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. So, my only real judge being time, it is the stability and robustness of the readership (that is, future readers) that counts.” (145)

“Being reviewed or assessed by others matters if and only if one is subjected to the judgement of future – not just present – others.” (145)

“Contemporary peers are valuable collaborators, not final judges.” (145)

“I learned to avoid honors and prizes partly because, given that they are awarded by the wrong judges, they are likely to hit you at the peak (you’d rather be ignore, or, better, disliked by the general media.)” (145)

“Showing off is reasonable; it is human. As long as the substance exceeds the showoff, you are fine.” (147)

“Consider the chief executive officers of corporations: they don’t just look the part, they even look the same. And, worse, when you listen to them talk, they sound the same, down to the same vocabulary and metaphors. But that’s their job: as I will keep reminding the reader, counter to the common belief, executives are different from entrepreneurs and are supposed to look like actors.” (156)

“What can be phrased and expressed in a clear narrative that convinces suckers will be a sucker trap.” (158)

“You can tell if a discipline is BS if the degree depends severly on the prestige of the school granting it.” (165)

“Journalists worry considerably more about the opinion of other journalists than the judgment of their readers. Compare this to a healthy system, say, that of restaurants. Restaurant owners worry about the opinion of their customers, not those of other restaurant owners, which keeps them in check and prevents the business from straying collectively away from its interests. Further, skin in the game creates diversity, not monoculture.” (181)

“If your private life conflicts with your intellectual opinion, it cancels your intellectual ideas, not your private life.” (185)

“Matthew 6:1-4, where the highest mitzvah is the one done secretly:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (186)

“Sticking up for truth when it is unpopular is far more of a virtue, because it costs you something – your reputation. If you are a journalist and act in a way that risks ostracism, you are virtuous. Some people only express their opinions as part of mob shaming, when it is safe to do so, and, in the bargain, think that they are displaying virtue. This is not virtue but vice, a mixture of bullying and cowardice.” (189)

“Reading a history book, without putting its events in perspective, offers a similar bias to reading an account of life in New York seen from an emergency room at Bellevue Hospital.” (195)

“Different people rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion,” nor do they realize it. For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law.” (199)

“For early Jews, religion was also tribal; for early Muslims, it was universal. For the Romans, religion was social events, rituals, and festivals.” (199)

“Religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and, to some extent Shiite Islam, evolved (or, rather, let their members evolve in developing a sophisticated society) precisely by moving away from the literal. The literal doesn’t leave any room for adaptation.” (202)

“Christians and Jews in practice were not too differentiated from other Semitic cult followers, and shared places of worship with one another.” (205)

“Priesthood was quite a lucrative position since in the pre-Christian, Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean, the offices of high priests were often auctioned off.” (206)

“Nobody in the Vatican seems to ever take chances by going first to the Lord, subsequently to the doctor, and, what is even more surprising, nobody seems to see a conflict with such inversion of the logical sequence.” (208)

“Most Christians, when it comes to central medical, ethical, and decision-making situations do not act any differently than atheists.” (210)

“Rationality resides in what you do, not in what you think or in what you “believe” (skin in the game), and rationality is about survival.” (210)

“It is therefore my opinion that religion exists to enforce tail risk management across generations, as its binary and unconditional rules are easy to teach and enforce. We have survived in spite of tail risks; our survival cannot be that random.” (217)

“If medicine is progressively improving your life expectancy, you need to be even more paranoid. Think dynamically. If you incur a tiny probability of ruin as a “one-off” risk, survive it, then do it again (another “one-off deal), you will eventually go bust with a probability of one hundred percent. Confusion arises because it may seem that if the “one-off” risk is reasonable, then an additional one is also reasonable. This can be quantified by recognizing that the probability of ruin approaches 1 as the number of exposures to individually small risks, say one in ten thousand, increases.” (227)

“One of the defects modern education and thinking introduces is the illusion that each one of us is a single unit. In fact, I’ve sampled niney people in seminars and asked them: “What’s the worst thing that can happen to you?” Eighty-eight people answered “my death.”
This can only be the worst-case situation for a psychopath. For after that, I asked those who deemed that their worst-case outcome was their own death: “Is your death plu sthat of your children, nephews, cousins, cats, dogs, parakeet, and hamster worse than just your death?” Invariably, yes. “Is your death plus your children, nephews, cousins (…) plus all of humanity worse than just your death?” Yes, of course. Then how can your death be the worst possible outcome/” (228)

“I have a finite shelf life, humanity should have an infinite duration.” (229)

“I am renewable, not humanity or the ecosystem.” (229)

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“Conspiracy” Quotes

I recently read “Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue” by Ryan Holiday. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“Privacy offers the space to be peculiar, to think for oneself and to live as one wishes.” (7)

“The economist Tyler Cowen once observed that at some point in the 1970s, Americans went from being the country that took literal moonshots to being the people who waited patiently in long lines for gasoline.” (32)

“”When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community,” future Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis wrote in the Harvard Law Review in 1890, in a piece which formed the basis for what we now know as the “right to privacy,” it “destroys at once robustness of thought and delicacy of feeling. No enthusiasm can flourish, no generous impulse can survive under its blighting influence.”” (33)

“The people who claim the moral high ground, who claim to be about freedom of choice, but who bully everyone who doesn’t choose their way of freedom.” (35)

“There is something popular with ambitious people called the “briefcase technique.” You don’t show up toa meeting with a few vague ideas, you have a full-fledged plan that you take out of your briefcase and hand to the person you are pitching. Even if nothing comes of this plan, the person on the other side is knocked over by your effort, so impressed by the unexpected certainty that they cannot help but see your usefulness to them.” (54)

“The professional son understands what every father wants – a progeny worth his time, someone to invest in, someone who can further his legacy. The professional father wants to see his greatness given a second body – a younger one, with more energy, with the benefit of his hard-won experiences.” (56)

“While it’s dangerous to conspire with people who have a lot to lose, you can’t conspire without someone who is afraid to bet on themselves, who isn’t willing ot take a big stake on something that very well could fail.” (63)

“The great strategist B.H. Liddell Hart would say that all great victories come along “the line of least resistance and the line of least expectation.”” (73)

“THiel’s investment strategy: with the right conditions, a little boldness will make much more progress than timidity will ever protect.” (79)

“When someone categorizes something evil, as Sherman did, as Peter and Mr. A repeatedly did, he implicitly gives himself permission to do what needs to be done to destroy it.” (88)

“Williams James knew that every man is “ready to be savage in some cause.” The distinction, he said, between good people and bad people is “the choice of the cause.”” (89)

“The essential trait of the successful man is not only perseverance but almost a perverse expectation of how difficult it is going to be. It is having redundancies on top of redundancies, so you can absorb the losses you eventually incur. One must not just steel one’s heart but also one’s spirit so that there is no such thing as an obstacle – just information. The earlier you spot and anticipate setbacks, the less demoralizing they will be. We want things to be easy. We want them to be clean. They rarely are.” (126)

“And so it is that even setbacks can contain opportunities within them, if conspirators are patient and resourceful enough.” (129)

“Everyone is a person who settles unless they demonstrate to you over time that they are not a person who wants to settle.” (144)

“Lawrence Freedman had said in Strategy that combining with others was an important strategic move, and so it was for the conspirators early on. The other side of his sentence is that “for the same reason, preventing others from doing the same can be valuable.” (169)

“The line attributed to the management guru Peter Drucker is that culture eats strategy. It’s a truism that applies as much to conspiracies as it does to business. It doesn’t matter how great your plan is, it doesn’t matter who your people are, if what binds them all together is weak or toxic, so, too, will be the outcome.” (179)

“Napoleon describes warfare in that simple way: Two armies are hurled at each other and both are thrown into confusion and disarray by the force of the collision. Victory is simple. It goes to whoever reassembles and redoubles first.” (206)

“Hope is rarely enough. Especially against an opponent who has come to be consumed by their cause, who can see and taste victory now, and will do everything they can to seal it.” (220)

“What matters is who does what needs to be done to finish.” (222)

“The great sin for a leader, Frederick the Great once observed, was not in being defeated but in being surprised.” (238)

“Machiavelli would say that a coup or a conspiracy can succeed only if the will of the people is on its side.” (241)

“Thiel had seen the opportunity where no one else had. He had taken it. Legally. And he had won. He had proven that “nothing you can do about it” is just what people who don’t want to do anything about it like to say to make themselves feel better about their inaction.” (247)

“Loss inherently makes the loser sympathetic. We can easily be made to feel bad for the person on the other side of a true catastrophe, even if just minutes before we thought they had it coming to them.” (255)

“Cunning and resources might win the war, but it’s the stories and the myths afterward that will determine who deserved to win it.” (258)

““There are worse things than being disliked,” the novelist Walker Percy once wrote, “it keeps one alive and alert.”” (275)

“We live in a country where the media would give literally billions of dollars of free publicity to a candidate they despised and were then shocked when the man ended up being elected.” (276)

“When everyone tells you you’re wrong and you turn out to be right, you learn a dangerous lesson: Never listen to warnings.” (282)

“We used to throw bombs, now we throw tantrums – or worse, tweets.” (290)

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“12 Rules for Life” Quotes

I recently read “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote To Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book.

“Telling people you’re virtuous isn’t a virtue, it’s self-promotion. Virtue signalling is not virtue. Virtue signalling is, quite possibly, our commonest vice.” (xx)

“The great stories of the past had more to do with developing character in the face of suffering than with happiness.” (xxvii)

“I couldn’t understand how belief systems could be so important to people that they were willing to risk the destruction of the world to protect them. I came to realize that shared belief systems made people intelligible tone another – and that the systems weren’t just about belief.
People who live by the same code are rendered mutually predictable to one another. They act in keeping with each other’s expectations and desires. They can cooperate. They can even compete peacefully, because everyone knows what to expect from everyone else. A shared belief system, partly psychological, partly acted out, simplifies everyone – in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others. Shared beliefs simplify the world, as well, because people who know what to expect from one another can act together to tame the world. There is perhaps nothing more important than the maintenance of this organization – this simplification. If it’s threatened, the great ship of state rocks.” (xxx)

“It isn’t precisely that people will fight for what they believe. They will fight, instead, to maintain the match between what they believe, what they expect, and what they desire.” (xxx)

“We have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centred cultures, partly to decrease the danger of group conflict. But we are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness, and that is no improvement at all.” (xxxii)

“Dominance hierarchies are older than trees.” (14)

“The part of our brain that keeps track of our position in the dominance hierarchy is therefore exceptionally ancient and fundamental. It is a master control system, modulating our perceptions, values, emotions, thoughts and actions. It powerfully affects every aspect of our Being, conscious and unconscious alike.” (15)

“It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.” (47)

“The capacity of women to shame men and render them self-conscious is still a primal force of nature.” (48)

“Christ’s archetypal death exists as an example of how to accept finitude, betrayal and tyranny heroically – how to walk with God despite the tragedy of self-conscious knowledge – and not as a directive to victimize ourselves in the services of others.” (59)

“Any idiot can choose a frame of time within which nothing matters. Talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick of the rational mind.” (87)

“What you aim at determines what you see.” (96)

“You might think, “I will make a different plan. I will try to want whatever it is that would make my life better – whatever that might be – and I will start working on it now. If that turns out to mean something other than chasing my boss’s job, I will accept that and I will move forward.”
Now you’re on a whole different kind of trajectory. Before, what was right, desirable, and worthy of pursuit was something narrow and concrete. But you became stuck there, tightly jammed and unhappy. So you let go. You make the necessary sacrifice, and allow a whole new world of possibility, hidden form you because fo your previous ambition, to reveal itself. And there’s a lot there. What would your life look like, if it were better. What would Life Itself look like? What does “better” even mean? You don’t know. ANd it doesn’t matter that you don’t know, exactly, right away, because you will start to slowly see what is “better,” once you have truly decided to want it.” (100)

“The classic liberal Western enlightenment objection to religious belief: obedience is not enough. But it’s at least a start (and we have forgotten this): You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored. You will not know what to target, and you won’t fly straight, even if you somehow get your aim right. And then you will conclude, “There is nothing to aim for.” And then you will be lost.” (102)

“Ask yourself habitually, “What could I do, that I would do, to make Life a little better?” (109)

“People often get basic psychological questions backwards. Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery. How is that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. We’re breakable and mortal. A million things can go wrong, in a million ways. We should be terrified out of our skulls at every second. But we’re not. The same can be said for depression, laziness and criminality.” (125)

“Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reasons for crying.” (128)

“The fundamental moral question is not how to shelter children completely from misadventure and failure, so they never experience any fear or pain, but how to maximize their learning so that useful knowledge may be gained with minimal cost.” (132)

“If society’s hierarchies are based only (or even primarily) on power, instead of the competence necessary to get important and difficult things done, it will be prone to collapse.”

“We have two general principles of discipline. The first: limit the rules. The second: Use the least force necessary to enforce those rules.
About the first principle, you might ask, “Limit the rules to what, exactly?” Here are some suggestions. Do not bite, kick or hit, except in self-defence. Do not torture and bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail. Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you. Learn to share, so other kids will play with you. Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something. Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence. Take care of your belongings, because you need to learn how and because you’re lucky to have them. Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun. Act so that other people are happy you’re around, so that people will want you around. A child who knows these rules will be welcome everywhere.” (137)

“What is minimum necessary force? This must be established experimentally, starting with the smallest possible intervention. Some children will be turned to stone by a glare. A verbal command will stop another. A thumb-cocked flick of the index finger on a small hand might be necessary for some.” (137)

“Parents have a duty to act as proxies for the real world – merciful proxies, caring proxies – but proxies, nonetheless. This obligation supersedes any responsibility to ensure happiness, foster creativity, or boost self-esteem. It is the primary duty of parents to make their children socially desirable. That will provide the child with opportunity, self-regard, and security. It’s more important even than fostering individual identity.” (143)

“If the world you are seeing is not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values. It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions. It’s time to let go. It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.” (170)

“No tree can grow to Heaven unless its roots reach down to Hell.” -Carl Jung (180)

“I came to understand, through the great George Orwell, that much of such thinking found its motivation in hatred of the rich and successful, instead of true regard for the poor. Besides, the socialists were more intrinsically capitalist than the capitalists. They believed just as strongly in money. They just thought that if different people had the money, the problems plaguing humanity would vanish.” (196)

“What can I not doubt? The reality of suffering. It brooks no arguments. Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape from its reality.” (197)

“If the worst sin is the torment of others, merely for the sake of the suffering produced – then the good is whatever is diametrically opposed to that. The good is whatever stops such things from happening.” (198)

“If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.” (212)

“The first of these rules is that the game is important. If it wasn’t important, you wouldn’t be playing it. Playing a game define sit as important. The second is that moves undertaken during the game are valid if they help you win. If you make a move and it isn’t helping you win, then, by definition, it’s a bad move. You need to try something different.” (213)

“All people serve their ambition. In that matter, there are no atheists. There are only people who know, and don’t know, what God they serve.” (225)

“Imagine: you go to engineering school, because that is what your parents desire – but it is not what you want. Working at cross-purposes to your own wishes, you will find yourself unmotivated, and failing. You will struggle to concentrate and discipline yourself, but it will not work. Your soul will reject the tyranny of your will.” (225)

“Memory is not a description of the objective past. Memory is a tool. Memory is the past’s guide to the future. If you remember that something bad happened, and you can figure out why, then you can try to avoid that bad thing happening again. That’s the purpose of memory. It’s not “to remember the past.” It’s to stop the same damn thing from happening over and over.” (239)

“Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world.” (241)

“Freud was a genius. You can tell that because people still hate him.” (243)

“Carl Rogers suggested that his readers conduct a short experiment when they next found themselves in a dispute: “Stop the discussion for a moment, and institute this rule: ‘Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the idea and feelings of the previous speaker accurately, and to that speaker’s satisfaction.’”” (246)

““This is what happened. This is why. This is what I have to do to avoid such things from now on.” That’s a successful memory. That’s the purpose of memory. You remember the past not so that it is “accurately recorded,” to say it again, but so that you are prepared for the future.” (247)

“People, including children, don’t seek to minimize risk. They seek to optimize it. They drive and walk and love and play so that they achieve what they desire, but they push themselves a bit at the same time, too, so they continue to develop. Thus if things are made too safe, people start to figure out ways to make them dangerous again.” (287)

“Of course, culture is an oppressive structure. It’s always been that way.” (302)

“In regard to oppression: Any hierarchy creates winners and losers. The winners are, of course, more likely to justify the hierarchy and the losers to criticize it. But (I) the collective pursuit of any valued goal produces a hierarchy (as some will be better and some worse at that pursuit no matter what it is) and (2) it is the pursuit of goals that in large part lends life its sustaining meaning. We experience almost all the emotions that make life deep and engaging as a consequence of moving successfully towards something deeply desired and valued. The price we pay for that involvement is the inevitable creation of hierarchies of success, while the inevitable consequence is difference in outcome. Absolute equality would therefore require the sacrifice of value itself – and then there would be nothing worth living for. We might instead note with gratitude that a complex, sophisticated culture allows for many games and many successful players, and that a well-structured culture allows the individuals that compose it to play adn to win, in many different fashions.” (303)

“We know from studies of adopted-out identical twins, that culture can produce a fifteen point (or one standard deviation) increase in IQ (roughly the difference between the average high school student and the average state college student) at the cost of a three-standard-deviation increase in wealth. What this means, approximately, is that two identical twins, separated at birth, will differ in IQ by fifteen points if the first twin is raised in a family that is poorer than 85 percent of families and the second is raised in a family richer than 95 percent of families.” (316)

“When softness and harmlessness become the only consciously acceptable virtues, then hardness and dominance will start to exert an unconscious fascination. Partly what this means for the future is that if men are pushed too hard to feminize, they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology.” (330)

“Set aside some time to talk and to think about the illness or other crisis and how it should be managed every day. Do not talk or think about it otherwise. If you do not limit its effect, you will become exhausted, and everything will spiral into the ground. This is not helpful. Conserve your strength. You’re in a war, not a battle, and a war is composed of many battles. You must stay functional through all of them. When worries associated with the crisis arise at other times, remind yourself that you will think them through, during the scheduled period. This usually works. The parts of your brain that generate anxiety are more interested in the fact that there is aplan than in the details of the plan. Don’t schedule your time to think in the evening or at night. Then you won’t be able to sleep. If you can’t sleep, then everything will go rapidly downhill.” (351)

“We became trapped in emotional, angry and anxious argument. We agreed that when such circumstances arose we would separate, briefly: she to one room, me to another… Alone, trying to calm down, we would each ask ourselves the same single question: What had we each done to contribute to the situation we were arguing about? However small, however distant… we had each made some error. Then we would reunite, and share the results of our questioning: Here’s how I was wrong…” (356)

“Always place your becoming above your current being. That means it is necessary to recognize and accept your insufficiency, so that it can be continually rectified.” (362)

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