Personal Bible: recent additions on procrastination, life metaphors, Buddhism, and the Power of Now

So I keep a personal bible, a word document to collect and organize my favorite writings and wisdom across just about every topic of interest, from world history to self improvement to tech startups. Just some of the authors included in it: Warren Buffett, Jack Ma, JK Rowling, Rainer Rilke, even a passage from the Bible itself.

Every few months, I add new stuff to the personal bible and remove or prune old stuff. Below is a collection of what I’ve added in this most recent update.

Here’s more on the concept.

Here’s a past update.

Everyone can create such a document for themselves. Like the Christian Bible, it can become a reliable source of strength and support for you, serving as a crutch through hard times, or as a simple daily reminder of what’s wonderful and wise in life.

You can modify or improve on mine if you like. Here’s the PDF download.

All notes below are copied verbatim from the original text, unless otherwise noted.

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Howard Stevenson on why juggling is a better metaphor for life than balancing

I think it’s about juggling. The juggling metaphor is a lot more apt. One of the things about juggling is that you’ve got to keep your eye on all the balls. A second thing about juggling is each time you touch something you have to give it energy. You’ve got to throw it up in the air so that it takes care of itself while you’re working on the others. You’ve also got to throw the balls thoughtfully and carefully. That requires a lot of practice. The third thing about juggling, though, is you’ve got to catch the falling ball. The most important ball is the one that’s about to hit the ground.

PG’s Life is Short

Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short.

Your instinct when attacked is to defend yourself. But like a lot of instincts, this one wasn’t designed for the world we now live in. Counterintuitive as it feels, it’s better most of the time not to defend yourself. Otherwise these people are literally taking your life.

PG on Procrastination

That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators. They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.

Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions: What are the most important problems in your field? Are you working on one of them? Why not?

I think the way to “solve” the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you.

Highlights from The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson

the most important causes of change are…in the hidden factors that alter the boundaries where power is exercised.

Most democracies run chronic deficits. This is a fiscal policy characteristic of control by employees. Governments seem notably resistant to reducing the costs of their operations.

Governments have never established stable monopolies of coercion over the open sea…This is a matter of the utmost importance in understanding how the organization of violence and protection will evolve as the economy migrates into cyberspace, which has no physical existence at all.

Bethke Elshtain observed, nationstates indoctrinate citizens more for sacrifice than aggression: “The young man goes to war not so much to kill as to die, to forfeit his particular body for that of the large body, the body politic.”

The average psychotherapist probably gives the patient less good moral advice on how to lead his life than the average Jew would have received from his teacher in the period of Moses.

Highlights from What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula

What we call a ‘being’, or an ‘individual’, is only a convenient name or a label given to the combination of [the Five Aggregates]. They are all impermanent, all constantly changing. ‘Whatever is impermanent is dukkha’

According to Buddhism for a man to be perfect there are two qualities that he should develop equally: compassion on one side, and wisdom on the other.

The moment you think ‘I am doing this’, you become self-conscious, and then you do not live in the action, but you live in the idea ‘I am’

It may be agreeable for certain people to live a retired life in a quiet place away from noise and disturbance. But it is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism living among your fellow beings, helping them and being of service to them.

‘Ever mindful he breathes in, and ever mindful he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows “I am breathing in a long breath”; breathing out a long breath, he knows “I am breathing out a long breath”; breathing in a short breath, he knows “I am breathing in a short breath”; breathing out a short breath, he knows “I am breathing out a short breath”.

He whose senses are mastered like horses well under the charioteer’s control, he who is purged of pride, free from passions, such a steadfast one even the gods envy.

Highlights from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.

Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now. As you become more deeply aware of this one step, you realize that it already contains within itself all the other steps as well as the destination.

You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation.

The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.

God is Being itself, not a being.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

22 highlights from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: “Most people are in love with their particular life drama”

The Power of Now was for me a slow book. I limited myself to reading just a few pages, say 5 or 10, each time I picked it up, even though the writing has an easy flow and Eckhart’s signature clear voice.

So it took many months to finish, but I’m glad I did. Its messages are timeless and deep yet practical, as I hope the snippets below will show. I felt like the book should be approached more like my personal bible, or like any healhty daily habit – something you do a little of each day because it’s good for you, but not something you want to do too much of for exactly the same reason. Like exercise. And prayer.

Other books that have had this kind of impact on my life include The Power of Habit (hmm, sensing a pattern in titles…), So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and The War of Art (see the books here).

I look forward to reading more of his work; The New Earth is already loaded on my iPad Kindle app.

Everyone can learn something from Eckhart, despite the easy criticism that is often leveled at messengers like him. I would put Alain de Botton and David Brooks into the same broad category.

His blend of modern faith, selected wisdom from mainstream traditions like Christianity and Buddhism, simple writing style, calm demeanor, and deep advice make him a potent messenger, and I am a fan.

If you read just one quote from below and try to remember it fully, simply this:

Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.

Enjoy!

Highlights from The Power of Now

Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.

Thought alone, when it is no longer connected with the much vaster realm of consciousness, quickly becomes barren, insane, destructive.

Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body.

…the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.

Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.

Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now. As you become more deeply aware of this one step, you realize that it already contains within itself all the other steps as well as the destination.

Already for most humans, the only respite they find from their own minds is to occasionally revert to a level of consciousness below thought. Everyone does that every night during sleep. But this also happens to some extent through sex, alcohol, and other drugs that suppress excessive mind activity. If it weren’t for alcohol, tranquilizers, antidepressants, as well as the illegal drugs, which are all consumed in vast quantities, the insanity of the human mind would become even more glaringly obvious than it is already.

Silence is an even more potent carrier of presence, so when you read this or listen to me speak, be aware of the silence between and underneath the words. Be aware of the gaps.

All spiritual teachings originate from the same Source. In that sense, there is and always has been only one master, who manifests in many different forms.

You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation.

The root of this physical urge is a spiritual one: the longing for an end to duality, a return to the state of wholeness. Sexual union is the closest you can get to this state on the physical level. This is why it is the most deeply satisfying experience the physical realm can offer.

You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next. True love has no opposite. If your “love” has an opposite, then it is not love but a strong ego-need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need that the other person temporarily meets.

First you stop judging yourself; then you stop judging your partner. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.

As a general rule, the major obstacle for men tends to be the thinking mind, and the major obstacle for women the pain-body

“Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?” This was written 2,000 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, one of those exceedingly rare humans who possessed worldly power as well as wisdom.

Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their usually unsuccessful search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it.

The down cycle is absolutely essential for spiritual realization. You must have failed deeply on some level or experienced some deep loss or pain to be drawn to the spiritual dimension. Or perhaps your very success became empty and meaningless and so turned out to be failure. Failure lies concealed in every success, and success in every failure.

Many people never realize that there can be no “salvation” in anything they do, possess, or attain.

Taoism, there is a term called wu wei, which is usually translated as “actionless activity” or “sitting quietly doing nothing.” In ancient China, this was regarded as one of the highest achievements or virtues.

God is Being itself, not a being.

The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. Thats why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

New additions to the Personal Bible: Warren Buffett, Robert Greene, and a Hacker News comment

I created a Personal Bible for myself so I could re-read and re-re-read my favorite essays, poems, and passages of text. Below are new additions including a snippet from a Warren Buffett shareholder letter, a raw and honest comment on Hacker News, and some small snippets from other writers that I like.

Here’s my latest version as a PDF. Hope one day you can create one for yourself!

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Warren Buffett’s 1989 letter to shareholders
http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/1989.html

My most surprising discovery: the overwhelming importance in business of an unseen force that we might call ‘the institutional imperative.’ […] I thought that decent, intelligent, and experienced managers would automatically make rational business decisions. But I learned over time that isn’t so. Instead, rationality frequently wilts when the institutional imperative comes into play.

For example: (1) As if governed by Newton’s First Law of Motion, an institution will resist any change in its current direction; (2) Just as work expands to fill available time, corporate projects or acquisitions will materialize to soak up available funds; (3) Any business craving of the leader, however foolish, will be quickly supported by detailed rate-of-return and strategic studies prepared by his troops; and (4) The behavior of peer companies, whether they are expanding, acquiring, setting executive compensation or whatever, will be mindlessly imitated.

[…] After making some expensive mistakes because I ignored the power of the imperative, I have tried to organize and manage Berkshire in ways that minimize its influence. Furthermore, Charlie and I have attempted to concentrate our investments in companies that appear alert to the problem.

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I was the ambitious one, the one that strayed far from home, chasing the dream, getting caught up in the consumerism. I’m glad that by the age of 38 I have come to realize that I had everything that was important before I left. The remainder was a constant cycle of churn, want more, want bigger, want better, want newer, want more convenient. Except it’s hard when it’s being fed to you every day by every billboard, every sign, every menu, every advert, every press release, every news story, every TV show to differentiate between want and need. When you stop to analyze what you actually need – I mean really need: Clean air, clean water, shelter, nutrition, sanitation, family, community, companionship; how much of what you’re being sold every day is truly “needed” and how much of it is a want to fulfill some notion that has been sold to you by the media? – a Hacker News commenter

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David DeAngelo: Prove to yourself over and over that you can cope with rejection

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From Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power [Amazon]

Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness
When […] entering any kind of negotiation, go further than you planned. Ask for the moon and you will be surprised how often you get it.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

29 things I re-learned in 33 years

When I turned 29 I wrote this essay, a list of 29 lessons that were meaningful to me.

Now 4 years have passed and I’m 33, the age that Murakami calls “a kind of crossroads in life”. Because I don’t have the desire to write an entirely new essay of “33 things I learned in 33 years”, I settled instead for a review of the original essay.

Of the 29 items, here are the ones that still resonate:

1. You understand your parents better as you get older – still working on this one. It hasn’t gotten much easier…

2. Relationships are like cars – rings increasingly true. Relationships require continual care and maintenance. The more you put in, the more you get out, but you can’t use the expectation of “getting out” as your primary motivation for “putting in”

5. Never stop learning – the following may feel counterintuitive, but it’s even MORE important as we get older to stretch our intellectual and experiential boundaries. Take up surfing at 60, learn a new language at 47, start writing software at 35…

6. Make 5-year commitments – the exact number of years isn’t important, the long-term commitment is. Determine a priority, commit to it, and build a daily habit to support it. So for example if you want to become a good cook, it’s good to think about where you’d like to be as a chef in 5 years. And then find a reason and routine to cook every day

7. It’s never too late – “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today”

8. Conquer fear and you’ll be unstoppable – Scott Adams: “When you see a successful person who lacks a college education, you’re usually looking at someone with an unusual lack of fear.”

11. Re-think, re-do, and re-learn what’s important. And again. And again. And again – this gets back to my concept of a Personal Bible and memorizing wisdom (usually in the form of quotes) by using Anki cards. Those two practices have given me much, although they have also doled out equal amounts of frustration and annoyance. Consuming new content is perhaps 90% of my content consumption bandwidth. Ideally it would be closer to 60%, or maybe even 50%

12. In startups and relationships, pick the right market – there is a delicious juxtaposition between my many years spent in the stagnant world of book publishing and now investing in the explosive and world changing world of bitcoin and blockchain. Andy Rachleff’s observation still rings true, “When a lousy team meets a great market…”

14. Buy less stuff – yes please. The environment is always underestimated. When I’m in Shanghai, I want to buy things. In Taipei, less so. On a beach anywhere, even less so. Except maybe sunscreen

15. Break the rules – Nietzsche: “society tames the wolf into a dog and man is the most domesticated animal of all”

19. Own a word – this might be the most powerful thing you can do in marketing. Coin a word or phrase and you’ve laid the foundation for a lasting brand. From memes like Pepe the frog to slogans like Nike’s Just do it to concepts like Tim’s 4-hour anything

20. Don’t make exceptions – Clay Christensen: “It’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time”

23. We know nothing – the more we learn about anything, the less we know about everything

28. What do you think about in the shower? – this question is useful but not perfect, because during shower time, limited as it is, your mind will sometimes preference the urgent over the important

29. Write often and much – My goal is to write meaningfully for 2 hours every day. Most days I can reach that target, but only just. Momentum is important: if I hit the goal yesterday, than it’s easier today, and still easier tomorrow. But the opposite is equally true.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Daily Habits Checklist (March 20 – April 16): The value of a Personal Bible

Haven’t blogged much recently. Part of the reason is an increased focus on crypto research and investment and sending out weekly Bitcoin newsletters. Part of the reason is just a focus on longer forms of writing that I don’t feel are ready to publish…maybe that will change soon.

As habits go, a solid 4 weeks. The highest ROI per minute of time is still meditation. 10-15 minutes of silent zen meditation is enough to change how I feel for an entire day. My favorite habit and the one I’d hate to lose if it stopped remains the long daily outdoor runs. I’m flirting with the idea of training up to a half and then full Ironman if I can stop traveling so much.

Although my weekly habits goal is 80%, during the weeks when I reach or surpass it, I get this creeping sense that the habits are running me and not vice-versa. So that is something I’m paying attention to. Because habits should support goals and desires and work in partnership, and not always as a boss.

Finally I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the concept of a Personal Bible. I’m sure others have come up with very similar ideas. It’s just a collection of your favorite texts and quotes and poems and book excerpts whose wisdom you want to sink in deeply. I try to read from my own every night and it’s a tremendous source of insight and a solid mental anchor. You can even use my copy which I try to update monthly.

Abraham Lincoln’s principle for greatness can be adopted by nearly all. This was his rule: Whatsoever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind in to it and held it and held it all there until that was all done. – Russell Conwell in Acres of Diamonds

Why do I track and share this stuff? Click here.

Cheers! Happy habit-ing.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.