Book review: The Manual – A Philosopher’s Guide to Life

Book cover for The Manual: A Philospher's Guide to Life by Epictetus (modern translation by Sam Torode)

For most of my life, I had no interest in studying philosophy. Studying philosophy evoked images of college professors wearing corduroy jackets with elbow patches, smoking pipes, sitting around contemplating the meaning of life. The subject felt way too theoretical for me. I was always interested in the subjects of math and science where you were presented with problems and challenged to find the answers.

My attitude toward philosophy changed two years ago when I was encouraged to read The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman. Seeing how the writings of philosophers who lived 2,000 years ago were just as applicable today fascinated me. I learned a lot exploring each of the daily readings and was interested in learning more about Stoicism.

My interest has led me to start exploring more direct interpretations of the ancient philosophical writings of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca, and others. One of my first explorations was The Manual: A Philosopher’s Guide to Life, originally written by Epictetus. I read a translation that was compiled by Sam Torode, who also wrote a modern translation of the James Allen classic As a Man Thinketh.

Continue reading

Why I read science fiction

Imagine you could take your smartphone and go back in time fifty years. The year is 1970. You pass someone on the street and show them the piece of aluminum, plastic and glass in your hand. You proceed to explain to them that this device allows you to call or instantly message anyone in the world. It is connected to vast libraries of information, can provide directions, and provide answers to any questions you or they might have. It has a voice interface that allows you to talk to it and receive spoken answers.

Given the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey (the book and the film), which was released 2 years earlier, the person might assume you were showing them a movie prop. They would hardly believe that such a device would ever be possible, even though Stanley Kubrik and Arthur C. Clarke foreshadowed these and many other technical innovations in their breakthrough movie.

And therein lies the main reason science fiction has become one of my primary reading genres.

Continue reading

Book review: Abandon

Book cover for Abandon by Blake Crouch

One of my favorite authors is Blake Crouch. Ever since reading the Wayward Pines trilogy, I’ve made an effort to keep at least one or two Crouch novels in my reading list at all times. So far, I haven’t met a Crouch novel that I didn’t like.

Abandon was the latest book of his that I read. It’s written in classic Crouch style. He doesn’t waste anytime drawing you into the story. He builds the characters on the fly. There’s also a lot of time shifting, which is another characteristic of his writing. There’s also a lot that’s different, which I liked.

Continue reading

The NBA Draft Tournament

I’m not a huge fan of the NBA, but I have to give commissioner Adam Silver his due. He has been doing a good job shaking things up and looking for ways to make his on court product more interesting, more exciting and more relevant.

The shake-up of this year’s All-Star Game was a good start. Having the outcome benefit local charities gave the players more incentive and drew the crowd into the game. I also liked playing to a set score rather than time. It made the end of game a lot more fun to watch. It was certainly better than the free throw and timeout fest the end of every other closely contested game turns into. To show how captivating it was, even Lisa was hooked with Brad and me.

Another idea Silver is also looking at is mid-season tournaments similar to international soccer. I like the idea, although there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out. Brad and I were kicking around ideas the other night when an interesting thought occurred to me – scrapping the NBA draft lottery in favor of a draft tournament.

So if you’re listening Mr. Silver, hear me out.

Continue reading

Book review: The Bootstrapper’s Bible

Book cover for The Bootstrapper's Bible by Seth Godin

I would consider myself a follower of Seth Godin. I discovered his blog over 10 years ago and have been a daily reader ever since.

Seth has also written a lot of books on marketing and business, but I hadn’t read any of them. I might be changing my tune after recently reading The Bootstrapper’s Bible.

Continue reading

10 things I learned from a year of meditation

Having read about the benefits of meditation in numerous books, I took up the practice the beginning of last year. I wrote about my initial meditation experiences here.

I’ve kept up with and continued my meditation practice since that time. According to the Headspace meditation app which I use, I recently passed the mark of 365 straight days. The regular practice has revealed a lot about myself, my mind, and the world around me.

Here are 10 things that I’ve learned through the experience of meditation.

Continue reading

Book review: Flash Boys – A Wall Street Revolt

Book cover for Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

Modern crime has become a lot more sophisticated. Back in the day, as my grandfather liked to point out, Jesse James used a gun to rob people. Today, in the age of computers and the internet, people hide behind terminals and sophisticated algorithms that do their dirty work for them. It also allows them to steal on a much larger scale.

In Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, author Michael Lewis exposes how money was stolen from both sophisticated and average investors shortly after the economic collapse of 2008. That crimes were committed and money stolen is not all that shocking. Bad actors are everywhere, and Wall Street is no exception. What’s shocking is who the bad actors were in this case. They were the investment firms, trading firms, and big, household name banks that we trust to do the right thing with our money.

Continue reading

The Dark Side of Capitalism

Philosophically speaking, I favor capitalism over other economic systems. The free market is a beautiful thing. When operating as it should, consumers are free to choose the companies and people they want to do business with. Those entities that provide the most value to consumers are rewarded, and those that don’t go out of business.

I also favor smaller government, particularly at the federal level. When the government regulates marketplaces, they alter the playing field. Their actions can significantly disrupt a market and determine the winners, even when not intended. When this happens, consumers are usually the ones who lose.

Unfortunately, my philosophical views don’t always work out for the best. There is a dark side to capitalism. There are times when unchecked capitalism is not in the public interest. In extreme scenarios, it can bring harm to the public. It can concentrate wealth among the rich through the exploitation and transfer of wealth from the public domain.

Allow me to explain.

Continue reading

Book review: Man’s Search for Meaning

Book cover for Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frnakl

Imagine waking up tomorrow morning in your house or apartment. You are going about you’re morning routine – making coffee, eating breakfast, watching the morning news. There is an unexpected knock at your door. You answer and are greeted by group of uniformed men. They enter your house, uninvited. Two of them immediately bind your hands behind your back while the others gather the other members of your family – your spouse, your children, other family members living with you. You are led out to a truck without the opportunity to gather any of your personal effects. They put you and your family in the back, where you see other people you recognize from your neighborhood. You are led to a train station where you are separated from your family and placed into a crowded cattle car. The car is enclosed so you cannot tell where you are going. At your destination, you are shaved head to toe, sprayed down, and given rags for clothes. For the foreseeable future, your life involves limited food, limited sleep, and hours of forced manual labor. All of the modern amenities you enjoy have been taken away from you – no cell phone, no internet, no email, no social media, no television. You have no connection to the outside world. Your only connection is to the guards and other prisoners who are in your camp.

Sound far-fetched and unbelievable? It isn’t.

Such was the fate of many Jews across Western Europe during the Second World War. They were rounded up, removed from their normal every day lives, and taken as prisoners by the Germans. They were separated from their families, subject to inhumane living conditions, and forced into performing manual labor in support of the German war effort. Many of those who were taken prisoner were doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. They were hard-working, law-abiding citizens who had done nothing wrong.

Remarkably, some survived these conditions. One of the survivors was Viktor E. Frankl, and his book Man’s Search for Meaning documents his experience in the concentration camps. More importantly, Frankl talks about how he survived, what the experience taught him about himself, and what he learned about man’s existence. His experience inspired the formulation of logotherapy, the methodology that he used as a basis for psychological treatment.

Continue reading

Winning the Day

Over the last couple of years, I’ve read numerous books on improving personal productivity. I’m interested in learning and putting into practice what the experts do and recommend to operate at their highest performance level.

One item that has come up repeatedly is starting the day with planning and solitude. Why? By starting the day off right, you win the morning. And by winning the morning, it puts you in the best position possible to win the day.

Continue reading