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1.) To Hell with Swords and Garter
2.) How Good Do You Want to Be?
3.) It’s Not How Clever or Smart You ARE: It’s How Clever and Smart You WANT to Be
4.) Wickedly Cool
5.) Ten Authentic Signs of Intelligence that Cannot be Faked
6.) How to Penetrate People’s Brains as though You’re Telepathic
7.) How to Charm the Pants Off Anyone Without a Single Word
8.) How to Have People Dying to Hear What You’ll Say Next
9.) How to Answer the Age-Old Question: What Do You Do?
10.) How to Become a Freakishly Brilliant Small-Talker
11.) How to Come Across as Diabolically Clever
13.) Are You Fascinating?
14.) How to be Unforgettable
15.) How to be the Smartest Person in the Bar
16.) 101 Things to Do Instead of College
17.) The Art of Independent Thinking
18.) What is Friendship?
19.) Laissez-Nous Faire
20.) How to Drop Out of School, Fire Your Boss & Change the Word
Did you feel that tug?
Like a half-forgotten idea you can’t quite put out of your head — the escalating sensation in the center of your chest telling you it’s time to shift your life?
Nothing outrageous — no come-to-God moment, this — but rather a soft yet persistent pull in another direction: an urge, sourced somewhere deep within, impelling you to do that thing for which you were born:
Admit it. You often feel it swelling up and pulsing inside you.
And once you acknowledge it, it begins to intensify, struggling to take shape so that it might burst open at last, like a tarantula-firework, illuminating a dark world desperately in need.
Yet, at the same time, an oppositional force tugs at you too: the uncertainty and fear of breaking away from the pack, of leaving your staid but secure position, of running out of money, not making your bills, evicted, hungry, homeless.
And so you ignore the pull to create, and you do nothing about it.
You bury yourself back in the safety of your soul-sucking job.
Oh, you tinker with your passions, here and there. You become something of a hobbyist.
But, in the end, you evade and ignore your dreams, and you meanwhile drown yourself in booze or food or drugs or sex or whathaveyou. And you tell yourself that staying in your current lifestyle is the right thing to do.
Still, that irrepressible part of you can’t be completely suppressed. It’s like a little creative beastie pulsing with life and pushing and kicking to break open inside you, yearning to grow.
Have you ever watched the slow, silent death of a thing?
Have you witnessed the life-force leaking out of a living organism, bit-by-bit, and gradually draining that organism of all its beautiful vitality, until one day, one hour, one minute, one second, the organism is suddenly no longer alive?
It is wrenching to see.
It is also ominously familiar.
And yet, and yet …
And yet what you always hear about pursuing your dreams and if you do everything will work out — this is, to a certain extent, a lot of nonsense.
You can run out of money.
You can get evicted.
You can go hungry.
Your life, in short, can nose-dive.
I’ve been there.
It is not pleasant: showering at the beach, brushing your teeth in the bathrooms of all-night convenient stores or laundromats, unable to write because you can’t concentrate, because you’re so worried about what’s going to happen to you.
And so knowing this is possible, what do you do?
You tell yourself you’re being prudent after all. You’re being sensible, practical.
You tell yourself that you need to first do this and then that and then you need to go back to college and then you need to do this other thing, and then, perhaps — perhaps — you’ll pursue your passion to become a creator, at last.
The truth is that you’re stalling because you can’t muster the courage to take the plunge.
You have the power within you right now to change everything for the better — and if you don’t try, do you know what will happen?
You’ll die without ever knowing what you could have done.
Am I telling you, then, to quit your life of safety and security?
Yes, I am.
I’m telling you that if the life you’re living is stultifying you and preventing you from bringing forth that which is most vital within you, you should indeed quit your safe secure life.
I’m telling you to stop treating your passions as hobbies.
I’m telling you to stop glutting yourself on the things that drown out your dreams.
I’m telling you to start thinking of your passions and your dreams as your profession: your life-force, your reason for living.
You just have to do it.
Slash your expenses.
Map it out.
Focus your brain.
Find a freelance or part-time gig.
Construct a fall-back plan for when everything goes straight to hell, which it might.
You bet your fucking ass.
Every great achievement is difficult, and every path leading to it frightening.
We each live primarily inside of our own mind. Our lives are largely an attempt to give form to our psychological existence. We do that through what we create.
It’s do or die:
Life is do or die.
So go and do.
And to hell with swords and garter — and anything else that strangles the creative beastie so desperately yearning to hatch open and take shape inside of you.
How Good Do You Want to Be?
Does it keep you awake at night?
Do you burn in a white-hot fever?
Make it hotter, baby.
Let it burn.
Because it’s as you always suspected:
You are not the product of your genetic code, and nobody is genetically doomed to mediocrity.
In actuality, it’s the opposite of what you’ve always been told. Your life is yours to shape and mold.
Genes are not blueprints dictating precisely what you become.
Your genes are only one of countless components, in a complex interplay of components, that go into the making of an almost infinitely complicated organism, the sum total of which is determined fundamentally by your desire:
Your will to become the person you most want to become is the main factor in determining your future.
The drive to persist even in the face of overwhelming odds comes chiefly from within.
So I ask again:
How good do you want to be?
That desire is far more important than your pedigree.
Brandon Mroz is the first ice skater in human history to complete, in sanctioned competition, a jump called a quadruple Lutz. He did this on November 12, 2011, at the ripe age of twenty-one.
Perfecting this jump requires untold hours and days and weeks and years of practice, and much of that time Brandon spent falling down on the cold, ungiving ice.
He began skating when he was three-and-a-half years old, and he performed his first successful quadruple Lutz — non-sanctioned — in 2010. A cursory calculation tells us that in his lifetime of practicing, he fell approximately thirty thousand times before landing a successful quadruple Lutz.
Yet those thirty-thousand spills were not in vain: through them, he became excellent. He raised the standard and in so doing he changed a certain sector of the world.
This story — the story of falling on your ass thousands of times and getting back up, over and over again to master a skill, of spending your time in this way — it is in many ways the perfect metaphor because it goes to the very essence of where human excellence originates, in any endeavor:
Falling down thousands upon thousands of times and getting back up and practicing it again and again — day in day out, week in week out, year in year out — that is how people learn to master a given skill.
That is how women and men of every stripe and variety achieve great things.
It is how humans grow wings.
It also raises a profound and inevitable question:
Why would anyone put him or herself through so much falling for a reward that looms so far into the future and the success of which is hardly assured?
Concerning exceptional achievement, it is, perhaps, the deepest inquiry that exists. And the more you think about it, the more you see that the inquiry is nearly bottomless, going so far down into the human psyche, beyond psychology, that it may well be that no one from the outside can penetrate it fully.
Why do people who become great pay the price they must pay in order to get there?
One thing we can clearly see:
People who achieve excellence learn to love the task they’ve chosen. They therefore focus almost exclusively upon the task.
It’s a type of monomania, a singleminded and often obsessive focus.
In essence, people who become great say to themselves: how can I solve this specific problem?
They do not say: how will solving this problem benefit others or me?
What is the higher cause in solving this problem?
They instead focus laser-like upon the task itself.
When that task is taken care of, they move to the next task and focus upon it with the same intensity, and then move on, and so on.
The creator must be driven and must have focus. That focus first comes from within, but the most crucial point to recognize — and it is absolutely vital — is that neither the passion nor the focus start out fully formed.
Passion and focus, in other words, do not spring full-blown from the head of Zeus. They do not accompany us into the world like the parts of our body. They develop as our interest in the thing develops.
Which is why great performers, whether musicians or athletes, scientists or painters, writers or architects or anything else, start out as all of us do: learning things slowly and tediously, often when we’re young, perhaps taking lessons that are more-or-less forced upon us.
The difference between the good and the great, the hobbyist and the expert, the mediocre and the excellent, is that at some point, people who become great choose to pursue the given activity and make it the focal point of their life.
The significance of this cannot be overstated.
As one jazz virtuoso explained it to me, describing the precise moment in childhood that her piano lessons ceased to be a chore:
“One day, when I was twelve or thirteen, after having taken [piano] lessons for years, I was struck in an almost epiphany-like fashion with the range of possibilities that lay before me. It seemed endless and at my fingertips, the potential for artistic expression inexhaustible. It was at that moment that I made my decision and ceased thinking of piano as a hobby.”
It does not emerge fully formed.
First we must endure the effort of early practice, and then we must decide if the activity is what we wish to pursue.
In this sense — a general sense — creativity represents the highest levels of human excellence.
This is true no matter the domain in which you work, no matter the subject.
Every single person born healthy has the power within to become extraordinary. And in the bud and blossom of life, everyone sees for herself or himself a big and bright and beautiful future.
To be exceptional, you must first forsake many things that are unexceptional — forsake the foolish and live: it is a corollary.
It’s also, for most, the biggest obstacle.
Purpose and self-development are the aim of life.
Vice smothers self-development and purpose, and it can make the pull of mediocrity almost irresistibly strong.
Most won’t overcome it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Mediocrity is not fated. It is accumulated.
The life you’ve always imagined for yourself is within your reach — it’s yours to control — but reaching it requires a great deal of effort. That’s why the overwhelming majority of people retreat into the relative safety of the group. Which group? Whichever one most represents the values any given person has accumulated over the years.
The way out of mediocrity isn’t college.
The way out of mediocrity is to focus first upon the task — on developing knowledge.
The way out of mediocrity is the decision to do, and the willingness to fail. Because mistakes and failure are part of the process.
The first move, then, is in explicitly recognizing what things you genuinely like to do.
Happiness must ensue.
It’s Not How Clever or How Smart You ARE: It’s How Clever and Smart You WANT to be
The most successful people in life aren’t particularly gifted or talented.
They become successful, rather, by wanting to be successful.
Genetic giftedness is largely a figment.
There are really no such things as prodigies.
Talent is a process.
Have you ever noticed that the smartest kids in school are almost never the ones who go on to be the most successful in life?
School in its best state teaches datum, not ambition or desire or will — all of which things can be encouraged and fostered, but not really taught.
Ambition, desire, will, persistence — these, as you may or may not guess, are the greatest predictors of success.
No human being and no living thing begins her life by undercutting it.
No human being, no matter how pampered or abused, no matter how spoiled or mistreated, starts out by giving up or giving in.
No one starts life irrevocably defeated.
Abandoning the dreams of one’s youth comes only after a protracted process of perversion.
The time it takes before this mindset dominates differs for each person.
For most it is a gradual accretion of pressures and set-backs and frustrations and small failures, or by the systematic inculcation of mantras that this life doesn’t really matter, that our dreams can’t be fully realized anyway, and that human existence is accidental or meaningless or both — only to find, one day, that their passion, once a glowing force within, is now gone … but where and how?
Others, having no depth of thought or will, stop at the first sign of adversity.
Only the truly passionate persist. Only the truly passionate retain for a lifetime the vision they had of themselves when they were young. Only a handful maintain for a lifetime the beautiful vision of their youth and go on to give it form.
The means by which we give that vision form is our work.
No matter what any given person may become — no matter how good, bad, ugly, or great — in the springtime of life, each person at one time believes that her existence is important, and that big wonderful things await.
Each and every single human being has the potential to retain that vision, and each and every single human being should retain that vision, because it is the true and correct vision.
College, I submit, can do irreversible damage to it.
Unactualized potential is a tragedy.
Nonconformity for nonconformity sake is meaningless.
Nonconformity for the sake of reason and independent thought, however, is a virtue.
Independent thought is a prerequisite of genius, and it takes courage to think for yourself.
Courage is also a virtue.
Blind conformity is the opposite of independent thought.
Ambition, too, is a virtue.
Virtue is human excellence. It is The Good.
The Good is that which fosters human life and promotes it.
The Bad, corollarily, is that which frustrates human life and smothers it. It is pain. It is that which stultifies human thought and human flourishing and prevents gain.
Thinking is the human method of survival. It is for this reason that humans are properly defined as the rational animal, and it is also for this reason that morality — true morality — is rooted not in God or gods or devils, but in the human quiddity: our rational faculty.
As a thing is defined by its identity, so humans are defined by their acts — which is to say, their actions.
Our actions are in turn shaped by our thoughts.
Your brain is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. Nothing increases its strength like thinking. Cultivate, therefore, deliberate thought.
It is the greatest asset you’ve got.
Your life is largely a process of turning your interests into talents, which is done through a process of practice.
Talent is learned. It is cultivated.
Talent is not fated.
Your talents are rooted in the things you most enjoy doing.
It is in this sense that your passions are primarily willed.
Find your passions and grow them, and the more you do this, the more completely you’ll be fulfilled.
If you want to go to college, go.
If your true desire in life requires something specialized or technical — like medicine or engineering or law — go.
By all means, this.
The point here is not to condemn college categorically, for condemnation sake.
The point here — the only point here — is that if you’re going to college because that’s what you’ve been told you should do, or because you’ve been told that you must go to college in order to have a more complete or successful life, do not go.
Do not go to college merely for lack of anything better.
If you don’t yet know what you want to do, do not go.
Don’t go back to college for that Bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Don’t go back to college to try and motivate yourself to write, or in an attempt to fill your time, or your head.
Cultivate your brain instead.
Read. Think. Blink. Drink.
Learn to play the piano or piccolo or sax.
Read and think a lot.
There is no hurry — I assure you, there is no hurry.
I assure you, you need not worry. In fact, it is a good thing to not yet know what you want, because life is a gigantic canvas and there’s so much with which to fill it, so much to do — have you not heard? So much, indeed, that choosing one thing at twenty or thirty or even forty is absurd.
College is far from the be-all-and-the-end-all. College is a lot of conformity and groupthink.
It can truly stunt your brain, every bit as much as lack of nourishment or food.
College is very often nothing more than pointless debt accrued.
Your desire to become the person you most want to become is ultimately the only thing you need.
In its elaboration, this will require a great deal — focus, discipline, practice — but the desire is the fundamental thing.
As long as there’s a fundamental desire and it burns like a fire, there’s no limit to anyone’s achievement. You needn’t be a savant. The desire to excel is the most important ingredient in becoming what you want.
“Life is an unceasing sequence of single actions, but the single action is by no means isolated,” wrote Ludwig von Mises.
Your life is largely a process of transforming your interests into talents, which, in turn, comes about through a process of practice.
It is in this sense, I say again, that your passions are primarily willed, and not inborn or innate.
Even genius is willed. You make yourself great.
Life is work.
Jobs are healthy. Work is good. Work is good for the soul. Be happy in your work.
Nothing more fundamental than labor is required for the production of abundance and the good things that you want for your life.
Labor takes many forms.
Blue-collar jobs build character, as they build invaluable work habits that you’ll never lose.
In her book No Shame in My Game, Katherine Newman points out what for many of us has been blindingly obvious for years: namely, that so-called low-skilled, blue-collar jobs, whether fast-food, waitressing, bartending, barista, custodial, clerking, so on, they require talents completely commensurate with, or even surpassing, white-collar work:
“Memory skills, inventory management, the ability to work with a diverse crowd of employees, and versatility in covering for co-workers when the demand increases,” she writes.
Among many, many other skills, I add.
Servers, bartenders, baristas, expos, clerks, et cetera, must multitask and remember every bit as much as, for example, an ER doc.
That’s one of the many reasons these jobs are good, and not something anybody should knock.
What do you value? Parties and thumbs-ups and reblogs and other time-killers, day and night? Or the active work of your body and brain?
Find work that you enjoy and embrace it. Become good at it. Become better. Pour your energy into your work like rain. Enjoy the motions of your body in concert with your brain.
He who’s faithful in a little is faithful in a lot.
Everything you do, therefore, do it with all that you’ve got.
Personality is personal style. It is nothing more and it is nothing less. The art of charisma is really the art of personality.
Which is why there are as many different ways to be charismatic as there are different styles of personality.
Personality is the sum total of one’s many individual characteristics as they come together and create the person presented to the world.
Just as a thing is defined by its identity, so humans are defined by their acts, which are in turn defined by their thoughts.
Since we’re each the shapers of our own thoughts — and only our own thoughts — we each have the power to change and to mold our own personality.
For this reason, charisma begins (and ends) in the brain.
Charisma is magnetism.
Magnetism, as the very word implies, is the power to attract.
People can be magnetic and charismatic in a multitude of different ways:
You don’t, for instance, need to be extroverted to be charismatic.
You don’t need to be gregarious or boisterous. Many of the most charismatic people you’ve ever seen are silent and strange.
Nor is physical beauty alone charismatic — or, at any rate, not in the full sense of the word:
Physical beauty attracts, esthetically, sexually, whathaveyou, but its power of attraction is limited, precisely because humans are conceptual: this means we think and ruminate and interact.
Magnetic qualities are ultimately qualities that demonstrate one’s skills at living life as humans are designed to live it — which is to say, conceptually.
This is why contemplation is the highest occupation of the human species — because your personality and your behavior are a complex interplay of contemplation and action mixed. But it all begins in the brain.
Which, in general terms, is the reason that the most magnetic quality anyone can possess is the genuine happiness and the relaxed disposition that comes from a life that’s been thought about and thus lived well, and then the genuine confidence which is the natural elaboration of that.
Perfection, however — and this is important — is not the determining factor in matters magnetic and charismatic:
Flaws, faults, foibles, and fuck-ups do not an uncharismatic person make.
How one deals with one’s own flaws, faults, foibles, and fuck-ups is what’s at primary issue.
Happiness is charismatic.
Understanding is charismatic.
Actual self-confidence is charismatic insofar as it discloses efficacy and worth.
Have you ever observed that you’re at your best when you’re doing something you really grasp?
Have you ever observed that you’re at your most relaxed and comfortable when you’re doing something you enjoy — i.e. something that you’re genuinely confident in?
That state of mind is charismatic.
Have you, on the other hand, noticed that when you’re put into a situation about which you know little or nothing and want no real part of, you feel diffident, timid, unhappy?
This is the opposite of charismatic.
The primary method of human survival is our rational capacity, because of which human survival isn’t just physical but psychological.
That’s why happiness is the goal.
The goal of life, then, is emotional. But the means of achieving it are not.
The means of achieving it are cognitive:
We must use our brains.
We must think.
Charisma stems from this uniquely human faculty.
Charisma comes from thinking.
So cultivate your power of thought.
Contemplation, I repeat, is the highest occupation of the human species.
In the very decision to do this — and even more in the sincere follow-through — your charisma will EXPLODE.
Listen to the whole book:
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