• rationalism

    A system wide recalibration on assessing motivations

    After reading some David Friedman on subcultures and rereading The True Believer by Eric Hoffer I am now convinced that the ability to make an impact is a much larger part of human motivation than I previously thought. This explains in fuller detail why young people keep jumping to new causes (ACAB/Cop City/Trans/Whatever the Alt Right is into these days) – they can make a difference in those new fields. If a young person enters a subculture that contains older people, say climate change or housing veterans, they’re competing against veterans with decades of experience. The “No Cop City” movement is brand new, and anyone can make a difference. No experience needed and the young are on equal footing with the old. Indeed – the young are somewhat more advantaged with a higher amount of free time and fewer accumulated commitments.

    Granted – this relationship has always been present, but I think I’ve underweighted it in every aspect of human endeavor.

    Upon reflection, I’m reminded of this quote from Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John (regarding the villain of the story)

    And why? Because, as I begin to discover, there’s a sort of minute, blazing star of worship right down in the pit of his hell. He sees everything from the side of eternity just as clearly as I do, perhaps more clearly; but—how shall I put it?—he conceives his part in the picture to be the devil’s part, and he’s playing it with a combination of passion and detachment like a great artist, and for the glory of God, if you understand what I mean. And he’s right. It’s the only thing he can do, and he does it with style. I take off my hat to him, in spite of everything. But it’s pretty ghastly, really. Think of the life he’s living; just like an infant’s, and with his powers! I dare say he’ll manage to find some trick for blowing up the whole planet some day, if he lives much longer

    Also see my thoughts on fringe groups and the culture war.

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  • Books,  Uncategorized

    On the Marble Cliffs by Ernst Junger

    This was a finalist in the Astral Codex Ten book review context. I’m a huge fan of Storm of Steel and have been meaning to read the rest of Junger’s work. Happily I was able to find the Hood translation on Archive.org. The ACX review covers all of the details of the book better than I could – I agree 100% with all of his conclusions.

    What It’s About

    Two retired soldiers meet evil and decay in the form of the Chief Ranger – someone who can weaponize decay and evil.

    How I Discovered It

    The Astral Codex Ten book review context


    It’s awesome and delivered like no other book I’ve ever read

    What I Liked About It

    The style, the delivery, the weird sense that nothing is happening, it’s just noticed by the narrator – similar to Star Maker in that sense – a point of view seeing the world rather than an actor in the world

    What I Didn’t Like About It

    I wish there some were some sort of discussion group where I can pick up what I missed. I would like more!

    Who Would Like It?

    Anyone who likes Junger

    Related Books

    Storm of Steel
    Odd John
    Star Maker

    Notes and Quotes

    Then there were brilliant duels which the weapon of laughter decided, and in which met fencers who shone by their fight, untrammelled command of thought— mastery such as comes only from a long life of leisure.
    But otherwise we lived, day in, day out, in our Rue-Garden 1 Hermitage in great seclusion. The Hermitage stood at the edge of the Marble Cliffs in the middle of one of those rock islands which here and there one sees breaking through the grape land. Its garden had been won from the rock in narrow terraces, and on the sides of its drystone walls wild herbs had settled such as thrive in the fertile vine-growing country.
    There he beat the rim with a pearwood spoon, and the gleaming red snakes came gliding from the clefts of the Marble Cliffs. As if in a waking dream I heard him laugh as he stood amongst them on the trodden clay of the courtyard before the kitchen. Half erect, the creatures played around him and swayed their heavy triangular heads to and fro above his with rapid beat. I stood on the balcony and did not dare to call to my boy, as if he were a sleep-walker wandering on the heights.
    Then the herdsmen will not let their cattle go to pasture near the Marble Cliffs, for a bite that finds its mark fells even the strongest steer with lightning speed.

    NOTE: The cliffs are infested with venomous snakes?
    Then we would see little Erio frolicking with her, while, like a kitten, she rubbed her pointed head against his dress.

    NOTE: They intentionally feed snakes and let tbeir kid play with venomous snakes…
    We amused ourselves with the curiosities of erudition and with quotations chosen for rarity or a touch of the absurd. Then ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS 17 we were well served by the legion of leather- or parchmentbound slaves.

    NOTE: Books?
    So a work grew, and in its very growing we rejoiced.

    NOTE: To Junger everything is some sort of natural phenomenon

    When we are happy our senses are contented with however little this world cares to offer. I had long done reverence to the kingdom of plants, and during years of travel had tracked down its wonders.
    It was seldom that I entered this part of the Hermitage, for the presence of Lampusa awoke in me a feeling of constraint that I preferred to avoid.
    Brother Otho, too, I would often see standing with the old woman by the fire. To him I owed the happiness that had been my lot with Erio, the love-child of Silvia, Lampusa’s daughter.

    NOTE: Are they brothers or monks?
    But I was more nettled by the laughter of Lampusa, who scanned me with a glance in which I saw the shamelessness of a bawd. And yet it was not long before I frequented her hut.
    It was a basic principle with him to treat each single person with whom we came into contact as a rare find discovered on one’s travels. Then, too, his favourite name for men was “ the optimates,” to signify that everyone must be numbered among the true-born nobility of this world, and that from any one of them we may receive supreme gifts. To him they were vessels stored with wonders, and to figures of such nobility he accorded the rights of princes. And in truth I saw how each one who approached him unfolded like a plant awaking from its winter sleep; it was not that they became better, but that they became more themselves.
    Strange, too, was the fact that the vipers, when called by Lampusa, surrounded the quaich in mixed and glowing braids, whereas with Erio they formed a rayed wheel. This Brother Otho was the first to notice.
    Like all things of this earth, plants too attempt to speak to us, but one requires sharp senses to understand their speech.

    NOTE: Junger lives an entirely internal life. his inner dialog must have been awesome and massive
    So even after the first few weeks it seemed to me as if external things were being transformed; and the transformation first manifested itself to me as an inability to express myself in words.

    NOTE: Overwhelmed with just noticing things

    Often when I had fathomed the mystery of a word I would hasten down to him, pen in hand, and often he mounted to the herbarium on the same errand.

    NOTE: Labeling he is a protorationalist
    Thus we described objects and their metamorphoses, from the grain of sand to the cliff of marble, and from the fleeting second to the changing year. In the evening we would collect our scraps, and when we had read them would burn them on the hearth.

    NOTE: Ephemeral link nature regarding insight
    The word is both king and magician. Our high example we found in Linnaeus, who went out into the unruly world of plants and animals with the word as his sceptre of state. And more wonderful than any swordwon empire, his power extends over the flowering fields and nameless insect hosts.
    Thus it came about that our work was not abandoned when the Chief Ranger seized power in our territory and terror spread throughout the land.

    NOTE: Finally the chief ranger appears
    He was one of those figures whom the Mauretanians respect as great lords and yet find somewhat ridiculous—rather as an old colonel of the mounted yeomanry is received in the regiment on his occasional visits from his estates.

    At this period I was scarcely disturbed by the inflexibility of his nature, for all Mauretanians acquire with time something of the nature of an automaton.

    Later I was to hear Brother Otho say of our Mauretanian period that mistakes become errors only when persisted in. It was a saying that gained in truth for me when I thought back to our position when this Order attracted us. There

    periods of decline when the pattern fades to which our inmost life must conform. When we enter upon them we sway and lose our balance. From hollow joy we sink to leaden sorrow, and past and future acquire a new charm from our sense of loss. So we wander aimlessly in the irretrievable past or in distant Utopias; but the fleeting moment we cannot grasp. As soon as we had become aware of this failure we strove to free ourselves. We felt a longing for actuality, for reality, and would have plunged into ice or fire or ether only to rid ourselves of weariness. As always when despair and

    periods of decline when the pattern fades to which our inmost life must conform. When we enter upon them we sway and lose our balance. From hollow joy we sink to leaden sorrow, and past and future acquire a new charm from our sense of loss. So we wander aimlessly in the irretrievable past or in distant Utopias; but the fleeting moment we cannot grasp. As soon as we had become aware of this failure we strove to free ourselves. We felt a longing for actuality, for reality, and would have plunged into ice or fire or ether only to rid ourselves of weariness.

    we turned to power—for is that not the eternal pendulum that drives on the hand of time by day or night ?

    To the newcomer it was particularly strange to see in their meeting-places members of deadly hostile groups in friendly conversation. Among the aims of the Mauretanians was artistry in the dealings of this world. They demanded that power should be exercised dispassionately as by a god, and correspondingly its schools produced a race of spirits who were bright, untrammelled, but always terrible.

    Yet wherever free spirits establish their sway these primeval powers will always join their company like a snake creeping to the open fire.

    who see a new day dawning in which to re-establish the tyranny that has lived in their hearts since the beginning of time. Thus there develop in the great Orders secret and subterranean channels in which the historian is lost. Subtle conflicts break out and smoulder in the innermost seats of power, conflicts between symbols and theories, conflicts between idols and spirits.

    NOTE: CS lewis inner ring or circle
    Such is the effect of beauty on power.
    to store his food or to contain his gods, the centuries fused before our eyes into a single span.
    And we saw its frontiers too: the mountains where lofty freedom but not plenty found its home among the barbarian peoples, and towards the north the swamps and dark recesses where bloody tyranny lurked.
    Contact with this rough race revealed their good qualities; among these was conspicuous the hospitality which surrounded everyone who sat by their fires. So it came about that one might see in their circles the faces of town-dwellers, for the Campagna offered immediate shelter to all who had to quit the Marina under a cloud. Here one met debtors threatened with arrest and scholars who had planted too shrewd a blow at a drinking party, all in company with renegade monks and a crew of vagabonds. Young people, too, who longed for freedom and pairs of lovers willingly betook themselves to the Campagna

    NOTE: Like the cossacks
    It even came to such a pass that nobody dared any longer speak of them openly, and it became clear how weak the law was in comparison to anarchy.
    There whoever among the people from either side of the Marble Cliffs were malcontent or greedy for change caroused and thronged the doors as if in the dark interiors lay their headquarters. It could not but add to the confusion that even sons of notables and youths who believed that the hour of a new freedom had dawned took part in this traffic. So, too, there were men of letters who began to imitate the herdsmen’s songs, which up to now only the nurses from the Campagna had been known to croon over the cradles.

    Then, too, there was not far from the Flayer’s Wood a copse of weeping willows, in which stood the figure of a steer with red nostrils, red tongue and red sexual organ. It was a spot of ill-fame, one to which there clung rumours of grisly rites. But who could have believed that the butter- and fat-fed gods who filled the udders of the cows would now begin to be worshipped on the Marina ?

    NOTE: Reference To nazi occultism

    Men who had deemed themselves strongminded enough to cut the links with the faith of their fathers fell under the yoke and spell of barbarian idols. The sight they offered in their blindness was more loathsome than drunkenness at noon. Thinking to fly and boasting of their powers, they grovelled in the dust.

    There lived no one so poor that the first and best fruits of his garden did not go to the cabin of the thinker and the hermitage of the poet. Thus whoever felt called upon to serve the world in things spiritual could live at leisure—in poverty, perhaps, but not in need. In the to-and-fro of life the tillers of soil and the shapers of words found their precept in the old saying: The best gifts of the gods are unpaid for.

    But reason is nothing when passion blinds us.

    At the sound sorrow gripped us, and many another too, for we felt that the wholesome spirit of our ancestors had abandoned the Marina.

    Thus the Chief Ranger was like an evil doctor who first encourages the disease so that he may practise on the sufferer the surgery he has in mind.

    In base hearts there lies deep-seated a burning hatred of beauty.

    From such signs one could guess what was to be awaited from the Ranger lurking in his forests. He who hated the plough, the corn, the vine and the animals tamed by man, who looked with distaste on spacious dwellings and a free and open life, set little store by lordship over such plenty. Only then did his heart stir when moss and ivy grew green on the ruins of the towns, and under the broken tracery of vaulted cathedrals the bats fluttered in the moon.

    Into these forest lands had taken flight all who in peace or war had escaped extinction—Huns, Tartars, gipsies, Albigensians and heretical sects of all sorts. With them had 4 joined company fugitives from the provost-marshal and the hangman, scattered remnants of the great robber bands from Poland and from the Lower Rhine, and women-folk whose only trade was with their tail, trulls the beadles had driven from the doors.

    In Fortunio’s hands I had seen a manuscript from the pen of Rabbi Nilufer—the same who, driven from Smyrna, had on his wanderings been a guest among the woods. In his writings one saw world history mirrored as in muddy pools on the banks of which water-rats nest. Here was to be found the key to many a murky intrigue: thus rumour ran that after his banishment from Perouard Master Villon had found shelter in one of these pinewood warrens, in which along with many another shady crew the Coquillards had made their base. Later they flitted over into Burgundy, but here they had always a haven of refuge.

    NOTE: Positive Mention of a jewish person

    This was the breeding-place of the mean huntsmen who offered themselves in house and field as destroyers of vermin—according to Nilufer, the Pied Piper of Hamelin had disappeared here with the children. But from the woods came too the dainty deceivers who appear with coach and lackeys and are to be found even at the courts of noble counts. Thus from the forest a strain of evil blood flowed into the veins of the world. Where there were killings or thuggery one of the shady crew was always by, nor were they missing from the minuets that poor devils dance on the gallows hill with the wind for partner.

    If he came to speak of the blood feuds his eyes would light up, and we saw that so long as it beat the heart of the foe drew him like a mighty magnet.

    Thus to him friendship was no mere sentiment, but something which blazed as spontaneously and as fiercely as hate.

    NOTE: Like the redneck jury people in to kill a mockingbird
    In him we discovered the power we enjoy when a man gives himself to us body and soul, a power which dies out with the coming of an ordered way of life.

    But we knew that no ill threatened our Hermitage so long as the old herdsman and his wild tribe camped on the steppe.

    In these two men, herdsman and monk, there came to light that diversity which native soil produces in men no less than in plants. In the old avenger of blood feuds there lived the spirit of the pasture-lands, which have never been cut by the iron of a ploughshare; in the priest, that of the vineyard loam, which in the course of centuries and through the labour of man’s hands has become as fine as the sand of an hourglass.
    Since at the same time he had the upper hand intellectually, he contrived to accept the speaker’s words and return them to him with an expression of agreement which raised them to a higher plane.

    Brother Otho held that dogma accompanies spirituality in its successive stages of refinement: it is like a robe which during the ascent of the first steps is shot with gold and purples, but with each step acquires a quality which renders it invisible to our eyes, until gradually the pattern dissolves in light.

    NOTE: Refinement is an interesting concept similar to stapledons odd john

    pressed us to whet the hunting spears and starve the hounds until their red tongues lolled to the ground at the scent of blood. Then we too felt the power of the instinct run through our limbs like a flash.

    Brother Otho would say that this was the true meaning of life—to recapitulate creation in what is ephemeral, like the child imitating in play his father’s work. This, he held, gave meaning to seed and begetting, to building and ordered life, to image and poetry—that in them the master work reveals itself as if in a mirror of many-coloured glass which soon must break.

    It was with this lamp and not with torches that the pyre was set alight beside Olympus when Peregrinus Proteus, later called Phoenix, sprang into the blaze before a mighty throng of people in order to make himself one with the ether. The world knows of this man and of his lofty deed only through the lying and distorted account of Lucian.

    Infectious airs had risen from the corpses rotting on the pastures and caused the herds to die off in large numbers. Thus the decline of order brings good fortune to none.
    Then I felt as if cruel talons had laid hold upon my heart, for before me lay the abode of tyranny in all its shame.
    Now we knew the hell kitchen from which the mist drifted over the Marina—since we were determined not to give way, the old man of the forest had shown us it a little more clearly. Such are the dungeons above which rise the proud castles of the tyrants, and from them is to be seen rising the curling savoury smoke of their banquets. They are terrible noisome pits in which a God-forsaken crew revels to all eternity in the degradation of human dignity and human freedom.
    There is great strength in the sight of the eyes when in full consciousness and unshaded by obscurities it is turned upon the things around us. In particular it draws nourishment from created things, and herein alone lies the power of science. Therefore we felt that even the tender flower in its imperishable pattern and living form strengthened us to withstand the breath of corruption.
    He had that kind of stout heart which does not quail at obstacles, but unfortunately this virtue was coupled with contempt. Like all who hunger after power and mastery, he was led astray by his wild dreams into the realm of Utopias.
    Then, too, like every crude theoretician, he lived on the science of the moment and occupied himself with archaeology in particular.
    He belonged to the race of men who dream concretely—a very dangerous breed.
    Although tall in stature, he bore himself with curved shoulders as if his height incommoded him. Nor did he seem to follow the drift of our talk. I had the impression that great age and extreme youth had met in his person—the age of his race and the youth of his body. Thus his whole being bore the deep stamp of decadence; one could see two forces at work in him—that of hereditary greatness and the contrary influence which the soil exerts upon all heredity. For heredity is dead men’s riches.


    It may seem noteworthy that in this affair Braquemart wished to confront the Ranger, although there was much in common in their ways of thought and action. But it is an error which often runs through our thoughts that we deduce identity of goals from identity of methods, and conclude that the aims are the same. Yet there was a difference to this degree, that the Ranger had in mind to people the Marina with wild beasts, while Braquemart looked on it as land to be settled with slaves and their overlords.

    NOTE: Stalin vs hitler maybe not sure which is which

    It is sufficient to indicate that between full-blown nihilism and unbridled anarchy there is a profound difference. Whether the abodes of men shall become desert or primeval forest depends upon the outcome of this struggle.


    As far as Braquemart is concerned, he bore the unmistakable stamp of nihilism in its later stages. His was a cold, rootless intelligence, and with it went a leaning to Utopias. Then, too, like all his kind, he conceived of life as the mechanism of a clock, and therefore in force and terror he saw the gears which drive the timepiece of life. At the same time he indulged in the idea of a second artificial natural order, intoxicated himself with the perfume of synthetic flowers and the pleasures of mimed sensuality. Creation had died in his heart, and he had reconstructed it like a mechanical toy

    The reason was that with him power was too much a matter of the intellect, and found too little expression in grandezza , in native desinvolture . In this respect the Chief Ranger had the better of him, for he wore his power like a good old hunting jacket that fitted him the better the oftener it was steeped in mire and blood

    For this reason I had the impression that Braquemart was about to embark upon an ill-fated venture; in such encounters the theorist has always been worsted by the man of action.

    He had lost his own self-respect; from that loss springs all human misery.

    And since a high example leads us in its train, I took an oath before this head that from that day forth I would rather fall with the free men than go in triumph among the slaves.

    Then I knew that from her no pity could be expected. So long as I got her daughters with child and struck down my foe with the sword I was welcome; but to her any conqueror was a son-in-law just as a man in straits was an object of contempt.

    But on this earth we may not count on seeing our work brought to completion, and he must be held fortunate whose resolve survives the struggle without inflicting on him too much pain. No house is built, no plan laid, of which decay is not the corner-stone, and what lives eternally in us does not lie in our works.

    In accordance with military tradition, he had stayed well entrenched during the disorders; now that the whole town lay in ruins he emerged to play the man of destiny.

    So he was a man of hard blows and hard drinking, and believed unshakably that any scruple on this earth can be overcome by a good pommelling. In this respect he had something in common with Braquemart, but he was sounder to this extent, that he despised theory. We had a regard for him because of his good nature and good appetite, for, if he were unsuited for his post on the Marina, who can blame the wolf set to guard sheep

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  • Adages,  Freeman Dyson,  Wisdom

    Must all good things be compatible

    I’ve been pondering this quote from Isaiah Berlin (as seen in Rob Henderson’s newsletter)

    “The optimistic view…that all good things must be compatible, and that therefore freedom, order, knowledge, happiness…must be at least compatible, and perhaps even entail one another in a systematic fashion…is not self-evidently true…Indeed, it is perhaps one of the least plausible beliefs ever entertained by profound and influential thinkers.”

    Which also had the nugget

    Freedom for the pike is death for the minnow

    Which brought to mind the adage, first seen by me from Freeman Dyson of

    One law for the lion and ox is oppression

    The above is an illustration of the facts that the two ways of life are incompatible – the lion cannot digest plants, and the ox cannot digest meat. A law that said no eating animals, only plants, would lead to the lions starving, and a law that said eating animals is fine would lead to the deaths of the oxen.

    Examining incompatibilities between beliefs is immensely interesting, and probably one of the better signals of thoughtfulness.

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  • Books

    The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and Tim Parks

    The Book in 3 Sentences

    1. The Prince is a wonderful improvisation on the use of power across time and space (at the time anyway). The translation is very conversational and modern, which I liked quite a bit. Some parts were rather dated, but by no means all.


    The book was much less cynical and much more descriptive than I would have thought.

    How I Discovered It

    Book club

    Who Should Read It?

    People interested in the classics, or anyone who really appreciates a good translation.

    Summary + Notes

    The Prince was written by a forty-four-year-old diplomat facing ruin.

    For most of the fifteenth century there had been five major players in the peninsula: the Kingdom of Naples, the Papal States, Florence, Venice and Milan.

    However, if the situation was rarely static, it is also true that there were few major changes. As soon as one power achieved some significant military victory, the others immediately formed an alliance against it to halt its progress. Florence, in particular, owed its continuing independence largely to the fact that if Venice, Milan or Rome tried to take it, the other two would at once intervene to prevent this happening.

    Girolamo Savonarola ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498, during which time the city passed from being one of the centres of Renaissance Humanism to a book-burning, fundamentalist theocracy.

    Had Machiavelli insisted on deploring this unhappy state of affairs, had he dwelt on other criteria for judging a leader, aside from his mere ability to stay in power and build a strong state, had he told us with appropriate piety that power was hardly worth having if you had to sell your soul to get it, he could have headed off a great deal of criticism while still delivering the same information. But aside from one or two token regrets that the world is not a nicer place, Machiavelli does not do this. It wasn’t his project. Rather he takes it for granted that we already know that life, particularly political life, is routinely, and sometimes unspeakably, cruel, and that once established in a position of power a ruler may have no choice but to kill or be killed.

    In short, Machiavelli’s attention has shifted from a methodical analysis of different political systems to a gripping and personally engaged account of the psychology of the leader who has placed himself beyond the constrictions of Christian ethics and lives in a delirium of pure power.

    For a diplomat like Machiavelli, who had spent his life among the powerful but never really held the knife by the handle, a state employee so scrupulously honest that when investigated for embezzlement he ended up being reimbursed monies that were due to him, it was all too easy to fall into a state of envy and almost longing when contemplating the awesome Borgia who had no qualms about taking anything that came his way and never dreamed of being honest to anyone.

    The Prince was largely responsible for Henry VIII’s decision to take the English Church away from Rome.

    It was in so far as Machiavelli allowed these dangerous implications to surface in his writing that he both unmasked, and himself became identified with, what we might call the unacceptable face of Renaissance Humanism.

    there is also an undercurrent of excitement at the thought that it might be possible to take life entirely into one’s hands, manipulate people and circumstances at will and generally pursue one’s selfish goals without a thought for moral codes or eternal damnation: in this sense the Machiavellian villain looks ahead to the worst of modern individualism.

    Cromwell frequently governed without parliament or elections for fear the people might not see things God’s way.

    Members of court, Napoleon ordered, shortly after usurping power, must attend soirées with their wives, to appear respectable and avoid gossip. ‘The death of conversation’, Talleyrand opined. Certainly, when a leader has to rely on appearing respectable to claim legitimacy, he is on thin ice indeed.

    As Rousseau saw it, the whole of The Prince was itself a Machiavellian ruse: the author had only pretended to give lessons to kings whereas in fact his real aim was to teach people to be free by showing them that royal power was no more than subterfuge.

    Machiavelli after all declared himself a republican and a libertarian.

    Others took a more traditional view: Bertrand Russell described The Prince as ‘a handbook for gangsters’,

    one reaction that Machiavelli never seems to provoke is indifference.

    The English have Prince Charles. And the thing about Prince Charles is that he is not King Charles and probably never will be.

    Machiavelli’s word ‘prince’ does not mean ‘the son of the king’, and even less ‘an attractive young suitor’. Machiavelli’s ‘principe’ refers generically to men of power, men who rule a state. The prince is the first, or principal, man.

    For Machiavelli ‘virtù’ was any quality of character that enabled you to take political power or to hold on to it; in short, a winning trait. It could be courage in battle, or strength of personality, or political cunning, or it might even be the kind of ruthless cruelty that lets your subjects know you mean business.

    A ruler who inherits power has less reason or need to upset his subjects than a new one and as a result is better loved.

    this for the simple reason that you can’t give them as much as they expected. And you can’t get tough with them either, since you still need them; because however strong your armies, you’ll always need local support to occupy a new territory.

    Even where there is some difference in language, the customs of these territories are similar and people can get along with each other. So a ruler who has taken territories in these circumstances must have two priorities: first, to eliminate the family of the previous rulers; second, to leave all laws and taxes as they were. In this way the acquired territory and the king’s original possessions will soon form a single entity.

    So, if you go and live in the new territory you’ve taken, you’re very unlikely to lose it.

    In this regard it’s worth noting that in general you must either pamper people or destroy them; harm them just a little and they’ll hit back; harm them seriously and they won’t be able to. So if you’re going to do people harm, make sure you needn’t worry about their reaction.

    Seen in advance, trouble is easily dealt with; wait until it’s on top of you and your reaction will come too late, the malaise is already irreversible.

    Remember what the doctors tell us about tuberculosis: in its early stages it’s easy to cure and hard to diagnose, but if you don’t spot it and treat it, as time goes by it gets easy to diagnose and hard to cure. So it is with affairs of state. See trouble in advance (but you have to be shrewd) and you can clear it up quickly. Miss it, and by the time it’s big enough for everyone to see it will be too late to do anything about it.

    Time hurries everything on and can just as easily make things worse as better.

    The desire to conquer more territory really is a very natural, ordinary thing and whenever men have the resources to do so they’ll always be praised, or at least not blamed. But when they don’t have the resources, yet carry on regardless, then they’re at fault and deserve what blame they get.

    So Louis made five mistakes: he eliminated the weaker states; he enhanced the power of one of Italy’s stronger states; he brought in an extremely powerful foreign king; he didn’t go to live in the territory he’d acquired and he didn’t establish colonies there.

    you must never fail to respond to trouble just to avoid war, because in the end you won’t avoid it, you’ll just be putting it off to your enemy’s advantage.

    and when the cardinal told me that the Italians knew nothing about war, I told him that the French knew nothing about politics, because if they did they wouldn’t be letting the pope grow so powerful.

    From which we can infer a general rule that always holds, or almost always: that to help another ruler to grow powerful is to prepare your own ruin; because it takes flair or military strength to build up a new power, and both will seem threatening to the person who has benefited from them.

    To explain this situation let’s start by remembering that all monarchies on record have been governed in one of two ways: either by a king and the servants he appoints as ministers to run his kingdom; or by a king and a number of barons, who are not appointed by the king but hold their positions thanks to hereditary privilege. These barons have their own lands and their own subjects who recognize the barons as their masters and are naturally loyal to them. Where a state is governed by a king and his ministers the king is more powerful since he is the only person in the state whom people recognize as superior. When they obey someone else it is only because he is a minister or official and they have no special loyalty to him.

    Looking at these two kinds of states, it’s clear that Turkey is hard to conquer but once conquered very easy to hold. France on the other hand will be somewhat easier to conquer but very hard to hold.

    you’ll lose the territory you took as soon as your enemies get an opportunity to rebel.

    Note:Similar to Afghanistan

    It wasn’t a question of the abilities of each particular conqueror, but of the different kinds of state they had invaded.

    When the states you invade have been accustomed to governing themselves without a monarch and living in freedom under their own laws, then there are three ways of holding on to them: the first is to reduce them to rubble; the second is to go and live there yourself; the third is to let them go on living under their own laws, make them pay you a tax and install a government of just a few local people to keep the state as a whole friendly. Since this government has been set up by the invading ruler, its members know they can’t survive without his support and will do everything they can to defend his authority.

    If you conquer a city accustomed to self-government and opt not to destroy it you can expect it to destroy you.

    And though we can hardly say much about Moses, since he merely carried out God’s orders, all the same we have to admire him for the grace that made him worthy of God’s attention.

    Analysing their lives and achievements, we notice that the only part luck played was in giving them an initial opportunity: they were granted the raw material and had the chance to mould it into whatever shape they wanted. Without this opportunity their talent would have gone unused, and without their talent the opportunity would have gone begging.

    Here we have to bear in mind that nothing is harder to organize, more likely to fail, or more dangerous to see through, than the introduction of a new system of government. The

    no one really believes in change until they’ve had solid experience of it.

    It’s easy to convince people of something, but hard to keep them convinced. So when they stop believing in you, you must be in a position to force them to believe.

    Anyone who thinks that an important man will forget past grievances just because he’s received some new promotion must think again. Borgia miscalculated in this election, and the mistake was fatal.

    Looking at Agathocles’ life and achievements, you won’t find much that can be attributed to luck.

    On the other hand, we can hardly describe killing fellow citizens, betraying friends and living without loyalty, mercy or creed as signs of talent. Methods like that may bring you power, but not glory.

    Cruelty well used (if we can ever speak well of something bad) is short-lived and decisive, no more than is necessary to secure your position and then stop; you don’t go on being cruel but use the power it has given you to deliver maximum benefits to your subjects. Cruelty is badly used when you’re not drastic enough at the beginning but grow increasingly cruel later on, rather than easing off. A leader who takes the first approach has a chance, like Agathocles, of improving his position with his subjects and with God too; go the other way and you have no chance at all.

    So get the violence over with as soon as possible; that way there’ll be less time for people to taste its bitterness and they’ll be less hostile. Favours, on the other hand, should be given out slowly, one by one, so that they can be properly savoured.

    In every city one finds these two conflicting political positions: there are the common people who are eager not to be ordered around and oppressed by the noble families, and there are the nobles who are eager to oppress the common people and order them around. These opposing impulses will lead to one of three different situations: a monarchy, a republic, or anarchy. A

    A king who comes to power with the help of the rich nobles will have more trouble keeping it than the king who gets there with the support of the people, because he will be surrounded by men who consider themselves his equals, and that will make it hard for him to give them orders or to manage affairs as he wants. But a man coming to power with the support of the common people holds it alone and has no one, or hardly anyone, around him who’s unwilling to obey. What’s more, you can’t in good faith give the nobles what they want without doing harm to others; but you can with the people. Because the people’s aspirations are more honourable than those of the nobles: the nobles want to oppress the people, while the people want to be free from oppression. What’s more, a king can never be safe if the common people are hostile to him, because there are so many of them; but he can protect himself against the nobles, since there are not so many.

    A man who becomes king with the support of the people, then, must keep those people on his side. This is easy enough since all they want is to be free from oppression. But the man who becomes king against the will of the majority and with the support of the wealthy nobles must make it an absolute priority to win over the affection of the common people.

    what’s more, to keep people well fed without draining the public purse, they stock materials for a year’s worth of work in whatever trades are the lifeblood of the city and whatever jobs the common folk earn their keep with.

    Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous. If you are counting on mercenaries to defend your state you will never be stable or secure, because mercenaries are ambitious, undisciplined, disloyal and they quarrel among themselves. Courageous with friends and cowardly with enemies, they have no fear of God and keep no promises. With mercenaries the only way to delay disaster is to delay the battle; in peacetime they plunder you and in wartime they let the enemy plunder you.

    they’re happy to be your soldiers while you’re not at war, but when war comes, they run for it, or just disappear.

    And a republic with a citizen army is less likely to fall victim to a coup than a republic paying for mercenary armies.

    Rome and Sparta stood for many centuries armed and free. The Swiss are extremely well armed and completely free.

    fight his neighbours, the emperor of Constantinople brought 10,000 Turks into Greece and when the war was over they wouldn’t leave, which was how the infidels began to get control of Greece.

    To summarize, the big danger with mercenaries is their indecision, with auxiliaries their determination.

    having your own army means having a force made up of subjects, or citizens, or men dependent on you. All other forces are mercenaries or auxiliaries.

    A ruler, then, must have no other aim or consideration, nor seek to develop any other vocation outside war, the organization of the army and military discipline.

    if you always want to play the good man in a world where most people are not good, you’ll end up badly. Hence, if a ruler wants to survive, he’ll have to learn to stop being good, at least when the occasion demands.

    With time, when people see that his penny-pinching means he doesn’t need to raise taxes and can defend the country against attack and embark on campaigns without putting a burden on his people, he’ll increasingly be seen as generous – generous to those he takes nothing from, which is to say almost everybody, and mean to those who get nothing from him, which is to say very few. In our own times the only leaders we’ve seen doing great things were all reckoned mean. The others were failures.


    A ruler in power and a man seeking power are two different things. For the ruler already in power generosity is dangerous; for the man seeking power it is essential. Caesar

    Spending other people’s money doesn’t lower your standing – it raises it. It’s only spending your own money that puts you at risk.

    if you have to choose, it’s much safer to be feared than loved.

    Men are less worried about letting down someone who has made himself loved than someone who makes himself feared. Love binds when someone recognizes he should be grateful to you, but, since men are a sad lot, gratitude is forgotten the moment it’s inconvenient. Fear means fear of punishment, and that’s something people never forget.

    And a ruler won’t be hated if he keeps his hands off his subjects’ property and their women.

    Above all, he mustn’t seize other people’s property. A man will sooner forget the death of his father than the loss of his inheritance.

    The positive qualities without the cruelty wouldn’t have produced the same effect. Historians are just not thinking when they praise him for this achievement and then condemn him for the cruelty that made it possible.

    Since a ruler has to be able to act the beast, he should take on the traits of the fox and the lion; the lion can’t defend itself against snares and the fox can’t defend itself from wolves. So you have to play the fox to see the snares and the lion to scare off the wolves. A ruler who just plays the lion and forgets the fox doesn’t know what he’s doing. Hence a sensible leader cannot and must not keep his word if by doing so he puts himself at risk, and if the reasons that made him give his word in the first place are no longer valid.

    There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious. In general people judge more by appearances than first-hand experience, because everyone gets to see you but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are, and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to majority opinion underwritten by the authority of state.

    You’ll be held in contempt, on the other hand, if you’re seen as changeable, superficial, effeminate, fearful or indecisive. So a ruler must avoid those qualities like so many stumbling blocks and act in such a way that everything he does gives an impression of greatness, spirit, seriousness and strength; when presiding over disputes between citizens he should insist that his decision is final and make sure no one imagines they can trick or outwit him.

    In fact, one of the most powerful preventive measures against conspiracies is simply not being hated by a majority of the people. People planning a conspiracy must believe that killing the ruler will be popular; when they realize that, on the contrary, it would be unpopular they lose heart, because conspiracies are always beset with endless difficulties. Experience

    My conclusion, then, is that so long as he has the people on his side a ruler needn’t worry about conspiracies, but when they are against him and hate him he’ll have to watch everyone’s every move.

    This prompts the following reflection: that a ruler must get others to carry out policies that will provoke protest, keeping those that inspire gratitude to himself. In conclusion, let me repeat that a ruler should respect the nobles but must make sure he is not hated by the people.

    No one new to power has ever disarmed his subjects; on the contrary, finding them disarmed new rulers have always armed them. When you’re the one giving people arms, those arms become yours; men who were potentially hostile become loyal, while those already loyal become your supporters rather than just your subjects. It’s true you can’t arm everyone, but in favouring some you can feel safer about the others too.

    Looking carefully at the reasons for this and drawing on the examples available from ancient and modern history, we find that it is much easier to win over those who were content with the previous government, and hence your enemies, than the men who were not content and so made an alliance with you and helped you take the country.

    A ruler will also be respected when he is a genuine friend and a genuine enemy, that is, when he declares himself unambiguously for one side and against the other. This policy will always bring better results than neutrality.

    For example, if you have two powerful neighbours who go to war, you may or may not have reason to fear the winner afterwards. Either way it will always be better to take sides and fight hard. If you do have cause to fear but stay neutral, you’ll still be gobbled up by the winner to the amusement and satisfaction of the loser; you’ll have no excuses, no defence and nowhere to hide. Because a winner doesn’t want half-hearted friends who don’t help him in a crisis; and the loser will have nothing to do with you since you didn’t choose to fight alongside him and share his fate.

    A ruler must also show that he admires achievement in others, giving work to men of ability and rewarding people who excel in this or that craft. What’s more, he should reassure his subjects that they can go calmly about their business as merchants or farmers, or whatever other trade they practise, without worrying that if they increase their wealth they’ll be in danger of having it taken away from them, or that if they start up a business they’ll be punitively taxed.

    Note:Supply side Machiavelli

    In responding to these advisers, as a group or separately, he should make it clear that the more openly they speak, the more welcome their advice will be. After which, he shouldn’t take advice from anyone else, but get on with whatever has been decided and be firm in his decisions.

    So a ruler must always take advice, but only when he wants it, not when others want to give it to him. In fact he should discourage people from giving him advice unasked.

    I realize that many people have believed and still do believe that the world is run by God and by fortune and that however shrewd men may be they can’t do anything about it and have no way of protecting themselves.

    My opinion on the matter is this: it’s better to be impulsive than cautious; fortune is female and if you want to stay on top of her you have to slap and thrust. You’ll see she’s more likely to yield that way than to men who go about her coldly. And being a woman she likes her men young, because they’re not so cagey, they’re wilder and more daring when they master her.

    Justice is definitely on our side because ‘war is just when there’s no alternative and arms are sacred when they are your only hope.’ The

    God doesn’t like doing everything himself, he doesn’t want to deprive us of our free will and our share of glory.

    It’s true that the Swiss and Spanish infantries are thought to be formidable, but both have weak points that would allow a third force not only to face them but to feel confident of beating them. The Spanish can’t stand up to cavalry and the Swiss are in trouble when they run into infantry as determined as themselves.

    ACUTO, GIOVANNI Italianization of John Hawkwood (1320-94). Having served in the English army in France, in 1360 Hawkwood joined mercenary soldiers in Burgundy and later commanded the so-called White Company fighting for different states and factions in Italy. Constantly playing off his employers against their enemies, he built up considerable wealth. From 1390 on he commanded Florentine armies in their war against the Viscontis of Milan.

    Illegitimate son of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia was made Bishop of Pamplona at fifteen and a cardinal at eighteen.

    Cesare then became the first person in history to resign his position as cardinal, upon which Louis made him Duke of Valentinois, hence the nickname, Duke Valentino.

    COMMODUS Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (161–193), Roman emperor (180–93). The son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus rejected his father’s stoic asceticism, giving himself over to pleasure and amusement while allowing a series of favourites to run the empire. Boastful about his physique, he regularly took part in naked gladiatorial combat. Eventually a conspiracy against him led to his being strangled by the wrestler Narcissus.

    FORLÌ, COUNTESS OF Caterina Sforza (1463–1509), an illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. She married Girolamo Riario, officially the nephew but possibly the son of Pope Sixtus IV. Riario was Count of Forlì and after his murder in 1488 Caterina took control of the town until it was captured by Cesare Borgia in 1500. She is famous for having refused to hand over the citadel of Forlì to rebels despite their threatening to kill her children, whom they held hostage. Exposing her genitals from the castle walls, she told them she was perfectly capable of producing more children.

    Despite impressive victories he was forced to return home when the Romans attacked Carthage, and was defeated at the Battle of Zama (201 BC) by Scipio Africanus.

    Eventually, to avoid falling into Roman hands, he killed himself by poisoning.

    He died of natural causes and was immediately deified.

    Note:Worth noting cause of death

    While his domestic reforms enjoyed a certain amount of success, his foreign policies were confused and ineffective and led to the loss of Switzerland, which became an independent confederation in 1499.

    his preaching appeared to be vindicated and he became head of the Florentine government, leading the city as a theocracy from 1494 to 1498 and encouraging people to burn anything profane (books, paintings) on his so-called Bonfire of the Vanities.

    THESEUS Legendary Greek hero, son of Aegeus, King of Athens. He slew the Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth and was the first lover of the adolescent Helen of Troy. He united the region of Attica under the administration of Athens.

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  • Culture,  Speculation,  Subcultures

    Steelmaning Yarvin

    The need to steelman Yarvin came to my while I was running a few days ago.

    The best I can come up with is a modification of Kling’s civilization/barbarism axis, to wit, his contribution can be described as:

    Assume the world slides back and forth on a spectrum of civilization and barbarism. Each increase in civilization comes with a decrease in barbarism, and vice versa (both have benefits, structure, dynamism, equilibrium, etc). Yarvin can be thought of as contributing the thought that civilization can decay in place. The benefits of civilization can decrease with no increase in barbarism. Basically a decrease in structure without an increase in dynamism.

    Now that I’ve written that out (in less than 45,000 words) I will go back to disliking Yarvin.

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  • Trump

    This is very well put, regarding Trump and indictments

    From this substack

    So. A thought experiment: If, in 2008, as Barack Obama was closing in on victory in the presidential race, he’d suddenly been mass-indicted by a long series of exclusively Republican prosecutors, would Democrats have abandoned him? “Oh, that’s it for me, if Obama has been indicted, I have to support someone else!” Or would the indictment of a popular Democratic politician by a bunch of Republicans have resulted in an immediate explosion of furious, redoubled support? This is the easiest question anyone has ever asked, by the way.

    And throw in the fact that many other prominent politicians have done very, very similar things with no criminal persecution (Pence and Biden with documents, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore with election recounts and fraud allegations) and the feeling of unfairness is obvious, if not accurate. To steelman things, sure, Trump went slightly farther, and did things as abrasively as possible, but his supporters would say that is to be expected, and just Trump being Trump. Sensemaking is ever a constant struggle.

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  • Books

    Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte

    The Book in 3 Sentences

    1. A somewhat padded but useful book about what to record and how to record any bit of information you come across in your life. It started out as a course but was distilled down into several guiding principles and put into book form. I found it worth reading if you plan to actually put the lessons of the book into action. It could have been shorter without missing anything of value but such is the nature of the beast.

    How I Discovered It

    From the Thomas Frank Youtube/Nebula Channels

    Who Should Read It?

    People who intend to be more organized

    How the Book Changed Me

    How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

    • A better notion setup
    • More focused note taking
    • Better overall information organization.
    • A focus on the reusable “intermediate packets” – which is a valuable concept

    Summary + Notes

    We spend countless hours reading, listening to, and watching other people’s opinions about what we should do, how we should think, and how we should live, but make comparatively little effort applying that knowledge and making it our own. So much of the time we are “information hoarders,” stockpiling endless amounts of well-intentioned content that only ends up increasing our anxiety.

    To be able to make use of information we value, we need a way to package it up and send it through time to our future self.

    The Building a Second Brain system will teach you how to: Find anything you’ve learned, touched, or thought about in the past within seconds. Organize your knowledge and use it to move your projects and goals forward more consistently. Save your best thinking so you don’t have to do it again. Connect ideas and notice patterns across different areas of your life so you know how to live better. Adopt a reliable system that helps you share your work more confidently and with more ease. Turn work “off” and relax, knowing you have a trusted system keeping track of all the details. Spend less time looking for things, and more time doing the best, most creative work you are capable of. When

    I became the project manager of my own condition, taking detailed notes on everything my doctors told me, trying out every suggestion they made, and generating questions to review during my next appointment. With

    Research from Microsoft shows that the average US employee spends 76 hours per year looking for misplaced notes, items, or files.

    This digital commonplace book is what I call a Second Brain. Think of it as the combination of a study notebook, a personal journal, and a sketchbook for new ideas. It is a multipurpose tool that can adapt to your changing needs over time.

    You’re allowed to reference your notes at any time, provided you took them in the first place.

    For modern, professional notetaking, a note is a “knowledge building block”—a discrete unit of information interpreted through your unique perspective and stored outside your head.

    Their stories convey a pervasive feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction—the experience of facing an endless onslaught of demands on their time, their innate curiosity and imagination withering away under the suffocating weight of obligation.

    There are four essential capabilities that we can rely on a Second Brain to perform for us: Making our ideas concrete. Revealing new associations between ideas. Incubating our ideas over time. Sharpening our unique perspectives.

    Before we do anything with our ideas, we have to “off-load” them from our minds and put them into concrete form. Only when we declutter our brain of complex ideas can we think clearly and start to work with those ideas effectively.

    In its most practical form, creativity is about connecting ideas together, especially ideas that don’t seem to be connected.

    Having a Second Brain where lots of ideas can be permanently saved for the long term turns the passage of time into your friend, instead of your enemy.

    American journalist, author, and filmmaker Sebastian Junger once wrote on the subject of “writer’s block”: “It’s not that I’m blocked. It’s that I don’t have enough research to write with power and knowledge about that topic. It always means, not that I can’t find the right words, [but rather] that I don’t have the ammunition.”

    The second way that people use their Second Brain is to connect ideas together. Their Second Brain evolves from being primarily a memory tool to becoming a thinking tool. A piece of advice from a mentor comes in handy as they encounter a similar situation on a different team.

    To guide you in the process of creating your own Second Brain, I’ve developed a simple, intuitive four-part method called “CODE”—Capture; Organize; Distill; Express. These are the steps not only to build your Second Brain in the first place, but also to work with it going forward.

    The solution is to keep only what resonates in a trusted place that you control, and to leave the rest aside.

    The best way to organize your notes is to organize for action, according to the active projects you are working on right now. Consider new information in terms of its utility, asking, “How is this going to help me move forward one of my current projects?”

    Every time you take a note, ask yourself, “How can I make this as useful as possible for my future self?” That question will lead you to annotate the words and phrases that explain why you saved a note, what you were thinking, and what exactly caught your attention. Your notes will be useless if you can’t decipher them in the future, or if they’re so long that you don’t even try. Think of yourself not just as a taker of notes, but as a giver of notes—you are giving your future self the gift of knowledge that is easy to find and understand.

    Information is always in flux, and it is always a work in progress. Since nothing is ever truly final, there is no need to wait to get started.

    Information is food for the brain. It’s no accident that we call new ideas “food for thought.”

    A knowledge asset is anything that can be used in the future to solve a problem, save time, illuminate a concept, or learn from past experience.

    Knowledge assets can come from either the external world or your inner thoughts. External knowledge could include: Highlights: Insightful passages from books or articles you read. Quotes: Memorable passages from podcasts or audiobooks you listen to. Bookmarks and favorites: Links to interesting content you find on the web or favorited social media posts. Voice memos: Clips recorded on your mobile device as “notes to self.” Meeting notes: Notes you take about what was discussed during meetings or phone calls. Images: Photos or other images that you find inspiring or interesting. Takeaways: Lessons from courses, conferences, or presentations you’ve attended.

    If you try to save every piece of material you come across, you run the risk of inundating your future self with tons of irrelevant information. At that point, your Second Brain will be no better than scrolling through social media.

    The renowned information theorist Claude Shannon, whose discoveries paved the way for modern technology, had a simple definition for “information”: that which surprises you.7 If you’re not surprised, then you already knew it at some level, so why take note of it? Surprise is an excellent barometer for information that doesn’t fit neatly into our existing understanding, which means it has the potential to change how we think.

    If what you’re capturing doesn’t change your mind, then what’s the point?

    but if you take away one thing from this chapter, it should be to keep what resonates.

    First, you are much more likely to remember information you’ve written down in your own words. Known as the “Generation Effect,”10 researchers have found that when people actively generate a series of words, such as by speaking or writing, more parts of their brain are activated when compared to simply reading the same words. Writing things down is a way of “rehearsing” those ideas, like practicing a dance routine or shooting hoops, which makes them far more likely to stick.

    I eventually named this organizing system PARA,I which stands for the four main categories of information in our lives: Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives. These four categories are universal, encompassing any kind of information, from any source, in any format, for any purpose.

    PARA can handle it all, regardless of your profession or field, for one reason: it organizes information based on how actionable it is, not what kind of information it is. The project becomes the main unit of organization for your digital files.

    There’s another way. I will show you how to take the notes you’ve captured and save them according to a practical use case. By taking that small extra step of putting a note into a folder (or tagging itIII) for a specific project, such as a psychology paper you’re writing or a presentation you’re preparing, you’ll encounter that idea right at the moment it’s most relevant. Not a moment before, and not a moment after.

    With the PARA system, every piece of information you want to save can be placed into one of just four categories: Projects: Short-term efforts in your work or life that you’re working on now. Areas: Long-term responsibilities you want to manage over time. Resources: Topics or interests that may be useful in the future. Archives: Inactive items from the other three categories.

    Projects have a couple of features that make them an ideal way to organize modern work. First, they have a beginning and an end; they take place during a specific period of time and then they finish. Second, they have a specific, clear outcome that needs to happen in order for them to be checked off as complete, such as “finalize,” “green-light,” “launch,” or “publish.”

    Each of these is an example of an area of responsibility, and together they make up the second main category of PARA. All these areas, both personal and professional, require certain information to be handled effectively, but they’re not the same as projects.

    The third category of information that we want to keep is resources. This is basically a catchall for anything that doesn’t belong to a project or an area and could include any topic you’re interested in gathering information about.

    Any note or file that isn’t relevant or actionable for a current project or area can be placed into resources for future reference.

    Finally, we have our archives. This includes any item from the previous three categories that is no longer active.

    The archives are an important part of PARA because they allow you to place a folder in “cold storage” so that it doesn’t clutter your workspace, while safekeeping it forever just in case you need it.

    Projects are most actionable because you’re working on them right now and with a concrete deadline in mind. Areas have a longer time horizon and are less immediately actionable. Resources may become actionable depending on the situation. Archives remain inactive unless they are needed.

    This order gives us a convenient checklist for deciding where to put a note, starting at the top of the list and moving down: In which project will this be most useful? If none: In which area will this be most useful? If none: Which resource does this belong to? If none: Place in archives. In other words, you are always trying to place a note or file not only where it will be useful, but where it will be useful the soonest. By placing a note in a project folder, you ensure you’ll see it next time you work on that project. By placing it in an area folder, you’ll come across it next time you’re thinking about that area of your work or life. By placing it in a resource folder, you’ll notice it only if and when you decide to dive into that topic and do some reading or research. By placing it in archives, you never need to see it again unless you want

    started. The goal of organizing our knowledge is to move our goals forward, not get a PhD in notetaking. Knowledge is best applied through execution, which means whatever doesn’t help you make progress on your projects is probably detracting from them.

    There is a parallel between PARA and how kitchens are organized. Everything in a kitchen is designed and organized to support an outcome—preparing a meal as efficiently as possible. The archives are like the freezer—items are in cold storage until they are needed, which could be far into the future. Resources are like the pantry—available for use in any meal you make, but neatly tucked away out of sight in the meantime. Areas are like the fridge—items that you plan on using relatively soon, and that you want to check on more frequently. Projects are like the pots and pans cooking on the stove—the items you are actively preparing right now. Each kind of food is organized according to how accessible it needs to be for you to make the meals you want to eat. Imagine

    PARA isn’t a filing system; it’s a production system. It’s no use trying to find the “perfect place” where a note or file belongs. There isn’t one. The whole system is constantly shifting and changing in sync with your constantly changing life.

    Any piece of information (whether a text document, an image, a note, or an entire folder) can and should flow between categories.

    They had repeatedly postponed their creative ambitions to some far-off, mythical time when somehow everything would be perfectly in order. Once we set that aside and just focused on what they actually wanted to do right now, they suddenly gained a tremendous sense of clarity and motivation.

    You could also create folders for your areas and resources, but I recommend starting only with projects to avoid creating lots of empty containers. You can always add others later when you have something to put inside them. Although you can and should use PARA across all the platforms where you store information—the three most common ones besides a notetaking app are the documents folder on your computer, cloud storage drives like Dropbox, and online collaboration suites like Google Docs—I recommend starting with just your notes app for now.

    Each time you finish a project, move its folder wholesale to the archives, and each time you start a new project, look through your archives to see if any past project might have assets you can reuse.

    don’t worry about reorganizing or “cleaning up” any existing notes. You can’t afford to spend a lot of time on old content that you’re not sure you’re ever going to need. Start with a clean slate by putting your existing notes in the archives for safekeeping. If you ever need them, they’ll show up in searches and remain just as you left them.

    They require a bit more refinement to turn them into truly valuable knowledge assets, like a chemist distilling only the purest compound. This is why we separate capturing and organizing from the subsequent steps: you need to be able to store something quickly and save any future refinement for later.

    Your job as a notetaker is to preserve the notes you’re taking on the things you discover in such a way that they can survive the journey into the future.

    Discoverability is an idea from information science that refers to “the degree to which a piece of content or information can be found in a search of a file, database, or other information system.”

    Progressive Summarization is not a method for remembering as much as possible—it is a method for forgetting as much as possible. As you distill your ideas, they naturally improve, because when you drop the merely good parts, the great parts can shine more brightly.

    A helpful rule of thumb is that each layer of highlighting should include no more than 10–20 percent of the previous layer.

    When the opportunity arrives to do our best work, it’s not the time to start reading books and doing research. You need that research to already be done.

    Our time and attention are scarce, and it’s time we treated the things we invest in—reports, deliverables, plans, pieces of writing, graphics, slides—as knowledge assets that can be reused instead of reproducing them from scratch. Reusing Intermediate Packets of work frees up our attention for higher-order, more creative thinking.

    Fourth, and best of all, eventually you’ll have so many IPs at your disposal that you can execute entire projects just by assembling previously created IPs. This

    While you can sit down to purposefully create an IP, it is far more powerful to simply notice the IPs that you have already produced and then to take an extra moment to save them in your Second Brain.

    Ask yourself: How could you acquire or assemble each of these components, instead of having to make them yourself?

    Note:This is a key insight . design for future discoverability and use

    Our creativity thrives on examples. When we have a template to fill in, our ideas are channeled into useful forms instead of splattered around haphazardly. There are best practices and plentiful models for almost anything you might want to make.

    Those four retrieval methods are: Search Browsing Tags Serendipity

    Search should be the first retrieval method you turn to. It is most useful when you already know more or less what you’re looking for, when you don’t have notes saved in a preexisting folder, or when you’re looking for text,

    If you’ve followed the PARA system outlined in Chapter 5 to organize your notes, you already have a series of dedicated folders for each of your active projects, areas of responsibility, resources, and archives.

    You will begin to see yourself as the curator of the collective thinking of your network, rather than the sole originator of ideas.

    This is a turning point in the life of any creative professional—when you begin to think of “your work” as something separate from yourself.

    Translated to English, it means “We only know what we make.”

    One of my favorite rules of thumb is to “Only start projects that are already 80 percent done.” That might seem like a paradox, but committing to finish projects only when I’ve already done most of the work to capture, organize, and distill the relevant material means I never run the risk of starting something I can’t finish.

    My father planned for creativity. He strategized his creativity. When it was time to make progress on a painting, he gave it his full focus, but that wasn’t the only time he exercised his imagination. Much of the rest of the time he was collecting, sifting through, reflecting on, and recombining raw material from his daily life so that when it came time to create, he had more than enough raw material to work with.

    What I learned from my father is that by the time you sit down to make progress on something, all the work to gather and organize the source material needs to already be done. We can’t expect ourselves to instantly come up with brilliant ideas on demand. I learned that innovation and problem-solving depend on a routine that systematically brings interesting ideas to the surface of our awareness.

    One of the most important patterns that underlies the creative process is called “divergence and convergence.”

    The first two steps of CODE, Capture and Organize, make up divergence. They are about gathering seeds of imagination carried on the wind and storing them in a secure place. This is where you research, explore, and add ideas. The final two steps, Distill and Express, are about convergence. They help us shut the door to new ideas and begin constructing something new out of the knowledge building blocks we’ve assembled.

    Your Second Brain is a powerful ally in overcoming the universal challenge of creative work—sitting down to make progress and having no idea where to start.

    When you distinguish between the two modes of divergence and convergence, you can decide each time you begin to work which mode you want to be in, which gives you the answers to the questions above. In divergence mode, you want to open up your horizons and explore every possible option. Open the windows and doors, click every link, jump from one source to another, and let your curiosity be your guide for what to do next. If you decide to enter convergence mode, do the opposite: close the door, put on noise-canceling headphones, ignore every new input, and ferociously chase the sweet reward of completion. Trust that you have enough ideas and enough sources, and it’s time to turn inward and sprint toward your goal.

    I used to lose weeks stalling before each new chapter, because it was just a big empty sea of nothingness. Now each chapter starts life as a kind of archipelago of inspiring quotes, which makes it seem far less daunting. All I have to do is build bridges between the islands.

    An Archipelago of Ideas separates the two activities your brain has the most difficulty performing at the same time: choosing ideas (known as selection) and arranging them into a logical flow (known as sequencing).

    The goal of an archipelago is that instead of sitting down to a blank page or screen and stressing out about where to begin, you start with a series of small stepping-stones to guide your efforts. First you select the points and ideas you want to include in your outline, and then in a separate step, you rearrange and sequence them into an order that flows logically. This makes both of those steps far more efficient, less taxing, and less vulnerable to interruption. Instead of starting with scarcity, start with abundance—the abundance of interesting insights you’ve collected in your Second Brain.

    How do you create a Hemingway Bridge? Instead of burning through every last ounce of energy at the end of a work session, reserve the last few minutes to write down some of the following kinds of things in your digital notes: Write down ideas for next steps: At the end of a work session, write down what you think the next steps could be for the next one. Write down the current status: This could include your current biggest challenge, most important open question, or future roadblocks you expect. Write down any details you have in mind that are likely to be forgotten once you step away: Such as details about the characters in your story, the pitfalls of the event you’re planning, or the subtle considerations of the product you’re designing. Write out your intention for the next work session: Set an intention for what you plan on tackling next, the problem you intend to solve, or a certain milestone you want to reach.

    Note:Make this a notion thing

    Knowing that nothing I write or create truly gets lost—only saved for later use—gives me the confidence to aggressively cut my creative works down to size without fearing that I’ve wasted effort or that I’ll lose the results of my thinking forever.

    Set a timer for a fixed period of time, such as fifteen or twenty minutes, and in one sitting see if you can complete a first pass on your project using only the notes you’ve gathered in front of you. No searching online, no browsing social media, and no opening multiple browser tabs that you swear you’re going to get to eventually. Only work with what you already have.

    The three habits most important to your Second Brain include: Project Checklists: Ensure you start and finish your projects in a consistent way, making use of past work. Weekly and Monthly Reviews: Periodically review your work and life and decide if you want to change anything. Noticing Habits: Notice small opportunities to edit, highlight, or move notes to make them more discoverable for your future self.

    The practice of conducting a “Weekly Review” was pioneered by executive coach and author David Allen in his influential book Getting Things Done.III He described a Weekly Review as a regular check-in, performed once a week, in which you intentionally reset and review your work and life.

    The truth is, any system that must be perfect to be reliable is deeply flawed. A perfect system you don’t use because it’s too complicated and error prone isn’t a perfect system—it’s a fragile system that will fall apart as soon as you turn your attention elsewhere.

    orchestrating and managing the process of turning information into results.

    We can try to describe how we do these things, but our explanations always fall far short. That’s because we are relying on tacit knowledge, which is impossible to describe in exact detail. We possess that knowledge, but it resides in our subconscious and muscle memory where language cannot reach.

    you can always fall back on the four steps of CODE: Keep what resonates (Capture) Save for actionability (Organize) Find the essence (Distill) Show your work (Express)

    Thank you to Venkatesh Rao for serving as my introduction to the online world of ideas.

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