Hello, good people! I hope you are well. Let me first give props to any and all who joined for any part of our second annual IHD December fast. Quite the accomplishment. I hope you found it empowering and that you are experiencing a renewed appreciation for the flavors and comforts of our world.
Now, without further ado, let’s jump into today’s Stuff.
ONE FROM THE AGES
Frederick Douglass, in his essay, On Blessings of Liberty and Education:
“My philosophy of work is, that a man is worked upon by that upon which he works. Some work requires more muscle than it does mind. That work which requires the most thought, skill and ingenuity, will receive the highest commendation, and will otherwise do most for the worker.
…There is fire in the flint and steel, but it is friction that causes it to flash, flame and burn, and give light where all else may be darkness. There is music in the violin, but the touch of the master is needed to fill the air and the soul with the concord of sweet sounds. There is power in the human mind, but education is needed for its development.”
ONE FROM TODAY
Author, Mark Manson, on why we need worthwhile challenges.
“I once heard an artist say that when a person has no problems the mind automatically finds new ways to invent some. I think what most people consider life problems are really just side effects of not having anything better to worry about. It then follows that finding something important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most important use of your time and energy.”
Source: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, by Mark Manson
ONE FROM US
Like many people, my wife and I recently got into Netflix's, The Queen’s Gambit. Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, the story centers around an orphaned girl who becomes a chess prodigy and battles her demons while trying to take down the Soviet Grandmaster, Vasily Borgov. It’s a lot like Rocky 4, just with chess (and green pills).
Kidding aside, I enjoyed it so much that I bought a chess board and subscribed to World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen’s chess training app. I am awful, but I’ve really enjoyed practicing a skill on a consistent basis again. And I’m not the only one who was inspired to take up chess. Chess sets and subscriptions are flying off the proverbial shelves since the show premiered.
What stood out most in The Queen’s Gambit, was the feel that chess could bring people together. There is one particularly memorable scene where rows of people played chess in a park. There was a sense that this game was both a form of connection that bonded a community and a passion that united people regardless of where they came from. It was the sense that by passing on chess to your children you were passing on a tradition. Any sport, skill, or passion can do this to some degree, but chess seems a perfect hobby for people to be embracing right now.
A lot of us will be traveling or taking time off over the next few weeks. Many of us are still contemplating gift purchases as well. There is nothing wrong with a little mindless fun, but I like to think about how gifts might open up doors. Certain purchases prompt the development of future skills, understandings, and opportunities. A chess set is an obvious example of this, as are books. I tend to always give books. You can’t help but feel connected with people who have read a book you love. It is like you both have access to another mental universe.
In that spirit, I thought it would be a great time to throw together a list of my top 15 favorite all time reads. It could be recency bias, but I first read a surprising number of these in 2020. It has been by far my best reading year, ever. So, I’ll list my top 15 favorite books of all time and then I’ll tack on a list of some of my other favorites from this past year.
The Fifteen Best, Most-Earth Shattering, Awesome Books Ever, According to Shane
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger
About four years ago, I first met Justin while interviewing him on a podcast. He recommended this book to me. It changed how I look at the world in profound ways. A quick, fascinating read that will open your eyes to the world you were meant to live in.
Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road, by Matthew Crawford
This book came out this summer and I came across it in August. The second I finished listening to it on Audible, I started reading the hardcopy. The title doesn’t do it justice. Crawford brilliantly (and humorously) explores how humans thrive, how societies can promote or discourage that end, and what the future of humanity looks like if we don’t rediscover values that can rival safety and efficiency. Must read.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt
A phenomenal look at human communication, how morality works, and why it is the secret to a strong social fabric. It changed the way I approach differences of opinion and the way I look at society at large. Everyone should read this book.
Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance, by Christopher McDougall
An amazing true story about a plot to kidnap the commander of the Nazi forces on Crete during World War II. In the process, McDougall deep dives into Crete’s legacy of training heroes, reveals functional training secrets, and explores the nuances of what it means to be a hero. Entertaining and inspiring.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, by Robert Pirsig
I enjoy this book more than most people I’ve recommended it to, probably because my father was a philosophy professor and my family travelled through similar territory every summer. But if you like Why We Drive, it is another amazing meditation on values and authentic living.
Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Taleb
I put this one off for a long time because I understood the basic idea of antifragility. If you are the same, trust me, it is worth reading or listening to. Longer than it needs to be, but enjoyable and full of brilliant insights.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
You’ll never look at humans and civilization the same.
The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant
Amazing summaries of big ideas in history. Short, sweet, and illuminating.
Why Honor Matters, by Tamler Sommers
Not on many people’s top ten, but this is great. A defense of the good of honor cultures and how they fit our human needs better than dignity cultures. Tamler argues for intentionally bringing back constrained honor cultures that utilize their good while mitigating the downside.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs, by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is always good but this one is still my favorite. It will light a fire under you and change your approach to challenges.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story, by Dan Harris
This one may be ranked too high because of nostalgia-factor. It was the right book at the right time when I first came across it. Regardless, Harris is funny and a great storyteller. He sold me on meditation.
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, by Steven Pressfield
This doesn’t just cover the “300 battle.” It brings you into the world of Ancient Sparta and shows you how Spartans were made.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle
Coyle uses fascinating examples to break down the science behind creating amazing groups - places where 1+1=5. Probably the most influential book on leadership I’ve found.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
Don’t be fooled by the title. This is a seriously great, no-nonsense look at living a better life. And it is hilarious.
Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
This isn’t a self-help book so much as a funny, counterintuitive look at the human condition. As with The Righteous Mind, it will help you understand yourself and other people better.
The Ten Best Books I’ve Read This Year (Not Already Included in my Top 15)
Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape From the Crowd, by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Charter Schools and Their Enemies, by Thomas Sowell
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes Remarkable Results, by James Clear
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation For Failure, by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff
The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity, by Douglass Murray
The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense, by Gad Saad
The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses, by Dan Carlin
Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach us About the Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs
Thank you very much for reading. Please share if you think someone else would enjoy this.
Life is too short to be normal,
Shane, have you read "The Joy of Movement" by Kelly McGonigal? I highly recommend it. I LOVED "Tribe" btw....loved it! Currently reading "10% Happier."
Not to leave you out, Justin. Have you read this? I have an extra copy I could send you.