In de toekomst vertaal ik deze blogpost nog, die ik initieel op www.belgianboy.com gepubliceerd heb. Maar dat is voor later.
An overview of my Influences, Must Reads, Heuristics, Rules for Daily Life and more
In the last few months, my curiosity has led me to new and exciting places. Not only did I discover new things about myself (I’m more conservative than I thought), it also opened new avenues of conversation. New perspectives on how to talk and think about the meaning of life, what it is that we do here, and the traps to avoid. I’m 26 now, and it feels like a good moment to reflect on some things.
From time to time, I get asked what books I read, what podcasts I listen to, how I structure my days and what rules I live by. I’ll try to answer each and every one of these questions in this post. (I expect to update this post in the coming weeks.)
A short disclaimer: I am, by nature, a curious person. My curiosity propels me towards new things, even though I often don’t know what it is that I’m doing, nor would I be able to come up with a rational answer as to why I even try. I simply share what works for me, and if you (strongly or intuitively) disagree with anything I recommend or say, I hope you take it as a reason to find your own truth and share it with the world.
I like reading. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I got into the habit of devouring books. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have to read (school), but when you read for the sake of reading. To discover for the sake of discovering, when work feels like leisure, probably is the golden standard to live by.
Recommending books (and other pieces of art) can be tricky, though. The teacher reveals itself when the student is ready, and my favorite books might bore you to death, either because you’re not ready, or you’re much further on your learning journey. Either way, these are the books I’d happily recommend my 18-year self.
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb. Ties together many philosophical ideas that would otherwise take you much longer to discover by yourself.
I recently finished The Strange Death of Europe, which I recommend. Also, in general, anything from Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, David versus Goliath, The Tipping Point) and Michael Lewis (especially The Undoing Project and The Big Short) goes. I loved Originals by Adam Grant, Sapiens by Harari, The Origins of Western Liberalism, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Brave New World, 1984, Technopoly and Amusing Ourselves to Death (both highly recommended, by Neil Postman), How to Win Friends and Influence People, Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me), Richard Bach’s Illusions, Krishnamurti’s Think on These Things and some others. These are just the ones that spontaneously come to mind, which I think is a good filter. I enjoyed the Dutch translation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. You should probably also read The Bible.
Biographies I enjoy: on Michel the Montaigne (one book by Stefan Zweig and another by Sarah Bakewell), Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman and Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
I also enjoy batching specific books. I’ll soon start reading Jordan Peterson’s recommendations, including The Gulag Archipelago (Solzhenitsyn), The Possessed (Dostoyevski), Ordinary Men (Browning), The Rape of Nanking (Chang), and Atrocities (White). I’ll try rereading If This is a Man (Levi), which made me cry like a baby the first time I tried. I have to dedicate a few weeks to really get into a reading mood, which is my preferred way of diving into a subject. (Other batched subjects are central banking/sound money, self-help, Roman and Greek history. Just to name a few.)
The Golden rule of reading: have fun. I’m often reading 10+ books at the same time. (I started reading Gone Girl over a year ago, got halfway, but never continued reading it, lol.) The point of reading is to have fun, similarly to listening to podcasts. You have to enjoy what you’re doing.
Back in 2013, I moved to Hamburg. I decided I would learn German, and lose weight. I succeeded in both, and podcasts and audiobooks played a central role in my motivation to achieve both. The very first audiobook I ever downloaded was Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, followed by Salt Sugar Fat. I discovered the Tim Ferriss podcast, which I followed for quite a while.
Today, I regularly listen to:
- Revisionist History by Gladwell
- Waking Up by Sam Harris (I also support Sam’s show)
- Freakonomics Radio by Levitt
- The Joe Rogan Podcast by Joe Rogan
- The James Altucher Show by James Altucher
- Big Questions by Cal Fussman
- Hardcore History by Dan Carlin
- EconTalk by Russ Roberts
- Jocko Podcast by Jocko Willink
- The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish
- Unchained by Laura Shin
- Ruben Report by Dave Rubin
Podcasts are ever getting more popular, in part, I believe, because they are so intimate.
I highly recommend you listen to every episode with Jordan Peterson and Brett Weinstein on the Joe Rogan podcast. I love Naval’s two-hour conversation with Shane. Use Sam Harris as a filter for books to read (check the authors he interviews).
Naval Ravikant (@naval) is my go-to intellectual. He could be a member of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web group (whom I admire), although he seems much less attached to a hierarchical view of the world. (Which is not to say that the IDW members are solely hierarchical. I’m just pointing out that it feels as if Naval is a few steps ahead in the game called Life. I can understand why he likes Krishnamurti so much.)
I like Maria Popova’s Brainpickings. I wish there were a Dutch website like this.
I also keep a public folder of favorite articles I like.
Rules for Daily Life
- Keep a (pocket) notebook.
- Go on long walks. Leave your phone at home and just walk.
- Keep an analog desk.
- Take cold showers. I won’t make any health claims, but I have been doing it for months (with zero warm showers) and it makes me feel good.
Don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated. I guess it’s one of the oldest rules out there (from Hammurabi to the Bible to Kant, in one form or another), but it makes life easy. My golden rule.
Only give advice on things you’d suffer from yourself. I saw this rule in action on my first pilgrimage to Santiago. I asked a car driver for instructions on what road to take. Now, after having walked 25 kilometers in the burning sun, an additional two kilometers (four, if you’re going in the wrong direction) is hell. For any car driver, that’s a five minute-mistake. For you, that’s two hours wasted. Only ask advice from those who will suffer from their predictions (other pedestrians, in the Santiago case). This rule is widely applicable. Want to become a doctor? Go and talk to doctors – and doctors only. Want to start a family at age 22? Go and talk to people who started a family at age 22. So often we expect others to hold the answers to our questions, only to find out later that they’re as clueless as we are. You can partly solve that by limiting your sphere of influences to those who have actually experienced it.
Trust people, but always prioritize your self-respect. I was raised in a “prove yourself worthy first” family, which led me to the opposite position: I’ll trust people with my life, stuff, time and emotions, but I’ll also heavily guard the limits of my well-being. I don’t expect people to prove themselves first, which, at least for me, is the preferred modus operandi.
Limit changing people to changing yourself. This is the hardest “rule” for me: to fully accept that I cannot change anybody. No matter how much I’d like to, I cannot. Nor can you. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself (“fulfilling your potential” or “achieving your dreams” or however you want to frame it). If you’re successful at that, your improvements will lift the spirits of those around you. If they want to be lifted, that is.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. In my case, that translates itself into surrounding myself with people who have big dreams, open minds, intuitive thoughts, open hearts, strong opinions, and a healthy work/life balance. They also have a tendency to build their lives around the idea of self-sovereignty, be it in the form of financial independence or emotional stability.
The Women that changed my diet
Also, I’m on a zero carb diet. This might sound like something very masculine to do, something that attracts men, but the truth is different: carnivorous women convinced me to switch over and cut out all the bad stuff in my nutritional intake. The stories of women’s bodies are simply more convincing. I don’t really care about other men gaining muscle, lifting more or looking trim. But when women talk about their period returning after years (yes, years) of not having one, you know something is wrong. I tend not to raise this topic with my vegan or vegetarian friends (and family members), but I fear that some of them are doing irrecoverable damage to their bodies. I have a family member who’s on a growth hormone regime and a near-vegetarian diet, which, from a nutritional point of view, makes my heart bleed.
First, there was Peggy Emch. Back in 2014, I frequently visited her The Primal Parent blog. This is the furthest memory I have of being intrigued by the effect of diet on the female hormone system.
Then there is Kelly Hogan. Her doctor told her to lose 50 kilos (100 pounds, give or take) on a low carb diet. She evolved from heavily obese and infertile to slim, fit, and a mother of three.
Mikhaila Peterson, who’s had plenty of difficulties with her health. She recently gave birth to a baby girl, she’s exactly as old as I am (for some reason I find that comforting – I feel less alone, I guess), and has been on a strictly carnivorous diet since the start of 2018. Jordan Peterson, her father (see “Influencers”) has also seen significant health improvements on a strictly animal-based diet.
I came across Lierre Keith‘s book, The Vegetarian Myth, years ago, when I first dived into the ketogenic diet (which is quite different from a carnivorous one). I don’t like the title, but I’d wish my vegan and vegetarian friends would read it, if only to avoid health complications later in life. (Again, I don’t really care about people agreeing or disagreeing with my choices, but I do care about my friends’ health. Similar to friends smoking or taking drugs – I don’t really bother, but hope that you’ll recover.) She recently gave an interview on Peak Human which I think is a nice introduction to her work. She feels like a nice and sincere person who I could have a long, interesting talk with.
Amber O’Hearn has arguably written the most popular starting guide to a carnivorous diet. Eat meat. Not too little. Mostly fat.
Finally, Charlene Anderson and her family have been on a carnivorous diet for about 20 years. Another anecdote, but a strong one.
I will mention Shawn Baker, who has gained a large following since appearing on the Joe Rogan podcast, but I dislike his anti-vegan agenda. I am all for mocking others from time to time, in good faith, but sometimes it’s too much. (To be honest, he receives a lot of criticism, so I don’t condemn him.)
I’ll write a longer “From High Carb to Low Carb to Zero Carb” blog post somewhere in the future. In the meantime, don’t forget it’s about healing your body.