Recommended Reading

I have been reading a lot more lately, now that I have some spare time before the school year kicks up again. Later in another post I’ll create a list of books I have finished reading. For now, here are some books that have been influential to me so far in my life.

1. Thus spoke Zarathustra
I first read this when I was around 19 going on 20. Ii shook me to my very core. Nietzsche by himself is tough to understand without really getting into his work. You have to read his other books to even get what he’s talking about but even then you won’t really understand him until you understand his life and overall big picture of his philosophy. Anyways, this was the first book I read of his that introduced me to him and his philosophy and completely changed how I viewed myself, the world and everything I understood at the time. This book is the easiest of his to read but still fucking hard to understand, it’s packed full of references to the classics, the bible, other authors, metaphors, and poetry. He criticizes other philosophers, society, mainstream ideas of the time and puts forth his own philosophy all in the form of a story like a parable from the bible. Read this book, you won’t be the same after. Get the Clancy Martin translation, it reads far easier and provides an explanation in the back on what Nietzsche was referencing or talking about.

2. Fight Club
As a big fan of the movie, I had to read the book. This book shows the frustration young males of today feel with modern society. Like the movie, it centers on “Jack” the narrator, the friend he makes, Tyler Durden and the philosophy they begin to explore. I won’t ruin the story unless you’ve already seen the movie, but still. Read this book.

3. The 50th Law
This book by Robert Greene and 50 Cent is highly underrated by most people I know. It deals with the lessons that 50 learned while growing up hustling to survive from a young age. It’s main theme is fear and each individual lesson shows how to overcome it. A good book and one I highly recommend. In fact, I would say that you should read this one first then read the 48 laws to get a better grounding.

4. So Good They Can’t Ignore You
The main thing that is prevalent in our culture and society today is the idea of following your passion. That you should do what you love and the money will follow. This book not only debunks that prevailing godawful idea, but instead puts forth the idea that skills are what are actually important in finding work you love. I follow Cal Newport’s blog and his ideas and every time he writes a book, I make sure to read it. Get this book. Seriously.

5. Deep Work
Same goes for this one, this one is actually a follow up to So good they can’t ignore you but delves deeper into the concept of what he calls “deep work”. That intense concentration, without distraction, that produces remarkable work. He makes the case on why you should strive for deep work in our highly distracted age and how to go about implementing that in your own life. Like above, get this book. Like now.

6. On Machiavelli
Ok, this one is a little cheating because my main focus is The prince but On Machiavelli provides excerpts from The Prince and The Discourses. That’s why I recommend this one. It explains how and why Machiavelli wrote what he did by placing him in context in 15th Italy. It explains his work really well and when you get to the section on the prince and discourses you’ll understand it a whole lot better. I also recommend getting The Prince and The Discourses by themselves.

8. The Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged
I first read The Fountainhead when I was 18 and it completely blew me away. It was so impressionable that I really considered becoming an Architect like Roark. After finishing it, I immediately went out and got her Magnum Opus, Atlas Shrugged. Whereas The Fountainhead deals with Architect Howard Roark, Atlas Shrugged deals with a group of individuals and in the bigger picture, the world. Both books espouse Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Her books are good nonetheless and I recommend them. Just don’t start believing her philosophy without critically thinking about it first.

9. The Obstacle Is The Way
Oh man, what can I NOT say about this book. Ryan Holiday made a book for the ages when he wrote this one. In this one, he writes on the philosophy of Stoicism and gives historical examples that demonstrate the philosophy and exercises he is writing about. If you are stuck, need a clear assessment, a change in your life, or a problem you need to solve. This book will show you how to turn those obstacles into triumphs.

* As a freebie, I also recommend Ryan Holiday’s new book Ego Is The Enemy. I am currently reading it and it’s a knockout!

10. 48 Laws of Power
I saved the best for last. I first heard of Robert Greene and his work when I was first heading off to college at 18. I was immediately hooked. Like Machiavelli before him, Robert Greene shows us the timeless laws of power that everyone from Con-men to Heads of State have used since times passed. If you want power, to observe power, or defend yourself from those who use power; this book is for you.

In Pursuit of Excellence

“Hercules,” says she [Virtue], “I offer myself to you, because I know you are descended from the gods, and give proofs of that descent by your love to virtue, and application to the studies proper for your age. This makes me hope you will gain, both for yourself and me, an immortal reputation.

But, before I invite you into my society and friendship, I will be open and sincere with you, and must lay down this, as an established truth, that there is nothing truly valuable which can be purchased without pains and labor. The gods have set a price upon every real and noble pleasure.

If you would gain the favor of the Deity, you must be at the pains of worshiping him: if the friendship of good men, you must study to oblige them: if you would be honored by your country, you must take care to serve it. In short, if you would be eminent in war or peace, you must become master of all the qualifications that can make you so. These are the only terms and conditions upon which I can propose happiness.” – The Choice of Hercules, Xenophon

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man of who desires more easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”- Teddy Roosevelt

What I learned so far working in the Legislature

As of this day it has been exactly two months and two weeks since I moved to Sacramento and began the internship at the Capitol working in the assembly of the Legislature. In that time, I learned first hand what truly goes on at the political level statewide and how it connects to everything else. I have met people and made friends, made mistakes and advanced politically. Now while bloggers and authors online and on twitter are wrapped up with the national presidential election-more on that later-people seem to forget that not only is this a presidential election, but it is also an election at the state level and local level depending on your state and city. Here in California, there are numerous elections that are going on both locally and statewide.

When I first got here, I didn’t know up from down. Sure I knew somethings from studying in my major of political science and reading Machiavelli, Robert Greene and Ryan Holiday, but it wasn’t until I saw what they wrote about in action did everything finally click. So with that, here are a few lessons I learned so far from my time at the Capitol,

They are:

– Calm down and breath, remember this is only a building with people in it with the same insecurities and desires and lusts as anyone else in the world. Flesh and blood

Always Say less than Necessary

– Your reputation precedes you, it is your bond, your word, your calling card. What you do, how you do it, how you act, and what you say paints a picture of who you are. See law 5

– Be polite and courteous, you never know who you are going to offend by mistake. See law 19

– Just because you are an intern does not mean that you are not being watched or evaluated. At this level and in this court, what you do says a lot.

– Cultivate relationships, your network in this court will open doors for you and allow you to advance and thrive. Be isolated for too long or neglect relationships and you will die. See law 18

– Dress impeccably well, you do it not for yourself but for others. No one likes looking at someone disheveled or ragged. It throws them off and they don’t pay attention to what you say but to the mistake you made.

– Avoid the snakes and the toxic.

– Never shit where you eat, just don’t.

– Know the political process, inside and out. Know how the committees work and who sits upon them. Know who the players are and who is who.

No job is beneath you.

– Keep a balance between Idealism and Reality, you want to survive, thrive and have a lasting affect in this world; not try to be the starry eyed dreamer.

– Always know what your grand strategy is and never reveal it to others.

– Focus on your work. Results. Not sloth.

Most importantly know that you can walk away at anytime but what goes on in these walls affect you in countless ways. These are but some lessons I have learned so far here at what I call the court of political life. As time moves on and I get closer to the very end I know that I’ll have an over all comprehensive list. But until then keep reading and dare to be wise.

Fortuna

Life never goes according to plan. I learned that a long time ago and yet I still find myself wondering how the hell did things get to this point. For instance, I never thought going off to college my freshman year that I would be academically dismissed due to choosing the wrong major. I never thought I’d go through the things I went through to get me where I needed to be rather than where I wanted to go.

Life has a funny way of taking your intentions and plans and turning them on themselves. As if it’s saying, “Oh you have a plan, that’s nice; here’s a kick to the face to shake things up.” Of course what you do with what life throws at you is all on you.

The ancient Greeks and Romans had a concept of fate, they called it Tyche, Fortuna or fortune. A blind capricious young woman who carried a cornucopia and rode her wheel of fate. At her whim, men and kingdoms rose and fell. But only by those who knew how to make use of the opportunities and chaos she presented.

As of this moment, I am about to embark on an internship in the state government at Sacramento. I hardly have any money, no place to live out there and no contacts what so ever. Oh, and other university students, from universities all over the state, will also be joining in the internship. So this is like Game of Thrones combined with the Hunger Games taking place in the gladiatorial arena that is the state capital.

I have no idea what is going to happen. But, what I do have in  my 25 years on this earth, is street knowledge combined with my book smarts. Like Machiavelli said, “I have found among my possessions nothing that I esteem higher than my knowledge of the deeds of great men.” Knowledge is indeed power, and so is wisdom. Fortuna is presenting me with an opportunity, like all great men before me, what I do with this opportunity is up to me. As a New Prince, let’s get started.