Category Archives: The Resistance

Use Your Power For Good With These Four Books

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”     The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli

If you want to use power for good, start with these four books. They’ll arm you with knowledge on correctly challenging yourself, protecting yourself against other people’s power, and amassing power of your own. 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – Like 9/11, you’ll always remember where you were when you first started reading this book.  Pressfield explains the switch from living like an Amateur to living like a Professional by illuminating the universal force of the Resistance. The Resistance is what keeps you from doing to work that is truly challenging, it’s what keeps you in an unfulfilling relationship, and it’s what makes you say, “I’ll start (whatever excites you and you know you should do) tomorrow.”

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Read this you will be able to defend yourself against other people’s power, you’ll see what’s coming around the corner, and you will know learn how to use power to get what you want. This is politics, people, red herrings, cunning, navigating the real world and picking out people’s true motivations. This book has helped me avoid countless blunders.

Mastery by Robert Greene – I wish I had this when I first started college. Greene dissects the stories from many masters, alive and dead, to reveal a relatively clear path to becoming a master. The overall lesson is that mastery comes from constantly being creative and pushing yourself. But he also tells the stories of potential masters who lose it all through complacency, arrogance, and ignoring social mores.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser – You will need to communicate through writing at some point, and the better you are the more influencial you’ll gain. The main takeaways here are that everyone’s first draft is terrible and that powerful communication comes from cutting the fluff out of your writing. Think of this Winston Churchill Quote “Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” Another useful article on writing here

It never hurts to be prepared. Obviously these books are not silver bullets for real life but they’re a good investment. What books have been most helpful to you?

Deep Springs

I was briefly reminded today about the importance of hard work, of facing The Resistance.  I was riding my bike to the gym when I saw an older woman wearing a sky blue Deep Springs College shirt. Most people have never heard of this school, but trying to get in all but consumed me for about six months in 2008. I found out about the college when I met a few alumni in Wisconsin in the summer of 2008. I learned that it was an all-boys school that revolves around three pillars: academics, labor, and self-governance. The school’s 26 students are assigned an intense academic workload, manage a farm in the middle of the desert in Nevada, and are in charge of the admissions and the hiring and firing of faculty. After two years, most students go on to prestigious schools around the country. Many years ago, just getting into the school meant a guaranteed a full ride to Cornell. The Deep Springers I met seemed superhuman to me.  I was infatuated with the idea of getting into Deep Springs and being transformed by the experience.

Getting into Deep Springs is not easy.  The first round demands applicants write three very opened-ended essays about who the applicant is, what their intellectual pursuits include,  what books they’ve read, and what problems they want to solve in the world. If they pass the first round, they go on to another round with something like seven essays, and finally an interview with the whole student body on the campus. I didn’t make it past the first round. I’ve never had a mental breakdown, but I basically did applying to this school.

I haven’t thought about Deep Springs in a long time, but seeing that shirt for a split second as a I zoomed passed on my bike brought that very intense period of my life back to me. I realize today that I was far from getting accepted. At that point in my life, I was wishing a lot of good things would happen to me, and thinking that if i just kept wishing, they would come true. I didn’t acknowledge, or really even understand, that you need to work really hard to make good things happen to you. I didn’t work hard enough for Deep Springs. Ask anyone who I was around during that time if I wanted it enough, they’ll tell you yes. It’s the only thing I talked about. But I didn’t work hard enough for it, and I wasn’t even aware of how far behind I was.