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Nobody Ever Became a Better Person by Watching Must-See TV

TV is fun, but reading is still the source of the best wisdom

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A boy holding books that have blank covers

Good boy, ignore that TV and let’s read some books instead, maybe pick some that have actual titles — Midjourney

Some things we do for fun, like hanging out with our modern family, our friends, and the folks at the local police precinct (if we live in Brooklyn).

But unlike most TV shows, reading occupies a special place in our entertainment repertoire because of its power to transform our minds — by connecting us to the minds of compelling authors. And to make the most of these connections, we should be deliberate about our reading choices. You know, have some law and order around what you read.

You’re reading this article right now. Am I a writer that you regularly follow? Or did you stumble here and now you’re trying to decide if you made a mistake? Curb your enthusiasm; I won’t be offended.

Still here? That means you like my writing! Keep reading and learn a bit about me, and the reading platforms and principles I use when I’m not wasting time breaking bad. That’s almost the last juvenile TV reference, I promise.

Deciding What to Read

If someone who knows me recommends something, I’ll always read it. If an author comes on a podcast and seems interesting, I’ll check out their book.

I don’t bother finishing books that don’t immediately grab my attention. Life’s too short, and Amazon needs my money. Those penis-shaped rockets aren’t going to build themselves.

Once I find an author I like, I consume all of their content, and I make sure I follow them on their primary platform so I can keep abreast of their thinking as it evolves. I’m trying to connect with minds, not with articles. That means I don’t follow a lot of people - quality, not quantity.

Podcasts

I listen to The Tim Ferriss Show and The Prof G Pod by Scott Galloway.

Tim extracts knowledge from his guests like nobody else. Tim interviewing Richard Schwartz put me on to Internal Family Systems therapy, to the tremendous benefit of my psyche. I don’t resonate with Tim’s lifestyle (too much bio-hacking), so I don’t like his other content or his unending ads for Athletic Greens, but as a knowledge source, there’s nothing better than his podcast.

I love Scott Galloway. His knowledge about business, his openness about his life, his dad jokes, his signature “Cocaine and Champagne!” line to describe a moment of success, and his struggles to be a good Dad — I find his challenges to be my challenges and his thought processes to be worth emulating.

I encourage you to find someone whose thinking and lifestyle resonates with yours and absorb everything they put into the universe.

Naval Ravikant is someone who resonates with me, but he’s not interested in creating traditional content, so he doesn’t have a newsletter, a regular podcast, or even a book. But he does appear in content developed by other people.

Newsletters

I loved the book Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson and now subscribe to his newsletter, Your Next Breakthrough because he reminds me not to get too caught up in the daily fuzziness of life.

Scott Galloway is the author of the deeply insightful No Mercy No Malice newsletter that I stumbled across one day, and it led to my discovering his podcast.

I loved Atomic Habits (who didn’t?) and subscribe to James Clear’s 3–2–1 Thursday for the occasional mid-week epiphany.

Finally, I hate the anxiety-provoking phenomenon of the daily news, but I’ve really enjoyed the Morning Brew newsletter. It gives me a sense of what’s going on in the world without freaking me out.

Social Media

I used to mindlessly scroll through Quora posts when I was bored waiting for my wife to finish putting on her makeup, but moved to Medium after I discovered it a few years ago. It is a much better use of my random reading time, and my wife can take as long as she wants to get (even more) beautiful.

I don’t use other social media platforms except to click on memes people send me. Look, a cat! Or don’t look. Your life won’t change.

There is great content on social platforms, but their algorithms optimize for provocation, not learning. My son watches YouTube for funny history videos, and in times past, I’ve learned something about quantum mechanics on TikTok. For the best results, find good content producers and follow them instead of mindlessly scrolling your feed.

Books

Non-fiction reveals truths in a literal sense, but good fiction reveals larger truths about the human condition. These are the books that changed my life.

Fiction
  1. Game of Thrones — nobody is completely good or completely evil. Everybody is just playing the game. Don’t hate the player. Except for Joffrey. He crazy.

  2. Speaker for the Dead — the more obscure sequel to the popular sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game. Taught me that if you know somebody completely, you can’t help but love them. Even Joffrey.

  3. Anything by Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn, The Way of Kings (Fantasy).

  4. Anything by Andy Weir, The Martian, Project Hail Mary (Hard Sci-Fi).

Non-Fiction
  1. Good to Great — analysis of successful companies: taught me to focus on the people, not the product. This is my favourite business book.

  2. Sapiens — a brief history of human society with an amazing chapter 19 on where happiness comes from. Seriously, he has the answer.

  3. Siddartha — a fictionalized account of the life of the Buddha: taught me about the value of patience, and the folly of following gurus.

  4. Man’s Search for Meaning — the story of Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl: taught me the value of character in the most trying circumstances.

  5. No Bad Parts — the principles of Internal Family Systems therapy: taught me the voices in my head are real and can be reasoned with.

  6. How to Change Your Mind — Psychedelics for Mental Health: this book is convincing an entire generation to try psychedelics.

  7. Freakonomics — Novel data analyses of consumer phenomena: taught me there’s always an economic reason for things that seem stupid.

  8. God’s Debris — a quirky little thought experiment: taught me that reality might be quite different from what we’ve been told. Written before Scott Adams went off the deep end. Link to pdf.

There are many more, of course, but the list has to stop somewhere, and these are the ones that I’ve read more than once, loaned out to people, and had to buy again when they didn’t return them. Sorry for the lack of book links; you know how to use Google right?

What are the books, podcasts, and newsletters on your list? Are you building a solid foundation of reading habits or a house of cards?

Am I going to be one of the minds that shape your thinking? That molds your, um, crown?

Consider the humility exhibited by me not listing or linking my own book, Zero to Tesla, anywhere in this article. Isn’t that the sort of self-control you want in a mind that you follow? There’s a link to subscribe below if you haven’t already. Click it now, before you have to go to… the office.

I write so I can connect with my readers. You can reach me by replying to this email, or by responding to the poll below.

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