Omega’s Guide – Mind

You should now be on your way to being a socially active person; you’ve got hobbies, sports, and martial arts and are learning social skills, but you need a bit more; you need something to talk about. Your activities give you a couple topics of conversation, but if you drone on them too long, you might wind up an insufferable bore to those who don’t share your enthusiasms.

What you need is to develop yourself intellectually. A man should develop his mind as well as his social skills and body (next week). To do this. you need to read.

You probably already read a bit, but, like most people, it’s probably mostly popular or genre fiction. There’s nothing wrong with reading popular fiction, but to become a better, more interesting person you need to intersperse it with things that are more intellectually demanding.

Here’s why you should start reading non-fiction:

  • You’ll learn more about the world around you. And knowledge is power!
  • You’ll find more things that interest you.
  • You’ll enjoy it. This seems wied, I know; I used to think non-fiction was boring too. I used to read SF and fantasy almost exclusively, but as I started reading more non-fiction, I began to enjoy non-fiction more. Nowadays, other than a few of my favourite authors I prefer non-fiction to the majority of fiction.
  • You’ll become a more well-rounded person.
  • You’ll have interesting topics of conversation for talking to others, because frankly, no one cares to talk about the latest in the Honor Harrington series.
  • If you can talk knowledgeably about interesting things, you’ll be more likely to make interesting friends.
  • Being knowledgable about (non-nerdy) things can be attractive to some kinds of women.

Make yourself a better man, start reading non-fiction.

****

Some tips:

Choose a topic that interests you. Especially when you first start reading non-fiction, it can be tempting to try to read something “you should know about” or pick up one of the classics then never get more than a chapter in because it bores you stiff. Choose something that you genuinely want to learn more about. I’m not going to tell you what to read, but I will make some suggestions to help get you started. Choose something that appeals to you.

You may want to start off with popular non-fiction. Diving straight from genre fiction into the classics or other dense reading can be a harsh transition and there’s a good chance you’ll end up bored. Popular non-fiction usually reads fairly breezily and is a good transition into the realm of non-fiction.

This should be obvious, but if you can’t afford to purchase books, use a library.

Have a pencil when you read so you can highlight important points or make notes to yourself.

Check the Amazon reviews, especially the 2-4 star ones, to make sure you’re getting a good book that is what you’re hoping it is.

If you’re not sure how to go about getting the most from non-fiction reading, you could start with reading How to Read a Book. It’s rather dry, but it has some decent tips. (Skip the third section).

Really, there’s not that many tips. Simply choose a non-fiction book and start reading.

****

Some reading suggestions:

The Bible – If you’re a Christian, start reading the Bible regularly. (I know, every Christian has a hard time reading regularly, I do too; but it is good to do). Read a few chapters a day. It’s good for your spiritual life and talking about what your recent Bible readings is an easy conversation topic in Christian circles. Being knowledgeable of the Bible will also help impress the right kind of Christian girl. If you’re a non-Christian, the Bible is probably the single most influential book in the Western Canon, so you should read it at some point.

Reading Lists – If there’s some topic you’d like to know more about find a reading list on the internet and use that. I’ve made both a Free Man’s Reading List and an Dark Enlightenment Reading List if those topics interest you.

Your hobbies – You’re doing your hobbies because you enjoy them, so why not read a book on doing them better, on the history of the hobby, or something else related to it?

Popular Economics – Popular economics is how I got into reading non-fiction outside of school. Economics covers a wide range of activity and the pop books do so as well, so there’s all kinds of interesting arguments and ideas. Freakonomics, the Armchair Economist, and the Undercover Economist are easy and fun introductions to the genre.

Malcom Gladwell – I’ll occasionally rag on Gladwell, but he’s popular for a reason. His books are well-written and interesting, if somewhat shallow and occasionally obvious. His easy-reading style makes for a good transition from fiction to non-fiction and his books are designed to be able pick little tidbits as conversation fodder. Blink and the Tipping Point were his better ones.

Nassim Taleb – His books are well-written, informative, and entertaining. I’d highly recommend the Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness. I’ve heard Antifragile is good as well, but haven’t read it.

Sun Tzu – The Art of War is a classic in strategy and what man isn’t interested in the strategy of war. It’s a relatively simple read and can be poetic. I’d recommend it.

Roy Baumeister – Willpower is a great book and will be useful to you in implement this guide. I’d highly recommend it.

Jack Donovan – The Way of Men is an excellent book on masculinity. If you’re trying trying to build yourself up as a man, I can not recommend it highly enough.

Isaac Asimov – Did you know the SF great wrote a Treasury of Humour? Well, he did, and it is a fun read on the theory of humour. It will provide you with a small arsenal of jokes and a look into how humour works, making for good conversation fodder.

Darrell Huff – How to Lie with Statistics is a short, fun little book on the manipulation of stats.

Rudyard Kipling – I recommend his poetry all the time, and I’ll continue to do so. You won’t regret picking up a nice collection of his poetry and flipping through it.

I’m not going to go more than that. These are just suggestions if you can’t think of anything else you want to read. They were mainly chosen for being both informative and simple to read, making them a non-agonizing way to transition into reading non-fiction. There are millions of books out there, find one that interests you.

****

Your Goal:

Your goal for the week is to develop your mind byfind a non-fiction book that interests you, purchase or borrow it, and being reading it.

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21 responses to “Omega’s Guide – Mind

  • ballista74

    What you need is to develop yourself intellectually. A man should develop his mind as well as his social skills and body (next week). To do this. you need to read.

    Actually, something I’ve found with my experiences (as illustrated on my blog in several different ways) is that simple reading doesn’t do this. What you are speaking of is the idea of training your mind. One can simply read something, never engage their mind, and just move on and are never better for it. For example, this is what is happens with the average Churchian since most of them do actually read copious amounts of Scripture.

    The problem is that their minds are untrained. They do not engage their minds in what they read, nor they never desire to do so. You might say that they would have to when it comes to sitting in on the Bible studies, but believe it or not, this is the time when it reveals itself to those who know what to look for when interacting. Typically, this comes in the lack of depth of discussion. Sure, they’ve read the material, and even know what it says it on a shallow and passive level, but they don’t understand the deeper concepts it relates. Even Scripture itself points to how it should be handled:

    This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

    Note it says meditate, not read. This requires mental engagement with a focused goal, which requires training of your mind. This mental engagement can occur at any time, which is why it says “day and night” (or some Jewish commentaries will say “all day and all night”).

    This isn’t limited to just Scripture, but any work of writing (yes even popular fiction, though you’ll find your enjoyment of a work you engage with as opposed to simply read is proportional to the strength of the mind of the author and their degree of mental engagement in writing the text. Perhaps this is one reason why GBFM’s famous list isn’t revered that much anymore. No one engages their minds with the text and consequently find it boring.

    I’m thinking on how to handle a post on what “training your mind” looks like (in the vein of “how to study Scripture”), but it can be hard to describe mental processes in a way that others can relate to and understand.

    but you need a bit more; you need something to talk about. Your activities give you a couple topics of conversation, but if you drone on them too long, you might wind up an insufferable bore to those who don’t share your enthusiasms.

    I would say the key is being insightful and knowing when to quit. This is part of training your mind into a strong one. Engaging your mind by reading is only one facet (though an important one). Perhaps what this section relates to your current topic is the necessity to be broad. Select materials on a variety of topics. Select non-fiction, yes. But don’t limit yourself to that, select fiction works of various authors too. Don’t limit yourself to the popular ones, but look to the kind of stuff that would have been presented in an American lit or English lit class that has persevered. Keep in mind, it has done so for very good reasons – one of those being how well they stand up to engagement of the mind as opposed to simple reading.

  • S_McCoy

    I would suggest a basic strategy would be read non-fiction & sports/gambling/history to discuss with men and fiction & celebrity autobiographies/exposes/new age to discuss with women. Self help primarily to discuss with women but if there is a business or sports application it’s good to discuss with men.

    To that end one could use Amazon to get ideas from the best-selling lists including the New York Times list. Using that resource one might pick “Detroit: An American Autopsy” and “The Sports Gene” to discuss with men. “These Precious Few Daysl the final year of Jack and Jackie” to discuss with women, although something about Audrey Hepburn would be better probably and “The Power of Habit” to discuss with men primarily and “E-square: 9 do it yourself energy experiments” to discuss primarily with women.

    Another resource is NPR’s Fresh Air program, this a good program to listen to for general pop culture subjects. Maybe join a book club?

    I think though, one will be a little disappointed because not many people read and of those that do, few read as much as they would like. It’s kind of where the rubber meets the road to me in that I divide people among the 2 groups; those who will read substantive works (even though they may not read often because of work and family) and those who don’t read or only read fluff. It’s just a waste of time to spend it with people who haven’t read a book since school or Only read fluff.My experience has been, the women who read only Harry Potter and Wicked and the like are tedious, life is short, don’t waste time, spend it more with people who read or could appreciate Faulkner.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about having a deep understanding or “training your mind” here, this should just be seen as a catalyst for conversation and it’s always better to let others talk a little more when they want, they’ll think you’re a pretty bright guy if you do. If it’s important though, just condense each chapter to 1 or 2 sentences and you should have a good grasp of the material.

    Read politics and religion and for most people, the herd if you will, agree with whatever inanities they spout off

  • Tim

    I read as much as anyone, and yet I’ve only read three fiction books since 2011. Its amazing how much good stuff there is in non-fiction.

    Try Genghis Khan and the Making of the modern world.

  • electricangel

    you have left out psychology books related to Willpower.

    three suggestion in this area:

    A Mind of Its Own, by Cordelia Fine, discusses psych experiments that show you your mind doesn’t do what you think it does. the section on The Good Samaritan is worth the price of admission.

    Priceless, by William Poundstone, is simply the best book I have read in years. He goes into all the small ways that numbers are used to manipulate you. you’ll learn how psychology saved thousands of lives on 9/11.

    “trust me, I’m lying” is a book confessing that the man manipulated media for personal benefit, and begging forgiveness. It is also a superb how-to manual. anyone blogging should read it.

  • electricangel

    great comment by Ballista, btw. elevate that to a post.

  • lozozlo

    Here again is where we see the shallowness of American evangelicism vs Catholicism and the more serious varieties of Protestantism.

    As Ballista (himself a Protestant, I think) stated, most Churchians read tons of Scripture, so that is not the issue.

    You can read n chapters a day, but without engagement and understanding it is useless.

    The Bible was written in a high-context ANE culture, so you can’t just read it like a newspaper – far better to read less, but with deep engagement and understanding – with commentaries, Catechisms, solid theological texts, etc.

    We see this same pattern in how Evangelicals copiously quote lone, disconnected Bible verses, out of immediate textual context, as well as cultural context, and come up with their ridiculous Churchian teachings as a result. We also see the Pharasaic legalism involved here, e.g. (“I read 3 chapters from the Scriptures a day” [another person says] “well I read 4 so I’m holier than you” and yet another says “I laugh at you heathens – you must read an entire book daily, or you are not a proper servant leader of our church!”, etc…

    Note too that chapter and verse are artificial indices imposed on Scripture after it’s creation, for our convenience, and have no Spiritual significance of application. So the guidelines should be to pursue learning more about the Kingdom each day, with Scripture at the core, and various other assistant texts and teachers (like a non-Churchian Priest/Pastor/Bible Study leader/good theological stuff like Chesterton) as is Spiritually profitable. It’s not some issue of reading a certain amount of raw text/day – an issue of quality, not quantity.

  • lozozlo

    This ties in as well with my earlier post tying in American evangelicism with the mindset of the Industrial Revolution – namely, the superficial factory mentality – aka ‘x widgets in, y doohickey’s out’ – or in the case you state ‘x Bible chapters in/ y amount of understanding (not sure how’d you’d measure it) come out.

  • lozozlo

    If you think about it, the Industrial REvolution mindset affects everything we do – schooling is about #of classes/credits (not the depth or difficulty of the material) and work is about #of hours, not results.

    We focus on superficial metrics (# of chapters read, #of hours worked, #of credits taken) and not what really matters (understanding, results, knowledge, etc)

  • Boar

    I generally read more fiction than non-fiction and I find that good genre fiction can match literary fiction and non-fiction by interspersing philosophical ideas and social commentary with the more mainstream elements. Authors like Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Heinlein, Jack London, Oscar Wilde, Kipling, Saki etc. usually write much more than simple popular fiction, although their works are mostly classified as mainstream fiction. When I see people say that fiction is useless or it’s primarily for women I can’t help but consider them to be illiterate philistines who’ve probably never actually read a book.

    Non-fiction is great if you want to expand your knowledge on a certain subject, but it is fiction that can combine literary merit and philosophical ideas into a single piece of art (think Shakespeare or LOTR or dozens of other great works). Non-fiction rarely holds more value than giving the reader the information about a certain topic. Storytelling and stories have always been a major part of human cultures everywhere in the world, and I think we’re doomed if we replace them with manuals (non-fiction).

  • lozozlo

    I think we’re doomed if we replace them with manuals

    Yeah…kind of reminds me of Eustace from Chronicles of Narnia.

  • Free Northerner

    @ All: I have a post that will be up in a few hours addressing some of the comments here.

    @ EA: I left out a lot of stuff. I had to keep it a reasonable size.

    @ Boar: Many works of non-fiction give more than simply an instruction manual: works of philosophy for example. That being said, in retrospect, it should have been non-fiction and classic fiction (or worthwhile fiction). The point was to read and to open up broader horizons than pop fiction (stuff like Tom Clancy or John Scalzi).

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  • Boar

    @Free Northerner – yes, of course. Non-fiction is great, and ideally a well-rounded individual should read both – books on philosophy, history, spirituality and so on can enrich one’s knowledge and life. However, my point was that fiction can also give a lot more value that people attribute it these days and without going into a detailed analysis I think one of the main reasons is that most popular fiction today really is bad. You mention Clancy and Scalzi -Clancy is an average thriller writer and Scalzi, if I’m not mistaken, is a feminist idiot. So of course, when an average guy sees those guys he concludes that all fiction is useless, which is not the point.

    I’ll just make a quick example about the books I’ve been reading lately to illustrate what I mean: Dan Abnett and Horus Heresy series set in Warhammer 40k universe (military sci-fi genre). On a first glance it’s all about overpowered dudes clad in power armor kicking ass across the galaxy – and it is with most authors, but not with Abnnet (and some other authors). In a nutshell his novels provides: 1) entertainment, 2)mastery of written word I can appreciate as an author, 3) philosophical ideas on the nature of man, his place in the universe, debate about science vs religion, questions about mankind’s greatest heresy (which in the novels turns out to be the abandonment of scientific rationalism which plunges mankind into another Dark Age and oppressive theocracy) and so on. Yes, it genre fiction with space marines shooting their space guns, but it also has depth behind it -it’s not philosophical depth of let’s say Nietzsche, of course, but hell, at least I can explore some philosophical ideas without plowing through hundreds of jumbled thoughts like those in Thus Spoke Zarathustra or whatever, and then pretend I’m super smart by quoting it to my friends.

    This was just an example and there are many more – if we take this to the manosphere level, I can guarantee that Oscar Wilde and Saki have written everything a man needs to know about women, male-female relationships and social dynamics. It’s just that nobody reads them, and instead they read the latest travel guide or a guide to get laid by 100 different women in a month. Or they read random confessions of a random dude about being a chode on a blog, instead of reading Chekhov or Dostoyevsky who’ve covered the same issues infinitely better. To me, that kind of non-fiction is useless bs that shouldn’t be classified as literature.

    But to bring this to a close, I’m all for reading non-fiction; now that my thoughts have crystallized better I guess it all boils down to choosing the right non-fiction (as well as fiction). But also, I stand behind my words when I say that we shouldn’t neglect (good) fiction because I consider that trend to be a sign of decaying culture. Jules Verne explored this in Paris in 20th Century where art has been completely replaced by technology just as is happening today where people “read” twitter feeds or random blogs instead of great books (GBFM would agree with me lolzozlzol).

  • Steve Johnson

    Boar,

    I mean this in a completely friendly manner and you may well be correct that one particular author of Warhammer 40k novels really is good but (yeah, that was obviously coming) on the scale of fiction reading genre fiction that is in a setting written by multiple authors is pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as mental engagement goes. The stink of omega is heavy on that whole category.

    The guide for omegas series has a purpose – to lift guys who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy up. In the Ethics* Aristotle wrote that for some traits a tendency one way is a vice but an equally strong opposite tendency is also a vice (being cheap vs being a spendthrift was an example he used that stuck in my mind). (The saying, based on a misunderstanding of Aristotle, that everything should be done in moderation comes from this idea). What Aristotle actually advices is that if you have a tendency towards a vice in one direction that you consciously push yourself away from that tendency.

    Omegas already want to read genre fiction and especially derivative genre fiction. The idea of this series is to break them out of that tendency even if they overlook some worthwhile works in that area.

    If you must read contemporary genre fiction I’d recommend Neil Stephenson for sci fi and Vox Day for fantasy. Both are quite good – although Stephenson has a pretty gamma view of women.

    (* that whole book is really on point here because Aristotle’s understanding of ethics was that ethics is a guide to having virtue – being the best man you are capable of being – and he wrote his treatise as a guide to accomplishing that goal)

  • Boar

    Steve,

    I understand what you’re saying and I agree on a general level; however my point was that that there’s a lot of good fiction out there and people should read it – and I can guarantee that most people, and the omegas this guide is geared toward, do not read most of the authors I’ve mentioned and thus miss out not only great literature but the opportunity to reflected on their own lives (which is the purpose of art in my opinion). I have explained my point of view above but let me give you just one more example – an omega can read about psychology and gain insights into his own behavior (for example, why is he socially-awkward), and that’s good. But he can also read Chekhov’s “The Man in a Case” – story that deals with a man that is afraid of life; afraid of women, afraid of speaking to people, afraid of the weather, afraid of everything. Chekhov proceeds to psychoanalyze the character and observes that such people are abundant in our society (I guess 19th century Russia had its share of omegas too).

    My point is that fiction can greatly expand one’s mind and allow people to gain insights into their own and other people’s behavior. I don’t have anything against non-fiction, and I agree with everything FN has said in the article, but I’m always angry when I see people bash fiction without a good reason. And to follow up on that thought – I’m sorry if I sound like a prick here but Vox Day? Seriously? I don’t follow the man’s blog and I don’t have anything against him, but I’ve sampled one of his books and it read like 14-year old D&D fan-fiction with wizard, orcs and angels and whatnot. That is the precisely the kind of fiction that gives genre fiction bad name. He’s an average writer at best and highly unimaginative. I say that as a man who has a solid grasp on literature and is an author. This is not a personal attack on you, and I apologize if it sounds like that, but I must say it: if you consider Vox Day to be an example of good fantasy author your knowledge of genre fiction is not that great. Among manosphere authors only Aurini knows how to write a proper fiction work and even his novel is far from a masterpiece (but it’s a good read).

    Again, I understand where you’re coming from and I agree that omegas for whom this guide is written should read non-fiction to educate themselves. I’ve never read Aristotle properly, and the Bible holds no interest to me but there’s a lot non-fiction I always recommend to people. One book that may be relevant to this discussion is “Prometheus Rising” by Robert Anton Wilson. Anyone trying to expand their mind will benefit from it but it’s definitely not for beginners and overly religious people. Actually it might not be good for anyone who takes themselves too seriously.

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  • Steve Johnson

    I’m sorry if I sound like a prick here but Vox Day? Seriously? I don’t follow the man’s blog and I don’t have anything against him, but I’ve sampled one of his books and it read like 14-year old D&D fan-fiction with wizard, orcs and angels and whatnot. That is the precisely the kind of fiction that gives genre fiction bad name. He’s an average writer at best and highly unimaginative. I say that as a man who has a solid grasp on literature and is an author. This is not a personal attack on you, and I apologize if it sounds like that, but I must say it: if you consider Vox Day to be an example of good fantasy author your knowledge of genre fiction is not that great.

    I’ll cop to that – I’ve literally only ever read three fantasy authors – Tolkein (excellent), GRR Martin (bad writer who wrote a good plot then lost it completely) and Vox (derivative but I believe he has good insight into human behavior).

    Agreed on your main point. Fiction isn’t inherently worthless but as a beginner stick to the great books until you’ve gotten a taste for what actual good literature is and can be.

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