How easy is it to make excuses? Any honest person would have to admit that they make excuses every day, and often multiple times a day, because that is often the easiest option in a situation. Why were you late to work? Traffic was bad. Why didn’t you take out the trash? Oh, I thought about it, but then I got distracted by this other thing and forgot.
Excuses are our way of preserving our ego from admitting failure. We use them to paint over our faults and excuse ourselves of blame. Sometimes we even do this over more consequential and ongoing issues in our lives. Why can’t we make meaningful emotional connections to others? Well, my parents didn’t hug me enough. Why did you cheat on your wife? Because she wasn’t having sex with me as much as I would like. Why do you drink yourself to blackouts every night? I’m under a lot of stress.
We excuse away all of our bad traits and behaviors so we can still tell ourselves that we are good people and that all of our problems are the faults of others. While this seems easy, meaningless, and sometimes justified absolving yourself of your faults does you more damage than you can understand.
Each of us is an individual who makes decisions in our lives. Those decisions shape the course of our existence. All of our success and failures stem from these decisions. If we discount the decisions that make up our failures we immediately discount those decisions that made us successful. By making excuses and refusing to live up to your faults and failures, you remove from yourself all agency.
Many people smarter than myself have stated that a person’s happiness and wellbeing are directly linked to their belief that they have agency in their lives. Therefore, refusing to face the darker parts of yourself that make mistakes on a regular basis, you are also defeating the brightest parts of yourself that have allowed you to succeed to whatever level you have in your life. You can only do this so long before you find yourself incapable of believing that you control your own destiny at all.
The best part of this message is, while looking at your faults honestly is painful and difficult, when you do this the strong parts of you only get stronger. Being honest about your faults is like weightlifting for the soul. And just like a real gym, only you can make the decision to go in and do the hard work. If I may be a little lame and quote lyrics from a mid-2000’s song to prove my point; Allow me to remind you of the words of Incubus…
Social media has been a great boon to society in many ways. Being able to post onto a site where millions of people hang out has allowed smaller content creators and businesses to break through monopolistic barriers in stagnant industries such as the music and movie industries. Access to different cultures and ideas have made the world both a vast landscape where infinite is seemingly at your fingertips and simultaneously so small that you can become intimate friends with a person on the other side of the globe.
Yet, as with every human endeavor, the immense good comes to us as a well paved road with steep cliffs at either side. Social media has allowed vanity to run rampant in our culture and has many people acting as their own PR firms, doing shallow acts in the public eye to increase their stock with their peers without accomplishing anything.
Welcome to the stage – the virtue signal.
I am not naïve enough to believe that humans have always been virtuous before our current culture, that would be an act of blindness so immense one would have to wonder if I still possess a pulse, but we did have societal standards that tried to call attention to our base desires and point us in a more productive direction. These were the Cardinal Virtues; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.
Virtue signaling has become commonplace because the act gives you all of the social capital that actual virtues will get you without the work. We see it every day when someone scrawls posts of empty-worded sloganeering all over their page for a few dozen likes or when a corporation pretends to care about a hot-button issue because they think it will help their bottom-line or when a politician pretends to care about an issue to get your vote with no intention of following through with their promises. We have devolved as a culture to reward these vane practices as morally high-minded and worthy of praise.
We shouldn’t mince words, virtue signaling is a selfish act of pride only meant to bolster the signaler and no one else. Pride is a vice we should try to extinguish from our culture. Pride is the mother of all sins because pride deludes us into thinking we are beyond reproach. Pride demands respect and attention from those around us. Pride does not give anything back to the world. Pride only takes.
If you want to do something good in the world, practice the four Cardinal Virtues. Be prudent in your decisions, be just to yourself and the world around you, have the fortitude to weather life’s unavoidable struggles, and temper your desires so they don’t overtake you. And also, live your values quietly. Your silent greatness will speak louder than that weak voice in the void asking for attention.
Here is my unofficial reading list for 2021. I might change it up here or there, but I don’t plan on changing much, maybe only the order. According to my math this should get me to 33 books which is my goal…I might even try to do better than 33 books. We shall see.
Logic: A Complete Introduction by Siu-Fan Lee
Wheel of Time Book 10: Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
White Guilt by Shelby Steele
Wheel of Time Book 11: Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
How to Have Impossible Conversations by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay
Wheel of Time Book 12: The Gathering Storm By Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier
Wheel of Time Book 13: The Towers of Midnight By Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
Wheel of Time Book 14: A Memory of Light (Finally! I mean, the story is good, but 14 books! I’m ready for this point in the year) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Return of the God Hypothesis by Stephen C. Meyer
1984 by George Orwell
False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg
The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva
Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger
Timeline by Michael Crichton
The History of the Ancient World (I listened to the audiobook last year…feel like I need to read the physical copy this year…) by Susan Weise-Bauer
The Expanse Book 1: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
The History of the Medieval World by Susan Weise-Bauer
Mistborn Trilogy Book 1: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
The Plantagenets by Dan Jones
James Bond: License Renewed (First Bond novel after Ian Fleming’s death. Hope it’s good.) by John Gardner
The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones
Witcher Series Book 2: Time for Contempt by Andrej Sapkowski
Reinventing Racism: Why “White Fragility” Is the Wrong Way to Think about Racial Inequality by Jonathan D. Church
Witcher Series Book 3: Baptism of Fire by Andrej Sapkowski
One Vote Away by Ted Cruz
Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen
A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth (yearly tradition around Christmas) by Charles Dickens
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Rational Male 3: Positive Masculinity by Rollo Tomassi
2020 was a wild year for me as far as reading goes. I had always wanted to read more but never lived up to what I wanted for myself. This last year I found the advice of Scott Adams extremely helpful. Never set goals for yourself (or at least don’t pay too much attention to them) it is more important to set up a system that you can work every day. Eventually the daily system will lead you to a larger goal if you calibrate it correctly. This list is living proof of this method (one of the many for me this year). I decided to read 30 pages as my daily system, which roughly translates into an hour of reading. With this system in place, I read more books this past year than I have in the last decade and I plan to increase my yearly goal for 2021. Here’s to the end of a wild year and to more success in the next!
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Weise Bauer (Audible)
The Wheel of Time Book 4: The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
Carnival Row by Stephanie K. Smith (Audible)
Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch by Ruth Cowen (Audible)
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Cari Mora by Thomas Harris (Audible)
The Happines Hypothesis by Jonathan Heidt (Audible)
The Wheel of Time Book 5: The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
Magna Carta by Dan Jones
Congo by Michael Crichton
The False Promise of Single Payer Healthcare by Sally C. Pipes
The Last Wish by Andrej Sapkowski
The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray
Sword of Destiny By Andrej Sapkowski
The Keys of Prolific Creativity by David V. Stewart
The Wheel of Time Book 6: Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
Loserthink By Scott Adams
Blood of Elves by Andrej Sapkowski
#Blackprivilege by Charlamagne Tha God
The Wheel of Time Book 7: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity and Why That Harms Everyone by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land by Thomas Asbridge (Audible)
Lose the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America by John McWhorter
The Wheel of Time Book 8: The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann
The Wheel of Time Book 9: Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan
Charter Schools and Their Enemies by Thomas Sowell
A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
The Law by Frederic Bastiat
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Non-Fiction book of 2020: This was a difficult decision to make…I read a lot of great books this year, but I think the best of them was Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. The book was packed full of information often citing or quoting original materials from the subject matter they were discussing. This gave me more confidence in the conclusions they were reaching in their overview of the Critical Theories that we see invading our current culture. I definitely recommend picking up this book if you are interested in philosophy or want to understand the craze of calling everything racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic.
Best Fiction book of 2020: I have to go with Dune for this pick. I originally listened to Dune on audiobook a couple of years ago and couldn’t enjoy it. The vast universe that Frank Herbert created is almost too obscure in audiobook form because you can’t see how the strange terms the characters use are spelled and you don’t get the appendices at the end of the book that explain so much. This year, inspired by the Denis Villaneuve film that was SUPPOSED to come out last month, I decided to pick up the physical copy and give the story another shot. Upon the second reading, with the appendices for help, this book really stood out to me as a testament to fantasy and sci-fi storytelling.