I Wear The Black Hat Summary

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I Wear The Black Hat shows you that determining if a person is good or bad isn’t as straightforward as you might think, by uncovering some of the biases that make us see people in a different light, regardless of their true intentions.

Funny. Just this week I watched the Batman trilogy again and now, this book explains why most of Gotham’s citizens (and us movie and comic book fans) see him the way they do.

When I say villain you probably have a specific image in mind. A go-to bad guy or girl from popular culture (right now it’s probably the Joker ;)), history, or maybe even your own network of people.

But why do you think that person is bad? Does the result really match the criteria? In I Wear The Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman explains why we think of some people as evil, even though they aren’t, and vice versa.

Here are 3 lessons to help you grapple better with both real and imaginary antiheroes:

  • The veil of ignorance exercise can show you that your definitions of good and bad are just made up.
  • Because we don’t like change, we tend to despise those who challenge the status quo.
  • The more human evildoers are, the more evil we think they are, regardless of the facts.

Ready for this upgrade to your bad-guy radar? Let’s take a look under the black hat!

Lesson 1: Do the “veil of ignorance” exercise to show yourself that what you think is good and bad is entirely made up.

Depending on where you’re born and raised, you’ll have a much different definition of what’s good and what’s bad than people in other parts of the world – or even just your own city.

The son from the privileged family might think it’s evil to cheat on a test, while the kid on the street thinks stealing to feed her brother is a noble cause. Your view of good and bad depends a lot on your environment.

To remind yourself of just how much, philosopher John Rawls came up with a great exercise: the veil of ignorance.

Here’s how it works: Imagine someone gives you a chance to play god. You can form and create an entirely new world and society. From scratch. You can make all the rules, social conventions and laws you wish. But there’s a catch: once you’re done, you’ll be dropped into this society as a brand new person with no influence on your position whatsoever.

You could end up being a doctor or a homeless person, a celebrity or a cancer patient, a refugee or the mayor.

Given this “veil of ignorance,” what kind of society would you try to create? Probably one that’s as fair as possible for everyone, where most people will want to be “good.”

You’ll quickly see that it’s really hard to pull off, probably even impossible to create such a society. That’s why we all have different definitions of good and bad at different times – so think twice before you label something and put it in a box.

Lesson 2: Humans don’t like change, so they hate those who force it upon the world.

Have you ever heard of Kim Dotcom? This German guy’s an internet pioneer. He launched one of the most popular online file sharing services in 2005, Megaupload. Because many people used the site to illegally share and spread movies, music and software, it was shut down in 2012 by the US government, following a raid at Kim’s New Zealand mansion (he’s known for a crazy lifestyle).

As controversial and questionable as his personality might be, there’s no specific case where Kim used his skills for explicitly evil activities. For example in spite of being able to hack many government systems (allegedly), he never used them to help bad causes, instead actively fighting against terrorism with a group called Young Intelligent Hackers Against Terrorism and placing a reward for evidence against Bin Laden after 2001.

The main reason people see him as a villain is that he changed the way we consume media. He forced giant companies to re-think how they sell music, movies and software or go bankrupt – and they didn’t like that.

People don’t like change, and they like it even less if they’re not the ones who came up with it.

Lesson 3: The more human a villain seems, the more evil you think they are, even if others might be worse.

What do you think Stalin was like? Probably as cold as the weather in Russia, a guy with zero empathy, a faceless monster making decisions with terrible consequences for the human race. In fact, I don’t know too much about him – do you?

Now Hitler. What do you know about him? Here’s what I know: he was choleric, had a recognizable mustache, loved his dog, always greeted people by raising his right arm and oh, maybe you know that he was a vegetarian too, or that he struggled with impotency because of having only one testicle.

That’s quite a lot of stuff! Okay, now who was more evil?

As any history book, documentary or person you ask will tell you, it was clearly Hitler that was the worse one of the two. But if you compare that to the facts, you’ll see that while Hitler is responsible for the deaths of around 20 million people, Stalin’s actions killed 26 million.

Don’t get me wrong, both of these committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, but you’d think someone like Stalin would be condemned way more in public. The reason we assume Hitler with pure evil is that we know so many things about him that made him human. This makes him more relatable (for example if you’re a vegetarian, you might say: “Oh god, he was a bit like me!”) and therefore the crimes feel a lot worse.

But how we feel doesn’t always align with the facts, and in this case, it makes one villain seem less evil than the other. By the way, way worse than both of these two might have been Chinese politician Mao, who’s held responsible for over 60 million deaths by his critics.

My personal take-aways

Funny, unconventional and very enlightening. Definitely a book that’d usually fly below your radar, but one worth checking out!

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2TSWdp1

12 Rules For Life Summary

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12 Rules For Life is a stern, story-based, entertaining self-help manual for young people, that lays out a set of simple principles, which can help us become more disciplined, behave better, act with integrity, and balance our lives while enjoying them as much as we can.

Four words every writer is dying to hear at least once in life: “One million copies sold.” But you wouldn’t expect to hear them four months after the publication of your second book. Then again, Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life isn’t just a book. As for his first one, Peterson spent years collecting and refining the ideas that would create a sort of blueprint for a good life. This time, however, the book didn’t flop and sell less than 500 copies.

Since its publication in January and Peterson’s accompanying world tour, 12 Rules For Life completely exploded, dominating bestseller lists around the globe. Suddenly, millions view, listen to, and follow Peterson on social media, he’s racked up over $60,000 in monthly donations through Patreon, and, of course, one million copies sold.

Whether he’s just struck the right nerve at the right time or put his finger on true significance and meaning, only time will tell, but with thousands of people messaging him how the book’s changed their lives, chances are good it’s the latter. Let’s look at 3 of his 12 rules to begin to find out:

Sweep in front of your own door before pointing out the street is dirty.

Treat yourself like a child you’re responsible for.

Aim to do what is meaningful, not convenient.

These form the premise Peterson’s book is built on and thus, the context for understanding why it’s been such a success. Let’s go!

Lesson 1: Before you judge the world, take responsibility for your own life.

Life isn’t fair. We all learn that one way or other. Some of us sooner, some later, some in small ways, some from terrifying blows. But we all realize it eventually. Like the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who, in his short, philosophical piece, A Confession, concluded there are only four reasonable responses to the absurdity of life:

Ignorance, like a child refusing to accept reality.

Pleasure, like an addict on the hedonic treadmill.


Holding on, despite everything.

Even though he concluded suicide was the most honest answer, Tolstoy himself chose the last option, forever struggling on, which tells you a lot about his and Peterson’s beliefs about a good life: No matter how unfair life gets, you should never blame the world. There’s always someone who’s suffered worse than you. Like Viktor Frankl, for example.

Besides, even though the future may sometimes look bleak, if you can focus on taking responsibility and keeping your own house clean, so to speak, you’ll find the bad times will pass.

Lesson 2: Care for yourself like you would for a loved one.

Have you ever gotten a prescription from the doctor and thought: “Naaa, I don’t need that?” Over one third of people do it regularly. According to Peterson, it’s neither smart nor smug. It’s a subversive form of self-punishment. We do it a lot and, as a result, tend to take better care of others than ourselves.

Peterson suggests this is a consequence of our inability to deal with the insanity of life described above. Just like Adam and Eve had to taste the forbidden fruit of knowledge, we too indulge in our dark sides from time to time and thus, feel we deserve punishment. But, as with the unfairness of life, we all got thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Like Yin and Yang, we all carry both light and dark inside us. One can’t exist without the other.

That means instead of just striving for either one, we should seek balance, which is why his second rule is to care for yourself like you would care for a loved one: do what is best for you, even though it might not always make you happy.

Lesson 3: Seek meaning through sacrifice, not happiness through pleasure.

Balancing your light and your dark side can take many different forms. Sometimes, it may be staying in bed to get healthy, even though you want to work. Other times, it might mean staying late at work on a Friday. However it looks like, it always involves choosing meaning by making a sacrifice, rather than temporary happiness by choosing pleasure.

Peterson says this is a great coping mechanism, because it helps balance your life between drowning in hedonism and being so righteous it drives you mad. Of course not all sacrifices are equal. Those you make for personal gain, like working overtime to pay for a vacation, hold less meaning than those you make for the greater good, like volunteering on a Saturday.

Even though it might feel like it when you do it, sacrifice is never really about giving up rewards, it’s about deferring them until you can get something even better, usually a feeling of whole-ness or contentment. As such, it’s also great willpower training.

I’ll leave you with an analogy Peterson makes. The Lotus flower starts out at the very bottom of the lake, drenched in darkness. Inch by inch, it grows its way towards the surface, until, eventually, it breaks through and into the sunlight. I could sure think of worse ways to spend a life than to be a Lotus flower.

My personal take-aways

I haven’t gotten around to reading the full book, but I’d like to. It’s full of stories, science, myths, a broad mix of engaging ways to get his message across. It’s mainly targeted at male millennials, but don’t let that stop you. There’s something for everyone in 12 Rules For Life.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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 The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Simply punishing the broken only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

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