Bite Sized Wisdom
On my list of top 10 most influential books I have ever read is a book from my childhood—From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.
The book tells the story of young Claudia Kincaid, who decides to run away from home. She knows she doesn't just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
This particular book remains on my most influent list because, now 50+ years after first reading it, and many rereads later, when I get exhausted or need a momentary escape, I daydream about running away to my own “somewhere.” A somewhere that that has never, ever, changed or waivered since I first read the book. My somewhere? The library. And not just any library, but The Library of Congress.
While I admit describing the Library of Congress as comfortable, beautiful, and elegant might be a stretch, The Library has in its collections well over 100 million items, in hundreds of different languages and virtually every format—not just books and journals, but also prints, drawings, government documents, photographs, microforms, films, sound and video recordings, manuscripts, and other formats. 100 million items! Just think what you could learn from 100 million items! Trust me, I do. Oh, the magic!
I daydream about having the entire collection to myself, the serendipity of choosing a book at random, and sitting with it to uncover the secrets lying inside, surrounded by books and soaking in their wisdom, almost by osmosis. Sheer wonderment.
Unfortunately, I have yet to summon the courage to run away to The Library of Congress. But recently, I came across something close:
The Philosopher’s Notes
As described on their website:
Imagine 600 of the best ideas from the best optimal living books distilled into fun, inspiring and super practical 6-page PDFs + 20-minute MP3s. That’s Philosophers Notes. (More wisdom in less time.)
Brian Johnson, Founder and Chief Philosopher of Optimize, explains the word optimize comes from the Latin optimus, which literally means “the best.” In the case of optimize.com, this means helping people become their absolute best selves. As Brian explains it:
I read a ton and traveled a bit, studying Socrates in Athens, Aurelius in the Danube of Hungary, Jesus in Jerusalem, and Rumi in Konya, Turkey. I started sharing what I was learning via a daily newsletter that quickly went from a couple hundred friends to thousands of people.
After several years of reading, writing, and thinking, I decided to give myself a Ph.D. in Optimal Living—integrating ancient wisdom, modern science and practical tools to optimize and actualize. As part of my Master’s project, I distilled 100 of the best books on optimal living into 6-page PDF summaries (and 20-min MP3s). I called these “Philosophers Notes” and created a profitable business sharing the wisdom I was learning. My Ph.D. dissertation was a simple book called A Philosopher's Notes and a class I taught called “Optimal Living 101” (which is now an integrated part of the curriculum at Harvard-Westlake).
Over the last decade, Brian has created 600+ Philosopher’s Notes and 50+ Optimal Living 101 master classes on everything from optimizing your energy and confidence to your productivity and happiness. 650 chances to learn something new, from the most influential works, in printed, audio and video formats. And it is totally free to access.
What I really appreciate is that you can access the wisdom by book, or you can access the wisdom across books by topic—like ancient wisdom, stoicism, habits, creativity, and focus— just to name a few.
While not The Library of Congress, Optimize does enable me to pick a book and get lost in its lessons in bite size pieces that work well in my life. Bite size pieces I can make time for every day and look forward to every day.
More wisdom in less time—