Welcome back to the Stairway to Wisdom!

I knew you'd be back!

Today we've got my breakdown of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement, by Ayodeji Awosika, an "optimistically realistic" book that will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.

In this issue of the newsletter, we've also got a profile on the great (yet reclusive) Emily Dickinson, three books that will help you get a promotion at work, wisdom from one of the most comprehensive personal development books ever, and more!

So let's get started!

Latest Release: Real Help

“There is no end point to this process. There’s no mountaintop. You’ll never ‘arrive.’ Life promises you an adventure and nothing more.”

-Ayodeji Awosika

This book isn't going to rescue you. For better or for worse, that's something you'll have to do for yourself.

The truth, however, is that facing the fact that no one is going to come save you is what's actually going to save you. And I can't think of too many people better qualified to deliver this critically important message than Ayodeji Awosika.

Awosika is one of the most popular writers on Medium.com ever, with nearly 100,000 followers, a TEDx speaker, a self-taught 3-time author, and a world-renowned personal development expert who reaches millions of readers per year with his message of radical personal responsibility and radical self-determination.

This is a book that tells you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. This is a book that tells you how the world actually works, not how you think it should work.

Not everyone will resonate with his somewhat harsher, more realistic style, but one thing that no one can ever say about his writing is that he's being inauthentic or dishonest. There may not be Absolute Truth in this world, but this book represents his hard-won truth, which is damn near close enough, as far as I can tell.

Read this book if you want to learn from the valuable experiences of someone who has actually achieved the kinds of results that most of us want in our own lives:

*The freedom to do work that excites you and stretches you creatively.

*The opportunity to make a great living doing what you love and what you're good at.

*The mental toughness necessary to thrive in an unfair world.

*The ability to build life-changing habits and execute them on auto-pilot (even if you’ve tried and failed before).

All of the advice in this book has been battle-tested in the real world. You and I live in the real world too, and if we want to succeed there, we have to learn how to be both optimistic and realistic at the exact same time.

We need to learn how to hold two different, contradictory, opposing viewpoints in our minds at the same time without retreating to the false comfort and safety of either one of them.

There are very few guarantees in life, and you know this already. But one of them is that your existence can become an incredible adventure, once you choose to see it that way. And, crucially, once you decide once and for all to take action to shape your own future.

The real world has broken untold masses of people before our time, but it doesn't have to break us. You can break the pattern and break free. You have personal power and agency, and now you also have this book.  

--> Read the rest at the Stairway to Wisdom!

Inside the Mind: Emily Dickinson

Inside the Mind is where we take you deeper into the life and thought of a major literary figure, someone who has had an extraordinary impact on our collective knowledge and wisdom.

Today I'm featuring Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), an American poet who was largely forgotten during her own lifetime but emerged later to become one of the most popular and influential poets of the 19th century.

She wrote nearly 1,800 poems during her lifetime, but less than a dozen of them were published while she was still alive. It makes you wonder how many other, incredible poets we've never heard of today!

As a person, Emily Dickinson was fairly reclusive, keeping to herself most of the time and, later in life, even reluctant to leave her room! So yea, she wasn't all that into self-promotion.

She also never married and usually kept up with her friends via correspondence...it's tough enough to make it as a poet if you do make the rounds of the literary circuit, but how much harder must it have been for her!

Regardless, Dickinson's poems are wonderfully original, in both form and content, and contemporary editors even made large changes to her poems while she was alive in order to fit better with conventional styles.

This is a shame because the 19th century was deprived of the beautiful Emily Dickinson poems we're able to enjoy today!

A Few Great Quotes from Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

“I dwell in possibility…”

Start with This Book: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

Another Good Place to Start: Hope is the Thing with Feathers, by Emily Dickinson

Wisdom in Action:

You'll notice that every book summary at the Stairway to Wisdom comes with Action Steps. That's because when you really want to bring about changes in your life, knowledge is not enough.

After learning and knowing, you must do.

We want every one of our readers to see and feel their lives changing for the better, immediately and over time.

So in this section, we've taken three Action Steps from Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina, an incredibly consciousness-raising book about aligning with Truth, Love, and Power, and put them right in front of you so that you can take action today:

#1: Set Daily Goals

Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you'll do; then do it. Without a clear focus, it's too easy to succumb to distractions. It really is as simple - and effective - as this. Without a clear path, you won't end up anywhere.

#2: Identify Your Peak Times for Productivity

Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times. Most people have their peak times in the morning or early afternoon, so you're going to want to schedule your most important work for those times and leave the less important stuff until later at night when you don't need as much energy to do a good-enough job on them.

#3: Be Insanely Bad at Something

Defeat perfectionism by completing your task in an intentionally terrible fashion, knowing you never need to share the results with anyone. Write a blog post about the taste of salt, design a hideously dysfunctional website, or create a business plan that guarantees a first-year bankruptcy. With a truly horrendous first draft, there's nowhere to go but up.

Read the Full Breakdown: Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina

From the World of Reading:

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... the man who never reads lives only one."

-George R. R. Martin

I'm gonna hand the mike right over to Neil Pasricha for this one! His podcast is - literally - unlike anything that's been done before...

Most of us want to read more.

But we live in a world designed for shallow skimming instead of deep diving.

What happens? Most of us read only a few books a year. We want to read more! But we just don’t have the time.

Making matters worse is that over a million new books are published each year in English alone. What chance do you have to actually find a good book?

This was my personal story for years.

Even though I was a published author … I didn’t read any books. Who’s got that time? I’d say, while scrolling endlessly on social media.

But then … something happened.

I suddenly went from reading five books a year to reading fifty books a year.

I was so enamored with myself that I wrote an article about it called “8 Ways To Read (A Lot) More Books This Year.” Harvard Business Review published it and it was the “Most Read Article” on their site for 2017 and featured in a few Harvard Business Review books. (I was even asked to write a sequel!)

What was the insight?

It’s not just me! We all want to read more. Everybody! Everybody I talk to wishes they could read more books. Everyone wants to do this! And I absolutely did, too.

I started up a Monthly Book Club Email and this podcast called 3 Books.


Because I believe books are the ultimate form of compressed knowledge and wisdom, because I believe books touch a wider range of emotions than anything else and serve as empathy training wheels, because I believe books are the single best way we grow into the highest potential versions of ourselves, because I believe books are magic, and because I believe a whole lot of other things ...

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"If we meet a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads."

In a way: It's as simple as that.

On each chapter of 3 Books I will aim to discuss life’s biggest themes through the three most formative books of an inspiring individual.

You can listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

I hope you enjoy the show,


PS. Values here, guest list here, email list here.

Further Reading: 3-Books.co

Learn This Concept: The Plane of Potentiality

“You too have a body of work. It exists inside you, on the Plane of Potentiality. Are you a writer? This body of work exists, like books on a bookshelf. Close your eyes. You can see them.

Are you a musician? These works exist like albums, like concerts, like performances. Listen with your inner ear. You can hear them.

These bodies of work exist as alternative futures. They are that which can be…and should be…and want to be. But they are not that which is guaranteed to be.”

-Steven Pressfield, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be

Steven Pressfield is in touch with the metaphysical. He exudes the kind of force that can only be perceived surrounding people who have actually spoken to and communed with the Muse. It's almost like he possesses secret knowledge, and that secret knowledge is being communicated in this book.

Whether or not you believe in the physical, material reality of this other plane of existence - this Plane of Potentiality - you can see that as yet, our highest artistic achievements remain unrealized. They don't exist yet.

Indeed, they won't exist, unless we make them real; if we bring them down to earth. This is our calling as artists and creatives.

Your best work already exists somewhere, and the world - this world - would be unquestionably better off if it existed here, but this will never happen by accident.

You have to make it happen, you have to will it to happen, you have to give everything you have for it, and you are the only one in the whole universe who can do it. Because that creative work is yours alone, and literally no one else is capable of producing anything like it.

These works exist in the adjacent possible, which is located just beyond what exists in the here and now. As you move forward, you create the path by walking, and your next step makes future steps possible.

This is the most exciting thing!

Crucially, however, where others shy away from their freedom and responsibility to create, you and I need to lean into it. We can never escape the responsibility to exercise our freedom, as the existentialists might say, but we can create our own reality.

Maybe we can't bend external circumstances completely to our will, but we have a great deal more power and influence than we think we do, and we can tap into this power by acting as if; by envisioning our highest artistic contribution as a vivid reality, and by acting in accordance with the belief that we will eventually make it real through our work and our actions.

We can use the uniquely human power of the imagination to help will our creative work into existence, and this is what Steven Pressfield says we must do as artists:

“What fascinates me about the character of Alexander the Great is that he seemed to see the future with such clarity and such intensity as to make it virtually impossible that it would not come true – and that he would be the one to make it so.

That’s you and me at the inception of any creative project. The book/screenplay/non-profit/startup already exists in the Other World. Your job and mine is to bring it forth in this one.”

Further Reading: Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be, by Steven Pressfield

Three Books: How to Get a Promotion at Work

There is a book for every problem you could ever face. Whatever it is that you're dealing with, someone else has also gone through something similar, come out stronger on the other side, and written about it in a book.

With that in mind, here are three books that can show you how to get noticed by your boss and move into that corner office:

Million Dollar Habits, by Brian Tracy:

“You are where you are and what you are because of yourself. Everything you are today – or ever will be in the future – is up to you. Your life today is the sum total of your choices, decisions, and actions up to this point.

You can create your own future by changing your behaviors. You can make new choices and decisions that are more consistent with the person you want to be and the things you want to accomplish with your life.”

This Book Breakdown contains 6 Key Ideas, 3 Action Steps, and 29 Book Notes. Read It Here.

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi:

“Connecting is a philosophy of life, a worldview. Its guiding principle is that people, all people, every person you meet, is an opportunity to help and be helped.”

This Book Breakdown contains 10 Key Ideas, 5 Action Steps, and 17 Book Notes. Read It Here.

What's In It for Them?, by Joe Polish

“I treat everybody I meet as if I will run into them again. As much as I can, I want to make a lasting impression and whenever possible, leave everything better than before I showed up. The most positive impacts I’ve made haven’t been overly calculated strategic decisions. They have grown organically out of this simple philosophy.

The bottom line: Spread as much positivity and love as you can wherever you go, not to avoid some imagined future punishment, but because you don’t know the magnitude of the impact that possibility will have on others and the world. Usually, our humble efforts have an effect reaching farther than we think."

This Book Breakdown contains 7 Key Ideas, 3 Action Steps, and 34 Book Notes. Read It Here.

Upgrade Your Reading:

Reluctantly, I've started building an "anti-library" for myself, and you'll see why after reading this very short article about anti-libraries on the blog Farnam Street.

An anti-library is basically any collection of books that far exceeds your capacity ever to read them all in a single lifetime. Turns out I've had an anti-library for years and didn't even know it!

I used to feel guilty about all the unread books, and more than a little pissed off about the finitude of human existence. Still do, if we're being honest.

But the intellectual humility and inspired curiosity that an anti-library can give you are worth it - I hope!

Here's the article...

This week, I caught myself feeling guilty as I walked into my office and looked at the ever-growing number of unread books. My bookshelf, which seems to reproduce on its own, is a constant source of ribbing from my friends.

“You’ll never read all of those,” they say. And they’re right. I won’t. That’s not really the point.

It is our knowledge — the things we are sure of — that makes the world go wrong and keeps us from seeing and learning.
— Lincoln Steffens

Some questions are only asked by people with a fundamental misunderstanding. The friends who walk into my office and ask, “have you read all of these” miss the point of books.

In his book, The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb describes our relationship between books and knowledge using the legendary Italian writer Umberto Eco (1932-2016).

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have. How many of these books have you read?” and the others—a very small minority—who get the point is that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendages but a research tool. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means … allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Taleb adds:

We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations. People don’t walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it’s the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did. Just as we need to stand library logic on its head, we will work on standing knowledge itself on its head.

A good library is filled with mostly unread books. That’s the point. Our relationship with the unknown causes the very problem Taleb is famous for contextualizing: the black swan. Because we underestimate the value of what we don’t know and overvalue what we do know, we fundamentally misunderstand the likelihood of surprises.

The antidote to this overconfidence boils down to our relationship with knowledge. The anti-scholar, as Taleb refers to it, is “someone who focuses on the unread books, and makes an attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even a possession, or even a self-esteem enhancement device — a skeptical empiricist.”

My library serves as a visual reminder of what I don’t know.

Further Reading: Farnam Street

Study Notes: Your Next Five Moves, by Patrick Bet-David

Here’s another book that completely overwhelmed my expectations and provided me with a wealth of knowledge in just a few hours that I’ll now be able to use and profit from for the rest of my life.

That's the power of reading!

I think of Bet-David as kind of like the Iranian Jordan Peterson – just an incredibly motivating, well-put-together guy with a big important message who is impassioned about delivering it and who has positively impacted millions of lives.

He’s a wildly successful entrepreneur, businessperson, and mentor, and he runs the YouTube channel Valuetainment, which has more than 4 million subscribers.

The overarching theme of this book is the necessity of thinking several moves ahead if you want to succeed in business, especially if you want to make a bigger impact than just earning a comfortable living. There’s nothing wrong with having a goal like that – something I love Patrick for emphasizing – but if you do decide to set bigger goals, you need to develop a work ethic to match.

Your discipline has to be as unshakable as your dreams are large, or you’re just not going to get there.

Here’s a guy who developed himself into an extremely capable and well-connected entrepreneur (he literally escaped from Iran as a child and spent two years living in a refugee camp) and now uses the knowledge that he’s earned to help empower others in a big way.

This book will help you outwork, out-improve, out-strategize, and outlast your competition, and it’s written by someone who’s actually done the work himself; he’s done exactly what he’s telling his readers to do, and that kind of accountability and authenticity is something you hold onto for dear life once you’ve found it in a person.


“A visionary is someone who is not living in the here and now. He or she has already seen at least five moves ahead and is living in that reality.”

“You must act like a great entrepreneur long before you ever become one.”

“The pain of owning a business is too great to tolerate just for money.”

“You’ll know you’re succeeding in life when others are winning simply because of their association with you.”

“Treat your people right, or someone else will.”

“The world today is counting on us to solve big problems that will never stop coming.”

Further Reading: Matt Karamazov's Notes from 1,150+ Books

What's Next?

That's it for this week! Next week, I'll be back with more book breakdowns, inspiring thinkers, novel concepts, big ideas, reading tips, and more.

In the next issue, I will also be releasing the breakdown of The Simple Path to Wealth, by JL Collins, one of the best personal finance books I've ever had the good fortune to read.

The title says it all. That's the promise it makes, and the promise of simplicity is what it fulfills. But don't let the simplicity fool you into thinking that it isn't also extremely effective at helping you build wealth and maintain peace of mind for a lifetime.

Also, if you have any bookish friends that you think would love the Stairway to Wisdom, you can click the button below and share it with them. I mean, what are friends for?

We covered a lot today, and again, thank you very much for joining the Stairway to Wisdom. The whole team is behind you! We all want you to win!

Until next time...and happy reading!

Matt Karamazov