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📚 Today’s tip: A history book can help you see things a little differently.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to become an informed citizen isn’t to watch the news or constantly check Twitter. Instead, as Ryan Holiday writes, you can gain an incredible amount of perspective by reading history books. In his annual list of recommendations, Holiday praises titles such as How to Be a Leader by Plutarch, A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy, and Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Reading is the way to gain easily what others have gained by difficult experience,”…

Insights on work and creativity from the life of mathematician Claude Shannon, the most influential figure you’ve never heard of

Photo: Nokia Bell Labs

By Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, co-authors of A Mind at Play

For five years, we lived with one of the most brilliant people on the planet.

Sort of.

See, we spent those all-consuming five years writing our biography of American mathematician Claude Shannon, whose work in the 1930s and ’40s earned him the title of “father of the information age.” That’s how long it took us to understand the influence of the most important genius you’ve never heard of, a man whose intellect was on par with that of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.

During that time, we spent…

Seven tactics from the ancient world that have stood the test of time

Marcus Aurelius writing philosophical advice to his son. Photo: Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The Roman-era Stoic philosopher Seneca once joked that the one thing fools all have in common is that they are always getting ready to live but never actually do.

That was 20 centuries ago. For tens of thousands of years, people have been procrastinating just like you do today: They put things off, delayed, made excuses, and wished their deadlines would disappear. And just as it does with you, this caused them anxiety, made them piss off their colleagues and families, and, worst of all, wasted time.

Fortunately, unlike our ancient counterparts, we have ages of wisdom to help us…

Is the ancient philosophy being reduced to hackneyed self-help advice?

Photo: Ashley Corbin-Teich/Getty Images

“Read Sun Tzu, The Art of War,” says Gordon Gekko, the ruthless finance titan in the 1987 film Wall Street. “‘Each battle is won before it’s ever fought.’ Think about it.”

His protégé nods, as if Gekko has imparted real wisdom instead of reciting a laughably trite platitude.

Whatever merits the book may have, it’s hard to think of The Art of War without imagining ’80s yuppies in red suspenders chanting its “timeless wisdom” into their giant beige mobile phones. …

What Caligula, Julius Caesar, and the bad Roman emperors can teach us

An illustration of Julius Caesar collapsed, wounded, amidst a group of Romans brandishing daggers.
An illustration of Julius Caesar collapsed, wounded, amidst a group of Romans brandishing daggers.
Image: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

The Roman biographer Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus believed power doesn’t corrupt so much as it allows one’s worst, preexisting instincts to go unchecked. His epic biography, Lives of the Caesars, showed how power made the emperors of Rome feel free to indulge their own passions and pursuits, no matter how weird or reckless — often, to their own demise.

“The moment Nero became emperor,” Suetonius writes, “he summoned the lyre player Terpnus, considered the best at the time, and for days on end sat by him after dinner as he sang late into the night.” Little by little, Nero began to…

In a way, it has always been a celebration of stress

Illustration: Dan Woodger

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day when families reunite, when the stuffing is just like grandma used to make, when everyone takes a much-needed break from work and school to count their blessings together.

Except, it’s t-minus two hours to when your guests arrive, the vegan and gluten-free sides are already competing for space on the stove with the old-school ones your aunt can’t do without, and your nephew, who’s supposed to be bringing the cranberry sauce, just texted to say he can’t make it after all because he needs to fill a shift for the Black Friday sale, which now starts…

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