Booknotes: Friendly Ambitious Nerd
RECOMMENDED if you're a nerd in your early-mid 20s.
In following some post-rationalist, hippy-adjacent folks, I’d see this guy Visa talked up a lot, so I thought I'd read his self-published book (as with many such things, really more of an essay collection) and see what he was about. His stated goal is to make you “friendlier, nerdier and more ambitious”. Friendlier by sorting out your own issues so you can be a better friend and a friend to more people; ambitious by widening your horizons regarding the things you can do, and nerdier in the sense of honesty about what you find interesting. I recognise the struggle I’ve had to achieve all of these myself so I thought maybe this would be something for me.
Present yourself genuinely but with respect to your audience, listen to what your body is telling you without trying to intellectualise immediately, being kind is often preferable to being smart: all these things are definitely useful advice to someone, it’s just that someone is not me because I’ve already come to most of this independently. With the best will in the world, the way people talk about this guy on Twitter is like he’s the world’s deepest man for coming up with this stuff, but on the basis of this he’s a decent guy who has had the kind of revelations that will hopefully occur to most nerdy lads in their mid-to-late 20s when their self-awareness begins to extend itself beyond their sense of humour. I also think that a lot of these things are things you can’t really just absorb by reading; they have to be experienced to be fully understood (though there's no reason why reading about them couldn't be an awareness-trigger!).
There are still some useful insights in here. The section on scenes and what it takes to build one (as few as 2 really motivated people but really more like 25) was good. The stuff about challenges that you'll face even in good, healthy relationships face, a topic that (again, perhaps selection bias affects my inputs here) seems somewhat under-discussed, was strong too. The insight that while you may find your partner less annoying than anyone else, by virtue of being the person you spend the most time with they're likely to be the person who annoys you the most was one I appreciated. The advice to do 1:1s is something we do anyway (inspired by Rob Heaton’s weekly checkin sessions) but it’s a really solid bit of advice that a lot of people (in my experience) don’t seem to have heard.
There were a few other scattered and aphoristic parts that I enjoyed, but for the most part I found it to be heavy on the friendship, light on the ambition and the nerdiness. Maybe I’m just already over-optimised in the areas that the book covers more heavily—I think it would be a more interesting read for someone unfamiliar. As the man says: “For the beginner, interestingness is about novelty. For the expert, interestingness is about nuance.”