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  • Shreyas Prakash

Nietzsche — The Ubermensch thinker

These are some of the trajectories in which Nietzsche has influenced my thinking:


  • Being authentic, and finding a true voice (it sometimes feels like we’re all in this collective internet soup). He asks us important questions on how we could escape competition, and find our own unique voice, we live more fulfilled lives.

  • Being wary of experts who claim to be the established voice across domains of—stock markets, weather forecast, pandemic prediction etc. Sometimes, the actual experts don't even look like experts.

  • To optimise interestingness in one's life. Nietzsche calls for fighting great battles, being at peace and war with companions, robbers and strangers. Advocating the barbell strategy by seeking extremities and not the middle ground.

  • To incorporate walking in our daily life. Nietzsche's eight hour walks across the Swiss alps inspired me to use walking as a means of creative rejuvenation and divergent thinking. It has led to a lot of interesting ideations in the past.


Finding personal monopoly in this collective internet soup

Probably the biggest battle we face everyday is to be true to ourselves. It's a difficult question to answer as a lot of times, we just imitate, innovate, and make it a part of our identity.


Recently, I was seeing my nephew mimic the same exact hand gestures which his 7yo elder brother was making. He was imitating the gestures, then adapting them as his own. In a sense, we are all mimetic creatures. Between this tension between imitation and uniqueness, we find our middle ground somewhere.

David Perell talks about how we could strive to find this intersection where skills, interests and personality traits come together.


Within this collective internet soup, it has definitely become difficult to find our own unique voice. Naval Ravikant talks about building and marketing something that's an extension of who you are. 'You are the only you'. 'I am the only me'. Being authentic does have its fair share of advantages.


If you are building and marketing something that’s an extension of who you are, no one can compete with you. Who’s going to compete with Joe Rogan or Scott Adams? It’s impossible. Is somebody else going write a better Dilbert? No. Is someone going to compete with Bill Watterson and create a better Calvin and Hobbes? No. Artist are, by definition, authentic. Entrepreneurs are authentic, too. Who’s going to be Elon Musk? Who’s going to be Jack Dorsey? These people are authentic, and the businesses and products they create are authentic to their desires and means.

Source: Escape Competition Through Authenticity by Naval Ravikant

Nietzsche helped me realise that a part of the problem in being authentic is in finding a deeply purposeful meaning one could attach to. It's really hard to find something we truly truly love.


In a podcast with Joe Rogan, Mr. Beast talks about the Daily Masterminds group that set the stage for his Youtube success. It was just a group of friends talking about Youtube strategy for 1000 days straight, analyzing why certain videos became viral, whereas others didn't. He mentions that this level of hyper-obsession with Youtube only came because he truly loved it, and that he was glad to have found what he loved at a very young age.


As Nietzsche puts it, if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship; whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal. Infact, Jordan Peterson talks about how we should optimise for meaning instead of optimising for happiness.

Great craving can power great action—even when the friction is high. [1]


Perhaps, pursuing deeper meanings makes us inherently authentic.


Shoo away the Bildungsphilisters


Nietzsche cautions against the bildungsphilisters— educated philistines. In what's considered to be the most potent sentence in all of Nietzsche's century—"What is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent". He cautions against the educated philistines who mistake what they don't understand for nonsense. It's like a barber who, one day, decides to do a brain surgery.


Nassim Taleb is heavily influenced by these sayings, and brings it all together in his Incerto series through a series of conversations encircling experts with expert expertise. He claims that the real experts actually dont look like experts. We need to be really picky when we blindly follow 'expert opinion'.





For example, Nassim gives this example of how if we're given two profiles: two surgeons of similar rank. One looks highly refined in terms of speech, delicate gestures with elegant figures of speech. Whereas the other looks like a butcher, is overweight, uncouth speech and unkempt appearance. Who would we choose?


We might probably choose the first one. Nassim challenges us to think differently in this context,


Now if I had to pick, I would overcome my suckerproneness and take the butcher any minute. Even more: I would seek the butcher as a third option if my choice was between two doctors who looked like doctors. Why? Simply the one who doesn’t look the part, conditional of having made a (sort of) successful career in his profession, had to have much to overcome in terms of perception. And if we are lucky enough to have people who do not look the part, it is thanks to the presence of some skin in the game, the contact with reality that filters out incompetence, as reality is blind to looks.

Source: Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons by Nassim Taleb

Perhaps this might be one of the ways in which we can weed out the 'bildungsphilisters', but Nietzsche advises us to be cautious of these pseudo-experts in general.


To live an interesting life

This is a sentiment which is also shared by other thinkers such as Wagner (the musician) apart from Nietzsche. Both of them shared a deep contempt for the bourgeouis culture, for the idea that life was to be lived easily, blandly, punctually, by the book. In fact, Wagner's Sturm und Drang—"storm and stress" was heavily appreciated by Nietzsche. Why should life be bland when it can be titillating?

For believe me! — the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! — Nietzsche

Walking as a nourishment of the spirit


He seldom talks about how great ideas just emerge out of a simple activity of walking. Longer walks do help in creative rejuvenation of our souls. Nikola Tesla envisioned the rotating magnetic field, one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time on a walk across the city of Budapest in 1882. Søren Kierkegaard, the cantankerous philosopher used to walk every day for atleast two-to-three miles across the streets of Copenhagen to be in a "state of well-being", in his own words. Even Thoreau, one of the greatest wanderer-thinkers writes, "Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow".


Bringing the focus back to Nietzsche, he was surrounded by scenic trails in Europe where he used to walk up to eight hours a day carrying a small pocket notebook. His scribblings on that notebook, became The Wanderer and His Shadow, the first of the many proses he wrote in a decade fueled by walking and writing. Nietzschean Walks are actually a thing.


Related Notes


Celebrity Thinkers : A list of all the influential philosophers who have had an impact in my thinking. Some of them have literally put words in my mouth. One of my closest friend's calls me 'Nassim's Bulldog' owing to my obsessive fascination to Nassim Taleb's Incerto series. Apart from Nassim Taleb, I've also been influenced majorly by Naval Ravikant, Balaji S, Søren Kierkegaard and their likes.



 


[1] It was also for those same reasons why he vehemently denied the practise of christianity. In his opinion, christianity emerged from the minds of timid slaves in the Roman empire who had lacked the stomach to climb the tops of mountains, so they had built a philosophy that claimed that their bases were delightful. He felt that both alcohol and christianity had similar traits—both led to a weakness of the will. He claimed that this was dangerous, as you had lesser craving towards action. As only great craving can power great action.↩︎

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