A Brutally Honest Guide to Self-Improvement

📚 Hey, I’m back with more books!

The author of today’s book went from having $147 in his bank account to earning $70,000 a month writing online, and you can think of his book as a brutally honest guide to self-improvement.

I say brutally honest, and it is strongly worded…

But it’s more like he desperately wants to see you make it, and so he doesn’t dumb down his advice or just tell you what you want to hear.

The book is called Real Help, by my friend Ayodeji Awosika, and I’ve written a complete breakdown of the book that you can read for free.

I’ve condensed about 6-7 hours of reading into 47 minutes of everything you need to know.

And in this email, I give you a few sample Key Ideas and such that will help you decide if you want to read the whole thing or not.

I’ve also just released Episode Two of The Competitive Advantage Podcast!

In this latest episode:

►►► Russell Wilson's mental conditioning coach on "neutral thinking" and how it can turn also-rans into champions and champions into legends

►►► One of the rising stars of modern Stoicism that you NEED to know about

►►► How to become UNFORGETTABLE online and command attention on social media

►►► A high-leverage question that helped Patrick Bet-David do the impossible

►►► A tactical breakdown of what's working in my business right now and how I'm scaling to $25,000 per month online

But now let’s get some…

This Book is For:

*Anyone who's been left wondering why they're stuck where they are in life, even though they've done everything they were "supposed" to do, and followed the path they were "expected" to follow.

*People who don't want to be force-fed fantasies about the possibility of becoming "digital nomads" or working on their laptop from some beach in Bali, but instead are ready to face the world as it really is, and do what it takes to actually achieve their career goals.

*Online business owners who want to escape the drudgery of their 9-5 and are willing to put in the work required, and who also want a clear path forward that will take them to where they want to go over the next 3-10 years.

*Everyone who simply needs clarity, direction, some accountability, and a little bit of "tough love" to push them onward and upward.


“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, Real Help

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.

He accomplished all this with several different decks stacked against him, being a "victim" (he'd hate that word) of self-doubt, discrimination, lack of opportunity...the list goes on and on.

But it's irrelevant because Ayodeji decided to ignore the nonsense that everyone else tried to feed him about success and instead set out to realize his own vision of success.

If some people are "born on third base," Ayodeji was born on the bench.

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.

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.

Real Help doesn't contain a bunch of magical promises that the author couldn't possibly fulfill. It's a realistic book, but it's also reasonably optimistic. It will stretch you, but if you take its lessons to heart, the real world won't be able to break you.

Key Ideas:

#1: Set the Frame for Your Own Existence

“If you think the media creates false perceptions of beauty, success, and worth, you've just admitted that you think the media creates reality instead of...you.

If you think the politicians are ruining your life, you're letting them set the frame for your existence."

No one is going to die your death for you, so why should you let other people dictate how you're going to live your life?

Stop letting other people set the limits of your own life. Yes, there are certain "facts of life" that we can't escape, but there is also a tremendous personal freedom that comes with the knowledge that many of the things we were taught were "rules" are actually guidelines, even simply suggestions.

We need to control the frame of our own existence if we want to be free. And by "frame" I mean the boundaries or paradigm within which we operate. The "rules of our game," so to speak. The rules and standards that we set for ourselves that guide our behaviors and shape our lives.

For an example of "frame," consider the following:

In conversation with others, when we allow them to lead the conversation, we're letting them control the frame. We're talking about what they want to talk about, we're answering their questions, and so on.

Of course, not everything in life is about "control," but the issue becomes a lot more serious when we're talking about your actual life. We let other people tell us what kind of goals we should strive for, how we should speak, and how we should think.

We let other people dictate how it's acceptable to should show up in the world, and even what "success" actually looks like.

We're letting other people control the frame of our existence, under the tacit assumption that they know how to live our lives better than we do.

Again, you'll notice that in most conversations, those who are "high status" tend to control the frame. They steer the conversation in a direction that serves them, making the other participants respond to them, and prove themselves, always reacting to what's being said instead of leading the conversation themselves.

In a wider context, those who are "high status" in life set their own frame as well. They ruthlessly curate their own reality, and never blindly let external forces dictate to them what's meaningful in life, how they should live, or what's worth doing.

Yes, we can all learn from others and take hints and cues from the wider culture about what's acceptable - absolutely we can - but the ultimate responsibility for setting our own frame lies with us.

But how do you even start? Especially if you've been blindly following the carrots that have been dangled in front of you your whole life?

The first step is detachment; it's the development of thoughtfulness, cultivated in solitude, and established by your own thoughts that is going to move you towards the answers.

Every so often you have to disengage from all the inputs you're getting from the outside world and decide for yourself what you think.

It's an ongoing, life-long, even daily process. External forces will never stop trying to influence us to think and behave in ways that are actually contrary to our own interests. "Frame battles" as I like to call them are going on all the time.

People are always going to try and change you from the outside in, but you have to create yourself from the inside out.

With this comes a change in your paradigm, your mental operating system that tells you what's normal for you, possible for you, and desirable for you.

If your paradigm is that you are happy and healthy, rich, free, resourceful, vibrant, alive, active, and loved, then you can't listen to anyone who tries to tell you that they know more about how to live your life than you do. Because who are they?

Raise your standards, and establish your own frame!

Consciously decide what's meaningful to you in life, what is and is not an excellent use of your time and energy, and move accordingly!

The alternative is a life spent being whipped around by the whims of others, many of whom absolutely do not have your best interests at heart.

If you don't set the frame of your own existence, someone else will try to.

If there is a void where your Self should be, someone else will rush in and try to fill it with their frame, and with their priorities. As the great psychologist Carl Jung once wrote:

"If you don't know who you are, the world will tell you."

#2: Know the Game

“The biggest obstacle to clarity is focusing on the way things should work as opposed to how they do work. Instead, accept the idea that society has incentives to keep you from improving. Get over it, and move forward with the proper understanding."

The happiest, most successful, most high-flourishing people in the world aren't necessarily smarter than you are, more intellectually gifted, or anything like that. They simply see the world more clearly than you do.

They have better mental models - ways of seeing the world, and how everything all fits together.

Their worldview is clear(er) and more accurate, at least when it comes to what it will take to achieve their goals, and they simply refuse to lie to themselves about what is actually going on. About what's real.

They are under no illusions that the world is fair, that everyone wants the best for them, or that the good guys always win. We're going to talk about this in the next Key Idea, but they also follow the incentives, and they reject comfort and complacency in favor of receiving the cold hard truth about the way the world turns.

You've got to do this yourself if you want to survive and thrive in the modern world. You need to know the game.

Furthermore, you can't afford to waste any more time complaining about the way the world should work when instead, every single minute you spend doing so could be much better spent investigating how the world actually does work.

Every single minute you waste complaining, criticizing, and being outraged at the unfairness of it all, is another minute that you're never going to get back and that you could have used to improve. To come up with a plan of action to help you deal with reality as it is.

The balance to strike here is between being aware that bad things happen to good people and that the people who are supposed to win don't always come away victorious, while simultaneously being aware that you hold complete and total responsibility for how your life turns out:

“You need to understand how the world works. Sometimes the world is unfair, and things outside of your control affect your life. You'll also need to understand how much responsibility you have for your current circumstances. Even if your life isn't entirely your fault, some of it is. This won't feel good in the short term, but it will liberate you in the long term."

#3: Follow the Incentives

“If you know the incentive, you know the outcome.”

-Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger was Warren Buffett's business partner (it's a shame that he's usually introduced like that - he's plenty impressive on his own!), and he also said that you should never, ever think about something else, when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.

Who stands to gain from this happening? Who benefits if I take this specific action as opposed to something else? Who's the big winner here?

These are the types of questions you need to be asking when you set out to try to understand the world.

The following quote is fairly cynical, but it's pretty f***ing accurate too:

“The politicians and media companies make you sad, angry, and depressed. When you're sad, angry, and depressed, you work out less and eat more. When you work out less and eat more, you get sick, and someone is there to provide the perfect pill to cure you just enough for you to go through the entire cycle all over again."

Due to the nature of the human mind, bad news is much more salient - memorable, exciting, vivid - than good news.

Being told that everything is pretty good and that even better times are probably coming up ahead just doesn't drag eyeballs to the front of television sets as effectively as telling people that the whole world is going to shit.

It's bad news - savagery, war, death, destruction - that makes people pay attention, and it's advertising that keeps the lights on at the television studios. You can see the connection forming already! Don't get ahead of me now!

But you're right: the media companies cherry-pick the worst shit that's going on and they feed it to the poor saps who are dumb enough to believe that the world is actually going to shit and that we've never had it this bad.

In fact, however, if newspapers printed the truth about the state of the world...

"...they could have run the headline 'Number of People in Extreme Poverty Fell by 137,000 Since Yesterday' every day for the last 25 years. We live in a world not just with a smaller proportion of extremely poor people but with a smaller number of them, and with 6.6 billion people who are not extremely poor."

-Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now

But again, that doesn't sell advertising. So they'll focus on the things that went horribly today, and the things that could maybe go wrong and kill us all in the future, and present them as the only truth.

The advertisers make money, the media companies make money, the prescription drug pushers make money, the liquor stores make money - everyone benefits except YOU.

This is the power of incentives. This what you should keep in mind at all times.

However, as Ayodeji writes in Real Help:

“I used to get upset with the media for trying to gaslight me until I realized they have no other choice. Reflecting life, society, and the world accurately would cost them money."

It's all incentives. We like to think that we're better people than that, but odds are, if we ran the media companies and had shareholders that we had to answer to and friends and neighbors we had to compete with and make more money than, then we'd probably give up at least some of our principles too.

Maybe not, hopefully not, but thus is the power of incentives.

So you really do have to ask yourself on a more or less regular basis, "Who benefits from the actions I take each day? Who stands to gain if I make this choice as opposed to some other choice?" Because you're probably being manipulated by someone.

Follow the incentives, and train yourself to look for them. You'll find them everywhere, because they are everywhere.

Not all incentives are bad, of course, and you can use them for good! Both in your own life and in society at large.

Morally good incentives lead to morally good outcomes. The concept of incentives, however, is neutral. How we manipulate them is up to us.

Book Notes:

“Whenever you try to ‘succeed’ or 'follow your dreams,' you're going to have to do so in a world that will indirectly and directly attempt to stop you. It's a natural consequence of how things work, not a planned conspiracy.

Keeping this in mind will increase your odds of success because you can be less emotional about the process. It does no good to shout into the sky. The game is rigged. What are you going to do about it?

The only fighting chance you have comes through personal responsibility and self-reliance, with the full understanding that you have to be at an above-average effort level to play a rigged game.

The good news, though, is once you understand the game is somewhat rigged, you navigate differently, which dramatically increases your odds."

“Pain and dissatisfaction are often more motivating than inspiration.”

“You’ll work on self-improvement your whole life, only to make moderate gains compared to the work you put in. Instead of getting 100% better, you'll get 3 to 10% better. But that 3 to 10% makes a huge difference when most everyone stays at zero."

“We all benefit from people who accumulate resources. People benefit from you accumulating resources. Not just financial ones, but health and spiritual resources too. Those who have can give."

“Once you realize the adventure itself, including its ups and downs, is the entire point...you're free."

Action Steps:

#1: Curate Your Own Reality

The people and ideas you surround yourself with influence your worldview, for better or for worse, and their beliefs, standards, and opinions will help set the frame of your own existence.

Knowing this to be the case, consciously expand your social circle to include the kinds of winners who want similar things in life that you do. People that encourage you to become better, to rise higher.

Block out everyone who doesn't believe in the vision you've created for how you want to live your one and only life.

No, don't blind yourself to constructive criticism or other valid ways of viewing the world, but also realize that everything you see, hear, or otherwise experience is constantly informing your worldview and shaping your paradigm.

So instead of letting someone else decide what's shaping your mind and your life's trajectory, curate your own reality, and start being extremely selective about who and what you allow to own real estate inside your mind. It all matters.

#2: Line Up a Few 10% Gains

Where you start out in life doesn't have to be where you end up. Sure, there are limits to what one person can achieve in a single, finite human lifetime, but the history of humanity is the story of people selling themselves short.

As Ayodeji Awosika says in this book, realistically, everyone is capable of achieving 10% gains in their quality of life.

So in this Action Step, I want you to get very clear about what, exactly, a 10% gain would look like for you. What would happen? How would your life change?

A simple example would be the case of your financial situation. What would a 10% gain look like here, and how could you make it happen?

If you earn $50,000 a year, then a 10% improvement here would be you earning $55,000 by the end of the year, which is "only" an extra $416 per month. Now the question becomes, how could you earn an extra $416 per month?

That's a question that books like this can help you determine for yourself, but what I'd like you to do for now is to start tracking your progress with respect to these 10% gains, or whatever number you come up with.

Set a goal to improve your finances or your physique or whatever else by 10% a year, and then develop a plan of action to help you get there.

#3: Stack the Probabilities in Your Favor

Once you've identified some areas in your life where you'd like to make at least 10% improvements over the next year, now's the time to formulate a real plan to help you get there.

As we've discussed elsewhere in this breakdown, you need to stack the probabilities in your favor by identifying which actions are more likely to end up with you being successful.

For example, if your goal is to earn $416 more this month than you did last month, one of the highest-probability actions you can take is to make it easier for people to give you money. 

I know it sounds stupid to overlook something so obvious, but I'm telling you: you wouldn't believe how many people I see with websites where it's almost impossible to figure out how to pay them!

It's beyond the scope of this breakdown to go into identifying individual money-making opportunities, but with the internet, they're virtually everywhere.

There's so much money flying around online today, and you literally just have to put yourself in the way of it. Get in front of people with credit cards, and your probability of making money increases dramatically.

"The path to success is to take massive, determined action."

-Tony Robbins

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OK, that’s it for now…

More excellent book recommendations coming your way soon!

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With that said, I hope you enjoyed this edition of The Reading Life, and enjoy the rest of your week!

Until next time…happy reading!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

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