Great Life (& Investing) Lessons/Reminders from Dune

It embarrasses me somewhat that it took me so long to read this masterpiece by Frank Herbert.  Without a doubt, one of the most fully-imagined and creative sci-fi worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.  And written first in the mid-1960s!  Undoubtedly the entire scifi canon that came after it owes it a debt.

Also, the influences on Star Wars storylines, which came after it, are almost too obvious.  Takes the latter down a notch for me.

Paul sensed his own tensions, decided to practice one of the mind-body lessons his mother had taught him. Three quick breaths triggered the responses: he fell into the floating awareness… focusing the consciousness… aortal dilation… avoiding the unfocused mechanism of consciousness… to be conscious by choice… blood enriched and swift-flooding the overload regions… one does not obtain food-safety-freedom by instinct alone… animal consciousness does not extend beyond the given moment nor into the idea that its victims may become extinct… the animal destroys and does not produce… animal pleasures remain close to sensation levels and avoid the perceptual… the human requires a background grid through which to see his universe… focused consciousness by choice, this forms your grid… bodily integrity follows nerve-blood flow according to the deepest awareness of cell needs… all things/ cells/ beings are impermanent… strive for flow-permanence within…. Over and over and over within Paul’s floating awareness the lesson rolled.
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I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
These passages are one of the best arguments for, and descriptions of, meditation and mindfulness I’ve ever read.  The mind’s ability to tame itself and the body is one of our species’ superpowers.
Once, men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.
This could not be more relevant today.  Self-sufficiency of thought, thinking from first principles, will always be in demand.
Also, those who do not have the discipline or fortitude to think for themselves will be subjugated by others who do.
Very well: ‘That which submits rules…The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows—a wall against the wind. This is the willow’s purpose.
Don’t fight inexorable forces, whether it’s nature or the markets or whatever else.
Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? What is there around us that we cannot—’”
It is 100% true that our conscious minds miss almost everything as it processes reality through a series of filters.
The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.
the proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.
Balance in all things.  Maintain discipline in all circumstances.
Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.
Be humble.  Always.
“Most educated people know that the worst potential competition for any young organism can come from its own kind.”
Internecine and intra-group struggles are often more vicious and insidious than inter-group ones.
“Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount. And, naturally, the least favorable condition controls the growth rate.”
Look for bottlenecks, in processes or organizations or resources.  This is a meaningful heuristic to approach any analysis.
that polish comes from the cities, wisdom from the desert.
Do you wrestle with dreams? Do you contend with shadows? Do you move in a kind of sleep? Time has slipped away. Your life is stolen. You tarried with trifles, Victim of your folly.
Always try to see reality for what it is, rather  than what you would like or fear it to be.
“Mood’s a thing for cattle or for making love. You fight when the necessity arises, no matter your mood.”
Discipline in all matters.
Muad’Dib could indeed see the Future, but you must understand the limits of this power. Think of sight. You have eyes, yet cannot see without light. If you are on the floor of a valley, you cannot see beyond your valley. Just so, Muad’Dib could not always choose to look across the mysterious terrain. He tells us that a single obscure decision of prophecy, perhaps the choice of one word over another, could change the entire aspect of the future. He tells us “The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.” And always, he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning “That path leads ever down into stagnation.”
We came from Caladan—a paradise world for our form of life. There existed no need on Caladan to build a physical paradise or a paradise of the mind—we could see the actuality all around us. And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life—we went soft, we lost our edge.
Beware of paradises and complacency.
Keep in mind, though, that we need control only three per cent of the energy surface—only three per cent—to tip the entire structure over into our self-sustaining system.
This recalls the fact that seawater is less than 5% salt, and that the actual percentage that makes a system ‘tip’ is about 10%.  Often the characteristic that defines or moves an entire system is in the superminority!
Then, as his planet killed him, it occurred to Kynes that his father and all the other scientists were wrong, that the most persistent principles of the universe were accident and error.
The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called “spannungsbogen”—which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing.
A leader, you see, is one of the things that distinguishes a mob from a people. He maintains the level of individuals. Too few individuals, and a people reverts to a mob.
“When your opponent fears you, then’s the moment when you give the fear its own rein, give it the time to work on him. Let it become terror. The terrified man fights himself. Eventually, he attacks in desperation. That is the most dangerous moment, but the terrified man can be trusted usually to make a fatal mistake. You are being trained here to detect these mistakes and use them.”
Fear does not only kill minds.
The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
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Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
Narrative fallacy and a teleological view of history are related; how we understand ourselves and the universe are on the basis of stories.  Indeed this may be how we understand everything.
“I would take them in small groups, not larger than platoon strength,” Hawat said. “I’d remove them from their oppressive situation and isolate them with a training cadre of people who understood their background, preferably people who had preceded them from the same oppressive situation. Then I’d fill them with the mystique that their planet had really been a secret training ground to produce just such superior beings as themselves. And all the while, I’d show them what such superior beings could earn: rich living, beautiful women, fine mansions… whatever they desired.”
A great tactic of recruiting to breed mindless and fanatical followers, whether the Ottomans and the Mamluks, or investment banks from the Ivy Leagues.
Yet, it is possible to see peril in the finding of ultimate perfection. It is clear that the ultimate pattern contains its own fixity. In such perfection, all things move toward death.
Great expression for antifragility.
When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual.
This is what makes theocracies extremely strong, whether in the past or in the present day.  This is also what makes high performing teams extremely strong.  When the individual disappears, the group is indomitable.
“They’ve lost the initiative, which means they’ve lost the war.”
This doesn’t mean always to take action, as waiting itself is a kind of action.  It points only to the necessity of being alert and aware.
A sum of decisions had accumulated in his awareness.
This is a great pithy phrase for what I’ve often longed to express an
How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him.
Anger, fear, emotions cloud our judgement.
Time could be made to serve the mind. One concentrated the entire attention.
The way it is made to serve the mind is nothing more than taking the time and effort to concentrate and focus, and that is the way great things are accomplished.
“It’s been so long since guerrillas were effective that the mighty have forgotten how to fight them,”
Be a student of history.
“The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it. You’ve agreed I have that power. We are not here to discuss or to negotiate or to compromise.
You cannot win against people who have less to lose than you.  The side that has a lower BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) has the upper hand in a negotiation.
They’re accustomed to seeing the future, Paul thought. In this place and time they’re blind… even as I am.
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“Expect only what happens in the fight. That way you’ll never be surprised.”
Do not expect anything to happen, this is a basis for fallacies, mistakes, error.  Those who live constantly in the future or who are certain, are prone to disappointment, denial, paralysis when something serves to challenge their worldview.
“There will be flowing water here open to the sky and green oases rich with good things. But we have the spice to think of, too. Thus, there will always be desert on Arrakis… and fierce winds, and trials to toughen a man. We Fremen have a saying: ‘God created Arrakis to train the faithful.’ One cannot go against the word of God.”
Do not try to create utopias, accept the struggle.  The Way is through the struggle.  It is worthwhile to even artificially create hardship in your life.  When dynasties, families, organizations forget where they came from, that is usually the beginning of the decline.

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