Many of the smartest minds throughout history–those who have demonstrated mastery in their respective fields and contributed something meaningful to the world–have favored a multidisciplinary approach over specialization. They’ve recognized that the more flexible and wide-ranging your mental models, the stronger your cognitive abilities, and the less rigid your thinking. At an individual level, it’s not only more effective but also more fulfilling.
A multidisciplinary approach leads to resourcefulness, ingenuity, and resilience. It better prepares you to develop each of these skills, navigate inevitable obstacles, and build your own momentum. It’s the antithesis of confining yourself to a single discipline with a shallow skill-set and isolated mental models.
In fact, the defining feature of a multidisciplinary approach is its dynamic latticework of mental models. This is achieved by broad exposure to a range of subjects, which allows you to leverage and connect the most relevant knowledge from each. By positioning yourself at the intersection of multiple disciplines, you cultivate the ability to tie together seemingly unrelated concepts in a way the vast majority are incapable of. It’s here where the most creative, innovative ideas are discovered.
Last year I wrote an article on the beginner’s guide to a multidisciplinary approach and recommended four books for building better mental models. It resonated with quite a few people who were looking for an introduction to this concept. In revisiting this theme, I’ve wanted to provide a new reading list that’s even more accessible–each book is under 200 pages.
While this is in no way comprehensive, it is my hope that this will help you begin building your own framework across multiple disciplines. If you’re up for a short read, dig in.
One of the most accessible modern introductions to Stoic philosophy. Holiday examines the inevitable obstacles we all face in life, how to better frame them as opportunities to practice virtue and harness them to create momentum of our own. He structures the book around the three interconnected disciplines required to overcome any obstacle: perception, action, and will. There’s an incredible amount of knowledge packed into these 200 pages. No matter what challenges you face or where you’re trying to go, it’s a great resource for fine tuning your attitude, strategy, and mental toughness. Inspired by Marcus Aurelius, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
A look into the relationship between money and meaning. Portnoy suggests that wealth and investing are about funding contentment and underwriting a meaningful life, as defined by you. Not about getting rich, having “more,” and losing yourself on the hedonic treadmill. He explains that simplification is the path towards effectively managing expectations in money and life–and the trajectory of a happy life is shaped by expectations. The Geometry of Wealth is as practical as it is philosophical. À la Charlie Munger, Portnoy emphasizes individual behavior, mainly self-control and self-awareness, as the most important factor in investment success. He suggests we focus on being “less wrong” over being “more right,” in the sense that asset allocation is far more important than security selection and market timing. But on the path towards adaptive simplicity in investing, he also digs deeper into its importance in our broader lives, offering an enlightened discussion of experienced vs. reflective happiness, expectations, and human nature.
Great introduction to Taleb’s ideas on uncertainty, which he discusses in detail in his other books that make up the Incerto series: Antifragile, Fooled by Randomness, and The Black Swan. This book offers a succinct look into how we deal with what we don’t know. Taleb considers our tendency to package and reduce ideas into neat narratives that fit within the constraints of our limited knowledge. I would argue that he’s one of the most original, brilliant minds of our time.
Practical and refreshing resource for smart creatives and entrepreneurs. Goins picks apart the myths surrounding the Starving Artist and offers an improved alternative of the Thriving Artist. There are dozens of useful rules of thumb you can apply to your own position, no matter where you are. Thriving Artists build their creative dreams step by step (not overnight). They focus on rearrangement and building upon the work of those who have influenced them (not obsessing over originality). They leverage their existing jobs for resources (not quitting too early and without reason). They recognize the value of a multidisciplinary approach and multiple revenue streams (not mastering a single skill and risking it all on a single bet). Goins follows this same pattern throughout the book, detailing the difference in mindsets, how to position yourself in the market, and how to make a living. It’s a modern-day guide for living a better, more creative life, without struggling for the sake of struggling.
I’m usually skeptical of anything that remotely resembles sports as a metaphor for life, but this a tremendous read. It’s less a book about tennis (although there are a few sections) and more about the art of relaxed concentration. It’s a simple but profound concept that suggests the secret to performing your best is in developing a quiet confidence, and most importantly, not trying too hard. Gallwey draws a line between Self 1–the conscious teller, and Self 2–the doer. He advocates developing greater trust in Self 2, which helps to cultivate effortless concentration (flow), instead of a more tense, overly controlled approach which creates an unnecessary obstacle. Gallwey also offers an insightful perspective as he digs deeper into concepts including judgment, awareness, ego, and mindfulness, which adds another dimension to the book.
Clear, concise, and thought-provoking read that examines the struggle to find loyalty, belonging, and meaning in modern society. Junger spotlights military veterans and the growing rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, but he also takes a step back to examine the human condition at large. He discusses hardship, raw experiences, social bonds, community, mental health, and what we can learn from tribal societies. Tribe explains that there are three essential needs that must be met if we wish to feel content–the need to feel competent at what we do, the need to feel authentic in our lives, and the need to feel connected to others. Junger considers the effects of their absence and makes a compelling case that we should strive to rediscover and prioritize their importance.