Life Lessons From Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil 🔗

Friedrich Nietzsche

And how could there exist a ‘common good’! The expression is a self-contradiction: what can be common has ever but little value.

There is no off the shelf, life that we can live, what is good for someone is not suitable to our unique circumstances, temperament or way of life. Unfortunately, this means that we need to discover how to live for ourselves. The common good does not exist. What is good for one person may not be good for someone else, in fact, it may actually be detrimental. Yes, we can use common wisdom as a starting point, but we must individualize to optimize. The internet is full of daily routines, from historical to contemporary greats, but they are not optimized for you. They were designed for someone else. We can use these routines as a starting point, but as we use them, we need to modify them and tailor them to the life that we lead and ensure that they are moving us towards the person that we want to become.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

Religion is one more means of overcoming resistance so as to be able to rule: as a bond that unites together ruler and ruled and betrays and hands over to the former the consciences of the latter.

Religions appear to have emerged as humans started organizing in tribes. Potentially, one of religion’s functions was used to create common ground between tribe members. A common ground which would have previously been based on blood and marital ties at the family and clan level respectively. However, as tribes evolved, so too did a system of common values. Enter religion. With religion, leaders of the tribe could ensure loyalty among members as there was a shared value system. It could be extended further to assign divine rights to the leader of the tribe. When a leader is given divine authority, that is when a problem arises as the religion can be used to manipulate thought and will to be bent to the wishes of the leader who is also controlling the religious doctrine. The sovereign must not be confused with the idea of sovereignty itself. Nietzsche believed that by giving oneself over to religion and accepting its teachings without thought, what is really happening is a submission of the conscious to an external body. This form of religion should never occur. The conscious should remain with the individual and used to create individual doctrine and morality.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

The study of a human being, protracted, serious, and with much dissembling, self-overcoming, intimacy, bad company — all company is bad company except the company of one’s equals.

We are aware of the idea that we are the product of the five people that we spend the most time with. An arbitrary number, but the message is still true. We are shaped by our environment and the people that we surround ourselves with. This is particularly true if we do not have clearly defined beliefs to begin with. If we go out in the world not knowing what our principles and beliefs are, then we will have the beliefs and principles of others forced upon us. Who it is who forces them upon us we cannot know, but those who wish to indoctrinate and manipulate rarely have good intentions. Surround yourself with people who will better you and who will challenge you in different ways. When we talk about better there are many dimensions that this could exist upon. There are experts in many different fields and we can always learn from them. The field is pretty much irrelevant, the attitude is more fundamental. Surround yourself with those who are constantly trying to better themselves. Those who do not settle and who want to be the best in whatever they do.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

The sage as astronomer. — As long as you still feel the stars as being something over you’d still lack the eye of the man of knowledge.

Humility is a great virtue and will serve everyone well in life. The humility to admit that you still have much to learn, to acknowledge when you are wrong, to entertain the idea that you can be wrong and to listen to others. However, when it comes to our potential and the possibility of what we can become we must have no limit to our aspiration and our desire. In the same breath we can humbly acknowledge the insufficiencies that we bear and can celebrate our potential and the heights that we can reach if we apply ourselves effectively. In fact, humility is necessary for future arrogance. We must admit that we have room to grow and that we are not yet all that we could be. The arrogant ego can stunt growth as we are too proud of who we currently are. It is only through humility that our ascendancy can begin.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

Men became unanimous in the belief that the value of an action resided in the value of the intention behind it… Decisive value of an action resides in precisely that which is not intentional.

The common belief is that the value of an action is what was intended. No matter what the outcome of the action may be, no matter how bad, at least there were good intentions. Communism and Marxism for example are seemingly well intentioned, but have had terrible consequences. However, by the belief that intentions define actions, we can still say that they were good actions as they had good intentions. Nietzsche posits that the value of an action comes from what is not intentional. It is the unintended consequences, those which were not thought of, that should determine the value of an action. Perhaps also the value of the person.

To take it further, it is what was unspoken that is significant. Politicians will often speak of what they intend and the positive consequences that they can foresee, but they will not speak of the negatives and the challenges that will arise. It is this difference by which we can judge the speaker. What is the difference between what they said were the intentions and that which happened, unforeseeable or not. That which was apparently unintentional, compared with the intention, is how the value of the action should be decided according to Nietzsche and how the value of the actor should be judged as well.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

The problem of those who wait — It requires luck.

Go out and take action. By going forth and being the agent of change you do not need to wait and get lucky. Action puts you in charge of your own destiny and allows you to exact change rather than wait to be changed. Yes, there will also be luck in your success as you will need to be in the right place at the right time, but the more you act the less luck you will need. Further, the more you prepare and improve yourself, the less luck that you will need.

Seneca said that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity” and I think that this is true. No matter how good the opportunity is, if we are not ready to meet it, then it will pass us by. The opportunity we have little control over, however the preparation is always in our control. Prepare as thought a golden opportunity will present itself tomorrow. Prepare as though you are cramming for an exam the next day and opportunity will never pass you by.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

Sometimes the awakening call, that chance event which gives ‘permission to act, comes but too late — when the best part of youth and the strength to act has already been used up in sitting still; and how many a man has discovered to his horror when he ‘rose up’ that his limbs had gone to sleep and his spirit was already too heavy! ‘It is too late’ — he has said to himself, having lost faith in himself and henceforth forever useless.

If we are constantly waiting for the perfect moment, for the stars to align, we may be waiting so long that by the time we think we are ready to answer the call, we will find that we are no longer capable. A devastating realization. In the fitness world, popularized by Ido Portal, you are told to “move because you can, if you won’t, one day you might not be able to”. Do not wait for that day, take action.

If you don’t think you are perfect or that you still have much to learn; fine. Learn on the job. Go out into the real world and work out where your insufficiencies actually lie, not where you think they lie. It is only when we truly, practically test ourselves in a situation that we can’t control and subject ourselves to judgement, that we realize where we actually need to improve. Then we can work on our insufficiencies and iterate and refine so that we can become better, constantly reorienting ourselves in the right direction. Taking action will produce far greater progress than waiting to act. No one can give you permission to act, it is up to you. If all we do is wait, then we will never make any progress.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice… One stands in reverence and trembling before these remnants of what man once was… He who is only a measly tame domestic animal and knows only the needs of a domestic animal… perhaps he will find the New Testament, the book of mercy, more after his own heart. To have glued this New Testament… on to the Old Testament to form a single book, as bible’, as ‘the book of books’: that is perhaps the greatest piece of temerity and ‘sin against the spirit’.

Do not shy away from judgement or criticism, this is how we improve as people. Acceptance does nothing for our progress, it does not help to reveal our flaws or where we can improve. Yes, we should find acceptance for the things that we cannot change. But our behaviors, the way we act and conduct ourselves in this world. They will and should always be subject to judgement. Sometimes this judgement will be unfounded and will not come from sources that have our best interest at heart. Nevertheless, all criticism should be considered. Perhaps it has merit, and perhaps it can be useful to us, regardless of its intention. After all, those who totally oppose us often have ways of looking at the world that we just can’t comprehend so they are worth listening to.

Use criticism as a tool to improve a challenge to be the best version of yourself, but do not let it shape how you see yourself. Each individual has inherent value simply because they are and we should not take a nihilistic approach just because perfection is lacking. However, at the same time as accepting ourselves we should be constantly striving to be better and looking for ways that we can improve. If the outside world wants to help and point things out for us, then all the better.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

We wish that there will one day no longer be anything to fear!

Why? Why do we want to live in a world that is free from challenge and hardship? The challenges that we face in the comfort of the Western world make life worth living. Suffering is a necessary part of the human condition and the challenge that we face is to match our suffering. To become a beacon of life in the face of suffering. We all have it, we all have challenges and pain in our lives and yet we keep on going.

We live so that we can look on our pain and say “is that all you’ve got? You thought that would be enough to break me?” Keep improving and keep limping forward, get better and stronger everyday, justifying your life and the suffering that you endure.