#15 – Empires Ascendant, Time Life BOOK REVIEW

January 31, 2018

I have now answered a question that had bothered me for a while: “how many books could I read and review in one month, if I set my mind to it?”. Most of the projects I undertake are attempts to answer a question that has been bothering me. The rest are normally just assuaging my OCD impulses in compulsive collectathons [1]. So, my reading blitz is over. I’ll continue reading and reviewing but not at such an extreme pace.

Empires Ascendant

Tony Robbins once said: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” [2]. I think it a very wise statement and I endeavour to live my life in accordance with it [3].

Eckhart Tolle

Tony Robbins, yesterday

Today’s book, Empires Ascendant really brings out the clarity of the statement. It concerns a time when Alexander the Great carved out the world’s largest empire in just eleven years and shortly after when Julius Caesar became Emperor of Rome. Many men struggled and vied for supreme power. And like Queen Cersei says, “in the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

There are certain dogmas in the manosphere that are reflective of equivalent dogmas in the mainstream world. I find they are particularly acute in the USA due to it’s own cultural history (the American Dream, the industrial giants, and so on). There is a certain idea, tangible in the air, in the zeitgeist of what success is.

Money. Power. Girls. Respect. [4]


Something like this, I imagine

The modern male self-help community is mostly about grasping and striving. The white hats tell you to build you value, the black hats tell you to fake it till you make it. The white hats advise on entrepreneurialism and the black hats tell you to buy crypto-currency or run affiliate programs. They differ in whether you should earn your success or steal it. A worker’s vs a grifter’s mindset. But they both seem to agree on what success is.

Does the dog chasing cars ever wonder what he’ll do if he eventually catches one?

Back in the summer of 2013 I was sitting in a restaurant on Knez Mihailova with he-who-cannot-be-named [5] as we each tucked into a delicious steak washed down with red wine. The sun was shining, beautiful girls sauntered by, and we both had dates lined up for the evening.

“This is it” I said, with a mouthful of beef. “This is living the dream. Just 200 years ago you had to be a prince or an Emperor to eat food like this, travel like this, shag women like this. And now it’s available to any man with gumption.”

It set me off thinking. When Alexander the Great swept through Babylon and towards the Indus river, what was his quality of life like? Was his steak any tastier, his wine any winier, or his bed any more comfortable? It wasn’t just his army crossing the swamps, mountain passes, or rivers – he had to ride his horse Bucephalus over them too.

Shinjuku park

I’ve been, Alexander hasn’t. Do I win?

I kept thinking. Does Bill Gates read better books than me? Does being the richest man in the world give him access to books better than The Count Of Monte Cristo, War And Peace, or Daygame Infinite? No. They all cost just a few pounds [6] It doesn’t buy him better movie-going, or video-gaming, or greener trees or grassier parks. There are extremely harsh diminishing returns to increasing riches. It doesn’t even buy you much better health care, as Steve Jobs found out.

I’ll admit I have occasionally entertained the thought of being an Emperor. Just once or twice. There are certain upsides, such as having a statue of myself on every town square and free run of a harem, but I suspect they’d become boring very quickly. As any common man who has rutted a dozen whores can tell you, having sex with girls who don’t fancy you just isn’t much fun.

Lets say that’s the profit of having gained the whole world. What is the cost?

I remember watching Saddam Hussein get executed. Not literally – I wasn’t there – but there were clips on TV News and the whole thing on LiveLeak. This was a man who held absolute power in Iraq for 24 years. He had a statue in every town square, huge palaces, a fleet of Italian sports cars, lots of concubines, and whatever else he wanted. However, he could barely enjoy it.

I read The Devil’s Double, a memoir by a man who was hired as a bullet-catcher for Saddam’s son Uday, due to the ever present assassination risk. He describes the time he met Saddam. He was held in a room and stripped naked, then searched head to toe including cavities and hair. Then he was dressed in a special outfit, taken to another room, searched again, and then finally met Saddam.

That’s the level of security Saddam lived under. He was playing the game of thrones.


Not enough security, evidently

When you’re at that level of power you can’t just book a flight to Belgrade and hit on some birds. You can’t get shitfaced drunk in a strip club and wake up covered in your own vomit on a park bench. You can’t buy a ticket to an FA Cup match of your favourite team. You are trapped by your own power.

Look at how the Mafioso lived as described in Donnie Brasco, flitting away money on strippers because money laundering laws stopped them doing anything useful with it.

Empires Ascendant makes it clear that winning the game of thrones is a Pyrrhic victory [7]. Almost all of the major leaders of the era died young, violently, or both. Here’s a roll call:

  • Phillip II – “as Phillip entered the stadium to preside, a body-guard named Pausanias stepped forwards and ran a sword through the King’s heart” p.19
  • Artaxerxes Ochus – “had been poisoned by his own grand vizier” p.22
  • Darius III – “was murdered by a rebellious Persian satrap, and Alexander went after the killer. He caught up with the man in the wastes of Turkestan, had him flogged and turned him over to a Persian court, which sentenced him to death” p.29
  • Alexander – “while inspecting a drainage project in the Euphrates swamps, he was bitten by an infected mosquito and contracted a [fatal] fever” p.31
  • Roxane [wife] and young Alexander [son] – “were murdered; so were most of the dead king’s other close relatives” p.35
  • Hamilcar Barca (of Carthage) – “during those years Hamilcar Barca died in battle. His son-in-law succeeded him as leader of the Carthaginian forces in Spain, but not long afterwards he was murdered.” p.56
  • Hannibal – “he fled to Syria, then to Bithynia, where he committed suicide by poison in 183 BC just before he was turned over to his enemies” p.58
  • Gracchus – “was campaigning for re-election, he and about 300 of his supporters were set upon and clubbed to death by a huge mob led by senators” p.66
  • Pompey – “escaped and fled to Egypt… It is said Caesar wept when Ptolemy later handed him his old ally’s severed head” p.73
  • Julius Caesar – “60 senatorial conspirators fell upon him as he presided over the assembly, inflicting 23 dagger wounds.” p.73
  • Cicero – “his head and hands were displayed nailed to the Rostra in the Forum he had so often graced with his eloquence; a nail had been driven through the orator’s tongue” p.75

Mark Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach, Caligula was murdered by his guard, Claudius was poisoned by his wife Agrippina who was herself murdered by her son Nero. Nero committed suicide when his guard turned against him. His immediate three successors all died in the same year, two murdered one arkancided suicide. Titus was stabbed to death by a servant.

Phew! That’s a lot of short-lived runs at the top, is it not? Augustus, Tiberius, Vespasian are among the few who lived into old age and died peacefully. Generally speaking, the shelf-stacker at Tesco who rents a comfortable flat and has Netflix will live a longer and happier life than most of the above tyrants and kings.

Back in 2013 I came to the conclusion that high level success is not a goal worth chasing. Reason one is that it’s wildly unlikely that you’ll succeed and thus you waste precious years on a failed project. Reason two is that even if you do succeed, the rewards probably aren’t worth it, because the best things in life are fairly cheap. Reason three, is even if somehow you dodge those landmines you are faced with the central problem addressed by Zen philosophy – the material accoutrements and phantasms of ego aren’t actually satisfying anyway. You’re just chasing chimeras.

And lastly, if you somehow become incredibly successful and powerful you’ve just lost all of your freedom – which in itself is more valuable than all the palaces, sports cars and hookers put together.

If you thought that was a long-winded rationalisation for myself being very comfortable with exactly where I am right now, you may be onto something and would definitely enjoy Daygame Infinite.

[1] It’s why I like Ubisoft games.
[2] Okay, technically it was Matthew 16:26 in the King James Bible but I’m sure we can all agree that it’s not wisdom unless an internet marketer self-help guru says it.
[3] Another good one is “victors write the history books”. Those five words are a rabbit hole all of their own, the degree to which I even now struggle to comprehend.
[4] Dan Bilzerian, basically.
[5] “my mate from Wales”
[6] Except the last one. You get what you pay for.
[7] Page 53 also told me what that is, “one more such victory over the Romans,” Pyrrhus supposedly said, “and we are utterly undone.”


  1. >>Back in 2013 I came to the conclusion that high level success is not a goal worth chasing. Reason one is that it’s wildly unlikely that you’ll succeed and thus you waste precious years on a failed project. Reason two is that even if you do succeed, the rewards probably aren’t worth it, because the best things in life are fairly cheap. Reason three, is even if somehow you dodge those landmines you are faced with the central problem addressed by Zen philosophy – the material accoutrements and phantasms of ego aren’t actually satisfying anyway. You’re just chasing chimeras.

    >>And lastly, if you somehow become incredibly successful and powerful you’ve just lost all of your freedom – which in itself is more valuable than all the palaces, sports cars and hookers put together.

    That was deep! I thought something was wrong with me for thinking that way as well.

    • I think you’ve misunderstood the point that Eastern spiritual traditions are trying to make …. they often put it like this … “do not seek the fruit of action”. That means you shouldn’t look for the result or gain from some activity. It doesn’t mean that you should bother doing any activity in the first place! The reasoning is this … you should gain fulfilment from completing whatever task or duty you set your mind to. In Hinduism they call that ‘Karma yoga’ and other spiritual traditions such as Zen Buddhism have adopted similar ideas.

      To put it in a simpler form … do things for the sake of doing them rather than for anything you’re going to get from it. This therefore would change the paradigm of what success and failure actually is. This doesn’t just apply to a ‘job’ it applies to anything you do in life, whether it be making yourself breakfast, or playing sport, or even speaking to a girl on the street! Constantly worrying about what you’re going to get from a situation is a prison as you seem to have realised. Therefore this way of thinking is an escape and counter intuitively allows you to actually perform better and therefore get a better result in what you do anyway.

      🙂 [Yes, this post contained the entirety of my understanding of Eastern spiritual traditions and thus you are ABSOLUTELY justified in assuming it’s all I know, is precisely what I think, and if it in anyway differs from your preferred interpretation then it’s me that is doing the misunderstanding. K.]

      • I was replying to the above poster (blue valentine) not you! He was suggesting its better to opt out rather than actually to aim to do anything! This is just escapism. Its also as you probably realise unattractive to women so its not even good for Game (since drive and ambition is part of what makes you masculine). Perhaps in future I should put an ‘@’ to whomever Im responding to. [Nah, my mistake. K.]

  2. I think you’re projecting a little Krauser. You’re assuming that all men seek the same things as you, from the examples you gave here that seems to be travel, women, food and books. Im not against this especially as I’m partial to such a pursuits too. However, some men seek other things. Those world leaders you cited I suspect live to exercise Power. They want to leave an imprint on the world around them. Ultimately they are the truest form of Alpha male. They determine the way the world works. Its the closest that a man can come to playing God. At the end of the day if you read around the manosphere you get these guys complaining about politics, religion, feminism etc but what on earth can they do about any of it? Nothing.

    Here’s a hypothetical question: If I gave you the power to remove one government of your choice from around the world and replace it with a new set of policies and individuals of your choice would you take the option, or would you rather have 10 years worth of lays around the world with high quality girls? [Your charge that I’m projecting is more credible than your charge that I misunderstood Eastern philosophy and that you can teach me it’s essence. K.]

    • I would rather spend 10 years worth of lays around the world with high quality girls 100%.

      I don’t believe that positive change sticks to human beings. They love their suffering too much. Look at any good “reformer” or even men with ultimate power like Hussein. Their countries always turn to an even worse shithole after they leave office or die. So people rapidly make up for all the “lost time” they spent behaving well, and hurry to make the place even shitter than before.

      I’d rather take care of myself than waste my time on groups of people, I would much rather spend it with individuals.

      I think Steve Jobs once said that he believes in the intelligence of individual human beings and in their goodness and honor, but he doesn’t believe in people in groups, he thinks people in groups are dumb and have no integrity.

  3. Thank you technology for moving all of us up the hierarchy of needs.

    In ancient times the choice was play violent politics or work the fields. Now we can choose freedom and self-actualization without playing violent politics. It’s a great time to be alive.

  4. “It doesn’t even buy you much better health care, as Steve Jobs found out”.

    That’s because he chose quackery over evidence based medicine, for an intelligent Man he was pretty stupid when it ultimately mattered. [I was aware of this. Do you know anyone with Job’s condition, or equivalent, who was fixed by medical care that a normal middle class person could not afford? K.]


  5. Hey Nick,

    You’re the only one who’ve had finance background in the entire manosphere.

    After Bitcoin’s fall this day (at least 9-10s percent down to 8000s level) would you considering it the bottom price and categorically cheap now?

    Should I buy now? And HODL for at least several years. This is rare opportunity I suppose, because what I value is not like the rest of the mass, but rather the TECHNOLOGY itself aka THE BLOCKCHAIN.

    Also, what do you think of Ethereum?

    It’s the only crypto which keep raising today when every other are in tank?? [Where did you get the idea that it’s current price, £6,592 per Google, is “categorically cheap”? Show me your cash flow forecast, discount rate applied to it, and underlying assumptions? You can’t? Well, that means you don’t understand what investing actually is. That’s nothing to be ashamed of because most people don’t. But it should tell you not to get involved. Oh, what’s that you say…. [some technical analysis about it was up then down then up then down etc].. that just shows you’re throwing your money based on the “greater fool” theory. Look, it’s simple. Assets are a right to future cash flow. What future cash flow does an ownership of a Bit Coin give you? If you can answer that, you can begin estimating that cash flow. If you can do that, you can begin valuing the asset with a Net Present Value calculation to determine what it’s worth to you to own a right to that cash flow. If that value to you is above the current Bit Coin price, then it is “categorically cheap”. And if there is not cash flow, it’s not an asset and thus whatever it is you’re doing throwing your money after it, it’s not “investment”.

    You have to be careful of all these crypto dickheads. You have a small number of smart investors who got involved literally years ago, who are now cashing out by roping in suckers like you. YOU are their exit strategy and to get you involved they spin a load of fairy stories (of which the “tech” is one) to let you rationalise what you REALLY want to do which is GET RICH QUICK WITHOUT WORKING FOR IT. That’s why all the tools on the crypto message boards sound like slimey weasels – speculative manias attract that type. There’s also a small number of hackers out their just waiting to steal all of the wallets. Have a look at the chart I posted on my #12 book review. It describes the psychology of a mania at each point, and in the background it shows you which investors are getting involved at which stage. K.]

  6. [I wouldn’t trust Richard Spencer to read his watch correctly much less give good financial advice. Don’t link that ‘tard here again please. K.]

    • Your website, your rules. With respect the video, just demonstrated rather eloquently, the trap of manias. Whether you like or dislike Spencer the facts remain; He is an intelligent, well spoken Man with good ideas and arguments. Nonetheless I do have questions about his background, I will give Him the benefit of the doubt, as He says himself; “The altright, is a process of becoming”.

      • He does say some awfully retarded things (maybe in jest?) that come across very “Frat boy, wish I had great grand-daddy’s plantation” at times which makes me question his bone fides as to whether he is a plant or not. Tough one.

  7. Good post.
    Having thought about this recently I think there is a sweet spot to all this (which you seem to have found).
    Freedom to structure your days based on interests, reasonable amount of savings/earnings as the best things in life are free so by no means an excessive sum (realistically 100 ish grand saved by mid thirties and £2,500-3000 a month should be enough from a little online biz). Imo that is a far better quality of life than being over worked, over stressed and either hating your job or thinking when your bank balance reaches a certain figure you’ll be satisfied. And then getting it and still feeling empty inside.
    It is interesting why some men who appear to have it all keep on grinding though. Trump is a good example of this..

  8. Didn’t get involved in bitcoin. Always felt something wasn’t quite right, almost the same feeling I get when watching a pua scammer on YouTube.

  9. Bitcoin touching 8500 level, ..should we buy on dip?

    ~”Greed when all of people Fear”

    OR this???

    >>> Bitcoin’s market value fell by more in January than Ford’s entire market capitalization (link: https://bloom.bg/2DSSyPY) bloom.bg/2DSSyPY

    What’s that even mean?
    Who is taking that profit after all?
    is all those people taking loss? [You have to understand that 1 single transaction “revalues” every coin in existence. That’s just how market prices are calculated. It’s not possible for even a small fraction of holders to convert into cash at that amount. The profits are illusory, a phantasm of the calculation mechanism. K.]

  10. This post reads like a fiery endorsement of Zen Buddhism.

    You’re basically sitting on the mountain meditating.

    While you’re at it, you may enjoy Ketamine, it depersonalises beautifully and would probably be enjoyed by a psychedelic man such as yourself. [Thanks. I steer clear of mind-altering drugs. I worked too hard on my brain to ruin it. K.]

  11. Nick..
    If you were me, what would you do?

    I’ve bought bitcoin from last year at price in nearly $4000. I’m still HODLING it now, while based on current level I’m still get 100%ROI in less than a year investment time.

    But on the other hand, I’m also afraid that Bitcoin can fall more than current price, for example passing $7000 scenario. Even though I believe that it’s now still consolidating moment between investors and speculators.

    So, Nick.. If you were in my position, what would you do? [I’d stop pretending to be an investor and admit I’m a speculator. Bitcoin doesn’t pay a dividend, coupon or rent. There is no “BUY AND HOLD” strategy with it. There’s just “SELL TO A GREATER FOOL” K.]

    *) CryptoCoin represent ~10 of my investment fund.
    *) I’m also still believe it will be totally different story if you read my comments 2-3 year later from now.

  12. Bitcoin now below $7000!

    Can we really SHORT SELL this instrument, Nick?
    Perhaps there’s a probability price gone to zero, No? [Sell everything you own, borrow the maximum you can, and buy as much Bitcoin as you can. Then fuck off with your speculation mania. K.]

  13. You’ve been always the smartass at school. You don’t conform with the norm. Rules are to be broken and so forth. You grow up and you choose to live as a tough guy (that’s what you believe), a reckless bastard willing to jeopardize everything conventional wisdom holds in high esteem.

    With attitude+deeds comes money, aura, girls, power…You don’t have to wait lining yourself in long queues and hoping the bouncers let you in…you just greet them and you get in. You get 1000 euros and within an hour time you have 1300. You get to meet people with connections. You don’t have to wake up early unless you want to disguise as a regular joe who keeps his 9-5 job and if you are a smart one, that’s what you do while the others drive around fast cars and wear expensive watches. From time to time you quit and spend a couple of months enjoying yourself. Who said you can’t be half a gangster? The others are the people who have to wait, who struggle to pay the bills, who are neither respected nor feared…not even loved in spite how they follow every societal rule. Yeah, that happens a lot…How come you folloy carefully every intruction and yet you still fail to be happy?

    You feel alive. You feel happier. You share a secret most don’t know. You are on the secret society, one of many secret societies…You are on top of the world and you know it.

    And then you find yourself having to avoid certain peoples, certain neighborhoods, there are no vacations of your secret life

    You need a reset because you want out but you can’t. A hard reset. A long one. Some time paying your debts to society, you know? And after that, you just quit.

    Twice out. Double freedom.

    It isn’t worth the effort.

  14. ^^^ If that ain’t the best riff ever from 2:36.

  15. Not really, but it’s ripe for house/electronic music sampling.

  16. Nick are you aware that gold or other commodities don’t pay any dividends? Are you aware that art or wines are one of the best investment that exists yet they rarely pay any cash flows?

    I am not saying cryptos are like commodities or art, I am just saying that the cash flows paradigm is appropriate only for some asset classes.

    And crypto-currencies is a whole new asset class, which should be assessed with a new valuation toolkit. Dismissing it just because they don’t have any cash flows associated is equivalent to someone asking at the beginning of the 20th century: “why there are no horses on this car?”

    I like you Nick, that why I am taking the time to write this comment. You really should take the time to educate yourself on crypto-currencies because your level of understanding of this great technological and political revolution seems incredibly low. [“It’s different this time” K.]

    • He has a point though. Bitcoin with its high fees and low transaction capacity is pretty much useless nowadays, but overall there’s a lot of potential in the blockchain technology.

    • Sometimes, it’s really different 😉

      It fits well with your blog post, you are fine with where you are in life and that’s really cool.

      And I am happy to be able to tell you that you won’t accumulate any kind of substantial wealth or power with this kind of “I already know it all” attitude towards computer science and financial breakthrough All is good, you are pretty safe from those woes 🙂

      • hey youhouu… how much money do you have in Bitcoin or other Cryptocurrency? what portion of your wealth does this represent? I realise its a personal question but you are writing under a pseudonym so it probably doesnt matter so much.

    • >> With a new valuation toolkit

      Reminds me of the dotcom bubble where they used Price to Sales ratios…

      • Price to Sales is common metric. Its useful as a crude proxy especially for a company in early stage of lifecycle as these companies rightly should be investing in CapEx which will mean the bottom line is negative. In Dotcom they were using Price to Eyeballs … guess what they’re doing it again now with social media stocks. IMO cypto is just an extension of tech mania (merged in this instance with a monetary angle which is unsurprising with the central banks embarking on wacky monetary policy). They say history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. Shorting Tech when it blows again is going to be a huge trade for those who can get the timing right.

  17. Don’t listen to ex-finance pua..

    Bitcoin coming back to 10000.


  18. @zatara A lot of my wealth is in cryptos, one could argue that it’s slighty unhealthy but I deal with it.

    If you want to start to learn about the subject I suggest this podcast in 3 episodes: http://investorfieldguide.com/hashpower/

    Don’t invest anything before you spend a couple of months of learning what’s going on. It’s not easy to understand, people who are saying you can win easy money are lying to you. 95% of crypto-currencies or tokens will fail, but the one who will suceed will accrue tremendous value.
    Nowadays there are a lot of bullshit marketers, you have to cut through that and learn by yourself. If you follow blindly others advice you will probably lose money. And most importantly, invest only long term (>+5 years).

    • Forgive me but Im curious how much you deem to be a lot. $10k, $100k, $1m? Humour me and give me a number.

      T [Most crypto cunts will talk forever without imparting information. The very nature of a speculative mania attracts fools who believe stories ahead of details and facts. Getting specific is kryptonite. K.]

      • Lol Krauser. Funny you think I somehow owe an answer to that question. The level of social skills is low on this one.

        I no longer like you. Fuck you, loser. [Bye. K.]

      • Just invest what you’re willing to lose. Obviously you won’t get an answer to that question. Would you tell a random stranger on the street your net worth? That’s just making yourself an easy target. And that has nothing to do with an unwillingness to “getting specific”.

        youhou already gave some good points. Invest in something with long term potential and possible real-world adoption.

    • why not just answer? the guy has totally anonymity through a nonsense pseudonym. I never really got this thing about being secretive about your pay or money anyway. all about protecting ones ego I have always surmised since our bank balances are invariably less than we think we should be worth. the result is that employers use this self imposed secrecy as a screen to pay every one less than they have to!

  19. Hey Nick.. BTC/USD already have testing a support level at $7550-$7950.

    What’s this mean for price analysis standpoint?

    What’s worst and best case scenario on behalf this volatility?

    How to accurately predict a price based on volume traded alone?
    I seem have noticed that the two always like there’s string attached. [You might as well be reading animal entrails. It’s a speculative mania. The answer is in human psychology, not market movements. K.]

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