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Takeaways from the Book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Takeaways from the Book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Hope the pandemic is not dampening the festive season.

I’m trying to make it a personal goal to read more books this year as I believe it can positively affect the way I think about things. Hopefully, it will help me in my everyday life eg in work, relationships, career, family etc.

I’m currently reading a book titled Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a lengthy (466 pages) but super interesting book recommended by my Professor back in 2016 and also an ex-colleague who recommended me the book What It Takes.

Source: Y N Harari website

This book, Sapiens, talks in-depth about history, survival, money and will change your perception of a lot of things. It tells you that a lot of the issues that we are facing or seeing currently, already existed in the past. It reveals a lot of dark truths about societies, to a certain extent it may be uncomfortable to read.

So here are my takeaways from the book so far.

A. On getting strangers to work together

Have you ever wondered how empires are built or how strangers from one company are able to work together towards a common goal? Yuval mentions this is due to the appearance of fiction and that a large number of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.

Take for example the recent Wall Street Bets (GameStop) saga, and even the Myanmar protests. These are people who don’t know each other but they all believe in the greater good and by banding with each other.

  • Redditors from Wall Street Bets thinks that hedge funds and institutions have got away with shorting the market which caused their parents to lose tons of money in the stock market back in the GFC. Now, they are forming an alliance (albeit a short term one) to target such stocks which are heavily shorted.
  • Myanmar protestors believe that the coup is unjustified and believes there should be some form of democracy in the country. Hence, they band together to go on strikes to send a strong message to the military

What does this tell you? This tells you that once people from all walks of life come together, they are able to form a strong coalition and can take down even the most powerful of organizations or people.


B. On competing for resources

There’s a reason why people fight over political power, money, and status. This is because they know that resources are scarce. Even dogs, as much as we like how cute and loyal they are, also know how to “manipulate” us for their own needs. (I honestly never thought of it this way until I read this book, but it was an interesting perspective).

The book talks about how the agricultural revolution is one of history’s biggest fraud whereby farming communities were fighting with each other over wheat, just because they think that it is essential for survival.

This can often happen in the workplace where you see people trying to outshine one another, or trying to limit resources from one another.


C. On lifestyle trap

The book also mentioned the irony that the pursuit of an easier life resulted in more hardship. People in the past were farming more wheat just so that they can keep enough for bad seasons, and this act continued for ages. It is similar to most of us today where we thought that studying hard, taking high-pressure cooker jobs, and climbing our way up will eventually lead us to a better life.

No, it does not.

We only fall trap into the rat race. We keep delaying on pursuing our activities and interest when we attain a certain amount of money or reach a certain amount of age. In fact, I am guilty of such too.

We also buy more luxurious items which eventually become necessities for some, and the whole lifestyle of working doubly hard to fund luxurious items happens again. And then, it becomes difficult to leave a job for fear that we cannot sustain the lifestyle that we have strived for.

Moral of this story is to live within (or below) your means, save and invest that additional capital you have, and aim for an earlier retirement.

Source: Animal Welfare Institute. The book mentions that the cattle represent some of the most successful animal species which existed, but yet they are some of the most miserable animals on earth. 


D. On money

Your view of money can significantly affect the way you live and work. You can either be a slave to money, or let money work for you.

The book brings up an interesting point that money was not invented through any technological breakthrough, but it was solely a mental revolution.

Money is nothing more than a medium of exchange that allows people to convert something into another thing.

And people do not actually trust one another, but they only trust the money that someone else holds.

I believe the way you view money is important because it can affect the way you grow wealth, or manage your investments. If you do not put too much value on money, then temporary losses on your investment statement will not matter to you. It’s all about training your mind to not put so much emphasis on money.


I am left with about 1/4 of the book, and so far, it has been encaptivating. My only regret is not starting to read this book earlier which would probably alter the way I think about several universal topics sooner.

I look forward to sharing more useful insights once I complete this book.

What are some other books that have helped you in the way you think? Share with us in the comments box below.

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Best wishes,

Finance and Toast

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