I have been waiting for this day for almost two years. My book, Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life, is out!
I spent a few thousand hours writing this book and poured every ounce of my soul into it.
Soul in the Game has received glowing endorsements from a lot of prominent people I respect, including General Stanley McChrystal, Nassim Taleb, Carl Bernstein, Wim Hof, and many others. But as much as I am humbled by and thankful for their praise, when I was writing the book I was visualizing my regular reader – you. I wanted this book to touch you, to brighten your day, to improve your life, even if just a little.
I shared a digital version of the book with a few readers who preordered. I received a lot of wonderful feedback. However, an email from Gorden Lopes made my week. I’ve never met Gorden – hopefully I will one day. Here’s what he said (I’m sharing it with his permission):
This book has truly touched my soul in many ways, your amazing sense of humor makes difficult topics very easy to absorb, your ability to show your vulnerable sides of your life, and your story telling ability reminds me of Anthony Bourdain’s writing style.
Both me and my wife discuss the content of the book like excited kids sharing their instagram posts! I just mentioned to her that we should have a 3rd child and she burst out laughing because she had read the chapter about your family! 🙂
This book and your writing has changed my life for the good and it’s like a guiding north star for living a happy, satisfying life! Highly highly recommend this to everyone and this is going to be my most gifted book for this year for sure!
Despite the glowing feedback, now that the book is officially out, I feel like a father letting his child out into the world. I am excited and nervous at the same time.
Soul in the Game is available in hard cover, Kindle, and Audible formats. You can get it here.
Keep in mind that due to supply chain issues, it currently takes 23 weeks to print a book, so you may have to wait almost six months to receive a copy once it is sold out. If you were planning to buy this book as a Christmas, Hannukah, or Festivus gift, you may want to consider doing your holiday shopping today.
Once you order the book, send a copy of your receipt to and we’ll send new chapters (almost 50 pages) I wrote since the book went to press.
Oh, and do yourself a favor: forward this email to every person in your digital rolodex who will benefit from this book. In my unbiased ☺ opinion that is anyone between the ages of 16 and 120. They’ll thank you later.
If you’re wondering what Soul in the Game is all about, I am going to share with you the introduction I wrote to the book. It will shed light on the book’s content.
Introduction – How to Read This Book
If someone had suggested a decade ago that I would write a book that had nothing to do with value investing, I would have laughed. Even after writing two books on investing, I thought of myself as an investor who thinks through writing, not “a writer.” I preferred to leave that stuff to professionals – the Dostoevskys and Hemingways – and stick to what I knew best: value investing.
However, over the years, I brought “life” stories about my childhood, my kids, and classical music as supporting actors (often as analogies) onto the main stage of my writing about investing. Kids change you; the realization of your mortality changes you – and writing changes you. It was just a matter of time before these life stories wanted to grow out of their supporting roles into lead roles.
Thousands of emails from my readers had a lot to do with that, too. Readers wrote that they came for the articles about value investing but stayed for the life stories (and my father’s art; but more on that later). They encouraged me to turn my life (non-investment) essays into a book. They told me that reading these stories had made their lives a little better. Reading my essays nudged them to reflect on their own lives. Often, I even seemed to inspire them into action: to travel, to spend more time with their loved ones, or to just simply slow down and inhale life. This book is about the most important investment you’ll ever make: the investment in your life.
I hope a story or two in these “life” essays will touch you, add a ray or two of sunlight to your day, and motivate you to fill the gap in your life that needs filling.
This book is evergreen, and so I have structured it thematically, not chronologically (you will notice this in the variability of my kids’ ages throughout the book). It started out just as a collection of stories I’ve written over the years. But as I was editing it, the writer in me took over. I ended up completely rewriting old essays and writing many new ones. Though it is not a traditional book with a story arc running through it, it morphed into more than just a collection of random stories. It is written to be read in sequence.
The book is loosely organized into six sections:
The Student of Life section has an autobiographical character. It takes you to Soviet Russia for my childhood, the fear that my aunt was an American spy, my family’s emigration to the US, and our first (wonder) years in this great country.
Then it takes you on my most educational journey of all – being a parent. Those stories are full of joy and mistakes (kids don’t come with an instruction manual), but also growth. Being a parent is the most transformative experience of all.
This section also features “Soul in the Game,” an essay that provides a lens through which to view the rest of the book. It touches on everything one needs to find meaning in the creative part of their life. It is so important to me that I titled the book after it.
In Inhaling the World I share my experiences and impressions from visiting Santa Fe, San Francisco, Switzerland, France, and Italy with my family. I discuss topics ranging from how visiting a modern art museum can enhance your trip to an IKEA store, to Jeffersonian lunches, to the caloric content of uncooked fish. If this section inspires you to see a bit more of the world, I have succeeded.
One Day at a Time is the self-help part of this book. Well, kind of. I am not dispensing self-help advice; I am just taking you with me on my journey of learning about how to stick to a diet, sleep better, work out, meditate (a little), and firm up new habits through trial and (a lot of) error. I’ll share personal finance advice that was given to me by a friend when I got married – advice that eliminated any bickering about finances from my marriage!
I was almost done editing this book when I stumbled onto Stoic philosophy. I was so taken by it that I put editing on hold and embarked on a five-month learning and then writing journey about Stoicism. This spilled into Stoicism – The Philosophy For Life. It’s a mini-book within this book, with two sections of its own. One section focuses on Stoicism as an operating system for life, and the other outlines a value system that could lead you to a happier and more meaningful life.
Soul in Creativity houses my essays on… you guessed it, creativity. Creativity is a thread that runs throughout the whole book. I have found that creativity is a secret sauce that makes life more meaningful; it’s what draws me out of bed every morning.
I share with you what I’ve learned about the art and process of writing, not to mention how the music of AC/DC can turn you into a better writer. And you’ll learn how I structured my life to have time to run an investment firm, do investment research, spend time with my family, and still write the equivalent of a book a year.
The essay “Pain, Opera and Investing” explores an excruciatingly painful professional period in my life. Most importantly, it offers tools (based on Stoic philosophy) for coping with pain. This essay sat in my virtual drawer for years; I couldn’t bring myself to publish it, until now.
After I finished writing the essay “Creative Roller Coaster,” I realized that I had to take all my life essays and publish them as a book to share with others. There was an instigator who was singlehandedly responsible for my starting to work on this book: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I explore Tchaikovsky’s struggles as a composer, which I can so relate to as a writer; though I get the feeling that this struggle is universal in all creative endeavors, not just composing and writing.
Tchaikovsky brings us to the last section, Melody of Life. In this series of essays, I delve into the lives of classical music titans –Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin, Berlioz, and Bruckner.
Though these essays about classical music and composers may seem out of place in this book, they continue to tug on this thread of creativity. Today we listen to the music of these superstars, and it still moves us (to me it is the best drug of all). We call them geniuses. But their talent and success, which seems evident to us, was anything but evident to many of them. Just like the rest of us, they were full of insecurities and went through a lot of personal and creative struggles, accompanied by a lot of pain. There is a lot we can learn from them.
By way of summary and conclusion, in The Art of a Meaningful Life I collect the breadcrumbs I left throughout the book and connect the concept of soul in the game, Stoic philosophy, creativity, and lessons from classical music composers by means of an art and craft framework. Oh, and I break the fourth wall.
Finally, if you are questioning why a relatively young adult with plenty of life experiences still ahead of him writes an autobiographical book, read “Intermission – Stop Eating Sugar” (the book’s conclusion): It will answer this question.
My advice to you: Read this book as if each essay is an email that just appeared in your inbox. You are invited to ponder for a while before you move on.
For reasons that will become apparent as you read the next essay, I also had to include a few of my father’s paintings in this book. You can find them in the middle painting section. And you can always see more of his artwork at Katsenelson.com.
I approach this book the same way Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, approached his students. Zeno did not claim to be a physician – he saw himself as a patient describing the progress of his treatment to fellow patients in the hospital beds beside him. Grab a bed next to mine and let’s have a conversation about life, creativity, Stoic philosophy, classical music, and other fun topics.