12 Core Values to Live By Cover

12 Core Values to Live By

Who are you?

As we grow up, we’re taught different ways to answer this question. When we’re kids, we’re told to introduce ourselves with our full name. “I’m John Doe,” you might say.

On the first day of high school, our teacher might suggest we tack a hobby on top. “I’m Daisy, and I like dancing.”

After we graduate and go to work and college, we drop the hobbies and replace them with achievements. “I got a BA from Stanford, where I ran the debate club, and I now work at Google.”

None of these are good answers. They all focus on a tiny part of your life, usually some externality, and then enlarge it to the point where it looks like your name, your job, or your accomplishments are all you are. That’s not true.

No matter how impressive you can get your introduction to sound over the course of your life, at the end of the day, you are not defined by your résumé. You are defined by your character. What shapes that character isn’t your work history or even any set of traits in particular — it’s your values. “Values are our fundamental beliefs informing our thoughts, words, and actions,” Darius Foroux writes.

If you don’t make an effort to define your values, no one else will do it for you. You’ll just passively adhere to a blend of the values of those around you. Worse, without values, your life has no direction. You’re moving, but where? Nobody knows — not even you.

Last year, I reflected and wrote about my values. Here they are, briefly summarized and explained.


Calmness

If you’re not calm, you can’t do anything the right way, let alone do the right thing. First and foremost, breathe, pause, think, and start from a position of poise in all things.

Rationality

Base your decisions in logic, ethics, and common sense. As a result, they might not always look sensible to the outside world, but that world mostly wants you to not change. Change is the only constant there is. Embrace it, try to see the world clearly, and then make sound choices with your sound mind.

Commitment

Whether it’s in your career or relationships, once you find what you believe in, commit to it with all your heart. The only thing that makes us miserable is committing to nothing at all. Use dedication to cut through fears, doubts, and criticism like a laser, and let it empower you to drop all distractions.

Restraint

Doing the right thing won’t always be easy, but choosing to do the right thing can be if you value restraint. Restraint sounds like a bad thing, but if it’s attached to a commitment you believe in, it’ll not just come easy, it’ll actually feel liberating. Give in to fewer temptations, and you’ll gain space and peace of mind.

Humility

Don’t pretend to control more than you do, which is very little and always less than you’d like. Be humble. Show up every day, do your best, and patiently wait for the results, even if it takes longer and you feel like nothing is working.

Vulnerability

Being yourself is scary, but in a big world that doesn’t care, you might as well show us the truest version of yourself. Don’t be afraid to expose the parts you’re scared we’ll judge you for. Those are the moments we really connect with others because we finally realize: they’re not so different than us.

Patience

Whether you get hurt or not, surviving provides the best form of reassurance: You’re still here, and you’ll live to fight another day. No matter how bad reality gets, turn the fact that you’re still around today into more fuel for tomorrow.

Empathy

Everyone is struggling with something. Most of the time, you have no idea what it is. But you can imagine it. You can mentally place yourself in their shoes, and no matter what you find, it’ll help you understand them. You’ll be less likely to judge people, communicate better, and remember we’re equal.

Compassion

Be kind and forgiving. Don’t hate people. Lend a hand where you can. Empathy and compassion are related. When you understand people, it’s easy to feel sympathetic. Life is short. See it as a big journey we’re all in together.

Acceptance

You’re human. You’ll make mistakes, some of which you’ll never be able to fix. So will other people around you, sometimes to your detriment. All of this is survivable, as long as you accept it. Accept yourself too. Your good sides. Your bad sides. And extend that same courtesy to others.

Hope

When times are bad, imagine different times. Have faith. Remember that you’re not alone, and trust that you’re part of something bigger than yourself. You might not be able to see it right now, but whatever you’re going through will make sense down the line.

Love

Combine all the above values, and you get love — a catch-all for our best traits. It’s also a verb. Don’t just say that you love people, show them. Your family, your partner, your friends, the little gestures you use to show you appreciate them are what makes life worth living. Cherishing these little moments is how you create the memories that’ll stay with you till the very end of your life.


Whenever I struggle, feel lost, or am disappointed myself, I think through my list of values. Which one do I need right now? What am I lacking? Every time, I find an ideal I can aspire to that’ll help me get back on track.

Your list may be shorter, longer, or completely different, but I’m confident it’ll allow you to do the same. Not all days are great, but even on the worst ones, you’ll never feel directionless. Plus, you’ll finally have a good answer to that all-important question: Who are you?

5 Good Things That Will Follow From This Pandemic Cover

5 Good Things That Will Follow From This Pandemic

The best way to stay calm amidst the coronavirus madness is to focus on the present moment. Accept reality as is, realize you’re okay, and then handle the challenge at hand with direction and resolve.

The second best way is to time travel to the future. What will happen after all this is over? Can you imagine a more peaceful tomorrow? What good will come from this? There will come some good from this. It’s hard to see it now, but making the effort will give you something to aspire to in these dark times.

Of course no one can predict the future, but when I think about what positive, long-term consequences we could see from this pandemic, I spot a lot of potential. Here are 5 predictions to provide some comfort while we’re all stuck at home.

1. Cashless payments everywhere

In Germany, half of all payments are still made in cash. Half. Can you imagine? Who wants to carry around clunky, dirty coins and bills, which you constantly have to re-stock from an ATM in an inconvenient location?

Apparently a lot of people — but even those don’t want to pay in cash right now. No matter how advanced your country is in terms of paying cashless, chances are, the share of those payments — and the options required to enable them — will only go up from here. Humans are creatures of habit. Even the most die-hard cash fan might be swayed by the ease of swiping a card if they have to do it for several months.

It’ll be good for our hygiene, tracking our spending, and saving time.

2. Remote work for everyone

On paper, 40% of German companies allow employees to work remotely. The reality looks different, and it’s likely one of the factors why Germans are particularly unhappy at work. But now, even my dad works from home.

Especially small and medium-sized businesses usually only condone remote work in emergency situations. Even if it’s officially allowed, shifting towards more work from home will often get you weird looks and canteen whispers.

Your country might already be more open to remote work, but now, with everyone being forced to make it work (pun intended), I think we’ll likely see much higher acceptance rates for working from home after the virus passes.

Given most of us only need laptops and internet access anyway, I think more autonomy is a good thing. It’ll make us happier, and save everyone time and money. My dad definitely agrees.

3. (Even) better on-demand services and delivery.

In Munich, quarantined life isn’t so bad. We have Amazon PrimeNow, which delivers everyday goods within the same day. Some of our large grocery store chains also offer home delivery.

But if you’re stuck in a small town like my parents, you still can’t get any food without getting into your car. That’s bad, and it especially affects the large concentrations of older people in more secluded areas. For an 80-year-old woman, driving is dangerous enough as it is. Now, buying groceries might be a matter of life and death.

With millennials and younger generations already being used to the online ordering life, the trend here has always been clear. Coronavirus, however, might accelerate widespread availability of on-demand services and delivery around the globe.

Your doctor, optician, hairdresser — soon, they might all come to you. After this crisis, at least your groceries most definitely will.

4. Less spending on needless consumer goods

Call me crazy, but I think right now, people will remember what’s really important. Suffering, be it our own or that of others, prompts us to think.

Who feels like buying fancy clothes now? Who cares about VIP tickets? When you’re forced to reduce your expectations and stop living large, you gain space to reflect. A common conclusion is, “Oh, I never needed this to begin with.”

Suddenly, it’s enough to watch your children play. To read a book or talk to a friend on the phone. If you can’t fill your spare time with distractions, the only alternative is to spend it on what’s meaningful.

Granted, all this reduced spending might not be prolonged, and it might look bad on paper for the world economy — but I think in the end, it’ll turn us into better humans. We might even use more our resources to the benefit of others once we resume business-as-usual.

5. Improved global crisis management

While this will likely go down in history as the number one crisis in terms of how fast information was generated and spread with relative efficiency, many analyses and reports show there’s also lots of room for improvement in preparation and prevention.

Italy is one of the most advanced nations on the planet, and its healthcare system collapsed in the span of two weeks. Restaurant chain Vapiano filed for insolvency just two days after being forced to close most locations. 200 scientists had to write an open letter to the UK government to finally get them to take action.

If this were to happen all over again, I assure you everyone involved would do one or two things differently. At the very least, we should see larger stocks and emergency reserves of basic hygienic goods, medication, and medical equipment. But I think we’ll see much more. Just like 9/11 changed airport security forever, after coronavirus, healthcare will never be the same.

Choose Hard Problems Cover

Choose Hard Problems

The restroom has been closed for months. There are others, of course. One downstairs. One upstairs. Which one do you go to?

Upstairs is nicer. Downstairs is closer. And, well, you walk down, not up. At least initially.

Most people go down, and it shows. The towels are empty. The room smells. In times of global sanitary crisis, it’s not where you want to be.

You decide to go up. Just once. Just to try it. You’re surprised. No one’s here. The sink is clean. There’s a window. It’s open. What a breath of fresh air.

If that’s the prize for going up instead of down, what else might be out there? You wonder — and then you venture. Endless hallways stretch in front of you. Here’s another nice restroom. And another. And another.

One day, you turn a corner and find a completely renovated part of the building. Whoa! Shiny white tiles, 15-foot-ceilings, fragrance sticks, what lavatory luxury is this? And all it took was another five minutes of walking.

“The long way is the shortcut,” Seth Godin says. We shy away from the extra mile because we think it’s long — but it’s just another mile. Plus, there are no traffic jams on it, according to hall of fame quarterback Roger Staubach.

Four years ago, I went to a library every day. The lockers were public, you chose at random, but I could always rely on mine being empty — it was at the bottom. The rewards for solving harder-than-average problems are often extraordinary, making them well worth the additional effort.

Another reason to go a little further, work a little harder, stay a little longer, is that it brings its own form of motivation.

The more time you spend on your application after everyone has sent theirs, the more used you’ll get to having — and satisfying — higher expectations — both your own and those of others. It’s a positive, self-reinforcing loop. Shoot higher, do more, want to shoot higher, want to do more. Meanwhile, the exponential rewards keep accumulating.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss said: “99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre middle-ground. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming.”

There’s a third reason to tackle hard problems, and it might be the most compelling: The easy ones are already solved.

We have AirBnB. And Uber. And Netflix. There are enough electric scooter startups. We don’t need another one. We don’t need another bubble tea store, another listicle, another dieting hack. We need someone committed to doing the work. We need you to show up — and not just when it suits you.

Once your ass starts to hurt, how long can you stay in the chair? How crazy are you willing to look before we realize you’re right? “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life,” Jerzy Gregorek says.

The hardest part of solving a hard problem is rarely the problem itself. It’s deciding to go where no one else will. Because how’s that gonna look? How’s that gonna feel?

You might be lonely. You might be ridiculed. But you might also find the comfiest restroom in the building. You might feel more empowered than ever. And you might change the world for all of us.

Choose hard problems. Venture off the beaten path. You never know what you’ll find, but it’s the only way that can lead to true growth.

What's Your Best Thought Today? Cover

What’s Your Best Thought Today?

What’s your best thought today? You should write it down. Maybe not for the world but definitely for yourself.

You can put it in a diary. Or on Twitter. You can flesh it out and turn it into an article. Scribble it on a scrap of paper. Put it in a jar. 30 days, 60 days, 365 days later, take it out and look it over. You can remember. You can ask questions.

Is it still a good thought? Is it worth thinking again? Has it served its purpose? Did it help you through a bad day? Was it one of your best insights? Or one of your worst? Did the thought accompany you all this time? Has it stuck with you? Or does it feel like a distant dream?

It could be a simple thought. “I’m okay.” “Coffee is delicious.” “Don’t argue when you’re hungry.”

Maybe, it’s a deep one. “I hate cycling because I fell when I was nine.” “I’m still in love with him.” “I’m more afraid of success than failure.”

Sometimes, it’s an idea. “Coffee should taste like chocolate.” “Can I use my phone to make a TV show?” “What if umbrellas were less clunky?”

One thought. One thought can change everything.

If you feel ambitious, or if you want to change not just yourself but the world, you should share it. You can take your time. Work up the courage. At first, no one will see it. Then, a few people will. Eventually, a few more, until you have a captive audience.

What if they had the same thought? What if they go back to their jar, pull out a note, and read the same sentence? Suddenly, you’re connected. Two humans, one thought. That could change everything.

10,000. 50,000. 100,000. No one really knows, but you have a lot of thoughts each day. What is your best one? Think! You just need one thought to help mold your future.

Write it down. Record it. Type it. Pin it. You might not remember it tomorrow. You might never look at it again. You won’t notice a difference next week or even six months from now. But eventually, you will.

You’ll look back through your pile of one-liners. You’ll stand under a waterfall of ideas. Some will hit hard. Some will feel refreshing. Others will roll off your shoulders.

“Oh, that’s where my belief came from. That’s why I did this thing.” You’ll understand. Think. Reflect. Act. You’ll curate your curated thoughts.

One day, you’ll wake up, and life will never be the same. It didn’t feel like it when you started, but then you’ll know: One thought. One is enough.

One thought can change everything.