Assiduity Cover

Assiduity: Work Hard and Don’t Quit Too Early

In 2010, I dropped myself into a 60-hour workweek by accident: I started college with no idea what would hit me.

I remember adding all my lectures, tutorials, and seminars to my schedule and realizing: If I attend all of these, I’ll spend 40 hours a week just getting input — and I won’t have done any studying or assignments yet.

In our first semester, we had seven subjects, ranging from math to economics to programming to materials science and business, each with a big final exam that determined 100% of our grade. The pressure was on. While my friends and I didn’t know the first thing about these topics, we also had to code a new mini program each week, hand it in, and present it to a tutor. It was a lot.

None of us knew what to expect, and, facing such a crazy workload, we were, quite frankly, scared shitless. In order to cope, we did what most cornered animals do: we fought. Luckily, in Germany, attendance isn’t mandatory for most classes, so we skipped what we could and, instead, focused on getting things done.

Every day, we went to the library, sometimes as early as 6 or 7 AM, and worked like hell. We studied 13, 14, 15 hours a day. Alone. Together. Working on the same problems or completely different ones. We compared our notes, shared solutions, and stared at the programming console until the code finally worked. It was a nightmare, but in the end, we passed all of our exams.

That first semester was a real wake-up call. In the words of German singer Farin Urlaub: “Life is not Home Depot, and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Having cruised through high school on little to no studying and with good grades, I had finally arrived in the real world — and it was tough.

If you had listed everything I would do and accomplish that year in advance, I would have said, “Impossible!” Looking back, however, as hard as it was, I feel incredibly proud of overcoming all these obstacles. With each long work day came a sense of accomplishment, and the more days I racked up, the more I started seeing myself as a gritty person.

Ultimately, I gained a lot of confidence from all this hard work, confidence that then helped me achieve bigger goals and exceed my own expectations — and that I rely on to this day.

What Is Assiduity?

The word ‘assiduity’ made its first appearance in the 16th century. It describes an attitude of great attention, care, and effort to what one is doing.

Unlike words such as ‘diligence,’ ‘concentration,’ or ‘ambition,’ it includes a sense of stubbornness. Imagine a dog fighting to keep his bone — he’s unrelenting. He just won’t give up.

Merriam-Webster defines assiduity well with a three-word catchphrase: persistent personal attention.

The late talent agent and movie producer Jerry Weintraub provides a good example: For 365 days in a row, he called Elvis’ manager, asking to take the King of Rock ’n’ roll on tour. Eventually, he did, and the shows in large arenas he subsequently organized became the innovation that made his career.

Jerry mostly prided himself in his persistence, saying that, “The person who makes it is the person who keeps on going after everyone else has quit.” That’s true, but I think Jerry did more than that: He also showed great care and attention to what his target’s needs were. When you call someone for 365 days in a row, part of the magic is getting them to keep picking up — and that takes more than brute force.

Assiduity is deciding to do the right job the right way and then committing to stick with it until it’s done. Assiduity comes in two flavors: There’s the kind that makes you see through the first semester when you want to quit after the first week and the kind that lets you finish each slide deck, exercise, and class in order to do so.

Macro-Assiduity

Charlie Munger is the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s company. He’s 96 years old, a billionaire, and the person Buffett credits most for his success.

In a 2019 interview, he recounts a story he frequently tells young people who come to him, asking for advice on getting rich:

A young man goes to see Mozart, and he says, “Mozart, I want to start composing symphonies.” Mozart asks, “How old are you?” and the guy says, “22.”

Mozart tells him, “You’re too young to do symphonies,” but the guy retorts: “Yes, but you were 10 years old when you were composing symphonies.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t running around asking other people how to do it.”

What Charlie is trying to tell us with this snippy comment is: Don’t quit too early. If you don’t invest serious effort into mastering your craft, no advice from even the greatest in your field can make up for it. Until you’ve done so, don’t give up!

It’s the cliché millennial dilemma Simon Sinek frequently bumps into:

I keep meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working, smart kids. They’ve just graduated school. They’re in their entry-level job. I sit down with them, and I go: “How’s it goin’?” They go, “I think I’m gonna quit.” I ask why. They’re like, “I’m not making an impact.” I’m like, “You’ve been here eight months.”

Charlie began his career as a lawyer. Thinking he didn’t like it, he started working on investment deals in his spare time. Once he’d settled into a career as an investor, however, he realized he could’ve just stuck with being a lawyer:

I think this flitting-around business is something not everybody should try. I think if I tried it again, it might not have worked as well.

Passion for your work isn’t a one-way street: Any job will become more fun as you get better at it. Yes, you might have to make a big change later, but be honest with yourself: So far, have you even tried? Like, really tried?

Humans are bad at understanding the concept of time, but we’re even worse at estimating and managing it, especially as the numbers get larger. If you count back one million seconds, you’ll land 12 days ago. A billion is 1,000 times larger. You know the difference, right?

Well, if you turn the clock back one billion seconds, you’ll arrive… 30 years ago. In the same way, we tend to overestimate how much we can do in a year but underestimate how much we can pull off in ten. “As a result of our short-sightedness, we are overfeeding the present by stealing from the future,” Jim Brumm writes in Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World.

Don’t quit too early. Have some macro-assiduity.

Micro-Assiduity

In 2007, Munger gave the commencement speech at the USC Gould School of Law. Among many other bits of wisdom, he shared the following:

“Have a lot of assiduity. I like that word because it means: Sit down on your ass until you do it.”

Sounds real simple, doesn’t it? You have the work. You know what to do. So you get on your ass, sit down, and do it. Ass. Sit. Do it. As in Jerry Weintraub’s story, however, I think there is a second part to this: You don’t just sit until you start. You also sit until you finish.

In college, we didn’t know how long we’d need to get our algorithm to draw a Pythagoras tree. We just sat there until we figured it out. We even have a word for this in German: “Sitzfleisch.” Taken literally, it translates to “seat-meat,” the metaphor being that you have a strong butt — a butt that can stay in a chair for a long time. Ass-sit-do-it-y.

Analyzing the science behind this staying power, Thomas Oppong writes:

Finding the ability to embrace your work, no matter how difficult, as a challenge instead of a threat can be one way to overcome the emotional challenge of finishing what we start.

Next to sound, music, and managing your internal and external triggers, reframing problems as projects can help you convert at least some of your stress into inspiration. Furthermore, the same long-term thinking that’ll allow you to stick with a one-year project can also make the short-term decision to keep working on a strenuous task easier.

For the most part, our day-to-day tasks are well-defined. If you have a job, are getting a degree, or have been freelancing for a while, chances are, your list of objectives is long enough.

For more nebulous, self-driven career paths, a good rule of thumb is to follow the verb that goes with the noun of what you’d like to call yourself. That’s the part that can’t be compromised. A writer must write. A speaker must speak. A runner must run. And so on.

Find the tasks essential to your long-term goal, sit on your ass, and do them.


Life is not a straight line. Sometimes, you have to work late to deliver on a promise you made to a customer. This isn’t to say you should sacrifice your health for your job, but if you’re unwilling to show up when you’re needed the most, especially if it’s uncomfortable, you’ll never be able to take on the amount of responsibility required to also gain the benefits that come with it: self-determination, unlimited financial upside, and freedom of time.

While your attitude to work directly impacts these tangible results, it also builds a set of strong, indirect benefits over time. Sitting with tasks until they’re done comes with a sense of accomplishment and trust in your ability to overcome obstacles. You’re proving yourself to be gritty, one day at a time. Eventually, you’ll form genuine confidence and achieve more than you ever thought possible.

Life may not be Home Depot, but it’s a great feeling to take pride in your work — even without a free lunch.

Why You Should Trust People First Cover

Why You Should Trust People First

We used to be best friends. Now, I hadn’t heard from her in six months.

My last “Hey, how are you?” had disappeared in the vast nothingness universe of unanswered WhatsApp messages.

Eventually, I thought she didn’t care anymore. That she had silently deleted me from her life, just like we now nuke our relationships by unfriending people on Facebook. You know, without ever telling them.

I was sad for a bit, but these things happen. Friendships die. Connections fizzle out. The shared culture you’ve developed takes on a life of its own and, once you stop tending to it, spins out of control. It slowly circles from meaning into emptiness, ultimately landing right next to that last WhatsApp message.

Ironically, one of our last talks had been about just that. The fact that losing touch is a sad, but sometimes healthy and necessary, part of life.

Then, two weeks ago, I stumbled over some old Tinie Tempah songs. Instantly, my mind slingshotted into a nostalgic flashback. I remembered the time we spent raving in clubs with the gang. I remembered how we yelled “tsunami!” all the time for no reason. I remembered how we blasted his songs driving around in the summer.

And so, in a moment of vulnerability, I sent a message:

You’ll always be the first person I think of every time I hear Tinie Tempah.

She replied:

That’s the best message I got all week!! So glad to hear from you!

We started chatting and caught up. Before I could even start to wonder why she didn’t message me all this time if she were so excited about talking to me, she said something that perfectly explained it.

That same week, she had met a mutual friend of ours, who, like her, had recently entered the workforce. After the usual “how’s your job,” “fine,” and “what else is new,” my friend confessed she was having doubts. That not all was great at work. That she was having second thoughts about her choice.

Suddenly, the girl she talked to opened up. She too wasn’t happy.

And then my friend said the sentence that stuck with me: “I think she just needed a trust advance.”

As it turns out, so did my friend.


A trust advance is reaching for a stranger’s heavy bag on the bus and saying “let me.” They might flinch, but they’ll usually be thankful for your help.

A trust advance is shouting “hold the door” and hoping the person in it won’t take your out-of-breath-ness as a threat. They’ll rarely shut it in your face.

A trust advance is admitting that you just don’t feel like it when someone asks you to join their spontaneous soirée. That you’re not in a good place.

A trust advance is not deflecting the “why” that follows. Because the only way to find out whether they meant it or not is to give an honest answer.

A trust advance is being the first to say that “some things about my job really suck,” to deliberately turn off the highlight reel and start with the real stuff.

A trust advance is picking up a loose end even if someone else left it hanging.

A trust advance is saying “I’m sorry” before you’re sure you screwed up.

A trust advance is texting “I miss you” without context because feelings don’t need one. They’re true the second you have them.

A trust advance is choosing to show your private self in public, even if it means you’ll be exposed. But maybe you’ll get others to show theirs.

A trust advance is tearing down a wall without knowing what’s on the other side. You might be carried away by the wind, but you also might make a new friend.


By and large, we live in a world where our biggest concerns are our careers, our relationships, and our happiness. Most of us are not running through the wilderness trying to survive. More people in the world die from too much food than too little. More from self-harm than violence.

As a result, cooperation now carries disproportionately greater reward than competition. It’s what allowed us to create this world of abundance in the first place. We haven’t figured out how to allocate it best, but we’re getting there. And while the world isn’t perfect and never will be, cooperating humans win.

Therefore, most of the risks we take are risks of rejection, of being exposed and vulnerable. But they’re not risks of survival. They’re problems of ego, not existence. Being laughed at, being told “no,” being rejected romantically—these are not matters of life and death.

Trust advances multiply. You hand out one, and they’ll hand out five more.

We forget this. Our brains haven’t caught up. They still equate “I’m sorry,” “I miss you,” and “I need help” with “I’m gonna pet this tiger.” But they’re not actually dangerous. We fear these things because we can’t control them. That they’re really unlikely to happen doesn’t register. We’d rather have a definitive threat we can respond to than a vague improbability that’s out of our hands.

When I reached out to my friend I felt weak — but actually, I was the strong one. Sending that message felt like caving, like giving in. In reality, I was the one showing up—the one saying “here I am.” Yes, I exposed myself. Yes, I was vulnerable. But it was an act of courage, not defeat. And in today’s world, at least most of the time, courage is rewarded, not rejected.

The best thing you can do to be of service; to be a good friend, partner, parent, even stranger; to be the person we all want to be around, is to be vulnerable.

There’s this popular line that “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” But fear is nothing I can act on. I think everything you want is on the other side of being vulnerable. That’s something I can do. I can always hand out more trust advances.

No one spends their day obsessing about having to buy toilet paper. We’re all thinking about deep stuff, all the time. Let’s use our time to talk about these things. You might still get hurt, but the risk pales in comparison to the reward.

Being vulnerable tears down walls between humans. Behind those walls are trust, love, honesty, joy, resilience, friendship, and lots of other magical things. What’s more, each wall that crumbles hands more people a hammer. Trust advances multiply. You hand out one, and they’ll hand out five more.

Give trust first, and the world will shower you with trust in return.

What Is the Future of Learning?

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” 

Bruce Lee

In the past four years, I have asked a lot of foolish questions:

Can I be a professional translator without any credentials?

If I want to be a published writer, should I still ghostwrite for money?

Do summaries of existing book summaries make any sense?

The seemingly obvious answer to them all is “no,” yet I did all those things anyway. And while some led nowhere, others now pay my bills. Often, the only way to get satisfying answers is to try, especially with foolish questions. The beauty of daring to ask them, rather than accepting the answers society gives you, is that you’ll have many more unexpected insights along the way.

Like that, today, the answers are always less valuable than the questions.

The Half-Life of Knowledge

In 2013, we created as much data as in all of the previous history. That trend now continues, with total information roughly doubling each year. Michael Simmons has crunched the numbers behind our knowledge economy:

You probably need to devote at least five hours a week to learning just to keep up with your current field—ideally more if you want to get ahead.

Bachelor’s degrees in most European countries consists of 180 credits (EU schools tend to use a quarter credit system as opposed to the semester hour system typical in the U.S.), and each of those credits is worth about 30 hours of studying time. That’s 5,400 hours. Sadly, what you learn from those hours starts decaying as soon as you’ve put in the time. Scientists call this “the half-life of knowledge,” a metric that’s decreasing fast.

A modern degree might last you just five years before it’s completely irrelevant.

Since new information is now generated more and more rapidly, it takes less time for said information to lose its value. Back in the 1960s, an engineering degree was outdated within 10 years. Today, most fields have a half-life much less than that, especially new industries. A modern degree might last you just five years before it’s completely irrelevant. Even with a conservative half-life estimate of 10 years (losing about 5 percent each year), you’d have to put in 270 hours per annum just to maintain those initial 5,400—or about five hours per week.

As a side effect of this global, long-lasting trend, both the time we spend attaining formal education and the number of people choosing this path have increased dramatically for decades. Years of schooling have more than doubled in the past 100 years, and in many countries, it’s common to study for some 20-plus years before even entering the workforce. In the U.S. alone, college enrollment rates have peaked at over 90 percent of the total population in the age group around secondary school completion already.

The larger our ocean of information, the less valuable each fact in it becomes. Therefore, the knowledge bundles for college degrees must get bigger and, thus, take longer to absorb. But the ocean also grows faster, which means despite getting bigger, the bundles don’t last as long. It takes a lot of time to even stay up to date, let alone get ahead of the increasing competition.

Instead of flailing more not to drown, maybe we should get out of the water.

A Scary Future to Imagine

While it’s important to dedicate time to learning, spending ever-increasing hours soaking up facts can’t be the final answer to this dilemma. Extrapolate the global scramble for knowledge, and we’d end up with 50-year-old “young professionals,” who’d retire two years into their careers because they can’t keep up. It’s a scary future to imagine but, luckily, also one that’s unlikely.

I saw two videos this week. One showed an unlucky forklift driver bumping into a shelf, causing an entire warehouse to collapse. In the other, an armada of autonomous robots sorted packages with ease. It’s not a knowledge-based example, but it goes to show that robots can do some things better than people can.

There is no expert consensus on whether A.I., robotics, and automation will create more jobs than they’ll destroy. But we’ll try to hand over everything that’s either tedious or outright impossible. One day, this may well include highly specialized, knowledge-based jobs that currently require degrees.

Knowledge is cumulative. Intelligence is selective. It’s a matter of efficiency versus effectiveness.

A lawyer in 2050 could still be called a lawyer, but they might not do anything a 2018 lawyer does. The thought alone begs yet another foolish question:

When knowledge itself has diminishing returns, what do we need to know?

The Case for Selective Intelligence

With the quantity of information setting new all-time highs each year, the future is, above all, unknown. Whatever skills will allow us to navigate this uncertainty are bound to be valuable. Yuval Noah Harari’s new book asserts this:

In such a world, the last thing a teacher needs to give her pupils is more information. They already have far too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant, and above all, to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world.

The ability Harari is talking about is the skill of learning itself. The 2018 lawyer needs knowledge. The 2050 lawyer needs intelligence. Determining what to know at any time will matter more than the hard facts you’ll end up knowing. When entire industries rise and fall within a few decades, learning will no longer be a means but must become its own end. We need to adapt forever.

Knowledge is cumulative. Intelligence is selective. It’s a matter of efficiency versus effectiveness. Both can be trained, but we must train the right one. Right now, it’s not yet obvious which one to choose. The world still runs on specialists, and most of today’s knowledge-accumulators can expect to have good careers.

But with each passing day, intelligence slowly displaces knowledge.

The Problem With Too Many Interests

Emilie Wapnick has one of the most popular TED talks to date—likely because she offers some much-needed comfort for people suffering from a common career problem: having too many interests. Wapnick says it’s not a problem at all. It’s a strength. She coined the term “multipotentialite” to show that it’s not the people affected but public perception that must change:

Idea synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability: three skills that multipotentialites are very adept at and three skills they might lose if pressured to narrow their focus. As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.

While there’s more to it, it’s hard to deny the point. After all, some of these thinkers work on some of our biggest problems. And we love them for it.

Jeff Bezos built a retail empire and became the richest man in the world, but he also helped save an important media institution and works on the infrastructure we need to explore space. Elon Musk first changed how we pay and then how we think of electric cars, and now how we’ll approach getting to Mars. Bill Gates really knows software, but now he’s eradicating malaria and polio. The list goes on.

The term “polymath” feels overly connoted with “genius,” but whether you call them Renaissance people, scanners, or expert-generalists, the ability they share stays the same: They know how to learn, and they relentlessly apply this skill to a broad variety of topics. In analyzing them, Zat Rana finds this:

Learning itself is a skill, and when you exercise that skill across domains, you get specialized as a learner in a way that someone who goes deep doesn’t. You learn how to learn by continuously challenging yourself to grasp concepts of a broad variety. This ironically then allows you to specialize in something else faster if you so choose. This is an incredibly valuable advantage.

Beyond learning faster, you’ll also innovate more, stay flexible, stand out from specialists, and focus on extracting principles over remembering facts.

To me, that sounds exactly like the person an unpredictable world needs.

A Curious Boy

In 1925, one year before he entered school, Isaac Asimov taught himself to read. His father, uneducated and thus unable to support his son, gave him a library card. Without any direction, the curious boy read everything:

All this incredibly miscellaneous reading, the result of lack of guidance, left its indelible mark. My interest was aroused in twenty different directions and all those interests remained. I have written books on mythology, on the Bible, on Shakespeare, on history, on science, and so on.

“And so on” led to some 500 books and about 90,000 letters Asimov wrote or edited. Years later, when his father looked through one of them, he asked:

“How did you learn all this, Isaac?”

“From you, Pappa,” I said.

“From me? I don’t know any of this.”

“You didn’t have to, Pappa,” I said. “You valued learning and you taught me to value it. Once I learned to value it, the rest came without trouble.”

When we hear stories about modern expert-generalists, we assume their intelligence is the result of spending a lot of time studying multiple fields. While that’s certainly part of it, a mere shotgun approach to collecting widely diversified knowledge is not what gives great learners special abilities.

What allowed Asimov to benefit from his reading, much more so than what he read or how much, was that he always read with an open mind. Most of the time, we neglect this. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how we learn.

In order to build true intelligence, we first have to let go of what we know.

The Value of Integrative Complexity

Had Asimov learned to read in school, he likely would’ve done it the way most of us do: memorizing or critiquing things. It’s an extremely narrow dichotomy, but sadly, one that sticks. Rana offers thoughts about the true value of reading:

Anytime you read something with the mindset that you are there to extract what is right and what is wrong, you are by default limiting how much you can get out of a particular piece of writing. You’re boxing an experience that has many dimensions into just two.

Instead of cramming what they learn into their existing perspectives, people like Asimov know that the whole point is to find new ones. You’re not looking for confirmation; you’re looking for the right mental update at the right time.

With an attitude like that, you can read the same book forever and still get smarter each time. That’s what learning really is: a state of mind. More than the skill, it’s receptiveness that counts. If your mind is always open, you’re always learning. And if it’s closed, nothing has a real chance of sinking in.

Scientists call this “integrative complexity”: the willingness to accept multiple perspectives, hold them all in your head at once, and then integrate them into a bigger, more coherent picture. It’s a picture that keeps evolving and is never complete but is always ready to integrate new points and lose old ones.

That’s true intelligence, and that’s the prolific learner’s true advantage.

A Matter of Being

Your brain is like a muscle. At any moment, it’s growing or it’s deteriorating. You can never just keep it in the same state. So when you’re not exercising your mind, it’ll atrophy and not only stop but quickly reverse your progress.

This has always been the case, but the consequences today are more severe than ever. In an exponential knowledge economy, we can’t afford stale minds. Deliberately spending time on learning new things is one way to fight irrelevance, but it’s not what’ll protect us in the uncharted waters of the future.

The reason the wise man can learn from even the most foolish question is that he never assigns that label in the first place.

Beyond being carriers of knowledge, we need to become fluid creatures of intelligence. Studying across multiple disciplines can start this process. It has many advantages—creativity, adaptability, speed—but it’s still not enough.

If we focus only on the activity of learning, we miss the most important part: Unless we’re willing to change our perspective, we won’t grasp a thing. It’s not a matter of doing but of being. The reason the wise man can learn from even the most foolish question is that he never assigns that label in the first place.

And so it matters not whether we learn from our own questions or the insights of others, nor how much of it we do, but that we always keep an open mind. The longer we can hold opposing ideas in our heads without rejecting them, the more granular the picture that ultimately forms. This is true intelligence. It’s always been valuable, but now it’s the inevitable future of learning.

Bruce Lee undoubtedly possessed this quality. By the time he died, he was a world-renowned martial artist, the creator of an entire philosophy, and a multimillion-dollar Hollywood superstar. All at only 32 years old. Long after his passing, one of his favorite stories captures both the essence of his spirit and how he became the cultural icon we still know and love today:

A learned man once went to visit a Zen teacher to inquire about Zen. As the Zen teacher talked, the learned man frequently interrupted to express his own opinion about this or that. Finally, the Zen teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea to the learned man. He poured the cup full, then kept pouring until the cup overflowed.

“Stop,” said the learned man. “The cup is full, no more can be poured in.”

“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” replied the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

College Library Career Cover

I Spent My 20s in College Libraries and Came Out With a Career

I’d love to tell you that, to me, the library has always been a magical place – but it wasn’t.

Having grown up in a pile of books in a home where the walls were already lined with literature, library visits were rare and, often, disappointing. Our local, small-town book collection didn’t feel as refined as the one we had at home and due to funding issues, the place itself always seemed to teeter on the brink of foreclosure.

Today, you can get most books rather cheaply right from your couch, but there are still many reasons to go to the library beyond selection and price. Sadly, I never found those reasons when I was younger.

But when I started college, all of that changed. I’ve spent the majority of my 20s in campus libraries and, to this day, they’re the only kind of office I know. As it turns out, the library is more than a place of knowledge and wonder.

If you want to shape, even invent your own career, it’s a factory of dreams.


I had known I wanted to be an entrepreneur long before college, but I had no idea how to make that fantasy come true and no one close to me who did. And while it may not seem like the most logical next step, eventually, going to college taught me exactly what I needed to know.

Not the professors or the books or even the friends I found there, but the time I spent at the libraries of my academic stations. Each seemed to have its own theme, but they all welcomed me while I was figuring out yet another challenge in my quest for meaningful self-employment.

Here’s a short chronology of the ones that caused the biggest impact.

Source

The library at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is open 24/7/365. It has over 800 work stations on three vast floors, a live feed of how many spaces are currently available, and a fully automated lend-and-return system. It is a testament to German efficiency as much as it is a breeding ground for workplace camaraderie.

My first-semester friends and I all joked about who could possibly be studying at 2 AM on a Saturday until, a few weeks later, we were. And even though no one seemed to make the choice voluntarily, everyone was always there, committed to not give up before even the first round of exams. Sometimes, the only comfort you need when you’re struggling is knowing you’re not struggling alone.

When you’re trying to understand complex algorithms, the basics of macroeconomics, or the behavior of liquid bodies, most of the answers you seek won’t be in books but in the people around you, studying those same topics. At the college library, there’s always someone you can ask. Someone slightly ahead of you, with just enough margin to remember what they needed to hear for things to click into place.

By the third semester, most of us had passed the initial terror of uncharted waters and with our library radius, so expanded our understanding of not just these college institutions, but our place inside them. We explored the math branch, the chemistry branch, the informatics branch, and with them the dynamics of each of these somewhat specialized working environments.

We made the library our office of choice, and with that we developed a sense of awareness of how we work.

You can’t professionalize your visits to the library without optimizing your own behavior, and so analyzing visitor traffic, break times, and the energy levels of those working around us ultimately not just made our time among textbooks a more pleasant experience, but also a more productive one.

Before I could build things, I had to figure out how to get things done. How I could get things done. When I work in teams. When I work alone. Whether I’m under pressure, or whether no one holds me accountable but myself.

The workload of those first few semesters may have provided the fabric of personal productivity, but the library was where I could sit down, pick up a pair of needles, and knit it into a methodology that works.

Source

The Claire T. Carney Library on the UMASS Dartmouth campus is a winding maze of glass, concrete, and bright yellow lights. Lined with red carpets and chairs, the color contrast makes for a fine, common thread. A guide not just to its many differently themed work areas, but to your own thinking process.

I studied abroad in my fifth and sixth semester and it was then and there that part of my desire to start something turned into regret about not having started anything already. As a result, the time I spent at the library was a time of intense brainstorming; a time full of ideas. My Bachelor’s program was coming to an end. I needed a plan and I needed it fast.

Academic culture in America is more encouraging to self-starters than its German counterpart. The bustling energy of student groups solving problems — often real-world problems — through fruitful discussions was just the vibe I needed to grow the seed I was cultivating into something that would soon push me over the edge. It was refreshing to see people go to the library not only to read or study or do assignments, but to lay the foundation of what might become their career and ask important questions about their future.

Even more so than great sounding boards and encouragement, though, what I found in that space was the comfort to dare ask these questions myself.

One of the many potential answers I tossed around in my head back then was to become a writer. Guess what I am today.

Source

Mannheim’s humanities library branch truly offers room to think. The large, centered stairway with its modern, airy design counts over 100 steps across three floors. Little desks fan out left and right while the book shelves are neatly tucked away into the hall’s giant wings.

You can truly feel everything being ‘under one roof’ and even though I was only a guest there for about a year, I still found you could carve out your own space. I was trying to make self-employment work during a two-year college break and the modern, somewhat cold architecture added to the isolation I felt, probably needed.

I was an antibody among students and yet we were flailing all the same. Like the lockers in the lobby, the bathrooms on various floors, and the tables with PCs and without, everything was optional, but, without decisions and discipline, wouldn’t amount to a thing. Here, I learned to do things the hard way even when I didn’t have to, because great careers don’t fall from the sky.

I chose the locker on the bottom, the seat on the top floor, the bathroom in the basement and, with those things, the path of the lonely freelancer over that of the comfortable employee.


When you say ‘library,’ you might think of a place hosting leathery covers, stacks of old classics, and a neat filing system. To me, that place is home.

When I say ‘library,’ I think of wide, open spaces full of desks, rattling keyboards breaking the silence, and textbooks. I think of colleges around the world, of fun times, of shared times, of good times and of hard times. I think back to the stages of my career, and I think about what each of those stages meant.

When I remember the fact that I spent most of my 20s tucked between books and bathrooms, between people and PCs, between knowledge and work —I smile. The library — the institution, not the building — is my universal staple of meaningful work.

Even if it’s the only office I’ll ever know, from now on, it’ll be a magical place.

The Strong Link Theory: How to Build a Successful Career Cover

The Strong-Link Theory: How to Build a Successful Career

My favorite painting in Munich’s ‘New Pinacotheca’ is The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg. It shows a penniless artist in a crappy, run-down attic apartment.

The Poor Poet is one of Spitzweg’s earliest compositions after becoming a full-time painter in 1833. Today, it is his most famous work. Likely because in it, he managed to capture the ambiguity of his own life.

Spitzweg was born into a wealthy family and eventually launched his career off the comfort of a large inheritance. At the same time, his father forced him through a pharmacist education and he was entirely self-taught. All his career, he pursued humorous themes, contrary to the common-sense nature of art in his era, the Biedermeier period.

Like Spitzweg, The Poor Poet is a puzzling figure. He’s huddled up in blankets, covering a hole in the ceiling with an umbrella, burning his own writings to stay warm. But he doesn’t look flustered. Is he choosing his poverty-stricken existence? Does it inspire him? Did he end up there because society is misjudging his genius? Or was he just too much of a snob about his own art?

The answers to all these questions are left to the viewer’s imagination, which makes it a great painting. Another reason I like this picture, however, is that it’s a reminder that in today’s world, no artist must starve.

Life Is Full of Networks

Sometimes, the past deserves a second chance. That’s the tagline of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History. In one episode, he examines why philanthropy in education tends to center around the richest and most elite schools, as opposed to those that actually need it. To piece the answer together, he turns to a book about soccer.

Taking a page out of The Numbers Game, Gladwell frames education as a ‘weak-link problem.’ This means the overall outcome depends much more on giving access to those, who have none, than on providing high-class students with even better resources. The analogy in sports is that “a football team is only as strong as its weakest link.” Look at this year’s world cup results.

Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, all world-class, yet none of their teams survived the quarter-finals. Because soccer is not about having one or two superstars, it’s usually the team with the fewest mistakes that wins. Plus, even the best striker can only score if the ball makes it to the front. Basketball is a counter-example. One Michael Jordan can do some serious damage. He might singlehandedly win a game, regardless of how the other players perform.

The beauty of this concept is that you can use it as an almost universal lens to work on your perspective. Life is full of networks and all networks have links.

Your body is a weak-link structure; one tiny, but critical part fails, and the whole system shuts down. Traffic is a weak-link phenomenon; a single bad driver can block an entire highway for hours. School is a strong-link game; you only need the exact right answers to pass any exam. And so on.

But there’s one area where applying this idea is especially interesting: work.

The Difference Between Your Career and Your Job

When companies vie for job applicants, they love to promise that “with us, you won’t just have a job, you’ll have a career!” What intrigued graduates take that to mean is that the prospects of working for said employer won’t be limited to the current gig. Promise me I can grow, and I’ll take you to the sunlight. That type of thing. The reality, however, is often different.

Your current job may be a weak-link game. In Germany, for example, waiters often split tips. Whatever the collected total, everyone gets the same share. In this scenario, positive outliers matter, but the average is held down by the lowest contributions. If you’re a strong link, you lose. Most jobs are like that. Rewards don’t hinge on singular results, but on the team’s output as a whole.

That’s because employment itself is also a weak-link problem. It’s better to make sure everyone has a job than giving particularly great ones to a select few. Missing opportunities at their firms are one reason that nowadays, people change jobs around every four years. Here’s another:

Your job may not be a strong-link game, but your career always is.

Career Engine Optimization

The internet has largely democratized the resources of building a business. Since fewer people can do more with less, the number of small firms has gone through the roof. New kinds of jobs pop up left and right, so people sample.

That’s smart. It’s the equivalent of creating more links. And since you only need one great career move to potentially land where you want to go, people maximize their chances. Think of Youtube discoveries like Justin Bieber or the first employees at Facebook. Those are extreme examples, but on a micro level, your and my career will play out just the same.

Another thing you could do is to get a strong-link job, where you can drastically increase your income, fame, and whatever else with a few good results. All artists have this. But there’s also commission-based work, like real estate and most sales, or equity compensation, from working at a startup or handling investment deals. Those are good bets too.

But the best thing you can do, by far, does not depend on job modalities at all.

The Human Lag in Reacting to Change

Back in Spitzweg’s days, The Poor Poet was the norm. His painting was as much a caricature as it was a critical comment on society at the time. It’s easy to imagine Spitzweg wouldn’t have chosen the artist’s path, had it not been for his family money. With few options, small personal networks, and the excessive importance of local reputation, playing it safe was the way to go.

In the past 200 years, however, the world has changed more drastically than ever before. Another thing the internet has democratized is the ability to create links from the comfort of your home. Not just actively, but letting them come to you. It is 30 years old, but this most people still don’t understand.

When Spitzweg first presented The Poor Poet to the critics at Munich’s art club in 1839, they weren’t impressed. It took until two years after his death for the painting to make it into a museum. Imagine he could have posted it on Instagram. Or blogged about the process. Someone might have reached out.

I’m surrounded by young, smart, tech-savvy graduates all day, but most of their link-building efforts seem limited to updating their LinkedIn when they complete another internship. I’m sure most of them will do just fine, but it’s a little as if they insist on being poor poets in a world that offers every opportunity for that to change.

How to Have a Successful Career: As You Shout Into the Woods…

I wholeheartedly believe the single most valuable thing you can do to get everything out of your career that you want is this:

Create.

It may be easy to say for a writer like me, but I mean it. And you don’t have to be creative. You can just document your day. You’re interesting. So is where you live. If you love accounting, by all means, keep us posted on the news from that world. Or maybe you don’t feel like tinkering in public. Good. Tinker in your garage and then showcase what you made online.

Whatever you do, don’t limit your participation in the biggest network in the history of the world to lurking behind a screen. The German version of “what goes around, comes around” is “as you shout into the woods, so it echoes back.” Only those who put effort in will receive something in return.

Most importantly, if you want to have a successful career, treat it like the strong-link game it actually is. Don’t fall for the victim narrative of gatekeepers preventing change. They’re still trying, but you can choose to ignore them. That’s a modern-day luxury The Poor Poet didn’t have.

There’s one more reason I like the painting so much: It is a wonderful reminder to work hard and stay humble. As long as we do that, we’ll always be our own strongest link. And there’s nothing ambiguous about that.

Say No To Free Stuff Cover

Why It’s Important to Say No to Free Stuff

Last week I got hoodwinked. Walking out of the school canteen, a friend and I passed a guy standing next to his car’s open trunk, handing out free drinks and note pads. Except they weren’t free. As soon as he’d offered us his ‘gifts,’ he made us sign trial subscriptions to a newspaper. To his credit, we didn’t need any payment info and he was a nice guy.

But he still blindsided us. Most of the time, however, I do it to myself.

Free Lunch All Over the Place

Whoever says there’s no free lunch has never been to a German college. We don’t pay insane tuition, yet there are still more freebies than anyone could handle. Drinks, food, events; young people will build the future and these are the things they covet. But that doesn’t mean we want our lives to be a 24/7 pitch fest in which we’re the prize.

So when yet another poor devil hands out flyers, the result is often the same: trash cans full of paper, littered floors, and shreds of parchment flying through the streets. 19 out of 20 times, 19 out of 20 people aren’t interested. And yet, we end up with an ad in our hands anyway. Why is that?

Sometimes, we get blindsided. We’re too startled to say no and boom, we agreed. Sometimes, we don’t want to be rude. And sometimes, it’s straight pity. It speaks volumes about your product if the best buyer motivation you can hope for is people wanting to eliminate some of the inherent discomfort in your sales process. A friend says she often takes flyers to make the other person feel better and help them get on with their unrewarding job.

That’s a noble goal, but I think there’s a hidden price we pay for it. Because now, the joke’s on us.

The Scales Inside Your Mind

Taking some stupid flyer doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is. Now you’re not just responsible for the piece of paper, but unless you really wanted to take it, which, let’s face it, almost never happens, you’ve also just broken a previous deal with yourself: “I will do what I trust is best for me.”

This deal isn’t explicit. It’s not one we sign and one we rarely voice out loud. But it’s built into us from birth and rightfully so.

Acting in our own best interest is, on a long enough timeline, the only way to act in everyone else’s best interest also.

Deep inside your mind, there’s a scale. Every time you break or live up to that deal, you throw a small stone in one of its trays. One side is confidence — complete and utter trust in yourself. The other is insecurity. A constant scratching at your decisions, full of self-doubt and second-guessing yourself. And whichever side is heavier tends to make your next decision.

Throwing the First Stone

Also last week, I went out to grab drinks with friends one night. Around 10 PM, our metaphorical Thursday night camel train wanted to move on. There was a midterm party hosted by the school, but the group wanted to go pregame at another place first.

I fancied the party, but what I didn’t wanna do was drive all across town to sit in someone’s apartment and drink first. Especially since I’m not in the mood for alcohol these days. So I decided to go home. Of course the usual ‘come on’s and ‘just an hour’s ensued. You know how it goes, you’ve been in that situation before.

See how similar this is to the people handing out flyers? Except it’s all intensified. Because now you’ve made an actual deal with yourself and it’s not a stranger pitching, but your friends. The scale in your mind, however, remains the same. It doesn’t matter what’s reasonable or what’s fun. The only important question is:

Which tray of the scale will you throw the next stone on?

Another friend says she once met someone who’d always joke she was “a weak person” when it comes to going with the group consensus. It’s a fun anecdote when you’re actually indifferent about an outcome, but I told her I’m worried about what happens if she tells it too many times. Humans work in funny ways. The more you tell yourself you’re the type of person who throws stones on the doubt-side of the scale, the more you’ll end up actually doing it.

For 99% of our decisions, it doesn’t matter all that much, but in 1% of moments, the state of the scale is everything.

Seconds of a Lifetime

There’s one last thing that happened last week. We were watching the Germany vs. Sweden world cup match at a burger place. For every goal Germany scored, we got free shots. I passed on the first one, because again, I don’t feel like drinking these days. But since we won in the last minute, we got another round.

Once more, I declined when the waiter offered, but as we were all about to toast, a friend noticed I didn’t have one, while another friend had ended up with two. I said it was alright and that I didn’t want it, but my buddy was adamant I take it. After a short, but suddenly intense “YES!”-“NO!”-yelling-match, he handed the shot over, I set it down and saluted with my Sprite.

Imagine how awkward that is. Twelve people with raised glasses, with two dudes arguing over who takes the last shot in the middle. Moments like these only take seconds, but unlike listening to sales pitches or deciding where to eat, they fundamentally impact who you are. And yet, the shots are just like flyers. You either cave and take the damn thing or stick to your guns and make things awkward.

No one will even remember, let alone care about the situation two weeks down the line. But you will. Because taking the shot, or the shitty job offer, or forgiving the asshole boyfriend who cheated is like ripping that trust contract you have with yourself to shreds. With a snap of your fingers, you’ve dropped an anvil on the scale. Self-doubt all the way.

What all of this comes down to in the end is this:

The reason I can say no to drinking in a room full of people with raised glasses is that I’ve practiced saying no to people with flyers for the past 10 years.

Getting ambushed by a guy selling newspaper subscriptions is bad. But blindsiding yourself is much worse. We tell ourselves these little, mundane decisions aren’t important, but they are. Because everything you do matters. Life isn’t a collection of fragments. It all ties together into who you are.

The choices you make when no one cares are the ones that determine what you’ll do when you care the most.

So, I’m sorry if you ended up with one of those crappy promotion jobs. I feel for you. But no, I don’t want your flyers.

A Strong Vision Is the Best Way to Be Productive Cover

A Strong Vision Is the Best Way to Be Productive

Last week, some girl at school knocked over her juice and killed the power for a whole group of tables. As a funny result, I get to enjoy my friends’ confused looks whenever they enter the library, because they’re startled not to see me in my usual seat. I might as well carve my name into it, because every week, Monday to Friday, from 7 AM to 7 PM, I practice Charlie Munger’s version of assiduity: I sit on my ass and do stuff.

And yet, barring a few mini jobs, I never worked a day in my life until I was 19. You could say I’ve come a long way with productivity — or that I’ve become a workaholic. But I’m neither proud nor ashamed of either of those things. Because what’s changed even more in the past eight years than how I approach productivity is my perspective of what it means.

I’d like to share some of that perspective with you. Hopefully, it’ll help you find the right balance at the right time.

One Hundred and Twenty Pounds

In On Writing, Stephen King tells a great story from his childhood about the time he helped his uncle fix a broken window, using his grandfather’s toolbox:

“We finally reached the window with the broken screen and he set the toolbox down with an audible sigh of relief. When Dave and I tried to lift it from its place on the garage floor, each of us holding one of the handles, we could barely budge it. Of course we were just little kids back then, but even so I’d guess that Fazza’s fully loaded toolbox weighed between eighty and a hundred and twenty pounds.

[…] When the screen was secure, Uncle Oren gave me the screwdriver and told me to put it back in the toolbox and “latch her up.” I did, but I was puzzled. I asked him why he’d lugged Fazza’s toolbox all the way around the house, if all he’d needed was that one screwdriver. He could have carried a screwdriver in the back pocket of his khakis.

“Yeah, but Stevie,” he said, bending to grasp the handles, “I didn’t know what else I might find to do once I got out here, did I? It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.”

Productivity is a behavior. Humans tend to label behaviors as either right or wrong and most of us file productivity under ‘morally correct.’ Regardless if such categories even exist, this leads us to feel we should always be productive. We turn the behavior into an end when it’s nothing but a means. We collect as many tools, tricks, hacks, and tactics as we can, but ultimately, productivity is just a toolbox.

You can decide when to bring it and when to leave it at home. How big it should be and what tools you want to include. You can even take out certain tools temporarily and bring a lighter version. Clearly, there’s a lot of choice involved in productivity. But making it the default is not something you should do lightheartedly.

Because the nature of this relationship is not unilateral.

Another Uncle’s Advice

Unlike Stevie’s, my uncle isn’t too great at fixing things around the house. But he’s a partner at a big consultancy, and that’s pretty rad too. So when I asked him after graduating high school, he told me what degree he’d get at which college, and off I went. There, I first learned the meaning of hard work. The schedule and studying kept me busy a good 60 hours a week, especially during exam season.

Another part of the career plan he gave me was to study abroad, but in the US, college is different. More recurring assignments, less pressure to ace finals. Suddenly, I found myself in a small town in Massachusetts with lots of time on my hands. I didn’t need to work as much and eventually, I used my freedom to start questioning the map I had asked him for.

Even if you know your productivity toolbox inside and out, many of the choices about its nature, size, and contents, are choices you make elsewhere in life.

To a certain degree, you can influence how productive you are, regardless of your current task. You can figure out different behavior hacks, become more self-aware, and scour your work for shortcuts. But to a much bigger extent, the larger mission you’ve dedicated yourself to inevitably impacts how and how much you work. Most of all, it changes how much you want to work.

Your toolbox is a natural byproduct of the choices you make not just in your career, but in life. Therefore, the straightest path to changing how productive you are is changing your life. This may sound either obvious or really obscure, but for me, it’s a hard-earned lesson eight years in the making.

Let’s just say it took me a while to see.

Cedar Dell Lake, Umass Dartmouth

My Favorite Synonym

Besides wandering off into the woods and around the lake, I spent a lot of that fall in the US reading. Blogs, like James Altucher and Zen Habits, and books like The Alchemist. The more I read, the more I thought “why can’t I do that?” Read a lot, write a little, and make a living that way. It sounded easy. It felt like fun. And if I was gonna work a lot, I’d much rather do this than design slides to help some corporation squeeze 0.2% more out of their EBIT.

It would be another two years before I ever put pen to paper, but that was the first time I dared to imagine something different. I found the courage to dream. Whether you call this fantasizing, career planning, or crafting a vision doesn’t matter, as long as you remember it’s the most powerful way you have to control that toolbox.

The strength of your vision is the single greatest predictor of your productivity.

Vision is a wonderful word, because it contains two things: what you can imagine and what you can see. If you’re really honest with yourself about what kind of work you want, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, you get a clear image of your dream job. Maybe for the first time. And if you’re then really honest about how far away you are from that image, or that you might be headed in the wrong direction, gears start to click.

Of course, there are cases where the fog won’t clear. Sometimes, you can’t see ahead more than a year, or it might take the better part of a decade to figure out ‘your thing,’ but that’s okay. Because if you let your productivity follow your vision, you bake life’s imbalances into your expectations of work.

This is not only natural, it’s healthy. It’s not about always being productive, it’s about always being productive enough. Enough for that current stretch of the road, wherever it may lead.

Here’s where mine lead me.

One More Tool in the Box

When I finally started writing in 2014, I set goals left and right. Write 250 words a day, publish once a week, get 10,000 subscribers, make $1,000 in a month, whatever you could quantify, I would put on some physical or digital sheet and pin to the wall. As a self-starter, this helped me a lot at first, but eventually, I realized goals are just another measuring stick. One more tool in the box. But it’s no good to bring your hammer each time, when sometimes, your vision requires nothing but screws.

Gradually, my goals transformed into themes. This was a subconscious process and to this day, I still use goals, though I do it much less and they quickly wander to my mind’s back burner. But looking back, I can pinpoint that in 2015, my theme was ‘commit.’ I learned to stick to things and see them through, even though no one told me to do them. In 2016, my theme was ‘invest.’ I wrote daily summaries of book summaries, and while that may sound stupid, I somehow felt the returns would come later. They did. In 2017, my theme was ‘grow’ and in 2018 it’s ‘leverage.’

None of these indicate anything about my level of productivity, because instead of dictating desired outcomes, they help me cultivate a mindset. A mindset that lets me deal with my work in whatever way makes the most sense at the time. And whenever my vision changes, which is about twice a year, so do my themes and what they mean. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes they’re big. But they always come from a good place.

I’m not in a rush anymore, and even though I work a lot these days, I feel calm while I’m doing it. For example, I took a ten-minute break between that last sentence and this one. Not because I needed it, but because it’s good to get fresh air and talk to a friend. It’s in line with my theme, because once I publish this post, it’ll be out there forever, working for me. That’s the leverage part, the part that matters. Not whether I can finish this ten minutes earlier. And while the theme itself is just another tool, it helps me lift the box.

Because now I can approach it from the right angle, even if that angle is different each time.

My father’s toolbox

Two Handles

My dad has a toolbox too. Just like Stephen King’s grandpa’s, it’s old, leathery, and sealed shut with big latches. But it only has one handle. So whenever he let me carry it when I was little, I was struggling, because I could only grab it at one end with both hands. Life isn’t like that. Your toolbox is different.

In 2,000 year olds words, written by ancient philosopher Epictetus, translated for modern times in The Daily Stoic:

“Every event has two handles — one by which it can be carried, and one by which it can’t. If your brother does you wrong, don’t grab it by his wronging, because this is the handle incapable of lifting it. Instead, use the other — that he is your brother, that you were raised together, and then you will have hold of the handle that carries.”

I’ve spent a lot of days working hard on things I didn’t care about and I’ve wasted a lot of days not doing enough for the things I love. There were seasons when I was always on and seasons when I was always off. But no matter whether I did too much or too little, each time was a result of trying to lift the toolbox at the wrong handle.

What I’ve learned about productivity in the past eight years is that it’s mostly a consequence of the choices you make about life. The only thing that should inform those choices is your vision, your big dream, your future so grand you barely dare to imagine. Once it does, this vision will trickle down into your every behavior. First in goals, then in themes, but it’ll sink in deeper by the day. Until your vision not only shapes how you do things, but who you are; who you’ll become. The person you were meant to be.

To this day, I’m my dad’s assistant when we fix stuff around the house. But now, carrying that toolbox doesn’t feel so heavy. Maybe, it’s because I’ve grown so much. Or, maybe, it’s because your productivity is a reflection of your courage to imagine.

The Cost Of Being An Employee Cover

The Cost of Being an Employee

“Give me a lever long enough, and I shall move the world.” That’s Archimedes. It would take us another 2,300 years, but eventually, we invented the lever. The internet has changed our economy and society more than any other technology before. In The End of Jobs, Taylor Pearson explains how it’s transformed the job market in the past 20 years.

The book is divided into five sections, the first two of which describe the demise of traditional jobs; the last three make a case for being an entrepreneur. To me, it creates a picture of a scale that’s slowly moving from very imbalanced to almost tied, maybe even slightly tipped towards the new side. As such, I think the central message is this:

The gap between entrepreneurship and traditional jobs is closing.

Broadly speaking, Pearson describes this gap in three aspects:

  1. Value for the economy. Large corporations still pull their weight, but add less and less to innovation, especially in the tech, software, and internet space. Meanwhile, one-man shops and small startups unlock value in markets that weren’t profitable before.
  2. Value for the individual. Manual labor is automated or shifted to where it’s cheap, leading to salary wars among traditional firms. But with an internet connection, anyone can run a small e-commerce business on the side, yet still make an extra annual salary.
  3. Risk taken on by the individual. Corporations require neat CVs, expensive degrees, yet often only offer temporary positions. The cost of setting up a website is less than $100 and you can get most resources and services on demand, just in time.

For traditional careers, value goes down, while risk goes up. The opposite happens to entrepreneurship, because after the dot-com boom (and bust), it’s become the limiting factor in pushing humanity forward.

“1. The limit is shifting from knowledge to entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial Complex and Chaotic domains are the ones increasingly in demand.

2. The dominant institution is shifting from Corporation to the Individual (or self). What used to require large companies, technology, and globalization has now been made available to the individual or micro-multinational.

3. The dominant player is shifting from CEO to Entrepreneur.”

But what does that mean for you and me?

Not All Entrepreneurs Make the News

If Pearson’s right and if the trend he describes continues, a lot of people are building the foundation of their career in the wrong sandbox. The internet has driven down the cost of producing goods and distributing them to almost zero, while good jobs are increasingly rare and harder to get into.

Pearson recounts a conversation with a business owner:

“He’d always loved cars and spent time at the race track growing up. He had a moment of realization when he saw that the only way he could ever race consistently was if he became an entrepreneur. In order to race cars, you need lots of money and lots of time. While a high-paying job in finance may get you the former and a beach bum lifestyle may get you the latter, it was only entrepreneurs that had both money and time.”

While the rewards of successful entrepreneurship have always been lots of money, meaning, and freedom, the risk to become one has never been lower. The first part is plain to see. Idols of entrepreneurship are all over the news. But there are no reports about the stay-at-home mom who sells Pinterest marketing services for $100k/year. This second part, the absence of risk, is much less obvious, which is why most people stay on their traditional path.

But however quietly, entrepreneurship, both part- and full-time, becomes the more attractive option with each passing day. And the question isn’t really whether you should start thinking about your options, but how long you can still afford not to.

Walking Up the Stairs

If you’re a startup founder, solo entrepreneur, or freelancer, you’re already taking some or all of the steps Pearson suggests to help future-proof your career. But if you’re a traditional employee, or on track to become one, slowly wading into entrepreneurship may be more appropriate for you.

“The entrepreneurial leap has become the entrepreneurial stair step. The latent demand and lower barriers to entry have allowed more people to become entrepreneurs by easing their way into the process. That’s not to say it’s easy — you still have to climb the stairs, but no longer in a single bound. Stair Stepping lets you build momentum behind your trajectory by developing the skills you need to run an entrepreneurial company.”

The stair-stepping approach Pearson refers to comes from Rob Walling, who built several SaaS tools, until he founded Drip, which was eventually acquired by LeadPages.

The idea is to launch a simple product, like a WordPress plugin, for a fixed price, and promote it through a single online marketing channel. Once you’ve hit a certain revenue threshold, let’s say $1,000/month, you can repeat the same process until eventually, you’re making enough to quit your job. Slowly adding channels and products will also help you build your skillset one step at a time.

The final step is to use your time, once you have all of it back, and any excess capital from your mini businesses to build whatever you want. This is a much better position to launch moonshots from than diving headfirst into a VC-backed venture or betting on a line of work that might soon be obsolete.

It’s 2018. The lever is long enough, but you must stand in the right place to apply it. Only then can you move the world.

303 Life Lessons We All Learn But Keep Forgetting Cover

303 Life Lessons We All Learn But Keep Forgetting

I used to think beyond 7th grade math is only useful for physicists and statisticians. After the rule of three, which allows you to calculate discounts on prices, diminishing returns start to kick in fast.

I’ve remedied that view a bit; geometry and calculus have led to some of histories strongest philosophical insights, but I still like to imagine a world in which our high school table of subjects includes:

  • Human behavior.
  • Relationships.
  • Communication.
  • Body language.
  • Personal finance.
  • Etiquette.
  • Career discovery.
  • Work habits.
  • Creativity.

Until that happens, however, I’m grateful for people like Alexander J.A Cortes, who compile the curriculum of such a school of life for us to learn it now, as adults. On February 25th, he shared a tweet storm previewing his next book titled Untaught Truths of Adulthood, which went viral.

As I read through his nearly 100-tweet-long outpour of life lessons, many examples from my own life popped up in my mind. It’s only natural, for all of us learn many of these things, but we never articulate them. I reached out to him and asked whether he’d be up for a collaboration: The result is his treasure trove in long-form, with my experiences as backup to his insights.

Here’s the full list of Alexander’s 303 untaught truths of adulthood, underlined with examples, comments, random quotes and thoughts from my life. Some of them are contradictory, some personal. Some are deep, others just funny. I put down whatever first came to mind.

Note: Corrected for spelling, duplicates, grammar and the occasional typo. All  bolded bullets are from Alexander, what follows is me.

This list is long, so feel free to scroll to a random section, jump around, open it, read one, then come back a day or week later, etc.

  1. Everything you do matters. In 2012, I applied to a US exchange program. I got in, but not at my preferred school. I was the only German going to that particular school. I went. Unlike the other participants, I had lots of time after finishing my assignments. I read a lot. A friend sent me a link. I clicked it. I fell in love with blogs. I kept reading. Two years later, I started my own. Random sequence or perfect order of events? Both. But everything you do matters regardless.
  2. Consequences have consequences. The above is also called ripple effect. See also: 1 > 0.
  3. Life never gets simpler. But that doesn’t mean it won’t get better.
  4. Rarely do you ever figure anything out fully. I think for most things, it’s better that we don’t. Knowledge is power, but power can lead to madness.
  5. (Almost) everybody is faking confidence. Cut the almost.
  6. Most people are compensating for high school. The rest is playing the same game they played in high school. Examples of games: My daddy is rich, I’m too cool to learn, I’m not built for school, I need everyone to like me because I don’t like myself, I’m trying to prove something. All of these might be true. That doesn’t make them good games to play.
  7. The sooner you begin managing your finances for life, the better. A few days ago I overheard a woman say she wants to buy a car for her daughter, but she doesn’t have the $1,000 bucks she needs. With a stable job in a Western country, how the fuck do you not have $1,000 at hand at all times?
  8. The people that live for the weekend are not the people you want as friends. Add to that everyone who celebrates ‘hump day,’ i.e. Wednesday, i.e. the halfway point to the weekend.
  9. No one is ever going to make you happy if you cannot be happy by yourself. Take this literally. If you cannot stand being alone, you’ll still feel alone when you’re with others.
  10. Most of the math you learned is useless. See my introduction to this post. Told ya.
  11. The math you should have learned is the same math that will make you rich. As I said: The Rule of Three.
  12. Everyone overestimates their expectations. You’d be surprised how much people are willing to compromise as long as they can see you gave it your best effort. Intent matters.
  13. When in doubt, pay your fucking bills first. I once went into the red because I lent my then-girlfriend money. That was a bad Monday. If your balance is green, never make it red to help someone else.
  14. Those who vacation constantly have the right idea about their work. Unless they wish they’d never have to return.
  15. Those who never take vacations will never ultimately be fulfilled by their work. “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back it’s yours.” I think this applies to work more than people.
  16. 80% of working is pretending to work, 20% is working to make up for the 80%. Young, motivated people do the 20% first. Old, tired people do the 20% last. Few people ever change the ratio.
  17. Few people are worth being friends with. But everyone is worth giving it a try.
  18. Networking is pretending everyone is worth being friends with. This is why I don’t like it. So I don’t do it. If you work hard enough, the network will form around you.
  19. If you need a business card, you are not truly successful. “Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself.”
  20. Beware of people that want to give you their business card. Take it, then ask if they remember your name.
  21. Managers want to get paid more, they don’t want to actually manage. If all a manager does is manage, they’re not right for the job anyway. True managers lead.
  22. People are lazy. In 8 years of living with roommates, I haven’t had one who keeps their room cleaner than me. Am I a neat freak? Absolutely. Does it still speak volumes? It does.
  23. The best boss is never your boss. Even if they are, they won’t be forever. And they’d never let you call them ‘boss.’
  24. The worst bosses love being bosses. When I was riding the school bus, the driver constantly threatened to throw people out along the way. He never did, because he wasn’t legally allowed. But he clung to his tiny shred of authority because it was all he had. That’s not worth your anger, just worth your pity.
  25. Anyone who introduces themselves with a title, but isn’t a medical doctor, they’re a phony POS. We were in a hotel in Austria once. Everyone approached my Dad with his title, even though he never explicitly mentioned it. It’s part of their etiquette. They chose to do so. But when you force your etiquette on others, it’s not etiquette. It’s bullying. Oh and doctors can be phonies too.
  26. Anyone who thinks letters after their name make them successful is never successful. I had an interview at LMU Munich for a different graduate program. One of the three other participants was a count. The professor called him Konstantin, his first name. He corrected him. “Count Konstantin.” I like to think that guy never got in and if he did, that move sure didn’t help.
  27. Freedom is how little you are able to work while doing what you want. That’s freedom. But happiness comes from finding the balance when to switch between the two.
  28. People that hate cats always miss critical details and are easy to fool, and get cheated on. Lesson: Don’t hate cats.
  29. People who have dogs instead of children are always easy to manipulate. Lesson: Don’t love dogs more than kids.
  30. People that own Lizards with names are people to do business with. Lesson: Don’t define yourself as a cat person, dog person, lizard person, or any kind of animal person. Just a person.
  31. Don’t choose to do anything you hate, regardless of the upside in doing it. The only way to learn this is by doing it many times. Until it hurts.
  32. When a child says you look sad, angry, unhappy, or fat, they’re right. That’s why I care more about children’s opinions than adult opinions.
  33. It’s never too early to buy life insurance. Or liability insurance. Or health insurance. Or insurance for anything you can pay to have covered, but is of infinite value to you.
  34. When someone is being self destructive, don’t try to stop them. It’s contagious. “Never wrestle a pig. You get dirty and the pig gets happy.”
  35. Help those who help themselves first. When I answer reader questions, I sometimes check on them a few months later. If they’re in the same place they were before, I might not answer their next question.
  36. Stay away from anyone over the age of 25 who calls their parents before making minor decisions. Stay close to anyone who calls their parents over major decisions. At any age. In fact, stay close to anyone who regularly calls their parents.
  37. Single people who own lots of unused dishes have hidden problems. When I moved to Munich to intern at BMW, I brought one plate, one set of utensils, one bowl, and one mug. You can always get takeout. Or buy more plates. Loneliness and consumerism usually aren’t that hidden though.
  38. Always hire a Jewish CPA to do your taxes. All clichés come from somewhere, but that’s mostly racist. The well-intended kind, but racism nonetheless.
  39. Better to be overdressed than underdressed. There’s a guy in the library who always wears a suit. Most people probably thinks he’s a douche. But it forces them to admit he’s a douche with style. Ironically, dressing up helps filter superficial people.
  40. You’re successful when you can dress however you want, and people envy you for being able to do so. Russian oligarchs like to show up to gala dinners in sweatpants. Underdressing can be a statement too.
  41. If you don’t make your health a priority by 30, you’re setting yourself up for a midlife crisis at 40. There’s a 50% chance you’ll have a major health setback take you out for 6 months or more by age 45. Don’t increase this chance.
  42. If you don’t make fitness a priority by 25, your dating prospects diminish considerably. Fitness = business. Girls under 25 like sexy guys. Girls over 25 like stable guys. Guys under 25 like hot girls. Guys over 25 like pragmatic girls.
  43. Being popular makes you appear more competent. But one day, you’ll have to back it up.
  44. Being too competent makes you unpopular. But one day, you’ll get your shot.
  45. The best way is to be highly competent, but never in an obvious way. Corollary: When you’re not competent, be highly transparent.
  46. People that don’t believe in God but believe in good vibes are always hypocrites. Or they’re just spiritually confused.
  47. Never trust anyone who doesn’t care about what they eat. But trust everyone who’s aware that they eat badly.
  48. People that lie to themselves will lie to you. And we all lie to ourselves. What does that tell us? The key to stop lying is to stop lying to yourself.
  49. The key to finding trustworthy people is being willing to trust. “Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.” From Batman v Superman.
  50. Dishonest people always know each other. Therefore, dishonest people will always try to do business with honest people, not each other.
  51. Most of “good business” is simply good character while turning a profit. That’s why negotiations with upright people are always easy.
  52. Don’t loan money to friends or family. Give money, with no expectation of repayment. That was my mistake from #13.
  53. A house with a 30 year mortgage isn’t an investment. It’s a place you live and overpay for living there. A house is only an investment if you don’t move in.
  54. Don’t take health advice from unfit people. I only know one healthy doctor. And even he works too much. That’s a problem.
  55. Don’t take financial advice from poor people. But pretend to be poor every once in a while.
  56. Anyone who claims to understand “economics” or “the economy” but isn’t rich is full of shit. I routinely hear students solve global economic crises over a bowl of chili at the university dining hall. Then I remember they live in one of the bubbles they always talk about.
  57. People that judge you based on your car are always assholes. Part of my job as an intern used to be to drive flashy cars around or chauffeur people in them. The “what-a-douchy-rich-kid” looks can be an obstacle or an advantage. You choose.
  58. People that don’t take care of their cars always neglect critical relationships. The same holds true for people who don’t make their bed in the morning.
  59. The only real knowledge is learned by experience and proven by practice. Which is why the only path to knowledge leads through time.
  60. Don’t wait until people die to start appreciating people. Inevitably, you’ll remember this more vividly once people do. Sadly, they always do.
  61. Drink more water. Put a glass of water next to your bed. Don’t get up before it’s empty.
  62. Eat less carbs. Eat less overall. 80% turns to 100% after waiting 10 minutes.
  63. Get more sunlight. Everyone has a type of weather they like the most. Move to where that weather prevails 80% of the time. You’ll love most of the year, but hate enough of it to still appreciate the good weather when it comes back.
  64. Call people if they are truly important to you. Yes, calling people has become weird. Do it anyway. If you’re important to them too, you’ll get through.
  65. When in doubt, be calm. Note: It’s hard to be calm when you’re in doubt, which is why it’s so valuable.
  66. When uncertain, take time to think. Once certain, remember how you went from uncertain to certain. If you can’t, you’re not really certain.
  67. Sure or unsure, always attempt to speak clearly. And yes, “I don’t know” is a clear and acceptable response.
  68. A sense of humor will keep you young. Sometimes, a sense of humor will keep you alive.
  69. A lack of humor will age you. “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” — Oscar Wilde.
  70. Laughter is the ultimate form of disrespect and ego destruction. But it’s also the best medicine.
  71. Be swift in paying off debt. Better yet, don’t accumulate any debt at all.
  72. Be early in saving. And late in spending.
  73. The safest investment are those things that will always exist and always be needed. Invest in eternity. Ironically, those things aren’t practical, because practical items are always used. They’re things like art, books, memorabilia. See also: the Lindy effect.
  74. Always carry $100 cash in your glove compartment. It will come in handy. Especially if that $100 is $500 and robbers break into your car, but forget to steal it. Happened to a friend. Reminder: lock your glove compartment.
  75. Habits don’t improve of and in themselves, it’s the practice of doing them that improves you. This means your habits are important. But your habits are not you.
  76. Repeat anything for long enough, and it becomes a part of you. I’ve been biting my nails since I was 12. When my mom took me to the doc he said: “He’ll drop it by the time he’s 18.” I’m 27 now and I guess he was wrong.
  77. The actions you don’t think about are the ones that make and break you in equal measure. Therefore, the man who thinks about everything and the man who thinks about nothing both lose. Find the middle.
  78. Everything is going to take more work than you think while somehow requiring less work than you end up doing. This will never cease to be frustrating. They’re called hubris and paranoia and they always travel together.
  79. The best talkers & the best looking people get promoted, so be one of them. If you’re neither, take option C: Don’t wait to get promoted. Promote yourself.
  80. Never trust Human Resources. But go to lunch with everyone from Human Resources.
  81. People that want to be friends with everyone are never to be trusted. People with no friends may most deserve one. Extend a hand.
  82. Stupidly confident people are always lucky. Confidence is part of the skill it takes to get the job done, because confidence allows you to wipe off the times you’re unlucky until you strike gold.
  83. You become the people you spend the most energy with. Remember to always reserve some energy for yourself.
  84. You will never not hate your alarm clock. Side note: Never use your phone as an alarm clock. Then again, maybe hating our phones would be a good thing.
  85. The hardest work is the work you hate to do. Only do it until you get to choose.
  86. The easiest work is the work you are passionate for. And you can always choose to be passionate about something.
  87. Everyone is “inspired” when they are getting paid the big dollars. That’s why investment bankers say they love their job. They don’t. Golden handcuffs. They’re shiny. But they’re still handcuffs.
  88. Be very careful doing business with anyone who gives and expects favors. But only if they explicitly call it favors.
  89. Don’t sleep with coworkers. Or class mates. Or anyone you see every week.
  90. Don’t sleep with your boss. Especially not your boss.
  91. Don’t sleep with clients. Summary of the past three lessons: Don’t poop where you eat.
  92. Your work wife will probably know you better than your actual wife. So make sure you always tell your actual wife things only she will ever know about you.
  93. Anyone that mentions both their exe(s) and their parents in a negative light on the first date is not someone to see for a second date. Extension: Anyone that spends most of a first date gossiping has likely been going on many first dates for a reason.
  94. Car insurance is a racket. I’ve been driving for 10 years. No incidents. It’s not always up to you, but it’s not rocket science either. Of course you’re going to crash if you text and drive all the time. Drive safely. The best insurance is doing your job. And when you’re at the wheel, your job is to pay attention.
  95. Tip 20% or do not tip at all. Fun fact: In Germany, tips are really just tips. The waiters get paid adequately regardless. If you’re where people depend on them, don’t be a cheapskate.
  96. Always have a signature drink. I’m thinkin’ Slippery Nipple. “I’ll take a slip nip.” That should get the conversation going one way or the other. How about you?
  97. Single women past the age of 30 with multiple small dogs are single for a reason. They’re busy tending to the dogs. Don’t read too much into things.
  98. Be fit enough that you need all your clothes fitted and tailored. Corollary: Earn enough to have all your clothes fitted and tailored.
  99. Do not ever cross men with big shoulders who wear custom suits. You want to look like them, not be one of them.
  100. Wealth is waking up whenever you want. Happiness is looking forward to waking up when you go to bed.
  101. Don’t waste time explaining yourself to people who don’t understand context. In fact, don’t waste any time explaining yourself at all. Unless you did someone wrong. Explaining is draining.
  102. Learn how to orate, elocute, persuade, and convey. There are many opportunities in life to give presentations that don’t matter. Take them. For there will come a time when they do.
  103. Don’t try to outslick a slickster. Chances are, he’s been slicking longer than you.
  104. Don’t try to brawl with a brawler. See pig analogy from #34.
  105. Don’t try to hook with a hooker. In fact, avoid hookers altogether.
  106. Learn to box. But don’t use it unless you need to.
  107. Your employer doesn’t care if you quit or not. Any small to medium-sized company will survive any individual loss, no matter how tragic. Everyone is valuable, but no one’s irreplaceable.
  108. The only employees that matter are the ones that produce the big $$. Everyone else is disposable. Direct contradiction to #1. Everything matters. The big earners stand on the shoulders of the slow movers. Result? Hire more big earners, then hire more slow movers.
  109. The highest performers tend to make the worst leaders. Let race horses race and draft horses draft.
  110. Everyone hates chain emails. If five people who’re paid $100k/year spend five ours on a five email chain, that’s a lot of money down the drain. Email is more expensive than it seems.
  111. Beware of women who own multiple red dresses. Especially if they also own multiples of every other item of clothing.
  112. $$ alone does not keep a woman loyal. In fact, $$ alone are a great incentive for anyone to become disloyal.
  113. Whenever you can, get a room with a view. Marriott Waikiki Beach, 30th floor or so. I still remember the sunset vividly, five years later.
  114. Convertibles are fun to drive only in movies. ← Alexander does not own a convertible. Convertibles, balconies, a front or back porch. Open space is something you can pay for, a direct connection to the infinity of nature isn’t.
  115. Women with high tolerances for alcohol have a low capacity for sanity. And low incentive to develop it.
  116. Talk to your friends on the phone. Simple test: How happy are you when a friend calls you unexpectedly? How often do you call friends unexpectedly?
  117. Always give speeches at weddings. More free presentation practice.
  118. If someone is upset, take them for a walk and talk to them. Or just walk. They’ll start talking eventually.
  119. Managing people is managing personalities first, performance second. In that sense, all workers are managers.
  120. Most people don’t change past 25, they only become more of themselves. Character forms like an onion. Each year, a layer is added. The more layers, the harder it is to peel it away and start over.
  121. You know you’ve improved when people say they don’t even know you anymore. You know you’ve become better than them when they stop talking to you altogether.
  122. If you can’t explain it in 5 sentences or less, you don’t get it. “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” — Robert Frost
  123. Big words and numbers are the easiest way to lie. I knew a sales guy once, who’d return home from every customer visit and say: “They’re on board. This’ll make us millions!” Of course most of the time, they weren’t on board, and most of the times they were, the resulting revenue was negligible. Eventually, everyone called him ‘Mark Millions’ behind his back. But no one believed he could actually deliver.
  124. If you can strike an emotion and attach to it something that sounds true-ish, a person will believe it. A friend once made me believe dog biscuits were chocolates. They looked delicious to begin with, and he kept going on and on about how yummy they were. Since then I always read the label.
  125. The only way to develop intuition is by using it. “I. Will. Try. My life would have have been empty of so many things, if I did not think the words: I will try.” — Henry Winkler aka The Fonz
  126. Don’t ever make important decisions while you are angry or underslept. And yes, the decision to drive a car, potentially transporting other humans, is an important one.
  127. When in doubt, apologize to the person. Maybe it’s a boys thing, but I hated apologizing well into my 20s. It still feels like ripping off a bandaid, but I’ve gotten a lot better.
  128. Do not ever apologize to mass demands of apology. Tell them to get fucked and do what pisses them off 10x harder. Apologize for what you do wrong, but never for who you are.
  129. Learn how to learn. Here’s the only tool you need for it: Why?
  130. Always assume there is more that you don’t know than you do know. Insignificance is freedom.
  131. Obsession makes discipline easy. Don’t develop habits that drain all your energy. You’ll lose the ability to play on your strengths.
  132. Desire cannot be negotiated. It can only be dampened.
  133. A relationship is broken when sex is used for bargaining. In fact, it’s broken whenever sex is used as a means, not an end.
  134. Fit people do in fact have way better sex. And people who have more sex are way fitter.
  135. Don’t ever wear a cheap watch. I had 2 or 3 digital watches as a teenager. Then nothing for a long time. In 2014, I was gifted a $500 watch. It was stunning and I wore it every day, but it kept breaking. Eventually, I had to let it go last year. I haven’t worn one since. Now I’m looking to get a new watch. Just one. But one I’ll wear every day. This isn’t about being a prick, it’s about quality. Watches made by fashion companies like Armani, etc. aren’t watches. They’re conspicuous consumption. Only watches made by watchmakers are watches. If you get the right one, it’ll last a lifetime. And those are expensive.
  136. Don’t ever wear shoes that do not fit well. Or contort your feet into a shape where they leave you in pain every time you walk barefoot. Make sure you wear your shoes, or in time your shoes will wear you.
  137. Learn how to dress well. Like the guy from #39. He knows why.
  138. A custom belt buckle is powerful. I bought a belt at Desigual in 2010. Later, I realized the buckle was upside down. At first, I was upset. Then, I was glad. A lot of people have Desigual belts. Almost no one has a Desigual belt with an upside down buckle.
  139. Manicures and pedicures are for everyone. I’ve always wanted to try the thing where you put your feet into water with some fish and they eat off the dead skin. Does it tickle?
  140. A good barber and a good haircut are worth their weight in gold. Not a saying but it just as well might be: Lucky is the man with a bald head.
  141. There is nothing brave about being mainstream. I’m sure you have those moments too, where you think “I just want a normal life.” But then you see your neighbor, or a coworker, who has exactly that, and every time you turn around thinking “fuck, that’s depressing.” Because it makes you feel like a coward who’s given up. So you say “screw it, I can’t do it,” and go back to being weird. Thank you for being weird.
  142. Do the opposite of “you know what they say” say you are supposed to. You know what they say? They say you can’t do it. Whatever ‘it’ is.
  143. The wisdom of crowds is mostly bullshit. To every yin, there’s a yang. For this, it’s herd behavior.
  144. Experts on theory are not experts. You know how sometimes on TV shows ‘celebrity experts’ pop up? That’s when it’s time to turn off the TV. See also: #56.
  145. If its not tried and proven, to hell with it. If no one’s tried it before, it may be up to you to prove it.
  146. People will defend a narrative sooner than they will consider being wrong. Opposing evidence often only leads to reaffirmation of the previous belief. It’s called the backfire effect.
  147. People that never change their mind are the most ignorant people. Wisdom is inversely correlated to the number of times someone uses the words ‘never’ and ‘always.’
  148. If someone’s perspective has changed dramatically over time, listen to them. It indicates they’ve reduced the usage of ‘never’ and ‘always.’
  149. Politicians are as dishonest as the society they politic in. There has never been an honest society. And there never will be.
  150. The most honest leaders are the most like dictators. That’s why the best leaders can’t get by on honesty alone, but also need empathy.
  151. You’re only informed if you can predict outcomes. If you cannot, you know nothing. And if you can’t do it repeatedly, you need to start all over again.
  152. Family feuds are the most draining and no one ever wins. We stopped talking to my grandpa a few years ago. The reasons were valid, but that doesn’t make it less sad. Ripping out a thorn is better than leaving it in your skin, hoping it’ll vanish, but you’ll get a scar either way.
  153. You don’t need a lot of friends. Only a few good ones. My best friends I’ve known since elementary school. My second best friends I’ve known since high school. My third best friends I’ve known since college. See a pattern there? “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold.” — Kid’s song.
  154. Your best friend is the one that knows you’re going to change. Friendship is about shared history, not shared identity. True friends will never hold it against you if you change.
  155. Don’t be friends with people you don’t fully respect. The quickest way to determine if you do is to give anyone you meet respect and see what they do with it.
  156. Suffering is real. And it’s subjective. Now that’s something you should respect.
  157. You have the ability to act in a way that reduces suffering for yourself and those around you. “Everything you can imagine is real.” — Pablo Picasso. This goes for the good and the bad.
  158. You have no idea what the ripple effects of that might be. You not losing your cool over the waitress spilling coffee might prevent her from committing a crime later in the day. Or worse. Life is intense like that. We just glaze over it most of the time.
  159. Do not ever come between a person and their dog. Or a dog and their person. Wolves can bite through bones. Dogs are tamed wolves.
  160. Loneliness is a better alternative to losers. It’s just harder to bear.
  161. Solitude reveals who you are, friendship defines it. Take a walk by yourself. Bring back what you learned to your friends. That way you’ll find out if it sticks.
  162. A single good friend is worth more than infinite bad friends. I sometimes went to a guy down the street in elementary school to play video games. He was fat, nerdy, lonely, and ate way too much crap. But he loved video games. In the beginning, I still made fun of him behind his back. But whenever I went there, we could rave for hours about video games. Eventually, I started defending him whenever others talked about him. I was his only friend, and I couldn’t stand being a bad one.
  163. Sacrifice is mandatory for anything or anyone that you love. And the more you love it, the less often it’ll feel like sacrifice. It’ll still hurt, but it won’t bleed as long.
  164. Compromise works best when the outcome is equally unsatisfactory for both parties. That’s why compromise rarely works.
  165. Don’t ever cry around people who you wouldn’t want to remember you crying. Once at gym practice I got a ball straight in the nuts. It hurt so much I fell down. With everyone standing around me, looking down at me, I didn’t want to cry. So I blacked out for a few seconds. Not that it was a choice, but would do it again.
  166. Nice is the non insulting descriptive for boring. If you are called nice, radically rethink your life. I like being nice. I don’t like being used because of it. You don’t have to stop being nice, you have to stop others from feeding on it.
  167. Motorcycles are never not cool. Except when they’re wrapped around a tree with you underneath them. I once flew off my bike and ripped open my entire chin. I had to wait in the ER for 2 hours because of a motorcycle accident. That day, motorcycles weren’t cool at all.
  168. Sometimes it really is only about sex. Once you realize this, it’s important to remember that you can still choose.
  169. People for whom sex is only sex are broken people. Most people who claim sex is just sex still know the exact number of people they’ve slept with. Why?
  170. Cats are better judges of character than dogs. Dogs love almost everyone. Cats love almost no one. Dogs chase cats because they want to play with them. Cats run away because they fear dogs. Being smart doesn’t equal being happy.
  171. People that own parrots have above average verbal IQs. That’s because at least at home they have smart conversations.
  172. If you have small children, you should get them a dog. But only if they can ride the dog, yet the dog can’t eat them.
  173. Sunlight and exercise always make you feel healthier the more of them you get. Instead of coffee, try sitting in the bright sunlight for 10 minutes. It’s pure energy. You can tell.
  174. Hangovers are only worth if you wake up next to someone who looks as good as they looked the night prior. Even if it’s just yourself.
  175. Order one drink, or drink the flood. Moderation is for cowards. A good question to determine which one it should be is “how do I want to remember this night five years from now?” Occasionally, the answer will be “I don’t mind if I don’t, as long as I have the story to tell.”
  176. If you behave poorly while drinking, do not drink at all. Chances are, you behave poorly even while sober.
  177. Dark whiskeys turns regular girls into bad girls, and bad girls into VERY bad girls. Good girls only get sick, and then want to leave early. There is no drink that turns bad girls into good girls.
  178. Don’t fuck with any man who you know can fight and drinks his liquor straight with no chaser. It will end badly for you. Clubs are where ego can be lethal.
  179. Happy drunks are the most sincere people on earth. When I get drunk I get honest and blubbery. But I can still write grammatically perfect texts. Not the best drunk skillset to have, but could be worse.
  180. Mean drunks are the most miserable. Mostly because they were miserable long before they started drinking.
  181. It is when things fall apart that you find out, too late, how they really work. Sometimes, even saving just yourself comes at a terrible price.
  182. Loving someone for the sake of maintaining a facade is not loving them. It’s fearing them.
  183. Lies of omission cause more damage than lies of fabrication. We leave things out to protect ourselves. We make things up to protect others.
  184. Your children always know when you’re being a hypocrite. Never deny it when they call you out on it.
  185. Your siblings always know when you’re bullshitting. They’ve known you since you were kids, so they always know when you’re being a hypocrite. If you’re lucky, you have siblings who call you out on it.
  186. No amount of pre-marriage counseling, planning, or preparation fully prepares anyone for marriage. Because no one’s ever ready to commit their life to one thing. All we can is do it and see if it works out.
  187. The secret to healthy skin is sunlight (daily), sweat (frequently), and sugar (never). Our skin is the biggest organ that connects us to the world. It’s also the most sensitive. It’s underrated and paid too little attention to.
  188. Those who get winded walking are never to be relied upon for anything that tests endurance of character. He who runs out of breath will just as quickly run out of discipline.
  189. A strong body is one that finds movement effortless. And effortless movement leads to a strong body. See: Ido Portal.
  190. Idiots think in words and absolutes. Geniuses think of themselves as idiots.
  191. Non-idiots think in heuristics and concepts. When I was 8, me and the neighbor’s kids took most of our pocket money to the local store to buy Kinder Eggs. Each came with a surprise inside. The valuable figurines were heavier, so we put them on the scales. 32–34 grams was optimal. We were kids, but not idiots.
  192. Anti-knowledge (what is not/what not to do) is vastly more revealing than knowledge. Knowledge leads to arrogance, caution leads to respect. Warren Buffett calls it his circle of competence.
  193. The question of “how did I get here” is easily answered by “what were you doing yesterday?” #1 reason to keep a journal.
  194. One day of practice is worth more than a month (at least) of study. Probably a year. Only practice reveals anti-knowledge.
  195. Trying to control others is the easiest way to be hated. The more you try to control the world, the less in control you are. One feels like a substitute for the other, but it isn’t.
  196. Studying how “power” works and claiming to understand power is akin to studying how to lift weights and believing you will deadlift 500 pounds. Neither are happening. “Desiring a thing cannot make you have it.” — Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler.
  197. Action and experience > theorizing. The fact that this ratio is tipped in favor of doing is the reason that our education system is broken. A friend and I took an automotive engineering class in college. We knew all about gear sequencing, engine limitations, and friction coefficients. But we couldn’t fix a car if we tried. If I had to do it over again, I’d become a mechanic, then go to school.
  198. The mark of proper resistance training is pristine posture and beautiful movement. My spine has a slight s-curvature because I spent too much time sitting at a desk. I’m 27. How old are you? See also: Spinefulness.
  199. The mark of improper resistance training is poor posture and ugly movement. Lesson: You learn neither posture nor movement at the gym.
  200. Good girls can play at being a bad girl. “The advantage of intelligence is being able to play dumb. The opposite is quite impossible, however.” — Kurt Tucholsky.
  201. Bad girls can only lie about being a good girl. And the true loser is the guy who believes the lie, not the girl who tells it.
  202. Men that care about women liking them are repulsive to women. One of the hardest truths I learned about love from my last relationship: You cannot find love by looking for it. Goes both ways.
  203. Men that don’t care whether a woman likes them are always attractive. A cheesy, but insightful movie that explains both why this is true and flawed is Ghost of Girlfriends Past.
  204. Nice girls are always lovely. And always lonely.
  205. Nice guys are always losers. And always lonely. See a pattern here?
  206. Nice girls and nice guys have entirely different meanings. Which is why somehow, they can never seem to find one another. Thanks, society.
  207. You become unattractive the instant you began changing your behavior to get someone to like you. Hence #202.
  208. The worst thing a man can do to a woman is to not do what he said he was going to do. I think this extends to women.
  209. The worst thing a woman can do to a man is to not be who she pretended to be. I think this extends to men.
  210. Women want you to listen to them, not solve their problems. This, I also learned in my last relationship, even though a prior ex-girlfriend had told me this. Literally. The exact, same sentence. Apparently, we’re not only bad at listening, but also at remembering.
  211. Men want to solve problems, with a minimum of listening. Oh, that’s why. We’re focused on doing stuff to improve the situation. This is what I told said ex-girlfriend. The exact, same sentence.
  212. The lack of understanding of the above is why many stupid arguments happen. See also: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. One of the underlying ideas is that women need to find solutions on their own, men just want solutions, no matter where they come from. Now that I think about it, the ex-girlfriend that told me about it mentioned this book. Goddammit brain.
  213. Every man wants a good girl who will be bad only for him. There was a couple like that at my high school. In the end, the bad rubbed off and there were naked pictures of her circulating all around the school.
  214. Every woman wants a bad boy who will be good only for her. There was a couple like that at my high school too. In the end, the bad rubbed off and she cheated on him.
  215. This rarely works out how anyone idealizes it will work out. Sadly, we keep trying it long after we’re done with high school.
  216. Mastery requires obsession, passion, and time. I’ve been writing for 3.5 years. I used to say I don’t mind what happens in the first 10, but I didn’t mean it. I was always looking for a new side hustle. A new gimmick. A new get-rich-quick-scheme to put in motion. Sometimes, I still do. No matter how much obsession and how much passion you have, accepting the time part is a lifelong struggle.
  217. You can only have one great passion at a time, but you can have many high level interests. The trick is to not let those interests eat away at your passion, but to funnel them into it.
  218. A transcendent master is who can teach as well as they perform. A great teacher is like a great Kung Fu master: they only perform if they really have to, but when they do, the world watches in stunned silence.
  219. Pedantic people are never worth dealing with, in any capacity. They’re the reason for #16. Because they make people work an extra 80% for the last 20% of the results. So most people don’t do it.
  220. Don’t do business with people you don’t like. When I was 12, a kid who I knew was the town bully wanted to make friends with me. He practically shoved some of his 18+ horror movie DVDs into my face. I didn’t want them. I didn’t watch them. But the whole weekend, until I gave them back to him, they haunted me nonetheless.
  221. Arguing with pedants is an exercise in futility and self-flagellation. Or a move to subconsciously sabotage yourself. In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks has this idea of upper limits. Deep down, we don’t think we deserve to be extraordinarily happy, so we arbitrarily drag ourselves back down again if we reach too high. Arguing is one of the ways we do that.
  222. Coworkers rarely last as friends beyond the extent of you doing that job. My supervisor at my internship was only a few years older than me. We did lots of things outside of work and got along really well. But after the internship ended, at some point, he just stopped replying to my emails. Very few people manage to view work as a way to broaden your circle of friends. That’s also where #153 comes from. Ironically, it’s those few who tend to have the best careers. Work is an amplifier for life, not vice versa.
  223. High-anxiety men who cannot do push-ups are the most useless of all living creatures. Just did some push-ups. Wouldn’t wanna mess with Alex. Physically, that is!
  224. No one wins against gravity, they only have a good or bad relationship. The law of reversed effort from Alan Watts’s The Wisdom of Insecurity: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float.”
  225. The “secret” of immense health is optimized hormones. I like to think of our body’s internal workings as perfectly matched to a mix of countries. For example, when it comes to food, skin reactions, energy levels, sleep, etc., you might require 50% Italy, 30% Brazil, 13% Sweden and 7% Turkey. You need to travel a bit to figure it out and you can never be certain of it all, but once you have a gut feeling, move to the place with the highest match and take vacations in the other places.
  226. It is easier to critique what you lack as being pointless than to admit to your uselessness. Especially when you’re asked in public.
  227. Physical and mental strength go together, separating them weakens them both. There’s a study in which participants imagined doing weightlifting exercises and became physically stronger as a result. Of course this can’t replace actual exercise, but it shows that mentality matters.
  228. When in doubt, choose challenge over certainty. Prerequisite: When in doubt, don’t doubt yourself.
  229. Wealth mindset is the mentality that value can be many magnitudes greater than the number of hours in which it was created. Henry Ford once called Charles Steinmetz into his factory to fix a broken machine. After 48 hours of non-stop examinations, Steinmetz made a chalk mark on the machine, told the workers what parts to switch there, and went his way. Ford was very happy, until he got the bill: $10,000. When demanding an itemized list, Steinmetz responded: “Chalk mark, $1. Knowing where to make chalk mark, $9,999.” Lesson: The skills with the highest hourly pay are never paid by the hour.
  230. Working hourly is how everyone starts, but it is not how you want to end. In Germany, interns currently getting a Master’s degree are often paid $15/hr, even at the biggest brands in the world: Siemens, BMW, McKinsey. On my first job as a self-employed writer, I was paid $15/hr. I had a Bachelor’s degree, but no qualification in the field. On my second job, I demanded $25/hr. On my third job, it was $50/hr. Then, I stopped taking payments by the hour altogether. Because it’s nuts. The lesson from the story above is that time and value are two completely independent issues. Always calculate your ballpark hourly revenue, but never bill it that way.
  231. Always create multiple incomes streams, the more the better. The average millionaire has seven sources of income. Whether any millionaire is average or this urban myth holds true, the principle remains: more income streams, more chances for one to explode, and less risk you’ll have a single point of failure.
  232. Your tolerance for risk is predicated by how much, or how little, you have to lose. Tim Ferriss calls this fear setting. Think of the worst case. Then what? And again. Then what? And again. Then what? Usually, you find you’ll neither lose freedom, nor family, nor anything else that’s important. Most of the time, it’s just money. And you can always claw your way back to more money. Define fears, set fallback plans. How much you have to lose is different from how much you think you have to lose. You need to look at it clearly to see one is usually much less than the other.
  233. Those that get “rich” through risky investments and games rarely stay rich. From my favorite King of Queens episode: “Sure, Douglas, you’re white hot. You rode the frog to the top, but lady luck can be a fickle whore.”
  234. 99% of people cannot think wealthy, and henceforth never will be. Corollary: 1% of the world’s people own 50% of its wealth.
  235. The only appropriate time to be obsessed with sports is if you have money on the outcome; this leaves players, gamblers, and owners. Only one of those can win even if the team loses.
  236. Competition is only honestly competitive when it’s your life or your reputation. Everything else is dress-up. That’s why I was never a good fencer. It was a noble sport, but I neither made it my life nor cared about my reputation.
  237. Life is always hierarchy, be it vertical or horizontal. Horizontal hierarchies are a lot messier, because you can’t see who’s above who and the pecking order constantly changes. Much easier to undermine a vertical one, because it’s more transparent. Better the devil that you know than the devil that you don’t.
  238. Those that wish to absolve hierarchies merely turn them sideways. This provides a cheery delusion whilst allowing everyone to backstab each other without being watched. As I said: Horizontal hierarchies are messy.
  239. The most noncreative thinkers love authority. Dyson Freeman put people into two categories: birds and frogs. Frogs are in the midst of the swamp, deep down in the thick of the grass. They have a detailed view of a small patch of life. Birds fly high above, seeing various patches of land and how they connect, but they can’t zoom in too much or they won’t see where they’re going. There’s a reason nature made both birds and frogs.
  240. The most creative are, by default, anarchists. “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you.” — Steve Jobs.
  241. The balance between the two is realizing order provides stability while chaos creates space for things to grow. If you’re orderly, make room for chaos. If you’re chaotic, find the thread of order.
  242. Everyone is addicted to something, except those who are not. Those people are not worth talking about though, as they are worse than boring, they are DULL. Being addicted to nothing is called nihilism. And that’s the worst addiction of them all.
  243. Anyone who schedules a meeting to talk about meetings should be fired immediately. Unless they want to take meetings off the agenda.
  244. Anyone whose job entails food and beverages, always treat them well and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever walked into a shabby looking place, only to eat some of the best food you’ve ever had, you know this is right.
  245. Hole in the wall cuisine > Michelin stars. What good is food if it doesn’t leave you satisfied?
  246. An obese physician should never be listened to except when he is prescribing how not to kill yourself with the drugs he’s telling you to take. Once he’s done, go home, throw the drugs in the toilet, and call another physician. But remember the name of the drug.
  247. Surgeons are largely psychopaths who wanted an excuse to cut bodies open and play God. Nassim Taleb talks about preferring a surgeon that looks like a butcher over one that looks like a neat freak. Why? Skin in the game. The odd-looking surgeon will have had to prove his or her worth as a surgeon a lot in their career, as opposed to the slickster, who may have slipped through. See also: #103.
  248. Plastic surgeons know more about human psychology and behavior than most psychologists. A friend of mine had a tiny bump on the back of her nose removed. For 28 years, it made her feel uncomfortable and insecure. She’s been happier since it’s gone. I used to think plastic surgery is only a sign of lack of confidence. I’m starting to rethink that. See #156. Suffering is subjective.
  249. Women who have a bachelors in psychology possess anti-knowledge about human behavior. While they have sacred knowledge, they lack all manner of self-awareness. Knowing what not to do is different from knowing what to do.
  250. Exceptions do not disprove rules, and people who think they do are idiots. Do not have relationships with these people. People who read too much into exceptions tend to think of themselves as one. I know because I used to think so. I learned I was wrong when I got poor grades in spite of studying a lot; before, all my life I had been used to getting fantastic grades without studying at all. Mother nature is the teacher of last resort, but eventually, she always gets the job done.
  251. You make two impressions; what people think of you, and how they think you think of yourself. The latter informs the former. Lesson: Think highly of yourself, but higher of others. Both’ll shine through.
  252. Wealthy men who woo women with their wealth will also lose their wealth to a woman readily. In fact, they’ll most often lose both.
  253. Smart men have accountants. Dumb men have their wives handle their finances. Unless their wife is an accountant.
  254. If you are not tall as a man, be physically fit, very well dressed, rich, & charming. Order of attaining these things from easiest to hardest: charming, fit, well dressed, rich.
  255. If you lack appreciation for life, go volunteer at an animal shelter. You will change. Or spend a day at an old folk’s home. You’ll learn from everything they tell you they’ve done and everything they haven’t.
  256. Cynicism and selfishness always go together. So do nihilism and ingratitude. So do optimism and gratitude. Which bundle you choose is up to you.
  257. Irrational positivism creates a better reality than rational pessimism. In Zero to One, Peter Thiel outlines 4 perspectives of looking at the future: indefinite pessimism, definite pessimism, indefinite optimism and definite optimism. The indefinite is the equivalent to irrational, the definite equal to rational. He suggests three of them work, but only one works out well. Definite optimism: Aspire to something crazy that’s good, and set a fixed timeline to build it. Even if you fail, at least you’ll have done something.
  258. You’re tough only when you can show your weaknesses openly, and no one dares to attack you. The most common response to “I don’t know” isn’t “you’re an idiot.” It’s “I don’t know either.” Everyone knows Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite. But how many come at him?
  259. If you are honest about everything, it’s very difficult for anyone to hurt you with anything. In 8 Mile, the last scene reveals what made Eminem the greatest rapper of all time: he took everything his opponents could possibly have to say against him and confessed it up front. Like a great lawyer, he left his enemies not just without evidence, but without words at all.
  260. Don’t fuck with people who are beyond caring about their reputation. They really do have nothing to lose. See #232.
  261. A lack of gratitude will make everything you do worthless. A tad of gratitude will make everything worth something, no matter how little.
  262. Losing everything is the only reliable way to learn to appreciate anything. I was never thrust out of my comfortable lifestyle, but I still learned to appreciate things. I remember enjoying my first car as much as on the first day each time I opened the door two years later. The source, however, was the same: there was some level of discomfort in my life. Rock bottom always works, but that doesn’t mean you have to hit it in order to make it so.
  263. Believing you can learn anything is a superpower. So use it while you have it. With each passing year, you’ll believe it less.
  264. Fight like you are already dead, and you may come out alive. Some businesses switch to high risk maneuvers the closer they get towards going under. In 2017, Yahoo! sold most of its internet business to Verizon and only kept its stake in Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan, then rebranded. The stock is up 50%. Desperation doesn’t always work, but resignation guarantees failure.
  265. Confidence based on gratitude is infinite. Confidence based upon skill is limited, but easier to acquire for most people. Confidence without skill is the easiest to acquire, and hence the most common.
  266. Love is perfect, as it both creates and destroys in equal measure. “Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its on way, is not irritable or resentful. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” — 1 Corinthians 13:4–8. See also: #143.
  267. You will fail more than you succeed. And you’ll most often do it before you succeed.
  268. You will succeed only if you are able and willing to fail. I once told a girl I had feelings for her knowing full well that it wouldn’t go anywhere. From the first second it was clear that the outcome would be failure. Going through it regardless felt like a success in itself.
  269. You truly fail only when you give up, or are killed. “The only time you mustn’t fail is the last time you try.” — Phil Knight, founder of Nike
  270. If failure doesn’t kill you and you are not being eaten alive, you are fine. Keep going. When life feels like you can’t go on, it usually just means you can’t go on that particular path anymore. But you can always turn left. Or right. Or back. Your life’s not a highway. It’s all off road.
  271. Life has no peak, the summit will continuously change. Satisfaction comes from the continued exploration, not reaching the “top.” More so, summits tend to flatten once you reach them. The high from reaching the top lasts for a few seconds. The memories of the ascent last forever.
  272. Perfectionists are the best at convincing themselves their inaction is for the “right” reasons.
  273. When a woman is upset, give her food, sex, cuddles, and listen. This solves 99% of problems. If it doesn’t solve the problem, you REALLY fucked up. From How I Met Your Mother: “True love means wanting the best for another person. Even if it means you’ll get left out.” Sometimes, it’s not your turn to solve a problem, even though you might have caused it. When she needs it, give her the space to talk things through with a friend. Move over and surrender to #3.
  274. The way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach. That means be able to cook, LADIES. Finally. I’m sick of hearing ‘guys have to be able to cook.’ Not that that isn’t a great quality, but when men say it about women, it’s supposedly sexist. How about we all cook together?
  275. A woman can be the most destructive force in a man’s life. And she doesn’t even have to date him. I was in love with the same girl for 3 years in a row, but I never stood a chance. There is no worse way of missing someone than to sit next to them, knowing they’ll never be with you. I lost so much time, so much emotion, so much energy through these years. But I still ended up with a lesson I’ll never forget.
  276. A man can be the most destructive force in a woman’s life. And he doesn’t even have to date her. I can only imagine, but especially at work men must block women’s ways all the time. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident. By societal design. But it happens nonetheless.
  277. The right man or the right woman can transform your life in a way that nothing else can. If that’s true then you haven’t seen anything from me yet.
  278. Taking yourself too seriously gets you killed. A famous German politician sat in on a radio show. His name is Gregor Gysi. When asked about regrets through his long and successful career, he said: “You end up taking yourself too seriously. Everyone always tells you you have such an important job. You make all these important decisions so eventually, you start to believe you’re important too. It’s true, the decisions matter, but you can’t let your responsibility stop you from living your life. I wish I’d spent more time with family.”
  279. Fear makes you weak. Seeing through fear, however, doesn’t make you strong. Just more courageous.
  280. Giving into fear makes you a coward. But sometimes, being a coward keeps you alive.
  281. If you are too afraid to do it, someone else will.
  282. You cannot have everything that you want, but there is always a way to get what you want. The Stoics have a few sayings around desire. The gist of one of them is: the richest man is the man who desires what he already has. We don’t notice it, because we cling to our wishes so much, but wants come and go. I want a lot of things. I want to be a DJ, breakdancer, snowboarder, pro video gamer, freestyler rapper, jet pack inventor and hip hop dancer. But they’re all hay balls, floating by in the dust while I sit here, writing. The trick is to recognize them as hay balls.
  283. Deciding what you want has plagued human beings for millennia. It can be answered only individually, not universally. The physical consequences of choosing have become less and less severe throughout the years. Compared to 100, 500, 2000 years ago, food quality is up, clothing quality is up, hygiene is up, status of shelter is up, health support is up, and so on. The psychological burden, however, has gotten a lot worse. Barry Schwartz describes many new kinds of anxiety and regret we face when making decisions in our modern consumer culture in The Paradox of Choice: There’s the paralysis from having too many options, the pressure to make the perfect decision because we have so many options, and of course the blame for not having been able to make it in spite of so many options. The truth is not much has changed. We’re always faced with an imperfect list of options, so we should just choose and blame the imperfections on outside forces. But that’s tough to wrap our heads around.
  284. You know less than you think you know, and you can always learn more than you’ve already learned. Going back to #192 there are three important kinds of knowledge: Knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing how much you need to know. The last one tells you how much of the gap between the first two you need to close.
  285. What you don’t know can and will hurt you. And it might not even be your fault. Looking at you, #183.
  286. What you think you know but don’t will hurt you most of all. “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” — Epictetus
  287. The people that love you the most will, inevitably, be the greatest sources of pain in your life. Case in point: giving birth.
  288. The most generous acts of fortune, kindness, and luck will come from strangers. Why? Expectations. If we expected our friends to treat us like strangers, our loved ones to treat us like friends, and strangers to not treat us at all, we’d always be pleasantly surprised.
  289. Don’t ever lose any keys you are trusted with, both literal and metaphorical. Everyone carries a nuclear arsenal of knowledge around with them. Think about how many people’s lives you could destroy, simply because of what you know about them. And yet we’re still here. Mankind is better than we think. Hand out more keys.
  290. You can always make life worse and you can always make life better. Your attitude determines your life more than anyone readily believes. Happiness as a word is greatly overused. We confuse happiness with excitement, with ecstasy. We think of it as a state, not a mindset. Optimism might not be happiness, but it’s damn close. You can’t attain it, only cultivate it.
  291. Emotion, positive or negative, is contagious. So is yawning. Especially after you read the word yawn. I’ve yawned already. Even if you don’t see someone yawning. Picturing it is enough. Again. Have you? Rumor is it comes from times when most locations weren’t safe. Seeing someone yawn meant they secured the premises enough to relax. Three times now. Eventually, the gesture of calm emotion was hardwired into our bodies, so that we’d always use it to pass on this important information. Okay four times, enough yawning.
  292. The best way to ensure someone wastes their natural talent is to continuously remind them of how talented they are. Talent is leverage. But the lever is much smaller than you think. It might accelerate your learning by 1%, 5%, or even 10%. But no matter how big their lever, all winners will tell you what they’ve gone through to get where they are: hell.
  293. Excellence is an environment, so is mediocrity. Choose carefully where you invest your time. If you find yourself spending most of your time alone, you may be hiding from excellence or running away from mediocrity. Both mean it’s time to step up.
  294. You will be hurt and betrayed by people and you will hurt and betray people, even if you never intended to. Both times what matters most is not why you landed where you ended up, but what you do once you realize you’re there.
  295. Pain alone does not make you special, ever. That in itself is painful.
  296. Pain is special only if you make it useful. As a kid, Stephen King was in constant pain. His first memory is dropping a cinderblock on his foot, out of which flew a wasp and stung him. Then his babysitter farted into his face. Then gave him 7 eggs until he threw up. Then locked him in a closet. Then he developed an ear condition which he had to get his eardrums pierced for. Pierced. Repeatedly. Out came the tonsils and on came the rash from wiping his ass with poison ivy. None of that made him special. What did make him special was that he took all this pain and channeled it into over 50 novels.
  297. Do not ever waste pain. Be special.
  298. It takes urgency to begin anything, and it takes patience to finish it. In 2010, I had what I thought was a great idea: restaurants where you could order from iPads. You’d just have the iPad in front of you, swipe around, assemble a menu, hit submit, pay, and the food would be delivered to you. Was it any good? I wouldn’t know. Just that it was good enough to try, because in 2012, I saw that very system at the airport in Toronto as I was passing through. I sat down, ordered, it was flawless. Except it wasn’t mine. Without urgency, patience is useless.
  299. The thrill of victory is always temporary, and usually disappointing. Instead of trying to make the thrill of victory permanent, learn to make the pain of loss temporary as well.
  300. A system without a goal is organized nothingness. It’s also not going to stick.
  301. A goal without a system is simply a nice idea. Derek Sivers has this neat table of idea multipliers. He says they’re just a multiplier of execution. You need the execution as a baseline, then the quality of the idea only amplifies it. So with no execution, you get nothing. Reminds me of work and talent. See also: #292.
  302. Bad things happen to good people, and good things will happen for bad people. But no one gets out of life without a gamble.
  303. Nothing is fair, except that everyone eventually dies. And no matter who you are, death will be an interruption.
Why Losers Will One Day Rule The World Cover

Why Losers Will One Day Rule The World

“If you’re not a genius, don’t bother.”

Jim Bennett’s voice roars across the lecture hall.

“If you take away nothing else from my class, from this experience, let it be this. The world needs plenty of electricians, and a lot of them are happy.”

Portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in a 2014 rendition of The Gambler, Bennett is an English literature professor at UCLA. Or at least, he pretends to be. What he really teaches, however, is something else entirely.

“Now, the trouble with writing, if I may bring it up here in the English Department, is we all do a little of it from time to time. Writing. And some of us start to think, delusionally, maybe with a little time, a little peace, a little money in the bank, and you get that room of your own, you think, “Well, shit, I might be a writer, too.”

I mean, we accept genius in sports as something we cannot do. But it’s no more likely that you could be a writer that you could be what? An Olympic pole-vaulter? Because what you have to be, before you try to be a pole-vaulter…

Hello! Is a pole-vaulter, no?”

Like his students, you may already roll your eyes, but what’s most annoying about Bennett isn’t his rude, nihilist attitude. Much worse, he has a point. Sure, no pain, no gain, we know that much. But what about no prodigy, no greatness? That one’s a lot harder to process.

If we’re honest, deep down it’s killing us. But why?

A Nitpicker at Heart

From 1856 to 1863, Austrian abbot Gregor Mendel took care of 28,000 younglings. Not monks, plants. The passionate gardener dedicated multiple years of his life to counting peas, for he could not shake the hunch it might reveal answers to “a question the importance of which cannot be overestimated in connection with the history of the evolution of organic forms.”

And, despite never receiving due credit in his lifetime, answers he did find. Crossing pure breeds of all shapes, colors, and sizes, Mendel discovered that green peas mixed with yellow peas always yielded only yellow peas. It was only in a subsequent, hybrid breed generation, that green peas started showing up again. Therefore, Mendel dubbed the yellow trait ‘dominant’ and the green trait ‘recessive.’

150 years later, an entire branch of science, genetics, has grown deep roots from Mendel’s original seeds. We now know that the traits are variants of individual genes, that their pairings are probabilistic, and that we can determine the resulting types with simple tables.

Source

The underlying math of Mendel’s peas is entirely objective and fair. What’s not is that the same genetic heredity scheme also applies to humans. Some of us are green, some of us are yellow. Some round, others wrinkled.

And the world has always loved green peas.

Winners Win…

Jeremy Meeks is not your average felon. After almost a decade in jail for grand theft, he was sentenced to another 27 months for gang violence in 2014. As usual, the police released his mugshot online.

What’s less usual is that over 100,000 shares and one GoFundMe campaign later, Meeks scored a modeling contract, whilst still in prison. Upon release, he debuted at the New York Fashion Week.

He now sports 1.8 million Instagram followers, a lavish home, a Maserati, and dates the heiress of a fashion billionaire.

It’s easy to look at this situation and call it unfair. It is. But besides winning the genetic lottery, there’s a more subtle element to his story, something that really eats away at us: When you’re extraordinary, the world will find a way to tell you.

Bennett’s case in point:

“Let’s have a look at Dexter. Dexter! An ordinary-looking young man
with a what? Size 40 jacket, regular features, and decent dentition, is the second-ranked collegiate tennis player in the United States of America. How did that come about, Dexter? You come from a tennis family?”

“Well, I mean, I started playing five years ago in high school ’cause the tennis guys have the best weed.”

For some, high school becomes college, for others it’s preschool. But the definition of genius is being too good to ignore. And once the glass breaks…

“What happened when you noticed you were naturally better than everybody?”

“I…I got interested in the game.”

“That is an IQ break point, brother. Right there! Do you remember Machiavelli? That would have been in September.”

“Man. I can remember September.”

“All right. Is it the game, brother, or the money? Virtu or fama? Fame or virtue?
What are you after? Don’t go modest on me. What do you want?”

“Both.”

“You got ambitious, yeah?”

“I realized, as I learned about the game, that I was in reach of… In reach of…”

“Highest level?”

“Highest level, yeah.”

What Bennett is hinting at is that everyone, even a stoner like Dexter, is enough of a Machiavelli to recognize when life is handed to them on a silver platter. Eventually, the trigger will fire and the genius will soar past the rest.

Meanwhile, most of us mortals are free both from federal prosecution and drugs, yet we still can’t find a purpose.

…Losers Lose

Somewhere between our seventh birthday and entering college or starting to work, most of us have figured out that we’re not particularly brilliant at anything. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Even worse, it doesn’t change any of the voices around us. When you’re a pea, the world really wants you to be green, true colors remiss. Pressure for greatness is applied, regardless of whether you hold the capacity to.

On top of that, career paths are dissolving left and right. Google hires coders off exposing competitor flaws online, stay-at-home moms run e-commerce empires, and what startup ever required a CV if you brought the skills?

In a world where even a mediocre career unfolds in a million ways, the non-genius loses twice. Besides not making the draft, he or she is burdened with choice. Choice among a sea of unsatisfactory options, which cripples us, as Barry Schwartz explains:

“The very wealth of options before us may turn us from choosers into pickers.

A chooser is someone who thinks actively about the possibilities before making a decision. A chooser reflects on what’s important to him or her in life, what’s important about this particular decision, and what the short-and long-range consequences of the decision may be. A chooser makes decisions in a way that reflects awareness of what a given choice means about him or her as a person. Finally, a chooser is thoughtful enough to conclude that perhaps none of the available alternatives are satisfactory, and that if he or she wants the right alternative, he or she may have to create it.

A picker does none of these things. With a world of choices rushing by like a music video, all a picker can do is grab this or that and hope for the best.”

In face of such disgrace, people like Bennett prefer to self-destruct.

Source

Cats Are Hard to Understand

Having spotted his novel in a hallway showcase, a student calls out Bennett on his rant about genius.

“You are one.”

“A pole-vaulter?”

“A novelist.”

“No, I am not. For me to be a novelist, I would have to make a deal with myself, that it was okay being a mediocrity in a profession that died commercially in the last century. All right, people do that. I am not one of them.”

No, Jim. Clearly. In lack of destiny, Bennett perpetually pokes the universe, questioning his existence. Heir to one of the richest men in America, he chooses to hide behind a pathological gambling addiction, rather than embrace his losing status.

And a loser he is indeed. Already owing money to a host of dangerous people, he continues to ask for more, only to blow it on yet another deck of cards. He is utterly and completely lost. But being a literature professor, he sure must remember what the cat told Alice:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where –”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

There are two ways to interpret that last line and the perspective Bennett chooses, that’s his big mistake.

Lunch Is Never Free

Of course Bennett knows he’s not alone.

“But it’s still a gamble, isn’t it?”

Dexter nods. Bennett might as well be talking about his own life, but he’s not. What he refers to is the commitment to rise to the occasion. The challenge of the exceptional. Fully aware of their talents, they still have to show up, day in and day out. Even for a genius, genius might be out of reach.

That’s hardly better than the rest of us, who’re desperate for something to hold on to. Anything at all.

Green peas, yellow peas, no one really wins the game when nature is the house. They’re two different problems, but maybe the solution is the same.

Source

Even Nowhere Is a Place

I’ve been writing for 3.5 years, but I still don’t know where I want to go. The best destination I’ve managed to find comes from a piece of advice by Bennett’s lender of last resort:

“I’ve seen you be half a million dollars up.”

“I’ve been up two and a half million dollars.”

“What do you got on you?”

“Nothing.”

“What did you put away?”

“Nothing.”

“You get up two and a half million dollars, any asshole in the world knows what to do.

You get a house with a 25-year roof, an indestructible Jap economy shitbox, you put the rest into the system at 3%-to-5% to pay your taxes, and that’s your base, get me? That’s your Fortress of Fucking Solitude. That puts you for the rest of your life at a level of “fuck you.”

Somebody wants you to do something? “Fuck you.” Boss pisses you off? “Fuck you!” Own your house, have a couple bucks in the bank, don’t drink. That’s all I have to say to anybody at any social level.”

Bennett isn’t a loser because he’s playing a pointless game. The real reason his loan shark is mad at him is that he chose to stay in after he won. Life may force you to bet, but at least make it a gamble worth walking away from should you succeed.

Naval Ravikant puts it a bit more philosophically:

“A great goal in life would be to not have to be in a given place at a given time.

That is a recent vector that I’m trying to work towards. Obviously it’s not fully realistic, you know you have meetings and stuff, but at an even more basic level you have a job, right? Most of us have jobs we go to at a certain time of the day and can’t come back until a certain time and somebody else is telling us what to do all day long.

I think it’s really worth, whenever you can in life, if you have the choice, optimize for independence rather than optimize for pay.”

If it doesn’t matter where you go, you might as well walk on an empty, long, winding, crazy path. All roads lead nowhere, but nowhere is still a place. Regardless of whether you’re excited or inspired, when you choose something over nothing, something always happens.

Maybe the opposite of depressed isn’t happy, but arbitrary.

The Purpose of Life Is to Be Pointless

Whether you’re a genius afraid to take your shot, or an aimless wanderer waiting for the sign, it seems the world desperately wants you to figure out what you want and then be bloody brilliant at it. I don’t think that’s true.

Actually, we’re waiting for you to be pointless. Aimed at an arbitrary goal, just aimed after all. Regardless of what we think of you. We’re all gamblers here. And all gamblers lose.

Go on, pick up your badge. Wear it, and maybe you’ll be free.

Naval thinks so:

“The smartest and the most successful people I know started out as losers. If you view yourself as a loser, as someone who was cast out and has no role in normal society, then you will do your own thing and you’re much more likely to find that winning path. It helps to start out by saying, “I’m never going to be popular. I’m never going to be accepted. I’m already a loser. I’m not going to get what all the other kids have. I’ve just got to be happy being me.””

There’s a fine line between obliterating and liberating. No matter if you’re full of talent or trivialities, only losers get to go for broke. A shot to sit at the table of “fuck you.”

That is why one day, they will rule the world.