Don't Forget Your Light Today Cover

Don’t Forget Your Light Today

The Drink of Despair is an ingenuity of evil. Parching whoever drinks it until they’re desperate for water, this nasty potion will nearly kill its consumer. Naturally, it must be drunk to be overcome — and dark wizards use it to protect their important belongings.

When it comes to dark wizards, Lord Voldemort is the poster child rather than the exception, and so, in one of the series most tragic moments, Harry Potter must feed his headmaster and mentor, Albus Dumbledore, the nefarious concoction. The pair succeeds in sipping the cup, but their victory is short-lived: What they hoped to acquire is no longer there, and they now find themselves weak and defenseless — surrounded by, of all things, water.

It’s a trap, of course. An army of Inferi — spellbound corpses — is hiding beneath the surface. Inside the dark lake of what on any other day would be a welcome source of refreshment, they’ve been waiting to “welcome” the two intruders all along — and drown them.

Since Dumbledore is too frail to fight and Harry isn’t quite strong enough, the inevitable happens: The boy trips, the Inferi grab, and into the depths he goes. Just as it seems Harry’s number is up, with the last blink of his eyes, he spots a flash of red. It cuts through the darkness above. Warmth fills the water, and a second later, he can no longer feel the Inferis’ grasp.

Harry swims to the surface. When he pokes his head out of the water, he can see but one thing: Fire. Raging, burning, darkness-crushing fire.

A pale Dumbledore stands in a tornado of light. Wielding his wand like a lasso, the all-powerful magician directs the fire from its center, raining wave after wave of scorching inferno upon their opponents. Harry manages to reunite with his savior, and, together, they fend off the attack.

The boy can consider himself lucky: Dumbledore brought his light today — and it made all the difference.

I’m dancing with my demons
I’m hanging off the edge
Storm clouds gather beneath me
Waves break above my head

I’m not sure he ever saw the Harry Potter scene, but given these lyrics, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park may as well have been in it. Nobody Can Save Me is the first song on their album One More Light, the last record to feature Chester as lead singer before he died by suicide.

The song is upbeat, the lyrics encouraging. Walking on the edge between light and dark, it reminds us to bring our sunshine — to conjure our ring of fire:

If only I can save me now
I’m holding up a light
Chasing out the darkness inside
And I don’t wanna let you down
But only I can save me

Chester struggled with depression all his life. One day, he simply forgot his light. Having listened to him since I was 13, I’m glad he brought it for so long.

We all have a light. We are One More Light. That’s what Chester taught me. The light is deep inside ourselves, and only we may ignite it.

Been searching somewhere out there
For what’s been missing right here

It’s a beautiful gift he left for us. Thank you, Chester. One More Light. Don’t forget.

“Home,” the candle in our bathroom reads. “No matter when and where, it is a safe place. Whatever happened, it is a warm harbor.”

When I see the flame flickering in the glass, I remember: Home is where the light is — and the light is something we carry.

Wherever you go, let there be light. Hold it every day, be it a tiny spark on your shoulder or a wall of fire against the dark.

As long as you bring it, there will always be light. Put it in your pocket. Let it do its thing. But remember to take it with you.

Don’t forget your light today. It might make all the difference.

What Is Unconditional Love? Cover

What Is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is the only true love there is.

But, to be honest, I don’t really know what ‘unconditional’ means. I don’t think many of us do.

We know what’s not unconditional love.

Expecting someone else to fulfill your needs is not unconditional love. Neither is doing them favors if those favors are attached to that same expectation. Even hoping your partner will want all the same things you do isn’t unconditional love. That’s just delusion.

Blind trust is not unconditional love. When you see your girlfriend walking right into a trap, you must call her out on it. False pride isn’t unconditional love. Sometimes, our loved ones screw up. If your boyfriend is on the wrong side of an argument, tell him why and help him see.

But what is unconditional love? Here are some ideas.

Love is understanding

Will Smith’s house cost some $42 million and took seven years to build. Everything is custom-made, from the recording studio to the basketball court, and it looks like a Moroccan-style wonderland. The house is called “Her Lake” because Will dedicated the Herculean feat to his wife, Jada — or so he thought.

Dissecting the misunderstanding, Will remembers being devastated when he realized that, actually, he built the house for himself. Having grown up in an abusive household, a perpetual theme park mansion where everyone is happy 24/7 had somehow crept into his picture of an ideal family — and it didn’t matter whether Jada wanted the same or not.

Today, Will uses a little acronym to not repeat this same mistake: L.U.V. — Listen, Understand, Validate.

“There is nothing that feels better to a human being than to feel understood. The mission is to thoroughly and completely understand what the person is saying.”

In order to understand, we first have to listen. That’s hard when you’re just waiting to get out something you want to say. You have to “quiet your own mind, your thoughts, needs, and desires” so you can pay true attention, Will says. Then, make sure your judgments are correct by repeating — and validating — some of what your partner has just entrusted you with.

You won’t always succeed in understanding others, but you can always make the effort — regardless of the final outcome.

Listen, understand, validate. That’s unconditional love.

Love is help

Someone once asked a Navy SEAL instructor who makes it through the training for the most elite combat unit in the world. This was his response: “There’s no certain kind of person, but all the guys who make it, when they are physically and emotionally spent and have nothing left to give, somehow, they find the energy to help the guy next to them.”

We think of war as the polar opposite of love and, in many ways, it is. Ironically, being a good soldier — someone destined to fight — is not about being tough, smart, or fast. It’s about loving the person next to you and helping them succeed. As he recounts this story, Simon Sinek says:

“It’ll be the single most valuable thing you ever learn in your entire life: To accept help when it’s offered and to ask for it when you know that you can’t do it.”

Of course, to receive love when you really need it, you must have offered it to others before. It’s a circle. We all must take care of each other.

“The minute you say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m stuck, I’m scared, I don’t think I can do this,’ you will find that lots of people who love you will rush in and take care of you, but that’ll only happen if you learn to take care of them first.”

The primary reason to help someone shouldn’t be that they need it but that you can. After you cover your own basic needs, the easiest way to feel love is to offer it to someone in the form of mental, physical, emotional, or material support. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself. Take a small step out of your way so someone else can take a larger one on theirs.

Will Smith agrees:

“At its core, I think love is help. Everybody is having a hard time. I think love is a deep desire for our loved ones’ growth, blossoming, and all around well-being.”

Look left. Look right. Who’s standing next to you? Those are the people who need your love right now. They deserve it as much as anyone. Who knows? Soon, you might be the one in need, and they too will give you a hand.

Love is help — and true help is unconditional love.

Love is acceptance

I saw Michael Bublé in concert once. After the first song, he told all 10,000 of us the following: “You know, I used to be so nervous giving shows like this. What if I forget the lyrics? What if I trip and fall? But when you go through something traumatizing, you realize: That shit doesn’t matter at all.”

At three years old, Michael’s son got cancer. He survived, but for a few years, Michael’s life was a living hell. What do you do when your child is about to die? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except, hopefully, find acceptance, and then take life one day at a time. That’s what Michael did.

Today, Michael carries that same acceptance wherever he goes. Whether it’s talking about his trauma, a confession on a talk show, or singing in front of 10,000 fans, the man is as authentic as they come. He radiates love at every turn, carrying a sort of lightness — a seeming disregard almost — for whatever happens next, because he knows he can accept it and handle life as it unfolds.

Acceptance is not victimhood. It’s registering the status quo in its totality, no matter how pretty or ugly it might be, and then dealing with it head on. It’s the Stoic skill of differentiating between what we control and what we don’t, and then doing the best we can about the former while ignoring the latter.

This also applies to our relationships. In Me Before You, a father tells his daughter over a breakup: “You can’t change who people are.” She asks, “Then what can you do?” “You love them.” Like us, our friends, families, and partners will never be perfect — and they definitely won’t be exactly who we want them to be — but that’s not the point. The point is to love them.

Will Smith shares a great analogy:

“I think that the real paradigm for love is ‘Gardener-Flower.’ The relationship that a gardener has with a flower is the gardener wants the flower to be what the flower is designed to be, not what the gardener wants the flower to be.”

How can you support your loved ones in who they truly aspire to become? That’s the question. It’s not about tolerating every flaw or never pointing out when they’re wrong, it’s about accepting them for who they are at their core.

Accept people without giving up on them. That’s unconditional love.

Love is a verb and — therefore — a choice

Understand, help, accept. These are actions. Not concepts. Not feelings. Actions. If true love sums up these activities, then maybe love itself is also something we do rather than something we feel. A verb much more so than a noun.

That’s the problem with definitions: If we don’t come up with our own, we’ll passively adopt whatever society hands us. In love, these cultural definitions are especially messy. It’s a broad word, and it subsumes a thousand different things, from the expensive chocolates on Valentine’s Day to butterflies in your stomach to the connection between a son and his long-estranged father.

It’s easy to get confused, to lose yourself in the abstractions and emotions, and to forget that the verb — the action of loving — is the part that matters. This dichotomy of verb and noun torpedoes our understanding of love so much that, often, we go about the whole thing the wrong way.

We end up so hell-bent on seeking love outside ourselves, on finding the noun — the feeling — in another person, that we forget we hold power over the verb at all times — and that exercising this power starts with loving ourselves.

In that sense, love is a choice. It requires no one’s presence but our own, and we can choose it in all circumstances. We can direct it inward and outward, and, at the end of it all, our actions will show how much we really chose to love. The feelings and symbols may come and may go. Love anyway.

Love is a verb. Choosing to love, over and over again, is unconditional love.

Love is compromise — without the feeling of loss

In all the above, there is an element of sacrifice. When we listen to someone, we can’t speak. When we help someone, we might slow our own progress. Acceptance can feel like giving up. And when we choose to do one thing, it means not choosing another.

Going back to the gardener-flower analogy, Will Smith says:

“You want the flower to bloom and to blossom and to become what it wants to be. You want it to become what God designed it to be. You’re not demanding that it become what you need it to be for your ego. Anything other than all of your gifts wide open, giving and nourishing this flower into their greatness, is not love.”

When you compromise out of love, you don’t feel like you’re losing something. You see agreement as a win-win. You gain from it.

Like Will said: Everyone is having a hard time. No one’s life is free of problems. In fact, it consists entirely of making tradeoffs. As such, the ability to compromise is a strength, not a weakness. We need flexibility.

Most of the time, the only way forward together is one neither party would have chosen on their own. When you’re alone, a narrow road might suffice. When you’re together, you need a path wide enough for everybody. Finding and choosing this path is an act of love.

Love is compromise without the loss. Flexibility is unconditional love.

5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often Cover

5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often

The best way to have a caring partner is to be one yourself. This isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

For years, I used to wish someone would make me feel cared for and thus safe and loved. They wouldn’t have to fix all my problems, just show real interest, concern, and actually listen. As it turns out, much of receiving these feelings of affection, understanding, and respect was in my hands all along.

I’m in a relationship now, and the number one thing I’ve learned so far is this: If you want to feel cared for, care deeply for others. Reciprocity is a powerful force. When the giving is honest, it feels natural to want to give back, not forced or manipulative.

Lately, I paid attention which phrases my girlfriend uses that make me feel cared for, respected, and loved. Now, I’m making an effort to use them more often. I’m not perfect, but it feels good to say and mean them — and to frequently hear them in return.

1. “Take all the time you need.”

In my last relationship, I constantly felt bad for wanting to work. I was just starting as an entrepreneur, and though I didn’t put in Bill-Gates-like hours, the usual 40 of a common job just didn’t cut it.

My girlfriend at the time was a student. She had more time on her hands, and she often asked: “When are you done? Can we hang out now?” I was always excited to spend time with her after work, but these constant check-ins made me feel guilty despite the fact that I loved my work.

In my current relationship, hearing the words, “Take all the time you need” gives me huge relief. Whenever one of us has to finish something before we talk on Zoom or make dinner together, the other tells them to move on their own schedule, and it’s liberating. It makes me want to get my work done faster — minus the guilt.

Being in a relationship doesn’t handcuff you to your partner, but sometimes, we put the shackles on ourselves — usually out of fear. We’re afraid we’re being selfish if we pursue our own interests, and that they might reject us if we don’t spend every second with them. Ironically, often, both partners have this fear, making it wholly unfounded.

Your partner is their own person. They’re busy. They want to do many things and, a lot of them, they’ll have to do on their own. Let them. In a healthy relationship, one of the best gifts you’ll ever give — and receive — is space.

Don’t incessantly text your partner with real-time updates, and don’t expect them to do the same in return. Only if you’re apart will you learn what it’s like to miss them. You’ll appreciate them and the time you spend together so much more if you allow yourself this feeling in healthy doses.

2. “Are you ok? You looked worried.”

In the music video for their song “Family” the Chainsmokers tell the story of Rory, their cameraman. Rory joined them when they were still unknown, and then, like the band, he became famous.

Eventually, he became so successful that he lost himself, and, after a bad car accident, he fell into a spiral of negative thoughts. The band, his friends, his family, they all continued to make time for him and helped him get back on track. Had they not, he might not be here today.

The video ends with a simple message: it’s cool to check up on your friends.

When it comes to your partner, checking in on them isn’t just cool, it’s necessary. When they appear or sound worried to you, tell them. Let them know you’re under the impression that they feel a certain way: sad, angry, scared, anxious — whatever the emotion might be, shine a light on it.

Notice how different this is from saying, “You’re angry.” The truth is you can’t actually know. You don’t know how anyone is feeling except yourself. But you can make an educated guess, and if you deliver that guess in kind, people will thank you for it.

Sometimes, it’s better to do this a few hours after the fact because it gives both you and your partner time to reflect on what’s going on, but “Hey, you looked worried earlier, you ok?” often goes a long way.

3. “Do you want to talk about this now or later?”

Making room for what’s important to your partner is a two-part job: First, you have to create a safe space for them to share how they feel. Then, there also needs to be time to talk through those feelings and, eventually, help them figure out what to do about them.

“Do you want to talk about this now or later?” is a great sign of commitment and dedication. It shows you’re willing to take a break from whatever you’re doing to listen to your better half.

The phrase also accepts that they might not be ready to talk about this problem, either because they’re busy or because they need to think more about it on their own. It signals you’re open and willing to help, not just now, but whenever they feel like they need it the most.

When it comes to not only our intimate relationships but also our friendships, few actions are more powerful than letting them know you have their back.

4. “How do you feel about this?”

I think on some level, everyone can relate to Rory’s story: Sometimes, I get so busy that I forget to even consider how I feel about things. That’s how we bottle up emotions. We don’t mean to. It just happens. That’s why it’s nice to get a reminder from time to time.

You can’t have a real-time check-in for every emotionally challenging situation, but making them a habit can prevent a minor situation from becoming a major headache. Like all things under pressure, we gain stability from letting off a little steam every now and then.

“How do you feel about this?” is a universal phrase. It doesn’t just allow your partner to pause and think about their feelings towards what they’ve just experienced, it can also be a chance for you to get their opinion on a story or idea you’ve shared.

Proactively asking your partner for their opinion or how they feel about your plans eliminates many uncomfortable conversations down the line. No one wants to tell the person they love that they think an idea of theirs is bad — but sometimes, we’ll have to. Them asking us this simple question first is a great sign of humility.

5. “How did you sleep?”

If you’re with your partner for 30 years, you’ll spend 10 years next to each other — sleeping. Just because you’re not awake does not mean that it’s not time spent together.

Asking your partner how they experience this time is a simple courtesy, but it adds up — and so does a lack of it. Imagine waking up with a huge headache, and all your partner has to say is, “I slept great, let’s go!!”

Rather than waking up and immediately facing our days alone, we should use our mornings to show up to the starting line as a team. After all, what does it matter if we arrive at the finish line when we don’t do it together?

As you may have noticed, all of these phrases are simple. That’s another lesson I’ve learned in my new relationship: Being a caring partner isn’t about using big words. It’s about using the right ones — and saying them at the right time.

Why You Can Do Anything Cover

Why You Can Do Anything

In the 1970s, there was an electrician in Philadelphia. The man’s job was to install freezing cases in supermarkets. You know, the long aisles with glass doors where you pick up your milk and frozen pizza. To set up his own little workshop, the man bought an old bakery.

One summer, he decided to rebuild the front wall. It was made of bricks, about 16 feet high, and 30 feet long. After he had torn down the old façade, he called his two sons to the site. They were twelve and nine years old. He told them they were now in charge of building a new wall.

The boys’ first task was to dig a six-foot hole for the foundation. Then, they filled it with concrete, which they had to mix by hand. Clearly, this wasn’t just a job for the summer holidays. For the next year and a half, every day after school, the boys went to their father’s shop to build the wall. To the young brothers, it felt like forever. But eventually, they laid the final brick.

When their dad came to audit what they had done, the three of them stood back and looked at the result. There it was. A brand new, magnificent, 16 by 30 feet wall. The man looked at his sons and said, “Don’t y’all never tell me that you can’t do something” — and then he walked into the shop.

The electrician’s name was Willard Carrol Smith. It’s the same name he gave his oldest son, the 12-year-old in the story. Today, we know him as Will Smith.

“Brick by Brick,” as we might call it, is a story about the value of hard work. It’s also a story about what it takes to sustain hard work in the first place. When Will told it on Charlie Rose in 2002, he said it affects how he works to this day:

I think, psychologically, the advantage that that gives me over a lot of people that I’ve been in competition with in different situations is: It’s difficult to take the first step when you look at how big the task is. The task is never huge to me. It’s always one brick.

Is single-mindedness a competitive advantage? Probably. But in a world of abundance with enough room for millions of creatives, entrepreneurs, and entertainers, it pales in comparison to the ability to win the fight with who you’re really up against: yourself.

The market won’t stop you. Fear will stop you. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being feared and fear of fear itself. Fear will concoct all kinds of convenient, well-disguised symptoms, like boredom, laziness, and purely psychological fatigue. Those are the real enemies you’re up against. A set of abstract concepts in your head.

Just for second, imagine it was gone. Remove all fear from your mind, and what can’t you do? Barring physical limitations, I can think of few things. I guarantee you Will can’t either. Rapper, TV actor, Youtuber, Hollywood superstar — his many labels defy our expectations of what one person can do.

The way Will built this long list of achievements is one goal, one wall, one brick at a time — because when all you do is lay one brick, fear won’t bother trying to get to you. That’s exactly what Will’s been doing all these years:

You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, “I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built. You don’t start there. You say, “I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There will not be one brick on the face of the earth that’s gonna be laid better than this brick that I’m gonna lay in these next 10 minutes.” You do that every single day, and soon, you have a wall.

When I first started writing, I wanted to cover one topic in depth so people could come to know me for it. I chose productivity. It made perfect sense. I would learn how to write more and better while teaching people something they’re already interested in.

In the course of writing a 5-post series spanning some 15,000 words, I came across every productivity book and system you can imagine. Getting Things Done, The One Thing, Deep Work, Essentialism, Eat That Frog, you name it, I’ve seen it.

What I realized was that all these systems work — but only if you stick to them. Therefore, if a system was hard to stick to, it would be hard to make it work. That’s why the system I ultimately designed for myself and tried to teach people was mostly designed to be easy to stick to — and that’s why it greatly resembles the above story about the wall.

I used a set of questions to figure out the ONE goal — yes, just one — that mattered most to me. Then, I broke it down into little chunks, and from those chunks I derived a set of small tasks I could work on each day. These small tasks were the bricks.

With those bricks neatly lined up, I then optimized my routine for good nights, good mornings, and minimal distractions so I could actually “lay [each] brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid,” to quote Will again.

It’s been four years since I came up with my system, and my routines have changed countless times thereafter, but, at its core, the same idea remains:

Whatever goal I choose to go after, I build that thing brick by brick.

I’d like to think I can credit at least some of the millions of words I’ve written and some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have come my way to that system. I suggest you give it a go.

What’s your biggest goal? Can you imagine it? See yourself clearly as you hold the result in your hands? If not, think hard until you can. This is the first trap you might fall into: Thinking you can build more than one wall at a time.

Once you’ve settled on one, the only one that matters, don’t get lost in the mental image of the wall. It becomes daunting really fast. Instead, tear that fantasy down. Scrap it. Until there’s nothing left but a six-foot hole in the ground. Good. Now you can build your foundation.

The next trap that stunts wall-builders is choosing bricks that are too big. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. My first goal was to write 250 words a day. Often, I ended up writing 1,000. For you, maybe it should be to write one sentence. To send one email. To run half a mile. The task can never be huge to you. It always has to be one brick.

Finally, remember that it’s normal to feel like building your wall will take forever. Imagine how it must have felt for two pre-teen boys to work on one project for one and a half years. That’s more than 10% of their whole lives up to that point. In fact, Will remembers “standing back, looking at that wall, saying, ‘There’s going to be a hole here forever. There will never be anything but a hole here.’” Of course, eventually, there was.

That’s the final and worst mistake many people make in their quest to accomplish their dreams: they stop laying bricks. They have everything they need. The foundation. The vision. The right size for each block. And then they stop. Because they get tired. Or forget. But it’s just self-sabotage. Fear. Again.

If you have no idea whether your next brick could be the final one, then please, I implore you, keep going. Soon enough, you’ll be standing in front of a magnificent wall. Not because anyone told you to build it, but because you chose to. Just like you chose to send yourself a message — the same message a Philadelphia electrician once imparted to his two little boys:

“Never tell me that you can’t do something.”

How to Communicate Better Cover

How to Communicate Better: 7 Simple Lines to Express Your True Thoughts, Beliefs & Feelings

Good communication is always simple.

What’s hard is having the courage to let it be. To say “I don’t love you,” rather than concoct some elaborate web of intricate, lesser truths — or even outright lies — hoping the other will stumble into it, trip, and fall over all on their own.

In the movie Hitch, titular character and communication expert Alex says:

“60% of all human communication is nonverbal; body language. 30% is your tone. So that means 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

It sounds intriguing, but I think it grossly underestimates the importance of truth. Even our subjective one. If you’ve ever sheepishly confessed something, shaking like a wet poodle, you know what I mean: A powerful sentence uttered poorly may be weaker than it could be, but it doesn’t turn the truth into a lie. People can tell what we tell. And they’ll react accordingly.

When I fail to communicate clearly, to say what I want to say, it’s almost never because of some complex combination of circumstances. It’s that I’m too afraid to say what I really — like really — think and believe. I have wiggled my way around questions, nodded my head when I should have shaken it, said “yes” when I meant to say “no,” shied away from asking for help, neglected giving compliments, and hated saying “sorry.” All in hopes of the truth magically finding its way to the light, which, of course, it never does.

Because it’s my job to take it there. The job, really. A job for all of us. The only one that matters. I’m not sure how much of what we’re saying comes out of our mouths, but I know that 90% of what does is a weak version of the truth. We may soften it to be polite, censor ourselves to maintain our image, or ask for less than we want because it’s more than we think we deserve, but, at the root of it all, there’ll always be fear.

There’s no way for me to bestow the power to act in spite of this fear upon you or even myself. It’s a war fought in countless battles over one’s lifetime, and you’ll need to summon the courage to be honest time and again. But it helps to keep some truths at hand. A little vial filled with beacons, all but ready to release. You’ll still have to uncork it each time, but at least it’s close by.

I’m only 27, but I’ve had — or would’ve had — to use all of these hundreds of times already. Here’s hoping that, in the future, you and I both will.

1. When you don’t know something, say:

“I don’t know.”

People will respect you for it. It’s a chance for them to say “I don’t know” too. And then you can figure it out together. We think of this line as an admission of defeat, but it’s actually the beginning of taking your power back.

2. When you don’t understand something, say:

“I don’t understand.”

People will explain again. Actually, most of the time, they’ll be happy to. It means they can double-check that they understood what they told you themselves. If you think about how comfortable you are with explaining things multiple times yourself, you’ll see why others will likely be too.

3. When you don’t agree with something, say:

“I don’t agree.”

People will respect your opinion. At least tolerate it. At least most of the time. Don’t launch into an immediate defense. Just plant your flag. Stand your ground. Stay still and watch what happens. Will they stand theirs? Start an attack? Or even join your side? Very few things in life can neatly be separated into right and wrong, which means very few ideas really need justification.

4. When you don’t want to do something, say:

“No, thank you, I don’t want to do this.”

People will find a way without you. They always have in the past and they always will in the future. No one is indispensable forever. Just like time heals all wounds, it makes everyone replaceable eventually. Spouses. Neighbors. Parents. Bosses. Leaders. Friends. You’re never too important to say no.

5. When you have a hard time going it alone, say:

“Excuse me, can you help me with this?”

People will be happy to give you a hand. Like “I don’t know,” asking for help makes people more likely to trust you, not less. After Benjamin Franklin borrowed a book from a rival legislator, they became lifelong friends. In fact, showing vulnerability is probably the only way to truly overthrow animosity.

6. When you like someone, say:

“I like you.”

People will like you back. Maybe not as much. Maybe more. But, when in doubt, most people opt to be friendly. They might not like you enough to kiss you, or to give you a job, or to go on holiday together, but they won’t stand in your way. And even if they thought about it before, now, they won’t cross you.

7. When you know you made a mistake, say:

“I’m sorry. That was my fault.”

People will forgive you. The word ‘default’ is made from ‘de,’ which means ‘out of,’ and ‘fault,’ which means ‘guilt.’ When we ‘default’ to doing something, that’s a safety mechanism meant to cover us in advance. We hate admitting mistakes more than making them and so our default reaction is to shamefully sweep them under the rug. True guilt, however, is too painful to just shake off. So we fess up and fix our mistakes. Therefore, it’s a feeling worth embracing.

In a world full of information, sending signals through the noise is more important than ever. In a world full of devices, it’s enough that the medium twists the message. And in a world where technology dominates everything, communication is a uniquely human differentiator. But only if we keep it real.

May the above sentences help you do just that. Oh, and whenever you find the courage to speak them, leave some room for one more thing: listening.

I don’t think the following communication expert had as much research as Hitch to back up his statistics, but then again, the numbers of nature never lie:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 

— Epictetus

Fall In Love With Someone, But Don't Fall Out Of Love With Yourself Cover

Fall In Love With Someone, But Don’t Fall Out Of Love With Yourself

We all have them. The friend that rode into the sunset and never came back.

That, one day, introduced you to their new partner, telling you you’ll see a lot more of them, only to disappear from the face of the earth the next day. It’s not like we mind. At least not initially. Their new blob-like, unanimous, hydra-esque coupleness was insta-annoying anyway.

First, you could only get them in twos, even when you asked just one person to hang. Next, they played the permission game, collecting approval stamps from their partner for everything from Friday night poker to scratching their ass. Finally, once they realized the toxic nature of this dynamic, they both settled into the friendless couple’s perpetual compromise: they stay at home.

And so it’s not just one, but two people that disappear. Until all you’re left to do is ask: what the hell happened? What happened is that two perfectly fine people fell out of life — and into co-dependency.

Can’t Blur What’s Not There

The reason the stereotype of the inseparable couple is so pervasive, so easy to recognize, is that most of us have been this stereotype ourselves. I know I have.

Your friends are too nice to point it out, you’re too in love to notice, and before you know, you’re cruising on autopilot on the relationship freeway, dreading not just your lack of friends, but the very thing you gave them up for, dying to take the next exit.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Liz Gilbert says it’s an issue of boundaries — specifically the fact that we tend to have none. And, often, it leads to the same result.

“I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time — everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.”

All relationships need compromise. But if you never take a break from it, if you never put yourself first, you’ll live in a constant, self-induced state of being undermined. And, since suppression only ever ends one way, we eventually take the most extreme break we can think of: we break up. Or, worse, cheat on our partner.

In the meantime, we’ve managed not just to lose touch with a lot of folks we care about, but we’ve also completely forgotten who we are. Who we were. And what path we were on. Because we only stayed in the carpool lane.

There are a lot of problems with this, some too subtle to notice, others too obvious to point out. But there’s one we almost always miss when we’re completely self-, nay, partner-absorbed.

It’s not just you who loses. It’s literally everyone.

Finding a False Positive

Art isn’t a competition. With more good art, everyone benefits. There might be a lot of art that few people find interesting and much art people wish was better, but none of those hurt anyone by merely existing. At worst, they’ll leave us indifferent. So generally, the more art the better. Especially if you define art the way Seth Godin does:

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances. An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally. Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.

When you disappear into a relationship, it’s not just a matter of you losing your sense of self, it’s also a matter of us losing your art. That’s because self-discovery can’t happen in a vacuum. Art is a side effect of finding yourself.

When we’re single, we’re obsessed with creating our own path. With learning, sharing, improving, making. When we begin a relationship, we often stop.

We stop discovering ourselves because we’ve discovered someone. But that someone’s not us. It’s another person, and it’s no reason to quit our own little journey. But we forget and get lazy.

I see it all the time. People are writing or volunteering or really enjoying their dancing class and poof, they stop. It’s Resistance in its worst form: love. Now, all this energy that used to go towards discovering themselves and their larger place in the world is spent on affection for just one.

Until it all fades away.

All Your Wonderful Gifts

Transitioning from singlehood into a committed relationship isn’t easy. But it’s easy to gloss this over when your stomach is full of butterflies. To forget a transition is needed at all. But it is.

You don’t need to nail it or do it all at once or even get it right the first time. But don’t lose yourself in someone’s eyes, someone’s heart, someone’s life. Your time here is yours and yours alone.

If you give up too much of it, you won’t get what you want out of anything. Especially a relationship. Don’t make your partner the center of your life. Make your life the center of your life. Include not just your romance, but everything that’s in it.

Work. Purpose. Family. Friends. Loneliness. Confusion. Discovery. Art. Us.

If you stop changing yourself, finding yourself, reinventing yourself…you stop being yourself. You’ll stop being who your partner fell in love with. And you’ll rob us of all your wonderful gifts.

So go ahead.

Fall in love with someone. But don’t fall out of love with yourself.

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.

How to Be Kind in a World That Never Taught You to Be Cover

How to Be Kind in a World That Never Taught You to Be

“Well, some things you just can’t get for money.” The older I get, the more I think this is just something we, the not-yet rich and successful, tell ourselves to feel better. There is almost nothing money can’t buy. Because even for what you can’t trade straight for dollars, there’s almost always a proxy.

You can’t buy time, but not having to work 40 hours a week sure helps. You can’t buy health, but I bet your cancer treatment fares better if you can drop $2 million into it. You can’t buy happiness, but there’s a material sweet spot around $75,000/year.

Money makes the world go ‘round. I don’t think that’s bad, it’s just the way it is. Capitalism isn’t perfect, but it’s helped us do good things, and I believe for many, the struggle for money is the right choice. But I also believe in being kind along the way. Work hard, be nice, win. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

And that’s where the road forks, because most people don’t think you can do both at the same time. Not every struggle is a battle, but if your only options are competing and conceding, they might as well be the same. If you tend to view the world as this dark place that you have to fight tooth and nail against to get what you deserve, I feel for you.

We don’t agree, but I have an idea where it came from. And it’s not your fault.


The world doesn’t teach anyone to be kind. Throw a kid to the wolves, and if he survives, he’ll be a wolf himself by the time he does. No, passing on kindness is your parents’s job. Or was. One day you’re two, the next you’re 18, and whatever happened in between is in the past. You enter the real world, whether in working, dating, or elsewhere, and suddenly, you’re drowning in responsibilities. Of course now it’s much harder to develop what you didn’t bring along. That’s one thing money really can’t buy.

You’re only brought up once. No reruns.

You can’t just grab a box of ‘great upbringing’ off the shelf and even if you could, you would neither have the money nor the awareness to do so when you need it the most. Because what 3-year-old can ask her parents for the money to get, well, new parents?

I hit the jackpot in that sense. I come from the most cotton candy sunshine rainbow family you can imagine. We’re not perfect, but my childhood was as close to it as it could have been. It equipped me with all the right tools. Optimism, determination, care, love, and discipline. Frugality, joy, gratitude, self-awareness, work ethic and responsibility. Now that I think about it, maybe there are things money can’t buy and some it even makes harder to attain.

None of the above can guarantee I will live a happy life, but I feel that so far, they’ve allowed me to live a good life. And that’s worth plenty on its own. For one, they’ve spared me from many a millennial struggle. Like financial irresponsibility, unrealistic career expectations, and immature relationships.

Of course I’m not immune to problems. As Ryan Holiday noted: “The world is undefeated.” It breaks everyone, it just does so in different ways. And yet, a loving family and a good upbringing is something I truly wish everyone could have. I’m painfully aware that’s not possible. Maybe you’ve had tough parents, no parents, or, let’s face it, downright shitty parents.

I can’t snap my fingers and turn back time any more than you, but I’d like to at least share what I’ve observed about how my own kindness transpires. Maybe there’s a process you can copy and it’ll ooze out just the same.

But to do that, we first need to talk about a topic dear to every German’s heart: rules.

Two Kinds of Two Kinds

Besides being German, I’m also an Upholder. It’s a personality type that thrives in meeting both inner and outer expectations. This means I don’t just abide by the rules, I love them so much that, if there aren’t any, I’ll set up my own, just so I can have a lane to drive in with bumpers along the side.

Whether you share my love for rules or not, you too have lots of experience with them. Making rules, taking rules, faking rules, breaking rules. But next to the rules you set for yourself and those the world pushes you to follow, there’s another dichotomy here. Some rules are stated clearly, others implicit.


Case in point: Area 51. When you drive past that “Restricted” sign, you know there are laws you’re about to violate. You’re trespassing on secret government property, you can be searched, arrested, shot, photos are forbidden and boy, you better not launch any drones. Those aren’t all of them, but enough for you to break a sweat.

It’s the second set, however, the unwritten rules of Area 51, that make venturing there a trip worth taking for thousands each year. Nobody knows exactly what they are, but they lead to all the rumors and myths surrounding the place. Because the only way to find out is to go there. What am I getting at?

Every situation in your life is like entering Area 51.

It might not be as exciting and, thankfully, not as dangerous, but wherever you go, there are rules, written and unwritten. They depend on the time, the people, the country, the culture, the politics, and a whole lot of other values. Unlike the government’s secret military facility, however, finding out what those unwritten rules are isn’t just encouraged, it’s your job.

And if you do it well, you’ll automatically be kind to others.

Mirror, Mirror…

We’re always told to break the rules, but I think there’s often a huge caveat missing: it’s advice for how to do things, not how to treat people. When it comes to social interactions, let the written rules inform your behavior while you figure out what the unwritten standards are. Following such rules as best as you can is less a sign of being a blind follower than it is a gesture of respect for others.

Adapting is a way of being kind because often, the two are one and the same.

We are a social species. It’s not just animals, we too mimic each other’s behavior. Subconsciously in conversation, on purpose to be part of the group. I tend to get along well with all kinds of people and I now see a big part of it is doubling down on that trait. Call it diplomatic, call it manners, but no matter how you feel about rules, showing a little flexibility helps us coexist.

Here are some of the unwritten ones I’ve discovered so far:

  • When you enter a quiet room, be quiet. When you enter a lively room, be lively. In other words: Read the room.
  • When your opposite is talking to you, don’t use your phone. Don’t even touch it. Chances are, you both can’t multitask.
  • When people notice you in the street, notice them too. Look, nod, be part of the world. Don’t stare at the ground. Don’t be an antibody. We get little of it these days, so acknowledgement is almost synonymous with respect.
  • When you meet someone new and notice them using certain words, pick up their vocabulary. An easy way to bond is meaning to say the same thing.
  • Whoever tells you a story, recap it as a question. “Wait, so you ran out of gas and the station was closed?” It’s called active listening, but it’s empathy.
  • When you disagree with someone, ask if they think you disagree. Often, it’s not the case. Let them explain again.
  • When someone shows you they like you without words, show them too. Look at them, be attentive, listen. They’ll understand, just like you.
  • When you can help people without really going out of your way, do it. Including, but not limited to, holding doors, standing up, and giving exact change.

Money, fame, happiness, success, it’s our right to fight for these things, but you’re not fighting against one another. We’re all in this together. Ultimately, either everyone wins or none of us.

Photo by Joshua Clay on Unsplash

Everyone’s Favorite Movie

I don’t think it’s a coincidence Germans are considered a nice people. We love rules. A little too much, maybe. That said, compliance is far from the only way of adapting.

Sometimes it’s your turn to reflect, sometimes it’s your turn to be the mirror. The most important rules are always the unwritten ones, because no one has dared articulate them yet. Let alone be the first to follow them and set an example. Imagine you treated everyone the way you would be treated if your life was a Hollywood movie. You’d constantly exceed everyone’s expectations.

I wish we could have nothing but perfect childhoods, wealthy families, and kindhearted humans. But a lack of the first two must never come at the expense of the third.

The world is only as dark a place as we allow it to become. So let’s not let it.

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 Life's Biggest Limitation Will Make You Happier Cover

Why Life’s Biggest Limitation Will Make You Happier

One of Gandhi’s most popular quotes is this:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Once we’ve gotten some much needed distance to whatever our education system forced us to remember, most of us rediscover the joy of voluntary learning at some point. Whether you like to research stocks, tend to your garden, or read books, self-improvement has many benefits.

Beyond satisfying our curiosity by regularly spending time in flow, we can use it to become better people, get what we want and solve problems. It seems so universal a tool that its usefulness feels limitless.

But that’s not the whole story. No matter how much we’d like it to, self-improvement isn’t a magic wand we can wave to cause whatever change we want to see. That’s because no amount of reading, learning, or even discipline can ever change that life still consists entirely of tradeoffs.

It’s like that line: “You can have anything you want, but not everything.” Choosing one thing always means not choosing another, so even if you’re the most dedicated person in the world, you still have to decide what to dedicate yourself to.

No idea highlights this problem better than The Four Burners Theory.

Two Out of Four

Imagine a stove with four burners on it, which represent the big aspects of your life:

  1. Family.
  2. Friends.
  3. Work.
  4. Health.

Now, the theory says that in order to be successful, you can only turn on three burners at a time. If you want to be exceptional, it’s just two.

The second you hear this theory, you know it’s true. Take a moment to think. Which burners have you cut off? For me it’s friends and health. If I had to put percentages on it, I’d say work is at 80%, family at 15%, and friends get a crippling 5%. Almost out of oxygen. Ouch.

This theory explains why we’re frustrated, no matter how much we improve. Sooner or later, we find out self-improvement isn’t the universal remedy it is often claimed to be, and we want answers. Why can’t I have everything? Why?

Of course we never could, we’ve just fooled ourselves into believing we can over time.

The Four Burners Theory was originally just mentioned in passing in a New Yorker article, but James Clear popularized it. He also offered different views on what you can do about this problem.

  • Be imbalanced. Sacrifice your health, or friends, or work and say “screw it, that’s just what it is.”
  • Be mediocre. Do turn up all burners, but just enough to get by. As a result, you’ll go long in life, just never far.
  • Outsource stuff. If you make more money, you can hire a chef, or a trainer, or pay a nanny to take care of your kids. All of these have limitations of their own, of course.
  • Set constraints. “I’ll work 70 hours a week on becoming a millionaire, but not a single one more.” “Monday night is date night.” And so on.

All of these feel like weak attempts at bypassing the problem. If you’re a dedicated self-improvement nerd like me, you want a solution. Luckily, it seems there is one.

A Life for All Seasons

James says our default in which burners we turn up is to imitate the inspiring figures in our lives. If your boss is a workaholic, you’ll likely turn into one too and if your fellow students mostly hang out with one another, so will you.

That’s nice if those burners happen to match the ones you would’ve chosen, but if not, you have a problem. Life forces you to choose either way, but if you’re not the one picking, you’ll end up with a lot of regrets.

Besides starting to make the choice, Nathan Barry suggests living your life in seasons. Yes, it sucks to compromise, but no one said you have to stick with one compromise for the rest of your life.

In high school, my friends and family burners were turned up all the way. In college, that shifted to friends and work, then work and health and now, I’m on work and family. Next year? Who knows.

It’s a little tweak to that line from earlier, but it makes all the difference: “You can have anything you want, maybe even everything, just not all at once.”

Right now, I’m laying the foundation of the rest of my working life and spending what little time I have with the people I care about the most. In exchange, I can’t see my friends every day and I might not be in perfect shape.

I can be okay with that. And that’s the whole point.

Half of Happiness

When you work hard in your career, on your body, for your relationships, you can achieve a lot. You should. But if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Don’t expect your dedication to becoming better to absolve you of all problems. Self-improvement, like all tools, is imperfect. Embracing the Four Burners Theory can make you happier, because it allows you to not fret over what you’re temporarily missing out on.

That’s the solution, I think. We don’t need to look for a bypass. We can just accept the problem and that’ll do.

Half of happiness is being okay with what you don’t get.

Sometimes, it helps to remember that, in spite of what Gandhi said, tomorrow will be another day.