7 Lessons From the 7th Year of Running a Book Summary Business Cover

7 Lessons From the 7th Year of Running a Book Summary Business

My business has lasted as long as the average American marriage — seven years. The level of commitment surely feels on par.

When I launched Four Minute Books, I had no idea what it would grow into. All I thought about was how to get better at writing and maybe make a few bucks along the way.

Seven years later, in what has been, undoubtedly, my hardest year in business yet, it turns out that this little book summary site is, so far, the only consistently growing revenue generator. Here’s a chart contrasting its revenue vs. Medium and Write Like a Pro, my writing course.

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If You're a Time Billionaire, Don't Worry About Not Being a Real One Cover

If You’re a Time Billionaire, Don’t Worry About Not Being a Real One

Would you rather have a billion dollars or a billion seconds?

If something takes you a million seconds to do, that’s about 12 days. If you need a billion seconds, however, that’s 31 years — not counting sleep.

Equating seconds to dollars, a billion dollars is worth 31 years of your time. Would you make that trade?

In his daily newsletter to 93,000 investors, Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano shared similar musings this week. A reader asked him: “If you could switch places with Warren Buffett, would you do it? You’d be one of earth’s richest people — but you’d be 90 years old.” In the money, yet out of time.

If you’re in your 20s, you’re a time multi-billionaire. You likely have more than two billion seconds left. If you’re 50, you could still be a time billionaire. How much would Warren Buffett give to get back those seconds?

“The time billionaires are the wealthiest among us, yet they fail to recognize the wealth that they enjoy,” Pomp writes.

The time billionaire can have a time horizon that is counted in decades. The time billionaire can afford to be patient. The time billionaire can slowly compound money over time. There is no rush. There is no compressed timeline that clouds the judgement of a time billionaire. They can recover from almost any mistake. The time billionaire is unshakeable in a sense.

If you’re a time billionaire, don’t fret about your lack of dollars. Embrace your advantage in time. Unlike the pieces of paper we all covet, each of us only gets to spend their seconds once.

5 Good Things That Will Follow From This Pandemic Cover

5 Good Things That Will Follow From This Pandemic

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

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

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

1. Cashless payments everywhere

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

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

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

2. Remote work for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Less spending on needless consumer goods

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

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

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

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

5. Improved global crisis management

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

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

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

How to Get Rich the Humble Way Cover

How to Get Rich the Humble Way

One in 185 people is a millionaire. Credit Suisse counted 42.2 million of them in the 2018 Global Wealth Report. Divide that by the 7.7 billion people currently inhabiting this planet, and you get to that number — about 0.5%.

And just like you “get” to that number, we think “getting rich” is an activity. That it’s about movement, action, struggle. It’s implied. Think about how we use the word “get.” We get coffee. A job. To the top of a mountain.

It’s true, of course, that getting rich requires years of hard work. You’ll have to learn a lot, build skills, make the right decisions at the right time, and have a whole bunch of luck in the process. But if that’s all we focus on, we miss the most important aspect of how wealth is built: through compound growth.

This compounding happens in your choices, judgment calls, and financial decisions — but it also happens in the assets you own and, often, without you being fully aware of it, let alone doing anything to contribute.

After spending 5.5 years on the rollercoaster of building her own startup, Danielle Morrill ultimately sold the company with no big payday. Before that, however, she’d been the first employee at Twilio, a company that went public in 2016, and the growth of her share of that single stock was enough to retire.

Reflecting on the experience, Danielle writes:

After making my detailed spreadsheet it was undeniable: at a relatively conservative compounding growth rate, I could stop working and cover my expenses with my investment income and I would have more money than I’d ever need to spend in my life. It was very disorienting to have my net worth climb from something I hadn’t worked on since 2012, while my current efforts were amounting to nothing in economic terms.

Understanding that you’re most likely to build wealth on the back of something that grows exponentially is a huge perspective shift, but an important one to make. Otherwise, you might always be working on something, but be so busy hustling that you forget to build and hold stakes in ventures that can still work out after you leave them alone.

As you can see, getting rich is equally as much, if not more, about what you don’t do as it is about what you say yes to. The stock you didn’t sell, the side project you held on to, the old buddy you stayed in touch with.

In the same vein, it’s much harder to point to a set of wealth-building patterns than it is to spot what keeps people from getting rich and rid yourself of these behaviors. Once you’ve unlearned whatever wealth-rejecting habits you might have, all that’s left is to take action and wait for exponential growth to kick in.

Here are five of those habits I’ve spotted in myself and others over the years.

1. Stop Telling Yourself Money Is Evil

Have you ever noticed that people who claim money is dirty never seem to have any? It’s as if by rejecting it, they could keep their hands clean. That’s nonsense, of course.

Money doesn’t come in different ethical flavors. It has no flavor at all. It’s like a shovel, or a computer, or a typewriter — a tool with no inherent intentions. A purpose, maybe, but no intentions. In order for us to judge something as ethical or unethical, humans have to be involved. Only their intentions matter.

In that sense, money is just a consequence and an amplifier. It can be a consequence of ethical behavior or of unethical behavior. And it can enhance a person’s already ethical or unethical intentions. Nothing more, nothing less.

When you think “this person doesn’t deserve their money” or “they must be doing something fishy,” that’s jealousy in clever disguise. In that moment, you’re the one with questionable ethics. Instead, you should be happy for them and get back to what you can do, who you can do it for, and how to do it the right way.

Speaking of focusing on yourself…

2. Stop Playing Status Games

Think of the most popular person in your high school. Where are they now? Chances are, they peaked early. They got stuck playing status games.

The problem with status games is that they’re zero-sum games: The only way you win is if someone else loses. Politics, fame, prestige, these are all ranked hierarchies. For you to move up a slot, another person must move one down.

Naval Ravikant explains:

“The problem is that to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life because they make you into an angry combative person. You’re always fighting to put other people down, to put yourself and the people you like up.”

Building wealth by making things people want, however, is a positive-sum game: the more people do it, the better. If you and I both build cars, chances are, we’ll figure out a better way to do it together.

Getting the life you want depends on you playing wealth games, not status games. If you’re always busy trying to look good, you’ll have no time and energy left to actually do good. Sometimes, doing good is a thankless job, but you’ll have to keep doing it anyway to succeed.

3. Stop Rejecting Responsibility

Exponential financial rewards are the result of taking on asymmetric risk. Asymmetric risk is when there’s a disproportional difference between how much you stand to gain vs. how much you stand to lose.

For Danielle, if Twilio had failed along the way, her stock options would have been worth zero. That would’ve sucked, but she could’ve just gotten another job. The upside, however, was only limited by how big of a company Twilio could become. Right now, it’s worth $17 billion dollars at $124 a share. The reason she received enough of them to retire is that she took responsibility for important work inside the company early on. It was risky, but not dangerous.

In contrast, many employees at big corporations only play games of shift-the-blame. Everyone wants to point to their boss when things go wrong, but this comes at the expense of their asymmetric risk. No responsibility, no rewards.

Most of the time when responsibility comes your way, it’s not dangerous to take it. It’s just uncomfortable. It takes effort. You must stand for something, and there’s a chance you might end up standing for the wrong thing. But it’s rarely something you can’t recover from.

Better yet, don’t wait for responsibility to show up on your doorstep. Just take some. Speak up. Say, “I’ll write two articles for you each week,” or, “I’ll make your shoes look brand new,” or, “this tool will save you 10 minutes a day.”

All of this is taking responsibility, and all of it has the power to come with asymmetric risk. Choose the right responsibilities and then live up to them.

4. Stop Wasting Your Leverage

Working hard is a requirement of getting rich, but it’s not going to be the deciding factor. In the end, your judgment matters more. Wealthy people are thinkers armed with leverage. I also learned this from Naval.

Leverage multiplies the results of your decisions. It comes in different forms.

Money is one of them. If I can invest $1,000 into a stock that doubles in value, I’ll make more money in return than someone who can only invest $100.

Labor is another form of leverage. If I can teach you how to sell two pairs of sneakers a day, you and I can sell more sneakers together.

The third and most powerful form of leverage is code. Next to software, this includes digital media, like podcasts, articles, and videos. Thanks to the internet, you can spread these around the world at no cost, and if people use them, you get paid in money or attention. This kind of leverage also compounds like wealth itself.

In the beginning, we all play without leverage, but if you continue playing without it, that’s on you. Most people can struggle to start accumulating leverage, but they also waste the little they have, which is however much money they make. Instead of investing it into podcast gear, books, or a writing course, they just spend it. If you want to be rich, that can’t be you.

You have to use your time to build leverage. Start compounding.

5. Stop Working on What’s Not Working

When someone else spends their time working for you, that’s leverage. When you spend your time working, that’s not. There’s no multiplier there. But it’s our most limited resource, and, therefore, you have to spend it well. Getting to a point where you spend the majority of your time building and acquiring leverage will greatly increase your chances of becoming wealthy.

Of course, working a lot to begin with helps, but you should do so at your own pace. What’s much more important — and much harder — is to let go of things that don’t work and to do so as soon as you realize it. Whatever is financially unfeasible or won’t lead to a meaningful jump in leverage in a decent time frame has to go.

This takes self-awareness and guts. You’ll regularly have to check in with yourself and ask: What’s actually working, and what am I telling myself is working because I wish it would? Harder still, you’ll have answer honestly.

Quitting enough of the wrong projects to work on a sufficient number of right ones is the only way to build up the array of assets and leverage you need.

All You Need to Know

It’s far easier to be patient and let a few good choices compound than to rush and be forced to compensate for a lot of bad ones. Clearing up your muddled thinking around money is one way to do just that.

Once your vision is sharp, you’ll feel comfortable working towards focused, specific goals, because you know they’ll serve the long game you play.

Stop vilifying money. Quit the status games. Take responsibility. Build leverage. Work as hard as you can and drop failures early.

Getting rich is a game but not a hectic one. Playing it the humble way is no guarantee you’ll win, but if you do, it’ll likely be from a move you long forgot.

Happiness Is Loving the Boring Days Cover

Happiness Is Loving the Boring Days

Out of all the great TED talks that exist, Barry Schwartz’s is easily the best. He talks about what he calls The Paradox of Choice. I’ve gone back to it countless times for countless reasons, but my favorite part is when he shows this comic:

Ask anyone how they feel about their life from ten years ago, and they’ll likely tell you that “those were simpler times.” Less to worry about, more to enjoy. Somehow, everything was easier. Today, it’s all complicated. Always.

“Everything was better back when everything was worse.”

It’s more than a good chuckle. So simple, yet so instinctively true. But why does our gut want to agree so badly when we hear this? Barry explains:

“The reason that everything was better back when everything was worse is that when everything was worse, it was actually possible for people to have experiences that were a pleasant surprise.

Nowadays, the world we live in — we affluent, industrialized citizens, with perfection the expectation — the best you can ever hope for is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be.

You will never be pleasantly surprised, because your expectations, my expectations, have gone through the roof.

The secret to happiness — this is what you all came for — the secret to happiness is:

Low expectations.

I turned 28 a few days ago. I thought about what lessons I’ve learned so far in life. Barry’s is one that’s stuck with me throughout the years. What’s changed since I first heard it, however, is how I’m trying to live it. There’s a twist to it.

“Low expectations” sounds daunting. Shouldn’t we hope for good things? Optimism being a self-fulfilling prophecy and all.

Sure, it helps to dampen your excitement before any event whose outcome you don’t control, like a presentation, job interview, or publishing an article, but if you demand so little of life that you don’t even attempt any of these, you’ll soon walk around with a perma-long face. Most of us aren’t saints, so wanting literally nothing isn’t a practical everyday solution.

Avoiding misery, however, is. That’s what I’ve made my happiness about.

Long-term, everyday happiness lies in not being miserable.

Each day when I’m not sick, not stressed, there’s no drama, and I don’t have to do a lot of things I don’t like, is a good day. We think we need to accomplish our biggest goals to find happiness, but the truth is having a life with enough room to obsess about and chase them is more than enough. And yet, when we use this freedom to obsess, we often forget taking care of the basics.

Am I healthy? Is something psychological causing problems with the physical? Do I have a fit mind and a fit body? Or is one breaking the other?

Am I living below my means? Or slowly veering off track? Is paying the bills becoming a hassle? Or does it work out okay if I don’t splurge too much?

Do I enjoy my work? Am I spending my workday with good people? Or do I dread getting out of the house? Am I commuting 2 hours into a toxic place?

As long as you’re healthy, like your work, have a few friends, and money kind of works out, there’s quite little you really should be worried about. If one of these implodes, however, you should raise all hell to get back to your baseline.

It’s the same idea, just flipped on its head. Sure, low expectations are great when you’re buying a pair of jeans but, when it comes to the big stuff in life, you’re better off cultivating a high aversion to misery.

Once you’ve achieved your own little standard, you can settle into your base camp of being healthy, calm, and not having to do stuff you don’t like. From there, you can explore, try, learn, fail — all in hopes of higher things.

I think that’s how you really win. By remembering you’re a finalist long before the end game has begun. Wanting to do more, better, greater is honorable, and achieving big goals always gets you a burst of endorphins. But they’re not everyday occurrences. And so they can’t serve your day-to-day happiness.

If you live to 82, that’s 30,000 days. 27,000 will be boring. Life is about learning to love those days. Happiness is enjoying the little things.

Stop Optimizing Dumb Shit Cover

Stop Optimizing Dumb Shit

I have a friend. She’s brilliant at arts and crafts. Every time I enter her place, she’s tinkering. Decorating. Customizing a birthday gift. Preparing a surprise package. And it all looks amazing. Bar none.

But when she tells me the story of how her current project came together, I always die a little bit inside.

Last time, she was dressing up a gift box. The insides were lined with holiday napkins, like carpet in a living room. And into this soft bed, she placed little trinkets and treats. Three of them were tiny, slim bottles, two filled with a reddish-transparent, one with a tan-colored liqueur.

As it turned out, those hadn’t been easy to get. She told me that, first, she saw the walnut liqueur at the farmer’s market. She wanted to get two bottles, but they were expensive. I think it was $8 a piece. So she scoured the town.

Eventually, she found the same walnut liqueur in a bookstore. $5 per bottle. Score! But they only had one. Ugh! After deciding to fess up, she went back to the farmer’s market. Except now, their little stash of walnut liqueur was gone.

That’s how she ended up with two red and one tan bottle — and a big dilemma of which friend gets what. After all, there were multiple gift boxes to send.

This is just one of many stories and she is just one of many examples, but it goes to show: People are awesome. Humans have an amazing ability to focus on details, to obsess over the microscopic until a beautiful, big picture comes together. But we’re wasting this ability by applying it to dumb shit.

Like cents instead of dollars. Let’s say the whole “I’ll find it elsewhere cheaper”’ detour took my friend three hours. Ideally, she’d have saved $3 a piece for two bottles — a grand total of $6 — making her time worth $2/hour. In reality, she only saved $3 and missed her goal of getting two bottles, creating extra stress and losing even more time, on top of “being paid” poorly.

I see this all the time. People spend days deliberating a $50 purchase when they make that money in an hour or two. They obsess about coupons instead of asking for $1/hour more. And they’re afraid to drop $20 on the wrong book but spend the same money on two more drinks when they’re already buzzed.

I wish I could grab all these people — including my friend — by the shoulders, shake them, and yell: “Stop optimizing dumb shit!”

Stop flicking through 250 TV shows only to realize it’s now too late to watch even a single episode.

Stop tapping “next” in your playlist to find the perfect workout track if it ruins your cadence of sets.

Stop looking for that Instagram post “you know you saw just yesterday” and tell your friend the story instead.

Stop fixing details and finally start asking the big questions: How can I earn more? What really deserves my time? Who’s actually worthy of my love?

Stop saving ten cents on chocolate and start cutting your cable.

Stop running for the bus and start making enough to skip entire workdays.

Stop squeezing every sorta-ok yobbo into your calendar and start enjoying longer-than-planned breaks with true friends.

Stop haggling over 5% more pay for your first job offer and start applying to every company you’d actually want to work for.

Stop worrying about the cost of every broken door handle and start looking for a place that’s not owned by a scrooge and run by a lazy super.

Stop exerting yourself with niceties people won’t appreciate or have learned to take for granted and start finding folks who value your time.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to this:

If your life feels like a blurry, run-down, second-hand version of what it should be, it’s ‘cause you’re optimizing dumb shit.

You’re wasting your potential obsessing over the wrong parts. Like my friend’s gift box and the story I told about it, your life is littered with decorations. It might look gorgeous from the outside, but on the inside, it doesn’t function.

We pour our hearts and souls into details that, ultimately, don’t matter, yet we degrade our most important choices — where we live, who we date, what we work on — to go-with-the-flow gut decisions. We settle for what’s there.

What good is having all your ducks in a row? What purpose does that really serve? Forget presenting a consistent picture to society. Make sure you’re painting. Doing what matters to you. Spending time on the important things.

But what I find most fascinating about all this is this: The line between dumb shit and true productivity is often incredibly small. I keep telling my friend to document her decor extravaganzas. To post her creations on Instagram. She could have thousands of followers by now. Make the money to buy $8 liqueur without blinking. But that she is afraid of. Too personal, she says. Is it, really?

Nowadays, a lot of our dumb shit wouldn’t be so dumb if we shared it. Because others obsess about the same things. Finally! Someone who loves Magic cards as much as me. Who wastes as much time playing Fortnite. Someone, who stepped up and told me my dumb shit is worth it.

One minute, one picture, one tweet can turn dumb shit into the bedrock of your future career. The foundation of something wonderful. Even if it becomes just a small part of your life, it’ll now be a part that contributes. That doesn’t just take. That won’t drag you down.

But if you don’t show up, we’ll never know. You’ll rob us of your gifts and yourself of your happiness. You’ll let your fear of looking stupid conquer your fear of living with regret. You’ll still be great at a great deal of things, but they’ll matter a lot less. To a lot fewer people. Because that part is up to you.

So please, share your contributions. Not all of them, but all those you care about. Those you’d gladly dedicate a whole afternoon to. Where wasting time won’t turn into memories of time wasted, but memories of time enjoyed.

Stop optimizing dumb shit. And start caring about what matters.

14 Life Lessons From and for a 28-Year-Old Cover

14 Life Lessons From and for a 28-Year-Old

The most memorable birthday wish I ever received was my dad’s in 2017:

“Stay as you are by changing every day.”

I’ve tried to heed this advice ever since, but it never seemed more relevant than today. 28 does feel different. At 27, I still thought of myself more as “a kid in his 20s” than “an almost-30-year-old.” But I don’t think it’s the numbers. They’ve never mattered to me all that much. I think it’s the experience.

In the past twelve months, cumulative growth has really kicked in. Personally, professionally, financially. I don’t feel like a greenhorn anymore, struggling to build a foundation. More like a survivor, sitting on a base plate made of concrete. Battered, but here to stay. Here to make a serious dent.

There’s much foolishness left in me, but it’s a lot less than it used to be. I now am, as Oscar Wilde said, “not young enough to know everything.” I am, however, old enough to realize I know very little, that it’ll always be very little, and that that’s okay. As I keep finding more dark spots on the map, I question which ones I need to shine a light on. If I really need to close all the gaps.

The following lessons have been 28 years in the making. They’re both from and for a 28-year-old. Reminders about which gaps to close and which ones to leave alone. Hang in there, kid. Stay tough. Keep surviving. Here’s to 28!

1. If it’s not easy to start, it’ll be hell to finish.

I believe in hard work. But I don’t believe in struggling just to struggle. All the best things in my life — work, hobbies, relationships — were easy to begin. Frictionless. But that’s why they felt worth enlarging, worth persisting through the difficult parts.

Writing, video editing, friends, girlfriends, fun carried me into them and grit carried me through. If that initial bit of fun is missing, however, that moment where you clench your teeth will never happen. It’ll just be pain all the way.

2. Less is room for more of what’s not there yet.

At 27, I would’ve thought I need 27 life lessons. At 28, I’m wondering if even 14 is too many. When I first explored minimalism, I loved the simplicity, the freedom, the feeling of less.

Eventually, though, I realized it’s not so much about what you subtract, but about what you make room for. Room to think. To add meaning by solving life’s big challenges one at a time. That’s where true equanimity lies. And whenever there’s no challenge, it’s still soothing to know you have this space.

3. The older you get, the slower you should decide.

At 28, my next year will only account for 3.6% of the entire time I’ve been alive. As their relative share gets smaller, we worry less about committing more years to singular causes as we get older. That’s a good thing, as long as you deliberately and slowly pick the right causes. But most people don’t.

They panic looking at an arbitrary number, like 30, or 40, or 50, and jump into huge obligations in an instant, not realizing how “quickly” they’ll find themselves wondering where they took a wrong turn ten years later.

If you’re 28 and haven’t found the right partner, wait longer. If you haven’t found the right job, sample more. And if you don’t like where and how you live, please, move. Don’t settle just yet. Step back. Think. Then decide.

4. Happiness is mostly about not being miserable.

For the last three times I was sick for more than two weeks, I can tell you exactly which source of stress caused my physical ailment. If you enjoy your work, money isn’t a big problem, and you keep your emotions in perspective, there’s quite little that can really throw you off your game.

I used to think I need to accomplish all these big things to be happy, but now I’ll gladly settle for not having to do things I don’t like. If you’re here for 30,000 days, 27,000 will be boring. Life’s about learning to love those days.

5. Deserve what you want and want what you have.

Besides overestimating how important it is to achieve our goals, we also tend to double-cross ourselves in trying to reach them. Instead of creating a moral contrast between who we are and who we should be to deserve what we want, we pretend we already are that person — and now we just need to wait.

In the quartet of being and having, now and in the future, we focus on the wrong ends: our now of being and our future of having. Flip that to what you have now and who you could be, and you’ll eliminate not just a lot of disappointment, and impatience, but the desire for many goals altogether.

6. The “next big thing” is still the internet.

A side effect of dreaming intensely about the future is missing the opportunities to create it with the tools you have available in the present.

The internet exists since 1990. If you were born in a 40-year-span around that, this is your shot. This whole web thing is 30 years old. New technologies take decades to fully reach the globe. Half the world isn’t even online.

Yet most people bank on VR, AR, AI, blockchain, and a dozen other trends, instead of leveraging the single-greatest tool that’s not just proven, but bound to stay. Don’t wait for the next big thing. It’s already here. Now’s the time.

7. Reinvent your industry by reassembling yourself.

Everyone wants to be a pioneer, but no one wants to let go of what’s working. Historically great companies have successfully disrupted and cannibalized themselves. Apple went from computers to music to phones to wearables. Netflix sacrificed DVDs for streaming and licenses for original content.

Reinventing yourself before you need to is hard, because in order to reassemble, you need to tear yourself apart. The good news is if you do it, it creates a positive, reinforcing cycle of humility. And the more success you rack up, the more important this becomes.

8. Money is a habit just like health, love & happiness.

I guess it takes making a lot of money in a short time to see, but a full bank account is the same as a fit body, a rewarding relationship, or an optimistic mind: it’s easy to lose if you’re not careful, but with the right habits, you can always get it back.

Again, I’m not sure how to show this, but I know it breeds a lot of confidence. It’s a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free-card for our lifelong scarcity mindset with money.

9. Forget completion, make progress amidst chaos.

I only ever accomplish long-term goals by the date I initially want to when I set them and completely forget them. The more targeted my effort, the less likely I’ll be on point. It’s just human nature. We misjudge time all the time.

Therefore, focus on minimum stress, not maximum output. Manage your expectations, not your calendar. Track good-enough days, not just complete victories. Make progress amidst the chaos of life. Eventually, you’ll get there.

10. Low standards now beat high standards later.

Accounting for chaos means making room to fail. A low, but meaningful, achievable standard for today goes so much further than a high, powerful, challenging one for tomorrow. Or next week. Or the end of the year.

Do stuff. Do stuff. Do stuff. Then look around. Chances are, you’ll like what you see behind you. Gazing at the top of a mountain only exerts pressure.

11. If it’s not up to you, it’s up to you to change.

Since we control so little, most of our work should be done on the inside. Sometimes, it’s our attitude we need to change. Sometimes, our actions. But when the outside world won’t comply, we’ll always, always, need to update our perceptions.

Did you do everything right? Is this a slog to push through? Or is your tactic not working? What obvious aspect did you miss? “What can I change about myself here” is a question almost always worth asking.

12. Don’t hate anyone. Just don’t.

Will Smith is a big hero of mine. On Christmas, he said: “Love is help.” He also said that “everyone is having a hard time.” If that’s true, then peace is, at the very least, the absence of harm. And we all need peace of mind.

This means beyond not harming ourselves, we also can’t afford to harm one another. Life is short. And, until we offload it, our anger is our pain. I think the best we can do is skip it altogether. Ignore toxic people, share your frustration, get curious, do what you need to do, but make sure it leads to forgiveness.

13. Trust yourself first.

Because everyone is struggling, everything is chaos, and no one really knows what they’re doing, you might as well trust yourself. I know it’s a cliché, but he put it so succinctly, I always keep coming back to this Steve Jobs quote:

“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

More often than not, what we accept as given reality is only one of many possible outcomes. You can create your own options, but only if you run your own experiments. Your unique experience is the only data that matters.

14. The only person who can truly forgive you is you.

For every one thing you get right, ten others will go wrong. But everyone is busy fixing their own mistakes, so they won’t have time to hold your hand while you cry about yours.

Ultimately though, none of that matters, because you’re the only one who can grant yourself the power to continue. To move on and reject regrets. Think of it this way: you can survive everything except death. And that, none of us can.

I wonder how many lessons I’ll see when I’m 29. I hope less than 14. For now, this is all I’d like my 28-year-old self to know. If he comes back to this on occasion, I think he can stay who he is — and change every day.

How To Be The Calm Person People Wonder About Cover

How To Be The Calm Person People Wonder About

People often tell me I’m calm and laid-back. That I always seem like I’m cruising along, like nothing really fazes me. That’s nonsense, of course.

I lose my shit all the time. I worry about whether a girl will like me, I freak out about which path to take at work, and I panic when deadlines close in around me. The only difference is I do it in private. Because I can. Because they’re my problems to fix and I will take care of them.

There are two kinds of calm: the emotionally cultivated kind and the calm that comes from having real aces up your sleeve. Tangible assets you can fall back on in tough times. Both are important and both exist in more superficial and deeper forms.

But it’s the second kind that supports much of the first, and that’s the calm people are really getting at when they ask me how I can be so relaxed. A true sense of equanimity that lies underneath, allowing me to not fly off the handle in the face of most everyday problems.

Today, I’d like to show you where that equanimity comes from. What tangible actions you can take to develop real serenity, which then makes it easier to keep your composure on the surface.

Here we go.

1. Keep a Few Months of Living Expenses in Cash

More than half of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. No wonder 68% of them struggle with sleep at least once a week. Of course, correlation doesn’t indicate causation, but still, I can’t tell you how good it feels to go to bed each night knowing that even if the world has collapsed by the time you wake up, you’ll be okay.

Right now, I could survive for 2–3 years just on cash savings, depending on how cheap I have to get. Yes, this is harder to do if you have a family. Yes, it takes time to build up. But putting away 5%, 10%, 20% of your income buys you what’s hard to get anywhere else: time for when you need it the most.

I keep this money in a completely separate bank account that I don’t often access. It’s a bit like quitting smoking: each additional month of expenses you’ve saved up provides a little more relief. I found there’s a big break at the six-month mark and another once you’ve saved enough to survive for a year.

2. Diversify Your Sources of Income

About 44 million Americans have a side hustle. But less than 14 million make more than $500/month from it. That means only 10% of the whole workforce even has a remotely qualified source of secondary income.

Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, but when your breakfast, lunch, and dinner depend on one person’s willingness or ability to pay you, that’s your fault. It’s not just that they one day might not like your face anymore, but that other, completely external circumstances may necessitate firing you.

When that happens, it’s incredibly soothing to know you have a second leg to stand on — even if it’s shaking. This doesn’t mean you have to hustle on three fronts at the same time, but, once you have a single, stable income stream, start another. It took me about two years to get two sources up and running and I’ve only just added a third, but it’s absolutely worth it.

3. Learn New Skills People Would Pay You For

Having cash and multiple sources of money you can rely on is great, but, at the end of the day, the single greatest asset you’ll ever have is yourself. Whatever time and money you invest into it will compound forever.

Skilled people aren’t as afraid of being stripped naked because they know they can use what’s in their mind to regenerate, recreate everything from scratch. If you’re good and you want to work, you’ll always find work. You’ll always find work. But you need to keep expanding your skill set to remain good.

One way is to learn skills that are tangentially related to those you already have and are in demand. As a writer, I can master different styles of articles to fit different industries, I can learn copywriting, translating, editing, creating ads, there’s a million sub-skills of writing worth paying for.

Or, you can pick up something completely unrelated, like woodwork when you’re a manager, accounting when you’re a creative, and so on. This is a great hedge against industry crises, but it also allows you to satisfy the demands of those who need a helping hand with tasks that lie at the intersection.

4. Grow a Network Around Yourself

I don’t like networking. But I love having a network. So I just built one around myself. Because what’s even easier than leveraging your skills into a new gig is to let your crew now that now, finally, you’re available. And you’ll have at least a few conversations and places where you can start from again.

You can do that too. It’s really easy, actually. Most people just overcomplicate it. You pick one platform you like and, depending on what you like, you either overwhelm it with good content — which you’ll learn — or you’ll overwhelm it with your presence and positive energy — which you’ll learn.

Some people like chatting on LinkedIn with 50 people for an hour a day. I like writing. But as long as you do either in public, people will find you. And you’ll find them when you need to.

5. Tackle Life’s Big Questions One at a Time

When I thought about life and meaning and happiness two years ago, I realized I only want good work, good people, and good experiences. But each of those is a big nut to crack on its own. You can’t do it all at once!

Since then, I’ve been trying to live my life in seasons and it’s made all the difference. Now, as I’m wrapping up my college career, I feel I’m in a really good place with work and I’ll likely shift to one of the others over the next few months and years.

We pressure ourselves enough. We kick ourselves enough. Focusing on one thing and knowing you’re focusing on one thing provides a huge sense of relief. It’s okay to let other areas slide because, after all, you’re figuring out one, big issue. When you’ve got that covered, you can tackle another. But, in the meantime, you won’t frantically try to fix your whole life at once.

6. Remind Yourself of What You Have Regularly

Whether you use a manifesto, mind maps, journaling, or physical reminders, creating real tokens of what you have — accomplishments, people, unfair advantages — helps you maintain a sense of perspective. Not every day and not in every situation, but most of the time.

It’s a lot easier to stomach a rejected proposal when you remember your family is healthy. It’s a lot easier to walk home in the rain when you remember you’re in a safe country. And it’s a lot easier to swallow being told you’re ugly when you remember that, at least, you’re still tall.

I have written down three things I’m grateful for every day for the past seven years. I keep going back to the little things, like hot water, coffee, or cheap food. Sometimes, a bigger insight comes through. That it’s nice to work from a laptop. That I’m lucky I “get” languages. But I always find something.

The one thing it never does is fail to provide a sense of calm.

You may wonder why these are mostly about money, but the answer is simple: when you know you’ll survive, you’ll know you survive. Securing our physical existence and safety might be the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, but setting them in stone means cementing the foundation on which all else — belonging, love, status, self-actualization — is built.

There is a sense of true, deep equanimity that comes with them. A feeling you just can’t manufacture, no matter how good you become at controlling your emotions, thoughts, and temper. Arming yourself with hard skills and assets can’t replace this important job, but sure goes a long way in supporting it.

Of course, all of these are long-term efforts. You can’t achieve all this in a day. But you can start forming the rational habits that will help you get there.

Until, one day soon, people will think nothing can faze you. Until you become the calm person everyone wonders about.

Do You Believe in Ethical Wealth? Cover

Do You Believe in Ethical Wealth?

In Germany, we have a saying: “Geld stinkt nicht.” It means “money doesn’t stink” and goes back to emperor Vespasian.

Urine builds ammonia over time, which can be used to tan leather. Therefore, the Romans collected it in public urinals. When Vespasian levied a tax on those, his son Titus challenged the ethics of this move. The emperor grabbed some of the money and held it under Titus’s nose. “Does the smell bother you?” “No,” his son replied. “And yet, it’s made of urine.”

Eventually, the phrase morphed into “pecunia non olet” — “money has no smell.” When we use it today, we usually mean the exact opposite. It’s code for “something’s fishy here” or “don’t ask where this came from.”

Given how old this story is, this meme has influenced our culture for a long, long time. That’s a problem because now, a lot of us think money stinks.

Everyone you meet is on some grand mission. Maybe, they want to save the ocean, write great novels, or change education. While I do believe in our lofty aspirations, I think they’re just half the truth. Because what we also want, what most of us want even more, is to be rich. We tell people one thing, but the priority list in our head is another and, if we’re honest, its structure is clear:

1. Get rich.

2. Do all the other amazing things.

I know it’s true for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But then why do we twist the story? Why is it so hard to admit this? I try to be more upfront about it, but I’m struggling too. Why does it feel icky to admit wanting to be rich?

Well, “money stinks.” From Cleopatra to King Arthur, from the Rothschilds to Rockefeller to Elon, contemporary culture tends to demonize rich elites, regardless if they’re clean or dirty. You can build a billion-dollar empire on enabling cheap, digital payments, designing beautiful electric cars, and reducing space travel costs by a factor of 10, but Twitter will still brand you based on your flawed decisions, even if they’re comparatively small.

It’s the kind of movie we don’t want to see: The hero can do almost everything right and still die. That’s why, deep down, most of us don’t believe in ethical wealth. We tell ourselves it’s impossible and stick with the socially acceptable story: saving the dolphins, feeding the hungry, inspiring the kids. It might not be a lie, but it’s also not the truth.

Ironically, I think this is the exact limiting belief that’s holding us back. Screw dirty money and screw being fake. I want to be rich and I want to be good. As long as I know both are true, shouldn’t that be enough?

This is new for me and I’m sure I have a lot more to learn, but since I started pulling on this thread, I’ve already spotted some deep-seated anti-wealth behaviors. Subliminal ways to reject money, based on this ancient, toxic story.

Here are ten patterns and how I remind myself to try and avoid them.

1. Stop Seeking Status

Most people don’t want wealth for the freedom it brings. They want power. We’ll admit this even less than wanting to be rich, but just look at how you spent your last financial windfall.

Did you buy things to make a statement? To signal your improved lifestyle to yourself and others? Or did you quietly invest it? Tuck it away for a rainy day?

Getting a table in your town’s best restaurant, being revered, feeling superior, these are status games, not wealth games, as Naval would say. And they won’t get you an inch closer to your true goal.

2. Stop Wasting Your Leverage

Wealthy people are leveraged thinkers. And, up to a certain amount, money is just that: leverage. Nothing more. Most people don’t understand this.

$10 million is freedom. $100 million is too much. But $1 million is merely decent leverage. If you have a Western, upper-class standard of living, it won’t last until you die. But you can build a lot of assets with it. Spend it on growth.

Initially, money is the only form of leverage we have. No one’s working for us. No one wants to give us capital. We haven’t created any software or art yet.

But then why do we give away the one tool we have to enhance our decisions? The more you invest and reinvest, the faster everything compounds.

3. Stop Giving Away Your Time

Time isn’t leverage because it doesn’t multiply anything. So it’s not as valuable. But it’s the most limited resource we have. The underlying asset on which we build everything. Ergo, the more you can use your time to build leverage, the better.

Working for $15/hr is making a living. Spending one hour writing an article is carving out freedom. Don’t let immediate payoff trick you. Pretend your time is worth $1,000/hr. Would you spend five of them doing extra work for free? Would you waste one on being angry?

Living in frenzy is a sign we’ve squandered too much. If you’re stingy with time, you’ll always have enough for what matters, whether it’s an emergency with someone you love or calmly thinking through an important decision.

4. Stop Obsessing Over Work-Life Balance

“It’s very hard to be successful in business if you’re trying to live a well-rounded life.”  —  Naval

I like the Four Burners Theory. It says there’s family, friends, health, and work — and you can only focus on one or two at a time. Maybe, you can’t do it all at once, but you can live your life in seasons. I’m not telling you how to make it, but there is a tradeoff to be made.

The good thing is that deliberately making it is enough to feel content.

5. Stop Betting on Weak Links

Just like your work-life-balance will never be perfect, you’ll never have all your ducks in a row. A soccer team is only as good as its weakest member, but a great salesman carries the bulk of the profits.

Weak links can take many forms: a failed video, a botched talk, a toxic business partner. You’ll build those too, if just by accident. That’s okay. But when you find them, stop. Don’t fall for sunk costs. Ditch hopeless efforts.

Ultimately, you’ll always be your own strongest link.

6. Stop Fearing Solitude

There’s an exception to every rule, but if your plan doesn’t involve the internet in some capacity, it’s probably not worth executing. Whether it’s an online store, a contact form, a paid product, or a thriving podcast, the internet is the greatest form of close-to-free leverage we have. But building on it is lonely.

It means fiddling, googling, and tweaking, a lot of which you’ll do on your own, unleveraged time. At least at first. Time you won’t spend among friends, family, or in the company of who you love. But if it’s time spent wallowing in self-pity, it can’t possibly be productive. Solitude has its perks too.

It builds confidence. You’ll realize the world won’t fall apart. Don’t be scared. Learn to step out into the cold. It’s where most of the rewards are anyway.

7. Stop Offloading Responsibility

99% of people’s actions in big corporations are moves in a giant shift-the-blame game. Junior employees blame senior employees who blame their boss so they can blame their boss’s boss. And leadership? They hire consultants and point to the next company, where the cycle starts all over again.

The easiest way to wow people in this world is to take responsibility without being asked to. “Oh my, so generous of you, how can I thank you?” It’s sad how simple it’s become to stand out.

But the truth is we all have responsibility for our own lives anyway. 100% of it. Can’t outsource that. So why should anyone reward you for trying to push it away? Take it. Embrace it. And then get some more.

Stop wanting, start deserving. Jump in the mud. Dig in. What can go wrong? And if things do, you’ll try again. Outcomes don’t matter to the responsible man, because the responsible man knows he can get any outcome to change.

8. Stop Outsourcing Your Judgment

The terror of responsibility is just another broken story the world keeps telling us — but you can’t see that if you’ve handed your judgment to the masses. You need to take it back and exercise it.

Good judgment attracts leverage. But building it requires making calls and seeing them through. You’ll be wrong, but you can learn.

What you can’t do is build independent thinking on imitated decisions.

9. Stop Giving Away Your Agency

Life is full of narratives like wealth being unethical or responsibility weighing you down. But that’s what they are. Just narratives. You can reject them. You can do something that’s never been done before.

You have so much more power than you think. Not the kind we fear, but the kind you can use to be creative, to solve problems. If someone tells you something’s impossible, does that shut you up? Or send your brain in 100 different directions, looking for ways to prove them wrong?

Stop giving your agency, your say in how your life — how the world could be — to opinions and conventions. To invisible social agreements you never consciously signed up for, but deep down still believe anyway.

“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”  —  Steve Jobs

10. Stop Regretting

Of course, it would’ve been great to start practicing all this yesterday. But the best you’re gonna get is today.

It’s very hard to let go of regret if you try to fight it with emotions. I just tell myself it’s unproductive. An obstacle at work, like a frozen laptop screen. So I reboot the system. Take five. Remove the friction.

The only assets I can work with are the time and leverage I have right now. And the only direction I can build in is forward. So that’s what I’ll focus on.

Until I have the money I want. Not too much. But enough.

And not a single dollar is going to stink.

This Is Why Most People Will Never Be Rich Cover

This Is Why Most People Will Never Be Rich

If you even remotely entertain the idea that one day, you might be rich, I want you to answer this question right now:

Which decade of your life are you going to sacrifice?

If you don’t have a clear answer sitting in your gut or can’t even look at the question with a straight face, I’m telling you right now: Find that spark deep down and extinguish it, because you’re lying to yourself.

I had no idea this is what it’d come down to when I started, but now I know. If you’re not willing to give up almost everything else for at least ten years, you mustn’t expect to be rewarded with a bank balance only 1% of people have. For what? Getting all your ducks in a row, like everyone else? Yeah, right.

All my life I was told I was special. Smart. That I’d one day make a ton of money because of my intelligence. I think that’s why I was always a dreamer with great visions. When I was 23, I finally realized that dreams without work are nothing but delusions. So I sat down and got started. It is only now, four years later, that I can see that back then, I made a deal with myself.

And it’s time to make my peace with it.

Yin, But No Yang

You see, I was raised a big believer in balance. If I played outside all day one day, I’d spend the next mastering video games. If I visited friends, I’d go home and do something alone. If I ate cereal in the morning, I’d have bread for dinner. All aspects of life function that way. With balance, you can maintain everything. But that’s the problem. Function is all they do. You can’t excel.

The Micro

If you go to the gym three times a week, you don’t make Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leg day. You switch. Your legs need rest, but you can use that time to work out your arms. If you eat pasta seven times in a row, your body will likely send you some signal that it’s time for something other than carbs. Even if she’s your best friend, hanging out just with her will eventually become annoying.

The list goes on and on. Balance works wonders in the micro. The human brain and body aren’t wired to repeat the same experience, activity, or memory over and over again. It will drive you insane. But if you zoom out…

The Macro

What do you remember about Einstein? Science. Why do you know Michael Phelps? Sports. Justin Bieber? Music. You might think it’s sad, but life is binary like that. And the world’s money is spread accordingly.

There’s this wonderful four burners theory of life: you have family, friends, work, and health. Whether you choose or not, all your time and energy are somehow allocated between those. Here’s how this allocation progresses for most people:

  • As a kid, you’re mostly around family. When school starts, you get some work and a lot of friends. Everything’s easy to balance.
  • Once you graduate high school, you choose college or a career. This is when most people think it’s their time to make a big push.
  • Eventually, however, we get sucked into focusing on health or our friends, sometimes even back to family. That’s why you see most students hit the gym six times a week or party every other night.
  • In their late 20s or early 30s, people realize it’s “now or never,” which is when they either start a second, proper attempt at an amazing career, or, without really admitting it, settle.

After four years of working harder and more than ever, I feel like I can’t go back. I don’t want to go back. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I’ve decided to put my head down at 23 and look back up when I’m 33.

Balance works in the micro, but in the macro, unless you’ve made your peace with it, it will ruin your life.

All around me, people are graduating, starting their first proper jobs, and they’re looking to work hard, yet still find time for sports, dating, and friends. A lot of them will make good money, but I think many more expect to be filthy rich than actually ever will be. Because they’ve already settled without admitting it. They don’t feel they’ll sacrifice their 30s or 40s, just like they haven’t sacrificed their 20s either. Because here’s the thing:

If your sacrifice doesn’t hurt, it’s not working.

Being upset about “only” working out twice a week isn’t a sacrifice. It’s the natural result of a compromise. I am painfully aware of the fact that I’m out of shape. Or that my dating life is as exciting as an IKEA manual. I think about these things. A lot. And it hurts. But that’s how I know it works.

The Biggest Misconception in the Western World

The reason I think the four burners theory is wonderful is that it’s a genuine solution. You can set all burners to 25% and live a long, happy life. But it’ll be an average life. Not wrong, just average. For some reason, some people, like me, get anxiety when they picture that life. Way more anxiety than any job could ever induce. Those people have to swallow the bitter pill, look at the big four of life, and choose: If you want to be a top 1% success, pick one.

I don’t like this. Again, it hurts. But I’m sick of lying to myself and I don’t want you to lie to yourself either. All this sugarcoating is bullshit. I think it’s the biggest misconception in the Western world:

People believe they can become extraordinary by living a balanced life.

That’s not true. If you live a balanced life, you will never be rich. You will never raise three superstar children, become world-famous, or win the Ironman. Because all these things lie opposite of one another. You can have one, even do well with some of the others, but you can never — NEVER — have all of them.

I don’t know which one it’ll be for you. The average? The money? The family? The fame? But I know that if you’re kinda like me, it’s the choice itself that will make you happy. Because even if it hurts, it’ll allow you to sleep in peace.

At the end of the day, even I think that’s more important than being rich.