5 Lessons I Learned From Meditating for 800 Days in a Row Cover

5 Lessons I Learned From Meditating for 800 Days in a Row

Two years ago, I finally began to meditate. Inspired by Naval Ravikant, I managed to turn a decade-long aspiration into an actual habit.

For the first week, I did an hour a day, and, ironically, the sheer size of that commitment helped. I learned several things from my experience, the most notable being that I should continue to meditate, no matter how much.

As expected, life happened, and for a while, I only managed to meditate five minutes a day. Nowadays, I’m back up to 15.

When I say “meditate,” I mean “sit comfy yet straight, close your eyes, and wait.” That’s all meditation is. Beyond a timer, there are no apps, no music, no neural-activity-tracking headbands or wonky gadgets of any kind. Those things cause stimulation, which is the opposite of meditation.

Looking at my habit tracker, I see today marks my 825th consecutive day of meditation. What an appropriate day to share a few more lessons, don’t you think?

1. It’s okay to think

This is both a common and obvious lesson. I’ve seen it a million times. Yet, I, like most people, constantly forget it. “Damn it! Why can’t I stay in nirvana? Where the hell is my zen today?!” Probably wherever I left my manners.

The goal of meditation isn’t to not think. It is to realize that you think, what you think, and learn to change it if you want to.

Whatever states of blissful emptiness you may or may not achieve are as fragile as they are pleasurable, both of which make them dangerous to pursue. If you turn meditation into yet another pointless chase of the near-unattainable, you might as well stop.

When you notice yourself being lost in thought, that’s a good mediation session. When you realize you needed your entire 15 minutes to process an issue in your life, that’s a good meditation session. When you decide to let go of one thought in favor of another, that’s a good meditation session.

Meditation is the art of observing — and deliberately participating in — the activities in your mind. If our goal was to merely shut those activities down, we could develop a habit of napping instead.

2. Lean into what irks you

The best trait meditation will give you is patience. Calmness, serenity, inner peace — these are mere consequences. Patience is where it starts, and, forced to sit there without acting, it’s your only option.

Naturally, life will find ways to be particularly annoying in those 15 minutes you’ve anointed as your sacred time of silence. In my case, common instances are construction work in my building, passing cars honking outside, ambulance sirens wailing, and my ears starting to itch right when I close my eyes. These are perfect opportunities to practice.

For as long as I can, I try to resist scratching the itch, often literally. “It’s all stimulation. You don’t have to act on it.”

On a good day, I won’t fall for the distraction. Instead, I’ll become the distraction. I sync my mind to the rhythm of the drill or the sirens. They too are the pulse of life. Who am I to resist? I become the hair on my cheek, sitting lightly on human skin, ready to fall anytime. I become the hum of my fridge, buzzing away to keep the universe in balance.

It is a good skill, the ability to keep yourself from erupting like a volcano. It is better still, however, to be able to realize what’s poking you is just another, natural part of life.

3. Imagine your thoughts as a river

What makes thinking difficult to observe is that you do it all the time. Your default mode of consciousness is going from one thought to the next, never breaking the chain. It’s a chain that is highly flexible, seamlessly adjusting to impulses and interruptions. As soon as they’re handled, it’s back to the original lane.

If you want to observe your thoughts rather than bathe in them, you must turn them into a dynamic, abstract entity. Which image you choose is up to you. I like the idea of a river.

When my mind is calm, I’m sitting in the grass next to a little stream. I watch it ripple along, shimmering in various colors. I can see topics, ideas, even individual sentences float by. “Work.” “I need to check my inbox.” “The room feels cold.” My goal is to keep sitting, to not reach into the river and grab what I can see.

Depending on how active my brain is, the river will look different, but the goal remains the same: Just sit and watch. Don’t jump into it. Sometimes, my stream of thoughts feels as big as the Thames. I could sit next to gushing rapids or at the edge of Victoria Falls. It can be hard to stay on land.

This morning, I was sitting beside a creek. It was peaceful. Then, I thought about something I saw on Twitter. I chuckled and began to craft a response. Just before I could send it, I woke up: “Why am I wet? How did I get here? Why am I splashing in the river?” I stood up and, clothes dripping, sat back on my patch of grass.

That’s meditation.

4. Create a sanctuary (or two, or three)

Nirvana is not a place you can enter at will, but how you design your mind is up to you.

In the video game series Kingdom Hearts, there’s a place called Castle Oblivion. All of the rooms are white. One houses an egg-looking device called a “memory pod.” I like that room. I go there a lot.

I also like the version of King’s Cross where Harry meets Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter. In the game Fable III, there’s no menu. Just a room, literally called “the Sanctuary,” where you can safely recover, change your equipment, and so on. Even the music is relaxing.

In Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, Kamal Ravikant says about his meditation: “I imagine all the light from space flowing into my head and down into my body, going wherever it needs to go.”

Light is healing, calming, warming. It keeps you away from the river.

When I meditate, I imagine myself in my sanctuaries. I just stand there and marvel at their infiniteness. Their bright, white light stretches out in front of me, never-ending, ever-comforting.

Design your own sanctuary. You will not regret it.

5. Don’t dismiss great ideas

You won’t be able to anyway. The only ideas you can dismiss during meditation are mediocre ones. Maybe they’re not fully fledged out. That’s okay. If they’re actually great, they’ll come back later.

Sometimes, a train of thought is too good to not board it. Whenever that happens, however rarely, get on and enjoy the ride. Chase your idea until you can grasp it. Like a salmon swimming upstream, it might slip through your fingers regardless.

The other day, my meditation was steamrolled by the idea to recap my experience of choosing a book cover. “I could do a workshop, I could do an interview, I could even do it live on my friend’s YouTube channel!” By the time my phone rang, I was ready to pour a sea of notes into it, which I promptly did.

Meditation is a time of gestation. Usually, the ripening will be passive. It’ll happen quietly, subconsciously, somewhere in the back of your mind. Sometimes, however, the fruits of your thought tree will bloom. When they do, it’s time to collect them. Don’t let them go bad.

Every now and then, it is time to jump in the river. Dive deep enough, and you might emerge with nuggets of gold.


In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry must catch the exact right specimen of a thousand flying keys. As soon as he gets on his broomstick to chase it, the entire swarm starts whizzing like angry hornets. Sticking his hand into a tornado, eventually, Harry manages to grab the right key — but not before the wrong ones have left several cuts on his skin.

Thinking can be like that. We’re ants holding out against a torrent of mental activity: Occasionally, we’ll get washed away. I think that’s normal. Nothing to be ashamed of. It is honorable, however, to try and step out of the torrent.

Meditation is the practice of observing the keys. You can look at them for hours. See all their marvelous colors? The shapes! The sizes! There is so much to witness; it takes time to zone in on the right one. Once you have, however, thanks to first observing, you’ll have clarity and confidence in what you’ve picked.

The right thought at the right time will fit into your life better than any key can ever match its lock. Meditation allows you to sync your mind’s activity with what’s happening around you, and nothing will open more doors than that.

What Makes You Attracted to Someone?

What Makes You Attracted to Someone?

Why do you keep dating douchebags? How come you can’t you get over your ex? Why do some relationship feel effortless, while others force us to try very hard? The answer to all of these questions lies in understanding attraction.

I’m not talking about sexual attraction, although what I’ll share will, to some extent, explain that too. I mean attraction as in: “Oh, I like that guy!” The kind of attraction that’s natural, effortless, and that you might feel towards a great deal of people, even if you don’t have any agenda involving them whatsoever.

It’s a good thing, this attraction. It allows humans to get along, which, in a world this crowded, becomes more important by the day. When you easily hit it off with others, you can seamlessly navigate thousands of relationships, no matter how microscopic their role in your life may be. Which do you prefer? A queue at the bakery in which everyone gives each other the death stare, or one with light banter and the occasional, “No way, I always go for the chocolate-frosted ones too!”?

As we shall discover, this last bit of “me too” is a key element of attraction: Likeness breeds liking. I mean, it’s in the word, isn’t it? “Josh likes Trina” indicates that, in one way or another, Josh and Trina are alike. This phenomenon is so universal, it lets Seth Godin explain marketing in a single sentence: “People like us do things like this.” For now, let’s remember that since likeness is easy to find, so is attraction — and that turns our superficial chemistry into a double-edged sword.

If you quickly relate to others, beyond forging genuine friendships, you’ll also connect with many people that, ultimately, don’t belong into your life. Sometimes, that connection extends far beyond a brief encounter at the bakery, and that’s when things get complicated: A shared love for jello shots becomes a six-month stint of endless arguments. A brutal assignment survived together makes you cannon-fodder for your coworker’s quest to get promoted. That’s attraction leading us astray, and the consequences hurt.

While it won’t prevent you from ever falling for the wrong person again, understanding why attraction forms is the first step towards getting better at knowing when to trust your attraction and when to double-check your gut.

“Knowing” is the key word here. That’s where the answer to the seemingly simple yet surprisingly complex question of “Why are we attracted to people like us?” begins. Given humans have been trying to understand each other since the dawn of time, it might come as a little less of a surprise that that answer can be found in a 2,000-year-old book.

The Grandest Sport of All

“All human beings by nature desire knowledge.” Thus goes the opening line of Metaphysics, the 14-volume magnum opus on philosophy by none other than Aristotle, one of the fathers of philosophy itself. With the hindsight of history, we might call Aristotle a genius, and, looking at his dozen other “father of…” titles, it seems that we have. If you had asked him back then, I’m sure he would have said some variation of what Einstein echoed 1900 years later: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

The premise of natural curiosity will be integral to our theory, so let’s state it clearly and then probe it for truth: You are curious. All of us are.

We may forget it from time to time, but if we think back to our childhood, it’s easy to realize curiosity drove virtually every step of our growing up. As a baby, you grabbed everything, licked everything, and constantly looked around in awe. Once you were able to crawl, you crawled wherever you could go, and you only went further once you were on your feet.

This is Aristotle’s first piece of evidence that to be human is to be curios: We love using our senses. We enjoy garnering data about the world, be it through our noses, mouths, ears, eyes, or hands. Do you ever stop and smell the roses? Your coffee? Your lunch? What about vibing to a new song? How about watching the sunset? Clearly, our senses can be the source of great pleasure.

When it comes to using our senses ferociously, we’re no different from any other animal. Many smart creatures, like dogs, crows, dolphins, elephants, and others, can even form habits from experience. That, too, is something we learn early on. “If I touch the stove, I’ll get hurt, so I’ll touch the stove no more.” Simple if-then-loops, however, are where our similarities end.

Once we hit preschool, our human uniqueness fully blooms: Unlike any animal, we can understand why the world works the way it does. We can see why certain actions in certain situations are the right or wrong ones to take, and we can do so even before we take them, before we’re forced to learn from experience.

If you’ve ever solved a crossword, fixed a home appliance, or figured out the right technique for your favorite sport, you know how satisfying it is to successfully employ your capacity for logic and reason. In fact, it is so satisfying, Aristotle claims, that most of human culture and civilization is based on our singular, omniscient desire for knowledge.

That’s his second piece of evidence: If we weren’t relentlessly curious, would we ever have ventured this far beyond mere survival? Why study nature? Why make art? What about science, religion, and philosophy? What about Formula 1, Microsoft, and the Taj Mahal? A simpler animal would have been content to eat, sleep, breed, repeat — but not us. Therefore, we must be curious.

We have turned knowledge into the grandest sport of all, and every human loves to play.

A 21st Century Psychologist — in 345 BC

The English language contains 171,476 words, of which we use about 3,000 to handle our everyday reading and interactions. Some might call this efficient. I call it a shame, because for many a word we don’t know, we use five more to describe what we mean. That’s everything but efficient.

While the precision of language always depends on the eloquence of its wielder, at anywhere from 1.6 to 6 million words, Greek suffers no lack of specificity — and the deeper you dig, the more vocabulary you’ll find that you wish you had at hand. One such word is tekhnê (pronounced “tech-knee”), a word Aristotle used to establish a hierarchy of competitors in the game of knowledge.

Tekhnê combines what we today call “skill” or “technique” with “art” or “craft.” It describes both the task itself as well as the understanding and craftsmanship one might attain from (or in order to) perform said task well. Cooking is a tekhnê. Studying recipes builds tekhnê. And a master chef likely has lots of tekhnê.

The core element of tekhnê is understanding. Can the task be explained in an intelligible way? Does it have its own rationale? What about the actor? Does she know why she’s doing what she’s doing? Or is she guided purely by instinct? Without understanding, there can be no tekhnê — not that that necessarily hurts the result. Even if the painter works in trance, the painting can still be beautiful.

In German, there’s a word called “Technik,” and it gets close to tekhnê. You might watch a documentary about “die Technik des Stoffewebens,” the craft of weaving fabrics, which explains the general process of weaving by hand or via loom. At the same time, you might commend your friend’s “Technik beim Tennis,” his technique in swinging his racket while hitting yellow balls.

Today all roads might lead to Rome, but in Aristotle’s world, all tekhnê leads to pleasure. After all, understanding satisfies our curiosity, and employing said understanding to make something engages our senses on top.

Here’s an example: While spending two years on the island of Lesbos around 345 BC, Aristotle extensively thought, researched, and wrote about animals. Among the many creatures he observed was the paper nautilus, a species related to the octopus. Aristotle noted that one of the male nautilus’ tentacles looked different than the others and, seeing how he inserted it into the female during courtship, concluded it must be the animal’s reproductive organ.

Aristotle had no way of verifying his theory as correct (it was, but we only confirmed that in the 19th century), but exercising his mind and senses provided him with a rewarding feeling. That, too, is tekhnê. If somebody had drawn an accurate representation of the nautilus for Aristotle, the artist would have enjoyed the drawing as much as Aristotle enjoyed analyzing the subject — at least he suggests as much in Parts of Animals. Finally, if a skilled art critic would have looked at said drawing, they, too, would have found joy in judging the artist’s skills.

The lesson here is that expertise is fun — both building it and using it once you have it. This is astonishingly congruent with 21st century psychology. It’s in line with Daniel Pink’s Drive, Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and dozens of studies on passion, grit, and deliberate practice, all of which come to the same conclusion: The better you become at something, the more fun you’ll have doing it. Obvious? Today, maybe. Yet, given we still so often fail to act on this knowledge, I think someone discovering this on a small island some 2,300 years ago is pretty impressive.

Well, okay, so much for the experts — the biologist, the painter, and the art critic — but what about the average Joe? Where are our rungs on the ladder of knowledge? Fret not, for there is another way to quench our curiosity, and it does not require tekhnê of any kind. In fact, it is accessible to all. The only demands it makes are the right vocabulary and, in the case of looking at Aristotle’s imagined octopus drawing, the realization that, “Yes! This is an octopus!”

The Second Time You Saw a Tree

If it takes an expert to appreciate the craft, how come even an amateur can enjoy watching one in action? What does the casual football fan get out of observing a great pass, and why can a child in the backseat gaze at passing cars for hours, content in silent wonder?

The answer, according to Aristotle, is mimêsis — another one of many Greek words worth adding to your roster. In Poetics, the book that shall answer our questions about dating and relationships, translator Malcolm Heath considers mimêsis a broadly defined version of the word “imitation.”

Unlike the imitation we know, mimêsis need not be literal. While it always indicates likeness, “an imitation need not be a straightforward copy of the object imitated.” A heavy metal song in which the singer screams can easily be linked to being angry, even if the lyrics never directly discuss the emotion. Furthermore, mimêsis is not limited to reality. To Aristotle, a play about a vengeful god starting a heavy metal band could be just as good as one about a vindictive carpenter doing the same. Finally, he saw mimêsis as an elemental human activity, one that pervades all the arts and many other, seemingly non-artistic activities, like making animal sounds or children playing house.

Aristotle’s contention, then, is that human beings are by nature prone to engage in the creation of likenesses, and to respond to likenesses with pleasure, and he explains this instinct by reference to their innate desire for knowledge. A likeness is (by definition) a likeness of something; to take part in the activity of making and responding to likenesses we must recognize the relationship between the likeness and its object. This engages and satisfies the desire to exercise our distinctively human power of understanding, and is therefore pleasurable. This exercise of our capacity for understanding is, to be sure, a rudimentary one. But Aristotle’s purpose here is to explain how poetry and painting are rooted in basic instincts shared by even the least intellectually sophisticated people.

The first time you saw a tree, you may have wondered what it was. The first time you saw a tree after your mom had pointed one out to you in a picture book, your eyes lit up. “A tree! It’s a tree! Mom, it’s a tree!” The key element here is recognition. You recognize the tree because you’ve seen one before. You understand there is a connection between the two, and understanding is what you were born to do — it’s what makes you human and uniquely so.

As a side note, this also explains taste and how it can be so subjective: Since everyone has different experiences, we don’t all recognize and connect the same things. If you’ve never seen a zeppelin nor know how rare they are, you might not care when one pops up in the sky — or even think it’ll usher in the apocalypse. Meanwhile, if you had lots of posters of red cars around the house while growing up, you’ll probably want your car to be red. The endless variety of mimêsis in our individual lives ensures: Not everyone likes what you like, but everyone likes something.

Returning to our little tree enthusiast, I’ll grant that the thrill of point-and-name soon wears off, but if you bring a little patience to the park, you can still summon that same spirit of awe and excitement decades later. Just sit on a bench and watch the willow for a while. You enjoy looking at it, don’t you? After all, you recognize it. The willow is familiar. At the same time, there are a million things you don’t know about it, and those are equally intriguing.

It’s fascinating how quickly fascination forms — and nowhere is this interplay of recognition and inquisitiveness stronger than in human relationships.

How Curiosity-Fueled Attraction Can Lead Us Astray

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far:

  1. Humans have an undying, irrefutable desire for knowledge.
  2. One way of consistently fueling said desire is to become an expert in something and then rigorously exercise your expertise.
  3. Another, more rudimentary approach is to engage in imitation, and the most basic version of that is to simply recognize how two things are alike.

Once you put together curiosity, understanding, and likeness, you have everything you need to explain the magnetic pull of human relationships: Recognizing likeness feeds understanding, and understanding satisfies curiosity. That’s why attraction often feels effortless: Every time you discover another likeness-nugget, you get a little hit of dopamine. The more you realize you and your coffee date are alike, the happier you’ll be in their presence. Your understanding barometer goes through the roof, and since nothing feels better than “getting it,” you’ll soon be on cloud nine.

You’re using your senses to scan for likeness. Is her hair the same color as your celebrity crush’s? Does he have freckles like you? Your similarities-monitor is on. “Oh, I know that keychain!” “That sounds like the time I was in a band.” Your imagination is blossoming. “Where does her ambition come from?” “Was he cheated on as well?”

Now that’s great when you’re sitting across the love of your life, and it can make waiting at the DMV less boring, but, unfortunately, this process does not only work well when it’s supposed to. Your brain is so desperate for mental check marks, it’ll sometimes construe the flimsiest relation as a profound, shared connection — and that’s where the trouble begins.

“Oh, he loves Italy. I love Italy!” This implies a shared understanding of what “Italy” means to each of you — which, actually, may or may not be there. If your date associates “Italy” solely with translating Italian poetry from the 15th century into English because that’s what he spent half a year doing somewhere in rural Canada, that’s very different from you thinking about the pizza, ice cream, and beautiful palazzos you indulged in on your last vacation.

Your brain, however, rarely bothers verifying. Relying on its memory of other, equally shaky connections, it concludes there’s a decent chance your ideas of “Italy” overlap enough to warrant being excited — and up the dopamine hatches go. Even if your brain didn’t constantly jump to conclusions, you could still get away on a single, shared opinion about Italy. “The Italian language is beautiful” might be enough to get both of you to date number two. That’s how strong the pull of understanding others is. It’s the curiosity game on steroids — and that snowball will gladly roll downhill if we let it.

This also explains why, especially in unfamiliar settings, people tend to huddle together in ethnic groups. When I studied abroad, it took all of one day for all nine Germans to find each other and spend the evening in the same room. For better or for worse, likeness feels good and safe, so why not go where you know some likeness will be guaranteed? This is a trap, of course. In my case, it led to a lack of new ideas and perspectives — you know, the thing a college exchange is for. In others, it could lead to racism, bullying, and worse.

Unless…

The Slow-Burn Movie of Real Understanding

Going back to the dating game, our likeness addiction makes it easy to jump from similarity to similarity — and thus fall in love head over heels. But the question is not how many corresponding easter eggs you can find — it is whether you’re compatible in a few key aspects that matter.

If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, the three big Ws are a good place to start: What, where, and who? What do you want your daily routines to look like? How does work fit into living together? Where will you do said shared living, and who will you want close by? More than one divorce has been filed over living down the street from one’s in-laws.

The truth is if you can deflect the big bullets, your differences are a matter of management, not elimination. That’s what rooms in houses are for. You do your thing, I do mine, and we’ll reconvene at dinner. Discovering how we are different can be just as satisfying as finding out we’re alike. Unlike the latter, however, the former is not a fast, dopamine-fueled carousel. It’s more like a slow-burn movie, the fruits of which we can only reap in time.

My girlfriend loves refunds. If there’s a damaged item to return, a hotel room sub-par, or a voucher that’s not being honored, she is your gal. I’m more timid. “Diplomatic,” I call it. On a bad day, I might perceive this difference as friction. “Why can’t she just let it go?” On a good day, however, I see this difference as strength. I can count on her playing bad cop at the front desk, and I’ll play good cop to go along. Together, we’ll deliver a convincing performance that gets us what we’re owed — and we have. Situations like these have happened, and they’ll keep happening in the future. So why not combine our talents?

The kind of understanding this cooperation requires does not come with a jolt of energy that feels like caffeine hitting the veins. Instead, it triggers a slow, long “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, that’s why she is like that.” My girlfriend grew up in a country where consumer rights don’t exist. Imagine living in a place where, in every economic transaction, you can expect to be ripped off, and the only question is how much. If you moved to a country where your purchases are protected by the law, wouldn’t you invoke the 30-day-guarantee? I would.

It’s a bit like mimêsis vs. tekhnê: Anyone can giggle over realizing they went to the same school, but the joy of being an expert on why your partner is who they are is a prize few can claim.

The Good Life — A Life of Good Relationships

If we want to build great relationships, we must understand why, when, and how we connect with others. Attraction is the spark that forges these connections, and it includes everything from a smirk at the cash register to a full-blown addiction to the devil in disguise.

While some baseline of attraction allows us to glide through society’s waters, too much of it too quickly can cause us great pain and misery. Once we know how the process of attraction unfolds, however, we are better able to pause, speed up, slow down, or even reverse it.

Let’s summarize the tenets of attraction we’ve discovered:

  1. One of our strongest, most fundamental desires as humans is to learn, know, and understand.
  2. Any activity that engages our mental faculties with the goal of understanding is, therefore, pleasurable.
  3. When it comes with a continuous cycle of learning new lessons and applying them in creative endeavors, being (or becoming) an expert can steadily feed our need for intellectual stimulation.
  4. One of the plainest, easiest, and quickest ways to repeatedly exercise our understanding muscle, however, is to simply recognize that two things are alike. That includes realizing we are like others, and others are like us.
  5. When we detect many similarities with another person in quick succession, our knowledge-guzzling brain sends us into a dopamine-induced stupor of attraction — even if those similarities are built on the shakiest of foundations.
  6. To not get carried away and into the wrong relationships, we must fact-check our gut checks, using logic and reason to discern which correlations matter, and which ones don’t.
  7. Once we look past superficial tit-for-tat comparisons, we’ll not only see ourselves more clearly reflected in others, we’ll even start appreciating the beauty in our differences — and see them for the complementing strengths that they are.

One of Aristotle’s main concerns was what it means to live a good life. While the concept of virtue, which we may summarize under the maxim of “be good, do good, feel good,” remained front and center in his answer, he was acutely aware of the role our relationships play in achieving the good life ideal — his idea of true friendship being only one of his most prominent examples.

Good relationships, like anything good, take time. We can’t rush into them over fleeting experiences or same-logo sweatshirts. Until the right person appears and reveals the right level of synchronicity at the right time, be patient. Enjoy the ease of light connections, but don’t let your dopamine glands fool you. When it comes to people’s behavior, consider all reasons, yet never take the seemingly obvious ones at face value.

After all, Lowell Bennion’s 1959 imitation of Aristotle was only slightly like the latter’s original phrasing: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Why You Should Watch Great Movies Twice Cover

Why You Should Watch Great Movies Twice

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who love rewatching movies, and those who think it’s a colossal waste of our limited time.

If you’re the former, I have nothing to offer except validation. If you happen to be the latter, however, I’d like to present a piece of evidence that just might change your mind.

Five years ago, I watched Marvel’s Dr. Strange for the first time. In the scene that most stood out to me, Strange and his mentor, the “Ancient One,” are looking at a thunderstorm in slow motion. Knowing these are her last moments before she dies, she leaves Strange with a final lesson for the big fight that is to come — a fight he must now face alone. When Strange claims he’s not ready, the Ancient One replies:

“No one ever is. We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered. Your time is short.”

“Death is what gives life meaning.” That hit me right in the gut. It hit me so hard that, a year later, I could still remember the scene and write an article about it.

Now, fast forward about 1,800 days, a long time by any standard. I’ve just recovered from Covid, which I got despite being vaccinated. I’m in a foreign country. My productivity had just gained momentum again after a slump, and now, I was back at zero, forced to start over.

The last night before flying home and rebuilding my routine, I need inspiration. I need a hero humbled by life, willing to begin again. For some reason, I remember Dr. Strange and press play.

Before becoming a hero, Strange was a neurosurgeon. Good-looking, successful, and arrogant to the nines. After an entirely self-caused car accident, his hands barely work, and they definitely don’t stay still long enough to be a surgeon. Thankfully, he finds a new gig protecting the universe.

As the movie reaches my favorite scene, I get excited, prepared to relearn a great lesson. Instead, I get an entirely different one. Seconds before her comment about death, the Ancient One reminds Strange he still has a long way to go:

“Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.”

“Which is?”

“It’s not about you.”

Finally, the Ancient One explains the story of the man that led Strange to her in the first place, a man paralyzed from the waist down. She taught him magic, and he used it to walk.

Strange realizes he, too, could have his old life back. The Ancient One affirms that he could — “and the world would be all the lesser for it.” It is only here, long after he’s gone down the path of the hero, that finally, finally, Strange understands life is not about money and accolades. It’s about dedicating yourself to a bigger cause — and that, once again, hits me right in the gut.

“I have been self-absorbed lately,” I think. “I run laps around myself, pointing a spotlight at my own face.” Remembering I’m not so important is exactly what I need to kickstart my routine. “Let’s do some work, and do it as best as I can. Not for me. For others.”

In that spirit, I jump on the plane the next morning. It won’t last forever, of course, but it’s been a productive few days since.


At one point in How I Met Your Mother, Ted is engaged to a girl named Stella. When he tells his best friend Marshall she’s never seen Star Wars, the latter says a preliminary viewing is a must: “Star Wars is your all-time favorite movie, and whether or not Stella likes it is actually important. It’s a test of how compatible you guys are.”

After watching the movie twice in a row (again), Ted, too, is convinced of the idea. Some failed attempts at spying on Stella as she watches later, the two wait anxiously in Ted’s room to find out Stella’s verdict. “I loved it,” she claims, and Ted rushes to get the champagne. But Marshall can see right through her, and Stella admits she neither understood nor enjoyed the movie.

At this point, Marshall gives Stella the following speech, reminding her of the small responsibilities attached to the big commitment of marriage:

That is Ted’s favorite movie of all time. He watches it when he’s home sick with the flu. He watches it on rainy Sunday afternoons in the fall. He watches it on Christmas Eve. Ted watches Star Wars in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. Do you really think that you can pretend to like a movie that you actually hate for the rest of your life?

Stella says she does, to which Marshall responds that Ted is a lucky guy. While their engagement will eventually fall apart, the latter remains true — and not just because his best friend always has his back.

Ted is lucky because he can find comfort in the familiarity of Star Wars whenever he needs it. We all go back to the things and people we love when we’re down, and there’s no reason movies can’t be part of that list.

Most of all, however, Ted is lucky because every time he watches Star Wars, he learns something new — because with every rerun, there’s an entirely new Ted watching. That’s why you should watch your favorite movies twice. Or three times. Or four. Or eight.

You are just as likely, if not more, to extract yet another valuable lesson from something you already love than from something you may or may not like.

Books, movies, songs — these things don’t change. We, however, do all the time. We barely recognize ourselves year to year, let alone decade to decade. Even if you watched the same movie 365 days in a row, I bet you’d still notice different elements each time (although I’m not sure I’d recommend that experiment). But if ample time has passed, say, five years, then even rewatching a straightforward superhero movie can deliver profound new insight. After all, just like the hero, you’ve evolved a great deal since!

The first time I watched Dr. Strange, I needed a reminder that time is precious. The second time, I had to get out of my own head. On both occasions, the movie delivered, and I got a free, third lesson on top: None of that precious time is wasted if you spend it rewatching movies you love.

Do Self-Help Books Work? Cover

How Modern Non-Fiction Books Waste Your Time (and Why You Should Read Them Anyway)

When I first discovered non-fiction books, I thought they were the best thing since sliced bread. Whatever problem you could possibly have, there’s a book out there to help you solve it. I had a lot of challenges at the time, and so I started devouring lots of books.

I read books about money, productivity, and choosing a career. Then, I read books about marketing, creativity, and entrepreneurship. I read and read and read, and, eventually, I realized I had forgotten to implement any of the advice! The only habit I had built was reading, and as wonderful as it was, it left me only with information overwhelm.

After that phase, I flipped to the other, equally extreme end of the spectrum: I read almost no books, got all my insights from summaries, and only tried to learn what I needed to improve a given situation at any time.

So, do self-help books work? As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Read More
Funny Shower Thoughts Cover

44 Funny Shower Thoughts That Will Snap Your Mind in Half

On any given day, your brain is either growing or deteriorating. There is no such thing as “maintaining” your mind.

When you don’t challenge your brain, that day, your mind will shrink a little. When you solve a problem or entertain a new idea, your mental ability will grow.

If you do the crossword every day, at first, it’ll make your brain sweat. Eventually, you’ll have memorized all the coded prompts, and it’ll only be a rote memory exercise. So how can you keep stretching your mind?

The answer is not to read a book a day or work crazy hours. Your brain would soon overload and demand a long break. Neither complete stagnation nor excessive learning is the answer.

What you can and should find time for, however, is five minutes a day to engage with new ideas. That’s enough to get new combinations of neurons to fire together, and that’s what mental growth is all about.

Ryan Lombard can help you do just that. Ryan has a series he calls “Thoughts That Will Snap Your Mind in Half.” So far, he’s made 20 parts. Here are the first eight, totaling 44 funny shower thoughts, ideas, and mind-bending questions.

Some made me think deeply, some just made me laugh, and some I didn’t understand at all (yet). I’m sure a few of them will send your mind in new directions.

Here are Ryan Lombard’s 44 “Thoughts That Will Snap Your Mind in Half.”


  1. If you weigh 99 lbs and eat a pound of nachos, are you 1% nacho?
  2. If you drop soap on the floor, is the floor clean, or is the soap dirty?
  3. Which orange came first — the color, or the fruit?
  4. If two vegans are arguing, is it still considered beef?
  5. When you’re born deaf, what language do you think in?
  6. If you get out of the shower clean, how does your towel get dirty?
  7. If Apple made a car, would it still have windows?
  8. When we yawn, do deaf people think we’re screaming?
  9. If you’re waiting for the waiter, aren’t you the waiter?
  10. How do you throw away a garbage can?
  11. If you buy a bigger bed, you’re left with more bed room but less bedroom.
  12. Why aren’t iPhone chargers just called “Apple Juice”?
  13. If you work as security at a Samsung store, does that make you a Guardian of the Galaxy?
  14. When you feel bugs on you even though there are no bugs on you, are they just the ghosts of the bugs you’ve killed?
  15. When you clean a vacuum cleaner, aren’t you the vacuum cleaner?
  16. Nothing is ever really on fire, but rather fire is on things.
  17. If life is unfair to everyone, does that mean life is actually fair?
  18. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
  19. Why is it called taking a dump when you’re leaving it?
  20. Being down for something and being up for something mean the same thing.
  21. If you’re in the living room, and you pass away, did you die, or are you just knocked out?
  22. Why is the pizza box a square if the pizza is a circle and the slice is a triangle?
  23. Why is it called a building when it’s already built?
  24. How does a sponge hold water when it’s full of holes?
  25. The blinks of your eyes get removed from your memory.
  26. What would happen if Pinocchio said, “My nose will grow now?”
  27. Actors pretend to work.
  28. People who need glasses just got bad graphics.
  29. Why is bacon called bacon and cookies called cookies, when you cook bacon and bake cookies?
  30. Do clothes in China just say, “Made down the road?”
  31. If your shirt isn’t tucked into your pants, are your pants tucked into your shirt?
  32. If you’re invisible, and you close your eyes, can you see through your eyelids?
  33. A fire truck is actually a water truck.
  34. Why are deliveries on a ship called cargo, but in a car, it’s called a shipment?
  35. If one teacher can’t teach all subjects, why is one child expected to study all subjects?
  36. Are oranges named oranges because oranges are orange, or is orange named orange because oranges are orange?
  37. What happens to the car if you press the brake and the accelerator at the same time? Does it take a screenshot?
  38. The youngest picture of you is also the oldest picture of you.
  39. If we have watermelon, shouldn’t we also have firemelon, earthmelon, and airmelon? The elemelons!
  40. Why do we drive in parkways but park in driveways?
  41. Your burps are just your puke’s farts.
  42. If it rains on a Sunday, does that mean it’s now Rainday?
  43. Clapping is just hitting yourself repeatedly because you like something.
  44. Your alarm sound is technically your theme song, since it plays at the start of every episode.

Some of these questions don’t make sense, others have fairly obvious answers. Some are just jokes, while others seem like they can’t be answered at all.

The more of these “shower thoughts” you consider, the more patterns of creative thinking you’ll spot.

There’s the “flipped logic,” as in the cookie vs. bacon example, the “circular reasoning” of being a vacuum cleaner, and the paradox of life being fair by being unfair. There’s the “incomplete set” of the elemelons, the “chicken vs. egg” problem of the orange, and the “all roads lead to Rome” behind your youngest picture also being your oldest.

Once you recognize such patterns, you can think about where else they apply and come up with your own examples. The latter is the ultimate creative exercise, and it proves: It only takes five minutes a day to grow your mind instead of shrinking it.

Don’t waste this opportunity. Just like we must share joy in order to grow it, we must snap our minds in half to double them in size.

Your Brain Is Your Ally, Not Your Enemy Cover

Your Brain Is Your Ally, Not Your Enemy

It’s a myth that we only use 20% of our brain, but I can see why it’s popular: It’s the perfect excuse.

How can I excel if the tools I need to do so are in a place I can’t access? If only there was a miracle drug…

In reality, even a single task can easily demand 35% of your brain’s capacity, and, over the course of a single day, most of us will access all 100% — just different areas at different times.

Still, many a movie has been made about said miracle drug, including Limitless, a film starring Bradley Cooper as a hard-up writer. After he discovers NZT-48 and finishes his book in a day, he makes millions in the stock market and enjoys his newfound life as a genius — until the side effects kick in.

It’s a nice movie to fuel our daydreams, but it also makes for a strong wake-up call because, as Lars van der Peet says in a video essay about the film, “it explores something we are all aware of: The perception that we are unfulfilled potential; that we aren’t doing everything we could and should be doing.”

Our frustration with our brains shows on many levels: You might be angry that you can’t remember what you wanted to say, feel depressed after being stuck on an important project for months, or watch movies like Limitless in lack of motivation to write your novel.

As understandable as these frustrations are, they are born out of misconception: Our brain was never something we were meant to have 100% control over — it is simply a partner we must work with.

There is no exact science on how much of our brain activity happens “below the surface,” but chances are it’s a lot more than what we process and register in a conscious manner. Whether it’s 80–20 or 60–40, the point is: Your subconscious is much larger than your consciousness, and you can’t force everything into the realm of awareness. Even if you could, you’d probably feel overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to synthesize the information in a useful way.

Your brain is an iceberg. Most of it is under water. It is not your job to try and turn it upside down. Your job is to navigate whatever lies above sea level. Even the small terrain up top is constantly changing, and in order to navigate it well, you must trust in whichever part the iceberg decides to reveal.

“Make your unconscious your ally instead of your enemy,” Lars says.

Accept that creativity requires breaks, and that in those breaks, your subconscious is working for you, not against you. Your mind can process even when you don’t, and usually, it does its best work while you do none at all.

Organize your surroundings. Give your brain every chance to structure what it sends you by structuring your sensory input. A brain fed with views of a chaotic room will only feed you chaotic thoughts. Clarity on the outside, however, breeds clarity within.

Make new connections. Structure and routine lead to insights on the regular, but if they become too rigid, only a change of pace can provide stimulation. In the long run, your brain can only give you new ideas if you give it new input.

Finally, never let a good idea go to waste. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrambled for my phone to make a note, and I expect myself to do so many times in the future. Inspiration can strike anywhere, anytime, and it is foolish to think it’ll repeat the favor just because you’re too lazy to take note right now.

Towards the end of the movie Limitless, the main character realizes he never needed a smart-drug in the first place: His limitations were mostly self-imposed. Instead of blaming his brain, he starts using it.

Your brain is not you. It will never define who you are, and yet, you must live with it every day. Treat your brain like a partner: You don’t control them, but together, you can achieve a whole lot.

In that sense, I think the real message of the movie is this: We have everything we need. We just have to work with it rather than against it.

How To Not Be Gullible Cover

How To Not Be Gullible

In 1997, 14-year-old Nathan Zohner used the science fair to alert his fellow citizens of a deadly, dangerous chemical.

In his report Dihydrogen Monoxide: The Unrecognized Killer, Nathan outlined all the alarming characteristics of the colorless, odorless, tasteless compound — DHMO for short — which kills thousands of Americans each year:

  • DHMO can cause severe burns both while in gas and solid form.
  • It is a major component of acid rain and often found in removed tumors of cancer patients.
  • DHMO accelerates corrosion of both natural elements and many metals.
  • Ingesting too much DHMO leads to excessive sweating and urination.
  • For everyone with a dependency on DHMO, withdrawal leads to death.

After giving his presentation, Nathan asked 50 fellow students what should be done. 43 — a staggering 86% — voted to ban DHMO from school grounds.

There was only one problem: Dihydrogen monoxide is water.


Every day, people use facts to deceive you because you let them.

Life is hard. We all get fooled six ways from Sunday. People lie to us, we miscommunicate, and it’s impossible to always correctly read other people’s feelings. But facts? If we let facts deceive us, that’s on us.

When it’s hard to be right, there is nothing wrong with being wrong. But when it only takes a few minutes or even seconds to verify, learn, and educate yourself, choosing to stay ignorant is really just that: A decision — and likely one for which you’ll get the bill sooner rather than later.

If you know a little Latin, Greek, or simply pay attention in chemistry class, the term “dihydrogen monoxide” is easy to deconstruct. “Di” means “two,” hydrogen is an element (H on the periodic table), “mono” means one and “oxide” means oxidized — an oxygen atom (O on the periodic table) has been added. Two hydrogens, once oxidized. Two Hs, one O. H2O. Water.

When Nathan ran his experiment “How Gullible Are We?” in 1997, people didn’t have smartphones. They did, however, go to chemistry class. Nathan’s classmates had parents working in the sector, and they all had chemistry books. They even could have asked their teacher: “What’s dihydrogen monoxide?” But none of them did.

In his final report, Nathan wrote he was shocked that so many of his friends were so easily fooled. “I don’t feel comfortable with the current level of understanding,” he said. James Glassman, who wrote about the incident in the Washington Post, even coined the term “Zohnerism” to describe someone using a fact to mislead people.

Today, we have smartphones. We have a library larger than Alexandria’s in our pocket and finding any page from any book takes mere seconds. Yet, we still get “zohnered” on a daily basis. We allow ourselves to be.

“Too much sugar is bad for you. Don’t eat any sugar.” Yes, too much sugar is bad, but the corollary isn’t to stop eating it altogether. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and they’re all broken down into various forms of sugar. It’s a vital component of a functioning metabolism. Plus, each body has its own nuances, so cutting out sugar without more research could actually be bad for you. But if I’m selling a no-sugar diet, who cares, right?

You care. You should. And that’s why it’s your job to verify such claims. It’s easy to spin something correct in a way that sends you in whatever direction the manipulator wants to send you. The only solution is to work hard in order to not let yourself be manipulated:

  • Say “I don’t know” when you don’t know. I know it’s hard, but it’s the most liberating phrase in the world. Whenever you’re out of your comfort zone, practice. “Actually, I don’t know, let me look it up.”
  • Admit that you don’t know to yourself. You’ll miss some chances to say “I don’t know.” That’s okay, you can still educate yourself in private later. Your awareness of your ignorance is as important as fighting it.
  • Google everything. When you’re not 100% sure what a word means, google it. When you want to know where a word comes from, google it. When you know you used to know but are hazy on the details, google it. Seriously. Googling takes ten seconds. Google everything.
  • Learn about your biases. Hundreds of cognitive biases affect our thinking and decisions every waking second. Learning about them and occasionally brushing up on that knowledge will go a long way.
  • When someone argues for one side of a conflict, research both. Whether it’s a story in the news, a political issue, or even the issue of where to get lunch, don’t let yourself get clobbered into one corner. Yes, McDonald’s is cheap. Yes, you like their fries. But what about Burger King? What do you like and not like about both of them?
  • When someone talks in absolutes, add a question mark to every sentence. James Altucher often does this with his own thoughts, but it’s equally helpful in questioning the authority of others. Don’t think in absolutes. Think in questions.

The dihydrogen monoxide play has been used many times to point people at their own ignorance. A 1994 version created by Craig Jackson petitions people to “act now” before ending on a truthful yet tongue-in-cheek note: “What you don’t know can hurt you and others throughout the world.”

Richard Feynman received the Nobel prize in physics, but he started his journey as a curious boy, just like Nathan Zohner. Like Einstein, he believed inquisitiveness could solve any problem, and so he always spoke in simple terms — to get people interested in science.

He also said the following, which still rings true today: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Learn How to Meditate Properly in 2 Minutes Cover

Learn How to Meditate Properly in 2 Minutes

“Meditation is literally the art of doing nothing,” Naval Ravikant says.

You don’t need an app to meditate. You don’t need peaceful sounds or guided instructions. And you definitely don’t need a $299 headband.

All of these are distractions. By turning it into a billion-dollar industry, we’ve done to meditation what humans always do: We overcomplicate it.

“All you need to do for meditation is to sit down, close your eyes, comfortable position, whatever happens happens. If you think, you think. If you don’t think, you don’t think. Don’t put it effort into it, don’t put effort against it.”

The purpose of meditation is to “just witness,” Naval says. Concentration only helps insofar as it quiets our minds to the point where we can drop whatever we concentrate on, so you might as well go straight for the end game.

When asked if he focuses on his breath or uses a specific technique, Naval goes: “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” That’s how much we’ve baked virtue signaling into mindfulness: If you don’t have any techniques to share or 1,000 minutes to display on your app, we’ll doubt how legit you are. We’re looking for gimmicks while you’re doing the real thing.

“It’s one of those things that everybody says they do, but nobody actually does.”

It’s true. We turn meditation into a sport because the real practice is scary. Who wants to sit in solitude, alone with their mind? Who wants to face the void? No one. And yet, if we actually did it, we’d benefit immensely.

Noticing and processing are not the same thing. Being self-aware, I thought I didn’t need meditation. I was wrong. For nine months now, I’ve meditated every day, often just 5–10 minutes. Finally, on top of knowing what goes on in my life, I also make time to acknowledge it, if only a few seconds. Like Naval, I just sit. I close my eyes, and whatever happens happens. That’s how to meditate properly.

Meditation won’t solve all your problems, but it’ll solve the problem of not dealing with your problems. It’s not about being spiritual or smart or chasing some fleeting state of bliss, and it’s definitely not about being better at it than your neighbor.

Meditation is about making peace with yourself today. If you have the courage to look inside, that really is an option. To not just find peace but to create it.

Tune out the noise, and give it an honest try. It just might change your life.

How To Type Faster Cover

Learn Touch Typing in 4 Minutes

Here’s some simple math: If you type 30 words per minute, then a 300-word email will take you 10 minutes to write. But if you can type twice as fast, you can crank it out in five. That’s a lot of minutes saved if you write a lot of emails — or do anything else that requires you to type words on a screen.

With all the productivity hacks out there for managing your time — simplifying your inbox, time blocking, optimizing your meetings — typing faster seems like the obvious, low-hanging fruit. But it’s fruit that many people aren’t reaching for. As the MIT Tech Review has noted, touch typing has fallen out of favor and many schools are no longer teaching it. You probably type at the same speed that you did when you were in high school, and you assume that it’s working out for you just fine.

Trust me, it’s not. Your slowness is costing you. Dearly. You just never realized it. You don’t see the person at the other end of your email typing at twice your speed and therefore getting more done. But that’s what’s happening. When it comes to small tasks at work, speed matters.

As the writer John McDermott laid out in Mel magazine, if you’re an average typist at 40 words per minute (WPM) and you write about 2,000 words per day — whether you’re writing code, messaging colleagues on Slack, posting Tweets and Instagram captions — then by increasing your speed to an above-average 70 WPM, you can save yourself four whole days a year.

How To Type Faster: Typing Speed
My typing stats. Screenshot via TypingTest.com

A couple studies that emerged over the past five years suggest that two-finger typers — the so-called “hunt-and-peckers” — can work their way to similar typing speeds as 10-finger touch typers. But as Typing.com puts it, “hopping from one key to the next with the same finger is almost like trying to pedal a bike with one leg.” You could learn how to do it pretty quickly, but you’ll never be as fast as if you placed both feet on both pedals.

Luckily, if you never learned how to type correctly, you can get the gist of touch typing in about four minutes. Here’s a graphic to explain how it works:

How To Type Faster: Touch Typing Diagram
Image via OnlineTyping

This simple, color-coded keyboard is at the heart of every touch typing class. Print it out and hang above your desk. Study it for a few minutes each day, and use it as a guide.

The idea is that each finger is responsible for one diagonal column on your keyboard, with the exception of your thumbs, which only cover the space bar, and your index fingers, which cover two columns each. Place your fingers on the keyboard. Your index fingers go on the F and J button — there are bumps on those keys to guide you — the others in a row alongside them. Try to only move up and down with each finger.

There are also plenty of free typing trainers online, like this one, which cover the basics and provide short practice lessons based on the diagram. And it helps to play a typing game for five to 10 minutes each day (in TypeRush, you can virtually race cars and boats against others — it’s fun). Test your typing speed weekly, track your best WPM out of three runs, and watch your accuracy and pace increase over time.

The reason why I’m writing about this seemingly basic skill is that most people won’t take the time to learn it. Why? First, as I mentioned, your current speed and system probably feels good enough to you.

Then, of course, there’s effort barrier. Like learning a language, typing is a skill that’s much easier to master when you’re young, and you may not be sure that the work of picking it up now is worth the reward.

Finally, learning touch typing will at first slow you down. Not everyone’s willing to make that temporary sacrifice.

But again, the math is simple. Another way to frame it: If you spend one hour a day typing, which is a conservative estimate, doubling your typing speed will save you 30 minutes every single day. So stick with the process, keep practicing, and follow the rules. The diagram might be coded in rainbow colors, but what lies at the end of it — more time — is better than gold.

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.