Don't Forget to Inhale Cover

Don’t Forget to Inhale

Living is exhaling.

You wake up, jump out, and make your bed. You brush teeth, get dressed, and race to the breakfast table. Phew!

You work. You type. You work harder. You type faster. Pheeew.

You buy groceries. You sort your bills. You tuck your kid in. Pheeeeeeeew.

You watch Netflix. You doomscroll. You listen to a friend yap for hours. Phew, phew, pheeeeeeeeeeeew.

By the time your head hits the pillow, you are exhausted. You’re wheezing.

What happened? Simple: You forgot to inhale. That’s also living.

Matthew Inman says creativity is like breathing: “When you make stuff, you’re exhaling. But you can’t exhale forever. Eventually, you have to breathe in. Or you’ll be dead.”

It’s not just creativity. It’s everything. The adulting. The job you’re trying to be good at. Even the experiencing of awesome things. As long as you’re doing, you’re exhaling. But eventually, you have to breathe in — or you’ll be dead.

Your health might not really be at risk, but often, you’ll literally feel it: You’re panting. Between meetings, homeschooling, and picking stocks, you ran out of air! You’re gasping. So settle down. Sit. Relax. Inhale!

Inhaling is living.

You stare out the window. Nothing moves. Ahhh.

You enjoy the meal that’s in front of you. No music. No TV. You can taste every spice. Ahhhhh.

You walk around the block. You see a tree. The leaves are swaying in the wind. “Is it breathing?” you wonder. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

You lie down on your back. You stretch your arms and legs into the star that you are. You look at the ceiling. How could you forget to inhale? It’s the most natural thing in the world!

Doing is wonderful. Life is a one-time chance to do everything you’ll ever do, and I hope most of yours will be a joy to experience. But if do is all you do, it’ll be impossible to extract happiness from even the most fortunate of events. So don’t. Sometimes, just don’t.

Life is not a vacuum, and so nothingness is not empty. It provides us with the very air we need to witness the full spectrum of the gift we’ve been given.

Don’t forget to inhale.

How To Live Without Regrets Cover

How To Live Without Regrets

If you could vanish from society and start a new life, what would you do?

At 83 million viewers in the first month, 6 Underground is Netflix’ 4th most popular release of all time — and it asks us this very question.

Directed by Michael Bay, the movie sees six self-appointed action heroes toppling a cruel dictator in the fictional country of Turgistan. Led by a nameless billionaire, played by Ryan Reynolds, they do so in Bay-typical fashion: with lots of guns, cars, one-liners, and explosions.

Despite its over-the-top action and straightforward plot, there’s a deeper meaning behind the films flashy facade: It’s a movie about what it means to live your one life right.

To carry out their operation without getting nabbed at the first airport, the team must first fake their own deaths. Sitting in a diner, they muse over the benefits: No more DMV lines, Christmas shopping, or work email addresses. No more taxes, criminal records, or getting arrested for being drunk.

Having already faked his death in a plane crash, Reynolds’ character then schools them all: “You’ve got it all wrong, you know. When you’re young, you lock yourself into all these bad decisions. Marriages, mortgages, all that kind of stuff. But you die, it’s all erased. Poof! Gone.”

And then, casually inserting a profound insight into a charming yet obscene rant like only Ryan Reynolds can, he delivers the punchline:

“The best thing about being dead is the freedom. From that point forward, all that matters is what you choose.”


You’re not a sniper, stunt driver, or parkour virtuoso. No genius billionaire will recruit you for his spy unit. Your bad decisions will never be erased. If you let them pile up, they’ll keep piling up, and each day, the mountain of regret will grow a little taller.

Regret is saying, “I’m not ready to launch my startup,” and then hoping one friend agrees. Regret is backing out of the tournament at the last second and then finding you can’t laugh it off. Regret is missing your son’s first table tennis game and then realizing there’ll be no more firsthand firsts the day he moves out.

Regret is everything that you could, would, and should have done, were it not for [insert reasonable but invalid excuse].

I have many regrets. Do you? The weight of that mountain won’t go away.

It never feels like it in the moment. This decision? Nah. We couldn’t heap rocks onto Mount Everest! But we do. We do every day.

A tiny hill of sand — that’s how it starts. “Wow! It’s so light, this decision. What’s a little more sand?” Time feels good when it runs through your fingers.

Soon enough, one day becomes ten. One year becomes five. Before you know it, you’re shoveling opportunities into the fire — and what feels like air in the moment will later drop like a stone.

A train at full speed wants to keep going. The beast needs coal, and it will devour everything you offer. It won’t crash like a prop car, but the trail of regret it leaves behind? That can stack to the skies. In the end, you’ll only cower in its wake.

A clear slate is a fantasy. You don’t have the means to fake your own death. No dynamite to blow up the mountain.

What you do have, however, is the freedom to choose. It’s something you’ve always had, always will have, and what you choose is all that matters.

That’s the true lesson of the movie: Forget the rules! You don’t need to erase your past to take charge of your future.

The only way to live without regret is to realize you’re already free. You have one life and one life alone, and in that fact, you’ll find all the freedom you need.

The freedom to start before you feel ready. The freedom to try something new. The freedom to show up when you decide it counts.

Stop piling up regrets. Start living! Don’t wait for a chance to start over. Don’t wait for critics to change their minds. We all make mistakes — but we can decide to not let them define us.

What you choose is all that matters. Choose what matters every day.

Are You Free to Abstain? Cover

Are You Free to Abstain?

French scientist Pierre Fouquet was an early researcher of alcoholism. He broke the illness into three categories, two of which describe the circumstances of people we now describe as “alcoholics,” such as drinking in secret with the goal of blacking out.

The third, “alcoholitis,” is “the most common form of alcoholism in France, particularly among men,” Fouquet noted. The subject has a high tolerance and lacks serious psychological complications — they mainly drink beer and wine in social settings, just in too large quantities for it to be healthy.

“We drink to drink with others,” Fouquet said, but “the toxic effects of consumption are still felt.”

Our sneakiest addictions are those we don’t consider to be problems at all. If you drink with coworkers four nights a week and everyone has two beers, that seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.

The question — and this may be Fouquet’s greatest contribution to the world — is:

Do you have the freedom to abstain?

The loss of this freedom is the mark of an addict, Fouquet claimed. When we no longer feel free to abstain, when it seems as if there is no choice to be had, that’s when we should scratch our heads — because we always have a choice.

I love coffee. I usually drink two cups every day. Yesterday, I just had one, and occasionally, I’ll skip an entire day. Not because I want to, but because I must remember that I can.

It is nice to give yourself a break, even from things you love, especially if the break will prevent the thing from becoming a chain around your ankles.

It is also profoundly liberating to sit in front of a foregone conclusion, like “I will drink this beer,” and realize, “You know what? I’m free to abstain. I can just say no.”

Don’t let harmless habits become dictators. Innocuous addictions can secretly run your life. Use your freedom to abstain. It is something you’ll always have — even when you think you’ve already lost it.

Don't Forget Your Light Today Cover

Don’t Forget Your Light Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Lincoln's Unsent Angry Letter Cover

Lincoln’s Unsent Angry Letter: Modern Technology Edition

In 2014, Maria Konnikova lamented the lost art of “the unsent angry letter” in the New York Times. The idea is that if you’re upset at something or someone, you write a detailed, liberal response — and then stick it in your drawer until you’ve cooled off.

US president Abraham Lincoln may be the most prominent proponent of “hot letters,” as he called them, but the stashed vent has a long tradition among statesmen and public figures. Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill — the list of admired characters to prove the tactic’s efficacy is long enough.

It serves as both an emotional and strategic catharsis, Konnikova noted. You can “let it all out” without fearing retaliation while, simultaneously, seeing what proper arguments you have on offer — and what’s just nasty, unhinged thought.

In theory, the tool is as intact as ever: When you’re angry, write a letter. Then, let it sit. By the time you revisit, you’ll be able to learn rather than suffer from it. In practice, however, 200 years of technological progress have undoubtedly left their mark on what used to be a pen-and-paper exercise. Konnikova writes:

Now we need only click a reply button to rattle off our displeasures. And in the heat of the moment, we find the line between an appropriate response and one that needs a cooling-off period blurring. We toss our reflexive anger out there, but we do it publicly, without the private buffer that once would have let us separate what needed to be said from what needed only to be felt.

Lincoln had neither a keyboard nor a Twitter account. 30 presidents later, we have witnessed the consequences of unfiltered, globally disseminated angry letters firsthand: Donald Trump sent so many of them, his carrier pigeon of choice decided to no longer be of service, and I’m sure he wished to un-hit “Send” more than once.

This is the first cognitive trap of social media: The ease of transmission lures us into venting more in public than we should.

The second is the accidental send, where a second of key-fumbling leads to an uncomfortable conversation you never planned to have.

The third, according to Konnikova, is that even if we do it anonymously, if venting is easy and fast, it’s not as restorative and purifying as its offline equivalent. The act of writing a letter takes time, and all that time becomes part of your healing. A tweet is sent in a jiffy, and so in a jiffy, you’ll be back to tweet more.

The fourth and final trap of digital hot-lettering is that places like r/UnsentLetters/, the letter section on Thought Catalog, and other semi-anonymous platforms lead to semi-public shaming with plausible deniability.

You yell at your friend for abusing your couch, and it’s specific enough for them to know if they read it, yet too generic for you to have to assume any liability. A blog post called To My Ex: A Letter That I’ll Never Send,” can’t provide a sacred dome of quiet reflection because, girl, you kinda did send it — except not to your ex, and so there’s no risk or closure but perhaps too much of the hope that made you type it in the first place. You can’t use not-really-unsent letters to coerce the people you feel have slighted you into magically changing and showing up on your doorstep once more.

What you can and should do is the only thing that works: Retain the unsent angry letter in its pristine format, even if the ink shall now be sparkled across your screen.

Let the email address field remain empty, take your new drafts offline, or fill your notes app to your heart’s content. If you still crave the satisfaction of hitting send, consider that many a chat now offers the great chance to talk to yourself. WhatsApp, email, iMessage, Slack — there’s nothing like your digital shadow parroting your own rants right back at you.

Personally, I enjoy typing long, case-like arguments in a direct message to myself on Slack. It gives me the surge of passion I’d show in an attempt to convince the grand jury that is the #general-channel without the need to have my evidence debunked with embarrassing ease. Instead, I get to do that later, on my own, when I re-read my message and realize: It was full of emotion but devoid of rationale.

If anything, it becomes clear how much reason lies behind my feeling of being treated unfairly, if any at all. Should there remain a case to be made, I am now free to assemble it properly, point by point, and remove the emotion that had no role to play in it in the first place. I can reconsider who I might send it to if there is a recipient to be found for it, and I can reassure myself that, yes, now’s not yet the time to post it in public, and that time will likely never come.

Releasing your emotions is freedom, but so is choosing what you say to whom. Neither should be done carelessly, and it is only when we cultivate appropriate space to do either that we get to experience the utmost relief they can bring.

Go ahead. Write that hot letter. Send yourself a rant on Slack. As long as the format allows you to cool down to cucumber levels, the unsent angry letter will provide for you what it has for the 16th US president, Maria Konnikova, and many men and women since: “A deeper consideration of what exactly we should say and why, precisely, we should say it.”

The Meaning of Life Cover

The Meaning of Life

Why get out of bed if you don’t have to?

Why have a different breakfast than yesterday?

Why go to work when you could be fired?

Why take the train if you have a car?

Why say hello to someone you see every day?

Why stay late when your salary is fixed?

Why try sushi if you might not like it?

Why ask her out when she’ll likely say no?

Why read a book when you have a TV?

Why plan a vacation when it might not happen?

Why go out when it rains?

Why ask the doctor for his opinion?

Why write a diary if no one will read it?

Why celebrate when it’s just another day?

Why buy a new notebook when your old one’s not full?

Why finish today if you can do it tomorrow?

Why take a plane when it could crash?

Why make a video no one might watch?

Why call when he may not pick up?

Why try a new recipe when you know what she likes?

Why cook if you can just order?

Why write an op-ed when no one asked for your opinion?

Why work out when your tracker is broken?

Why play board games when your kids soon move out?

Why do it now when your idea is four months old?

Why sing if no one can hear it?

Why dance if no one will see?

Why kiss your wife when you’ll still be married tomorrow?

Why smile when wearing a mask?

Why think when each thought is fleeting?

Why laugh when no one gets the joke?

Why repair a car that keeps breaking?

Why protest if you’re the only one with objections?

Why make a sign nobody may read?

Why hold her hand if she’ll forget your name?

Why send a letter that may get lost in the mail?

Why catch a fish if you’re planning to release it?

Why compete when you’re unlikely to win?

Why help the customer after hours?

Why pay extra to change the color?

Why make a deal with nothing to gain?

Why keep the shares when they’re losing money?

Why hold on to old photographs?

Why remember what’s not on the test?

Why do it if your boss said no?

Why hit send when you’re afraid of the response?

Why propose an idea they might laugh at?

Why quit a safe job to start your own business?

Why suggest a law most people won’t like?

Why give a speech when no one might listen?

Why plant a tree whose shade you won’t sit in?

Because life is about taking chances.

Be Water, My Friend Cover

Be Water, My Friend

Water is balance. That’s why Bruce Lee’s “Be Water” analogy is popular to this day. His metaphor captures the balance we all need in our lives.

Water doesn’t look left or right. It just makes its way however it can. It adapts, but it always perseveres. Even at rest, water still slowly eats away at its surroundings. In Striking Thoughts, Lee expanded on the short recorded clip:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Water is a slow judge. It asks: “What shape do I need to be?” It conforms to whatever it’s in touch with, one drop at a time. However, you can only ask that question if you come to any situation with an empty mind.

Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash.

Despite having no form on its own, despite being infinitely soft, water is one of, if not the strongest element on earth. It can trickle, it can flow, or it can rage. If water drops on a stone long enough, it’ll hollow it out. If water forms a wave the size of a skyscraper, it can crush an entire ship. Water does whatever it needs to do to keep moving forward.

Water may seem to move in contradiction, even uphill, but it chooses any way open to it so that it may reach the sea. It may flow swiftly or it may flow slowly, but its purpose is inexorable, its destiny sure. Be water, my friend.

Thanks to its never-ending balancing act, water always finds its way back home. Sooner or later, it will reach the sea. You too should keep flowing. Have plans, but don’t force them on life.

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes, it throws stones in your way. Sometimes, a new door opens up. When you’re water, you’re ready for either one of the two. Whatever happens tomorrow, you’ll adapt.

When the universe says “Yes,” go. Flow downhill. Move fast. Leap. Ride the momentum, take the opportunity, and make the most of your advantage.

When the universe says “No,” listen. Take a different path. Adjust. Persist slowly instead of failing spectacularly.

When a crisis hits, summon your strength. Form a towering wave. And when the sea is calm, enjoy the cruise and take in the view.

When you’re water, you’re always exactly where you’re meant to be.

Be water, my friend.

What Is Unconditional Love? Cover

What Is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is the only true love there is.

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

We know what’s not unconditional love.

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

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

But what is unconditional love? Here are some ideas.

Love is understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is help

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Smith agrees:

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

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

Love is help — and true help is unconditional love.

Love is acceptance

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

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

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

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

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

Will Smith shares a great analogy:

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

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

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

Love is a verb and — therefore — a choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is compromise — without the feeling of loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Core Values to Live By Cover

12 Core Values to Live By

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Calmness

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

Rationality

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

Commitment

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

Restraint

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

Humility

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

Vulnerability

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

Patience

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

Empathy

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

Compassion

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

Acceptance

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

Hope

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

Love

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


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

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

What's Your Best Thought Today? Cover

What’s Your Best Thought Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thought. One thought can change everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thought can change everything.